Who owns your brand?

Brand stampI have heard a lot of marketers over the years say that companies don’t own their brands; that it’s the public, the consumer that owns the brand.

Nonsense. Continue reading

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My favourite marketing play this Christmas

Every Christmas one of the toys I get my kids impresses the marketer in me in one way or another. This year it was a new game for the Wii: Skylanders, created by Activision. I hadn’t even heard of this one before the holidays, it’s the experience that impressed me.

With most games you buy the disc, maybe there’s an attempt at an online community or web component, perhaps some merch if it gets really popular, but for the most part the company makes its money on the sale of the disc and that’s it. This one is different. The game comes with three little plastic figures. You place a figure on the “portal” and that is the character you play. Right away, it becomes more than a video game, it becomes tactile. That in itself is brilliant, and the hook. It’s also similar to what made the Wii popular to begin with. What they do with the hook is pure genius.

There are dozens of characters. Each with different abilities and powers that are needed to unlock certain parts of the game. How do you get access to these other characters? You buy them for $8 to $12 each. You could play the whole game with just the three characters you get with it, but you would miss more than half of the secret areas-which are not so secret that you don’t know you are missing them.

If you bought all the characters, I’d venture you would spend another $300 on top of the $70 you spent on the game.

I love it, what a brilliant play. And the games not bad either.

Mine my data, please

A few days ago we got a new dog. A three-year-old Springer Spaniel named Murphy. We got him from a rescue agency and did a lot of online searching and researching before we decided Murphy was the dog for our family.

A few days before Murphy arrived, we received in the mail a sample of a new dog food. I don’t recall ever receiving a dog food sample before, but there it was, just before our new pet arrived. I can only assume that somewhere along the way we registered on a pet search site that provided our data to a pet food company.

Some would be angry at this seeming unauthorized use of my private data. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. I got a free dog food sample three days before I got a new dog. How perfect is that? I look forward to the day when, because I gave enough people my data, all I receive are relevant marketing outreaches. When I open up my mail or click on an email, what I see is at least a little bit relevant to my lifestyle.

I tried the food on Murphy, by the way, and he loved it. So, I went out and bought a bag. Well done, Marketer. Thank you for mining my data. So much better than all those baby lotion samples I get now that my children are in school!

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Book review: Digital Impact, The Two Secrets of Online Marketing Success

Finished! That’s book number one down in my 12-month challenge. I really enjoyed Digital Impact. I was a little worried when I saw the cover – a little too 1980s sci-fi, but inside was true gold. My biggest takeaway is still the subject of my last post, the assertion that fishing (attraction) is a more important strategy for today’s marketer than hunting (targeting). Beyond that, though, the book is really well structured and easy to read.

The two secrets are implementing good performance metrics and spending the time to create really compelling content (Magnetic Content). Those might not seem earth-shattering, but Mayar and Ramsey do a great job of breaking their ideas down into digestible, actionable chunks with solid examples.

For example, they propose a total of seven metrics and group them into exposure metrics (is your content getting noticed?), strategic metrics (is your content moving the needle on your goals), and financial metrics (is your content making you any money?). Through subsequent chapters they they explore six key digital channels and recommend the best metrics from each category for each channel. It’s simple and easily implemented. By easy, I mean understandable. They make it clear that doing it right takes time and money, but I feel confident I can take these channels on with a little trial and error.

Those looking for the quick and simple DIY model of digital marketing may be disappointed. Their approach, done right, is not something you could implement overnight. But, if you are looking for an easy to read, practical book that can apply to any business, Digital Impact is the one you want. It covers all the big channels, how to create great content for each and how to measure the impact of what you create.

So, that’s one book down and 11 to go. Up next: Six Pixels of Separation, by Mitch Joel. A long over due read.

Marketers need worms, not bullets

As I make my way through Digital Impact, by Vipin Mayar and Geoff Ramsey – as part of my journey through 12 marketing books in 12 month – one of the first concepts that struck me was the need to be a fisher not a hunter as a marketer today.

Hunting, they assert, involves “tracking and targeting your prey (the consumer) and then shooting them with your ammo (ad messaging).” Fishing, on the other hand is all about attracting the consumer with the right bait. That bait, of course, is the content you put out through various channels. The better your bait, the better your catch.

Any fisher (the real kind, not the metaphorical) will also tell you fishing also requires patience. You need to continue to put out quality content until it lures the fish.

Fishing alone won’t feed most companies, though. Mayar and Ramsey point out later in the book that the best content undiscovered will not bring in customers. So, you have be a bit of a hunter, too; to target your prey with ad messaging to let them know where your bait can be found.

So, what are your weekend plans? Hunting, fishing, or sitting on the dock with a beer?

A marketing book a month; what’s your recommendation?

So, I have decided to make the onset of summer a time to embark upon a 12-month journey towards becoming a better marketer. My chosen method of learning: books. More specifically, I plan to read a marketing/business book a month for the next 12 months and see what I can glean and apply from each, and share some of my thoughts on each here, spurred on by the fact that the list of titles on my wish list is growing and I never seem to have time to read them.

I now a book isn’t exactly a strange place to look for ideas, but it’s important not to overlook the obvious. And I know a book a month isn’t a huge accomplishment, but I’ve never been a speed reader – I like to take my time and float through a book – and I have to allow for the usual interruptions.

The first book on my list is Digital Impact: The Two Secrets to Online Marketing Success, by Vipin Mayar and Geoff Ramsey. Why this one? A few reasons, actually. I heard a great interview with Geoff Ramsey by Mitch Joel on Six Pixels of Separation; my company is going through a rebranding and we will be remaking our online presence; and I like that there are only two secrets. Two’s not too big. I can manage two.

I have a list of a half-dozen others that will be on my list over the course of the next 12 months; Six Pixels of Separation; Trust Agents; Flip the Funnel (I know it’s sad how many of these I haven’t read). I’m open to suggestions, too, so please post yours in the comments section.

I’d also really like to hear what you think about the books I’m reading and posting about. Maybe we can get a little MBA-type banter going and all learn a little something beyond what’s found in the pages of the books.

So, here goes. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on Digital Impact as I make my way through it.

I love the Starbucks holiday cups

The Starbucks holiday cups are back! The Starbucks holiday cups are back!

Maybe it’s sad, but I get a warm feeling every time I walk into my local Starbucks the first time after they start using the holiday cups.

I think it has to do with a perfect marriage of experiences. Starbucks sells an experience. Part of that experience is the warmth of a cup of coffee, the warmth of a consistent experience. The holidays, for those who celebrate, also offer a feeling of warmth and familiarity. Memories of childhood, of more carefree times, of expectation.

Lots of companies try to capitalize on the holidays at this time of year. It doesn’t work for all, or many of them. It does work (for me) for Starbucks.

That up of coffee, the first one in the holiday cup, is a little warmer, a little better than the ones leading up to it.

What do you think about this particular marriage? Who do you think has it right?

Pssst … my company is great, but don’t tell anyone

Please pardon my rant. I got an email the other day that made me really angry. It wasn’t the core content that did it, it was the disclaimer at the top.

Here’s what it said:

“Protect your investment in [Association X]. The information contained in [Association X] News is paid for by your membership dues. Please protect your investment by refraining from sharing this information with non members.”

Why did this little disclaimer, or warning, get me so hot under the collar? I think it was because I hate watching people make silly mistakes because they aren’t paying attention (my wife, by the way, will tell you this is because we hate most those negative traits in others that we have in ourselves, but that’s an entirely different blog post).

I lose sleep trying to figure out how to get people to think exactly that about my company, and to share the information with others and here is someone asking me not to do that.

A little background: The organization that issued the email in question is an industry association. The email was an installment of their regular email newsletter where they recap industry hot topics and tell members what the association is doing (justifying the membership fees). There is nothing very sensitive in the content and I have never seen anything particularly proprietary.

I cringe a little bit when I think of the opportunity being lost. The newsletter does have some good information. I find it a valuable source to catch up on issues I want to keep abreast of.  I think the content they share does a decent job of positioning them as experts in the industry.

What this quote says to me is that the organization feels that information in this email newsletter is so important, no one should get it for free. That it is more important to keep it a secret than to use it to grow revenue. Fine, some information should be paid for. Creators of original content should feel free to charge for it. But if your information is so valuable, why put it in the most shareable form of communication and admonish people for doing what comes naturally?

Years ago, while I was still in journalism school, I was the person who put together the (then printed) newsletter for a different association. I shudder to think that someone would think what I pulled together each month was the true value the organization had to offer. If they did, I was savagely under paid.

At a deeper level, I think this suggests there is a command and control type of information-as-power-philosophy within the organization. That bothers me even more because I deal with that attitude all the time and it just so ridiculously counter productive.  I’ll save that rant for another day, though.

How much should we share, though? There are new platforms every month to share information on. No limits to the thirst of those looking for information. How much should we give away? When does it become counter productive to growing our business? Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Killing the good ideas to succeed

Have you ever had a really good idea, one that you knew was a winner, killed by your boss? Congratulations. You may have had one smart boss. She probably did the company a favour – and not because your idea was bad, it was really, really good. Seriously. In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review site on the subject, Julia Kirby paraphrased Apple’s Steve Jobs as saying, “killing bad ideas isn’t that hard … what is really hard – and a hallmark of great companies – is killing good ideas.”

It got me wondering why; why do so many good ideas go nowhere? After reading Ms.Kirby’s blog post, I realized it was because we weren’t killing enough of them.

When a company doesn’t kill some of those good ideas along with the bad ones, they end up taking on too much. Focus gets blurred, and execution fails.

The tricky part is how to do it. How do you choose which good ideas to kill?

Leave the ego at the door

The task of plucking the right ideas from a pool of many becomes particularly tricky when you are not only the one deciding which ideas get approved, but also a contributor of some of the competitors. We all have a natural bias to think our ideas are the great ones. We’ve done a great job of preselling ourselves. It is so important to be careful to remove the ego from the process and have a way of objectively evaluating each idea. Otherwise it becomes someone’s pet project list, and that drives people out the door.

Make it transparent

Transparency is key. Make sure everyone knows what you are trying to achieve (presumably, these are your core business objectives) and how you will determine the best ways to do it. That’s not to say that, as a leader, you can’t occasionally buck convention and go with intuition, but you better be able to explain how you made that leap, and if it fails, take responsibility.

It’s also key to help people understand that you do kill good ideas, and why you do it. Understanding that their idea wasn’t scuttled because it was bad can help cushion the blow in many cases.

I am going to try this out. I have high hopes it will help at home as well as work; maybe getting a few projects off the list will help me to get some others done, finally.

How about you? What good ideas can you kill today?

The pitfalls of poor execution

Sometimes really good ideas go very, very wrong.

Subway restaurants had what I think was a very good idea. They decided to give away free coffee and breakfast sandwiches today. My assumption is that they are well known for subs, which are popular fare for lunch in most food courts in downtown areas, but have very little awareness for their breakfast offerings. There is usually a pretty steady lineup when you’d expect there to be one during peak lunch hours. I almost never, though, see people there in the morning, when they are competing with AM behemoths Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

Then, yesterday, I got a flyer as I walked by the storefront inviting me to come back this morning to get my free coffee and breakfast sandwich. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a pretty sound strategy to generate a little awareness that they are a breakfast option by giving away a free sample. I would expect it to do what it was intended to do. The problem, though, was in the execution.

I showed up and got in line with everyone else (it’s funny how willing we are to wait for free food). Two employees were working frantically to crank out sandwiches like an assembly line. And that’s what it felt like, an impersonal assembly line.

There was no coffee. They either ran out or never had any, I’m not sure. The sandwich was hastily thrown together, three to a subway bun. There was no sign of the perfectly toasted English Muffin in the flyer. The two staff members were obviously overwhelmed and it made me wonder why their manager didn’t have the foresight to add extra staff.

As I stood in line watching all this unfold, I glanced up at the picture of what the sandwich should have looked like on their board and asked myself if I would be be likely to come back and pay $2.89 for this tomorrow. The answer was a pretty clear ‘no.’ I asked a few others in my office about their experience and it was the same as mine, as were their repurchase intents, regardless of which location they went to.

It’s too bad. It was a solid idea. They pulled in a lot of potential breakfast converts and had the chance to wow us with their offering, to take their time and deliver on the expectation the advertising set. But they blew the execution and under delivered.

What’s even sadder is that blown execution is not uncommon. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Hell, I’ve been the purveyor of it more times than I’d like to admit, truth be told. We really need take the same time and care we take on development on execution. Make sure our channel chatter is aligned; ensure frontline staff are informed and prepared; get the right operational resources lined up incase our marketing efforts succeed. If we don’t, everything else is wasted effort.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back at my regular place for breakfast. I’m curious, though, did anyone out there have a good experience as part of this promotion?