Creating a connected community

While I was driving home the other night in my Pontiac Vibe, I found myself practically crawling to a stop to let someone merge (almost to the detriment of the cars behind me Wink.gif). So why did I make such a drastic move to let the car in? The sole reason was because the other car was also a Pontiac Vibe.

At times we can treat total strangers as friends simply because they have a ring tone on their cell phone of our favorite band, or because they are perusing the same book as us at Barnes and Noble, or because they are wearing a t-shirt of our favorite sports team. Sometimes our beloved possessions bind us together as a tight knit community with other strangers with similar interests.

Are you harnessing this sense of belonging and community with your most loyal customers? If not, provide a forum (a blog, an in-person event, or website might work) to reap the benefits of a connected community. Here are just a few possible rewards of creating such a forum:

  1. The forum allows your loyal customers to talk and bask in the greatness that is your product. (Don’t forget to invite “investigators” to your forum so that they can mingle with your all ready “converted”.)
  2. It reinforces the reasons why your loyal customers came to you in the first place.
  3. It becomes a place for instant feedback. Use this forum to ask your best customers why they love you and what you can do to improve. It will also be a chance to find out why former customers left (also very valuable feedback).
  4. The forum allows your customers to find out how others are using your product or service. Lets face it; most of us learn by talking to others then reading the manual.

What are other benefits of creating a connected community?

Passions that become work

Most of us have a passion for something. Passions are something that we want to do so that we can have an escape from the other things that we have to do. But what happens when our passions become work?

Growing up I use to love to play basketball. I was not necessarily the first one chosen in a pick up game, but it was something that I enjoyed. Then, all of life’s little “have to dos” came at me fast – learning to balance a checkbook, change a baby’s diaper, learning the difference between a hub cap and a distributor cap (I know…I am ashamed to admit that I am auto-mechanically challenged). I found less and less time for my passion…basketball.

Well, I played basketball with my buddies the other day. Because it had been such a long time since I played, I had to really work at it. I longed to slump into my la-Z-boy and I found myself relieved when it was all over. How did my passion turn into dreaded work? The answer: I let too much time pass between each time I participated.

Why did you start that business / marry that girl / begin writing that book in the first place? I bet it was passion. Don’t let too much time pass before doing the things you love.

Are you t-shirt worthy?

DMV T-ShirtSeth Godin has a great little post about being T-shirt worthy. If your company does not pass the test of someone buying your company T-shirt and wearing it proudly, why not? Is it because:

  1. Your product sucks
  2. Your frontline employees are rude
  3. You are boring

Fix your weak spots and become T-shirt worthy.

Marketing is a lot like telling a good joke…with a couple of exceptions

I have always wanted to be a better joke teller. As I was searching on the Internet for some tips on how to tell a good joke, I got to thinking about how these delivery tips I read related to branding and marketing (I told you there were a couple of exceptions, so here goes the first. Exception One: Unlike telling a good joke, your branding message may not always be humorous, but it must be good!) Let’s break down the steps to telling a good joke (and communicating an effective brand message):

  1. Before you say a word, know your joke from memory. (Consumers can tell when you try to fumble your way through your brand message. Not knowing (or living) your message often leads to using “Twinkie phrases”.)
  2. Know your audience. Not all jokes are appropriate for all settings. (Know the communication style and ideals of your consumers. It’s okay that your brand message is not suited for all consumers. You are trying to make a connection to those consumers who have the same ideology as your brand message.)
  3. Don’t start off your joke by telling everyone how funny it is – you’ll make your audience defensive (The direct marketing message “Our widget is the coolest on the planet” is just plain lame! If your product or service is cool, your customers will already know it is by word of mouth.)
  4. Avoid indirect routes when telling your joke. Jokes work best when told using a simple, sequential storyline. (Your brand message must not stray from its core purpose. Your message must be easy enough to understand and spread to others.)
  5. Commit to your joke. Once you begin, follow through to the end. (Your company must commit to living your brand message from the inside out.)
  6. End your joke with a strong conclusion or punch line. (Exception Two: The strong conclusion is left up to the consumer to tell herself. You may own the brand message (or may not!), but the consumer owns the meaning of your brand for them).

Stop the crummy commercials

Watching the movie A Christmas Story during this Christmas season has reminded me how important having a meaningful dialogue with your customers can be.

You’ll remember in the 1983 movie Ralphie drinks gallons of Ovaltine and patiently awaits his Little Orphan Annie decoder pin so that he can unscramble the message only meant for Little Orphan Annie Secret Society members. After excitedly writing down the secret code from the radio program, Ralphie escapes to decode the message in the only place where a kid can get some privacy…the bathroom. Ralphie decodes the message: “BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE” after which he disappointedly exclaims:

Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a b****!

Marketers can learn a lot from Ralphie’s experience.

When you have your customer’s trust and approval for a two-way conversation, don’t revert back to more monologue!(self-serving, crummy commercials) Effective marketers know that having a meaningful dialogue with their customers is what builds a strong connection to their brand. True dialogue should create value for both the marketer and the customer. In order to do this, marketers need to do three things:

  1. Listen more than you speak
  2. Understand the customer’s point of view from a micro level (see point 1)
  3. Turn off the corporate conversation “firewall” to allow authentic and interesting conversation to reach the customer

Customers are begging to have meaningful conversations with brands they love and trust. Please, please, please…stop with the “crummy commercials”!

Life advice from Rocky Balboa

The new Rocky Balboa movie comes out today. When Sylvester Stallone was deciding whether or not to make another Rocky film, his wife and others begged him not to do the movie saying that he would only make a fool of himself. In response, he said:

I’d rather do something I love badly than to feel bad about not doing something I love

(I think it’s also a quote in the movie)

You said it Rocky!

Goodbye McRib


I have heard that this is the last few weeks for McDonald’s McRib sandwich (again). I’ll leave it up to you if that is a good thing or a sad thing.

Marketers: Avoid “Jumping the Shark” at the Moment of Truth


The term “jump the shark” specifically refers to a scene in the hit TV comedy series Happy Days. The writers for the show created a storyline where Arthur Fonzarelli (a.k.a. “The Fonz”) is on water skis (wearing his trademark leather jacket, of course) and he literally jumps over a shark.

Many faithful watchers of Happy Days have noted the “shark episode” as the moment when they realized the storyline had been forever altered and that the show had run out of fresh, imaginative, and relevant ideas.

Today, the term “jumping the shark” could include any TV show/ religion/ political candidate/ business service/ widget that desperately tries to remain relevant in the eyes of the consumers but the “storyline” has so significantly declined from its intended focus and purpose that the original appeal is lost.

The Moment of Truth

During its natural life cycle, most every brand suffers from a loss of relevancy and begins a downward slope towards mediocrity or irrelevancy. At the beginning of this downward turn is what I have termed the “Moment of Truth”.

Moment of Truth

At the Moment of Truth, a marketer can either inject relevancy back into her brand or she can make a desperate (and often hollow) attempt to regain relevancy by doing something that fundamentally detracts from the brand’s soul and core purpose.

Take, for example, my early post about the Ford executives considering the option to “mainstream” the Ford Mustang for the general population by developing a Wagon model. I believe that if Ford does make a Wagon model of it’s famed muscle car, the Mustang enthusiasts will see this as such a significant departure from the Mustang’s original allure and that it may slip into the abyss of “products past”. (I mean really, does “Wagon” and “muscle car” belong in the same “storyline”? I think not!).

As marketers, we are faced with Moments of Truth all of the time. The moment may be grand and obvious or small and subtle. Whatever the structure or cause of the Moment of Truth, what really matters is that when faced with a Moment of Truth marketers stick with the original “storyline” and purpose of the brand and not desperately try to “jump the shark”.

What If…?

“What if”…these are two powerful words. These two words at the beginning of a sentence can the start of journey that uproots us from the secure and comfortable to the unlit recesses of the yet undiscovered. No doubt, those individuals who have helped shape our world often asked themselves these two words. I would imagine they asked:

  1. What if the world is not flat?
  2. What if manned flight is possible?
  3. What if “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics” could not only coexist but share the same dream?
  4. Today, I am sure these inquisitive words are behind The Hundred Dollar Business and Blendtec’s Will it Blend? phenomenon.

    Just imagine if the world was full of “What Ifs”? What if world peace was possible? What if AIDS, cancer, and and the common cold ceased to exist? What if we stopped limiting ourselves in our own minds? What if all of our previous assumptions where incorrect?

Bagels and Expectations

So today was bagel day in the office (I heart bagels). I grabbed a raisin bagel and spread on some deliciously sweet strawberry cream cheese…or so I thought. It turned out to be a sun-dried tomato bagel that I spread on the deliciously sweet strawberry cream cheese- not the best choice on bagel day.

When your mouth can already taste the sweetness of the raisins and you bit into a sun-dried tomato, you get a bit of a surprise. Don’t get me wrong; I love sun-dried tomatoes when I am expecting to bit into a sun-dried tomato.

Surprises can be good when they meet or exceed your expectations. But when a surprise fails to live up to the expectation, its like a child opening presents on Christmas morning and saving the biggest box under the Christmas tree for the very last…only to find out it’s full of socks. Trust me, it’s disappointing!