Who Cares?

Oftentimes we forget about looking at what customers really want. We get so caught up in the features and benefits that our products and services provide that we forget to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this a feature or benefit that my customer cares about?”

I am currently working with a client developing some creative to communicate the key benefits that their service provides and we had an interesting discussion. They are excited because they see some competitive advantage, some things that their competitors don’t do that they do. The question becomes, “Yes, but does anybody care about that?” Oftentimes, we get caught up in cool technology or features that provide a competitive advantage that nobody cares about.

In my consulting work and in my marketing seminars, I teach marketers how to identify the rational and emotional needs of their consumers, and then, how to turn those needs into meaningful benefits that become the focus of their communications. The key word there is meaningful, something that is going to move people. So when you are developing your communication pieces, make sure that you are touching on the needs that your customers care about.

If you want to find out more about how to communicate meaningful benefits, sign up for my half-day seminar “How to Make Yourself Irresistible to Your Customers.” Click here for details: http://www.beacon-marketing.com/programs.php

Marketing vs. Hucksterism

Please excuse me while I get on my soapbox for a minute. I was reading a post on techcrunch.com about “Secret Strategies Behind Many Viral Videos” and simply have to comment. http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/22/the-secret-strategies-behind-many-viral-videos/

The post hypes a company that “assists” in helping companies with viral campaigns, giving strategies that some young Stanford grad student/ entrepreneur uses to help companies boost viewings on YouTube and other sites. Some of the strategies are useful and interesting:

  • Keep the clip 15-30 seconds
  • Design the clip so that it can be easily remixed
  • Don’t make it a “hard sell”
  • Make sure the thumbnail is clear (suggesting high video quality)
  • Ideally the thumbnail should have a person in it
  • Have a catchy title
  • Releasing all videos simultaneously
  • Use tracking mechanisms


However, what made this blog so controversial are the other strategies listed, which are described as a “morally repugnant, disgusting,” and other choice phrases, according to the myriad comments posted. These strategies include spamming, creating fake comments, generating misleading titles, using sex to sell, paying bloggers to post, and other such noble “strategies.” Naturally, there are many comments, including, amazingly, a post back from the author which says, “What we do is grease the viral wheels. If that means commenting back and forth between fake users, who cares? It’s all about entertainment – we’re just making the whole experience entertaining.” Clearly, this young deluded Stanford grad student doesn’t have a moral compass. In the same way that sensationalism isn’t the same as journalism and a reputable auto dealer isn’t the same as a pinky-ring-wearing, plaid-coated used car salesman, these “strategies” will definitely work until such time when law-makers catch up with those who engage in these sorts of chicanery!



Now, I am not so naive as to think that products and services do not benefit from getting the boost that good marketing provides, but there need to be standards. If you are a marketer dealing with questionable tactics, look in the mirror, dig deep down, find some integrity, and fire the people who are using trickery to build your business. There are so many honest ways to work; don’t sell your soul in pursuit of a buck!

A Marketing Mis-Step for Apple?

At the MacWorld Expo on Tuesday, Apple announced that it is introducing the world’s thinnest notebook with its new MacBook Air. In order to slim this bad boy down, they had to give up lots of extras – no DVD player, no removable battery and relatively limited memory (in relation to all the music, videos, and other huge files that people now need to manipulate in the regular course of their lives). New York Times article reported “Responding to a question about the growing array of media, including digital photographs, movies and music, that now swell most users’ hard drives, Mr. Jobs said, ‘Maybe this isn’t the computer for you.'”

See full article here: www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/technology/16apple.html?_r=2&ref=business&oref=slogin&oref=slogin 

By eliminating many aspects of a notebook that many consumers simply take for granted, has Apple forgotten Marketing 101: “give the consumer what they want?” Sounds to me like they were simply determined to see how thin they could make the computer just to see if they could do it. Apple shareholders are used to the company breaking sales records (such as the four million iPhones sold in its first six months), not the Guinness Book of World’s Records with its “world’s thinnest laptop.” One would hope that someone in Cupertino was reminding the designers of the needs of the consumer.

Because Apple marketers are masters of consumer engagement, their loyal fans will buy initially, but it remains to be seen if the novelty will wear off quickly or if “slim is in” for the long haul!

Irresistible Grocery Shopping

I am giving a talk February 21, How to Make Yourself Irresistible to Your Customers, and I went in to 2 grocery stores in Pennsylvania that are great examples of two brands actively trying to accomplish this. Giant and Wegman’s are two grocery stores in Pennsylvania that are working hard to understand their customers’ lives and adapt to their needs.

Giant has built a superstore that has, in addition to all of the groceries and fresh produce you would ever want, a cooking school, a cafe, a children’s care center so that you can shop while your children play and a community center that has meeting rooms and catering available for a myriad of civic events.

Wegman’s is an up-scale superstore with a “European market” type feeling. The pharmacy area feels like a pharmacy; the bookstore area feels like a bookstore; there is a market cafe and deli, there is a Starbucks-esque dining/meeting area. They have tea sampling; they have an area where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about cheese, and they sell newspapers from all the major US and international cities the world.

These are two stores that are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and become indispensable to their communities, and it’s working. As one customer described Wegman’s business, “People are coming in from the hills in droves, just to shop here.” These companies need to be competitive, to find ways to make the shopping experience so pleasant that no one would ever consider going anywhere else. Both are meeting the needs of their community in very different ways. It creates a highly competitive environment, and it will be interesting to see who will win. My money is on the consumer!

Secrets from the Self- Improvement Industry

If marketing gets boiled down to its essence of having the right message delivered at the right time to the right audience via the right vehicles, then surely there are some simple lessons to be gleaned from those in the health & fitness industries. As I see all of the ads on TV for various self-improvement services (health clubs, diet foods, etc.), two concepts some to mind:

Relevancy: As people re-evaluate their lives (and more importantly for us as marketers, their behaviors), we need to reiterate for them why our products or services should play a role in their lives.

Seasonality: If your business is seasonal, you need to make sure that you are doing all that you can to capture your consumer’s attention at the right time. I have worked in many highly seasonal industries (the toy industry lives or dies by the Christmas season just as surely as the lawn & garden industry lives or dies by how robust its spring planting season is).

Timing is important; do you know when your customers actively think about your product/service offerings? Are you speaking to them then?

Strong Positioning Statements Withstand the Test of Time

A strong brand positioning statement can apparently withstand toddler-hood, our judicial system and the test of time. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a campaign that Domino’s is introducing to play off of its 30 minute delivery heritage.

It’s a smart play on an existing heritage, as the WSJ reports, “Research found that as many as 30% of Domino’s customers still remembered it as the 30-minute delivery chain, even though those ads hadn’t run since Bill Clinton’s first year as president. Meantime, delivery had become an even more important part of American culture because of online shopping and movie delivery.”

The WSJ article states, “Domino’s made its name in pizza delivery by running ads that offered a discounted or free pie if the driver didn’t arrive within 30 minutes of an order. But in 1993, a St. Louis woman who was involved in an auto accident with a Domino’s delivery person sued the company on the grounds that the 30-minute pledge led to accidents. After hiring a new advertising agency, Domino’s now plans to rebrand itself around a play on the old slogan. New ads slated to start running Christmas Eve will carry the tagline “You Got 30 Minutes.” The idea is to tell customers that ordering from Domino’s gives them back 30 minutes they would have spent rustling up a meal. But it stops short of promising delivery in a half hour.”

The only part that doesn’t make sense is that they said that they are shifting their target audience to the under 30 crowd. Target consumers aged 18-30 were anywhere from 3-15 years old! I’m guessing that the media plan delivering the 30-minute guarantee in the late 80’s and early 90’s was not aimed at this target!

Regardless, kudos to the Agency for having the discipline to leverage the Domino’s heritage rather than settling for just another empty, me-too quality pizza message.

You can read the whole story here:



In a tele-seminar course I am teaching, we are talking about how to develop Positioning Statements. To prepare, I was doing some background research and find that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The marketing principles outlined by the advertising greats of the 60’s (David Ogilvy, Al Ries & Jack Trout, Rosser Reeves) are still the same today….they just have to “morph’ with the times. 

I read an article written by Nick Wreden of FusionBrand. He is brand strategists who helps companies doing business in Asia. http://www.brandingasia.com/columns/011.htm

In the article, he postured that brand positioning was dead because “…The exercise is a company-driven process that reflects how companies wish to sell (“the leading provider of …”) instead of determining what – and how – customers seek to buy. Such posturing worked well in the mass economy, but the tactic is doomed to failure in, as the Economist pointed out, a customer-driven world…. Companies can “position” themselves as anything, but unless there is essentially a customer-driven consensus on the brand’s wiki, then the “positioning” is no more than corporate posturing. Instead of seeking to unilaterally “position” their products, companies focused on branding today must devote resources to defining, delivering, measuring and sustaining the value that customers feel they receive.”

That would be a problem if the company sits in an office and dreams up the positioning out of its own head….but that’s not how strong positions are developed! They are developed by talking to consumers, finding out what resonates, and reinforcing something unique that is already believed about a product. It must ring true, which was just as true in the 60’s and 70’s as it is today. The long-standing  “Avis. We Try Harder” positioning came from talking to people in the field, who told Rosser Reeves that they had to try harder because their business was struggling. The ad teams saw the possibilities and an entire company philosophy was then, over decades, built around that positioning.

It doesn’t matter what decade you are talking about; positioning must come from the mind of the consumer.