Category Archives: marketing

Love those sappy Christmas commercials!

I am a total sucker for those sappy TV commercials that come on this time of year. Hallmark has always produced some classics. No slap-job :30 second spots for them. Running up to two minutes or more, these are little micro-dramas are fully intended to produce a little warm spot in the coldest of hearts. The Publix grocery store chain has produced some very nice ones lately, mostly with small children. And this year, Apple has joined the crowd with a really excellent effort. Here are a couple of good ones from this year, and one oldie-but-goldie Hallmark spot from years past.

One more reason I’m glad I’m a guy

Men reasonsI ran across this poster, and it reminded me of one more reason, #87, why I’m glad I’m a guy.

Sales “Parties”

If you are a girl, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you are a guy, I strongly suspect you have never even been close to one. I guess they started with Tupperware back in the 50s or 60s, but it seems in recent years they have multiplied. Here is the way it works.

1.) Woman takes on a job selling a product with other women as the target customer group.

2.) Saleswoman approaches friend or co-worker and asks if she would hostess a “party” and invite some of HER friends. The purpose of the party is to provide Saleswoman with a captive audience to hock her wares. Not really wanting to produce a party, but not wanting to disappoint a friend, the Hostess agrees.

3.) Hostess then spends some of her “social capital” inviting her friends to a “party” at her house. Hostess typically provides drinks and snacks, or more.

4.) The friends/guests frequently accept, even though they have no desire to attend the pseudo-party, because they, in turn, don’t want to their friend/hostess to look bad. The implied understanding is that the Guests have a social obligation to purchase something from the Saleswoman.

Mrs. Poolman attended one such “party” last week. In this case, the product was handbags. Mrs. P came away $55 poorer, but with a handbag, to be delivered at some future date. I don’t know whether she needed the handbag or not. That wasn’t the point. She bought the bag because she attended the party, and she only attended the party, because she didn’t want to disappoint her friend, Carla. Carla wasn’t the hostess. The party was being hosted by her daughter’s partner’s mother and sisters on behalf of some cousin. Do you see how the web grows?

One of our friends here in the neighborhood, Louanne, was a real sucker for any “Saleswoman” who called on her. For a while there, it seemed like Louanne was calling every couple of weeks or so to invite Mrs. P to a party where she could/should/would buy lingerie, perfume, jewelry or candles. (The thought of giving up a Saturday afternoon during football season to go listen to someone try to sell me scented candles would drive me to socially unacceptable behavior.) At least one party she hosted was for a line of “marital aids” which was interesting. I would have gone to that one myself, but no guys were invited. Louanne finally shut down her run of parties after the other women in the neighborhood politely told her that were considering not answering the phone when her number showed up on caller ID.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps I should call up my friend Matt the Welder and ask him to come over to learn more about scented candles. “Oh, and be sure to bring your checkbook.” I think I seen an intervention in my future.

Poor Paula

The headline in today’s local paper reads  “Publisher drops Deen cookbook.” “The Perils of Paula” has been all anyone in Savannah has been talking about for the past ten days. In case you have been hibernating, you know that local Savannah restaurateur-made rich-and-famous Paula Deen has been under attack ever since the contents of a deposition were made public, in which she admitted using the “N-word” some 30years ago.Paula w

I am of two minds on this issue. My first reaction was this was an incredibly disproportionate reaction to a three-decade old petty misdemeanor. I mean – come on! Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. I am not condoning the utterance. I just think this is a case of capital punishment for a parking ticket. I feel sorry for Paula. She actually lives around the corner from us, and occasionally we’ll see her shopping in Publix.

On the other hand, to borrow another cliché, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” In this case, the sword is the combination of publicity and image.  Paula built her food empire and her fortune based on image and publicity. It’s not like she is the greatest chef in the world. Her folksy “Southern charm” made her the queen of The Food Network. Once she caught on, her momentum just kept building. But that kind of fame and image can be like a balloon – big and voluminous, but of little of substance. One leak and the whole thing disappears.

Paula did not do a good job protecting that balloon from lurkers with needles. The damning deposition originates in a lawsuit related to a restaurant Paula created for her brother, Bubba. We know a number of people who have worked at “Uncle Bubba’s,” and they tell us that things were run pretty loose there. I have no idea of there is any merit to the actual lawsuit filed by one of Bubba’s former managers, but it is safe to say that the operation was not squeaky clean. That is not unusual for restaurants, and in most cases, it doesn’t matter — unless you are Paula Deen and you have a mega-million business riding almost entirely on your image. You must make certain there is no one lurking in the background with a hat pin looking to burst that giant balloon. Apparently, she did not do that, and that is her biggest mistake. Too bad.

A busy day…

Today has been interesting, in two parts. This morning, we hosted a “state visit” by a group of roughly 65 VIPs, including the state Board of Regents, a bunch of university presidents and senior university system staffers. Most of these people have never been here so it was a pretty big deal.  I have been working to plan this event since mid-January and have fretted over the details and coordinating with the two other institutions in town. As it turns out, everything went very well. Everyone did what they were supposed to do and they did it well. No hitches and I heard nothing but compliments. Big load off.

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What's wrong with this picture?

Suits and dresses on the work deck. What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the cool things about my job is the opportunity to get out and take an occasional boat ride. This afternoon, I went along on one of our small skiffs to shoot some video for a promotional piece we are producing to market our research vessel.

Tough duty out on the water today.

Tough duty out on the water today.

The weather was gorgeous, roughly 80 degrees and sunny. We were out for about an hour which was just enough to sunburn my face. Duh. I did get one cool shot with my Canon point ‘n shoot camera. We frequently see dolphins around here, but it’s tough to get pictures because they don’t surface where and when you are expecting them. I did get this shot this afternoon, which was pretty pleased with.

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

A dolphin riding the bow wave of the R/V Savannah

Another nice Christmas music video

I guess we’re on a music-video-roll this week. After I posted the Spanish Beethoven video yesterday, one of my former bosses sent me a Youtube link to this piece. This is clearly not a flash mob. It is a very well produced Christmas video created, apparently, for T-Mobile for their employees. I showed it to Mrs. Poolman last night and she loved it. So here you go:

 

 

Procrastination wins in the end

I had a very pleasant surprise over the past couple of days. I had an occasion to contact a company’s customer service department, fully expecting to be shut down. Instead, I received prompt and effective information. Here’s the kicker; the brand went out of business two years ago!

Three years ago, Mrs. P and I had our master bathroom remodeled. The work was done by our all-around handy-man who is an amazing story himself. The one step he did not complete was the doors on the under-vanity cabinets.  He ordered the doors, but they would not be delivered until after the rest of the job was complete. Although he offered to come back to paint and install the doors, we told him we could handle it.

Well procrastination is our middle name. The doors arrived in June 2008, but they have sat, untouched and unopened in their shipping box until this past weekend.  Mrs. P painted them. I took a look at the hinges that came in the package. I could easily see how they connected to the doors, but I couldn’t figure out how they connected to the frame. No instructions were included.

Two of the mystery hinges

When I Googled the manufacturer, I discovered the company has been out of business since 2009. They still maintained a Web page and an email address for warranty concerns. I sent them an email. I also discovered through that email that the division was part of a larger company that was still in business. So I went to one of the other brands and send them an email also.

I really didn’t think I was going to get anything out of them, so I was very surprised when I received two emails and a phone call today, resulting from each of my emails. They sent me a diagram and installation instructions.

So a big “attaboy” to Meagan and Debbie at Masco Cabinetry Company. Thanks for your help!

On a roll…t-p roll, that is.

For some reason, I have taken note of some recent TV commercials, advertising, of all things, toilet paper. It is probably one of the least glamorous products to try to advertise. As important as it is to all of us, it is not easy to discuss.

Here is one that caught my eye last week.

The history of television advertising is full of famous and effective positioning statements.

“You deserve a break today.”

“When it absolutely, positively needs to be there in the morning.”

“The real thing.”

“Tastes better. Less filling.”

So where does this implied slogan fit in?

 “Our toilet paper won’t stick to your ass!”

Clever.

And here is a trend that I missed out on completely. Apparently, there legions of people who consider a roll of toilet paper unsightly.

I know it doesn’t look very good on a tree in your front yard, but on a roll in your bathroom? It would have never occurred to me. Maybe that’s why I’m not making the big bucks in the TP industry.

Tebow and Toyota

So what was all the fuss?

Someone at Focus on the Family deserves a raise. As I mentioned before, I am not a fan of that group, but I do have to take my hat off to their semi-brilliant publicity move over the past two weeks.

Some women’s groups went rabid-squirrel crazy over the very idea that Tim Tebow would do a Superbowl ad, supposedly opposing abortion. Of course, none of the screaming harpies had ever seen the ad, but why let that be a problem? If you saw the Tim and Pam Tebow Superbowl ad, you might ask yourself, “So what’s the big deal?” Good question.

The ad was as harmless as can be, which is pretty much what I expected.

If you missed it, here it is:

The ad was so mild that some “pundits” are saying the group didn’t get it’s money’s worth for the $2.5 million they spent. Wrongo!  They got two weeks of free, headline publicity, provided by the very people who hate them.

They got their money’s worth and more before the game ever began. Slick move!

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Speaking of ads, 183 Toyota dealers around the Southeast have cancelled their advertising schedule with local ABC station as punishment for ABC’s coverage of the automakers recall problem.

That’s really a stupid move by the dealer’s association. It makes them look petty and vindictive.  Nice job focusing on your customer, guys!

They are also aiming their anger in the wrong direction. They should be focusing their anger at Toyota corporate headquarters in Japan, not at ABC News headquarters in New York.

Even as retribution, the move doesn’t make much sense. In fact, they aren’t even aiming at ABC News; their action is against local ABC stations, who have absolutely ZERO influence on Brian Ross, Diane Sawyer and the producers who call the shots on World News Tonight. On top of that, all but one (WTVD Durham, NC) ABC station in the affected region are affiliates. That means, with the one exception, none of that cancelled advertising money would have benefited the ABC network anyway.

The only way I see this move as making sense is to put the stations on stand-by that they are serious for the next time there is an issue. Is there going to be another issue?

On the other hand, if all the cars on your lot are under recall and you can’t sell them, what’s the point in spending money on advertising?

I’m glad we are driving Hondas.

What’s in a name?

The simple answer is “Everything!”

In the early 1980s, Al Riess and Jack Trout wrote a great book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” They devoted a whole chapter to the importance of a name. It is amazing how many high-paid professional marketers can’t seem to grasp this idea. I recently ran across two national and one local example that make me cringe.

gatoradeThe Gatorade folks have had the advantage of one of the strongest brand names around. It is so strong that it has developed a generic use. People will talk about Gatorade, even they are drinking Powerade of some other sports drink. Athletes talk about “Gatorading” a coach, meaning to dump a barrel of Gatorade on his head after a big win. Gatorade coachThe name is golden. So what is the latest brilliant marketing move by that company? They have rebranded their drink to “G.” Genius! Pass the Powerade; would you please?

Another company is not changing its product name, but it’s messing with it, which is almost as bad. Kentucky Fried Chicken is a well established brand. It is so strong that it can also get away with using its initials, “KFC,” which is something not many companies can do.KFC Everyone knows Kentucky Fried Chicken, what it stands for and what to expect. The latest move by the KFC folks is to introduce grilled chicken to their menu. OK, no problem. That’s probably a good idea. Their mistake is marketing it as “Kentucky GRILLED Chicken.” Bad idea. Introduce a new product. Sure. But don’t screw with your brand name. The KFC folks (Or is it KGC?) may establish their grilled chicken as a successful addition to their product line, but they will do so at the expense of their brand identity. When you diminish the strength of the Kentucky FRIED Chicken brand in the minds of the consumer, you become just another chicken restaurant, not the King of the Cluckers.

On a much smaller scale, I see a local business making the same kind of mistake. The company is Furniture Warehouse. The name “warehouse” carries certain image. They probably have a large showroom, with an equally large volume and variety of inventory. Recently I have heard some radio ads that they are changing their name to “Furniture Warehouse Design Gallery.”

The first problem is that the terms “warehouse” and “design gallery” convey entirely different mental images.  The first says, large space and giant inventory. The other conveys the image of a small boutique store.

However to compound the problem even further, after changing their name, they decided that 10-syllable name was too long and awkward, so they should go by their initials. Bad move! The name carries an image, or rather two of them. “FWDG” carries nothing. Their solution? Launch an advertising campaign to explain what their initials stand for.

Here is a thought. If you need to pay for an advertising campaign to explain what your name means, maybe you need to rethink the name