Thursday, August 26, 2010

A New School Year Brings In Creative Marketing Techniques

How can your business take advantage of the new school year? Even Fuddruckers, a popular hamburger restaurant, has capitalized on the "back to school" mentality, sending out emails to subscribers reminding them that Fuddruckers should be on their supplies list.

I just started my final year of college, which makes these sort of campaigns fresh on my mind. I've always been the student who gets excited about buying things for school, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. So, take advantage of the young person's need for supplies.

The Container Store has Back to School and Dorm sections on its website, and the Dorm section includes a video featuring a college student's dorm room full of Container Store products. The student tells the viewer that it's parent's weekend and she has had to clean up to impress her parents, so she went to The Container Store. The store's site also includes a dorm catalogue.

My favorite example of a great marketing method taking advantage of students returning to school comes from Walmart. Walmart created a project called Project Dream Dorm. The project has its own Youtube channel with a plugin that plays videos and displays pictures of and links to products that appear in the videos. Walmart found five college students, assigned design experts to each of them, and gave them an unlimited shopping spree in their local Walmart. The entire experience for each student was recorded and put on YouTube. Once back on Walmart's dorm website, the viewer finds attractive photos of products and an easily navigated menu to help him find what he's looking for.

How can you make your products visually appealing? What have you done to cater to students going back to school?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dora Turns 10 - Marketing Lessons From Successful Children's TV Shows

I've never been a fan of Dora the Explorer, but somehow she's managed to last for 10 years now. And, much to the chagrin of those of us 10 years older, she has not aged a day. In fact, she's much the same little hispanic girl that she was when she first premiered on Nickelodeon. So what has kept her going? What makes a children's show like Dora the Explorer or Barney the dinosaur so popular?

In the case of Dora, I think there are several reasons for her popularity that we can observe and learn from:
  1. She's cute, she has cute animal friends, and she sings catchy songs. Never underestimate the power of a catchy tune.
  2. She interacts with her viewers. Kids like to talk to characters on the screen; it's part of the learning process. When Dora asks what she needs out of her backpack, the child can yell with pride and excitement, "Flash light!" And when Spiper comes around, kids can learn a lesson about stealing and simultaneous have fun yelling, "Swiper, no swiping!" Marketers can learn a thing or two from this interaction, because adults like to interact, too, especially in an age of Facebook and MySpace. Find ways to interact with your customer, and they'll come to you.
  3. She teaches her viewers in a fun way. You, too, can teach your customers without pushing your business or product. Social media provides the means to interact with customers and give them what they want. Blogging, for example, is a great way to talk about things relevant to your product, but not about your product. With links to your website, you can draw customers in without ever pushing yourself on your customer. So, find a new and fun way to teach your customers.
  4. She knows her audience. Dora the Explorer caters to hispanic children looking for a more diverse show, but it also caters to a more white audience looking for a way to teach their children Spanish. At the same time, Dora doesn't over-emphasize Spanish, so sensitive parents won't mind the show. What is your audience like and how can you cater to them without pushing your product?
  5. Lastly, she knows how to put herself out there. Her marketers have found a variety of ways to put her face on various products from backpacks to notebooks to cups to tooth brushes. Once your business is out there, you can find ways to keep it out there by putting your product on other products and selling them. What are some other products you can use to put yourself in the public sphere?
I may not be a fan of Dora the Explorer (I never grew out of Barney or Blue's Clues), but I respect the way her marketers have used different methods to keep her popular. After 10 years, she's still going strong, and she's reinvented herself by adding new characters like Diego.

How can you reinvent yourself to make yourself attractive?

What are you doing to stay strong? What have you observed from successful TV shows?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Create an Event, Attract Customers

A college acquaintance of mine is marketing a game called "Keep It Real." She arranged for it to be a part of a special event at Borders (happening tonight). I thought I'd share the event with you to spark a few ideas.

"Do You Have Game," the event taking place at the Borders in Columbus Circle, will feature a night of fun and games, games like "Keep It Real."

In your marketing, try to think of a creative event like this one, an event that can take place at a recognizable location and can involve something that will attract customers, such as a free product demonstration. In this case, anyone who goes to the well-known, well-placed Borders in Columbus Circle in NYC can play the game "Keep It Real" for free.

And always remember to put your event out for everyone to see. My friend put the game night on Facebook as an event and invited her many friends. She also created a video ad and put it on YouTube.

What are you doing to give customers a fun time? What kind of events do you plan for your business? Is it appropriate and useful to give away free products or to allow customers to experiment with products?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Lesson From Disney: When a Customer Doesn't Like a Rule, Turn It Around

When you live in SoCal, have a Disneyland season pass, and go to Disneyland as often as I do, you begin to notice things. You might have just read that book about all the hidden Mickeys, or you might just be an observant person. Either way, you notice things. For example, you might notice that Disney does not sell gum at its parks.

I'd imagine Disney's customers would not be too happy if Disney made a no bubble gum rule, a rule that would likely be impossible to enforce. So, instead of making its customers irritated, Disneyland Resort turned it around into an implied rule instead of a stated rule. Disney does not sell gum in its parks, but it doesn't make it illegal either. This keeps customers happy. It keeps the park clean, but allows customers, hopefully the more responsible customers, to bring their own gum.

How do you keep your customers happy? What do you do to sweeten the seemingly negative things?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Using Documentary to Make Your Business Stand Out

It's amazing how many people prefer video over text these days, and that's something to take advantage of. I've done behind the scenes videos for a theater company and a trailer for a book, and I recently came across another great use of video: a mini documentary.

David Meerman Scott used a documentary to promote his book, "Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead," and wrote a post about branding a business through video on his blog.

The great thing about his suggestion is that it allows a business to reach out to customers who enjoy video and to tell them a memorable story. People love to learn new things, and a documentary gives them things to learn. Even the person who's not a big fan of video may be more intrigued by a documentary that feels more familiar; It's like watching something on television.

People also love a good story that makes them feel good or makes them feel attached to the people in the story. A good story gives the customer something to relate to. Combine the story with content the customer can learn from, and the customer will be thrilled and intrigued, far more intrigued by the documentary than by an advertisement.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lessons From Subway: Cater to Guest in Person and Online

Here's a lesson from your local Subway store: cater to the customer both in person and online. It's not enough to network online. You have to build your brand, your business in the physical, face-to-face world, as well.

I went to a Subway sandwich store in Southern California today. There was a clear, simple sign out where I could easily see it announcing the fact that I could leave without being charged tax if I bought a cold sandwich to go. The sign pointed out right away in bold that the customer could avoid taxes: "Buy your sandwich without paying tax." It then proceded to compare other options to the no tax option. Simple, satisfying, and helpful. It served the customer.

How do you serve your customers?

On top of the great customer service, the fast food restaurant also displayed a sign advertising its affiliation with other Southern California Subways, all of which share a Twitter page.

How simple do you keep your ads? Is it important to limit yourself enough to keep you from going overboard with advertising?

Subway's advertising, in this case, was simple, and yet it managed to draw my attention. That combined with the custmer service won me over. As John Jantsch (author of The Referral Engine) says, it's important to balance social media with in-person service. You're bound to keep customers' loyalty if you follow this rule.

Video preview of "The Referral Engine" after the jump.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Intro: 4 Types of Business Stars

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may
I wish I might...
Make my business the brightest tonight!

I've been trying to think of a blog title for a while now. Last night, I went star gazing with my dad. I always do my best thinking when I'm in a relaxed state, and as I lay there looking at the stars, waiting for meteors to fly across the sky, it hit me that the marketing business is much like the Universe. There are so many stars out there, so many businesses to compete for the customer's attention.

There are 4 types of businesses/stars in this analogy:

  1. The little-known business that ignores trends, stays boring, and refuses to make itself known is like a star in the Universe that can't be seen from Earth.

  2. Some businesses are like the meteors in the sky. They come extremely bright, but go by extremely fast. The excitement doesn't last long, and in reality, the meteor is a small grain of sand.

  3. Other businesses are like one of the smaller stars in the sky, shining brightly, clearly visible, but not attracting much attention.

  4. You want your business to be the brightest star of all. Even better, you want your star to either stand out like the North Star or to be a part of a constellation that makes it more recognizable.
If you want your star business to stand out, you need to pick up on the latest marketing/PR trends and use them to your advantage. Connect to other people, network with other businesses, and create a constellation of resources that will make you last longer than any other business.

It's my hope that this blog will help you make your business into the brightest star. I know it's something I constantly aspire to. Let's learn together. Let's go stargazing!

Looking forward to getting to know you,

Harmony Wheeler