Shoney’s gives you gas

Some marketing campaigns just don’t think things through.

Shoney’s has a new campaign for their “2 can dine” dinners. The spot is OK. It features a Confederate and Union soldier sitting down to eat…and obviously they don’t get along. The spot is interesting and funny if you pay attention, but you really have to pay attention to it (and repeat after me…consumers don’t pay attention). I saw it 3 or 4 times before I fully understood it. And I’m in the small minority of people who actually TRY to pay attention to advertising.

What kept me from biting on the spot was what seemed to be an afterthought in the spot. The viewers’ attention is fragmented by a “weather crawl” across the top of the frame that tells you to go to a website for a chance to win free gas for a year.

Free Gas…and the Civil War. They go together like peas and carrots. Grant went through Shiloh in a SUV.

I’m seeing alot of “free gas” promotions lately. These were cooked up in marketing meetings a few months ago in the post-Katrina/Rita days. However, here in late 2005, gas is relatively “cheap” compared to the summer…down almost a dollar. These gas promotions that were dreamed up a few months ago now don’t have the power they should. Never base promotions on what the current hot thing is…unless you have the speed to implement it quickly.

And here’s another marketing rule. Shoney’s, are you listening? Repeat after me…

Restaurants should NEVER give away gas.

Insert your own gastrointestinal joke here.

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Black Friday

I’ve heard the fake statistic too many times today already not to post this…

The day after Thanksgiving is NOT the biggest shopping day of the year.

You hear this alot from people you know…as well as lazy news outlets who don’t check sources because the day after Thanksgiving seems busy with everyone clamoring at 5am for the next Baby-Wets-Sock-Em-Tickle-Me toy. But it’s just not true. While everyone may be out, they aren’t buying.

As far as retail sales go, the 2 weekends before Christmas show the largest sales figures and the highest sales day is usually either the last Saturday before Christmas or December 23.

Don’t believe me? Believe Google. Search http://news.google.com/news/search?q=%22biggest+shopping+day+of+the+year%22
or here’s a screenshot if you’re not searching on Friday http://twitpic.com/r6s85

Blog Power

A while back I made a great point (if I do say so myself) that Blogs are not Mainstream…yet.

And I still stand by that post.

For the vast masses of most consumers…blogs and the idea of open source marketing are just starting to pop up on the radar. We’re still way over on the left side of the adoption curve for the general population. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Blog PR (or the newly coined “BR”) should now be a part of any successful marketing campaign for any product. But, for the most part, you can’t ride blog marketing all the way to the bank…with one exception.

If your product exists only on the web…or is a very tech-heavy product, blogs are super powerful. I say this because I have seen it blossom recently.

Tara “Miss Rogue” Hunt has been a friend of this blog for a few months. Over those few months, I’ve seen her use a blog to get a job with a SFO internet start-up…and then use blogs to propel that start-up to blogosphere star status. In the past few days, Riya has been in the top ten search results on Technorati and has been the focus of Memeorandum.

I’m sure Tara would say that some of it was dumb-luck…the Google rumor…and then there was the “incident”, but overall it is an example of the blogosphere causing The Tipping Point…and a fabulous example of solid marketing. Congrats to Tara for a great job.

It’s also a barometer of things to come. While blogs are not mainstream…yet, we’re now seeing the shift.

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Salmon Flavored PR

Apparently, I’m in the mood for holiday marketing posts.

As in years past, the Jones Soda Company has just announced their usual holiday PR gimmick…putting out an oddly flavored “holiday-themed” soda such as Turkey&Gravy or Green Bean Casserole.

This year it’s Smoked Salmon Soda.

The very thought of that makes me want to throw up. In fact even Jones CEO, Peter van Stolk, says he can’t make it through an entire bottle.

But the purpose here is not to drink the soda. It’s the gimmick and the free press they get for doing something outrageous. (I’m blogging it, right?) In fact, this time of year is a great time for a PR coup (See points 4 and 5 in my Holiday Marketing Tips post below. The Jones PR stunt is very similar to the Neiman Marcus catalog example.)

The entire Jones marketing philosophy from weird flavors to drinkers snapshots on the label has been very kitschy, very quirky, AND very successful. Jones is also a great example of how consumers help shape a brand as well. For such a small company to mushroom (probably the next flavor) onto the national stage shows a great PR push.

However, the holiday flavored soda gimmick also shows the inherent problem with all PR gimmicks. What do you do next that can get attention? It’s like a kid who shows off and everyone looks at him…he enjoys the attention and then does something else…and then something else…and then accidentally breaks a lamp.

The Turkey/Gravy flavor got LOTS of media mentions for Jones. Since then, the other holiday flavors have not. Trying to be more outrageous with each step eventually fizzes out (Soda pun intended.) The salmon flavor is outrageous, but what’s next? The good news is that Jones is being distributed nationally and is very successful so they’ve ridden the PR train to where they needed to go.

I just hope they don’t break a lamp.

LINK:: Fast Company had an article about Jones earlier this year.
LINK:: News story about the Salmon Soda.

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I gave up. Here’s a gift card.

Around this time of year, gift cards are a big business. A survey by ValueLink estimated that 64% of American adults (139 million people) either bought or received a gift card in 2004, up from just 37 percent in 2002. It’s also estimated that nearly 15% of all holiday sales are in the form of gift cards.

In marketing, gift cards are great. They provide buying incentives for consumers in the doldrum 1st quarter. Sure. The gift card money is already there and you’re just exchanging goods for it. But when someone comes in to use a gift card, they usually spend much more than the value of the card.

But what about the general good taste of gift cards?

I urge you to read this article by MSN Money contributor Liz Pulliam Weston which has some great insight on the social implications of gift cards such as:

A gift, ideally, says, “I thought about you. I considered your likes and dislikes, your needs and wants, your dreams and desires, and found you this token of my esteem that I hope will delight you.”

A gift card says, “There! Checked you off my list.”

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Holiday Marketing Tips

I originally published this article last year…(so be forewarned, there are dated references) But as I heard the 1st Christmas song on the radio yesterday, I thought it might be a good time to post it here. BTW…a PDF of this article and several other published articles are always available on my website.

Holiday Marketing Tips
The bulk of retail sales for the year happen during the holiday shopping season. Depending upon the sort of business you’re in, estimates range from 40% to 70% of the year’s profits coming from holiday shoppers. With those types of numbers on the line, it’s imperative that your marketing work during this time of year. Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest time of year to market. Consumers are being bombarded with messages and are also preoccupied with the stresses of the holiday season. Your marketing MUST stand out above the clutter. Here are some tips that will make this season merry and bright for your business…

1) ALWAYS remind them of the brand – Take the time to reach out and talk to your customers. Send targeted e-mails to your internet database (What?! You don’t have a database?!), use the telephone, direct mail, or whatever works best for your business. You want to get your name in front of your customers for top-of-mind brand awareness during this time when they are ready to buy. Offer incentives with these communications for better results.

2) Plant seeds for the long cold winter ahead – Take a look at your dedicated customers and offer them an incentive to buy from you by offering a discount or perhaps a free gift. When you offer holiday discounts, make them good into the first quarter when you’ll be looking for sales. After-holiday-shopping is an overlooked opportunity for many businesses, as customers want to spend gift cards or money they received as gifts.

3) Get Personal – Ensure that customers remain with your for the next eleven months as well. Take this time to thank them for being a loyal customer throughout the year by sending them a holiday card or e-card. Gifts are not out of line for major customers either. Office Depot currently has a spot featuring Donald Trump where he says that holiday business gifts are not a thank you. They are insurance for continued patronage the next year. The personal touch with a gift or card will help to bolster business. Just be careful with cultural concerns with gifts and cards. Don’t wish a Merry Christmas to a Jewish customer who is looking forward to a Happy Hanukkah.

4) Leverage the power of PR – Got a new item or do you sell one of this year’s “must-haves”? Send press releases and keep contacts with media for holiday gift guides and feature stories. The media will be looking for the “local angle” when everyone is clamoring for a Tickle Me Elmo or other hot item. The story will remind consumers that they can find this item at your business reaping a huge PR win. It’s free advertising and much more effective because it comes with an implied endorsement from the media. It’s also not interruptive media. Consumers will be looking for information when they read these guides and stories and will be more receptive to the message.This will work at the last minute for small businesses and local media. If you’re manufacturing a product and want it in magazines or national media, start your PR pitch in June or July.

5) Standout – “Be remarkable” should be your marketing credo throughout the year. However, you should also remember it during the holiday season to get some free PR. Best practices include Neiman Marcus’ annual Christmas book. This year they feature a $1.45 million bowling alley, a $1.7 million submarine, and a $10 million zeppelin airship in their catalog. No one is buying these items. (in their right mind) But you will see a galore of news stories about them and that will drive enough people to Neiman Marcus to buy lots of clothes, home items, and other more mundane items that people can afford.

6) Create partnerships – Partner with a local restaurant, hotels, or other retailers to create marketing synergy. Give your customers coupons of special offers from your partners and they do the same. It will open up new markets that you may be unable to reach.

7) Holiday Events – Open houses and other special events will showcase your business without the pressure of a purchase commitment. Team up with a local charity, a children’s choir, or other appropriate group to make your business a holiday event center rather than “just a store”.

8) Deck the Website – Be sure to promote your website at all your holiday events, in all ads and press releases, and other marketing pieces during the holidays. Place added value on the website by offering an internet only discount or gift. Keep the content fresh by offering holiday information, news, or tips pertinent to your business. Most important, make certain your site is ready to receive visitors by checking that all links are working properly and you have enough space to handle additional traffic. You don’t want to lose customers (money) when they get tired of your page loading or numerous crashes.

In the end, holiday marketing is just a continuation of the best marketing practices you should already have in place. Always look out for the way to stand out among the clutter and look slightly into the future for trends and everything will fall into place.

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Arrrgh…Words Send Messages

In the past few days, everyone I know has freaked out about what’s been on the news.

About Iraq?…No.
About Plamegate?…No.
About Pirates?…YES.

You’ve seen the story. Pirates attacked a cruise ship off the coast of Africa over the weekend.

Invariably, when I’m in a room with someone when this story comes on, they look at me (even people in my house) and ask “There are still pirates?!?”

Now obviously, these people that attacked the cruise ship did not have hand hooks, wooden legs and parrots on their shoulders. But that is the exact mental image that hits everyone around me when they hear this story. That image of a “pirate” is the common world view for most people.

The news was not “wrong” by reporting that pirates had attacked. By definition, anyone who attempts to steal while at sea is a pirate. But what if the news had reported that armed thugs attempted to attack a cruise ship? Different mental images?

And in other news, let’s not forget all the teenage “pirates” with FUBU parrots on their shoulders downloading media off the Internet while being pursued by the MPAA and RIAA ships.

Words are a powerful tool in marketing. As you write ad copy or tell your product story to the intended market, you’re sending a message. You think that the message is obvious and clear. Is it?

As the collective market becomes more fragmented, using words that mean the same thing to everyone will become harder to do.

The words you use can conjure up many different mental images in your market’s minds. Be careful and thoughtful as to how you use them.

BONUS::
Since this is probably the only marketing post I will ever have to involve pirates, let’s go all the way…
–What’s a pirate’s favorite fast food restaurant?…Arrrghby’s Roast Beef
–What’s a pirate’s favorite “Andy Griffith” character?….Barrrghney Fife (close 2nd – Floyd the Barrrghber)
–One of my favorite comedy websites, McSweeneys, has a list of Pirate Riddles for Sophisticates.

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On Competition

A few weeks ago, I launched a major ad campaign to promote “product A” for a healthcare facility. Within a few weeks, the competition across town (who HAD been promoting “product B”) switched their marketing to “product A”…I’m glad they did it…Now I know I can shake them and make them do whatever I want.

When you react to the competition, you’re admitting that you’re the follower…not the leader.

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What’s Wrong with this Billboard?

Bad BillboardsI pass this billboard everyday…and it irritates me a little more each day.

Since it’s not a great photo (taking pics in moving traffic is always a challenge), the billboard consists of a stock photo of a generic white bread family next to the words :: “Real People…Real Purpose…Real Passion”

Perhaps it should read::
Fake Stock Photos
Fake People
Fake Message

Did no one involved in this project ever think it was a bad idea to use a fake photo of people next to the words “real people”?

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