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By Stephen Rhodes

Last month, one of our clients approached us about changing their brand.

When I explained that brands are not socks, and probably what they really wanted to do was freshen up their logo,  we had an engaging conversation about what they believed their brand represented. When I asked the next question, what do your customers think, there was one of those long pregnant pauses.

In October last year The Gap  did an about face after introducing a new logo that ignited a customer backlash. Customers went viral onFacebook and Twitter and the Gap applied the brakes and withdrew the new logo after spending millions. The updated logo consisted of a small blue box placed above the upper right-hand corner of the “p“ in the company’s name.

Gap initially defended the new logo, saying that it brought the company into the modern age. It also asked customers to share their ideas for improving the design.

But the clothes retailer found itself the target of an astonishing volley of abuse as thousands of users blasted the new design.
Companies, even those as big as the Gap, need to understand they don’t own their brand, their customers do.

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

Explain to me the value proposition in new technology. I am, let me rephrase that, my wife is in the market for a LARGE flat-screen TV. I know, role reversal. We have a 26 inch RCA solid state thingy that has been ticking since about 1990. Works just fine, touch wood.

The flat-screen Plasma/LCD/LED world is argghhh! It’s quicksand out there, and there is a feeding frenzy as prices are dropping faster than Isaac Newton’s apple.

I go looking for help online. I’m thinking ahead – is it possible to add the Internet to this behemoth? Can I surf the web in hi-def on 55 inches of  colourful splendour?

Jeremy Toeman has worked in the field of convergence between computers, the Internet and TV , and recently he posted on Mashable arguing that the biggest challenge smart televisions face in 2011 is overcoming customers’ FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). That’s me.

Smart televisions? I thought I was just looking for a big television. Some Hi- Def, Blue Ray, big screen for my aging eyes.

He says in the  2000s, buying a new TV was easy. The bigger the screen, the better the television. Some bells and whistles but otherwise pretty straight forward. I am thinking I should have bought 10 years ago. Damn.

“Now enter smart TVs and 3-D TVs. To the industry, these devices represent an opportunity to upsell consumers with added benefits and features. But to consumers, these connected televisions also introduce planned obsolescence into television life cycles. Planned obsolescence is a concept where companies sell products with a limited lifespan or functionality to encourage repeat purchases and upgrades. The result? Consumers are staying away from new TV. Instead of getting excited for new features, they are getting scared. To quote a recent industry article: “Despite all the hype, 3-D sets haven’t been a runaway success, and Internet-capable ones haven’t fared much better.”

Why is this happening? Sure, a slow economy is one reason, but there are others that are more concerning to television makers and the consumer electronics industry as a whole. It’s my opinion that FUD is a major factor in 3-D TV failure as well. Consumers’ questions include: Do I need more glasses? Does it work with my Blu-ray? Will all titles be compatible?

Joe says technology issues – meaning I need an engineering degree to make this work, or worse, how many hours will I have to wait for tech support – are a concern. Obsolescence – or  how long before I need another one, will it be outdated before I actually get it working   – is another concern.

I must admit, I was confused with the just going big part, without the going smart part.

Joe says, most smart TVs are being touted for their technology rather than the benefits they provide people. Instead of telling people that the weather app is on their TV (a feature), the industry should emphasize the personal weather forecasts smart TVs generate that are tailored for individual needs (a benefit). For the average consumer, Facebook on TV sounds like a lot of work (“Where will I type? Do I still “Like” stuff? Does FarmVille work? What else do I need to do?”). Putting Twitter on the television sounds like it is a lot of work. Anything that involves a mouse and a keyboard seems — and is — onerous to the living room context. The value proposition for smart TVs has to be the effortless delivery of content in ways that mirror the ease of standard TV experience.

So, now I got all this other stuff to consider. If you want to sell me the smart television, I need to know the benefits – what’s in it for me, how easy is it to use and how long will it last? Marketing 101.

My 26 inch RCA has been going 20 years. We understand each other. It’s easy to use. Honey?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

More and more, I hear clients talk about being lost when it comes to the latest trends in marketing, meaning, of course, social media.

It reminds me of the mid 90s when many small businesses migrated to the Internet because…well because they thought they had to be hip. Many jumped on board without much consideration for why they were among the newly converted or how it would help their business. “We gotta be there,” was the mantra in many boardrooms. Some are still trying to figure it out.

The same thing is happening today with social media. Businesses are setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, Flickr and even YouTube accounts without so much as a …how will this help our business grow?  “We gotta be there” is still the clarion call.

Advertising hasn’t changed much in 100 years. It’s still about  attracting attention, engaging minds, triggering  emotions, and changing the way people think. If you can do that you will generate sales.

What has changed is the delivery methodology.

If you want to influence behavior there is a spectrum of tools including direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads, commercial websites, radio and TV, and, of course, social media – the new darling of marketing.

The key is knowing which tool(s) works best for you. And not all tools will be effective for your business. I have a client who can track new sales every time we deliver a direct mail piece to a group of targeted clients. The key word here is targeted, often lost among the “I gotta be hip” crowd. But the point is, direct mail works for him, and he can see (measure) the return on his investment.

First and foremost is understanding your customers. Who are they and how can you reach them is the pivotal question. What do you have that they want. (the what’s in it for me question) Can I build an ongoing relationship and how can I capitalize on that to build an even bigger customer base.

These are questions you should ask every day.

Don’t get me wrong. Social Media is the future of marketing and communications. Building your own group of followers, a community of customers, all engaged and part of your business is a powerful opportunity to communicate a targeted message.

But take a measured approach. Who is your customer, what message do you want to deliver and what is the best way to get it there? Some things never change.

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

Sometimes we think that doing what we always do will yield better results. Often, doing what we always do yields the same results and if you are not happy with those results you need to change things.

Here are five things to think about as you enter a new calendar year.

1. Review your past year for what did and didn’t work.

It’s simple, if you measure the return on your marketing program. Have a look at what worked and what didn’t. Common sense should tell us to stick with the things that are working, and try new things in place of those that are not. Don’t beat a dead horse.

2. Develop a program to measure success. Survey, measure results, ask your customers.

Ok, so you couldn’t complete the first assignment above because you don’t measure the success of your marketing program. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you need to understand what is working and what isn’t, so track sales related to a specific campaign and compare those results to the cost of running the campaign. If it costs more to run the campaign than …I think you get the idea.

3. Look at new ways to create a dialogue with your customers. Twitter perhaps.

Some business owners are afraid to talk to their customers and that’s why social networking tools like Twitter are unattractive. Developing an ongoing dialogue with your customers can help you retool the business on the fly, responding specifically to needs identified by your customer. Try it, it’s addictive. Talking to your customers is a good thing.

4. Find bloggers in your industry and subscribe to their musings for new ideas.

You are not alone in your sphere of influence. There are experts everywhere online and you can subscribe to any number of blogs that could be useful to your business. Go to Google blog search (http://blogsearch.google.com/ ) and search for your areas of interest. You can subscribe through a reader or simply have the material delivered to your email inbox.

5. Set out a measurable plan for the year and check the pulse monthly.

Don’t wait until December to find out that your business is under-performing. Set out a plan and check monthly to ensure you are on target. If you have three months of under-performance, you need to make a change. Better you do this in March than November. Be nimble, monitor your business and adjust accordingly.

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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Who do you trust?

By Stephen Rhodes

Do you trust your neighbour, your doctor, minister and mechanic?

Would you take advice from your mechanic on a new doctor, or your doctor on a new church?

Throughout our lives we build relationships with people. We not only trust them for what they promise, we often trust their opinions about things that they might not know much about.

How often have you heard a neighbour or a friend say I have a really good lawyer, accountant, butcher, baker or candlestick maker. Most of my neighbours don’t know much about any of these people. They do know that they trust the relationship they have developed and are happy to pass that along to me. A referral.

In networking parlance, a referral is the golden goose as in  I know and trust my new networking buddy well enough to refer him to one of my trusted business associates. The door opener.

Some organized networking groups force referrals and insist that participants swap names every week, providing new referrals for other participants. So either they have been holding out, like last week, or they have developed this deeply trusting relationship in the last seven days and they are about to share it with me.

Trust is at the center of all business relationships. But trust has to be earned.

Who do you trust?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

When you approach a potential client about doing business are you ready to answer WIIFM? “What’s in it For Me” is the closer. Without it, you don’t have much of a pitch.

Depending on your business, what’s in it for me can take many forms. It’s cheaper, faster, smarter, more effective, includes a great gift, fits your lifestyle, exclusive, provides hours of pleasure, saves time, saves money, is more convenient, new and improved, keeps on ticking… I think you get the idea…it’s the why I should buy your product of service.

So, why do so many people have trouble with such a simple concept?

Think of it as your elevator speech.

It must be BRIEF -50 words or less and in plain English and not some marketing blather that sounds good but says nothing. Tell me what you do and WHY I need your product or service? Be clear, specific and honest. There must be a compelling reason for people to switch from your competitor(s) so the why I should choose you is the most important question to answer.

BE POSITIVE – Fear was once a great motivator. Who wants ring around the collar? Today it’s too easy for people to find solutions on the Internet. Tell people how you’re going to help them and not what might happen if they ignore your sage advice.

It’s a simple question. What’s in it for me?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

A few weeks ago I mentioned that brand is not what you think it is, but what your customer thinks it is. And what your customer thinks  of your company is completely in your hands to control.

Witness the recent list of companies who have done their very best to change how their customers view their brand

Toyota noted for quality, particularly when compared to North American auto makers, has broken its promise with seemingly endless recalls. Google and Facebook have both felt the ire of their customers over privacy issues. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, has suffered in the wake of the credit crunch in the United States.

In the past two weeks even the venerable Apple has run afoul of its customers with  its new iPhone 4. Apple finally acknowledged a problem with the iPhone 4’s reception but claims  it isn’t in the external antenna design, but rather with the iPhone 4’s formula to calculate signal strength bars. They promise a fix soon but it’s unlikely to remedy the reception problem, just the fact you will now know when you have lousy reception.

And then, of course,  there is BP.

Tom Bergin, of Reuters had a piece in the National Post BP’s colossal PR blunder about the Gulf oil spill.

“BP’s handling of the spill from a crisis management perspective will go down in history as one of the great examples of how to make a situation worse by bad communications,” said Michael Gordon, of New York based crisis public relations firm Group Gordon Strategic Communications.

“It was a combination of a lack of transparency, a lack of straight talking and a lack of sensitivity to the victims. When you’re managing an environmental disaster of this magnitude you not only have to manage the problem but also manage all the stakeholders.”

BP failed to understand the attitude and perception it was building in its customers’ minds.

The rise of Twitter, and other social media tools, allows companies to monitor what people are saying about them but also help them to engage actively with consumers. It also enables customers to communicate with each other, and it is the stories they share that can shape the future of a brand.

Credibility and trust are pillars in brand management. Break the promise with your customer and it’s difficult to recover.

Your thoughts?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

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