From FMOT to ZMOT Jan 13, 2012

For those who haven’t heard of the First Moment of Truth (FMOT), essentially it’s the moment in which a consumer is in a store deciding between your brand and the next guy’s. For years this has been a profound moment for businesses and marketers – a final fight to the death between two gladiators. Who will win? Lucky Charms or Cap’n Crunch? All of your branding and marketing efforts have led up to this moment. If your efforts were good enough, you’d close the sale and bask in the glory of the crowd’s roar in the Coliseum. But if you failed, you’d lose the sale to your competitor and fall to your death.

Although FMOT is still significant, it is yet another victim affected by digital technology’s wrath. Recently there has been a lot of hype around our office about a new book called ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth  by Jim Lecinski.

Now that you know about FMOT, the term Zero Moment of Truth refers to the moment of competition before the consumer reaches FMOT, and it takes place online rather than in the store. For example, if you were thinking about buying a new TV, whether you plan to buy it online or in-store, would you first conduct a little research online to learn about your options? You may compare brands and prices, read customer reviews about the potential candidates, or even consult your Twitter followers for suggestions. If you’re behind the times like me and still have a cathode-ray tube television, you may even do a little research to learn about HDTV’s in general before moving on to comparing brands, specs and prices. The instance in which you are conducting all of this research, from learning about the product category to the brand options, is the Zero Moment of Truth. And it’s becoming increasingly important for brands and businesses to be present at this moment and to take advantage of the opportunity, especially in today’s digital retail environment where some consumers may not even leave the couch when purchasing your product. And if they do, there’s a good chance that they’ve done some online research before coming to your store. And this is why your business needs to be there during that decision process.

I’ll give you an example from the book. It’s not enough for businesses to only be present when their brand name or product category is typed into a search engine; there are more innovative ways to be present as well. To illustrate this strategy, the author points out a popular Google search phrase – “What’s in dog food?” Now if you were a dog food company, wouldn’t you want to be present when a consumer has a question like this? Who better to answer it than you? Maybe you could start a “What’s in dog food” campaign and educate your consumers. Plus, it’d be a great way to stand out among your competitors.

And that’s the kind of stuff you’ll find in this book. It’s a short and simple read, but incredibly insightful. The author presents numerous case examples and offers tools, tips and ideas on how you can apply and implement ZMOT in your business. The Zero Moment of Truth concept is no doubt a monumental, game-changing notion for the field of marketing. Although this book is a great way to get acquainted with ZMOT, I have a hunch that it is a subject that will only receive deeper analysis in the future as it becomes even more important and more relevant to business and advertising.

The book is available in about every format you can imagine (I downloaded the app on my iPod touch). And the best part is – it’s free! Again, it’s a painless read, nothing compared to the pain of being struck down by a gladiator. So check it out, before the caged lions get you.

– Andrew

Black Friday, Green Christmas

The Holidays mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But to retailers and their marketers, the Holidays are nothing more than a dollar sign and market opportunity, especially Black Friday. But is that really so bad?

People may criticize the idea of Black Friday, turning it into the classic tale of marketers having to commercialize everything, but I’d have to disagree. I acknowledge that sometimes marketing can be greedy, over-commercialized, and even unethical, leaving little left for the sacred, but those are just the bad apples. And regardless of the marketing, people are going to buy gifts for their friends and family; there’s no changing that. Retailers are just playing the game. There is no malicious intent; they’re just doing their best to give people what they want – crazy awesome deals. There’s never been a more sure-fire way to make an attempt at increasing profits than to simply give consumers what they want. Pleasing the consumer has always been important, but it is ever increasing in this day and age when more and more consumers’ are becoming strict arbiters of their spending decisions and product/brand choices, so making them happy is vital if you ever want to increase profits and market share.

If you ask me, Black Friday is a brilliant marketing strategy. But we can’t blame any specific person for the invention. The origin of Black Friday may be linked to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades in the early 20th century. Since department stores sponsored the parade, they used it as a vehicle to launch a big push in advertising, getting consumers excited for the first official day of holiday shopping. Eventually it had become an unwritten rule that stores should not do their Christmas advertising until the parade was over. That would just be tacky. So the day following Thanksgiving naturally marked the official first day of the holiday shopping season, and marketers could advertise with a guilt-free conscience. And so a materialistic holiday that makes retailers’ cash registers ring and consumers’ wallets smile was born, and that’s ok with me.

– Andrew

Don’t Be the DMV.

Don’t Be the DMV. Nov 11, 2011

The DMV. I bet after just reading that, you already have a bad attitude. If the DMV was a product/consumer based business, they’d have gone out of business a long time ago. Their PR alone is a nightmare. Everyone has their own horror story about their experience with the DMV. This is my most recent encounter.

By November 30th, I have to renew my driver’s license. The last time I was at the DMV was in 2006, and I’ve savored every un-DMV moment since. But now I have to drag myself back and l will probably have another horror story to tell for the next 5 years. But so far, before even going there, they’ve already left me with a sourpuss attitude. Since it’s been so long since I’ve been there, I was doing some research to make sure I know what’s going on.

First of all, I was trying to figure out what time and day they’re open in Brookings, since I remember there being an unreasonably small window of time that you can get your license renewed. Something like, every third Tuesday on a Leap Year from 9:27 am to 9:54 am, but only during the Waxing Gibbous moon phase. So I call the Brookings courthouse, inquiring as to whom I should call since I could not find anything online. So they give me a 1-800 number to call, which takes me to a voice automated system. I can’t tell you how many times the robot encouraged me to “remember, most of your questions can be answered on our website at www, dot dps, dot sd, dot gov.” I bet you hated reading that. Could they have picked a harder url to remember? Also, yeah, I get that you’re trying to reduce the amount of phone calls at your call center, but given your reputation, I don’t trust that your website will be very easy to navigate. So I opted to speak with an actual person, and of course, all the call center representatives were busy, which says something about the DMV in it of itself. I wasn’t even given the option to hold, the robot just told me to “call back another time.” So I had no choice but to go to their website, which actually had a somewhat modern look, but as I suspected, it’s difficult to find information. I will say that I learned about what documents I have to bring, but I only stumbled across that information by clicking through links. If they want to deter phone calls, don’t you think they’d make information easier to find on their site?

At the end of all of this, I’m still left with unanswered questions. The best information that I managed to find, was on an UNOFFICIAL DMV page! It really shouldn’t be this hard to find basic information. As I mentioned at the beginning, if the DMV was a business, they would have failed a long time ago.

There are a lot of things businesses could learn from the DMV about what NOT to do. First, make yourself available to people, and don’t keep them guessing. I still don’t know when the heck they’re open. Secondly, make sure you make all of the right information easily accessible. And don’t think that a modern website design is all you need. A fancy look should come secondary to accessible information, which is one of the most important things to your customers. You only have a small window of time to draw someone in and to keep them there. Consumers can be quick to give up and to move on to a competitor who makes things easier for them. Also, you want to make sure that you appear willing to help. In this digital age, people still have not lost their desire and expectation of businesses to be willingly helpful, and that includes on the phone, and even face to face! Passing me around on the phone, encouraging me to NOT talk to you, and directing me to an information source that is no more helpful than your holding music, sends the message that you don’t want to help me, and that you want to get rid of me as soon as possible. Who would want to do business with someone like that? No consumer should have to WORK to get answers about your business. So please, don’t be the DMV.

– Andrew

Brand Power: Heavy Eyelids & 44 miles

Recently I had the great pleasure of working as Ronald McDonald’s assistant at a couple McDonald’s stores in Sioux Falls. He was visiting for the 50th anniversary of two different stores, so he spent 4 hours at each entertaining customers with jokes, magic tricks, and just making people smile. Aside from entertaining the kids, he is also great at entertaining the adults. He’s genuinely funny and always had me in stitches. It was such a memorable experience that I’ve been casually telling the story to some friends and family.

Last weekend my girlfriend (Jenny) and I were visiting her parents’ home in the small town of Estelline, South Dakota. It was around 10:00 pm when I was telling my tale of “Ronald Wrangling” to Jenny’s sister Lindsay and her fiancé Dwight. They were amused, but were probably more focused on the question “What the heck does Andrew do for a living again?” Once I finished telling the story, Dwight exclaimed, “Man…I want some McDonald’s!” Then Jenny says, “Yeah, I want their fries!”

After everyone finished enthusiastically discussing their favorite McDonald’s entrées (all the while Dwight repeating that he wants some McDonald’s right now), Jenny and I go upstairs to say goodbye to Alice and Brody, our two cats. When we came back downstairs Lindsay and Dwight were gone, and we were still uncertain of whether or not they were serious about driving 22 miles to the nearest McDonald’s location in the dead of night. As we were traveling back to Brookings Jenny says, “I was serious about getting McDonald’s fries.” So being the congenial guy that I am, after arriving in Brookings around 11:00 pm we head straight for McDonald’s. We pull up to the drive-thru and lo and behold, Dwight and Lindsay are in the vehicle in front of us; they were serious after all.

Now Jenny and I live in Brookings, but Dwight and Lindsay live in Estelline. So they chose to drive 22 miles to Brookings late at night, and 22 miles back to Estelline, all to satiate what they were pining for. Heavy eyelids and 44 miles were not enough to stop them from their McDonald’s craving.

Think about how strong McDonald’s brand power must be. It is a testament to the concept of branding and illustrates what it is capable of, and I find it miraculous. In this demonstration, McDonald’s managed to make a sale by the power of suggestion and that alone. And with 44 miles of inconvenience in the way, late at night, the sale tenaciously succeeded. That’s not just brand power; that is powerful branding, and we all could learn a thing or two from McDonald’s.

Don’t be surprised if you are now craving McDonald’s.

– Andrew

A Boy Named Sue

A Boy Named Sue Sep 18, 2011

In my early years in advertising I worked for a company with a typical name for agencies of the day. Take the owners last names, put them on the door and presto! You’ve got an ad agency. The odd thing was, this is the same method accountants and lawyers use to name their firms. Consequently, when I would tell people where I worked they would often ask if I was a CPA or lawyer. Full disclosure, I used to wear a suit and tie everyday, and I’m sure that added to the confusion.

JMathis or ADwerks

So when I started my own shop the last thing I wanted to do was put my name on the door. I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I wanted to be the boy named Sue. Something different, something unique. ADwërks was born.

But it wasn’t long until a new agency popped up in town who decided on the name AdMark. Hmmm… out of 6 letters, 4 are the same. To make matters worse, the owner’s name was Jim. Confusion happened fairly quickly and we wound up in litigation defending our name. Needless to say, we won and ADwërks lives on.

Now I find myself pondering the problem of how to make an organization stand out from the crowd when they share parts of their name with more than a quarter of their competitors. Imagine your company is called Smith Jones Chocolates and when you list your competitors they include Smith Candies, Frank Jones Confections, Nancy Jones Chocolatier and more…different enough to avoid litigation, but similar enough to confuse customers.

In this case, most of the players have long histories and their markets didn’t overlap until long after the name was well seated and the companies had already grown to substantial size in their micro-markets. That’s not the case with the next example.

As frozen yogurt swings back into vogue the two big new players are CherryBerry and PinkBerry. I don’t know which came first, but it looks like one is trying to play on the goodwill of the other. Or vice versa. God help them if the next player in the field has “berry” in their name.

Puzzling isn’t it? How can you stand out in the crowd when the names are so similar. For your customers it must be a little like “Where’s Waldo” only in this case everyone is wearing a red and white striped hat and shirt.

My advice, when naming a product or business, make sure yours is unique, like that infamous boy named Sue. And like his father, fight to defend that name. What do you think?

– Jim Mathis

The Naming of Restaurants is a Serious Matter

My name is ______Much of our company’s work is for restaurant clients, mostly national chains that you all know; McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Carino’s etc… so they all had well known names long before we started working for them. But as our fair city is growing and new restaurants are opening up, there seems to be an epidemic of new eateries with truly awful names. Having started my own small business more than 12 years ago and since then helping others create names for their businesses, I feel that I have some expertise when it comes to creating a memorable name.

But this skill seems foreign to many new business owners. And it seems they are unwilling to seek help. With that in mind, this post is a plea to those who are thinking of opening a new business; please think twice before the signs are made!

The owner of Pappadox, a well known drinking establishment here in Sioux Falls recently opened a second establishment, calling it The Other Place. While Pappadox may get misspelled occasionally, it is at least memorable, which is more than I can say for The Other Place. And in an interview with the Argus Leader, the owner said of how he came up with the name, “People are always saying we should have went to the other place.” So the moniker is based on poor grammar. Nice.

Another team of budding restaurateurs opened “212° The Boiling Point” in Brandon a few years ago. Know what, I know the significance of 212 degrees without adding “the boiling point.” If they had stopped at “212°” it would have been a clever name, but like a joke, if you feel you have to explain it, you know it isn’t good. Now the same folks have opened kRav’N. Not just a mixed up spelling of a word (no, that would be too simple), they felt the need to throw in some odd caps, just to confuse the subject.

Poo Restaurant... yikes...Other examples; the venerable drinkery Smoe’s sold their liquor license to The Other Place and became Old Skoolz. Perfect for people who didn’t finish—and thus can’t spell—school. The Lie’brary was named after a bad old joke, while it’s sister pub The 18thAmendment was named after the legislation that banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol. If I didn’t know better I would think that was an alcohol-free establishment. Perhaps a better name would have been The 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition.

An old favorite downtown location on Phillips Avenue has seen many names on the door from Sanchez Taquitos to The Fat Duck to Café 334; all fine restaurants in their own way. Now the location holds Bros Brasserie Americano. It’s a nice restaurant, run by two really accomplished chefs, but in the short time it’s been open, I’ve heard it called Brother’s, Brassieres and “that place where Kristina’s used to be.” But most of those who get it right don’t know what a brasserie is or what kind of food to expect there. Sorry guys, I love your pork sandwich, but the name leaves something to be desired.

If someone would just ask before the menu is printed and the sign is on the building, there are a lot of really smart marketing minds in Sioux Falls who would help you come up with a good solid name. Who knows, we might even be willing to trade our services for food and drinks. What do you think?


Photos by Poppy Thomas Hill and Benjamin Vander Steen. Thanks!

Why Clarity Is Key

Why Clarity Is Key Jul 06, 2011

Crazy Traffic LightsMy wife and I recently made a road trip down to Springfield, Missouri. Unfortunately, we left from Sioux Falls around 8:00 pm. And it’s a 9+ hour drive.

The night we left, we ran into a problem. To make a long story short, some misplaced and incorrectly-marked detour signs added about 50 minutes to our already-9-hour drive. And since this all took place around midnight, our options for getting help were extremely limited (and I’m not even the stereotypical, never-asks-for-directions male that is portrayed in every travel-related movie).

All it would’ve taken was one or two more clearly marked signs. A few guideposts to ensure that we were on the right path. But there we were, wondering why the detour signs for I-29 S were pointing BOTH directions at a T-intersection.

However, even amidst all of the intense frustration and confusion, I realized that this scenario fits perfectly in the business world. Because, when it comes to sharing your message with your customers, it’s amazing how much a little extra clarity can do. Whether it’s encouraging them to pay for your product or service or simply asking them to support you on Facebook, giving your target audience clear, defined ways to accomplish a goal is essential.

If your Facebook page isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like, have you considered adding a “Like” button for your page on your company website? If your online sales are down, have you been sure to include a prominently displayed “Buy Now” (or similarly-messaged) button on your site? Small guideposts can make a big difference when it comes to keeping your customers on the right path.

Eventually we found our way, but it would’ve been much easier if things were clear the first time around. Make sure your customers aren’t suffering the same fate my wife and I suffered on our road trip. I can tell you from personal experience that clarity is, in fact, key.

-Mike B.

Yelling ≠ A Conversation

Picture this. You’re walking down the street; there are strangers in suits on both sides of the road,  holding up their products and shouting at you in a barbaric attempt to get your attention. TheAngry-businessman-yelling-into-bullhornidea of hopping the fence in order to get closer to you never occurs to them. After awhile you become desensitized to the brutish noise, with the exception of the occasional voice that’s even louder and more annoying than the others. Then a smart, down-to-Earth person climbs over the fence, casually approaches you, and engages in pleasant conversation with you.

Now THAT is how you advertise.

This scenario is how I sometimes see the advertising world and all of its participants. If you were trying to establish a relationship with someone in society, you wouldn’t just scream at them to get noticed would you? This kind of attention-grabbing is impersonal and unappealing to people, and like in the metaphor above, would come across as crazy. You want to be that down-to-Earth person who is legitimately interested in having a real, human conversation with the individual. Listen to them; get to know them; converse with them. You have some interesting things to say and so do they. From sincere, productive conversations come sincere, new relationships. And after all, relationships are what we’re after.

I know it can be tempting to yell. With all the noise around, one’s first instinct is to yell louder than everyone else. But instead of contributing to the noise, it’s more important to think strategically. Hop the fence, and treat your consumers like the individualistic humans they are.

That’s how we get the quality attention we’re looking for.


Stop Annoying Your Target Audience

Annoying Noises ProhibitedThis post is a could-have-been complaint turned into a business lesson on keeping your target audience in mind.

You see, there’s this music news website that I visit pretty regularly. The reason I check it regularly is because they update the site daily with newly-released music. Unfortunately, this site has been using ads on its music pages that play noise when you roll over them. And sometimes rolling over those ads is nearly unavoidable.

This means that while I’m in the middle of listening to a song (which, as I mentioned, is the only reason I visit the site), I’ll suddenly hear a random assortment of talking/singing simultaneously playing from an unavoidable banner ad for Cherry Dr. Pepper.

Let’s put this into a business perspective. You have a meeting with John. You go to your meeting and start talking with John. Then, mid-meeting, John pulls out his cell phone and starts another, totally unrelated meeting with someone else. And John expects you to be completely ok with that.

This is what happens to me almost every time I try to listen to new music on this website. And, as you can expect, it’s really starting to turn me off of that site. I’m just about ready to move on to new places, simply because they can’t use a noise-free banner ad on their music pages. Probably not the result they were going for.

My point is this – in any aspect of your business, it’s important to consider what your target audience wants. Not what you think they want. Not what makes you the most money. But what will keep your target audience returning as loyal customers instead of driving them away over time.

Because if your product or service is annoying to your customers, that alone could be the difference between someone choosing your product/service or instead choosing an option that doesn’t annoy them when they try to use it. All in all, it’s for you to decide. But in my experience, the happy customer option is usually a pretty good choice.

-Mike B.

Photo by Patrick Fitzgerald. Thanks Patrick!

Why Set Goals? Because Bruce Lee Said So…

Bruce LeeHere’s a handwritten note from Bruce Lee on Roger Ebert’s blog. The note is titled “My Definite Chief Aim,” and I think it sets a stellar example of the importance of setting goals.

Here’s the text of the note:

I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return, I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.

-Bruce Lee, 1969

Keep in mind that, at this point, Bruce Lee was far from the Bruce Lee we know him as today. He had been in a few films as minor characters, but that was about it. But that didn’t stop him from setting a goal and striving to achieve it (which he was well on the path to doing if he hadn’t passed away in 1973).

In marketing, goals work the same way. If you start a Facebook campaign with the goal of “raising awareness for your brand,” you’ll never actually accomplish what you intend. It’s too vague. Too unfocused.

However, deciding on measured, tangible results can actually get you somewhere. If you say, “Our page will have 500 fans by next year and we will produce content and updates that receive at least 20 comments per week on a consistent basis,” you’re actually setting yourself up for success. Now you know how you want to focus your content, your timing, and every other aspect of your efforts. There’s a goal in mind and you can work toward that goal.

This mentality can be applied to all aspects of marketing (not just social media), and the marketers who understand that are the ones who get results for their clients. Take it from Bruce Lee. Because do you really want to argue with someone who can do this?…

I didn’t think so.

-Mike B.

Photo by Glen Johannes. Thanks Glen!