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.


2 ways to over deliver on your promises

Over delivering on your promises to your customers can be a very powerful thing. As I see it, there are two ways to over deliver:

  1. Exceed current expectations. The near billion dollar online shoe retailer usually surprises customers by upgrading it’s free, four-day shipping to next-day shipping. Free, four day shipping ain’t bad. But Zappos goes out of it’s way to exceed expectations and delight it’s customers.
  2. Lower current expectations. My ISP seems to have a perpetual problem. According to their automated phone system, they have been experiencing an “usually high volume of calls” for some time now. When you finally talk with someone after 15 minutes of waiting, you feel lucky. Their opportunity to over deliver comes by lowering current expectations and rising up to meet mediocrity.

It’s your choice, but if I were you I’d stick with the first option.

Happy Thursday!

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.

Seinfeld on Marketing: 5 steps to becoming a buff

My friends, it’s Friday. I’ve got a great Seinfeld episode lined up for you today. Remember the episodes with Keith Hernandez (the “second spitter” theory done to the likes of JFK the movie)? Well, in today’s Seinfeld on Marketing, Jerry and George spot Keith for the first time:

GEORGE: Wow, Keith Hernandez! He’s such a great player.

JERRY: Yeah, he’s a real smart guy too. He’s a Civil War buff.

GEORGE: I’d love to be a Civil War buff. What do you have to do to be a buff?

JERRY: …Well sleeping less than 18 hours a day would be a start.

George being a buff. You know, unless it’s how to sleep under your desk at work and not get caught or how to use an alias (Art Vandaley) without revealing your true pathetic self, I’m just not seeing George being a buff.

Maybe George is not the best “buff” example, but there are many out there – take for example this guy who is a Photshop buff and “untoons” the likes of Jessica Rabbit, Homer Simpson and Mario (you’ve got to see it to believe it).

A buff for your product or business is the holy grail of every marketer. We’d die for fans, evangelists and basically those willing to brave the elements to camp out for the chance to be first to get their hands on our stuff. Of course, this is much easier said then done. But I think the best chance you have to become “buff worthy” comes in these five F’s:

  1. Fit. You must create something that actually fits my ideals, desires and situation. If I see no fit, I will either ignore you or place you in the recesses of my mind until a possible future fit (but most minds are unreliable and I will most likely just forget about you).
  2. Flagrant. One definition of flagrant is “obviously inconsistent from the norm.” My experience with you must be unmistakably different from anything else to stand apart from the noise of the status quo. Something “good enough” rarely gets talked about. Flagrant products -whether they are much better or much worse from the norm – get most of the attention. Hopefully you reside in “much better” camp.
  3. Frictionless. My experience with your product or service must be easy to understand, adopt and spread. If I run into a friend after she has lost 50 pounds, her weight loss is easily understood and transmitted. In addition to obvious visuals (weight loss, tattoos, fan t-shirts), remember that digital is most always slipperier than anything physical.
  4. Forum. To truly optimize your buff quotient, I must have a place to talk about the greatness that is you. This could be a fan club, a blog or website, a conference, or some other network. If the forum is started by your company, it must include open, two-way conversations free from dilution and filtration.
  5. Feedback. If you seek out, listen to and respond to my feedback then I am more apt to become a buff. Let me participate in the innovation and improvement process and I’ll love you all the more.

[Sideshow fun: Here are two time wasters (but well worth it!) having to do with Seinfeld – a Seinfeld/Bachelor mashup and now you can watch full length episodes of Seinfeld courtesy of TBS!. ]

Happy Friday!

Where your treasure is…

work-desk.pngIf you want to find out about your co-worker’s life outside of work you can browse the many pictures on her desk, the collectables taking over her shelf or the artwork from her three-year old hung proudly in her cube.

But how can you find out about her work life while visiting her home? Does she prominently display the pictures of her favorite customers? Does she fondly hang interoffice memos?

Why not? How much of the office do your employees take home?

What you’ll get (and not get) from customer feedback

Starbucks just announced the launch of it’s website, designed to generate “revolutionary and simple” ideas. Customers can submit ideas and then they can vote on the ones that they think are the best. Here’s the deal with asking your customers for innovative ideas:

What you’ll get: A lot of incremental ideas that make small waves (to wit, the most popular idea thus far is a loyalty punch card that will get you a free drink after purchasing a set number of drinks). But don’t get me wrong; I do think that asking for customer’s ideas is very important because it demonstrates that you are listening and that you care as begin to implement some of the ideas. Also, the idea of voting for ideas gives customers more of a sense of control, which tends to lead them further down the path of engagement.

What you’ll not get: Transformational ideas. It is very rare that your customers will come up with the “next big thing” as we often times don’t know what we want or like until it already exist (or is at least only a step or two away from reality). Starbucks does have a very large customer base so they have a better chance that a customer will come up with something truly revolutionary, but for the rest of us, it’s very, very unlikely.

For a very good in-depth analysis, read John Moore’s excellent post.

[UPDATE: I love John Moore’s suggestion that he has here]

Happy Thursday!

Seinfeld on Marketing: Retooling

image source

It’s time for the Happy Friday Dance! (Step to the left, take a step back, now jump and click your heels….) Now that you have had your exercise, lets join Kramer and Newman as they try to run their own talk show out of Kramer’s apartment (my favorite episode if you are playing along at home). Kramer is the host and Newman is the sidekick:

NEWMAN: Lately, though, I’ve been, uh, – I’ve been buying the generic brand of waxed beans. You know, I rip off the label and I can hardly tell the difference.

KRAMER: Well, we’ve officially bottomed out. Who’s our next guest?

NEWMAN: We’ve got no one!

KRAMER: We need a new format. We should shut down and re-tool. [Kramer pulls the plug and the “set” goes dark.]

Sometimes talk shows, ideas and brands go stale like Aunt Mae’s potato salad after a hot August picnic (hard for me to fully grasp this mental image as I sit here in Utah and the mercury is now only rising to “tolerable.”) Staleness can occur from over use and a loss or “specialness” or simply from neglect. Whatever the reason, at times it’s best to stop what you are doing and re-tool.

Take Starbucks for example. By now you have probably read about (or experience firsthand) the early store closing a few days ago of all 7,100 U.S. Starbucks locations to take time to retrain their baristas. In setting up the event, Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, said:

We will close all of our U.S. company-operated stores to teach, educate and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso. And in doing so, we will begin to elevate the Starbucks Experience for our customers. We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us.

I think this was a brave (and needed) move. Sure, Howard could have simply sent a memo on a TPS Report Cover Sheet for all to read and sign off. But stopping what you are doing long enough to pause and re-tool is so much more powerful. As you know, this stoppage was not only for the employees (or partners as Starbucks calls them) to get in some training; it was equally (and maybe more so) for customers to take notice that there was a stoppage on the assembly line. Howard wants you to take notice that he also noticed the drop in quality and has pulled the chain to stop the advancing assembly line.

But ultimately, will it make a difference? Only time will tell. But here are some of the things we learned from Uncle Howard about shutting down and re-tooling:

  1. If the public has noticed the “watering down” of the customer experience, the process for change should be open to the public to experience as well.
  2. A loss in revenue during the time you shut down and re-tool can be made up by well planned and executed PR covering the change.
  3. Just like a lateral in football, sometimes you momentarily have to go backward to keep moving forwards.

Is time for you to shutdown and retool?

Happy Friday ya’ll!

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