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XM Radio & My Neglected iPod

April 29, 2010. Posted by johnf

XM Radio continues to confuse and intrigue me. More than 200 channels and they run the entire gamut.

The Eighties Channel can become the Opera Channel which becomes the Blue Collar Comedy Channel.

And there’s everything in between – my iPod must be getting jealous because it hasn’t been riding in the car with me for about two weeks. In fact, there’s a fine layer of dust on it. Sorry, but right now this is like being in a candy shop.

Sure, there are some days when the Bluegrass Channel really grates on my nerves, but then again, a few clicks down the line there’s CNN News and Boneyard, with plenty of heavy metal – they recently played ZZ Top which is about as heavy metal as Lawrence Welk.

The Smith & Wesson Hammer

April 28, 2010. Posted by johnf

I recently sat down with a colleague who specializes in social media marketing. As the conversation developed, we agreed that social media today is like the web was 10 years ago: everyone wants it, even though they don’t know what to do with it.

Kind of like buying a gun, not having any ammunition, and using it to hammer nails. A ridiculous waste of time and in the end, you’ve purchased an expensive hammer.

Companies continue to wrestle with social media, asking their marketing and communication people “Why don’t we have a Facebook page?” “Where’s our Twitter account?” “What about this LinkedIn?”

The marketing department scurries back to their lair, fires up the laptop and creates accounts on these and other platforms. Maybe post a few comments: “It’s a lovely day.” “I bought coffee from an overpriced chain.” “My pants are on fire.” “I have no mouth and I must scream.”

Scintillating, isn’t it?

Those pages will drift along, like ghost ships, springing to life whenever the CEO, CFO, COO or another important person sees their teenage son on Facebook and demands that something be posted.

Social media plays a vital role in many businesses, but these tools must be integrated into the marketing and communications plan before they’re used. Companies need to determine which platform they should use, how it can be incorporated into their business plan, and then execute.

So before you visit the gun shop to pick out  bright and shiny hammer, break out the marketing plan and use it to plan.

The NFL’s Marketing Triumph

April 22, 2010. Posted by johnf

When you were growing up, what was more fun: choosing people to be on your kickball team or playing the game?

Flash forward 40 years and the NFL has made its draft a prime time event and garnered loads of free marketing, advertising, blog entries, buzz, whatever you want to call it. And after all of the analysis and hype, it’s basically people choosing guys to be on their teams.

There is no other draft that creates this kind of excitement and upheaval. The other major sports’ drafts barely cause a blip on the media’s radar.

Credit the NFL for building this mundane activity into what it is. The sport is a hot commodity and the brand continues to be one of the top 5 in the country, despite the fact that the players continually try to damage it with their off field actions.

I have to run, my BlackBerry is exploding with texts about the next pick.

Lepers, Roller Coasters & Learning

April 20, 2010. Posted by johnf


Working for one company for an extended period of time is always beneficial. Pay increases, perks and seniority are all fine things, and a steady job can provide you with an excellent feeling of comfort and familiarity, but it can reduce your contact with “the outside world.”

We can get so wrapped up in our profession that we rarely look around to see what else is going on. A good example is the networking group I attended today.

Let’s get one thing straight, finances, the stock market and anything number related appeals to me like a roller coaster appeals to a leper. (See, because the leper would lose body parts from getting flung all over the place. See? Okay, if you have to explain the joke, then it’s not funny. But still . . .)

Anyway, I listened to a financial advisor speak about his line of work. Yes, the stock markets are looking strong, but he also expected inflation to rear its ugly, cancerous head in the next several quarters. Finally, interest rates are expected to rise – good information since I am considering the purchase of a new car.

Could I have discovered this information via The Wall Street Journal or Forbes? Sure. Would it have made sense? Nope, not to me. This guy was an excellent source of information, he used words that laymen like me can understand. I didn’t go screaming from the room like a leper once he got off the roller coaster. (See because he might have lost an ear or something. . .)

I left with a new understanding of the financial world, some solid advice on my car purchase, and a feeling like I learned valuable information. And I love to learn. Love it more than single barrel whisky, my mother’s homemade sauce and zombie movies.

Another benefit of looking around is seeing how different industries approach their marketing plans and strategies. Other professions attain their goals differently, but their strategies or tactics might be the perfect fit for you.

So take a break from your business and look around. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find – and how it can help you grow.

(In other news the NFL schedule came out today! Better than Christmas is the unveiling of this schedule – the Ravens have more than a few Monday Night Football appearances this year!)

Making Flippy Floppy

April 12, 2010. Posted by johnf

As the weather warms up, I’m seeing more sign flippers at busy intersections. What are they? Young kids hired to take signs and flip them into the air, dance, wave, and attract attention.

I admire the originality, but here’s the rub: the signs are moving so fast, and so erratic, that you don’t know what they’re saying! They could be advertising this week’s special on olive loaf at the deli. (Mmmmm, olive loaf.)

A quick look online turns up hundreds of YouTube videos showing a crop of acrobatic and athletic sign flippers. Sure they look cool, but try watching them as you’re going 30 miles an hour through an intersection. Blink and you miss it.

So does it work? I can’t see how they have much of an impact. A person driving past a flipper says, “Hmmm, let me back up and check.” That’s maybe one in every 25. About 15 in every 25 think, “That was cool,” and then go back to listening to music, cutting someone off, or talking on their cell phone. The other 10 are texting while they drive and coming close to crashing into a loaded fuel truck.

But still, some of those guys have major moves.

Marketing, It Actually IS Rocket Science

April 5, 2010. Posted by johnf

Have you ever watched the series From the Earth to the Moon? It documents the quest to put a man on the moon and the one billion obstacles that stood in the way. The folks at NASA were big believers in system redundancy: there was a system, a backup system, another backup system and another system.

While you may not be launching any rockets, you should always have a backup plan for your marketing plan – especially if you’ve planned out the entire year. We’re often so happy to complete a marketing plan that we consider the case closed.

But have you ever considered what would happen if a major part of your plan became obsolete? Or if the goals you set in January suddenly became unobtainable in June? What if the CEO left and was replaced by someone who didn’t agree with your vision?

Scrambling to fill these voids is never fun – and the pressure produce ideas that are good, but not good enough. Fitting that round peg into the square hole is never a good idea – pound away all you want, it’s still going to look ugly.

Take a page from NASA’s nerdy notebook and create a few backup systems for your marketing plan. (And if your marketing plan is as complicated as a space launch, scrap the entire thing and start over. It’s never going to work)

Each piece of your plan should contain line items that represent your plan should the occasion arise where you have to “Break Glass in Case of Emergency”. The ideas you develop should contain enough detail and foresight so you, or someone on your team, can change directions quickly and accurately.

Finally, don’t forget that a change in strategy calls for a change in tactics and if the message changes, consider changing the medium!

When you plan ahead, you won’t ever have to send out a message that says, “Houston we have a problem.”

Five Guys Eats the Competition

April 2, 2010. Posted by johnf


Five Guys has invaded our neighborhood with two locations – and I have waved the white flag. Why? Because they make a superior product, deliver it with excellent customer service and they do it quickly.

If you haven’t eaten at a  Five Guys, it’s a burger place that makes fresh burgers and fries that are more expensive than McD’s or Burger King, but they’re worth it.

The first time you eat there, you’re blown away by the fact that fast food can be good, but then again, we’ve been trained by the big boys to accept the norm they created.

So you spend an extra few bucks, but you walk away content and not feeling the guilt because the product is fresh. And isn’t that worth it?

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