Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

So you think your resume is finally done and perfect? Here are 6 reasons why it probably isn’t.

I have a superpower that’s also a curse – I see typos everywhere.  A dinner out isn’t complete until I find something wrong in the menu (insight: restaurateurs are not the greatest spellers. And I may not be the greatest dining companion).

Denver Energy 2

You may see a beautiful person with a beautiful smile – – all I notice is that little bit of spinach in her teeth.

You may not be like me – but someone reading your resume might be.  And much like spinach in one’s teeth, a CV that is 99.9% perfect can get discounted if an error is spotted by an OCD HR person or hiring manager (‘if they make a mistake on their most important document, what’s their attention to detail’?).  Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all it takes.proofreader 2

My suspicion was that there are a lot of errors out there – – so I decided to check it out.

I speed-proofed a sample of resumes from a large networking group to see if there were errors that could get someone’s resume discarded by a picky hiring manager or HR person.  These resumes are from very accomplished senior executives.

And there were indeed errors.  In fact, all resumes had errors that needed fixing – – and some of these were ‘final’, meaning a resume expert had helped them out and blessed the final product.  It’s natural – after checking your resume 5000 times, you’re sick of it and it becomes impossible to spot things.

Here are the 6 most frequent errors I found:

1) misspelling names of companies and brands (including in some cases the companies and brands that the person worked for!)

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2) sloppy formatting – dates don’t align on the right, formatting makes it tough to trace the career history, periods on some bullet points but not others, inconsistent capitalization, etc.

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3) use of proprietary acronyms and abbreviations that no reader is going to understand

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4) inconsistent use of MM, M and millions (same for thousands and billions) – used one way in one place, another way elsewhere

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5) sloppy grammar – mixing past and present tense, missing connecting words, using ‘lead’ instead of ‘led’, etc.

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6) missing elements – not using the official name of a company, not consistently showing city/state for a job, etc.

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Trivial stuff, for sure, but it’s the real world.  You may well be the next Steve Jobs – – don’t unnecessarily give anyone a reason to think about anything other than your accomplishments.

NET – – for those in search mode, the resume you think is squeaky clean may have errors that someone may fixate on.

So — reach out to your annoying attention-to-detail friend (we all have one) and make double-sure you’re ready for prime time – remove that spinach!

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If you’ve read this far and found that your resume needed a correction, please let me know in the comments.

If you find that I made an error in this post, I don’t want to hear about it.

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How A Lowly Can Opener is Messing with KitchenAid’s Brand

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UPDATE TO PREVIOUS POST

We all know that a brand is like the proverbial chain that is only as strong as its weakest link – – all aspects of the brand need to reflect its core value.  Ignoring even a small link can be dangerous to your brand’s integrity.

KA Can opener

Case in point: one of a well-regarded company’s least expensive products is constantly undermining the reputation of its expensive core product line – and management has apparently decided that this is ok.

KA Mixer

KitchenAid makes high quality, and in some cases iconic appliances that command premium prices (a status brand but not as expensive as SubZero or Viking).  We’re all familiar with the classic KitchenAid stand mixers in designer colors.  I recently purchased a KitchenAid double wall oven when my old one died.  A lot had to do with trust in the KitchenAid brand.

KA Product Line

So why would they go cheap on the most prosaic of items – the manual can opener?

can opener

When one of our kids stole our standard-issue metal can opener, we went on Amazon and splurged on a KitchenAid can opener in a designer color – it looks like the Hummer of can openers – a little affordable indulgence but one that should perform great and last a long time.  The Amazon ratings showed 4 stars and over 1000 reviews.  Safe territory.

Except it didn’t work.

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Within a few months, it stumbled, stopped opening cans, capable only of spastic puncture wounds, and we ended up buying a less fancy but perfectly serviceable replacement.

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Here is where you need to be familiar with the ‘Barbell Review’.

While the brand got a 4 star rating overall, the distribution showed about 30% of the reviews were one star.  Had we bothered to read these, we would have learned that this is a product with highly inconsistent quality, and when it goes, it’s completely useless.

Some review excerpts (and there are hundreds of them):
Really disappointed that this was a KitchenAid product that didn’t outlast an off-brand opener.”
…it was defective and I really expected more from the KitchenAid name”
I’m very disappointed. Typically I love KitchenAid brand and that is why I bought this particular can opener. I would not recommend it.

Do not trust the KitchenAid brand on this one.
Unfortunately I didn’t read the reviews first because well…KITCHENAID! You wouldn’t expect to have to read reviews it’s suppose to be a good brand, this thing sucks!!!

If you’ve invested time and money to build your brand, why would you want your brand dragged through the mud?

KitchenAid has outsourced this product (to a company called Lifetime Brands) and judging by the dates on the reviews (going back to at least 2012), they’ve not bothered to change this defective design in years – – despite a lot of disappointed buyers.

So who cares?

Well, if your first experience with KitchenAid was the lowly can opener, and it failed, you will be much less inclined to buy the more expensive appliances from which KitchenAid makes its money.  There are 500 negative reviews on just one version of this product on Amazon.

The lesson here: rarely, if ever, does it make sense to market a lower quality product under a high quality brand name.  (Cadillac Cimarron, anyone?)

This goes beyond product to every encounter a consumer has with your brand.  Whether your brand stands for premium, economical, effective, snarky, eco-friendly, high-tech or whatever, it all has to be consistent. Branding 101.

In a classic demonstration of good money chasing bad, we’re sending our crippled can opener back to Lifetime Brands, which has promised to replace it.  This is all in the interest of science.  Stay tuned.

can opener mailing

$10.62 to replace a $15 product

Moral of the story – keep your brand strong and consistent, and be alert to any potential ‘can openers’ in your organization.

blue can opener

And beware the dreaded barbell review.

Having fun can be good for business – seriously

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Sometimes, as marketers, we take ourselves WAY too seriously.  Having a little fun can be a great way to break from the pack and enhance your brand identity.

wheres the beef

Overly serious messaging with the tonal equivalent of sucking a lemon can get a message across but can also miss a great opportunity to connect with the audience and to break through in a crowded environment.

I’m not talking about Bud Light ha-ha slapstick funny – there’s lots of that out there (and a lot of it is not particularly funny).

I’m talking about funny that connects to someone as a person.  There’s a difference.

  • When done right, viewers are thinking “they get me! – they’re talking to me”

Exhibit A – Sprinkler Supply Store

I ordered replacement gaskets online from a sprinkler supply company.  They arrived and all worked out.  End of transaction.

  • Then I got their ‘welcome’ email with ‘Huge Announcement’ in the subject line, signaling that I was now in their database
  • This should have been an invitation to unsubscribe, but the way it was done, I now look forward to future emails! I like them!  How did that happen?
  • Here’s the copy:

    “Listen up folks! David is joining us from…

    but no one could hear the rest of the announcement over the clamorous applause. Bells were rung. Balloons were dropped. “It’s Raining Men” blared from every speaker.
    Simply put, adding you to our Sprinkler Supply Store family was cause for immediate celebration, everyone is thrilled you’re now a customer. Thank you!”

  • It made me laugh – – and it worked (actual email below)

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Exhibit B – UberConference – World’s Best Hold Music!

If you’re waiting for other people to join your UberConference call, you will hear music about…being on hold.  First time I heard it, I laughed out loud.

Here’s a company that essentially force-feeds hold music saying “hey, we rely on hold music and even WE think it sucks!”  In other words, they get it.

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 10.26.35 AMI’m On Hold” was written and performed by Alex Cornell, an UberConference exec.  Sample lyrics: “Well, I’ve been sitting here all day/I’ve been sitting in this waiting room/And I’ve been waiting on my friends/Yes, waiting on this conference call – all alone/And I’m on hold, well yes, I’m on hold/I hope it’s not all day”.

Check out the YouTube video below, and check out the comments.  That’s a great connection.

 

Exhibit C – Sheetz (a 600-unit, 65-year old mid-Atlantic convenience/gas chain)

Convenience stores connected to gas stations are many, varied, and mostly interchangeable.  Not this one.

  • Sheetz prides itself on its Made To Order food and has long taken a light touch with the family name, selling “Shwingz” (wings), “Shmuffinz” (breakfast sandwich), and “Shweetz” (baked goods). Their ads have historically been funny.
  • But their recent “I Want it All” (Queen cover) regional ad is an over the top statement that they’re different – – complete with air guitar – – and that they get where you’re coming from (we all know it’s just a convenience store – – lighten up – – ours is pretty good)
  • It made me laugh – – and it worked.  Official video inexplicably not available – – bootleg version here.

 

 

Exhibit D – Buick Enclave

I am not a Buick guy, but I did a double-take with a current spot.

  • In the base spot, a suburban dog-walking woman corrects the Buick owner by identifying her dog as a ‘Bernie-doodle’, a nice send-up of dogs as status symbols

Base version
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA-I-cN9mh8

‘Dog Walker’ version

  • In this pool out, they up the ante on the dog owner status. Fido is now a “Golden-English-Labra-Irish-Bernedoodle Retriever–with the temperament of a Pug

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYoq2epAXG8

  • It’s funny! I know lots of dog snobs – – hey, I’m one myself!  And it worked to give Buick a more relatable identity (the only Buick owner I know is Mom).  Without the gag I would have not paid attention.

Exhibit E – Southwest Airlines safety announcements

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  • Everyone is familiar with these (classic example in the video).
  • We all know that pre-flight announcements are routine and that no one listens anymore. Southwest has always done a great job of using humor to relate to its customers on an equal level, rather than a formal ‘we’re in charge’ approach, and in addition to being fun, it breaks down the barriers that might otherwise exist in a sometimes stressful activity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07LFBydGjaM

Great marketing messaging creates a connection with the viewer – – to demonstrate that the advertiser understands who their target consumers are, and what they feel and need – – and that this empathy presumably translates to a belief that they can better meet your needs.

Humor, in addition to helping break through the clutter, is a very good way to create that direct connection, and maybe help bring that prospect a little closer to being a customer.

Of course, there are some situations where humor is just not appropriate – – serious life issues, mean-spirited, sexist or condescending humor, things that appeal to only a miniscule narcissistic sub-segment of society (copywriters), and stuff that’s just not funny.

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So remember that, like hot sauce, while it can spice things up, not everyone likes humor the way you do, it doesn’t go with everything, and if used too aggressively, it can ruin what you were trying to improve.

Is This Any Way to Treat a High Value Customer? Ask My Mother.

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Do You Know Your Most Valuable Customers?  Do they know that you love them?

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It’s 10 times harder to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.  Loyal customers are more profitable and have the highest Lifetime Customer Value. They love your company already.  They have already been acquired, qualified and taken through the funnel – – you have them where you want them!

So why, with today’s sophisticated customer management systems, are loyal repeat customers too often just an afterthought?  Or missed entirely?

In today’s post we will try to demonstrate that marketers must make extra effort to identify and appreciate these great customers.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data-based systems have given marketers the illusion that they not only know everything about their customers, but that their email outreach perfectly motivates everyone.  This is not always the case.  They don’t always get it right.  Customer targeting algorithms written too narrowly can miss the bigger picture.

Case in point: my very own Mom.

  • Mom’s primary indulgence is periodically taking her 5 kids and their families (20-25 people total) to an all-inclusive resort. Club Med has been the most frequent (but not exclusive) beneficiary. (Yes, I chose my mother extremely well). Her aggregate investment is well into 6 figures over the past 20+ years she’s been doing this.

ClubMed1

In the case of Club Med, the algorithm failed.  They were focused on the last 3 years only.  And they completely missed the fact that she’s a long-time customer who brings a group. Mom turns out to be a mere Turquoise!  A rookie in their eyes!

ClubMed2

ClubMed3

———

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  • Mom selects the location, makes the reservations and all expenses go through her. She has 99% of the decision-making power on where we go. She should be a Big Kahuna to Club Med. They should make sure she’s happy, show their appreciation, and make every effort to acknowledge her loyalty.

ClubMed5

————-

ClubMed4

  • Yet Club Med scores loyalty on a per-person visit basis over the last 3 years. So despite influencing a lot of spending, Mom is classified as entry-level Turquoise, with the same status as a 10-year old who goes along with her parents. There is no acknowledgement at the corporate level, and none at the local Club level – – no one has told them who this is. No bottle of wine or fruit in the room. No upgrade. No ‘thank you for your continued loyalty’. Nothing.

ClubMed7

  • Small victory!  But it took a lot of effort.  Shouldn’t have to.
  • What defines your best customers? Longevity? Frequency? Cumulative $ spent?  Early adopters of new products?  This is really important to figure out.

Club Med of course doesn’t want to ignore their best customers. It’s just that their system isn’t set up to recognize them all the time.  To their credit, they handled my email rant with grace – – and came through in the end.

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ClubMed9

——–

So figure out who your best customers are and take care of them!

Right after you take care of your mother.

 

Too Many Surveys? We’d Love your Opinion

I just finished a lengthy (20 min.) survey regarding a recent vacation, only to have my input erased due to technical issues. Getting a lot of this lately.

Restroom Survy

Not elbow-friendly buttons

Marketers have become entranced by the ability to survey consumers at very low cost. This is a seeming game-changing alternative to custom studies that can easily get into 4 or 5 figures or more. Technology has made it possible to survey via email, phone and even in restrooms!

What’s not to like?

Well, as a consumer, I’ll tell you what’s not to like. We are getting surveyed to death.  Ironically, more surveys might be leading to lower quality insights.

Survey montage

If, like The Armchair MBA, you use your inbox as a de facto filing tool, search for ‘survey’ or ‘what do you think’ or ‘your opinion’ and see what you get.

The answer is: lots. In addition to follow-up questions on every Amazon purchase, flight segment, taxi, Uber or car rental you take, everyone is getting into the act.

The dangers of over-surveying are:

  • Response rate/burnout.  The more surveys people receive, the fewer they’re likely to fill out. This reduces the number of qualified respondents.
  • Bias. Just as you don’t want to use the plumber who’s always available, you don’t want to hear just from respondents who always have time to fill out online surveys.
  • Response quality. More surveys = less time per survey. Responses that are rushed are more likely to be cursory and of low quality, particularly late in a survey.
  • Annoyance. A company that always has its hand out for info is going to wear out its welcome, or minimally get diminishing response.

All of these things can result in worse, rather than better, information.

So here are a few things you can do to maximize the usefulness of your surveys.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.   In short, don’t survey if you don’t need to. Make the surveys you do conduct meaningful. Maximize use of info you already have. If you’re tracking attitudes over time, make sure you’re asking in a way where the trends are valid. Again, avoid unnecessary surveying just for the sake of surveying. This makes the surveys you send stand out more.
  2. Keep it short. No one has time for lengthy, repetitive surveys. Promise brevity in your subject line or where it will show as a thinly disguised plea in the preview pane.
  3. Offer something in return. This can be free goods, discounts, a chance to win a prize, whatever. Again, get this across in the subject line or preview area or it doesn’t matter.   Brevity + bribery is a good combination.Survey-brevity

Survey-Incentive4.  Promise to share results of the survey. This is the researcher’s click-bait, especially if it’s something of high interest.  Related, give the respondent some level of belief that the results will actually result in something good being done.

5.  Flatter the potential respondent. ‘We’d like your expert opinion’, etc. As long as Pride is still one of the Seven Deadly Sins, this will have some effect.

Survey-Flattery

And finally, tip #6 – – don’t put a push-button survey machine in a restroom.

Survey 1

Super Bowl Ads – The REAL Best and Worst – – and why

A week ago the impossible happened – a Super Bowl that was WAY more exciting than the ads.

Still, duty calls – – it’s taken a week to fully process the advertising train wreck but the result is worth the wait.

The Armchair MBA carefully analyzed the reviews of 10 respected entities (plus a timid peep from Harvard Business School), summarily ignored them and can now announce the REAL best and worst ads of 2018.

SB 2018 Montage

Super Bowl spots, in particular, need to stand out in a hyper-charged environment, create water cooler (social) chat to extend the brand, and ultimately move the brand forward.

Clicking on this chart will blow it up so you can see where everyone came out.

Included at no extra charge – charming, witty, pithy bons mots!  It’s so worth it!

Super Bowl 2018 ads

We generally subscribe to the ADPLAN evaluation system set up by the Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net Equity).

Tide

First, a few general observations:

  • When everyone does anthemic feel-good ads to set themselves apart from the competition, everyone starts looking the same.  In some cases I was moved almost to tears and had no idea which brand I should hug.
  • I have a dream that in the future, companies won’t feel compelled to stretch to co-opt (read: exploit) a universal good (cancer research, disaster relief, first responders, and BABIES!) to draw attention. Winner (loser) by a long shot in this category – – Ram Trucks.
  • LCD humor apparently remains a reliable go-to for advertisers (see: Febreze, M&Ms).
  • Not as many animals this year (no Clydesdales, Doberhuahua or Puppymonkeybaby), BUT we still had more than enough with Yellow Tail’s ‘Roo, TurboTax’s monster under the bed…and Steven Tyler.
  • Personality counts a LOT! Morgan Freeman continues to define ‘Maximum Possible Q Score’, Peyton Manning is a reservoir of humor and credibility (especially since the divorce from Papa John), and Eli, he of the permanently blank expression, will always be the little brother.

Selected Best Ads

  • Echo (Amazon) – – witty, creative, great cameos, and the product is the whole point
  • Doritos/Mtn Dew — great pairing, both products and performers, with a high fun factor
  • US Olympic Committee – – in the grand tradition of Up Close and Personal, terrific effort at personalizing the competitors (particularly important in light of current controversies).  Incorporating childhood photo/video a big plus.
  • Tourism Australia – – in a head-fake worthy of Doug Pederson, grabs your attention and keeps it
  • Tide (It’s a Tide Ad) – – P&G threw a long ball with several executions of this campaign spoofing other campaigns (see above), and scored. The premise of ‘if it’s clean, it must be Tide’ could not be more spot-on (pun intended)
  • Rocket Mortgage – – humorous, relatable, and highly relevant to the product
  • Sprint – – a bunch of robots who make the logic work, and then crack wise, make it a strong spot

Selected Stinkers

  • Ram Trucks – – #1 stinkeroo. Someone thought it would be a good idea to use the words of MLK Jr. to elevate…a truck. Shame on Ram Trucks, and shame on the MLK family, for that matter.
  • Squarespace – -in a way, they’ve become sort of a reliable companion in the stinker category.  This year, we had Keanu Reaves riding a motorcycle standing up and…pontificating.
  • T-Mobile – – a high-concept ad which pans over a multitude of infants, and unsuccessfully tries to make some sort of connection to the product. Creepy.
  • Febreze – – ironically in the stinkeroo category. Maybe the man’s *** don’t stink – -but that doesn’t mean the copy is something you want to be around
  • NFL – – I’m apparently a voice in the wilderness here. Most people found the Eli/Odell pas de deux a charming play off the iconic Dirty Dancing scene. I just thought it was forced, clumsy and unfunny.  Plus, not sure what the message was.

Maybe like the E*Trade commercial says, I’m just getting old.

The Pain of Not Having Hand

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Don’t you hate it when you want your money back and have no leverage?  Explanation of this (and ‘Hand’) follows.

This is about companies who put barriers in place to enable them to hold onto your money until they wear you out.  A war of attrition.  Things like unreachable customer service, phone personnel with no names who cannot be recontacted, endless phone wait times, etc.   We’ve all been there.  Some of you are probably on hold with someone right now!

My goal is always to have a ‘So What’ in my posts but other than stopping transacting altogether, I am not sure how to preemptively protect against this!  So I’m open to suggestions.

So that’s your challenge, dear readers.  For the good of humanity, help us find a solution.

The basic model has been around:  exploit human nature.

gift cardskitchen junk drawer

It used to go something like this: you get a gift card and the issuer gets the revenue and records future redemption as a liability. You put it in the kitchen ‘everything’ drawer next to your frequent shopper cards from 1995, never redeem it, company books revenue with no expense. Nice! Called ‘breakage’ in accounting, commonly known as ‘slippage’ in consumer goods.  Coupons are issued, people don’t bother redeeming, etc.

This new version is more insidious and aggravating. As George Costanza might say, we have no hand!  And they know it!

Here’s how it works (examples below):

  • You transact something online
  • You provide payment via credit card
  • Something goes sideways, not due to anything you did
  • Supplier has your money, and very little motivation to give it back
  • You now spend considerable unplanned time and energy fighting with the supplier to reclaim your own money

Case study 1: Booked AirBNB for about $1600 for a week; they (and owner) got payment in advance. Upon arrival, property has significant water leaks, which are being repaired, rendering it uninhabitable. AirBNB is contacted, situation explained, they offer $400 refund afterward and refuse to discuss the matter further.  Boo, AirBNB!

Case study 2: Rented car with GPS. GPS didn’t work. Took over an hour and several emails just to get back the $30.  Boo, Fox Car Rental! 

Case study 3: Moved across the country. $17k total bill, which required payment in full ahead of time (apparently this is standard operating procedure, which is itself worthy of a separate conversation). Move happened 3 days late, which created additional expense for friends who flew in to help with the move, and which technically qualified as a ‘late delivery’ by the mover.  Several items broken. After huge effort and many hours and emails, result was a check for $20 we got in the mail. Zero hand in this one.  Double Boo, North American Van Lines!

Case study 4: WSJ inexplicably stops being delivered one Friday. Go to handy online notification area but service is down. Chat is not manned yet (it’s before 8). Phone line also not available. Paper doesn’t come on Saturday either, make several online entreaties to both email and chat. Now start getting 2 (identical) papers on Monday. Issue finally settled on Tuesday.  Boo, WSJ!

I could go on.  I’m sure we all could.

In fairness, these infuriating episodes are balanced by the transparency and customer satisfaction focus of many excellent online retailers, who understand something about customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In all of the cited cases the supplier messed up, but the burden was on the consumer to spend the significant effort to (maybe) get a satisfactory reimbursement.  There is no Online People’s Court to help resolve these issues.   I personally resent having to spend precious time just to claim what is mine in the first place!

Sure, over the long haul corporate reputations can be harmed, penalizing bad behavior.  But I don’t want to wait for the long haul.

How can we fix this?