best of 2009

People hate year end lists.

But at the end of each year that I have blogged, I have done a list of top / favorite posts from the previous year. You can peruse previous years here: [2005] [2006] [2007] [2008]

I basically do the year end list for two reasons:

  1. Me. I enjoy going back in the archives and rediscovering posts I had forgotten. Doing the year end list also helps me organize each year’s good stuff from my not-so-good stuff
  2. You. New readers that joined later in the year may not have waded back through the archives. Or regulars may have missed one of these.

The criteria for the list? Some got lots of traffic or lots of commentary. And some are just ones that I really like.

In 2010, I hope to write more posts more here and cut back on writing what could be a good post here in 140 characters on Twitter instead. Either way, I’m sure that there will be more posts here in 2010 because my writing time will no longer be solely devoted to Brand Zeitgeist which, after several delays (mostly caused by me), will be published this Spring.

As always, thank you for reading, commenting on, and spreading the ideas that I publish here.

getting priorities straight

Paula Berg is leaving her position as Manager of Emerging Media at Southwest Airlines. And instead of burning bridges on the way out, she left a (ahem) LUV note about Southwest.

Like any good marketer — alot of it is promotional talk, but there are many items on the list that showcase how Southwest builds a brand through their employees.

The one that struck me the most was #33:

Employees first, Customers next, Shareholders last.

Companies get the order of these mixed up all the time. Actually, most businesses have priorities that are the complete reverse of this.

And then there are businesses that think the customer should be first. That’s not always true. The customer is NOT always right. But if you have treated your employees right today and shown them that they are valuable, then they are eager to make sure the customer is satisfied tomorrow.

And shareholders will be happy with their ROI because good employees cultivate good customers (see previous paragraph) who are loyal to the brand and continue to spend money with the company.

the one where I talk about international marketing

In late November, I was fortunate enough to be included in the third of three groups of American entrepreneurs invited to London by British Airways as a part of their Face of Opportunity conferences.

I’ve often said that it should be a requirement for all high school or college students to travel abroad. I was lucky enough to travel internationally at that point in my life and it helped to make sure I didn’t have a myopic worldview.

Today, I would think anyone in business could easily see the implications of the global economy. And I would hope that anyone who spends anytime online can see the global associations caused by the Internet.

But they really don’t.

Yes. Online connections can be made with anyone in the world. Some of my first heavy commenters when I began this blog back in 2005 were a woman in Canada and a guy in Russia. Even today, when I look at my Google Analytics traffic map or my Twitter followers, it blows me away that people from all over the world are reading my thoughts.

But just as barcamps, tweetups, conferences, and other real world meetups help cement relationships that we build online with fellow countrymen (and women), I think these real world meetings are even more important with the global community.

There’s the old saying that you really don’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. People in your same country share your same cultural shoes. You really don’t understand a foreign culture until you’ve lived it for a few days.

And this is especially important in marketing. While participants in the groups that I spoke to at the British Airways event had many questions about doing business internationally — especially about logistics, one other common question was about international marketing. No matter the group you’re marketing to, it’s all about understanding the target group’s values, traditions, and worldviews. You cannot market to a culture that you have never personally experienced.

You also have to understand the current and long-term trends as they apply internationally to be successful in creating a global marketing strategy. One of the most striking quotes from the Face of Opportunity conference came from one of its best speakers, Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham:

“We (the British) ruled the world in the 19th century, you Americans owned the 20th. This is Asia’s century, and how we all play that will define commercial success for the next 100 years.”

The worldview we have become accustomed to is changing. And when developing a global marketing strategy, you’ll have to throw away all the old ways of thinking and preconceived ideas. An incident during another presentation at the event highlighted this issue. A speaker used the example of the Chevy Nova not selling in Spanish speaking countries because the name supposedly translates into “it doesn’t go”. A member of the audience interrupted and called the story bogus as proven by Snopes and others:

Assuming that Spanish speakers would naturally see the word “nova” as equivalent to the phrase “no va” and think “Hey, this car doesn’t go!” is akin to assuming that English speakers would spurn a dinette set sold under the name Notable because nobody wants a dinette set that doesn’t include a table.

But I think most business people’s knowledge of international marketing only goes as far as the Chevy Nova and other false examples like baby food in Africa. If you’re planning a global marketing strategy, you need to start fresh with thinking approaches to marketing and not rely on old models as the world is a drastically different place than just a few years ago. Of course, as previously mentioned, the best thing you can do to help your marketing is go experience the country you’re planning to expand into.

But here’s the thing. Even if you don’t think you’re a global business, you are. If you’re online, you’re global and you need to think that way.

–Kent Bernhard, Jr. gives a much better a great play-by-play account of the British Airways Chicago-to-London Face of Opportunity events for Portfolio.
–Disclosure: British Airways provided my travel expenses for this trip.

we’ve got trouble right here in Newspaper City

parody_naaFor several months, the Newspaper Association of America has offered a series of free, downloadable print and digital ads that papers can run. The ads mostly talk to readers but are actually subversively directed at advertisers.

Newspapers are not in trouble. They just think they’re in trouble and these ads just reinforce that idea with them, their readers, and their advertisers. They do not inspire confidence.

Newspapers, like all media, are in the eyeball selling business. It doesn’t matter if those eyeballs are looking at column inches or pixels — just as long as those inches or pixels are filled with good content.

I’m offering this version of one of these ads that any newspaper can use for free.

(Click the ad for a larger version to read the copy.)

ICE and Rockettes at Opryland in Nashville

For years, many people in this area have made the short trip down to Nashville to enjoy the lights at the Opryland Hotel. For lots of those people, the holiday tradition may stretch back to the days of the Christmas in the Park events before the theme park was razed. But if you’re just going for the lights, you’re missing some of the entertainment that the mega-complex offers. On Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I had the opportunity to experience two events in “A Country Christmas”.

The first was ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz. This exhibit had previously featured the Grinch story from Dr. Seuss and this is the inaugural year for the Charlie Brown version. ICE! is impressive. You walk through familiar scenes from the perennial Christmas TV special that have been carved from over 2 million pounds of colored ice. And at about the halfway point, there are several ice slides to play on. And there’s a very pretty crystal ice version of the Nativity at the end.

Obviously, you would expect something called ICE! to be cold, but you have no idea how cold until you are in the Gaslight Theater. In order to keep the ice from melting, they keep the temperature at 9 degrees. The length of the display is exactly right. I was ready to exit and warm up when it was over. They provide a warm hooded parka when you enter, but I suggest you also bring your gloves and hat as well.

We also enjoyed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at the Opry House. I’ve never been a Broadway showtune kind of guy, but this is a very good performance for everyone. Santa serves as a sort of emcee through 11 exciting and diverse scenes ranging from a very clever stuffed animal version of the Nutcracker to a crisis at the North Pole.

The Rockettes do what they do best. They dance. You can’t help but be impressed by their talent especially in the precision they demonstrate during the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and their unique dance interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas. The two hour show ends with a very moving and heartfelt Living Nativity with extravagant costumes and actual live camels, sheep, and other animals.

Other events at A Country Christmas include Louise Mandrell’s ‘Joy to the World’ Christmas Dinner & Show as well as a cruise on the General Jackson showboat. And don’t forget to look at the lights. Most of the shows run until the end of December. And if you can go during the week, there’s a slight discount in ticket prices. For information and tickets, call 1-888-999-OPRY or visit www.ChristmasatGaylordOpryland.com.

****

DISCLAIMER: Gaylord Resorts provided free tickets to me and my family to attend these two events. This review was also posted and printed in the Amplifier in Bowling Green, Ky.