Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Insider Blogging

Are your employees blogging on your brand’s behalf? Do you dare let them? Why would you? Is it a control issue?

Say that you’ve already been thinking about that hottest and most alluring of marketing tools, “word of mouth.” Blogs are virtual versions of word-of-mouth advertising. Anyone can post a blog and use it to share a message or a point of view. By “anyone,” I do mean anyone – individuals, business gurus, even employees.

Especially employees, when they can help fulfill your marketing objectives, internal and external.

Introducing Hugh MacLeod and his “porous membrane” – one of the best and most graphic arguments for insider blogging:

The diagram above represents your market, or ‘The Conversation.’ That is demarcated by the outer circle ‘y.’ There is a smaller, inner circle ‘x. The entire market, the ‘conversation,’ is separated into two distinct parts, the inner area ‘A’ and the outer area ‘B.’

Area A represents your company, the people supplying the market. We call that ‘The Internal Conversation.’ Area B represents the people in the market who are not making, but buying. Otherwise know as the customers. We call that ‘The External Conversation.’ So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as ‘x.’

Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

Ideally, you want A and B to be identical as possible, or at least, in sync. The things that A is passionate about, B should also be passionate about. This we call ‘alignment.’ A good example would be Apple. The people at Apple think the iPod is cool, and so do their customers. They are aligned.

When A and B are no longer aligned is when the company starts getting into trouble. When A starts saying their gizmo is great and B is telling everybody it sucks, then you have serious misalignment. So how do you keep misalignment from happening?

The answer lies in ‘x,’ the membrane that separates A from B. The more porous the membrane, the easier it is for conversations between A and B, the internal and external, to happen. The easier for the conversations on both sides of membrane ‘x’ to adjust to the other, to become like the other.

And nothing, and I do mean nothing, pokes holes in the membrane better than blogs. You want porous? You got porous. Blogs punch holes in membranes like it was Swiss cheese.

When your employees are, in fact, “missionaries” for your company and your brand, you have the chance to create an inside-outside market conversation that is powerful and believable.

Simple though it appears, MacLeod’s “porous membrane” is dramatic. Just in case, though, let’s back it up with some advice from a leading experiential marketing company, Jack Morton. The worldwide firm has a White Paper you might find valuable. In part, it suggest that you should:

Encourage Employees to Blog: Encouraging team members (or better yet, leadership) to create their own blogs will enable readers to experience the personal side of your business. At the same time, you can give customers (or investors) an ‘inside scoop’ on where your company is headed. Technical or development experts can discuss the latest goings on in R&D, while your C-level discusses the future of your business. Your brand can gain quick credibility by offering the chance to have conversations with executives or experts. And each has the freedom to tell their own version of the brand story – lending it the human touch that blogs are known for.

Create a Corporate Blog: Your brand’s blog can broadcast messages to your external consumers, partners and industry-watchers. Or, it can be used to communicate internally with your own employees and teams. Much like a newsletter or other ‘push’ channel, you can use a blog to talk to anyone. The difference is that dialogue via blog is quick and specific – so blogs become both a ‘push’ and ‘pull’ channel. Users come back because they are genuinely interested in the content, while brands have a portal for sharing the latest news as it happens.

Whether you prefer the elegance of Hugh MacLeod or the text-driven advice of Jack Morton, recognize that internal blogs are like newsletters: they demand a commitment. New entries should be posted frequently, even daily if possible. ‘The Conversation’ must be sustained.

The maximum power of a blog is that there is a live individual behind it, just like word-of-mouth. The live individual is one of your own employees and that makes the blog personal.

Personal involvement makes insider blogging compelling and influential. But remember that the membrane ought to be porous. The two-way nature of blogging – even if it tests the limits of your control – is what makes it ultimately believable.

With utmost thanks to Hugh MacLeod, Cumbria, UK, for his “Cartoons Drawn on the Backs of Business Cards,”, and to Jack Morton Worldwide, an Interpublic Company, for the White Paper.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Spanish Guy

Thirty-one years ago, in 1975, Juan Carlos I was crowned King of Spain. I ran across this note earlier today. The Fascist dictator Francisco Franco had just died and had decreed that once he was dead the monarchic rule should be reintroduced in Spain.

A pop-up window appeared on my memory screen.

About five years after his coronation, I was working at BBDO/Minneapolis when I ran across a formal photo of His Majesty – looking pretty hot – on the cover of some high-level magazine. One of my colleagues at the time, an excellent young woman named Rosie Janushka, was perennially searching for “the perfect guy.”

I clipped the cover of the magazine, mounted it in on a piece of board and tacked it onto her office wall – after I had one of the art directors inscribe the cover with the words, “Rosie: I’ll never forget you!” and Juan Carlos’s signature.

I know the King of Spain has lived happily ever after (more or less). I’ve lost track of Rosie, though I hope she found her own prince.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rob’s Perrier

Signalwriter heard from Rob Schoenbeck yesterday:

I finally made my way to your blog, recalling somewhat ashamedly that you’d asked me on or the day prior to Thanksgiving to read an article you’d posted. I assume that it was the one entitled “Bottle Spin.”

Of course I was gratified to see you calling today’s marketers to rise up off their collective duffs and do something clever and innovative; as you say “outside the bottle.” It will be interesting, to say the least, to learn what response you generate.

Ironically, the article immediately called to mind a campaign which we (meaning yours truly at the time in London serving the great master of advertising Leo Burnett) developed to make the Perrier brand a household word in the UK introducing a “foreign” — even worse, French — product to alter the habits of the British consumer who, if he drank bottled water at all which was very rarely indeed, it was sure to be British!

“Eau-la-la” was the beginning of a 15-year advertising campaign for Perrier. Originally created for a single poster, the “Eau” theme had so much impact that a campaign was built around it. Throughout the 1980s, hundreds of Perrier “Eau” advertisements were spawned. (For example, the play on the word “eau” and the visual of two bottles of Perrier side by side with the headline “Eau Pair.”) There was never a word written about the brand but the famous French bottle was always the star.

Rob continues: The reason I bring this up is because we even went so far as to create a new look (“package and personality”) for the brand. When I read your article, I could help but smile and think how far-sighted we were, thirty years ago, in not only taking the high ground by identifying water itself (and the French word “eau” at that) with the Perrier and doing it in a most striking, memorable, clever and unique way so that there was no mistaking “which” brand was the one to drink if one wanted to drink bottled water (from the Continent no less.)

It worked like crazy. Commentator Barry Groves has noted:

But an advertising campaign by the French company, Perrier, in 1974 was to bring about a dramatic change. The Financial Times, in an article on the Mineral and Spring waters market, called the campaign a waste of time because bottled waters, it said, would be drunk only by cranks and foreigners. How wrong they were. Bottled water has become an extraordinary success story. Sales of bottled water totalled 3 million litres in 1976. In just one decade that figure rose to 128 million litres and by 1991 some 300 million bottles of mineral water were drunk in Britain alone.

I generally consider that great advertising people are always looking for new, smart ways to present their brands to their target audiences. “Bottle Spin” addressed the packaging itself. But you can see from the ad above that there are more ways than one to make the package do more of the work. We only think “integrated” marketing is a relatively new concept. In fact, it goes on all the time…if we’re great advertising people.

Friday, November 24, 2006

FrogPad Relief

In a copyrighted story today, Meaghan Wolff of the Washington Post reveals that the Hyatt hotel chain is making a special hand massage package available for businesspeople who…overuse…their Blackberry PDAs:

Almost two years ago the American Society of Hand Therapists warned that heavy users of hand-held electronics such as the BlackBerry are at risk of repetitive stress injuries from thumb-typing on a tiny keypad. But it took the Hyatt to see a business opportunity in “BlackBerry thumb.”

So yes, if you’re thumbing your way through the business wars, you can get some short-term relief from a soothing $80 massage at the Hyatt.

Or you can switch to the FrogPadTM. Created by Linda Marroquin, FrogPad is a one-handed keyboard (available for righties or lefties) that can be used with USB keyboard-compatible PDAs, Pocket PCs, Tablet and Wearable PCs, plus other mobile applications like laptops.

For tight spaces, for the sheer enjoyment of using one whole hand instead of a couple of your thumbs, you can get the functionality and performance of an efficient keyboard one-handed – and it’s easy to learn. It’s palm-sized, light in weight, but with a solid feel. It’s a robust device.

I’m trying it. Marroquin took me through a simple lesson. Since most of my “data entry” is desktop copywriting, though, two hands – or, to be exact, about seven fingers – is still faster for me. I don’t do any mobile computing yet.

Marroquin has designed the FrogPad for fast data entry. The letter layout is based on the percent usage of each letter in the English language. Fifteen letters that are used 86% of the time by typists are placed in the most efficient locations on the keyboard. There are a variety of FrogPad typing tutors available for practice, which can be accessed via the FrogPad website.

From a marketing perspective, FrogPad is the brand that Marroquin has built, well, single-handed. No ad agencies, no PR firms. Just incredible smarts and a lot of business savvy. Right now, there are more than 10,000 FrogPad users worldwide…people who have found a startling number of reasons to type one-handed.

Now a hand massage is appealing, if the least bit odd. If you’re really suffering from Blackberry Thumb, the massage is no long-term solution. Economically, a USB FrogPad costs about 1/3 more than the Hyatt massage. A full-scale, Bluetooth-enabled FrogPad costs about twice what the massage costs…and the benefits last a lot longer.

Hyatt’s come up with a cute marketing idea. Marroquin has invented an entire new category of digital input device and the strong brand to go with it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Grateful Nation

Happy Thanksgiving from America. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh taught, “If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

Benjamin Franklin wanted to use the turkey as the symbol of the new United States instead of the bald eagle. Today, a lot of people think that Franklin’s choice is more appropriate. Yet for everyone who thinks that our country is so bad, there are thousands more every day who have arrived on our shores, searching for the better life they have not found in their own lands.

There is hardly a single nation or ethnic group that isn’t represented among “Americans.” Whether we came here in the 1600s or the 1700s, the Nineteenth or Twentieth Century – or yesterday – we all have a say in our government, our laws, our way of life.

We have so much to be thankful for. Today is the day we celebrate it, no matter which of our forefathers’ flags we wave around the holiday table. Doug, Donna and Madeleine (our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter) will join us this afternoon for Thanksgiving dinner. Rachel (our daughter) will enjoy one Thanksgiving feast in New Jersey, a second one in the late afternoon in New York City, and a third one later in the evening…the energy of the young!

From me and my family to yours, all the best on Thanksgiving Day.

Painting courtesy of in Canada, the other nation that celebrates Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bottle Spin

According to a story in The New York Times, “Perrier Plays With Its Venerable Brand to Draw Younger Fans.” As you can see above, Perrier (at least back in October, when this was news) has modified its labels to make puns – which is good if you shop by label and not by shape. The small, bulb-shaped green bottle has been in America since ’76. “Sexier,” “Crazier,” “Flirtier.” All cute. And worth $150 mill to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

But hasn’t Heinz been doing the same kind of thing with its ketchup labels on and off for years?

I noticed that our local bottled water supplier, Ozarka (with its HQ in Greenwich, CT), has introduced a new and rather fetching 11-ounce bottle called “Aquapod” with a registered trademark. Neat shape, neat name...and Ozarka is targeting it like crazy to kids. It reminds me a bit of the classic Orangina bottle.

You can see more about it here, along with the associated kid-oriented site (which is frankly lame – and I’m not the target market, thank you.) I also bemusedly resent the bad kid being labeled “The Evil Baron,” Barrimore von Thirstmore III. Really.

Mark DeVries, the Amsterdam-based Brand and Packaging Development Consultant,
wrote about the O&M label campaign this way:

This attempt by Perrier to evoke consumer response is really just scratching the surface of what brand owners will be doing as they evolve their products to fit in with the changing culture of marketing communications.

As a packaging professional (and I dont mean graphic designer in the form of brand building or promotions which use packaging as the media) I believe it is time that marketers woke up to the fact that serious, in-depth packaging considerations coupled with appropriate product innovation will give them the edge they are searching for.

They really need to think out-the-box now, because just about anything is possible. Attending a packaging innovations fair in London, I saw some excellent examples that fit this bill. From curved 2-piece aluminium cans to mass-produced cartons that combine multiple curves within the confines of the traditional 6-sided carton (in this case it was about 3-and-a-half)…concepts like these require collaboration from a multitude of experts and a new generation of marketing professionals.

Now Perrier comes along with a really new, PET bottle: portable, unbreakable, recyclable – and looking somewhat like the plastic Coke bottle (except, of course, it’s green). Still, like Ozarka, Perrier is adapting its package, rather than its label, to fit new markets.

The classic problem in B2B, of course, is that so many of our “products” don’t have packages. In this day and time, perhaps we need to consider if there are ways to bring genuine new packaging technology and design into our arena – as many of the oil companies did years ago with their passenger car and heavy-duty motor oil containers.

Your challenge today (as DeVries puts it): Add two new Ps in the 4P marketing mix equation: Packaging and Personality. We don’t need more complexity, but it wouldn’t hurt us business marketers to think “outside the bottle” when we can*.

*No pun intended.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Family Time

A man in Houston calls his son in Sugar Land the day before Thanksgiving and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; thirty years of misery is enough.”

“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in New York and tell her.”

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts. “I’ll take care of this.” She calls Houston immediately, and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay,” he says. “They’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”

With thanks to

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cell Surfing

The tech and Christmas shopping news of the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii (sold out on its first day) has briefly distracted me from the idea surfing the Web via cellphone. That’s likely to be my own “next frontier” and I’m late to the party.

No early adopter, me.

I did wonder about market opportunities, though, for clients like EMS Group, with its successful launch of e-mailed newsletters. Fortunately, the Center for Media Research came through last week with a little help: a press release from comScore Networks about market use of cellphones to access the Internet on a country-by-country basis.

A much higher percentage of Europeans are surfing with their “handies” than we are in the US: 29% of European Internet users in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK regularly access the Web from their mobile phones compared to only 19% of Americans. The highest mobile Web penetration is seen in both Germany and Italy, both at 34% of their cellphone-using population.

On the other hand, those percentages are misleading, number-wise. Our 19% represents about 152 million users – if I’m reading the numbers right. Germany, the highest of the Euros, has 32 million users.

The other big difference is in who’s providing the content. In the US, most users are accessing through online portals like Google, Yahoo! and MSN; in Europe, it’s the local mobile providers that are delivering the Web to European cellphone users.

Regardless of portal, though, the US’s 19% penetration leaves plenty of room for market expansion, as well as multiple opportunities for business-to-business marketers to use the cellphone access point to their advantage.

This past weekend, air-traveling to and from Chicago, I noted just how many people were juggling iPODs, Blackberries and cellphones. These prospects-on-the-move are open to exploring new options for sales message delivery.

You think I’m preaching to the converted? Far too many companies in the B2B space are not yet taking advantage of the portable technologies. What about making those first steps and examining ways to get customers and prospects to your site via telephone? Why don’t we examine incentives for getting customers and prospects to our websites via their cellphones, where we’re more likely to capture their attention these days?

I don’t have quite enough toys yet – but Christmas is coming.

Samsung Blackjack courtesy of Cingular Wireless.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Today, Veterans...

A Proclamation by the President of the United States:

Through the generations, America's men and women in uniform have defeated tyrants, liberated continents, and set a standard of courage and idealism for the entire world. On Veterans Day, our Nation pays tribute to those who have proudly served in our Armed Forces…

Think about American soldiers and sailors who have served and are serving throughout the world, defending our freedoms. As long as we remember the names, they won’t fade away.

Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz, Herman Eisenberg and Sam Slavik. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander.
Plus names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. And me.

You're welcome to add names of your own to this list. It grows every year.

In a war 35 years back: 25-year-old aircraft . US Naval Station Sangley Point, Republic of the Philippines, circa1971. Photo courtesy of Loren Stiegelmar.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lantern Won

If there’s one thing better than winning a creative award, it’s taking home a “Lantern” in front of a bunch of old business friends.

Last evening at the Houston Club, the Business Marketing Association (BMA, to you) conducted its 2006 Lantern Awards of Texas Gala Exhibition and Awards Dinner.

Principal Susan Reeves accepted the Lantern Award for Prism Design’s “How To” manual, created for client PreCash: the piece you see above topped its category.

Two other Prism pieces gained Awards of Excellence: the Premium Drilling ad campaign and the Baker Hughes Recruitment campaign. I wrote about the first of these here – and a post about the second is still to come.

Congratulations to the entire Prism Design team, especially Terry Teutsch – and thanks for involving me in the conceptualization and writing of all three prize-winners.

Plus a loud “well done!” to the BMA Lantern Awards committee for staging a terrific, well-attended event that moved lickety-split through a very large number of categories. It really was old home week for me: an especial pleasure to see so many friends and colleagues accept awards.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nancy's Joke

A trucker was driving along the highway and a sign comes up that reads LOW BRIDGE AHEAD. Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him. And he gets stuck under it.

Cars are backed up for miles, both ways. Finally, a highway patrol car works its way up to the bridge and stops. The trooper gets out of his car and walks up to the truck driver…puts his hands on his hips and says, “Got stuck, huh?”

The truck driver says, “Nope – I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas.”

Safety-related photo © Stan Feldman from Trainweb. All rights reserved. Joke courtesy of Nancy McMillan in farthest Maui, from “Best Smart-Ass Answers.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Payer Marketing

You know and I know that a good marketer can look at a “thing” and figure out what the benefits are for our various audiences or prospects. Transparency, for example, answers a major complaint from healthcare’s stakeholders (including physicians) and it is very, very marketable.

The AMA Healthcare SIG’s November 16th event is your chance to find new marketing opportunities in healthcare information technologies. One of these is the transparency that comes from being able to access health-related information quickly and easily.

Did you want a preview of these coming attractions? Then I hope you read the Houston Chronicle article on Saturday, October 28th (Business, page D1 and D7) by Brett Brune, “The payers put to the test.” Texas PayerView Rankings from athenahealth in Boston are part of this Chronicle feature.

A speaker from athenahealth will be one of our seminar participants in just 10 days. (The firm spells its name using lower case.)

The “PayerView” rankings analyze claim performance data from more than 7,000 providers using the athenaNet® system database from athenahealth. It ranks national and regional health insurers according to specific measures of financial and administrative performance and medical policy complexity.

John Hallock, athenahealth’s Director of Public Relations, wrote me last week about visibility and transparency:

Healthcare is littered with vendors and organizations looking to communicate and market to a new service or device or functionality rather than the problems these services solve.

By marketing to a problem – defining it and bringing transparency to it – you can own it…then market your unique solution to that problem.

Transparency continues to be one of the dominant themes in healthcare today as it relates to doctors’ performance and costs; athenahealth felt that for the other major healthcare supply chain member, the insurer, there was virtually no actionable apples-to-apples data available to measure how well or poorly they perform one of their primary functions: paying for healthcare.

Our…recent Texas PayerView Ranking makes this various insurer and payer performance data publicly available…an important step in bringing transparency to all stakeholders in healthcare. The rankings and website are designed to allow physician practices, medical societies, media, consumers and payers to compare the rankings and performance of specific insurers by region.

Join me at The Courtyard on St. James Place on Thursday, November 16th, to find out how you can “own” this and other information technologies...for better marketing. Click here to register.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Tomorrow!

Poster by Michael Schwab for a get-out-the-vote campaign by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), created for the 2004 election. With thanks to Mike Lenhart blogging on the Graphic Design Forum. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

VP Johnson

Even though he was a client here in Houston, Eric Johnson and I almost always ran into each other at Gatwick in the UK. He was traveling extensively for Landmark first, then Halliburton. I would be on my way to and from Dialogue International meetings. I remember when his boys started in scouting.

Now, he’s the new VP of marketing for the Halliburton Energy Services Group (ESG). His recent promotion has been announced in the October number of Offshore magazine. Previously, he served as the Director of Strategic Marketing for ESG. Before that, he was at Landmark.

Congratulations, Eric. In this case, the rolling stone has gathered a well-deserved step up in the corporate world.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

92% “Yes”

Let me tell you about Trevor Eade and his vision.

He’s Director of Marketing for EMS Group. He wanted to use targeted e-mail to send a series of “thought leadership” articles about the company’s capabilities to customers and prospects, and elevate the EMS brand worldwide.

His vision not only included the idea of positioning EMS Group on the leading edge of a critical sector of the energy industry, but the need to measure the results of the program. This is an “unusual” concept only to those people who don’t think measurement is an important component of marketing efforts.

Working with his management and colleagues, Eade created the corporate environment that supports this leadership approach. Working with Exact Target, an experienced provider of on-demand email marketing software, he put the structure in place to deliver these articles – and measure their impact on readers quickly.

Then he had to begin generating the articles themselves (which is where I come in). I worked with “Cutty” Cunningham, EMS Group’s Vice President of Operations, to write it. It was an outstanding experience because Cunningham has such extensive knowledge of the subject.

On October 17th (one week ahead of his original schedule) EMS sent out the first in the new series of “thought leadership” e-mails: an article about re-centralizing pipeline integrity management. The cover e-mail said:

Welcome to the first in a series of monthly e-mails you will receive from EMS!

Over the past couple of months we have conducted a series of interviews with senior members of EMS Operations Staff, with the intention of delivering to you technically rich articles which you can use in your day-to-day business. EMS Group delivered 1701 e-mails to its subscriber base (subscribers, meaning customers and potential customers – who have agreed to receive EMS e-mail). One week later, via an integrated Exact Target online survey, Eade was able to summarize initial results.

  • More than 575 of those e-mails have been opened (as of today), demonstrating at 34% open rate – higher than the national average.
  • Overall EMS received a “whopping” 7.1% click through rate (meaning the subscriber clicked on a link within the e-mail – they may have gone to the EMS website or opened the PDF of the article – again significantly higher than the national average of 4%.
  • Subscribers forwarded the content of the e-mail to co-workers (via the Exact Target Forward to a Friend button).
  • 92% of the readers answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you find the contents of this e-mail informative?” (I love saying that: ninety-two per cent.)

The great numbers came with a plus: respondents also suggested what they’d like to see as future topics – a great range of feedback that will guide further elements of this project.

Well, Eade wrote me, “Thanks for all your efforts, in pulling this together!”

I think the kudos go to him and his team for supporting this form of communications: a “new media” approach that is successful because every element – the vision, the mechanisms, the cooperation, the content of the article and the feedback – was assembled into a precisely targeted program.

This is also a powerful argument against people who keep saying “Nobody reads anymore.” The fact is, professionals read articles that are professionally valuable to them. It’s up to us to make certain that the value is built in each and every time.

Email me and I'll send back a pdf of this first article. Thanks to Trevor Eade and EMS Group for letting me post the results - great job!