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Little Green Army Men

February 22, 2010. Posted by johnf

armymen

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the toy that captured most of my hours was little green plastic army men. My cousin Calvin and I staged epic battles that raged for hours across our living room and basement.

The battle would end when we found the last man standing. Army men were versatile, you could add other toys into the mix: Legos, Lincoln Logs, Shogun Warriors, Tonka trucks and more were present for battles bloodier than the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

Now my sons are playing with army men, they took to them like politicians take to bribes. I find those plastic soldiers everywhere: between sofa cushions, under the dog’s bed, in my bed. One intrepid machine gunner managed to take, and defend, a position in the refrigerator.

And one question comes back to me again and again: what makes a product so successful? Why do some products grow into mainstays of a consumer’s life while others fade as soon as the advertising budget has been depleted?

The answer to that question is worth millions of dollars, and has been the holy grail for marketers and sales people since money was invented. I’m sure some caveman tried to devise a better club and make money. “With this club you can smash skulls all day and tenderize mammoth meat that night.”

The question of longevity could occupy one blog for a lifetime – there are that many deciding factors: timing, usefulness, advertising, acceptance by the target audience and of course, price.

Out of all of these price is a major factor. Consider this – a bag of army men runs 4 bucks – a Wii game is 10 times that amount. So which do you buy to keep a child occupied?

What about that blue windshield wiper fluid? A gallon costs $2 – there are others to consider – but when all you want to do is see, price wins out.

What about WD-40? There might be another spray on lubricant available, but you could threaten to take all of my army men to name one and I couldn’t. A can of it costs less than 5 bucks.

Product longevity is a tricky subject to tackle, but one thing you can bet on: cost is king.

Left Turns, Beer, Country Boys & Money

February 15, 2010. Posted by johnf

Valentine’s Day was more than forgetful husbands getting the evil eye and cold shoulder from their wives – it marked the opening of the NASCAR season with the running of the Daytona 500.

NASCAR is an original American sport – sure people have been racing cars all over the world since the first engine was invented – but only in the USA could a sport evolve from basic criminal undertakings: running moonshine through the backwoods and mountains of the South.

NASCAR has grown from a sport appreciated by diehard fans to a money making machine that rivals the NFL and Major League Baseball. Still, it’s considered by a majority of Americans as “not a sport.”

If you believe that, you’re wrong.

More than 10 million Americans count themselves as NASCAR fans – and that reaches across every demographic, age group, ethnicity and social class. They’re also the  most loyal fans: to their drivers and to the cars’ sponsors. NASCAR fans live, eat, drink and wear the logos and brands that you see on the cars.

Sponsorship separates this sport from all others – remember the debacle in Major League Baseball when Spider-Man logos appeared on bases and on-deck logos? Purists raised holy hell – you would have thought they painted a Wal-Mart logo on the White House lawn.

Unlike the more traditional sports, NASCAR has embraced sponsorship – the marketing muscle of Wal-Mart, Target, Sprint and others has propelled the sport from its country boy roots to corporate offices.

However, even the mighty roar of those sexy machines can’t drum out this howling recession. In an effort to shake up the game (that its, create more action) the ruling powers toned down restrictions on racing events – bringing back the banging fenders that was a hallmark of the sport in its infancy.

So the next time you’re flipping through your 547 channels and glimpse those “good old boys and gals” park yourself on the couch and watch a few minutes. Remember that branding and messaging is one thing, but delivery – at 254 mph – is quite another.

Google – I Love You

February 9, 2010. Posted by johnf

This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads fall into two categories: mediocre and memorable – but one stood out for me.

Google’s advertisement that showed the progression of one person’s life – as seen through search engine results – made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Why?

All of those results were created by CONTENT! Yup, good old fashioned content, written so search engines will find it, rank it, and make it available to anyone who can press keys on a computer. (Okay, there was one result that was generated via Google Maps, but nobody’s perfect.)

Thanks Google – you helped make this snow bound writer smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Snowshoes, Swim Fins and Marketing Plans

February 8, 2010. Posted by johnf

Frizzera Ink’s offices are buried under two feet of snow, thanks to the Blizzard of 2010. So while the cold white stuff has been the subject of discussion, we’ve been dreaming of summer: long sunshine-filled days, warm nights and a personal summer favorite: thunderstorms.

But when the calendar moves forward a few pages, we’ll be fighting through humidity thicker than pudding and wishing for a reprieve from the heat. We’ll dream of crisp fall nights, chilly November mornings, and mounds of snow.

It’s human nature to think that the future, versus the present, will be brighter, and happier.

Have you ever caught yourself doing this with your marketing plan?

“Sure, this campaign is great, but wait until the third quarter! It’s going to be Fourth of July and Christmas Day rolled into one glorious extravaganza!”

So how can we stay grounded, appreciate where we are, and remember that the future doesn’t correspond to our daydreams?

Here are several things to try:

Review your marketing plan monthly – it helps you stay on message and on target. Plus, your plan becomes a living, breathing document. Who knows, there might be changes occurring this month that effect plans you’re going to execute in October.

Don’t forget to monitor your metrics – it might not be the most glamorous part of marketing – but you can’t argue with numbers. Seeing where you were yesterday and where you are today makes tomorrow easier to anticipate.

Contact your target audience – and get their thoughts about your product, brand, service, etc. Positive, and negative, reinforcement focuses your marketing efforts and signals to you what’s working, and what needs fixing.

Read as many websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and business books – as you can. You’ll stay current on the business world and you may discover a case study or idea that enhances your marketing plan.

Got any other ideas on how to keep from peeking over the fence to see if the grass is greener? Leave them in the comments section!

5 Things To Do BEFORE Sending A Marketing Email

February 3, 2010. Posted by johnf

Your marketing email is ready.

You’re going to reach out to thousands of people and make an impact.

The anticipation rivals Christmas morning.

STOP.

Before you press the Send button, here are 5 things to do – and they won’t take more than 5 minutes of your time.

1. Read the entire email backwards. It’s the best way to find any typos or misused words.
2. Count the characters in your subject line, including spaces. Less than 35 is the target.
3. Check your hyperlinks. To be doubly sure, send the email to an address outside of your company, a Hotmail or Yahoo account is perfect. Check the hyperlinks again.
4. The program you’re using should have a Preview button. Use it to make sure the email looks right.
5. Have someone outside of your department read the email. Ask him or her if it makes sense.

Now send it – and good luck!

Nike Shoots Itself in the Foot

February 1, 2010. Posted by johnf

Looks like the shoe giant has been shooting its mouth off.

Nike’s new Kobe Bryant advertisement uses the word “chamber”. As in the one that’s found in a gun. A tagline on the same ad reads “Prepare for Combat”. That phrase plays up the competition between Bryant and LeBron James.

So what’s the big deal?

Well . . .

  • Washington Wizard player Gilbert Arenas was recently arrested for pulling a gun on a fellow player because of a gambling debt. (Definition of the word irony: the team’s former name was the Bullets.)
  • The other player involved in that locker room debacle, Javaris Crittenton, has also been charged with carrying a handgun.
  • Cleveland Cavalier hotshot Delonte West was arrested in September for carrying a handgun.

So is Nike wrong? Not according to them:

“The Nike print ad featuring Kobe Bryant was intended to illustrate his all out play and commitment on the basketball court,” Nike said in a statement. “It is a commonly used reference for shooting the basketball and no offense was intended.”

Or are they guilty of using the language and imagery that appeals to their audience? (Just like every other advertiser out there.) The words in question are used in conjunction with the players’ images – and they’re not shown shooting someone. In fact, they’re sporting Nike’s new padding.

And aren’t consumers savvy enough to not take ad copy for granted? In my opinion – yes they are.

In the opinion of NBA Commissioner David Stern, the ad is “inappropriate.” Strong words when one looks at the amount of money Nike pumps into this game, at every level.

Another opinion was put forth by the City of Cleveland – they rejected a billboard that would have displayed the same words and images. “Oh no! People will start breaking the law because of a billboard!”

The NBA, Cleveland and the socially conscious pundits can accuse Nike of being insensitive and morally corrupt. However, the only thing the shoe giant is guilty of is bad timing. And who hasn’t been the victim of that before?

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