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Repetition and frequency

17 May

In advertising, most media buyers are trying to find the holy grail of how much repetition/frequency you need to get your target audience to hear/understand and act on your message.  The other aspect is reach. Are you reaching the target audience through the channels you have chosen?

It occurs to me that some companies, namely the ones that have the MOST customer service issues (telecom companies, power companies and airlines) and some degree of monopoly, are the same ones that advertise the most aggressively.  In any given hour, you will see many spots for Comcast/Xfinity or for Verizon FIOS. I wrote here last year about the intense amount of direct mail FIOS sent me. These companies are hammering away repeating their message with a scary frequency.

Why? Because they have to. Nothing else is going to speak as loudly as lots of loud advertisements. Certainly not the customer experience or their “stellar” customer service.

A few months ago I had a appliance repair person come to the house. He was great: fixed what needed to be fixed, and charged a fair price. He does NO advertising. His business, which is doing well, is strictly word of mouth.

Can you imagine Comcast or Verizon having no advertising? On the other hand, you have few options when it comes to Internet, cable and phone providers. You will have to persuaded over and over and over.

I am suspicious about any company that feels the need to advertise ALL the time.  It seems to me that high repetition and frequency, which are expensive to maintain, are the only way they will  retain any top-of-mind share.

What do you think?


How to become irrelevant

22 Feb

How many blogs have you stopped reading? How many products have you stopped buying? How many ads do you ignore?

If you answered just one to any of these questions, the reason is because whatever the blog/ad/product/service has become irrelevant.

Some irrelevancy is by attrition–meaning that you will stop buying a product because you no longer need it (like baby diapers when your child is potty trained). Other irrelevancy is because you just don’t care anymore or the information does not ring true.

How do you become irrelevant?

If you are a blogger:

  • You write about things that people don’t care about or are not interested in.
  • You write about the same things over and over.
  • You write about you, you and more about you.
  • You never update your blog.

If you are an advertisment:

  • You advertise the same offer, over and over
  • You advertise an offer with tons of small print
  • You advertise things that are just not true (we beat any price, for instance).
  • What you advertise does not match reality.

If you are a product:

  • You don’t work as promised.
  • You don’t fill a need.
  • You are not well priced.

If you are a website:

  • You have outdated information.
  • You look like you were designed in 1999.
  • Your visitors can’t find the information they need to make a purchase/visit your location/etc.

Basically, you become irrelevant when you forget what your audience needs or wants.

What makes you tune out marketing? Let me know what makes blogs/ads/websites/brochures irrelevant.


14 Dec

Have you seen the new UPS commercials? It’s about logistics.  There are several different iterations, but they all talk about how important logistics are, and of course, UPS is all about logistics.  Really? I thought UPS was about shipping. But I guess I am supposed to now think of shipping as just the visible part of the complex web that is logistics.

What’s good:

Song is memorable. Logistics is a new USP for UPS. It has definitely caught my attention.

What’s bad:

Logistics? Really? Is that why I would ship with UPS over Fedex?

Your thoughts?

Want to improve your marketing? Start with your customer service.

3 Dec

The best, most award-winning ad in the world won’t sway an unhappy customer’s mind.  Keep that in mind as you tinker with your marketing and you don’t check in with your customer service.

If you live in Washington, DC or Maryland, you probably have PEPCO as your electric company.  And if you were around this past summer or during the massive blizzards of February, you probably lost your power.  You tried calling PEPCO only to get bad information or no information at all. Then you found out that PEPCO is rated very poorly among all electric utility companies in the United States. You probably weren’t surprised.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2010. PEPCO is busy running a TV commercial featuring the company president assuring the viewers that PEPCO is responding to customer concerns.  But, is it true?

Yesterday, I had to call PEPCO. I was on hold for 21 minutes. And there was no emergency. Can you imagine what hold times will be when there are outages?

This is a case where PEPCO is investing money in its marketing without investing money in customer service. This is a major mistake. Customers don’t care if you are running a great ad campaign, have well written brochures and a redesigned website, if they cannot get through to an agent to resolve their problems.

Customers will judge a company on it service, not on its marketing. Marketing may get customers through the door, but it will not retain them or make them think positively about your company or organization (this applies to nonprofits as well).

Before you spend any money on a marketing campaign, make sure that you have budgeted for customer service.

Ads are powerful; differentiation is important

19 Mar

This morning’s Washington Post is full of interesting media/marketing news.  First is the announcementthat the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has enacted tough new rules on cigarette/tobacco advertising as part of the agency’s new authority to regulate the industry.

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According the Post, tobacco companies will be banned from sponsoring sports and entertainment events and from offering free samples, among other restrictions. The FDA also tried to limit advertising to text only (banning color and graphics) but a judge has ruled in favor of the tobacco companies, which the FDA is appealing.

Tobacco advertising and the federal response to it  has always been fascinating.  Tobacco is a  legal product, sold and taxed in stores like any other product, but when used as directed, causes wide-ranging health problems (cancer, heart disease) not only to smokers but those exposed to smoke. The Feds have tried to curb the appeal of smoking by restricting advertising and putting warnings on cigarette packs.  This has always raised the question of first amendment rights–after all, the companies that manufacture cigarettes are trying to sell a legal product. But the government is concerned that increased sales of tobacco mean increased health risks.

The point here is that advertising and marketing efforts, when done right, are powerful. They can steer consumer behavior. Personally, I abhor smoking and I applaud the FDA for stepping up regulation of tobacco marketing. To me,  marketing tobacco is marketing death, yet the issue of free speech remains. The real issue may well be why we allow companies continue to produce and market a product that kills.

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Another piece of news that is fascinating is that Christiane Amanpour, the famed CNN war reporter, will move over to ABC, to host This Week. If ever there was a least likely candidate for this position it was Amanpour, who is more comfortable confronting dictators and dodging bullets in war-torn areas.  I think David Brinkley would turn over in his grave! Will the round table with George Will, Cokie Roberts and the rest continue? I doubt it. And I doubt that with Amanpour at the helm, This Week will be able to compete with Meet the Press on domestic political coverage. But that seems to be the point–hiring Amanpour is meant to change This Week into a program with a more international focus.  And differentiate it will, but will that also result in increased viewership? That is the question.


Super sexist

8 Feb

I watched part of the Super Bowl last night, but really wasn’t interested in the game. I wanted to report on the commercials–those famous, expensive spots that seem to make advertising history each year.  But, I just didn’t have the patience to sit there and watch them. And you know what? The ones I did see offended me. Apparently, advertising agencies have been taught to believe that:

1) Only men watch football

2) Aforementioned men prefer to drink Bud Light while trying to fulfill every male stereotype out there

3) Sexism sells

The absolute worst from the sexist standpoint was the Dodge Charger commercial, where a man is emasculated by having to do everything his wife nags him to do, and makes up for it by taking a ride in this ridiculous car.  Close behind is the always offensive GoDaddy, a company that believes men will buy websites if scantily clad women appear in the ads.

My vote is that as marketers we stop paying heed to this one time event. We give these commercials too much power by endlessly commenting and analyzing them.  The bottom line is that it is a one-time deal that proves certain companies have outmoded advertising ideas—thinking that by advertising during the big game they will get so many eyeballs they won’t have to do much else.

Your thoughts?

Advertising is not enough

23 Nov

Say you want to sell something. You think: I’ll place an ad to get buyers. Buyers will come, see the item and pay for it. Deal done. For simple transactions, this simple paradigm works. Take note of all the individual ads for used furniture, bikes and other stuff on Craigslist.

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However, there must be more thought put in when you are trying to market for a large store, retail operation or national distributor.  First, you are selling more than one item. When you are advertising for a larger operation you are trying to accomplish at least two things. One is to move product and another is to get people in your store. The idea being that if someone is there to buy 2-for-1 widgets, he or she may also buy some gidgets.

So your ad agency created a great ad, the pricing is great both for the customer and for your bottom line, and you’ve done a comprehensive media buy. All you have to do now is sit back and wait. Right? Wrong!

Retailers, from the smallest to the largest, have to be a bit more proactive. First, they have to make sure they have enough stock of what they are attempting to sell. Second, they have to have contingency plans if the demand is too large. Are you going to honor the same price when a new shipment arrives? Are you going to give rainchecks?

In short, advertising must be connected to your operations and customer service policies.

Let me share a misadventure I had at a well known office supply store (email me if you want the name).  They had advertised a certain desk chair on sale. On the second day of the sale, I showed up at a store and wanted to buy said desk chair . The store was “out of stock.” In fact, most every store in the area was out of stock. I had to ask the manager to locate stores with the chair in stock and both had only one chair. At no point did he offer to call and have the other store hold the chair for me. The manager also did not offer to give me a coupon or the same price on a similar chair.  In fact, the whole experience was illustrative of terrible customer service, but also of the disconnect  between advertising and operations.

The store had advertised a sale for an item that it did not have in stock. Perhaps it was bait and switch and perhaps it was the fault of the advertising manager.Whatever the reason, it did not result in a sale, quite the opposite, it resulted in an irritated potential customer who will think twice before going to this store for anything, much less anything advertised in the weekly circular.

Advertising gets people to the door but it does not make the sale.  Customer service and sales staff make the sale.

The truth is advertising alone is rarely enough.

It’s not you, it’s me

17 Nov

Have you ever wondered why some ads work and some don’t?  Some ads don’t work because they are missing crucial information or they are too convoluted or weird. Some ads just don’t stimulate interest or excitement. And some ads miss their target completely by being placed in the wrong medium.

Yes, sometimes, it is the marketing effort that is to blame. Sometimes the creativity wasn’t there or the strategy was not the best.

But (of course there is a but), sometimes it is what you are selling, your offer, that is to blame.  In other words, your marketing is fine but your offer is not.

Many times I get dozens of emails advertising an event. The event is posted everywhere. All the correct information is there. Perhaps there is a great headline. But the date conflicts with something else. But the price is too high. But you just bought something similar. The offer is off.

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Sometimes, what you are offering is not what the customer wants.

For instance, a local marketing association is having an event about LinkedIn. Another organization in town had a similar event just a few weeks ago. Furthermore, the event costs $60. It is too much for me.  There was nothing wrong with the marketing for the event except the offer didn’t entice me (in this case it was the cost).

If you are failing to bring in people to your event or buyers to your store, examine your offer. Is the offer fair? Is the offer special? Do people like the offer? Don’t blame your marketing until you make sure you have a good offer.

Sometimes you have to think, it’s not you, it’s me.

Do you have examples of an ad with a bad offer? Please share!!!



29 Oct

Last night, I was fortunate to visit a magnificent exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, entitled State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.


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As the curator explained, propaganda is inherently linked with advertising and public relations. In the beginning of modern advertising and PR, propaganda people were running the show. Edward Bernays, the “father of modern PR” was a propagandist. But propaganda is not inherently negative. Propaganda is simply the propagation of an idea, using various means.

Unfortunately, as with Hitler and the Nazis, propaganda has been used to propagate evil and incite violence and murder. It is a testament to the power of propaganda that the Holocaust was as widespread and supported as it was.

The Nazis understood the power of mass media, and they understood the power of symbolism and word choice. They understood that you had to dehumanize your enemy. They used words that had emotional appeal to the Germans of the day, like “freedom.”

The Nazis made radios cheaper and widely available, and then proceeded to use radio as a way to send out their propaganda within music shows. It became illegal in Nazi Germany to listen to foreign radio broadcasts, punishable by long imprisonment. So the way propaganda worked within Nazi Germany was to use all media possible and by the suppression of all opposing viewpoints.

In any case, the lesson to learn is that words are powerful.  We that work in the promotion business, be it advertising, PR or marketing have the power to persuade and that is not something to be taken lightly.

What does the folding of Gourmet and Modern Bride mean?

6 Oct

Yesterday came the news that Conde Nast will be folding its long running and popular publications Gourmet and Modern Bride. A few other magazines are also ceasing publication, resulting in more people being laid off at Conde Nast. The reason? Decline in both ad sales and circulation.

What does it mean?

It means that print is on its last legs. With advertising down across the board, and people abandoning print for various reasons (cost, environmental concerns, can get content online), I see a not-so-distant future where there will be no print magazines at all. The costs to print will outweigh the revenue generated, as was the case with Gourmet and Modern Bride.

Even with loyal readers, quality content and a weighty history, Gourmet will print its last issue in November. For now, C-N plans to keep printing Bon Apetit. Modern Bride’s last issue is the current one. Brides will up its printing to monthly. Mergers in the print world mean less choice for advertisers.  We may see ad prices jump.  And then, will advertisers stick with print? Doubtful.

What are your thoughts?