Free to move about the cabin

First off, let me make clear that I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines. When I travel, they are my first choice for an airline. The price, the company culture, and common sense methodology that they use to run a business impresses me everytime.

But two separate things have come up about SWA in the past few days that all marketers (and Southwest) could take a lesson.

1) People don’t like change…even GOOD change
When I was a child, my grandmother would sit at the kitchen table to make out a grocery list. She would mentally go through the store and write things down in the order that she would come to them. One day we went and they had re-set the store. It threw her system off and made her mad.

I was extremely familiar with the SWA website. I knew where everything was. Then I logged on the other day and they had redesigned the website. I can see the new website is a much better design. Frankly, I think it’s a lot easier to use. I would have advised Southwest to change the old site to the new one. But part of me doesn’t like the site.

People get used to what they’re used to. It’s simple enough, but we forget that. I think it’s a good sign that people get upset when you change things. It means that they’re invested in the site and they view it as “their website”. When you change things and no one makes a fuss, you’re in trouble.

2) Sometimes cleverness can go too far
I primarily deal with the company through the web (see above). But today, I had to actually call the airline to deal with a unique situation. The rep was friendly in the typical Southwest way. And she told me she had to put me on hold for a minute or two. Her demeanor was so good that I didn’t mind.

And then I started listening to the on-hold message. In one of my seminars, I spend a good chunk of time talking about marketing on-hold messages. I may call SWA back and have them put me on hold so I can record an example of what not to do.

The message started with some of the type of cutesy things that you hear from the flight crew when you fly and then they had a recording of someone calling the customer service line. The first time I heard ‘Southwest Airlines, can I help you?”…I started telling this new person that I was waiting for the 1st rep. And then I realized what was going on and felt crazy.
Then more cute.
Then “Southwest Airlines, can I help you?”. I started again.
More cute.
“Southwest Airlines, can I help you?” I paused…not sure.

And it went on like this for two or three minutes. When the real person came back, I didn’t say anything until she said “Mr. Houchens?”.

It was the most on-edge hold I’ve ever been on.

The cuteness and cleverness is one of the brand hallmarks of Southwest. And people (and I) love it. But, a surreal mobius loop of an on-hold message can freak you out.

Speaking odds and ends

Two upcoming events on the speaking calendar…
1) Next Tuesday, I will be presenting at a private corporate event in Las Vegas
2) In around 3 weeks on Feb 7, I will be delivering the “Blogs – Marketing as Conversation” talk for the Michiana chapter of the American Advertising Federation. You can find details on how to attend here. .

Also, there are two changes to the speaking page.
–There’s a new discount available called the FSSM discount. If you book me on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, you get a 10% discount off my normal rate. This helps me take care of some of my other clients during the week.
–For meeting planners, there’s an updated speaking one-sheet.

Stay tuned for an updated speaking demo video and some new speaking topics soon.

Fewer Unpopped Kernels

You’re an agency and you’ve just landed the Orville Redenbacher popcorn account. During the brainstorm session, someone says “Let’s have Orville Redenbacher in the spots!” Don’t let the fact that he died 11 years ago stop you.

CP+B apparently aren’t content with just having the Burger King creep you out while watching the teevee. Now they’ve re-animated Orville Redenbacher.


Yes. Re-animated. They’re using “cutting edge technology” to stick him in the spots. Apparently, it’s the same technology Andrew McCarthy used in “Weekend at Bernies”

There’s a backlash…and here…and here…and here…and basically all over.

Using a “real” person as the core of your brand will eventually hurt you….because while the company may live forever…people don’t.

The company that has pulled off a “re-animation” is Kentucky Fried Chicken. While John Y Brown milked The Colonel for all he was worth while he was alive…Pepsico, Tricon, Yum!, etc really used him up. The cartoon-hipster-Randy-Quaidish Colonel image is nothing like Harland.

And that’s eventually what will happen to Orville Redenbacher…and Dave Thomas….and Dr. Z…oh…wait.

Marketing teaspoon

I don’t know where this story should be attributed. But ever since I heard it several years ago, I’ve always remembered it….

There was a businessman who was having lunch with an older collegue. The businessman was telling his friend how much he was working and what important things he was doing for his company.
When the older friend heard this, he picked up a teaspoon from the table and started stirring a glass of water. He said that the businessman was the teaspoon and the water was the company and water’s motion was all the impact that the young businessman was having on the company.
And then he took the spoon out of the glass.
And the water quickly stopped its motion.
The older friend said that’s also what would happen when the man left the company.

While this little business analogy is probably meant to showcase the importance of work-life balance, I also see it in the light of businesses that I have marketed in the past. Actually, I’m seeing it happen right before my eyes.

I invested years of my time and energy to build a brand…and then when my “marketing teaspoon” left…all the brand equity I built was squandered in a few short months.

It’s like owning a car for several years and caring for it. You never squealed the tires. You changed the oil regularly. But then you get a better car and sell the old one to a young kid who just got their license…and they wreck it.

There’s not much the marketer can do.

But there is something the company can do. When you pull a marketing teaspoon out of the glass, make sure to put another one back in.

tags:: marketingphilosophybusiness analogiesdeep thoughts

Welcome to Cicis!

Because I was on that side of town today and needed a quick easy lunch, I found myself inside a CiCi’s Pizza

It’s one of those places that for under 5 bucks, you can pull a chair up to the trough. Their slogan is “The best pizza (slight pause) value anywhere”. That pause is important.

The entire business is founded on 2 core principals – 1) Pizza Crust expands in the stomach and fills you up fast…and 2) Anything off a food service truck can be placed on a pizza.

But as I’m sitting there today trying to get the parmesean from the food service truck to come out of the shaker, I kept hearing the employees yell – “Welcome to Cicis!” – everytime someone came in the door…..and – “Thanks for coming to Cici’s!” – everytime someone left.

Actually, the manager kind of half-heartedly yelled it and the workers kind of joined in off key at the end. It was dependant on how busy they were.

I’m sure the employees at the Cici’s locations near corporate headquarters are very vigilent to make sure they extend hearty and sincere ‘Welcome to Cici’s” just in case one of the suits comes walking in.

But in Bowling Green, Ky? Eh…not so much.

It was annoying….to the customers, to the employees, and even to people who were walking by on the sidewalk.

So why do they continue do it? My guess is that someone at corporate originally thought it was a great idea. The edict went out for employees to do it and now it’s one of those things that no one can stop. You can tell the employees hate it. The customers roll their eyes and snicker at it. But I bet those Cici’s suits at corporate brag about the “hearty welcome our customers get when they enter one of our locations.”

Lots of businesses get away from the fundamentals when there’s a lot of group-think marketing strategy. Once bad practices start popping up in the S.O.P, they become part of the marketing culture. So it’s important to make sure the items you drop in to the mix are sound to start with.

And sometimes it’s good to just do zero-based marketing where you evaluate everything you’re doing with customer relations and ask, “Is this helping or hurting us?”.

Thanks for reading the Shotgun Marketing Blog!!!

Marketing Carnival

Fellow Kentucky marketing blogger Nick Rice recently emailed and asked me to submit a post to be included in his Marketing (r)evolution Carnival which he sees as an aggregation of some of the best thoughts on the future of advertising, branding, marketing and strategy.

I sent him a link to my recent post about placing users first in a marketing strategy. There’s other interesting posts from marketing bloggers in the carnival. Check it out.

tags:: blog carnivalmarketingadvertisingstrategybranding

Next Stop – Dupont Circle

It’s not exactly scientific, but it subconciously makes me want to ride the D.C. Metro (actually, it’s an overlay of the Tokyo subway).
This is a map produced by Information Architects (IA) detailing the supposed trends of the 2007 Internet.

While it’s fun to look at and try to figure out where your stop is….IA also produced two other bits of interesting info…
The 50 loudest websites in 2006 and what made them successful
Internet 2007 Predictions