proof shame

Let me first say that I have made many mistakes. A few have been made in life and many more have been made in my marketing efforts. I have approved print jobs with both minor and egregious errors. I have designed and sent ads to a publisher with misspellings. And this blog has been known to have more than the occasional typo. (Although, a copy editor friend is now reading the blog so I’m more careful than I used to be.)

As you go through the day, more than likely you’ll see a few mistakes in marketing pieces. Most of them come through hastily written signage, employees not using common sense, or the dangerous combination of minimum wage and brand messages. I’ve even provided photographic evidence of poor proofs here before. In fact, the problem has gotten so bad that we’ve come to the point that you get a write up in the New York Times because you know how to use punctuation on a sign.

It’s easy to find these singular errors. But occasionally, you’ll find an example where they just backed the dump truck up and let it all go. There’s a new restaurant in my hometown that has been publishing its menu in the local paper for the past few days. And it’s bad.

My wife is an adjunct college English professor and she took it to her night class. The students found copious amounts of misspellings, punctuation errors, and things that just made no sense. Here’s the ad, but because of the poor design and small type, you really can’t read it. But while trying to find an online copy of the menu to show you, I did find that the restaurant has already become a local laughingstock because of others who have noted the horrible job on the ad and menu.

This is not nitpicking. This is being in control of your marketing. There’s no reason for it. Shame on the newspaper and salesperson for letting such a horrible thing be published on behalf of a client. Shame on the graphic designer who didn’t proof the work. And shame on the owners for not taking responsibility for their own marketing and image.

If a company is not going to take the time and effort to properly craft the marketing messages that they’re paying for, how bad are the other aspects of the marketing experience I’m going to have with the company going to be? As you can see in the laughingstock link, shoddy craftsmanship in preparing a menu spills over in the preparation and quality of the food on the menu as well.

Google Robber Barons

I’ll tell you exactly why “advertisers are simply bidding on and buying fewer keywords” to make the number of ad clicks fall in January for Google and Yahoo. It’s because they’re sticking it to their advertisers (or at least Google is).

I became an AdWords advertiser about two years ago. At the time, I could have my marketing speaker keywords appear fairly cheaply (some for about a penny). Ever since then, the amount of blood money I have to put up has steadily increased. It’s now to the point that I can’t realistically use AdWords as a part of my online marketing budget. I’m not paying double digit rates for a keyword click that is useless 9 times out of 10.

Last month, instead of AdWords I tried Google Print Ads and found relative success with ads printed on dead trees even though the majority of my business comes through online. That shouldn’t be the case with Google. Google ads should be one of the most cost effective ways to reach people online. They used to be. But not anymore.

Perhaps Sergey and Larry will realize the error of running up prices before they run off the rest of their other advertisers with deeper pockets than mine.

customer misservice

After years of building customer service infrastructure (like outsourced support numbers, online service chats with robots, on-hold purgatory, etc) that distances a company from their biggest asset (their customers), the customers are now catching up and biting back with their own technology rush.

Here’s a very nice overview article from Jena McGregor at Business Week via MSNBC about the customer backlash against bad service with technology.

As anyone who is on the web knows, angry and disgruntled customers with an internet connection can easily wreak havoc on a company’s brand. Got a problem that the company won’t fix? Upload something to YouTube, start a blog, leave feedback on a shopping site, or flat out email the CEO and someone will pay attention (either the company or other customers).

This new age of the “customer service conversation” has been swelling for years. I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of companies who are doing a good job reacting to the community and providing great customer service. But even more are not.

The online marketing community is well aware of the dam bursts like DellHell, ComcastMustDie, and iPhone rebates. And while those make great examples for case studies, I really think they are in the head of the long tail of disgruntled customers on the web. There is a great unwashed mass of negative customer experiences stretching out in the long tail that I don’t think anyone has picked up on. In other words, while companies may have been talking for the past few years about this new rise of the customer, no one has any idea how big it really is.

Here’s the question. After years of trying to distance themselves from the customer, how will those companies react to the new realities of customer service that are just now starting to go mainstream? And will they be too late before they realize that the mass collective has grown to a point that they can’t respond?

free parking

Here’s some marketing fun you can have the next time you go out.

If the parking lot you’re going into has an “Employee of the Month” parking space close to the front door, park in it.

When (and if) you’re confronted by the management for parking there, explain that you’re there to buy something that will help pay the salary of the employee of the month.

Reward your employees. Don’t do it by punishing your customers.

Speaking of parking — We went to a large mall in Louisville last weekend and got there about 15 minutes before the stores inside opened. We parked about halfway back in the parking lot because the spaces up close were full. There weren’t that many shoppers milling around inside waiting for the stores. Mmmmm …. I wonder where the employees parked.

Seems trivial. But small things like your parking lot say alot about how much you treasure your customers.

weird doesn’t even begin

I know I said that I wouldn’t be commenting on Super Bowl ads. But these two ads are like a fetish car wreck. They’re so bizarre and twisted that I can’t look away. Apparently, both were rejected by Fox (*Fox has standards!) for the Super Bowl. And it’s easy to see why.

Not only did the Colonel get messed over by John Y, now he’s the scorn of those happy-go-lucky souls over at PETA.

Mmmm, now for the finger lickin goodness… (The second one is weirder than the first … if that’s even possible)

print publishing and online

Mitch Joel has some insight from this NAA report about the print publishing business. The report focuses on the positive numbers that newspaper websites are racking up. While at the same time, newspapers are covered in sackcloth and ashes about their print products. Mitch makes an excellent point here:

Print publications need to embrace the new reality that they have become Multimedia Publications. The big wins are not going to happen by putting their print materials online. The big wins are going to happen when stories are extended leveraging the true power of the online channel – that would be by adding more images, video, audio and interaction into the fray. And, if they’re smart, extending the ability to create content as well.

This seems obvious. But even at this very moment, the offices of newspapers, magazines, radio/TV stations, and other traditional media are full of people who:
1) don’t understand this
2) don’t want to understand this
3) are afraid of this
4) feel that they are already on the cutting edge just by replicating their content online
5) are so caught up in a traditional stylebook of the “way things ought to be” that they are actively fighting online ventures

But, with all things, moderation. While I wholeheartedly agree that a media outlet needs to develop and nurture an online presence that goes beyond the abilities of their traditional counterparts, there also needs to be a master plan for both. Both the online and print editions of a newspaper or magazine need to work on a SINGLE brand strategy and need to push readers from the print to online and vice versa.

And then, there’s a vast silent majority of media outlets when it comes to online. Too many times the analysis of media focuses on a few major national media examples (who SHOULD be on the cutting edge online). The true tipping point for online media will be the vast number of regional and local outlets — many that have little or no web presence.

While national media (major magazines & newspapers, broadcast networks, etc) are just now starting to really fully embrace the online product, there are thousands of local media outlets who are drastically behind the times. I was interviewed on Friday for a publishing company’s newsletter. The interviewer actually asked me if I thought it was important for a newspaper to have a website. My response was: if a newspaper didn’t have a website in 2008, they had already missed the boat.

And let’s also remember one of the major points of the relationship between a traditional print audience and an online product. Column inches bring in more money than pixels. If the traditional print product is providing content and subsidizing the operation of the online edition, there has to be a point where the financial model changes to meet the readership and content distribution model. And for many media properties, that will be a painful transition.

captains log

Stardate — 248630.42
We’ve entered a new solar system. The planets we’re exploring rotate around a star named Ethel Fragmeyer.

Apparently, in the early 21st century, Ethel’s husband, Frank was looking for a gift for a holiday the people of that time celebrated called Valentine’s Day. He heard a hokey commericial, called the number, and paid the outlandish sum of $144.95 plus shipping and handling to have this star named after her.

Frank slept on the couch that night. And he and Ethel split up soon afterwards. If only they could have seen this day.

Signing off…

UPDATE: My favorite question from the Star Registry’s FAQ
Q — Am I buying the star?
A — No. We do not own the star, so we cannot sell it to you. This is like adopting the star. This star is associated with that special someone. It is something you can point at to know that there is something special out there for you.

fishy facts

  • Approximately 23% of the year’s sales of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonalds are purchased during a 40 day window that began today.
  • Filet-O-Fish was invented in 1962 by a Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky McDonald’s franchisee who had stores located in a predominantly Roman Catholic area.
  • The franchisee, Lou Groen, originally made the sandwich with high quality halibut, but the corporation made him switch to the cheaper Atlantic cod.
  • In order to get the Filet-O-Fish on the menu, Groen was challenged to a sales contest by Ray Kroc who also had a meatless idea called the Hula Burger which was nothing but a slice of pineapple on a bun. The Filet-O-Fish won.
  • The Filet-O-Fish was the first item added to the original McDonald’s core menu.
  • I have blogged my weird fascination of the relationship between fish, marketing, and Lent before.
  • I can’t eat a Filet-O-Fish without my gag reflex kicking in at least once.

All facts (except for the gag one) from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

charity case

Two conflicting thoughts in my head about this story.

1) Wow. What a great business.
We should all strive to create products that customers crave. Products that customers are willing to become involved in (emotionally and financially). We should be developing a customer community that people are willing to fight for. Toscanini’s apparently has done this and has a fan base that is willing to band together to try to save Toscanini’s.

2) Wow. What a horrible business.
Making ice cream is fun, but you first have to keep the lights on and pay Uncle Sam. If you don’t do the basics to stay in business, you won’t be in business. And it’s an insult to your customers. As one commenter on their blog said —

“Honestly, I think it’s a slap in the face to everyone who has been a loyal customer to take their money for taxes, ‘lose’ this money and then ask for donations to get them out of a mess they caused themselves with bad management.”

This is not a rare occurrence. It’s happened right in my own backyard to a place that I have eaten lunch at and blogged about.

In addition, there’s a business in my hometown that apparently couldn’t make it with just charging membership dues. So they had other businesses become sponsors to “help the kids”. Oddly, the kids still pay for gymnastics and cheerleading lessons.

If your business needs a benefit charity drive or sponsors to keep the doors open, then maybe it’s a sign that the doors should close.