Posts Tagged ‘ Marketing ’

Steve Jobs

So we lost an American icon two weeks ago – Steve Jobs was a true revolutionary in the technology, personal computing, and entertainment spaces.  Alas, if you think this is yet another digital bl*w job, think again.  Quite frankly, I don’t get it.  Now all you maniacs who are about to press ‘comment’, stop; I do “get” all that the man did to make our lives better, keep us more connected with those we otherwise wouldn’t via a machine that gets smaller and smaller everyday making our communications and existence in general more convenient, productive, efficient, etc.  He may even lay more accurate claim to inventing the internet that our pal Al Gore.  But none of these eulogies are my intent… for you must merely peform a Google search to read all the platitudes.

What I don’t get is this outpouring of love as if we lost our closest relative (or dog for you PETA folks).  I was in Philadelphia two weekends ago (fitting, as I witnessed the death of Philly sports in one godforsaken weekend!), walking around Rittenhouse Square, when we happened past the Apple store.  I was struck by maybe a thousand post-it notes of sympathy for Mr. Jobs and sentiments of how much he would be missed, etc.  HUH??? 

So I really am not an unsympathetic wretch – I genuinely feel bad for the Jobs family – or any family that loses a loved one prematurely to a terrible disease (or any cause for that matter).  But this outpouring of love for a man who pioneered a ‘better mousetrap’?  Did we gather around the village bonfire to lament the inventor of the air conditioner when he passed?  How about the venerable Thomas Crapper?  (The first correct ‘comment’ to name that person and ID Crapper’s gift to society gets a free subscription to TC Ramblings!).  I would make the argument – and win EVERY time – that these two gentlement have contributed more to society but left in relative anonymity.  Why?  I have no f’ing idea!  I mean, part of the appeal of Jobs – I believe – is he was perceived largely as a nerdy recluse whose contributions far outpaced his compensation.  Not like those piece of sh*t Wall St. bankers who do nothing for the greater good of society but rather stuff their wallets, eat steaks, get fat, and seemingly never have anything bad happen to them.  (Hold on, need to post my protest location on FourSquare!).  But seriously, shouldn’t we have the same issue of paying $699 for an iPad that costs something like $42 to produce as we do b*tching about Bank of America charging $5 per month to utilize their debit card?  At the end of the day, just take your damn business to the bank next door that doesn’t charge for their debit card – isn’t that far easier than filling up my damn airwaves and print with treatises why this is ‘extortion’???  For the love of God, find another stinkin’ bank!

Which brings me back to our collective mourning of Jobs.  I have 2 theories:  1) Conspiracy (of course).  Could the saints that run Apple be behind this public outpouring of love and devotion?  Consider the post-it notes; could that have started with notes of support by the employees who were perhaps encouraged to affix to the store front?  Once that occured, then perhaps 2) the Pack Mentality caused the notes to take on a life of their own as our disaffected youth – fresh from their $100k education but lacking a job that pays even 25% of their investment and so meander the sidewalks looking like Zack Galafanakis wondering why nobody will hire them – pulled the ‘crazy pens’ from their Lands End back packs and simply joined the pack of sympathizers, emblazoning their 3×3 neon notepads with Hosannas?  Plausible. 

(Sidenote:  Don’t these Apple stores remind you of the Black jack tables at the Borgata on a weekend – 5 rows deep of people straining to get on the table to donate their money!  I go in those stores and dont’ know what the hell I’m supposed to do after faking like I know what I’m doing  by picking up various versions of iPhones – only differing in color!  I think the employees are somehow color coded but can someone show me the legend so I know who to ask what?  I bought wifey a MacPro Plus last Christmas – yes, I said it, CHRISTMAS! – and the sweet nerdy sales girl was SO damn smart… but man if she didn’t have the most awful breath.  Isn’t that how it always works?  We can never have it all… smart as a whip, even on the cute side of the ‘looks continuum’, but god-awful breath!  I guess they won… I bought the computer before sprinting outside for fresh air.)

OK, now the marketing lesson:  If you can get enough people to start behaving in a certain way, you’re almost guaranteed that the herd will follow.  Citing statistics, roughly 3% of us are true trailblazers who march to our own beat.  Know what makes the rest of us?  SHEEP!  Don’t worry, it’s good being part of the herd… safer that way.  But as sales professionals, we focus so much on the microcosm of every transaction and oftentimes miss the bigger marketing picture.  Sometimes I wonder what has happened to the ‘loss-leader’.  We all know about the hi-rollers getting the fabulous free suites at the Bellagio and the airlines rewarding the frequent flyers with free flights… why do they do this?  Look no further than the age-old strategy that keeps ’em coming back:  Forget about the occasional profit, identify those prospects or even current customers who have the ability to attract ‘followers’ and get them to YOUR marketplace – whatever the cost.  Marketing is about long-term brand and experience building.  Don’t fall into the quarterly earnings trap that stifles innovation.  Be the trailblazer with the zany idea; so long as its rooted in long term growth the sheep will follow.

Baah! Baah!  Baah!

Expectations… guess what Ryan Howard does vs. lefties with the game on the line?

First of all many apologies for my silence of late.  Still getting a handle on this whole blog thing… I realize that frequency is crucial but I’m not some troll sitting in a basement blogging… I have a damn life!  Blame my uber-social wife for too many activities; if I were holed up in my basement in my underwear commenting on minutia then I’d put out content every day.  Unfortunately, she makes me go out and interact with real people… which is good for content; bad for having time to write about it.

Fear not… I’m loaded for bear.  Rather than blow it all out here, I’ll focus on a series of concise yet entertaining/educational anecdotes… starting with tonight.  So I settled in to watch my noble Phillies take their rightful place in baseball royalty by expelling the almost worthy Cardinals in their chapel of  a baseball field.  Unfortunately we’re forced to suffer through a game 5 back in heaven-on-earth, Citizen’s Bank Park, where our very own deity, Roy Halladay will vault us one step closer to the promised land (fear not!). 

So being 2 martini’s deep when Ryan Howard yet again swiped at a typical 2 strike slider away, out of the zone by yet another junk-balling lefty to dash our hopes and cause me a bellowing howl of “F*CK”, much to the chagrin of our not-quite-understanding next door neighbor who just one week ago filed a noise complaint to our home owners association, I was pretty down in the dumps.  Expectations… what can I say?

Wifey tried to calm  me down (with the ever-so-popular, “what the eff is wrong with you?!”)… didn’t quite work.  Know what did?  When she threw on the DVR of ‘Real Housewives of NJ’, watching the Gorga’s and Giudice’s making friendly in Punta Cana!  Let me tell you friends, must see TV!  This Bravo really has taken the concept of ‘trainwreck’ and figured a way to make mad cash on it.

But I digress.  More to the point… on the ‘expectations’ theme, I arranged a subtle ‘Happy Birthday’ dinner for my 25-year-old betrothed (well, she looks 25… you can guess her real age :-).  We had a great time at a wonderfully fun restaurant in the Reston Town Center (many thanks to Anthony at Il Fornaio – if you want to hold an event at a vibrant venue with great food and great staff, THIS is the place!).  But let me tell you about a business who did it wrong… that would be Passion Fish also in the Reston Town Center… pretty much the consensus premier restaurant amongst 10 or so within a 4 block diameter (sorry Morton’s… but you’re slipping).  Here’s the issue that both marketers and logical consumers with  more than a 5th grade education can appreciate:

I have 15-20 guests ready to join the birthday dinner.  Let’s remember that we’re about to enter (if we haven’t already) a double-dip recession.  Frankly, restaurants aren’t breaking at the seams with people clammering to bring in $1,500+ worth of business.  So a few days prior, off I go to discuss the dinner party with Ms. Rigid-I’m-The-Group-Sales-Director at the aforementioned Passion(less) Fish.  May I just offer that a bigger moron doesn’t exist.  Perhaps due to the rigid sales manual the Nazi superiors forced upon poor Miranda, she was dead set on enforcing the $2,000 minimum for the room with a limited menu.  I felt bad for her… living 2 blocks away and a consummate frequenter of the various establishments nearby, I can count on one hand the weekend evenings when the backroom in consideration was actually utilized.  Maybe its just me, but expecting our guests to pony up $150+ each was a wee bit much for a low-key dinner, but I was SURE that in these trying times that I had all the leverage and surely my tan-averse adversary would see the error in her ways and realize that receiving SOME profit is certainly better than NO profit.

This is a lesson that I’m shocked by daily.  Now before you Jack Welch’s out there offer, “give them a break, there’s overhead that has to be covered including a dedicated server staff and the slow down caused by the orders all at once which will impact the other guests that evening.”  Really?  So you’re going to tell me that if I just rolled to any restaurant with 15 individuals who are all dying to get drunk and eat are going to be turned away?  Right, thought not.

So what happened?  I wheeled my big Italina a*s out of that joint and told Miranda to let her boss know that she just turned down $1,800 worth of business due to her rigid demand of $2,000.  I walked roughly 500 steps to Il Fornaio (ahem, the BEST), reserved a private table where they customized the menu, held me to NO minimum, etc. and promptly pocketed our $1,800 by the end of the night.  I have the receipt and am thinking of sending to the management of Passion(less) Fish but thinking that would be bit caustic… so, I’ll do that tomorrow!

Bottom line for all of you marketing gurus, there needs to be a degree of autonomy between the programs we devise and the autonomy of the sales function to close deals (where the goal is NOT to maximize profits with each deal; but rather, to maximize long-term profitability).  Business rules have stifled more innovation than any recession.  I have the benefit of performing both business functions; I do sales for a marketing services organization so I’m constantly ‘selling’ services that, when improperly implemented, cause a disconnect with the sales effort. I blame this phenomenon on technology and doing ‘more with less’.  That is, we’re constantly wearing more hats since technology has made us vastly more productive than we were 10 years ago… when it took 5 people to do the work of 2 today.  But guess what… skill sets still matter.  And just because I find a Miranda who is great at greeting people, it doesn’t mean she has the smarts to realize that closing a deal of $1,800 vs. $2,000 (when costs are likely 50% of this) when the alternative is an empty room is actually a good thing (to quote the immortal Tom Krizmanich).  

Sort of like when the Phillies lose game 4 of the NLDS with a chance to have the rotation set up perfectly for the NLCS.  But not to worry, there’s always an Il Fornaio (or a good Teresa/Melissa catfight) around the corner to right the emotional ship!

What the F?

So this past weekend I was immersed in pure euphoria otherwise known as the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles… perhaps the only combo better in my book than vanilla milkshakes and sex.  And don’t you know, they both completely sh*t the bed Sunday night.  Now let’s give the Phightin’ Phils a break; the night prior they clinched a playoff berth (first of any MLB team) and rightfully celebrated by chugging goblets of Veuve Clicquot.  And for our beloved Iggles, well, they gave it the ole’ college try vs. a predicted Super Bowl contending Atlanta Falcons but our favorite reclamation project – and key to our season – Michael Vick went down to injury late in the 2nd half where had he stayed upright, the ‘Birds would have certainly beaten the Pigeons.

But the rest of the trip is what has me up typing with one eye on the Rachel Zoe Project.  That would be, in order, the ride back from Philly to DC, my 8 year old’s little League baseball game, and then my TV viewing for the evening.  Interestingly enough this concept started a full week prior watching Monday Night Football.  Now I have a general disdain for NFL commentators as the number of ‘goods’ max out at two:  Al “Do you believe in miracles” Michaels and Troy “is that you LaVar Arrington hiding under my bed” Aikman.  The rest of the bunch are toss-ups between the voice-over guy for the old Monster Truck rallies and Michael Buffer.  But one of the 3 Stooges from the MNF booth, Philly’s own Ron Jaworski, had a minor slip of the tongue.  It’s so damn funny that I can only implore you to view/listen; I’ll wait…

Funny as sh*t, right??? I really can’t stand Jaws; as much of a homer Philly fan that I am, I’m sure you think I would/should love him, but no.  I didn’t even like him when he led the Birds to their first super bowl appearance in 1980 (disclaimer: I turn 40 in about a month.  It’s widely believed that prepubescent boys begin their life of sports fandom – and by extension, a constant barrage of beer ads, truck commercials and cut-aways featuring practically naked cheerleaders… and we like Halloween parties in our middle-age featuring the same elements, why??? – around 8 or 9 years old…  the ’80 Super Bowl hit when I was 9… I was hooked on the Birds!  But bearded wonder Jaws was NOT for me… he looked like a dope.  And then I heard him speak and his ‘dopiness’ was cemented.  One of my favorite phrases is ‘tis better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.’…  Apropos for Jaws.   And it’s not what he says but rather the over-inflection of his voice pattern that’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.  But my position was/is “give the guy a break.”  We’re talking cable TV (ESPN) after 10PM people… if we can’t say sh*t there, where can we???  And the fact that the poor guy had to castigate himself and actually apologize during the broadcast was flat embarrassing (but also very funny!).   Didn’t we learn during that whole wardrobe malfunction thing a few Super Bowls ago that the NFL needs some sort of delay on their broadcasts?

But here’s the rub… one week later during my post Philly sports malaise day, I went the OTHER way with this profanity opinion!  Now I played a collegiate sport and know full well the locker room mentality to the point where the F word is merely an adjective in my daily lexicon (“can you believe that f’ing client still hasn’t paid?”  “Honey, throw a chicken pot pie in the f’ing microwave?”  “Our f’ing neighbor is banging on our door again because we’re too loud?  What the f?!”).

So I’m listening to 2 hours of the Howard Stern show (huge fan… don’t judge me) on my drive back to DC and, not having had much chance to listen since his shift to satellite radio about a decade ago, I was pretty amused by the casual dropping of our favorite 4 letter words.  But I have to tell you, it was EXTREMELY conversational and literally a non-factor in terms of frequency but in terms of effect, A+.  My next profane-laced experience (now that I’m somewhat super-sensitive thanks to Jaws) was my 8 year-old’s little league game!  No, none of the kids were dropping f-bombs, but merely EVERY parent conversation (whispered of course) WAS!  Then, the Coup d’Etat … the Charlie Sheen f’ing roast!  This was extremely funny… but forced if you know what I mean.  While Howard’s use of profanity was pretty casual, this profanity mixed with an occasional respite of the King’s English was, how shall I say, too f’ing much?  I’m no prude, but it made me think…

Every company wants to be ‘edgy’ and ‘push the envelope’ these days when it comes to strategy and stockholder meetings but what do they actually do??? The same old safe creative used for the last 20 years.  Not that this is always a bad thing… if you’re Allstate, the last thing you need is a Snooki driving around Italy touting the responsiveness of her agent.  Or if you’re Charles Schwab utilizing a scene from “Wall Street” touting “greed is good”.  But let’s take a lesson from DirecTV:  Disclaimer, I’m a customer – and they are NOT a client – and I generally hate the choke hold they have on me due to my addiction to the NFL (i.e. the ONLY reason I use their service).  But those Deion Sanders spots are priceless.  And how about the balls they have to brazenly announce the “free NFL ticket”???  It took me all of 2.2 seconds to call and discover that it’s for new customers only and complain why a customer of 10+ years has to pay $350… when I learned that my call was 95% of their total.  But it didn’t matter… I threatened to cancel but never did.  That’s some balls.  Juxtapose to Netflix who thought they had a stranglehold on their customers and forced them to choose between streaming  movies OR DVD delivery and subsequently saw a 30% drop in stock price.  That was foolish.  There are a plethora of other options for movies… namely HBO and their answer to ‘movies on demand’, HBO-GO.

So the lesson here, before you show a set of f’ing b*alls, better make sure your f’ing product/service can’t be replaced!