Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Marketing 101 - Sometimes You Just Need to 'Splain it to 'Em

You never know where you’ll learn an important marketing lesson, or see it in action.

I recently had the privilege of attending an official function at a military base in the Washington D.C. area. 

It was an event honoring my brother-in-law, a retiring army colonel, and he was presented with numerous certificates and awards. The gentleman running the event was himself a retired major-general. At one point the general spoke about the army's sense of community and its commitment to its people. He went into detail about the trouble and expense that are undertaken to produce the many specialized medals, and how important it is to reward outstanding conduct and achievement and give soldiers a feeling of community and of being appreciated. 

A great amount of effort and expense goes into producing medals like these.

He related a story of how there was once a push from some in congress to do away with these medals. "It's a waste of taxpayers’ money. It's fraud and pork and fat and we can't afford it!" The congressional bean counters called in the Joint Chiefs and grilled them mercilessly over this egregious waste of money.  

Congress always likes to keep its eyes on the "big picture..."

The Joint Chiefs came back with defeat in their eyes. "We tried, what else can we do?" They were sure that funding for these specially made medals was going to be cut. 

A lower ranking officer, a staff sergeant, asked if he could a try speaking before the congressional subcommittee.

With nothing to lose, the top brass agreed.  

So the staff sergeant gathered several enlisted men - highly decorated enlisted men - each with a case full of these "wasteful" medals, and had them join him in testifying before the congressmen. 

This time the reaction was very different. 

When the first soldier took the stand, one of the congressmen, his curiosity piqued, asked, "Son, where did you get all those medals?"

With boyish enthusiasm, the soldier jumped up and brought his showcase of medals up to where the committee was sitting. 

"Well, sir, I got this one from my platoon leader for being Best_____. That one was given to me by my company commander for Excellence in _____. This one is from my division commander for Service in _____ ."

The recitation continued in front of a rapt audience. One achievement after another. For all around excellence. For superior marksmanship. For valor. 

Each of the young enlisted made similar presentations. 

After thanking them for their service to the nation, the subcommittee dismissed them. A short time later, one of the top military brass received a call. 

After making some apologetic remark about it being an election year, the committee member said, "We get it, General. You've made your point. The funding for the medals won't be touched."

There are times when it’s not enough to talk about something with numbers and figures and statistics. Sometimes you just have to explain it to them. 

Having top brass trot out slick PowerPoint slides showing the effect on morale didn't help sell their message to congress.

Hearing generals and admirals talk about the importance of positive reinforcement and team spirit didn't help. 

But seeing dedicated young soldiers - people prepared to lay down their lives for this country - and how their eyes lit up when they talked of how they received those medals, and how it motivated and inspired them to accomplish even more - the sheer impact of their sincerity and enthusiasm finally brought the message home.

And that’s a lesson which is relevant no matter what the message, and no matter what you’re trying to sell.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@mac.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anatomy of a Flop

How to Make a Good Product Fail
The Canon EOS-M (white version)

Today’s topic is the Canon EOS M, Canon's first entry into the growing Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) market. 

Released back in 2012, the EOS M uses an APS-C sensor (larger than competing Micro Four Thirds cameras) and provides a comfortable 18 megapixels of information. 

Canon's Big Fail

When the EOS M was released, it had one horrible, glaring horrendous defect. One which, at the very least, should have caused Canon to delay its launch until it was fixed. The autofocus was s-l-o-w. We're talking glacial, snail-like slow when compared to competing cameras. 

But Canon, late to the Mirrorless party was in a hurry to bring the EOS M to market so they chose to release it as it was. 

Bad move. Building on the poor AF, reviewers gleefully dissected the newcomer and found more and more reasons that it came up short of the competition. If had no electronic viewfinder nor any means of adding one. The control interface was new and unfamiliar. Critics complained about the complexity of accessing certain functions. They complained about the lack of a tilting LCD screen, and the relatively short battery life.

A few cautiously optimistic reviewers pointed out some of its stand-out features: Great image quality and strong low light performance. Some even lauded what they called the “excellent UI” with a big, bright responsive touchscreen interface, and the compatibility with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses (with an optional adapter), great video quality and continuous active focus. 

But sales were anemic and never recovered. 

A firmware patch that belatedly triaged the AF problem was released months later, but it was far too little far too late. 

The EOS M had become the Edsel of Mirrorless cameras. 

The Sequel

Canon released a modest upgrade, the EOS M2, but understandably leery, it was sold only in Japan. 

Speculation is that they're waiting to announce something in the US/European markets until they can get it "right."

My .2¢

Honestly, Canon did a lot right with the EOS M. They spent a respectable amount on marketing and created some really gorgeous sample videos shot with the EOS M by a professional video team, showing off its compatibility with the wider family of Canon lenses. (Although why you'd want to use five or ten grand worth of glass on a camera like this escapes me.)

They included some really nice features in a solidly built camera. There have actually been side by side comparisons between the EOS M and the top of the line 5d Mark iii. And the M made a surprisingly good showing, especially in good lighting. Is it the best? Not compared to the latest and greatest. But it's certainly not the worst. And with the firmware-improved AF, it doesn't deserve the trashing it's gotten. 

When I saw how cheap they were, I got myself an EOS M, and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

I had no problem shooting fast moving objects, or shooting from a moving car. (No, I wasn't driving!)
AutoFocus, while not on par with my big DSLR, was more than adequate.

Here's a shot of my 5-year old on a carousel in poor lighting.
The auto-setting did a fine job, and it could easily be enhanced in Photoshop.

The touchscreen is gorgeous, and it uses iPhone-like swiping and pinching gestures to scroll through and enlarge photos. Yeah it's different. But with a little patience and fortitude you can learn it. And you know what? It works pretty well.

I also discovered that switching the camera to Continuous Shooting instead of Single Shot makes picture taking much quicker and more responsive, although you do get an occasional extra frame or two in that you didn't intend.

All in all, it's not nearly as bad as it sounded based on the reviews that I've read.

Where Canon Went Wrong

Major Error #1: They released a product with a bad defect (poor auto focus)

Major Errors #2-6: They pretty much followed the Five Steps of Grieving. 

1) Denial - "Hey. There's nothing wrong with our camera. It's worth every penny of the Suggested Retail Price. If you don't like the AF, use Manual Focus (if you can find it).”

2) Anger - "Who the flip are YOU to tell US what's wrong with our products?"

3) Bargaining - "C'mon, we'll fix the AF and slash the price (repeatedly). Will you buy it now? Please?"

4) Despair - "We've failed. We're horrible. We know nothing. We can't risk releasing any Mirrorless products in the U.S. or Europe ever again."

5) Acceptance - "We must learn from our troubled, dysfunctional past and move on. We can be better than this. We can produce great products. We are good people. We deserve to be loved."


The “best” Mirrorless camera available now is arguably the Sony A6000. For the body alone you’ll pay about $640 on eBay. Then you’ll need lenses and accessories, unless you have them from earlier models. Sony E-Mount lenses range in price from $250 to over $1000, and the recommended Sony flash is about $150. So a complete A6000 package could easily set you back $1500-$2000.

You can still find the EOS M for sale (and I do mean SALE) on eBay and through retailers like B&H Photo. The price for just the body has dropped to about $250, which is an incredible bargain. You can add lenses and accessories on-the-cheap as well, if you don’t mind buying used. KEH.com has used lenses and flashes at substantial discounts. For under $500 you can have a great little Mirrorless ILC to add to your toolbox. And in my book that’s no flop - at least for us cash-strapped photo-enthusiasts.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@mac.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Madness - Madness I Tell You!

Amazon Patents the Photograph 


You may have missed it, but a bizarre, almost otherworldly article appeared in the news last week. 

Amazon patented the photograph. 

More accurately, they were granted a patent on the specific method they use to shoot objects on a white background for their website. In fact they go into painstaking detail to describe that method in the patent. They include particulars such as positions of lights, background and subject, settings for lights and camera, and even the specific order in which the photographer should do his stuff. 

So what's the problem?

The problem is people have been taking photos in exactly this way since, like, forever. 

Their are literally millions of similar images representing prior art on the web and in print. In my other identity as a commercial photographer I have personally created innumerable product shots using similar methods. Oh no! Does that mean I'm retroactively in violation of Amazon's patent?

On the other hand, the methodology they lay down is so comically precise that it's doubtful if they themselves actually follow it to the letter. So how could they ever prove infringement?

All some evil patent thief would have to do is use a different lens or camera setting, and there would technically be no violation. 

And BTW, you better believe that this is a HUGE BLARING WAKE-UP CALL that our patent system is royally messed up

But really, what was Amazon thinking?

And what was Amazon looking to gain with this, anyway? The right to say their photography methods are patented? Did they think everyone would just stop creating images on white backgrounds once the news got around?

"Uh, boss, it looks like we have to switch the website and the catalog to a Reflex Blue background. Amazon patented white."

"What?! Those dirty @&$?!  Let's call legal and do a patent search on the whole freakin' Pantone library! We won't get caught off guard like that again!"

In the mean time, if you're looking to break into the photography biz, there's a great new "how-to" guide for budding product photographers, also known as US Patent No. 8676045 It's a little wordy in places, but it'll get you started. 

Just make sure Amazon's lawyers don't find you. And whatever you do, don't try to patent that method. It's been done. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@mac.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Don’t Let This Happen to You

I got an official looking notice in the mail the other day. The outside envelope was colored “parking ticket orange” and there was a bunch of semi-official lingo printed there along with a return address of “The Offices of Records of Declaration/Disbursements Division.”

Junk mail? You betcha. It was a direct mail piece trying to get me to shop for a new car. It promised me an auto loan of up to $39,000.

But that’s not what surprised me. Believe it or not, there was something in the accompanying letter that surprised and shocked me enough to want to write about it.

The letter was personalized - extremely personalized. They knew that I had purchased a car pretty recently, what my payments are, and even at what rate. But that still didn’t shock me.

What got me was when they wrote that they knew I was paying an estimated rate of 1.89% rate, but they were offering me the opportunity to lower my payments by reducing my interest rate to as low as 3.99% APR.

So they’ll save me money by raising my rate! In other words, they didn’t even bother qualifying their leads! They spent money designing a piece and obtaining a list with significant personal data, and didn’t bother checking that data to see who would be a likely prospect!

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

How much time would it have taken them to check? The time necessary to do a lookup and sort in Excel? They might have saved hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on how many pieces were mailed out.

Obviously it wasn’t that important to them to fine tune their marketing or they would have done it. But it might have increased their response rate if they’d bothered to expend a little thought and effort on their mailing list.

Very often it’s the little things that make all the difference in how something is perceived. I heard that if you’re trying to sell your home, the color you paint the front door can make a huge difference in the success of finding a buyer. We’re talking double digit percentages - just from painting a door. (It's even better than having bread baking in the oven!)

If you have a business, then you know the importance of small gestures in building relationships with customers. A smiled greeting, helpful, responsive and knowledgeable staff, a clean and pleasant environment - these all build loyalty and good will. 

But going the extra little bit to make a customer feel special - well that's a whole different ball game. 

Achy, Stinky Feet - or - DO Sweat the Small Stuff

There's a certain type of gel insert I use in my shoes, sold at Bestsoleinc.com

There are two experiences I've had with them that illustrate "Sweating the Small Stuff."

Story #1:
I first met them years ago at a trade show at New York's Javitz Center. 

They had a booth showing their products. As I walked by, one of the extremely pleasant staff stopped me and asked if I ever had problems with my feet or back (which I did).

She then proceeded to ask me to take off my shoes and hand 'em over. I was a little surprised. I mean, I don't have especially stinky feet, but I had been walking around Manhattan and the Javitz Center for hours and said as much. She just smiled and said it was no problem. She then removed my old inner soles (yuck) and popped in a pair of their incredible inserts and told me to try them out. 

They felt amazing and I bought them on the spot. (And no, I haven’t received samples or renumeration for mentioning their product.)

Story #2. 
I recently ordered a new pair online. They have a running promotion for repeat customers - if you enter a promo code you get $10 off. But I didn't have my code and I needed the inserts so I placed the order without it. 
One of their great reps contacted me and said they had overcharged me. As an existing customer I was entitled to my discount! Since the order was placed through an automated system, I had to contact them for refund. So I did! You can bet they'll get more business from me in the future. 

Take away lessons:

1) Do you believe in your product or business enough to handle the smelly shoes of thousands of convention goers?

2) If someone overpaid you, would you return the difference as a matter of customer service?

Little things - those small touches of professionalism, sparkle and polish - will set you apart from the pack. 

But only if you remember to do them. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@mac.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Right Method for the Madness

Sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. 

It's such a part of human nature that it has become fodder for sitcoms. The poor nebbish character has a great idea for the company and presents it to the boss. It gets rejected out of hand. 
"It's ridiculous. It'll never work." Then either one of two things happens. The next scene has the boss presenting the idea (as his own) with the same language and mannerisms to his boss, who thinks it's a winner, or a slick co-worker co-opts the idea and it becomes a hit. 

The idea is nothing new. The old radio comedies and TV shows in the 50s and 60s were full of it. 
(Get Smart, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyck etc.)

They would typically go something like this:

Max: Chief, I think our plan should be _____.

Chief: Max, that’s a terrible plan.

Max: Well, ok.

99: Chief, what about if we________(same as Max).

Chief: That's a great idea, 99!

(Canned Laughter)

"But Chief, that was MY idea!"

And these bits still gets laughs today. 

But why are we like that?

Why can't we separate the message from the messenger? 

Many years ago I agreed to do some pro-bono design work for a non-profit. I wanted to help them and they were really strapped for funds. 
One day I was in their office and someone showed me a proof of a new ad they were thinking  of running - a "professionally designed" ad from a paid agency. 
As you can imagine, I had quite a bit to say about this, especially since the designer wanted a tremendous amount of money for what was 
really poor work. 
When I expressed my disbelief to the organization's director, his sage answer was, "Well they came in with nice suits and made this whole big presentation!"

Obviously the other guys were slick and impressive and worth spending lots of money on, even if the product was lousy. 

Who would YOU buy from!

But I was still a good resource when they needed freebies!

But I digress. My point in regaling you with that story wasn't to tell you what a bozo the head of that non-profit was. It was to illustrate how much weight we place on packaging and superficialities. Those other guys had nice suits and a neat slide show. I had my discount store wardrobe and a few printouts, and boy was I judged accordingly. 
(They ultimately forced the high paid guys to change the ad based on my 'suggestions.' For some reason that didn't make me feel any better.)

So what great insights into human nature have my years of experience revealed to me?

- That people are easily attracted to flashy things. 

- At least in the short term, many (or most) people prefer style over substance, even when they wind up with a measurably inferior product.

- And people love to feel like they're getting a bargain. They love it even more if they think they're getting that bargain because they somehow have the seller at a disadvantage.

Take America’s relationship with China. Paul Midler, in his fascinating book, Poorly Made in China (available on Amazon), makes the following point. In the U.S., most people think that the big bad Americans stomped into poor undeveloped China and essentially made the people there indentured servants. They forced the desperate, simple-minded Chinese manufacturers to give them rock bottom pricing to allow them the privilege of competing for the West’s business. 

To Mr. Midler, who worked for years in China as an intermediary between American companies and Chinese factories, and who is fluent in Mandarin as well as being a student of Chinese history and culture, that perspective is 180° inaccurate. From his first hand observations, it was the Chinese manufacturers who enticed Western companies to do business there with those rock bottom prices, not the other way around. The Chinese made an art form of reeling in new business with promises of too-good-to-be-true prices, quality and service, all the time playing the part of poor ignorant (and desperate) provincials who knew nothing of "real" business. The temptation was too great. They provided the illusion of control, making themselves look like easy marks for the great American industrialists. And all too often, only when clients were already heavily invested in time and resources would they discover that those promises were empty. Stories are legion of last minute price hikes, shipping delays, or changes in the quality of the final products that all but wiped out anticipated profits. It turned out that they weren't so ignorant after all.

Through great perseverance, hard work and not a little luck, some companies have made successful manufacturing deals with Chinese suppliers. But the situation is not nearly as clear cut as you think. Remember the great “Lead Paint Scandal” that plagued Mattel back in 2009? Their friendly Chinese supplier used (illegal in the U.S.) lead paint on millions of toys which had to be recalled. Mattel was fined 2.3 million dollars. So what do you think they did? Did they yell at the factory owners, who no doubt knew they weren’t supposed to be using lead paint in products bound for the U.S.? No! Mattel sent a delegation to China to apologize! That’s right! They were so afraid of hurting their relationship with the supplier that they - the wronged party - issued a formal apology to the ones who had wronged them!

(It's also kind of counter-intuitive that the same China which claims it's being so badly abused in global trade is at the same time experiencing one of the greatest economic booms in recorded history.)

Mr. Midler argues that the entire dynamic that we’ve seen between East and West, with the Chinese offering cut rate manufacturing was simply a ploy to get Western money and ingenuity know-how. Now that they’ve acquired a respectable amount, the tables have turned, and the balance of economic power has shifted in their direction. And the West has only its own greed and desire for short tern gain to blame.

This is on a global scale. But you can find local examples just looking at the news on any given day. People are constantly being conned by “too-good-to-be-true” opportunities whether it’s a Ponzi scheme, a Chinese factory or fake weight-loss program. The methods they use to target and reel in their marks are virtually identical. It’s only the payoff that’s different.

It’s great news for marketers and advertisers that humans are so predictable. But I’m not so sure it’s good news for us as a race.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@outlook.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 24, 2014

Coca-Cola Jumps the Shark!

Company offers ridiculously overpriced glass so you can drink Coke like fine wine. 

Just when you think things in the advertising business can’t get any nuttier, something like this pops up.

Legendary soft drink maker Coca-Cola has partnered with a snake oil company called Reidel that sells glasses which it claims will make your oh-so-expensive wines taste even better. 

Their shpiel is really slick. They have all kinds of artsy pop pseudo-science to back up their claims. And they apparently have lots of  customers who swear by their products. 

Unfortunately, there’s no real proof that the glasses do anything but make the drinker feel good. But their marketing is really incredible. I even referenced it in one of my other posts

Now, they’ve developed a glass tailored to the unique taste of Coke!

For only $20, you can get one of these primo super dee duper glasses to enjoy The Real Thing. 

The problem is that the whole thing sounds so ludicrous that people can’t tell if it’s a hoax or not. 

But real it is, and available now on the Riedel website

It will “create a magical sensoral experience,” and a corresponding magical hole in your wallet. 

I wonder if they’ll make slimmer versions for Diet Coke and Coke Zero?

But is it good marketing?

Hey, that’s a loaded question. For the Riedel faithful who buy into their "better glass = better taste" shtick (and who happen to like Coke) they just opened up a whole new market. Then there are the Coke fanatics who collect any and all memorabilia if it’s related to their hallowed beverage. 

So I’d say it’s a solid win from Riedel’s side. 

For Coca-Cola it’s a tougher call. They might make a few bucks in licensing and royalties, but c’mon - it's Coca-Cola. To them that’s not even pocket change. 

And there is a cost. The whole thing looks and sounds like it’s laughing either at Coke or at the people who drink it. And that may be all be in good fun, but it isn’t too Real in my book. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@outlook.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Back to the "Future?"


The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

With the growth of all things Social Media, it seems like we're seeing a return to the mindset that brought us the dot com bust of 1999-2000. 

All the same attitudes, rationalizations and excuses are being trotted out. And the same old suspects are trying to cash in. 
Big companies with deep pockets seem to have a propensity for behaving like slow witted game animals. 
Slick talking hucksters (i.e. their own marketing people) hang shiny things in front of them and they just can't resist following and being led to the slaughter (of their ad budgets).
In the "Roaring 90s" all you had to do was add an 'e' in front of your company's name, or a 'dot com' after it and you'd get tons of investment funding. 
EDairy. ETrucking. EPest Control. 
Now we have new jargon to woo big money. 
"High click through rates!" 
"Astronomical numbers of views on YouTube!"
"Millions of friends on FaceBook!"
But the amount of money made from all of them is still the same. Nada. 
For all the money spent on "new media" they could probably produce some really good quality "old media" and reach more people more effectively and actually make a return on their investment. 

Someone wrote a piece after the SuperBowl, discussing what it cost to produce and air one 30 second spot during that hallowed time period. 
The total was somewhere between 5 and 10 million dollars. 
The author proceeded to list all of the alternate media choices that money could have purchased. 
- Writing, designing and publishing a couple of years of issues of a new magazine. 
- Publishing a high end book. 
- Running multiple ads in more affordable time slots, or about a gazillion ads online. 
- Running numerous joint marketing ventures with other companies, which could achieve much higher overall viewership and conversion. 

There's a video circulating online that purports to show how FaceBook itself is at least tacitly in cahoots with so-called "click farms." These places shower FaceBook ad pages with tens of thousands of Likes from fake profiles for a fee. Of course, on paid ads FB makes money per click, so it's in their own interest to allow these spurious Likes to go through. And apparently the click farms are now liking even stuff they're not paid for, as they use these other Likes to cover their digital tracks.

So what good are all those millions of phantom FB followers?
And am I honestly advocating ignoring Social Media?

In the first place, I believe that, in the absence of a cohesive overall marketing plan, millions of FB Likes really are pretty much worthless. 

Social Media, like any tool, must be wielded properly. If we've learned anything from the past few years of the internet advertising boom, simply blowing your brand all over everywhere doesn't work any better online than it does in print or on TV. 
While all the factors that influence online behavior may not be as carefully charted and documented as they are in traditional media, many of the same rules apply. And some apply to an even greater degree. 
For example, there are certain stores that use "high pressure" sales tactics to rack up sales. These are usually places with overpriced inferior merchandise (men's clothing outlets come to mind) where some fast talking, slick dressed guy attaches himself to you as soon as you walk in the door. 
I avoid those places like the Plague. Salespeople like that turn me off to an indescribable degree, especially when they try to act friendly in that smarmy, overbearing, "I've got your number" manner. 
I can't imagine that it does much to help their sales numbers, and yet they continue to lumber on year after year. 
But don't you know it's just the darnedest thing - I was searching for a highly specialized electronic item on Amazon one day - something for my photography equipment - and when I left the Amazon page, other sites I visited started showing ads for the very same item - on Amazon!
The overbearing salesman, in all his over-cologned pinky-ringed glory had made it onto the internet!
And I'm just as (un)likely to patronize him in cyberspace as I am in person. 
If I go into a store and they don't have what I want, do I want them stalking me up and down the street trying to coax me back into their shop?
I mean, really?
This is cyberstalking, and it's more than a little creepy. It’s like the dystopian future earth and spaceship Axiom in Pixar’s Wall.E, with those hundreds and thousands of screens all over the place that instantly display messages to the mindless masses.

The Axiom - "Big Brother" like you never imagined - or just Amazon in a few years?

What are Amazon et al thinking? How deeply into our brains and our lives do they imagine they can insert themselves before it starts to effect them in a really negative manner?
Personally, that experience has made me much more reluctant to turn to Amazon on a regular basis for shopping, certainly when I'm not on a "secure" computer where I've disabled cookies and pop ups and done whatever I can to prevent them from cyber peeping.

Brave New World?

I know this will sound facile and a little naive, but I'll say it anyway. 
People used to think that the spread of all this new technology would lead to a better world. Educational tools would be more evenly available and used more effectively. 
Greater access to knowledge would lower the barriers that divide us and create a true global society. 
Tech companies built a persona of being different and revolutionary, and being part of this new global culture. 
But you know what? Companies do these kinds of things - peeping into people's habits and lives and privacy -because they operate without any sense of morality beyond their own market valuation.
And the morals of today's jet set - the Zuckerbergs and the Bezos etc - are purely about what's good for them. And, come to think of it, that makes them not so different or revolutionary after all. 

So as a marketing person who had seen a lot of snake oil salesmen come and go, don't be sucked in by the shine and glitter of Social Media for its own sake. 

Use it on your own terms, as part of a practical, sustainable and profitable marketing strategy. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@outlook.com.

PS - This blog is now featured on http://Alltop.com, your source for all the top stories!

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© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Branding Matters Now More Than Ever

We are living through one of the greatest economic and social upheavals in history. 

The flow of goods and information around the world is increasing at a pace so dizzying and frenetic that it's no wonder the average attention span can now be measured in seconds. 

The sheer volume and variety of the endless stream of stuff that is presented for our consumption is beyond imagination. 

And as the old saying goes, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

The great industrial might of the U.S. is being dwarfed by the mind bogglingly immense production capabilities that are continuing to evolve in Asia and other parts of the world. 

And the tremendous investment in those huge facilities means that they must produce! 

The result is ever more variety, available ever more cheaply. But the flip side is that it's ever more difficult to make money selling it. With more and more sources for similar or identical goods driving prices down, profit margins start to be measured in fractions of a percent. 

Cue the dramatic music. 

The answer is branding. 

That is what differentiates otherwise identical products in today's marketplace. 
Why buy a plain old "no name" widget for $9.99 when you can own a premium, all plastic, genuine Nonpareil Millennium™ Widget for only $39.99?

The fact that it's virtually identical to the regular model (except for a few cosmetic touches) will not matter to that segment of the market for whom brand and image are important. 

Therefore the end result is that, in lieu of a revolutionary product, today's innovation the is in creating and building a brand that the public will identify with and become engaged in. 

Thus we see the huge investment in social media and the bated-breath rush to find the next great marketing gimmick. 

It was with more than a little amusement that I read an article after this year's Super Bowl. For those who are unaware, the Super Bowl has become the annual 'place to be' for companies with lots of money to burn.
This article was positively euphoric in describing the unbelievable success that was seen by the companies who ponied up and paid obscene amounts of money for their Super Bowl face time. 
But the kicker was that the article didn't reference any conventional yardstick for determining success; it measured clicks. As in website clicks. 
Incredibly, this article talked about how thrilled advertisers were with their astronomical click counts, yet not one reference was mentioned about sales or ROI or profitability. 
It's like the 90s all over again!
"We don't care if you buy our stuff. But please friend us on FaceBook!"
Don't worry about nasty stuff like making money. Just get more page views and clicks on YouTube and everybody's good!

But I digress. For those of us who have to do without the virtually bottomless pockets that these big players enjoy, the bottom line is still what's important. 

Branding is crucial to differentiate your product from your competitor's offering. 
For a brand to properly do its job it must foster feelings in your customers by association. 
They must want an Acme toothbrush simply because having one will satisfy them in a way that no other toothbrush can. 

I know a fellow who used to work for a popular caterer, which we'll call "Smith's." At one point he got permission from his boss (Mr. Smith) to handle some smaller affairs himself, with food prepared in the main commissary. 
I attended a couple of "his" affairs and it was fascinating to listen to the comments.
One guy was heard to say to his friend, "Yeah the food's pretty good, but it's not Smith's!"
It was the same food! Cooked in the same kitchen!
But Smith's branding and reputation imbued any food he served with something 'extra.' People actually perceived that the food tasted better because of the brand name. 
It's a common phenomenon. Nowadays savvy businesses will routinely market different lines of nearly identical goods with radically different branding to appeal to different markets. 

Near where I work in Manhattan, there are a number of Thai restaurants in close proximity to one another. They each have slightly different menus, different designs, different price points and appeal to different demographics. But guess what? They're all owned by the same person.

A brand's image is replete with intangibles. The look and feel and materials in the packaging convey things about you to your customer. Are they the things you want to convey? Are you trying to be aloof and formal? Warm and friendly? High-tech and forward thinking? It's all there in how you present your company and your wares. Make sure the image your brand presents is the one you want the world to perceive

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website, www.dannykaydesign.com, or at dannykay@outlook.com.

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© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved