Guerrilla marketing is experimental in nature and aggressive.  Online marketing can be ‘in your face,’ but that’s just a figurative term.  This summer a number of brands have decided to literally get in the face of brand fans, using buses, caravans, and even fire engines to interact with the masses.

A lot of marketing and advertising balances on the notion of bringing the target market to brand properties, whether that is storefronts, websites, social media accounts, etc.  This summer, brands such as CBS, the History channel, Sauza tequila, and the Men’s Journal are taking their marketing endeavors on the road, coming directly at consumers.

The brands seek to emulate the behaviors of summer-time consumers, going to events, concerts, outdoor recreational areas, etc.  “In these days of digital, high-tech, social media, we can’t forget how important the one-to-one is,” observes the president of CBS Marketing Group division.

CBS is taking part in the festivities via the CBS Buzz Tour, making 60 stops around the nation, promoting programming, giving away freebies, and hosting meet-and-greets with several stars.   Some of the stops planned include The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, the Comic-Con in San Diego, and the Minnesota State Fair.

As written by Stuart Elliott of the New York Times, the goal of the experimental voyage is to build closer bonds with present and potential consumers.

The offline perspective is great; yet, live moments (as fun-filled as can be) also fade in time.  It’s a better idea to elongate experiences and sentiments of consumers through online vehicles, such as social media.

CBS is on it!  It will create a hash tag on Twitter so online viewers can trace the location and progress of the road campaign.  Additionally, CBS will host an online Web series highlighting Buzz Tour events and interactions.

Another brand is taking its product on the road, but these products are not celebrities, they are Porsche sports cars.  Porsche has aligned itself with former-football player, Dhani Jones.  Jones will drive the 2013 Porsche Boxster S from New York to Birmingham, Alabama in ten days.

Again, the brands are on top of the off-to-online endeavors.  Regular reports are to be hosted on the Porsche Facebook fan page and Porsche website.  Additionally, there will be an eight-week Web series on mensjournal.com (Men’s Journal is another sponsor of the event).

I’m interested to trace the final results of these brand-led road trips.  The off-to-on dynamic makes sense from a marketing viewpoint.  Connecting with people is at the heart of marketing; yet, all brands cant’ interact with customers like a consumer’s local coffee shop can.

However, this summer, some fans will get a live taste of brand interactions, while scores of others can closely track all the live gesticulations through their computer screens, as the brands attempt to recreate and preserve those live sentiments online.

 

He did everything he was supposed to.  He sacrificed his free time to study.  He was in band, SGA, and helped at a local convalescent home.  He got rave reviews from several teachers and the principal of the high school.  But, it wasn’t enough.  A former student of mine didn’t get into his ‘A-list’ school.  He got denied, despite paying close attention to the ‘algorithms’ of the situation.

What happened?  Why, though he had it down to a ‘science,’ did my former student get denied?  I don’t know the answer.  He never found out either.  But you know what?  It is six years later; the dude’s in medical school now.  Failed algorithmic realities couldn’t outrank his fervor to make his own future.

Today, I read an article in the New York Times about the future of robo-grading.  I know some former peers are cheering.  They’re likely the same teachers who didn’t like skimming student papers for writing or logical elements.  “That’s for the English teacher!” is a far-too-oft philosophy of some.

I get a quasi-upset stomach in thinking of standardized testing as well; but, we need to judge the kids on something.  We must rank them somehow…just like your brand’s Web pages.  Google has built an algorithm, which subjectively objectively judges your page and domain worth… just like some sort of system was weighed upon my former student’s future.

“Oh come on, Anthony.  We need some sort of system to ‘make sense of things.’”  Yes, we do.  Does more standardized thinking make sense in valuing the information of others?  Google thinks so; and, so does particular academics, who champion the notion of statistic wizards hammering out a computer system that can grade papers ‘just like’ humans.

Recently, a competition took place, asking programmers to engineer a system which would predict the scores of human graders.  As mentioned in the article, the system’s predictions were very close to the human notions of graders.  There’s another competition on its way, one that will predict who, based on historical claims data, will be admitted to hospitals in the following year.

The computerized system may become a force within educational circles and districts.  Some of the notions seem viable.  The computerized system would save teacher time, mark papers, and offer additional assignments…because students are more likely to learn from computerized markings than human ones, correct?

So, this computerized system, is it any different than attempting to learn from particular textbooks, which house graded examples, answers to questions in the back, etc?  Why even host a teacher in classrooms altogether?  Do you need a marketer?  Just adhere to Google’s Webmaster guidelines…  I mean, the guidelines are written to satisfy an algorithm and not the human spirit, but…

Aren’t teachers, in part, supposed to ‘market’ the learning of their subject matter?  Wasn’t a part of my job to be an inspiration, a model, a facilitator of learning?  Did that human element contribute to the knowledge ascertained?  I would like to think so.

But, just like Google, perhaps the ‘system’ thinks it is more convenient to create algorithms to judge people and their performance, to make them rank a particular way.  Perhaps this way we can teach kids to write the ‘Penguin’ or ‘Panda’ way.

That’s what I want young people to learn, that they are only as good as the algorithm allows them to be, that their human fervor, the human spirit, can be called out like a robotically-demented Babe Ruth; but, this Babe doesn’t have time to sign any baseballs, visit sick kids in hospitals, or shake the hands of young fans.  This one is just about the ‘facts’ of the matter.

That’s how you would like your marketing progress to go as well, correct?  Never mind your consumers and the people element of marketing; an algorithm has your best interests, your best future in mind.  But in case that gives you a quasi-upset feeling, there are a few marketers who don’t mind staying ‘after school’ to help explain things to you in human terms…

 

 

I just read a story in the New York Times related to Jiffy Lube and it’s recently changed and newly-lubed marketing approach.  The oil-change brand is infusing some humor into its ads and fresh-penned tagline, “Leave worry behind.”

Ha ha, I get it, Jiffy Lube; you’re poking fun at consumer anxieties.  Good one!  I chose to write about this because the topic is fresh in my mind.  About three months ago, I brought my Jeep Wrangler  in for an oil change at a local mechanic shop.  I moved to a new area about four months ago.

When I picked up my car after the oil change, something I’ve come to almost expect (sarcastically) confronted me.  “You got a leak.  You’ll need a new water pump.”  Admittedly, I can wrap my head around ‘water’ and ‘pump’; but, I have no idea what a “water pump” does, costs, looks like, how to assess if it’s damaged, etc…

It’s a very uncomfortable feeling.  Is this mechanic taking me for a ride, especially since I’m a ‘noob,’ a new person in town?  Maybe it is paranoia, maybe it is experience, but I can’t help but ask the question…

The mechanic mentioned the job would tally over $300.  I’m just a poor writer.  I opted to let it go for a while and get other recommendations.  Two days ago, I brought my Jeep to another mechanic, my landlord’s (who is also my friend) friend.  I told him I needed another oil change and told him about the leak.

For one, he advised me that shops, that solely do minor jobs like oil changes, can ‘beat him out’ on the price of oil changes.  He charges $80.  A “jiffy” place may charge half that or a little more; they get price breaks on oil apparently.  I like having money…but I also like doing business with honest people…  I may shell out the additional $30 to $40 just because this guy was honest.

Additionally, he looked at my ‘leak.’  He did mention a slow leak but nothing I should be immediately concerned about.  I thought that was odd since the first mechanic, from three months ago, mentioned there was “no way” I could let that water pump go for another month (“at the very latest!”)  Hmm…seems two ‘experts’ have a difference in opinion, yes?

Well, let me bring it all in together.  So, Jiffy’s new ad series will poke fun at situations like mine.  From NY Times story:

“Because most people are not proficient in the mechanics of a car, they’re worried when they bring their car in for something that a mechanic will find something different that they weren’t aware of.  There’s always that uncertainty: ‘Is the work being performed on my car really necessary?’”

How many out there, receiving some form of online marketing or SEO advice or services, feel the same way?  I feel your anxiety!  However, I’m not sure if I would lampoon your anxiety to promote online marketing services.

Ethically questionable or unscrupulous practices are not a laughing matter in my world.  I don’t think making light-hearted attempts to express a dark side of an industry is a way to assuage the anxieties of unknowing consumers.  It would be comparable to an SEO company attempting humor at simulating situations of ‘burned’ clients, while simultaneously trying to attract clients with the same needs.

Alternatively, if I’m a brand that recognizes injustices, I may engineer my ads to express an upstanding personality, like the one of the second mechanic, rather than possibly add to the insult of my industry through humor.  What are your thoughts?

 

Any time a business uses a third-party’s services, it’s placing itself in a vulnerable position.  This goes for any outsourcing, but especially for SEO and online marketing.

How many impressions can be had regarding your campaign?  I don’t mean the traditional advertising kinds of impressions, such as the number of times drivers cruise pass your billboard.  I mean the impressions of onlookers, whether they are consumers, peers, potential consumers, etc.

I can’t stress enough the importance of the diligence of the business owner in approaching an SEO service.  Marketing is all about associating your market back to your brand and services/products.  Wow, you’re leaving that up to another source entirely?!  Okay, the notion of ‘outsourcing’ is not mind blowing, but the notion of electing a hands-off, leave-it-to-the-experts is very much so.

Here are a few things your marketing company can be messing up for you.

Links
Sure, at present, the Penguin update is a heavy topic of discussion; yet, the notions behind the update are as old as the Web itself.  I believe many businesspeople have a limited understanding of SEO.  It’s not an insult to their intelligence; it’s just plain fact.

It wasn’t totally insane for businesspeople to be led to believe that a high number of links, signaling what you sell (anchor text), would grant you traction on this totally cool platform ‘everyone’ is now using to shop for goods/services, search engines.

However, let’s speed up time to now, when traditional sentiments of marketing caught up to the totally new, cool way to market.  Why should a particular domain/page associated with a product/service necessarily be a better provider of such because a search engine says so?  Understood, the theory behind engines leads browsers to believe such, but it is a marketing promise (Yes! These engines are brands too!  They want you to think they’re great! And great for your business too!) – not a foolproof reality.

DO NOT allow your marketing service to go for numbers rather than quality.  Do you make a distinction on quality?  Why are you engaged in the matter to start from such a limited position of knowledge?  Why are you letting others make decisions for your business?

Content
“Content is…”  I can’t even stomach to finish the line.  Actually, how many out there assume content strictly means written copy?  It does not.  “But Anthony, I need a specific number of keywords occurrences on my Web page or I won’t get ranked, I won’t get traffic, I won’t get conversions…”

So, again, who is feeding you these sentiments?  What kinds of content can best intrigue your targeted consumers?  It could be a picture.  It may be an epic poem…  It may be a podcast…  “But wait, pictures and podcasts don’t have keywords!  I need to inundate my pages with them to rank!”

Sure, ranking well for particular terms helps, but it’s not a be-all-end-all necessity.  That’s like saying if search engines ‘disappeared’ tomorrow, your business would have to fold-up shop.  Really?  That would be unfortunate and majorly make me question what kind of brand you have going on over there.

Pay attention to your consumers and serve them with useful content.  If you pay more attention to the desires of your target market rather than how many times engines can count your keywords, your business is likely to be more successful…because you’re in business to please the customer, correct?

Search engine ‘optimization,’ to me, means your brand is finding ways to make engines work for you, not the other way around.  So, it doesn’t necessarily mean Google serves you first for your “chosen word”; it means your marketing team has utilized engines as another way to create associations to your users, which can mean A LOT of things aside from rank for a particular term.

Who are you placing in power to produce your content?  The agency’s writers?  Have you seen their (you know, the writer who writes YOUR content) stuff before?  What are their thoughts on content?  Should yours be written?  Audio recorded?  Visually recorded?  Stocked with images rather than written sentiment?  What do you think about it?  Do you have an opinion?  Why not?  You should know your service/product and consumers BETTER than the third-party provider; yet, you leave it up to someone else to make major decisions for your company?

 

I was an eighties kid.  Some things indefinitely come to mind in reminiscence.  The lovable cartoon-like cereal characters for instance.  I mean, some of these characters were hugely influential and unforgettable.  (Channels boyhood self) Wait.  What?  Count Chocula is serving up a free figurine at the bottom of that box of junky goodness?  Where do I get my parents to sign!

When I was younger, childhood obesity was not a topic.  I ‘m not sure that’s because we had less time to be ‘online,’ break dancing was in, or too many kids started choosing Chocula over arugula one too many times…

Can we pin poor health on the smirking Count?  Can we shake Mickey down for hosting sugar-fused foods in-between his segments?  Perhaps, but let’s give these innocent figures the benefit.  Let’s hire them to change their serendipitously naughty ways and channel that marketing popularity toward healthy foods.

That’s the new Disney plan going into effect and backed by the first lady.  As of Tuesday, all advertising on Disney’s child-focused media (radio, television, web) will adhere to stringent, health-conducive regulations.

Wait, Mickey’s no longer ‘boys’ with such characters as the chocolaty fictitious vamp?

The restrictions extend onto some ABC stations within the Disney family.  Remember Capri Sun?  I sure do…that sweet-tasting liquid nectar.  Hm.Hm.  It’s no longer applicable to advertise with Mickey and crew.  Capri’s gotta talk to the white-gloved hand now, so to speak.

Disney’s health craze also applies to its amusement parks, where the NY Times reports 12-million children’s meals are served annually.  Disney states it will improve its food’s ‘health statistics.’  Furthermore, Mickey and the squad are set on convincing kids that the Count is out and carrots are in! (Though more easily stated than practically digested momentarily perhaps.)

As the news story admits, Mickey didn’t become as animated about changing his ways until federal regulators began making proposals to combat ‘childhood obesity.’  Furthermore, it’s not goofy to think Disney may lose some money by shunning advertisers.

On the other hand, the move, while somewhat inspired by regulators, could prove as a sure-handed, long-term strategy to make a good impression on parents, those who get ‘signed up’ for all sorts of Disney-related purchases.  However, who is Disney’s market really?  (Channel your boy/girlhood self.)

Are kids so willingly going to give up the junk-food, fun-filled cereal boxes?  When was the last time Kashi offered a cool figurine or sticker at the bottom of its health-cereal box?  Is it Disney’s duty to be more selective about what it shows its target market?  Should health-related brands do a better job at getting as charming as Chocula?  What are your thoughts?

 

I spend a lot of time engaging in the reading/writing trenches, nestled into corners of various coffee shops.  I’ve paraded face in quite a few in my day.  So much, in fact, I think I’ve noticed some favorable marketing aspects and some which could use a caffeine-infused wakeup.

Of course, a post speaking specifically upon coffee shops is not going to help the general public of business owners; so, I will relay my observations and suggestions in a manner that is digestible to all.

 

Pay Attention to How Your Brand Treats Employees
When I was younger, my mom would always say what I did was a reflection on her (sorry, ma!).  In business, I believe how employees are treated is a reflection on upper-level executives and overall brand value.

I’ve observed managers speaking negatively, condescendingly, and downright disrespectfully to employees, to the point where I told one individual I would not be returning to their establishment due to my observations.

Chris Winfield tweeted a Forbes article yesterday on behaviors of leaders.  Check numbers three and five.  If the above manger did, I would still be frequenting their establishment.

Do you think others observe how your employees are treated?  You better count on it.

 

Ongoing Ambiance
Some coffee shops are designed poorly, as far as creating an ongoing ambiance.  Rather than a quick come-and-go scenario, other brands ‘invite’ you to stay…for as long as you wish.  Furthermore, the design of these establishments ‘walk’ that brand of ‘talk.’

Basically, as a frequenter of coffee shops, I have needs.  So do all of your consumers (regardless of your service/product).  For instance, yes, I like coffee; but, I also want to stay and sit, use WiFi, learn about local happenings, purchase the local and national paper, and situate myself in comfortable seating.

What is your brand doing to ensure consumers come back?  What additional resources or amenities could you provide them with?  It could be a number of things including on and offline implementations.  Do you think cuddling your consumers makes a difference?

Take a look at what 7-11s in Jakarta are doing to satisfy their consumers.

 

Give More to Get More
If yours is a business that likes cutting cost-corners then this sub section is not for you.  There’s a particular shop I visited. I buy a lot of coffee; so, when a coffee card was offered I took the bait.  You get every tenth coffee free.  Awesome, that means within a good week, I’ll probably get at least two free coffees!

Admittedly, I don’t like carrying around extra cards or ‘signing up’ anywhere; but, this made sense, until…  For one, there’s no honor system or phone number system.  If I forgot my card, then, oh well, I’m out of luck as far as the ongoing freebie is concerned.

Secondly, as stated above, I drink a lot of coffee.  It’s not uncommon for me to consume more than twenty cups per week; yet, due to the manager’s rules, I can only get one free coffee per week (though that notion contradicts the ‘buy 9 get the 10th free’ slogan).

Thirdly, and this was relayed to me verbatim: “We no longer carry coffee ushers for our customers because the manufacturer raised the price.”  They raised the price on cardboard coffee holders?  By how much?  A few cents?  Wow.

Consumers like being cuddled.  Furthermore, we like the eventual ‘freebie’ or ‘discount’ for being a ‘regular.’  It’s kind of like a ‘thank you for your patronage’ type of thing.  That matters a lot to some people.  Are you so concerned with cutting costs that you must take away from consumers?  Bad idea.

Not only do patrons appreciate deals; but, they’ll tell their friends about it too!  Read the following case study done on special offers.