Linger Longer: A Branding Imperative

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” wrote Henry James. I couldn’t agree more. I just love summer. Summer is the time for a new speed. For sauntering and slowing down. For purposefully stretching those extra long afternoons into all sorts of pleasurable outdoor activities like gardening or grilling or just unscheduled hammock time. For three- or four-day long weekends spent with family and friends or just catching up with yourself. For easy everything.

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” wrote Henry James. I couldn’t agree more. I just love summer. Summer is the time for a new speed. For sauntering and slowing down. For purposefully stretching those extra long afternoons into all sorts of pleasurable outdoor activities like gardening or grilling or just unscheduled hammock time. For three- or four-day long weekends spent with family and friends or just catching up with yourself. For easy everything.

I think brands have a lesson to learn from this time of the year. Summer is the season that encourages lingering. Brands that consciously create space and time for customers to linger within their brand experience win their hearts. Grant it, sometimes you want to dash into a store (or website), hunt down your purchase and leave promptly. Other times, a store, a site, an atmosphere is so compelling you want to linger and linger and linger some more.

Terrain is one of those kinds of places. It’s part of the Urban Outfitters family of creative retailers whose stated goal is “to offer a product assortment and an environment so compelling and distinctive that the customer feels an empathetic connection to the brand and is persuaded to buy.”

Terrain was designed purposefully for leisurely strolls through all its “mini-terrains”—eclectic little rooms and areas that beckon customers with all sorts of indoor-outdoor lifestyle products the company hopes you’ll find irresistible. The merchant has waved its magic fairy dust over everything: meals, merchandise assortments and even Web copy to create a menagerie you want to somehow recreate in your own life.

Terrain has elevated lingering to an art form with experiential pauses built into its brand DNA. Both stores have delicious “farm-to-table” restaurants that encourage spontaneous long lunches and Sunday brunches, as well as scheduled events and workshops. Here’s the invitation the Terrain restaurant in Glen Mills, Pa. puts forth:

Share our local, organic meals with close family and friends as you create lasting memories in our charming antique greenhouse. Taking your personal style, interpreting it by our talented culinary team, and presenting it all in our horticultural setting, we’ll create a truly unique experience for you and your guests. We work tirelessly to craft an environment that aesthetically and gastronomically reflects the cycle of the seasons.

President Wendy McDevitt shared this in a Bloomberg interview: “Customers typically spend 1.5 hours browsing Terrain and that can double to three hours if they’re visiting the café and shopping between glasses of wine or lunch. The one thing you can’t get in the cyberworld is the tactile experience and that won’t go away.”

Lingering happens online as well as you stroll through their three main categories with simple teasers like Garden + Outdoor, House + Home, Jewelry + Accessories. Spend time on Terrain’s site and you’ll want to know more about Branches + Bunches or what’s in The Reading Room or what Wanderlust is all about. You are enticed by the plus and you aren’t disappointed. The Bulletin, Terrain’s eclectic, informative blog is like a gardening class, cooking class, landscaping class, and artist date all rolled into one lovely scroll you can’t help but linger on.

Does your overall product experience invite lingering? Is it a sensory, tactile experience? What unusual product assortment combinations might you create to entice your customers to linger longer within your brand?

Greed – With a Fear Chaser

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap …

I was minding my business playing an online game, when, between turns, I was presented with an invitation to enter the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and win $5,000 a week for life. I said to myself “Now that would make my life a tad bit better, so what the heck,” clicked, and started a long and winding journey. While it ended with the agony of defeat, along the way I was exposed to some of the cleverest marketing tactics I’d seen in a long time, and they reminded me of the power of personalization—and greed.

From the minute I registered for the giveaway, I received a steady stream of emails. Each one asked me to “click” or “accept” or “approve” some data point in some compelling way (ongoing engagement!)—and since I didn’t have time to read all the fine print, I definitely got the feeling that if I didn’t at least “do” something, that perhaps my chances of winning were in jeopardy. So, I was hooked. I opened each email and was led, like a horse to water, to drink from the fountain of hope.

“Verify your address so the Prize Patrol can find you!” one email proclaimed. Well gee, of course I want to make sure the Prize Patrol (PP) goes to MY house and not my crabby neighbor across the street! So I reviewed the data and clicked my approval.

“Confirm the location of your closest florist” another one requested (to make sure the PP could pick up my roses and ensure they were fresh when handed to me on camera). Shucks, the roses are all part of the big on-camera finale, so you bet I double checked the florist information and clicked my approval.

“Make sure we have the fastest route to your house!,” as the map from the florist to my front door was prominently displayed in the email. I actually took the time to carefully review the map and confirm that the route they had selected wasn’t circuitous, and again clicked my approval.

Alas, the final email gave me the disappointing news that I had not, in fact, won anything. But wait, there’s more!

Only a few days after discovering I hadn’t won a penny, I get an email that I was awarded the Badge of Honor and I was, in fact, entitled to a maximum number of 10 entries for $5,000 a week for life. And so the motivation continues …

All cleverness aside, my only criticism is that Publisher’s Clearing House sent too many emails, and after a while I became more confident in my ability to ignore them without risk. If you know anything about this promotion, you know its point is to sell you a magazine … or some other item (most are for just “3 easy payments of $X.XX!”).

Did I make a purchase? I must admit I finally broke down and did buy something, but when I win my $5,000 a week, I’ll be able to buy a lot more … And isn’t that the whole point?

To Honor Jerry Cerasale and the Contributions He Has Made for Us

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly.

For those of us who know Jerry, we know this moment is sweet. He is a gentleman who always seems to know the score on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Though it may be impossible to know outcomes on public policy debates with any certainty, since his joining the Direct Marketing Association’s government affairs team, we’ve had someone who is able to shape that policy or influence it in a manner that has advanced our professional practice—and to do so with fairness, clarity and a knack for building consensus. In each occasion, importantly, Jerry has also articulated how marketing ultimately serves the needs of customers and consumers, and a well-functioning, competitive and innovative marketplace. All the time, he’s engaged DMA members—and given us opportunities to participate in the lawmaking and policymaking process as citizens and as members of our business community.

Jerry first joined DMA in 1995 as senior vice president, government affairs, and had led the charge of DMA’s contact with the Congress, all federal agencies and state and local governments. There has not been a single issue – postal, privacy, the environment, use taxes, telemarketing, data security, commercial free speech, sweepstakes—where his advice and counsel has not been spot on. Not only has he been our voice before Committees of Congress, he has testified before both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission on these and other direct marketing matters. We may not win every marketing battle, but Jerry always builds good will, because of his demeanor and respectfulness.

Prior to joining DMA, Jerry was an effective public servant—where he was the deputy general counsel for the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, United States House of Representatives. He also served for 12 years at the Postal Rate Commission as legal advisor to Chairman Janet Steiger, and also as special assistant to the Commission. He was an attorney advisor to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Steiger in her service there. Prior to the PRC, he was employed in the law department of the Postal Service. Jerry also is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served our country from 1970 to 1972. He is a graduate from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is the recipient of the Silver Apple and the Mal Dunn Leadership Award from the New York Direct Marketing Club and a lifetime achievement award from the Continuity Shippers Association—accolades that are prestigious, but only begin to tell the tale of Jerry’s stewardship in our field.

But what I love most about Jerry is his loyalty to wearing “Save the Children” ties as he goes about his professional work—because social responsibility always seems to be part of who he is—and always will be, no matter what his schedule. For that I am truly grateful, “Thank you, Jerry” from all of us.

Help Me Connect the Dots! (A Buyer’s Lament)

On Christmas morning, my oldest son was excited to receive a variety of electronic devices from family and friends. But while he was registering his various new toys online, he became increasingly frustrated as the instructions were NOT intuitive. After three or four of these complaints from him and his other two brothers, it became obvious that many sales and marketing departments get an “F” for their lack of helpfulness and logical thinking.

On Christmas morning, my oldest son was excited to receive a variety of electronic devices from family and friends. But while he was registering his various new toys online, he became increasingly frustrated as the instructions were NOT intuitive.

“It says ‘enter device passcode,’ but that’s not an option on the unit itself. Instead my choices are ‘device registration number’, ‘secret code’ or ‘PIN key,'” he lamented. After several false starts (and error messages that generated warnings that sounded like the device might explode), he finally got everything working properly.

After three or four of these complaints from him and his other two brothers, it became obvious that many sales and marketing departments get an “F” for their lack of helpfulness and logical thinking. It seems simple enough: Label a code by one name on the device, and then replicate that same name in the instructions. Duh. So why do companies make it so hard?

I’m sure somebody in IT created the code itself (and probably created the name of that code), and product marketing was responsible for writing the copy for the instructions (whether contained in the box and/or online) … but why not use the same labeling terminology? Was one group working in another country and couldn’t communicate, in English, with those writing the instructions? Perhaps.

The people at Ikea (who have figured out how to ensure language won’t be a barrier), provided a link to a YouTube video where I could watch Sally and Stan (or Svetlana and Sven) assemble my new furniture without so much as a word, sound or manual. My husband laughingly called it “The Epitome of a Dummy’s Guide to Assembly.” Personally, I loved it—they even supplied the tools you need for assembly in the product box so my new desk was operational within an hour of unwrapping.

Amazon, those amazingly straightforward folks who brought me my Kindle, also clearly understand how to make it simple. One of my kids (who hates to read any kind of instructional manual), figured out to how to set up his new Kindle, link it to my Amazon account (um.. wait…), download 3 or 4 books and start reading, all before I had a chance to shout, “Use your own credit card!”

The i-anything was easy to set up and use—exactly what you’d expect from those Apple people—while the new GoPro camera came with a small book, with small type, that will require a magnifying glass to read. As was to be expected, the college-age son tossed the manual in this backpack (where it will get ripped into several un-usable pieces) and said he’d figure it out on his own.

After a lovely morning sitting around the tree, followed by a frustrating hour or so trying to set up each new gift, I retreated to the kitchen to start working on Christmas dinner. Thankfully, I already know how to read a recipe book. The food processor, and all its attachments, however, might take me until the new year to figure out.

When Targeting Youth, Focus on Technology, Family

I attended a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon last week-sponsored by American Student List — and the speaker’s topic was “Trends in Youth Marketing-The Net Generation.”

I attended a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon last week-sponsored by American Student List — and the speaker’s topic was “Trends in Youth Marketing-The Net Generation.”

According to the speaker, youth industry analyst Sara Laor, there are more people in the United States aged 30 and younger than there are Baby Boomers. They grew up and are immersed in a digital and Internet-driven world. They blog, turn to Facebook and MySpace for social networking, and often prefer mobile messaging to e-mail. With their spending power they are key to anyone in marketing and advertising.

As a result, Laor offered several ways to successfully market to this group. Three highlights included:

1. Be family oriented. “Family is a huge topic for youth,” said Laor. “They love their families.” As a result, Laor said that when marketers are targeting the youth market, “make sure your marketing has a warm, fuzzy, family feel,” she said. “Market to parents, siblings, the whole household, as well as target with a family-related offer,” she said.

2. Think culture versus ethnicity. “This group knows who they are and are comfortable in their role,” Laor said. “Market to their ethnicity when marketing to youth, but don’t make it stereotypical–make it about culture and passion.”

3. Target them and ask them for information. “This group wants to be targeted to, and are willing to opt-in as long as they get something in return,” Laor said.