treat disease, not symptom

There have been lots of P.R. disasters lately (United, Pepsi, Fyre, etc). While the lesson in corporate communication on how to offer a proper apology is important, there is a more important takeaway from these dust ups.

Don’t have the disaster.

Sure, that’s easier said than done. But looking at most of these meltdowns, you can trace it back to violating one of the primary tenets of good marketing: Treat the customer right. Empower your employees to do the right thing instead of blindly following procedures.

Simple steps. But steps that can’t be slapped on with a press release. They have to be baked in to corporate culture.

Corporate marketing apology

Twitter chats

There’s the infamous Saturday Night Live sketch with William Shatner appearing at a Trekkie convention and imploring them to “Get a Life!”.

I now feel the same way every time I poke my head into a Twitter chat.

Several years ago, I participated in several chats on Twitter, especially when I was starting to promote Brand Zeitgeist. There were (and still are) several chats related to branding, marketing, and media. I found them interesting and found several followers and people to follow.

But… Somewhat then, and especially now – I find them vapid echo chambers.

Several reasons why I feel this way:

  1. It’s the same ten or twenty people in every chat – echoing the same blurbs over and over. (I’m guilty too.)
  2. They are all experts on “personal branding“.
  3. There’s no conversation among the group – but may be side conversations that take you away.
  4. Some chats post questions every 2 minutes. Some chats take the 1st 20 minutes to do “introductions”.
  5. Sometimes there’s a “guest” who is supposed to be an biz or internet celebrity (or “rockstar” as the social media kids say). This is the worst as it’s just two people talking on twitter and everyone else watching. This is a chat?

Even in this social media blurb world – surely we can have meaningful discussions that are more in depth than this – or at least some new topics? What are your opinions on Twitter Chats? Is there a better way?

grocery marketing

Good stuff (as always) in a few paragraphs from James Lileks about how a regular shopper in a grocery store has a better grasp on consumer behavior than someone with a doctorate in Marketing.

It’s a good point.

I love to travel and one of my stops (especially in a foreign country) is always a grocery store even if I don’t need provisions. It’s one of the best gauges of the culture of the area.

Doing is better for learning than learning is for learning.

you’re disappointing the kids

Last Friday, Barnes & Noble (tagline: We still sell books!) hosted a nationwide “Cool off with Olaf” event that was centered around the characters and songs in Disney’s Frozen.

We went because someone in our house (not me) is a major Frozen fan. There was minor disappointment in Bowling Green as the crowd (parents & kids) figured out that there was no Olaf character. Rather, it was a cardboard cutout that you could take your picture with.
Right. Fun times.
Actually, aside from the fact the 7pm event started at 7:15, it was still a decent time with singalongs, stories, craft, etc.

bad elsa frozenBut as life teaches you, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it worse. The inter-webs are alive with this week with this picture from someone who waited in line for two hours at another Barnes and Noble to meet Elsa and Anna. Yikes.
(Compare this to the Florida teen who is also burning up media channels and launching a career as Elsa’s doppelgänger.)

What’s the lesson? If you’re going to do something, do it right. Many events I attend are poorly put together and you can tell there was little planning and no common sense.

On a larger scale, businesses are now trying to talk to a savvy-CGI-iPad-polished media consumer — from the old folks right down to toddlers. On one hand, it’s sad that we’ve lost some of the suspension of disbelief that made things like this fun. On the other, the old Willard Scott Ronald McDonald doesn’t cut it in a promoted event. It has to look slick and produced or many times it just won’t work. If you can’t do it to the level it needs to be done, step back and rework it on a level you can.

the takeaway is to annoy them

This graphic popped up on my LinkedIn feed today. Many people were amen-ing and high-fiving the content in the post’s comments.  I suppose it backs up why I’m a horrible salesperson and why I dislike so many salespeople. Apparently, the key to successful sales is to annoy people to death.

sales

I’d rather people buy things from me because they have said “this is something I want and need” rather than “alright, I’ll take it to get you off my back”. I think that leads to the 2nd sale.

are you a spammer?

People tend to think of spammers as shady dudes sending emails about questionable manhood pills and Nigerian fortunes, but there are lots of ‘legitimate’ business owners who are email spammers.

It’s because of one of the primary marketing sins of many business owners — “I think my business is interesting, valuable, needed, etc — so therefore everyone does.”

A few weeks ago, I had answered an inquiry from an owner of a speakers’ bureau about my speaking services. We traded a few emails. It didn’t go anywhere. I thought we were done. This morning, I crack my email open and find I’ve been added to their email newsletter that I had never asked for. Looking back through the correspondence, I now think this woman just trolls LinkedIn looking for people to add to a list.

Do you have an email subscription list? Here’s the simple rule:
If you add someone to a email list and they haven’t specifically asked to be placed on that list, then you are a spammer.

The basic definition of SPAM is email that you did not ask to receive.

If you’re adding people to the list who don’t care – or even worse if you’re buying names to add, then you’re wasting time, attention, and money and slowly destroying your reputation. Don’t do it.

An email list that is not opt-in is like sending pizzas to people who didn’t order one.

This is not a hard thing to understand. Permission marketing works better than force feeding. It’s better to have an audience of 50 that want to listen than to have an audience of 50,000 that don’t care and never will. It’s not about numbers; it’s about the relationships.

weakest link

Most restaurant menus are bad. Really bad. If you’re a restaurateur, here are some tips to help you create your restaurant menu.

An eager entrepreneur is passionate about food. He scrimps and saves with the dream of opening his own restaurant.

Why invest in other restaurant startup costs if you're going to butcher your restaurant menu in Microsoft WordOne day, the opportunity presents itself. He sinks all of his financial resources into the building, fit-up, and other start-up costs. His success hinges on the success of that restaurant. He has spared no expense to make it the best it can be.

Opening day approaches.

He cranks up Microsoft Word and makes the menu complete with typos and freakish justification.

The end.

***************

While I’m on a rant about restaurant menus…

  • If I’m eating something in a restaurant, then logically it CANNOT be “homemade” (unless you’re in trouble with the health dept). The word you’re looking for is “homestyle”.
  • Do you sell salads? Most people eat salad dressing on those. How about a listing of your salad dressing choices?
  • Own a restaurant? Have a website for it? Do you know why people come to a restaurant website? The menu. Why have you hidden it, strung it out on 8 different pages, and made it a 25MB PDF?
  • Dear Fast Food Behemoth: How about listing what you have and the prices on the menu boards instead of blinky-flashy tv screens that change about the time I start reading them?
  • And to the original point of this post – If you own a restaurant, please hire a graphic designer to design a menu that works. Proofread it. Pass it around to people who are not your friends to see if it makes sense to them. It’s amazing that the single most important marketing piece for a restaurant is so badly butchered by so many restaurateurs.

department of common sense

You would think SOMEONE at the Hungry Jack organization would have spoken up and said,
“If Step #2 of the directions say to let the product sit for 12 minutes, is it really a good idea to promote the 5 minute wording on the front of the package? I realize that legal has covered our butts with the use of the word grill on the front, but don’t you think our reputation and long term relationship with customers is worth something? If we trick them once, will they buy again?”12 minutes is not 5 minutes

it’s in bad form

this is a bad paper form. No room for e-mail address
Paper still exists. This distresses the digerati, but it’s true.
There is an unfortunate instance between the digital and paper realms that drives me crazy.
Do me a favor. If you’re whipping up a paper form that asks for someone’s email address, use the entire width of the page just for that line.
There is no way someone with big clunky penmanship will be able to write john.doe@superlongcorporation.com on a line that you’ve allotted the same space for a phone or a fax number.
Speaking of which, why are you still including a fax line on that form?

good design and UX

ios7
I hate to be one of those redesign resistant people, but at first glance I don’t like the design changes of iOS7 announced this week at WWDC.

My displeasure comes down to the loss of skeuomorphism and the flat design.

Aesthetics are all judged by opinions. And opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. But design goes beyond whether you “like” something or not. Design has rules and order.

Good design is intuitive. And most of our intuition comes from our life experiences. Round colorful circles don’t tell me what something does.

Contrast, color, and hierarchy provide a means for the designer to command the places for the user’s eye to go. With no depth, everything is equal.

It all comes back to something that I’m seeing more and more of. Design for the sake of design rather than for user experience. It’s fun and feels edgy for the newly hatched designer to smear a gradient across their screen and slap a thin font on it. Not so much for the user to who has to deal with it on a daily basis.