Please Stop Thinking Outside of the Box

Please Stop Thinking Outside of the Box

I don’t like to think outside of the box. As a marketing guy, I get asked for “out of the box ideas”, and I must push back. Why don’t we figure out what our box is first (category rules, brand standards, guidelines, value proposition, vision, etc.) before we get lost in the outfield? When you have constraints that require you to filter ideas, you must create some guardrails around an idea. Constraints, limits, and restrictions are creative gold. They help you define a problem. I like to think along the edge of the box.  Steps to Thinking Along the Edge of the Box Define the rules of a category, so you are clear what everyone else does. For example, 90% of all wine gets packaged in 750 ml glass bottles and potato chips come in bags with air to protect the chips. Examine where the edge of a category could create an opportunity. Wine in a box or can. Potato chips in a tube or individually wrapped. Free yourself from the practical problems like we don’t have the machinery to package wine in cans or chips in tubes. Just imagine how customers in the category might react to your brand that straddles the edge of the category box. Renegade, avant-garde, forward thinker, idiot? Generate several ideas that live at the edges. Draw a picture of those ideas and share it with a range of stakeholders like customers, critics, employees, distributors, etc. Listen to their feedback. Just be quiet and let others criticize, ridicule and rip apart your ideas. After you digest the comments from others, sit quietly and listen...
Do You Take One More Step?

Do You Take One More Step?

I wanted to buy Hillary Clinton’s book to read on vacation. As I wandered into a local, independent bookstore, the owner said that the book was sold out but would be back in stock in a few days. He never said to me, let me text you when it comes in. That would have been an excellent way to remind me to buy the book from him and not online or at several competitors. One More Step Does your marketing effort take that next step to remove friction from a purchase? Do you make it that much easier for your customer to do business with you? You don’t expect a big chain to do something like text you – yet it is through automation that larger players are scaling those next steps. What’s Your Next Step? Do you call you call your customer after they receive their order to check in and make sure everything arrived perfectly? Do you make it easy for satisfied customers to write a quick yelp review of your restaurant by texting or emailing a link? Do you take the next step and tell customers about a new product that is a compliment to something they bought last month for their camping trip without feeling pushy? Do you take the extra step to write a hand-written thank you to random customers without trying to upsell anything? Do you give your larger customers a special gift of thanks when they least expect it? Like sending an ice cream truck to their office in the summer versus just sending a box of chocolate during the holidays? I...
A Cheetos Fine Dining Restaurant – No Really

A Cheetos Fine Dining Restaurant – No Really

Some of the best PR is often based on a wild and crazy idea. The folks who market Cheetos wondered what it would be like to open a restaurant based on their snack product. So they hired a well-known Food Network Chef (not my daughter) and created a temporary pop-up store to generate awareness and stories. Traditional PR and stunt events can be powerfully effective ways to get a brand into your consciousness. You share the story (as I am doing here), and it quickly blows up the Internet. The social shares and increased awareness easily pay for the venture. More than 1,000 people requested a reservation for The Spotted Cheetah. It was only opened for 3 days in August. Watch this crazy video. Maybe there is a way for you to think laterally about your brand to help it break through the deluge of content. Cheetos played into its snacking fun brand character and leveraged existing assets like Chester Cheetah. Ask yourself the question, what if my brand was a restaurant, ran an airline, was a sports team, made clothing,  created a non-profit or sold ice cream. Think sideways and have fun. One other piece of advice – do something your competitors would never think about doing because they are fixated on your category. Cheetos doesn’t compete in restaurants yet that was where they decided to set up shop – if only for a few days. Publicity is a way to emphasize an important aspect of your brand. It can solidify a position and help get you into the conversation. As long as your stunt is aligned with core...
Bowling with Customers

Bowling with Customers

Conducting market research is a key component of marketing. Without an empathetic understanding of who you are marketing to, the world they live in, and what they care about, your efforts can easily miss the mark. But getting to know your customers first-hand can be tricky. Several years ago, I advised a client to use an odd technique to help them learn more about those who used their software program. It wasn’t a traditional quantitative approach to research. It broke many of the traditional laws of market research because it was subjective and lacked true objectivity. My advice was to invite their existing customers bowling in several cities. Bowling with customers – a chance to learn about your target audience. Yup. Bowling. Bowling for insights. Striking Up a Conversation The idea was simple. What happens when members of your team get to hang out in the real world with clients? You meet in a neutral and non-threatening environment without an agenda but to get to know one another. The research wasn’t watching customers bowl – this was hanging out with clients trying to do the 7-10 split. Up My Alley We got a chance to see customers as real people – not numbers, not revenue per click, but people. Through the natural flow of conversation, we got to hear them talk about our product (software apps/online service) without it being a forced discussion. Customers shared frustrations and passions about our products and services. We identified several opportunities and gaps in how we do business. At a modest cost, we could do this in the field research in five cities over...
Thank You Fail

Thank You Fail

Is it possible to have a thank you fail?  This past year I had to spend over $10,000 to fix a broken water pipe and to replace an old air conditioning system in my home. Stuff happens – I get it, especially in my house built in 1989. The company that did the work for me has been my HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) supplier for at least 15 years. 2016 – 2017 was a good year for them as I kept them very busy. Thank You Fails When a package came to me from them, my wife opened it up, and before she got to see what was inside,  I said, what do you expect a company will do to thank someone who has been a loyal customer for 15 years and who spent $10,000 last year? Let’s see if they pass the marketing test of how to make your customer feel appreciated. She said it is probably a gift card to a restaurant or something worth at least $100. I had the same idea – maybe they would consider $100 in some form as a token of their appreciation. Inside was a cheap bag of candy and a preprinted note. It also included a survey and a business reply postcard from the company they hired to mail the bag of candy. Really? Is this how you say thank you? When Thank You Fails As a marketing guy, I can’t help but provide some advice to my HVAC company. Have you ever heard of segmenting your customers? Maybe those who have been with you a long time...
Vinebox – Wine by the Glass

Vinebox – Wine by the Glass

Have you ever brought home a bottle of wine and found that you didn’t like it – but you powered through it because you hate to waste it? Vinebox has a new idea. What if you could receive a sample glass that enabled you to taste before you buy the bottle? Flaviar.com has created this business model for whiskey – why not try it for wine? Vinebox, 1,2, 3 You start by taking a quiz that helps to identify your favorite flavors like strong versus light coffee, deep berry versus subtle stone fruits like apricots, spicy stuff like siracha versus mild foods, etc. As they build up your profile, you receive what looks like little test tubes of wine that fill a glass. You can get, for example, three wines from the Rhone Valley to determine which wine you love best. Then you can order a bottle of the one you prefer. Subscriptions cost about $25, and you get 3/3.4-ounce glass vials of wine. The quantity is a little less than a full glass of wine. They have three plans, monthly, three months or yearly with varying prices. They only sell wines not found in retail, so you are bound to find some interesting wines that you won’t show up at your local grocer or specialty wine shop. Vinebox protects the wine from becoming oxidized through a patented technology. From my past life at Nomacorc, I’m not sure if this might not lead to reductive tastes since wine does need a little bit of oxygen to develop full flavors. They also ship the samples via refrigeration to ensure that...