Sunday, May 31, 2009

What can WE do for YOU?

Today's Sunday NY Times had a great ad in the front section that is such a sign of the times - not the "bad economic times" you hear about everywhere, but the consumer-controlled times.

It went like this:

Tell us what more we can do for you.

We're always looking for new ways to bring you more for less. Have a suggestion for making your Target experience even better? We're all ears.

E-mail us at and we'll get back to you shortly

{Target logo}

It's been true for many years that consumers are more in charge than ever. But I loved this ad because Target had the guts to actually state it out loud. Can you ever remember a time (for those Canadians out there) when the Bay or Eaton's would run an ad like that in a paper with millions of readers? Not a chance. I can barely remember a time when I called either department store and actually got a human on the phone in whatever department I was calling.

And Nordstrom became world famous, or at least famous in business schools for their customer-centric manifesto, "The Nordstrom Way" - which now seems so old hat and commonplace. Everyone's heard the story about the woman who brought back the snow tires, but Nordy's doesn't sell snow tires... they gave her a refund anyway.

Our expectations have certainly changed. I am going to try a little experiment and send Target an e-mail, then see if I get a response. Maybe I'll ask for longer store hours, or a latte machine with freebies for early morning weekend shoppers. Or maybe something more beneficial to others like a "Target makes a difference" donation box for clothing or household goods for people who have lost their jobs/homes, whereby shoppers who donate get a credit to spend that day in the store. I'll keep you posted. You may want to try the same thing and share any results you get.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's a brand jungle

I've been really busy this week, with lots going on everywhere it seems. The economy being what it is, the teams I work with have gotten even smarter and more innovative than ever. New ideas are flowing, new ways of segmenting customers into groups to communicate with about things that matter to them seem to be born each day. It is really invigorating. And a heck of a lot of work for everyone. We have web designers, print designers, developers, and production directors working night and day to make the most of every opportunity that anyone dreams up.

Somehow the "slow" times don't seem so slow right now. The "down" economy is not resulting in less work to do. All this is very good news to me, and to everyone I work with.

One thing I have noticed is the proliferation of new small consultancies and companies setting up shop in the marketing space. Social media experts are everywhere. Web 2.0 is becoming Web 3.0 ... or is that 3G? ... There are new formulas for measuring marketing ROI, new CMS systems for the next generation of Web design. New digital printing and print-on-demand technologies. New "world changing" case studies of how Twitter can save your business or make you a billion dollars and thousands of followers trying. Evolving copyright rules and regs. New must have systems and processes.

Everywhere you look people are reinventing themselves. That seems to go for brand companies too. Just a quick google search and you will find a miriad of purported experts, with decades of experience. Some in packaged goods, others in the service business, some in commercial sales, or ad agencies.

Every one of them seems to have their own formula for getting to the heart of defining and giving meaning to a brand. I pity the poor small business owner out there looking for a solution online and having to decipher process A from process B and all the rhetoric that surrounds it.

Whatever you call it, at the heart of it all isn't brand really about:
- who are you?
- what do you do?
- why does that matter?
- how do you deliver?

And then what does your customer think about it after they've had the chance to taste your wares, kick your tires, experience a stay in your shop? Does that at all come close to connecting with what you said you what to be? If so, I'd say whatever road you followed to get there and whomever's process you used - it worked.

My advice to anyone trying to figure out this space - it's not as complicated as we sometimes like to make it. Follow the few simple questions and be honest about every moment of truth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gratuitous Cat Loves Poodle Shot

Jack the cat and his personal poodle, Tailor.

Tailor the poodle and her live squeaky toy Jack.

Whatever you call it, it's love.

No purpose here but to make you smile and remind us that even the most diverse creatures can live side-by-side lovingly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Push or pull - who decides what gets produced, "We the consumer" or the teams producing?

This video monologue by Joseph Jaffe takes me way back to a question a prof in first year posed on a Media Communciations exam. Who controls the media? Do we, as consumers of it - viewers, listeners, readers? Or the media themselves? Do they make stuff that then gets picked up as cool? Or do we as consumers signal what we will accept and they follow?

The classic active vs. passive consumer question.

It's fun to know this question is still being asked. I don't know the answer. I'd like to believe we are all active consumers.

It's even more fun to think about it in light of consumer generated content online.

Check out his post from Jaffe Juice here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Building a Brand Community

Guy Kawasaki posted this story, in which he talks about building brand communities. He means online brand communities, places where people converse, engage, connect. The whole article is short and great. Find the link at the end of this post.

What I think is interesting is how much these truths hold true for any branded experience. Whether it's a retail store, a hotel, a product or service brand, Kawasaki's 1o tips are another way of discussing branded customer experience.

  1. Focus on your customer’s needs.
  2. Foster many-to-many relationships.
  3. Think local.
  4. Don’t create “more.”
  5. Foster peer celebrity.
  6. Say “hey.”
  7. Let your advocates advocate.
  8. Don’t merely moderate.
  9. Keep it simple. J
  10. Observe the 1-9-90 rule.
The last rule on his list "Observe the 1-9-90 Rule" relates to creators, readers and browsers of online content. Think about that in terms of fans, regulars, and passersby of your physical brand location and it's the same thing. 1% will be fans and they will be vociferous in their support, 9% may become regulars, coming and going as it fits their schedule and the other 90% may just pass by, but they may have heard what you are all about if your brand is clear and you take care to be intentional about how it is delivered at every moment of truth.

I love #4 too - "Don't create more". Just because it's out there doesn't mean you need to add it to your brand experience. What does your customer want? How will you provide that better than anyone else, and in a more memorable way?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The new "weisure" class

I saw something this week on about the blurring or work and leisure time and a new(ish) term that has been coined to describe it – “weisure”. Beyond the kind of clever word it is, I know this concept to not be a new one. How many folks do you know, and maybe you’re one of them, who can’t go a weekend without checking the Blackberry or i-phone for a look at your work e-mail?

The CNN piece talked about the pendulum swing with big changes in cultures, like the blurring of work/play, and they suggest that “There’s no turning back the clock on the spread of weisure.” Dalton Conley, who coined the term is quoted as saying, “Every culture creates its antithesis. Eventually the weisure class could merge into a ‘getting back to basics’ movement and form something new.” {with thanks to}.

I have spent a lot of time the past few months thinking about the pendulum swing in how homebuyers are shopping for homes today. Do more of them want smaller homes because of the cost to purchase and the cost to run (not to mention the green and sustainable issue)? Yes, some of our research shows that to be the case, in some parts of the country, and in some family formations. Will that be a temporary thing that will shift when the economy improves and we all go back to spending more freely?

Will there be a back to basics, or back to core values movement that really lasts? I keep hearing the economy, which must mean you and I who spend money to keep it moving, is “re-sizing”.

How far will the pendulum swing? Anybody got a thought on if this will last or be a temporary adjustment?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Connections and context

A quick trip last weekend up to Vancouver.
A chance to see family - and we spent some great times together - coffee at fave places, dinners that lasted into the night, and Mom's Day brunch.

All good times.

But the highlight for me was seeing - IN PERSON - 2 of my dearest friends, one whom I hadn't seen in 4 years, the other probably 2 years.

On the theme of "community" and therefore connections, the meet up we had made me think about how the deep connections you can share with someone, no matter the context, survive and thrive over time. I am thinking a lot about community these days, in the purest sense, as I watch it grow and in some cases erode around me daily.

The three of us have all made different choices in life, and had very different experiences, even have very different family formations, but there is this thing about a connection that never dies.

What a trip, what a time.
The "comforts of home" were great. Kimmers and HAB both know enough about me that I can shortcut the background, skip over the back story and we're all caught up. And those comforts carried over to our very different hits and misses - the things we've each experienced in our own unique ways. Some successes, some failures, but all ours. Comforts of old friends and the connections they bring, even in our very different contexts.

Now that's community - and I love mine!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Community in many places

I am in the Portland airport, waiting for a flight back to San Diego, which is only slightly delayed, 10 minutes or so. Much better than the 3.5 hour daily last Friday from Houston!

I've been thinking a lot about community this week, not the physical sense but just the connection of it all.

Last night in Spokane our team took me to a place called "Chaps" for dinner. What an experience! The visionary and owners, Celeste, opened the place 2 years ago in a home she moved from Montana. The old farmhouse had belonged to her grandmother who raised her. Her grandmother had a major impact on her life and she wanted to share it.

Celeste joined us for a glass of wine and told us her story. She talked about creating a place where you could come as you are, no airs, no need to impress others, just a place to be. she talked about a place where kids can be kids and just hang out, run around and enjoy the nooks and crannies of the place, the antiques, the chaps, cowboy hats and old books.

It was an adventure in discovery, in dining and in sharing stories about heroes we've all had and why.

The food was awesome, with old faves like home made mac and cheese, yummy oatmeal gooey cookies, and all portioned to make you literally roll out the door when finished.

Her clientele include the mom's group from our community Eagle Ridge. the local police officers' at the end of the shift, school board members, and more. I could see it. In fact, I could feel it.

That is community baby!
Check it out online or visit if you are in the area.

Anybody got any stories of these kind of special, treasured communities?