Foreplay starts in the morning.
I have a buddy who told me about a disagreement he had with his girlfriend.
The two of them weren’t getting along and hadn’t been nice to each other throughout the day. But after dinner was done and the dishes were put away, he started to feel amorous. Hoping the day would end better than it started, he went out of his way to apologize and be solicitous.
It didn’t sound like his change of heart was very sincere and his girlfriend didn’t fall for it. And even though he turned on the charm and tried being affectionate, his girlfriend called his bluff. She stopped his advances cold.
When he questioned her lack of interest she answered tersely:
I know what you’re thinking.
If you’re male, you’re probably thinking: “Ouch. Cold, dude.”
And if you’re a woman you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “You go girl.”
But regardless of your gender, you’re probably also wondering why this anecdote is in a blog that purports to be about building brand value.
Salacious click bait? Au contraire my little cynic. It’s a valuable marketing lesson for you.
You see, my buddy’s verbal red light is not only an insight into his relationship, but a great way to think about your customer relationships. Because many companies believe it’s important to interact with their customers only when those customers show up to buy something.
Wal-Mart greeters don’t say hello until you walk into the store. The Whole Foods app uses geo-locating to offer you discounts and specials once you stroll their aisles. And the Nordstrom sales associate walks out from behind the cash register after you’ve made your purchase.
But great brands also know that the best way to build and maintain their customer relationships is to delight their clients when they’re not in the process of buying something. Metaphorically speaking, they know that foreplay – even the sale process type – starts in the morning.
This blog post you’re reading is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I have been writing these marketing messages since 2007 and I send them out every single week at no charge to my readers. My simple goal is to be useful, valuable, and enjoyable. That way, I hope to build a relationship with you and the rest of my 86,000 readers. Of course I don’t expect that any direct business will come out of these essays on any given day. But over the decade that I’ve been sending these posts and building my list, the relationships this blog have facilitated have created all sorts of great opportunities for me.
Thanks to the foreplay this blog has created, I was offered my first opportunity to talk about branding on national TV. Since that time, I’ve been on TV more than 250 times.
Thanks to the people I’ve me through this blog, I have been invited to speak at conferences around the world, I’ve been offered opportunities to present my advertising agency to lots of great clients, and I was offered a book deal for All About Them.
Perhaps most telling, almost all the inbound email inquiries I get from people interested in hiring me or learning more about what I can do from them show up as replies to the week’s blog post. That means that people know they can find me through the blog. It also means this blog keeps me top of mind with my tribe until they are ready to respond to my virtual foreplay.
And unlike my buddy’s unfortunate evening, many of the interactions my foreplay facilitates conclude with very happy endings. Thinking about how to delight your customers when they’re not buying something can do the same thing for you, too.Published on February 21st, 2017
Companies including Uber, Lyft, Under Armor, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Anheuser Busch have all found themselves on one side or the other of the current chasm of political polarization.
Celebrities including Beyoncé, Steph Curry, The Rock, Tom Brady, Mike Tyson, and Dennis Rodman have too.
Once upon a time it was business suicide to take sides. But today, more and more companies and celebrities are lining up on one side or the other. Some, like Lyft and Under Armor, have done so because of their leaders’ political leanings. Some, like Nordstrom and Macy’s, say they’ve wound up taking sides simply because of non-partisan business decisions. And some, such as Uber and Budweiser probably found themselves the victims of unintended consequences. They had a political position thrust on them thanks to the interpretation of their behavior by others who view the company’s actions through their own tinted lenses.
What is unarguable is regardless of the reason a company or celebrity finds themselves on one or the other side of a political issue, it can have a drastic effect on their business. As we discussed last week in The Trump Effect, Uber saw their app deleted from 200,000 customers’ smartphones at the same time Starbucks and Lyft saw their businesses increase.
Clearly Uber did not transcend politics.
Of course, taking sides and using partisan positioning to build a brand and a business is nothing new. Sonny Bono, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, and Clint Eastwood were all darlings of the right long before it became fashionable. Using the same strategy, the backwoods stars of Duck Dynasty rode their conservative positions to incredible, if improbable, success.
On the other side, stars including Barbara Streisand, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, and Harry Belafonte all built their audiences and brands by firmly attaching themselves to America’s progressive movement. And today we see a repeat of this strategy by entertainers including Jennifer Lopez, the members of A Tribe Called Quest, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seth Meyers, and so many more.
But it’s not always strategic. Many companies and celebrities who find themselves on one side or the other probably had no intention of making their opinions so public. Instead, their ideological outings could have been forced by supporters or haters on social media sites. Or maybe it was something else. Because as film producer Seth Berkowitz asked on my blog last week, “did they each (take a stand) based on their strongly held personal beliefs or out of a desire not to have their personal brands devalued by association” with an unpopular sponsor or boss?
Offense? Defense? Circumstance? Whatever it was, none of the following brands were able to transcend politics.
LGBTQ supporters will no longer eat at Chick-Fil-A or shop at Hobby Lobby.
Trump supporters are staying away from Starbucks, Lyft, Pepsi, Oreos, Netflix, Ben & Jerry’s, and – shockingly – the NFL.
Trump detractors are boycotting Yuengling, L.L. Bean, Uber, Under Armor and up to 200 more companies.
Dakota Access Pipeline naysayers are boycotting Bank of America, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and almost 40 other banks.
Interestingly though, some brands can transcend politics and appeal to both ends of the spectrum. Bruce Springsteen wrote both Born in the USA and The Ghost of Tom Joad and is beloved by both right- and left-leaning music fans. This even though he’s made it very clear where his loyalties lie. For those who weren’t sure, the Boss clearly walked his talk when he repeatedly refused to meet with New Jersey Governor and uber-Springsteen fan Chris Christie.
Steve Jobs is also a hero of both left and right. Rightwing mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh fell all over himself to praise the entrepreneur, saying, “Steve Jobs epitomized American exceptionalism.” Somehow Limbaugh ignored the fact that the Apple CEO was the son of a Syrian immigrant and an outspoken liberal who also outsourced his company’s manufacturing to China at the same time he sent his company’s financial assets to Ireland.
Tea Party darling Ayn Rand created objectivism and stood for individual liberty. Because of this, Rand was also an ardent atheist and supporter of reproductive rights. Still, that didn’t stop Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from listing Rand’s classic, Atlas Shrugged, as one of the three books he most frequently rereads. As he told The Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”
The saying “Politics makes strange bedfellows,” was adapted from William Shakespeare’s “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” And nowhere is either saying truer than in today’s intersection of business and politics. Because today there’s no mission without margin and no margin in the middle.
So stay neutral if you can, take a stand if you must. But for real brand power, take a page from Bruce, Steve, and Ayn.
Transcend politics.Published on February 13th, 2017
The Trump Effect.
When Uber eliminated their surge pricing during the JFK taxi strike, #deleteUber trended across social media. In a lightning-fast response, competitor Lyft announced that they were donating $1 million to the ACLU. Two days later, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from President Trump’s economic advisory council to try and salvage Uber’s reputation. But it was too late. Over 200,000 Uber customers had already deleted their accounts. Uber had so many deletions that they created a new process to handle all the people fleeing their company. At the same time, Lyft’s app shot to the very top of both Apple and Android’s download stats.
In response to Trump’s executive order to bar entry of refugees from seven Muslim countries, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pledged they would hire 10,000 refugees in their stores around the world. The next day, #BoycottStarbucks trended highest on Twitter with some posters pledging to stop patronizing the coffee shops. But simultaneously, Schultz’s supporters posted their intention to increase their purchases.
No one noticed Schultz’s pledge was a continuation of the company’s 2013 promise to hire veterans and active duty spouses. As the company said, “…we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel… where our military has asked for such support.” Bottom line? Starbucks’ business continues to increase regardless of the outrage.
What’s clear is the danger of the Trump Effect. A brand-chilling wind that affects those who attach themselves to the Trump brand.
I know most associations (the groups that hotels covet most because they bring large-scale conventions to their properties) would most certainly choose not to book an event at a Trump property. To confirm this, I spoke to a board member of a major national association who answered on the promise of anonymity. He said his board would insist the group not book a Trump hotel so for many reasons. First, they oppose Trump’s policies, actions, and everything he symbolizes. But more important, as someone with a fiduciary responsibility to the organization, he says that such a booking would cause a backlash of social media vitriol from members on both sides of the issue.
“But how about if a Trump property offered a great deal on the accommodations?” I asked. “Would the board of directors consider it then?”
“Not on your life. Because the drama of considering the property overshadows any savings benefit.” And when word leaks out that the association is considering a Trump hotel, the group would be in a no-win situation.
“We would be accused of having painfully terrible judgement: ‘How could you possibly DO this?’ And we would be attacked for having no cojones: ‘You’re just backing away because of the liberals in our association!’”
Regardless of your point of view, no good would come of the controversy. And so what happens? Nothing.
Thanks to a democratized media where everyone with a smartphone and a social media account can speak their mind, marketers and advertisers are going to find it harder and harder to stay neutral. Because no matter how firmly they straddle the fence, someone is still offended.
Coca-Cola’s heartwarming replay of their 2014 Super Bowl ad incited controversy because America the Beautiful was sung in multiple languages. Budweiser’s stunning Super Bowl entry was considered anti-American because it presented the Adolphus Busch’s travails immigrating to the U.S. But regardless of the outrage in the blogosphere, a Tuesday morning count showed the beer ad had been viewed almost 22 million times.
When Coca-Cola and Budweiser are accused of un-American behavior (yet revel in the success of their advertising) you KNOW the Trump Effect is at work. And it’s something to which you’d better pay very close attention.Published on February 7th, 2017
The Brand Battlefield
The Trump administration banned immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries.
Two days later Starbucks’ chairman and chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, marched onto the brand battlefield and promised the company will hire 10,000 refugees over five years across 75 countries.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rolled onto the brand battlefield stating Trump’s order would, “affect thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family… That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.”
Immigration rights activists thought this implied Uber would breakup planned driver strikes. In response they launched their #DeleteUber movement onto the brand battlefield. #DeleteUber is a much stronger call to action than #BoycottUber (or Starbucks) by the way. Because once you delete the Uber app it’s harder to take the action to restore it and use the service again.
Quickly seizing on the issue, Lyft hit the brand battlefield too. The second most popular ride-sharing pledged to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight Trump’s executive order.
Political posturing has become so prevalent that even beauty queens have been drawn into the fray. As Melissa Francis and I discussed on After The Bell, the 2017 Miss Universe winner, Iris Mittenaere, was asked about open borders. Her answer? “The country should have the right to open or close their borders. Having open borders allows us to travel more through the world, and to find out more about what’s out there in the world.” Granted, Mittenaere took no side and made no salient points but her comments were still seen as shots fired onto the brand battlefield.
Of course such non-committal answers are only good or bad depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Mostly they accomplish nothing, so you don’t get any bang for your buck by straddling the fence firmly. But you can still get in trouble. And to quote Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.”
In today’s newly polarized reality it’s safe to assume that anything you say will offend somebody. Therefore, it’s probably better to take a stand based on the specific outcome – and the specific audience – you are pursuing. For example, the Starbucks CEO’s comment upset @SimplyRedeemable enough to post a couple of anti- Starbucks’ rants on my Twitter feed. Still, her last post said, “I can’t afford Starbucks.” Clearly Schultz isn’t going to worry about losing that customer.
Big thinker Brian Walter says there’s “simply no political safe harbor for big business anymore.” For decades, they could pursue their political interests mostly under cover. They rarely had to pick sides and risk alienating customers. But the 2016 election, combined with the transparency of online communication, has eliminated that option. Now businesses are caught in the same political divisions that are wreaking havoc among friends and family on social media and across dinner tables. Businesses will be criticized and pilloried for taking a stand or for NOT taking a stand. Inaction will be interpreted as condoning whatever decisions the companies try to ignore.
Before you think big business is the victim here, it’s important to understand that there is much more going on. Big business is also shifting in how it plays politics. In the past their move was to donate to the campaigns and candidates the companies and CEO’s supported. Of course, they donated mostly to politicians who pursued their narrow area of interest. They also supported PACs and groups that promoted the same thing.
Old school company values consisted of spineless platitudes framed and hung on the conference room wall. Today a company will act on its core values. Because the new play is participation. Big businesses are harnessing the publicity power that comes from activism and social media. Rather than avoiding the fray they will become part of the fray.
This makes some shareholders and customers uncomfortable because they can no longer say they share values. Instead, they’ll spend their money with companies who think like they do.
Don’t support Trump? Do some research and chances are you won’t buy beer from Yuengling, ketchup from Heinz, clothes from L.L. Bean, or anything from Amway.
Support Trump? If you check their political contributions or comments you probably won’t do business with Ben & Jerry’s, PepsiCo or Costco.
Yesterday it was the Culture Wars. Today it’s the Value Wars. And as businesses become combatants, we consumers will march onto the brand battlefield with our pocketbooks swinging.
We’ll talk about:
I promise our time together will be useful, enjoyable, and valuable. And I’ll be delighted to sign your complimentary copy of All About Them there too. To find out more and to register to attend, click HERE.
What you can expect: A group of 30-40 business owners and professionals who are hungry and passionate about growing their business and looking forward to networking with you.
Doors open for BIG Lunch at 11:00 am at the Tower Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Lunch is served at 11:30 and I’ll be talking about building your brand from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. Everybody gets a complimentary copy of my newest book. We’ll end right on time so you can get back to your day.
If you’d like to sign up to attend, or just want to learn more, please click HERE.Published on January 31st, 2017
Gwyneth Paltrow, Green Eggs, and Vaginas.
Back in January 2015, the actress recommended that her readers squat over a steaming pot of hot water infused with herbs and aromatic plants such as mugwort. According to Gwynie, the process was a thousand-year old Korean medical technique. Doing it will both “cleanse your uterus” and “balance female hormone levels.” Paltrow wrote: “If I find a benefit to it and it’s getting a lot of page views, it’s a win-win.”
But then Women’s Health magazine investigated the $50 process and discovered there are potential damaging side effects (imagine!). These include negatives like a disruption of the natural flora of the vagina. And of course it’s not hard to imagine how V-steaming can cause nasty burns if not carefully administered.
Now the Oscar-nominated actress is back with her latest risqué vajayjay play. Believe it or not, Paltrow wants women to insert a solid jade egg about the size of a golf ball into their vaginas and hold it there all day or night.
On her site Paltrow describes the eggs as, “the strictly guarded secret” ancient Chinese concubines used to please their Emperors. According to Gwynie, the eggs will “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general,” as well as enhance the users’ orgasms.
But according to The Washington Post, Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, called the idea “the biggest load of garbage” she’s read on Goop since vaginal steaming and worse than saying wearing bras is linked to cancer.
Even with Dr. Gunter’s warnings, the $66 dollar eggs are completely sold out.
Here’s the truth:
P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Gwyneth Paltrow said, “The first time I tried v-steaming, I was like, ‘This is insane.’ I enjoy trying things. I don’t necessarily endorse all of them, but I like to try them and write about them. It makes for really good content.”
That makes sense only if you define “good content” as what attracts readers and what sells product as opposed to what’s actually true. Perhaps Paltrow is simply using what top presidential aide Kellyanne Conway calls, “alternative facts.” What is unquestionable is that Gwynie has taken her rightful spot on a long list of people who have proven the business benefits of following Barnum’s advice.Published on January 24th, 2017
Facebook has more than one billion users on its roster. This makes Facebook one of the most important advertising opportunities available today.
Thanks to the enormous profit potential, Facebook has gotten very good (and aggressive) about suggesting you boost your posts.
Boosting posts on Facebook can quickly become a money waster. Your fans’ friends may not be interested in buying your product or service. If so, you’re paying good money to show your ad to the wrong audience.
Adding insult to injury, targeting the wrong audience can hurt you more than help you. Users who are not interested in seeing your content can:
Whichever route they choose, it will negatively affect your Facebook account. It can kill your organic reach and make your future ads more expensive. In other words, fewer people will be seeing your free posts. And worse, Facebook will charge you more for the posts you do pay for!
There are much better and more powerful ways to target your ideal Facebook audience.
For example, my friend and author Bob Burg has 21,730 fans on his Facebook page. If Bob reaches an audience similar to mine, I could target his fans from my page. And if there are others who’ve written books similar to mine and whose audiences are like mine, I can target their fans as well.
This can have two very significant effects:
By the way, these techniques work equally well on other social media sites. For example, after I write my posts my assistant picks LinkedIn users who would be interested in them. Then he posts the articles in the user groups where the interested parties spend time. Thanks to judicious placement, in less than 20 months my LinkedIn followers have increased from 5,000 to almost 70,000. This has created many interesting opportunities for me and my business.
With a little work – and a clear strategy – it can work for you, too.Published on January 17th, 2017
The Experience Economy
We live in a consumer society. Companies produce products and incent consumers to purchase. Media and marketing professionals build programs to create desire for those products, giving consumers more and more reasons to buy. And mass culture is created around building additional desire and compelling consumers to purchase.
But what happens when consumers have more than they need? And what happens when technology makes products irrelevant and unnecessary?
The answer to the first question is easy. When people have too much, marketers simply convince them they need even more.
The answer to the second question is more nuanced. Because while the steady wave of new technology does make many of the things we own obsolete, we continue our purchase pattern by replacing the outmoded with newly relevant devices.
The authors suggest that companies today must create memorable events for their customers. By doing so the memory of enjoying the product becomes the product itself. Gilmore and Pine further argue that as more and more products become commoditized, manufacturers must continue to evolve their wares to differentiate them.
But wait. As you move across the authors’ evolutionary ladder what disappears is the tangible product itself. Although this might not seem to be a problem at first, imagine what it does to conspicuous consumption. If one of the main reasons consumers buy more and more expensive products is to keep up with the Joneses, what happens when their money is not spent on a statusy car to show off in the driveway but an around-the-world trip or meal at an uber-exclusive restaurant?
Who’s going to see the experience if no one is present to share it?
Before continuing, let me make it clear that I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe people have much Machiavellian prescience. I don’t believe groups of people working sub-rosa can accomplish the things many conspiracy theories suggest they can. And I don’t believe any great group of people can keep a secret for a few days or weeks, let alone years.
That being said, Social Media in general – and Facebook in particular – is the great experience economy enabler. After all, the one way to transform personal experiences into status symbols is a democratized media that allows each of us to broadcast our activities to the world. This explains not only why the travel industry has embraced social media as its killer app, but why we are all so excited about projecting our lives and activities to the more than one billion people on Facebook and 100 million on Instagram.
Forgive and forget. I just read this post from my parenting guru, David Altshuler, and I thought it was meaningful and important enough to share with you. Next week we’ll get back to the subject of building brand value and making it All About Them, this week TurkelTalks is all about relationships.
A twenty-five dollar gift certificate, a $2.95 card that reads, “Welcome to the family,” and a 47-cent stamp can undo a year of misunderstanding. Total expenditure: $29.42. Not a bad price to pay for an adult child.
I know folks who routinely pay $29.42 for bad Chinese take-out food. Bad Chinese food is less likely to give you grandchildren never mind look at old family photographs with you. And you have never heard bad Chinese take-out food tell the story about how we got lost on that hike during the thunderstorm.
Fast forward 20 years and not even a $50 gift certificate and a card that reads, “I wish I had sent you this note welcoming you to the family two decades ago” will bring back the lost years. And I don’t even want to think about how expensive a stamp might be in 2037. You could spend $2942.00 but the adult child will be off the market.
I know your son has done more than his share to damage your relationship:
I understand you find these actions unconscionable and unforgivable.
But let’s face it: you haven’t exactly been blameless either. When he called to enthusiastically share news of a new job you said, “But you have no experience in that field; that will never work” rather than “Good for you, you’re going to be great.”
Whatever you think about his being gay, whatever your opinion about his marrying someone of another faith, whatever your belief about purple hair, he’s still your son. Whereas you can always try a different Chinese take-out place, you only get a certain number of children.
There are always a dozen reasons to end a relationship: a $25,000,000 business deal, a $25 lunch check; a perceived insult, a real insult; a large difference of opinion, a small disagreement. There’s only one reason to stay the course and maintain a relationship with your difficult progeny: having a connection to your kid, even a problematic one, is better than not.
And it could be that no matter how thin you make the pancake, they always have two sides. Is it possible that the offense has as much to do with you as with the person who has offended you? Yes, your son is gay or married someone of whom you disapprove or went to the wrong medical school or has the wrong color hair. But isn’t it YOUR issue with same sex marriage that has caused the kerfuffle?
You don’t HAVE to go back to a crummy restaurant, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a relationship with your kid? I’m not saying that you must forgive and forget; I’m just suggesting that SOMEBODY is going to be picking out your nursing home. Wouldn’t you rather you had sent that person a “We welcome you and your spouse to the family” card rather than cutting them out of your life?
Because there is still so much more for you to share with your kids – even when they’re older. The first time your son rode his two-wheel bike without training wheels won’t come again. But what about listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Silent Night with the newscaster talking about Martin Luther King’s march on Selma in the background? Who’s going to share that brilliance with him if you don’t?
Forgive and forget? Thank you, David.Published on January 3rd, 2017