Archive | August, 2009

Strategy vs. Tactics

25 Aug

I came across this blog post from copywriter Tim Brunelle regarding tired tactics, and how sometimes strategy is ignored. That got me thinking about the topic. Usually each piece of marketing material is a tactic: the brochure, the press release, even the website. Hopefully, each piece is guided by a strategy.

If you are launching a marketing campaign, it should never start with “we’ll run an ad.” It should start with figuring out who you want to reach, where those people are located and what you want them to do with the information you want to share with them.

A few months ago, a potential client contacted me. He wanted me to write copy for an ad. He was about to open up a new business and wanted to promote it. My first thought was “wait a second, what?.” I asked him who his target audience was. He told me. I asked him where this ad would run. He told me he thought it should run in one of those free newspapers so common on the subway. I asked why. His reasoning was lots of people read that (true) and the cost is relatively low (true). But what this guy was missing completely was a strategy, a vision, a long term plan. Sure, running a “cheap” ad in a mass publication could promote your business. But spending a few dollars here and few dollars there does not further your purpose and it certainly does not strengthen your brand. In fact, you have to think about the larger picture to create a brand personality and make sure that you are not hurting yourself with some misplaced tactics.

People are sold tactics by ad sales reps because those reps are there to sell advertising now and not to tell you how to create a brand image for yourself. Many times, small businesses fall into this trap. The local paper will call and tell them they are running a special and so forth. It sounds reasonable. And boom, a tactic is launched which may or may not have something to do with your larger strategy.

Save yourself some marketing dollars and think of each tactic as a piece of the marketing strategy puzzle. Instead of blindly following some promotion because it is inexpensive, figure out whether that furthers your overall goals.

JetBlue sells out … in a good way

20 Aug

Did you hear about JetBlue’s unlimited pass? For $599  you can go anywhere during a month.  You probably already heard about it, but now you can no longer get the pass because it is sold out. That’s right, in just about a week, JetBlue was able to create so much demand that it was able to  sell out. To me, that is the definition of a great marketing campaign.

Why is this such a great marketing campaign? For many reasons:

  • First and foremost it sold product, in this case, seats on planes.
  • It was creative and different from most airline promotions. It caused JetBlue to stand apart.
  • Its creativity created buzz, and loads of publicity. Google is telling me that there were at least 226 articles about the promotion, and 50 articles about the selling out.

JetBlue has tapped into something customers want: lower cost air travel. But its not all about being cheap–Spirit Airlines is also cheap, but it does not offer the same experience. JetBlue is comfortable, offers snacks, TV in each seat, and it’s generally a good experience. But it also distinguishes itself  for being cutting edge.  JetBlue has embraced Twitter by offering their “cheeps” (travel promotions). And its tries hard to provide good customer service.

It is a really good day in marketing when a promotion reaches its target while generating front page news, all for a comparatively low marketing dollar investment.

Why a thank you is good marketing

19 Aug

Thank you for reading this post, and thank you for reading my blog. I probably haven’t thanked you before, so I apologize, because this post is about how thank you is really a marketing tool.

We’ve all heard of customer appreciation. Often, it is a deal available to new customers. Sometimes it is a gift with purchase. In many cases, the customer has to do something additional to get appreciated–sign up for a new service or buy more.

What about customers that just use a service, like a gym, cable, phone and have been using it for years. Do they ever get thanked? No, they often don’t. Why? Because companies take the bulk of their customer base for granted. They imagine that if they are providing the service, and there is no problem, the customer will remain loyal. But in fact, customers are not always loyal. They will switch for lower prices, or better service. They may also switch because a company does not seem to appreciate they have a choice in service providers. This is why more banks and customer service agents start any conversation with you by saying things like “thank you for banking with us.”

The bottom line is that saying thank you is about expressing appreciation. And most everyone likes to be appreciated.  And yet, thank yous are sometimes hard to come by.

In your personal marketing or personal branding, saying thank you may be even more important. Think about it: What are you saying when you don’t say thank you? You are communicating that you are uninterested, unappreciated, or that you take the gesture for granted.  It makes you seem rude and self-involved.  Some people will claim they are too busy to respond. Are you too busy to make sure that you are perceived properly?

Remember, no one is forced to be your customer unless you are a monopoly. And no one is required to help you out unless he or she wants to. It is simple to say thank you.  Saying thank you boosts the perception that you care, that you are aware that what the customer or friend has given you has some value.

New business: marketing essentials

13 Aug

If you are a new business, or a small business, or any business at all, there are a couple essentials for your marketing. I am assuming you already have a business name and have done all the necessary paperwork to get yourself set up.

The number one item you need is a website. Buy your own domain. If you can’t afford a fully designed website you can use templates through vendors such as Network Solutions or Go Daddy. If you are more technologically inclined, you can use WordPress, but host it at your domain name. Your website, at minimum, should answer these questions: who are you, what do you do, why should anyone hire you or purchase your product, how to reach you. If you are a restaurant or deal with the public, include your hours and directions to your location. Remember, this is a minimum. If you are a restaurant, you could also include menus. Service businesses could include case studies, client lists, testimonials.

The number two item you need is business cards. You can get them for cheap or you can have them professionally designed. Whatever you do your business cards should have your name, primary phone, website URL and email address (preferably at your domain).

If you have money or a good friend who is a graphic designer, get a logo and letterhead package done.

Once you are set up, you may consider developing a tagline or a slogan for your business. Use it on everything.

These are the essentials. There are plenty of other marketing communications collateral materials you could develop for yourself, including brochures, ads, press releases, white papers and so forth. You also have to think about your social media strategy: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for starters.

Start with the essentials. Work from there.

If you want help figuring out what marketing materials you need, contact me.

Interest and Julie & Julia

12 Aug

Last night I saw the movie Julie & Julia,  about Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julie Powell wrote a book about her experience blogging about cooking her way through Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I liked the movie and would recommend it, especially if you enjoy food and want to feel inspired.

But this is not a movie review blog, it is about marketing communications. And here’s the thing: the movie has stimulated the sales of Julia Child’s books, biographies and of course, of Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia.  In fact, there is a renaissance in interest in all things Julia Child. This is probably due to Meryl Streep’s excellent personification of Julia on screen and a compelling storyline about following your dreams and believing in yourself.

The marketing lesson to draw from the success of Julie and Julia is that interest stimulates action. It goes back to the AIDA principle we have discussed before: attention, interest, desire and action.  If you make something interesting, you will stimulate action on the part of your intended target audience. The movie made all things Julia and Julie interesting. The audience was loving the food, and now, naturally, wants to partake in it. The audience was inspired to learn more about Julia (and Julie for that matter).

Movies are great marketing vehicles because they reach mass, captive audiences. This is why we see so much product placement in the movies, and why there is advertising at the movie theater. A good movie is by nature, interesting. If it has to do with a historical figure, we want to learn more. If it showcases music (like Walk the Line did for Johnny Cash), you want to go out and listen to the music again.

The other lesson is to put things in front of the right audience. In Julie & Julia’s case, the thing is both cooking and following dreams, for a female audience. Last night, I would say that 90% of the audience was female, and I would venture to say that most were under 45.

In any case, Julie & Julia reached its intended audience and is proving that people always want to know more if they are stimulated to do so.

Did you see the movie? What did you think?

Can you succeed in communications without new media?

4 Aug

It’s hard to remember what communications was like back even a decade ago. When I started in advertising, we faxed insertion orders and delivered artwork. When I started in PR, we faxed press releases and mailed photos. Now, we all just use the Internet.  In the past two or three years, we’ve evolved past email and launched into new media: blogs, Twitter, social networks, and so forth. “Old” media is dying a bit more every day. Newspapers are disappearing or slimming down. News broadcasts are relying on Twitter and Facebook for user interaction. We’ve become a nation of citizen journalists, wielding our cameraphones and uploading our viewpoints. I read somewhere that a large liquour advertiser will be spending 90% of its ad budget on new media.  On the other hand, a study showed that 60% of Americans use print media to make shopping decisions.

In any case, there is a new paradigm in how people acquire information. Fewer people are turning to traditional media and more people are turning to new media. That is the reality and your communications efforts must reflect that.

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a graphic designer. He’s pretty old school, to such an extent, that although he has worked in web design, he had never heard of WordPress.  I spoke with a technical writer who knows nothing about blogs, and dismissed them as useless. Do you think these people are ready for the present, not to mention the future? In my opinion, they will be left behind.

I believe that if you are in communications, you must learn about new media. You may not use it, but you need to know about it. People are making lots of money training other people on how to use blogs and Twitter for communications efforts.  In fact, for a mere $395 you can go to an all-day Twitter conference.  Why would people spend this type of money?Because we are looking to know what the next big thing will be. In the early 90s, glossy magazines were the big thing. In the early 00s, dot-com/websites were the rage. Now we are in the blogosphere.

In a sense, communications is way more challenging now than ever. We have a very segmented audience and extremely targeted media. I am not sure we have much left in the way of mass media.  Communications practitioners have to become adept at many forms of media.

So, to answer my own question, no, you cannot succeed in communications without new media.

What do you think?