Category Archives: story

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.

Precious Moments

At the end of a long day, you’re heading back to your hotel room. Alone in the elevator, you push the button for floor 26 and want nothing more than room service and maybe a shower before working a few more hours. Before the elevator door closes, a hand slices past the sensor and the doors reopen.

Richard Branson gets on and clicks floor 27.

What do you say?

(Replace Branson with Steve Jobs, Marissa Mayer, Russell Simmons or the person you would most like to meet, either professionally or personally.)

This used to be called having your elevator pitch ready. The truth is, most people don’t want to be pitched, although Sir Richard may be the exception.

Still, it’s important to be able to make the most of this precious moment.

How do you introduce yourself? What do you say after that? Is it a statement or a question? Do you praise them? Talk about yourself? Ask them an interesting question? Tell a joke?

The doors just closed. What do you say?

Add your thoughts in the comments. I’m really interested in what you all think on this one. Don’t forget to include who you would want to meet.

photo credit: Chris Heuer

She’s a 7


Regardless of your personal loyalties in the never ending OS debate, this comment from Slashdot on the Windows 7 launch is pretty funny.

Original link from Slashdot.

I get the impression that the Windows 7 launch is a lot like seeing an old girlfriend suddenly show up on your doorstep wanting to get back together. She’s had some work done, apparently: stomach stapling to take off some of the weight, breast augmentation, and a radical nosejob to make her look as much like your current girlfriend as medical science will allow.

She’s pretty, of course, almost too pretty. She still wears far too much makeup and carries that desperate look in her eyes. The fragrant haze around her is the perfume she overuses to mask the scent of failure.

But standing there in that low-cut top, you’d almost forget for a moment what a psycho she was- how she used to shut down in the middle of a date and forget everything you were talking about and how she was only happy when you were buying her things. You’d almost forget about carrying around her legacy baggage or those nights when, for seemingly no reason at all, she would simply stop speaking to you and when you asked what was wrong she’d just spit a string of hex code at you and expect you to figure it out.

You complained about her for years before finally deciding to get rid of her, and here she is again. Though, somehow she seems like a completely different person now.

“I’m up here,” she says when she catches you staring at her chest.

Tempted though you may be, you know that over time she’ll get bored and slow down on you just like she always does. And then you’ll be right back where you started: trapped. She keeps you by convincing you that you don’t have a choice. You’re just not smart enough for one option or rich enough to afford the other.

“But I’m different now,” she says, batting her eyes innocently. “I’ve changed.”

Indeed she has. Apparently, she’s really into Cabala now or something like that. It’s helped her discover loads of untapped potential in herself. But it also means that you’ll have to buy all new furniture to fit with her understanding of feng shui. That’s not the only change she has in store for you. The minute you let her move in, she’ll have a new alarm system put in that succeeds only in preventing your friends from coming over on poker night.

She doesn’t love you, but she doesn’t hate you, either. The truth is that she couldn’t care less one way or the other. She’s here because she doesn’t want to be alone. Like all human beings, especially those well past their prime, she wants to feel wanted and, after a string of lost jobs and bad investments, she needs a place to stay.

But all in all, she’s OK. She’s a seven. She’ll do, I guess.

You need a David

David makes passengers laugh.

David makes passengers applaud.

David makes passengers safer.

David gives people a story to tell their friends.

David makes it fun for his colleagues to come to work.

David loves his job.

David makes more people fly Southwest Airlines.

David’s video has almost 2.5 million views on YouTube but even without the internet, the story spreads. Social media just helps it spread faster and further.

Your organization needs more people like David.

Do you know how to look for Davids?

Do you know how to hire Davids?

Here’s a secret…

We all have more David in us than we think, it’s just buried beneath years of “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t”.

Does your company culture enable and encourage people like David to be…….like David?


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.

How easy do you make it?


Equinox, a national chain of health clubs, understands that that thrilled members help spread their story.

The economics of health clubs is fairly simple. The many paying members who belong but don’t frequent the clubs subsidize the few that go often. Just like airlines oversell flights, health clubs oversell workouts. If even half the members of any given health club showed up at the same time, gridlock would ensue.

To compete, top health clubs invest heavily in flashy marketing and fancy club amenities designed to sell as many memberships as possible but beyond that, don’t go out of their way to encourage usage.

Enter Equinox. Instead of offering better soap in the locker rooms, Equinox proactively invested in the development of a super slick iPhone app and a mobile website that allows members to:

    – find clubs via GPS
    – find classes by club, category or instructor
    – learn more about the class or the instructor
    – maintain a MY EQ favorites list
    – track workouts and set goals
    – send VIP invitations to friends
    – reserve a bike for studio cycling classes

Equinox not only made it easy for customers to use their clubs, they gave members a story to tell and made it easy for them to tell it. Brilliant.

How easy do you make it for your customers to use your product or service or tell your story?

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.

Book Drips – What NASA didn’t tell you

RocketMen Cover

Think your project is difficult?

Think your boss is demanding?

Think the deadlines you’ve been given are unrealistic?

Imagine working for NASA 41 years ago and John F. Kennedy telling you to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to earth.

Most of the 40th anniversary coverage has focused on the success and wonder of the historic event, and rightfully so, but in a new and thrilling book, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, author Craig Nelson outlines the full story, the good and the bad, of the space and missile race.

Some nuggets you may not have known: (directly from Rocket Men)

– The thirty-story-high Apollo 11-Saturn V spaceship had over 6 million parts, which meant that under NASA’s rigorous instance of 99.9% reliability, as many as 6,000 could fail.

– The nearly 1 million spectators who began gathering at Cape Kennedy for launch on July 16th, 1969, were kept at least 3.5 miles away from the pad because, in an explosion, hundred-pound chunks of shrapnel would be hurled in a 3-mile radius with 4/5 the power of an atomic bomb.

– When President Kennedy proposed a moon landing within a decade as the most effective way to take the lead in the space race after the shocking Soviet achievements of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin’s first manned orbit, even NASA’s most zealous engineers were aghast.

– The astronauts’ final breakfast on earth was steak and eggs. Why? Low in fiber and low in waste.

– The lunar samples brought back to earth by the Apollo missions revealed the moon’s origins.

– NASA designers had neglected to place a handle on the Eagle’s outside door, which meant that Armstrong and Aldrin had to make sure to leave it open while they walked on the Moon.

– When Neil Armstrong was asked by a reporter what one extra item he would take with him, his dry humor shone through. “More fuel.”

These and more amazing details are revealed in Rocket Men as Craig Nelson takes the reader inside the journey that changed the world. I highly recommend this book to not only space geeks and history buffs but anyone who wants a deeper look into the story behind the first Moon landing.

[Disclosures: I know the author Craig Nelson well and consider him a good friend. The link above is an Amazon affiliate link.]

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.

Dig deeper

A picture from the G8 Summit showed what appeared to be Barack Obama checking out the backside of a young delegate.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the picture looked pretty clear.


Then the video was released and it appeared that Barack wasn’t sneaking a peek but helping the woman behind him to the stair below. Sarkozy and Berlusconi were blatantly checking out the young woman. Gotta love the French.

Still, the press made way too big a deal about the whole thing but there is an important lesson here.

You need to dig deeper. There are two sides to every story and parties often benefit from telling only one side.

In the mid 1960’s, the United States and Russia participated in a series of track World Championships as tune ups in-between summer Olympics. In one of the track meets held in Moscow, the United States dominated, beating the Russians handily across multiple events.

The headline that ran in Pravda, the national Russian paper is instructive when considering the accuracy and bias of traditional media.

“World Track & Field Championships in Moscow – Russia comes in 2nd. Americans finish second to last.”

Technically accurate, but extremely misleading. There was no mention that it was a dual meet.

The lesson?

Always dig deeper. Whoever is telling you the story has a reason to tell it a certain way.

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?

Ice, Ice, beautiful


The weather is getting warmer and most of the ice we encounter in July is cooling down our lemonade.

Nick Cobbing’s amazing website will change how you think about frozen water. Amazing, breathtaking pictures of glacial ice in forms you’ve never seen.

His site contains a two-option “choose your own adventure”:

Surface Tension is a photographic documentary of stunning ice formations in Greenland.

Noorderlicht is the pictorial diary of the travels of a man named Dutchman Gert, aboard his 100-year-old, double-masted schooner inside the Arctic Circle.

Both stories are worth a look, so refill your lemonade, settle in and let Nick Cobbing show you ice as you’ve never seen it.

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.


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.


What would people love?


Innovate, don’t imitate.

The problem with taking someone else’s idea and doing it a little better is that it’s just as easy for the next company to improve it a little bit more. Cheaper labor. Faster machines. The improvement becomes a linear asymptote, until making any further improvement is costlier than the benefit gained.

Instead, dream up what people would love. Then create it.

I say dream it because nobody will ask for it. Before they existed, nobody asked for:

– the iPod
– Build a Bear workshop
– Blue Man Group
– online check-in
– Twitter
– FedEx
– The W hotels

Nobody ever said, “wow, you know I really love writing extremely short blog posts. I wish there was a website that limited mine to 140 characters or less. THAT would be great.”

Doing something just a little better can make a few dollars in the short run but if you can tighten the screws, someone else can tighten them a bit more.

Zappos didn’t sell shoes online just a little bit better. If that was the plan, they could have stopped when they offered more sizes, colors and styles than anyone else. They dreamed that customers would love the best customer service they’ve ever experienced, online or in person. They were right (and did over $1B in sales last year).

Whether you are thinking of starting a new business or improving your existing business, ask yourself, “what would people love”?

Then build it.

A sip of Rome

In the book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary, Joseph Michelli outlines how the Howard Schultz built an empire around delivering an experience, not just coffee.

Along the way, many small mom & pop cafes were closed. By being remarkably unique, this is one cafe that never has to worry about the Big Green Coffee Monster.

Basilio Inside

Caffe Latte
When you walk into this small cafe in Dobbs Ferry, say hi to the owner, Basilio. He’s the handsome salt & pepper-haired Italian man who is always behind the counter. He has a knowing smile and a charm about him that makes you feel like you’ve known each other for years.

His small cafe seems fairly nondescript until you notice the small details. The American magazines and Italian newspapers scattered haphazardly at the counter by the front window. The ever-present table of Basilio’s Italian friends cramped at a table just out of the way. The small vase of fresh cut flowers at each of the five small tables (and two more outside when it’s warm enough). The simple vinaigrette on the simple caprese salad. The art, posters and Italian bricabrac that adorns the walls.

Most impressive? The ballet that Basilio dances as he effortlessly handles multiple orders to multiple customers.

And then it hits you. You’re not in Dobbs Ferry. You’re in Rome. Even if just for an hour.

Basilio is a consummate Italian. He’ll make you a damn fine cappuccino, but don’t hurry him. Sit. Relax. Read a magazine. Let Basilio’s calmness be contagious. Enjoy your coffee and the perfect little chunk of biscotti that Basilio puts on the saucer.

Enjoy Basilio’s Italy.


On this particular day, some of Basilio’s regulars brought in two bottles of wine from a recent trip to California. One for Basilio and one for them to share. Beautiful.

Stores up and down Cedar Street have come and gone but Basilio has been going steady for 15 years because he delivers an experience Starbucks never could; Italian vacations, one cup at a time.

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.

Baked in magic

Walt Disney didn’t build an amusement park and then decide later to make it magical.

Tony Hsieh didn’t start Zappos and then, in year three, decide to deliver the best service the industry has ever seen.

Herb Kelleher didn’t build and operate Southwest Airlines and then decide to turn the airline industry on its head. (The original flight attendants were chosen by a committee that included the same person who had selected hostesses for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy jet.)

Delivering true magic isn’t something that can be fixed with a half-day training class. Because everyone works in marketing, ‘wow’ has to be baked in to the company’s culture. The larger the company, the harder it is to change the culture.

Frank Eliason and his team are doing great work trying to improve Comcast’s customer service and image using Twitter, but that’s customer support, not magic.

Magic has to be baked in.

Word of Mouth

The first official book review on Daily Sense. I don’t expect I’ll ever catch up to Paul’s prolific, insightful and hilarious reviews over at, but at least you all can say you were here when….

I attended the Blogwell conference last week, put on by Andy’s Sernovitz’s company, Gas Pedal. Attendees were given an advance copy of Andy’s new book, Secret and Mysterious Order of Word of Mouth. I skimmed it quickly on the train ride home and then finished the entire book the next day.

It’s a very good book, but your opinion of and use for this book will depend a great deal on how much you already know about word of mouth, viral campaigns, remarkable products and outstanding customer service.

If terms like Purple Cow, Ideavirus, Buzz, Customer Evangelists, Sneezers, Cluetrain and World Wide Rave are already part of your daily lexicon, then use Andy’s book like a really great reference tool. It’s like a great set of Cliff’s Notes. WOM is not a new topic and people that already “get” this stuff should still own this book but you don’t need to read it cover to cover.

The concepts in Andy’s book have been touched on in varying levels of detail in such books as:

Andy’s first book, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Revised Edition

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Seth Godin)

Unleashing the Ideavirus (Seth Godin)

Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force (Ben McConnell & Jackie Huba)

The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: Real-life lessons in Word-of-Mouth Marketing (Emanuel Rosen)

The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How to Trigger Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth (George Silverman)

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual (Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger)

and others.

However, if you are not already a WOM expert, Andy’s book may be the most straightforward set of nuts & bolts strategies and tactics to effectively execute WOM marketing ever assembled. It’s like a cookbook for word of mouth, with tried and true recipes that you can test immediately. This book isn’t conceptual, it’s instructive, and written with a bias for action. I don’t care whether you sell professional services or amateur widgets, Andy outlines things you can do today (and tomorrow, and the next day).

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the book is worth owning.

The most valuable piece of the book is the simple but true 12-step Word of Mouth Manifesto:

1. Happy customers are your best advertising. Make people happy.
2. Marketing is easy. Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers. They will do your marketing for you, for free.
3. Ethics and good service come first.
4. Marketing is what you do, not what you say.
5. Negative word of mouth is an opportunity. Listen and learn.
6. People are already talking. Your only option is to join the conversation.
7. Be interesting, or be invisible.
8. If it’s not worth talking about, it’s not worth doing.
9. Make the story of your company a good one.
10. It’s more fun to work at a company that people want to talk about.
11. Use the power of word of mouth to make businesses treat people better.
12. Honest marketing makes more money.


Mine That Bird

You want to talk about a longshot?

The trainer, Bennie Wooley, Jr:

Already had a shattered right leg, not exactly good karma in horse racing.

Total number of wins in 2009? One. Uno. And not even a graded-stakes race.

Former job? Rodeo rider. Wooley looks somewhere across between Tim McGraw and Richard Petty. He brought some ‘cowboy’ to the uppity Derby, usually ruled by sheiks, captains of industry and women in fancy hats and dresses.

The horse, Mine That Bird:

Sold as a yearling to his original owners for $9,500, roughly the price of a used 2003 Accord. (By comparison, Dunkirk, another horse in the race, was sold at auction for $3.7 million.)

Last finish? Fourth, in the Sunland Derby, not even a graded-stakes race.

Last win? Oct. 5, 2008, back when he was under different ownership and doing his work at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.

Vanned 1700 miles from New Mexico to Louisville by Wooley with his broken leg. (Can you picture Bob Baffert behind the wheel of a horse van, hauling a Derby colt across the country?)

Only gelding in the race.

50-1 odds.

Started the race dead last. Way last. After a quarter mile of the 1¼-mile race, the horse was six lengths behind the 18th-place horse.

None of that mattered.

Improbably, Mine That Bird stunned the field to win the Kentucky Derby with a dynamic stretch run through the mud. Now legendary jockey Calvin Borel did what he does best and hugged the rail deep in the stretch, then pulled away from the rest of the field like they were running in quicksand. It was Borel’s second Derby win in three years.

So next time you think you’re outclassed, outgunned, outspent and don’t belong in the game, remember the odds that Bennie, Calvin and Mine That Bird faced.

Then, hug the rail.

(Watch the replay in the video below. The overhead view, from 7:30 – 8:00 and again from 9:30 to 10:09 is the most best angle to see the amazing stretch run.)

Swine flu, circa 1976

May Day indeed.

Can we all panic a lot less? Please?

So far, worldwide, the death toll from swine flu is 159 (as of today).

One death in the United States has been reported.

One death has also been caused in the U.S. this year by a giant falling Taco Bell sign.

In the U.S in 2005:
652,091 people died of heart disease and
559,312 people died of cancer

Swine flu is real, and a pandemic concern is valid (cancer and falling Taco Bell signs do not spread like the swine flu) but let’s keep this in perspective.

Here is a public service announcement from 1976. Have a great, mask-free weekend.

Swine Flu

A branding mistake, corrected

Tropicana branding mistake

The last of the generic-looking Tropicana cartons are almost gone. If you didn’t get any, don’t worry. They’re not like baseball cards with errors. They won’t increase in value over time.

Many different takes on Tropicana’s mistake from:

Fast Company

The New York Times (need free registration)

Peter Merholz

David Wertheimer

And a different take by Todd Wasserman at BrandWeek.

Some say that it looked too generic. Some say that making the carton look like a store brand communicated value. Some say they couldn’t find their favorite type among many (no pulp, with Calcium and Vitamin D – see below).

Now that Tropicana has relented and brought back the old carton design, what do you think?

You don’t put bourbon in it?


The place is Jack Rabbit Slim’s. The actors are Uma Thurman and John Travolta. The movie is, of course, the incomparable Pulp Fiction.

Vincent Vega, played by Travolta, orders a steak and a vanilla Coke. Mia Wallace, played by Thurman, orders a burger . . . “and a Five Dollar Shake.”

Vincent has to ask, “Did you just order a five dollar shake? That’s a shake – that’s milk and ice cream?”

“Last I heard,” is Mia’s reply.

Not yet satisfied, Vincent confirms with the waiter, “You don’t put bourbon in it or nothin’?”


When the shake arrives, while Mia is taking a long first sip, it’s all Vincent can do to not jump across the table to try it. Somehow he restrains himself. “You think I could have a sip of that?”.

Marketing and economics textbooks are filled with chapters on price resistance, consumer resistance to high prices. Some of the graphs would suggest that as you raise the price of the milkshake that the quantity ordered decreases linearly.

Travolta proves them wrong. It is clear he is attracted to the high price. He has to try a five dollar milkshake to see what the fuss (and price) is all about. He wouldn’t even have noticed a “Two-Dollar Shake”.

It’s not as simple as jacking up your prices, though. One expensive milkshake at a place like Jack Rabbit Slim’s is perfect. A Home Depot or Target can’t suddenly double their prices. You have to be selective about what products are priced higher. The conditions must be right and fit the story you tell.

And they must be priced high enough to stand out. Carl’s Jr. tries this with their famous, “Six Dollar Burger” but it doesn’t work the same because they were just communicating that their fast food burger is as good as a sit down restaurant burger. The “Five Dollar Shake” wasn’t trying to match anything.

And instead of scanning your inventory for a product worth doubling the price on, develop a new product. This trick doesn’t work on products that your customers already know the price of.

[photo credit: Jane Bush]

Hand them a Sharpie

Imagine handing your customers black Sharpie markers to scribble their opinions of you all over the stark white walls of your business? Sound scary? Not to Cindi & Rick Hinds.

We recently stayed at the Deer Crossing Inn in Castro Valley, about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco. The nearby scenery is breathtaking, including a beautiful winding drive down Eden Valley Road off of the I-580.

From the minute you drive onto the grounds, you know that this isn’t your typical bed & breakfast. The owners, Rick and Cindi have done all the little things to make their inn stand out from so many others. Rick and Cindi do what great bed & breakfasts always do, they make you feel 100% comfortable and taken care of.

The minute you walk into the main house, you step foot into the large front room with a comfortable couch and knick knacks like a dartboard, letter jackets and a full size scoreboard on the wall.

Then you notice the walls. From top to bottom, and sometimes on the ceiling, the walls are covered in glowing reviews and comments from previous guests. Everyone who wrote their comments on the wall gets to go home with a built-in story to tell their friends & family.

Rick and Cindi converted strangers to friends. Do you?

Would you be comfortable handing your customers a Sharpie?

(Thanks, Cindi and Rick. We’ll be back.)

Sushi Circus

I just saw this sign in Hastings on Hudson, New York and I had to shake my head.

When times are good, when everybody is flush, businesses can sometimes get away with bad (horrible) marketing decisions like this one for a period of time. Maybe, if they were located in Grand Central Station, they would get just enough foot traffic to cover the rent, but it would never be a growing, profitable, remarkable business.

Nevermind that people who eat sushi are generally willing to pay for quality. The sign alone would keep any real sushi eaters from stepping foot in the place. This sign is marketing to people that might not know that sushi is Japanese cuisine. Who exactly are they targeting? First time sushi eaters? This is certainly not a demographic to build a business on.

There is absolutely no story here. Imagine rushing home to call your friends, “I just had the most AVERAGE sushi, and I paid a little less than I would have for great sushi!”

What if the sushi was served on roller skates by pig-tailed cheerleaders? What if the place was called Sushi Circus and your rolls were served by happy clowns? What if the sushi rice was blue?

At least the customers would have a story to tell their friends.