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9 posts from June 2008

June 30, 2008

The Other Starbucks Social Networking Site


We know about the MyStarbucksIdea website, which Starbucks positions as a catch-all blog, customer feedback site, and social networking website. The reality is that website is an unfocused slush pile for customer generated ideas.

But how many of us know about Starbucks V2V? It’s a full-fledged social networking site to promote volunteerism with customers and Starbucks partners (employees). It’s under the radar at this point — participation solely by invitation — and has only been mentioned officially by the company as an update entry on MyStarbucksIdea.

Think Meetup meets LinkedIn and there you have Starbucks V2V (Volunteer 2 Volunteer). You can post a cause, an event, or an activity and have others join you. Easy enough to understand and simple enough to make happen.

Starbucks V2V has real promise. It’s clearly community-focused with a drive to making positive contributions to small corners around the world. By having profile pages for participants, it feels much more personal than does the way-too-sterile MyStarbucksIdea website.

If you dig a little deeper you’ll learn Starbucks V2V began in Brazil using technology developed by Comunitas. In a way, this is an International “best practice” that has been adopted by Starbucks North America. Cool.

My hope is Starbucks uses this full-fledged social networking site to endorse and develop a long-rumored “Starbucks Alumni” website. For years Starbucks has talked about setting up an Alumni network, but the job was always too daunting to begin. The technology clearly exists and the online usability is sufficient … which makes this Starbucks Alumni idea totally doable in 2008.

Why nurture relationships with ex-employees?

Well, many new hires at Starbucks were influenced by former Starbucks partners. Most ex-Starbucks employees had a positive time at the company and they’ve said good things to their friends about Starbucks. And for some of us, including me as a former Starbucks partner, we shared a common bond during our days at Starbucks. Reconnecting with former Starbucks colleagues on a company-endorsed website could potentially reignite the passions we all once had for Starbucks. That reignition of passion is something Starbucks could benefit from as it suffers through its “mid-life” crisis.

Obsessive Branding Disorder


Lucas Conley’s OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER book is receiving some nice media attention. And for good reason … it’s well-written and provocative.

Conley’s book began as a Fast Company essay from Oct. 2005. He’s since beefed up the premise and added in lots of relevant and unique case study examples.

For the cynical marketing crowd, which includes me, this book will be right in your wheelhouse as it delves deep into the superficial side of the arts and sciences of modern branding.

To give you a taste of Conley’s take, below is my trademark pending WHAT ? — SO WHAT? — WHAT NOW? summary of OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER. (Just kiddin' on the trademark-pending quip. Tom Ehrenfeld is the rightful owner of this idea.)

“Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance, and packaging over experience.” (p. 197)

“More than marketing, advertising, or positioning, branding is an all-in-one ideology—a facile reduction malleable enough to govern all facets of modern business.” (p. 5)

“By abandoning the trusty, dusty principles of business—innovative products, good service, solid management—for the idealism of branding, companies reveal the true escapist appeal of their new religion.” (p. 10)

“Successful, enduring brands are either truly innovative and outstanding or a great value. They have never needed much advertising. They don’t have to reinvigorate their employees with brand-morale building or rely shamelessly on empty company taglines. Their products fulfill the legitimate purpose of the brand.” (p. 64)

“But the effect of … [obsessive] branding has been a steady erosion in the public’s trust.” (p. 110)

“The world is cheapened when everyone sees it with a marketer’s eye. We lose trust for each other and grow skeptical of one another as we try to determine what we’re being sold. We become more isolated and more self-conscious, more prone to rely on brands for status and to ally ourselves with other brand loyalists for company.” (p. 199)

“To combat this obsessive branding disorder, we must acknowledge that we will always have brands—they are an inevitable medium for communication and commerce.” (p. 201)

“But if we acknowledge that we must rely on brands to some degree, and if we keep our focus on the products rather than the promotions, we can begin to extricate ourselves from a world of brand churches, tribes, and religion.” (p. 202)

“Run a good business and your brand will follow.” (from Lucas’ Oct. 2005 Fast Company essay)

June 28, 2008

The Action Nudge

Okay. I’m admitting it. Admitting to my procrastination. I should be deep into a writing project, but I’m not. I’m avoiding it. Sure, busyness with my everyday business has taken up my time. But my summer is slow, I have the time to devote to this writing project.

However, I need a nudge.

That nudge is re-reading Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART, (I’ve blogged about TWOA before -- here and here.) In TWOA, Pressfield helps you to overcome the self-sabotaging power of “Resistance.”

Check out these money quotes and if you like what you read, devour the whole book.

Money Quotes

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is."

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is."
"Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within."
"Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize."
"Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro."
"To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time."
"Resistance hates it when we turn pro."
"Why have I stressed professionalism so heavily in the preceding chapters? Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying."
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.” – W. H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
SOURCE: Steven Pressfield | THE WAR OF ART

June 20, 2008

Jay Ehret on Losing Focus


Take a few minutes today to read Jay Ehret's cautionary tale on how he lost focus by trying to run two businesses ... only to run himself into the ground. An important lesson for us all.

June 19, 2008

Tribal Knowledge Money Quotes

(It's nice to know my two-year old book still has some legs.)

Just got off the phone with a journalist writing a story about some of the marketing lessons I share in TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE. The journalist put together some tasty pull quotes from the book to help direct our conversation.

And since I'm obviously suffering from a severe case of blog drought, below are the money quotes the journalist pulled. Enjoy.

“Companies that focus on delivering remarkable products and services attract significant attention from customers conditioned to a retail world in which the necessities are bought and sold without fuss or feeling.” (Page xiii)
“Companies that put their money behind their brand and not their business fail to realize that the business is the brand.” (Page 6)
“Starbucks learned the most effective way to spend its marketing dollars is not on making funnier television commercials but rather on making better customer experiences.” (Page 10)
“…lasting brand loyalty is built on making the common uncommon…” (Page 11)
“Measuring the reputation of a brand can and should be as simple as measuring the reputation of a company – something that is earned through purposeful execution and not merely fabricated to exploit a worthwhile business opportunity.” (Page 24)
“The challenge for a company that chooses to open its doors – and grow its business – based on quality products and services and quality customer experiences is that it has only one shot to make a meaningful customer connection. Customers will overcome their aversion to higher prices if the product or service they are buying is well worth it.” (Page 32)
“Businesses can simplify sales strategies by focusing on acquiring new customers; getting current customers to buy more, more often; and/or raising prices. It really is that simple.” (Page 40)
“Growth was and is encouraged, and made possible, by wanting to meet the desires of customers more than wanting to meet sales or profit projections…Starbucks’ steadfast drive to become the best coffee retailer has resulted in its being the biggest coffee retailer. It can often work out that way…but it never seems to work in the reverse.” (Page 51)
“What is the benefit of the benefit of your best-selling product or service? Think about its most important feature and make it more personal, until you’ve reached the ultimate experience your customers derive from it.” (Page 59)
“Needs are basic. Needs are rational. Needs are boring. Needs have been commoditized. Every unremarkable business seems to be in the needs-fulfilling business. Wants are emotional. Wants are aspirational. Wants are thrilling. Wants are where the profits are. Only truly remarkable businesses are in the business of satisfying customer wants by helping customers actualize their aspirations.” (Page 96)
“Delivering on promises is not enough today. Businesses, big or small, must find ways to over-deliver on their promises, implied and expressly stated, to customers…The most important part of over-delivering on promises to customers is having conscientious employees who make over-delivering a part of their everyday on-the-job way of life.” (Pages 103-104)
“…experiences provide customers with rich and compelling stories to share with others, while products typically satiate immediate, basic needs.” (Page 136)
“The best internal culture a company could hope for is one where the employees are so loyal they spread word of the company and its product with fierce passion, a culture where employees go way beyond being minions to being missionaries.” (Page 157)
“Brands are made possible by people because, unlike products and services, competitors cannot replicate a brand’s promise, or their passion.” (Page 189)
“Starbucks doesn’t view profit and the maximizing of profits as business strategy. The company views profit as an outcome. The mindset at Starbucks is, profit happens as a direct result of doing everything else right.” (Page 225)
Further learning:
>> TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE | Amazon link
>> TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE Manifesto | ChangeThis website
>> ALL THINGS STARBUCKS | Brand Autopsy postings

June 16, 2008

Dave Balter on Word-of-Mouth


First came GRAPEVINE, now comes … THE WORD OF MOUTH MANUAL (TWOMM). Dave Balter, founder/ceo of the notorious BzzAgent managed word-of-mouth media company, shares his unique perspective on how best to get people talking about products/services in TWOMM.

True to his credo, he’s doing something to generate buzz. Instead of releasing the breezy-to-read TWOMM through a major publisher, Balter is self-publishing it. And, as any self-publisher must do, he’s self-promoting it by offering the manifesto as a free PDF download. He’s also offering it as a bound book for sale on Amazon.

But if you are of the read it on the screen ilk, DOWNLOAD the manifesto HERE.

Long-time Brand Autopsy readers know I ain’t the biggest fan of BzzAgent. On the WOM pendulum, Dave swings to the side of Creationist WOM and I steadfastly cling to the side of Evolutionist WOM.

While I dislike the BzzAgent model of using its BzzAgents as a media channel to produce organized word-of-mouth, I do like Dave. He’s a smart guy who seeks to be provocative. And being provocative is exactly what he’s doing when he writes, “99.999% of [marketers] will never achieve pure word of mouth.

Consider me part of the 00.001% as I’ve been fortunate to be a marketer who has relied on tapping into PURE word-of-mouth from evangelical customers from my marketing days at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market. Both of those businesses were built upon designing and delivering a product and experience worth talking about.

Judge for yourself as to the validity that pure word-of-mouth happens only when the stars align a certain way. Do that judging by downloading/reading Dave Balter’s THE WORD OF MOUTH MARKETING MANUAL.

June 08, 2008

Advertising Age recommends NOT ADVERTISING

Yep, you read that header right — Advertising Age recommends NOT ADVERTISING. A recent editorial in Ad Age shared HMOs (hot marketing opinions) about JetBlue’s current advertising campaign. The gist is this …

“JetBlue is missing the point with its recent ad push. What it needs is to get back to what made it a media and consumer darling: customer service and good internal and external communication.”

“… convincing more people to fly doesn't seem like a smart move for an airline that has trouble handling the passengers it already has. It won't fool new passengers, and it will only upset current passengers. JetBlue achieved its success by being unlike the other airlines. Its good name spread -- via word-of-mouth and smart marketing -- because great customer service gave it a compelling story to tell.”

“Priority No. 1 should be getting back to a place where consumers want to share good stories. Take the money being wasted on that campaign and plow it into customer service.”

Let’s take this a step further. BEFORE any company spends gobs of money on an advertising campaign, it should first spend money on improving the performance of a product/service and on ratcheting up the customer experience. ‘Nuff said! Errrahh!

June 03, 2008

Up the Ladder OR Down the Ladder?

[I'm on a visual kick these days.]

Let your marketing mind wrestle with David Armano's nifty depiction of the ladder up to Brand Heaven and the ladder down to Brand Hell. Good Stuff!


June 01, 2008

Recent Must-See Views

ONE | Social Media in Plain English From Common Craft by way of Jake McKee, we learn how to explain Social Media stuff to those not in the know.

Social Media in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

TWO | The Five Stages of Missing Plan
Brand Autopsy’s favorite marketing cartoonist strikes again. Marketers from all over will relate to Tom Fishburne latest take:


THREE | God Made Me Funky
Yep, Frogs are funky. (To learn more about this all-time dead heavy funk classic, go here.)