Book Excerpt: Deliver what you promise

a-christmas-storyThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

There is a classic holiday movie that my family watches every year after Thanksgiving dinner—A Christmas Story. Set in the 1940s, the movie is about a young boy, Ralphie, his mother, father and little brother. There are a dozen memorable scenes in the movie. Ralphie’s friend gets his tongue stuck on a lamp post in the dead of winter after another friend “double dog dares” him to try it. Ralphie asks his mother for a “Red Rider BB gun” for Christmas to which she replies “You’re gonna shoot your eye out.”

There is one scene that is especially relevant for marketers. Ralphie and his brother are big fans of the “Little Orphan Annie” radio hour. As part of a promotion, the listeners were encouraged to send away for the secret decoder ring, and they would receive a secret message from Annie herself.

Ralphie could hardly stand it. He ran home from school everyday to check the mail, only to be disappointed. Then finally, one day, there was a large envelope addressed to him. It must be his decoder ring. He could hardly wait. He ran into the house and locked himself in the bathroom. He sat down and began to decode the secret message from Annie herself.

Letter by painstaking letter, the message appeared. He couldn’t work fast enough. He had to know what Little Orphan Annie wanted to tell him. D…..R…..I….oh, the anticipation. N….K….come on. M….O…R….E…O…V…A…L…T…I…N…E. You have got to be kidding! “Drink more Ovaltine.” Ralphie was crushed. He threw down the decoder ring and never felt quite the same about Ovaltine or Little Orphan Annie.

The lesson I’ve always taken away from that scene is that it is your responsibility as a marketer to deliver what you promise. There is nothing wrong with creating an environment of anticipation. It is a great strategy and can pay off big time. But the experience better pay off. Otherwise it can backfire big time.

What about poor Ralphie? The makers of Ovaltine sponsored the Little Orphan Annie radio hour in order to sell more of their product. Unfortunately their promotion had the opposite effect. It alienated a poor little kid and probably turned him off Ovaltine forever. Not exactly good for business.

Case Study: KidzSack – planning and doing alot!

frontPackaging_op_626x693I first came across Tina’s products while looking for some entertaining and useful stuff for my kids when we travel.  I found the KidzSack and have been a fan ever since.  What I love about this product, and the company founder Tina Hill, is that these handy kids backsacks are practical, thoughtful and tough.

I found out why when I asked Tina to explain her business to me.  Tina planned everything down to the smallest details.  Then she started working…I mean doing things, calling people, sending samples.  She planned a little so that when she started doing stuff it worked.  Here’s what Tina has to say about her experiences building her business and her brand.

Laura: How did you get started with KidzSack?

Tina: I am a 44 year old mom of four who started my business with just $200 about 2 years ago.  Now, I am in over 120 stores internationally including Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton Resorts.

Laura: What was your strategy when starting out?  What made your backpacks different?

Tina: I had to be both unique and creative in my marketing and brand strategies.  First, let me tell you that Kidzsack is an eco friendly, creative backsack for kids ages 4 and up. There are obviously tons of backsacks, backpacks, and sportsacks out there…so what makes mine different?  What would make mine stand out among all the others?  And why is it eco friendly…I mean, everyone is jumping on the eco band wagon these days, right.

Kidzsack fabric is made from 100% recycled cotton and soda bottles making it eco friendly..and it is made in the USA.  I decided from the get go that I needed something to set me apart.  I wanted to be first in a new category…something to give buyers something to really think about. Kidzsack is the only creative backsack on the market that uses recycled fabric.  Something that Whole Foods has taken notice of and I’m now selling there.

Kidzsack packaging is made from cardboard that can be recycled but not just that…being a parent concerned with quality, I’ve made packaging that isn’t entirely enclosing the product.  I want consumers to be able to touch the fabric and see the quality.  It’s not cheap lightweight poly cotton.  The fabric is 10 oz. canvas that the consumer can actually feel for themselves.  The packaging is even mom designed by a local mom!

Kidzsack is mom invented and made in the USA.  I know that when I’m shopping for gifts, seeing something mom invented and made in the USA makes me pause and read more.  Especially in a market where EVERYTHING is made in China.  This also sets me apart from the majority of mass merchandise coming out of China.

Kidzsack is packaged with reusable markers because as a mother of four kids (13, 11, 9, & 7), I understand the importance of buying an activity (arts & crafts item) that can be used again…and again.  How many times have I bought a gift in the past that my kids played with once…and then it got put away on a shelf…or in a closet…never to be played with again and left to collect dust!!  Buying a reusable product, activity is something that consumers are looking for…especially in this economy when everyone is feeling the pinch.

Laura: What have you done to get visibility for your product?

Tina: I have created a  product that is first in a new category; that stands apart from the rest because it’s using materials that other similar products are not. I have contacted every newspaper in every town that I have ever lived in to get them to write a story on me.  I have contacted every eco magazine to get them to do a write up on Kidzsack.  I have e-mailed friends for contacts at networks and that has gotten Kidzsack on CBS NY.  I have networked and e-mailed and blogged and you name it…because I have every intention of making Kidzsack a household name.  I’m trying my hardest to stay true to the USA and am even using local manufacturers for both screenprinting and sewing. I’ve created something that moms can understand because it’s a mom must have.  The Kidzsack solves a problem.  When mom is running out the door…all she has to do is, grab a Kidzsack, throw a juice box in and snack. No more looking for toys, activities, coloring books, crayons…BECAUSE KIDZSACK IS THE ACTIVITY.  Kidzsack is a Fun Creative Bag for Kids on the Go!

Case Study: Athol Foden and Brighter Naming

BNLogoWRed2When I first met Athol Foden, we were at a typical networking event.  But Athol is anything but your typical Silicon Valley branding guy.  He is a creative, out of the box, idea generating machine.  I had the great fortune to work with him on a challenging naming project that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Athol is the real deal when it comes to naming and branding.  Check him out at Brighter Naming.

Laura: What is your definition of a brand?
Athol: “A brand is a promise of an experience.”  You can make it more complex, but it all comes down to the experience.

Laura: How did your brand come to be?
Athol: When you have a funny name, use it to your advantage.  As you know, branding is often about telling stories to illustrate the brand promise.  In the case of small businesses, consultancies, etc. the story is often about the owner, founder or principal.  Rather than treating my name (that many mispronounce rudely at first in the USA) as a handicap, I play it up instead.  In my case I have achieved a lot of initial brand recall for my business by having first given them some stories about me personally…for example, I’m a white African American with funny name.

Laura: As a naming expert, how did you come up with the name for your company?
Athol: The name “Brighter Naming” didn’t take a lot of effort in fact.  It was supposed to be a temporary name because I wasn’t going to start another agency.  I had had a lot of success with client names that had the root word “bright”.  Steve Jobs named his company “Next” after he left Apple to imply leadership and positioning.  “Bright” also has a subtle double meaning – it implies smarter and/or more light – both of which are positive meanings.

Laura: What are the most important elements of a brand?
Athol: It isn’t the name per se…it is the experience.  The website, the marketing materials must be more personable and detailed.  But they don’t need to be fancy.  I get tons of comments and business from my web site.  Now there are not many small businesses with 150+ pages in their site.  We try and have many different entry points for different customers.  High tech, sports, consumer companies…hooks and experiences for all of them. Customer experiences are detailed through customer successes and testimonials of work we’ve done for other companies in specific industries, regions, languages.  Plus, we have tons of naming articles, research and information.

Case Study: BLO – Blow Dry Bar

Picture 2Blo is a Blow Dry Bar.  Scissors are verboten.  Dye, ditto.  In about 30 minutes, get a wash and blow out style.  No cuts, no colour: Just WASH BLOW GO.  Blo is also the brainchild of Judy Brooks and her daughter Devon.  The two hatched the idea in 2006 when Devon posed a vital question to her Mom, who is a serial entrepreneur of sorts… “why isn’t there a place for quick, great hair, like there is for nails?” And there you have it.

Devon developed the concept with her mom and wrote the Blo – Blow Dry Bar business plan while at the London College of Fashion as a class project (she got 98%, by the way!)  The two took the idea step further — Blo opened its first location in Vancouver, Canada Spring 2007. Being first to market in the category of Blow Dry Bar with a cheeky brand has had its advantages. Blo has a big vision and Judy is working with the young team to capitalize on the success with a well-developed growth strategy.

Starting a business from scratch, in a brand new category isn’t easy.  The two had their work cut out for them.  But they did what so many entrepreneurs fail to do – they stuck to their guns.  They had an idea and they didn’t stray – they offer blow drys.  No cuts, colors, nails, whatever.  Just a great style at an affordable price in less time than it takes to grab lunch.  They offered women an affordable luxury, a way to cram a bit of pampering into their day without feeling guilty about it.  As the ‘lipstick index’ has predicted women are spending more on their appearance during times of recession – and Blo was right there with online reservations, membership cards and hip, cool styles for everyone.

As a result of sticking to their strategy and “owning their niche” – Blo has grown like crazy.  Their first blow dry bar opened in June 2007, and by the end of 2010 they will have upwards of 10 in Canada and the US.  They have over 49,000+ hair cadets in blo’s database (a hair cadet is how they refer to clients. Their media coverage has been amazing with more than 230 national and international media hits. Plus that have received over 200 requests to franchise their business.   All of this because they found a niche and owned it.  You go BLO!

Ride The Wave – Create A Social Media Marketing Strategy

One of the things that media considers when they are deciding what to promote or talk about is what effect that subject will have on various social groups. The media does whatever it can to have some kind of impact on whatever market they are chasing after. The smart marketer will use that commotion to their advantage. They will ride the wave.
One of the hardest thing for any marketer to do, whether on-line or off, is to create a stir around what they are trying to offer..this is what is currently being referred to a “buzz”. You have to have some level of excitement surrounding your product or service for it to see any success at all. It can seem like you are beating your head against a wall many times as you try to get anyone to notice you and to get them to even care. I am sure that you think that you have something that is very important to offer people. Unless you can educate and convince them that it is important, they just won’t get it and you won’t get their business.

There is a way that you can get by without having to do all the work of trying to generate excitement and educate the people about your offering. That way is to let the larger media outlets do all the work. Create a marketing strategy that uses that work that the media does. Sometimes you will luck out and find that there is a big commotion related to something you are offering already and it will only take a little bit to get the social groups interested in what you have.

This was my strategy when I launched 42Rules for Working Moms. This was during the run-up to the Presidential elections. Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin were both “working moms” and all over the media. You couldn’t be awake and not know who these women were. Anyway, we connected the book to that story and landed a full feature placement on Oprah & Friends radio – The Peter Walsh Show. See how it works? Connecting to something that is already buzzing is a much more effective approach than to try and create buzz all by yourself.

Sometimes you will have to use your imagination and find a relationship between something big that is going on in the media that has a huge impact on social groups of one kind or another. Once you find that relationship, though, you can find a marketing strategy that can make that connection obvious. You will have to educate yourself and look at what is hot on television or on the Internet. Look for what are popular topics on the regular news media, what trends are hot in the world of finance, or what gossip is going on in social circles. What are the things that is popular? More than likely you are going to find something that your product or service can relate to.

On your own you will be trying hard to make waves about what you are trying to market but what you will end up making is a tiny ripple. A smart marketer will notice the tsunami’s being made by the larger media outlet and will use a marketing strategy that capitalizes on the huge splash they make on the bigger social groups laying on the beach.