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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fanny Makes The Final Five of the Rachael Ray Great American Cookbook Competition

Fanny Slater - CEO of Fanfare Catering (Chief Eating Officer) 

Congratulations to my daughter Fanny who has made the final five for Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition. 

The first episode will be broadcast nationally on ABC in Raleigh on Monday April 28th – 9:00 or 10:00 am - check local listings and set your DVRs.  In some markets, the channel may be CBS. 

Fanny is the CEO (Chief Eating Officer) of Fanfare Catering in Wilmington, NC.  Watch her demonstrate for Rachael Ray’s audience how to get their fanny in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pages Turning Yellow

It is a ritual every spring. 

The yellowish green pine tar pollen coats the cars. The buttery yellow crocuses start to come out of the ground. Golden yellow finches start singing from the flowering magnolia trees. 

And the yellow pages
are thrown on to
my driveway without 
my permission.

When was the last time you used the yellow pages or a phone book to look up something? I feel like I am receiving a delivery from the 1970’s. I already have access, with my phone to all the information in these book. Why don't these endangered species disappear? 

My almost 87 year old Mom (Bea) reminded me that the last time she used a phone book was to help a great grandchild sit up higher at a dinner table. The phone book was used instead of a booster seat. She also told me that this years phone book was thrown in her bushes during a snow storm and she just picked it up a few weeks ago (when the snow cleared) and tossed it in the trash. 

Why should I let my fingers do the walking when I can let them do the searching?
Some products run their course and lose their importance to a huge part of the population. I’m sure there are some who still look for an electrician or the address of a company that sells drapes by digging through the thousands of pages of tiny print in this printed dinosaur.

Worst of all, I don’t get to opt-out of getting it delivered. I can’t click unsubscribe. I can’t get on the “do not drop pounds of paper on my driveway list” easily. Then there is the dilemma of what to do with this beast? Do I put it in the recycle bin? Do I throw it in the trash? Do I use it to absorb oil escaping from my car.

Are your products like the Yellow Pages? 
Do your company's products need reinvention?  Do they belong in a different decade? How can you reinvent your brand, your business or your services in a way that makes it feel like it is of the 21st century? 

What problem are you solving? 
I always like to go back to basics. Why does your product or brand exist?  No,it isn't to make money. You have to solve a problem, fill a need and provide a solution to someone. Have you lost your way like the yellow pages? Was their digital approach way too late? Did they hold onto a technology too long so that they felt like your mother's solution - not yours? Wouldn't it have been obvious to reposition these as the new GREEN pages where the paper goes away? What a missed opportunity. 

There are almost 100 million millennial, born from 1980-2000. How many of these consumers ever used a yellow page directory in the last 5 years? What is the future for this platform? Is your product in a dying category and need a makeover? Like newspapers, I think the pages of these books will continue to yellow, dry up and disappear. If only they embraced the disruption 20 years ago instead of fearing it, we might be telling a different story. 

How are you preparing for your product's extinction? 


To learn more about me and my marketing ideas, please don't let your fingers do the walking in a yellow book. 
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 21, 2014

Erasing The Marketing Department

 “Trust is like an eraser; it gets smaller and smaller with every mistake.” – Unknown

Should the Marketing Department be erased from our memories?

Does your marketing department need to be sent out to pasture to graze and just go away? Is it weighed down by old stereotypes and suspicion? Is it burdened by the negative impressions of slick hucksters and showman? Is it a disadvantage to even have the word marketing on your business card? 

Time for a Change
What if we marketing professionals changed our name? How about repositioning who we are to the business community? Our responsibility would still be to manage the reputation of the company, our brands and to maintain the trust of our customers. We would still be the farmers seeding the future relationships of new customers. 

Only our name would be "new and improved". 

What would the TRUST department do? 

We would give value to customers without asking for anything in return.

We would offer products that are embedded with meaningful differences to them not me-too products.

We wouldn't hide behind clever promotions but instead give them something useful to talk about to their customers.

We would distinguish our products from the category, from commodity and our difference would matter to our customer.

We would stop pushing messages out to them that annoy them.

We would offer products, ideas and insights that they would be excited to share with their customers and communities. 

We would earn trust over time.

We wouldn't risk their faith in our relationship over a few dollars. 

We would honor our word and the spirit of our intention. 

We would provide to our greater community of shareholders value, transparency and respect. 

And with a new name, we might be seen in a new light. 

Moving the needle on the trust factor 

Trust Officers
The Trust Department would have at the helm a Chief Trust Officer. She would manage a team including a Vice President of Trust, a Director of Trust and several Trust Managers.

We would leave behind an old image that is rooted in a 1950's mentality about business. 

Maybe it is time for the cobbler’s kid to have a new pair of shoes. What do you think? 

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