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June 2007

Have the Arilines Given Up

I've been on the road for the last couple of days, so I apologize to my one reader for not posting.    After having yet another awful airline experience, you have to believe that most of the airline industry has given up. 

Take Northwest Airlines .  They take off from Memphis knowing that there are 3 hours delays into LaGuardia in New York.  What a surprise that after flying for 5 hours on a scheduled 2 hour flight we get diverted to Dulles airport at 1AM.  After announcing on the plane that they will provide hotel and meals, they rescind the offer once you get off the plane "due to weather."  They tell us to go to Northwest Airlines gate 33 to get rebooked, and then the Northwest agent never shows up at the gate and the one who told us to go there disappears (or should i say escaped).  I call the Northwest Airlines 800# and after entering all the requested information to the voice response system, it then proceeds to tell me that not only are all agents busy, but they are so busy that they cannot take my call.

On the US Airways (USAir) shuttle recently they canceled my $500 flight between New York and Washington.  The shuttle leaves every hour between the two cities.  Instead of just re-booking everyone automatically, they made us exit the plane, wait on long lines and rebook ourselves.  I think their new tagline should be "USAir, We Don't Care"

Now for me I can manage.  I quickly called the companies that still care such as Marriott to book a room (although the hotel that was 18 miles away from the airport was really 30) and Hertz (Hertz was flawless with their Gold Service). 

The people I wonder about are those that do not have the means or ability to adjust.  There was an elderly Korean couple on the plane that could not understand what was going on.  Luckily I was traveling with someone that knows Korean and even then they couldn't convince the couple that unlike the great Korean airlines, Northwest was just going to leave them rebooking.

There is definitely a business opportunity here for someone to figure this out.  As for the airlines, they should just admit they don't care, stop advertising and just admit that as long as they get you somewhere safely, they've done their job.  At least my expectations would match the level of service delivered.

Google Radio and Advertising Industry Disruption

Every month  the Mimeo marketing team needs to figure out new ways to expand the number of qualified leads fed into the sales organization.  The goal is to find channels that can be ROI tested and then expanded exponentially .  Core to our effort is the Google  Suite of products - Google Analytics linked to Adwords. 

While BtoB is traditionally limited to measurable channels, any of us that have experience managing integrated campaigns know that if we build some market predisposition through unmeasurable mass media (unmeasurable in terms of sales attribution) and then shift to direct media, you see a 10% - 20% lift in all sales channels.  This is the difference between reaching someone with direct media who has never heard of your product vs. someone who at least has some level of familiarity.  Your conversion rates against the later will be at least 5x the former.

With this objective in mind we've started to look at Google Radio.  It's interesting on a couple of fronts:

Creative Production - The average radio commercial costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to produce.  Using the Google Radio auction system for finding a radio producer, we are getting bids that start at $500.  Think about that.  For the same $10,000, we can now produce 20 radio commercials, dispose of 19 that we feel do not work and still match the economics.  Lowering the cost of production can lead to significantly higher odds of success.  Granted creative teams believe radio is an art best left in the hands of professionals who can coach great performances out of carefully selected character actors.  But given the odds of failure even with a great production, I'd bet on greater experimentation and scripts optimized for a lower level of production value.

Campaign Cost - Using an auction model for advertising time allows you to set parameters that lends itself to greater media testing.  Similar to the remnant market that required a skilled media professional to leverage media contacts to buy "fire sale" media, the Google system opens this market to all.

The bottom line.   A company like Mimeo that uses a "test, read and roll" approach can now is test radio effectiveness.  The radio industry wins by providing a lower cost entry for new advertisers.   Google Radio wins as an integrated element of a measurable suite of products. 

Hillary Clinton Sopranos Video Spoof Is Great Branding

The Hillary Clinton Sopranos video spoof is a great example of clever viral marketing.  It is an example of what can be done by candidates to get the the attention of the population and bring some additional meaning to a campaign where all the candidates look like they are shades of each other. 

The Hillary Clinton Sopranos video spoof features Bill and Hillary at the diner that was featured in the last scene of the last episode of the Sopranos.  With details such as a cameo by one of the Sopranos stars and quick inserts of song titles such as "I'm a Believer", the video is fun, light and shows the Clinton's  as a unified couple.

I'd rate the Hillary Clinton Soprano's Video spoof 3 stars out of 4.  The purpose of the video is to announce the Hillary Clinton campaign song.  Like many people's reaction to the last scene of the Sopranos, this is a let down.  Who cares.  To win, Hillary needs to not just get attention, but associate new meaning and language with her campaign.  Showing the Clinton's together and in a context other than campaigning is a start.  Expanding what voters associate with the notion of being a Clinton will further establish her as an acceptable and distinct choice in the race for President. I've seen Hillary Clinton speak on numerous occasions.  She is an intellectually gifted candidate who could make a significant contribution to this country.  She is saying all the right things.  Now she needs a marketing and communications team that knows how to articulate her beliefs so that voters start to hear it.

Meetup at

One of the more practical social networking sites is  I've been using it to organize the Advertising Club of New York Meetup  and found it to be a great platform to organize events. 

I'm always impressed with sites that are able to anticipate the intent of the user and then provide a set of practical and relevant functionality.   Meetup does that. is facilitating thousands of Meetups and has worked flawlessly.  It is the marriage of the virtual social network and a real world network.

Gambling on the Big Win with John Pepper

I started my career creating advertising for great Procter & Gamble  brands.  The Procter way should be the blueprint for marketing curriculum at every University.  Procter and Gamble taught everyone working on their business how to write, think logically and develop rationale for new thinking.

The new book by the former P&G Chairman and CEO John Pepper called  What Really Matters is an informative book that provides insight into one of the greatest marketing organizations in the world.  The theme of the book is that when placing marketing bets, the riskier wager is usually the one that in hindsight was the right one to make.   

Ellen Byron in her Wall Street Journal  book review describes the agony Mr. Pepper and P&G went through in defining Dawn dishwashing liquid as a grease cutter instead of a more broadly defined superior cleaning agent for dishes (yes the book makes dishwashing stories interesting). 

What I like about Mr. Pepper is that he describes both his victories and defeats.  Although I've never met him, I've always admired John Pepper and the culture he influenced at Procter.  This book only makes my level of admiration stronger.  Add this book to the marketing must read list.

Bowling for Customers - AMF300

I've been admiring AMF  in their effort to update bowling.  In a world of fast moving video games, special effects, home theaters and competitive team sports, brands that stand still look older and out of date.  AMF has done a great job with their AMF300 concept.  They've taken every aspect of bowling and brought it up to the expectations of today's customer.

- Custom fit bowling balls instead of having customers hunting for a ball that doesn't fit
- Lane managers that walk you from the check in desk to your lane and then take responsibility for your happiness
- Updated graphics, lighting, videos, furnishings and music to make the bowling alley feel contemporary and fun
- Edible food via a menu with diverse offerings.

The challenge of keeping bowling current is similar to the difficulty I used to face in creating television advertising that didn't feel out of date.  The video/film industry now spends $100+ Million on a movie that contains spectacular animation or special effects (think SpiderMan 3).  Now put yourself in an advertising agency where you are servicing a client that cringes when any amount over $200,000 is mentioned, yet the production values of that commercial have to appear just as contemporary and relevant as the movie the same customer just went to see.   It's difficult to create television commercials that build brands when they are handicapped from the start.

Congratulations to everyone at AMF for finding a way to update a great sport.

JustAnswer The Question Already

The problem with search engines is that they provide a place to look for an answer vs. just providing an answer.  The May/June 2007 issue of Revenue Magazine had a small article on a company called Just Answer.  They seem to have solved the issue described by James Fallows in a New York Times piece called "Enough Keyword Searches, Just Answer My Question."  The service provides three options for answering the question with price the driver of how your question is answered and who answers it (price tends to match to level of expertise).  You only pay if you are satisfied with the answer.  This is a great business model and I expect that more services like it will succeed.

McDonalds is under the influence of MOM

I've managed the advertising for several Procter & Gamble brands targeted to Moms.  My first experience was with Citrus Hill Orange Juice, followed by Puffs Tissues, Hawaiian Punch, Duncan Hines, Puritan Oil and Sunny Delight.   Marketing to Mom is tough.   Trying to convince Mom to feed something to her kids is even tougher.

Into this maelstrom steps McDonalds.  In an article from this weeks issue of Advertising Age author Kate MacArthur describes how "McDonalds Recruits Mom to Be (the) Ultimate Influencer."   The goal of the program is to improve public perception of McDonalds food and to improve the willingness of Moms to serve it to their children.

Moms are going be invited into McDonalds headquarters with the restaurant chain footing the bill.  McDonalds hopes that by telling their version of the truth and by positively shifting the propensity of the group to buy from McDonalds they will in turn influence other like minded Moms.

I think the program is brilliant.  McDonalds seems to understand that not all Moms are created equal.  In fact they follow a bell curve.  All Moms love their kids, but some are more involved in their children's lives than others.  Some Moms would serve McDonalds because it is easy.  Others only serve it when their kids twist their arms or as a reward since they believe it doesn't meet the standard for a healthy meal.

The only way to influence an "Alpha" Mom is through credible editorial or word of mouth from other Moms.  McDonalds is giving Moms the opportunity to co-create the brand.  If McDonalds can create a social network of Moms who take part in evolving the restaurant, they will be unstoppable.  Congratulations to McDonalds for a great strategy. 

Generation Free Music

I've written before on Generation Free.  This is the generation age 25 to 0 that is growing up on the Internet.  For them, everything is free and instantaneous.  If it isn't free then it should be almost free, or able to be gotten for free...or their indulgent parents purchase it for them adding to their sense of virtual free.

Since the majority of music is traded via a file sharing site, for almost everyone (5 billion songs swapped on file sharing sites in 2006 - source NY Post 6/11/07) in this generation the music is free.  With this as a backdrop it is only a matter of time before all music is free.  This thought has been articulated by Fred Wilson in his blog  A VC: The Free Music Business.   

Peter Lauria in yesterday's NY Post  describes the new record label designed to offer their music for free via an advertising supported model.  The label is called RCRD LL and promises to accelerate the inevitable.  Free music for Generation Free.

The World of Coca-Cola

I visited the new World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta last week (how could a  marketer resist).  My first surprise was the $15 charged for admission.  I expected that a brand museum would be free.  This increased my expectations for something great by $15.

The museum started with one of those tourist type presentations on the history of Coca-Cola.  While the actress that told the story was a bit over the top, you couldn't help but have fun.  Once you are allowed in, there are two floors of everything Coke including an Andy Warhol exhibit, a "4-D" movie, a working bottling plant and a tasting room where you can try Coca-Cola products from around the world.

The bottom line.  I loved it.  You can't help but have a  "Coke and a Smile."  The museum is a great example of how to associate meaning with a brand.  Coke is fun, Coke is life, Coke is part of all of us.  I went in a skeptic and came out thirsting for a Coke.  I even enjoyed seeing how Coke is distributed via boats and bicycles in remote corners of the world.

My advice to Coca-Cola is to bottle the spirit of what is going on in your museum and articulate that in your marketing programs.  The museum is a wow.  Get your advertising and marketing up to that level and it will be the "World of Coca-Cola."  As for the $15, it was a brand experience worth paying for.