Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Different Sort of Naked Lunch

I just had one of those mistaken-identity moments that really hit home the importance of expectations.  I had a lunch appointment with the CEO of a local company.  I had met Greg only once before, about a year ago and remembered him to be a tall, lanky, red-haired man.

As I drove up to the restaurant, I immediately saw who I thought to be Greg standing outside the door.  He caught my gaze and nodded in approval as if to say ‘hey, it’s me’.  As I approached, I stuck out my hand and said his name.  He said ‘yes’ and then proceeded to lean over and kiss me on the cheek while attempting to hug me.

I rarely find myself at a loss for what to do, but this behavior really threw me.

I fumbled, awkwardly patted him on the back and made some ridiculous comment like: “Well, I guess we’ve been working together long enough to warrant a hug and kiss.”

It gets better.

We walked in chatting, and as the hostess seated us, he informed me that he was very excited about our lunch.  I was a bit surprised by his exuberance, but told him how pleased I was that he was open to meeting and sharing networking contacts.  At this point, ‘Greg’ stepped back, thoroughly perplexed, and asked “Do you know who I am?” I assuredly retorted, “Yes, Greg”.

He said “Kevin”.

It’s at this exact moment when I realized that Kevin was waiting for a date and I was not that person.  The rest was a mix of apologies; embarrassment and a long spotlighted walk past the hostess station—where the real Greg shook my hand in a firm, business-like manner.  This simple act, in sync with my initial expectations and within the framework by which most business relationships behave, immediately put me at ease, ready to move forward with the lunch appointment. As we walked by Kevin and his date, I thought to myself ‘I wonder how Kevin’s expectations are faring?’

The point of it all?

This wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity. It was about perceptions and expectations. As providers of goods and services, Summit projects a framework, very diligently, of what to expect. You do too. This increases the likelihood of our clients’ being in the mood to accept. It’s part of each of our brand’s experience.

We enter with a perception. We believe it and demand it.  So when the experience does not align with your expectations, however that truth plays out for you, the impact is brutal, a bit like meeting your financial analyst and discovering his office is in the back of a carwash. You’d pull back from the handshake or the hug and go looking elsewhere.

So it’s worth examining what you are projecting and how you carry it off. We don’t often consider that our brand experience includes how we meet at lunch—but it absolutely does. If your employees aren’t carrying off your company’s values in their dress and conduct, then don’t bother having them carry the business card.

Now, who wants to buy me lunch next week?

The Gecko Must Die

Which came first, the Caveman or the Gecko?

I used to actually like some of the Geico advertising. I thought it was clever. But now I’m annoyed.

For months, when the first few Caveman ads came out, I would blurt out: “I’ll have the roasht duck with the…mango shalsha” as if I too had Neanderthal jaws.

Yes, I know. I’m linking to Geico and giving them play even as I rant.

The thing is, too much of a good thing truly is bad. Especially with their lizard, Geico is all over the radio, TV, and next to my news articles on the Web.

And now, they torture us with “Somebody’s Watching Me,” that lame 80s song from (who remembers) Rockwell. No. I won’t link to this.

It’s overexposure. It’s untargeted, and it’s annoying.

As you know, Summit does strategic marketing. It’s in our best interest to encourage companies to market. But smartly. Doing the equivalent of hosing consumers down isn’t smart. I say it again. It’s annoying.

So I’d like to propose two ideas: 1) The Gecko must die. And, 2) Companies should target their audiences with one-to-one marketing and reach out to them personally.  Amazon, with its personalization engine, gets this. It recommends to you what it projects you personally would like. Smart.

One-to-one marketing is not just a name on a mailing label or email address. We’re talking about a postcard and/or email message that seems to know you, know your area, and demonstrates this in the copy. Then, it directs you to a Personal URL with your name in it. All wrapped up with a reason to respond.

We’re doing this now with a partner. We’re seeing the response rate jump. And we know who is responding and when. This is smart marketing. Not zipcode blasting.

Why not give it a Marketingsmack! and see if you can hit a home run over the fence? Ask Jack about it.

As for Geico, they should try HULU on the web, where consumers can select the ad, the length and the placement. It’s better than video spamming us with cavemen, lizards, and 80s washout musicians.

(P.S. It’s NCAA Hoops Finals time. Take a break, view the funniest SMACK you’ll see in the tournament, and send this blog to friend.)

The tail that wagged the market share…

Last week one of my clients, upon reading my blog, suggested that maybe I should go ahead and unveil one or two of those ‘smart’ clients to which I alluded.  Disclose what opportunities are being seized.

A quick glimpse into the online rental industry—as of January, the top 49 online rental sites show a “long tail,”— demonstrating the idea that “in a market with high freedom of choice, (i.e. music online), the blockbusters (i.e. Brittany Spears) can be outsold by the many smaller niche products.”  Personally, I imagine Brittany more as a ballbuster, than a blockbuster, but I digress.

The online rental data reveals that 21% of the market share is held by the top site, and that the top three rental sites collectively hold about 48% market share. As the proliferation of smaller sites increases, market share will be whittled away from the leaders.

Enter Hometownrent.com.

Hometownrent.com is an early-stage online listing service for property managers and owners.  Each geography has its own locally-identified url—chapelhillrent.com; burlingtonrent.com; blahblahrent.com; —you get the picture. The company competes with well-established, national players.

Hometownrent.com builds interest in its locations by attracting listings. In many of its markets they own the top search engine rankings, and that boosts the rental search traffic.

Some would say this is a mature market and that it’s useless to compete against behemoths that can outspend them. But Hometownrent.com understands that the present environment favors rental markets and that they are actually competing in a democratic open field that is favorable to stealing market share.

With that in mind, the company has begun a number of well-integrated, cost-effective campaigns to attract property owners and managers with multiple listings. The message is clear and the audience well understood – both key factors for success. It will be fun to watch as Hometownrent.com adds to the long tail of niche market share stealers.

Meanwhile, how are YOU doing—and what are you doing? Give us a MarketingSmack and tell us here – in other words, give us something else to write about.

–Jack

A shot in the arm…or, this week, the thigh

For the last nine months I’ve had in my possession an epi-pen – a just-in-case precaution for a phantom allergy that attacks without warning. I’ve often wondered if I’d have the nerve to actually jam that needle into the side of my thigh. Do I have what it takes?

Turns out, I do. I’m better now. And wiser for the experience.

What in the world does this personal story have to do with a business blog? I found myself, maybe due to the sleep and food deprivation, drawing an analogy. I wondered: “Who is going to make it to the other side of this economic down-turn? Who has the nerve to do what it takes to survive – to jam that needle and plunge.”

The companies and individuals that refuse to run scared are going to survive. More than survive – they’ll flourish.

I recently read an article in Money magazine that imparted this lesson, among other important ones: “If your competitors are in retreat, you can build your market presence.” Summit is grateful to have some pretty smart clients – clients that view this time as opportunistic and have continued to spend wisely to remain in front of their constituents. This is not to say that they haven’t changed the mix— they have, as have a lot of companies, according to a recent Duke Fuqua School of Business study showing marketing growth this year despite the economy.

In some ways, looking like you’re doing well is half the battle. People feel reassured that ‘you’re in it for the long haul’ if they see you as healthy and pursuing business with vigor.

But if you can’t change with the times, if you can’t ride the waves of technology and customer expectations, then no amount of posturing will help and you may well be the next RBW implosion. For RBW, clients reigned in their ad budgets, media outlets insisted on being paid directly, and suddenly, a great agency went “Poof!” owing more than it was worth.

Could RBW have adapted to encompass new areas to spend client money outside traditional advertising? Maybe. We don’t know all of the reasons they failed. But they did. And I can’t help but think it’s because they couldn’t take the shot.

Painful, maybe – but when death is the alternative – jamming seems like an easy choice.

I’d love to hear your stories of bravery. What, if you can share without giving away top secrets, are you doing to stay in the game? Tell us here.