QR-ing it

QR Codes are one of those pieces of tech that marketers are still trying to figure out.

Check out this article from Drew:

Beverage start up counts on QR codes

Posted: 23 Jun 2011 06:49 AM PDT

Will we start to see QR codes on pkg goods?

Starts ups are tough…especially consumer goods start ups. In the crowded energy drink space, you have to be pretty innovative to push beyond getting someone’s attention and converting that to a purchase.

So HYDRIVE Energy, the maker of upstart HYDRIVE Enhanced Water Energy Drinks, decided to try something different. On two of their products – decal and extra strength, they’ve added a QR code.

When scanned, the QR codes take consumers to a mobile site offering a constantly changing array of wacky fitness trivia, contests, free prizes and product information.

They worked with a group of digital marketing students at Harvard Business School to create a QR code strategy for the brand. One of the things that makes this campaign unique is that when you scan the code, you’re delivered to the site which delivers fresh and varied content each time.

By offering different content with each scan, they’ve replicated the “under-the-cap” promotional experience often used in traditional soft drink marketing but in a digital way. According to HYDRIVE’s director of marketing, their goal is to create a more interactive and intimate relationship with our product.

The HYDRIVE QR site features four sections; a changing daily trivia fact or a free prize; a monthly sweepstakes; a link to product information; and a link to Facebook. The social media component is an important strategic initiative for HYDRIVE as they continue to build it out.

You can check it out by finding the nearest location to buy a HYDRIVE Energy here or just click here to go right to the site.

What do you think — good use of QR codes?

The Benefits of Unopened Email

Yes, we all want our email marketing campaigns to be successful.

But there is value in even the unopened emails according to this piece from Marketing Profs:

How to Make the ‘Nudge Effect’ Work for You

“You may be frustrated with unopened emails and low clickthroughs, but be reassured that even if your subscribers don’t open your email, its presence in their inbox leads to a tangible impact on brand awareness and sales via online and other channels,” writes Dela Quist in a classic issue of the Alchemy Worx newsletter.

The subtle impact of the unopened email’s presence is called the “Nudge Effect.” Quist explains how it works:

  • The recipient scans her inbox much like a triage nurse—deciding what needs attention now, what can wait and what she’ll delete without reading.
  • Even if she doesn’t open your email, seeing your brand name in the from line and your pitch in the subject line can influence her buying decisions.

Alchemy Worx began to investigate the phenomenon when they saw an uptick in purchases—and a surge in natural, PPC and affiliate searches—from subscribers who had left marketing messages unopened. “Your message, in other words, may have been just the prompt a subscriber needed to pick up the phone or make a purchase via another channel,” he explains.

According to Quist, you can optimize for the Nudge Effect by:

  • Writing subject lines that encourage recipients to take action in other channels (eg, Call our sales team for a 20% discount).
  • Timing delivery of messages with subject lines that tell subscribers about an in-store deal the next day.

“This way people do not even need to open the email,” he says. “[T]hey remember the message that relates to other channels and can follow up your offer.”

The Po!nt: One-liners can work. Take advantage of the Nudge Effect by using subject lines to deliver brand messages and generate cross-channel action.

Source: Alchemy Worx.

What’s a Google?

Last weekend I spent a considerable amount of time exploring Google Plus.

This website is powered by Google, I have my entire ScLoHo business built on the Google Apps platform including my email.

My phone uses Android, from Google.

I recently started using my Google Voice number as my business phone.

So, I want Google to survive…

Laura Ries wrote about this recently:

Google Today, Gone Tomorrow?

What’s a Google? It’s a search engine. Want to find something online, you Google it.

Advertising, the money making machine for Google, accounts for practically all of its revenue. Google also depends mostly on the English-speaking market in the United States and the U.K. for 59% of its revenue.

After domination of a category like search, the question business leaders and investors always have is, What’s next?

What’s next is usually taking the incredible success of the mother brand and extending it into new areas. As well as gobbling up lots of other companies and rebranding them with the same brand name.

This is exactly Google’s pattern today. And it’s exactly the pattern of many companies yesterday. Companies like Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

If you know me, you know what I’m going to say next. It is a mistake.

The power of a brand comes from its ability to own a word in the mind. The more things you put your brand name on, the weaker that name becomes in the mind.

Say Yahoo to somebody today and they yawn. It means nothing because it over-extended and over-expanded its brand, leaving itself vulnerable to competition.

Say AOL and you think dial-up and failed mergers and expansions.

In the short term, it is hard to see the dangers of expansion. The “Let’s Google everything” strategy gives a boost to the company and more importantly the stock. While consumers and investors get fooled into thinking the strategy is sound, it is not.

(Company leaders who think in the short term are likely to run their companies into the ground.)

Yesterday, Google announced it was going to rename several non-Google brands as Google products. So say goodbye to Picasa and Blogger. Hello Google Photos and Google Blogs.

This is on top of the other Google brands such as: Google Alerts, Google Earth, Google Image Search, Google Labs, Google Local, Google Mobile, Google News, Google Video, Gmail, Google Analytics (Web traffic measurement), Google Chrome (Web browser), Google Desktop Search, Google Language Tools (translation tools), Google Talk (instant messaging), Google Toolbar.

But Google isn’t stopping there, its much-talked-about social-networking brand Google+ is coming soon. Google hopes Google+ will be a Facebook killer.

Just like Bing was going to be a Google killer?

The problem with Picasa won’t be solved by calling it Google Photos. The problem with Picasa is that wasn’t first and doesn’t dominate its category. Flickr does.

Launched in 1999, Blogger was one of the first blog-publishers. But its generic name made it harder to cement the Blogger brand into the mind. In 2003, Google bought Blogger.

Google has done better with other acquisitions that not only were pioneers in a category like Blogger, but also had superior brand names. Namely, YouTube and Android. Wisely, Google plans on changing neither of these names.

Google is a monster today. And like most monsters, it thinks it is invincible and not subject to the laws of marketing. But nothing could be further than the truth.

Google should study history. They don’t want to be the AOL or Yahoo of tomorrow. Google needs to surround its strong search brand with other brands and other brand names that dominate new emerging categories.

Toyota did that with Lexus, Prius and Scion. Google that Google.

Build it Right

An amazing thing has been going on the past several years.

You and I have been building our reputations.

If you have been careful with your life, giving your word, standing by your word, doing the work, standing by your work, and helping others with a sincere heart, then you have been building it right.

I’m not talking about perfection, but there is a big difference between deceit, and mistakes.

Drew wrote about this recently:

Your brand’s foundation

Posted: 18 Jun 2011 07:51 AM PDT

How are you building your foundation?

A brand, much like someone’s personality, isn’t something you concoct or fabricate. You can’t put it on and take it off at will. It’s not window dressing, but instead it comes from within your company, the culture, the people, the vision and of course…the marketplace in which it exists.

You can, of course, amplify your brand by doing the right things with intention and frequency. But…the foundation is already set.

In fact…you build your foundation with every choice you make as an organization and as the individuals who work for that organization. David Ogilvy once said “every advertisement is part of the long-term investment in the personality of the brand.” In today’s digital world where everything is archived by Google — it goes far beyond that.

Long before you are consciously on the radar screen of your target audience…you are creating your brand’s foundation with every:

  • Tweet
  • Facebook update
  • Snarly employee wearing one of your logo’d shirts in a bar
  • Branded truck driving carelessly
  • Sponsorship of an event
  • Comment left on someone else’s blog, FB, etc.
  • Advertising/Marketing offers

Think of each action as a log or brick. Without meaning to — you are stacking each of those choices/actions together to create my first impression of you. The foundation upon which I will decide if I want to keep interacting.

And by the way — your absence is as noticeable as your presence. Those choices should be made as carefully as deciding where you do want to be seen.

Here’s my question. How intentional are you being about your brand’s foundation? Are you building it with a vision and purpose or is it just happening haphazardly?

Hat tip to Derrick Daye for reminding me of this Ogilvy quote.

Death by Discount

Unless you are Walmart, discounts will drive you out of business.

You lose your identity and condition buyers to never pay full price.

Al Ries wrote about this for AdAge.com:

Discountitus, the Disease That’s Sweeping the Marketing Community

Positioning Is the Only Cure

Published: July 06, 2011

Last month, J.C. Penney hired a new chief executive who used to run Apple stores. In a New York Times article, here’s how CEO Ron Johnson described his plans for Penney: “Take this great American brand and make it become something unbelievably exciting.”

Fat chance.

Most department stores are infected
You seldom see a department-store advertisement based on anything except a sale. The latest J.C. Penney ad was a six-page insert promoting a “Fourth of July sale.”

In addition to dozens of “super hot buys,” the insert features “Red Zone clearance, final-markdowns 80% off. New markdowns 50-70% off.” Also featured is “jcpCA$H,” offering consumers “$10 off any purchase totaling $25 & up.”

Belk, Dillards, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears and most mainstream department stores are also infected by discountitus.

Kohl’s, in particular. A typical mailing: “Start with these incredible sale prices of 20-60% off. Take an extra 15% off everything. Plus add a $5 bonus.”

Airlines to pizza to car insurance
In industry after industry, the discount is the focus of the advertising.

Here’s the opening dialog of a typical Progressive commercial featuring Flo and a potential customer.

“Are you a safe driver?”


“Discount! Do you own a home?”


“Discount! Are you gonna buy online?”



Over at Geico, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Geico and Progressive are the biggest spenders in the category. Last year Geico spent $741 million on advertising. Progressive, $506 million. Longtime car-insurance leaders like State Farm ($453 million) and Allstate ($368 million) are lagging behind.

Penney vs. Apple
Over at J.C. Penney, if Ron Johnson plans to use an Apple strategy to turn his company around, it’s too late. Once discountitus has spread through an industry, it’s awfully hard to eradicate.

Take airlines. Yesterday, airline companies competed on the basis of who could build the better brand. Today, airline companies compete on the basis of who can offer the bigger discounts. No wonder Southwest Airlines is a big winner, and most airline customers can’t explain the difference between American, Delta and United.

One reason why discountitus is spreading so rapidly is the internet. Clipping coupons is being replaced by typing on keyboards. Groupon and the other daily-deal websites are only one factor. Anybody who owns a computer today can get competitive prices on a host of items almost instantly.

Unless you want to spend the rest of your life doing discount marketing, you should be asking yourself, “What’s the cure?”

Believers vs. agnostics
Take a closer look at the consumer a company is trying to reach with its advertising and PR.

Psychologically, consumers can be divided into two categories: 1) Brand believers and 2) Brand agnostics. And they vary by category. They can be believers in one category (ketchup) and agnostics in another category (airlines).

Watch believers go through the Sunday supplements. They only clip coupons for brands they already use.

Watch agnostics go through the Sunday supplements. They ignore brands and clip coupons for categories. (Extreme agnostics don’t buy anything without a coupon.)

Discountitus is turning brand believers into brand agnostics. The lure of a “big discount” is enough to seduce a consumer into thinking that all brands in the category are pretty much alike.

In categories that have not been seriously contaminated, the cure for discountitus is a dose of positioning. But as Prophet, a leading marketing consultancy, reported in its latest state of marketing study: “Positioning has always been about differentiation. But in this unfolding environment, differentiation is short-lived.”

We differ on that. The cure for discountitus is not differentiation. Nor is positioning essentially about differentiation, either.

Positioning is owning a word in the mind
As discountitus spreads its way through the marketing community, that word more often than not is “leadership.”

Leadership is what makes Google the most powerful brand in the “search” category. Leadership is what makes iPod the most powerful brand in the “MP3 player” category. Leadership is what makes Heinz, Hertz, Haagen-Daz, Hellmann’s, Home Depot and a host of other brands powerful in their categories.

But how to you get to be the leader? And how does the leader keep from catching the discountitus disease?

Launch a new brand in a new category
Over the past few decades, it’s become clear that the only way to become a leader is to launch a new brand in a new category.

Like Apple did with the iPad, the first tablet-computer. Currently, the iPad has some 75% of the tablet market.

An also-ran that has been line-extended to death has no hope of ever becoming the market leader. The best it can do is to narrow its focus to shore up a position in a segment of the category.

Has Pepsi-Cola ever substantially increased its share of the cola market with Pepsi-Cola Retro, Pepsi Throwback, Pepsi Twist, Pepsi Natural, Pepsi Raw, Pepsi A.M., Pepsi Kona, Pepsi Light, Pepsi Max, Pepsi XL, Pepsi Blue, Pepsi One or Crystal Pepsi?

No, it has not. In fact, regular Pepsi-Cola has fallen behind Diet Coke to third place in the cola category.

What’s next for Pepsi-Cola? More of the same. Pepsi Next.

Lower the boom on price
If you read the papers, you know the regular price of most products or services on the market today is “50% off.”

Every Thursday, our local newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, features “This week’s best deals.” Last week, there were eight. One was “free.” One was “40% off” and the other six were “50% off.”

That’s not unusual. By far, the vast majority of daily deals are 50% off or BOGO — buy one, get one free.

When rumors of Apple’s imminent launch of a tablet computer circulated on the internet, the pundits predicted the product would be priced around a thousand dollars.

Apple surprised them with a list price of $495. The company lowered the boom at a level that competitors had difficulty getting under. Today, you find the table-computer market remarkably free of discountitus.

Apple used the same strategy with its iTunes brand by insisting on a 99-cent price. (Don’t feel sorry for Apple. The company is making its money on volume, not on margin.)

When you’re the leader in a category, you cannot be overtaken by a competitor who thinks differentiation is going to make a big difference.

And when you’re the leader in the category and you lower the boom on price, you can inoculate the category from the disease of discountitus.

Al Ries is chairman of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm he runs with his daughter Laura.

Wednesday Night Marketing News from Mediapost

Raise your hand if you knew that Wendy’s and Arby’s were jointly owned.

Put your hand down, because they aren’t anymore. Details below:


by Karl Greenberg

Suzuki has more reason than ever to talk up its auto business here, as vehicles like the Kizashi sedan are no longer essentially Korean Daewoos built by GM. Marketing Daily caught up with Steve Younan, director of marketing for Suzuki’s automotive division in the U.S., at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for the kick-off of the Suzuki Kicks road show. …Read the whole story >>


by Aaron Baar

“In all of the surveys we’ve done, price comes in as the number one reason people don’t buy 3DTVs,” Retrevo.com’s Andrew Eisner tells Marketing Daily. “All things being equal, what we’re saying is that consumers will go for [3DTVs], even if it’s only for the odd movie or sporting event.” …Read the whole story >>


by Karlene Lukovitz

In one spot, “Something New,” a woman prepares a meal with “perfectly seasoned,” reduced-fat chicken sausage, as her inner voice reveals that the ulterior motive is creating the perfect moment in which to tell her husband that she’s signed them up for dancing lessons. …Read the whole story >>


by Karl Greenberg

A new study from YouGov BrandIndex says consumers are actually losing interest in domestic car brands, while luxury and international brand perception is improving despite shortages from the earthquake off the coast of the nation. …Read the whole story >>


by Tanya Irwin

The new Wrist Blaster cup filled with an Alienade Slurpee beverage is modeled after the mysterious, glowing shackle that encircles the hero’s wrist in the movie. The cup emanates a blue backlight with the flip of a switch. Retailing for $6.99, the collectible cup includes the first Slurpee fill-up. …Read the whole story >>

Making Impressions

Chuck McKay shares with us a ton of excellent advice:

How to Instantly Make a Poor Customer Impression

Jun 8th, 2011 | | Category: Credibility, Critical Non-Essentials, Fresh Catch

Restaurant Breakfast

Restaurant Breakfast

Roger met me at a local family restaurant. With the ease of old friends not having seen each other for months, we slipped into a “catching up” conversation over breakfast.

I casually asked, “How’s your food, Rog?” Roger paused, considered, and told me, “It’s quite good.

I pointed to the ceiling fan roughly ten feet to my left, and said, “Notice the dust build-up on the fan?” Roger confessed he hadn’t. I directed his attention to the rear door, and asked, “Can you see the cobwebs on the Exit sign from here?” Roger admitted that he could. I pointed out the filthy black build up on the air return vent next to the kitchen.

Again I asked, “How’s the food taste now, Roger?” He replied, “Not as good.

I wanted to know why. Roger looked at me, and disappointedly told me, “If the front of the house is this filthy, I can only imagine how disgusting the kitchen must be.

Critical Non-Essentials

Dr. Paddi Lund

Dr. Paddi Lund

One wouldn’t think restaurants have much to do with dentistry, but there is a commonality.

People don’t have any specific knowledge as to whether the practitioner they see is any good at dentistry. They aren’t qualified to judge his education, experience, or even the quality of his fillings.

But, they do know how to recognize that the florescent lights in his hallway are flickering, and that he’s out of paper towels in the men’s room.

Australian Dentist, Paddi Lund, named these little signs that your business is properly attended to as “Critical Non-Essentials.” They are items which have no effect on the service one provides, but have tremendous influence on the opinions of customers about the quality of the work performed.

The florescent tubes and paper towels are non-essential to the practice of dentistry. They are critical to patient assessment of the dentist’s competence.

So the patients conclude a dentist who won’t keep his practice equipped and stocked with the basics can’t be a very good business person. By extension, he’s probably not a very good dentist, either.

Clean return air vents are non-essential to food service. They are critical to the customer’s assessment of food quality.

Vacuumed carpets and tidy shelves are non-essential to fabric sales. They are critical to customer assessment of fabric quality.

Interestingly, it isn’t just the critical non-essentials that form people’s opinions of our businesses.

One Man’s “Untidy” is Another Man’s “Creative.”

We expect novelists to work in cluttered offices. Neat, tidy, everything-in-its-place organization would be out of character. But an attorney working in a disorganized, untidy office projects incompetence.

And florescent lights hanging by chains from the ceiling are perfectly appropriate for a warehouse shopping club, but woefully inadequate for a jewelery.

In general, softer surfaces, subdued colors, wall treatments, indirect lighting, and less noisy showrooms prepare shoppers for higher prices. They also help customers to “rank” us within our professions. And then they compare us to our competitors.

A carpeted store with wallpaper, indirect lights, and soft music will project better quality merchandise than a store with cement floors, painted cinderblock walls, and loud echoes of forklifts.

But, if that second store is impeccably clean, while the first store’s windows are grimy and restroom trash baskets are overflowing, you can predict where people will prefer to shop.

Consciously or not, people judge our competence both by their expectations of our profession, and by those critical non-essentials.

If those non-essentials are so important, why doesn’t everyone pay closer attention to them? Mostly because the change from excellent to unacceptable is so gradual.

And when businesses are running as lean as most are today, there simply isn’t anyone assigned the responsibility of checking the volume of the background music or the dates on the magazines in the waiting room.

We Need Systems

If each business had a list of assignments that was checked before they opened each day, and periodically throughout the day, it wouldn’t much matter who was on duty, would it? The work of the company would be done, and those non-essentials which contribute so much to each business’ image would be attended to as well.

If you don’t have a checklist, create one. Do it today.

When I’m evaluating a new client (and his competitors) I use a proprietary list of over 100 points at which customers come into contact with the company. Mine is organized by our five senses.

What contributes to imperfections customers could see, hear, or smell? What will they touch? What can they taste?

What will contribute to your customers first impressions? Their last? Does their experience end at check out? In the parking lot? Or when you follow-up after the sale?

Your checklist may resemble that of other businesses, but it won’t be identical. How could it?

What About Customer Referrals?

Even if you never “wow” a customer, over time, what do you think will happen if you never disappoint?

Does your company use such a system? Join the conversation, and tell us about it.

If not, I’d suggest you start one today. It makes your job much easier when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Questions about identifying critical non-essentials in your business may be directed to ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call Chuck at 304-208-7654.