It makes a great gift

If you are wondering this Holiday season what to get a coworker who has everything…except for a clue about what a brand is (he still thinks it’s just a logo), then this may help.

It’s the new paradigm shifter!

Paradigm Shifter

Paradigm Shifter

It also makes a great gift for those who think that marketing means only sales or advertising. Hurry, operators are standing by!

Who would you like to see get this under the tree this year?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Seinfeld & Gates Microsoft Ad #2

Okay, so I may not have been the biggest fan of the first ad (it was kind of like the first few seasons of Seinfeld – it was alright).

However, this second ad (more like a webisode at 4:30 minutes) is much better in terms of the entertainment value. I’m still a little confused on how it builds brand loyalty, but maybe it’s just a slow build. Here’s how I’d rate it:

Entertainment Value:
starstarstarhalf_star (3.5 / 5 stars)
Brand Builiding:
starhalf_star (1.5 / 5 stars)

If you have not seen it yet, take a look and tell me what you think:

Let’s hope they get even better! Until next time.

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.

Violate the category, not your brand

We all know that you must differentiate your brand or it will blend in with the surrounding landscape of the crowded marketplace. A good way to do this is to violate a category worldview.

Take the category of rock bands in the 1960’s. Most felt like they knew how a rock band should look and act during this time. Then along came The Beatles.

Or take the category of video game systems. Not to long ago we all felt like we knew what a video game system should be like. Then along came the Wii.

A great way to succeed is to have a brand that violates/stretches/splinters and generally turns upside-down how consumers think about such things as rock bands, gaming systems or even gasoline.

But be careful…

This is not so for brand worldviews. The idea of Crystal Pepsi (a clear Pepsi of the early 90’s) lost its fizz because it violated our worldview of what Pepsi should look like. The introduction of pizza at Subway clogged the arteries of our worldview of healthy Subway sandwiches. And the concept for an upscale, yuppie Walmart “cheapened” our worldview of Walmart as a place to find inexpensive, “plain toast” kind of products.

So go ahead and stretch the category but tread carefully when it comes to your brand.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Lame advice: We want holes!

Lame advice: People don’t go to the store and buy a ¾” drill bit. What they really want is a ¾” hole.

Not exactly. I cannot think of anyone that wakes up in the morning, stretches and while brushing their teeth thinks to themselves, “You know what I need? More holes!”

Sure, when you buy a drill bit what you really want is a hole. But what you want doesn’t end there. It could be you want holes to hang pictures of your family or to make a tree house for the kids. But it doesn’t end there either!

Why do you want to hang pictures of your family? It could be that your wife has been nagging reminding you for the last 2 months to “hang those darn picture or else” and you just want some peace back in your life. It could be that the pictures remind you of what’s important and helps you to focus on your priorities. Or it could simply be that hanging family pictures is a social norm and you don’t want to look silly in front of the neighbors.

So why do some marketers stop at the first benefit (drill bit -> holes)? Answer: because it’s simpler. The truth is that we marketers may never know the underlying benefit each consumer seeks when buying our products. So we tend to stop at the benefit that most consumers have in common. But if you can tap into the specific underlying emotional benefit for each consumer, you’ll be that much better off understanding your individual consumer’s needs.

Happy Tuesday!

The REAL power of a brand

I’ve been on sort of a branding kick lately so here we go….

A brand is a conduit to an expected emotional benefit we seek (to fit “in”, not to look stupid in front of our peers, moments of happiness to share with others, etc.). So the real power of a brand lies in its (perceived) ability to deliver on our expectations.

Or visually:

[Click to enlarge]

Seinfeld on Marketing: Being Jay Leno’s chin

Dream CafeIn this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, Jerry and Elaine are discussing why no one is visiting the newly opened “Dream Café” across from Jerry’s apartment:

JERRY: He’s serving Mexican, Italian, Chinese. He’s all over the place. That’s why no one is going in.

ELAINE: Why do you keep watching?

JERRY: I don’t know. I’m obsessed with it. It’s like a spider in the toilet struggling for survival. And even if you know it’s not going to make it, you kind of root for it for a while.

ELAINE: And then you flush.

JERRY: Well, it’s a spider.

Later on in this episode Babu Bhatt (the restaurant owner) calls Jerry a “very bad man.” In reality, it is Babu who is a very bad marketer. Switching from Mexican to Italian to Chinese will only confuse would be loyal diners.

Instead, think of the role of marketing as making it very easy for your customers to describe your company to a sketch artist. If they cannot easily describe what you do, you can kiss Word of Mouth and any remarkableness goodbye. Imagine this scene where someone is have to describe your business:

“They sell stuff that isn’t expensive but it isn’t cheap either. They run ads saying they ‘care about my business’, but their employees act as if I am bothering them if I ask a simple question. Their building is mostly clean and their products are dutifully displayed, but nothing really ever catches me eye.”

If the above describes your company, you’ll never get caught and accused of being remarkable. What you need is something that stands out.

Dr. Richard Kimble caught his wife’s killer because he was looking for the one-armed man. Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks made him instantly recognizable. And Jay Leno’s chin has done well for himself. All of these characteristics are simple to explain and very unique.

When it comes to marketing, be Jay Leno’s chin and stick stand out.

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

Seinfeld on Marketing: A call for quality

And we’re back (sorry for the delay in posts). In this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, George bought a new (used) car:

JERRY: Hey! Did you get the Volvo?

GEORGE: No, I decided to go with an ’89 LeBaron.

ELAINE: A LeBaron?

JERRY: I thought Consumer said Volvo was the car.

GEORGE: What Consumer? I’m the consumer.

JERRY: Alright. Seems like…a strange choice.

GEORGE: Well, maybe so…but it was good enough for Mr. Jon Voight.

ELAINE: Jon Voight? The actor?

GEORGE (Boasting): That’s right. He just happened to be the previous owner of the vehicle.

JERRY: You bought a car because it belonged to Jon Voight?

GEORGE (Defensive): No, no…

JERRY: I think yes, yes. You like the idea of telling people you’re driving Jon Voight’s car.

GEORGE: Alright, maybe I do. So what.

Okay, so maybe George only bought his Chrysler because he thought someone famous previously owned it and not for the “cool factor” of the LeBaron. But Chrysler is trying to change this.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli (of Home Depot fame), is now mandating Chrysler’s 300 top executives call one recent purchaser each day to ask them if they are having any problems and to resolve any issues.

I love the idea of calling your customers and talking to them (how novel!) I am, however, concerned with one quote in the article. Doug Betts, Chrysler’s Vice President and Chief Customer Officer was quoted as saying, “the No. 1 influence in buying a car isn’t having Consumer Reports recommend it, it’s having a friend or family member recommend the car because they had a good experience with it.”

My problem is not with this statement (I believe it to be true). But I’m worried that Chrysler will confuse having “no problems” with your car and increasing your likelihood to talk to your friends about your new Chrysler.

A pop quiz: Quick, tell me what you had for dinner last Tuesday night? Odds are you can’t remember but I’m sure it was something that satisfied your hunger.

Chrysler’s current process only follow this same satisfaction model:

But is that really enough?

If I were to ask you about the last meal that you craved, I bet you could tell me every detail down to the last tender morsel of the pork loin or the rich and creamy sauce over your asparagus.

Chrysler should have it:
Crave Model

Question: Are you making something people crave or are you simply satisfying their hunger?

Happy Friday everyone!

[Side note: Can you believe that this week is the 10th anniversary of the last episode of Seinfeld (May 14th, 1998)?]

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

Robin Williams and your soul

Do you remember the movie “Dead Poets Society”? Does Carpe Diem, a desk set and “Captain, My Captain” ring any bells? Anyway, Robin Williams plays an English teacher trying to help his students learn about poetry and life. At one moment in the movie, he takes his students to the school courtyard just to stroll around in a circle. After only a brief moment of walking in a circle, the boys begin to march and clap in rhythm. Robin William’s character then teaches the boys about conformity:

I brought [you] up here to illustrate the point of conformity: the difficulty in maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others…now, we all have a great need for acceptance. But you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, ‘That’s baaaaad.’

We see conformity all the time in business – most airlines act alike and most automated telephone systems have menu options that are confusing or lead to dead ends (I absolutely HATE this!)

Why do we feel at times the need to conform?

For the most part it’s because it’s safe and easy. We trick ourselves into believing it’s safer not to stand out and subject ourselves to the possibility of “getting it wrong.” Not to mention that it’s easy to join the crowd because it requires little thought or attention to direction – you just coast in the ruts left by others.

But following others in your own industry is like outsourcing your company’s soul. What good is the body without a soul? Stand up, be different and get noticed.

Happy Tuesday!

Seinfeld on Marketing: Becoming Keith proof

100% Keith Proof

Happy Friday. In this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, George is talking to Jerry about his new promotion within the New York Yankee management team:

GEORGE: Do you know where Walker Street is downtown? I’ve got a league meeting there.
JERRY: Oh right, the new job, how is it?
GEORGE: I love it. New office, new salary. I’m the new Wilhelm.
JERRY: So who’s the new you?
GEORGE: They got a new intern from Francis Louis High. His name is Keith. He comes in Mondays after school.

No one wants to feel that they are easily replaceable – especially by a “Keith.” Some of this is our own fault and some of it stems from companies who are desperately trying to revive the days of factories by producing a steady hum of mediocrity.

Whether it is insisting that customer service reps read a script, sending bulk e-mails to customers or thinking of your customers as a one-time conversion of minimal effort for money, factory-minded companies and employees will continue fall into the forgotten wastelands of the factory.

Now is the time to stand out and brand yourself and your company as being irreplaceable by doing something profound. Become Keith proof.

Have a superb weekend!

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