The Best of 2005

NOTICE: All the links in this post go to the old blogspot location. If you’d like to read these posts, please browse the best of 2005 tag. Thanks.
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The end of the year is approaching and it’s time for the obligatory look back.

2005 has been a very good year for me. It ranks right up there with 1975, 1986, and 1998 as one of my top “life changing years” for many different reasons both personally and professionally. I want to thank you…my “15 people“…for helping to make this such as great year.

I probably won’t be posting during Christmas…so as a holdover and as a part of the look back…please re-visit what I consider my “top posts of 2005” for the Shotgun Marketing Blog.

Sales Methods – A post that deals with media salespeople. It emphasizes one of my core philosophies – “You should never let someone sell you advertising; you should buy it. There’s a difference.”

ChangeThis Announcement – I was amazed how the publication of my marketing manifesto on ChangeThis really spread like wildfire.

Marketing by Committee – This post is quoted all over the blogosphere. It’s really common sense that you should not plan your business strategy the same way you plan the office Christmas party.

All Hat — No Cattle – A great Oprah example. I now use this example in many of my marketing keynotes and seminars.

Medieval Venture Capitalists – Don’t dismiss Web2.0 because of the weaknesses of Web1.0.

The Fallacy of Municipal Branding – It seems I blogged all year about the craze of “re-branding” cities and states. This is one of the first (and best) posts about it.

Guest Blogger for Fast Company – I was honored to have “guest blogged” for Fast Company magazine during their “FC Now BlogJam 2005”

Andy Williams vs. Sir Mixalot – A funny post about back-to-school time and selling to the buyer not the user.

The Book Proposal – We’re still working on it.

Blogs are not Mainstream – I received some flack on this one…but the idea behind the post is rock solid.

The Pirate Post – People loved this one. Communication is important in marketing…arrrgh.

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Arrrgh…Words Send Messages

In the past few days, everyone I know has freaked out about what’s been on the news.

About Iraq?…No.
About Plamegate?…No.
About Pirates?…YES.

You’ve seen the story. Pirates attacked a cruise ship off the coast of Africa over the weekend.

Invariably, when I’m in a room with someone when this story comes on, they look at me (even people in my house) and ask “There are still pirates?!?”

Now obviously, these people that attacked the cruise ship did not have hand hooks, wooden legs and parrots on their shoulders. But that is the exact mental image that hits everyone around me when they hear this story. That image of a “pirate” is the common world view for most people.

The news was not “wrong” by reporting that pirates had attacked. By definition, anyone who attempts to steal while at sea is a pirate. But what if the news had reported that armed thugs attempted to attack a cruise ship? Different mental images?

And in other news, let’s not forget all the teenage “pirates” with FUBU parrots on their shoulders downloading media off the Internet while being pursued by the MPAA and RIAA ships.

Words are a powerful tool in marketing. As you write ad copy or tell your product story to the intended market, you’re sending a message. You think that the message is obvious and clear. Is it?

As the collective market becomes more fragmented, using words that mean the same thing to everyone will become harder to do.

The words you use can conjure up many different mental images in your market’s minds. Be careful and thoughtful as to how you use them.

BONUS::
Since this is probably the only marketing post I will ever have to involve pirates, let’s go all the way…
–What’s a pirate’s favorite fast food restaurant?…Arrrghby’s Roast Beef
–What’s a pirate’s favorite “Andy Griffith” character?….Barrrghney Fife (close 2nd – Floyd the Barrrghber)
–One of my favorite comedy websites, McSweeneys, has a list of Pirate Riddles for Sophisticates.

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Blogs are not Mainstream

One caveat to my previous posts on open source marketing…..

To buzz along in the blogosphere, you have to wonder who DOESN’T get all this? Obviously, the inmates have taken over the prison. Bloggers and open source marketing are exerting control over corporations. All the information is there…why not just shut down all other marketing projects and other media exposures and go whole-hog online?

Because while blogs and bloggers are getting a lot of attention, they are not mainstream yet…not even close.

Don’t believe me?

In almost every story about the influence of blogs, you’ll see a sentence similar to this…”Blogs, short for Web logs, are easy-to-publish websites where…”

How often do you see a sentence like this?…”TV, short for television, is a medium where programming is broadcast for…”

Or one like this?…”Newspapers, which are a printed periodical…”

When the “blogs, short for Web logs” phrase is eliminated from news stories, we’ll have just started to climb the steep part of the adoption curve.

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Andy Williams vs. Sir Mix-A-Lot

It’s back-to-school time which means more ads for back-to-school “gear”. (We didn’t have “gear” when I was a kid, we had “supplies”.)

My fondest memory of back to school shopping was one year when we came home late from a vacation on the night before school started. We had to go into the “Convenient Mart” in the rougher part of town and get pencils, paper, and the obligatory box of Kleenex that wasn’t covered under the school’s budget. I’m not sure that Convenient ran any back to school advertising since I was not into deciphering marketing when I was 8. But, now I’m older and the back-to-school campaigns of two major retailers have caught my eye…

The first campaign is JC Penny. If you haven’t seen this, it’s a bunch of pre-pubescents dancing to the 1991 hit “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep. Let’s listen in…

You can get with this, or you can get with that.
You can get with this, or you can get with that.
You can get with this, or you can get with that.
I think you’ll get with this, for this is where it’s at.

(Deep, huh?) At the end of the spot, a cartoonish DJ who is responsible for spreading all of this “funk” appears followed by the JC Penny logo.

1991 was 14 years ago. When this song was popular, all these dancing kids weren’t even born (or “not even a glimmer in their daddy’s eye” as we would say in the South). It’s fun to imagine what might have gone on in the JC Penny nerve center to create this campaign…

A bunch of old white men are sitting around the JC Penny corporate table asking “what do the youngsters like these days?” After numerous discussions involving Elvis, Leif Garrett, and breakdancing, the board reaches a consensus that the kids just love that newfangled rap music. The idea is sent to the creative department where some late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings dig throughout their teen music collections and come up with a Black Sheep CD. The rest is history.

Target also has launched a major back-to-school campaign using 90’s hip hop with a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”. Again, let’s listen in…

So ladies, if the butt is round…
And you want a triple X throwdown…
Dial 1-900-MIXALOT and kick them nasty thoughts…
Baby got back.

And kids, don’t forget to pick up a new Trapper Keeper after your triple X throwdown! Actually, in an effort to keep the campaign family friendly, Target has replaced the original raunchy lyrics with ones that revolve around “Baby Got Backpack” which has spawned a little “artistic integrity” backlash against Target in the blogosphere.

So what’s the deal? Do these companies really think that preteens are interested in music that was popular just as they were being born?

Of course not. These campaigns are not directed at the kids. They’re directed at the parents. These parents were in their teens/early 20’s in the 90s and these spots appeal to the parents’ “what is cool?” factor. They want the kids to be cool so they take them to JC Penny. (Re-read that last sentence and ponder the thought: “JC Penny = cool?”)

In the Friends episode “The One With Ross’ Inappropriate Song”, Ross and Rachel sang “Baby Got Back” to Emma. If the show were still on now, Emma would be close to kindergarten. And Ross and Rachel are in the prime demo target for…Target.

In a prime highlight of how “the general public doesn’t understand marketing”, Target is also getting beatup in the blogosphere and the media for “marketing to kids” by using such as vulgur song as “Baby Got Back”.

At first glance, it seems the smart move for a company selling school supplies would be to market exclusively to kids. In reality, the true target market for school supplies are 20-30 year old parents. It’s a weird paradox.

Of course, just like sugary breakfast cereal, school supply marketing needs to have a kid targeted element as well so they’ll beg/annoy their parents into buying glittery pencils instead of standard yellow ones.

I think one of the best back to school ads of all time is one that Staples ran for several years. It’s a great example of marketing to the buyer instead of the user. In the ad, sullen kids follow a jubilant dad picking up school supplies while the 1963 Andy Williams’ Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is played in the background. The VO at the end says, “They’re going baacck!” This spot is a slap in the face to all kids heading back to the books…but masterfully captures the mindset of parents.

Market to the buyer…not the user. It’s a mistake that I see a lot with smaller companies. They inaccurately answer the question…Who are you selling to? Of course, this marketing rule goes beyond just school “gear”. Think about your product. Is your marketing working? Re-evaluate who you are selling to and who is actually buying your product.

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Guest Blogging for Fast Company

Fast Company is one of the few magazines that I make a point to read each month. They also have an excellent blog under the watchful eye of Heath Row.

The Fast Company blog is celebrating its 2nd anniversary on Monday and Tuesday. They’re calling it “FC Now BlogJam 2005” and I have been invited to be a guest blogger. So I’ll be posting there instead of here for the next few days. I’ll post a link to each of my Fast Company posts here on the Shotgun Blog as well.

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Brand it

One of the local Chambers of Commerce is having a press conference this week to “unveil” their new brand for economic development efforts.

That’s interesting.

I’m having a press conference next week to unveil my new personality and what people think about me. Starting next week, I would like to be referred to as Foster.

The two are the same concept. People get the terms “brand” and “logo” confused. A lot.

The personality analogy is a little incomplete, but gets the idea across. Your brand is what people expect from you. You influence it by the way you act and talk…the ideas you share. You define the parameters of what people expect from you. But in the end, people will establish their own perception of you. In a corporate sense, this is called your “BRAND”.

A logo is akin to the human face. When people I know see me, they recognize me by my physical characteristics. “Hey, it’s Chris. (or next week…”Hey, it’s Foster”) From that recognition, their mind pulls up what they think about me (my personality/brand characteristics)

If I had a facelift or cosmetic surgery (I changed my logo), it would not greatly affect what people thought of me.

And yet, companies do this all the time. A new logo will not change “your brand”. Changing what you do changes your brand…slowly. You’re defining your brand if you have a brand strategy or not. People are making judgements on the brand with every interaction they have with your business.

I’m sure the inspiration for this “brand” move from the local Chamber came from the “branding of Kentucky” movement. Kentucky and Oregon are the only two states that have brand strategies (all 50 actually have brands, by the way). I wrote an article for one of the state’s newspapers about Kentucky’s misplaced branding efforts back in January. I have a copy of that article on the blog. You can read it here.

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North!

While preparing a presentation a few days ago, I came across a quote that was a perfect fit for a book I recently read. Seth Godin’s “All Marketers are Liars” deals with marketers telling stories that consumers want to believe. I passed the quote onto Seth and he was nice enough to mention the Shotgun Marketing BLOG on his blog….

I don’t know why a Arctic explorer was tuned into marketing in the 60s, but he makes a good point…

“What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.” – Vilhjalmur Stefansson, “Discovery”, 1964

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Medieval Venture Capitalists

Here’s a little history lesson for you…

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1436, entrepreneurs rushed to find venture capitalists to fund massive libraries and bookstores to hold all those books.

  • Pets Library was dedicated to all those peasants with expendable income for their pets
  • Amazon Bookstore was set up to actually sell some of those books
  • L-toys bookstore tried reach children before they died of the plague
  • L-Trade Library attempted to help the nobles do their own investments
  • And a huge number of other libraries and bookstores popped up as well

Then a few years later, only a small number of those businesses still existed. It turns out that a large majority of the peasantry didn’t know how to read. The libraries and bookstores that did make were barely making a profit. All the analysts said that the initial push was a book “bubble”. After the bubble, many businesspeople no longer wanted to create a good book strategy for their businesses. They thought the whole “printed word” thing would pass and they’d be fine with bartering for pigs and goats. Eventually, the printing press became an obsolete relic of the past.

Of course, it didn’t happen that way. And it’s far-fetched fantasy to think that it did. But, I have clients all the time who have the opinion that they don’t need the internet.

The Internet will change the world as much or more than the printed word did….and it will do it faster.

Think about it. The printing press was invented in the mid 1400s. Bibles were the first mass product it created…but literacy and the ability to afford books for the masses didn’t really start until the late 1700s and early 1800s. That’s 300 to 400 years for the juicy middle part of the adoption curve.

It’s been 15 years since the Internet started to be used commercially. Where’s the “literacy” level (knowledge/ability to get online) and affordability (for both connectivity and ability to purchase) for the masses now?

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