Sunday, October 30, 2005

A fitting end to a Sunday of catching up...

A week ends, another about to begin...and these guys I see just outside my home office window. They'll be eating whatever they want from our yard in just a few minutes....

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The year of my discontent...

It's been sobering this year. For BURRIS, so much of what I do now is prospect, "funnel filling," I call it. And now I've learned my blog is worth just a bit more than $2,200.

My blog is worth $2,258.16.
How much is your blog worth?

I found this cool little fact while catching up on Tom Peters's blog. (His is worth more than $500k, by the way.)

A Force More Powerful

Several short posts today from me, as I catch up on my reading after a few days out of the office...

Click on the title of this post to see a column by Fortune's David Kirkpatrick about a new-style video game in development from a company called BreakAway Games. The game is called "A Force More Powerful," and, presumably, the "force" is violence.

I'm not a gamer - I lost patience years ago trying to play "The Sims" - but this one interests me. It's non-violent, but it deals with ways to combat evil political or military leadership. Here's Kirkpatrick's summary:

"[The game] attempts to replicate the complexity of issues facing would-be activists going up against a repressive regime. [According to the game's creator], it aims 'to help people make and refine strategies to change their own societies.' To achieve this immodest goal, it simulates 10 different 'scenarios.' The player's goal can be anything from protesting an environmental disaster to overthrowing a regime. The player is a nonviolent strategist, controlling 'the movement' as it faces its adversary, 'the regime. A special feature enables players to import information from other sources, including maps, and details of a city's infrastructure, to give it more of a real-life feel."

Thomas Wolfe

I was in Asheville for a couple of days assisting in the production mix for a customer's DVD presentation.

We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel downtown, right next door to this classic from American literature. It's the home of Thomas Wolfe, the great Southern author of the 1920's and 30's. "Look Homeward, Angel" is a classic coming of age novel, and seeing his boyhood home makes me want to go back to the story of Eugene Gant and the thinly-veiled autobiography of author Wolfe.

Great stuff.

Saturn and the brand experience

I'm reacting to a post on BusinessWeek's "Innovate" blog (click on the title at the top for a link) by Diego Rodriguez: "Saturn's Rust-Proof Brand."

I won't repeat Rodriguez' comments here, except for this: "A good brand, then, is one for which every expression has been consciously designed from the customer's point of view."

This is a primer for building a strong brand in today's marketingscape. Read it, bookmark it, and pass it along.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Notes on pricing

I was reading a column by researcher James Koppenhaver in the October 7 issue of SuperNews (you can find the original article here), and I was reminded of some notes I made recently for myself after losing a prospect project due to price:

I wrote:
Price is the wrong part of the equation to focus on. If one bases his marketing and communications decisions on price, he should do either or both of these things:

1. If price is the primary factor, cut out marketing or advertising altogether. Just save the money. Maybe you're not selling quality in the first place and are better off in the commodity category.

2. Change resources - all types of resources - ever more frequently. After all, the traditional advertising agency or creative resource builds her model on giving you a lot up front, banking on downstream revenues. So keep firing the old and hiring new "marketing partners" and get more for free.

Examples worthy of discussion:
- Vonage vs. Cell phones. The Vonage VoIP model forces no contracts, no minimums. Their logic, I think, is the product is good enough, you'll stay around 'til there's something better, in which case, they'd better have it. Cell phones on the other hand ... can you imagine not having to sign a 12- or 24-month contract? And don't you think the price you pay will be lower later? That's a contract based on the wrong reasons.

- We used to work with Club Car, the golf car company. They worked hard to win over customers who had E-Z-GO fleets. And E-Z-GO did the same to Club Car. They'd be most aggressive on pricing when they could "steal" a customer from the competition. Time was, they could make up for their pain winning the first time by keeping the new customer next time. This approach worked 'til the customer began to think of golf cars as a commoditized category, that one brand was as good as the other. So they began just ping-ponging from one brand of fleet to increasingly aggressive prices.

Moral to the story:
If you're interested in saving money on your marketing, just save the money. Don't spend at all. Your costs will be lower, your margins better.

But if you're investing in growth, in revenues, your margins, don't think in terms of cost; think in terms of yield. How can we make marketing an asset instead of an expense?

What do we do about bad advertising?

In an ADWEEK survey, consumers from 18 to 65+ years old with a wide range of household incomes were asked a series of questions about the advertising they see. Two questions - and their answers - struck me as particularly noteworthy, so here they are, without comment from me (and none needed):

Do you believe most advertising is _____?
- Dishonest (They'll say anything to sell a product) - 34%
- Unrealistic (Sure, I dance around while doing the dishes) - 30%
- Who cares? (Business is business) - 24%
- Honest (A product must do what marketers say it will do) - 10%

If you don't like an ad from a particular marketer, would you ever ______?
- Boycott the company - 27%
- Bad-mouth the brand to your friends and family - 24%
- Contact the company to complain - 21%
- Begrudgingly continue to buy the brand - 7%
- Do nothing - 45%

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bank of America changes my mind

I can't believe this post.

I cannot remember when I had something positive to say about a bank, any bank. My professional experience with them has been spotty, in fact, because they are tigers that usually change their spots all too frequently.

But this is not a rant; it's a rave.

While on a photo shoot near Kiawah Island recently, I needed to transfer some funds from one account to another. I went online, found the nearest Bank of America branch, and drove right over. Here's what I found:
Bank of America 1 - Lobby

This is the lobby of the new banking center in the Freshfields Retail Village just outside the gates of Kiawah. As you can see, it's beautiful inside, inviting, comfortable. But the decor is only the beginning.

Take a look at this:
Bank of America 2 - Greeter

This young lady stands at a "welcome desk" just inside the main entrance. She greeted me, asked if she could help, and within seconds she was typing my info into her computer and taking care of my transaction. When she finished, she sent me over to the teller line to complete my business. Here's the teller line:
Bank of America 3 - Teller Line

If there had been a line, I could have whiled away my time watching CNN or CNBC or The Weather Channel on more plasma screens.

Bank of America's president said in Fortune recently that one of the company's focuses is now on "retail banking" and bringing service back to its "consumer" customers. And according to the greeter in the Freshfields banking center, this is the prototype direction for all new banking centers. There's fresh copies of popular magazines and daily newspapers, fresher coffee, TV screens tuned to news and finance programs, even a self-service, punch in your own access code gateway to the safe-deposit boxes.

It's cool, I was impressed, but I've seen "prototypes" before, and too often there's a vast gulf between the future and everywhere else. So imagine my surprise when I walked into a B of A branch in High Point recently. No clean, well-lighted lobby, no greeter, not one plasma TV. But behind the counter on the teller line, moving with alacrity behind the two or three busy young ladies - there is a gentlemen named Luis Ochoa. While I stand on line, Luis nods at me, says hello, assures me they'll be with me in a minute. Then - this is amazing - he opened a new teller line himself and invites me to him. He reaches out to shake my hand, introduces himself - "Hola, I'm Luis Ochoa, the manager of this bank" - and asks what he can do to help me.

I was becoming a reluctant believer - at least for now - in what Ken Lewis, B of A's chief, says about his focus on retail banking. Then I went into a branch at the foot of the Isle of Palms Connector in Mt. Pleasant, SC, on Friday, October 7. It was raining gangbusters outside, the drive-up teller lines were full, so I thought I'd take my chances inside. There I found no greeter, but one plasma screen (tuned to CNBC) on the teller line, a helpful teller who acted as though she wanted to help me, and in no time I was on my way.

This may really work.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Beer Truisms

I rarely pass along humor I receive via email, many of them what I call "lazy forwards" (you know, the kind that have been forwarded from tens of people with nothing added). But my brother Brad sent this to me because he thought it would help me explain to others my love for a cold one every now and then. Slightly edited, here are a few of the better comments someone collected about beer:

Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, "It's better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."
-- Babe Ruth

24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.
-- H. L. Mencken

To some it's a six-pack, to me it's a "support group." 
-- Leo Durocher

One night at Cheers, Cliff Clavin explained the "Buffalo Theory" to his buddy, Norm: "Well, ya see, Norm, it's like this: A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."