Friday, September 17, 2010

Service please

This week our oven decided that heating to the selected temperature is optional.

Now, this is not just any oven, but one of those super fancy models that people spent a lot of money on before the economy and housing prices fell through the floor.

So we called the local appliance store that just recently started selling our fancy brand of stove. They spend a fair amount of money advertising that their service separates them from the national chains.

Here's about how the conversation went...

"Hello, I'd like to have someone come out and look at our oven. It's not working right."

"Did you buy it here?"


"Then we can't help you."

"But you sell that brand and you're the only service center in our area."

"If you didn't buy it here, we can't help you."

"You didn't sell this brand when we moved here."


"So when we remodel our kitchen next year and put in a new refrigerator and dishwasher we should take our business elsewhere?"

"I guess."

"Okay, then. Goodbye."

We called back and asked for the manager who apologized profusely, said no, it wasn't their policy that they only serviced appliances they sold and set an appointment at time that was convenient for us.

He's lucky we did. Most people would have moved on and found someone else to do the work.

Now we're really wondering whether that's the best place to buy appliances when we eventually do remodel the kitchen.

Another reminder that all the advertising in the world is wasted if you don't know who's answering the phone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

But what about the children

There's a lot of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing going on at the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood over Zevo-3, a new TV show being produced for Nicktoons. Not because it looks awful. It does. (you can see the trailer here) But because its characters are directly lifted from a marketing campaign for Skechers shoes.

So apparently it's okay to create a cartoon character like Mickey Mouse and then slap his mug on millions of products targeted at children to make a few bucks, but it's not okay to have it work the other way? I'm not sure I see the logic.

It's too bad the self-appointed protectors of America's youth don't have anything better to do than whine about a TV show so bad that kids probably won't watch it anyway.

And what if the show does sell a few shoes? It could be worse...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There are no silver bullets

Remember this commercial?

It was all anyone could talk about back in 1984. Talk about buzz, Walter Mondale used the phrase in a presidential debate to ridicule Gary Hart. It was even turned into a novelty song by Coyote McCloud (one of the all-time great DJ names).

Even with the internet, it's hard to imagine something creating as much buzz today as this commercial did back then. Yet, Wendy's still lags way behind its competitors in sales and locations while upstarts like Five Guys and In and Out Burger continue to build their businesses.

A great ad campaign, can't make a mediocre product great. Only products that truly differentiate themselves from the competition in a way that's meaningful to its customers can do that.

Advertising that creates buzz is no substitute for a product that does.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who is your competition

In marketing we always talk about the competition. The competition for Coke is Pepsi. For Chevrolet, it's Ford, Toyota, Honda and others. For Disney Vacations, it's a trip to Six Flags, a national park or a week at grandmas.

Or is it?

Sometimes the competition isn't so obvious. For Chevy, the competition is also holding on to your existing car another few years or buying one of the millions of late model used cars out there.

For Coke, the competition may simply be water.

And in these tough economic times, the competition for a Disney vacation is also a Blu-ray player, an LCD television and your backyard.

You have to sell the need and desire for your product. Not just its difference from "the competition."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Right, now!

It used to be that being first in a new category with a pretty good product was good enough. Or you could be a fast follower and get to market shortly after the leader, but do it a little differently and you'd be able to succeed.

Today, in a market flooded with products that perform and in an economy that has more supply than demand, you have to be right, right now. There are no second chances.

So if your company's philosophy is to be 80% right but first or 90% right but a little behind the leader, it's time to change your thinking. With Twitter, Facebook, blogs and so many other forms of instant communications buzzing throughout your community of users, prospects and influencers, you have to be 100% right, right out of the box.

There is no other option.