Archive for March, 2008

Don’t assume lazy means loyal when customers stick around

Sally Saville Hodge

I’m the kind of customer that businesses love: I never seem to be able to find the time to seek out a better deal. So I stick around. For a while, at least.

Please don’t think less of me for it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I have a lot of stuff on my plate and the last thing I want to do is get on the phone and wrangle with customer service folks for a better deal. But I’m not the loyal customer they may think I am. I’m just a lazy one. And it’s loyal customers that ultimately make or break a brand.

All I’m hurting, I know, is my own pocketbook. But still. At its root is a deep-seated irritation with those companies that can’t see all the implications of the “your next best customer is the one you already have” credo. That means you make them happy. You study your relationship with them. And you anticipate their needs. Anticipate is, of course, the operative word.

Why do I have to go to them to beg for a better deal? Why are the bargains geared to new customers? Do they expect me to have loyalty to them when they don’t have any to me?

The whole customer relationship thing is a two-sided coin, of course. In “The Bad Table,” Seth Godin comments on its other side. As a new patron to a hot new restaurant, he and his group were given the worst seats in the house even though the place was only a third full. So, he asks, who gets your best effort? The newbie who might be converted into a loyal follower? Or customers who have already attained that status?

Marketers are challenged to master the balancing act between the dual mandates for volume (short-term growth) and quality (the kinds of loyal customers that drive sustained growth). By and large, I don’t think they do a terrific job at it.

Here’s the deal. Ultimately, as Godin puts it: “You can’t have a bad table.


March 28, 2008 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

What’s to love about hating Sarah Marshall

Judi Schindler

In Chicago, you can’t help running into billboards that say “I am so over you, Sarah Marshall,” or “My mom always hated you, Sarah Marshall,” or cruelest of all, “You do look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall.”

So I bit. I went to to see what new promotional strategy was in play. What I found was a very engaging social marketing campaign for the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Jason Segal (who plays Marshall on How I Met Your Mother) and Kristen Bell (best known for the title role in Veronica Mars).

The Web site purports to be a MySpace/Facebook site for Peter Bretter, a 26-year-old television composer. It lists his “Likes” (Muppets, Broadway Musicals) and “Dislikes” (Sarah Marshall Fan Club, people who mispronounce Dracula) and daily blogs since February 28, which chronicle his breakup with Sarah Marshall.

My favorite blog entries are camcorder videos that show Peter disintegrating from self-delusion to drunken despair. Daily entries keep viewers coming back for more.

I am not alone in taking notice of the campaign. The Slash Film blog had a posting a couple of days ago that calls the campaign “genius.” The NBC affiliate in Dallas ran a segment. And blogger Shandy King thought it was a novel way to promote a movie.

This kind of “teaser” campaign is actually not new. I remember Folgers Coffee’s introduction to Chicago decades ago, supported by billboards and newspapers ads for at least a month boasting “I will bring a mountain to Chicago – Captain Folger.”

What is new is the very targeted and integrated approach to reaching the 20-something marketplace. The billboards are concentrated on bus shelters and train platforms, which are heavily used by this demographic. Personal Web pages and blogs are still primarily “young” media. And the youthful language/humor helps create buzz among the target market.

The Sarah Marshall campaign reminds us that every marketing program geared to populations under the age of 40 (40 being the new 30) should have a strong Web component. Furthermore, it never hurts to entertain as well as inform. The use of humor can increase the number of people you reach exponentially, as your message gets passed along from one potential customer to another. Then the whole thing takes on a life of its own when you attract coverage from newspapers, TV and talk radio, not to mention blogs like this.

March 21, 2008 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

Fed up with email? Customers are, too

Helena Bouchez

In Email Insider’s most recent blog entry, “Helping People Become Better Email Users,” Chad White describes his experience at the OMMA (Online Media, Marketing and Advertising) Expo at the Email Experience Council’s booth where he suggested a visitor subscribe to their free weekly newsletter. The visitor’s reply? “Whoa, another email newsletter? I get too much email as it is.”

It’s something to think about the next time you help plan an email campaign or launch a newsletter for a client. Assuming their target market even reads email anymore. If they’re younger than 25, chances are they don’t. They’re communicating real time via IM, Facebook or Twitter. Heck, even executives Twitter now. But I digress.

In his post, White gave several suggestions to help assuage people’s frustrations with email. They’re good. I created @Action folders for both my work and personal email accounts and emptied my Inbox. My Inbox hasn’t been 100 percent empty since 1995. It looks and feels sort of weird, but I like it. I’m fairly confident, however, that most email recipients are somewhat less process oriented and organized than he or I. Which means my client’s e-newsletters are splashing down into a sea of communications numbering in the hundreds, maybe thousands. Lost among thousands of little email voices pleading with recipients to “Read me! Pay attention! Take action!” No small wonder so much email gets deleted or ignored. Who can take the guilt?

To preserve this communications outlet among those still engaged with it, we marketers have to use it wisely. Make sure the email you send to your target audience is relevant, engaging and if at all possible, personalized. The technology exists, and there are partners out there ready to help you. It’s not cheap. But consider the cost of a poorly targeted email campaign that causes the recipient to view your brand as irrelevant or annoying. Some things are better left unsent.

March 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

Skype lives up to its hype

Helena Bouchez

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a tech head and early adopter. My most recent technological foray: Skype, a program that allows you to make free calls (and video calls) over the Internet (when both parties use the program). This is accomplished by “voice-over-IP” or VOIP technology. (VIOP enables sound to be transmitted over the Internet, similar to a phone line.)

I use the term early adopter loosely; a friend prodded me to get with it so we could video chat. So I went and bought (another) headset and Web cam, and downloaded the software and installed it on my computer. It took a few minutes to get the Skype video calling working (the video part’s a little tricky), but once everything was operational, it was pretty amazing. (I still have to get Skype competitor ooVoo’s stuff working (not their fault); once I do, we’ll do a bake-off between the two.)

Video chatting is a much more personal and dynamic experience than a straight audio call because you have the additional layer of information received by being able to see people’s expressions when they talk. It’s not like being in the same room; it’s more like being on TV together.

As I was chatting with my friend, I couldn’t help think about potential applications and implications for business. Video conferencing technology has been around for years, but it’s expensive and cumbersome. To initiate a video conference with Skype (or ooVoo) requires each individual’s computer to be set up with the software, along with a headset (or microphone and speakers) and Web cam. And then, with very little effort, marketers could arrange a moderated panel discussion of experts from offices around the world and invite clients to attend. The panel discussion of experts from offices around the world and invite clients to attend. The session could also be recorded and then posted on their Web site as a Podcast or V-cast.

Curious? I hope so. Want to try it? Good. Go get an inexpensive headset and Web cam. Can’t find anyone to try it with? Email me at hbouchez at and I’ll give you my Skype ID.

March 18, 2008 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

Fun with typos

Sally Saville Hodge

Back in the days when I was a journalist, at one publication we maintained a “wall of shame” where we gleefully tacked the worst press releases, pitch letters and other sorts of fan mail. It was littered with pieces where the lead was buried at the end, new entrants to the “world’s longest release” category, and, well, let’s call them “unfortunate” typos.

That was way before the Web made it so much easier to share the wealth. Our friends over at The Bad Pitch Blog led the way on this front, and recently have taken typo ridicule to a totally new level.

They recently called out a most egregious typo, spotted on a job post for a VP, of er, well, you sort of have to see it to believe it. TBPB invites you to leave your best, one-line response to the job description. Don’t wait to play; the winner(s) will be announced soon and receive fame and some swag.

To play, go here. May the best, uh, candidate, win.

March 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

And the battle twixt technocrats and luddites rages

Sally Saville Hodge

One of the never-ending discussions in both the PR/marketing blog world and in related traditional media focuses on who gets it and who doesn’t when it comes to social media strategies. By now, it’s become obvious. Only a chosen few apparently get it.

The most recent salvo, picked up by the media and bloggers alike, was issued in the form of a recent survey of senior level corporate marketers by TNS media intelligence and Cymfony, a marketing influence analytics firm. Agencies – marketing, advertising and PR – are all behind the eight-ball, was the consensus: They lack practical experience and tend to try to shoehorn traditional tactics into social media space.

To me, this study shows some flaws. For starters, only 70-some senior level corporate marketers were included in the survey, and those apparently with Fortune 500-level firms like Hewlett Packard, Hyundai and Johnson & Johnson. That’s not a huge base. Moreover, to my mind, such players have the financial flexibility and the human capital that smaller businesses don’t of being able to take the risk of experimenting.

And for all their talk, yes, big businesses are shifting more of their budgets to social media, but the lion’s share is still directed toward traditional channels. To be sure, a study last year (subscription required) by Ad Age of major advertisers’ spending showed the most growth in non-measured media (including some forms of digital communication, like paid search). But nearly 60 percent of their ad spend still goes to TV, print and some forms of Internet advertising.

Bottom line, though, is that I find this ongoing conversation both troublesome and irritating.

On one hand, the smug superiority of many of the social media specialists is irksome. (One tells ClickZ’s Mike Grehan that she believes traditional PR shops are “on their way out.”) Do they think they invented this next best thing? Do they truly think the once and future interests and needs of all audiences are met solely through this one channel? Please.

But I also understand the disdain they feel for some — too many? – of the traditional shops that don’t even try to grow some modicum of understanding of the power some of these new vehicles have to grow a brand. Call it inertia. Call it lazy. Call it incurious. Or something else.

Personally, I put it down to something else. Like the “order taker” mentality that is way too prevalent, both among agencies and professionals on the client side. If clients and employers aren’t pushing for it, why should PR and marketing professionals move themselves to advance along the learning curve? Other factors: Fear of failure. Risk aversion. Discomfort with change.

I agree with what the senior level marketers seemed to be telling TNS and Cymfony. Those of us whose clients and bosses aren’t pushing us to test these new waters should at least be trying them on our own accounts and measuring how they’re working. That way, we’re in a much better position to recommend some of these strategies that might augment what’s being done on the traditional side.

There are experts out there who are willing to share, especially when there might be an opportunity to partner on business in the future. We’ve found them and tap into them regularly, and never once has anyone with my shop been called a Luddite (even if some of us might deserve it)!

And for heaven’s sake. Anyone who doesn’t have “familiarity with social media and search” as a prerequisite for new hires needs to wake up. These folks are out there, too. Bill Sledzik, who teaches PR at Kent State writes about making his students blog – or they fail. “You won’t grasp the ‘zen’ of Web 2.0 until you become one with the medium,” he writes.

As much as some wish they would, the new communications channels are not going away. In fact some are expanding on a monthly basis. Instead of resisting and lamenting halcyon days gone by, marketers need to stop whining, hold their nose and jump into the deep end of the social media pool.

March 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm 2 comments

Getting the viral marketing thing

Helena Bouchez

In addition to contributing to Diabloguer, I also maintain my own personal blog, where I wax poetic about all things bass guitar and being a 40-something female in the era of Demi and Desperate Housewives.

The sole purpose of my blog is to chronicle what is floating my boat or sinking my ship that day. According to Sitemeter, I only get about 25 to 50 visits a day so advertisers are not beating a path to my doorstep, trust me. And I’m in no danger of becoming the next Wonkette. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only people who peep it regularly are my friends – and that’s perfectly fine with me.

Once in a while, however, I am surprised by who reads. For example, last night I wrote and published a post titled “Low Bandwidth Blues,” in which I lamented my slow home Internet connection and complained about Comcast.

This morning I received an e-mail notification that Mark C., a representative from Comcast’s executive offices, had commented on my post. He apologized for my inconvenience and said that if I sent him my account number he’d do his best to help rectify the problem.

Hmmm. It seems some marketers have caught on to how to leverage this blogging thing. Since January, I’ve received responses from the marketing and/or PR departments of at least three companies whose products I’ve blogged about, including natural makeup maker Mineral Fusion and video/chat provider Did it make me feel better about the brands? More engaged? Cared about?

You bet.

Of course, I published Mark’s comment. You see, I’m not opposed to saying nice things about Comcast. Comcast just had to give me something nice to talk about. More to the point, not only did I comment back on my own blog, but I’m also writing about my experience over here, essentially giving Comcast another shot of (badly needed) love. And Mineral Fusion and got another well-deserved buss on the cheek as well.

So now, those who read my blog know what my experiences have been with all three brands. Similarly, readers of this blog will learn a bit more, with positive takeaways. Some of them will share with their friends. And then their friends also may pass the word on. You get the picture.

That’s the kind of power social media represents – and what marketers are buzzing about. Viral marketing: it’s a powerful way to build a brand.

March 6, 2008 at 6:45 pm 4 comments

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