Category Archives: marketing

Vinny the Linchpin won’t let you make a waffle

(Seth Godin’s new book, “Linchpin – Are you Indispensible?” just hit the New York Times bestseller list. It’s an amazing, life-changing book and my review is coming soon. If you don’t know the term Linchpin yet, you will. Until then, read this. Now, on to Vinny)

You don’t have to be an artist or a musician or a creative to be a Linchpin.

Sometimes all it takes is a waffle.

My client Altec Lansing is based in Milford, Pennsylvania and when I’m there, I stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Matamoras.

There is a self serve breakfast buffet just like at every Hampton Inn & Suites. Except this one isn’t like every one. And Vinny makes it so much more than self-serve.

I’ve only met Vinny three times but it only took once to realize what kind of guy he is. He waits on you hand and foot, transforming the experience from a self-serve breakfast buffet into a four-star restaurant.

Every time, Vinny enthusiastically lets me know what the hot dish of the day is. Sometimes it’s pancakes, sometimes it’s a eggs on a bagel sandwich. Vinny sells it and somehow, I’m always convinced it’s a good choice to start my day.

Vinny makes small talk if you’re interested but it’s never probing or bothersome.

Vinny insists on making your waffle for you, even though the machine is self-serve.

Vinny bustles around, making sure every item at the buffet is stocked completely at all times.

Vinny always wishes everyone a wonderful day but it’s his actions that ensure they start the day delighted.

Vinny doesn’t do his art only on good days. He does it every day.

It’s pretty clear Vinny doesn’t do this job for the money. He does it to give a gift and because he enjoys making people feel special.

To be a Linchpin, location doesn’t matter. Neither does title or how big your office is.

If Vinny can be a Linchpin working at a Hampton Inn & Suites breakfast buffet in Matamoras, what’s stopping you?

Your new competition

Quick. Take 30 seconds and list your main competitors.

(don’t worry, I’ll wait)



Sorry, but your list is wrong.

Unless of course, you listed Zappos, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Netflix, The Container Store and Apple.

Your customers are doing business with these companies, who are constantly raising the bar on engagement and customer delight.

Every time your customer’s online order arrives earlier than expected from Zappos…

Every time your customer chuckles at a Southwest flight attendant who weaves humor into the emergency exit script…

Every time your customer feels a human connection with a checker in line at Trader Joe’s…

Every time your customer is glad that there are so many helpful colored shirts at the Apple Store…

It’s happening right now. Your customers are experiencing this kind of interaction (notice I didn’t say transaction) today.

The bar has been raised.

What are you going to do?

Crocodiles and free pizza

“With every drink order, you get a free pizza.”

It sounds crazy. Or at least backwards.

But that’s the deal at Crocodile Lounge in the Gramercy / East Village neighborhood of New York City. With every single drink order, you get a ticket for a free pizza. All the time.

It’s not just a story, it’s a story that spreads. Friends tell friends. Friends bring friends.

They tweet about it.

They Yelp about it.

They blog about it. A lot. Photo credit by Smack Factor.

They check in on Foursquare.

Crocodile Lounge isn’t even active in social media themselves. They gave their fans a story that is easy to explain and fun to tell and the fans are carrying the message in person and online.

People are incredulous when you tell them about the free pizza per drink deal. “That’s impossible?! How do they make any money?”.

This only helps the story to spread, of course.

For you spreadsheet and ROI jockeys (I used to be one) here is my take on the short version of how it works (I’ll guess conservatively on the #’s):

The two guys who make pizzas all night probably make $10 / hour plus tips. Call it 10 hours per day * $10 / hour * two guys = $200.
Dough is cheap. The raw materials to make all the pizzas in a night probably costs about $200.

So, being conservative, the incremental cost of Crocodile offering free pizza is $400 per night.

A tap beer is about $5.
Cost to the bar = less than $1.

So at a profit of $4 per beer, once the free pizza gimmick brings in an incremental 100 drinks per night, it’s now making money, at a very high profit margin.

Plus all the word of mouth, social mentions and positive press.

Once you do the math, it’s no longer crazy. It’s not backwards. It’s brilliant.

[NB: They also have two skee ball lanes in back. Here’s the throwdown. I can beat any of my readers in skee ball. If I lose, I’ll buy you a pizza.]

What crazy and backwards idea can think up for your business? What story can you give your fans to tell?

That’s some strong cheddar

One video, two lessons.

1) Never give up. (Which is different than strategic quitting, as outlined in The Dip.)
2) If you’re going to make ads, don’t drone on about your features, low price or celebrity endorsers. Tell a story. Make us laugh. Make it memorable and remarkable so we want to tell others (like I just did).

How many car commercials have you seen where the car winds up a curvy mountain road while displaying the latest price. Hundreds? Thousands?

Contrast that with this. It’s impossible to watch this video and not smile, laugh AND remember the brand message.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order some Nolan’s Cheddar.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Flowtown knows what you’re wearing

OK, they may not know what you’re wearing but there is a good chance they know your customers better than you do.

Flowtown uses emails from your customer database, (you do have an email database for your customers, right?) and can tell you interesting and valuable information about those customers.

I recently met the founders of Flowtown online. They are wicked smart guys with a product that is immediately useful to almost any business.

Below is my interview with Ethan Bloch.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ethan Bloch and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of Flowtown.

Why should companies use Flowtown?
Because social media is hard and Flowtown turns social data in dollars.

How much does Flowtown know about someone from their email address?
Name, Age Group, Gender, Occupation, Location, Influence and almost every Social network they’re on.

Really? Wow. Do you know what I’m wearing right now?
I think you’d prefer I didn’t say ;)

So this would allow companies to do more targeted campaigns. For instance, if only 10,000 of their 100,000 members are twitter users, they could do a focused campaign, right?
Totally, way more focused. For example if you’re not on Twitter it would be annoying to get an email saying ‘Hi Clay, we’re building out our presence on Twitter…” you’d be like “I’m not on there, why are you sending me this?” On the flip side we’ve found that if you know someone is on a network and you mention that in your email, the performance of that campaign skyrockets.

Is Flowtown a replacement for traditional email systems like Flowtown, AWeber or MailChimp?
In the case of mainstream email service providers, I don’t think Flowtown is a replacement but rather an enhancement. For example we’ve built an integration with MailChimp where any MailChimp user can come to Flowtown and in 3 clicks dump a ton of demographic and social graphic information back into their MailChimp list and then use MailChimp’s segmentation feature to get more relevant with their subscribers.

You guys are adding interesting new features to Flowtown pretty quickly. Tell us about some of them.
We just launched an influence calculation (powered by Klout), where now when you import a contact list we’ll show you your top 50 influencers, which you can use to do 1-on-1 outreach i.e. we’re showing you the 20% that will drive 80% of the results, in respect to getting noticed and building buzz.

In fact everything we do at Flowtown is ran through this ‘Pareto Lens’ – early on, internally, Dan and I would speak of Flowtown as the 80/20 marketing filter for business.

Tell me about your partner, Dan Martell. How did you guys meet?
He’s a Rockstar – we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today without Dan.

We actually met on Twitter back in September 2008. Did an IRL meetup, discovered we’re both passionate about marketing and moving the needle for business and the rest is history…

Tell us what your typical day at Flowtown is like.
I wake up around 6:30 and immediately touch base with David (VP of Engineering), he’s on EST so by the time I get up I’m already playing catchup.

(I jumpstart my day by using a strategy from Leo at Zen Habits:

I’ll do a brief skim of all the new email that’s came in make sure there’s no bombs going off and then then I’ll work on 1-2 of the most important tasks I have scheduled for the day, for the next 3 hours, usually product, sales or biz dev focused, this could include new product mocks, coding, emails, phone calls, brainstorming and white boarding.

After those 3-hours are up I start going into a more ad-hoc mode, where I’m answering email/tweets, talking to customers, closing new customers, working with David on new features, bouncing around the bay for meetings, testing new features, breaking things and syncing up with Dan.

Later in the day/evening is when I go to the 30,000+ foot view of life, this includes research, reading (going through my Instapaper) and planning.

What did you do before you started Flowtown?
Right before I started Flowtown I was producing/hosting a video show called WSYK? (What Should You Know?) which was syndicated by Revision3. And I was a marketer full time at Cake Financial, a start-up that was recently sold to E-Trade.

Where do you hope Flowtown will be in 3 years?
Flowtown will be responsible for raising the bar on customer experience/service, by helping all businesses care for their customers like Zappos cares for theirs.

What’s the plan then?
Not sure if I’ll be ready, but I want to help fill the massive void in education. I hated school growing up and think there’s a lot we can do to improve the experience for children everywhere.

You’re from Baltimore. Please tell me you’ve seen the Wire or we’re ending this interview right now.

“You come at the king you best not miss.”

I love The Wire. My favorite character is Omar and if you don’t know why just watch this.

Thanks, Ethan.

If you want to try Flowtown yourself, enter your email address here.

8 Reasons Why Conan Should Go Direct

There is an important lesson in this whole Conan vs. Leno debacle.

No matter how famous you are or how many fans you have, if you work for a huge corporation, they own you.

NBC wanted to put Conan’s show at 12:05am. Technically, that’s not even The Tonight Show. It’s The Tomorrow Show.

Conan is so frustrated, he just put the show up for sale on Craigslist.

Sure, Conan could make $40 million over at Fox and probably kill in the ratings but you can bet someday, some rube network exec would move his time slot in favor of The Sarah Palin Variety Hour. Then Conan would completely lose his marbles and he would spend the rest of his days walking around Central Park mumbling like Rain Man…

“……should have had the 11:30 slot…..18 pigeons, definitely 18 pigeons……I’m an excellent comedian…….23 times funnier than Jay Leno……definitely deserved the 11:30 slot…….”

Here are 8 reasons Conan should go direct.

1) Full creative control over his own content

Now he writes a lot of his own stuff but imagine if he wasn’t censored at all. Look out.

2) Not working for Jeff Zucker

3) Not working for anyone

4) Online video worked well for Gary V. and the Monty Python guys.

5) Never having to worry about ratings again
Let Leno have the “ratings” on NBC. His demographic is not Conan’s anyway, so why try to fight for it. It’s sort of like Newhart and Family Guy jockeying for position.

6) Any format, any device
Conan’s demographic consumes content differently. He could make videos of any length that his audience could consume and stream anywhere. iPhones, iPods, Droids, iSlates, other tablets. Design the content to be snackable and sharable and we will snack and we will share.

7) Watching a show at its original time slot is obsolete
I’ve seen plenty of clips of Saturday Night Live in the last few years, but never on Saturday night. My social network does the filtering and the best and funniest clips bubble to me on twitter and Facebook.

8 ) Your own channel means your own audience and unlimited bandwidth
You don’t see Chris Brogan and Seth Godin arguing over timeslots, do you?

It’s your world, Conan. Step out from behind the network execs and own it.

The Second Sale

Too many marketers focus solely on the first sale.

I was leaving Las Vegas today (Nicholas Cage was nowhere in sight) and with my stomach sensing that my culinary options would be limited once on board, I decided to grab lunch while at the gate.

My best option was Moe’s Mexican Grill. I had never eaten at a Moe’s but a burrito sounded good and it was very close to my gate. The next option was a Starbucks five gates away. Clearly, my first visit to Moe’s was one of impulse and convenience.

While waiting in line, I perused the menu.

The Homewrecker brought to mind a joke a friend recently made about about Gisele Bundchen.

The Jon Coctostan quesadilla brought me back to about 136 hilarious late night viewings of Fletch with my good friend Ben Lower.

Joey Bag Of Donuts made me think of the former Green Bay Packers center Frank Winters, who teammates would lovingly refer to as Frankie Bag Of Donuts.

Ruprict triggered memories of laughing uncontrollably at Steve Martin’s hilarious character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. (Why is the cork on the fork?)

I physically smiled. A few funny item names on a menu immediately triggered happy memories.

Then something happened.

Moe’s workers seemed more upbeat than your typical airport food service employees.

Moe’s customers seemed happier and less haggard.

Moe’s burrito tasted a little better than I expected.

Was all this real or a placebo effect leftover from the menu that made me smile?

It doesn’t matter.

I won’t drive miles out of my way to go to Moe’s but if I’m hungry and they are an option, the choice is easy.

If I’m alone, I get to smile at the menu again (maybe they’ll have some new items by then – I would love to see an Underhill Steak Sandwich). If I’m with a friend, I get to share their enjoyment of the inside joke.

By having a little fun with their menu, Moe’s locked up the second sale.

Director of Phone

How absurd would it be to hire a “Director of Phone”?

Imagine proposing a job requisition for an “Email Manager” position?

Where would you go to hire a “Czar of FAX”?

Yet companies are hiring “social media managers” and “social media directors” to lead the “social media team”.

In a couple years, these titles will seem just as absurd as those above.

Social media needs to and will become (for those who get it right) integrated with all other functions and part of the fabric of the organization, just like phone, FAX and email did.

(The huge difference is that social media is the first of these kind tools that allows you to listen first.)

It won’t be a skill and it won’t be a department.

Living your brand aftershocks

If customer engagement is the new marketing, customer experience is the new brand.

Brand in 2010 is the collective gut feel that customers have about your company. With the internet and social media, companies need to realize that they can no longer control their brand, as they have tried to do in the past, but instead they need to join the conversation and impact it by their actions.

When consumers think of most brands, certain words consciously or unconsciously come to mind.

Volvo = safety
Disney = imagination
Mercedes Benz = luxury
FedEx = reliable
Nike = sport

But in this age of being assaulted by brand messages all day everyday, brands also have what I’ll call aftershocks, brand thoughts that reverberate beyond the initial one like aftershocks after an earthquake.

While walking among the massive booths of the CES show floor on Day 2, I paid attention to whether the brands were living their aftershocks.

My client Altec Lansing’s brand is all about music. The aftershocks, the words that describe the gut feel we want to cause are “sound”, “fun” and “loud”. All day at the Altec Lansing booth, there was a huge Rockband contest with fun giveaways. Crowds formed, friends played against each other and everyone had a great time. Neighboring booths occasionally told us to turn it down a notch. At the end of the day, James Kyson Lee who plays Ando Masahashi on NBC’s hit show Heroes stopped by and jammed for a while.

In my admittedly biased opinion, Altec Lansing did a great job of living not only their brand but also their aftershocks.

Other booths that I visited that did a good job of living their brand and aftershocks:

Motorola – hip, fun, techy, useful
Intel – fast, cutting edge
Kodak – digital, new, capturing memories

Ford’s keynote was very impressive. They have not only reinvented their brand over the last few years, they have aligned everyone in the organization to live and breathe the brand and the aftershocks. Their SYNC and MyTouch technology will completely change the driving experience and it’s clear from listening to all of their keynote speakers that Ford’s brand is part of the fabric of the company.

What is your brand? What gut feeling are you trying to inspire in your customers?

What are your brand aftershocks? Are you living them?

Thinking outside the (Four)square

Today I was at the Consumer Electronics Show helping Altec Lansing (a Tribes Win client) setup their booth. In between unpacking and displaying product and setting up the booth’s wifi, I was tweeting on my iPhone and decided to check in on Foursquare.

(Tip: If you ever need to setup wifi at a conference, I highly recommend Trade Show Internet – it all came in a nice little box and setup was a snap. Great service.)

If you don’t know about Foursquare, it’s a location based social network and game. Mashable did a great overview post on it here. The potential for Foursqaure is huge and just this week, they went global.

While I was setting up the booth amidst the thousands of others, the marketing portion of my mind (the rest is just Wire episodes) started thinking of fun ways to encourage people to stop by the Altec Lansing booth.

The progression of my thought process was as follows:

1) CES is filled with early adopter tech geeks like myself.

2) Many of these tech geeks will be using their geeky smartphones and many will be checking in on Foursquare.

3) People like to win things.

So I setup a “special” on Foursquare. Businesses can setup almost any special they can think of for Foursqaure users. For instance, they can setup a special where the mayor (the person who has checked in the most times at a given venue) gets a free drink, like in the example below.

So I setup a Foursquare special where anyone who comes by the Altec Lansing CES booth and checks in gets entered in a drawing to win the Mix boom box. If you haven’t seen or heard this thing, it’s the quickest bass-booming way to punch your ticket to cool-kid status, especially for us tech & gadget geeks.

So now when anyone checks in anywhere near our Altec Lansing booth at CES, Foursquare will notify them of the “special” we have and they can stop by to enter and win a Mix.

Is this the intended use of Foursquare? Not exactly.

Will our “venue” even exist past Sunday? Nope.

Is it a way for us to meet and connect with more people at the show and have some fun? Definitely.

Sometimes you have to think outside the (four) square.

(I also tweeted that if you stop by, play RockBand and beat Angel’s score, you can win a Stage Gig. If you’re at CES, come by and say hi.)

How Avatar followed the Seth Godin playbook to $1B in 17 days

Last night I went to watch Avatar with my younger brother, Tim. The first theater was sold out so we yelled to everyone still streaming in and we all quickly drove to the next closest theater, 10 miles away.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film. There are no real spoilers below, just how Avatar followed Seth Godin’s marketing advice to create a blockbuster movie that has already grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide in just 17 days.

1) Remarkable Matters

Seth Godin wrote Purple Cow in 2003. Those who read it and followed the advice have reaped rewards. Avatar is “remarkable”, defined by Seth simply as something worth remarking on. I’m not a huge moviegoer – maybe average or slightly below – but more than fifty people had remarked about Avatar to me, either in person or online. People whose opinion I respect raved about it on twitter.

I didn’t go see Avatar because I saw a great preview, commercial or billboard. I went because people I trust remarked on it.

When a product is remarkable, it markets itself.

2) In a world of unlimited choice, it’s more important than ever to be the best in the world

In The Dip, Seth Godin writes about strategic quitting and the importance of being the best in the world.

Most studios wouldn’t take a chance on making a $237 million film whose biggest star is Sigourney Weaver.

They did because the man behind the entire operation (writer, director, producer) is James Cameron, arguably the best in the world at what he does. His previous film, Titanic, was the largest grossing film ever – grossing $1.84 billion dollars, 68% more than Lord of the Rings at $1.13 billion.

You don’t have to be James Cameron, but you do have to be the best in the world at what you do (or one of the best). The good news is, you get to define the world. You could be the best plumber in Omaha, Nebraska. You could be the best hiking guide in Colorado. You could be the best blogger about coffee.

Define your world and then work to be the best.

3) Tribes

Titanic appealed to the tribe of history buffs. Avatar appealed to a few different tribes, but specifically to the science fiction tribe. Any self-identified member of the sci-fi tribe will see the movie and they will talk about it. Some will go with other members of the sci-fi tribe but many will bring friends and family.

Sci-fi was a specific tribe that Avatar reached.

4) Free Prize Inside

In Free Prize Inside, Seth explains the importance of “soft innovations”.

Soft innovations are the clever, insightful, useful small ideas that just about anyone in an organization can think up. Soft innovations can make your product into a Purple Cow, they can make it remarkable. They do this by solving a problem that’s peripheral to what your product is ostensibly about. It’s a second reason to buy the thing, and perhaps a first reason to talk about it. It may seem like a gimmick, but soon, what seems like a gimmick becomes an essential element in your product or service.

Avatar is being shown in 2D and in 3D. Olivier Blanchard and others on twitter told me that seeing it in 3D is a must. They were right and seeing the amazing visual effects in 3D gives me something else to talk about as I recommend the movie.

3D was Avatar’s Free Prize Inside.

I don’t know if James Cameron has ever met or even heard of Seth Godin. It doesn’t matter. In creating and marketing Avatar, Cameron took pages directly from Seth’s playbook.

The result? Seventeen days after release, Avatar is already the 4th highest grossing movie ever.

How can you apply these tactics to your project, business or personal brand?

50 Extraordinary Billboards

Interruption marketing rarely works. Permission marketing is always better.

I honestly believe that most people can’t remember a single billboard they saw in the last week.

Can you?

What if you saw these billboards? Whether you want to buy the product or not, would you at least point it out to anyone else in your vehicle? Would you tell your friends?

[I think some are probably Photoshopped but most are real.]

Ponds Pores





Full list of all 50 on Johnson Koh’s blog here.

Anyone need a cape?

A great example of one store who really understands marketing.


The typography.

The store layout.

The consistent story.

The treatment of customers like the superheros.

The absence of fear of lawsuits claiming that their invisibility paint doesn’t really make you invisible.

The fact that the the store is a clever front for the non-profit (youth orientated) creative writing and tutoring center, 826NYC. To enter 826NYC, you actually have to go through a swinging bookcase in the BBS store. Proceeds from the BBS store fund 826NYC directly to help young people with their creative writing skills.

Awesome. I know where I’m buying my next cape.

Image credit: dels from a tribe called next.

Stacy’s scraps

Stacy's Pita

Stacy Madison and Mark Andrus were fresh out of graduate school and wanted to open a restaurant in downtown Boston, but the zeroes on their student loan debt and a lack of capital put a hold on that dream.

So they bought and opened a food cart, serving healthy sandwiches on rolled up pita bread. The cart was popular and lines grew longer everyday.

THIS was the magic moment. And Stacy and Mark didn’t even know it at the time.

Stacy and Mark decided to find a way to keep the customers waiting in line happy. So they baked the fresh pita bread into different flavored chips. The customers loved the chips and convinced Stacy and Mark to sell them in stores.

Stacy’s Pita Chip company was born.

By 2006, Stacy’s was generating about $60 million dollars a year in revenue and was sold to PepsiCo.


We can all learn a lot from Stacy & Mark:
1) If there is a roadblock to your dreams, you can either jump over it, plow through it or change course.
2) Keep your customers happy. The million dollar business wasn’t in the pita sandwiches, it was in the simple chips they gave customers waiting in line.
3) Listen to your customers. They said the chips would sell in stores. They were right.
4) 100 true fans will get you 1,000. 1,000 true fans will get you a million.

The top 50 movie trailers ever

Movie Trailers

I’ll admit it. I love movie trailers. I love settling into my chair in a too-cold theater with a too-sticky floor and watching trailers for movies that won’t be out for months. Even if the trailers are often better than the movies themselves, I don’t mind.

Even at home, I like watching trailers on DVD. Those who know me will say that’s only because the trailers are the only part of the movie I’m guaranteed to stay awake through. Maybe it’s that, but I think I’m drawn to them because movie trailers are all about telling stories, the purest form of marketing. Unlike being interrupted by a billboard, commercial or magazine ad, the audience gave permission to watch the trailers. They’re not just captive, they’re interested.

With a tip of the microphone to the late, great Don LaFontaine and, I’d like to point to you IFC’s great compilation from of the top 50 movie trailers of all time.


So fill up your popcorn, sit back, relax and enjoy. Two minutes at a time.

Get better at better (airlines)


This is the first of a series of posts where I evaluate companies and industries who strive to serve their best customers better.

First stop, Gate 36C at O’Hare.

Are airlines doing better well? Could they be doing better better?

Very few companies execute better effectively. To truly treat their best customers better over the long term, the service has to meet three criteria:

1) Significant – The better service must be significantly better, not marginally better.

2) Consistent – The better service must be consistent. The best customers always get the better service. (NB: The ability to occasionally break policy in order to delight a customer is a power that every employee should have – it needs to be built into the company culture. Here, I’m not referring to occasional delights but how to treat long-term customers better.)

3) Transparent – The better service should be transparent. Both the best customers and the not as good customers should know what level of service they are getting and why.

All three are critical.

Let’s look at airlines. Almost every airline offers some sort of frequent flyer program with multiple tiers. Let’s evaluate:

Significant – The difference between sitting in first class versus coach is significant. The chairs are designed to comfortably hold human beings and you get free drinks. The food is significantly warmer, if not significantly better. Other perks like priority boarding and Crown Room access are also significant.

Airlines make it obvious whether you can use certain services based on your status. From the big signs at the ticketing lines to the boarding priority announcement, to the little luggage tags denoting ‘diamond-encrusted platinum’ customers, it’s usually pretty obvious who has status and who doesn’t.

It is even most obvious (if ridiculous) when the flight attendants announce that those seated in coach may NOT use the first class cabin lavatory.

This is where the airlines blow it. There are limited first class seats. Understood. So if you are Diamond, but so are 18 other people on that particular flight, you might end up sitting in 38F. This isn’t the end of the world, but here is where airlines screw up.

From the minute you step in the airport, Diamond is treated as Diamond. Faster ticketing lines. Better baggage policies. Crown room access.

But once you’re on the plane, if you don’t get one of the first class seats you effectively lose your status for the rest of the flight. They use the curtain, not the status, to determine how to treat you.

In coach, your Diamond status disappears. It doesn’t have to.

The airline knows your status and they know where you’re sitting. So why don’t they bring all Diamond members free noise-canceling headphones or two free drink coupons? It’s an easy (and cheap) way to say, “We know you didn’t get 1A this time, but we still value you as a premium customer.” It also tells a story to those passengers sitting nearby, “Get status, and you too will be treated better, regardless of where you sit.”

Marketing execs at any major airline will tell you this is too expensive and too complicated. They’re dead wrong.

In future posts, I’ll look at other companies and industries and how they can “get better at better.”

If you have an industry you would like me to profile, mention it in the comments or email me.

A Goode lesson

After seeing the success of the “Best job in the world” contest run by the tourism board of Queensland, Australia, which drew almost 35,000 applications and put the obscure state on the map, David Ready, Jr., of Murphy Goode winery decided to run a similar contest.

Like the Queensland campaign, the publicly stated objective was to find someone to act as their social media marketer, blogging and tweeting about the product and the experience.

We at the Murphy-Goode Winery got to thinking about the new age of communications and we figured it was a pretty good thing. So to get going, we’re looking for someone (maybe you) who really knows how to use Web 2.0 and Facebook and blogs and social media and YouTube and all sorts of good stuff like that — to tell the world about our wines and the place where we live: the Sonoma County Wine Country.

In exchange, we’re offering you a “Really Goode Job” — a six-month job paying $10,000 a month plus accommodations!

We want to hire a social media whiz (your title will be “Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent”) who will report on the cool lifestyle of Sonoma County Wine Country and, of course, tell people what you’re learning about winemaking.

Full overview of the contest is here.

The real objective, of course, was the same as the Queensland contest, lots of free publicity and brand exposure, which is fine when executed correctly.

Murphy Goode had participants submit videos and then had viewers vote and rate the videos. The videos were re-posted on YouTube. Over the next few weeks, as viewers were able to vote for their favorite contestants, it drove a lot of traffic to Murphy-Goode’s website.

But the devil is in the details. This is where Murphy Goode tripped up.

The votes meant nothing. When the top vote getter by a large margin San Francisco’s Martin Sargent wasn’t chosen to be in the top 100, he tweeted about it. Then it was picked up by Digg founder Kevin Rose, who retweeted it. It made it to Digg and was seen by a few million people. Murphy Goode eventually apologized for the confusion on Facebook.


But wait, before you pour out all your bottles of Snake Eyes…

Murphy Goode didn’t break any of their stated rules. The contest never claimed the votes determined the winners but they weren’t as clear as they should have been that the votes were ‘just for fun’. Since we live, for better or worse, in an American Idol world, many assumed that the votes determined who would make the next round.

The lesson here is pretty simple. Be 100% transparent (and do it in large type). If voting is involved, make sure that the results of the voting are clearly understood and not in the fine print.

Like a few companies have and many companies will, Murphy Goode learned a lesson about the finer points of social media. That said, the huge “backlash” is overstated and misdirected.

This wasn’t a case of intentional deception, it was a case of naive omission. Overall, the net result will be positive.

(full disclosure: I enjoy shaking dice, so it’s hard to hate any producer that makes wines named “Liar’s Dice” and “Snake Eyes” that admittedly doesn’t take themselves too seriously.)

I applaud Murphy Goode for jumping in the pool, even if they splashed a little on entry.

Remarkable in 11 words or less

Here is a challenge that consists of two tests.

1) The Simple Test

Write an ad for your business (or yourself) using eleven words or less.

2) The Remarkable Test

Now, determine if what you came up with is remarkable, defined as, ‘would people remark on it?’.

Would they tell their friends?

Would they take a picture?

Would they tweet about it?

This test is much harder than the first.

Want an example? This humorous ad created for Durex by the Lowe Bull agency (in 2003) passes both tests.


OK Go (now do it)

A few years ago, Chicago power-pop band OK Go were rehearsing for a live show, which included videotaping a dance routine for their single, “A Million Ways”.

The clip accidentally leaked onto the web, and spread quickly, garnering millions of views and even homemade tributes to it.

So in 2006, they filmed a follow-up video, set to their clever and poppy ”Here It Goes Again.”

[you’ll need to click the link above, embedding has been disabled for this video]

The cost
– 10 days. 8 days of choreography, one day of setup and one afternoon of shooting. 14 takes. No editing.
– $2,000 to rent eight treadmills (they bought them from a used treadmill dealer and returned them a week later at a small loss)
– 10 days of buying dinner for lead singer Damian Kulash’s sister, who let the band shoot the video in her house in Orlando

The results
– Over 47 million views on YouTube, including over 1 million in the first 24 hours
– 188,481 ratings – averaging 5 stars
– dramatically increased album sales
– dramatically increased ticket sales and a bigger tour contract, (including concerts in Moscow, where their CD wasn’t even released, resulting in….
– better negotiation leverage with their record label

What do you think? Was it worth the cost?

This took a clever idea and ten days of practice. Before you buy another billboard, newspaper or magazine ad, consider what you could do cheaply that has a viral potential.

Treadmill Dancing

Two barks for espresso

I recently posted about Caffe Latte in Dobbs Ferry, New York – a place where, for a couple dollars, Basilio will give you a little slice of Italy.

I’d like to tell you about another nearby cafe who has no reason to worry about Howard Schultz moving in nearby.

By itself, the name can be misleading. Coffee Labs Roasters, on Main Street in Tarrytown, NY sounds like a white coat facility full of scientists that tests and retests coffee beans under a microscope.

In fact, they are a cafe that caters to people with pooches. The “Labs” part of the name comes from owners Mike Love and Alicia Kelligrew’s two Labrador retrievers. Dogs are welcome anytime and there is always a bowl of water on the front step so the thirsty pups can grab a drink too.


Even if you don’t have a dog, here are five other reasons to check out Coffee Labs.

The coffee
CoffeeLabs doesn’t rely on the ‘must love dogs’ gimmick. They serve up one of the best cups of coffee in Westchester County. The first clue is the massive coffee roaster in the middle of the floor. It takes a special passion for coffee to roast the beans on site and that passion is evident in the quality of the joe. The hot chocolate also gets rave reviews.

Baristas = Artists
Mike Love is dedicated to getting baristas the respect they deserve. You can read more here.

The food
A great selection of desserts, cookies and cupcakes complements the beverage offerings. Relax and dunk a big cookie in one of their beautiful cappuccinos and and watch the parade of people up and down Main Street.

Live music
Since the large coffee roaster takes up a significant portion of the cafe floor, Coffee Labs shuffles around some tables and chairs to squeeze in great local jazz and acoustic acts. (weekends)

Green (and bird friendly)
From Westchester Magazine, where Coffee Labs recent won Best Green Coffeehouse, 2009.

Everyone knows that Coffee Labs Roasters is dog-friendly, but few realize that it’s bird-friendly, too, having been certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (which has the strictest standards in the biz, according to And that’s not the only eco-certification the shop has racked up. It’s Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade Certified, operating on 100-percent renewable energy, and everything from the napkins to some of the furniture is recycled. The coffee grounds even are composted at Stone Barns. It seems the only thing that isn’t green is the color of the coffee.

If you’re anywhere near Tarrytown, check out CoffeeLabs roasters.

If you’re not, understand that by building certain unique elements into their business, Mike and Alicia “Starbucks-proofed” themselves.

Did you build enough magic into your business to be protected from your competitors?

You can’t hurry love


Diana Ross and the Supremes had it right back in 1966:

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy
Its a game of give and take

Customer engagement is the new marketing. Repeat customers and viral recommendations are based on love.

People love companies like Zappos and JetBlue because they keep the love going, dripping it even after the honeymoon of the initial ‘wow’ customer experience has worn off.

Customers return the love in the form of word of mouth recommendations and over time, everyone wins.

when you care enough to click send


Bigfoot, the Easter Bunny and a funny e-card walk into a bar…

I hate greeting cards. There, I said it. They just simply don’t have the right tone. Funny comes out corny. Serious is almost always off the mark. Have you ever been moved or changed by any card off the rack at the drugstore or Target? Laughed so hard you cried?

I didn’t think so.

E-cards aren’t much better. Since the first e-cards with flashing candles and jumping cartoon elephants, 99% haven’t evolved much.

Enter Admittedly, these cards aren’t for everyone, but that’s precisely what makes them great. If the bitingly sarcastic humor looks familiar, it is. was co-founded by a team that includes Brook Lundy, a former writer for The Onion. The company’s tagline is a self-deprecating poke at Hallmark: “when you care enough to hit send”.

In a historically tough business, they became profitable back in 2007. In April of 2008, they raised $350K from Betaworks and angel investor Chris Sacca. To increase revenue, is now rolling out video e-cards and incorporating branded advertising on cards with popular shows like Weeds and Bridezilla.


By being willing to be on the edge, someecards has created a product that people talk about. Ideas that spread, win and someecards designed a remarkable product that by it’s very nature, is something that spreads.

Viral is built in. Because the cards are remarkable, every customer becomes an involuntary salesperson simply by using the product.


Marketing scientology

Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous, If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion.
-L. Ron Hubbard
Reader’s Digest reprint, May 1980, p.1

Scientology, a religion founded on a bar bet by L. Ron Hubbard, recently released some new commercials.

Well, if it’s “shiny cars, wistful eyes and roast beef for dinner…”, sign me up!

Or maybe this is all to counter the unauthorized commercial Tom Cruise did a while ago:

You can see all the parodies of the Tom Cruise video over at Gawker.

Now if only I could find a used copy of Dianetics…


United irony

This commercial for United airlines is now 20 years old. Although the technology and tactics have changed, the message remains the same: customers want to feel taken care of.

Top execs at United would do well to watch this commercial on loop and reevaluate their own customer service.

When this commercial aired, United offered two free checked bags, free snacks and free meals on longer domestic flights. In coach.

Today, United charges $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second bag. Not only are there no free meals in coach, they charge for those little cheese & cracker snack boxes. Last August, United was the first domestic carrier to eliminate meals on some international flights.

Understandably, times are tough. Costs are up. I understand that. Most customers do too. It’s not about the microwaved chicken kiev and free peanuts.

It’s about feeling treated like a human.

Similar to the customer in the ad, I fired United a long time ago.

Don’t give your customers a reason to fire you.


YouTube as corporate website

Recently, Charlotte-based ad agency Boone Oakley moved their entire corporate website to YouTube. Instead of a static webpage, they have a series of functional and interactive YouTube videos that explains who they are, what they do and what clients they work with.

They even have links inside the videos. Yes, you can do that.

Some very smart people I know have called it gimmicky. Maybe it is, a little.

But after comparing Boone Oakley’s new site with existing websites from powerhouse agencies like BBDO and Young & Rubicam, I feel like I know who Boone Oakley is and what kind of work they do.

Boone Oakley distances themselves from the big traditional Madison Avenue ad agencies, poking fun at the similar work churned out and the fact that they’re all owned by the same parent company. Then in the same breath, Boone Oakley pokes fun at themselves too, via very candid and funny overviews of the Boone Oakley partners.

Kudos to Boone Oakley. Their story is that they are not your typical ad agency. Their bold new website on YouTube proves they are willing to live their story.

Will this new strategy help them get more clients? Only time will tell.


Ketel One Double (Fail)


I noticed this ad on a bus station last week. If M&C Saatchi is still handling the print ads for KetelOne, what were they thinking?

What, exactly, is this ad supposed to be telling me? What change do they want to bring about in me?

KetelOne now sponsors the Yankees. Great. Is this going to make me drink more vodka? (unlikely).

Is it supposed to make me think more of the Yankees? Why don’t they just add a syringe?

I was confounded, so I did a little more research.

In addition to the print ads going downhill, KetelOne has hired a new agency, Grey, to promote the vodka on TV with the following ad.

David Kiley’s review of the TV ad is spot on. Any vodka could be inserted in this ad. Why the departure from the cryptic but unique ad campaign?

Hey barkeep, cancel that KetelOne double. I’ll just have a water.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?


1997: Maxine Clark opened the first Build-a-Bear workshop in a mall in St. Louis.
1999: Raised investor money and opened 10 new stores.
2001: The National Retail Federation names Build-A-Bear the Retail Innovator of the Year.
2002: Build-A-Bear Workshop celebrates the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear along with the opening of its 100th store.
2008: 346 stores and $470M in revenue – a huge success.

Maxine did a lot of things right.

She sold an experience, not a product. (The bears are free. Parents and grandparents (happily) pay for the experience of creating them with their child.)

She built a Purple Cow, a remarkable product that people would passionately tell their friends about.

She made it extremely easy for the idea to spread. The concept is perfect for groups (i.e. birthday parties). In recent years, she has expanded the empire with smart licensing deals.

But Maxine did another thing right. She built an advisory board for feedback and decision input. The board members? High paid MBAs or marketing consultants? Surely they would know the market trends and forecasts better than anyone, right?

Wrong. The Cubs are a group of 20 boys and girls 8-14 years old who review new products and suggest additional ones. It meets with Clark and her team 3-4 times per year. Clark takes the board’s opinions seriously–if the board does not approve a product idea, the company doesn’t use it.

If Maxine Clark is smart enough enough to listen to 5th graders, are you smart enough to listen to your customers?