Thursday, August 28, 2008

Powered by Service



"The goal as a company is to have customer service that is
not just the best, but legendary."

-Sam Walton

We can send a man to the moon, construct a canal to connect two oceans and create cars powered by electricity, yet it's funny how most shoe sizes conveniently stop at size 13. Why can't shoe companies follow the "bigger is better" mantra? It sounds trivial, but have you ever walked into a department store and witnessed store employees shaking their heads? Watch them scramble to the find only one pair of shoes that will fit your feet? Recommend you pursue a career in barefoot water skiing? Yes, there are advantages to being tall, but you can easily stub your toes with size 15 feet.

Sympathizing with Godzilla, Shaquille O'neil or any other Bigfoot, Zappos.com is resizing the way consumers experience shoe shopping. The world's largest shoe store offer selections that satisfy every whim, need and size from Tinkerbell to King Kong. What's remarkable about Zappos is they charge no sales tax, offer free premium shipping and provide excellent customer service. Don't like the style you purchased? No problem. Want to try on two different sizes of the same shoe? No problem. Zappos.com provides free shipping for returns and allows customers to return items with no hassle.

Our digital era encourages slick advertisements, marketing campaigns that dazzle your imagination and viral videos that highlight your company's product, but how many companies still focus on the basics? Zappos' banal advertisements will not win a Clio, but the company's superior customer service impresses the masses, increases repeat shopping and encourages customers to spread the word. It's one thing to watch a funny viral video on Youtube highlighting a company, but it's another thing to provide excellent service that encourages consumers to share their shopping experience with friends. Now, that's a legendary quality that will fit all sizes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Make a Splash

From jog-a-thons to relays to marathons, charities have utilized running as a crucial stepping stone for program fundraising. It's an effective way to make individuals feel part of a cause, see the impact of their charitable efforts and join a community of like minded people. Although each charity is well deserving of support, it seems that every month there is a new jog-a-thon or run relay soliciting for funds. The redundancy of similarly designed fundraisers can cause some contributors to avoid donating to each cause.

Remember Lance Armstrong's Livestrong wristband? In 2004, the wristband was introduced to raise money for The Lance Armstrong Foundation. Within 6 months, the foundation's $25 million fundraising goal was achieved and over 70 million Livestrong wristbands have been sold to date. As other charities witnessed the success of the Livestrong wristband, variations of the band were introduced to the marketplace. Quickly, consumers had a rainbow of wristband colors to purchase. The novelty of wearing a wristband, became lost in the clutter of selection. How many of those wristbands do we see now?

As more nonprofits are searching for innovative ways to build their endowments and distinguish from other fundraising efforts, I'm surprised more don't think outside the track and make a splash into the pool. For example, SwimWithMike, an annual swim-a-thon held in Los Angeles to raise money for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, brings together athletes in a refreshing way. Instead of sweating around a track, the community rallies around a pool to raise money. From swimming laps to a Belly Flop contest, the community is brought together with various pool-oriented activities to raise money for the better good. ...And it works! SwimWithMike has raised over $7.3 million dollars in the past 27 years.

As summer is setting and charities are brainstorming events for next year, why not consider a refreshing fundraiser instead of following the other charities around the track? It may create the big splash your charity deserves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The thrill is in the pursuit



"Happiness lies in the joy of achievement
and the thrill of creative effort."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

From winning a Olympic gold medal to learning a new skill, achievements are measured by different metrics and reached by conquering prior triumphs and failures. An achievement's magnitude varies on goals, prior accomplishments and expectations. Are you looking to redeem your prior dominance? Or are you a Cinderella story that is honored to stand on the podium? Although expectations are different, the thrill is often the same.

The Olympic closing ceremony reminds the world to enjoy the moment and be proud of diverse accomplishments. Although not every athlete won a medal, each athlete's commitment and dedication is recognized by the ceremony. Each athlete is united by camaraderie, a bond that transcends all languages, ethnicities and athletic levels. There can only be one Jordan ...one Tiger ...one Phelps --but each of us can move forward to accomplishing our individual goals and enjoying happiness gained from each step forward.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zai Jian



As the world prepares to say goodbye or zai jian to the 2008 Summer Olympics, I thought it is appropriate to enjoy The China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe's Buddha with 1000 Hands Performance.

The group was founded in 1987 "to advance equal opportunity for artistic expression for persons with disabilities." The troupe has been called the "Image Ambassador for People with Disabilities" by the Disabled People's World Assembly and designated a "UNESCO Artist for Peace."

The Buddha with 1000 Hands Performance reminds us that one is many and many is one. The fusion of similar interests can overcome obstacles and differences to create harmonic balance. In order to find balance, we must be willing to cooperate and work with others to construct bridges of continuity and synchronization.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lets go viral

Phelps may have won 8 Olympic gold medals this summer, but can he walk on water? The Iphone is slick, but does its packaging include a fireworks display? Incubating the subservient chicken's egg, Electronic Arts and Samsung are hatching viral results with recent social media marketing.





Instead of taking a passenger's seat and allowing a fan to drive home the last laugh, Electronic Arts posted a witty response to a programming glitch and portrayed the real Tiger walking on water. EA's rebuttal illustrates the importance of companies listening and actively engaging in the conversation ...and if there is a problem with a product or service, address it with a positive and humorous response.





Samsong's Omnia (i900) Unboxing Movie blurs the line of user authenticity with special effects and creativity. The Iphone may be the coolest mobile phone, but the battle for coolest marketing is up for grabs.

Although the industry, company size or product can vary, constructively engaging in social media positions brands ahead of the competition.

It's all about: Listening - Engaging - Authenticity - Humor - Creativity

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teamwork

Intangibles are the currents that help carry innovative ideas across uncharted seas. They are beyond the realm of control and can be easily forgotten. Intangibles frequently make the difference between failure and victory, bankruptcy and wealth, war and peace. They provide the extra push across the finish line. No matter how much money, education, strength or training, intangibles are often the reasons why good stories become epic.

One of the most important intangibles is teamwork. Teammates are selected on character, experience, discipline and merit, but their overall performance is often out of the selector's control.

-Would Michael Phelps break Mark Spitz's Olympic gold medal record without Jason Lezac's incredible come-from-behind victory on the 4x100 free relay?

-Would Michael Jordan win 6 world championships without Scottie Pippen on the court?

-Would Bill Gates and Microsoft achieve blockbuster success without Steven Ballmer's business savvy?

With each success story there are priceless intangibles pushing the winners across the finish line and separating the champions from the herd. Surround yourself with good teammates and you too may be pushed first across the finish line.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Price = Quality?



What separates a luxury product from a generic product? Is it the product's quality? Or is it strictly the price that makes the product appear exclusive?

Cha-Ching! Recently, the "I Am Rich" Iphone application sold for $999 on Apple's App Store. Very expensive, considering Iphone applications normally retail between one to five dollars. The "I Am Rich's" features are extremely basic and trivial. I would actually be surprised if they turned a grin on Richie-Richie's face. Despite the exorbitant price, eight people purchased they "I Am Rich" application before Apple removed it from the App Store.

What can we learn from the "I Am Rich" application? Well, that a niche of Iphone users are interested in exclusivity more than price and function.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple's Iphone App Store is generating $1 million in daily sales and Steve Jobs expects annual revenues to reach a billion dollars in a few years. As new applications are listed on the App Store and products enter the marketplace, it's important to realize that price may be the only difference in the actual product, which can create the allusion of luxury and exclusivity.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Congrats


(Michael Phelps by Tiner)

"You can't put a limit on anything.
The more you dream, the farther you get."
-Michael Phelps



Thursday, August 14, 2008

Determination



"Never, never, never quit!"-Winston Churchill

People often believe the big picture develops quickly and perfectly. Success is often the spotlight's focus and failure is uncomfortable to discuss. Society frequently forgets the world's biggest success stories are developed with determination, persistence and conquering failure.

-Henry Ford's first two businesses went bankrupt, but his third revolutionized the automobile industry.
-R.H. Macy went bankrupt with his first three stores.
-Mark Zuckerberg started two social networking sites, before he launched Facebook.

Sometimes it takes a little extra courage, trial & error and determination to cross the finish line.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Joining Good Company



"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Isaac Newton

I'm excited that I won Greg Verdino's contest and will attend next month's Inbound Marketing Summit in Cambridge, MA. The summit will feature several distinguished marketers, including Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, Chris Brogan and Greg Verdino.




I'm also excited that AdAge Magazine added my blog to the company's Power150 list of the top media and marketing blogs. Thank you very much for your interest in my entries. I look forward to sharing more.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nickel & Dime




"We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we're in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There's no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either." -Steven Balmer

United Airlines is soaring with promotion at this summer's Olympic Games. The brand's creative primetime commercials highlight the airline's new international first and business class, but is the company in touch with reality?

Earlier this summer, United followed American Airlines and started charging passengers $15 a bag for the first piece of checked luggage, $25 for the next piece and $125 for the third. They also charge $5 for snacks and $2 for non-alcoholic beverages. What's next? Inserting a token slot on the bathroom door?

Yes, the price of oil has skyrocketed, but is this a legitimate excuse to jeopardize the customer's experience? The added fee only encourages more passengers to jam their carry ons into the overhead compartments. Why not simply raise the ticket price by $15, instead of charging consumers a last minute fee at the terminal? Does a last minute add on develop a brand for the long term?

United should focus on creating a positive flying experience for ALL passengers, instead of promoting their exclusive first class service with expensive primetime Olympic commercials. Imagine if the company did not charge for checked baggage, reversed the strategy and awarded $50 flight vouchers as a simple thank you for flying with United. Wouldn't that help improve the company's image? $50 does not cover an entire flight, but it does entice and motive consumers to fly United again. ...more than a creative commercial and last minute nickel and diming.

Lets say, the average Olympic commercial costs $2 million USD for 30 seconds of airtime. If United skipped one Olympic commercial spot, they could avoid the $15 checked baggage fee and award $50 flight vouchers to over 30,000 passengers. Now, wouldn't that help improve a customer's experience, increase loyalty and generate positive buzz for the brand?

New customer acquisition is often the focus of business development, but companies should also focus on retaining current consumers to ensure longevity in the marketplace and not "diverge from reality."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reciprocity

How did Warhol help ensure his 15 minutes of fame?
...He sent holiday cards to celebrities and received cards in return.


How does Ghirardelli Chocolate entice people to enter the store?
...Employees distribute free samples, turning browsers into potential customers.

How do companies maximize efficiency?
...They award bonuses and workers exert more effort.

These examples all have one rule in common: reciprocity. According to Cialdini, reciprocity is a social norm that states if I give something to you or help you in anyway, then you are obliged to return the favor. It sounds basic, but the Golden Rule creates networking and marketing opportunities that leverage results.

From free gifts to reward point programs, reciprocity is daily used to manipulate our decisions. There is a real estate agent in my neighborhood who distributes holiday and seasonal gifts, ranging from magazines to handwritten cards. Do you think it is a coincidence that the majority of neighborhood houses for sale are his listings?

How can you make reciprocity work for your brand or career? Try leveraging the theory with a simple, handwritten card. It's a small, inexpensive and thoughtful way to positively connect with people. ...And who knows? It can possibly lead to your 15 minutes as well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Refresh



(Coastal Refreshment (C) Tiner)


Bigger & Better



One of my favorite Web 2.0 stories is how Kyle MacDonald started with one red paper clip and completed 14 trades to end with a house. It's a remarkable story about passion, sincerity, determination and community. Since 2006, MacDonald has published a book about the story and a movie is currently being produced about the extraordinary adventure.

What can we learn from a little red paper clip? Well, actually a lot.

"I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted ... I just don't know which half." -John Wanamaker, father of the department store and modern advertising

Frequently, brands spend millions for impressive advertisements and fancy promotions that miss the mark, because consumers are not engaged. Additionally, companies often believe the secret to traffic results is having their website listed first on a Google keyword search. But are expensive promotions, advertisements and purchased keywords really just wasting half of a company's advertising dollars?

MacDonald's story illustrates the importance of engaging community first and spending money second. He connected his brand, himself, with a variety of people through personal connection, a story and free Internet media. MacDonald's fame grew over time and was sustainable, unlike popular Internet movie stars that are here today gone next click. His social equity accelerated as consumers rallied around his extraordinary idea, not around the actual product he was trading.

An extraordinary idea? A purple cow? Is that all it takes? ....Try it for yourself and be the judge.

Innovators


(Hugh Macleod by Tiner)



(Greg Verdino by Tiner)


“Change can be deadly; for others, it can become a
distinct competitive advantage, but you need to recognize the trends and technologies that are affecting the way we do business and understand how to leverage them to drive bottom line results.” –Greg Verdino

Thursday, August 7, 2008

America has Paris




Instead of standing on the sidelines, Paris Hilton is writing humor across the political ballot. Earlier this week, I critiqued McCain's criticism of Obama's popularity and recently Paris posted her own response.

Paris' ability to laugh at herself illustrates a fundamental rule of going viral: add humor. It sounds basic, but when you combine a current topic and simple laugh with a celebrity the possibilities are endless. In three days, Paris' response has already accumulated over 5 million views. The movie moves her back into the spotlight without controversy. Now, what brand or candidate would not want that marketing reach?

Think you have a better sense of humor? You2gov.com is offering a monetary prize for the most creative 30 second commercial that supports either candidate.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Relax. It's Still Summer



(Coastal Tranquility (C) Tiner)


Cool, but can it be epic?

From Abercrombie to Zoo York, the t-shirt business is over sized with competition. How do you convince consumers to purchase your t-shirt instead of a substitute? How quickly can you sell this season's inventory, before the next season arrives? Do you make your product cheap? Expensive? Well, how about both?

Screening new rules, 200 Nipples is resizing the textile model. Each month 200 Nipples offers 1 design and screens 100 limited edition t-shirts, ranging from $1 to $100. The first shirt in the series starts at $1.00, the second is $2.00, the third ...well you get the drift. If the company sells the entire edition, then the total sales are $5,500. It's a simple, innovative and profitable model. ...But is it working?

The company doesn't have a problem selling the first 40 t-shirts, but who is willing to purchase #92, #73 or any other high # in the series? Is it a status symbol? Is there a cool factor? What's going to motivate people purchase the expensive t-shirts? Where are the rewards and perks?

What if the company placed a few hidden perks and rewards behind random #'s in the upper fifties? How about a company gift-certificate? Or an exclusive email to purchase the first shirt in next month's series? Or a signed print of the design from the month's featured artist? These perks will help motivate consumers to purchase the remaining t-shirts and do not subtract from the company's bottom line.

Sometimes an innovative idea separates us from the competition, but it can take a little extra motivation for consumers to cross our finish line.

Where is the Internet going?

"There is so much media now with the Internet and people, and so easy and so cheap to start a newspaper or start a magazine, there’s just millions of voices and people want to be heard." -Rupert Murdoch

Recently, Kansas State professor Michael Wesch gave a lecture entitled,"An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube," at the Library of Congress. Wesh highlighted several viral Youtube videos from the past three years to illustrate the impact of social media on world cultures. The movie conveys how video communication is socially evolving and illuminates the path for where the Internet is possibly going.

Wesh is the epitome of how individuals can use Web 2.0 media to advance their careers and establish relationships beyond their physical realm. Two years ago he created and posted the Youtube movie Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us, which describes web communications in five short minutes. Wesh created the video from pure passion and was excited when it received a 100 views. Little did he know that it would quickly receive millions of views and solidify his voice as a Web 2.0 expert. He did not receive financial gain from those millions of hits, but he is in high demand for guest lectures, mostly recently at the Library of Congress.

If you have an hour to spare, I would recommend watching Wesh's recent Library of Congress lecture that is posted below. It shines a light on the path ahead.



Monday, August 4, 2008

The Right Marketing Ammunition?



"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." -Robert Kennedy

Last week, John McCain attacked Barack Obama's rock star popularity with two politically charged advertisements. The first implicitly compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, while suggesting he will increase taxes and foreign oil dependency. The second used religious references to indirectly suggest Obama is the second coming of Christ and questioned his leadership ability. Both neglected to offer what McCain brings to the table and simply pointed a finger at Obama.

Is this the right marketing direction for McCain? Why does he need to criticize the competition in hope of positively promoting his brand?

Is Obama, 47, going to point a finger back at McCain, 71, for being too old to lead? McCain was born 1936. The Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, the CIA was formed in 1947 and Alaska became a state in 1959; all happening before Obama's birth in 1961. Now doesn't that make McCain seem really old? But does this change his ability to lead? No. The same way that being popular does not change a person's ability to lead.

If McCain is struggling to compete with Obama's viral marketing machine and connect with younger voters, why doesn't he turn to his family jewel? Barak has Obama Girl, but John has Meghan, his attractive 23-year old daughter. She doesn't have to prance around in a bikini, but her charm and intelligence can be placed more in the spotlight to promote her dad. Now, wouldn't that help win a voter's heart and ballot? Instead of pointing a finger at the competition?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

LISTEN to your customers



"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." -Bill Gates

Two years ago, GMC partnered with Donald Trump's The Apprentice and launched a website inviting the public to create a commercial for the Tahoe. The winning commercial would air during The Apprentice.

Sounds like a good idea, right? Engaging potential consumers in your brand? Being one of the first Fortune 100 companies to offer a user generated contest? Well, in theory, yes. In practicality, no.

To borrow the words of Donald, "You're Fired!" The marketing plan quickly melted into an inconvenient truth. Some participants highlighted the Yukon's irrational exuberance and environmental strain, which quickly shifted the ploy's gears into reverse. These parodies were created when gas still cost around $3 per gallon and "hybrid" was a word reserved for affluent white-collar hippies.

"Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war." -Donald Trump

Flash forward two years to today and GM is still finding a way to win the war. The company did not adequately listen to consumer's early honk for change and are now paying a hefty price. Think $5 USD a gallon is expensive? Well, try a second-quarter net loss of $15.5 Billion. Yes, even that makes the Tahoe's $85.00 fill-ups seem trivial.

Could GM have prevented this hefty and embarrassing loss? Well, if the company listened to 2006's consumer generated parodies, they could have taken earlier restructuring measures. Sometimes it pays to listen to your unhappy customers from the start, instead of putting them in the backseat. Yes, your company may take a minor detour, but it can prevent a major crash. ...in GM's case amounting to billions and thousands of lost jobs.



Friday, August 1, 2008

August Desktop


(San Clemente (C) Tiner)

“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.” -Claude Monet

Enjoy the beauty of a San Clemente sunset for this month's free desktop.