Under The Radar

Under the marketing radar 
As a marketer I am often on alert to see what brand message gets through to me. How did they do that? Who told me that story that made me aware of their brand? What made me buy that product? What path was taken whereby the story of that brand broke through my own radar? 

I want to learn from my experiences so I try to understand how others have reached me. I know I first heard about Tom's Shoes from my daughter Fanny but it wasn't until I heard about it from a marketing authority (Seth Godin) that I paid attention to the elegance of what they were doing. I remember reading about how powerful Stumbleupon was as an influence on spreading information but it was a colleague who made me watch on his laptop as he surfed the web in a new and different way using this cool site. I also recall tweeting about a new gelato (Talenti) that I tasted and loved and how several friends have mentioned that I "turned them on to the brand" and they tried it based on my writing. So who do I influence and how do I get under other people's radar is also of interest. 

I started by examining my own media consumption behavior and brand encounters which I'll bet are somewhat similar to yours:

I prefer to watch TV that is recorded. I speed through almost every commercial. It is rare that I actively watch a commercial anymore.  I can't live without my DVR. My favorite buttons on my remote are mute and fast forward. On rare occasions a funny commercial or jingle will stick in my head but it takes an active re-watching to help remind me what brand it is associated with since the commercial is clever but the brand is not front and center. How about you?

Radio & Podcasts
I love podcasts of radio shows where I can start and stop them. It is all content and no ads. If I do listen to the radio, it is for news and information. If a commercial comes on, I lower the sound or tune it out in my head. Exception to this is that I do hear the ad announcements read on NPR because they don't feel intrusive. In fact, they breakthrough since it is often the credible 'voice over' delivering the message not an advertiser. 

Click to unsubscribe 
I don’t get subscriptions to magazines anymore. I used to get about 10 going back only 10 years ago. (Time, Life, Gourmet, etc.) Today I occasionally read a magazine at a Dr. office or if I am traveling, I do look at the ads because I’m curious about graphics/copy and design but little stands out as editorial design is so much better than it used to be. I can't believe how over priced ad space is in these publications compared to online. By the way, when was the last time your CFO asked about the ROI of print advertising for your brand? 

I no longer get a daily newspaper. I eliminated my subscription for the Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer about 2 years ago as it was of very little interest to me, it was a pain to recycle each week (I have a long driveway) and the articles are free online. More importantly, there was no value to the paper version and I get more than enough news and analysis from other sources online. Yes, I do miss some local stories about things I am really not that interested in anyway but not feeling obligated to read the newspaper freed me so I could read more relevant blog posts. 

Phone Calls
When I get a cold call at home or any call for that matter, I don't answer it. I let it go to voice mail unless I see a name or number I recognize. If I do pick up, I'm not very cooperative. No I do not want to take a survey about salad spinners today, thank you. I love caller ID. 

I open my mail over the garbage so I can throw out the 15 credit card solicitation I get each week. (Note to Visa: you must be wasting $150 per year on me. Didn't you get the message?) Most of the mail I get that I care about comes from my mother. 

When I search online, I am more aware of the ads being promoted and the search engine optimization work that was done to get high up in search. I think I click at a much lower rate than before. I don’t remember ever clicking on a banner ad in the last 2 years. 5 years ago, I clicked very often because it was novel. Most of my online time is spent reading blogs about topics of interest to me like marketing, cooking, photography, spirituality and general business issues. 

Jeff and Gary V
One of my marketing heroes, Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say that marketers screw things up for everyone. (He uses more extreme language than me). Think of how cool email was just 10 years ago.  You couldn’t wait to get an email in your in box and open it up. Do you feel that way today? Marketers have indeed overwhelmed us with so much coming through the digital inbox that it is easier and easier to ignore. Watch a recent presentation Gary gave in Toronto about social media and the changing landscape for media. (about one hour packed with lots of F bombs but worth viewing)

Customer Service 
Unexpected customer service rocks. They sneak under my radar when I'm not paying attention and when it is done well, it makes me smile and feel connected to a brand. 

And of course the opposite is true too. 

Crappy experiences are like a force field that repels you away from a brand. Bad service happens so often that examples abound and you could teach a college level course in B school just about everyday bad service. Where do I begin? 

Here are two recent examples that occurred in the last week.

The Bad

I waited 15 minutes in line at Best Buy last Sunday while 2 store employees put tape for a cash register on a shelf while I was standing in the damn line. They saw me. They acknowledged me. But putting tape on the shelf was more important than improving my in store experience. They didn't stop what they were doing and pay attention to the human being in front of them. Nope, they shelved rolls of cash register tape. 

I didn't say anything as I watch the equity of their brand slowly melt away. I wanted to say two words to them: Circuit City. 

One ringy dingy
When I called Blue Cross/Blue Shield, I was told that they couldn't call me back if we get disconnected and that I would just have to wait in the queue for another customer service person to help me. Why? Because they don't have outbound calling in their call center. (Huh?) 

The agent and I agreed that the best plan was for me to cross my fingers that we didn’t get disconnected. (Really that was our plan)

The Good

When I went to Whole Foods I couldn’t find two ingredient (tamarind and tahini) for something I was thinking about cooking. I approached the first person I found who worked in the store. She promptly dropped what she was doing and said she would find the manager and figure out where it was in the store and she’d come back to me in a few minutes. She did. I found what I needed and I am now telling that story to you. Talk about walking the walk. (tamarind is a fruit with a sweet and sour flavor and a rare source of calcium in a fruit and tahini is a sesame paste used in making salad dressing)

I buy gas at a small Exxon convenience store in Zebulon, N.C. where I work. When I went in last week, the young Indian woman who owns the store with her husband said to me, “we are out of the V8 tomato juice that you like but should have more in tomorrow”. She remembered me. She remembered what I like to drink at lunch time even though I only fill up a few times per month. She made a connection. She must get hundreds of customers in her store each week but somehow she remembered my favorite drink. Guess where I go out of my way to buy gas and I remember that I could have had a V8?)

The Ugly

I got an email recently from a marketing firm looking to sell me some type of social media service about personalization. The email read Dear (Fill in the Name). Seriously?

The Human Touch
The future of marketing products and services will be built on delivering a human touch to get under our radar. Dear Fill in the blank doesn't cut it anymore. 

What steps are you taking to enchant and delight your customers with unexpected actions? 

Here are two simple idea. 

Take your customer list and ask everyone in the company to write a hand-written personal thank you note to that customer for their business. Don't cross-sell or ask them to buy anything. Just say thank you and do it in a time consuming and personal way with ink and paper. 

Frozen Thank You Notes 
Or, find a local ice cream truck and asked them to show up at your customer's office at lunchtime. Give them a big sign that says thank you from (your company's name). Don't announce it just put the ice cream truck in their parking lot for about 90 minutes. 

By the way, thank you for reading my blog and passing it along to other marketers. 

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