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Friday, April 18, 2014

Drink Wonderful

We don't often get the opportunity to meet someone whose family changed an important segment of the American economy. Last week at a marketing conference that my company hosted, I had the true pleasure and sincere honor to spend time at dinner and during our conference with Stephanie Gallo.  Her grandfather, Ernest Gallo, was the most influential individual in the U.S. wine industry and a major force globally. 

Ernest, along with his brother Julio Gallo founded the E&J Gallo wine company shortly after prohibition in 1933. Stephanie mentioned that it was her great grandmother who lent about $5,000 so they could begin their company. Without any real knowledge of wine making, they turned to the library to learn some basics about fermenting grapes. It reminds me of a story I heard from Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. They too started their business and didn't know the first thing about making ice cream. 

A Powerful Work Ethic 
 Like my own strong affection for my grandfather George, Stephanie talked with deep respect about Ernest who even into his last few years was bubbling with marketing ideas that could ferment growth. He worked well into his 90's, loved his chosen profession and planted seeds of opportunity for generations to come.  

What an honor to talk with her about the Gallo family heritage. Wine is clearly in her DNA and she is an exuberant marketer who loves the work and the chance to make a difference in the larger wine community. Stephanie is the Vice President of Marketing for the Gallo enterprise.  Everyone in the wine marketing community that knows her has always spoken highly of her. I got a chance to learn why. 

She has a remarkably optimistic view of the wine industry which is a wonderful trait for someone with her responsibilities. She remarked that only 3 out of 10 Americans drink wine, the chance for growth of the category is overflowing. With a keen wit, I can see why so many marketing professionals admire her and want to be part of her organization. 
Stephanie Gallo and Jeffrey Slater

Democratizing Wine
At the marketing conference, I literally had a front row seat to hear her share her story about the Gallo mission of democratizing wine.  Wine like few other categories has an elitist background. Like theatre and opera, wine has searched for ways not to be seen as a beverage for the rich and to get down from the pedestal. The Gallo family has strived to find ways so that wine has become a beverage for the average Joe or Jane. 

Many of the wine cognoscenti think of recent trends like Moscato grapes or sweet red blends as appealing to an uninformed wine drinker. You notice them turning up their noses at the very idea. I see it differently. I admire new and inventive ways that a category can bring new users inside the tent and build a bigger base of potential customers. 

From the insight...

 “I love wine, but not when it is hot. I drink other beverages. If only there was a wine I could drink when it is warm in daytime and in casual social settings.” 

This foray into new ways to serve wine like Barefoot Refresh proclaims on the label, “it’s okay to put this over ice” is a wink to millions of consumers who are hesitant to enjoy wine on their own terms.   

I shared with Stephanie a personal story about their new super successful Apothic red wine. It is part of the sweet red blend trend that doesn't appeal to me. However, my wife has found the Apothic brand to be a perfect wine that she enjoys without apology. She loves the taste and I proudly buy it for her. Although I try to get my wife to taste other wines, this wine has become her home base or house red. Apothic was designed as to meet a certain taste profile and my wife just happens to be that target. 

Our Grandfather's Generation 
Ernest Gallo was a man from my grandfather’s generation. Both were born in the earliest part of the twentieth century. Both men were hard working pioneers who cared passionately about their family and with remarkable dedication to their business. I bet they would have enjoyed each other’s company. I can imagine Poppa George taking photographs of Ernest pouring wine for his family. 

I know one thing, their grandchildren enjoyed meeting and getting a chance to share a glass or two and to talk about the marketing of wine. 

Gallo Wine Ads from the 1960's and 1970's

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five Pieces of Clarity

In a previous post, I mentioned that I had signed up for Clarity, the site that allows you to hire (or be hired) as an expert by the minute. There are people seeking help with marketing, engineering, software, design, business development, non-profits, finance and on and on. 

I saw an opportunity to donate some time on weekends and evenings and to give the money to Charity: Water. 

I have attracted a number of individuals who have contacted me for marketing advice, and a theme is developing from most of the calls. Although the businesses are different, in varying industries and at several stages of growth, they all have one thing in common. They are making everything too complicated to serve their core market. They don't understand the power of simple

Here are the five themes that come up on most calls during my marketing coaching sessions: 

1.  Can you make it easier to buy from your company? I often advise people to go to the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle and look at how they have simplified the process of purchasing. Clear. Easy. Not too many choices.

2. Are you really clear who is your ideal customer? Before trying to market or promote your brand, get clarity. You need to find the right customers whose problems you can solve not a lot of unqualified leads. A lot of weak leads will waste your time and distract you from your goal.

3. Are you worrying about competition? Make sure your message explains why your brand/service is different from your competitors but don’t spend your day worrying about the competition. Focus on your strengths not your competition's challenges to you. Worry about competition is an excuse to lose focus. 

4. Are you acting quickly to get your product or service into the hands of potential customers before the product is perfect? Learn from them; see what they love and what they hate. Understand how your product fits with their life. Act. Don’t over think things too much. Remember in high school 92 on paper is still an A. Perfect shouldn't be your target. Learn about the MVP. (minimally viable product) Let potential customers be part of your product development effort before its too late. 

5. Do you offer something for free so that potential customers can sample your product, service and how you do business?  Give a little something away to move them to become buying customers. The free to pay model is a proven method that works.

Coaching, Charity and Clarity 
To date I have donated about $343.70 to Charity: Water. Since their started, they have funded 11,712 water projects in 22 countries. They are trying to help the 800 million people throughout the world who don’t have access to clean water.

It is an honor and a privilege that I can give advice to people to help them market their business and in return the funds they pay me are used to help this worthy cause. 

If you are interested in learning more or donating to their good works, please follow this link. If you'd like to join Clarity and offer your advice and counsel and donate to a cause, follow this link to get started. If you'd like to hire me to consult on a marketing or business development project, you can connect with me through Clarity at this link. I donate all of my fees to Charity: Water. 

I'm drinking a clean glass of water while I write this post, and realize how fortunate I am. 


Need a marketing coach? You can hire me through Clarity to provide advice about marketing for your new product, business or service. I donate 100% of your fee to charity. 

Just follow the link for some Clarity

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Shoelace Paradox

Some brand categories are very low engagement. Toothpicks. 3-prong converters. Cotton balls. Sugar. Combs. Whistles. 

Consumers aren't deeply engaged in every category, every brand and every product. They can’t be. Think of a swimming pool. Your brand is either at the deep end of caring, the shallow end or in the middle based on the occasion. 

I may love my iPhone. I may be an avid Starbucks fan. I may be over the top for Target.  I might really enjoy drinking Travaglini Gattinari wine or Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky. 

But sometimes, I don’t care about your category or brand at all - or at best very little. The brakes and battery in my car are vital to my well-being but as Rhett Butler said, Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. 

Shoelaces have always been my default metaphor. Do you know what brand of shoe lace are in your sneakers or shoes? Do you care? 

Unless you have a problem with a shoelace that rips or brakes apart, they probably aren't top of mind. If you need to replace them, you might spend 18 seconds focused on the brands in the category at the store. 18 seconds. I noticed only one brand in my local grocery store - Kiwi. There wasn't even a private label brand 

From this marketer's viewpoint, shoelaces are the poster child for low category engagement.

Until now.

Hickies is an elastic lacing system that is seeking to unlace the future.
There system allows you to turn any shoe into a slip-on. They are paying attention to a category that hasn't had much innovation since the year 3500 BC when the leather shoes from the Areni-1 cave were found. 

The back story
The concept of HICKIES grew from a college student’s idea to a pioneer product. Gaston, the founder of HICKIES, disliked the bow and knot of traditional shoelaces and realized that he was not alone there; laces are every parent’s nightmare and every athlete’s hassle. The answer was HICKIES! Gaston and Mariquel (Co- Founder) got married in 2011 and decided to take a leap of faith and move from Argentina to New York to start their own company. 

They launched HICKIES with a Kickstarter campaign and raised 6 times the original goal, commanding attention from both press and retailers. HICKIES is the first elastic lacing system brand and has changed the way people wear sneakers forever. The founders aim to inspire new perceptions, creativity, and keep transforming reality with simple and fun solutions like HICKIES.

Tying one on
Are you in a blah blah blah type of category that no one pays attention to? Is there a nagging industry problem that you can solve? Can you disrupt the market and pay attention to a small niche? The marketing difference means that you are paying attention to an aspect of your category that no one else is focused on. It might be the red souls of the shoe like Christian Louboutin or the closing device like Hickies elastic system. 

Go ahead, untie a few knots.


Need a marketing coach? You can hire me through Clarity to provide advice about marketing for your new product, business or service. I donate 100$ % of your fee to charity. 

Just follow the link for some Clarity

Friday, April 11, 2014

How To Turn $1,300 into 76,324,332 YouTube Views

Imagine I write you a check for $1300. Could you turn that money into 76,324,332 people watching a video that you created? Could you capitalize on the awareness, attention and traffic for your brand. 

Melissa Coker, founder of Wren, a small indy clothing company developed the viral video that was a promotion to help drive awareness and attention to her brand. With practically no money, they arrived at an emotional and compelling idea that was powered by social sharing. 

The simple idea: Imagine 10 people meeting 10 other people and kissing for the first time. 

The catch: They would all be wearing clothes by Wren, Melissa's company.

The video was her way, along with the film maker Tatia Palleva of showing off a clothing collection instead of a traditional ad to promote her brand. The kissers are both actors and friends who were part of this short video. All were unpaid and the $1300 went to rent the space where they taped the kisses. 

The Lessons: 

  • Connect with your audience emotionally. This video doesn't act like an ad but an experience. 
  • Simple ideas, when they hit a vein, are powerful. 
  • Marketing has changed and you can't expect advertising to be the only tool in the toolkit. It can help but sometimes at great cost and risk. Only $1300 was at risk with this idea. 
  • The playing field is leveled by the ability to get a big idea to spread. Take advantage and don't hesitate to experiment. Watch out big companies. 
  • Don't clutter your video with a salesy message. Get credit, raise awareness and drive interest in your website/blog but do it with a gentle touch. 
  • Traffic will follow. Of course only a small percentage of the visitors will be buying customers. But imagine how much traffic was generated to Melissa's site. She indicated that sales significantly increased which sounds like an understatement. 
  • The number of visitors to Wren's site are astounding but the real benefit is if you can make your target audience gain awareness of your brand through a compelling, low-cost connection that is entertaining and hooks them emotionally. 

Can you tell a story that connects emotionally to your audience? 


Download my new eBook Unraveling The Mysteries of Marketing. It is filled with 21 lessons based on my marketing experiences, to help you grow your brand. 

Exclusively available on Amazon

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Marketing Surprises


What can you do for your customers today that will delight and surprise them?

Don't over think this idea
Get 10 coworkers into a conference room by 8:30 am from different departments or teams. Challenge them to come up with one fabulous idea that will delight one of your top customers in ways that they won’t expect.  Create a long list quickly and sort it into categories. Let the group vote on the top 3 ideas. Set a timer and give the exercise one hour. 

Work the top ideas until you narrow it down to one idea that is a truly spectacular way to show appreciation. Then, set the team in motion to make it happen. Remember, don't over think this exercise.

Ideally you want to make this happen by the end of the next day. Build on the internal momentum and excitement of the moment. If you can do it the same day, that is even better. 

A hyper-focus on pleasing customers is a great reminder that you have to earn your customers business each day.  The ideas can be inexpensive and simple – they don’t have to be elaborate. In fact, simpler is always best.  Your organization will be excited to find other ways to please customers on their own without getting a team together. The best idea will connect with the interests of your customers, surprise and delight them and even get them to remark about it to others. 

Here are nine thought starters to get the ideas flowing…

1. Get a produce truck to come by at the end of the day and as your customers are leaving for the day, ask them if they'd like to get some free vegetables and fruit to take home with them that evening. Have someone like your President dress up as a carrot and brings an invitation to everyone in their office. 

2. Bring a rose to every employee with a simple vase for their desk with a thank you note.

3. Set up a slip and slide on their front lawn and invite their staff to come out and play at lunch time. (alternative set up a trampoline and invite your customer to come out and jump around). Don't be afraid of bad puns in your invitation like we are jumping for joy to have you as a customers. Come jump with us! 

4. Set up dominoes in their parking lot that spells out THANK YOU. Invite everyone to look out of their window to watch them tumble. 

5.  Hire an acapella singing group to play a mini-concert for 30 minutes at lunch time in their park lot. 

6.  Buy some flowering plants and ask their permission if you can plant them in front of their office as a small token of appreciation and thanks.

7. Get an ice cream truck to show up at their office a 2:00 PM and pay for everyone to line up and get a treat. (works best on a hot summer's day)

8. Bring a yoga instructor to their office along with a few dozen mats and pillows and invite everyone to an impromptu lunch yoga class. 

9. Hire a car washing firm to come and wash every employee's car in the parking lot. 

Be Remarkable 

Go ahead. I dare you. Go delight a customer in a way that advertising can't. Allow your company's personality to show up and demonstrate that you really appreciate your customer's business. 

I dare you.


Download my new eBook Unraveling The Mysteries of Marketing. It is filled with 21 lessons based on my marketing experiences,to help you grow your brand. 

Exclusively available on Amazon

Monday, April 7, 2014

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

Marketing professionals know all about positioning. How can you occupy a place in the consumer’s mind that is uniquely yours?  Jack Trout and Al Ries are often credited with this concept from their 1981 book, The Battle for your Mind. It may have been the first marketing book I ever read and it helped me understand a core marketing principle.

Shifting Balance
But today, the balance has shifted because a brand has other strong influences defining it. These market forces are coming from places like Yelp, Amazon, TripAdvisor and Angie's List. The consumer can learn quickly about a destination, a product or music before it ever hears from the brand. You can no longer rely exclusively on the brand to have that control since today the consumer’s voice can easily be heard.

A new book called Absolute Value by Stanford professor  Itamar Simonson and best-selling author Emanuel Rosen argues that an important shift is taking place in most categories where brands must share control over the position that a brand/product occupies. Consumers may tell a very different story about service at a hotel than the hotel would tell in its advertising. The hotel might describe a waterside view differently than 300 consumers who stay in that room and share their first-hand experience. Simonson and Rosen argue that unless the values in advertising become genuine behavior of a company/brand, all you have are empty platitudes. No amount of advertising can overcome first hand or crowd sourced experiences. 

Who influences your purchasers?

The critical takeaway for brands is to understand who influences decision making? The consumer may look at Yelp and ignore your advertising. She may go to Angie’s List to get a local recommendation and never believe what you say. 

If you work in a B2B marketplace, who does the decision makers look to for information and how are they influenced? Does everyone listen to one guru in the category or is a complex matrix that you have to map out for each customer you are trying to influence? 

An airline or bank that talks about being different and caring about customers may find its message stepped on by the 45 complaining comments on their web blog posts that decries their hypocrisy. GM may want you to believe that they care about safety, but the tsunami of tweets about their deceitful behavior drowns out the story they hope their advertising will tell. 

The Internet has brought dynamic transparency to the market place and the brand's ability to control what the consumer thinks is greatly diminished by traditional communications methods.

Before you stake out a claim about your brand, you better understand who is really in the driver’s seat. 


Where did I learn about this new book? Not from an advertisement but I heard Mitch Joel on his great podcast. Check out Six Pixels of Separation for some great conversation on current marketing ideas. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Marketing Chutzpah

Marketing leaders need to own a vision about where they are taking their brand. It has to align with the overall business goals of an organization, but it takes more than strategy. A brand leader has to humanize, personalize and communicate personality. And it needs to do it with confidence so that others understand what you stand for without question. Most of all, it must be genuine.

What is marketing chutzpah?

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that comes from Hebrew and means an extraordinary boldness or courage. It can have both positive and negative connotations. 

Beyond being bold, having nerve and unwavering conviction, you must exude confidence. Marketing chutzpah means you are clear who and what your brand stands for. It must be in concert with the customers you are serving today and the new ones you want to acquire. Like two close friends, you "get" each other as you both dare to be yourselves. You see the future and where it is heading, and you are trying to arrive there at the same time as your customers. This isn’t about being brash, bold or boisterous, but about being genuine.

How does an authentic brand behave when it is filled with chutzpah?  

It asks permissions to communicate.

It brings solutions to a customer instead of burdening them with distracting details.

It speaks their language (not yours).

It hears more than it speaks in meetings.

It welcomes challenges, criticism and new ideas.

It stays true to core values.

If it makes a mistake, it stands up and admits it.

It takes risks with new approaches that are always respectful and of value to the recipient.

It finds meaningful points of difference from its competitors that resonate with its customers.

It holds itself to a higher standard than its customer does.
It is curious and always learning.

It doesn't know it all but has confidence to reach toward the next step change.

Own your Chutzpah
Authentic brands put a stake in the ground to claim what they believe. They create marketing approaches that are highly focused on specific audiences and segments. They don't mince words and are willing to say no. In developing their brand persona they may narrow their focus but always with a human touch. 

How are you shmearing chutzpah on your marketing?