is an interesting article in this month's Harvard Business Review
called "Breaking the Trade-off Between Efficiency and Service."
The basic idea is that service businesses, unlike manufacturers,
have the unfortunate challenge that customers come barging in and
interfere with their operations, introducing significant variability.
Most businesses think they face a black and white choice:—accommodate
the variability, or reduce it. The author, Frances Frei, says there
are better ways to address this challenge.
reading this article, I came face to face with this problem as I
tried to order toast.I was in a local restaurant, waiting for a
colleague to show up for a breakfast meeting. I was reading how
Frei suggests that there are easy, creative ways to offer either
low-cost accommodation or uncompromised reductions in service.
wanted to order toast while I was waiting, so I wouldn't have to
drink coffee on an empty stomach. The waitress described the available
choices, and both the multi-grain and rye bread sounded good. I
asked her to split the order and give me one piece of each. She
said, "We're not allowed to do that." I laughed reflexively.
I see all sorts of stupid service decisions in my work, but this
one seemed lower than inane. She started telling me about all sorts
of rules they have against substitutions, complaining that her boss
was needlessly rigid. "Customers always get mad at me, but
they don't realize that it's the owner's rules." I jokingly
asked her if each loaf had an even number of slices, and maybe he
was worried about what to do with odd slices that might be left
told her I'd take the rye, unless she was able to bend the rules.
She came back and quickly dropped the mixed order on the table,
as if she were delivering some contraband. When she came back to
fill the coffee, I thanked her. I said, "You made it happen."
She said, "I asked my boss and he laughed, but he let me do
I couldn't resist—I had to say something to the owner. After
all, I'm a public speaker always in search of a good story, and
I smelled the scent of an anecdote wafting towards me from the kitchen.
So, on the way out I saw the owner and asked him about his rule.
"I told her you could have it, didn't I?" he said indignantly.
"I was just curious," I responded. "It's strange.
Why would anyone want two different kinds?" "Did he just
say I'm strange?" I thought. "I told her you could have
it, didn't I? We just want to keep things simple." He walked
away from me, pissed off.
Frei is right that there is often a tension between service accommodation
and service reduction. But she tells us that we must understand
that trade-off, and then we will find ways to make good choices.
But if we don't think things through and try to build efficiency
around modest gains, such as policies against Heterogeneous Toast
Order Fulfillment (HTOF), we'll end up driving away customers for
then, to replace those customers, we'll have to do something much
more inefficient than serve combo toast:
[We edited this post. The author of the article is named Frances
Frei, with an e, and she is female, so we fixed her name and changed
the pronoun referring to her. You can see her bio here. We apologize
to her for getting her name wrong, and we thank Ryan Buell, one
of her students, for setting us straight.—CM]
Steve Yastrow posted this on 10/31/06.
comment on the Beatles post below [Beatles, Stones, & Cubs,
04.07.06] has my head spinning.
Steve, this is the ultimate "no brainer" to me. The Beatles
changed the world, and will be one of music's "Top 25"
all-time stories-historical monuments 300 years from now. The Rolling
Stones will have long, long been forgotten.
The Rolling Stones will have been seen as a fabulous, long-lasting
group of performers. The Beatles changed the entire world—the
world of politics and society-as-a-whole as much as the world of
music. Honestly, how could there be any comparison at all?
is this absurd obsession with "built to last"? "Built
to make an impact" is my mantra—and if you last you last,
if you don't you don't.
long said that Netscape is one of my favorite companies ever: Born,
changed the world, and died ... all in the space of 60 months. I'll
stand by that remark.
has challenged the "built to last" paradigm many times,
and says that "built to make an impact" is so much more
important. His comparison of the Beatles' greatness to the Stones'
makes it so clear.
automatically assume that longevity is a result of greatness. But
it so often isn't true. Hey, Mozart died at age 35. Duane Allman
and Charlie Christian are two of the 20th century's most influential
guitarists, and both died at age 24. And then there's Netscape ...
ingrained is this obsession with longevity? It seems that people
are (finally) breaking away from the "bigger is better"
paradigm. Can the same happen with "built to last"?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 04/10/06.
Stones, & Cubs
colleague was recently complaining about the powerful personalities
on his sales team. He compared it to the Beatles, and contrasted
it with the Rolling Stones. His point was that the Beatles were
John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and the Rolling Stones were the Rolling
Stones. He claimed that the powerful individual personalities in
the Beatles were a major reason they broke up in 1970 and the Stones
still play today.
don't agree 100% with the analogy (after all, there are Mick and
Keith), but the point is well taken. How do the individual personalities
fit into the overall brand, and not overtake it?
attended the Cubs' home opener at Wrigley Field today, and I couldn't
help but think of this. The Cubs are my friend's definition of the
Rolling Stones. In the energy at the park (despite the sub-40 degree
temperature) I sensed a continuity with Cubs games I attended in
the late 60s. The players change, but it's still the Cubs. When
Matt Murton, in his first home game as a Cub, made an amazing double
play throw from left field, the fans cheered as they would have
cheered a Billy Williams throw from left in 1969 or a Moises Alou
throw from left in 2003.
does the brand transcend and outlive the players? (And then, ask
yourself why the players make so much money!)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 04/07/06.
high school, one of my favorite pieces of musical wisdom has been
this: "Focus less on what notes you are playing, and focus
more on when you are playing them."
idea of "when" is also a great thing to think about at
music, a focus on "when" keeps you in sync with other
people. Nothing is more frustrating in music than a person who keeps
their own time. Isn't that true in business also? Collaboration
isn't just about what you do with other people, it's about when
you do it.
"when" is also a key to musical expressiveness. A short
string of notes can sound boring when played with one rhythm, but
take on beauty when played with another. Start at C on a piano and
play down the white keys in even time until you reach the next C.
Now do the same thing to the rhythm of "Joy to the World."
You have created something totally different. Doesn't the same thing
happen in business communications? Isn't the timing of words—sometimes
measured in seconds, sometimes measured in months—a major
reason those words are either heard or ignored?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/30/06.
have, for the past few years, been using the following definition
of a customer:
whose actions affect your results
have found it to work in just about any situation. (It helps explain
why vendors and employees are customers, too. Not to mention bankers
and municipal authorities.)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/10/06.
frequently the payoff pales next to the promise! You hear of a product,
from an ad or a referral, and then you're let down when you actually
been hearing about the Galapagos Islands for years, building up
a fabulous image in my mind. Ecuador and Celebrity Cruises had a
tall order to fill, living up to my expectations. They did it!
has preserved the national park in an admirable way, and I can't
rave enough about this as a vacation destination. You are inches
from sea lions, penguins, giant tortoises, iguanas, countless birds,
etc. My son and I snorkeled by a (safe) shark and played with a
sea lion in the water. Of the 80 people on the ship, half were kids,
and I never saw one kid who looked bored or distracted, even while
hearing an explanation of how marine iguanas protect their territories.
in a great example of "symbiotic" branding, Celebrity
Cruises created an experience that perfectly complemented the nature
experience. The cruise experience perfectly fit into the character
of the destination. Great Brand Harmony. Highly recommended. Their
naturalists were some of the best guides I've ever seen.
marketed some of the world's best vacation destinations in my career.
Galapagos (and Celebrity) should be a model for all. Go there!
else witness some great vacation brands over the past few weeks?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 01/05/06.
Thought For The Day
think of your brand as being about the relationship your company
(or product) has with the marketplace.
Instead, think of your brand in terms of the relationship your company
(or product) has with individual customers.
For most of us, this is a much more useful perspective.
Yastrow posted this on 12/12/05.
Cacophony: Guitar Center
I may be 46, but this post does not prove I am guilty of Ted Nugent's
"If it's too loud, you're too old" comment. I have played
music at all volumes for 34 years, used to be a recording engineer,
currently have a recording studio in my basement, and play in a
band that includes two 17-year olds (my son and nephew) and a 20-year
old. So I can credibly make this point without being accused of
being too old to "get it."
Center is a chain with 151 stores. Although I prefer the local "boutique"
I've shopped at since age 15, there are numerous occasions where
it makes sense to shop at Guitar Center. I bought a guitar amplifier
there about 6 months ago, and it was difficult to audition the amp
since the store had a radio station blaring so loud over their mega-sound
system, with ceiling speakers all over the store. But, I managed,
and bought the amp, because I really wanted it.
I was in Guitar Center, trying out this very cool effect called
a "looper" that lets you make instant digital recording
loops of your playing and layer phrases on top of each other in
real time. However, unlike with a basic guitar amp, I really had
to be able to hear this piece of equipment, which was once again
difficult with the uber-loud radio getting in the way. I mentioned
to one of the store managers that it was hard to hear the looper
with all the noise, and he looked at me like I was crazy. (Even
though we practically had to shout over the radio to hear each other.)
I asked him if it was hard to sell guitars when it's so hard to
hear them, and he curtly said, "no, we do it all day long."
what does this tell me about Guitar Center? In addition to the obvious
(it's hard to shop there), it signals to me that they are more interested
in superficial rock and roll "culture" than helping real
rock and rollers make music. There are 200 guitars hanging on the
wall (most of them out of tune) and you can't really hear the subtleties
of any of them. The cacophony in their store does a lot to spoil
their brand for me. Am I reading too much into the noise? I don't
really funny is that my son says he heard a radio ad for Sam Ash,
a major Guitar Center competitor, coming out of the Guitar Center
sound system one day. Serves them right.
I bought the looper?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 12/09/05.
found it very hard to be a Sprint customer—it's why I left.
You can't complete many calls. The people in the stores often can't
help you, because they are bound by rules, and there are so few
of them that you can't get service without waiting for a long time.
You can't get served on the phone very well either, because of long
waits and a labyrinth to find customer service.
Age Daily reports today that Sprint, after acquiring Nextel, is
going to "relaunch and reposition itself as a sports entertainment
company as well as a telecommunications giant." The company's
new tagline will be "Yes You Can," blasted out to the
world in an estimated $500 million ad campaign.
inherited Nextel's NASCAR sponsorship, and added sponsorships with
the NFL, the US Ski and Sports Association and the NHL. Oh, and
of course, they have a new logo. The Sprint stores (the places I
could never get good service or a "Yes, you can" answer)
are being "rebranded," which probably means a superficial
facelift and no change to the customer experience.
prediction: Sprint will still suck. You can't buy great marketing,
no matter how big you are. You have to do great marketing. You can't
say "Yes, you can" if your employees and customers think
"No, we can't." Marketing can't be a big game of fakeout,
no matter how big your checkbook is.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 09/01/05.
great United Airlines story ...
top priority for my parents in their retirement has been to take
their grandchildren on vacations. This past Saturday, the plan was
for my mom to fly from Phoenix to Denver on United, where she would
meet my 13 year-old niece and fly on to New York for some fun and
my mother arrived at the airport in Phoenix, United told her that
the flight to Denver was cancelled, and she was being rerouted through
Washington, D.C., scheduled to arrive at LaGuardia an hour after
her grandchild. When Mom asked United to give the lone 13 year-old
unaccompanied minor service for no charge—a seemingly reasonable
request under the circumstances—guess what the United ticket
can't waive any fees since we're in bankruptcy."
Steve Yastrow posted this on 08/16/05.
Buy Me Love
years ago, I moved into a new office and started using a travel
agent across the street to book business travel. She never once
tried to solicit my personal leisure travel, although I did have
her book hotel rooms in Europe about 4 years after I'd begun to
effort on my personal travel was, to say the least, lame. Didn't
seem like she cared to be doing it, and I pretty much stopped using
her for anything after that. About the same time their agency joined
a travel agency consortium called Virtuoso, and I started receiving
Virtuoso's quarterly glossy leisure travel brochures, overprinted
with the local agency's name and address.
never received a personal call from them—over 10 years—to
solicit my leisure travel, and the one time they did a trip for
me they put in a weak effort. Yet, they're spending money 4x/year
to send me leisure travel brochures that I'm not responding to.
do people think that the secret to marketing is to pay someone to
do it for you? Great marketing isn't something you can buy. You
have to do it.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 06/02/05.
got a telemarketing call from Comcast. They told me they could lower
my Comcast high-speed Internet bill if I subscribed to their basic
cable service. I told them that I already subscribed to their basic
cable service, and, in fact, I had some premium cable services also.
I said that I was excited to hear how much I, already a good customer,
could save on my high-speed Internet bill.
The offer wasn't for good customers like me. It was for non-cusotmers.
WELL, THEN WHY DID THEY CALL ME? Oh, by the way—they called
me over my Comcast local phone service, after I had just spent half
an hour on the same phone paying for a Comcast long distance phone
have been a customer of all of these services ever since they came
to Chicago and took over from AT&T. What a bunch of dolts.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 05/16/05.
debate on the marketing of the global warming/climate change issue
has been fascinating. Thanks for all the articulate arguments put
forth by everyone.
other social issues have either been marketed poorly, or well? Did
"This is your brain on drugs" accomplish its goals? Didn't
Anita Bryant's anti-gay campaign in the late '70s actually backfire
on her, actually helping the gay rights movement? (Although it may
have helped orange juice sales, so Anita shouldn't hang her head
too low!) One of the most successful efforts I've ever seen is Mothers
Against Drunk Driving (MADD). What about the effects of over-exposure
to the sun?
what other issues could use some effective marketing? (Which, of
course, does not just mean a cool ad campaign.) Childhood obesity?
Teen smoking? Or, would these be futile efforts? (Or, you may argue,
its nobody's business but the obese 17-year-old with a pack of Marlboro's
in his pocket.)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 05/09/05.
most poorly marketed?
you read the article on global warming in the April 25th New Yorker,
titled "Five Minutes Past Midnight"? Islands are disappearing,
glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting, symptoms are rampant.
reading the article on the sidelines of a little league game (in
bits and pieces when my son wasn't up to bat or in the field!) and
I was so moved by it I mentioned it to another dad. This is a really
smart guy, who runs a successful business. His reaction was, "Yeah,
but has it really yet been proven to be a problem?"
fear his attitude is pretty typical. Why is an issue that is so
grave and so real so poorly understood? Why has the issue of global
warming been so poorly marketed? Why is the brand called "The
Global Warming Catastrophe" such a weak brand? What can—and
Steve Yastrow posted this on 05/01/05.
American Brand of Baseball
blogged here a few months ago about the way Chicagoans' impressions
of Sammy Sosa's brand went from iconic to sardonic in only a few
short years. Where he had once been a hero beyond reproach, poor
performance and a bat corking led us to a point where his sneeze-induced
back injury became a joke, and his trade into an orange Orioles
uniform seemed about as tragic as Moe poking Curly in the eye.
now ... let's expand the conversation to the entire brand of baseball.
How has the steroid saga sapped strength from the national pastime's
status as a national pastime? Will gate receipts fall, will players
have to hock their Ferraris? (Before you jump to conclusions, try
purchasing single game Chicago Cubs tickets for this season. Hard
to find!) Will the game bounce back? Will anyone care about this
stuff a couple of years from now?
questions: Will Sammy's, Mark's and Barry's 61+ home run seasons
have asterisks bigger than Roger Maris's 162 game asterisk? Who
looks worse, Jose Canseco for writing a book admitting to steroids,
Sammy for denying it, or Mark McGwire for dodging the question?
Will any of the sanctimonious Congressmen who took time off from
fighting terrorism and fixing social security for the steroid hearings
win even one more vote for having done it?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/21/05.
client and I were discussing brand harmony a few days ago, and he
held up Apple as a great example. He said that he loves how "consistent"
all touchpoints with Apple are, from the products to the stores
to the advertising, etc.
He's right that Apple is an example of great brand harmony. But
I told him that I think he's selling them short when he focuses
on "consistency." What makes the Apple brand powerful
is not how consistent the different touchpoints are, but how well
they complement each other.
of some of the great examples of harmony in art. Consistency would
be if King Lear's three daughters acted the same. Boring! What's
interesting is the juxtaposition of Cordelia against Regan and Goneril.
Are the songs on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue consistent with each
other? Who cares! Do they complement each other? Yes, in a really
I walked into the Soho Apple Store in NY the other day—with
my iPod Mini in my pocket—and saw a class being taught in
a big open theater—and thought about the cool iPod Shuffle
ads I'd seen all day—my Apple brand impression wasn't strengthened
by the consistency of these experiences, because they weren't consistent.
They all said different things. What strengthened my feeling for
the Apple brand was the way all of these experiences blended together
in my mind, complementing each other and telling me a powerful,
is for assembly lines. "Complement" is for great brands.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/17/05
is Brand Equity?
was speaking recently with a marketing professor from a top business
school. He is a person I respect very much.
During the course of our conversation he said, "Wal-Mart has
no brand equity." I almost choked on my wine. I asked him what
he meant. He said that brand equity should create a price premium,
and Wal-Mart's strategy has been to focus on low prices. In his
mind brand equity always creates a price premium.
strong brands can get people to pay more. But, isn't paying a premium
just one example of the kinds of behavior a strong brand can encourage?
What if a brand gets no price premium, but encourages more frequent
purchases, a greater share of spending dollars, or referrals? Isn't
that a strong brand? Wal-Mart gets a disproportionate share of both
wallets and shopping visits, and has millions of loyal customers.
It has changed consumer shopping behavior, in a significant way.
can you have brand equity with no price premium? Or do you agree
with the professor? (Any conversation about Wal-Mart can be incendiary,
so please try to separate your answer to the brand equity question
from any Wal-Mart rants, which you are also welcome to include in
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/14/05.
Study in Brand Dissonance
any of you had to suffer dealing with the United Airlines/US Airways
of code share deal?
had a couple of run-ins with this—you show up for a US Airways
flight and find out you're on United in another terminal, or vice
versa. Or, you have one leg of a connecting itinerary on US Airways,
and another on United, but neither airline can print a boarding
pass for the other.
dealt with the service problems brought on by this partnership a
few times now, and in each case the employees of both airlines have
said to me, verbatim, "it doesn't work." One US Airways
employee put it this way: "Some guys upstairs might be making
money on this. But the passengers and we who work here have to deal
with all the problems." Employees of both airlines have related
customer service horror stories to me.
problem is execution. I'm sure the idea sounded great on paper and
in meetings. But, apparently, work was never done to properly implement
the program. Customers and front line employees of both airlines
are suffering. Do you think the top brass at United and US Airways
are focused on fixing these problems, or are they only looking as
far superficial performance stats in evaluating this program?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 03/06/05.
Fast a Brand Can Lose Its Power!
the clock to 1998, the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark
McGuire. Even considering The Tribune, The Sears Tower, Billygoat
Tavern, Steppenwolf Theater, Michael or Da Bears, Sammy Sosa was
just about the biggest, most meaningful brand in Chicago.
it continued on—from 1998 through 2002 Sammy hit 292 homers
while batting .306 with a .649 slugging percentage. He is the only
player in history with three 60+ home run seasons. And, he had a
great personality—the fans loved him.
forward to today: News of Sammy's trade to Baltimore. Fans interviewed
on TV saying they're happy to see him go. The Cubs are paying a
big chunk of his $17 million salary next year—for him to play
on another team.
started to tail off in 2003 when Sammy was caught with a corked
bat and suspended for 8 games, after which his performance suffered.
This past season he missed a month with back problems caused—embarrassingly—by
sneezing. (By then he'd lost the sympathy of the fans, and the sneezes
became a joke.) Then he walked out of the clubhouse and left the
ballpark before the last game of the season started, because he
was unhappy that he was dropped to a lower position in the batting
baseball, what's the lesson here? If the Brand Called Sammy can
go from hero to persona non grata, just think what can happen to
your company if you stop performing ... or get caught corking your
Steve Yastrow posted this on 01/30/05.
Buy Me Love
been thinking about ...
One of the most powerful misconceptions in the world of marketing
is that a bigger budget buys better marketing. It strikes me time
and again that you can't buy great marketing, you just have to do
short article from the tompeters.com Brand Cafe archives on
Steve Yastrow posted this on 01/23/05.
Wait To See What Happens With Kmart
May of 2002, Sears bought Land's End for $1.9 billion in cash, representing
a 21% premium over the current share price.
as the snows were hitting Chicago and I became instantly aware of
my need for a new winter coat, I took a quick right turn into a
local mall and ran into Sears to see what kind of warm jackets they
men's department had a great selection of winter coats, all on sale.
(On January 5th, one week into winter, as a winter storm approached.
Why were they marked down? See below.) There were many models of
great looking Land's End jackets, all at great prices. I was pleasantly
surprised with the selection.
had lots of questions about the Land's End jackets, to make sure
I got the lightest weight jacket for my needs. I asked a Sears store
clerk for help who said, "They don't train us on any of that."
there was an 800 number in the jackets, and I called Land's End
on my cellphone. They were really helpful, but I kept getting cut
off due to poor cell reception. I asked the same store clerk if
I could use her phone to get answers from Land's End so I could
buy a jacket and she said, "If it's toll free."
is a really brilliant idea: Buy a company for a 21% premium so you
can get their merchandise in your stores, and then make it a real
hassle for your customers to buy that merchandise. And, be sure
not to tell your employees how to sell it. How stupid.
the time of the acquisition Sears CEO Alan Lacy said that the Land's
End acquisition "will attract new shoppers ... who will connect
with our apparel departments better than they would have in the
past." Yes, Alan, this was a great connection.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 01/05/05.
to evaluate a potential new hire? Here's a great test: Arrange for
them to work for a day—a particularly slow day—at a
place like Best Buy or a hotel check-in desk. Make sure that there
are ropes set up to control long lines—you know, the kind
that corral the crowd and make customers walk back and forth many
times before making it to the counter. Remember: Be sure to choose
a slow day.
station yourself at a place where you can surreptitiously observe
your prospective new hire. Watch him as he watches the occasional
customer walk back and forth through the empty labyrinth, following
the course of a long line even though there is no line and no other
customers. What does your potential new employee do as he watches
customers take these extra steps? Does he do nothing? Does he assume
that "the powers that be" (I hate that term) have decided
the ropes are necessary, even on slow days? Or, does your future
star worker take the initiative to undo the ropes and let customers
walk right in?
formula is simple: If he does nothing, don't hire him. If he takes
the initiative to change the configuration of the ropes, hire him.
other day an America West airport gate agent—standing in front
of an empty counter with no other customers in sight—saw me
duck under the ropes, carrying a large portion of my family's luggage,
to avoid walking the empty maze. She, in a very friendly way, said,
"Cheater." I smiled, but thought to myself, "You
should be ashamed of yourself. Do you consider yourself so unimportant
or helpless that you can't imagine that it is within your power
to walk ten feet and rearrange these ropes, making the customer's
path more sensible? Do you think yourself to be so unaware and undiscerning
that you won't be able to notice when, an hour from now, things
get busy and you have to put the ropes back up to control a line?"
a company was great at marketing, its employees would instinctively
move the ropes.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 12/21/04.
have always looked at integrated marketing as something they do.
Start with a foundation of advertising, then add a pinch of PR,
a dash of direct marketing and a spoonful of sales promotion and
voila!, you've got effective marketing.
think that's backwards. Marketers don't do integrated marketing,
customers do. Customer integrate all experiences with a company
into a composite impression. If a customer decides that listening
to music on hold for 15 minutes while waiting for help tells her
more about that company than their radio commercials, that's her
privilege. If another customer decides to focus more on how an invoice
reads than how the brochure or print ad read, he can.
the marketing efforts of most companies recognize this?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 12/11/04.
Airlines Thinks I'm Stupid (Guess what I think)
leave a meeting in Lynchburg, Virginia, yesterday, with just enough
time to drive to the Roanoke airport for my non-stop flight home
to Chicago. Checking voicemail, I hear an automated message from
the "United Airlines Easy Re-Booking System."
message is from a very upbeat, happy, pre-recorded voice telling
me I have been "successfully re-booked" on a cumbersome
connection through Washington, D.C., that will get me home 4 hours
course there are no details on why I'm being re-booked, or any apology.
I call United and wait on hold to find out that my flight has been
idea: Call it the Easy Re-booking System and use an upbeat voice.
That'll fake out those dumb customers. (Remember the scene in the
book 1984 when the government lowered the chocolate ration? They
announced the new, lower number with great fanfare, congratulating
themselves for raising the chocolate ration.)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 12/07/04.
Marketing Programs Fail—Encore
few days ago I wrote a post asking for your ideas on why marketing
programs fail. We had a lively discussion here at tompeters.com,
plus many of you clicked on the above link and filled out the form
on my website. As we can see quickly, most of us don't think that
the key to great marketing is a catchy tagline or "breakthrough
keep the discussion going! What is it, in your experience, that
makes marketing programs succeed ... or fail?
Steve Yastrow posted this on 12/04/04.
Marketing Programs Fail
makes marketing programs succeed—or fail? I have my ideas
... but I want to hear yours.
I'm starting research for a project, and I'd love to hear your comments,
ideas, anecdotes and war stories. Be sure to fill out the form on
the attached link, and, if you'd like, share your thoughts with
everyone on the comments attached to this post.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 11/29/04.
Thought: Consistency Is Not Enough
talking to me about their branding issues, people frequently mention
the need for "consistency."
When it comes to branding, think less about consistency and more
about how complementary different customer experiences are. This
aims much higher.
a hotel experience for example. You don't expect the hotel's ad,
website and front desk clerk to all say the same thing. It matters
much less if they are consistent with each other than it matters
that they complement each other, reinforcing each others' messages
to create an interesting story.
is what great Brand Harmony is all about: Experiences that blend
to create something rich, interesting and compelling.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 11/20/04.
received many interesting comments from people who have taken my
Harmony Quiz, which I posted here a while back and included
in a recent newsletter.
observation: Most people think they aren't doing a very good job
of creating Brand Harmony. One group of 16 CEOs who meet together
regularly took the quiz and sent me the results—the average
score of 40 fell into the "Time for a brand transplant"
two minutes, take the quiz. Post your score with comments!
Steve Yastrow posted this on 11/13/04.
of the most precarious relationships in the business world is that
between an ad agency and its clients. For this reason, agencies
are notoriously cautious with these relationships.
Marketing, a very progressive agency in Herning, Denmark, tried
something unconventional yesterday. They gathered together representatives
from three client companies, along with their respective agency
account managers, for an all day Brand Harmony workshop with me.
I was confident it would work well, but something special and unexpected
had assumed the client companies would work on exercises separately
and in parallel, but from the very start, as we noticed common issues
that each was facing, there was an energetic and electric interaction
between the clients. They shared ideas and offered each other insights,
giving us a new, surprising dimension to the experience. They continually
remarked how interesting it was to have the chance to learn from
each others' situations.
you either work in an ad agency or are a client of one, I encourage
you to try something like this. Sure, it's got risks. An agency's
biggest fears: Clients learn about special treatment—or big
mistakes—with other clients. Would your organization be afraid
Steve Yastrow posted this on 10/21/04.
was just in Copenhagen (see his slides below—awesome!) and
I'm still in Denmark a few hundred kilometers away in the city of
couple of observations after a fascinating evening speaking to the
Herning Erhvervsråd (see the slides), an organization of local
and regional businesses:
I really appreciate that other people know my language. I get to
be here doing what I love to do because other people have worked
hard to be fluent in English as a second language. We native English
speakers get off real easy.
"Brute Force Branding" is out, everywhere on the planet.
No matter where I go, I find the same universal truths confirmed:
Customers are more scrutinizing and less tolerant than ever before,
they look well beyond the promises companies make, and the only
way to create compelling, motivating brand impressions is to have
all interactions with customers blend to tell a powerful, sensible
story. That's what Brand Harmony is all about—and it makes
sense for companies of all sizes, in all industries, in all places.
I spend most of my working days challenging people to look at marketing
differently, and the reactions, comments and questions I got tonight
in Denmark are the same ones I get in San Diego, Milwaukee or Prague.
(Tongue in cheek stock recommendation—if you own shares of
a mega ad agency, think about selling them!)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 10/19/04.
as racy as a Cosmo survey, but ...
well does your organization create Brand Harmony?
to see how you rate.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 10/13/04.
Phone Companies Become Airlines
dealing with your cellphone company remind you more of staying in
a fine hotel or doing business with an airline?
from The Brand Cafe archives that talks about the way cellphone
providers have missed the chance to get customers to love them.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 10/04/04.
Lack of Brand Harmony
article from U.S. News & World Report. Those who support John
Kerry are frustrated with his campaign, and those that support Bush
are elated with Kerry's campaign. This article describes, essentially,
how Kerry's brand is muddled through a series of disjointed, dissonant
messages, while GWB's messages are much more in sync.
... in 1992 Clinton crafted a very clear brand while Bush the elder
couldn't weave together a clear and compelling story.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 09/22/04.
convinced that awareness is the most overrated branding characteristic.
(most) companies are compelled to spend money to "get our name
out there,"as if getting someone to recognize your name inherently
leads them to become your customer. Vast resources are wasted on
"spreading the word," with the result that many people
have heard of the company, but few can attach any meaning to the
would be better served not to focus their resources on getting large
numbers of people to know their name, but on getting the right people
to love what stands behind that name.
isn't about getting your name out in the market place. It's about
getting individual customers to say, "I get it, I want it,
and I can't get it anywhere else."
customer at a time!
Steve Yastrow posted this on 09/07/04.
I speak, people often ask me to name some great brands. I know they're
expecting me to say "Nike" or "Southwest Airlines,"
which are, of course, great brands.
I don't. I usually say "The Cherry Pit." Then the audience
looks at me funny.
Cherry Pit is a small diner in my town, Deerfield, IL. Most people
in Deerfield don't even know about The Cherry Pit. But those that
know it love it. In fact, they love it so much that The Cherry Pit
is always busy, though they never spend a dime on purchased marketing
activities. The Cherry Pit has such definite character and such
a rich personality that its customers give it a disproportionate
amount of business and referrals.
brand's strength isn't measured by how many people know its name.
It is measured by how intensely people attach a rich meaning to
that name that motivates them to act. Look around you—you'll
see that it is often the smallest companies that are able to arouse
the most emotion and meaning in their customers' hearts and minds.
Try this: Ask some friends to name their favorite restaurants. (Hint:
You won't hear the names of a lot of chains.)
Steve Yastrow posted this on 09/01/04.
Is (Bad) Branding
was having a really tough time with the CD drive in my laptop yesterday
... I couldn't listen to CDs, I couldn't burn CDs ... it just wouldn't
work. I called Dell tech support, and, after trying a few things,
Ashley of tech support told me that I had to reinstall the operating
system to get the CD drive working again.
the operating system is a fate worse than a root canal ... it basically
means wiping the hard drive clean and starting over.
daughter's 18-year-old boyfriend came to pick her up as I was suffering
with my computer. He told me one simple thing to try, and the problem
was fixed in less than five minutes.
How many clever, funny Dell ads will I have to see to resuscitate
my Dell brand impression after this confidence-shattering brand
experience? Hey Dell—don't forget ... everything is marketing,
but marketing isn't everything.
Steve Yastrow posted this on 08/15/04.
on Tom's comments on direct marketing and direct selling ...
starting point for me is that BRUTE FORCE DOESN'T WORK any more.
The "old" advertising-based view of marketing posits that
if you interrupt your customers 20 times in a week, and a competitor
only interrupts them 7 times, you're more likely to make the sale.
In today's world, that thinking is ludicrous. Today's customers
are way too savvy and scrutinizing—and way too busy—to
fall for that.
... what kind of direct marketing/selling can work in an environment
where brute force is no longer an effective marketing tool? Much
direct marketing is no more than "advertising in envelopes,"
meaning that it's just more "get in your face, interrupt your
life" brute force communication.
not the secret to success. The answer is to use direct tools to
engage with a customer in the kind of dialogues that, in concert
with all other experiences she has with your company, build a strong
Brand Harmony in her mind.
selling and marketing tools can be a very effective part of that
mix, helping a customer get to know you and your product and be
able to say to herself, "I get it ... I want it ... and I can't
get it anywhere else."
Steve Yastrow posted this on 08/14/04