some people need to be snowglobed, bro

It’s rare that I don’t accept everything that Seth Godin posts as marketing gospel. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that his recent post about a TSA snowglobe sign is a bit off-the-mark.

I don’t know which airport he took the picture of the sign, but I think in certain high tourist density airports (MCO, LAS, JFK, LGA, IAD, DCA, etc) in the main tourist season, it makes perfect sense.

I’ve always found that signs (even the stupid ones) are put up after too many people (even the stupid ones) make the same mistake. The TSA probably has a snow globe problem with tourists (who for the most part are infrequent travelers).

I would venture while thinking about avoiding carry-on liquids, the snow globe souvenir doesn’t cross many minds as the hotel room is frantically being packed. The angry blog post in an alternate reality might read:

This week, I visited {Tourist Attraction} with my family. Coming home, we had packed my daughter’s snow globe souvenir in my carry-on so it wouldn’t get broken by the baggage handlers. Imagine my surprise after we check our luggage, the TSA employee said we couldn’t take it through in our carry-on. I guess I know it does, but who thinks about the liquid inside snow globes? We had to trash it right there at the checkpoint so we could catch our plane. She was heartbroken. How much effort would it take for a simple sign to alert people?

I’ve never experienced heartbreak at security after having to throw away my princess snow globe. But I bet it happens. (I did almost lose a pocketknife once, even though I knew the rules.)

Just because you’re not in the bulls eye target for the message — doesn’t mean the message is not needed.

corporate memo stupidity

GM has sent out a memo telling employees to stop refering to the Chevrolet brand as “Chevy.”

From the Advertising Age Adages blog…

The note said:
“When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple, for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding … Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”
Adages is now preparing a return memo to inform GM that Coke is, in fact, shorthand for Coca-Cola.

I’m one of the world’s most ardent advocates for brand consistency. But I also know the heart of the brand resides with the consumers, not the company. If people buying your cars are calling them Chevys, you call them Chevys.

Jetpacks thinks the memo is a stunt. He may be right. But if it’s real, GM has more pressing brand issues to deal with rather than trying to retrain 100 years of consumer behavior. And if it is a stunt, it’s a dumb one.

Corporate is charging staffers 25 cents for each time they use the word Chevy. I wonder who pays everytime chevy.com redirects to the main site?

And what happens if Chevy Chase walks into GM headquarters? Something like this?

UPDATE: Chevy clarifies their “poorly worded memo”

chris likes spicy chicken

Chick-Fil-A is rolling out their new spicy chicken in a very smart way.

The chicken sandwich purveyors have been promoting a microsite, www.getspicychicken.com. The microsite allows you to find a local restaurant and then choose a reserved time to come in for a free sandwich this week (the official launch date of the new sandwich to the general public is next Monday, June 7)

After reserving your time, the site allows you to share and invite others to join you through email, Facebook, and Twitter. (I discovered the giveaway through one of the people I follow on Twitter)

And while microsites and social media sharing is pretty standard marketing fare, it’s the little things that made the difference.

The staggered reservation system is a smart idea to maintain pacing and supply to avoid a free chicken disaster like that “other” chicken place had. After making the reservation, I got an email “from” the actual manager of the Chick-fil-a location. While it was obviously an automated bot, it felt a little more personal. I also received reminder emails about my scheduled lunch time.

Stop there and it would be a good case study for a product introduction giveaway. But the actual experience of going to the restaurant was what really impressed me with Chick-fil-a.

UPDATE: The following may be unique only to this location. Apparently, this (smart) franchisee did some of this added stuff instead of it being corporate direction. Reports from other locations don’t match up. Caveat lector.
Spicy VIPWhen I walked in, there was an employee whose dedicated job was greeting and checking in the “Spicy VIPs”. (Remember, for all intents and purposes, Chick-fil-a is a counter service fast food place.) He seated me in a special cordoned-off section of the restaurant reserved for the spicy chicken folks. The tables in this area had been decorated and covered with tablecloths. Another employee came over and asked me what I wanted to drink and what toppings I wanted on the sandwich. The employee delivered the food on a plate (no cardboard boxes or paper wrappers) and then went after the napkins and condiments I needed. Managers were making rounds talking with the group and gathering feedback about the sandwich. At the end, I was asked to fill out a short survey about the sandwich.

When I consider some of the other restaurant openings / new product introductions I’ve been invited to, it’s easy to see the thought and care that was put into this launch. I have walked in other places where the employee behind the counter didn’t even know about a new product test. And if they did, it was slapped together and thrown on a tray.

You could actually see this being effective for this Chick-fil-a location as the “normal customers” kept looking over into our section to see what was going on and asking how they could get involved.

Spicy VIPThis is how you develop positive buzz and generate WOM. When you deliver an average product and experience to the early parts of the adoption curve, those users are not likely to talk about a typical encounter. But when you make it just slightly more interesting and make absolutely sure those people have a good experience, they’ll share it.

As I’ve said many times, the customer experience one of the most important (and overlooked) part of marketing.

btw — the spicy chicken sandwich is very good with a nice heat kick. It’s spicy without that bitter chemical heat that many places use for heat.