Category Archives: Branding

Do You Mean It When You Ask?

Windup robot

My wife and I were talking the other evening about an interesting customer service idiosyncrasy we’ve both noticed at our local grocery store.  When we are finished shopping and we go to checkout, regardless of which cashier is helping us, they universally begin with the question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”   Happens every time without fail.  It’s a great thought, however we have realized that these employees are simply reciting a question they were ordered to ask.  There is no genuine feeling behind it, it’s simply something they’ve been told to do, much as a computer that has been programmed to auto-respond.

We’ve even had some fun with this.  After the question and contrary I believe to most responses, I answer, “No.”  At least half the time, the cashier proceeds as if nothing had happened.  The other times I get this incredulous look and the witty riposte of , “What, oh, well, uh, I, don’t, uh, well, uh, hmmm.”  (Does not compute!)

I truly believe that the intent behind this effort is to provide excellent customer service, to show the caring side of the grocery store, and to make me feel welcomed.  Unfortunately, when it is not a genuine concern, and in this case it is apparent, then it fails in its intention.

Do you have customer service contact employees that are just going through the motions, that are just reciting lines out of a manual like an automaton?  Is the culture of your company such that this type of behavior is rewarded?  If so then your company’s brand is also reflecting this lack of authenticity, a lack of genuine caring for your customer.  It may take time, but it will affect your ability to grow and achieve your sales goals.

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin-Are You Indispensable? he speaks of company cultures that encourage and reward behavior that simulates an assembly line, where employees are expected to do exactly as the manual dictates and not to have any original thought.  The problem, as he states, is that once this behavior is engrained, it is difficult to break away from.  Just as employees who act as robots are inexpensive and easy to replace, so your customers will also find other sources for what you do or sell.

So, do you mean it when you ask?

I would love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource

If I Only Had 24 Hours, I Would……….

As the spring has now quietly melded into the summer months, many familiar things begin to happen, not the least of which is the appearance of the fireflies or lightning bugs as they are sometimes referred to.  As dusk settles in, these lowly creatures begin their mating journey, coming up out of the grass and immediately signaling their arrival with that yellowish-green pulse of light.  It almost seems as if they are working in concert, as there are so many flying up from the ground and in synchronous tempo, they flash together.  It is sad to know that the male of this species has but 24 hours to find a suitable mate in order to procreate. Talk about motivation!

It is also true with the near perfect hibiscus flower.  This flower is truly one of the most spectacular and perfectly formed flowers with vibrant colors, large pedals and prominent pistil and stamen.  It is a joy to see these large, beautiful blooms, but sadly, as soon as the sun goes down, the blooms of the day fold up and are through, never to open again.  Just one day to show their glory.

What would you do if you knew you only had one day, 24 hours to impress the world.  How would you catch the eye of your prospective customer?  What lasting impression would you leave that would make you unforgettable?  How would you want them to remember you?

Many times when you reach out with your marketing communications, you have one shot, just one chance to leave a lasting impression.  What may seem unimportant or trivial may have a significant impact.  An employee saying the wrong thing or writing a disparaging remark on the wall of their Facebook page could cause unforeseen problems and is all the more reason to have established social guidelines for your employees.

If you had 24 hours, how would you use your special skills to change the world?

If you always have the frame of mind that you get but one chance with a prospective customer, the way you market your company will take on a new importance, it can be an opportunity to have an impact on a life, and be the chance to show your glory.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource

I Am Unique; Just Like Everyone Else

I recently read an article in the National Geographic about how the United Nations has declared that 2010 be the International Year of Biodiversity.  In conjunction with this recognition, scientists are now using the simple bar code that we all see on packages we purchase and that are scanned, to assist in the classification of the over 1.7 million species already named on Earth.  Each bar is comprised of 600-odd spots that can be filled by any of four different DNA bases, and that two species will rarely have the exact same sequence.  Already they have coded nearly 40,000 species of moth and butterfly and the hope is that they will have 500,000 species coded by 2015.

Is it possible to bar code your company?  The answer is yes.

There are no two businesses that are exactly alike even though they may be tenacious competitors. The “DNA” that comprises each company can be uniquely identified and categorized to illustrate what its essential “brand” is.

Why is this important?

This is the process by which you can identify the unique strengths that you have that no one else has, and it is those strengths that can then make up the marketing message that you communicate.  Your uniqueness will also be recognized by your community, the individuals in your social sphere who understand and appreciate what it is about you that makes you unique.  They will be the messengers who bring light to your “DNA” and make it known to those who may not recognize your uniqueness.  It is the essence of who you are and the value you bring to the world and it should be identified and brought to the attention of every employee you have, so they can also help in communicating what it is that makes you unique.  It is your differentiator.

Isn’t it time to bar code your company?  The answer is yes and the time is now.

I’d be interested in knowing whether anyone has gone through this process with their company.  Comment below and let me know.


The CMO Outsource

A Timely Referral Can Help Your Brand

I had reason lately to think about the movie “The Miracle on 34th Street” with the young Natalie Woods.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it is a charming Christmas movie that is a favorite of our family during the holidays.  There is a particular situation that occurs during the movie.  Having been provoked by the self proclaimed Santa Claus, and also because it made brilliant marketing sense, Mr. Macy decides that if there is anything that a Macys’ customer is looking for that Macys doesn’t have, the salesperson is to immediately refer that customer to Gimbles, their most potent competitor.  Well, not to be outdone, Mr. Gimble catches wind of this and promptly gives orders that Gimble customers are to be referred to Macys if they cannot be helped at a Gimbles store.  This back and forth builds as each store tries to “out-nice” the other.

You’re probably asking, oh this is a very nice story David, but what’s the point?

I am a constant observer of what is happening around me, as it relates to how companies market themselves and their brands, and I am usually supplied with plenty of writing material, both positive and negative.

My wife and I were traveling this week and she was in desperate need of a pair of comfortable walking shoes.  We were in a beautiful shopping area in Naperville, Illinois and came upon an Eddie Bauer store.  We were both very familiar with Eddie Bauer and decided to go in.  Once inside we realized there were no shoes anywhere to be found.

An alert young man approached and asked if he could be of assistance.  We explained that we were from out of town and needed shoes.  He explained that this particular Eddie Bauer didn’t sell shoes, but a catalog was available to order them and he offered to help us with that order.

Since it was not feasible to order shoes, we again explained that we needed these shoes right away.  We asked, “Do you know of a shoe store close by?”  His answer was what dumbfounded us both.

In his kindest way he answered, “I am not allowed to tell you.”   It was evident that he was not comfortable with being the messenger of this news.

I am positive he was then looking into two faces with jaws dropped and that speechless, incredulous look of, “okay, well then.”

Needless to say we left immediately.

I have known the Eddie Bauer brand for a number of years and have purchased and been very pleased with the items I have bought, but nothing in that brand experience has prepared me for what we ran across that day, and it has tainted my impression of this store in a very negative way.  In fact, I proceeded to tell a number of other people of our experience that very evening.

You know they say that if a person has a good experience with your brand, they might tell four people but if they have a bad experience they will probably tell ten or more people. Talk about viral marketing!

I have to believe that this policy, clearly articulated by this young man, is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps the young salesperson was quoting a general policy, not a hard and fast rule that circumstances don’t allow for a modification, for if that is not the case, sell your stock in Eddie Bauer because they will not last.

Have you had any similar experiences you would like to share?

David The CMO Outsource

Those Blasted Bungled Botched Blogs

Bad articles thrown in the wastebasket

I’m kind of particular about what I spend my time reading.  There’s just not enough time in the day for reading badly written blogs, yet small businesses trying hard to get some momentum, some attention, frequently turn to putting out blogs that aren’t well written just for the sake of getting more eyeballs.  Not a good strategy since your blog can contribute to your overall brand.

I don’t know the author, but if you have a few extra minutes and want a good example of what not to do, go to “The Hyperlink In Between Written Content for Sites and Branding.” I’m not sure whether they were making a joke to make a point but I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Make Sure that Punctuation and Spelling are Correct-This seems obvious but I must admit, I see mistakes all of the time.  It is really about attention to the details.  If you are focused on the details in your blog, then you’re probably focused on the details of serving your customer.  For some great direction and many humorous tips, I recommend Liz Craig’s blog.
  2. Give People Credit Where Credit Is Due -As was once said, “when you steal from one person it is called plagiarism, yet when you steal from many, it’s called research.”  (I can’t remember who to give credit to for this quote)  It is really easy to put links into your blogs that will take readers to your source’s website if they would like to learn more.  It helps their website by having an inbound link and it is the right thing to do.
  3. Be Careful When Using Humor-It is really a cool thing if you have the talent to be funny when you write but you know, it’s not really all that easy.  That’s why comedy writers get paid so much. What seems funny to you may not be to your readers and in fact could alienate them.  If you are a frustrated comedy writer and your blog is your outlet, use humor cautiously and judiciously.
  4. Give your Opinion on Your Subject-If all you’re providing is information, people can go to a zillion places on the Internet to get information.  What people really want to know is what your spin on this subject is.  Why do you have a passion to write about it?  Let people inside your head (I know in my case that’s a scary place to be) so they’ll get to know you and you become a person to them instead of just a company.  This is where you can build trust.
  5. Have Fun and Tell Stories-People will travel far to hear a good story.  Surely you have actual life experiences that can bring a rich texture to your subject and help your readers relate to what you’re saying.  It will gain you many loyal readers.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource