Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ha! This One Is About Beer Too!

It seems that I now have two posts in a row on the topic of beer. Isn't that interesting?

Of course, beer, or the enjoyment of it, is not really the point at all. The issue is how it is marketed that continues to spark my interest. The brews up for discussion this time are Coors Light and Busch Light.

I believe most are familiar with Coors' ad campaign highlighting their 'cold indicator' on each can/bottle - the mountains in their logo turn blue when the fluid is "as cold as the Rockies".

For the last few weeks on my way to work I have begun to notice Busch Light's response to this campaign from a highway billboard- the inclusion of a 'cold indicator' on their product as well. This one appearing as a thermometer - a much more direct measuring tool for temperature, I suppose.

This attempt to turn a point-of-differentiation for Coors Light into a point-of-parity for Busch Light had me thinking about both campaigns. Generic, American, mass-produced beer has a lot of competition, and not a lot of difference when it comes to taste or value. The only thing that really seems to separate the winners from losers in this fight for market share is marketing strategy.

The Coors Light ads always seemed foolish to me. Who cares about a cold indicator anyway? I know when my beverage is cold - after I put it in the refrigerator for a while. If there is any doubt, I grab the product with my hand. Those of us with working nerve endings can figure out this mystery without additional assistance. But, the campaign has seemed to have had some success. I've even had someone talk to me about how they drink Coors Light because they like their beer cold. Crazy, huh?

The reason the marketing strategy works for Coors probably has a lot to do with how they introduced it as part of their existing image. Coors Light markets their beer as the coldest, most refreshing beer around. The cold indicator expands on this by way of using the Rocky Mountains in the logo as the indicator itself. Saying that "your beer is as cold as the Rockies" when they turn blue on the label reinforces Coors' image to the consumer.

To me, it is clear that Busch Light was so focused on stealing market share away from Coors Light at any cost that their attempt to copy the marketing tool completely missed the point. For the most part, people aren't switching/remaining loyal to Coors Light because they can't tell if another brand is cold or not. And Busch literally placing a temperature gauge on their label makes it clear that they have no idea what customers are looking for. Coors Light has a campaign built around this very idea of cold and refreshing, and a logo that brings it to life. I highly doubt that anyone seeing the Busch Light ad will think "Oh, Busch Light has a cold indicator too. I guess I can buy that instead now that I can tell when it's cold". Instead they look like a company desperate to keep up and willing to copy any idea to do so. They would have been much better served to come up with a completely new idea that was nothing like Coors Light's in order to gain attention. At best, this campaign of coldness by Busch Light will be forgotten by consumers. Why? Because unlike Coors Light, there is no corresponding brand image to aid in recalling it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pabst Blue Ribbon's Resurgence

"...the brand's image being crafted not by the company but by its consumers..."

Give this article from Businessweek on PBR's buyout and comeback (not necessarily in that order) a read. I found it interesting, especially the part about the previous owner's marketing practice of not marketing at all leading to the brand finding a niche position that contributed to growth. A far cry from how the other generic-tasting, heavily-branded American brews do business, perhaps it's evidence that how you do not market your brand can, in some ways, be as important as how you do.

The new owners have different ideas though, and they must proceed carefully if they want to nurture the growth of the last few years. Now, I don't particularly like any of the beers in the Pabst product line. But, Pabst does have a rich history and a firm place in American culture. So, it will be fascinating to see what happens in the next few years, as the father and sons who now own it reach for a slice of the beer market.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Hospital-Restaurant Marketing Collaboration

We have a lot of great restaurants to choose from here in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, there are many that cannot usually take full advantage of the city's eats due to health issues requiring alternate food choices not found so easily on most menus. Well, that is now where The Christ Hospital comes into play for diners with heart (and other health) issues.

As a leader in heart treatment, Christ has decided to use their position to help ensure that their heart patients can live a fully enjoyable life...outside of their home cooking. Through the Christ Hospital Heart Healthy Restaurant Partnership, the hospital aims to align with local restaurants to help improve the nutritional content of their dishes without sacrificing taste. The initiative which began with 13 restaurants now boasts about 30 eateries in the area of varying cuisines, and is drawing a lot of interest among diners.

Looking at this program purely from a marketing standpoint, the hospital-restaurant partnership can bring nothing but success for everyone involved. The logo you see above is what appears on the menus of each participating restaurant. Upon noticing the icon, diners are immediately reminded of who the leading heart hospital in the area is - a great memory jog in a not so ordinary place. Next, the diner recognizes the initiative that the Christ Hospital shows in finding ways to better serve their patients, even outside of their walls. This is a great way for the hospital to increase their brand recognition and loyalty among patients and their families - past, present, and future - while highlighting their core competency.

For the participating restaurants, they increase patronage among many different people by devoting the time and effort in serving them better. Heart patients and their families can feel comfortable going out to eat, and can truly enjoy themselves. Those with health concerns will soon learn which restaurants participate in this program, and you can bet these are the restaurants they will dine in exclusively (as long as the taste is there). The result is a great new point of differentiation for the restaurateurs.

It seems that everyone walks away happy through their participation in this program. Additionally, the word on the demand of healthier menu options will continue to spread among the culinary world, and many more restaurants will take the health of their patrons into consideration.

For the expanded story on the Christ Hospital Heart Healthy Restaurant Partnership, including a list of participating restaurants, see Dave Malaska's article in Cincy Magazine.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's Labor Day

Here is a little bit of Labor Day inspiration that I found earlier on MSN. by way of Investopedia. It details the 10 of America's Greatest Entepreneurs. Click here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Papa John's Pizza Contest

Check out the article below from ClickZ about Papa John's new pizza contest promotion utilizing social media to get the word out.


What do you think?

Of course, plenty of companies hold contests among their customers to come up with new ideas and increase brand loyalty. But, allowing the contest winner to share in the profits from their creation as one of the prizes is a great motivator, and it draws in greater talent.

In addition, Papa John's is encouraging contestants to drum up interest for their pizza recipe by utilizing their own social networks. Doing this takes some of the promotional burden away from Papa John's (this is, after all, a small portion of their overall marketing strategy), and also serves to make many more people aware of the contest and the brand without costing the company a dime.

I think this is a great use of social media, and will inspire any marketer who reads the story.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving Checklist = A Clever Marketing Piece

While searching for new career opportunities, the online portion of my research and networking takes me to many different websites. So, as you can probably guess, I view a lot of marketing materials. Some are really good, and others...well, not so much. Still, some businesses do not even seem to understand the value of marketing on their website, which is a shame. Here it is, the place where a vast amount of current and potential clientele will go to learn more about a business, fully controlled by the business themselves, and it is not being put to use.

There are many companies, however, that truly understand a web site's value and fully utilize this domain to market to customers as much as possible...even if the customer does not always realize it. I recently came across one great example of clever and subtle shall we say "reminder marketing" on the website of Cincinnati Bell.

If you have ever moved into a new home, you know that it is important to switch over your phone service to the new address. Well, Cincinnati Bell's marketing team saw this as an opportunity to reinforce some of their company messages and values to customers through a small added value.

What did they do? Well, it's really simple, actually. They offer a to-do checklist on the web page for moving customers. This is a useful tool that will provide customers some direction and piece of mind as they embark on what can be a stressful journey to a new home.When so much is going on at once, it's easy to forget some things. This checklist provides movers with a list of thirty-something important things to remember leading up to, and including the big day.

Are all of the things on this list related to Cincinnati Bell? Not even close. They have five. That's all. And most are not even to try to up sell the customer. In fact, there is even an opportunity to claim a $50 gift card for dinner, compliments of Cincinnati Bell.

So what is this really about? It's about reminding the customer of the great service they receive from Cincinnati Bell. That Cincinnati Bell cares about them. Not just about their phone and Internet service, but about their personal well-being - their happiness. Cincinnati Bell does WHATEVER it can to help keep their customers' lives run smoothly, and this checklist is evidence of that. And, that is the marketing message delivered subtly in this helpful piece found on their website. This is a great example of finding small ways to effectively reach the mind of the customer.

To see the moving checklist from Cincinnati Bell click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Value Of Price Discrimination

There are times when offering a price differential can be of great use as a marketing tool for businesses - when it is done legally and ethically, of course.

This morning I was thinking of asking my in-laws to do something for me on Wednesday afternoon. Then it hit me. They will probably decline because Wednesday is 'Movie Day' for them! Why is Wednesday 'Movie Day'? Well, because the movie theater offers a special discount to senior citizens for Wednesday matinees when they use their "Golden Buckeye" card - a state-issued card for people over 60 years of age.

My in-laws have been retired for a few years now, and pretty much every Wednesday they go to the movies at a discount. Sometimes they even see two in a row! And why? Because it gives them something to do that is enjoyable for both of them, and they are getting a significant reduction from the regular price of a ticket.

Clearly, this discount is a great benefit to older people. But, is this really beneficial to the theater? If my in-laws like movies so much, wouldn't they go anyway at full price? Isn't this lower pricing taking away revenue the theater could get from selling seats to other age groups at full price? The answer to the first question is a definite YES. The answer to the last two is a firm NO.

Now my father-in-law enjoys movies a lot. But, I can say with confidence that he would almost never go to the theater to see a movie if he had to pay full price. The same is true with other businesses that accept the Golden Buckeye card, such as restaurants. He will go to these restaurants, and go more often because there is a discount involved.

The reason this is such a good marketing tool is because the program brings in customers that the business would not normally attract, and often during non-peak hours that struggle to bring in customers at all. In the example of movie theaters, Wednesday afternoons are a time that few people patronize. Employees are still working, popcorn is still made, movies are still showing, and electricity is on even if moviegoers are not there. So, by offering a discount to seniors during this off-peak time, the theater attracts patrons who are often retired (meaning they have time and money to spend in the theater during the day) to be their customers when they normally would have few.

A discounted ticket plus refreshments equals increased revenue for the theater, and happy seniors who enjoyed their afternoon with a price cut. Increase profits by offering a lower price. What a great idea!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bill Hicks On Marketing

While watching a bunch of stand-up clips from comedian Bill Hicks over the weekend I came across this bit he did about marketers. I actually find it more interesting than funny - though it is funny.

If you are familiar with the kind of comedy Hicks did, you know that he was often critical of things like consumerism, conventional unquestioned thought, and the 'ruling class'. So, you may not be surprised that marketers would be on his list of people to despise.

Ultimately, I think he has a legitimate point about those that constantly research, segment, and profile in order to peddle garbage to consumers. Their goal being to convince the consumer that whatever product or service they offer will help to fulfill them once consumed, and is not, in fact, useless garbage.

I, myself, strive to use the art and science of marketing in my career to do something a little more meaningful and helpful to the public. I feel as though many other marketers do too - and have genuinely useful products and services to offer. Not everything is garbage, and there are some things which people need, correct? Though, competition and capitalism has the ability to reduce marketers with my intentions to the 'scum' of which Hicks speaks. Ha!

Anyway, enjoy the clip below, and let me know what you think of it.

*Also be warned that this clip contains a lot of profanity.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coca-Cola's Marketing In Korea

This is an interesting article I just read about Coca-Cola's attempt to utilize social media as a way to introduce their products in new territories with Internet access, and build their brand with the help of influential bloggers.

From this, it seems Coke is really staying in front of changing opportunities in marketing. They are actively (and, apparently effectively) using all of today's tools to not only expand their visibility and reach in current markets, but to establish relationships in new ones.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stephen Colbert On Tiger Woods X Nike

By now you have probably seen this Nike ad. If not, you almost undoubtedly heard about it. It aired just the day before the Master's tournament began and features Tiger Woods looking into the camera while the voice of his deceased father is heard speaking to him.

Soon after its initial airing, media outlets began their analysis, and comments from people could be seen all over the Internet. I'm posting this video of Stephen Colbert discussing the commercial on his show last night because he really seemed to hit the nail on the head with his comments about the angle of the commercial, the response some may have toward it, and the difficult situation Nike now finds itself in with the spokesman solely responsible for communicating their brand to golfers. And, in between all of this, the bit is absolutely hilarious.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tiger's Nike Commercial
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

"...usually Tiger sells Nike. This time it's the other way around."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Life Moves Fast

A new commercial for Palm is beginning to air during the NCAA Tournament. In addition to being an all-around good ad communicating the available features being used with ease by a woman on the move, it's all being delivered to a Hip Hop backdrop. Mos Def's "Quiet Dog" plays as the soundtrack, and his album cover even pops up as the Palm owner browses past her music list.

This is not just a good example of Hip Hop's ever-expanding reach to the consuming masses. It is also an example of marketers' realization of this fact and explicit decision to utilize the music (and culture) to reach their consumers. A song is not chosen for a commercial at random. It is a well thought out decision along with every other aspect of an ad. The music is important because it feeds into the overall message and image being communicated.

The message here is that "Life Moves Fast". Use the Palm to make sure that you "Don't Miss A Thing". This message is underlined with the up-tempo Mos track which the woman is walking to the beat of; and is communicated by her physically moving while checking messages, and finding a place to buy shoes for the event to which the dress code was just told to her. The features that the Palm provides, and the ease of use ensures that Palm owners won't "miss a thing".

The image of the Palm user - underscored again by the song - is a younger, trendy, professional, and social person who desires a versatile, reliable device to help organize and coordinate life's needs. This is the modern hip hop fan. This is the target market of Palm. Is this not what you expected?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Vs. Sugar

A little while ago, I wrote about Pepsi's limited-time 'Throwback' soft drinks which use sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. You can read it here. While browsing Advertising Age's website yesterday, I saw an interesting article that discussed the shift from HFCS to sugar that some companies are experimenting with while the price of the two products are similar.

It seems that several companies are choosing not to include the sweetener change in their marketing messages despite an increasing push away from HFCS by consumers. Why is this? One idea is that companies are testing the waters a bit before they dive in. As with 'Throwback' soft drinks, offering them for a limited-time allows Pepsi to gauge interest and satisfaction with the product instead of taking a huge risk changing their formula. We all know how abrupt changes have worked out in the past.

Some other companies also want to test out the use of sugar with their customers. Though, as the article points out, playing this up in the marketing may throw an unwanted spotlight on the brand's other products which still use HFCS. In addition, a push like this may not matter to a majority of the buying public in the first place. And, what happens if the change is implemented across the board, and sugar prices shoot up again, which appears to be the case this year?

As the country seems to be moving slowly toward healthier food choices (the reference to slow-moving, obese Americans here is unintentional), perhaps baby steps are the key for many established brands. Read the article and share your thoughts with me.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Vintage Advertisements

I spent a decent part of this past weekend browsing through print advertisements in various categories from years past on this site I found called Vintage Ad Browser. If you have an interest in print advertising over the years this is the site for you. It allows you to choose a category and then a decade and up pops several print ads from that era. It's very interesting to look back and see how much things have changed (or, stayed the same) over many years.

Here is the link. Check it out.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Loads Of Hope...And Great PR

Many of you may already be aware of Tide's Loads of Hope program which travels to disaster areas and provides laundry services (free of charge) to people in need. Such a program is no doubt rooted in a desire to help others, and the perceived obligation for a successful company to give back to communities. However, the enormous amount of positive PR generated by a campaign of this kind are not lost on marketers.

Loads of Hope provides a very valuable service to those affected by disasters often being made to live without electricity or running water. The fact that Tide is taking the time to do this means a lot to the people in need...and to the people learning about the effort through the ad campaign. While those directly benefiting from this service are now very likely to be life-long Tide loyalists once their lives are back to normal; average consumers who may have loyalties elsewhere, or traditionally opt for the brand offering a sale, are now more likely to support the brand they know to be making a difference in the world.

Tide goes a step further to make it even easier for the customer to choose. Tide does not have to rely on the buyer to make the purchase only because they want to support a company that offers support to others. Tide actually gives the buyer the option to directly support the effort themselves with their purchase. One part of this campaign was to encourage consumers to purchase Tide products with a special cap or seal for a portion of the sale to go to relief efforts.

This is an easy decision for a consumer to make - 'buy something you were going to buy anyway; just be sure to buy it from us and you will be making a difference in the world as well'. Such a promotion gets the people themselves involved with the campaign, and lets people offer help even when they can't physically go to the affected area or donate large sums of money. They can thank Tide for the opportunity.

In the most recent commercial I saw from Tide promoting this campaign, they offered another for average citizens to support. Only this time buyers will also be helping the advertising efforts of Tide in the process. The call to action is to buy a Tide vintage t-shirt (you've probably seen someone wearing one of these before just for fun) and the proceeds will go towards disaster relief. This is another way to support the cause, and by wearing the t-shirt consumers will be promoting the Tide brand everywhere they go (and, for those who have seen the ad, remind them of the positive works Tide is involved in).

Put all of these marketing ideas together and you have one solid campaign that works on several different levels to promote the brand and encourage sales while having lasting effects on consumers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NBC's Brian Williams Talks Zamboni's With Al Michaels

I posted the following quote from NBC's Brian Williams during his coverage of the Winter Olympics as my Facebook status just because I thought it was funny. But, the more I think about it, the more I find myself thinking about the branding implications of what he said (unbeknownst to him).

"...problems last night with the Zamboni - didn't use a name brand Zamboni. You know we've learned in life, you want Kleenex? You want Formica? You want a Xerox copy? Ask for them by name ladies and gentlemen. So, they're bringing in, Al, a genuine Zamboni here to the games, uh, to do the, ice uh, stuff. So ,we're up to our you-know-whats in Olympic news here."

What do you think?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Toyota's Commitment TV Commercial

Today, I was watching a show I recorded from Sunday. I was skipping through the commercials (even marketers do it occasionally) when this new Toyota ad caught my eye. I pressed rewind and watched it from the beginning. Take a look (click the link - embedding was disabled on YouTube)


I watched this commercial several times, and my impression is that this ad is the right move at the right time. There has been a lot of negative publicity for Toyota lately due to recalled vehicles, and perhaps some perception that the auto maker was not approaching the situation correctly with the public. Some major action had to be taken.

Toyota has long been perceived by consumers as a safe, reliable brand. A line of vehicles that would last long and cause minimal headaches for owners. All auto brands seem to have recalls at one point or another. Things happen. To some extent, it is to be expected. But, there appears to be some surprise that Toyota, the "perfect" car company, is not so perfect. For their products, it was not expected. Now, it seems that their brand image may suffer greatly due to this recent incident.

In order to regain the confidence of the consumer, Toyota put together this commercial and released it at a time when there is much speculation on whether or not their products can be trusted. The commercial is sincere and forthright. They begin by reminding consumers of their long history, and why their image of high-quality is as strong as it is - it has been earned. Toyota then admits that they have not lived up to the expectations of their customers, and discuss, in detail, how they plan to make things right. It is a brilliant plea to consumers, and it goes a long way further than a quick statement to the press, or a news interview would.

In my view, Toyota has taken a major and (most likely) successful step in maintaining their brand image with this commercial and reassuring consumers of their commitment to quality.

What do you think?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ford Demonstrates Innovative Viral Marketing

I've written about Ford several times on this blog for several reasons. One was in response to their move towards a brand image built on innovation as they rolled out the new Taurus model; another was to give an account of how one of their direct marketing programs failed for them while succeeding for me financially. I find that Ford offers a lot in the way of marketing case studies. It is one of our great American corporations with an undeniably rich history of innovation during a period of rapid change (technologically, and otherwise), lending itself to a bevy of marketing challenges along the way.

Today, I read an interesting article detailing the way Ford has benefited from social marketing by utilizing regular, tech-savvy citizens as catalysts for the viral distribution of their brand message towards a broader public. The program is called the Fiesta Movement. You can read about this program, its effects on Ford, and what it may mean to the marketing industry at the link below.


Monday, January 25, 2010


I am a big fan of Mountain Dew. I always have been. I know it's not the healthiest choice, but it is a delicious choice. Last night while watching the NFL conference championships at a friend's house, I enjoyed a can of Mountain Dew Throwback, and it got me thinking about the campaign.

Pepsi first unleashed their Throwback products (called a "throwback" because they are made with actual sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup America now puts in literally everything) last year, I believe. Below is what the cans looked like then.

I tasted the Pepsi Throwback at a family members house, but missed my chance for the Mountain Dew version. The store was sold out by the time I got there - they weren't kidding about the 'limited time'. They are now back in stores for another limited time offer, and this time I made sure to get a 12-pack of my favorite pop.

It seems as though Pepsi is being really smart with this offering. When it is offered, the 'limited time' call to action is real. They ship out a certain amount along with an ad campaign, and let it sell until it is gone. The 'limited time only' tag creates both a call to action and extra shove toward an impulse buy. The fact that it is made with natural sugar appeals to people that appreciate a natural sweetener and those that are becoming more conscious these days of the abundance of high fructose corn syrup in our diets. Offering this formula for a limited time is also better than trying to extend the brand line with infinite variations that people will quickly tire of. Lastly, Pepsi made a switch to a more retro-looking design this time out which will encourage the nostalgic mind to make a purchase.

Overall, I appreciate the look, taste, feel, and branding approach of Pepsi Throwbacks as a marketer as well as a consumer.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Time At Bandcamp...

Being a big music fan, I spend a lot of time on different websites and blogs that discuss music and post new songs by artists that I like (or that I've never heard of - a lot of times this is how I, and others, get turned on to new music). These are not sites that pirate music and offer for free what artists hope that you, as fans, will pay for.

In fact, these websites tend to function more as a "street team" for promotion, only for the Internet. They get the word out on new artists, post links to new songs that were sent to them by the artists themselves, and allow people to discuss what they've heard in the comment sections. Many sites even have a link next to the free download for a song that allows a viewer to buy the song or album on iTunes or Amazon. As many of you are aware, having this convenient link right there for the reader makes it much more likely that they will choose to support the music by purchasing it.

Lately, I've noticed that more and more artists are taking this promotional concept a step further for themselves and becoming smarter at marketing their own product. These entrepreneur-minded musicians are using a free offering as a means to gather email lists of those interested in their music and market to them directly in the future. They are identifying their target market that will help them drive sales of their songs and concert tickets with very little expenditure.

Let me explain what I mean with an example. Instead of just posting a song or two here and there on their website and on the music sites I mentioned above, a few artists I like are now offering what have been dubbed 'FreEps' - or, a free EP, a shorter collection of songs usually meant to drum up interest for the forthcoming full-length album, or LP. They send this link out to music websites in their genre to post for their readers. Only instead of being taken to a random third party file-sharing site to get the file without giving any information, the fan is taken to a website set up by the artist, such as Bandcamp, when they click on the download link.

Once on the site, a pop-up appears asking the visitor to enter their email address and zip code. The link to the music is then emailed to the visitor. And, just like that the music fan gets some free music, and the musician has an email address (and region via zip code) which they can message with any updates they have to give or offers to make in the future. Now how easy and beneficial is that?

If a person ends up not liking the music they heard, it is very easy to unsubscribe from the mailing list. After all, why would the artist want to keep someone on their list who doesn't like the product anyway? But, those that do like it are now in place to receive offers which they may not have received otherwise, and be more inclined to engage with the artist in the future. For example, in addition to more free downloads, I have received invitations to album release parties and concerts through email. Because I offered up my zip code as well, I can be notified if there is an event in my area - direct marketing without the expense of advertisements or snail mail.

These are classic marketing concepts updated for an Internet age. This example of how an artist may use Bandcamp is just what was apparent to me after a few brief experiences. The site actually offers a lot more than what I wrote about here. Much of it works like a stat counter for a blog, so artists can keep better track of their audience. But, the site also allows an artist to charge for some songs and not others, give away a lower-quality version of a song while charging for the higher-quality, allow the fan to specify what they would like to pay, post lyrics and cover art, and much more.

If you are interested, you can visit their site at the link below and watch their video.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Direct Marketing Campaign Abandoned At The Point Of Sale

While doing more research and reading on direct marketing campaigns I was reminded of one that I partook in as a consumer a few years back. It worked out just fine for me, but horribly for the company involved. I received the benefit through my response, but they did not receive the sale. And, they had no one to blame but themselves.

I received a direct marketing piece in the mail from Ford. They were offering a fantastic deal: come in to one of their dealerships and test-drive one of their vehicles, and receive a Visa gift card in the mail in the amount of either $50 or $75 (I can't remember which it was, but either way it's a great deal, right?). I was still under a lease agreement with Toyota at the time and had no plans to buy a new car, but I figured why pass up the deal? I don't have to buy. The only requirement for me was that I come in and test-drive. After that, I can fill out the paperwork (most likely ending up on their mailing list for future correspondence and offers), say 'no thank you' to any offer, and go home to await my gift card.

There happened to be a Ford dealership right down the street from me, so one day when I had some time and made my way over there. I went in and told the salesman that approached about the offer I had received in the mail and presented it to him. I followed him over to a table in the showroom and sat down. He looked it over briefly and then asked me point blank if I had any intention of buying a vehicle. I said 'no'.

"Okay, well let me just sign this paper, and you can be on your way", he said.

He signed the paper and gave it to me. Then he let me leave. No test drive. No sales pitch. Nothing. He didn't even try. As far as he was concerned, every person that came into the showroom with this direct mail piece in hand was going to waste his time. They were not going to buy a car. They just wanted the gift card. And, for him to make money he has to sell cars. So, in his eyes it was better to get rid of us freeloaders up front, and get back to business.

But, in doing this he missed the entire point of the direct marketing campaign. What the campaign did was bring people into the showroom and require them to actually try out a Ford product. Once the consumer was in there, it was the job of the salesperson (and the vehicle) to sell the product. Now, in my case (and perhaps the case of many others) the day would not have resulted in a sale. There was no chance of that. I had an almost brand new car which I was happy with. However, this visit could have potentially done a lot to help change my perception of Ford's products and of Ford as a company. But, instead the ball was dropped in the red zone.

All of the blame does not fall onto the salesman though. In his head, it made sense to not 'waste time' with these non-customers. His manager should have done more to ensure he did his best to educate these consumers and make any kind of connection that he could. Next, those marketers who created the campaign should have thought it out more completely and realized that this offer is going to bring in a lot of false leads to their salespeople who make a living off of commission. It was their responsibility to take their campaign a step further and sell it to the sales teams at the dealership. Tell the salespeople the reasoning behind the campaign and why you think it will work. Educate them on the marketing aspect of driving sales and get everyone on the same side.

The sales teams concerns should have then been addressed. They need qualified leads to have a better chance at making a sale. So, what's another way to offer this deal to consumers? Maybe have a certain day for the offer to be valid, or only during certain non-peak hours. Perhaps they could have designated certain employees to be the ones to handle those responding to the mailing - people whose income is not commission-based. However, because the details clearly were not thought of prior to the execution of this campaign, the direct marketing offer was a failure on the day I went in to the dealership, and more than likely a failure all around for the same reason.

As a final note, one of my associates received the same offer and did the same thing that I did. They never received their gift card in the mail. Follow-through is vital for any campaign if you plan to build a positive brand image in the minds of consumers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Building & Maintaining Relationships Through Direct Marketing

In order to keep my marketing skills sharp, and because I am just generally interested in the topic of marketing, I try to read books, blogs, and news stories on the subject whenever possible. It keeps me busy and helps me to view things through a marketing lens. Currently, I am reading a book on direct marketing which I discovered in a pile of giveaways at school in the late summer. Due to my current reading material, I imagine several of my upcoming posts will center around this subject, as I will be thinking of experiences I have had with this specific type of marketing.

As I began reading this material I thought back to a few examples of direct marketing that I'd like to share. Two of them involve birthdays, and the other my preparation for the future.

For many years, my mom has been a Pontiac owner. I remember the day she brought home her brand new blue 1988 Grand Am. My older and brother and I had a great time climbing through it for the first time; discovering and opening each of the compartments as if they were secret. I cannot remember what she owned before that vehicle, but ever since it has been Pontiac - at least two more Grand AMs, a Transport, and a Grand Prix. And, if the Pontiac line hadn't been cut, she would have been a lifetime customer without question.

My mom likes everything about Pontiacs. But, what came to mind for me when thinking about direct marketing is something which she mentions all the time, and has nothing to do with the performance or aesthetics of the vehicles. She tells me that the first birthday card she gets each year is from her Pontiac dealer. Each and every year before any friend or relative can wish her a happy birthday, she opens a card in the mail from her Pontiac salesman. This direct marketing tactic can be very effective. Not only does it allow the dealer to keep in touch with their past customers and stay on their minds for future deals; it also allows for a human touch to the marketing piece. It gives the impression of a more personal relationship with the customer than just buying a car. Some may think that this kind of thing is not a big deal (in fact, some recipients of the birthday cards may overlook it as well), but for my mom - and many others, I'm sure - this gesture means something. Like I mentioned before, my mom would have been a Pontiac customer for life. Of course, she had to like the vehicle she bought, be confident in its quality, and happy with the deal she made when purchasing it. But, I can't help but think that the birthday card, if only in some small way, played a part in her being so loyal to not only Pontiac, but to the specific dealership she went to when it was time to buy a new car.

My brother actually has a similar story to share with regard to his State Farm agent. He too receives a birthday card every year. In most cases, insurance is something you only deal with when you have to. How many people speak to their agent unless they need something? However, this agent is taking important steps in fostering lifetime customer loyalty because his customers can feel like they have more of a relationship with him. He doesn't only come around when times are bad. The agent is establishing this connection absent of any kind of immediate need (i.e. a claim to file when something like a car accident or fire occurs). So, because he feels like a valued customer at State Farm, how likely do you think he would be to consider switching to another provider? Not very likely, I would guess. And, even if he is offered a better deal somewhere else, he most likely feels comfortable actually discussing his rate with his agent now before he decides to switch, giving his agent a chance to keep the relationship. And relationships are a big part of what direct marketing is all about.

The issue of relationships (establishing, nurturing, and keeping them) is what brings me to my last example where I act as the direct marketer, in a way, to market my product - Me. I am currently in the market for a new job, and while I am applying at many places and networking wherever I can, professional jobs are pretty scarce right now. A while back, I found a marketing position at a new company with a good business plan and applied.

I was interviewed and things were going well. Ultimately, they were not able to provide me with what I was requiring of an employer at the time because they were such a young company. Certain things were just not put in place yet. Although I was unable to accept a position with them at the time, I told the manager that I really liked their company and what they brought to the marketplace, and that I would like to keep in touch if things were to change on the future. After all, I thought that the company would find great success in the future, and would like to consider being a part of its continued growth a little further down the line.

I did keep in touch with their dealings through their website and through professional networking online, and contacted them again several times to follow up. I spoke to a new manager in the marketing area a few times on the phone, and even came in to visit with the company's owner for a while. Things went well, and there has been some talk between us of developing a position within the company where I could be of great use. While nothing concrete has happened yet, had I not been willing to continue to remind them of who I am and what I have to offer, they may very well forget me when hiring new talent. The relationship I am nurturing may lead to something great for me in the near future. If it happens, it will be because of direct marketing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Standing Out In The Crowd

Differentiation holds a lot of importance in the business world. What sets you apart from the pack is often what gets the attention of others. That differentiation should also be a strength of yours - one that is not easily duplicated by the competition, and thus can be used as an advantage. The same holds true for the individual as a job applicant, salesperson, and any other situation relying on a personal brand image.

I was thinking of this issue today and was reminded of an experience with a salesman of sorts which I will never forget. Several years ago (most likely before I even took to marketing as a career path) I was at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game with my family. We were enjoying the game, when along comes one of the beer vendors. He marched up and down the aisles like the rest of them. But, instead of just shouting out what he was selling to the fans, he came up with a clever way of differentiating himself...he sang.

While the rest of the vendors just faded into the background and became nothing more than a small addition to the noise and atmosphere, this guy was impossible to ignore. He stood at the foot of the aisle, and looking up at everyone with a beer in each hand he belted out popular songs which he changed slightly to include the fact that he was selling beer. I wish I could remember them all today, perhaps my dad will if I ask him. But, one was to Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" He sang, "If you want my body, and ya think I'm sexy, come on baby buy a beer!!"

It went on like this for the entire game. A different tune each time. Because people noticed him, and were enjoying the show he was putting on, they bought beer. Most people probably wanted a beer anyway. But, they weren't buying from the other guys as much. I heard a woman behind me mentioning to her friend that she wanted a beer just as a vendor was about to pass by the row. She wanted to wait for the singing guy though. He was fun.

Fifteen minutes or so passed, and he showed up again singing another song as loud as he could while dancing around. I looked around and saw more hands go up in the air with cash in them than I had when any other vendor came through. It took him another fifteen minutes or more just to serve everybody! The woman behind me bought two. This guy was taking sales away from the other vendors and also creating a desire for his product just by being creative and fun. It didn't matter that he was a beer vendor at the baseball stadium. He was a salesman and he made sales. He probably got some tips too.

I never had an experience like this one at a stadium ever again. I never saw that vendor again. But, I'm pretty confident that his willingness to think outside of the box and make himself a success no matter what he was doing took him places in life. And, I use this experience for inspiration in branding myself.