poelog: Commentary, thoughts and opinions on the web, ebusiness and marketing -- a web log by Rob Poel
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Monday, September 30, 2002

I agree Eric. Perhaps meeting for donuts is in order. As MEETUP.com states in it's "Why MEETUP?" blurb:
  • 1. Because nobody ever died of having too many friends.
  • 2. Because the Internet was made to connect people.
  • 3. Because you spend too much time in front of a screen.
  • I especially agree with #2 and it's one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.

    Another interesting article from strategy + business: The Internet as Integrator — Fast Brand Building in Slow-Growth Markets. Ok ... although two recent posts have talked about "brands" (Starbucks and Krispy Kreme), I gotta tell ya, I hate the term "Brand Building." Too many VPs of Marketing and business magazine writers throw this term around to describe almost everything related to marketing/advertising.

    Perhaps the reason I have a problem with the term relates to the notion of time. In my eyes, you can't "build a brand" through a promotion, sponsorshop, advertisement, direct marketing campaign or flash banner ad. A promotion hopefully leads to a spike in volume. A sponsorship builds awareness through association. A direct marketing campaign leads to action. All of these tools, when used collectively as part of an "integrated" (yes, another buzz word) marketing plan CAN positively (or negatively) impact a brand but the tool does not build the brand. Brands are built over time ... and usually over a long period of time ... and marketing/advertising is [typically] only a small contributor to a brand's growth.

    Which leads me to my next point ... and it's another thing that bugs me: the word "brand" seems to always be relegated to the marketing and advertising departments when in reality a brand is built around a whole business - EVERY part of it. The Starbucks brand is built on customer service, positive treatment of their employees, the coffee shop decor, packaging, the taste of their coffee, the music in their stores, the Starbucks card (debit card), etc. The Amazon.com brand is built on an extremely well-done web site, 1-Click ordering, personal recommendations, customer service, wish lists, great selection, good prices, etc. Notice, I didn't mention an advertising campaign for either Starbucks or Amazon. If marketing executives would spend more time focused on improving the product or service or fine-tuning the business fundamentals RATHER THAN trying to spin, position, promote or convince, than there would be a far greater number of powerful brands.

    Now ... to be fair to this article ... (I sort of went off on a tangent) ... this article describes the internet's role as an integrator. And that assessment is one I agree with. The article's example of Annheuser-Busch's Budweiser web site (a href="http://www.budweiser.com">www.budweiser.com) exemplifies the Internet's role as an integrator by allowing users to download and play the ever-popular "Whassup" Tv ads, purchase T-shirts or send e-cards to friends and family. All of these web-based extensions integrated what was initially just a broadcast media campaign.

    MarthaStewart.com is another good example. The site brings together a wide spectrum of business units on a single site that effectively communicates the core identity of the brand — improve the quality of living in the home, elevate homemaking, and encourage do-it-yourself ingenuity..

    The article ends with five success factors that must be addressed if the Internet is to play a role in amplifying, differentiating, and integrating a brand and its communications. Here they are:
  • 1. The firm needs a clear brand identity and vision that drives all the brand-building programs.
  • 2. Companies must create an organization that allows the Internet to be integrated into the total brand-building effort of the firm.
  • 3. Design matters.
  • 4. Customers need to be motivated to come to the site and return regularly.
  • 5. The brand Web site needs to be linked to other brand-building programs or to the product or service itself.
  • Ok ... so none of those are earth-shattering but they still serve as good reminders.

    Thursday, September 26, 2002

    A fellow West Michigan blogger: Eric C. Snowdeal III - snowdeal.org. Pretty cool blog.

    Wednesday, September 25, 2002

    Today .... I experienced my first Hot Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donut. And although the donut was easily the best glazed donut I've had ... I was more impressed with the brand. I'd heard all the buzz, and followed the news of the successful IPO 18 months or so ago, but I had never been to a Krispy Kreme store or tasted their product until today (the first Krispy Kreme in western Michigan opened today). Quite an experience. The retro decor and packaging. The friendly host at the door. The guy in the parking lot handing out free Krispy Kremes. The large window with dozens and dozens of hot donuts meandering down the line waiting to be drowned in a glaze water fall. The lingo (although I only wanted 1 donut I had the urge to order the "Ready 2 Go" which refers to two dozen donuts, 1 dozen original glaze, 1 dozen mix). You know what it (the brand) reminded me of? Starbucks (see two posts down). Krispy Kreme is to a donut what Starbucks is to coffee. And you know that translates to the bottom line. Starbucks has found a way to make people eagerly fork over $4.13 for a Double Tall Non-Fat Vanilla Latte. Krispy Kreme has convinced folks to spend $10.99 for two dozen donuts. Can you imagine how low their cost-of-goods sold is for a single glazed donut that they sell for 70 cents? In fact, I've just added KKD to my stock prospect list. With only 217 stores nationwide this company has a large opportunity to grow.

    Another Google Innovation: Google News

    Tuesday, September 24, 2002

    strategy+business: The Barista Principle — Starbucks and the Rise of Relational Capital - How did a small Seattle company turn itself into a global synonym for java and joe? The answer, we believe, lies with an ingredient as central to Starbucks’s business as the premium coffee beans it roasts: Relationships. Sounds hokey ... but I think there's merit here. The article goes on to introduce a concept called "relational capital" defined as the value of a firm’s network of relationships with its customers, suppliers, alliance partners, and employees. This focus on relationships has allowed Starbucks to grow a leading brand despite only spending $1 million per year on advertising/promotions (for comparison, the P&G's Pampers brand spends $30 million per year on advertising.

    The article also touches on Starbuck's skill in building an "experience" ... another marketing buzzword but again, an accurate one in this instance. “We’ll rarely talk just about the product,” says Ms. Gass, vice president of beverage. “Starbucks is a place that allows the customer experience to happen. Things in the store are just props to the experience.”

    Finally ... on the challenge of growing big while maintaining culture, brand, values, etc. Said Howard Schultz, CEO, There is no doubt in my mind that Starbucks can realize its financial goals. A more fragile issue is whether our values and guiding principles will remain intact as we continue to expand.”

    Monday, September 16, 2002

    Fast Company: 18 Ways to Take Charge -- Fast - Good advice if you're taking over the top job at a company, business unit, or department.

    So much for this corporate blog. The most recent post on AGENCY.COM's Applied Concepts Lab is May 22. They're better off taking it offline than having a blog with content that hasn't been updated in almost 4 months.

    Friday, September 13, 2002

    Apple eyes the future of the Mac - Cool stuff. One of the innovations mentioned: Rendezvous, a zero configuration networking protocol:

    "We both believe that consumers want devices throughout the home to talk to each other, so that, for example, the music stored in iTunes on your Mac can play through the Philips stereo system in your living room, or the photos stored in iPhoto can be displayed as a stunning slideshow on your Philips Flat TV. Rendezvous helps realize this dream," said Kleisterlee.

    No one in the computer industry innovates like Apple.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    Another cool app from Apple:iCal. At quick glance I can see that this calendar has one feature I wish my Palm Desktop calendar had: the option to color-code/categorize meetings. I'd like to see at a week-view glance when I have work meetings versus personal meetings. Looks like I may have to upgrade my Mac OS.

    Thursday, September 05, 2002

    Jakob: Intranet Design Annual: 10 Best Intranets of 2002 - some good pointers, presented in typical Nielsen bold highlighting. Some of the keys to success:
  • our winning projects did not hold off until everything was perfect ... instead ... followed a staged approach
  • structure the intranet's information architecture based on employees' tasks and job goals instead of on the company's org chart
  • prominently feature a killer app
  • users own the content and the central team owns the design.

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2002

    Two good articles in the latest issue of Business 2.0. The first one, and cover story, Amazon Gets The Last Laugh , is one of the first biz pub articles in awhile to give Amazon the due it deserves. I've been a staunch Amazon supporter ever since their inception. For a couple of years there it seemed like every other week an analyst would come out announcing that within 12 months Amazon would run out of cash ... or ... that once Walmart set its mind to it, it would squash Amazon. Funny ... I haven't heard anything from those analysts lately.

    The second article, Just Do It. Again., focuses on Wieden & Kennedy, Nike's ad agency, and their push into "branded content," a blend of advertising and entertainment. With advertising rates, especially banner ads, continuing to plummet, and personal recorders such as TiVo that allow viewers to skip ads, continuing to gain accepatance, ad agencies like W&K are having to look at more and more creative ways to get their message in front of their target audience. The question, of course, is does branded content work? The jury is out. I'll admit, however, that some of Nike's recent ads such as their "Freestyle" basketball ad or their "Tune up" ad in which the orchestra tunes up while we say quick shots of athletes prepping for the start of an event, have enhanced or at least reinforced the Nike brand in my mind. And although I don't know if that will make me more likely to buy Nike over Adidas, maybe that's ok. The fact that the ads positvely reflect the brand might be all Nike is looking to do. And inevitably ... by enhancing the brand ... whether I consciously realize it or not, I'm probably more likely to buy shoes and apparel with the swoosh on it.