Archive for the ‘General’ category

A Little Seasonal Humor

December 12, 2012

Taking a pause from my regular marketing messages, I wanted to share some humor for the season.  I found a few images that made me laugh.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a very happy and healthy new year.

cell phone

ho ho huh

plane

dancer

brown nose

outsourcedtherapy

And just to end with a bit of social media merriment:

friends me

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Why vs. What

April 27, 2011

Sometimes I think marketers and consumer products companies get lost in what they are doing.  They lose their vision of the consumer and the reasons why people make purchases.  They focus on the “what” instead of the “why.”  What do I mean?  People don’t just buy things to have them – they buy them because they have a reason or a “why” to buy them.

I spent 10 years in the gifting business and we often made this mistake.  We got caught up in thinking we were selling flowers and gifts to people instead of selling to the emotion and the occasion that was the reason for the purchase.  People didn’t buy flowers just to send flowers – they bought flowers to send good wishes for a birthday or a holiday occasion.  They wanted someone they loved to know they were thinking of them.  They sent gifts to make someone else feel good or even to make themselves feel good for having been thoughtful.

Even in everyday purchases of soap, tooth paste or peanut butter; consumers are buying the items for their home with an underlying emotional intention.  They are trying to do their best to take care of themselves or others, and make the choice that fits their needs and their image of themselves. While features, price and functions play a role; so does ego and the desire to reinforce relationships.

This is true in corporate purchasing, particularly for items that carry a company’s logo.  Sales people and corporate staff buy items with their logo on them to build relationships with their employees or customers.  They are not buying pens, they are buying something that will form a reminder and a connection with another person.  An extension of themselves and their pride in the work they do and the companies they work for.

The bottom line – as a marketer and as a product innovator, start with the why and you will always end up with a better what and better sales.

Change is a good thing?

March 20, 2011

Did you catch the question mark in the headline?  The old saying is that the only thing that is constant is change.  And I agree that companies must continuously find ways to provide better products and services and to keep up with their competition.

But I also have to say that change for change sake is a waste of time.  Leo Burnett said (and I am paraphrasing here) that companies should talk to consumers when they have news.  So brand companies go off and try to create news and excitement.  And that is fine, when it is meaningful news and excitement.  Unfortunately, a good portion of the time, the changes have little consumer benefit. 

Take for example a product I used to love (and those who know me personally can attest to my love affair with this product) – Wrigley’s Big Red Gum (r). 

 

I was a major purchasor of this gum for probably more than 10 years.  And over the years they have made several changes to this product.  Here are a few that I can remember as well as my thoughts on the benefit:

Flavor changes:  They change the flavor on this gum about every 18 months.  And each flavor change gets worse.  I don’t know what they are doing to taste test this stuff, but they need to go back to ground zero.   (Need I remind you of the New Coke debacle?)  BAD CHANGE.

Removing the paper that separated the sticks in multi-packs:  This was to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly. Now the sticks fall out of the packaging, which stinks.  But I will give on the environmental issues. GOOD CHANGE.

Adding Aspartame to the Product: Aspartame makes the product cheaper as they have to use less to attain the same level of sweetness.  It is also cheaper to transport.  Did they pass on any of the cost savings to customers?  Nope.  Did they reduce the calories on the gum at the same time? Nope?  Was this the only gum on the market without Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners in it before they made the change?  Yes.  Did it make the taste better?  No.  BAD CHANGE

Switching to paper wrappers from foil:  Again this was to help the environment.  GOOD CHANGE.

Package design changes: A big waste of time.  No consumer impact what so ever.  BAD CHANGE.

Switching from 18 piece multi-packs to 15 piece multi-packs:  They covered this change up with a new multi-pack design that opens like a cigarette box.  The pack is really not that great and the value decline was made worse by an immediate price increase on the product. BAD CHANGE.

I used to work for a brand company and I understand when you have profit targets to meet and demands from the retailers for more margin.  I get it that companies have to find cost savings and periodically have to raise prices to increase shareholder value.  And I know that  they do the math to estimate how many customers they will lose when they make these changes and they do the changes anyway because the results are still net additive to their bottom line.

But seriously, these companies need to find more innovative ways to accomplish these goals.  Because if you don’t, in the long run, the only change these companies are going to see is a continuous decline in buyers.

Holiday Greetings

December 20, 2010

As we all happily leave the challenging year of 2010 behind, I wanted to take a moment to send out holiday greetings.  Everyone else is doing one of those “Year in Review,” “My predictions for next year,” “All I want for Xmas is…”  But I am not interested in putting one of those together.  I also try to avoid those clichés we seem to hear so much at this time of year.  But this year, a cliché seems very much in order.   

So if you will pardon my holiday cliché, I believe that the angel in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” made a great point when he said “No man is a failure who has friends.”

I am grateful for all the people in my life who help me to “avoid failure” on a regular basis.  Thank you for your support, kindness, and generosity.  Please take a moment to thank those who support you or better yet, lend a hand to someone who needs you. 

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

 And just to make your year end with a giggle, here is a corny holiday video that makes me laugh every time I see it.

http://elfyourself.jibjab.com/view/YZYVVkvRqbRa9y37A8ZX

Talking Heads

March 4, 2010

Ok, this post is a little off topic, but something that is really bothering me.  And I am curious if this bothers anyone else or if I am alone in this.

More and more, I am seeing TV advertising where the food is animated.  It is bad enough that the food is talking to us, but to make matters worse, they are talking to us about eating them.  Shredded Wheat has animated squares that interact with the children who are going to eat them.  M&M’s candy characters now realize they are going to be eaten and try to get away (M&M’s checkout ad).  Chips Ahoy has cookies being grabbed from their everyday activities to be eaten.

The ads that really bother me are the ones with the chickens and the cows.  For Chick-Fil-A, the cows encourage you to eat more chicken, inferring you should eat less meat.  Denny’s ran an ad with chickens screaming in fear over a grand slam breakfast deal that included eggs (Denny’s Grand Slam Ad).  McDonalds has their annual lent commercial featuring a singing wall fish asking the eater to give the fish back (this is last year’s version – I could not find the current iteration – McDonald’s Ad).

I am not a vegetarian or a PETA person, so please, let’s not go down that path (there are many pluses and minuses to that organization, but that is not the point of this discussion).  But I really find it disturbing that advertisers think it acceptable to animate our food this way.  The message, when taken literally and even not so literally, feels strange and almost cannibalistic.  Seriously, if cows could talk to us, do you think we would eat them?  I would think not.

So at the risk of inviting comments that will make fun of my views; I cautiously ask, am I alone in this?

Walk the Line

February 28, 2010

Walk the Line – A great name for a movie and title for a blog about ethics. We have discussed privacy and transparency / trust. I now move us into the ethics zone.

I am doing some consulting with another firm and we were asked to do some work that really crossed that line of good taste and ethics.  It made me stop and think. How far will I go for work? Where do I draw that line?

We have all been presented with dilemmas like these before. I had this conflict when I was deciding whether or not to launch Kama Sutra travel kits and massage oil sets for FTD.com (a similar product is still for sale today). When I was selling this into senior management, I stressed that we knew “romance and sex” sell.  Drugstore.com was selling vibrators, why couldn’t we sell massage oils?   We went forward with selling the Kama Sutra products and they became a big seller in non floral gifts.  We felt this product line was about as close we could get to that line without crossing it.

So it sells and it was a border line ethical decision. What is my point? My point is that when we made that decision – we should have considered 2 things.

1. Was there demand for those products.

2. Will we alienate or drive away our existing customer base.  What would our customers want us to sell?  How many of them would we lose in an effort to gain new customers?  Will it enhance or disparage the brand and our reputation?

The answer is the same as it will be for many of the things we discuss in this blog.  Keep your eye on the prize – maintaining the relationship and trust you have with your customers.

What will I do about this client?  Stay tuned….

(Want to learn more about your company’s reputation.  Contact me about a  free trial of Social Media Monitoring.)

Privacy

February 21, 2010

Everywhere you go, people are discussing privacy and our own rights to our personal information and online activities.  Facebook and Google continue to push the boundaries on what they think is your private information.   Questions come up about when you are using something for free, should you have a right to keep your information private?  There are a lot of opinions on both sides of the issue.

I am a big fan of privacy rights.  Are you surprised to hear that from a Marketer?  Marketers, by nature, want as much information on consumers as possible, so we can figure out how to sell you as much as we can.  I just think that it should be the consumer’s right to decide when and where that information goes.

There is a case against Facebook on this issue in the courts today (“Privacy at Issue in Facebook Suit”).  While I think most suits like this are done to make the lawyers and the plaintiffs famous and rich, I do think that Facebook does make it hard to understand what they are releasing about you to the public.  If companies have to be truthful and clear in advertising, Facebook should have to be clear in what they are doing with your information.

And while this seems like a big tangent (celebrity news will not be something I think I need to cover in this blog), I have to say that my favorite part today of Tiger Woods’ press conference was when he said (and I am paraphrasing here)  that while the news media wants all the juicy tidbits on his actions and his relationship with his wife, they are not going to get those details.  It is his and Elin’s business and that is it.

Even celebrities have a right to some privacy.  We don’t need to know every detail of his actions.  Just like the rest of the world (and all those nosy businesses that want a detailed list of your likes and activities) does not need to know what you and I do unless we want to tell them.

I know there are a lot of opinions on this issue and many will disagree with me.  I invite you to join a respectful discussion on this topic.