Friday, December 17, 2010

He's back in the game

Redemption comes fast in the digital age. Apparently all you need to be is great at something.

Michael Vick is not only the leading vote getter for this year's NFL Pro Bowl game, he's also the new spokesperson Woodbury Nissan, a car dealer near Philadelphia.

Yeah, it's not a new Nike deal. The only compensation he received for the appearance is a new car. But it's putting him back in the game. Whether he should be in the game at all is another question, but he's certainly bringing notoriety to a retailer who would otherwise be just another car dealer.

I don't object to the dealer using Vick. I hate what he did, as do a lot of other people who will never patronize this dealer simply because he's the face of their franchise now. But they had to know that going in.

The dealer is betting that enough Philadephians (they don't need more than a few thousand customers a year) care more about his performance on the football field. And they're probably right.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pandora's Ads

Advertising is evil, insipid, immoral and its practitioners are charlatans of the worst order. At least according to most public educators and the hand-wringers at organizations like the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. That is, of course, until they need the money.

With all the budget woes facing school districts across the country, the once holier than thou are now going out with hat in hand to keep many important programs alive.

Schools need the money. Their budgets across the country have been crushed by falling property values and declining funding from state and federal sources. It only makes sense that they look to private sources for sponsorship support.

So those in power soften their positions yet still make bold pronouncements to demonstrate their superiority to the peddlers of capitalism in the advertising community.

A case in point, the L.A. school district is open to selling ad space on lunch trays or giving out free samples of "approved food products" to the kids. But to show how tough they are, they've said won't sell advertising for liquor, tobacco, firearms or high fat and calorie foods. This is both laughable and sad at the same time.

Of course you're not going to put a Captain Morgan banner in the gym. And Winchester won't become the official starting gun for track and field events.

And what about those high fat foods? If McDonald's wants to advertise their salad menu is that okay, even though most kids will buy burgers when they walk in the door? What about Pepsi? Sure their cola is full of calories, but they produce a lot of healthy drink options.

Hard times force people to make hard choices. If putting a few ads in schools means that music is still played, the sports teams get to compete, the classrooms get new textbooks, and the facilities are kept from crumbling. Then go for it.

Clearly, based the way people have voted over the last couple of elections, that's what our society wants.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Crazy

The holidays make people do some crazy stuff: max out credit cards hoping to demonstrate the depth of their love, drink a beverage laced with bourbon and raw eggs, and send fruitcakes that have a half life of 10,000 years to friends and relatives. But none are crazier than what Schwinn has done.

Embracing their inner dork, they've created a bell choir on bicycles. Resplendent in their couture nerdware, riding Schwinn's ultra hip retro cruisers, they play holiday songs on command wearing grins so wide you'd think they were in an Ipana commercial.

It's all just a little creepy.

But maybe it's also smart. After all, no matter how hard Schwinn has tried over the past 30 years, they haven't been taken seriously as a bike company by serious cyclists. Their forays into hard core, high end road and mountain bikes have all failed. So maybe it's better that they channel their past and become famous for retro cruisers, new Sting Rays and other updated classics.

Then again, maybe it's just creepy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big Ass Marketers

In Lexington Kentucky, there's a company making fans that knows more about marketing than General Motors, Coca Cola and American Airlines, combined.

Recently profiled in Ad Age, Big Ass Fans is one of the fastest growing companies in the country.

What makes this such a great marketing company?

They listen to their customers. Originally called HVLS Fan Company, when they were out on sales calls to industrial customers, they kept hearing the same thing over and over, "Man, those are big ass fans." So they changed the name.

They created a 'Blue Ocean.' Originally found in factories, restaurants, churches and other commercial settings, they added a high degree of style to their fans and began selling them to the owners of high end custom homes for $3,000 each, more than ten times the cost of the ceiling fan in my screen porch.

They're disciplined. Big Ass Fans sell direct to the consumer only. Even though there are millions of homeowners across the country who install fans, they know their market and are not going to join the race to the bottom by competing with Hunter and Hampton Bay on the store shelves at Home Depot or Lowes.

They know the value of marketing. During the recession their sales, while still growing, had slowed below forecast. Rather than do what most companies did during the downturn and cut back, they added more money to the marketing budget and they are now reaping the rewards as the economy recovers.

They know it all starts with a superior product. The funny name, the controversy it creates, the buzz it generates would all be worthless if the product didn't deliver.

They're fearless. They've had the post office reject their mailers, the Blue Grass Regional Airport reject their ads, and some companies won't buy from them because of the name. But even more are aware of them because of it and they aren't about to cave on the basis of a few complaints by the perpetually offended.

As marketing role models go, you could do worse than follow Big Ass Fans.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Start something

In an era of 10% reported unemployment and chronic underemployment, you can continue to send out resumes, pound the pavement and pray for a break, or you can start something.

There are a million niches out there waiting to be created and served. Starting a business has never been easier and the costs of failure have never been lower.

Start a consulting business. Start an online magazine. Start a movement. Start a blog. Start with your passion, find your voice and you'll find an audience.

You may not start the next Facebook. But you may just create your next career.

John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

It can't happen if all you're doing is waiting for the phone to ring.

Start something.