the part of marketing that marketing people forget

Starbucks hopped on the Foursquare marketing train early and came out with a great promotion. But Starbucks’ bold move flopped.

Why did they fail? The answer is simple. They forgot (or failed) to communicate their marketing plan with a very important group in the marketing experience — their employees. (It’s the same reason I get stiffed on free syrups when I use my Starbucks card.)

You can spend gobs of money, time, and attention on marketing to get people in the door — but the promises you’ve made with your marketing have to happen when those people come through the door.

Most of your brand is NOT built through advertising, PR, or any marketing message. The brand is mostly built through mundane daily customer experiences. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

And the customer experience is almost totally controlled by the operational side of the business. If the marketers need/want to build a brand, they need to share their vision and brand strategy with the parts of the company who actually interact with customers.

This is true all the way from the master overall marketing strategy down to individual marketing initiatives. It’s important on all levels, but it becomes even more important when you’re using new and emerging marketing platforms like Foursquare or other forms of digital media. Innovators and Early Adopters are important groups. You want to make sure that employees are delivering superior customer experiences to people who will heavily influence WOM.

For example — The other day, a local sandwich shop tweeted that I could get 10% off if I mentioned Twitter when I ordered. I went there for lunch and mentioned it to the cashier who didn’t even know what Twitter was.

It comes down to the fact if you’re delivering messages to potential markets, you need to share the content of those messages with ALL the people in your organization. They are the ones who will make it work.

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.

united trilogy ends

Last July, I wrote a post about United Breaks Guitars.

Dave Carroll had promised to write a trilogy of songs about the sub par customer experience he had with United Airlines. The first song was an internet sensation. Currently, it’s nearing over 8 million views on YouTube and it was heavily downloaded on iTunes. The second song wasn’t as much of a hit but still did well with about 900,000 views.

Carroll is releasing the third and final song tonight. I doubt if it will be as hot as the first one, but these three songs make a great point about how companies need to act in this digital age. In fact, the United Breaks Guitars case study was a last minute addition to my book Brand Zeitgeist as an example of how one unhappy customer can use the power of social media to move the image of the brand in the zeitgeist.

As Dave says

I had hoped that creating these videos might make a big corporation rethink how they think of each and every customer but could never have imagined the potential hidden inside a music video and a few social media tools. Corporations of all kinds around the world now feel compelled, in part because of United Breaks Guitars, to build in a better model for customer care into their businesses. I’m proud to have been a part of it but the real credit goes to the millions of people around the world who took the time to laugh and tell a friend. The power behind the United Breaks Guitars Trilogy lies in the numbers of people from countries far and wide who are laughing with me.

Companies are worried about the effects of social media are having on their brands. Social media is not the danger. Businesses need to be concerned with customer service. People will tell their friends.

Update: The third song…

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.

Customer Barriers

Download our FREE article…white paper…research study…info packet…etc…etc.

I see a lot of these type offers as I graze around on the web looking for marketing info. Sometimes I bite. They’re usually a hassle. The one I just did took the cake. I went through about TWENTY different steps before I finally got to the info. Some pages were dead ends and I had to go back to the main page and start over as “a member”. (Membership does have its privileges) I had to check my e-mail THREE times to officially opt-in.

I understand (and totally agree) with making sure that people want to opt-in before adding them to a list. But, I wonder with this site…has the owner ever sat down and gone through the process as a new user to see how hard it is to get in? I wonder how many potential clients he loses when people get tired, fed up, and dump out after Step #8 or 9?

Whether it’s online or in a real world context, have you ever tried to enter your business as a new customer with fresh eyes? You should try it. It may explain why you’re not getting as many customers as you want.

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Your Account is Currently Overdue

This is a marketing sin that is primarily committed by healthcare organizations, but any company can be dumb enough to do it.

With an infant in the house, we have quite a few medical bills in the mailbox. Here’s a typical situation: We take the boy for something medical in January. In March, we get the first bill from the healthcare provider. On the bill, the amount we owe is in the “60 days overdue” box, and there’s a memo stating that our “account is overdue. Please pay the full amount soon.”…(which is invoice code for “you’re a deadbeat who won’t pay the bill”.)

Frankly, it ticks me off everytime. How can the first bill I get from someone already be 60 days overdue?

Of course, I work with marketing in the healthcare industry all the time…so I know what’s happening. The billing people have waited to send me a bill while waiting to see what our health insurance will pay. After insurance does what it’s going to do, they send me a bill for my part. Insurance companies aren’t known for their speed…so it could be a couple of months before it’s “my turn’ to pay.

I’m sure on the top floors of the hospital that the healthcare marketing people can’t figure out why people aren’t latching onto the brand. Here’s why: It’s because while the marketing department is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on feel-good-generic-ads that tell me why they’re my hometown/personal/friendly/etc healthcare choice….the billing department is spending 39 cents to call me a deadbeat loser who won’t pay his bills.

Guess which message gets through to me the best?…The one with my personalized name and address.

Here’s the thing. Stuff like this happens all the time. The marketing folks are sending out one message while another part of the organization is sending out another. It could be billing. It could be the person at the reception desk. It could be on the Internet. It could be ANYWHERE that your customer has contact with your organization.

Like this billing problem, it’s probably easily fixed, but it keeps happening everyday. The bigger the organization, the more times it’s happening….and it’s slowly killing your brand.

Marketing is not just a department. It should be built into every touchpoint you have with the consumer.

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Changing Words – Changing Brands

Changing the way you talk about your product DOES NOT change the way consumers view your brand. In order to fully change a brand, you must change the consumer’s experience with your company…not just use different words to describe it.

Huge current case-in-point….
Sticking the word “Premium” in front of the words coffee, chicken sandwich, or salad doesn’t change these facts:

  • These “premium” items are being served next to pictures of a clown and a playland in front of the restaurant
  • These “premium” items are being served to me in paper/cardboard wrappers
  • The people crafting these “premium” foods view my order as one more item on an assembly line before the throw it on a plastic tray. (see previous burger flipper post.)
  • I’m eating my “premium” chicken sandwich/salad…and drinking my “premium” coffee in a plastic chair next to screaming kids eating Happy Meals while a disgruntled minimum-wage worker pushes a stinky mop next to my booth.

To change a brand…change the experience…not just the words.

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For the E-mail Lover in You

With everything that piles up in the inbox, it looks like I would try to cut out some of the more useless items. But then, I wouldn’t be able to show you bad marketing practices, now would I?

I’m a big seafood fan. But sadly, here in landlocked / non-metropolitan / South Central Kentucky…the best option for seafood that’s not battered and served in a fast food bag…is the Red Lobster in Bowling Green. (Sometimes I break down and we drive to Louisville or Nashville….or the Ocean)

When the marketing message on my Red Lobster drink coaster suggested I do so at a meal about a year ago, I decided to join their online “Onboard Club”…(Arrrgh! What an original name!)

“Neat.” I thought. “I’ll be getting the ‘inside scoop’ on what’s happening…I’ll be treated like an Admiral when I come in, etc.”

Uhhh, no. I get an irregularly timed email that corresponds to the Red Lobster marketing calendar.

As previously discussed here, Lent not only prepares us for the coming of the holiness of Easter, but provides marketing opportunities for fish and fish products. While the Filet-o-Fish spotlight shines brightly over at MickeyD’s, the annual LobsterFest hoopla takes over at Red Lobster.

So, I get the Red Lobster e-mail today (a full week after Lent has begun) and my latest “inside scoop / secret decoder ring” message as a member of the “Overboard Club” is that LOBSTERFEST IS BACK!!

Really?! I couldn’t have garnered that from all the media they’ve already bought.

So you have a captive audience of Red Lobster “fans” who have self-sorted themselves as innovators / early adopters on the product adoption curve….and you’re giving them a stale message.

Here’s the thing that really bothers me about their program. The email also “automatically enters” me in a contest. Look at the screenshot of the email. If the email is being sent to Overboard Club members…who would “NOT be a member yet” and want to join?….It’s laziness on the part of the designers who have copied and pasted info directly from the website.

In addition, wouldn’t it be better to have e-mail recipients actually click on something to go to the Red Lobster main website and enter? It would drive traffic to the website. It would be a great way to gauge the effectiveness of your e-mail campaign. Instead, they’ve got a coma-induced contest that has no impact.

E-mail marketing is great when done right. What messes it up is the mentality of “oh yeah, send an e-mail, too” as an add-on to other marketing programs. If someone is giving your company permission to talk to them, those people should be treated like gold…not as second thoughts.

I meant for this to be a short post…just focusing on the “not a member yet” problem with the giveaway. But, I kept seeing problems what could be a really good frequency program / e-mail marketing program for Red Lobster. I could go on…but what do you think? Carey?…You’re the expert.

Overboard Club page :: http://www.redlobster.com/overboard/default.asp

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The Paradox of Choice

A few years ago, an Ethiopian doctor visited and observed in a healthcare facility where I did the marketing. After I picked him up at the airport in Nashville, I helped him get settled in the short-term apartment where he would stay for the next three months. We took him to K-Mart to pick up all the stuff he would need for his stay in the USA. I remember standing in housewares/linens and asking which kind of sheets he wanted. I looked at his face and saw utter confusion as he had become overwhelmed by too many choices. He said, in Ethiopia, when you wanted sheets…there were maybe two kinds to choose from….not the entire Martha Stewart collection. It was the same with everything we bought for him that afternoon: towels, plates, etc. We eventually just started to choose for him.

Barry Schwartz had a book last year called “The Paradox of Choice” that mainly dealt with too many choices in the supermarket. (1st line of book…”Scanning the shelves of my local supermarket recently, I found 85 different varieties and brands of crackers.) Think about how many different varieties and choices there are in a supermarket as the nefarious “brand extension” mentality of corporations takes over and R&D has to find a reason to exist. As the number of choices we are presented with increases, we don’t always have the time to look at all the information to make the best choice.

It eventually hurts your company and your brand. Why Variety Backfires is the focus of a new paper co-written by Harvard Business School professor John Gourville and Dilip Soman of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. They even give it a name…”overchoice”.

Check it out. It’s a good thing to ponder the next time you’re browsing the menu/book at The Cheesecake Factory.

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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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