Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

About Francois Gossieaux

Francois Gossieaux is the President of Corante Marketing and the blogger that I follow on Emergence Marketing. Francois joined Corante as a partner, investor, and head of marketing and business development in July 2005. Corante is the "world's first blog media company" with a community of contributors that mainly follows trends in technology and marketing, among many other ideas. Leading up to his time at Corante, Francois consulted on marketing and new media, mainly working with startups and new hi-tech companies. He says his last "real job" was five years in marketing at eRoom Technology. He has extensive experience with new media and has seen both success and failure in the world of eMarketing, experiences that have taught him valuable lessons and given him insights to various business processes.

Who is Katherine Stone?

Katherine Stone, the author of the Decent Marketing blog, is the former Director of Experimental Marketing for Coca-Cola Company. Her experience in experimental marketing is her expertise. She is considered an expert in this field and has talked on the subject in various arenas. Katherine also serves on the board of the International Experimental Marketing Association. Her experience at Coca-Cola, one of the few firms that have an experimental marketing position, allows Katherine to have a unique perspective on how to surpass challenges that arise. She also owns her own consulting firm called Engage. Katherine lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Google Gone Wild

This week I chose to comment on Evan Roberts’s column on Marketing Shift “Does Google Annoy You Too?” In the article he describes how Google has adopted some new marketing practices. First he describes that on a new Pontiac commercial for the Torrent, the call to action is “Go to Google and search ‘Pontiac’”. Roberts finds this rather interesting and wonders “Are they just trading search rankings for TV ads now?”

When you go to Google and search for Pontiac, the first result is It is a featured link with a heading “The Official Pontiac Site”. This means that Pontiac paid for it to be featured and may or may not have to pay Google each time they refer someone to their site. The link is then followed by and, both enthusiast sites. All in all, the searcher is saved from typing the dreaded “.com”, which might take three quarters of a second. Roberts was also curious of why the commercial doesn’t just direct those interested to Pontiac’s website.

One possibility that occurs to me is that Pontiac is looking for a better way to quantify the effectiveness of the ad campaign and thinks that this would be a good idea. It is possible to take the average number of searches for ‘Pontiac’ per week, (probably quantifiable on two hands) and then see what the increase is when the campaign is running. Interesting, however is there really a difference between that and counting website hits? How can they be sure that people who have seen the campaign aren’t just going to anyway? My guess is that you won’t be seeing a whole lot of this in the future because it does not seem to benefit the advertiser except if they feel that Google is significantly better at arithmetic than their company.

The other issue raised by Roberts is that while watching CSI, he noticed that a character on the show was using Google to perform a search. Product placement has become common place but I haven’t seen it used for websites before. It can serve dual purpose in that it adds an element of reality to a show, and of course Google can increase its brand recognition. The issue here is that Google is far and away the number one search engine, and when asked to name another one, people would probably come up with Yahoo!, who Google owns. So why pay for the placement?

At the end, Roberts laments that eventually the world will be controlled by Google and he will be eating Google cereal, and watching a Google TV. He admits that he might just be a bit jealous of the thirty something Google zillionaires and wonders if he was the only one that that the Google IPO $85 was absurd.

This piece opens up discussion for how much a search engine can really do in terms of marketing. It has already proven that they can be the map of the online world, performing the tremendously important intermediary function of directing people to their destination or at least the right town. I don’t have much to critique about this piece except the fact that Roberts could have gone into more depth about the motivations of each of the Google functions, but then I wouldn’t have too much original stuff to say. That’s all until next week.

"Blogs Go To School"

February 27, 2006

In one of Toby’s latest blurbs posted to the
Diva Marketing blog, she discusses the emerging acceptance of blogging into today’s mainstream marketing practices and even into college marketing classrooms. (She specifically mentions our Bentley College Marketing Honors blog – how ironic that I’m blogging about her blogging about me blogging about her blogs!)

In addition to the irony of the situation, it really is an interesting topic to discuss. It seems that blogs are the next big trend in the marketing world. Consequently, if the up-and-coming marketing leaders (i.e., today’s college marketing students) are introduced to the uses of blogs, and if they are taught to effectively implement blogging into their marketing strategies, it will further push this trend toward the mainstream. Marketing as a whole could be completely transformed.

In addition to changing the ways in which marketing strategies are executed, professors implementing blogs into their curriculums will allow the colleges/universities and their professors to market themselves. College blogs will be completely searchable, accessible, and reference-able in revealing information about the education, professors, classes, students, and campus culture provided by the institutions they represent. Prospective students will refer to college blogs in order to get information about the education they’ll receive and the learning styles of teachers at various schools when they’re sending out applications. Colleges will refer to blogs when looking to hire new professors. Companies hiring college graduates will look at the blogs those graduating students have authored. Blogs will truly reinvent the marketing of colleges, professors, students, and workers in addition to consumer brands of all kinds.

This story is marketing-related for the obvious reasons stated in the above paragraphs. Not only are blogs beginning to be used for the marketing of various brands, but for colleges and individuals as well. As blogs are integrated into marketing classes, their relevance to the marketing world is confirmed and their incorporation into brands’ marketing practices will be set in motion at an even faster rate once those students enter the business world.

The story informs marketing of the various ways blogs can be used beyond basic customer testimonials and brand public relations methods. It also reaffirms the idea that blogs really are the next big thing, since they’re being taught in educational institutions rather than being commonly regarded as simple online journals.

It improved my understanding of marketing by leading me to think about the various ways people can market themselves using technology, as opposed to just thinking about corporate marketing practices and techniques. In addition to newly emerging technologies such as “The Facebook” and “MySpace,” blogs will soon be used as a supplement to resumes and personal references for companies when they’re looking to hire new college graduates. It really does make you realize how much personal information will soon be accessible by employers, marketers, and individuals all over the globe. A little scary, isn’t it?

While the blog I reference was an interesting topic, Toby didn’t exactly go into the idea that I discussed here, about colleges and individuals using blogs to market themselves. I was easily able to extrapolate from her blog, as you can see, but if she had mentioned this concept it may have been a more effective “marketing” blog.

When Pigs Fly

In Michelle Miller’s most recent blog posting, she comments on a business book she received in the mail titled, “The Wisdom of the Flying Pig – Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders” by Jack Hayhow. Miller states that she receives dozens of such books every month, all asking for her review, however, she never gives them a second thought. This particular book, on the other hand, caught Miller’s interest due to the insertion of a mechanical flying pig and also a personal note commenting on a blog posting of Millers on opening gestures, with Hayhow stating that he hoped his opening gesture passed her test of approval. What Hayhow’s opening gesture got in return was a well supported and enthusiastic recommendation of his book on Miller’s blog. In fact, Miller’s entire posting was essentially dedicated to Hayhow, his book, and how his personal gesture won her interest. “What made Jack’s stand out was not the book but the presentation. I happen to know that Jack sent flying pigs to several of my colleagues - but his note, connecting the flying pig to my blog, made it relevant to me.”

The element of this blog posting that make it marketing related is that Hayhow was, in fact, marketing his book to a targeted audience of business professionals. He determined what audience would best serve his purpose of promotion and then marketed his book to them in a way that differentiated him from the masses of other authors with the same ultimate goal and audience. His marketing campaign was able to stand out from others and therefore his goal was accomplished.

In addition, the depth to which this blog informs marketing is high. It emphasizes the importance of customization and personalization in the marketing world and how a simple gesture made by Hayhow in the process of marketing his book reached out and touched Miller and in a way made her feel like she had a personal relationship with this person despite the fact that she had never met him before in her life. This reaches back to past readings on the importance of relationships in marketing and the loyalty they develop. A little extra effort on Hayhow’s part went a long way in the mind of Michelle Miller and the personal connection prompted by Hayhow’s note enticed Miller to recommend his book and apply it in her professional life. Past book mailings to Miller had failed to establish this personal connection and therefore Miller was not inclined to read or recommend those books as she felt no connection or loyalty. Marketers can take a lot from this lesson and learn the power that establishing a personal relationship (or the sense of a personal relationship) has on the marketing of a product, idea, etc.

This blog improved my understanding of marketing by providing a tangible example of the power of personal relationships in the modern day world. I was already very familiar with the affect a personal note can have on a friend, relative, or job interviewer, however, this blog posting related that concept to the marketing world and opened my eyes to new and creative ways to integrate this technique into marketing strategies.

If I could critique one aspect of this blog, I believe it would continue along the line of past critiques made to Miller’s other postings. Miller’s blogs tend to be very focused on a story within her own life with a powerful underlying concept amongst them. It is very clear that Miller is a brilliant marketer and I would thoroughly enjoy reading more of her thoughts on the theory behind her story rather than just the story itself.

"Revenue Revolution

From The Brand Builder (2.17.06) by Oliver Blanchard

In his post entitled “Revenue Revolution,” Oliver Blanchard of The Brand Builder Blog brings to light a new potential cash cow for television networks: downloadable television programs. As capabilities of networks become more sophisticated, many are beginning to utilize their broadband connections in new and different ways. For a few, the newest additions to their money-making arsenals are downloadable TV programs. These are downloadable, commercial-free, $1.99 episodes available to consumers through their broadband connections.

For television shows with a large viewer base, this means revenue for networks, and lots of it. Blanchard puts this into perspective with numbers to ponder the implications of this, pulling information from another marketer exploring this phenomenon, Diane Mermigas. One episode of a popular television series typically generates approximately $12 million in gross ad revenue and has about 17 million viewers, breaking down to about $0.57 in ad revenue. The same downloaded episodes, commercial-free and available at the viewer’s convenience, generate approximately $15 million revenue, breaking down to a base figure of $1.44 revenue per download (70% of total $1.99 download revenue). These staggering figures mean that this medium could generate more cash flow that an organization’s advertising. The beginning of what Diane Mermigas calls the “digital broadband rollout” is ready to seriously alter the advertising landscape as it is presently known.

“Revenue Revolution” is marketing-related because it discusses possible threats and challenges on the horizon for advertising professional. The “digital broadband rollout” will likely affect a company marketing departments or advertising agencies in the near future in how they choose to spend their advertising dollars and how effectively they will be able to negotiate media buys with those dollars. The article illustrates yet another way that technology is affecting how consumers are able to be reached with product messaging.

This article informs marketers in that it attempts to map out the future landscape, or environment, in which advertisers will be forced to operate. Blanchard notes that this change means a power shift in favor of the networks, as they have been dealt this commercial-free downloadable ‘trump card.’ He does not mean to say that this is the death knell for TV advertising, as it is cost-prohibitive for frequent viewers and the elimination of TV advertising would decrease the appeal of commercial-free downloads, but he does warn marketers to be aware of the changing landscape. Advertisers must be aware of this, meaning possible reconsideration where to place advertising budgets in order to most effectively reach the consumer. Those who are adept at finding ways to neutralize this threat, possibly by identifying new mediums to reach the consumer, will succeed.

As a soon-to-be advertising professional, this article improved my understanding of the environment that I will be facing as I enter the workforce. So often in advertising textbooks and other literature, it becomes a question of what medium to use to reach the buyer: television, radio or print. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that mainstream mediums are the best ways to reach the masses. This article implies that marketers need to find more creative, out of the box ways to cost-effectively reach customers. The advertising landscape is changing in a way that is forcing them to. This knowledge will give me, any other marketing professional, a leg-up in the field.

This article and its links were informative in describing what the marketing landscape will be like in the near future. Although I thought that this was a very useful post and very applicable to marketing practice, it might have been beneficial for the author to have taken the idea one step further, providing some practical solutions for marketers trying to operate in this digital, downloadable age after explaining the situation at hand.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat

According to the author, “salespeople always like to compare themselves to athletes when describing their profession, and nowhere does the analogy apply more than in the Winter Olympics”. Through the article, the author outlines some lessons from business/life that he has observed from watching the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy:

Ø It’s not over until it’s over. The analogy between being too cocky during business negotiations is made here with the unfortunate fall on Lindsey Jacobellis. Jacobellis had a huge lead, got cocky, and did a trick that caused her to fall and lose the gold medal. Jacobellis admitted that there was a bit of grandstanding behind her poor judgment. The message is never to get too confident: “Your competitors are always right behind you, regardless of how far ahead you think you are.” No deal is ever sealed until a client signs the bottom line.
Ø Always be ready to seize an opportunity. The author uses the case of Emily Hughes filling in for Michelle Kwan in the women’s figure skating competition to illustrate the fact that as marketers we must always be ready to seize an opportunity. Always be prepared for the unexpected and run with every opportunity to the best of your ability.
Ø Be ready to recover from defeat. More than any other player in the world of business, a salesperson will have to deal with the rejection regularly. “But the A players are the ones who can shake it off and are always looking ahead to their next victory.” This point is made by making the example of the Chinese pair figure skaters who “crashed” only seconds into their routine, but bounced back with determination to win the silver medal.
Ø Recognition matters. “Most of the athletes don’t do it for the cash, they do it to show the world they are the best of the best—an experience that money can’t buy.” Employee recognition can be a powerful tool for managers in creating a successful business environment. Sometimes an employee needs to have his/her accomplishments recognized in order to continue to work to the best of his/her ability.

This blog is marketing related because it is focused on giving business/life advice to salespeople, as well as the business community in general. It is important to draw lessons from different aspects of life in order to remember that marketing is not all about textbook concepts and strategies. Applying everything a student learns in college will not dictate success; rather, one must have a deep common sense and some life experience to be able to effectively execute strategies.

This story informs marketing in the sense that it gives a broader, more personal perspective on the study. One must always strive for success but also be prepared to deal with failure. It is important to recognize the flaws in ones actions such that one can improve. Marketers must always be ready to jump at any opportunity to get ahead and must keep working hard until the task is complete.

This particular story has given me some insight into the aspects of marketing that you can’t learn in class. Failure is something we must experience to understand. Determination is something we have to teach ourselves. Being ready to jump at any opportunity is something we have to be aware of. This story really helped me to understand that marketing is so much more than case analysis and terminology.

Although the story was incredibly interesting and attracted my attention, it played on the emotions heavily. I personally liked that aspect of the story, but I can see why some would criticize is as being too “fluffy”.

Does Your Company Truly Matter? Part 1 and 2

“Does your company truly matter?” What a great question Spike Jones poses! Although, I suppose there are those business people who only care about the bottom line, I am not one of them. I believe that companies should matter. This posting on the Brains on Fire blog puts forward ten questions any company can use to examine how much its brand matters. Spike Jones reminds the reader that “Companies that truly matter have a competitive advantage. They espouse values we believe in. They invite us to be the person we aspire to be. They move us to dream of making the world a better place to live. And sometimes companies that truly matter do business in a way that leaves us feeling more valued.”

This blog “Does Your Company Truly Matter? Part 1 and Part 2” does relate to marketing in several ways. Jones discusses marketing through the concepts of branding and customer relationships. Although all of Jones’ questions were note worthy, I found a few of his questions especially interesting. One such question deals with the strength of a company’s brand. Jones asks “If your company were (heaven forbid) to be hit by a bus tomorrow and exterminated, would your brand live on without you? In other words, is your brand loyalty so strong it’s self-sustaining?” Personally, it took me less than a second to think of the brands that I would try to keep alive after they went under, but there were only a few. For brand managers, this is an important question and should be their ultimate goal.

In such a profit driven society this article informs marketing by reminding us that brands can have a significant impact on their employees, customers, and society in general. A few examples of the issues discussed in these ten questions are that the core of a brand is its promise, employees and customers should be fans of a brand, employees should enjoy coming to work and not be afraid to give their opinion.

Although several of the ideas expressed in this blog may be considered common sense, I believe they are often overlooked. Throughout my marketing career here at Bentley, I have discussed many of the issues presented in this blog, but until recently I have not discussed the crucial role of employees. Jones did improve my understanding of the relationship between employees and a strong brand. Jones poses many important questions I would not have predicted would be in the top ten:
“If we randomly chose one of your employees and one of your customers, and put them in a room with each other, would a passionate brand lovefest break out between these two strangers?”
“Do you have talented people invading you with resumes?”
“If you threw an optional employee party, how many of your employees would attend?”
“Are your employees encouraged and empowered to speak up… or to shut up at work?”
“What is so important about your brand that you would work on it without compensation?”
These were five out of the ten questions posed and they all had to deal with employee relationships. In the past I have always known that good customer service would strengthen the public’s perception of a company, but I had never considered every single employee as a crucial part of a company’s success.

Because I truly found this blog to be interesting and thought-provoking, it is hard for me to critique. While this posting is thorough, there are not many examples provided. NASA’s overall vision of helping to put a man on the moon is given as an example of a company’s entrepreneurial inspiration. On the one hand, I feel as though it could be useful to provide a few examples of companies that do matter and can give positive answers to several of the questions in this blog; however, on the other hand, I feel as though it is important to leave the reader with the task of examining his/her own company and not complicate things by providing examples of competitors. In addition, several questions could most likely only be answered by employees with insider knowledge of the company’s culture. After thoughtful consideration, I did have one idea for an eleventh question: Is the brand personality of your company clear and easily recognizable by consumers? More specifically, if you asked any person on the street to describe your brand’s personality would they all say the same thing?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Strong brands are not the only key to success

In his post “Strong Brands are Not the Only Key to Success” Francois disagrees with a blog posting by Laura Reis; he highlights his main disagreement with her on her statements: "Building strong brands is the key to success, in our opinion, not better products or better people," followed by: "Because in America marketing is not considered important. Management, human relations, customer service are all considered of higher importance that marketing." Francois calls her thinking “20th century and wrong.” Instead, he argues that the customer needs to be incorporated into the equation. He pushes the true meaning of brand by questioning who owns it – how is it integrated with the product and the customer service? He thinks that marketing needs to be thought of from a different perspective as he concludes with the statement, “We are seriously overdue for a new breed of marketers to come to the foreground and eclipse this old school of marketing thinkers.”

This blog is marketing related since it questions the importance of branding in marketing. Francois argues that branding is not the only key to success since he is supporting an integrated marketing point of view. He does not think that marketing is “silo-ed.” Rather, it crosses many disciples in business, being more horizontal in nature. Similarly, branding is not solely controlled by the marketing department since the entire organization has an impact on the brand. Francois also brings the marketing concept to Laura’s argument by asking where the customer fits into the equation of brands. He gives the example of Harley Davidson as a brand that began in the original definition of brands but has evolved to be more integrated and more in the hands of customers. Since brands only exist in the minds of consumers, the consumers clearly have a direct impact on them.

The story informs marketing by questioning different perspectives of the position of both marketing and branding. It supports the view of marketing as an integrated activity that cannot truly separate things such as product, people, and brands. Since brands are so subjective, they are impacted by all of the other elements and areas of the business. In the same light, there is no cut and clear way to approach branding since so many different elements have an impact on it.

This story improved my understanding of marketing because it made me think about how I view the role of both marketing and branding. Although I agree that building strong brands is a key to success, it is only one component that contributes to a firm’s success. I think that Francois’ idea of an integrated approach will yield the highest success; however, achieving this level of integration is difficult. Although no solution for how to view either branding or marketing is offered in the blog posting, it makes readers evaluate how they view these things and how they would approach them. As a marketing student, I was attentive to Francois’ final comment concerning the need for a “new breed” of marketers to enter the business world to overturn these “old school” ways of thinking about marketing. It made it more apparent that we must always evaluate the way we think about what we are doing.

As is often critiqued in our class, more examples could have also made his argument better; I particularly enjoyed his use of Harley Davidson as an example of a brand and would have liked to see more examples like this. Other than more examples, I don’t have any real other criticisms about this piece since it raised some excellent points for though. However, I questioned on of Laura Reis’ comments. She says: "Because in America marketing is not considered important.” From our discussions on mass consumption and American consumerism, I would say that marketing is extremely important and vital to firms’ success. However, I think that Francois does an excellent job of offering differing perspectives to counter Laura’s, all of which touch upon the integration in marketing today.

"Strategy before Tactics"

John Jantsch’s marketing blog, written on Tuesday February 21, is titled “Strategy before Tactics”. This story is marketing-related because it discusses what he views as a major marketing problem. The blog is about the idea that many small businesses do not have a distinct marketing strategy and merely change their tactics week by week depending on the current fad. This constant change in strategy leaves their business vulnerable and weak because they have not identified distinct business goals. He explains that many business owners think their strategy is to sell as much as they can to as many people as possible. He redefines the strategy by saying, “What do you want your market to know about you, what do you want them to believe, what do want them to feel, experience, think, when they consider what you are about - that's what comes from strategy and that's what gets you out of the price shopper bin.” He relates his blog to marketing throughout the entire publication by identifying a problem that many companies have with their marketing plans.

This reading informs marketing by revealing a common mistake that many people make when running their own business. In reading his blog you can reevaluate your own marketing strategy and realize whether or not you are going about your business in an effective manner. He informs the reader that the strategy should guide your whole business and the tactics that you use should be in an effort to meet your strategy, not the other way around. He even provides the reader with some examples of good strategies, including: “Dominate a narrow market niche, package your services like no one else and create a category and become famous for doing one thing.” After reading the blog, the reader definitely leaves with more information on the subject than before.

This blog improved my understanding of marketing because it showed me that you must have a distinct strategy set out for yourself before starting a business. It taught me that a marketing strategy is necessary for marketing your business effectively. The strategy does not need to be product specific but more goals specific so that you know why you are marketing your product and what you hope to achieve in the long run.

I do not have any critiques of the blog that John Jantsch wrote. He does a good job of pointing out good marketing strategy techniques as well as bad ones. He identifies his subject and its importance right away by explaining that a lack of strategy is the “single greatest small business marketing mistake.” By identifying the problem, the implication of the problem, and the solution, the author thoroughly writes on the subject and leaves nothing to critique.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blogs: The Next Age of Enlightenment

Kathy Sierra’s blog post “Naked Conversations on A Bus” is about her views on blogging. She notes that reading the book Naked Conversations made her realize that her belief in the power of blogging (something which she is intensely connected to now) has come only in the last 6 months. She says that blogs, once thought to be a silly waste of time and not yet even recognized by the dictionary, have now become widely used and wildly popular. Kathy claims blogs have become a staple of life because technology makes them so easy to start and maintain. All of this matters because it offers a simple tool for people to get their ideas heard, which means that no matter how out there your idea is you can find a population of people to support you. As Kathy writes, “Blogs are helping churches that suck at marketing, epileptics (like me) learn from others with the same disorder, and a guy who does chicken cartoons on yellow sticky notes find an audience.” This insanely simple tool can have a huge impact, which is applicable to not only individuals but also businesses. Therefore, Kathy adds, “Blogs let the ‘little guy’, from a cowboy horse whisperer, or a geek who can make your life a little simpler develop a global microbrand. That means they can keep doing what they love--what they're passionate about--rather than, say, working 60 hours a week elsewhere and leaving no time for doing the things that help teach, inspire, or entertain the rest of us. Because of blogs, the lone programmer or writer can create something that others will find (and potentially pay for), so the lone author can keep doing it. It means the little guy who can't out-spend the competition, can out-teach (through his blog) the Big Guys.”By this principle, blogs are the ultimate marketing tool because all an individual or business has to do is put an idea out there and let it spread. Kathy talks about how one person reads and article or has an idea or creation and blogs about it. People then read that blog and blog on it. More people blog on the blog reporting on the original blog, and so on and so forth. Then, before anyone knows it, the idea had spread like a wildfire. Therefore, without having to spend any money (or a minimal amount of money) a huge influence can be created. The result is not just important for profit motives, but also in terms of idea preservation. In a sense blogs could be responsible for the next age of enlightenment.
This blog relates to the idea of marketing non-tangible aspects for the benefit of doing so in and of itself. Usually when people focus on marketing non-tangibles they are usually talking about marketing consulting services, political ideas, religious doctrine, etc. but the blog post “Naked Conversations on a Bus” focuses on the emotional aspect of unconditional marketing. Kathy seems to illustrate the idea that there can be marketing for the sole purpose of making people happy, confident, and generally healthier and more connected. The mention of bringing epileptics together via blogs so they can interact with people who are experiencing the same daily issues is an example of unconditional marketing. The person setting up and censoring the blog has nothing to gain from people sharing their experiences.Additionally, blogs designed to assist small businesses and individual entrepreneurs provide a means to avoid the risk usually associated with going out on a limb and offering up ideas. Instead, Kathy points out that there is much less risk associated with blogging because people can post ideas and leave them for others to view at their leisure. There is no direct contact, and yet there is contact enough to make people lend their minds in an attempt to understand something new and try it.
The main idea that I took away from Kathy Sierra’s post was the way that one blog post can create a wave of further discussion. Initially I wondered how much this was true, and then I realized that Kathy was blogging about a book, and I am blogging on her blog. I would be willing to bet she is not the only one blogging on the book, and that I am not the only one blogging on her blog. But it doesn’t even stop there. I know for a fact that other Bentley community members and other marketing bloggers are reading this . As I try to wrap my thoughts around this my head begins to spin a little because blogs have already and will continue to achieve an immortality that so many authors, philosophers, and the like could only dream of in the past.
I was encouraged by Kathy’s post because she recommended that people keep blogging no matter what. Her point was that the scope accomplished through the butterfly effect of blogging is immeasurable, and therefore should not be discounted. She says that the sheer abundance of blogs recruits more people and encourages the practice. The fact that Kathy herself was a blog disbeliever in the recent past and now is so connected to it and gets so much out of it makes this point perfectly.

Go here for the original blog.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Customer Knows Best

Customer Service: Letting the Customer Choose the Remedy

Customer Service always seems to be a hot topic. People are always sharing their horror stories of situations in which they did not feel valued as a customer. It is a consumer’s nightmare when they purchase a product and there is some type of problem. They attempt to contact someone about it only to get stuck talking to someone who does not really care about the problems.

Katherine Stone, however, talks about a good experience she had with Typepad and their customer service. Typepad had some difficulties with their service. Rather than hiding from a problem that their service encountered, Typepad sent out an email to all of their customers and allowed the customers to pick their remedy based on the individual experiences and problems. They took the initiative to provide service to their consumers. It helped to prove to their customers that Typepad value’s their patronage. Typepad opened themselves up for losing about 13.5 million dollars if all of the customers chose the highest reimbursement. Typepad could have just waiting till people complained and then helped those people but not others that did not complain. Stone explains how important it was to her that they recognized the problem, rectified it, and offered her a solution that met her individual experience. She did not have a big problem with the service; however, she was still offered the option of receiving a reimbursement. Overall, it was not the remedy offered that was important, but that Typepad was willing to admit to the problem, take ownership for it, and offer their customer’s something for their troubles.

This article informs marketing because an integral part of marketing is keeping consumers happy. If the customer is not happy then customers will not continue using the company’s products. Marketing helps to create a life long relationship with the customer. Marketing helps to inform the customer. Customer service allows the relationship to continue at various times. When done right, customer service can help improve and sustain the relationship with the customer. Additionally, good or bad customer service can help or hurt the company’s reputation through word of mouth. While marketing can not manage or control word of mouth, it is important for companies to be aware of what is being said by the consumers. Therefore, it is important part of marketing to offer the best customer service, as it is part of the post-purchase experience. If companies offer poor customer service then they are telling consumers that they should not waste their time with that company in the future. If the customer service is great, then the post purchase experience is positive and people are willing to use the company in the future.

Customer service is a part of the post-purchase decision that I believe does not get enough attention. This article helped to inform my own personal knowledge about marketing because it helped to validate that customer service is in fact, important for marketers to know about. Additionally, from a marketers’ point of view, it is helpful to know that often just the fact that the company is attempting to remedy the problem is enough.

I benefited from reading this article. Therefore, there was not a lot to criticize. I did think that if Stone had expanded the article it would have allowed her to go into more detail about how customer service can be beneficial to marketers. The article helped to bring up the subject; however, it could have been followed up with more information. It would be interesting to know how companies can perfect their customer service practices. Customer service appears to get pushed to the sidelines when budgets are tight or time is scarce. However, more attention and money needs to go into the customer service that is given to the consumer. Companies obviously want to be able to see the impact of the money that is being spent. Therefore, it would be interesting to see what customer service approaches are most successful in various industries so that companies could be more confident in their approach. Overall, however, the article did a great job to peak my interest in the topic and find out more information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

PR's Big Opportunity

Blog reference from the Diva Marketing Blog à Modern Marketing Blog

PR's Big Opportunity
January 26, 2006

While traditional PR methods are commonly dismissed as “branded journalism,” the evolution of technology has allowed PR to reinvent itself and take on a much more respected role within the consumers’ minds. How has this happened? The majority of control over PR has been taken from marketing departments and put into the hands of the public. “Citizen’s Media” is the new craze, where millions of people around the globe can easily and freely express their opinions on any topic under the sun. These authors are trusted by their readers as unpaid, sincere peers and co-consumers.

The most well-known establishment of Citizen’s Media takes place via blogs. As James Cherkoff, Collaborative Marketing Writer for the Financial Times stated, blogs are “…growing fast. Online blog monitor tracks more than 4 million blogs and adds 20,000 a day to its register.” Through blogging, consumers are welcome to publish anything they’d like to the entire world, and this has become increasingly popular to generate word-of-mouth marketing for or against brands. These critics are developing online reputations and the respect of many faithful readers. They are making traditional marketing methods seem untrustworthy and somewhat lame in comparison; commercials and conventional PR publications are paid for by invested stakeholders, and therefore are not necessarily honest in their claims.

So how is this technological trend an opportunity for PR? Instead of being viewed as media hawks that make phone calls and attempt to persuade third parties to publish brand-glorifying articles all day, PR may be turning into a much more studious field. PR representatives will need to learn how to reach everyday consumers, bloggers, associations and analysts, and convince them to independently spread the good word. PR executives will learn to really understand consumers and how they feel, and will ultimately be able to convey those thoughts to the firm. It can then modify its brand/products accordingly to better meet customer desires. Thus, PR can be transformed from a dying segment of marketing to an incremental part of the business.

This story is marketing-related because it addresses the changes that are revolutionizing the way marketing is approached. Rather than relying on TV commercials, magazines, and newspaper articles to persuade consumers to buy, marketers need to adapt to the times and pursue other methods that are becoming as or more important than the traditional counterparts. It is important for any marketer to understand these changes that are taking place and to jump on the bandwagon before it’s too late.

The story informs marketing of the changes that are taking place in consumerism and of opportunities that exist, especially within PR. While it may seem daunting that marketers can no longer simply produce ads and pay people to say what they want, with a little understanding and research the whole marketing process can be quickly reinvented. Marketers already spend a very significant portion of their time researching what customers want, right? Now they just need to take that research a step further and figure out how to make customers excited so that immediately after making a purchase they’ll be blogging rave reviews about the products. It could actually save marketers money in the long run; by investing a little more into R&D, they can create products that consumers will be dying to publicly praise, and they’ll be able to save millions on extensive ad campaigns that could become outdated and distrusted anyhow.

These blogs improved my understanding of marketing by, first of all, teaching me of the currently stale condition of PR. I was not previously aware that PR has been losing respect, and I hadn’t thought about the effect blogging could have on the success of PR. I also learned how the present condition of PR could be seen as a position of opportunity, and that with a little more focus on content rather than communication, PR representatives can revamp their image and become a much more highly regarded function of business.

I wish the author of this blog had included more of his own opinions. The blog mainly summarizes and links to the work of other writers on the topic; I would’ve been interested in what this person had to say. Also, I wish he’d gone into more explanation of his ending statement: “And tonight I am off to a Microsoft launch event that I have been invited along to in my role as the Modern Marketing blogger. Interesting times.” I would like to know more about why he was invited and for additional commentary to explain the “interesting”-ness of it all.

Netflix Nabbed for Neglecting Rampant Renters

This week I chose “Netflix’ Not-So-Unlimited Plan” by Jason Dowdell on Marketing Shift. In this posting, Dowdell explains that Netflix came up with a plan that allowed them to manage their seemingly too good to be true internet DVD rental business. The policy was that the most frequent movie renters would be automatically placed at the end of the waiting list for the most popular titles and delivery of their movies was intentionally slowed down. Dowdell explains that he was a former member, and wondered why after a few months his movies took much longer to arrive.

According to the Associated Press, Netflix has since changed their terms of use to include the message, “In determining priority for shipping and inventory allocation, we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service". Their CEO has since acknowledged their nondisclosure of the so called ‘fairness algorithm’, and has said that few customers have complained about it. Netflix has a customer base of 4.2 million people and by many accounts has extremely high customer satisfaction.

The interesting part of this article is that Netflix is a company that can alienate its heavy users in the name of the less frequent renters by this process called ‘throttling’. In the world of unlimited memberships, the optimum revenue stream comes from the people that pay the membership but seldom, or at least less frequently, use the service.

This is quite the opposite of what goes on in most companies who are subject to the 80/20 rule, which approximates that twenty percent of a product’s users account for eighty percent of its sales. If McDonald’s told its most frequent customers that they would have to let less frequent customers pass them in the drive thru line, they would probably see a slack in sales. However there is one big difference, McDonald’s would actually have to ‘tell’ them.

If Netflix was being open and honest about this, they could have simply included it in the terms of use to begin with. They have not been forced to change its ‘unlimited rental’ policy which they founded the company on. It turns out to be another example of a large scale company cutting corners and getting tagged in the process.

The greatest irony of this whole situation is that since this story is public and might make people angry, it is just going to wipe out the most frequent users and give Netflix exactly what they want; an even lower contingent of people who rent an insane amount of DVD’s per month and drive their costs up. The only real downside for them besides the ‘negative press’ is that they agreed to pay $2.5 Million in a class action settlement, but then reconsidered. The case is back in court, and set to be heard February 22nd, according to the AP. Dowdell says that Netflix is doing it self a disservice by poorly treating those who are the best marketing vehicles for the company, but Netflix added 1.6 million new cusotmers in 2005.

This story is marketing related because Netflix openly marketed itself as an unlimited DVD rental business, when in fact there was some fine print… that didn’t exist. This story informs marketing because it shows a situation where the ethically correct thing was not done and sends a message to marketers that in the future the same corners can not be cut. This piece improved my understanding of marketing by improving the definition of ethical practices. If I had to critique this piece, the only complaint would be that it is somewhat brief. Other than that I found it to be very relevant and thought that Dowdell made the article very poignant by linking his own personal experiences in with the presentation of the facts.

"Quality Is a Promise"

In a recent posting on his Brand Builder blog, Blanchard equates the ideas of branding and promise, stressing the importance of this topic to the success of particular products. Beginning with Apple’s iPods, which have consistently broken after only two years of use, he illustrates how the company is simply ‘digging its own grave’ in not delivering on the promise of quality they afford to individuals when they purchase Apple products.

The blog is relevant to marketing issues as it explains, in very rational terms, why individuals buy like they do. The article shed some light on the appeal of brands to consumers. A brand is ultimately intangible and it occasionally seems irrational that buyers choose products based on ‘brand name’ when generic products can often offer better value at lower cost. By explaining the solid benefits of a brand using ideas such as promise and quality, Blanchard rationalizes an irrational behavior. He states it best with this line:

When I buy a brand name product, I am buying the promise of quality. That’s what makes me choose to drop the extra green in the first place.”

Understanding this concept is key to having successful business practices that are satisfying to the consumer.

Blanchard’s posting informs the field of marketing by illustrating the dangers of ignoring this branding principle. Companies that produce shoddy products will not only lose their customers, but will chip away at the value of their brand name. Each defective iPod Apple ships out makes all other iPods, and all other Apple products for that matter, less valuable to the consumer. Neglecting quality and producing at low cost, with corporate profits at the forefront of decision making will likely sink a company. This concept is critical for marketers to understand and has become still more critical with the prevalence of the Internet and mass communication. Bad experiences and dissatisfaction can spread like wildfire. This severely damages company sales and profits, the lines that they were looking to improve in the first place when they took the easy road and sacrificed quality. The posting, itself, is evidence of this: one in a chain of comments on Apple’s iPod, ranging from admission of the defects to ranting on their dissatisfaction.

Additionally, Blanchard adds to marketing practice, suggesting that the severity of negative response rests greatly in consumer expectation: if they don’t expect much, they won’t complain much. For example, if the picks fall off of a $1 hairbrush, the consumer might be slightly annoyed but does not feel the need to unleash fury on the company. He justifies this, noting that such a product is a commodity that one can “buy cheap, replace often.” An iPod, however, is supposed to be a luxury good, with a high price point, an innovative concept and brand name backing. Consumer rage is amplified when the iPod falls apart and, causing consumers to make sure that their stories are heard far and wide. If Apple wishes to be a luxury provider, they have damaged their brand name by trying to produce a commodity good.

This posting enhanced my understanding of this marketing concept, giving me a solid framework on the value of brands to the consumer. As I read on, I became increasingly perplexed, as it seemed ridiculous that some companies, like Apple, do not understand this. Is it not common sense to produce quality goods? Regardless of whether a product is a commodity item or a luxury one, all goods hold consumer expectations. Although luxury purchases will produce more negative response if dissatisfied arises, any dissatisfaction will likely drive consumers to buy substitute products or brands, even if it is only a different gallon of milk. Why not meet those expectations? It appears that many of these manufacturers get caught with tunnel vision and fail to see that providing customer satisfaction is a mutually beneficial exchange that will eventually meet the bottom line that they originally had in sight.

Although I understand length and depth constraints accompany all blogging, it might have been beneficial to provide other possible reasons why consumers choose brands in purchase decisions. For example, consumers often choose products because they hold monopoly as the only product that exists to satisfy a need. For consumers that value large memory space to store their music, iPod essentially has a grip on the market and consumers choose it for this reason. Personally, my simple MP3 does just fine, but memory space is not as large a concern for me. It would have been interesting to hear Blanchard’s take on whether there is more or less pressure to produce quality goods if a manufacturer has such monopolistic status, in light of the fact that they are sure certain consumers will bring their business to them.

Possessing a basic understanding of why consumers choose products and brands is essential to marketers. This knowledge can help shape the practices of companies and could prevent costly marketing mishaps.

"The Little Things"

I decided last week that I was going to switch the blog I was tracking for the semester. After reading the posting entitled, “The Little Things,” I decided to switch my blog to “Brains on Fire.” The author, Spike Jones, got the idea for this posting from an inspirational quote on a tea packet: “All great things are only a number of small things that have carefully been collected together.”-Unknown

Jones relates this quote to marketing by commenting on how a strong brand is not built by one advertisement or any other single marketing event. He believes a successful brand is created by compiling “a number of small things.” With a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl costing companies $2.5 million, Jones suggests that these companies should spend their money on other less expensive but still valuable marketing communication. A link is provided within the body of his blog to an article, “What Would You Do With $2.5 Million?” written by iMedia Connection. This article provides examples of ways in which several marketing executives said they would spend a $2.5 million marketing budget. Although Jones does not seem to be incredibly impressed by any of the recommendations in the article, he does make some suggestions of his own: “Rewarding customer service. An engaging brand personality. A group of fascinating products. And a series of inspiring experiences.” Unlike Jones, I found one of the marketing executives’ recommendations to be extremely innovative and worth mentioning. Andy Sernovitz, the CEO of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), proposes that a company “pass out two million $1 bills. Attach your logo to each bill with a removable sticker. Use $500,000 to hire staff to hand them out all over the country.”

Even though this blog appears to be about a simple quote from a tea bag and a simple question of how else you could spend $2.5 million, it is actually about seriously reflecting on one’s marketing practices. “The Little Things” informs marketing of one way a successful brand is believed to be achieved. It also suggests that marketers investigate whether or not advertising on television, especially during the Super Bowl, is worth the amount of brand equity it creates. Jones challenges marketers to “think outside of the box” and find other, possibly more cost-effective, ways to spend their marketing dollars.

“The Little Things” blog and the “What Would You Do With $2.5 Million?” article improved my understanding of marketing by giving me a new way in which to think about branding and different opinions regarding the money spent on Super Bowl advertising. Personally, I had always wondered if companies gained rewards large enough to exceed the money being spent on this type of advertising. The return on investment each company is looking to achieve may be different and in many cases hard to measure; still, I did always wonder if it was a beneficial way to spend marketing funds.

While I found this article to be extremely thought provoking, it would have been even more powerful if Jones had disproved some of the more common arguments in favor of Super Bowl advertising. Jones could have provided examples of the different reasons companies claim to benefit from a 30 second Super Bowl commercial and then explained why he believes that other smaller marketing efforts would be more successful. Jones does give some suggestions of general marketing efforts that could potentially build strong brand equity; however these examples are still quite large ideas and ones that are hard to implement. For example, Jones mentions creating “an engaging brand personality.” Brand personality is one aspect of marketing that is hard to control because it is solely a perception from consumers built by every experience consumers have ever had with the brand. In my opinion, the examples should have been even more specific and “smaller” considering the nature of the inspirational quote.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Great Products Can't Overcome Arrogance"

John Jantsch’s most recent marketing blog discusses the idea that even though some companies have exceptional products, their longevity and market share will only last if they have amazing customer service as well. He uses the example of the Apple iPod. Although it is thought to be the only product of its kind on the market, it will not last if the company continues to treat their customers like they have. Many consumers have been having technical problems with their Apple iPod, and upon complaining they have been told to buy a new one. Jantsch’s point is that even in the case of such a popular product as the iPod, “if you constantly treat your customers as though they are disposable, well, that’s what they will become.” He argues that a company must get over their arrogance and realize that their customers are more important than their product in order to ensure their product will last.

This story is marketing-related because it deals with the marketing issue of customer service and creating a good overall purchase experience for the customer. The issue that Jantsch writes of is critical to the marketing process. Customer service and post-purchase company actions are an integral part of marketing because it is a part of how the company markets their brand and their name. A company’s reputation has either a positive or a negative effect on their brand image. If the company does not have good customer service after the point of sale, like the iPod example, the company name will be tarnished with bad press and bad word of mouth.

This reading informs marketing by expressing the importance of customer service, even after the sale has been conducted. Most articles and textbooks express the importance of marketing the company and product well in order to make customers buy your product and invest in your company name. This article informed the reader that it is not only important to market well before the sale, but it is critical to continue to service the customer and market your brand after the customer has bought your product. In the iPod case it illustrates that not doing so can eventually have a negative effect on your product image and sales.

This article improved my understanding of marketing because it provided a real world example of a company that exhibits problems with customer service. It explained what negative effects this poor service could have on a company in the long term. Many of the readings that we have been assigned in class stress the importance of customer service, but, once again, they stress the importance of it before and during the sale, not afterwards. Few articles explain how important it is to provide good maintenance and repair service to your already sold products. The blog improved my understanding of marketing through showing a different element of the marketing process, exposing that marketing is not as one-sided as I was once led to believe.

My main critique of the blog that Jantsch wrote would be that he should have presented an example of a company that has gone out of business, or lost a large portion of market share, because of poor customer service. He does a good job of presenting the current day iPod example, but it would have been nice to hear another example from the past few years where you can see the actual deterioration of customer loyalty and brand reputation.

Quality is free! Freely abused, anyway

This article deals with the idea of using the concept of “quality” in marketing. There most likely isn’t a company in the world that would claim publicly that it sold a product or service that wasn’t of at least “good” quality. Thus, the actual concept of the word and its value is diminished and holds no value to the consumer. In Scott Dalgleish’s column in Quality Magazine, he states the following:

“Do you know of any company that does not claim to have good quality? I can’t think of a single company that ever said, ‘Our quality is fair to poor.’ My experience has been that very few companies deliver the good quality that they claim.”

The reasoning behind this is that the claim to quality is free, which is the problem with its diminishing value. The author continues to assert that claims of quality are not supported in a substantial manner and management does not care whether or not claims to quality are valid. Because of this, customers do not consider “quality” when purchasing most products; rather, price becomes a more important criterion.

Dalgleish blames his fellow IT professional for removing the legitimacy of a once-commonly used quality rating system, the ISO-9000. Years ago, this rating system was considered incredibly valuable. However, today it means nothing in the eyes of other companies and consumers.

Further, the devaluation of the term “quality” has caused consumers to be increasingly price sensitive. This is termed the “Wal-Mart Effect”. Dalgleish believes that educating investors and consumers about product quality and its value will cause the management to care about claiming quality. However, the author of the blog questions this assertion:

“That’s an okay idea if it is done well so consumers will listen, but how much will they learn? The new Gillette razor has how many blades? We’ve been given that concrete information in a Super Bowl commercial. But the first question everyone asks is: does this really make it better? Without any worthwhile, concrete, and verifiable information on quality, buyers rely on inference and word-of-mouth, both of which are unreliable.”

This story is marketing-related because it addresses claims of a company regarding its product or service and how over time this has altered consumer behavior. When claims are thrown around about a particular aspect of products, it becomes generic and holds no value. Consumers will eventually adjust to this and will stop to hold any value in such claims. Thus, it is important, as a marketer, to note what matters in the eyes of the consumers and what is simply fluff, for lack of a better word.

This story informs marketing by helping to gain some insight into consumer behavior. It is important, particularly in the era of Wal-Mart, that the majority of consumers are price sensitive above many other criteria for purchasing a given service or product. Depending what the product or service is, quality might not have any bearing on the purchase decision. It is important to note which claims about a product will actually drive the customer’s decision.

The concept of “crying wolf” is very familiar to everyone. However, reading about how this type of story effects the world of marketing is incredibly interesting. I have been able to gain some insight as to how invalid claims regarding many products by many companies can create a sense of fluff. The claim means nothing. I have learned that finding manners of promoting a product’s attributes in new and not over-done ways is incredibly important in differentiating it from other products.

A main critique I would have for this author is that there were not many examples in this piece. He was very good at explaining concepts, but fairly poor at actually applying the concepts to demonstrate a point. The Gillette example was effective. (THIS IS MY NEW BLOG!! I CLAIM IT!!)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Leave No Stone Unturned" by Michelle Miller

In one of her recent blog postings, Michelle Miller includes a link to her first article as a marketing columnist for, “The Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs.” Miller’s article is titled “Leave No Stone Unturned” and emphasizes the fact that “your customer is affected by each and every interaction with you, whether its physical, emotional, or virtual. It’s up to you to make sure those experiences are positive on a consistent basis.”

Miller further comments on the fact that many companies are trying to be creative and imaginative with their customer experiences by providing seeming luxuries and additions to the experience, however, they are consequently neglecting to focus on the core logical elements of the customer experience, such as customer service and wait times. Miller also points out that it is the customer herself who often holds the most valuable insight into the areas that require improvement in the marketing aspects of a company.

The elements of this article that make it marketing related are the various aspects of influence that marketing can have on a place of business. “Every touch point the customer has with your business contains an element of marketing. It can be your advertising, the location of your store, or the way your staff answers the phone.” Miller attempts to reach out to business owners and make them aware that the impact and influence of marketing can expand beyond the typical mailing or brochure and is in fact pervasive in the day to day business operations. The quality of customer service is explored as is the need to return to the basics of marketing and be sure that every marketing activity is focused towards satisfying what the customer really wants or needs.

There are many ways that this article reaches out to inform marketing and bring matters to attention that many companies often fail to realize and even neglect. One of the most important marketing informative aspects of this article is Miller’s insight into the fact that management is simply too close to the operations of the business to be able to accurately focus on the needs of the customer. Miller’s suggestion is one that all companies should take into consideration and whose importance is verified by an article in this week’s readings titled “Start with the Customer” by Stephen Brown. Both Brown and Miller emphasize that empowering the customer by allowing their feedback on business operations can have a profound effect on their satisfaction as well as the satisfaction of other customers. Often times business owners can become too involved in trying to know everything that they forget that their most powerful and accurate resource lies within their customers, right at their fingertips. As Miller states, “Their suggestion of a subtle change in the way you do business can mean the difference between ordinary profit and miraculous growth.”

In terms of this article improving my understanding of marketing, I feel this article helped to balance my perception of the mix between the needs for logical and creative elements in marketing. Past articles discussed in MK402 have focused on the importance of creativity and thinking “outside the box” with marketing activities, however, Miller has emphasized the importance of satisfying the basic needs of marketing and getting in touch with the customer and her logical needs before becoming overly creative or being creative while lacking the basic needs of the consumer. “A consumer-electronics chain might be testing a female-oriented concept store – the décor is soothing and the background creates a nice ambience. But what if there are 25 very unhappy customers standing in line with only two flustered clerks at checkout?” I feel I now have a better sense that marketing requires creativity and appealing to customers in new ways, however, you must ultimately be in touch with the core needs of the consumer and be able to satisfy her on a basic level before the effects and rewards of creativity can come into play.

If I could critique one aspect of this article, I would suggest that Miller expand upon the topics presented in this article to a greater extent. Miller brings up excellent points and begins to illustrate excellent examples, however, I found myself wanting to read more and for a greater level of detail regarding the insight she provides on these topics. While I understand that this article was most likely limited to a certain length, I wish that Miller could have taken the opportunity to expand on these topics through the use of her blog, rather than simply providing a link to her pre-existing article.


"When your customers stay with you until you screw up"

The article “When your customers stay with you until you screw up” illustrates an example of how companies forget about after sales service in marketing. It explains how the author needed to get his car serviced, he first tried to go to the Ford dealership that he always uses for his car purchases and services. When they wouldn’t accommodate him, he called another one who could “squeeze” him into the schedule. The author comments on how he will use this new dealership until they manage to “screw up,” and then he will start the process again. He projects how this seems to be a trend in many industries, especially service ones such as the phone industry. He says that companies focus on attracting customers, but only keep them until they “screw up” so badly that they customer leaves in order to find better service. It’s easier for customers to stay with one company after purchasing from them since they did a lot of research in order to make that initial purchase; receiving service from the company that they already researched is more convenient than beginning that research all over again.
This article is marketing related because it explores the after-sales service aspect of the marketing mix. While the marketing concept has gained widespread popularity, making companies focus on “putting the customer first,” the integral aspect of after-sales service is often neglected. The customer seems to come first in designing the product, in pricing it appropriately, in communicating through various channels, and in selling it in different outlets. In most cases, once the customer has been “persuaded” to purchase the product, the marketing ends. The development of customer loyalty programs indicates that some firms are taking advantage of the fact that holding on to current customers is so important since the cost of acquisition is so high. Companies can become much more successful if they learn how to increase sales from existing customers by keeping them happy for a long time.
This story improves my understanding of marketing due to its illustrative example of how customer service can affect brand switching so easily. In product categories with high risk, whatever type, pre-purchase research is common. However, the author points out how after this initial research, the consumer sticks with the brand that his research brought him to until a negative experience changes his perception of that brand. As a marketing student, marketing is often taught as how to get someone to purchase a product or service. Examples such as this illustrate how marketing can be applied to many other stages of consumer purchase. Also, the author says that marketers should make it “easy” for customers to return to a specific brand for service or repeat purchase. He implies that in today’s crowded marketplace, decisions that can be easy should be taken advantage of in order to keep customers coming back and spending their money on the brand they first chose. This article also reminds me of the “Social Consumer Manifesto” that urges marketers to treat consumers as they wish to be treated. If marketers could just apply the common sense to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes, every business would have exceptional after-sales customer service. Obviously, no one likes getting automated phone messages or unaccommodating service representatives. It just makes sense – treat your customers how you would want to be treated and they will come back to spend more money with you instead of with your competitor.
This piece does an excellent job of providing both an example of a marketing trend in the marketplace today along with an analysis of this trend in a marketing context. One thing that could have strengthened his argument would be to give another example of a company that is implementing post-sales service well. By having some illustrations of companies that are living these “best practices,” others can learn how to take full advantage of keeping their current loyal customers satisfied. One other thing that this posting could have explored is the after-sales customer service in B2B markets. I believe that B2B marketing concentrates more on the customer service aspect since businesses usually have more purchasing power since contracts for large dollar amounts are usually in place. When the business actually has a written “value,” more emphasis is placed on retaining that business and making sure that they are happy with the product or service being provided. Therefore, post-sales service may take more prevalence since renewal of a purchase agreement ensures a large dollar amount.

Celebrity Overkill

Kelley Irwin

Celebrity Marketing Overkill

Katherine Stone comments on the overload of celebrity focus in marketing. Celebrities are often the focus of fashion and new product inventions. Marketers look to celebrities to show their products to the mass consumer. Stone discusses the fact that celebrities have tables of free items and services to choose from whenever they are at an event. Marketing has taken to giving celebrities products in order to raise the “cool” factor of products in the eyes of the taste makers. However, there has been such an overkill that giving these celebrities the products no longer has the same effect as in the past. Rather, the free goodies are just that, free things that celebrities can take home with them. The products do not necessarily have value to the celebrities. It does not help to market the products to the taste makers or to the mass consumer anymore. People do not even pay attention to those goody bags. Stone is commenting on another article “Bag Swag” in which the author comments that even celebrities “are commodities…and cheap ones at that.” Therefore, it is not as useful to market your products by having celebrities use them. Consumers are not likely to care enough about the free products given to celebrities to have that affect sales.
Clearly, the article is discussing a way of marketing by using celebrity endorsements or celebrity product usage. However, the article discusses how using celebrities and giving those celebrities their products is no longer a helpful tactic in marketing one’s products. Marketers need to acknowledge the over-saturation in celebrity goody bags. Additionally, there is a difference when thinking about marketing a product, between using product placement and seeding to get your product shown and putting out tables and tables of free products for people like Paris Hilton to pilferage through.
Celebrity goody bags used to be a beneficial way for marketers to get their products into the hands of taste makers. Goody bags, however, have become overused by marketers. The article informs marketing by explaining how goody bags of free products for celebrities are no longer as effective for marketers. There is not likely to be a strong affect on sales due to the free products for celebrities. Celebrities have the money to purchase products that they want. The average consumer will not generally be interested in the fact that a celebrity received a product free and is now using it. Therefore, the article helps to explain how marketers should no longer place such a large value on putting their products in the free goody bags. Also, the article points out that there are differences between beneficial product placement and the overuse of free products given to celebrities.
The article improved my understanding of marketing in a few different ways. First, putting products in celebrity goody bags reminds me of guerilla marketing. It is the type of tactic that is something to a relatively small amount of people but marketers hope that it will have an effect. Second, the article helped me to see how certain ways of marketing that may not be traditional can become overdone and no longer helpful for companies. It is like the saying “too much of a good thing will kill you.” Companies have used this way of getting products to the celebrities so often and to excess that it is no longer valuable.
One thing that I would critique about this piece is that it does not talk about the effects if certain companies stop putting products into the goody bags of celebrities. There may be backlash against those companies for not paying enough attention to the celebrities. It would seem to me that celebrities would become accustom to receiving such benefits as the free goody bags. Suddenly taking that benefit away could create negative feelings. Katherine Stone does not acknowledge or look at that problem or possibility.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Switching Blogs

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to post that I am going to switch the blog I'm tracking from Brand Autopsy to one called Brains on Fire. I just wanted to let you all know in case someone wanted to take Brand Autopsy.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Standardization Creates Mediocrity?

The post “Mediocrity by ‘Areas of Improvement’ ” on the Creating Passionate Users blog is marketing related because it deals with the marketing of motivation (yet again). Kathy Sierra talks about how performance reviews always stress “areas of improvement” and how, this is actually a bad thing. She says that in order to figure out where employees need to improve the managers first have to figure out their weak points. Kathy says that this is not really fair because they are not in a position to do so and also cannot evaluate everyone on the same set of values because all people and positions are different; or as she says “It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.” She then goes on to emphasize that fact that by pointing out people’s short comings it causes them to overlook their strengths and therefore make them fall short of their potential.

The story informs marketing because it discusses the idea of a bottom line. Kathy Sierra takes the idea that “areas of improvement” is not helpful to a new level by saying that it is not at all on target. She says that standards are often set too high because no employer wants to tell an employee that he/she is perfect and do not need to improve on anything, because then he/she will get complacent. Therefore, they pick on every little fault the employee has in order to give him/her something to work on, and therefore drives up the standards higher and higher to the point where they get to levels that are unreasonable and unnecessary. Instead, she says that if employees are rewarded for their skills they will be able to develop a much more dynamic working environment, instead of the stale generic box that is created through standard performance evaluations. This is especially important in start-up companies, where every worker must be able to achieve their full potential to really get the business off the ground.

This was another article that made me think about how to get the most out of employees. So much of literature on marketing now-a-days is dedicated to employee satisfaction because employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction and therefore higher sales and a better reputation. Therefore, it is really important to be able to know how to work with employees and think of better ways to motivate and encourage them. Even though creating new and creative solutions is much more time consuming and expensive, posts like this make me realize that there is great reason for these efforts to be undertaken. Even though it is a gamble to invest resources in systems like this it is the belief of Kathy Sierra and other scholars in the field that these are not only justified, but also necessary.

Kathy Sierra mentioned that it is important to have standards and evaluations tailored to the each employee, and while this is clearly the best way to analyze employee performance and improve the company I think it is a little too rosy. It is one thing to make several versions of an evaluation, or to invest more time and effort in employee critiques, but it is a whole other to think that there can be something special for EVERYONE. I think that this hits at the idea of diminishing returns; because yes, this would increase profits, but not by enough to cover the enormous costs.

Go here for the full article.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Ryan's Secret": From HR to Brand Building

A consumer’s world is saturated with advertisements, most of which they have the power to tune out. Flipping stations, speeding by billboards on morning commutes and deleting emails are only a few of the reasons why it is so difficult for marketers to leave their mark on an individual. Oliver Blanchard addresses this difficulty in a recent posting to his Brand Builder blog entitled “Randy’s Secret.” Here he unpacks the secrets to success of a small North Carolina triathlon shop, illustrating how exceptional hiring practices can be the key to customer satisfaction and, in turn brand building. Advertising may be effective, but Blanchard believes HR is the best path to brand building.

This posting directly relates to the issues that many marketers are dealing with today: how to reach their customer. Obtaining a voice and creating an image for a company through traditional advertising mediums is becoming increasingly difficult. As recent trends are placing the customer at the center of organizations and requiring much consumer satisfaction, marketing theory has begun to explore how HR can contribute to satisfaction, ultimately promoting the success of organizations.

Blanchard takes this idea one step further, informing marketers that implementing good hiring practices will not stop with consumer satisfaction. Hiring employees with certain characteristics will ultimately shape a culture and an attitude that will encircle a business. This attitude then becomes a point of differentiation for a company, sticking with a consumer and motivating that individual to choose that company over a competitor.

Hiring employees with the “right stuff” is key to the success of this brand building technique. Blanchard says it all with this statement:

“Employees are the heart and soul of [a] business…They’re the living, breathing, walking, smiling articulation of [a] brand.”

The “right stuff” essentially means hiring in accordance with what Blanchard calls “Randy’s Five Hiring Criteria.” These include employees that are:

  1. “Infected” or passionate about what they are representing.
  2. “Volunteers” or individuals who choose to work there.
  3. “Talented” or knowledgeable about their product.
  4. “Nurturers” who treat all customers equally, regardless of spending.
  5. “Positive/Enthusiastic” because attitude is contagious.

These employees take care of the customer, making them feel wanted, needed and at home. This personal connection will go miles further to reaching a consumer than, say, a million dollar spot in Superbowl XL.

The atmosphere that these employees create often transcends the physical store product. Blanchard uses Randy McDougald’s Carolina Triathlon as an example. He writes,

“People don’t just go there to shop, they also go there to hang out, to find people to ride or run with. They go on their lunch break just because they feel at home.”

This personal and emotional connection, created in part by the company’s employees, brands the store and creates a distinct image in the consumers mind.

Finally, Blanchard states that this image becomes a point of differentiation between the business and its competitors. Consumers will choose this triathlon shop, for example, over others because it is more than just a triathlon shop to them. The store has become a place where they are able to make friends and build relationships.

Blanchard’s posting is a unique take on brand building. It brought my knowledge of the importance of HR one step further in showing how it is able to build brand while also satisfying consumers. Additionally, we have talked extensively about disconnect between marketers and customers that was fueled by consumerism and mass production. This post helped to close that gap in my mind, showing a direct way to connect with individuals that are important to a business. Blanchard’s reinforcement of the value of relationships gave me hope that we are still very much in need of human connection.

The author provides one specific example of successful brand building through HR from a very small firm in North Carolina to make his case. Skeptics would criticize that this principle is not universally applicable, as it is much easier to execute in a small firm. Although he had me a believer, it would have been beneficial to include other examples of firms that have succeeded in similar ways, possibly analyzing Starbucks’ techniques, a large corporation recently lauded for its use of HR as a marketing tool, to determine if they lend support to his argument.

Bentley College Marketing- Honors

Bentley College Marketing- Honors

"Beware! Blogs On the Runway" commentary.

Beware! Blogs On The Runway
Jan 27, 2006

This is a great blog that ties fashion marketing to technology, via blogs. The author, an anonymous diva, describes the new trend that is emerging in the fashion industry to host virtual fashion carnivals online through blogging. The carnival in particular discussed in the diva’s blog was hosted by New York Fashion Week, which is actually going on right now (February 3-10, 2006). Almost Girl,, and Pajamas Media were named as the three main players in this event, and they will be displaying fashion through blogs, vlogs, and podcasting.
The diva then goes on to explain the importance of blogging as a new marketing technique for all industries and individuals. Through blogging, individuals and enterprises alike can define their unique identities and display their perspectives of the world. Blogs are the forum by which people can express themselves and make known their ideas, and they are also a new medium through which companies can communicate with potential and current customers.
Blogs have just recently become a popular use of the internet. Blogs are quickly becoming another technological mainstream way of life. As a virtually untapped area of marketing, companies who can develop and utilize effective blogs from the get-go will have a competitive edge over their rivals.
In addition, the author presents blogs as an effective career management tool. She recommends building a personal blog that will define individuals and market their abilities. This identification occurs in blogs through topic choices, thoughts and opinions on the topics, pictures and videos, visual layout of the blog site, etc. This will provide one more point of reference for employers to look into when investigating potential employees. Thus, blogs can be an effective (or equally disastrous) marketing tool for any citizen’s career portfolio.
This blog improved my understanding of marketing by bringing to light the fact that marketing can constantly be innovated and integrated into the newest technological trends. Gone are the days when marketing was limited to TV, radio and direct mail. Today marketing can be virtually anything and everywhere… the possibilities are endless.
My one critique of this blog is the lack of detail. The diva was probably just trying to be brief, but it would have been very helpful to the audience to define exactly what marketing activities would be taking place on the blogs during the carnival and how. I’m curious to see exactly how the fashion eBusinesses plan to capture the essence of their clothing through pictures and videos in a blog. I would also be interested in knowing what other online carnivals have/are taking place and what industries have been jumping on the blog bandwagen in recent years. Finally, I would have liked to learn more about blog marketing as it relates to corporations as opposed to individuals. The blog was slightly misleading, originally seeming to be focused on fashion marketing via blogs, and then dropping the ball on fashion and turning to convince readers to build blogs as personal marketing devices.

Review of Mini's Uncommon Practices

John Moore’s blog on Mini USA discusses the ways in which the company is uncommon. Although he touches on the fact that the cars Mini manufactures are uncommon and their last advertising campaign was uncommon, he focuses on the unusual selection process Mini went through in order to decide on an advertising agency for their new campaign.

This blog directly relates to marketing because it discusses the process of selecting an advertising agency. Moore first describes the “common” way in which an agency is selected. Apparently, an outside firm is chosen to weed through the sea of agency applications. A final group of agencies is then brought in to pitch their advertising campaign ideas to the company’s executives. Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on advertising a year so it appears strange that they would not make more attempts to change and improve the agency selection process.

Mini decided to do just that and took a new and different approach for the process. Like every other company looking for a new agency, Mini did hire an outside firm to select its top four prospective agencies; however, this is when Mini started to change things around. The CEO of Mini, Jim McDowell, created a “boot camp” environment where the different agencies would make presentations in front of each other and compete directly with each other. Each agency had to first be put on the spot to create imaginative name tags for themselves. The agencies were also given unusual questions to answer off the top of their heads. One example was “If Arnold Schwarzenegger runs for President, who should be his running mate?” As you may be able to tell from these questions, they were not related to the auto industry or Mini USA. Scavenger hunts were also given to the agencies to complete while driving Mini Coopers. In the end, after “boot camp” and advertising campaign pitches were given, Mini USA decided to go with the agency Butler Shine.

After reading Moore’s blog and the original BusinessWeek article, my understanding of the agency selection process has improved significantly. I cannot understand why more companies do not examine their own agency selection processes. No company wants their advertising campaign to be like everyone else’s because then consumers would not pay any attention to it. Therefore, it seems logical to me that it would be a good idea to be more creative and thorough in getting to know the top agencies before one is selected and any contractual agreements are signed. Mini was able to see how its chemistry fit with the chemistry of the ad agencies it was reviewing.

One critique I would make is that there were no examples of Mini’s past uncommon advertising, even though Moore mentioned that he thought it was unusual. The blog would have been better if he could have backed up his position on Mini’s unusualness with examples. In addition, when I went back and read the original article, I found that there were interesting facts Moore neglected to mention such as a portion of the campaign that Butler pitched. The Butler Shine agency showed a clip of Mini driving on Route 66 and had posted it on the internet. I was interested in hearing more about what the agencies actually did while at “boot camp” and on their scavenger hunt. Thus, I am willing to make the assumption that others would be interested as well.


"Landing Pages for Referrals"

John Jantsch’s most recent marketing blog related to the topic of landing pages, a method of marketing which drives people to sign up for more information on your product or to enroll in a service. He discusses the basic use of landing pages as of now, and related this to his new idea of using them to market and refer more customers in a more efficient way. He writes of making the landing page idea completely online, where a company can market themselves through online web-pages which are specifically used for referrals. These referrals would be more satisfying to the customers and the company because of the personal attention that the customer received, and the ease at which they were able to access more product information.

This story is marketing-related because it deals with the company’s ability to inform customers about their products and to spread out their customer base. The last point that Jantsch wrote about not only touched on the idea of using landing pages as a marketing method, but also delved into the possibility of making multiple, personalized landing pages for those companies which have the potential to refer numerous customers. By personalizing the landing pages, the author is realizing the ability of a company to retain more customers and attract new customers through personalized marketing methods.

This reading informs marketing by letting the reader know that there are even more methods of marketing available than a regular businessperson, or even consumer, would think of. By taking an already existing marketing method, and making it more effective and efficient, Jantsch has informed the reader of a new possibility in the realm of marketing. Many companies would not consider the idea of online referrals to be a profit making venture, but Jantsch makes the idea not only seem profitable, but also entirely plausible.

This article improved my understanding of marketing because, although I was aware that referrals and similar marketing techniques were used, I was not aware of what they were called or how extensively they could be used to serve a particular purpose. I have never learned very much information on the subject that Jantsch wrote of, so it improved my knowledge of marketing by delving into a fairly unknown subject. It stresses the fact that marketing on TV and in print publications are not the only marketing areas that are profitable. It also makes the reader think more about the importance of getting referrals from both customers and companies in an effort to reach more customers.

My main critique of the blog that Jantsch wrote would be that he did not provide enough real world examples and things that made me apply what he was writing about. I would have preferred for him to mention companies that were successful in marketing using landing pages. He did include an example of a personalized landing page but I would have found it more insightful had he given the reader an example of companies that would be successful if they were to personalize their referral pages. Although he did write in a fairly easy to understand manner, it would have been more self-explanatory if he had included examples and things that related to his concepts through real world applications.