Monday, April 28, 2008

Know your story..and stick to it

As marketers, we are always looking for ways to capture our target audiences attention, and in this quest, its not uncommon for brands to choose message or imagery that are edgy and racy...just to attract attention. But this route is not for the weak hearted. If you dare - you need to hang there.

The biggest mistake a brand can make is launch the campaign, and then when the reactions start pouring in - either back track - or even worse feign ignorance.

The MILF (Many Islands Low Fares) campaign run by Spirit Airlines in December hit those very air pockets. The campaign definitely attracted attention. But as expected, what seemed clever to some, seemed crude and tasteless to others.

What did a panicked Spirit Airlines do - blamed the campaign on the ignorance of an employee who according to them didnt know the street usage of acyronym MILF (due to her British roots), never mind that the creative for the campaign was a cluster of islands in the shape of a reclining woman. And never mind that one British lady couldnt up built the campaign in isolation.

The result - a half baked campaign that was pulled and a controversy that left Spirit seeming quite silly.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

So why are millions spent on measurement and research

Still on the topic of measurement - I was recently in a class listening to ( with my "marketing with common sense" hat on) research experts talk about how they track, evaluate and measure advertising with complex models and tools that cost millions of dollars.

Now, the sticker price for this media analysis and measurement has always intrigued me, especially since the results often match the initial hypothesis. Makes me wonder - did you really need to spend all that money to get this answer? This question has come up before but no one ever did a good job responding to it - until this time around. And the answer put things in perspective.

This senior research executive who manages a multi million dollar research budget said - "Yes, in most cases the research may show you what you may have known intuitively. But what you are getting when you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more on research is - the ability to quantify that intuition. And when you are dealing with marketing budgets of hundreds of millions of dollar, saying its working isn’t enough. One needs to be able to quantify it.”

I see it as putting a layer of science on an art :)

Measure your marketing with a next to nothing budget...

Tracking studies, media mix models, concept testing - are all tools to ensure that your advertising and marketing plan is successful and effective.

But what if you are like me, a marketer with a small marketing budget….and a smaller (or should I say non-existing) measurement budget? Are you doomed to have to rely on guess work, intuition and will you always have to battle the sales team or senior management to prove that you contributed to sales? Not really. While you may not be able to quantify impact and efficacy at the level that some of those above mentioned tools can, you can certainly track your efficacy by doing some simple things.

1. Ask your prospects or customers how they heard about you. Most will be happy to tell you.

2. Track - while you may not always know how many people you truly reached with your outreach effort, make sure you map traffic against when you are in the media. If you are doing things right, you should see a spike in traffic – whether its traffic to a store, to a website or calls to a call center.

3. Collect information of your prospects wherever possible... and then map it to your account owner base. Did Mr. Jones from ABC Street, XYZ town who ordered an enrollment kit via the direct mail flyer open an account?

4. Reach out to existing customers via a basic web survey and ask them to tell you what they think about your brand, product or service. If you can convince them that you will take action on their feedback, they will be happy to share their true feeling

5. Don’t hesitate to do a quick focus group - find a group of people in your office who represent your target audience. And ask them what they think of the new creative you are looking to launch. Their feedback may surprise you. Sure, the results are not scientific - but they can be indicative.

6. Set up a special #800 number or vanity URL for your advertising. This will help you track web traffic or interest that can be related to the advertising.

7. Compare data against the historical data that you may have access to and try to analyze why there may be changes – could it be because of a coupon promotion or a radio ad. Be sure to consider some external factors like weather or the economy.

Not all of these may apply to you… But no matter how small you are – whether you a small for profit business, or a not-for- profit business— you will be able to import these ideas to substantiate your efforts or course correct.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What's in a name?

Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kentucky Grilled Chicken

Turns out that Kentucky Fried Chicken, which not so long ago changed its name to KFC in an attempt to disassociate itself from the word "fried", is going back to being called "Kentucky Fried Chicken".

Not only is it looking to embrace it southern fried food heritage, it's also bringing back its Col. Sanders logo. According to BusinessWeek, a Kentucky Fried Chicken spokesperson recently said: "Consumers tell us they love Kentucky Fried Chicken. And many of our customers never stopped calling us Kentucky Fried Chicken."

So what's the learning here for marketers... before you change your name/branding that you spent millions building, ask your loyal consumers what they think. In this case, KFC realized that even after changing its name, and updating its menu, what was really selling was the "fried stuff" and not the "healthy stuff".

It boils down to consumer insight. Something Coke missed when they launched New Coke...and something KFC should have looked at before they spent millions on rebranding themselves without their middle name.

I did come across a rumor that said that KFC was looking to rebrand itself as Kentucky Grilled Chicken... but that rumor hasn’t been substantiated. Imagine that!

Disclaimer: In no way am I promoting unhealthy fried food at a time when the Center of Disease Control attributed the 400,000 deaths in March 2004 to obesity, poor diet and inactivity.

All I am saying is know your audience… and stay true to them. Something David Kiley says in his BusinessWeek blog may hit the message home "I can't help but draw a comparison between what KFC is doing and what the Republican Party has done so well to galvanize its base. It doesn't pretend to be green. It doesn't apologize for driving SUVs. It has made "liberal" a dirty word and painted the Dems with it until the mass media has basically adopted "liberal" as a four letter word." Amen!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

“look at me” versus “here’s what you were looking for”

Building a website is easy, but building an effective website is hard.

I have spend hours listening to the experts, reading articles and blogs and arguing with colleagues and friends on what makes a website great... and while i have collected many little pearls of wisdom on this topic over the years, a blog post i came across recently did a great job of consolidating the insights.. and not being afraid to say it like it is ...

Its no surprise that the blog i am referring to is that of marketing guru Seth Godin. You can read his complete post here...but here are my favorite pointers -

1. Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. Not one. This is a deal breaker. I cant agree more. I recently worked on a web project that suffered from the "too many cooks" syndrome. The result - a shoddy website

2. Insight is good, clever is bad. Many websites say, “look at me.” Your goal ought to be to say, “here’s what you were looking for.”