Curb your Jets!

I like Larry David… a lot!  You may even say that LD has stolen a lot his material from my life… or my father’s!  Who, btw, bears a striking resemblance to Larry and definitely finds himself in equally precarious predicaments.  The difference being that my old man may be sweetest man on the planet and would just as soon diffuse bombastic situations as Mr. David seems to thrive upon.  For the 3 of you who have never seen ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm‘, our lovable protagonist  just can’t help himself to thrust his personal commentary – much of which we all share but hold internally – into others’ lives.  This of course produces a cornucopia of voyeuristic pleasure…

Alas, so as not to come off as shill for ‘Curb’ (a label only accurate for my Philly sports fandom – typing quickly now while the Phils give a little taste of what’s to come to the Braves who I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll see in the playoffs before moving on to those moron-led Red Sox in the World Series), I want to relay a true Larry David moment I encountered grocery shopping for my Labor Day festivities:  What started as an innocent jaunt to the local Harris Teeter to grab some vino, cheese and crackers (sprinkled with the 5-10 impulse purchases that plague my family budget every visit) turned into a “where are the cameras” sort of moment for yours truly.  So I’m carrying a basket with a small number of items – 10-15 at most – when I approach the checkout lanes.  Now you would think this was the day before a 3ft. snowfall was to fall on the greater Wash DC area – the checkout lanes were off the charts!  So I mosey over to the express lane (see #5 here for a sneak preview of what’s to come) that was sparse – 2 people in front of me – an elicited a sigh of relief.

<Column intermission (thanks for the idea, Coach Slouch):  I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but why do grocery stores but the SLOWEST checkout associate (don’t you dare say ‘cashier’) in the express lane???  I know, I know, conventional wisdom says that there’s less for them to check out, but d*mn, if i weren’t in a hurry, I would stand behind the 23 people one lane over!  Come on people – can you think about your constituents for a change???  It’s like our fearless President O-Hope&Change… thinking that turning the screws on business owners is going to make them say, “you’re right Barr-wrong, now that you’re taking more of the money that I’m generating, from my ideas, risks, personnel decisions, etc., I think I’ll take the less money that you allow me to keep to hire more people…  what was I thinking???” >

15 minutes later, after my <insert ethnic slur here> checkout associate has finally processed the 8 items before me, finally, my turn… I’m this much closer to starting my Labor Day weekend – YES!  So I gander behind me to see how many suckers are in for the wait from h*ll that I endured and don’t you know, my lane is about 10 people deep now… suckers!  Just then my overly (not) friendly checkout illegal uttered something unintelligible and pointed to an obscure sign … which I would say was about a font size of ‘2’ under the “EXPRESS CHECKOUT” which was about a font size of 200!  It read ‘8 Item Limit’.  Time for quick thinking – I had 4 bottles of wine, 3 different cheeses, 2 sleeves of crackers, 1 bag of chips and some ‘healthy’ nonsense that my wife made me grab so we would feel better about ourselves.  Don’t do that math; it’s more than 8 items.  I was screwed.  Time to think quick… got it!  All like items count as ONE ITEM!  I’m now down to about 7 items – YES!  But the crowd was growing restless…

I started hearing catcalls from the schleps behind me in line.  “What do you think you’re doing?”  “You have more than 8 items, put something back or get out of our lane!”  Cue the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme song… it’s on like Donkey Kong!  I conjure my inner Larry David, and in my best Jewish accent offer up the following gem:  “If you people had a clue,  you’d realize that like items count as ONE item… it’s in the Express Lane handbook!”.  Then something amazing happened… as I girded for a battle, they all laughed!  Having exhausted my full arsenal with one bellowing statement, I learned a valuable lesson – channeling your inner Larry David to solve a conflict is more likely to result in a laugh than an intellectual victory… so use only when the strategy calls for it!

The marketing lesson here boys and girls is that banking on things to occur just as they did in other settings is foolish.  Business – and more specifically, marketing – though often copied, never fully replicates successful execution.  The true winners are those who dare to be bold.  Those who copy or follow are relegated to smaller market share and lower earnings.  True, boldness can lead to monumental losses (such as utilizing data that you have been warned NOT to use over and over and over again), but taking calculated risks at incremental levels is the path to success.

Case in point, for marketers that utilize email for customer acquisition, the rule of thumb since the medium took shape in the mid/late 90’s was to avoid Mondays and Fridays like the plague.  And this rule was rooted in good logic; most people are getting back to work on Mondays, setting up their week, scheduling tasks to complete, etc.; marketing messages would be largely ignored.  Similar concept for Fridays; people are winding down their weeks and are racing to finish deadlines, etc.  and are largely ignoring promotional email.  And forget about weekends, right?  Who’s tied to their email over the weekend???

Now I don’t want to claim any sort of otherworldly prescience or clairvoyance, but I began speaking to my email marketing clients several years ago, imploring them to shift deployments to Mondays/Fridays (Fridays at a minimum) and consider testing the weekend.  The reason… rooted in logic from traditional direct mail, the damn inbox is too full the other days!  That’s it – rocket science, right?  Almost as genius as arguing that 4 bottles of wine only counts as one in the express checkout lane…  Think about it, don’t you think your message has a better chance of being read/considered if not mingled with the hundreds of thousands of promo email sent at the same time as yours???  Don’t think long, the answer is ‘yes’.  And don’t you also think that people who are miserable with their jobs (beyond me, that would be mostly everybody) would rather look at anything than the drivel they’re working on? (another ‘YES”).  Especially on a Friday afternoon where people would love to look busy… or a Monday morning where anything disguised as work would be a welcome ‘easing into’ the work week?  Well we finally have some empirical fact to support these suggestions.  It does work.  And not only deploying on these days but also the wee hours in the morning so that when peeps report to work, or have their morning coffee, they are a tremendously captive audience… so hit them when they’re reading, not when they’re racing to a meeting or finishing a spreadsheet that was dumped on them 15 minutes earlier for said meeting, etc.  A little common sense will go a long way.

Sort of like arguing that a sharp Vermont Cheddar and Swiss Gruyère really count as 1 item in the express checkout lane.

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  1. You are outrageous… And I love you for it.

      • TC
      • September 14th, 2011

      Well thank you Pags… not enough hours in the day to settle on being boring!

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