Saturday, May 02, 2009

One More Social Media Story

Wrapping up today, I have one last social media blog post, this is from the Customer's Rock Blog:

Where does social media fit in?

social-media-bandwagonThis blog’s main focus is on customers and how businesses can grow organically by building their success on their customer base. I have written posts on customer experience, customer service, and customer-focused marketing (no, not all marketing is customer-focused!). Since I have been teaching my class at UC San Diego, “Marketing via New Media”, I have been spending a lot more time speaking about where social media fits in to all of this.

Social media is the big buzz right now. Everyone wants to get their business on Twitter or Facebook without really thinking about why. Usually, it is because their manager or client read an article in the Wall Street Journal about who is using Twitter/Facebook/fill-in-the-blank and how cool it is. And indeed, there are a lot of great reasons to use social media to market a business. I believe one of the most powerful reasons to market with social media is to build and strengthen customer relationships.

Part of the Customer Experience

How customers perceive your company online is part of their experience with your organization. Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, many of them are spending time on social media regularly in order to keep up with friends, make connections, or learn new information. According to a recent study by Cone Research in September 2008, Americans using social media also want to engage with their favorite organizations and brands in that space (emphasis is mine):

  • 93% believe a company should have a social media presence
  • 85% believe a company should interact via social media
  • 56% feel they have a stronger connection with and are better served by companies where they can interact via social media

The study goes on to state this:

“…Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media.”

Customers definitely view their experience with a brand/organization via social media as an integral part of their relationship with that brand.

Connecting with Your Advocates

While many organizations are currently using social media as a way to increase awareness and do online PR, the sweet spot is in connecting with your customers and empowering them to interact with you. Per the book Groundswell (which I use as my class textbook), companies can use social media to listen to customers, talk with (not AT) customers, energize customers (especially evangelists), support customers, and embrace customers (co-create with them). These uses can all be applied to improving customer relationships.

Anyone who has heard me speak about using social media for marketing knows that I first encourage organizations to listen to what is being said about them online. Unless you first listen to the discussion, you will look a little silly jumping in to the conversation with your own agenda. It’s similar to going to a party and interjecting yourself into groups which are already talking amongst themselves. Your words will be out of context, and you may be seen as rude! However, if you listen first, you will be able to add value to the discussion by being relevant, and you will probably be a lot more interesting.

Once some listening has taken place, the stage is set for planned interaction. You can do this by having your own “party”, and inviting your customers to come and join you OR you can find out where your customers are already “partying” and go meet them there. In other words, you can invite your customers to come to your site or social media property and interact with you, or you can go and engage with them wherever they are already interacting around your brand. Either way can work, depending on your business and your customer relationships.

Companies that have well-established relationships with their customers will discover that social media is a great tool which complements their existing interactions. Companies that have only been using one-way communication with customers will have a little work to do to get them to engage, not just once in a social media campaign, but on an ongoing basis. They should find their customers are eager and ready as long as the conversation is relevant to their needs!

Social Media and Customer Loyalty

Over the past 6 months, I have had the opportunity to talk face-to-face with a number of well-respected people in business about social media marketing. I asked them each the same question:

“How do you think social media can help with customer loyalty?”

I captured their responses with my Flip video camera, and I will be featuring different videos over the next few weeks here on Customers Rock! Please let me know what you think about social media and customer loyalty, as well as about the videos in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or via my Twitter page.

Here is one of the videos, which I have previously posted on Customers Rock!, to get you started.

Frank Eliason, Comcast (@comcastcares on Twitter)

(Opening image credit: Matt Hamm on flickr)

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THINKing about Social Media Part 2

Here's the follow up to the last post:


Link to THINKing

Social Media Questions

Posted: 30 Apr 2009 06:15 AM PDT

In part 1 of this series we talked about the strategic approach to social media. Now, it’s time to start asking some serious questions about your target audience.

Is it going to be the end consumer, strategic allies or channel partners? Architects, for instance, could deliver more value to you than the person living in the home. This doesn’t preclude you from having a program for all channels. But it is best to go after the best customer first.

So, who is your best “customer”? What demographic, psychographic and geographic attributes do they have? What do they need or want from you?

Where will you find them? What are their media habits - both online and offline? What’s the best way to reach and interact with them?

Based on this knowledge, what should be the focus of your online or social networking presence? Are they looking for fact-based information, inspiration or both? Or perhaps a digital customer service approach is the best way to go.

When you answer the questions above, the other tumblers will begin to fall into place. Should you be on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter or all of the above? What about a blog, a wiki, or Youtube? Your audience definition answers will tell you your next steps.

We’ll do some more social media planning in our next installment.

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THINKing about Social Media Part 1

From the Thinking Blog:


Link to THINKing

Social Media: Strategic Or Tactical?

Posted: 29 Apr 2009 10:17 AM PDT

A friend asked me recently to come talk with him about social media. He has an international client that still focuses on the traditional methods of reaching influencers, the channel and consumers. He wants to think through whether social media is viable for this brand. So, that got me thinking about the nature of social media. This is the first in a series of posts about social media planning.

During my more than 30 years in communications there is one thing that has become clear to me: strategy should come first. So, it’s no surprise that I believe that you should outline your social media strategy first and then the tactics will typically fall into place. Lee Odden has a good post outlining the possible outcomes a social media program might include:

  • Gain insight into a community of interest -You can run all the customer surveys you want, but some of the most interesting and progressive market research can be found within the social communities where your customers interact, share information and make recommendations. Tapping into the streams of dialog is a great start to engagement and social participation with your brand.
  • Build brand visibility and authority - You’ve heard it before, “Conversations are happening online about your brand, with or without you.” You might as well participate and do so in a way that pays close attention to the interests and needs of your customers - providing them with information and interactions that further support your brand.
  • Influence and promotion of products/services - Providing information to educate customers about your products in the formats and media types they prefer can go a long way towards building the kind of buzz that results in new business. By promotion, I mean advertising on social media sites.
  • Link building for traffic and SEO - Creating linkbait and promoting it to social media news and bookmarking sites can attract a slew of links from bloggers that read them. However, sustaining high levels of promotion to the same site or with the same user accounts will quickly be outed as social media spam. Creating value for the community is not the only rule, creating value and behaving according to formal and unwritten rules is what sustains social media sourced link building.
  • Drive traffic for ad revenue models - Becoming a power user of several social communities involves consistently contributing quality content, rewarding those who vote positively on that content as well as growing a large base followers. That base of like-minded connections can serve as an effective distribution channel for unique and interesting content which drives traffic to ad supported blogs that host the content. The linkbait suggestion above not only attracts links, but also attracts traffic. However, many ad supported sites report that traffic from social media sites is notorious for not clicking on ads. It’s the bloggers that write about linkbait content first viewed on social media sites that drive the kind of traffic which results in ad clickthroughs.

Now, not everyone of these outcomes is right for every brand. To determine which ones are right you have to ask some questions. We’ll delve into that next time.

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Quick Tip for a Long Lasting Relationship

When every customer is more and more valuable...

Close Any Open Doors
During tough times, proactive salespeople minimize the odds of losing business to the competition by personally handling buyers' complaints before they evolve into major problems.

They also follow up after the fact to ensure buyers are satisfied with the way the situation was resolved, and ask if there's anything else they can do to help.

Source: Sales consultant Dave Kahle, president of the DaCo Corporation (

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Night Marketing News

Clickables from Mediapost:

by Les Luchter
The avalanche of news stories and Web chatter referencing "swine flu" has rankled the image-conscious National Pork Board. Several days after assuring consumers that they could not contract "swine influenza" from eating pork, the industry group -- perhaps best known for its "other white meat" image campaign -- declared that the outbreak should now be called by its scientific name, "Flu H1N1." ... Read the whole story > >
by Aaron Baar
With ease of navigation and a simple interface, Apple's iPhone earns top marks for customer satisfaction when it comes to smartphones, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates. With its intuitive touchscreen and easy-to-understand AppStore, the iPhone landed a score of 791 (on a 1,000-point scale) in J.D. Power's Wireless Consumer Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
Convenience chain 7-Eleven is running one of its biggest motion-picture promotions to date against Warner Brothers' "Terminator Salvation," which hits big screens on May 21. Leading up to the movie's May 21 release, 7-Eleven will promote the movie in its stores, and online, and the brand is also in the movie. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
So what's a Mexican cerveza brand that markets to Mexican Americans doing promoting a mega fight in Las Vegas featuring a Filipino and an Englishman? Well, it's not so farfetched. The two fighters in question, number-one-ranked Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao and World Junior Welterweight champ Ricky "Hit-Man" Hatton, happen to have a fan base that transcends their nationalities. ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
As the recession grinds on, consumers continue to refine their skinflint ways, making it harder for retailers to keep their attention. But one thing is becoming clearer: Every time shoppers do open their wallets, they gain a little bit more power. ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
ScottsMiracle-Gro is hoping that the recession will keep more Americans in their backyard this summer, and is launching its first TV ad for wild birdseed. ... Read the whole story > >

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Starbucks STILL trying to fix their image

In another attempt to fight their way back out of the red and into the black, Starbucks is making another big mistake.

They are going to try and fix an image problem with advertising, instead of fixing the cause of the image problem.

To me, Starbucks isn't special. I don't like their brew. I do like their white mocha. I don't like the fact that I can't get free wifi at a Starbucks. But I can at many locally owned shops.

This is from

Starbucks reveals long-term ad campaign

By Jonathan Birchall in New York

Published: April 30 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 30 2009 03:00

Starbucks, the coffee company that built its business on word-of-mouth recommendations, is to reveal “a long term, multi-million dollar” advertising campaign in the US, as it seeks to combat perceptions that its products are over-priced.

Howard Schultz, chief executive, said the campaign would “define the fact of what's true and what’s not”.

The campaign would use television and newspaper advertising as well as in-store materials and digital content, and will, says Mr Schultz, be focused on “the quality, value, and the values that Starbucks offers”.

“We’re doing a very good job of starting to demystify the fact that Starbucks coffee does not cost $4 as people are charging us with ... and you’ll see us communicate that in the campaign,” he said.

Since Mr Schultz resumed the position as chief executive early last year, the company has sought to improve its reputation for “value” amid the current recession, while trying to maintain its brand image as a premium customer experience.

This has included introducing discounted “paired” combinations of food and coffee earlier in the year, and plans for a large iced-coffee costing less than $2.

Mr Schultz said the company’s research indicated the new “value focused” offerings had improved customers’ perception of the value of its products.

“We would give ourselves pretty good marks for entering the space of value and doing it our way, and at the same time maintaining the pricing power of the company,” he said.

Competitors, including both McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, have sought to win customers from Starbucks over the past year with enhanced offerings of speciality expresso-based coffees at lower prices.

Mr Schultz argued that customers who opted for fast-food locations “know that they are compromising and I know that's going to play well for us in the future”.

News of the advertising push came as the retailer said worldwide comparable sales fell by 8 per cent during its second quarter, following last year’s 9 per cent drop, owing to a 5 per cent decline in the number of customer visits and a 3 per cent decline in average transactions.

Net sales fell 7.6 per cent to $2.3bn, while net earnings fell 77 per cent to $25m, or 3 cents a share, owing in part to the affect of $152.1m of restructuring charges mostly linked to closing more than 600 outlets.

However, the company said it was encouraged by the stabilisation of its operating margins, and said it was making “good progress” towards its goal of cutting costs this year by $500m.

It plans to have closed more than 1,000 stores by the end of the year.

Mr Schultz said he was very pleased with the recent launch of Starbucks’ new Via instant coffee in New York, Seattle, Chicago and London.

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The Economy is Booming

Or it will be one day... Are you ready? Art Sobczak:

Get a Head Start on the Economic Upswing

The stock market has been steadily inching up over the past
few weeks. Economic indicators are showing signs of
improvements. Economists who study such things are even
whispering that things are getting better.

And NOW is a great time to plan for the level of success
you want three months, six months, a year from now, and
beyond, when this train is really storming down the tracks.
Let's look at some ways to do that.

Protect Your Best Accounts
First, maintain and grow what you have. Your competitors
might be reading this and are targeting your best accounts.
Don't assume everything is OK if you don't hear from them.
Be proactive and ask what else you can do for them.

Call Your Inactive Accounts
They became inactive for a reason. Find out why and fix
it if you can. If things were not going well for them and
they struggled during a downturn, be there when they
ride the wave up.

Exploit Your Strengths
Differentiate yourself and your company. Specialize.
Sell into niches. Become an expert in a certain area.

Ask for More Referrals
When making your regular "Value Added" calls, make
it a point to ask who else they know who might also be
able to take advantage of the same types of benefits/
results they receive from you. People who run businesses
that are thriving now likely know similar people.

Presell for the Future
Sure, you'll still hear, "We can't do anything now." And
when it is legitimate, get as much of a commitment as
you can today. Ask them, "When do you anticipate
moving forward?" "Can we be the ones you'll work with?"

Stay in Touch
For the people who aren't buying today, be sure you're
the one they think of first when they are ready. Email
regularly with value-added ideas, tips, and industry
information. Send articles. Personal handwritten notes.
Get on a regular card-sending program

Smart Prospecting
Get more in your pipeline. But don't just "smile'n'dial"
for the sake of activity. Target wisely. Learn about them
before speaking with them. Tailor your opening and
questions to their situation.

Provide Personal Value To Your Buyers
One of the strongest human motivators is survival.
And it applies in the work environment. You likely know
more than one person who has been downsized.
Take interest in your customers personally,
and help your buyers on a personal level
"How has your job changed in the last six months?
Three months?"

"What can we do to help you?"

Follow the Dollars
Some businesses are unaffected by the economy, and
others are doing better than ever RIGHT NOW. Where are
these opportunities in your world?

Upgrade Yourself
If you were going to run a marathon up a mountain, you'd
probably work out get yourself into better shape. Well, if
you're going to thrive in this economy, you need to have
your skills and attitude in top shape as well. Are you on
a regular "sales skills self-improvement" workout schedule?

Stretch Your Creativity
Say "Why not?" a lot more. Why couldn't you go after
a bigger sale than you've ever made up to this point?
What's the most unusual way you've ever found a new
customer? Try it again.

Negotiate for the Long Term
Keep in mind that today, it might be worth it to be a bit
more flexible in negotiating a first sale with a new customer,
IF there is long-term potential.

Work Harder
Sales success isn't like the get-rich-quick shows on
cable, or the "Make Money in Your Sleep" spam emails
you get. Show me the sales rep thriving today, and I'm
wagering he or she is out-hustling everyone else. Can
you kick it up a notch?

Ask More
I don't believe sales is "just a numbers game," but I have
proved to myself many times over that the more you ask,
the more you get.

Set Goals
If you want to reach a destination, you first need to know
what it is, and where it is. Let's face it, there are no secrets
here. The key is in doing something. Now get busy!

"Dreams are powerful reflections of your actual
growth potential."

Dr. Denis Waitley

Contact: Art Sobczak, President, Business By Phone Inc. 13254 Stevens St.,
Omaha, NE 68137,
(402) 895-9399. Or,

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blind Luck

Words from Seth worth repeating:

A million blind squirrels

My dad likes to say, "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then." And it's true. You shouldn't pick your strategy by modeling someone else's success. The success might have been strategic and planned, but it's just as likely to be a matter of blind luck. Someone had to get that big deal, and this time it was him.

The numbing reality of the net is that now we can see all the blind squirrels, all the time. A recent piece in the Times talked about bloggers getting six figure book deals in just a few weeks after posting community-driven goofy websites. It's easy to read this and say, "I should do that! I could do that!"

What's missing from the article is that for every 10,000 goofy websites that get launched, one turns into a six-figure book deal and the other 9,999 fade away. If you want to build a goofy website, go for it. Just don't expect to be the lucky squirrel.

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ReBranding a Successful Brand

When you have a successful brand, is it wise to Re-Brand it? Take a look:

Dollar Brand

Dollar General Logo, Before and After

Dollar General has 8,400 retail stores, $10.5 billion in annual sales and everyday low prices on everyday products. Its new identity has been designed by Interbrand Design Forum, who share with us the positioning and rationale they worked with.

Brand positioning:

We provide top brands and quality alternatives to her at the lowest prices so she can provide her family with all the essentials and treats they’ll love. We understand she wants a great quality of life, but has to manage it on a modest budget. We operate the same way, with clean, no frills stores that provide ease, convenience, and friendly service to her. Helping her save time, save money, everyday.

The identity design rationale from Interbrand:

Our identity is our signature icon. As our brand ambassador, it proudly celebrates our heritage of delivering value with the “stretched dollar” shape of the carrier and the straight-forward typography of our wordmark. Our identity is friendly, bold, simple, and energetic. Our core brand colors, yellow and black are our most sacred brand equities and have been carefully balanced to maximize the impact of our identity.

Dollar General, Old Store

Dollar General, New Store

Old (above) and new (below) store exteriors.

Some of what you would expect is happening here. Updated typography to try and strip out some of the dated feeling but still retain some of the quirks. Focusing the color palette on the yellow and black, two-color scheme, rather than the previous three-color scheme. A payoff — “Save time. Save money. Every day!” — to speak to their audience about their intention to embody a convenient shopping experience with low prices. And the new visual gimmick that communicates stretching a dollar. All the pistons firing away to bring you this bright, shiny, new 1992 Mercury Sable. That’s really the first analogy that came to mind: it’s the low-cost model that was based off of another low-cost model. While it’s true that Dollar General is a generic store with convenience and low prices, there still remains no differentiator in the brand presence between them and other establishments. The red, black and yellow previous logo, with its condensed boxy letters had some equity and was easily identifiable. This new identity, while cleaned up and feeling a little less 1968 and a little more 1992, still appears like it came right off their shelves.

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New Ad Campaigns

From Amy at Mediapost:

Who is Cherry Girl? DIYer goes head-to-head with a "Hardwarian." Cardboard is multifunctional. Let's launch!

Campaigns for fertilizer tend to lack humor. Until now. Scotts Canada launched three TV spots that promote its Turf Builder fertilizer products in a manner that's reminiscent of hair restoration ads. Remember the Hair Club for Men ads of yesteryear? Here they are in fertilizer form. Men want a full head of hair and a yard full of thick grass. The first ad, seen here, shows the founder of Scotts Thick Lawns for men, laying his sales pitch on thick. Someone thinks thinning grass is a hereditary trait in the next ad, seen here. Thanks to Scotts, his grass is green, he's no longer frumpy and his attractive wife finds him more desirable. "Winter Care" launches later this year, featuring a testimonial from a man who no longer has receding grass lines following the winter season. Watch the ad here. Zig created the campaign and MEC Global handled the media buy.

Let a stranger drive you home. And by stranger, I mean cab driver. Heineken launched an energetic TV spot under its "Give Yourself a Good Name" umbrella that encourages responsible drinking. A group of friends are seen in a car rockin' out to Biz Markie's '80s hit, "Just a Friend." As the spot continues, the driver cranks up the radio volume and viewers realize that the friends are riding home in a taxi. "Let a stranger drive you home," concludes the ad, seen here. Wieden + Kennedy Portland created the ad.

Sending a delicate package is like walking a tightrope. At least that's how it's portrayed in a mostly animated ad for The UPS Store. A woman and her cuckoo clock are thrust into a world of acrobats, elephants, cannonballs and tightropes -- a cardboard circus that seamlessly packs and ships delicate objects. Once the woman reaches the other end of the tightrope, the spot goes from animated to present day. "Hey, we do a lot more than shipping," says the UPS Store employee to the woman, as the elephants trumpet from inside the package. Watch it here. Love is a battlefield and so is the company boardroom. A man opens a conference room door and finds himself inside a coliseum fighting a gladiator and lions. Oh, my. His trusty UPS associate assembles weapons from cardboard and saves the day. See the ad here. Doner created the campaign and Psyop created the cardboard animation.

True Value launched a print, TV, online and outdoor ad campaign targeting DIYers and first-time homeowners. In one TV spot, a verbal duel takes place between a True Value "Hardwarian" and a DIYer who's done extensive research. It's a close battle, but the Hardwarian one-ups the DIYer at a pivotal moment. Watch the ad here. The next spot shows a man who's embarrassed at screwing up his shower re-grouting project. He whispers his troubles to a Hardwarian, who slips him the product he needs. See the ad here. Print ads, seen here and here, are running in Better Homes & Gardens, Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, This Old House and Outdoor Life, among others. The ads picture Hardwarians in confident poses where they almost resemble super heroes. They are saving the day... MARC USA created the campaign and handled the media buy.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched a TV spot that encourages parents to research information about drugs online, so they are better equipped when talking to their kids about the subject matter. The ad takes place in a crack den, where an inquisitive woman saunters in, observes the surroundings and casually asks the group of addicts, "That's crack?" "There's a better way to find information about drugs, so you can talk to your kids," says the voiceover. Watch the ad here, created by Allen & Gerritsen. Media buying was handled in-house.

MTV launched an environmental campaign via its MTV Switch brand that coincided with Earth Day. Viewers are introduced to Cherry Girl through a 60-second PSA that very, very subtly broaches the issue of global warming. Almost too subtly for targeting a young, teenage audience. Here's my take: Cherry Girl works at a dry cleaners, and eats cherries. She spits a cherry pit into a piece of paper, places it in an envelope and puts an envelope into every suit jacket that comes her way. Whenever a customer discovers the envelope, a pit falls to the ground, and over time, cherry trees emerge in an otherwise sterile city. Once a city is filled with trees, Cherry Girl moves on to her next destination. Kind of like David Banner, without the Incredible Hulk angle. Watch the ad here. Cherry Girl also has a Web site, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog. Makes me feel behind the times... The Scarlett Mark created the ad.

Last Friday, Apple ran a daylong print and online campaign to celebrate the 1 billionth app that was downloaded the previous day. And it only took nine months. Print ads ran in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Online ads ran on,, and The online ad showed apps downloading onto an iPhone as a counter kept track. When the counter hit 999,999, a lone app made its way onto the iPhone. Watch it here. The print ad has the same gist, sans animation. See it here. TBWA/Media Arts Lab created the campaign and handled the media buy.

A room with a fantastic view can mean different things to different people, but a view of a parking lot would not be defined as "fantastic" in anyone's book. Travelocity launched a TV spot where a vacationing couple booked a room with a fantastic view. But the view looks directly into a parking lot. Take two. The couple enters their hotel room again, looks outside, and their view has changed from parking lot to ocean, because they used Travelocity to book the room. Watch the ad here. McKinney created the ad and OMD Dallas handled the media buy.
Amy Corr is managing editor, online newsletters for MediaPost. She can be reached at

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Stop Riding a Dead Horse

Do you know when to say goodbye?

Know When to Let Go

I often talk to salespeople who continue following a lead even when it is clear that a sale will not happen.

This usually happens when their pipeline is not active with prospects. If you have done everything you can to move the sales process forward but it has ground to a halt, you must consider whether it is the best use of your time to keep trying to make it happen.

More often than not, it is not worth the time and effort. You have a finite amount of time in a day or week, which means you need to focus your attention on leads and prospects who are interested in your product, service or solution.

Source: Sales consultant/trainer Kelley Robertson (

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Can't Reach Everyone

And the good news, is you don't need to. Chuck McKay writes:

Reticular Activation - How the Human Anatomy Prevents Ads from Reaching "Everyone."

One of the things guaranteed to make copywriters (and to a lesser extent media salespeople) groan is an advertiser who claims he needs to reach "everybody."

No ad can possibly reach everybody. The human anatomy prevents it. If you have a minute, I shall happily explain why.

The Shoppers Mindset

Amazingly, most people are not poised in front of their television sets breathlessly waiting to hear of an opportunity to dump the cash from their purses into Mr. Advertiser's cash register.

Nope. Most people are instead attempting to ignore thousands of radio ads, e-mails, product placements, signs, newspaper and television ads, billboards, matchbook covers, calendars, and the odd Rubic's Cube with some company's logo on it.

Out of self defense human brains are physiologically prevented from paying attention to things that don't directly apply to them. And truthfully, most of what they see doesn't apply.

What does apply to most people? Their kids, plans for the weekend, the empty box of corn flakes, remembering to program the TIVO, getting to the game on time, the in-laws coming to dinner, filing for an extension on the tax return, running late for work, or getting home before “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

They're eager to find information which will solve their problems, and yet, they're not paying attention. They see and hear advertising with their eyes and ears, but they don't consciously notice those ads.

That's because the human brain won't let them. Again, let me explain.

Four Sets of Brain Waves

The synapses of the human brain fire at different rates during four different mental states. They are:

1) Delta – 0.5Hz to 4 Hz – Deep Sleep.
Delta waves trigger release of growth hormone, which helps the body to heal. This is one reason sleep is critical to the healing process.

2) Theta – 4 Hz to 7 Hz – Drowsiness.
Theta states most frequently occur fleetingly as people pass from higher consciousness to deep sleep, or return from it. Theta waves occur during meditation, and have been linked to visual and emotional creativity.

3) Alpha – 8 Hz to 13 Hz – Relaxed.
The alpha state is a highly creative condition of relaxed consciousness. People in alpha state tend to recognize non-obvious relationships. Interestingly, it's also the resonant frequency of the earth's electromagnetic field.

4) Beta – 14 Hz to 30 Hz – Alert and focused.
The beta state is associated with peak concentration, heightened alertness, improved hand/eye coordination, and better visual acuity. During beta state new ideas and solutions to problems literally flash through the mind.

Degrees of Consciousness

The higher frequencies represent more brain activity, and require greater energy consumption. Like every other part of the body, brain activity kicks into higher performance only as necessary. The more familiar the activity a person is engaged in, the less conscious activity is necessary.

Most of us have driven to work only to note upon arrival that we have no conscious memory of the trip. Individuals who drive a lot of highway miles frequently find themselves coming up with good ideas as they drive. Daydreaming while driving is an example of the brain in theta state. It's easily induced by the hypnotic sameness of road markings and sounds.

As long as there are no surprises on the trip, driving to work can also easily produce an alpha state. The driver is relaxed, and the familiarity of the surroundings allow the driver to sing along with the radio, or listen to conversation without planning to respond.

But imagine the car in front of our driver slamming on the brakes. Our driver immediately transitions into a state of heightened awareness, faster reflexes, and instantaneous decision making. This is clearly a beta state of peak concentration.

The Reticular Activator.

At the top of the brain stem, between the medulla oblongata and the midbrain is a collection of nerve fibers known as the ascending reticular formation. Activation of this reticular system is necessary for higher states of brain activity. Think of the reticular activating system as a sentry constantly looking out for conditions which require a conscious response. Anything important or relevant snaps the brain into higher states of consciousness, even from deep sleep.

Anyone who's moved to a home near the railroad tracks has been awakened by a train passing late at night... for the first few nights. While the loud noise is unusual and potentially threatening, the reticular system jerks the brain from deep delta sleep to beta wide awake consciousness. After a few days, when the experience becomes commonplace, the reticular system doesn't even bother to activate, and the resident sleeps through the night.

Mothers recognize their child's cry even in a room full of children. The reticular system catches the familiar tones of the child's voice, activating a beta state in the mother.

And most of us have heard someone call our name in a crowd, only to discover that the caller was trying to catch the attention of someone else with the same name. The reticular system activates a beta state at recognition of the name, and de-activates for the brain to return to alpha mode once the mistake is obvious.

Newspaper readership increases with the addition of a photo, especially when it's a picture of people. Why? Because the reticular activating system zeros in on other people, to see if they're familiar.

Familiar is only one of the conditions the reticular system watches for. It is also ready to draw our attention to unusual, problematic, or threatening conditions. Any of these which appear to be important or relevant activate a beta state. If the conscious mind dismisses this “false beta” as not relevant, the brain returns to a lowered state of consciousness.

Can we plant a reticular activator to trigger a beta mode state at a later time? Yes, we can.

Embed a specific sound and get your listener to recall a whole series of emotions. Law and Order's “Doink Doink” sound when the next scene starts. The sound of Pac Man wilting at the end of play. Duracell's three tone logo. “You've got mail.”

Or embed a visual cue. Since 1997 Liberty Tax Service has done no advertising other than to place people in Statue of Liberty costumes on the street in front of the franchise. From roughly the first of the year until April 15th the Statue of Liberty costume serves as an activator, reinforcing Liberty's function, as well as this location.


Here's an interesting fact: the effect of advertising is greatest closest to the purchase. And if you think about it, that makes sense. Remember, a purchaser only buys when she feels the gap between what she has and what she wants. If she has an empty box of cornflakes, she'll want more corn flakes. Once she's become aware of her need for more flakes (by pouring the last of the old flakes from the box) she will also become more aware of corn flake advertising.

What a great time to present your message. Advertise your brand on television, or send her a letter, or show her a point of purchase display. Give her a compelling reason to choose your brand while her reticular system is most likely to bring your message to her conscious attention.

But how can you predict when that metaphorical box of flakes will go empty? Unless your business is seasonal, you can't. And that pretty much means you need a constant presence in the marketplace.

How Shoppers Use Media.

We read from left to right, from top to bottom. The eye is drawn first to photographs and headlines, seeking, finding, and sorting through the information on the page. The reader scans in alpha state for anything familiar, unusual, problematic, or threatening. When one of those conditions is noted, the reticular activator pulls the readers attention to the words or pictures, and in beta state the conscious mind weighs the evidence.

It makes no difference whether the reader is considering news stories or advertising. If further examination reinforces the condition, the reader is engaged and stays in beta state. When the content has been read, the scan through the paper continues with the reader back in alpha mode, ignoring most of what he sees.

And though the consumption pattern may differ from left to right, top to bottom, this is how we use all media. People watching TV, listening to radio, or driving past outdoor ads will switch from alpha to beta modes and back as the content triggers the reticular activating system, and is accepted or rejected by the conscious mind.

Your corn flake ad will scream for the attention of someone who's out of corn flakes. The rest of the readers / listeners / viewers (those who don't have an empty box, as well as those who just do not like corn flakes) will either note the ad and quickly return to alpha state, or ignore it all together.

Got it? You'll never reach everyone with any ad. We don't all run out of cornflakes at the same time.


Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who helps customers discover you, and choose your business. Questions about embedding reticular activators in your advertising may be directed to

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A Social Media Game Plan

When you are presented with new options and ideas, do you jump on board or wait and see?

This week I met with a doctor who signed for a Twitter account and yet is not sure what to do with it. Over the years I have met many business people who are avoiding social media for the same reasons. But just because you don't understand it, doesn't make it unimportant.

I am on Twitter. You can find me @ScLoHo. Follow me if you want. I do not automaticly follow everyone back. I have a game plan for using Twitter just like I have a plan for using Blogs, and other internet based resources. I also have a plan for my real-life, face to face meetings and work and networking. And my plans are working the way in the manner that I want them to work.

Coming soon, I will be doing some marketing presentations based on a number of topics and one will include the tools we call social media. In the meantime, I want to give you some food for thought. (Twitter is responsible for this article show up right now on Collective Wisdom. Earlier today, someone that I follow on twitter, wrote a headline with a link to this article.) The article was found here.

These days, I am hearing from many friends and clients who lead various types of businesses that they are being pitched social media strategies from all angles. Their own employees are excited about Web 2.0, and are offering their ideas to management. At the same time, outside marketing consultants are cold-calling company leaders with offers of grand, off-the-shelf social media plans. Often, executives and managers tell me they feel completely overwhelmed with all of the possibilities, and they don’t know where to start.

Unfortunately, I see too many companies start by getting completely ahead of themselves. They are so eager to get “out there” with something related to this hot, new area of communications and marketing that they don’t lay the same solid foundation they would if they were, say, launching a new product or opening a new location. Instead, they are deploying their social media planning in a relatively scattershot way, with little information to guide their direction. Unfortunately, results from such an approach are likely to be just as unfocused and random as the implementation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By taking a step back, and spending a little extra time on the front end with a “first things first” approach, companies can reap meaningful benefits from the time, energy and money they spend on their foray into social media.

While the specific tools and opportunities presented by social media may still be unfamiliar to many businesspeople, these same folks are real pros when it comes to smart strategizing in general. It’s those stellar planning and execution skills that put them into corporate leadership positions to begin with. And as it happens, smart, effective social media campaigns benefit from that same thoughtful, executive-level planning process, a process that puts first things first.

The Three Fundamentals of First Things First Social Media Strategy

  • Define your goal(s): Ask yourself and your leadership team what specific results you hope to achieve with the resources to be allocated to social media. For one company, desired results might be unaided brand awareness, while for another, it might be all about the number of customers who walk through the door. The strategy should be crafted to produce these results. Without clearly and proactively defining goals, however, your plan can end up a complete misfire.
  • Survey the landscape: No businessperson would spend money on a traditional marketing plan without some basic research to guide their execution. Social media implementation benefits from the same preemptive intelligence gathering. A well-implemented social media monitoring plan offers useful data on the online conversation already taking place about a particular brand. Social media marketing and public relations is all about developing authentic relationships and conversations with customers and potential customers. In order to get that two-way dialogue underway, you first have to go where your target demographic already is. By thoughtfully gathering some preliminary information, you will know whether that’s My Space, Google Groups, niche site message boards, Yelp, or Twitter - each of which requires a distinctly different and nuanced approach. Again, this sort of up-front data collection can prevent misdirected allocation of social media resources.
  • Work from the inside out: Odds are that many, if not most employees of any given company are already engaged in some sort of social media usage in their private or professional lives. Whether it’s a Facebook or Linked In profile, neighborhood listserv participation, or an employee-authored parenting blog, these pre-existing, internal online networks can either work to a company’s social media advantage or disadvantage. The vast majority of employees want to do what they can to promote their employer’s success and profitability. What these loyal employees need is some validation and specific guidance in best practices (as well as the big no-no’s) in how to conduct themselves while online. By creating an official Social Media Engagement Policy that is clear, reasonable and positive, companies “start at home” with their social media strategies - a smart approach. Not only will such a set of house rules help to prevent unintended public relations snafus by employees, it can also yield tangible benefits. As an example, imagine what a cost effective recruiting tool it could be if a female employee who happens to author a popular mommy-blog on her personal time were to write about her employer’s generous maternity benefits. Voila! Instant and authentic brand evangelism, which is pretty much the holy grail of social media marketing.

These three fundamentals of social media planning can prevent a lot of waste and stress in the longterm. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are feeling pushed to jump ahead of themselves when crafting their strategies, skipping over these important steps.

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Cold Calling Mistakes

From Jill Konrath's blog:

The Top 10 Cold Calling Mistakes

By Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling

Note: Wendy is presenting at the Sales Stimulus program on Cold Calling in the 21st Century - The New Rules. Don't miss this chance to learn from the Queen of Cold Calling! I always do . Check out the details now.


Feeling frustrated and defeated by prospecting? Tired of hearing, "We already have that covered?" Tired of hearing, "I'm not interested?" Tired of hearing "no?" These are the Top Ten Cold Calling Mistakes that 'The Queen' sees on a regular basis. Eliminate these mistakes and see your results change.
1. Not understanding the goal of the call
When you hang up the phone, where do you want to be? What action do you want your prospect to take? What commitment do you want your prospect to make? Too many prospectors don't identify the goal of their phone call and so they do not get the result that they want. Before you pick up the telephone, identify the goal of your conversation.

2. Sending literature when you don't have to
"Send me some information" does not translate to, "I'm going to read it." Too many prospectors get quite excited to send brochures or emails to prospects and then call them back. Unfortunately, too many prospects use "Send me some information" as a polite way of getting off of the telephone. "Send me some information" generally really means, "I'm not interested" or "I'm too busy to talk." You want to find out why your prospect is asking for information and if they are a true prospect. If your prospect is asking because they do intend to look over it, agree to send it out and get their commitment to a time to continue the conversation.

3. Poor telephone etiquette
Chewing gum, eating, music or television blaring in the background, talking to other people while you're on the phone, mumbling or not speaking clearly, not getting to the point... These are all ways to turn your prospect off and reduce the chances that you can have a productive conversation.

4. Poor listening skills
Prospects will tell you everything that you need to know, if only you'll listen to them. Listen actively so that you'll hear what your prospects' are really saying. Unfortunately, poor listening skills go hand in hand with the next mistake on the list.

5. Projecting your fears onto the prospect
"The prospect is in a meeting," does not translate to, "The prospect knows that you are calling and does not want to speak with you." "I'm busy and cannot talk right now," does not translate into, "I don't want to speak with you and I'm not interested." Too many prospectors read extra and always negative meaning into statements made by gatekeepers and/or prospects. You will always do better by simply taking these statements at face value and assume that your prospect is in a meeting or is busy and cannot talk at the time that you called.

6. Inadequate or nonexistent questioning
It is vital to gather information about your prospect. Make sure that you have good questions planned to ask your prospect in order to qualify them and learn about their needs. Divide your questions into "Need to Know" and "Nice to Know" categories. Make sure to ask all of your "Need to Know" questions first.

7. Poor or no preparation
Few sales professionals would go into an important meeting with a top customer and wing it, yet that is exactly what far too many prospectors do when they get on the telephone. On the telephone you have approximately 10-30 seconds to grab and hold your prospects' attention and you will not get another chance. Prepare so that you can have the best possible conversation with your prospect.

8. Not asking for what you want
Fear keeps many prospectors from asking for what they want. Others simply do not understand their goals for each call (see # 1) so they either do not ask for what they want or they ask for the wrong thing. Identify your goal for the call and craft the verbiage that you will use to ask for what you want. Practice that verbiage out loud so that you become comfortable. You can even make a "cheat sheet" and have it in front of you when you make your calls so that you remember to ask for what you want.

9. Creating objections where none existed
If you do not have a good call opening, you will immediately create an objection from your prospect. Anything that you say to a prospect that does not resonate deeply with them will create an objection. You want to be prepared with a good call opening and good script that will preempt objections (see #7). If every prospect with whom you speak says, "I'm not interested," you're not saying anything interesting.

10. Not leading with the value
The value or benefit ("WIIFM-What's in it for me?") from your prospects' point of view is what will gain their attention. (see #7 and #9). Always, always, always lead with the value.

* * *

Wendy Weiss, "The Queen of Cold Calling," is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Get Wendy's free Special Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script, at

© 2009 Wendy Weiss

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Night Marketing News

Cars, Teens, & Donuts:

by Karl Greenberg
"The objective is not to survive but to develop a plan to win," says CEO Fritz Henderson. "I'm not focused on size and bigness; our job is to be basically lean, flexible and successful. We will have plenty of scale; the key is on converting scale to successful business results." ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
A bigger surprise, however, is that they're actually spending more on shoes -- a 9% increase, according to the 17th semiannual survey, and 8% more on accessories. In fact, shoes are hot. Piper Jaffray says it is "an indication that the strong footwear cycle, particularly relative to the weakness in apparel, continues for the youth demographic." ... Read the whole story > >
by Karlene Lukovitz
The program aims to encourage parents and children to enjoy reading together, as well as get great books into kids' hands, according to Cheerios Marketing Manager Jeff Hingher. "Cheerios is already the first 'finger food' for many children, so partnering with parents to nurture their children's development through reading is a natural extension of the brand." ... Read the whole story > >
Packaged Goods
by Karl Greenberg
Jon Krevolin, BBDO creative director, says the promotional effort is the wave of the future for the normally staid brand. "Incremental changes [to how Gillette marketing] are happening from the outside, and viral is the way to do that," he says. "This was completely different from how they have done things in past." ... Read the whole story > >
by Aaron Baar
"We see the fantasy game as an extension of our sponsorship of the corporate tour," Steven Powell, director of Kodak Challenge Program Development, tells Marketing Daily. "We're giving [fans] another way to play out their affection for the spot in a natural way." ... Read the whole story > >

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Hammer Time?

Interesting research from Lowe's:

Home Improvement Projects Appeal to DIY Crowd

Lowe's says U.S. consumers are wielding hammers and pruning saws with a vengeance -- and that the new do-it-yourself derring-do is not all about the recession.

The Mooresville, N.C.-based home improvement retailer says of those homeowners planning a do-it-yourself home improvement project over the next 12 months, the most popular categories are: lawn or garden projects (84 percent); interior painting (82 percent); exterior painting (65 percent); installing a new floor (56 percent); and remodeling or adding a new bathroom (55 percent).

And while 35 percent concede the main reason they're DIY-ing is to save money, a surprising 32 percent gave "pleasure" as the main motivator. And yes, that extends to a complex relationship with the lawn: 80 percent cut their own grass, and intend to keep doing so.

That's good news for retailers, especially those like Lowe's and the Home Depot, which have been pummeled by the slump in the housing market. And while many like to tout the remodeling sector of the business as recession-proof, it isn't: Total sales in the home-improvement segment of the market fell 4.5 percent to $290.5 billion in 2008, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute, which is predicting an even sharper decline of 6.5 percent for this year.

But a recent study from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies does find that the downturn in this segment of the economy will be less pronounced than the housing market overall. "Lower mobility rates imply not only lower levels of improvement spending, but also changes in spending priorities," the study says. "With home prices falling, owners are shifting from high-end discretionary improvements to those that maintain the structural integrity and efficient functioning of their homes, as well as generate cost savings."

Among the growth spots: Increasing demand for green improvements, upgrades to the nation's aging rental stock, and the growing population of immigrant homeowners, whose home-improvement spending has been growing at about 13 percent a year since 2000, compared to 7 percent of native-born households.

Lowe's survey also noted an increase in people combining DIY with do-it-for-me. Among those who are planning kitchen remodeling, for example, 37 percent say that while they will hire professionals to do some part of the job, they will handle some aspect of the project themselves.

The two tasks least embraced by the DIY crowd? Installing carpets and replacing roofs.

(Source: Marketing Daily, 04/15/09)

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An Alternative to Boring Ads

From Ben at Church of the Customer Blog:

A fun ad, for real

If TV pitchman Ron Popeil has taught creators of TV commercials anything, it's be entertaining.

So the makers of SlapChop, the kitchen tool advertised endlessly on late-night TV (here's why it must advertise), might have been given the gift of a longer lifespan thanks to a citizen marketer-created video/song remix.

If I saw this "ad" during my late-night viewings of the Tennis Channel, I'd turn the sound up, not down.

Posted by Ben McConnell

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TV vs Internet Advertising

A few "How-to" tips from Seth Godin:

Making commercials for the web

TV advertisers are finally discovering that YouTube + viral imagination = free media.

The good news for you is that money is not a barrier, which means that marketers of any size can play. But the rules are different, as they always are online.

Because media is free but attention is not
(this is flipped from TV world) you need to make a different sort of ad for a different sort of audience.

1. Assume that the viewer has the attention span of an espresso-crazed fruitfly. That means slapstick, quick cuts and velocity.

2. Find a word or phrase that you can own in Google, that fits in an email, and that comes up in discussion at the cafeteria table or in the playground.

Castrol gets both rules right in this inane commercial.

3. Length doesn't matter. 10 seconds is fine and so is five minutes. Media is free, remember?

4. Challenge the status quo, be provocative, touch a social nerve or create some other sort of interesting conversation. In other words, a commercial worth watching.

Dove does both in this now-famous commercial.

Because of the power of free media, I expect to see a whole host of commercials that would never be deemed effective enough to spend big media money on, but that generate huge views online. Look for plenty of irrelevant slogans and catch phrases and off strategy content... anything for an eyeball.

Also, understand that this is out of your control. Once launched, what happens, happens. One commercial I know of caught fire and ended up with millions of views. The client then called the producer, screaming in anger. He wanted to be able to turn it off, to decide how it got used, who talked about it, etc. You can't. Once it spreads, it belongs to the community, not to you.

The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one. The same way that there's very little correlation between popular websites and big companies, we'll see that the most popular commercials get done by little shops that have nothing to lose.

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