Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Business Prevention Department

The "Yeah, But's" Of The Corporate Bureaucracy

By David Miranda

You won't find it on any organizational chart, but it's there - the business prevention department.

It's prime objective is to champion attitudes that discourage the new and the innovative within the organization. They are "you can't get there from here" people. Chances are you have attended meetings with some members of this department. They are easily identified. They are most likely your boss or boss' boss or members of your peer group. They are the ones shaking their heads on your new idea after just seeing only the title slide. They normally begin their comments with "Yeah, but", as in, "Yeah, but, we tried that before"; or "Yeah, but, you don't understand".

The business preventionists come in all shapes and sizes, genders, ethnic groups, religious and political affiliation. They are good at what they do - resisting change.

Examples are many.

Take the IBM business preventionist who, after hearing a suggestion that "since we would be manufacturing millions of personal computers, we should also market our own operating system for it" replied, "Yeah, but, we don't do operating systems. We make computers. Let's get this guy, Gates, to do it."

Or how about the major television network executive who, after hearing a pitch for a 24 hour news channel replied "Yeah, but, who is going to watch news for 24 hours, Mr. Turner? I think this CNN idea is pie-in-the-sky."

Or the Barnes & Noble executive who, after hearing a pitch for selling books on the Internet said, "Yeah, but, I don't think you get it Mr. Bezos. People prefer to buy books in a real store. I am also not too crazy about the name, Amazon."

There's more. Newspapers could not see the threat of the likes of eBay and Craig's List. The music labels could not see the potential impact of Napster or the iPod. Microsoft missed the opportunity to be a Google, Yahoo!, MySpace, or YouTube. Blockbuster should have foreseen Netflix.

How about your organization? Is the business prevention department active? Here's a quiz:

  • Are new ideas encouraged in your organization?

  • Are they really? If so, what part of your marketing plan represents encouraging the new vs. reinforcing the status quo?

  • Do new ideas come from the bottom up, top down, or as the result of competitor's initiatives?

  • Is your company spending more time analyzing than doing?

  • Does your company pride itself more in doing things right or doing the right things?
In summary, today's currency is ideas. The suppression of ideas and innovation is terminal. Don't let the business prevention department succeed.

Defeat the "Yeah, but's".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Key Marketing Metric - Understanding The Difference Between Displacement And Dilution

Unwise Discounting Can Reduce Profits And Market Share

By David Miranda

Revenue optimization, once known as yield management, is relatively new to marketing. It was developed first in the travel industry. The premise is that perishable inventory (airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars, cruises) is directly and dynamically correlated to key factors such as time, supply, and demand. It is the primary reason that the price of an airline ticket varies so dramatically among passengers on the same flight. Some passengers booked well in advance to get the best fare, while others who had to book at the last minute paid the highest price.

Of course, this is not an exact science, but a sophisticated "guessing game" by the airline, hotel, car rental firm, or cruise line. The process requires huge amounts of data to be "crunched" to determine the number of seats, rooms, etc. to be offered at any given price. When demand is low, more inventory is offered at lower prices and vice versa.

Revenue optimization has now made its way into other sectors, but caution should prevail. Many times business utilizing the practice displace or dilute revenues, so it's important to know the distinction.

Displacement refers to selling at a low price during periods of high demand. This unwisely "displaces" higher revenue to competitors after the company, who sold out its inventory at the low price, cannot meet additional demand. The result is that the competitor benefits from higher margins. Example: A company decides to offer a product at a highly discounted price and sells out. Unfulfilled demand is forced to competitors who charge more for the same product realizing higher profits.

Dilution refers to unnecessarily discounting prices to customers who either have already or would pay a higher price. Example: A company has already sold products at a higher price, but the product is moving slowly, so the company decides to sell remaining inventory at a lower price. Dilution occurs when the customers who already paid the higher price now demands the discount afforded others. The result - dilution.

The lesson is clear. A company must first analyze the potential effects of discounting - will it dilute revenue already realized or will it displace higher margin business to competitors?

Before considering discounting, do the math!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Feds Could Use A CMO Of The United States

Why The Electorate Is Confused On What's Happening In Financial Markets

By David Miranda

Over the past few weeks, the headlines have been filled with stories on the severe financial crisis in the United States (and global markets). Regardless of one's political persuasion, all reasonable people seem to agree that the situation has been exacerbated by campaign rhetoric and partisan politics in a Presidential election year. It doesn't help that we have a radioactive President and dysfunctional Congress with understandably dismal approval ratings.

On Monday, the House of Representatives voted on legislation that would, according to the Bush Administration and bi-partisan Congressional leaders, help stabilize the financial markets. The bill failed to pass with one third of Democrats and two thirds of Republicans voting Nay.

A post mortem of those voting Nay had many Representatives saying they have received overwhelming feedback from angry constituents that they were against taxpayers "bailing out Wall Street". To paraphrase some comments from the electorate, "Why should we bail out these fat cats? We didn't cause this mess." or "It's all about Wall Street greed and reckless decisions."

There is a marketing lesson here.

From the beginning, the Adminstration's solution was framed to Main Street as a "bailout of Wall Street". This is a Main Street that has suffered from high energy prices, increased foreclosures, rising health care costs and unemployment to list a few of the maladies affecting the middle class.

They, needless to say, have justifiable anger when their tax dollars are perceived to be "bailing out" the "greedy and reckless executives" who have multi-million dollar pay and severance packages. Is there any wonder why Monday's legislation failed? It was doomed from the beginning.

If the Feds had a competent CMO, things might have been different. The CMO would have understood the need to empathize with the electorate and frame the story in a more palatable way to garner support.

"Bail out" and "Wall Street" should never be put in the same sentence. This is a volatile combination. "Bail out" is synonymous with "hand out" and "Wall Street" during these perilous times is synonymous with unmitigated greed and self-interest of executives in today's new Enrons and Worldcoms, i.e. the Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Wachovia, Washington Mutual etc.

A smart CMO would have suggested that the message to the average American be communicated as a stabilization of the credit markets that allows people to get a mortgage, buy a car, send kids to college or small businesses to have access to credit to buy inventory, make payroll, etc. In other words, the story is less about Wall Street and more about Main Street. The Feds did not and have not made the case for the average American - the person who is the real victim (and should be the real beneficiary) of any legislation.

The Adminstration tried to sell this to Congress. They should have put their efforts in getting the Electorate on board first. It's what great leaders do in a crisis - FDR was a great CMO. During dark times for the country, he created his famous Fireside Chats with the American public. They instilled confidence and hope that inspired a nation.

A smart Fed CMO would have known that. Perhaps Senators McCain or Obama should create the first cabinet post of CMO of the United States.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Competitive Advantage - Reduce The Gap Between Thinking & Doing

Employing Marketing's Version Of the "No-Huddle" Offense

By David Miranda

Enabled by technology, the pace of the marketplace has increased at warp speed and there is no "slo mo" or "pause" button on life's "remote". If the classic tale of the hare and the tortoise were written today, the technology-enabled "hare" would win. All things being equal, in today's marketplace, the advantage goes to the smarter and the quicker.

Competitive advantage, therefore, lies in reducing the gaps between thinking and doing - between planning and execution; between wanting and getting; between feedback and response.

Today's marketplace is a 24 X 7 global competition with no time outs. Competitors are pursuing your customers as we speak with new products and services employing new marketing channels and campaigns. In a world where preference is perishable, competitive challenges must be immediately countered and re-countered as necessary.

The best position to be in is the smartest and the fastest keeping your competitors off kilter. It's marketing version of the "no huddle" offense, i.e not giving your competition time to appropriately respond, as well as, impressing your client and customers on your responsiveness.

This approach demands reducing the gap between the thinking (what do we need to do to succeed considering the circumstances at hand) and the doing (flawlessly executing the plan).

Reducing "gaps" creates competitive advantage, so get on with it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" - Yogi Berra

Marketing Insights Inspired By the Baseball Hall-of-Famer

Known for his famous "Yogi-isms", Yogi Berra, Hall Of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees should be teaching marketing at Northwestern. Even experienced marketers could learn a thing from "The Yog". Take, for example, the Yogi-isms "You can observe a lot by just watching" and "Nobody goes to that place anymore. They're too busy."

Today marketers are sometimes confused and befuddled by the state of marketing today - the traditional methods are not working as well as they used to and the new stuff is coming at them from all angles. What is a marketer to do? Well, as Yogi puts it, "How 'bout just watching?" Take a moment to have a good look around. Consumers are TIVOing, spam and ad blocking, do-not-call list enrolling, podcasting, downloading, MySpacing, YouTubing and are addicted to mobile whether it be their cell phone, Blackberry, or PDA. This should tell you something.

Now take a good look at your marketing plan. Does it reflect what you are observing or does it reflect the old status quo? Has your brand extended to new channels such as cellphones, social networking sites, blogs, or user-generated content sites such as YouTube?

And what about customer service at the retail level, web site, email, or over the telephone? Yogi said, "Nobody goes to that place anymore. They're too busy." Are customers being serviced in a prompt, courteous, and efficient manner or are they forced to wait in line, navigate a challenging web site, wait unduly for email responses, or put on hold when they call. In today's customer ADD environment, it would be smart business to recognize that impatient customers are vulnerable to competitive offerings.

Yogi puts it this way. "The future is not what is used to be."

Neuromarketing - Marketing Science Or Snake Oil?

The Lure Of The "Persuasion Rosetta Stone"

By David Miranda

For those of you that missed it, I highly recommend viewing the PBS Frontline documentary, The Persuaders, originally broadcast in 2004. The compelling and comprehensive report takes us behind the curtain of the relentless pursuit of persuasion - of consumers and citizens alike.

From market research gurus, to advertising agencies, to the brands themselves, the documentary explores the quest to discover and exploit the "code" that persuades us to buy a specific brand or vote for (or against) a specific candidate or issue. It introduces us to something called "neuomarketing" - part psychology, part anthropology, part multiple regression. part etymology.

As the marketing landscape continues to dramatically morph, marketers are desperate to find the secret formula that enables their brand to "cut through the clutter" of hyper-choice. Consumers have become desensitized to marketing "er" claims as in, "brighter", "better", "cheaper", "faster", since these are quickly "me-tooed" by competitors.

Successful brands have created a "cult-like" emotional connection with their consumers as with Starbucks, Apple, Volkswagen, and Nike, for example. The question is why.

Those proponents of neuromarketing suggests that it is the result of some "reptilian response" meaning these brands have been successful in understanding and satisfying some basic Maslow-type needs in their lives. In other words, people prefer Starbucks for more than the coffee or prefer Nike more than the just the sportswear.

Is this snake oil promoted by marketing consultants or is it marketing science? I suggest that it is some of both.

Make up your own mind.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Small Business - Do-It-Yourself Marketing Doesn't Mean "Do-It-By-Yourself" Marketing

Busting Common Myths, Mistakes, and Misunderstandings On DIY Marketing

By David Miranda

About 9 of every 10 small businesses I encounter seeking marketing advice do so because they are not achieving the business results they anticipated. Typical quandries include:

  • "We're not generating enough leads."

  • "Our competitors are eating us for lunch."

  • "We can't afford to do the marketing we need to do to get our name out there."

  • "We need to change our marketing strategy, maybe reposition ourselves."
In every case, I ask the same question - "Do you have a business plan?" Believe it or not, few small businesses do. It's like embarking on a trip deciding where you are going and the means of transportation along the way. It's no wonder small businesses "get lost" along the way.

Why does this happen, even to very smart people? Here are some common myths, mistakes, and misunderstandings and the implications of each on the business:
  • "Business plans are a great thing to have, but there are more important things I have to invest my time in." Business implications: "Seat-of-your-pants" decisions, unfocused resources, constant second-guessing. and no way of strategically exploiting new opportunities.

  • "We don't need marketing, we need sales." Business implications: Commoditized offers based on price which reduces margins. No way to distinguish offerings from those of competitors. Always being on the defensive.

  • "We don't need to explore new methods and channels right now. We will look at these down the road." Business implications: Terminal thinking - the future is now. Businesses that don't explore the new are vulnerable to those that do and often with dire consequences.

  • "We don't need professional marketing help. It is a luxury. Because we have little or no marketing budget, we do everything ourselves - branding, brochures, advertising, etc." Business implications: Not having professional marketing advice is like not having an architect involved in building your new home. Just like a new home, a business is a major investment. Bring the pros in and bring them in early in the process.
Do-It-Yourself marketing does not mean Do-It-By-Yourself marketing. Sure you can go into a Home Depot for a do-it-yourself project, but even Home Depot provides expertise to the do-it-yourselfer.

Get professional marketing advice early. It's the least expensive way to go with the greatest return on investment for your business. You can then take it from there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keep Your Brand Off The Endangered Species List

Self-Interest Thrives - The Era of "What's In It For Me?"

By David Miranda

A generation ago, brand loyalty was a phenomenon which could be positively exploited by incumbents, i.e. cashing in on good will built over time with constituents. Loyalty (to a product, service, company, leader, media outlet/channel, sports team, significant other, friend, etc.) has been replaced by blatant self-interest. It is a societal trend with a myriad of examples found in all walks of our daily lives. Here are a few:

A generation ago.......

...........people worked for one or two companies in their careers. Today, this is the exception rather than the rule as it is commonplace for people to have many entries on their resumes, i.e. a year here, a couple of years there. Loyalty of a company to its employees or vice versa is, for all intents and purposes, extinct.

...........people loyally consumed the offerings of specific brands over and over - everything from cars, breakfast cereals, shoes, clothing, soft drinks, airlines, telephone service, fast food, etc. Today, in a world of uber-choice and hyper-competition, loyalty is perishable and fleeting.

..........coaches and players were loyal to a specific team, in most instances for the bulk of their careers. Today, free agency and more money has turned both college and professional teams into bands of mercenaries. Coaches and athletes move frequently much to the chagrin of fans. outlets, such as local newspapers and radio, broadcast news, etc had loyal audiences and readership. Today, with the alternative choices available, audiences are loyal only to their own personal media consumption patterns.

During this shift from loyalty to self-interest, companies have responded with "loyalty" programs (frequent flier or guest programs, credit card reward programs, etc.). Let's face it. These are not "loyalty" programs; these are "self-interest" programs based on greed not loyalty to a specific brand or company. They respond to the points or miles or freebies, not loyalty.

To be fair, there are exceptions.

Apple, Starbucks, Google, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, and Nordstrom's, to name a few, have developed a "loyal" following. This enables them to charge a premium for their products and services (or stock). You can, no doubt, add to this list, but the list is short.

It's high time, however, that we call it the way it is - it is about self-interest, i.e. not just "what have you done for me lately?", but rather "what will you do for me now?" Translation: "I have lots of competitive alternatives to spend my time and money. Give me your best deal and I will consider it."

So let's get real. It's not about brand "relationship", "engagement", "loyalty". It's about self-interest. More frankly stated, it is about greed, but as the fictional character, Gordon Gekko stated in the film, Wall Street,

"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed--for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essences of the evolutionary spirit. "

Recognition Marketing - Carpe Diem: The Evolution Of Competitive Advantage

From Data to Information to Knowledge to Intelligence to Insights

By David Miranda

The world has changed dramatically over the past two decades directly correlated to the major advances in personal and networked technological advancements. The result has been a better and faster informed populace. Not only is information faster and more easily accessed, it can be accessed from anywhere and at anytime across many channels. Computing power has also enabled people to perform sophisticated analyses on complex problems to find better and faster solutions. The result? Competitive advantage

In fact, we have witnessed an evolution of competitive advantage - from data to information to knowledge to intelligence and now to insights. Insights are those unique and proprietary exploitable opportunities that are the basis for creating and sustaining competitive advantage.

This is true for businesses, but is more obvious on the customer side of the business equation. Consumers today have the power to use simple technology to do research, comparison shop, provide feedback and network their opinions to millions of other consumers - all from the convenience of their personal computers.

The pendulum of advantage has swung from the brand to the consumer who are armed with their own personal insights and opinions gathered from countless sources other than the brand itself. Brands, to succeed, must be aware and recognize the need to extend themselves employing a multi-channel strategy. This requires developing keen target audience insights on media consumption behavior to create and sustain competitive advantage.

Here are some examples of insights, based on current market conditions, and their potential impact on future consumer spending.

  • the financial health of the American middle class is suffering and the suffering will continue in 2009 due to...

  • ....the softening value of the American dollar making imports more expensive, and......

  • ....the cost of a barrel of oil is hovering at $100+ a barrel impacting gas and home heating oil prices and......

  • .....the sub-prime mortgage crisis has resulted in higher foreclosure rates and tighter credit markets, and......

  • care costs are increasing far beyond the rate of inflation, and......

  • ......the U.S. is expected to be in a recession through 2009
Depending on the brand's key target audience, a brand should understand that, in this environment, consumer spending will be soft. Consumers will be more apt to comparison shop on necessities; delay major expenditures; do less leisure travel; eat out less - in a nut shell, do more with less. They will exploit the power of technology to find the best price/value opportunities.

Brands that understand these key insights will develop marketing campaigns that empathize with consumers providing the price/value/convenience that will solicit their precious dollars. The time to exploit these insights is now, not when the sales graph takes a downward slope. By then, these consumers have gone elsewhere.

In summary, brands, like consumers, should use the networked power of technology to gleen keen insights and quickly move to develop competitive advantage.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top 10 Marketing Basics For Surviving A Recession

The Time To Act Is Now

By David Miranda

To survive a recession (they historically last 10 to 12 months), marketers must be assertive, timely, and transparent. Assertiveness demonstrates confidence; timeliness demonstrates proactivity; and transparency demonstrates open and honest communication. This is not a time for the timid, the procrastinator, or the indecisive.

The following are 10 marketing basics for surviving a recession:

  1. Don't panic. A recession is exascerbated by fear. Avoid knee-jerk reactions that appear to be desparate measures.

  2. Over-communicate to stakeholders. Silence can cause anxiety among the faithful.

  3. Be and stay aggressive. More aggressive competitors will seek to take advantage in a down market by stealing customers and, ultimately, share if they see an opening.

  4. Focus on the basics - product/service quality, customer service, value pricing. During a recession, customers seek the optimum price/value for their money and trusted brands have a home field advantage over new entrants.

  5. Concentrate on your core customers first. It is easier and less costly to get your core customers to spend incrementally more than it is to derive business from new customers.

  6. Understand the difference and impact of both revenue displacement and revenue dilution before making price promotion decisions. Displacement means that your discounting displaces higher margin business to a competitor. Example: Coffee shop "A" decides to sell $1 cups of coffee to steal traffic from Coffee shop "B". The promotion is so successful that it creates long lines forcing many customers to get their coffee at Coffee Shop "B" at a higher price. This is displacement. Dilution is discounting the price on business you already would have achieved at a higher price. Example: Coffee Shop "A" normally sells coffee at $2 per cup, but decides to distribute coupons for $1 cups of coffee to boost traffic. Regular customers who were going to pay the $2 show up with the coupon. The result is that revenue is "diluted" with the coupons.

  7. Be flexible and be ready to call "audibles at the line of scrimmage". The marketplace in a recession is volatile requiring many course corrections along the way.

  8. Reduce the gap between thinking or talking about doing something and doing it. Cut through or eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy that can inhibit or delay timely actions.

  9. Put people in charge, not committees.

  10. Fund things that work and stop things that don't.
So, get going.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why A Recession Is A Great Time To Increase Marketing Budgets

With A Smaller Pie, Brands Have To Insure A Bigger Piece Of The Action

By David Miranda

It is generally common practice that when a recession looms, companies have a knee jerk cost-cutting reaction, as is manifested with reduced headcounts and smaller budgets. This process, in itself, negatively affects morale and momentum of the marketing effort. The short term impact will indeed improve the P&L, but at what price? Typically, when the recession subsides, those companies that were fast to cut expenses are also typically slow to increase funding at the onset of a growth cycle.

Of course, it makes perfect sense to bean counters. We all have heard the mantras, "we must live within our means"; "we must be more productive and do more with less"; "we need to do the necessary belt-tightening", etc, etc. etc.

Here are the facts.

In a recession, people (and businesses) still spend, albeit less; creating a smaller demand "pie" to go around. If a company, therefore, wants to maintain or grow revenue; there is no other choice than to aggressively go after a bigger piece of the pie. Simply put, stealing share from others. Those that cut their marketing budgets during a recession are conceding business to more agressive competitors and, by the way, the best time to steal share is in a recession.

Coming out of a recession who would you guess is better positioned in an upturn - the company that cut its marketing ranks and budgets or the company that became more aggressive?

Spending during the boom times? No brainer.

Spending more during a recession? A bigger no brainer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recognition Marketing - Marketing Is Not For Amateurs

Amateurs Spend Money On Marketing, Professionals Invest Money In Marketing

By David Miranda

"I'm not a marketer, but I play one at the office."

For some inexplicable reason, many firms (both large and small) make an major error in judgment regarding marketing. The mistake? Assigning marketing responsibilities to amateurs. Not amateurs in business, but amateurs in marketing.

How and why does this occur?

Simply put, competent individuals in one field of expertise, i.e. operations, finance, sales, general management, etc., are assumed to be competent in other fields, like marketing. This is like sayin that a good nurse will make a good surgeon. Yet this happens in business every day.

There are some things that some of us think we are good at - decorating, singing, personal relationships, telling jokes, driving, Trivial Pursuit, and, yes, marketing.

Unlike the other things we think we are good at, marketing has serious consequences if we don't know what we're doing. It is not a place for amateurs. Amateur marketers SPEND money ON marketing. Professional marketers INVEST resources IN marketing.

Knowing the difference is critical for a firm's or brand's success.

Amateur marketers are like amatuer gamblers. They do not know how to play the odds - when to hold 'em, when to fold'em. They count on luck. Professional marketers are more like scientists - they research, learn and are driven to continually improve on results. For professional marketers, they know and play the odds of success. They know that success is less about luck and more about strategy.

Firms like P&G and Coca-Cola create PHD's in marketing. They would never allow amateurs to manage their consumer brands. Each trains and nurtures its marketing people as a med school trains and nurtures physicians.

Recruit, train and nurture marketing professionals (or seek professional marketing counsel) to be successful.

There is no substitute for marketing professionalism.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Honey, I Screwed The Brand!"

Your Brand Is Not A Commodity So Don't Act Like One In Media Buying

By David Miranda

Disclaimer: The author has no financial interest or affiliation with any of the media properties in this article.

I have a good friend who prides himself in getting anything and everything on the cheap. I met him the other day for lunch. He was quick to tell me that his new haircut cost him only $9; his new suit cost him only $99; and his new cell phone service cost him only $15/month. So as I sat there in the cheap restaurant he proudly recommended looking at his bad haircut wearing his ill-fitting suit trying unsuccessfully to make an out-going call on his new cell phone, it gave me time to think. My friend, by the way, plans and buys media for a "bottom feeder".

There are media people (and companies) out there that pride themselves on getting you "something on the cheap". It's called "bottom feeding" by selling "remnant" inventory. These people (and firms) have little or no vested interest other than selling you anything and have little interest in your brand's best interest. Bean counters love this kind of media buy. They can tout their buying savvy and negotiating skills.

Let's put this into a different perspective.

Let's say you are looking for a surgeon, an auto mechanic, an architect, an electrician or a babysitter for your kids. Would you seek the cheapest provider to operate on you, fix your car, build your house, wire your home, or watch the kids? Chances are, not likely.

Now, let's be clear. Is it good business to get the best value for your dollar? Of course, but it is more likely you will get the best value for the dollar (and your brand) by dealing with media brands that empathize with your marketing objectives rather than just trying to sell you something.

Such is the case with iconic media brands. Time, for example, is such a brand. It understands and communicates integrity, trust, and credibility in the marketplace. An advertser is well served in aligning itself with the Time brand benefitting from the halo effect that Time provides. Is it cheap? No. Does a brand advertising in Time (or benefit from the relationship? Yes. Is there a strong price/value return on investment? Yes. The advertisers in Time media properties benefit directly from its iconic brand equity. Time has a long history of working with advertisers and, therefore, understands the implied covenant to its brand advertisers. Advertisers in Time media properties understand that it is a respected media environment.

Although I have used Time in this example, the same case can be made for other media icons such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, National Geographic, Financial Times, etc. Advertising in iconic media properties is not cheap, but it is valuable in building and promoting a brand.

Bottom feeders that sell on the cheap have little empathy for the advertisers they sell to. It is only regarded as a transaction.

In a world of uber-media diversity (with new entrants, literally, coming on the scene every day), I beg you to think about your brand and the "company" it keeps.

My suggestions?

  • work with iconic brands directly. They are professionals and know what the're doing.

  • avoid the cheap. Go with the best price/value in planning and buying media.
  • appreciate the difference between buying "quality" impressions versus "gross" impressions.
In summary, don't let your brand get a "bad haircut" in media buying.

(ME)dia - The Age Of Personalized Media Consumption

Do-It-Yourself, On-Demand Programming Shifts Power To The Consumer

By David Miranda

Today everybody is their own personal media mogul. We are all our own managing editor for our news (myCNN, myYahoo), TV programmers (Tivo), personalized music labels (iPods) and film festivals (YouTube), media distribution channels (MySpace) and commentators (blogs). We can even create our own virtual reality (Second Life).

Media consumption, which used to be time and device specific, is now time and device agnostic, i.e. consume anything, anytime, anywhere, on any device.

It is the age of (ME)dia.

This has made the lives of marketers miserable. How do you market to millions of MEs each with their own personalized media consumption patterns across many channels? The answer is not easily. Like scientists searching for a cure to a major epidemic, experiments on various cures to the problem are many but with mixed results. Each experiment is given its own name, i.e. behavioral targeting, search engine optimization, engagement, one-to-one and integrated marketing, etc., etc.

The findings - promising results, hopeful outcomes, no cure.

Why? Many times in the past, the problem in dealing with the new is trying to solve it with the old. When television was in its infancy, early programming was former radio shows in front of a camera. Why? Radio executives owned the new television networks. TV eventually found the right formula and prospered. There have been some examples in more recent history. AOL missed its chance to dominate the Internet and become eBay, MySpace, YouTube, and Google all wrapped into one. At its zenith, it had over 32 million subscribers.

The age of (ME)dia requires new thinking for new times. Past success is not an indicator of future success. Ask executives at broadcast television networks, local newspapers, yellow page directories, terrestial radio stations, retail books and record stores, etc.

The lesson is this - (ME)dia is here to stay. The consumer of media is in the driver's seat. Find new solutions not retreaded ones. Ambush marketing does not work anymore. More does not work anymore.

What does work? Get to know your target audience from the bottom up - not top down. Find your audience. Observe how they naturally aggregate.

(ME)dia-ize your strategy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Finally! Somebody In Politics That Tells It Like It Is

The Elevator Pitch - "You Talkin' To Me?"

Can Your Oldest Living Relative Understand What You're Pitching?

By David Miranda

In the Martin Scorcese film, Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro had one of the great lines in cinema, "You talkin' to me?" which he delivered, by the way, in a mirror. He was talking to himself.

I have been the recipient of countless elevator pitches. While listening to the presenters, I often think of that scene from Taxi Driver, repeating the phrase silently to myself. These people might as well be talking to themselves alone in a mirror because most time, I just don't get what they're pitching. Quickly my receptors shut down just like my laptop does when I have too many programs going at the same time.

What happens? The pitch was designed for the presenter and not the audience and the presenter doesn't know his or her audience.

Here is a view from those of us that want to be good audiences:

  • we are busy; we have A.D.D.; we hear lots of pitches - get to the point quickly

  • don't use a lot of jargon only understood by industry insiders

  • eliminate the hyperbole, i.e. the best, the greatest, the next "Google" etc. - no one's gonna buy it. If it is good or great, let your audience, not you, state it.

  • make your pitch a dialogue not a monologue. Encourage your audience to interrupt with questions during the pitch.

  • don't distribute leave-behinds unless people request them and don't distribute them before you begin. They will thumb through it while you are talking which is not a good idea.

  • If you have 15 minutes, make it 15 minutes or, preferably, shorter. If your audience wants to go over the alotted time it means they are interested. If you go over the allotted time, it means you are not prepared.

  • Don't feel compelled to use a powerpoint, unless your audience wants to see it. Offer first.

  • If you do use a powerpoint, try it out on someone first under the same conditions you will present. Can your guinea pigs read the slides? Are there too many bullet points?, too much animation?, too much data?, too many slides?, too many charts?, simply too much "stuff" to comprehend? etc.

  • don't assume your audience is either real smart or real dumb. The best communicators of the most challenging concepts make it palatable for everyone.
Remember that unless you enjoy talking to yourself, it is your audience that you have to convince to buy what your selling. So don't pontificate. Don't complicate. Don't exaggerate. Don't orate. Don't bloviate. Just communicate - like you are speaking to your oldest living relative. Chances are if they get it, so will everyone else.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Corporate "Bulimia" Or "Anorexia" Is No Way To Keep A Company "Lean & Mean"

"Competing" Disorders Can Harm The Business

By David Miranda

In an effort to get or remain thin, some people go to extremes by developing eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. We all know the devastating impact either of these maladies have on the human body. We all know there is no simple way to be thin (and healthy). It takes a regimen of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Such is the case in business. Typically in an economic slowdown, businesses seek to shed "excess fat" in the organization to make the organization "lean and mean". Although this is a commendable (and necessary) effort, too many go about it the wrong way and develop "competing disorders", i.e. corporate bulimia or anorexia.

Corporate bulimia occurs when a firm decides to "purge" internal employees from the org chart in favor of out-sourcing to third parties. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes critical departments are affected, say customer service. This is where reducing costs, unwisely, takes precedent over the health of the organization. In this case, this purging leaves the firm, not stronger, but weaker. Purging customer service is a "bulimic" practice.

Corporate anoxexia is just as problematic. Here companies believe they can do more and more with less and less. They "starve" the company, i.e. "what is the very minimum we need to keep the company going?" A company cannot "starve" themselves to success.

Take a healthy approach to business. Avoid taking short cuts to success. Feed success and exercise your brains in making good decisions our your firm will be "The Biggest Loser."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Marketing - Brand Foreplay For Sales

Before Someone Buys Something, They First Have To Be Romanced

By David Miranda

The field of marketing has many descriptive terms to describe and measure brand success such as awareness, recognition, preference, engagement, and relationship to name of a few. The best way, however, to describe and measure brand success is sales.

This is because before anyone buys anything, they first have to desire it. That is what marketing does. It is the business discipline of seduction.

Simply put, marketing is foreplay for sales.

All too often, brands think that a clever "pick up line" (advertising slogan) is enough or perhaps "offering to buy the pursued a cocktail of their choice" (discounting, coupons, free offers) will win their favor. These may be good techniques for "one-night stands" with consumers; but not for sustainable brand relationships. Brands need to create a conversation with the consumer - get to know them, understand their needs and wants.

In other words, consumers want to be romanced by brands - to be recognized and appreciated. This is what great brands do. This is what great marketing does.

Every sale and every repeat sale is the direct result of brand foreplay. Too often a great deal of effort is placed in acquiring a new customer, but also all too often this newly acquired customer is taken for granted wrongly assuming that an acquired customer will be a repeat customer. In a marketplace where preference is perishable, this is a critical miscalculation.

This is why it is critically important for a brand to understand that, in today's highly competitive marketplace, without brand foreplay-without romancing, competitive suitors are relentlessly seducing your current and future customers.

Don't try to "pick up" customers; romance them instead by employing the foreplay of sales.

It's called marketing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Considering The Mobile Channel? Success Is Spelled With 4R's

Get It Right The First Time

Marketing still has its 4 P's - people, price, promotion, place - first communicated to future marketing gurus in Marketing 101. Marketers have done well by the 4P's which have been easily applied in developing marketing strategy and tactical executions. As the marketing mix has expanded from the "usual suspects" TV, radio, print, direct mail and public relations to the Internet and its unique offspring, marketers have adapted and adopted new solutions into the mix.

Now there is a new kid in town - mobile, with over 220 million users strong just in the U.S. In boardrooms across the country, smart brands are seeking ways to exploit its ubiquity and huge potential. A first critical step is understanding that mobile is a unique channel with unique characteristics and rules of engagement.

Simply stated, mobile has its 4 R's - recognition, relevance, reward, and relationship - the four supporting pillars of mobile success.
  • Recognition refers to the explicit understanding that respects a consumer right to privacy and control of the mobile interaction. Mobile marketing mandates that consumers opt-in to programs.

  • Relevance refers to the need to provide consumers with content that is appropriate to their personal lifestyle and interests. Mobile consumers will quickly opt out of programs that have little or no value.

  • Reward refers to providing incentives for consumer participation which can be in the form of points, discounts, etc.

  • Relationship refers to the notion that if consumers are convinced that the first 3 R's are satisfied, they are more likely to commit to a mobile relationship with the brand.
Recognition, relevance, reward, and relationship - a good platform for successful mobile marketing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recognition Marketing - 10 Characteristics Of A Great Brand

By David Miranda

Great brands.....

  1. compete with themselves, not others for the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers.

  2. are more curious, better informed, more agile and nimble, and less risk-averse than their competitors.

  3. are customer-centric understanding that customer retention is the engine for customer acquisition.

  4. understand that everything (both the formal and informal) communicates the brand to others.

  5. understand that the status quo is the enemy of innovation.

  6. compete on value not price.

  7. are not "me-too" marketers

  8. have a compelling brand "story" that clearly distinguishes it from all others

  9. recruit and retain great marketing talent

  10. can demand a premium for their products and/or services

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Intelligence vs Wisdom - Knowing The Difference

Understanding The Difference Is Critical In Marketing

By David Miranda

A wise person once asked me if I knew the difference between ignorance and stupidity. After a weak attempt at an answer, he replied, "ignorance means you don't know, stupidity means you'll never know". I haven't been ignorant of the difference since. This is wisdom.

I have recently asked myself a different question, particularly as it applies to the discipline of marketing. The question is "What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?" Often the terms are used interchangeably and without much thought.

When this does happen, it can have dire consequences.

Mark Twain once said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

The marketing discipline is blessed to have many intelligent people in the field measured by academic credentials and IQ. Intelligence is generally judged by one's ability to solve problems - to find solutions. Intelligence, however, has a dark side - arrogance, i.e. that because the problem was solved or a solution found by an intelligent person using an intelligent process, it must be the best solution available. Not!

Intelligence should be tempered with experience - from you or others. This is called wisdom, as in, "This seems like the right way to go, but conventional wisdom says we should dig a little deeper, think a little harder, kick the tires a little more." Wisdom should not be confused with caution, since the best friend of an intelligent solution is devil's advocacy. A wise decision will generally pass muster with both supporters and critics. Wise decisions stand the tests of time and scrutiny.

All marketers think they make intelligent decisions. The best, however, make wise decisions.

Next time you have to make a key decision, ask yourself this question "Is this wise?"

Wise up!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Retail Is Detail" - A Lesson From Mickey

J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler Shows How Its Done

By David Miranda

In a recent New York Times story by Joe Nocera, "A CEO Sells The Store", J Crew CEO Mickey Drexler was reported doing what he has always done and continues to do - going to his stores, fussing over the merchandise, speaking with managers and, yes, grilling customers on what they like, don't like, where else they shop, etc.

Oh yeah, the article highlights the results on Mr. Drexler's hands-on approach.......

"At a time when most retailers are struggling — with credit tight, and consumers increasingly unwilling to spend — J. Crew stands out. It is growing at a steady, healthy clip; Mr. Jaffe estimates that when it reports its 2007 results in a few weeks, the company will report revenue of $1.3 billion, a 14 percent increase. It is nicely profitable."

One should note that this kind of CEO is a rare bird. Most, as we know, do their "CEO-ing" (or "CMO-ing", "COO-ing", "CFO-ing") in the ivory tower many times removed from the person who makes their large compensation packages possible. No, not the corporate board - the customer.

In another example of the front line CEO, last week, Starbuck's new CEO (former CEO) Howard Shultz took the dramatic step in closing all Starbucks stores for three hours to - get this - re-train and re-energize and remind its thousands of front line "barristas" why they had been so successful in the first place - putting the customer first.

Could Mssrs. Drexler and Shultz be onto something?

Could it be that the front line impacts the top line that, in turn, impacts the bottom line?

By jove, I think they've got it!

If you are a corporate executive, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time you were at the front lines of your business speaking with front line personnel, managers, customers? (By the way, "royal tours" with a huge entourage do not count.)

  2. Do you solely rely on second or third hand facts and figure to make decisions?

  3. Have you ever been a secret shopper of your own products and services?
In an economic downturn, consumers will gravitate to those brands that get the key basic right - customer recognition.

You can't do that in the ivory tower. Go Mickey! Go Howard!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Where's Waldo?" - Cutting Through The Clutter

Making Sure Your Brand Stands Out From The Crowd

By David Miranda

We've all been exposed to Martin Handford's famous franchise, "Where's Waldo?" where one views a picture of countless characters in a crowded setting and the challenge is to find the stealthy bespectacled "Waldo". Depending on your visual acuity and search technique, you eventually find him. Of course, from that point of discovery thereafter, every time you view the picture, you immediately find him.

Every day consumers and brands play "Where's Waldo?" for real in the marketplace and the stakes are serious - brand recognition, sales, and market share, i.e. before someone buys your product or service they have to know about it - and find it! Sounds simple, but in a crowded and cluttered marketplace there are many "Waldos" and this is why marketing is critical.

A company cannot simply introduce a brand in a crowded landscape. It must develop a compelling and recognizable brand (Waldo); position the brand to distinguish it from the other "Waldos"; and communicate and reinforce with consumers where to find (purchase) the brand's offerings. This is a relentless pursuit since the landscape continues to change and more Waldos are putting themselves in the picture every day.

Make your Waldo obvious to consumers every day with smart marketing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

No Country For Old Marketing

If You're Pining For the "Good Ole Days", You're History In Today's Marketplace

By David Miranda

Pundits opine daily whether the country is in a recession or merely a "slowdown" as the President recently described the present economic malaise.

Whatever term one decides to use, the fact is that record foreclosures, credit card debt, trade and budget deficits, and gas prices; declining value of the dollar; 48 million uninsured citizens; soft housing market; a credit crunch and a volatile stock market set the stage make for a challenging time moving forward for marketers.

What companies will do is predictable - they will contract and adapt to survive or be added to the "endangered species list". In a slowdown or recession, there is a "culling of the herd".

In this environment, advertising and promotion will not solve their company's revenue problems. As a matter of fact, desperate measures by desperate competitors could exascerbate the problem.

This is no country for old marketing.

What to do?

  1. Don't panic.

  2. Recognize and protect your base (your most loyal and frequent customers) from being "poached" by competitors.

  3. Improve your price/value offering to consumers, i.e. adding value rather than reducing price.

  4. Manage "stratactically", i.e. although economic slowdowns are typically characterized by tactical warfare, always consider the strategic implications of your tactics. Example: reducing prices instead of adding value will have long term negative implications on revenue and margins.

  5. Be proactive, not reactive. A "me-too" tactical approach, i.e. waiting to see what the other guys are doing, can be fatal in a hyper-competitive environment.

  6. Amputate anything that is extraneous to success, i.e. products, services, people.

  7. Get back to basics.
Now get on with it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recognizing Greatness - Understanding The Creative "Bell Curve"

Most Creative Is Above Or Below Average - Demand "Great"

By David Miranda

Statistically, everything in life (and marketing) falls on some point of a bell curve, i.e. 2-3% of everything sucks, 94-96% of everything is below or above average, and 2-3% of everything is great. The challenge is demanding great and not settling for anything less.

Nobody says "keep up the fair work" to inspire anyone.

Nowhere is this truer than in marketing creativity.

In today's hard-to-reach consumer environment, the currency of the realm is ideas - ideas that differientiate one brand from all others in the hearts, minds, and ultimately the wallets of consumers - ideas that sell stuff.

What's a great idea? MasterCard's "there are some things money can't buy. For everything else there's MasterCard." This is great idea.

For years, MasterCard was a poor Number Three in marketing after American Express (Don't leave home without it) and Visa (It's everywhere you want to be). During this time, MasterCard struggled to find its brand identity that would differentiate itself. It's previous unsuccessful tage line was "MasterCard, Smart Money". Now after seeking not just another mediocre campaign, it found greatness - and great success in the "Priceless" campaign while American Express and Visa now search for new ways to counteract MasterCard's success.

There are other examples of greatness - The Chik-fil-a "Cows", Nike's "Just Do It", The Aflac "duck", and the Apple "PC vs Apple" campaign to name a few.

It's high time that advertisers demand greatness found only in that 2-3% of the creative bell curve. This means that advertisers should say no to 97% of what they are presented from agency creatives.

Say no to mediocrity, say yes to great ideas.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TIVO For The Web? Protection Against Weapons Of Distraction

Will The Web Have An Ad-Skipping, Ad-Zapping Technology?

By David Miranda

I was minding my own business (or at least I thought I was) online visiting a number of my bookmarked sites as well as a few others visited for the first time. Then it started. The relentless onslaught of advertising - banners, skycrapers, sponsored links, auto-play audio and videos (with pre and post roll ads), floating ads, pop up and pop under ads, flash ads, expanding ads, etc. etc.

Some of the videos and audio, I could not stop and they even continued to play beneath the page I was viewing. As I scrambled to find the elusive close button or my volume button, I got increasingly irritated at a combination of perceived responsible parties - the advertiser, their agency, the publisher, and the ad network. I was trying to enjoy my time online and was relentless ambushed by weapons of distraction.

Is it any wonder that click through rates for online ads is like .001%. Is the other 99.999% telling us something. The online ad industry talks about engagement and behavioral targeting to provide contextual ads to the right audience. Let's call it what it is - ambush marketing.

Will someone invent a TIVO for the Web? I'd say it's a certainty. Will consumers embrace such a service? Little doubt. What would be the impact of a Web TIVO to the medium? Devastating.

What's the solution to head this off? Online advertisers and publishers need to be an advocate for the online consumer. Eliminate things that irritate, aggravate, and annoy the consumer. Think long and hard about deploying advertising that puts the consumer on the defense trying to find the "leave me alone" or "how do I turn this damn thing off" buttons.

The options are "do the right thing" or say hello to Web TIVO.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recognition Strengthens Relationships

Letting Customers Know You Care

While idly channel surfing recently, I chanced upon the Dr. Phil show. He was counselling a midde-aged married couple whose relationship had, obviously, become strained over the years. The wife related that she did not feel appreciated by her spouse. She was a working mom who, by her account, bore the largest share of the day-to-day domestic responsibilities. Her husband agreed with her assessment and said he was quite aware of his wife's contributions, and he countered that, not only was he the primary breadwinner, but he, over the course of the marriage, showered his wife periodically with various gifts, travel, and fine dining to show his appreciation. Still she was not happy. He could not understand why.

Dr. Phil listened intently and then presented some sage advice. He told the husband he took his spouse for granted. He opined that a healthy relationship is based on recognition - daily recognition that your spouse is your life partner. Periodic gifts, travel, and dining are no substitutes for personal recognition. "How was your day? "Take a break. You've had a rough day. I'll tend to the dishes." or just an embrace and "Have I told you I love you lately?"

It's high time that marketers had a little relationship therapy. It's called Recognition Marketing.

Marketers, too, have taken people for granted - their customers. Marketers spend a great deal of time, money, and lip service on how important their customers are; but there is a large gap between the preaching and the practice. Marketers are aware customers are important, but do they recognize their importance in thoughts and deeds?

Put your consumer hat on for a moment. When was the last time you were greeted when you entered a store, as in, "Good afternoon. Welcome to Acme, my name is Amy. If there is anyway I can be of assistance while you are here, please let me know." ? Or how about when you made a purchase, when was the last time you heard, "Thank you for shopping with us. We hope we will see you back soon."?

In this business world of sophisticated customer databases, wouldn't it be useful to recognize return customers at the point-of-sale, as in, "Mr. Smith, thank you for your continued patronage. On behalf of Acme, thank you for your business."? Or how about periodic thank you letters to frequent customers, as in, "We sincerely appreciate your business. As a token of our appreciation, please accept this coupon for 10% off your next visit."?

The result - a strategic competitive advantage over those who seek to solicit business only on price. All other things being equal, customers will respond to those that recognize their business. Recognition marketing also has P&L benefits since it cost five time more to acquire a customer than retain one.

Recognition marketing is not a program as much as it is a disciplined business philosophy. Recognize the lifetime value of your customers, give them the recognition they demand. Give your customers a big mental hug and let them know you love them.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today's Roadrunner - The Elusive Consumer

Marketing Lessons For The Marketing Wile E. Coyotes

By David Miranda

We have all enjoyed the futile exploits of Wile E. Coyote in his relentless quest to catch the elusive Roadrunner. Episode after episode, Wile E. concocts ingenious schemes which always includes gadgets from his favorite supplier, Acme, and always unsuccessful as the Roadrunner always escapes in a "beep, beep" and a cloud of dust. You must admire, however, Wile E.'s work ethic. Despite being repeatedly blown up, flattened by trucks and trains, burned to a crisp, and long swan dives into deep canyons, he always picks himself up; devises a new plan, and gets a new shipment from Acme.

Some marketers today have a great deal in common with Wile E. Coyote in their pursuit of the consumer, their version of the Roadrunner. Today's consumer is a smart and elusive prey. The Wile E. Coyote marketers devise ingenious plans to entice consumers and their Acme (media) supplies them with television, radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, the internet, and mobile to name of few. But more often than marketers would like to admit, they are less successful than anticipated. So like Wile E., they dust themselves off, look for a new agency and try again.

Wile E. Coyote marketers could use some sound marketing advice.

  • Even creative geniuses need to be reminded of the real objective-capturing the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Don't let a seemingly great idea distract from the real objective - getting a consumer to buy something. Sometimes marketing campaigns may win advertising awards, but fail to move the revenue needle.
  • Stop trying to come up with that one big idea that will produce spectacular results. Good marketing should build equity with consumers - engage them, create a relationship that generates lifetime value for the brand.
  • Be the consumer. Put yourself in his or her shoes. Understand their behavior, their characteristics, their perspectives. Get oneself outside the ivory tower of isolation and insulation.
  • Learn from one's mistakes and quickly. Learn from one's successes and quickly.
  • In today's diversified media landscape, extend your brand across all channels relevant to your target audience. It's about content, context, convenience, and control for the consumer.

In summary, to capture today's elusive Roadrunner consumer adapt accordingly, or prepared to hear the dreaded "beep, beep" as they disappear, not in a cloud of dust, but to smarter competitors.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marketers - Discover Your "Sense Of Human"

Remember People Buy Your Stuff, Not Marketing "Terms"

By David Miranda

Imagine going to a dinner party at a friend's house. On arrival, you knock at the door and no one answers. You discover the door is open and you enter the foyer to see a sign that says "Please wait to be seated". You observe the hosts scurrying around the premises arranging this and that while you (and other arriving guests) are massing at the door. They see you, smile, continue their activities and you hear one say to the other "looks like a number of our target audience have arrived." Finally one of the hosts comes over and the first words out of their mouth is "how many in your party?". They seat you in the living room and then ask "can I get you anything from the bar?" and then immediately disappear while you and other guests stare at each other in utter disbelief. Have these people gone mad?

Sounds crazy, but this is the typical reception that people get in restaurants every day. It is an example of the restaurant people losing "their sense of human".

It also happens in marketing where people are seen as "targets", "prospects", "eyeballs", "impressions", "click thoughs", "Gen Xers", etc. Are these the terms that these same marketers use to describe their family, friends, neighbors, colleagues? Of course not. Ever receive a direct mail solicitation addressed to you, but with the caveat "or the existing occupant"? Makes one feel very special. Or how about........

.........."Hello, mom. As a key target audience of our family, I noticed that you did not "click through" on the email I previously forwarded to confirm our call today." or.......... "Honey, our Gen Y neighbors contacted us today in response to our direct mail solicitation for a free home-cooked dinner offer. I reminded them to present the enclosed coupon on their arrival to our home."

Marketing has de-humanized the people that they wish to "engage" to buy their stuff. Simply put, marketers have lost their "sense of human".

If airlines, for example, discovered their sense of human they would be concerned about how people were treated during the typical airport experience - from departure to arrival. Airlines, however, consider people that travel "passengers" - customers that pay various fares to get from Point A to Point B - hopefully with their luggage.

So marketers need to consider this when thinking about getting people to want to buy their stuff.

Think of them as human beings. Discover your "sense of human".

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Successful Powerpoints - Blurb Your Enthusiasm

In An A.D.D. World, Make Your Message Short, Sweet, and Memorable

By David Miranda

Our collective attention spans have dramatically shortened over the years and it continues to shrink. We suffer from an A.D.D. pandemic - we scan, browse, peruse, channel surf television channels, radio stations, newspapers, internet sites, magazine articles, outdoor signs, emails, voice mails, brochures, direct mail, trade show booths, business data, executive summaries - and yes, powerpoints. This is a direct result of a confluence of factors including time poverty and compression, uber-content and distribution channels, and multi-tasking.

Despite the marketplace A.D.D., many marketers feel compelled to develop painfully long and arduous powerpoint presentations that defy logic. The result? Audiences turn off and tune out long before the point is made.

In this A.D.D. world, presenters, literally, have seconds to get someone's attention and minutes to compel an audience to listen further before they mentally turn off. This said, presenters continue to make mistakes. Here are some helpful do's and don'ts for a successful powerpoint presentation - how to "blurb your enthusiasm" in the time allotted.


  • keep the powerpoint to 10 slides or less

  • have a theme

  • utilize an eye-pleasing and readable color pallette and font type/size for the presentation one that is printable in black&white as well as colr since many people like to print out presentations.

  • have a compelling title slide, i.e. a compelling title of what are you talking about and why they should listen; your name, title, and affiliation; and the date.

  • have an agenda slide which lets the audience know what to expect and in what order, i.e. history, the current landscape, trends, the business implications, the solutions, summary, contact info. In other words "tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; and then summarize what you told them."

  • make each slide easy to quickly peruse - utilize simple graphics when appropriate; keep copy short and sweet, use memorable "sound bites".

  • provide sources/attibutions for third party data.

  • leave time for Q&A either during of after the presentations.


  • utilize unnecessary hyperbole, self-engrandizement (greatest, best, exciting, etc.),or unsubstantiated claims.

  • use too much industry lingo. People should not need a glossary.

  • use complex charts and graphs with lots of data points, particularly on one slide.

  • employ unnecessary animation or slide "builds". It can be distracting and counter-productive.

  • "dis" the competition to make yourself look better. It generally backfires.

  • have too many bullet points on a slide

In summary, to deal with an A.D.D. audience, blurb your enthusiasm in your powerpoint.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"We've Got To Stop (Internally) Meeting Like This!"

We Are Singing Off The Same Song Sheet, But We Aren't Making "Music"

By David Miranda

The cliches' are numerous describing teamwork and collaboration, i.e. "let's all get on the same page"; "we need to sing off the same song sheet"; "we all need to be rowing in the same direction", etc. Yada yada yada.

Truth be told, most internal meetings, despite the good intentions, are a waste of time. People meet just to meet - to review the minutes of the last meeting; plod through the agenda of the current meeting; and confirming the date and time of the next meeting.

An internal meeting is nothing but corporate overhead. At you next internal meeting, look around the room. What you will see is pure cost to the enterprise. If you are going to have an internal meeting, ask yourself the question "what is the ROI on the overhead of this meeting?", i.e. "How much revenue and/or profit is going to be generated as a result of our collective time in this room?"

One might argue that some meetings are necessary to discuss operational, human resources, accounting, processes, software, etc. This is true, but shouldn't all these subjects be discussed in terms of improving the company's financial performance. Otherwise what's the point?

If you are in a meeting where there is no discussion of top or bottom line, raise your hand and ask politely, "what does this meeting have to do with the company's financial performance?"

A relevant meeting begins with a relevant objective, i.e. "We need to increase our revenue by 4%" or "reduce our costs by 5%" or "increase our market share by 1%". "That's what this meeting is for so let's start the discussion".

People are generally eager to attend and participate in meetings that are action and objective oriented- where they can see results.

They don't want just to "sing off the same song sheet", they want to make "music" - as in revenue, profits, and market share.

Are You Covering All The Media Bases With Your Brand?

The New Media Continuum - Extending The Brand Horizontally

Not long ago, the media landscape was much simpler. People woke up to the radio alarm tuned to their favorite AM/FM station; read the local newspaper; turned on the television as they sipped their morning coffee. On their way to work, they listened to the car radio including traffic reports and passed countless outdoor advertising. Sure there are still many that follow the same routine, but the media landscape has changed for many American households.

Today, people may still wake up to an alarm, not necessarily the radio. Then they might check their cell phone for calls or text messages or their Blackberry for emails. Instead of the morning newspaper, many go online to read the latest news or check email. More consumers are less likely to have home delivery of the local daily. Off to work, instead of the radio, they may be making cell calls or listening to their iPods.

And so the day goes. New media channels spawning new consumer behavior.

Of course, there is no typical consumer and no typical behavior, but make no mistake about it. The media landscape is morphing and marketers must insure brands are extended horizontally across this new landscape. The chart below reflects a sampling of the new 24/7 media world. How often does your brand touch people during a typical day?


It is important to analyze how effective your media plan is in reaching consumers across an entire day including individual day parts, particularly mobile and the Internet since these allow consumer access anytime, anywhere, anytime.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Note To Marketers - Rip Off Your Rear View Mirror!

Where You've Been Has Little To Do With Where You Need To Go

By David Miranda

Yogi Berra, Hall Of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and guru of the spoken word, once said, "The future ain't what it used to be." This couldn't be any truer than in marketing. Just a few years ago, we had not heard of Google, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Tivo, Apple's "i" products, etc. Today, each has had a dramatic impact on how people communicate and consume media. None of these were found in the rear view mirror.

Today too many marketers, however, still drive marketing strategy looking in this rear view mirror. The result is an accident waiting to happen and many already have littering the marketing landscape with the road kill of victims - some deceased, some fatally injured.

The list of casualties is extensive - bricks & mortar travel agents, book and music stores; newspaper classifieds; printed yellow pages; print journalism; music labels; the :30 sec ad spot, etc. etc., and there's more to come.

What are marketers to do?

First, rip off the rear view mirror. Next, pay attention to the road ahead. Next, rid yourself of superstitious marketing behavior, i.e. believing that what was successful in the past will continue to work. Finally, don't be afraid to fail trying new things. Not being afraid to fail is different from wanting to succeed.

No more rear view mirrors.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Marketing - "Don't Let School Interfere With Your Education"

Academia Has It Place, But An "Advanced Degree" of Life Experience Is More Important

By David Miranda

Imagine attending an elite music school to study piano and for four years you learn everything there is to know about the instrument - except playing it. Upon graduation, with a "piano" degree in hand, you apply to a symphony orchestra for employment as a concert pianist. Your impressive credentials get you an interview at which you are asked to play. You respond that you have never played a single note.

This, of course, is an absurd example to make a point, but the point is important to make - school is important, but experience is critical in applying the academics.

In marketing today, it is difficult to find practictioners who have not earned undergraduate or post-graduate degrees in business or marketing. The difference between those that just have jobs and those that excel at their jobs, however, can be attributed to experience - learning in real world situations - and applying that key learning in real world situations.

In marketing, there is no such thing as doing things "by the book". In fact, there is no book on how to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. Some people might encourage others to "think outside the box", but there is no box. That's why they call it thinking.

When someone asked a great musician on the eve of his concert in New York, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" He quickly replied, "Practice, practice, practice".

Don't let school interfere with your education. "Practice, practice, practice" what you have learned - in school and in real life.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why Marketing Is A Lot Like Game Shows

Jeopardy, Deal Or No Deal, The Price Is Right, Wheel Of Fortune - Sound Familiar?

By David Miranda

Marketing has a lot in common with television game shows.

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? - How many times have you asked yourself "is your boss smarter than a fifth grader?" He or she sometimes doesn't appear to have the sense of a grammar school student in coming to grips with things so obvious, a fifth grader would get it.

Wheel of Fortune - Some marketers rely on a "spin of the wheel" to determine a brand's latest direction rather than the practice of best marketing practices. They can't seem to solve the "puzzle" so they relent and say "I'll spin again, Alex".

Deal Or No Deal - Some marketers simply cannot make a decision. They study, they research, they analyze, they re-analyze while the opportunities pass them by.

The Price Is Right - Marketers sometimes forget that it is the consumer who is the ultimate arbitor of price. It doesn't matter what the "suggested retail price" is, it only matters if it is the price that people are willing to pay.

Jeopardy - Can't push that "answer button" for consumers faster than your competitors? Can't provide the right "solutions" for consumers? You lose.

The final Jeopardy answer is "Profits".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"We're A (Expletive Deleted) Law Firm That Sells Stuff"

Lawyers - Should They Keep You Or Get You Out Of Trouble?

By David Miranda

I was speaking with a frustrated senior marketing executive friend of mine whose employer will go unnamed for this article. Asked the source of his frustration, he vented "we are a (expletive deleted) law firm that sells stuff."

After working long and arduous hours on coming up with his brand's new marketing campaign, he was required to have legal sign off on it. He said he submitted the campaign to the legal department and it was returned, weeks later, with red lines, comments in margins, scratch outs, line throughs, Post-It tabs, etc. Notes included "we can't say that", "we can't do this", "we think it would be better if this were added" etc.

Hence, the love/hate relationship between the legal and marketing departments that goes on day in and day out in the corporate world and the key question - Should a lawyer's role in marketing be to keep you out of trouble or get you out of trouble? There is no black or white answer, but there is common ground to be sought.

Lawyers should be imbedded and involved in the marketing process from the beginning. Does this require marketing-savvy lawyers or legal-savvy marketers? The answer is both.

But let's be clear. Marketers should not try to write "legal" copy and lawyers should not attempt to be marketing copywriters. Collaboration is the key to success. In marketing, there is a direct correlation between the amount of hyperbole in the campaign and the amount of "mouse print" disclaimer required by risk-averse legal counsel. For the consumer, the more mouse print disclaimer, the greater the need to take pause, as in, caveat emptor or "read the fine print".

The key objective for marketers should be to create a simple and compelling offer that is clearly stated and understood by the intended audience, i.e. does "free" mean "free" or have we gotten to the unfortnate position to a Clintonian parsing of "it depends what "is" is."

Don't be a "law firm that sells stuff". Be a great brand that says what it means and means what it says in layman's terms - not legalese.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Helpful Hints For A Successful Elevator Pitch

Imagine Pitching To Your Oldest Living Relative

Mark Twain once said, "The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it."

I recently attended a marketing industry event attended by many new business entrants who were busy networking and touting their company's offerings to anyone who would listen. I had the opportunity to chat with a number of these companies and was on the receiving end of countless elevator pitches. Although I listened attentively to each pitch, I comprehended only about 1 in 10.

What was the problem with the other 9? It didn't matter to these people that "I got it". They were speaking "at me" not "to me". They used jargon I didn't understand and examples I could not relate to. Like Mr. Twain, the more they explained, the worse it got.

Here are some helpful hints on a successful elevator pitch:

  1. Imagine you are speaking to your oldest living relative. If they get it, anyone can.

  2. Qualify your audience before you begin, i.e. background, current knowledge of topic, etc. and customize your story accordingly.

  3. Tell a good story - why you matter in the big scheme of things compared to everybody else.

  4. Speak conversationally and speak slow.

  5. Avoid hyperbole and unsupported claims, i.e "we are the greatest, most innovative, etc.

  6. Minimize industry jargon

  7. Don't bash the competition

  8. Don't use a powerpoint unless requested.

  9. Take and ask questions - do they get it?

  10. Always follow up
Good pitching!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thinking Outside What Box?

Today There Is No Status Quo

By David Miranda

It's high time we "86ed" the concept of "thinking outside the box", the "box". of course, referring to the status quo. Today in marketing, there is no status quo and, therefore, no "box" to "think out of".

Not long ago, the media status quo was comprised and dominated by three major broadcast networks; terrestial radio; local newspapers; magazines; direct mail; telemarketing; point-of-sale, and billboards. This was "the box".

In a relatively short period of time, we have witnessed, not an evolution, but a revolution in the seemingly limitless permutations and combinations of media that has enabled anyone and everyone to determine their own media consumption patterns, i.e. where they get their news, entertainment, sports, business information. In short how they choose to interact with the rest of the world. If you want to reach new or existing customers, ambush marketing won't work. They will TIVO, pop-up ad filter, spam filter, Do Not Call and Do Not Mail list you with a check mark, a mouse click, or a TV remote. Knock, knock. Nobody's home.

Broadcast television has seen the successful entry of Fox with the most successful broadcast program of all time, American Idol, not to mention Fox's success in major sports programming. Cable and satellite companies have increased the number of channels delivered from three to hundreds, not to mention video on demand. Craig's List have wrestled classified ad business from newspapers. Google and others have invented a better search mousetrap that the Yellow Pages. eBay has digitized the yard sale to worldwide proportions. The mobile device has allowed consumers to talk, search, text, take pictures and movies, and email 24/7. Blogs, social networking sites, and the YouTubes of the world have enabled consumers to instantly "communitize" with just a few friends or with the rest of the world. New technology has enabled anyone to be anything from a movie maker to a journalist to a business mogul all with only a computer, some software, a high-speed connection, and their imagination - and with wi-fi, from anywhere and anytime.

In other words, the "box" has been boxed and put away in the attic of history.

Success today and for the future will require marketers to zero-base their thinking. Newspapers and magazines, for example, need to understand that they are in the news and information business, not the paper printing business to keep and build their audience (and advertising base). Movie studios are in the entertainment business, not in the business of producing content just for movie theaters or DVD. Music labels are not in the producing CD business; they are in the finding and development of talent business and finding an audience who wants to buy it business however they want to consume it.

Marketers are in the "getting more people to buy more products and services more often to make more money" business, not the campaign creation and execution business. The latter is simply a means to the end.

What business are you really in? Who are your current and prospective customers? How do they want to be communicated to? interacted with?

The time has passed to play with boxes.