new video digs

We just put the finishing touches on my new speaking demo tape. Thanks to Doug Marrs and the team at Studio Now for the great job. You can watch the video below.

If you need a speaker for a conference or a private business event, I would be happy to provide you a quote. For testimonials, the topics I present, and other info, you can visit my marketing speaker page.


You can also find the video on YouTube.

last train to brandville

Long time readers of the Shotgun Marketing Blog know that I’m a big anti-fan of the idea of governments trying to “rebrand” a geographic area — (many past examples here)

City leaders of Clarksville, TN are tired of all the negative publicity their town is getting so they are looking for a new slogan.

Earlier this month, a citizen committed a Budd Dwyer style suicide during a city council meeting.

Yeah. A catchy slogan ought to do it. Maybe even a jingle.

(thanks to mvp for the tip)

Even God has brand problems

This post is about brands so stick with me for a minute.

The area I live in has been in a drought. It hasn’t been the “sure could use some rain” kind of drought — but rather the “kind that imposes water restrictions and stuff starts dying” kind of drought.

But for the past few days, it’s been raining. It’s the good type of rain — the slow steady kind that sinks in. And we needed it — desperately.

But I’ve noticed something in the past few days.

The rain was so needed that the local paper did an entire photo essay about the rain. In one of the captions, a woman says — “I hate the rain.”

A few months ago, when we were in the worst of the drought, I heard one of the weather kids on the local TV station says something to the effect of “30% chance of showers this weekend, but maybe we’ll miss it if we’re lucky so it doesn’t ruin your weekend golf game”

On the radio yesterday morning, the host was taking requests for a good rain song to celebrate the fact it was raining. One of the callers said — “I don’t like this rain — I’m not a farmer so I don’t really need it”. I guess she shops at the grocery where the food magically appears on the shelves. (She should read this book — and you should too)

The point is that even a “product” like the rain that is fundamentally required by people to sustain their lives — is not welcomed with open arms.

Your product/service is NOT as important as the rain.

Are you constantly wondering why people aren’t embracing your product?

Maybe they have a skewed worldview of your brand.

The rain’s “brand” has been reinforced by a culture as something that is bad. It messes up your car, it ruins the cheesy TV anchor’s golf game, etc.

What message is the current culture delivering to your market about your business?

hey taxi!

Sometimes the product IS the logo. If you’re lucky enough to be caught in that position, don’t mess with it. But bureaucracy is not that smart.

In what is a sure fire example of the crap that can be produced by committee, New York has unveiled a logo for New York taxis.

new york city taxi logo
Never mind that the logo is not needed. They went the extra step to make it hideous.

How can you use three typefaces in only seven characters?

Am I in Boston? Why is the Boston T symbol showing up in the middle?

And as one commenter on a New York Times blog wrote — “it looks like someone used a dime-store stencil.”

The sad part about the whole logo is that it probably started as a good one since the original ideas came from Smart Design, the same group that puts together the smooth designs of Oxo proucts. But, as Tim Manners posted on Reveries, — “Rather than settling on one idea, the committee decided to go with all of them.”

Several more problems are outlined in this New York Times blog post along with commentary and alternative designs from some smart designers.

shirtless drill

I have never stepped inside an Abercrombie and Fitch store. Sadly, I’m too old to pull it off.

They’ve built a brand around a certain look. Their marketing reflects the shirtless chiseled male — a.k.a. the “Abercrombie look” (which sadly, I also cannot pull off)

Last Saturday, an improv group of 111 men of all shapes and sizes shopped shirtless in the Abercrombie and Fitch store on 5th Avenue in New York. The customers and even the employees apparently thought it was great. The management of the store did not. You can read more about the event here.

Now this was a stunt, but it reflected the brand that A+F tries to cultivate. It was a fun thing that the other customers in the store were enjoying. There was a great opportunity for positive PR had the management worked with it. But they squished it. The most disturbing part of the story in the link above is how the security pulled one of the participants away from the cash registers as he was handing over his credit card to purchase an overpriced shirt.

Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: If a large group of people came into your business today and tried to participate in your brand, how would your management react?

In addition to conducting fire drills and severe weather drills, your business should be conducting “branding drills” and “PR drills”.

Here’s video of the event:

congressional scam

A scam from Congress — imagine that!

I got a message this morning from a staffer of Congressman Tom Cole. It seemed that he wanted to present me with an award called the Congressional Order of Merit for my work with small businesses.

Frankly, I’ve gotten to the point where weird phone calls and emails don’t surprise me anymore. There’s always an interesting proposition in them. But this one seemed a little more odd than the others. I knew that Tom Cole was not in my state’s congressional delegation.

Something smelled bad. So I googled Tom Cole and from the first page of results it was apparent that he was a real congressman. But why would a congressman from Oklahoma want to present something to someone from Kentucky? So out of extreme curiosity, I returned the call.

Something automated picked up before I got the person, so I immediately went on guard. That’s when it hit me to google the phone number 888-383-4164.

As the “staffer” was talking to me, the google search found numerous blog posts about this scam that’s actually being run BY the Republican National Committee. For a “donation” of a few hundred dollars, you get this “award”. After the recorded message from the congressman was over, I told her to remove me from her list.

An issue that’s rotten with the Do-Not-Call list is the fact that things like this are legal. The politicians exempted themselves from the law. And it’s not just the Republicans. The Democrats are doing similar things as well.

The other rotten aspect here is the gathering of data from domain registrations. These scammers didn’t think I was with Shotgun Concepts. They thought I was with a company that I did a website for this summer. I registered their domain name on my domain account. I’m also getting business credit card junk mail addressed to my client. It’s the only place where my name and their name are conneceted. Shame on all registrars including mine, GoDaddy, for allowing this to happen and trying to make a buck by charging for protection against it.

I’m forwarding this blog post to my actual Kentucky congressional delegation and I urge you to contact yours as well.
Contact your Represenative
Contact your Senator

artificial networks

Both online and offline, there’s been a surge in the concept of “networks” as a marketing tool. And websites and groups have sprung up to capitalize on the phenomenon. As people clamor to build their personal networks for business, they need to be careful. I’m seeing many people waste lots of time and energy into false networks that may not net any gain.

Don’t get me wrong. Your personal network is one of the strongest marketing tools you have — especially if you’re in a B2B field. And it also works to your advantage in a B2C field causing word-of-mouth trickle down.

But the network and the relationships have to be real in order to be effective. Many of these new groups and websites develop artificial networks. It’s like most other things. People are always looking for the quick and easy way to get rich, lose weight, or win market share. And all those things take time. Developing a network of relationships is no different.

There’s a fairly new phenomenon of “speed networking”. These events should be called “speed business card exchanges” because that’s all they really are. You’re into self delusion if you think you’re coming out of one of these events with 50 meaningful business relationships. Obviously, you can use the contact info from those quick meetings to develop a relationship later with a few of the people you met. But it will still take time to develop those.

I know several people who are involved locally in a national business networking organization. And it seems that every one of them has drunk the Kool-Aid (or more accurately the Flavor-Aid) I’ve been invited to a few of the meetings and each time it felt like I was getting involved in some sort of scheme. Fostering that sort of feeling is not the best way to develop relationships.

Clearly with weekly meetings, there’s time to develop relationships. But the problem with these types of groups is that the relationships are forced and sometimes unnecessary. How can the “stock broker” and the “carpet cleaner” in the group really have a meaningful business relationship? Have you ever had this conversation?

“So you advise that I put 50% into mutual funds and 50% into bonds? OK. Now, where do you suggest I get my carpet cleaned?”

Both the stock broker and the carpet cleaner would be better off spending their time developing real relationships with other businesspeople that have customers with adjacent needs.

And then the internet makes everything easy. I see people who have hundreds of contacts on Linked In or Facebook and wonder if they feel their network is actually that deep/wide. Accepting a friend or contact on one of these sites is not equivalent to developing a relationship with them. It is a great way to manage and stay in contact with relationships you’ve already developed.

But you can grow your network online. I consider some people that I’ve never met “face-to-face” as some of my closest business allies because of the relationship we’ve had online.

Here’s the kicker. Relationships and networks are built with two things: time and trust. True networking relationships come from actually having a relationship with someone.

Like with most marketing activities, just doing something doesn’t mean that you’re making any progress. Spend time and energy developing your network. Just make sure it’s real.

And of course, the best place to network is a funeral.

I gave it a shot

I didn’t like the original Geico Cavemen ads, so I wasn’t surprised that critics were dissing the Cavemen TV series on ABC.

I tried watching the premiere tonight.

I gave up after about 10 minutes. I got tired of the same joke. And I can’t understand why they’re so angry all the time. It’s hard to stretch one mediocre idea into something long running. (But don’t people try!)

Frankly, I would have prefered a show with the Geico Gecko. (if at all)

What ad mascots would you like to see have their own TV show?