A New Year THINKABOUT!

Happy January—the month of all sorts of resolution making! It’s hard to resist the desire to start anew with a clean slate each year. Something in us likes that blank blackboard/screen feel and the  “do-overness” ability that comes with a turn or click of the calendar. But whether or not the act of resolution making resonates with you, I do advocate the practice of taking a pause for a New Year ThinkAbout with your brand leaders to reflect together on two powerful verbs. Ask yourselves these questions:

Happy January—the month of all sorts of resolution making! It’s hard to resist the desire to start anew with a clean slate each year. Something in us likes that blank blackboard/screen feel and the “do-overness” ability that comes with a turn or click of the calendar. But whether or not the act of resolution making resonates with you, I do advocate the practice of taking a pause for a New Year ThinkAbout with your brand leaders to reflect together on two powerful verbs. Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. How well did you WOO and WOW your customers last year?
  2. What are your plans to live out these verbs in a fresh and meaningful way this year?

WOO and WOW: Six letters with all sorts of magnificent brand potential. Short and simple little verbs that can easily get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of omnichannel strategy creation, personnel issues, financial plan execution and competitive activities springing up all around you. But these two verbs should be at the forefront of your best brand thinking. Here’s why:

• Wooing is a full-time, year-round, relationship-building branding activity. When brands forget to woo, that is, continually win over, both potentially new and, of course, existing customers throughout all their touchpoint interactions, these customers can turn elsewhere. When customers feel their business (and time and attention and wallets!) are taken for granted, unappreciated and or even assumed, they can start to slip away. You may or may not even notice at first … it may be subtle: one less purchase from you, one extra month between transactions.

• Wowing is a full-time, year-round, relationship-building branding activity. When brands fail to keep pace with their customers’ needs, when they keep doing more of the same, when they don’t stay a step ahead of their competitors or disrupt their own successes, they stop wowing customers. Customers get bored, fatigued and even worse, distracted by those competitive brands that are indeed wowing.

So, who is your Chief Wooing Officer? Who is your Chief Wowing Officer? What’s their action plan for 2014? Better yet, why not have a thinkabout incorporating wooing and wowing as a full time, company-wide, all-brand ambassadors’ initiative this year?

The Best Brand Gift Ever!

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is something from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is, as the song says, some version of “12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves or even a partridge in a pear tree.” You don’t need or want more stuff. You want a meaningful, long-lasting, brand-enhancing and life-affirming gift. Something useful and practical.

What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

The deal is that no one can give this gift to you. It’s a selfie. There’s no outsourcing this skill to a personal shopper, no concierge service that can do this for you. It’s a true DIYer.

As YES people, the word NO is an infrequent part of our vocabulary—in our brand lives and in our personal lives. But I have found that the happiest and most productive people have given themselves the gift of NO. They have learned to make NO a natural part of their DNA … both in and out of the office.

So, before you head out of the office to start holiday celebrations, why not raise a toast to that little two-letter word NO and see if these bits of inspiration may encourage you to treat yourself (and the brand you lead) to this very important present:

1. The gift of a new discipline … making no an art form. Missy Park, founder of Title Nine, echoes the power of no. “In my book, saying yes is over-rated. Fact is, it’s easy to say yes. No difficult choices, no disappointments. Ahh, but saying no. That is the real art form. There’s choosing to say no which can be wrenching. There is choosing when to say no, which is often. And then there’s saying it graciously, which is very hard indeed.”

2. The gift of throwing in the towel … the towel that really doesn’t matter. I greatly admire Bob Goff. He’s an author, an attorney and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization. He wisely shares: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” With that in mind, Goff makes it a habit to quit something every Thursday. It liberates him for new things. What can you be simply done with?

3. The gift of margin … build in white space … everywhere! Dr. Richard Swensen, a physician-futurist, educator and author, advocates for purposefully creating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breathing room in our full-to-brimming professional and personal lives. He calls it margin—like the white space around pages of books. He counsels that we need it more than ever. Appropriately saying NO gives us more white space.

4. The gift of focus … just say no … perhaps three times or more! Steve Jobs, Apple’s brilliant and passionate founder, shared this: “Focusing is about saying no. You’ve got say no, no, no. The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

5. The gift of eliminating even more non-urgent and unimportant time fritters. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” cautions us to be careful of defaulting too often into what he calls Quadrant 4 of his time management matrix … the place we naturally drift after spending lots of time in urgent and crisis modes: trivia, busywork, mindless surfing. Just say goodbye to all the nonessentials.

6. The gift of stopping … count the ways. Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” encourages us to create STOP DOING LISTS. That’s right … enumerate all things you are no longer going to do. Start by simply saying no to his Venn diagram of three crucial things-activities that are you are not deeply passionate about, that you feel you are not genetically encoded for and things that don’t make much economic sense.

7. The gift of holding back … a permission slip for more B+s. Must everything be done to an A+ perfection level? Pick and choose those activities that really warrant this kind of energy. Challenge yourself to not be an honors student in all you do. Award-winning author Anne Lamott had to remind herself in midlife that “a B+ is just fine.”

8. The gift of less … hit that delete key more often. Do we really need (or have time to read) all those subscriptions? Must we? Find satisfaction in architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “less is more” philosophy. Go ahead—delete, unsubscribe, edit, curate. Whatever you have to call this process, just do it.

9. The gift of simplicity … now. Years ago naturalist and poet, Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Alan Seigel updates that sentiment for brand leaders in his book: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself and your brand the gift of a serious simplification process.

10. The gift of benign neglect … just ignore it! Do we really have to have a multiplatform constantly clean inbox? Who cares? What’s the point? Mani S. Sivasubramanian, author of “How To Focus – Stop Procrastinating, Improve Your Concentration & Get Things Done – Easily!” writes: “Information overload (on all levels) is exactly WHY you need an “ignore list.” It has never been more important to be able to say “No.”

11. The gift of checking back in with yourself … so, what matters now? In her book “Fierce Conversations,” leadership development architect Susan Scott suggests people change and forget to tell one another. That is true. Sometimes we even forget to tell ourselves. What has changed for you or your brand? Your energy level? Your tolerance? Your interests? Your competition? Your customers? What needs revisiting so that your yeses are truly yeses and your nos are truly nos?

12. The gift of a do-over … recycle your mistakes. We’ve all made the mistake of saying yes when we should have said no. Jot down a few of those do-overs on a post it note. What were the learning lessons? Keep that note to yourself handy.

‘Tis the season for gift-giving. Be kind to yourself and to your brand and make the practice of gracious NO saying not only a year end gift, but a long lasting part of your DNA.

Are You Mad About Your Internal Culture?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

And by mad I mean actually passionate about your work in a good way, in a can’t-wait-to-build-the-brand-in-some-new-way-today kind of way?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

As I lead interdepartmental meetings these days with my clients, I often hear comments like these from our face time “group genius” gatherings:

  • “We really should connect as a group more often.”
  • “I now understand your department better.”
  • To a co-worker: “I never knew what you did!”
  • “Oh, that’s why we do that! That makes sense now.”
  • “How come I never heard this before?”
  • “We need to tell the rest of the team this!”

Building passionate brand ambassadors and an engaging culture should be high on every brand leader’s “must do” list. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos.com consider these internal branding strategies core to their successful business models. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, says, “our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”

And these Zappos’ core values lay the groundwork for its notable and enviable culture:

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I’m blessed to work with clients like these who are positively mad about what they do! I recently had three experiences of working again with long-term clients. I hadn’t been on-site to their respective offices for almost a year. I smiled as I saw reconfigured offices to allow for more collaboration, customer comments boldly displayed on walls, brand storytelling by happy customers sprinkled throughout the entire office and profiles of customer segments/personas highlighted throughout the company. These brand leaders were so thrilled to show me how they’ve elevated the importance of internal branding and what it’s meant to their employees. Internal branding matters.

Sara Florin, senior director of creative services for SmartPak, the Zappos of the equestrian industry, was delighted to share one recent event she led to help the rest of this fast-paced entrepreneurial organization learn more about all that her talented department handles. Here’s how she describes it: “Our energetic, passionate creative department is constantly working on bigger and better ways to market our products, but not everyone in the company understands the scope or details of what we do. We wanted to take time to celebrate our accomplishments and show off our capabilities in a fun and formal way. Inspired by the hit show “Mad Men,” we hosted an open house and cocktail hour so we could show off our “mad style.”

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“We dressed up to fit the era, served 60s-inspired food and cocktails to encourage attendance, and set up displays of our recent work. With over 50 people from other departments attending throughout the hour, we were able to demystify the creative process and present ourselves as a polished, professional in-house creative team that could rival any external agency. And we got to have a lot of fun doing it!”

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Activities like hosting a “Mad Men”-themed party may not fit your brand personality, but why not brandstorm some ideas that might help your team members empathize more with all the various roles and responsibilities needed to create your brand experience. Identify activities that engage co-workers from cross-functional areas, inspire collaboration, and just plain add fun and playfulness to all the hard work in building remarkable customer experiences.

So go ahead, get mad … in a good way!

A Toast to Brand Effervescence!

While Shakespeare said it first, it is easily the lived mantra at omnichannel retailer Boston Proper: “Boldness be my friend.” I recently shared a glass of celebratory bubbly with two smart leaders at Boston Proper—Sheryl Clark, president, and Margaret Moraskie, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce—after being wowed by my first visit to their new boutique in Boca Raton, Florida.

While Shakespeare said it first, it is easily the lived mantra at omnichannel retailer Boston Proper: “Boldness be my friend.” I recently shared a glass of celebratory bubbly with two smart leaders at Boston Proper—Sheryl Clark, president, and Margaret Moraskie, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce—after being wowed by my first visit to their new boutique in Boca Raton, Florida.

Having had the honor of working with this brilliant team in the past, I was thrilled to literally walk into their newly reenergized brand experience and see this brand burst into an even bolder stance from their already well-designed and lust-worthy “take me on vacation” Web and catalog pages.

Apparently, so, too, were all their other brand fans. “We had customers standing in line for over two hours for our grand opening. It was a party before the doors even opened!” Clark said. “Our models were mingling with our customers while many of our employees greeted our loyal fans as well. It was wonderful to see the passion our customers feel for us.”

Many words came to mind as I first saw their new rose gold starburst signage upon entering the feminine boutique, whiffed the lovely (and proprietary) scent, then made a beeline to all the “must have” color coordinated outfits and finally stepped into the armoire-accented dressing room with attentive stylists standing by like girlfriends ready to “ooh and ah” and accessorize! A+ words like: audacious, all things feminine, amazing. But one word captured my entire experience: sparkle.

Boston Proper is a brand that sparkles. From the leaders who wear the clothes “like no one else” in and out of the office, to the designers who create the clothes with always the proper embellishments, to the photographers whose shoots transport their customers to exotic destinations where they imagine themselves in those clothes, to the stylists who only want to help make their customers shine with just the right outfit—the internal team of Boston Proper brand ambassadors infuse sparkle in all they do. Their brand effervescence is a competitive differentiator. It’s worth toasting!

I know Clark speaks on behalf of her entire team when she says, “There is nothing more exciting than the journey we are on. To meet our existing customers, deliver them a revolutionary boutique experience and welcome new customers to the brand has been truly unforgettable. We are having fun every day, making the Boston Proper experience, in every channel truly unforgettable—one customer at a time.”

Does your brand sparkle? What are you doing that deserves a toast? Is boldness your friend? What brand barriers might be holding you back? Why not spend some time thinking about ways to add a little bubbly to your brand experience?

Two Summer Must Dos: Play and Play On!

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

Nowadays, there are serious adult-level articles, books and TED talks encouraging us to play. Experts from the fields of research, creativity, management, innovation, medical, education and human relations all want us to set up play dates. They want us to take play seriously. They remind us how important it is to unplug and unwind. To detach. To disconnect. To pause and be. To give our multifunctioning, always-on brains a rest. These experts nudge us a step further and call play a necessity. A must do for long-term vitality, for peak performance. Samuel Johnson believed, “All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.”

We don’t quite believe it. Or, we believe it but we think it’s for everyone else but us. Or we nod and agree and think yes, it is valuable for us, but we just can’t get to it right now … and then right now becomes three months from now which becomes six months from now … which becomes well, like never, not this year!

Play
Perhaps we need a permission slip … a permission slip not to read or listen or intellectualize about play but to actually play. To catch up with our souls, to feed our imaginations, to simply rest and be. DO IT! Mark some days off to be totally off. Soon. This month! Then do something not related to business at all. Whatever that brings you joy. Do it all slowly. Let the work brain rest. No business books, articles, videos. Nap. Stroll. Wander. Daydream. Journal. Paint. The “whatever” does not matter. What matters is actually doing it. And soon matters. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

We must develop this talent so that we will have the capacity to …

Play On!
Our business lives are demanding. Brand leaders must be on their A games day in and day out. Without recharging our batteries, we may get winded … or worse … we may lose our passion. There comes a time when we might need a reminder to keep in the game, to play on. Missy Park, Founder of Title Nine, knows the value of staying in the game. Take a peek at the letter of encouragement she recently shared with her customers:

So, before this summer wraps up, give yourself a gift: take some time to play. There’ll be plenty of time to play on soon enough!

Don’t Talk to Me. I’m in ‘Stealth Mode.’

I recently returned from a two-week trek in Nepal. While we spent most of our time in the remote Upper Mustang region of the country, cut off from electricity, clean water and the Internet, I did spend several days in Kathmandu. And I left with a few wonderful marketing lessons—some good and some not so good. Hopefully you’ll be able to recognize and leverage the good ones 

I recently returned from a two-week trek in Nepal. While we spent most of our time in the remote Upper Mustang region of the country, cut off from electricity, clean water and the Internet (everyone should experience this “get-away-from-it-all” experience!), I did spend several days in Kathmandu. And I left with a few wonderful marketing lessons—some good and some not so good. Hopefully you’ll be able to recognize and leverage the good ones.

Appeal to All the Senses
Even though the streets were filled with vendors hawking identical wares, each seemed to find a unique way to position their product to try and attract tourists. “Dear Human, Just feel me,” begged one handwritten sign clipped to a collection of knitted scarves. Naturally I stopped and reached out to stroke their silken fibers, only to be accosted by the shopkeeper who tried to lure me inside to see the hundreds of other choices he had to offer.

Is That USDA Endorsed?
As we strolled down one alleyway, we passed several shops where owners were cutting meat … on a table … in the open … next to every car, motorcycle, rickshaw or pedestrian who passed by within inches. Since we knew they weren’t dicing up cattle, we assumed it might be goat. But since it wasn’t labeled, we had no idea. All we knew is we were instant vegetarians.

The Only Sign That Mattered
The Nepalese drink a lot of tea, and I did come to enjoy Marsala Milky Tea, so I’m not complaining. But while wandering the streets one day, we came across a very small illy sign on the window of a restaurant that was closed. Peering inside we saw a glorious site—an Italian espresso machine! I just about wept out loud. We quickly noted that they opened at 7am and set our alarm clocks accordingly, racing to the door to taste that first sip of café latte heaven, and we were not disappointed. After returning home, I quickly visited the illy website, posted on their Facebook page and became a huge fan. I now know what I’ll be asking Santa for this year.

Penguins Unite!
Two days after our illy sighting, we discovered the hotel next to ours also boasted an illy sign. (Although it was so small we had missed it, despite passing by the hotel at least two dozen times!) We rallied a few other trekkers to join us for our morning habit and we entered The Royal Penguin Restaurant. After placing our order we noticed a multi-page, spiral-bound tent card on the table with the headline “Staff sociability.” Curious, the copy read as follows (this is verbatim):

We launched a new service in our restaurant. You can choose the intensity of staff communication.

The options are:

  1. High sociability—the staff will be delighted to maintain a conversation on any topic, to make a joke or to share some interesting news with you.
  2. Medium sociability—the staff will be happy to discuss any details of your order or answer your questions without raising any other subjects.
  3. ‘Stealth mode’—the staff will provide brief answers in a friendly manner, but will never speak to you first.

To make the service work, you will have to choose the option from this banner.

I kid you not.

Then, you can flip over the various pages to select your sociability mode, and place the tent card where the server can see it. Being Smart Alec’s, we chose ‘High Staff Sociability’ and placed it prominently on our table, anxiously awaiting the outcome.

About five minutes later, the server, a local girl of about 25, arrived with our coffee drinks and carefully placed them in front of each of us. We smiled at her gratefully and looked at her with a smile to indicate our willingness to engage in a conversation. She said nothing.

“We’d like to hear a joke,” someone prompted.

She stared at us, clearly not understanding.

We pointed to the sociability tent card and gleefully pointed out our desire to engage in “High Staff Sociability.” She shook her head, not comprehending what we were saying or doing, shrugged and moved on to the next table.

Disappointed, we returned to our lattes. Clearly this was an interesting sales and marketing ploy gone completely awry.

The only good thing to come out of my marketing observations in Kathmandu is the tent card, now prominently displayed on my desk. Too bad my staff can’t seem to follow the guidelines either, as my ‘Stealth Mode’ has been repeatedly ignored. Damn penguins.

The A-Z List of Stop That! Behaviors

In the April issue of Target Marketing, I wrote about 26 verbs that sometimes get in our way when we’re building brands that we want our customers to be passionate about. Now that I’ve transitioned my Brand Matters column from print to digital, I’ve decided to give you 26 more! Use this checklist as a reminder to review your brand practices. No doubt, we all slip into some of these behaviors unintentionally.

In the April issue of Target Marketing, I wrote about 26 verbs that sometimes get in our way when we’re building brands that we want our customers to be passionate about. Now that I’ve transitioned my Brand Matters column from print to digital, I’ve decided to give you 26 more!

Use this checklist as a reminder to review your brand practices. No doubt, we all slip into some of these behaviors unintentionally. I encourage you to take some “Stop & Think” time with your brand team and have the necessary and fierce conversations about your latest offerings and evaluate them through these lenses:

Aggravate: What is niggling at you that might be perceived (big or small) as an annoyance to your customers?

Boggle: Are you giving your customers too many choices to consider?

Cannibalize: Might you be threatening your own market share in some way?

Doubt: What areas of your offering raise concern for your customers? Value perceptions? Price parity? Benefits? Competitive differentiation? What will you do about it?

Embarrass: What was your OOPS or DO OVER with this latest offering? Have you fixed it for next time? What is your post-mortem procedure for reviewing these things?

Forgot: Look over your offering carefully … what might you have overlooked by mistake?

Grovel: Are you asking your customers to do too much? Who is working for whom? How will you rectify that?

Inundate: Offering too much? How will you know what is “just right?”

Juggle: How many messages do you want your customers to absorb? How will you limit those or prioritize them strategically for maximum impact?

Know How: What special insider knowledge do your customers need to know to do business with you? Is that fair? How will you inform the newbies?

Loathe: A hard question for sure … but what don’t your customers like about you?

Mimic: What have you done that is totally UNLIKE your competitors these days?

Negate: What are you doing that detracts from your brand?

Obstacle: What hoops might your customers have to needlessly jump through to do business with you? How will you find out?

Pester: Are you asking your customers questions you intend to do nothing about? Why bother?

Quibble: What terms do you make your customers fight over In relation to your offering? Is that really necessary? How do your competitors handle the same issue?

Reverse: Is there any aspect of your offer that reverses your brand promise even in some small way?

Stagnate: In the last 12 months, what have you decided to do differently to stay relevant to your customers’ changing needs?

Taunt: How is your brand teasing your customers in negative ways?

Underestimate: Have you taken your customers loyalty for granted in some way?

Vex: What keeps you up at night about your customers’ behavior in relation to your brand? How will you solve this puzzle?

Water Down: Have you diluted your brand message in some way by too many stories? Too much information? Too little focus?

[E]Xit: What was your parting message to your customer? Brand enhancing or brand detracting? (Brand neutral doesn’t count!)

Yank: Are you pulling your customers toward your brand or away? How?

Zipped: Great brand stories are meant to be shared. Have you zipped your customers’ lips by not creating a shareworthy experience?

Take a look at these “what not to do” verbs. Create your own list. Let me know what happens!

Wanted: Data-Driven, Digital CMOs

There was a time, not so long ago, that the firm’s CMO basically acted as the chief brand steward, running a marketing department that focused on maintaining brand equity and making sure the company was sending out the right message to the masses. Data and analytics? They were usually scoffed at … That was the purview of the down-and-dirty world of the direct marketer, right? Direct marketers were the ones who obsessed over response rates, cost per order, lifetime value and so on.

There was a time, not so long ago, that the firm’s CMO basically acted as the chief brand steward, running a marketing department that focused on maintaining brand equity and making sure the company was sending out the right message to the masses. Data and analytics? They were usually scoffed at … That was the purview of the down-and-dirty world of the direct marketer, right? Direct marketers were the ones who obsessed over response rates, cost per order, lifetime value and so on.

Well, suffice it to say that those days are over—marketing in today’s multichannel environment is about much more than just cute creatives and killer copy. Today’s marketing is increasingly digital and data-centric. A recent article appearing in Ad Age explained that “real-time data-driven decisions, enabled by technology, have made the marketer’s job much more measureable and accountable.” Interestingly, the same article also points out that the average tenure of a CMO is a meager 28 months. No coincidence.

What it boils down to is that today’s CMO is expected, de rigueur, to be a pro when it comes to all things digital. We have two important trends to thank for this fact. The first one of these trends is the general transition to digital. Look, it’s no secret that over the past few years there’s been an incredible shift of marketing spend from traditional over to digital media. It’s the scale and speed of this transition that’s so breathtaking.

According to a June 2012 survey by RSW/U.S., 44 percent of marketers report that they are now spending at least half of their budgets on social and digital media. This represents a 42 percent increase from 2009 alone! And this is not the end of the process. I think it’s safe to say now that the proverbial tipping point has been reached—this trend will only accelerate in coming years.

Anyone who’s worked in the digital marketing arena knows that success in the space all really boils down to data: Impressions, clicks, conversions, opens—this is the vocabulary of the digital world. Well, guess what? Today’s CMO needs to have a deep understanding of these terms, what they mean and how the underlying technologies work—at least on a high level—and be generally comfortable playing in the digital space. Think about it: without a significant digital background, how on Earth can a CMO possibly be expected to run a marketing machine where at least half of the marketing dollars are being spent in the digital space? Not happening.

The other major trend is the inexorable fragmentation of the IT infrastructure within enterprise firms. Basically, what’s happening is that because technology has evolved radically over the past 10 years, it’s giving different stakeholders at companies the ability to purchase and use technology outside of their organization’s firewall, and often without IT’s involvement. Very often, in fact, IT is even without IT’s knowledge!

This is huge shift. Just a few short years ago, mind you, software was what you ran on your computer or on the company mainframe, and it was pretty much always purchased and managed by IT. Well, those days are most definitely over. What’s happened is that the emergence of the SaaS/Cloud model of software delivery has turned that world on its head.

Today, any marketer with a credit card can sign up for, say, a CRM tool or a marketing automation tool and be off to the races in seconds flat. Ask any marketer and they’ll explain how this has been a huge boon to their departments, liberating them forever from the clutches of IT.

Now, of course, a big reason for this excitement is the oftentimes frosty relationship between marketing and IT. Personality types side, in its essence this rocky relationship actually has a lot to do with conflicting mandates. It’s the IT department’s mandate to act as the stewards of the firm’s information and technology infrastructure. Essentially, it’s their job to keep internal systems running and make sure they’re secure. That’s about it. No, it’s not their job to build you a new landing page, or set up a new email campaign for this fall’s reactivation campaign.

Today’s marketing department, on the other hand, is much more focused on operations than anything else. Today marketing is about creating, testing and launching numerous marketing campaigns across various channels using different tools, and evaluating their performance using real-time analytics. And running an operationally focused marketing team requires the ability to build, dispatch and analyze lots of campaigns in rapid succession. Until recently, this heaped loads of pressure on the IT folks, who groaned under the strain. So you can see why marketers have cheered and embraced the emergence of Web-based SaaS marketing tools.

Okay, I got a little sidetracked there, so I’ll get back to the central point, which is that because marketing is rapidly becoming the de facto owners of their own IT infrastructure, this mean that they now control the technology itself and the data contained therein. It’s a big responsibility, requiring marketers to manage and safeguard this vital corporate infrastructure and information, taking on the dual roles of chief marketing technologist and data steward. But with this responsibility comes great power—to use these awesome tools and information to really, truly understand who customers and prospects are, and send out highly personalized and effective marketing campaigns with demonstrable ROI.

But evaluating performance in this environment means not only using new marketing tools and digging through mountains of data. Just as importantly, it also means understanding what it all means. In other words, just because you’re a CMO does not mean you don’t need to know how many opt-ins you have in your company database, or how many fans on Facebook.

And guess what? It’s hard to be comfortable with digital if you’ve never played in the space. But how many CMOs are also digital pros? Not too many. So not surprisingly, firms are finding that it’s incredibly difficult to find leaders with the hard-to-find combination of senior management leadership and digital marketing experience. Given this reality, it’s not too surprising to discover that many companies are running through CMOs in a conveyor belt-like fashion.

Do you know any data-driven digital pros with senior marketing leadership experience?? If so, bet your bottom dollar these executives will be cashing in big time in coming years.

—Rio

Do You Know Where Your Customers Are?

Imagine people sitting in a bar boozing at 8:00 a.m. It’s OK. Most of these morning drinkers work the night shift and this is their cocktail hour. Could these be some of your customers?

Imagine people sitting in a bar boozing at 8:00 a.m. It’s OK. Most of these morning drinkers work the night shift and this is their cocktail hour. What’s more, they want their TV news during prime time when they are having breakfast and getting ready to go to work.

Meanwhile, sometimes I cannot sleep and get up at 4:00 a.m., walk the dog, make coffee, scan the headlines. Alas, the printed newspapers are ipso facto yesterday’s news. What happened overnight?

From The New York Times, August 31, 2010:

Stations in Boston, New York, Washington and other cities are adding 4:30 a.m. newscasts this month, joining a backward march that started in earnest a few years ago. And those are not even the earliest. One station in New York, WPIX, will move up its start time to 4 a.m. on Sept. 20.

In catering to the earliest of the early risers, stations are reacting to the behavior patterns that are evident in the Nielsen ratings. Simply put, Americans are either staying awake later or waking up earlier — and either way, they are keeping the television on.

In the past 15 years, the number of households that have a TV set on at 4:30 has doubled, to 16 percent this year from 8 percent in 1995. At 11:30 p.m., by comparison, when most local newscasts end, 44 percent of televisions are on, up 10 percent from the levels 15 years ago.

-Brian Stelter
“TV News for Early risers (or Late-to-Bedders)”

Do you know your market and how, when and where to reach it?

Takeaways to Consider

  • Marketing guru Axel Andersson bought a small mail order study course in Germany after World War II and turned it into the largest “distance learning” organization in Europe. Axel retired to Florida, a millionaire many times over. When he would come to Philadelphia to consult, he insisted on staying at the Clarion Suites. Why the Clarion Suites—emphatically non-deluxe lodgings in the middle of Chinatown? “Certainly I could stay at a four-star hotel,” Andersson said. “But first of all, I get a suite with a living room where I work and a bedroom where I sleep. Secondly, the price is very reasonable. And thirdly, I see real people! At the Marriott or the Four Seasons, I would be among people just like me. I see those people everywhere. You can’t learn anything from them!”
  • “If you are a marketer, take the bus, subway, train or streetcar to work. These are the real Americans that you want to reach with your messages.”
    —Axel Andersson
    Direct marketer, founder of the Axel Andersson Akademie, Hamburg
  • “Listen to the murmur of your market. Create feedback loops in your database environment so that you can record what your customers and prospects are saying about your products, your service, your company and your competition. There is no more valuable source of information.”
    —Don Jackson
    Direct marketing insurance consultant

Web Sites Related to Today’s Blog
TV News for Early risers (or Late-to-Bedders)

Zicam’s P.R. Crisis and the Mixed Message

In a P.R. crisis, do not give out mixed messages.

In yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, I was struck by a full-page ad for Zicam, a cold remedy I had never heard of. The headline and text were set in bold white sans serif type reversed against a bright red background.

I immediately dismissed the ad without reading it. It was typical poor design and copy out of the pharmaceutical industry that often doesn’t know good advertising from bad.

Whereupon I came across an AP story by Matthew Perrone titled, “FDA says Zicam nasal spray can cause loss of smell.”

I noted this and then found the same full-page ad in The New York Times. Clearly the company was going through a P.R. crisis—something always worth studying and learning from. You never know when the egg will hit the fan and you will wind up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

When I got upstairs to my office, I went online to www.zicam.com and was immediately faced with a video starring Bill Hamilton, a middle-aged man wearing a shirt with open collar, who is CEO of the company Zicam.

Click on the “PLAY” icon, and Hamilton delivers a calming, personal three-minute message from the heart that explains what has happened, guarantees Zicam’s promise of absolute compliance and openness in dealing with the FDA and reassures the viewer that everything is going to be okay once all the facts are out. His lede:

Hello,

My name is Bill Hamilton. I am the president of Matrixx Initiatives, makers of Zicam Cold Remedy products.

As you may have heard, the FDA has asked you to stop using our Zicam Cold Remedy Gel Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel.

The FDA did this since some consumers reported that they lost their sense of smell after using these two products.

Your safety has always been-and will continue to be-our number one priority at Zicam.

Our company—and I personally—would never market a product that we didn’t believe was safe.

That said, we want to work with the FDA, and so we have voluntarily withdrawn these two products from retailers’ shelves.

Note how Hamilton does not hide behind the faceless, CYA “we, us and our.” Instead, Hamilton—who delivers the entire three-minute message in a single smooth take—comes off as a straight arrow, competent, caring guy who is the face of the company and in charge. (“Our company—and I personally—would never market a product …”)

What’s more, the talk sounds like Hamilton wrote it. For example:

We believe the cumulative scientific and medical evidence shows that our products are safe and efficacious. And there is not credible evidence that Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel or Zicam Cold Remedy Gel Swabs causes you to lose your sense of smell.

“Efficacious?” I had to look up the word (“marked by qualities giving the power to produce an intended effect”). No scriptwriter would use that word talking to consumers; I was made to believe that this was his word and that all of these were his words.

The people that wrote and produced this video are masters of correct communications. This is textbook correct P.R.

The Print Effort: Just the Opposite
At the end of this blog is an illustration of the full-page broadsheet newspaper ad that ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times and presumably other publications nationwide. Here are the headline and text:

THANKS TO OUR MILLIONS OF

LOYAL ZICAM USERS!

WE’RE STILL HERE FOR YOU!

As our millions of loyal users know, Zicam Cold Remedy products are specially formulated to shorten your colds so you don’t just feel better—you ARE better, sooner. We’re proud to have helped so many millions of you. In fact, over a billion doses of Zicam have been sold over the past decade.

We firmly believe in the safety and effectiveness of our products. Based on the FDA’s recommendations, we have voluntarily taken two nasal products off the shelves until we can resolve this issue. However, 17 products in our Zicam family are still available at every major retailer across the country.

This includes a full line of oral cold remedy products—in many forms and flavors—that deliver our amazing cold relief benefit.

You can learn more at zicam.com. You’ll also find a coupon there so you can try one of our oral products. So whenever you feel a cold coming on, rest assured you can still have Zicam on hand.

©2009 Zicam, LLC

www.zicam.com

What’s wrong with this design and copy? Everything!

1. Red is a hot color. Red implies danger. It is jarring. It screams, “READ THIS! SOMETHING IS WRONG!”

2. The copy and design breaks the rules of advertising as articulated by the legendary David Ogilvy:

  • “Set your headline, and indeed your whole advertisement, in upper and lower case. CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE THESE are much harder to read, probably because we learn to read in lowercase. People read all their books, newspapers and magazines in lowercase.
  • “Keep your opening paragraph down to a maximum of 11 words. A long first paragraph frightens readers away.”
  • “Serif type is easier to read than sans serif type.”
  • “Never set your copy in reverse (white type on a black background) and never set it over gray or colored tint. (The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they make reading physically challenging.”)

Ultimately, this is cheerleading pitch for Zicam with a passing mention of two products being pulled off the shelves with no reason why (possible loss of sense of smell). As a result the addled Zicam user is left to fear the worst: cancer, heart problems, blindness, diminished hearing, loss of hair.

Worse, the ad fails to state precisely which two products have been recalled, tarring the entire Zicam line with the same brush of mediocrity and danger.

When you finish reading the ad, the implication is: “You bought ’em, you own ’em and baby, you’re screwed.” By contrast in Bill Hamilton’s video, it is made very clear that a full refund is guaranteed or, if you prefer, the unused nasal remedies can be exchanged for other Zicam products.

Finally, what should have been a personal letter to readers from Bill Hamilton that reflects the care and love he has for Zicam users and for his company, this atrocity is unsigned, unemotional and fear mongering.

This was a case of the big P.R. guns being trained on the video and YouTube message and the rest of the effort turned over to smartypants amateurs.

Last time I looked, the YouTube message from Bill Hamilton had 305 views, while the Inquirer and the Times weekday editions have a circulation of 288,000 and 1.039 million respectively.

Contrary to popular myth, print still matters.

And the well being of your customers is more important than your product line.

According to the June 24, 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

In 2006 Matrixx settled with over 300 consumers who sued, claiming Zicam nasal gel destroyed their sense of smell. In addition, on June 16th, the day of the FDA’s warning, Matrixx stock plunged 70%, from $19.74 to $5.78.