New I.C. Light Pittsburgh Pirates Collector Cans

PIRATES-IC-LICGHT-IRON-CITY-RETRO-CANS-BRANDMILLWith the Pirates home opener less than 30 days away, fans can do a little pre-season training of their own!

Our client Pittsburgh Brewing Company,  just released the first of three Pittsburgh Pirates-themed I.C. Light Collector Series Beer Cans – the “Retro – Handsome Jolly Roger” can is on sale now!

For more details, click this link to check out our story on NBC affiliate WPXI-TV!

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15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day

As a 50 percenter of Irish blood and a serial marketing professional, I thought I’d offer you dear reader, my 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day to help you find your little pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow!

And, I’ll offer them quickly because I shouldn’t even be working this hard today as I’m 17 days away from – and preparing for – St. Patrick’s Day which is one of my many “high holy days” – and there’s a Guinness pint with my name of it at my favorite Pittsburgh Irish pub (Riley’s Pour House) and it’s getting warm! So here you go!

1. Green Marketing Lesson One – Making Money. Always keep money (making it or saving it) front and center of any marketing campaign. If you know anything about the Irish (and I do growing up in a large extended family), the majority have experienced challenging economic times and know the value of a dollar. So, incorporating zero based budgeting into your marketing processes will help you become more creative and help you do a lot more for less. 

2. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Sustainability. These days when you hear brands talk about sustainability, it’s related to the environment, but the basic pure definition of sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Using the same color in your marketing communications reinforces your brand, makes your marketing work harder for you and enables your marketing to endure.

3. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Color. Design and color can help you communicate a great deal. Red – hot, stop; Blue – cool. etc., Keep in mind that all colors also come in a great deal of shades so don’t be boring and predictable.  Green has about 50 unique shades.

4. Create Multi-Sensory Emotional Appeals (e.g., appeal to people’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). In a prior post about, “Marketing with Sound,” I discussed the awesome power of sound, but you should also consider all of the ways you can appeal to your customer’s five senses. St. Patrick’s Day appeals them all with color, strong visuals of parades, people having fun; taste of ethnic foods like corned beef and cabbage and drink (pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson) etc.,

5. Appeal to One’s Ethnic Heritage. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s ethnic heritage – net, different strokes for different folks.  In fact, it’s a growing and popular strategy due to our mobile society, immigration, single parent households etc.

Some of this strategy’s keys to success include knowing your market well, being aware of unique cultural nuances, being respectful etc.  Disney’s Epcot Theme Park’s World Showcase is a great example of ethnic marketing, but Denny’s Restaurants’ old Pancake promotion is not.

6. Be Inclusive with Your Marketing. As much of an Irish heritage appeal the holiday provides, St. Patrick’s Day is all-inclusive and welcomes everyone to celebrate – everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

7. Special Event/Thematic/Celebration/Holiday Marketing. Giving a unique thematic association to your marketing messages makes it easier for your customers to understand you and more immediately recognize you too. Tie-ing in to a major holiday celebration gives your promotion authenticity and a “reason why” you’re holding a sales event.

8. Limited Time Appeal.
Having a hard date against a campaign creates urgency, excitement and traffic. Pretty obvious statement, but many marketers leave far too many campaigns without a clear end date and a sense of urgent appeal.

9. Spokesperson/figurehead/celebrity/image appeal. Having a Saint as your celebrity figurehead ain’t too shabby, but it’s the consistency of using the same appealing celebrity with a unique story is what works.

10. Iconic Marketing – Shamrock – brand, sell, profit. Mickey Mouse’s Ears, Ronald McDonald’s big red shoes, McDonald’s Arches and more.

Shamrocks do the same for today’s holiday – it’s the day’s badge of honor and identification. What’s your badge ID?

11. Rule of Threes. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the common Shamrock to teach the Celtic Pagans about the unique Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1 Godhead.

However, the “rule of three” symbolism in the good man’s teaching is relevant today as well because people’s minds are noisy and limited. Using the rule of three enables you to get them to remember you and buy-in a presentation or product mix selection. Small, medium, large; gold, silver, bronze; 3 bears; 3 blind mice; 3 Stooges (see more examples/proof here) – trust me – the rule of three rocks.

12. Be Positive. You won’t find a more positive group of people that the Irish. Despite all of their “Troubles” who else tells you that you can find a pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow? At Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday, people throughout the day referred to the cold constant rain as nothing more, “a little Irish mist!”

13. Be Nice. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day too.

14. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. In this age of “political correctness” the Irish are for the most part a happy and fun bunch and most Irish demeaning jokes bounce of them like water on a duck.

15. Plan Your Luck by Working Hard. In my opinion, “the luck of the Irish” is based on hard work – simple as that. You’ve probably heard the saying, the harder you work the luckier you get!” Well, its true. The majority of Irish are no strangers to hard work and I believe – all things being equal – people that work harder and smarter than their peers will meet with more profitable success in a shorter period of time.

Got to run, my pint is getting warm.

Slan (Gaelic for “farewell for now”)!

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Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Sprint PCS Immaculate Reception Billboard

I’m so looking forward to tomorrow, December 23 because its the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Immaculate Reception. I was 10 years old and was listening to the Steelers Raiders football game on the radio (local broadcast was blacked out) and heard the news LIVE!

What a thrilling end to a game that propelled the Steelers to future greatness. In addition, this single play would change a city and would forever be immortalized as the greatest NFL play in history!

Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Ranking just as high on my list of favorite Steelers memories, was back in December 1997 when as the Director of Marketing and Sales Operations for Sprint PCS, I came up with an idea to help us more effectively communicate our digital ‘call clarity’ position.

Sprint’s Immaculate Reception Print Ad

You guessed correctly – it was also around the same time as the 25th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

To clearly position our new wireless phone service in a hyper competitive wireless phone market, I searched and found a high profile customer (football great Franco Harris) whose testimonial and personal brand matched up perfectly with Brand Sprint.

The marriage between Franco’s most famous play in football and Sprint’s unique selling proposition of digital call clarity, helped drive favorable awareness, considerable store traffic and effectively communicated our unique product positioning (the first and only digital phone service in the market). And, the timing was perfect.  The 25th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception coincided perfectly with our new product launch.

Franco Harris and Stephen Wayhart
25th Anniversary of Immaculate Reception
1997 Commercial Photo Shoot

Testimonials are one of the most effective methods of building brands, and Franco’s testimonial helped us to effectively pull together a strong brand building and sales effort.

Our strategy was so on target that Sprint PCS realized record store traffic and sales.

Now 15 years later, I’m proud to say our campaign – like Franco’s famous catch – has been immortalized by the NFL Network in its feature film A Football Life – The Immaculate Reception.

Click here to watch the entire video of the Show and be sure to check out the mark at 31:57 to 32:04 to see one of our ads!

Happy Anniversary Franco and thanks for the memories!

P.S.: See Case Study here. Also, many thanks to my boss Doug Cotton for giving the idea a ‘thumbs up.!’ And to photographer Harry Giglio, designers Kathy Kendra, Mark Power; Mike Cusick Sprint Director of Sales; and Sprint marketing partner Maria D’Abruzzo.

Click here to see a super video treatment of the 40th Anniversary Celebration and marker unveiling of the Immaculate Reception from Steelers.Com

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A Great Demo of How to Wow

In our client strategy sessions, we always discuss “How to deliver a ‘WOW'” because most brands don’t take the time to think how they can create brand buzz – or, believe they can!

Every brand has a ‘WOW” within them – cost effective ones to be nurtured with thought and care – that will effectively separate themselves from their competitors and carve out a unique branded value proposition, awareness etc.

For example, here’s a ‘WOW’ case study right in our own backyard by a small family owned window cleaning company based in Pittsburgh.

Their idea is a cool and commendable story. The idea was a simple lift of one that a firm executed  in another country.

This simple ‘WOW’ paid off big time too. The brand made a more favorable impression with clients, prospects, employees and for its potential little customers that will last a lifetime. In addition, this ‘WOW’ landed the company and its owners on the front page of Pittsburgh’s major daily papers, 6PM and 11PM TV news and more. Do you have a ‘WOW’ cooking NOW?  If not, why not? You can do it and get people buzzing about your brand!
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Target’s Super Black Friday Ad Campaign

Kudos to Target and its Ad Agency Weiden + Kennedy for their spot on Black Friday advertising campaign featuring this overly excited and anxious shopping FANatic.

And, file this effort in my “Darn I Wish I Did This Ad Campaign” folder.

Target is using 5 spots from last year (why not – who says an old great campaign can’t be re-engaged?) combined with another 30 online.  And, he talent casting, honest copy, imagery, sound and smart campaign integration (see all 35 videos) off and online is simply brilliant and off the charts.

It’s a great example of how ad campaigns should be run. Read Adweek’s take on it here.

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Pirates Miss PNC Park Anniversary Tag

Your birthday.  Your spouse’s, kid’s, parent’s, grandparent’s, brother’s, sister’s etc., birthdays. Your wedding anniversary and/or your parent’s anniversary. The 4th of July – America’s anniversary. All big time events and occasions to celebrate right?

Well, as a ‘homer’ living in Pittsburgh, and as a professional marketer I’m baffled by the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing team did absolutely nothing – zero – not a thing – this season to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PNC Park (a gift by the citizens of Pittsburgh), arguably the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

Hey, but don’t take my word that the Pirates’ PNC Park is the best, check out this brief  ranking list of the best Major League Baseball ballparks by some of the ‘folks that really know’:

YELP ranks PNC Park first

Fox Sports ranks PNC Park first

ESPN ranks PNC Park first

Forbes ranks PNC Park third

Now, certainly you can argue that PNC Park might not be the best Park in all of Major League Baseball, but you’d have to agree that it’s at least in the Top 5.  And, even if PNC Park wasn’t ranked that high, why wouldn’t you still take advantage of the significance of the date and celebrate all season long?

In fact, the symbolism for a 10th year anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates is incredible too.  The symbol for the 10th year anniversary is aluminum or tin and here we have one of the greatest companies ever headquartered in Pittsburgh – ALCOA – the Aluminum Company of America (its Headquarters is only .19 miles or 44 seconds from PNC Park) and the world’s leading producer of aluminum! And the designated gemstone of a 10 year anniversary is the diamond…get the symbolism, baseball diamond?

You could also argue, that the Pirates didn’t have much to celebrate and/or remember over the past 10 years, but don’t we all have bad years? It doesn’t mean you forgo celebrating your birth!

We do a ton of hospitality marketing consulting and anyone in the business will tell you the profitable, sales building significance of celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s sad and disappointing that the Pittsburgh Pirates missed the tag on the 10th anniversary of PNC Park. They would have hit the cover of the ball knocking it clear out of the Park and into the Allegheny River!

Don’t forget to step up to the plate and swing for the fences when your brand’s birthday/anniversary rolls around!

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A Memorial Day to Remember

As a marketer, I’m all for promotions and sales, but over the past few years, I have become increasingly sickened and saddened by the commercialization of Memorial Day.

Throughout this past week, my mailbox was overflowing with Memorial Day/Weekend sales messages and offers, my TV has been pounding me with offers and yesterday I awoke to find a free American flag in my front yard with a real estate agent’s business card attached to it.

So, when I discovered Steve McCallion’s series in Fast Company magazine about how to make Memorial Day for meaningful, it struck a chord with me.

I’ve always considered myself a patriotic guy, but confess I’ve strayed away from participating in the true message and meaning of Memorial Day. That’s why today and for future Memorial Days, I will pause to reflect and remember my family members who have served in America’s wars.

More importantly, I will pay homage and tribute to – and pray for – those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives in battle such as the following men who attended my alma mater Bishop Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, PA – Joel D. Coleman, ’63, James K. McAleer, ’64, Robert F. Bahl, Jr., ’65, James F. Engelmeier, ’66, Norman F. Benedik, ’66 and Ryan J. Kovacicek, ’01.

It is my hope that today and for years to come we Marketers and Americans will follow a new tradition of putting ‘Memorial’ back into Memorial Day.

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Five Thanksgiving Inspired Brand Building Tips

Here are five ways to use this Thanksgiving holiday as inspiration to build a better brand for yourself and/or your company.

  1. For starters, take the word apart ‘Thanks’ and ‘Giving’ and use both themes as part of your marketing mission and messaging for the next 12 months – not just this week.
  2. Call/visit as many customers, team members and vendors/partners this week to thank them personally. Cards/emails are OK, but try calling first. If you don’t reach them, leave a message saying how appreciative you are of their business and partnership and how much you’re looking forward to building a better relationship in 2011.
  3. Send thank you cards, but make sure you sign it with a special note even though your card may have a message.
  4. Commit now to being a better partner inside and outside your company by giving better value going forward and put a special appreciation process in place.
  5. Champion a cause for your brand and become part of the fabric of the community in which you do business. You can give lots of things such as your time, money and expertise. The most successful brands make money of course, but they also dramatically improve the lives of others and their employees. Here’s a link to ideas to help the homeless and for the hungry you can ‘Take the No Kid Hungry Pledge” here. Did you know that that nearly one in four children struggles with hunger? And, did you know that every $5 the federal government spends on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) generates $9.20 in local economic activity? Read more here in the Washington Post about how you can help end childhood hunger.

Throughout this Thanksgiving and holiday season, work on improving the unique value that only you can provide. Gift giving isn’t a terrible thing, however offering genuine thanks, appreciation, added value and truly giving of yourself is the true essence of this holiday and season – and a gift you can give to others that will reap you and them many future blessings and rewarding relationships.

P.S.: One last tip – OK 3 more:

  1. Always bring something – wine and a covered dish is nice
  2. Help with the clean-up
  3. Learn a great toast or two such as one of my old Irish favorites:

“May all that you wish for, be the least you get…
and may the best times you’ve ever had, be the worst you’ll ever see.”

THANKS FOR READING AND
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOURS!

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10 Profitable Groupon Marketing Tips

I’ve been a fan of Groupon since one of our Pittsburgh restaurant clients launched the city’s first promotional campaign. And, I’ve become a bigger fan since other hospitality clients have achieved success and after discovering that Groupon founder Andrew Mason is a Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon) native – you go guy!

If you read the marketing trades you’ll find some complaints about the lack of profitability of using Groupon as a marketing tactic, but I’d bet that those complainers were not prepared to take advantage of the popular loss leader strategy.

Here are ten profitable Groupon marketing tips.

1. Say “NO” if you’re below. Below average that is. In short, you do not want to feature your brand in a Groupon campaign if you don’t “bring it.” That is, if you sell lousy food (even marginally or mediocre OK), have poor service etc., you do not want to do Groupon! If you do not “deliver the goods”, Grouponers may simply put you out of business earlier than you would normally through negative reviews online etc.!

2. Get buy-in to prevent crying. Far in advance of your scheduled launch, talk through the campaign pros/cons of Groupon with your staff. Get their buy-in early on and clearly explain why everyone needs to be engaged in this huge loss leader effort and why you’ll need all hands and minds on deck to flawlessly execute the campaign. Tell them, “what’s in it for them!”

3. Map your cap. Cap the total number of deals you provide to Grouponers. This creates urgency and protects margins since the offer deadlines are long. Plus, you need to make sure you can handle the traffic.  Sure you want to make short term money – you always do – but your eyes need to be on the prize of repeat business!

4. Don’t wreck your average check. Make sure your deal/offer does not match you average check/purchase to allow for upsell and add-on sales opportunities. And, a lower price tag protects you as well on total customer acquisition costs. Keep in mind that you’re earning around 1/4th of what you’d usually make in an average sale which means you’re losing 3/4ths on virtually every sale.

5. Don’t laugh – add staff. Trust me – make sure you add staff to handle increases in store traffic, phone calls and web hits during and after the sale. You’ll need it!

6. Right your Website. It’s highly likely that your Web site has never seen the kind of traffic it will see on your Groupon day. Make certain your brand’s value proposition is clear, meaningful and relevant throughout your Website and especially on your home page because it’s going to get pounded. And, fix your typos, broken links etc., – net, clean it up! Also, monitor your Groupon comments on your “game day” and answer questions there as well on your social media channels.

7. Up-sell, cross sell and do well. Train your customer facing personnel to up-sell and cross-sell and guide all Grouponers to more profitable add-ons. However, make sure you have lots of exciting ones to offer too.

8. Train to explain. Carefully review (and test their knowledge) your Groupon procedures and rules of the game with all team members so they in turn can explain the campaign to customers, friends and family. You need to do this crucial step to ensure viral communications and no surprised/unhappy customer experiences. Make certain everyone is happy to take Groupon customers and consider putting someone in charge to answer escalated questions and make on the spot decisions to satisfy customer concerns.

9. Retain and gain. Since Groupon does not give up its email database and/or the contact information of customers who take advantage of your offer, it’s critical you have a system (recording system and/or additional incentive for customers/staff) in place to capture valuable new customer contact information (e.g., email addresses, mailing addresses, cell phone numbers, birthdays etc.,). You’ll also want to track your success with regard to add-ons, average check/transaction, redemption rates,  repeat business and more to determine your success and key learnings should you do it again – consider a customer survey too!

10. Show how to WOW now. A ton of your Grouponers will be new customers (and might be bringing other new customers in with them) and may be unfamiliar with your unique value proposition, but you have a great – maybe once in a lifetime – opportunity to WOW them, make them repeat customers and spread your good word. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Be a servant leader and SERVE lights out!

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Marketing a Homecoming Experience

Kent State football players celebrate with the Wagon Wheel trophy following a 28-17 victory over the visiting Akron Zips

I had a great time Saturday in Kent, Ohio visiting come great old college friends, going to the homecoming football game against Akron with my buddy Don and hitting Ray’s Place – one of my favorite old haunts – it’s truly a time machine!

A lot of things have changed about Kent since I graduated in 1983 – some good and some not so good – but mostly good. Time may move on, but fond memories – experiences – last a lifetime.

Three of the “places that are no longer there” are:

Kent Ohio's Jerry's Diner

Jerry’s Diner – an old diner that was open for 23 hours a day (one hour to clean) 7 days a week where I had many a late night meal and will always remember my friend Ron’s favorite order...”I’ll have a cheeseburger without.” The waitress would say, “Without what?” And he’d reply, “Without hair!” The memory (and so many others) still makes me laugh.

Jerry’s motto was, “Give grease a chance” and its final words were, “Rest in grease.” I still love it.

Kent Motor Inn

Another place that hit the wrecking ball, was the Kent Motor Inn where I lived my senior year. It was a close walk to town and to classes. I lived in an efficiency in the back away from the normal rentals. I’d often joke to my friends that I always felt like I was on vacation, because my TV was mounted high up in the corner of the room, had a bar sink, a fold out couch…what a life…it didn’t get much better.

And sadly, the final place no longer around is the Stuffed Mushroom tavern where I tended bar and bounced. We had the best Happy Hour around – 3 drinks for $1.00 from 4-6 p.m.; 2 for 1 from 6-8 p.m. and 25 cent Kamikazi’s all night long. Owner Terry Mormile was an awesome, giving, smart  guy and Ed Logan was a terrific manager who taught me a ton about customer service.

What a great 4 year Experience!

Experiential marketing is all the rage in today’s marketing, but so much of what I learned about experiential marketing – if I truly give pause to think about it – I learned during my days at Kent State.

My big takeaway about experiential marketing is helping your customers immerse themselves in your brand – help them to be part of the fabric of it. Most of us who went away to college had a great time and retain fond memories because of our interactive, fun, humorous, engaging, educational, experiential, immersive experiences.

That’s what experiential marketing is all about.

Present your brand in a framework of engaging entertainment and education and forget the traditional sales spiel. By helping your customers truly immerse themselves in your brand experience today, you just might make them customers for life.

Hey, I graduated from Kent State in 1983 and I’m still a BIG FAN nearly 30 years later!

Thanks Kent State and thanks to all my college friends for the great experience!

P.S.: For more information, check out the International Experiential Marketing Association and their manifesto.

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