Sequins and soul

Sequins are important to us (and no, I’m not talking about the clothes that Richard Simmons wears). They are the flash, the shiny things that catch our eye – a cool direct mail piece, a sleek and metallic colored stereo system (mostly men fall for this one) or a great sale.

But there are limits to what sequins can do (and sadly, many marketers have tried to stretch sequins way beyond their intended purpose). The great looking stereo system loses its luster if it breaks after only a few months. The direct mail campaign seems less creative if the product behind the glossy mailer is nothing but a scam. Sequins can never make up for a bad product. The market is too smart, too agile and too connected to fool most of us most of the time.

When we do fall for stretched sequins, we don’t simply put it behind us and move on. We make a mental note (and the Internet usually keeps a permanent record) of those that try to stretch sequins beyond their intention. So when we dig deeper into what you offer and all we find is a man behind a curtain out to trick us, we don’t soon forget. We feel cheated and we are much less likely to fall for your sequins again.

So the next time you are building something out of sequins for the market, make sure that it has plenty of soul to back it up.


Seinfeld on Marketing: Secret weapons and selling computers

It’s that time again. In this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, Frank Costanza is talking to his son, George, about how he is selling computers.

GEORGE: You’re selling computers?

FRANK: Two months ago, I saw a provocative movie on cable TV. It was called The Net, with that girl from the bus. I did a little reading, and I realize, it wasn’t that far-fetched.

GEORGE: Dad, you know what it takes to compete with Microsoft and IBM?

FRANK: Yes, I do. That’s why I got a secret weapon… my son.

Unfortunately, when your secret weapon is George Costanza, well…I’m sure you know how that turned out.

Now, this time around it is Microsoft that has a secret weapon. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is about to launch a $300 million ad campaign featuring Jerry Seinfeld. The ads are to air starting September 4th under the slogan of “Windows, Not Walls” and will try to combat Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads.

The Journal article goes on to quote Microsoft’s Chief Executive, Steve Ballmer, in an e-mail he sent to his employees in July:

‘In the weeks ahead, we’ll launch a campaign to address any lingering doubts our customers may have about Windows Vista.’ He said that later in the year the company will roll out ‘a more comprehensive effort to redefine the meaning and value of Windows for our customers.’

So what do you think? I’d love to believe that my hero Jerry Seinfeld could turn around a failing Vista and Zune, but I have my doubts. Do you think that Jerry has what it takes? Does any celebrity have that kind of power?

[Seinfeld Side note: Did you know that Jerry Seinfeld was in an Apple “Think Different” ad? It only aired once during the final episode of Seinfeld.]

Happy Friday all!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

Share of Expectation

If you want to have a truly great brand in the eyes of your customers, forget for a moment about Share of Market and even Share of Wallet. To consumers, these are meaningless measurements that focus on the wrong ideals – size and money.

Instead, focus on Share of Expectation. What do I mean? All of us walk around with a set of expectations about what we are looking for and what we’ll find once we get there (wherever there is).

Let’s pretend for a moment that I’m in the market for a hybrid car. Before I ever step foot on the showroom floor, I already have some expectations of why I want a hybrid and what I expect by owning one. Here is a graph of my hybrid expectations (oversimplified, of course):

[Click to Enlarge]

Now if I walked around with these expectations, it would be very wise for a marketer of a hybrid car to focus on my need “to make a statement” (biggest piece of the pie = good, of course). It could be that I want to show others that I care and this is a great way for me to show it.

If this were the case, it would be very easy to understand why I may choose the Toyota Prius over the Nissan Altima Hybrid:

Since in my example I was mainly interested in making a statement, The Prius’ distinctive shape does most of the heavy lifting for me. Its shape is an automatic and powerful story told to anyone with a pair of eyes.

But to truly grasp the power of Share of Expectation, you wouldn’t stop at its shape. Toyota could have a digital display in the back window that shows a running total of the pounds of greenhouse gases not in the air because I drive a Prius (over a typical car). The car dealership could give me “green” stickers to hand out to those in the office. Plus there are a million more ideas that could lend to my expectation of making a statement.

So the next time the boss brings up Share of Market or Share of Wallet, don’t forget to mention Share of Expectation as well.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Flash Insight: Don’t make me mad

A flash of insightI’ts been some time since I posted, so I thought I would ease back into it with a short post.

Rabid customers multiple faster than any rabbit ever could.

Is this your Employee of the Month?

[Click to Enlarge]

Don’t let Company Policy work overtime at your company, use principles instead.

We need your help! Company Policy Man is seeking to destroy the lives of decent customers everywhere and he must be stopped! Please do your part by:

  • Posting this on your blog.
  • Printing the picture and hanging it next to your desk.
  • Discussing it in your next meeting.

Hurry! Before it’s too late.

Happy Wednesday!

You’re gonna have to…

So there I was minding my own business in my local video store when it happened. I wasn’t trying to cause any trouble or disrupt the status quo. I had (or so I thought was) a simple question for the clerk. But after waiting my turn in line, she said:

“You’re gonna have to talk to her (pointing to someone else in a totally different line). She’s the manager on duty.”

Yep. I got the “you’re gonna have to..” line. Sometimes we don’t even notice it because we hear it all the time:

  • “You’re gonna have to call back later when someone is here to help you.”
  • “You’re gonna have to stand in that line (pointing to the longest line).”
  • “You’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love.” (I couldn’t resist)
  • “You’re gonna have to fill out these forms before I can process that for you.”

And why does the “you’re gonna have to…” line always mean extra work for the customer? You never hear:

“You’re gonna have to sit down right here in this comfy chair, have a nice tall glass of lemonade and listen to the soothing sounds of Kenny G while I take care of that for you.”

(Okay, maybe the “Kenny G.” part ruined it for you but you get my point, don’t you?)

What’s your best “you’re gonna have to…” line? What is the craziest one that you’ve heard? What should we use instead of this line? Should someone be fired for using this line on a customer?

What say ye?

Seinfeld on Marketing: The unintended little “chocolate and peppermint” that changes everything

It’s Friday again, folks. Gather around and let’s talk about Seinfeld, with a little dash of marketing.

In this episode of Seinfeld, Jerry and Kramer are in the balcony viewing area watching the surgery of a friend of Elaine:

(RSS Readers, click here to view the video)

Nothing to worry about. It turns out that the Junior Mint actually helped the patient. As the doctor put it:

I have no medical evidence to back me up, but something happened during the operation that staved off that infection. Something beyond science. Something perhaps from above…

So instead of homicide, Jerry and Kramer helped save a life. Who knew that the little and refreshing Junior Mint could stave off infections? (I guess Junior Mints are the new cranberries). All in all, it was an unintended discovery – something that solved a problem.

And that’s really what business is all about – solving problems. Finding pain points of the market and fixing them. But how do you find out what is causing your market pain?

Well, how about asking, listening and observing? Those always seem to work (as long as you do it right).

In their book Tuned In (If I didn’t convince you yesterday to pick up the book, maybe today I will), the authors detail many companies that have uncovered and solved market problems by simply asking, listening and observing. Take, for example:

  • The Japanese hotel that make its money from overworked businessmen who fall asleep on the last train of the night only to wake up and find themselves at the end of the line. (The hotel is cheaper than getting a taxi).
  • Magnavox created a TV Remote Locator after asking and observing that 55% of people loose their TV remote up to 5 times per week (that’s a lot of couch cushion diving!).
  • The Nalgene Company discovered by observation that their plastic, lightweight and shatter-resistant water bottles appealed to outdoor enthusiast and college kids and not just to those wanting them for laboratory use.

There are undiscovered market problems and unintended uses of products and services in every market. What can you discover?

Happy Friday all!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.