Tuesday, December 8, 2009

McDonalds Listens To Me!

Well, well, well. Looks like old McDonalds recons Oyster knows what he is talking about. A few months ago I wrote a post about how much I used to love the McDonald’s calendars and asked “Why the hell did they ever get rid of them?”

It seems Ronald reads The Oyster Project.

So I was in the drive through on Sunday night and I get to the window where they give you your food and what do I see? The 2010 Ronald’s Big Calendar of Fun! And for only $2. I thought I was in the Delorean and had gone back 25 years but Doc was nowhere to be seen!

I said to the 16yo kid serving me, with a lot of enthusiasm “Is that the Ronald McDonald Calendar?” to which he replied “Yeah” - not matching my enthusiasm in the slightest. “Man I used to Maccas Calendar 2010friggin hang out for that calendar every Christmas when I was a kid! Can grab one?”

I stopped short of telling him I blogged about them a few months ago.

So I eagerly handed him my $2 and got a shiny new colouring in calendar with over $100 of value in vouchers for not just McDonalds (like the old days) but also Luna Park, Jamberoo, AMF Bowling and IMAX. The calendar still has colouring in each month but also has plenty of brain teasers as well as lots of encouragement and ideas for exercise

McDonald’s restaurants in NSW and ACT are supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) by selling Calendars from November 17 – December 31. All of the profits are going to Ronald McDonald Houses, Family Rooms and other RMHC programs being run in the region.

So if you used to love this calendar then grab one for your kids, nieces or nephews and make sure they now how much fun the good old days were before iPods and interwebs.

Now, where are my pencils?

(BTW – is it just me or does the picture of Ronald on the calendar look like he has been aged back about 20 years? Botox and the health choices menu maybe?)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Are Blogs Becoming Less Social?

Is it just me or do are do you get the feeling that blogs are not really all that social?

As a blogger, I want people to comment and I want my posts to start a conversation. The more comments I get then the the better my blog right? Well … maybe not.

One blog in particular that I have been reading for a while now used to attract a nice stream of readers and a moderate number of comments. It was good because the I like the writer and the content and I always felt I could contribute to the conversation and people would read my comments in the context of the post and other comments.

The blogger has worked hard and smart in the last 12 months to build their blog into a powerful one and widen their audience. I am sure they believe they have been successful and I am sure if the stats were wheeled out then all signs would point to success. Certainly if we could move a client/corporate blog ahead like this then there would be plenty of slaps on the back.town hall

But here is the rub. What I find more and more is that the blog in question, and to be honest plenty are moving down this path, attract so many comments I feel that my opinion will not add anything. It is kind of like going to a party. If you are in a  small group then everyone has their say, adds to the conversation and gets listened to. Every one seems happy and is entertained. Go to a public debate and you’ll probably get drowned out even if you get a chance to talk and many will leave thinking “I never got my say”.

Time is also a factor. Sometimes I get to a blog and it has 20-30 comments already. I have something great to say but to be honest I feel like people probably won’t read it because there are so many other comments. So I often just don;t bother commenting. Maybe it is just that the conversation has passed me by?

Add to this situation that some bloggers are happy to post and let people comment but really don’t tend to their comments all that often. Makes me think they are very un-social and makes me think twice about helping their blog by leaving comments in the future.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Marketing & Selling to the Government

I am a little slow getting around to this post considering it is a response to an article in last month’s Marketing Magazine’s B2B article “Love me tender” by Kimon Lycos.

The article is not really B2B but more B2G (business to government) and while I am not even sure that is an acceptable marketing acronym Kimon certainly outlines a lot of things that highlight how different it is to market and sell to the government. For those that don’t know, this is exactly the area I work in, marketing and selling to Federal Government Agencies

Kimon is jaded. The article is very negative however I must confess that from time to time I have felt exactly the same way about the process of marketing & selling to the Government. Yet this is simply being the victim. It isn’t always like that and marketers don’t have to let that happen. That’s why I thought I would share a few “tricks of the trade” in working and tendering to Government.

Kimon believes that government just announces to the market their need and everyone responds and it is competitive and fair and a great solution is found (I paraphrased there). I agree with him this is delusional, however, this is too simplistic. It doesn’t address the real possibility/fact that a provider or business has an existing relationship with the Department and that they have a deep understanding of the problem and have helped shape a buying vision (a solution, which they can provide, and which the client believes it wants).

It is the buying vision, built from a need or pain, that prompts and shapes a tender or request for quote.That’s why getting a tender or request for quote should not be a surprise because you knew it was coming because you shaped the clients buying vision.

If you are sitting back and betting your company’s survival on Departments just knocking on your door and telling you what they want then you are a lunatic. Sure you will win some work but hear this – in the B2G space you will only win 20% of tenders/quotes where you don’t have an existing relationship with the Department. Considering some tenders take months and a team of people to respond then I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on winning 1 in 5.

Often a mechanism that provides a reason to talk to clients is a panel. If you aren’t familiar with panels then they are essentially a pre-qualified group of suppliers from which a Department can purchase without having to jump through all the procurement hoops. Being a member doesn’t guarantee any work whatsoever but it does provide you a reason to start talking with key people in Department’s.

Often it is from panels that Departments will seek suppliers who are invited to tender for work. For example, the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has a Capability Development Panel and then has approximately 55 Federal Departments signed on to access pre-qualified suppliers. The structure of the panel is such that it satisfies the Government’s Procurement Guidelines and allows Department’s to sole source (they don’t need to go to a competitive bidding situation and can instead just approach one company who will quote pre-accepted pricing). It’s kind of like your Mum giving you some money and then taking you to the shops and saying “you can buy what ever you want when you think you need it, I trust you and all the shops here".

There will also be times when you will receive a tender out of the blue from a client you are not currently working with. Often your response will be “excellent, it will be great if we can win this”. But remember, there is most likely another marketer somewhere who shaped the buying vision and who is expecting the tender to come out. Sometimes a Department will still ask for 3 quotes just to keep it all above board but really they have made their choice. This is what we refer to as a “donkey vote”. The skill comes in recognising these and choosing not to spend valuable time and resources on writing a tender that you will not win.

If this isn’t teed up for you to get on and build relationships and buying visions then you need to move on. If your company provides development services in areas such as Leadership, Learning and Development, and this is the first you’ve heard about the APSC panel then you better hope your boss doesn’t hear about it because you’ll be a dead man walking.

However, the APSC panel isn’t the only panel around. There are heaps and often Departments will have their own and even have a few depending on the type of services they believe they’ll need e.g. IT, Marketing, Training etc

To help businesses be aware of current panels and tenders the Government has a website called AusTender at www.tenders.gov.au where you can essentially set up an email alert, similar to Google, for Tenders or Panels that meet your key words.

Once a tender does come out it is too late to start building a relationship. There are rules governing contact with public servants and businesses and it is essentially a closed shop. Often even a question trying to clarify something will be published to all tenderers along with the Department’s response.

One of the most important steps in tendering for Government work is what happens after you get a “No”. It doesn’t end there and you should be seeking a debrief where a Government employee will outline for you why you did not receive the work. For example, I went to a debrief this year where it was outlined to me that I positioned the company’s strengths too much instead of focusing on the individuals being nominated for the work.

I believed that this approach would help position us as big, strong and dependable and that the individuals were not as important because all our staff are great and we had capacity to meet their timeframe and needs. However, I now know that future tenders into that Department will need to strongly showcase the individuals and not so much the company.

Marketing and selling to Government is complex and wile I have tried to cover some major points above I would love to take questions or hear your thoughts or tips in the B2G space.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One Year On …

first-birthday-party_s600x600 Over the last few weeks I have read about a few blogs that have celebrated birthdays – Gavin Heaton’s Servant of Chaos turned 4, Julian Cole’s Ad-Space Pioneers turned 3 and Zac Martin’s Pigs Don’t Fly turned 2.

You get the picture yet? 4, 3, 2 …. yes that’s right, today The Oyster Project celebrates birthday number 1. I recon I would have missed it if I hadn’t of read posts on the aforementioned blogs spruiking their birthdays. Pretty weird that they all fall in October!

I remember my first post and the doubts I had about sending it out to the world. In the end it was what I would consider a success with 9 comments (6 from readers and 3 from myself) especially considering that it is often hard to get that many comments regularly even with a bit of a following. Thanks so much to my mate Zac Martin who posted the first ever comment on this blog and who pointed out to me over a beer that he was jealous because it took him a long time (a year?) to get even one comment. I should never have rubbed a Whopper in your face :)

You can check out my first ever post “Have You Seen Any Bananas?”

I don’t profess to understand in great detail why I got off to a good start but Zac did offer some insights into a post he wrote about me at the start of the year in What Brands Can Learn From An Oyster

It has been a cracker year and I have met some cool people – Zac Martin, Nathan Bush, Kate Kendall (that one took a while :), Peter Wagstaff, Lucio Roberio, James Duthie, Julian Cole, Jye Smith, Josh Strawczynski and enjoyed some great chats and plenty of beers. Even a year on I still don’t know how to answer Mrs Oyster’s question “So you are going to meet some bloke you met on the internet?”

I really am appreciative of everything people have done to help me out and I don’t want to single anyone out because the list would be a bit long (but if you have written a post, got me to an event or let me talk dribble on your podcast then you know I am talking about you).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What’s Your Victory Dance?

You won’t often see me on the dance floor, because I am hopeless, but one dance I don’t mind doing is my victory dance.

WTF is that Oyster? We’ll, my victory dance is what I do when something good at work happens. If you work in marketing and/or sales then you will know what I am talking about - that feeling when you are working on a pitch or sale and the client says … “Yes”. It’s that feeling when things are going your way and you are on a roll. It is especially good if a few things haven’t been coming off lately.

After one such recent victory dance I posted the question on Twitter “When something gr8 happens @ work does any1 else get up & do a little dance & a few fist pumps? Or is that just me?”

@poptrashmusic and @officeranni saw the tweet and I was encouraged to tape a victory dance and post it here. So here it is … me getting of the phone to some good news at work.

OK, so maybe it isn’t really a dance but more of a jig or even an outright display of excitement but I thought you would find it entertaining nonetheless!

Now I expect @poptrashmusic and @officeranni to post videos of their victory dances and it would be great if you could tape yours as well and upload them to YouTube. Just post the link in the comments. Come on, please don’t keep your victory dances to yourself!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mag Nation, alive and thriving in the age of dying print | Part 2 of 2

Mag Nation 4 If you missed Part 1 of this story then you can read it here

If you visit a store or check out their website, and because they are cool and edgy, then you would be forgiven in thinking that Mag Nation is a Gen Y focussed and run business. However, Sahil would be quick to correct you, “That is crap – we have more 30-40yo customers than 20–30yo customers because of the income difference” he said “but by the same token all the branding and marketing that gets done is largely through 20-30yo because they are much more likely to spread the love.”

What Mag Nation did to build their offering is about as pure a marketing concept approach as you can get. “We just had a dialogue with these people and asked them ‘what do you want?’ and what came back was fascinating. They told us ‘Ok, we love your magazines but we also love other stuff like designer stationary’. So we started offering designer stationary and it is now the fastest growing part of the business.”

That meant that Sahil had to do something a lot of businesses should do when they realise they maybe didn’t know everything – eat humble pie. “It was funny because I had gone out to the press and said we will never ever ever stock stationary. I had to eat my words. However, we don’t do cheap stuff, we do the designer stuff, imported from around the world. This is all high-end, gorgeous stuff, and this is what aligns with our customers.”

“We have also branched out into graphic design books and we even have a t-shirt exhibition on for niche one off t-shirts. Again, we are doing this because it aligns with the graphic design community. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but we are testing the boundaries and we are even selling the one-off t-shirts.”

Mag Nation 8In typical Zac Martin style, he wanted to know about what they do that is ‘remarkable’. I asked Sahil what he thought about customers always expecting ‘remarkable’ from companies. “I believe in the sentiment but you have to be careful because it can be tempting to try and manufacturer a remarkable moment rather than it being part of your essence.”

Showing his down to earth attitude, Sahil noted that is “a bit of a wanky stance” but wanted to give me an example. “I believe it is a good approach to try and do 100 things better than your competitors such as Mag Nation allowing people to browse and read the magazines, and actually encouraging it. It is part of our philosophy and we believe that the more someone will touch and feel and read the product the more likely they are to buy it. Yes some people will spend 2 hours and not buy but that is fine.”

Sahil is unsure if that makes them remarkable but continued to offer me examples of things he believed might qualify. “We have free wifi licenses, coffee, 4000 mags, we are a mag store that looks good, a cool 3rd floor, a t-shirt exhibition, we go to conferences and share our experiences, we run fun viral campaigns for free coffee and we give people a code and encourage them to pass it on”. I asked him more about the free coffee code and he elaborated “We give them a code to use when they order their coffee and one time it was ‘excuse me I am a little bit itchy do you have any anti-fungal cream?’ and as a reward we gave them a free latte.” he explains. “None of these things by themselves is remarkable but we believe that with them added all together then maybe it does make us remarkable.”

The first two entries of their blog has comments that hint that the readers believe Mag Nation is remarkable but Sahil believes that this may just be because they bare their soul but he doesn’t believe they try and be remarkable.

Mag Nation 9 Maybe that is where the simple genius of remarkable lies – in just trying to be themselves. Maybe, with so many companies trying to be remarkable, and often having to manufacture it, then it is just companies being themselves and being comfortable that makes them remarkable? We are so often used to companies being guarded, of the CEO wanting to control the message, the legal department polishing it to within an inch of anything even remotely engaging and of communiations being one way. Instead, Mag Nation just puts itself out there, not really caring what the world thinks. To me, that is an attractive quality and kind of like the girl at the party who doesn’t really care whether you like her or not.

“We are completely aware and comfortable that we can’t control everything. There is too much noise and communication. Instead of trying to control it we just embrace it and go with it. You know what? Fuck the idea of trying to get a message across, we just wanna be who we are. We could fake a lot of things if we wanted but we can’t fake who we are.”

I asked Sahil if he had an example where they had received some negative feedback and how they handled it and he recounted a blog post “There is a blog entry titled ‘What is the problem New Zealand?’ which I wrote because we get a lot of love in Australia but not so much in NZ. We got bagged a lot but we took it on board because it is just amazing feedback. We need that pure feedback. We want that feedback. However, some of it was unjustified, and we won’t just take that. We’ll stand our ground and defend ourselves against what we think is unfair criticism.”

Eventually I wanted to hear it from the horses mouth so I asked “Is print dying?” Of course I knew the answer but I wanted to hear it from someone who is obviously comfortable with their business and would give it to me straight. Sahil explained, “Yes print is in decline. We don’t put our head in the sand. Yes it is serious and whole bunch of magazines will die and so they should ... they are crap. That’s good. It will be those mags that just peddle information that will die because you can just get their info anywhere. Why would I get car info from a magazine? I can just get it online. It is those mags that create a community because the community is strong and the magazine is just a window to that brand.”

Having had a few interactions with them on Twitter, and having read a few blog posts, I was keen to find out what Mag Nation’s Social Media strategy was. “We just use it for engagement and the key is that when a brand talks directly with a consumer the consumer feels very special. The thing is, the conversations don’t take a long time. If I could have 10 000 conversations I would be happy.”

Mag Nation have been using SM tools since March this year and Sahil described the company as being “newbies”. Their Twitter account boasts 2500 followers but they are only following 500. I asked Sahil how they decide who to follow. “We will follow someone when they take part in an interesting conversation” he explained. Sahil prides himself on answering any Tweet, that asks a question, within 24 hours. Something that most owners would not do let alone set a target on.

“We even set up the Twitter alter ego to @mag_nation just to have fun and because we know how to laugh at ourselves. However, it was important that we disclosed that it was us as it was important that we weren’t seen as being deceitful. The alter-ego heckles us in the background.”

Mag Nation 6 Sahil believes that SM is now an absolute vital tool. He believes it is a way to connect with customers and that if they are a company that is all about customers then SM is one of the best ways to connect with them. Sahil recounted a story that highlighted the importance of SM and the strong following they have built “We are looking to open a store in Sydney in October and I was looking at sites. But I cant be in Sydney every 2nd day and I don’t know Sydney as well as Sydneysiders do. So I asked the question ‘where should I be in Sydney?’ and I got a whole bunch of responses and people even started sending me photos of sites for lease!”

Finally, I asked Sahil which his his favourite magazine title. “I can’t tell you which is my favourite title, that is like asking which of my 3 kids I like the best.” I wanted to ask him which is the coolest title they stock but you all know he was going to say “Oyster”.

Mag Nation currently have 5 retail stores, 3 in Auckland and 2 in Melbourne,  with a new Sydney store opening in Kin St Newtown mid-October. So get in and check them out. Maybe you should ask the barista “excuse me I am a little bit itchy do you have any anti-fungal cream?” (but only if you are itchy because this code is no longer valid).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mag Nation, alive and thriving in the age of dying print | Part 1 of 2

Mag Nation 4I had noticed it before. In fact, last time I was in Melbourne I visited the coffee  shop a few doors down and I over heard the barista say “oh yeah, you can get any magazine you want in there. It is right next door.”

This time around I was on the hunt for a Mountain Biking Magazine so I wandered in to see what Mag Nation had to offer. As its name suggests, there is a lot of magazines, in fact, they stock over 4000 titles so I had to climb a few flights of stairs to find what I was looking for.

When you enter Mag Nation you can tell it is about more than just magazines. I am not sure if it was the smell of the coffee they serve, the sheer colour that is everywhere or the customers sitting around the store just browsing but it was obvious that it wasn’t as shallow an offering as “just magazines”.

I started to wonder how is it that a shop seems to be thriving when so many of the marketing and digital media experts are telling us that print is dying. How is it that essentially they can sell what I can get at the local newsagent yet create an atmosphere so very different? I decided to dig a little and got in contact with Sahil Merchant, Chief Magazineologist, co-founder and owner. Sahil was very willing to share his story.

I have never interviewed someone about marketing. I was a little nervous because Sahil had already said he’d do it before I had really thought much past the notes I scribbled on the plane back to Canberra.

So I did what any self-respecting marketing, social media user, would do – I asked my Twitter followers to source some questions and inspiration. Zac Martin and Nathan Bush helped me out with some ideas that I probably would have come up with myself if I had of applied my brain - is this the problem with having a ready made research group at your fingertips? I was appreciative nonetheless.

The most interesting Twitter response I got was from @mag_nation itself (a good sign they are listening to the conversation) with “@DanielOyston How is it that their founder can be so handsome and intelligent at the same time. (he he)”

However, the surprising Twitter response actually came from a Twitter handle @print_is_dead with “@DanielOyston When are they going to recognise that print is dying? (he he)” This intrigued me so I visited its homepage. I smiled when I read the bio - “Disclosure: We are @mag_nation. In the interest of baiting ourselves and balanced debate (and having fun) - we have created our very own twitter nemesis”.

It was then that I started to realise that Mag Nation was being driven by people who were serious but didn’t take themselves too seriously.

The enthusiasm and honesty is immediately realised when you talk to Sahil. Enthusiasm for what the business is trying to achieve and it comes lined with a sense of self-assuredness. Maybe the self-assuredness comes from the honesty – the honesty in telling me that the business, ironically a print business, almost died.

Mag Nation 2 In a previous life, Sahil was a management consultant and lawyer who travelled the world advising large retail companies. Sahil’s uncle Ravi, and now business partner, migrated to New Zealand 12 years ago but was not allowed to work as a medical doctor due to non-recognition of his overseas qualifications.

Re-training as a doctor was out of the question so instead Ravi purchased a small Auckland based magazine store. At the time Sahil was consulting to a major NZ corporate.

As time went on, and family conversations were had, Sahil and Ravi hatched a plot to take the Auckland magazine shop well beyond a little store and create a new retail concept. The dream wasn’t to be just another big fancy newsagent and they believed it had to be skewed to magazines. The dream was realised when Mag Nation opened its doors in March 2006.

While other retailers are cheap and nasty, with worn carpet and fluoro lights,Mag Nation is built on creating an experience around magazines. “We don’t care about New Idea etc, we make our margin on the $40 magazines, the fashion, architecture mags, design mags. The niche interests. If we expect the customers to spend that much money on a periodical then do we think they really want to do it in a fluoro lit store with a pimply kid behind the counter who doesn’t speak much English?” Sahil explained

I asked Sahil to describe Mag Nation’s ideal customer and “Urban Savvy” was his non-hesitant response. “Urban savvy is a term we created. We didn’t originally have that focus but not having that focus almost saw us go under. Originally we focused on the product, magazines, magazines, magazines. We thought that was a smart way to go but it made us ask the wrong questions and that meant we got the wrong answers” Sahil said.

“Our original focus led us to ask ‘Who likes magazines?’ and the answer was ‘everyone’ because there are so many areas. There is one for every interest. That led to the question of ‘where is everyone’. Our answers led to us opening up in shopping malls in pursuit of foot traffic.”

The result was a disaster and on its deathbed, Mag Nation re-examined the every fundamentals of the principals of what the business was founded on. You can liken it to a person’s life flashing before their eyes but just before they drift off towards the light they just pull through and bring with them a heightened sense of purpose. Sahil provided this post-mortem “Mag Nation was too focused on the product and we got that wrong. We should have focussed on the core customer.” 

That comment from Sahil highlights the timeless battle of sales vs marketing. Mag Nation were to concerned with moving product rather than creating a concept around their target market’s needs or problems.

Mag Nation 5 “We didn’t know who the core customer was when we first started out. We never knew that there was such a latent, pent up demand for all the products that we stock.” Sahil continued “Of course we stock all the other titles and they are still very important to us but now what we have become known for is all the high end, fashion, architecture and design titles.”

“The high end was where all the love was coming from. So we asked ‘who is that customer?’ We didn’t find a single customer in terms of demographic but what we found was a characteristic, a common outlook on life and so we coined the term ‘urban savvy’.”

“The standard marketing segments don’t work for us because we might have a 22yo who only has a small amount of money to spend but wants to spend it on a particular mag that defines his fashion sense. Or we might have a 45yo architect who has a lot of money to spend and is conservative but buys all the high end architecture mags. It is not age defined or income bracket defined but an outlook on life.” Sahil said.

The second instalment of this story has now been posted here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Travel All Over The Country Side

It is always sad when someone who created great memories from your childhood passes on. It’s always really weird because often you haven’t thought about hem for a very long time. So it was when I heard the news about Mike Leyland’s passing yesterday.

For those of you too young to remember, Mike was one half of the legendary Leyland Brothers who had a TV show titled “Ask The Leyland Brothers”. From 76 to 84 they tripped across Australia in their 4WDs or Campervans after receiving invitations from viewers to come and visit their remote areas.

As a kid I got to see heaps of cool stuff that I wouldn’t ordinarily been able to. It brought all the cool places from around Australia into our house.

Even though they boasted 2.5 million fans (a figure any TV exec would give his first born for today) it occurred to me this morning that such a concept just wouldn’t float despite the tourism that it could drive. It is simply too pure a concept to get approval.

Instead, similar TV shows now have to be polished and product based to within and inch of their life. Instead of a show just bringing us great stories and entertainment it has to be all about pushing product with the last shot telling me how much I can expect to pay for flights and accommodation or the difference in price between mature plants and seeds or whatever.

Sadly, similar TV shows are now just a sales pitch and the people presenting it are B-grade celebrities that wouldn’t know if their arse is on fire, staying in 5 star hotels and having a support crew to help them.

BTW – the Leyland Brothers ran the risk of dying if they didn’t have the skills to meet whatever challenge popped up. They didn’t have support crews to help fix a broken down 4WD in the middle of the outback when it was 50 degrees.

Will anybody remember with the same fondness when Jamie Durie passes?

Now, everyone who remembers, start singing the song ‘Travel all over the country side …” or just play the video for some cracker memories.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Harold and the Price of Coffee

Harold Bishop A man (lets call him Harold) owned a coffee shop and it did ok. He often thought that it could probably do better and  this was because mostly he sold lots of coffee but never made a lot of money. He didn't really know where to begin so he asked his mate (lets call him Trent), that knew a fair bit about small businesses, for some advice.

Trent spent some time with Harold looking at the business – all the usual stuff – promotion, the products on offer, the location, competitors, the price etc. Trent also did a bit of research on other coffee shops in the area and the thing that struck him most was that Harold’s coffee was 30 – 50 cents cheaper than the other coffee shops.

Trent had a chat to Harold about the possibility of raising of the prices because, from what he could see, every other aspect of Harold’s offerings were spot on and the price seemed the only place to leverage.

Harold didn’t like the idea and argued that the reason he got lots of customers was because the coffee was cheaper. However, Trent persisted and convinced Harold that the easiest and most obvious way to make the business more profitable was to increase the prices. Harold’s chin wobbled and his glasses fogged a little but he reluctantly agreed to trial it for a month.

The first two weeks saw sales drop as many of Harold’s regular customers had started going elsewhere. What would normally be busy morning periods had turned into a slow few hours. Harold wasn’t a happy camper and Trent wondered if he had given Harold the wrong advice. They resisted the temptation to drop prices and Harold stuck to his agreement to trial the higher prices for a month.

Slowly but surely, the customers started to return until they were just as busy before but making more money. Harold thought it was probably because he had great coffee and people had decided that it was worth the price increase after all. However, Trent encouraged Harold to ask the customers why they had left but then came back. Harold tried this and nearly everyone said something along the lines off “I initially left when you put your prices up because I wasn’t happy. I went around the corner but the barista wasn’t as half as nice as you. I really missed your smiling face and warm welcome in the morning as it really put me in a good mood before work. I missed you, so I decided to come back and now I think the extra cost is worth it.”

Technically, the customer value proposition is the sum total of benefits that they receive in exchange for money and time (or other). The small but important word in that sentence is sum.

coffee sign Often businesses think too narrowly about what their customer value proposition is and focus on the pure product/service and the price the customer will pay. For Harold’s customers it wasn’t just about the coffee and the price. The value proposition for Harold’s customers was the whole customer service experience they received.

The interesting thing about Harold’s story is that what made his value proposition more appealing to customers wasn’t something that he had to spend any money on.

So what is it that your company offers customers that increases the value proposition from a simple goods for money situation?

As a consumer, what companies do you frequent that boost their value proposition in interesting ways?

Hat Tip Hat tip to Josh Strawczynski and Marketing Profs whose recent work inspired this post. You can check out the post from Josh that inspired me here and read the Marketing Profs “Get to the Point” email that inspired me here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why Social Media Isn’t The Answer For Coles

shopping 1 Via a Tweet from Gavin Heaton I read a post on Walter Adamson’s blog where Walter highlighted the volumes of negative feedback that Coles have received for announcing today that they intend to be more consumer led and embark on a massive reinvention of the brand.

Walter highlighted that on news.com.au that the article covering the announcement attracted 134 comments in 30 minutes -  1.3 comments per minute! All of them were negative. As at time of writing there were 353 comments (a quick scan shows that recent ones are also negative).

It is pretty clear that the readers who left comments don’t know jack shit. Half of them say that Coles and Woolworths jack up the prices and the other half say they lower the prices and drive out the smaller shops. Which is it?

A lot of the comments suggest going to the markets to get cheaper food and better quality. This advice shows a complete lack of understanding of anyone outside how they do things themselves. Let me get this right. To save myself $20 in a weekly shop I should buy the essentials at Coles, get them into the car and the take a 1 hour round trip to get meat and fruit n veg (which will probably cost me $5-10 in petrol). Would be worse if you threw a couple of kids into the equation. Think about the value proposition you heathens!

The sheer volume of negative comments has left Walter “… flabbergasted enough to say that it is going to take more than social media to fix this lot” and he believes that “In the meantime Aldi and Costco stand to make huge headway if they develop and deploy effective social media strategies.”

Whoah, back up there buddy. What?  Since when do a few comments on a news website make Coles’ strategy all about social media? Certainly nothing in the article suggest so.

This is what is wrong with marketing and social media today. Too many people think that social media IS marketing.

shopping 2 Lets unpack what Coles have decided to do. Assuming that what they are sprouting is true, and they will actually take a consumer led approach, then this approach is known as The Marketing Concept (or being consumer centric). I have gone over it before on this blog but essentially it is about creating the marketing mix and a value proposition that is built from the ground up to meet the consumer’s need or solve a problem. It shifts the focus from selling to marketing (and yes there is a difference tut tut).

However, none of this can be done without the first step – market research. How can you truly create an offering without first understanding what the consumer needs or wants?

Social media certainly has a part to play but anybody who thinks that social media will be the driving force behind Coles’ approach is delusional. Sure they can listen to, and engage with, consumers through social media but social media isn’t the strategy.

So I agree with Walter. It certainly will take more than social media but I am unsure how anyone could get the impression that Coles’ approach is social media driven. Additionally, if Aldi and Costco do have an opportunity to develop and deploy effective social media strategies then it won’t mean anything if they aren’t customer centric themselves and are focused on solving customers problems or needs. Social media is a tool and a tool that needs to be considered and then either used or not (but you must listen).

Walter also believes that “In any case, it's going to take just a little more than a brand makeover!” That’s right, I agree. Again however, where does anyone get the impression that Coles think that a brand makeover will do the trick? In fact they don’t. The foundation, once again, will be The re-invention of the brand will a by-product of being consumer led. to be consumer led.

Coles are saying that they want to listen more and the consumers certainly have plenty to say so there can be no excuses for not getting a customer led approach correct.

I personally think that it is great that Coles have gotten back to basics in a marketing sense and will attempt to put the customer in the centre of what they do. I will watch keenly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I’ll Tell You What I Want

Over at Marketing Magazine, Zac Martin wrote an open letter to potential employers outlining the kind of things Gen Y look for in employment. Zac is his usual abrupt self and so I thought it would be fun to play devils advocate and write a “I’ll tell you what I want” open letter to Gen Y from the point of view of an employer. Make sure you read Zac’s article before reading on …

Look, I am a bit old school but I think I kinda get this social networking stuff. It looks like great fun. However, you Gen Y are always carrying on about how you need it for work and collaboration. Deep down I don’t doubt it. Only problem is I never see any actual evidence of this. I am starting to think it is just an excuse to stop me from banning it at work. In fact, every time I walk pass your desk it looks like you are “poking” some girl or looking at photos from the weekend.

Here is why I kinda think the whole “I need it for work” argument is all bullshit. You see, over at Marketingmag you say “Chances are I’ll need Facebook and Twitter to work” but then over at Matt Granfield’s blog you left  a comment that says “For the most part, my Facebook is just my friends, people I’ve met a number of times and have an ongoing relationship.”

Seems a bit contradictory to me. You can bet your next pay cheque that the mobile phone I provide for you and pay the bill for isn’t because “chances are you’ll need it for work but for the most part it is just for your friends”. Why should Facebook be any different?

Gorilla Wasn’t happy about those pics I saw of you. Just because you did that stupid stuff on the weekend and now it has ended up on Facebook doesn't matter that it happened in personal time. Our clients, and potential clients, don't care that it happened on Sat night at your local pub. All they see is a drunken idiot dressed up in girls clothes with vomit all over them. It’s cool to a certain extent because most of our clients have a good sense of humour and believe me, we have all done stupid stuff in the past. In fact, I remember a great night that involved a gorilla suit, a dancer, a beer keg and some fireworks. But seriously, we didn’t have this internet stuff back then so nobody knew what we got up to (I had to dig this photo out and scan it in!). Now everyone has a bloody camera on their mobile and sticks the pics up on Facebook or MySpace.

I realise it is all about trust but you see there is an old saying “once bitten, twice shy”. Your generation always says we should trust you but just a couple of months ago a couple of Gen Yers, that I trusted, used a whole month of our download limit in just one week when they used work PCs to play World of Warcraft. Then we all had to work slower cause the internet speed was rooted. That’s just not fair and very disrespectful.

Now listen close. You see this business? I worked my friggin arse off to build this. I am talking me working more hours than you have even spent being alive. My marriage suffered and I didn't spend as much time with my kids as I probably should have. I am pretty sure one of them actually hates me. I even used to have a full head of hair and weigh 35kgs less. You’’ understand that this company is my life’s work and I take it very seriously.

I've learnt a lot along the way and I don’t want to blow my own trumpet too much but I recon I could teach you a thing or two. Now, these are not things that you have already learnt at uni nor something you can learn of the internet. These are things that you can only learn on the job. The thing is, you haven’t been gainfully employed full-time for all that long so I recon you should stop telling me what you want for 5 minutes and pay attention to me.

It is things like how to get access to power in an organisation. “What?” I hear you say. Access to power, you know, the person that can actually sign the cheques and has the power to buy. We don't want to get caught talking to someone who is just going to gather info to tell their boss and act like a gatekeeper. So please don’t book us in to just go and speak to anyone who rings up asking about our services. Instead, I will teach you how to ask questions the right way so that they say "Oh, maybe you should meet with my boss because I can't answer that”.

It is also things like what we can and can’t do for our clients. You know that big government client we have? Well we can’t treat them the same as the private company clients we have. They have rules they have to adhere to. We can't just take them out on a boozey lunch and pick up the bill because they are not allowed to accept stuff like that because it may open them up to being biased in buying our services. Not a good look for them when they are spending tax payers money. Instead we have to respect the position they are in or we may end up not doing any more business with them.

At the end of the day we are a team, and I truly believe that. I hired you because you have some great skills, drive and a lot of potential. But you are not God’s gift to my company. I need you to realise that in the cold hard light of day it is my family home that the bank will re-poses if this business goes under so you'll forgive me if I might get a little jittery if I think you spend half your time on Facebook and Twitter instead of working.

Now get back to your desk and get on with what I pay you for ;)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Marketing Blast From The Past

Junk Food Cartoon Recently, Australia’s fast food industry agreed to a voluntary code to govern the way it markets products to children. McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hungry Jack's, Oporto, Red Rooster and Chicken Treat (who?) have signed up to the code which sets new nutrition standards for the foods featured in television advertisements, and other marketing efforts, which target the under-14s. Read more here >>

It made me think of when I was a kid and the advertising that fast food chains used to throw at me. I remember the “two all beef patties, special sauce …” Big Mac jingle and the “When you taste Kentucky Nuggets, what do you do?” jingle.

But the most enduring fast food marketing memory from my childhood was the McDonalds colouring calendars. Do you remember them? Man I used to hang out for them so bad over the December period.

In case you don’t remember them or your memory is a little hazy then they were 12-month calendars where each month had a picture to colour in (I think they may have even come with coloured pencils) but at the bottom was a tear-off voucher that could only be used during that month e.g. free apple pie.

image image

There is one up for grabs on eBay at the moment

The idea was great because

1 – It armed the kids with a weapon to get Mum and Dad to take them to McDonalds (and it was time bound),

2 – It was available in December/January when lots of families were travelling for Christmas and holidays and it was easy and/or a treat to take the kids to McDonalds,

3 – The colouring in aspect help keep the kids occupied during the holiday period

Why the hell did they ever get rid of them?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Pure Unadulterated Rant

image image

Warning – this is an angry rant … rude words used

I have a VISA card with HSBC and I get paid monthly. It’s a real pain in the arse getting paid monthly because the payment date for the credit card falls on the 30th of each month. I often get slugged overdue fees. Doesn’t matter that I am a regular payer. Despite having all the data their in front of them they just fine me.

So I rang them twice last month only to be told that my payment date couldn’t moved. I rang a third time cause I was convinced that was bullshit and a lady told me they could actually change the payment date but “we can’t change it over the phone though”.

Oh yeah, that’s right, you are happy to discuss in full my complete financial details including activating new cards but can’t move a payment date. What the fuck was I thinking? Aren’t you recording this phone call anyway? Can’t you use that as authorisation?

So I had to send fax. “All sorted” I thought, payment date changed to the 2nd of each month to allow me enough time to BPay it.

So I paid about $1800 off on Tuesday but then today get a phone call. This is basically how it went …

HSBC - This is just a courtesy call to check that you have made your payment.

Me – Yes I made a payment on Tuesday for $1800

HSBC – Oh OK, it isn’t showing up yet but the payment date was the 30th but BPay takes 3 days to come through.

Me – Then shouldn’t you call me after the 3 days if the BPay doesn’t come through?

HSBC – As I said, this is just a courtesy call.

Me – Seems pointless if it isn’t suppose to arrive at your end until tomorrow.

HSBC – As I said, this is just a courtesy call.

At this point it was anything but courteous for me. In fact it was a down right pain in the arse.

Me – Anyway, I changed my payment date a month ago to be the 2nd of each month.

HSBC – We have no record of that. Oh hang on, here is a note on your file. Yes, it says that you had requested a change and that we asked you to fax us a request.

Me – I did that

HSBC – There is no record of us receiving it. Do you still have a copy?

Me – No, I expect you to look after it.

HSBC – Well you will need to check your statement because …

Me – Are you gonna ring me like this every month cause it seems pointless if you are going to ring me every month inside the BPay payment window and even when the payment date is today and not the 30th. You can see all my payment history there right?

HSBC – Yes

Me – Considering I pay the same time each month, and I have paid like this for year, then what did you think I would say when you rang to ask if I had paid?

HSBC – We weren’t sure, as I said at the start, this is a courtesy call.

Me – Seems pointless to me.

HSBC – Well sir, if you feel that way …

Click – I hung up.

Here’s a tip HSBC … READ MY FUCKIN CUSTOMER FILE BEFORE RINGING ME AND WASTING MY TIME. It was anything but courteous. Maybe if you read the files before calling then you would have noted that I had requested a change of payment date. If the change hadn’t arrived at your end then you could have rung and asked if I had faxed it or if something went wrong. In fact, you’ve had 4 or 5 weeks to fuckin action it!

Don’t fuckin ring me and ask where your payment is when a) The payment date is today, and b) even if the payment date was still the 30th then it would fuckin turn up at your end until tomorrow.

Fuckin clown.

Maybe I need to get a new credit card provider?

BTW – If someone from HSBC reads this then I am more than happy to have a calm conversation with you about this.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Social Media Fits Into The Marketing Mix

Over at the Copy Write blog, Jonathan Crossfield writes that he is often asked what he considers to be the wrong question about how businesses "can use social media to increase sales, income or awareness. He notes that because the question focuses on a business’ goals, rather than consumers, then the application of social media is probably doomed to failure.

Jonathan’s comments allude to an important mindset – the mindset of being consumer centric – something that is known as the marketing concept. Basically it is an approach where you start with the consumer and identify needs and problems and build an offering to satisfy them. So long as you keep the consumer in the middle of your offering then you are a log way to being successful.

It is also what separates marketing and sales at their most basic level. Marketing is about satisfying a customers needs/problems while selling is concerned with shifting product (and focussed more on what the salesmen can achieve from the transaction rather than what real benefit it provides to the consumer). Check out a post on marketingmag.com.au written by Andrew Wilson. It provides a great example about how Mazda re-invented itself by employing a marketing concept approach.

The offering, if it is a product, consists of 4 elements – product, price, place, promotion (the 4 Ps or marketing mix). If the offering is a service then not many people know/remember that 3 more Ps are added, they being;

  • The Process – The process that the consumer goes through to receive the service (think massage),
  • The Physical Environment – what does it look like? Is it classy, basic, rundown? This is different to '”place” in the 4 P’s as place relates more to where as in shopping centres, online, in-home etc and does not give consideration to the appearance of the location.
  • The People – the staff employed to perform the service.

Ok, so how does social media fit into all of this? The use of “fit into” is important in the question and ultimately should be what people ask Jonathan because social media doesn’t work by itself, in isolation from other activities. Instead, social media must be added into or used inside a company’s existing marketing mix.

Even if the company hasn’t approached their marketing from a theoretic framework then they will still have a product, price it, sell it somewhere and promote it somehow. If the offering is a service then they will also have a process in place to perform it, have staff that perform it and have a premises where the service is performed. Sometimes these elements are mixed together and executed well. Other times you wonder if the company gives a shit about you.

For some companies, it may be useful to do an audit on these marketing mix elements and think about how they relate to customers needs and problems. Then some thought can be applied to how to use social media in the existing marketing mix.

Jonathan gets asked and outside in question – how can social media be used? Instead it should be an inside out question and companies should go right back to square one – the consumers need – and then work out to see if and where social media can be used.7ps and SM

The diagram on the right shows the marketing mix – the consumer in the centre and the 4 Ps of a product around them and then the 3 Ps of service on the outside. The diagram shows, in dark blue, where companies can focus their social media efforts. For example;

  • Promotion – can social media be used to promote your offering? Be careful, social media isn’t like traditional media where you can just push a message. This is definitely the P that poses the biggest challenge.
  • Place – can social media expand the places where consumers can access your offering?
  • Process – can social media improve the process? For example, can customers place their coffee order over Twitter or use Facebook to RSVP to your events?
  • People – definitely the place where social media provides the biggest opportunity through connecting your customers with your staff. It also helps portray your companies personality and values.

The use of social media should focus on how it helps solve your customers problems or needs. Don’t let your social media use focus on how it helps you sell more product.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Celebrity Tweets Built Into Foxtel’s Channel V

Got home tonight and flicked on the TV and onto Channel V. Was watching a music video and I started seeing celebrity Tweets from Kelli Osbourne, Justin Timberlake, Lindsay Lohan etc pop up on the screen. Check it out below.

For some time, shows like this have allowed people to text messages for display on the screen. I wonder how long until shows allow real-time Tweets to appear on screen (maybe filtering with #channelV or @channelV?).


Monday, June 22, 2009

The Importance of Social Media in the Post-Purchase Evaluation Stage

SCStephen Collins over at Acidlabs, by his own admission, is “inclined to go off on a ranty diatribe” and posted a very thought provoking post about how social media is not actually about selling something. He admittedly states that social media isn’t actually about selling anything, mostly, and that he means “marketing ultimately focused on getting people to buy stuff. Not on changing opinion, not on awareness. It’s a deliberately narrow definition for the purposes of this post.”

The narrow definition is fine for his post, as he has openly admitted that he is not a marketer, and instead his skills lie in communications. So maybe he isn’t aware of some of the thinking that is fundamental to marketing (when it is done properly).

However, he has highlighted that a lot of people in marketing and sales forget about the whole process and focus a lot on the sale – just focus on the steps up to the exchange of cash for product. However, saying the SM isn't about selling stuff It is like saying that the telephone isn’t about selling stuff. That would be true as the telephone it is a communication tool but that would be too narrow a view. The telephone, used skilfully and appropriately with a well thought out strategy, absolutely can sell lots of stuff. Put it in the hands of an Indian telemarketer and you will get lots of pissed off people.

Social media is no different. We’ve all seen the snake oil salesman.

What Stephen’s post did get me thinking about was the buyer decision process. Don’t friggin groan with “here Oyster goes with bloody theory again!” … the theory has much more academic rigour and history behind it than some bloke sitting in is study telling the world how marketing is (that’s not a dig at Stephen by any means. Just some marketing blogs in general)! I’ll be quick on the theory though …

The diagram below shows the 5 stages that a consumer goes through when making a purchase. I disagree with Stephen, using his narrow view of selling as a transaction, that SM isn’t about selling stuff. Totally depends on your business and goals but the underlying point, for me anyway, is about contributing and adding value to the consumer. And that is why I think that it is the 5th stage is where I think that social media has the most potential.

Post-purchase evaluation - Cognitive Dissonanceimage

The last stage is post-purchase evaluation. It is the situation where you have bought something but then have second thoughts about the purchase. It is known as “cognitive dissonance”. It is where you think “maybe I could have got it cheaper”, "maybe I should have kept looking for a better option”, “maybe I shouldn’t have spent that much” “what the hell am I gonna tell my wife?” etc

A lot of marketers forget about this stage but is is just as important as the others. In fact, it is here that brand loyalty can be cemented and re-purchase guaranteed. It can also stop a consumer changing their mind and returning the product (if that is an option).

Marketers need to continue to work after the purchase to reinforce that the consumer has made the right decision and that it fits their needs. It is here that social media can be a seriously dominating force. Here’s an example …

I need a new mountain bike. I went to the shop the other day “just to look” but ended up talking to the salesperson and ended up walking out having put a deposit down on new bike. But I felt guilty that I had made an impulse decision (I was always getting a new bike but hadn’t planned on it that day). It went down like a lead balloon with Mrs Oyster.

My mate also needs a new bike. He’s been talking to lots of shops and looking at lots of bikes and found a cracker. Then I got jealous cause he got a better bike and a better deal than me. So I asked him to ask the bike shop how much we could get off if we bought two bikes together.

Now I am getting a different bike. Purchase lost to shop number 1.

The point is that the bike shop I put a deposit down with has put in zero effort into the post-purchase evaluation stage. Surely the tell tale signs are there because I only put a deposit down (despite having the ability to buy it on the spot if I wanted). In fact they positioned lay-by as a way of making me feel comfortable to committing.

They could have kept the purchase if they had of put some effort into the last stage. They could have collected information such as twitter name, Facebook profile and even email. They could use these to introduce me to their MTB blog or podcast (if they had one, I wouldn't know, haven’t heard from them since) and told me about user reviews and forums for the brand and model I bought. They could have used the channels to make me feel that I had made the right decision. Plus ore and more people have blogs where they can share their experiences, good or bad.

Instead I will get my deposit imageback and get a better deal elsewhere (here’s a pic of my soon to be new bike).

Connecting with me through social media would have also given me the impetus to tell others about my purchase. It is often in this space where your friends and family say “yeah that’s cool, great buy” where you feel you have made the right choice. It can be as simple as them saying “well done on saving $300” (how the hell do they know how much I could have really saved or whether it really is a great purchase?”).

Social media could have got me hook, line and sinker and made me a loyal customer to the shop. It is exactly the thing that could have helped me change my opinion (and others) and helped built awareness.

Do your customers exhibit any tell-tale signs (like only putting down a deposit) where you could use social media to reinforce their decision? Should you be connecting with people more post-purchase by using social media? … and I don’t mean the boring “thanks for picking ABC for all our needs” or just following them on Twitter.

Do you have any great examples of companies that do the post-purchase evaluation stage well in the social media space?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don’t Worry About The Complaints You Get

Zac Martin over at Pigs Don’t Fly has got some balls. His written recently about being a fire starter and wrote an open letter to the editor of B&T in which he raised some issues that he has (as a customer).

A lot of people got stuck into him about his style and a few even supported him in his approach. However, there are a couple of things that those that commented, including Zac, missed.

The first is that Zac is a customer and he is a customer with a gripe or two (ok, he has plenty :). Regardless of whether people believe his approach is correct or not are missing the point. The point is that he is actually rising his issues. The mere fact that he raises the issues shows that he wants to remain a customer.  Huh? Are you still missing the point? Ok, read carefully …

Think of it the other way around. It is the customers that don’t raise their dissatisfaction and problems that B&T (or any business for that matter) should be worried about. It is those customers that choose to cease their patronage without having a discussion that businesses should be worried about.

You might remember a post a few weeks ago a post I wrote about Fitness First – Can You Force Word-of-Mouth? Well I completed their customer feedback form on their website and pointed them to all the constructive criticism that you guys provided. Additionally, I chose to add some personal comments, away from the eyes on this blog, and they were issues that I had directly with Fitness First and I wanted raise them away from public view and comment.

To date I have had no response. WTF?

No wonder customers like Zac take the tone and the approach he did. Maybe being aggressive is the only way to get a response.

Fitness First, you don’t even have to fix everything I raise. Sometimes just acknowledging that you have received customer feedback and concerns, from a valued client, is enough. You certainly seem to “value” me when a payment goes amiss or my contract is up for renewal. You are keen to talk then aren’t you? What the hell is the point of having the feedback form? Do you only get back to those you agree with? Did it go in the round file?

And then when I walk in you expect me to sell my friends names so that they can join? How about looking after me … the one who is giving you money already? The bucket is leaking – spend time fixing the holes instead of pouring more water into it!

Zac and I are customers who have chosen to take the time to articulate our concerns and try and begin a dialogue with the business. The businesses should be embracing us with open arms. I would be happy with a quick phone call saying “Thanks, we have taken it on board. We can’t promise anything but we really do appreciate your feedback”. I would at least feel valued.

For the record, I actually put in a  good word for some great service I get from one particular staff member – it would be nice to know that you have passed it on. Instead, the silence is deafening.

A complaint or feedback isn’t pure criticism. Customers and businesses are in the relationship together. These interactions are a chance for businesses to connect to their customer on a deep level and a chance to listen.

This leads me to the other thing everyone missed about the post …

Businesses should be using this type of feedback to get an understanding of what their customers want. Those that have read the book Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, will get this. If you haven't read the book then get onto it.

Businesses need to listen to what their customers want. Sure they may choose to not do business with some customers but there are some massive, massive, not so subtle hints in what Zac has raised. Daily emails in PDF? Sure one commenter said he didn’t mind it but surely you need to ask the customers?! I’d be willing to bet the majority hate it!

How can you deliver a great service if you have no idea what the customers want? Worse still, when they do try and tell you, wrapped up as a complaint, then you don’t even acknowledge them? (That’s a criticism of Fitness First and not B&T).

In these times I would have thought businesses would have this sorted.


Monday, June 8, 2009

10 Things I Hate About Marketing Blogs

Hate Cartoon 1

I hate marketing blogs that;

  1. Don’t start conversations.
  2. Start conversations but then won’t consider or accept other points of view.
  3. Blog about things that everyone else is blogging about.
  4. Post too often.
  5. Don’t post often enough.
  6. Have bloggers who think they are journalists.
  7. Position social media as “holier than thou” e.g. free speech and having people heard is above the law or the employer because “you can’t stop me!”
  8. Don’t tie their posts to marketing theory.
  9. Create a list for a post when they might be a little dry for ideas :)
  10. No. 10 is up to you. Tell me what you hate about marketing blogs …

Monday, June 1, 2009

Did You Used To Do This At School To Be Cool?

A couple of posts I read earlier today got me thinking about “cool” and “brands”.

The first was Adam Ferrier’s post at Consumer Psychologist, “How Cool Are You?”, which talks about what makes people cool and and how he and team at Naked have built on some earlier work and developed a Facebook application (so you can take a questionnaire and determine how cool you are).

Then Dan Pankraz’s blog talked about Branding Bedrooms in Austria where he discovered that, despite kids living outside big cities, they loved urban streetwear brands and that both boys and girls often ask the staff in shops for stickers so that they can brand their bedrooms with their favourite brands.

Those posts combined to take me back to my school days …

I went to school about 2 hours from the ocean but one of the surrogates for being cool was surf brands - just like the Austrian kids living outside the big cities but still wanting to buy urban streetwear brands. We lived in-land but loved all the surf brands.

The other big thing that was a surrogate for being cool was how you branded your folder and you were only cool if you had a folder which you had covered with loads of surf brand logos. Truth be told we should have been studying but instead we would spend hours scouring our old surfing magazines for logos to cut out from their ads. We would take the logos and stick them on our folder and then apply contact (being so f#%&ing careful not to get bubbles in it!).surf logo folder

It might just be my perception and old memory but you wouldn’t have been caught dead without a great looking surf branded folder and we would often gather round when we noticed one of our mates had created a new folder (extra points if they put some bikini babes on it and the teachers never noticed!).

The thing that struck me today was that, back then when we were such avid fans on brands, the brands did absolutely zero to encourage and fuel this behaviour. Maybe they knew about it, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they weren’t worrying about the kids 2 hours in-land and instead concentrated their efforts on kids near the sea?

I wish I could find a post I read a few months ago that talked about consumers walking a path because my description coming up doesn’t do it justice. The post talked about how it isn't a brand’s job to create a path and try and make people go down it or to lead them in a certain direction. People are already on paths and journeys and as such it is the brands job to join them on their path, to pull in alongside the consumer, and help guide and make the journey more enjoyable (points for whoever can show me where that post is).

So do kids still do this sort of folder stuff? Or did you used to do it yourself?

If kids do still to it then it provides an awesome opportunity for popular brands to fuel this kind of brand love and surrogacy for cool. They could be giving kids the tools to create folders and they could run competitions for best folder design. Or are they doing this already and I am just too far removed from that market and don’t have sight of it? Does anyone have kids in this age group? Enlighten me …

This stuff was all happening before we really had the internet in our homes so maybe the surrogates for cool have shifted to iPhones etc. If so, does anybody have any great examples of how brands are engaging youth? By that I mean not creating events and sites that attract the kids but instead walking the path they are already following e.g. folder design, and getting involved an helping them

Man I wish I still had one of those folders …