Football, 3-D Glasses, and Pets.com

Like most Americans I went to a Super Bowl party Sunday.  Part of the hype leading up to the telecast of the game was a promotion, sponsored by a soft drink company, for a preview of Disney movie, filmed in “3-D”, that won’t be out until this summer.    To see this commercial, and that’s what it was, a commercial, you had to visit your nearest retailer and pick up a pair of “3-D” glasses.

Like Ralphie, in the movie “A Christmas Story“, who waited weeks for the arrival of his “Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring”  we were told to gather around the TV at the end of the second quarter of the game appropriately clad in our fashionable cardboard glasses.

At the appointed time, as I looked around the room at a group of usually sane people wearing cardboard “glasses”, it made me think of how the actual football game has become secondary to marketing at the Super Bowl.

These folks had gone to the trouble of going to the store to get their 3-D specs to watch a commercial!  If the game itself were in “3-D” the whole thing might have made sense, but to do it for the pleasure of seeing a commercial was just a bit much.  Where Ralphie had sent away for his decoder ring expecting to get a secret message from Annie, only to be disappointed to find out that the “message” was actually a commercial for Ovaltine, we knew exactly what we were going to see.

pets_dot_comWhich made me think how things have changed in just a few years.  Remember Pets.com?  They created quite a stir when they spent $1.2 million to advertise their on-line business during the 2000 Super Bowl.  The ad, featuring a sock puppet,  was rated #1 [The company would close it’s doors before the end of the year, but that’s another story.]

The idea of  an internet-only business spending that kind of money on TV advertising was unheard of.  But here we are, just nine years later, with dot com’s advertising like crazy.  E-Trade [my wife loves the baby] and GoDaddy.com both purchased multiple ads for this years event for something north of $2 million each.  Both companies ran well-produced, obviously expensive ads.

By the way, can you name the teams that played in the 2000 Super Bowl?  Probably not.

Which begs some  questions:

Is the Super Bowl a broadcast of a football game interrupted by commercials, or a broadcast of commercials interupted by a football game?

Better yet, is it really a Springsteen concert surrounded by a football game?

Does the pregame show really have to start more than eight hours before the game?

Does any football game really need ten announcers?

And finally, aren’t the Budweiser Clydesdales the cutest giant animals ever, especially when they’re in love?

[The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bows XXXIV on January 30, 2000 by a score of 23-16, Kurt Warner’s only Super Bowl win.  If you didn’t know that, you weren’t really watching the game.]

A Brand Called You

As regular readers know, my iPod passed away in a tragic lawn mower accident a while back.  My thoughtful children went together and bought me a new one for Christmas.  But between the destruction of the mp3 player, Christmas, “retirement” and some other things too numerous to mention, I’m way behind in my podcast listening.

That’s why I was listening yesterday to episode 209 of Anna Farmery’s “The Engaging Brand“, dated December 19, 2008.  Normally I wouldn’t publicly admit to being so far behind, but I wanted to bring this episode to your attention.

The Brand Called You by Peter Montoya

Anna’s guest was Peter Montoya, author of a book called “A Brand Called You“.  As you can tell from the title, it’s a book about personal branding.  [Note:  I haven’t read the book so this isn’t a book report.  I’d like to hear from anyone who has read it.]

Montoya made some excellent points in the interview and I want to share a couple of them with you.  He suggests that you specialize your product/service to fit your chosen market.  For example, name an American manufacturer of high-end motorcycles.  Or, name a national chain of gourmet (?) coffee shops where people like to gather and linger over their double-chocolate mocha lattes with double diet steam sugar-free milk.  Or simply name your favorite search engine.

Chances are most of you said, in this order, Harley Davidson, Starbucks, and Google.  Those are brands that are specialized to fit their market place.

Next, build a relationship with your customers.  The combination of specialization and relationships equals your brand. When you look at it that way, it’s fairly simple.

You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute.  I can’t afford to spend the money to become a Starbucks.”  Maybe not, but you can build a brand in your local market that’s equally recognizable in that market.  In fact, if you haven’t done that, you’d better get started right away because there may be somebody else in your area who’s looking to build the same brand that you covet.  And it’s always best to be first.

Another thing that Montoya stresses is the importance of a web site.  People are surfing the net for information before they shop.  If they don’t find you, you’re out of the race before you even start.  You site doesn’t have to be fancy.  You don’t need a lot of expensive effects.  All you need is a site that gives your potential customer the information she needs to drive her into your business.

Rather than take this any further, I suggest you listen to the podcast and hear directly from Montoya.  The podcast runs just about half an hour so you can easily listen to it while you eat lunch.

Have a great weekend!

When Bad Times Mean Good Times

My wife is a HUGE fan of Home and Garden Television(HGTV).  She can sit for hours watching shows about decorating, and color, and buying a house in the Carribean (?).  She has no need for the remote if the TV’s set on her favorite channel.  She’s even  gotten me interested in some of the shows (especially the Carribean one).

A lot of the shows are about buying and selling a house.  Watching with Jan I’ve learned a new word, “staging”.    According to Haverhill Home Staging:

“Home staging is the design process of de-personalizing a private residence prior to putting it up for sale in the real estate marketplace. This is often achieved by re-arranging, de-cluttering and improving on certain items.”

In other words, in order to sell your home, you have to make it look like you don’t live there.  You do this by taking down pictures and other items that relate to you and your family.  You want the buyer to look at your house and see it as their house.  You want to get rid of your old junk, which is a good idea anyway if you’re planning to move.

Haverhill also has an educational division where they can teach you to be a stager with the possibility of working for them, or going out on your own.

All this is a long way to go to get to something that caught my attention on the Haverhill web site, in the FAQ section. The question is, “Do poor market conditons affect the demand for Home Staging?”

And the answer? “Yes. The slower the market, the more help home sellers need to compete with the increased number of homes for sale. There is less demand for Home Staging in a seller’s market.”

Remember, this is a company that makes its living spinning things in a positive way to make a sale.  Understanding that, this answer isn’t just brilliant, it’s something we should all use in our own businesses.

What is it about your business that makes it more necessary in a down economy?  C’mon, there’s something about your industry, your market, your personal brand, that makes it important to your customers today.  If you don’t know, then spend some time thinking about it.  Brainstorm with your staff, your spouse, your mastermind group until you come up with an answer, then promote the heck out of it.

If a company that provides a service to home sellers when no one is buying homes can turn the market into a positive, then there’s no reason why you can’t too.

Let us know what you come up with.

Click Fraud?

Seth Godin has stirred up a minor kerfuffle by suggesting that the way to say thank you for good blog content is to click on an ad.  According to Seth, people who brag that they never click on an ad are actually starving good content.  He’s right.  I don’t have ads here, but if I did I would expect that at least some of you click on an ad once in a while.

For example, let’s say that I did have ads.  There might be an ad on the page for something that interests you.  Suppose you saw the ad and thought to yourself, “I ought to check that out.”  If checking it out means going directly to the site later in the day, rather than clicking on my link, you’d be costing me money.  It wouldn’t be a lot of money and I’d never know about it.  But multiply that by thousands of readers (I wish) and you’re talking about some serious money.

I don’t think that Seth’s suggesting anything immoral or unethical.  It’s certainly not “click fraud”.  Advertisers are expecting bloggers to send them viewers.  If the ad doesn’t create the desired action, shame on them.  I did my part by getting them the chance to tell their story.

If I say to you,  “our advertisers support this blog so please check them out”, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It happens all the time.  Suggesting that you click on an add ten times, well that’s another story.  Fair minded people know how this thing called the Internet works.  Advertisers often pay the bills and no one wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  Truly “fraudulent clicks” will do just that.  But bragging that “I never click on ads” certainly doesn’t help the goose either.