Thursday, March 15, 2012

Buyers versus customers

Yesterday Disney held its "Upfront" presentation, a preview of the upcoming season designed to get advertising agency media buyers and corporate marketing directors to open their wallets.

Nothing interesting about that, every media company does it.

What was interesting was the media executives on the guest list were encouraged to bring their children.

As someone who was purposefully late to the satellite/cable party (a rant against Charter may be a future blog post), I occasionally stop on the Disney Channel as I'm flipping between ESPN, The History Channel and Comedy Central and wonder, "who watches this crap?"

That would, of course, be kids.

Rather than just boring the marketing executives with statistics, charts, graphs and stock photos of kids in a Powerpoint presentation, Disney demonstrated the power of their product by bringing kids into the room. And not just any kids, but those who the executives knew weren't plants coached to react to the content Disney was presenting.

So instead old guys in suits looking at the clips and wondering "Is this stuff any good?" they heard the squeals and laughter of their own children and thought, "I have to buy this."


Never forget that sometimes your buyers are not your customers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The best way to insure success?

Geico breaks just about every rule of marketing. From running multiple campaigns at once to featuring characters like cavemen, pitchmen, lizards, and pigs that seem to be designed to do nothing other than annoy.

Typically brands are rewarded for consistency, "likeability," relevance and differentiation. Well, Geico is definitely different.

While Allstate continues to use Dennis Haysbert, State Farm focuses on its agents, and Progressive continues to foist the well coifed Flo upon us, Geico flits around using each character to highlight a specific product or brand attribute.

I don't love the pig. I don't love the caveman. I'm okay with the Gecko. And the new rescue panther spot is funny.

This schizophrenia must be working for them because they keep doing it. But what does it say about advertising for insurance when I dumped Geico last year for The Hartford, a brand whose advertising is so low key I couldn't remember a single spot, because of their AARP discount?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Promises, promises

If you're running a business, here's a tip:

Only make promises you're prepared to keep.

A friend of mine, driven by the desire to shop at a locally-owned business and swayed by the promise of a free tune-up within one year of purchase, spent nearly $2,000 on a new bike at Williamson Bicycle Works last year.

Willy Bikes as they're called by the locals, has been around forever. The founder has a great reputation for taking care of customers, but clearly something has changed.

When my friend called to set up an appointment for his tune-up he was told they were too busy to take appointments over the phone. He would have to bring the bike in, leave it for a day and only then would they give him an estimate and schedule an appointment sometime next month. After explaining that he lives 30 miles away and he just wanted an appointment for his complimentary new bike tune-up, the tech reiterated, "No. Bring it in, leave it for a day and then you will get an appointment next month." and then hung up.

Customer service is about making things easy for customers, not you. The service process that Willy Bikes designed may work for the company – allowing them to control employee schedules and inventory –  it clearly doesn't work for the customer. 

Yes, we know you're busy assembling new bikes, getting the shop ready for the season, and handling lots of calls from people who want service. But that shouldn't be a surprise to you because after all, it is spring and you're always busy this time of year.

That's your problem, not your customers'.

You promised free tune-ups to people who purchased bikes last year and you have to give them within a reasonable time frame or expect your customers to be unhappy. If that means adding a few techs who are dedicated to doing just that for a few weeks out of the year then so be it.

Instead, Willy Bikes pissed off a guy who spent a lot of money with them last year. And because of that 15 people he knows are in the market for a new bike received an email yesterday that ended:

"Congratulations to Willy Bikes for being so busy that they don't need my business. Perhaps they don't need yours either."

Marketing gets you customers, service keeps it. Make sure you design your after-sale service to meet your customers' needs or be prepared to lose them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shave big money

Creating a successful business is simple. It requires just two steps.

1. Find the pain.
2. Fill the need.

Creating a remarkable business is hard. It requires three steps.

1. Find the pain.
2. Fill the need.
3. Have cojones.

Dollar Shave Club has all the appearances of becoming a remarkable business.

Michael Dubin and Mark Levine founded Dollar Shave Club on the pain that we've all felt when we've looked at that 4-pack of replacement blades with the $20 price tag on the peg at Target.

They've filled the need by sourcing their products factory-direct from China and Korea and selling only by on-line subscription to keep the price low.

But it's their fearless marketing that makes them remarkable and will ultimately lead to their success.

They've received nearly three million views and press all across the web on sites like Huffington Post, Time and many others. Let's face it, if they had just run a standard "Blades are expensive and we have a great new business that will help save you money" video, no one would have paid attention. How do I know this?

RazWar launched a nearly identical business in Belgium in 2009 with this video.

RazWar's low-key approach doesn't mean they aren't successful. They seem to be doing okay. They're just not remarkable.

If you want to create success in a world where Facebook can go from 0 - 750,000,000 users in just eight years, you'd better be remarkable. Because while others can copy your business model and find a way to make a product cheaper, a remarkable brand is the one competitive advantage no one can take away from you.