Category Archives: Brand

Just Because It Seems Simple To You…

I have this conversation on a regular basis, so I was happy to see this blog posting from Seth Godin this morning. Seth wrote:

“We think direct written and verbal communication is clear and accurate and efficient. It is none of those. If the data rate of an HDMI cable is 340MHz, I’m guessing that the data rate of a speech is far, far lower. Yes, there’s a huge amount of information communicated via your affect, your style and your confidence, but no, I don’t think humans are so good at getting all the details.

Plan on being misunderstood. Repeat yourself. When in doubt, repeat yourself.”

Most clients I encounter write and talk about their products or services as if everyone understands the features, benefits and values as well as they do. They assume that everyone knows as much about the industry as they do. So the copy of their websites, brochures and even newsletters are such that only an industry insider can understand.

Remember: Your audience needs information presented clearly and concisely. Your goal is to make your message as simple as possible and then rewrite it to make it even more simple.

Happy Selling


Good Ol’ Days

One year, my parents bought me a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey for Christmas. It was awesome. Our public school had an outdoor rink and I would wear that jersey and skate for hours – pretending to be Darryl Sittler taking on the dreaded Bobby Clarke. Sometimes other kids from the neighborhood joined me on the ice – sometimes I skated alone. While heading to a client appointment today, my mind was flooded with this memory and with it came a touch of happiness.

Was this flood of nostalgic memories brought on by seeing some kids playing hockey? Nope. It was brought on by my cup of Tim Horton’s coffee. It is wintertime – and each year Tim Horton’s changes up their to-go cups from the classic brown to include scenes of wintery togetherness. Invoking emotions from childhood can be a powerful tools for marketers. If you can successfully connect your product to positive, rich childhood memories – you will see your sales take off.

Remember when Volkswagen relaunched the Beetle? Dealers had waiting lists of people who happily put down deposits to buy them because of the strong memories of these great cars. Those memories seem to gloss over the facts that they were horrible in the snow, had lousy heaters and brakes that required you to pre-plan upcoming stops.

Tying your service or product to the “Good Old Days” and nostalgia – when done right – will reward your organization with warm feelings and a premium price. If you miss the mark or change the product so it doesn’t invoke the same feelings, be prepared to be punished by the consumer. Using nostalgia in your marketing has a high risk reward attached to it so if you decide to use it, make sure to do your homework.

Now, I am off to see if I can find my skates and take my sons out to make some memories of their own.

Happy Sellng!

Keeping up with the Joneses

I need your help. Before I make my ask of you, let me give you some background…

Do you ever wonder how to get publicity for your business? I often encounter organizations who think ‘publicity’ means writing press releases to the local papers regarding their latest service or product offering. The problem is that most of these releases have no story to them and nothing of interest to write about. If you would like to get your company promoted in the news, consider a page out of Jones Soda’s playbook. As a publicity stunt in 2003, Seattle-based Jones Soda released Turkey and Gravy flavoured soda for the holidays. Yes, you read that correctly.

They produced 6000 bottles of this limited-edition soda. It sold out online in 2 hours and the money went to a local Toys For Tots program. The media attention and national publicity that Jones Soda received could not have been purchased. Every year since, Jones Soda offers new flavoured sodas for the holidays with the proceeds often going to charities. Some of the flavours they have offered includes:

Turkey & Gravy Soda
Green Bean Casserole Soda
Mashed Potato & Butter Soda
Fruitcake Soda
Cranberry Soda
Antacid Soda

These get people talking about Jones Soda. Jones Soda has even started to offer limited edition soda on other special events.

Halloween Limited Edition: 4-pack included: Candy Corn, Caramel Apple, Strawberry Slime and Scary Berry Lemonade

Valentines Limited Edition: 2-pack included: Love Potion #6 soda and Love Potion #6 flavored lip balm.

Seattle Seahawks Collectors’ Pack included: Perspiration, Sports Cream, Natural Field Turf, Dirt, and Sweet Victory.

Easter Limited Edition: Robin’s Egg Lemonade, Chocolate Bunny, and Little Bunny Fufu.

This year’s holiday package flavor was one I was quite excited for… It arrived at my door just a couple of days before US Thanksgiving. Ready for this? Jones Bacon Soda. Yes, bacon lovers. Bacon flavored soda. I love all things bacon. My pack came with 2 Bottles of Jones Bacon Soda, 1 Tube of Bacon Lip Balm, 1 Package of Bacon Popcorn and 1 Package of Bacon Gravy Mix. I think I’ve died and gone to bacon heaven. The problem is – I can’t bring myself to open the bottle. Much like a kid with a treasured piece of candy, I sit and hold it – staring at the label and wondering what it tastes like – but can’t bring myself to twist the cap and give it a taste.

My wife would like to video me tasting carbonated bacon – I think she just wants something to post to her facebook account to amuse her friends. But I can’t decide. I think knowing it is a one-time limited edition has made the decision tough. Do I open it – or don’t I? For the next few days, I’d like to take a poll. What do you think?

Why I Don’t Sit Next To Babies

Maybe you’ve seen the commercial of the woman rocking a crying baby until he falls asleep. The camera pans back and you realize it is a West Jet Flight Attendant, helping out a distressed mother on a flight. West Jet claims that they “care more” about their guests. Normally commercials and ads about “great service” don’t mean much to me – I expect great service, as I’m sure you do too. But West Jet does indeed go above and beyond.

My wife was asked to speak at a Christian conference. She took our then infant daughter along for the trip. On the West Jet flight from Toronto to Calgary she was seated at the window with a man next to her. Kacey bounced along happily on her lap, giggling and satisfied for the first hour of the trip. Then, without warning, she began to throw up all over the man next to my wife. Kim’s initial reaction was to turn Kacey away from the man and towards herself – this resulted in Kim catching the second wave of heaves from Kacey. Apparently it was disgusting; and in mere moments they were both covered in mushy baby goo.

Neither of them moved – they just exchanged looks of horror. Kacey started to cry and the man seated on the aisle reached one finger up and “ding” – called for the flight attendants. A female flight attendant came to the scene – took one look and the whole crew sprung into action. One woman took our baby and our diaper bag. She cleaned Kacey up completely and changed her. She swaddled her in a blanket and held her while everyone else worked to clean up my wife and the poor unlucky soul next to her. One flight attendant went into her own personal bag and used her toiletries to help Kim smell better than strained peas. In every sense of the word, the West Jet staff went ABOVE what one might have expected as great service. They were phenomenal.

Don’t just give your customers great service. Go above any expectations. This isn’t just marketing, rah-rah hype. It does make a difference that people will remember.

What Music’s Marketing Geniuses Can Teach You

There have been a number of posts out lately, and now a book released, regarding “Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead.” I have included a link to a post from Copy Blogger (

It is a good article and there is much we can learn from the Grateful Dead in regards to marketing. So I thought I would put together a few lessons that I have learned from other musicians:

It is All About The Story -Harry Chapin
Most artists tried to keep their songs in the 2 to 3½ minute range in the hopes of getting picked up by commercial radio. Harry Chapin seemed to have a hard time keeping a song under 7 minutes because he believed that the song should be as long as it take to tell the story. His master story telling and long format records made Harry a millionaire.

Not Taking Yourself Too Seriously -Barenaked Ladies
The Barenaked Ladies do something that few bands can do which is make a large stadium feel like a little club. They actively engage the audience. They are funny. They are good musicians. They are great entertainers. They prove that work should be fun and enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy it you should be doing something else.

Figure Out What Your Customers Love and Give Them More -Jimmy Buffet
Margaritaville is not just a song; it is a brand. Jimmy Buffet has realized that if you build it, the shark fin and leis-wearing fans will come. Jimmy Buffet has turned his tropical theme into a business empire including hotels, theme restaurants, frozen food, appliances and an assortment of Margaritaville licensed products.

You can take tips from successful people in any industry and apply them to your own business.

Happy Singing, I mean, Selling!

Anticipation is Making Me Wait

The advertising campaign theme song used by Heinz Ketchup has been coming back to me in my office commute over the last couple of weeks.  On the side of the highway I noticed a small construction project.  Because of the location it struck me a little odd, and I had a number of thoughts about what it could be.

The little structure seemed to get a bit bigger each day and on day three I realized that it was a new “Welcome to West Kelowna” sign.  I must admit – as I pass each day I look to see if the sign has been revealed yet.  I am curious as to what this will look like.  It seems like other people are also interested.  Three times now I have seen cars stopped by the side of the road and people heading up the embankment to see what is under the blue tarp covering the sign.  This is where the anticipation comes in and a good example of how it can be an effective marketing tool for your business.

Steve Jobs at Apple uses anticipation to build excitement about new products months before they are ever released.  Anticipation builds as new bits of information are made public.  When done correctly, anticipation does three things:

Anticipation builds buzz and conversation as people start to talk about you and you new release.

Anticipation builds traffic as customers and prospects go to your web site to find out the latest information on what you are doing.

Anticipation builds sales as customers and prospects decide that this is a product/service they must have.  The wait adds to the feeling that you must get the product or services as soon as it is released.  It builds demand.

So next time you are going to release a website, product or service, tease the release to your audience.  Offer sneak peaks and just portions of the features in advance to whet the appetite of your audience.

Two warnings before you try this at home:
Release on time.  Late release could turn all that buzz into negativity in a big hurry.
Don’t over promise or over hype the product.  Save some of the features and benefits as a surprise.  We will cover surprise in a later post… Stay tuned…

Initial Thoughts

While driving, I love nothing better than to listen to talk radio. It is my favourite way to kill highway hours. Last week I was traveling in the US. I was scanning the dials looking for NPR (National Public Radio) or any other talk radio show when I found myself listening to a string of ads for local businesses that could be typical for any town in America or Canada. One ad stood out for me because, well, it was horrible! Describing it as a “train wreck” would be kind. The only saving grace for this company was that even though I heard the ad three times in a stretch, I could not make out what the name of the company was. I really wanted to look them up to see if the rest of their advertising was the same. The reason why I couldn’t make out their name was because they used initials. Was that F or S? Was that a P or T? Turns out that I never did manage to figure it out. For this company that was a good thing…a really good thing.

The Curse of The Three Initials (or Four, Five)

Naming your company with initials puts you at a huge disadvantage in the marketplace. So much, it can even prove to be fatal. Naming your company with initials provides you with a name that means nothing, is hard to be heard, and more importantly is hard to remember. You have just made your company even more transparent in an already over crowded and competitive marketplace. Not what you ever want to do.

Before you start emailing me with the IBM, PPG, GM examples of successful companies with initials, let me save us both a little time here. That argument doesn’t hold water for the simple reason that each of those businesses started off with proper meaningful names before they switched in later years to initials. When you have reached the size of IBM or GE feel free to switch your name to initials. Until then do what is best for your business and develop a name that has meaning.

If you have a proper name and have started shortening it or using your initials in advertising or promotion it is a good idea to stop doing it. As I said, the last thing you want to be is hard to remember.

Until next time, TTFN!