Tuesday, January 31, 2006

new digs

I'm no designer. Not even by a long shot. I'm even color blind. Perhaps that's why I'm so proud that I made this site, and then made the blog match. Pretty much by accident, they happen to look good next to the Squidoo lens, too.

I'm tired though. Going on 15 hours staring at a screen. I don't know how Rob does it.

Update: Rob's very honest feedback wasn't particularly glowing. Expect changes to the whole works.

Monday, January 30, 2006

superbowl XL, not all hype for me this year

For as long as I can remember, I have treated SuperBowl Sunday like a holiday. In all that time, I can't remember even once caring about the outcome of the game, only that I've always been pissed that the Canadian stations I'm forced to watch pre-empt the million-dollar ads in favor of Canadian content.

Well this year's different, for several reasons. For one, I just got back from Seattle. The Seahawks are making their first appearance at the big dance and I got wrapped up in the romance of it all, in just two short days. The Space Needle has a large flag on top, with "12" on it; nothing more. Why? Because the fans of Seattle are considered the 12th man. I was listening to a Seattle radio station this morning (Vancouver's just a short hop away) and they have even written a clever little rap song about the most feared audience in pro football. Too bad only a few will be able to make the trip to Detroit, where the Steelers are likely to have a larger fan contingent by geographic default.

The other reason why I feel better about the Bowl this year is not just my wife's chicken wings (every year, and I love her for it) but the fact all the best ads are already available or soon to be, as Adrants reported today. Maybe they didn't hear ME say it, but they obviously understand that the 'net is the place to get a better ROI for a massive extravagent expense like a Superbowl ad.

So, to sum up: I'm publicly admitting that I'm the latest passenger on the Seahawk bandwagon. And I might even download one or two of those ads, if I hear enough people raving about them.

Go Seahawks.

Friday, January 27, 2006

the essence of new media...way to go Honda!

Let us all stand together and cheer collectively for Honda. These guys get it.

The last three really good ads that I've seen were all from Honda. Their latest is a clever spot featuring a choir, a car...I won't play spoilers, watch it for yourself.

So, why am I so excited about just another tv ad? It's clever, sure, but is that good enough to get my gold-star-seal-of-approval? No. What I love...is that I read in a post today from Adrants that Honda's ad has been viewed on the 'net over 800, 000 times. Know what that means? That means it's NOT a tv ad. Instead, it's a viral marketing success story; not unlike Hugh Mcleod's Stormhoek wine-blogging success, or the lonelyisland.com boys, who now work on a little show called Saturday Night Live because of their use of the internet as a marketing tool. What did they do on their first month on the show? They made a short film called "Lazy Sunday" that has been seen by millions, on the show and especially online; a piece of art so heavily hyped for its number of downloads that it earned talk-show appearances for the likes of Chris Parnell. (That guy rules. He's today's answer to Phil Hartman, a true legend)

These days, there are thousands of examples like these and the main reason I love them is (sorry, Ryan) that they succeeded without the use of mainstream media.

So...what of those two other Honda ads? Well, here's your gratification: The first is actually a series. (bottom of page) Rob saw the "crab" version in the theatre and couldn't stop laughing, then came in to work on a Monday to show it to me. (I love the 'Napoleon Dynamite-esque' dialogue, and the fact that they clearly cost almost nothing at all to make)

The second is talked about by many because it is so incredulously epic, (click "skip intro" and then "watch the tv ad") it acts as a complete chronology of the success of Honda as a brand, with a little schlocky 'spy movie' flavor thrown into the mix.

Anyway, my message to the advertising world: Think outside of the box. If you absolutely insist on making an expensive ad for tv, at least hire a forward-thinker like Ernie Mosteller of Tangelo Ideas. Why? He understands viral marketing. In fact, I bet his clever little "navel oranges" ad is starting to get its share of download views too.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

drop bomb here, please.

Need proof that Google rules the world? I originally saw this on Adrants a couple of days ago, but the source was the MIT advertising lab.

The quick lowdown: GoogleEarth makes it possible to see the roof of your house from outer space, and as we all know, if people can see it, someone will advertise on it.

Here, you can see Target taking advantage of this technology with their very recognizable branding.

Hint: Don't climb onto your roof with a can of paint just yet, friends. Only a simple, well-known symbol like the one you see here will work with this trick, and then you still have to rely on Google to update their sattelite images in the massive GoogleEarth database. Stick with what already works for you for now, but watch for this phenomenon to evolve in direct proportion to the growth of the technology.

Sometimes I miss the simpler times, when all you had to do was climb onto a soapbox and you could sell cases and cases of snake oil. Kidding, of course. Secretly, I LOVE this tactic, I just wish it was me that owned a chunk of real estate big enough to take advantage of it.

Prediction: Large companies like Coke will pay a premium to corn farmers to carve their logos into their fields. And the crop circle phonomenon becomes the next big marketing idea!

Anyone else feel dizzy?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

just as an afterthought on advertising...

For anyone out there who is nodding their head in agreement at the last post because they know what it means to sell advertising (to people who really NEED it, I might add) , I have a quick anecdote for you, but first some more preaching:

The message in your advertising is always the most important thing. Not whether you paid Kiefer Sutherland to voice it, or if you secured the back cover of Vanity Fair, but rather: What is it about your message that matters to the customer. If you use this rule as a guide, you'll have much greater success.

Now the juicy bit: I used to have clients that would try to tell me that advertising didn't work. I would always politely disagree, stifling my laughter, then I would offer to PROVE that it works, as long as the message was something that your customers will respond to. My Sales Manager at the time, a hyper gent named Bob Inglis, shared this little nugget with me; I used it in my arsenal any time I was faced with the ignorant "advertising doesn't work" statement. He taught me to respond with something to the effect of:

"I can prove that advertising works. In fact, I'll even give you a free ad, as long as I can write it for you, carte blanche."

"Free ad?" They would inevitably respond, "Sure. What will it say?"

To which I replied: "Well, it doesn't have to be very big, and I think I can fill your store with just four words of copy, actually."

"Oh? What four words are those?"

"Today only, everything free."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

TV could learn a lot from radio

For a brief period before the turn of the millennium, I was an advertising sales rep. I worked for a small newspaper and being a rep meant you were also the agency; the budget, the campaign, the copy and everything in between came from the me, the client and the graphic designers (who cranked out dozens of "original" ads a day).

I learned a lot. The learning curve is still a steep incline disappearing into the clouds, but this I know for sure: If you want to understand advertising better than anyone, try selling it. I don't mean this (intentionally) as a slight to my friends with their cushy agency jobs that make obscene amounts of money to write lame ads (It's not always their fault... is it, copyranter?) with their fancy ivy-league degrees and their Madison avenue addresses on their business cards. And I don't mean to brag either. Humbly, I admit I still have plenty to learn.

But when your livelyhood depends on keeping all of your clients happy (read: RICH) then you quickly learn what works and what doesn't. Not what wins awards and accolades, but what drives SALES.

One of my friends, who in his blog calls himself "Radioboy," knows the business of radio advertising (one area where I have NO experience at all) , because he lives it. In this post, he defends "terrestrial" radio against the inevitable growth of sattelite radio. He invites your feedback too, so check him out and feel free to comment.

Radio, be it free on the airwaves or by subscription, is a medium that won't die. In the past I've said that TV is dying, and that's not entirely accurate. My apologies. I used to produce TV commercials, so I should be more understanding, I suppose. Rather than dying, TV is slowly evolving into a situation not unlike the one radio has enjoyed for ages. People who listen to radio stations have brand loyalty toward their favorite station. The demographics for radio stations are clearly defined, a fact that makes an advertiser's buying decision much easier.

In the past, (and for at least a while longer) TV stations have been able to get away with charging BIG MONEY for spots that are geared at a very broad audience. This system can't last forever, no matter how badly the big agencies want it to. Smart money is investing in niche-specific markets; sell to guys on ESPN (or better yet, even more specific stations, like the Golf Channel or Outdoor Life Network) and sell to women on Oxygen or Home and Garden. The 500 channel universe is forcing (helping?) marketers to get directly in front of their desired audience, a feat that radio has boasted as long as I've been alive.

So, expensive though it may be, there is a way to make a TV ad budget work for you, if you approach it right. I was going to wait to admit all of this until after I had a client that wanted to invest in TV, but alas, now will have to do.

Want to know the real way of the future though, at least as I see it? Viral marketing. Word-of-mouth may sound like a strategy based on waiting for someone to say something nice about you, but it doesn't have to be. Start telling your "story" the way you want it told, and give (the right) people every reason in the world to help you tell it. Then, use your ad budgets (gleaned from your ballooning profits, of course) to support the story that started right where the message should start: with your happy customers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

how to add value to your business

By Jordan Behan

Some companies have had tremendous success with adding value to their products and services. The language is a bit fuzzy here, so let me make this statement a little clearer: With the right marketing, some companies have been able to get away with charging WAY more for their product or service, by creating the illusion of value. Telling a good story, and getting a contingent of people to play along.

Case in point: Designer clothes. Sorry to disappoint, but Louis Vuitton doesn't hand-stitch those $800 purses himself. And here I go playing spoilers: The Porsche Cayenne and the Volkwagen Touraeg are practically the exact same car, with a difference in price of almost $40 K. How do they get away with it? Their customers believe the story they've been telling, and they'll pay the premium to be associated with that product. I'm guilty of this too so I'm not judging, just making a point; a point that has been made before, by Seth Godin and many others, no doubt.

But what if the margins in your business are locked down, either by law or an industry standard? A gas station would have very little success trying to justify doubling their price on fuel because their full serve gas jockeys are more efficient and thorough. And what about a realtor, who's commission has to be extremely consistent with the status quo; raising it would be career suicide, if he/she were the only one who did.

In the case of the realtor, only the number (and selling price!!) of the listings they get can differ, depending on one's positioning. So back to the question I asked in the headline for the post: How do you add value to something with a fixed cost in order to distance yourself from your competition? Answer: with service. With positioning. With terrific referrals from your past customers. (The backbone of most realtors' business)

"But Jordan," you say, "Whatever do you mean by service and positioning? And how can one guarantee that they've done the job well enough that an existing customer will tell ten friends?" (I've been waiting to use that in a post)

Well, I have an answer for that, too. If you don't already have the benefit of a reputation, build one. Recently I had this same discussion with a certain realtor who I know well, who is in this very predicament. He's seen some success, but he wants to keep the momentum and see even more success this year. It's January and times are slow, and he's smart enough to know that now's the time to start a great campaign, before his dance card is full again. (Gratuitous plug: If you live in the Vancouver/Lower Mainland area, and you're buying or selling...visit his site or his new blog and drop him a line)

He's already plugged into the various real estate listings, and distributes goodies like notepads, calendars, fridge magnets and the like. Now he's looking for "out of the box" ideas that other realtors haven't picked up on. So, some ideas I gave him:
  • Start a blog. Predictable, coming from me perhaps, but there is definitely value in the idea. Plus he might just be the first in this neighborhood to do it. He jots down a few stats about current market conditions, "how-to's" about listing and buying (and a lot of "what NOT to do's") and poof! He's an instant "expert." Who wouldn't want to list with the expert they've been reading about. (I've already started one for him, see it here)
  • Write a book. This sounds like a massive undertaking, but it doesn't have to be. My idea was to create a short but comprehensive e-book about how to stage your home when it's for sale, for open houses, etc. (Many realtor's he's encountered clearly don't take the time to share this insight with their customer's, so there is definitely a market there) Same as with the blog, an "author" of such a book is clearly heads and shoulders above the rest, and worthy of your business. It makes a nice gift when it's time to hand over the listing package to a new client as well.
  • Start a PR campaign. In Vancouver, real estate has been one of the hot topics, with prices soaring and record turnover of properties. It makes news all the time and realtors are the best sources to comment on the action. A regular press release sent to the neighborhood semi-weekly paper citing some unique statistics (the record number of townhouses sold in one neighborhood, for eg.) would likely be enough to warrant some free ink for the realtor who it came from.
  • Network. This one is obviously not an original idea, by any means. I told him before, that he would never have to worry if he could just get his business card into three brand new hands, everyday. He walked away from our meeting with some new ideas about crowds he can put himself in to accomplish that goal.
Okay, that about sums up my thoughts for the day...apologies for the fact that the post is so epic, but I wanted to get all of this out while it was still fresh. One thing that I wanted to point out: The ideas I shared here have low (some have NO) cost associated with them. The require a bit of time and preparation, but nothing more. And they are all concepts that might encourage people to help spread your message. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Word of mouth is the best marketing there is, so work on telling a story with your business that will get people talking.

Hey, maybe they'll tell ten friends. (Wow I did it again!)

Monday, January 09, 2006

geek is the new chic

Everytime I start getting excited about something, like the fact that I set up a blog for my mom, or that my wife's Squidoo page comes up in a Google search, or that Nicholas Negroponte is building $100 laptops for kids in the third world, inevitably someone will call me a nerd.

And by someone, I mean the beloved members of my family. Sure, they think it's cute that Engadget is my porn; and they even try to act amused when I try to explain one of Hugh Mcleod's "cartoons on the back of business cards," even when they haven't a clue what blogging is.

That's because they don't know what I know; that being a "geek" is the new cool. If for some reason this isn't true, and the fashion and pop culture experts (Queer Eye Guys??) of the world tell me I'm dead wrong, I don't care. I'm ahead of time maybe, in saying this, but nerds rule the world.

I mean, why else would Wired (also porn for me) release a top ten Sexiest Geeks of 2005 list? Because nerds are sexy, that's why. Cool people dress like nerds because they know it's cool. And nerds wear their nerdiness like a badge because they realize that in this ever-changing world that individuality and having skills at something makes you desirable. Did you see Napoleon Dynamite? Run-away. Low budget. Cult. Hit. Why? Because Napoleon's the coolest son-of-a-bitch ever to wear a terra-cotta colored polyester suit, that's why.

More proof? Geeks were the first ones to have ipods, carry a Blackberry (in fact they talked about RIM like it was a company touched by God) and use digital cameras, too.

Marketer's take note: You heard it here first. Whatever's the opposite of cool is the new cool, which in turn will eventually make it uncool, because everyone's doing it. (But isn't that always the way with fads?) Forget I said that. I hate fads. Fads suck.

I'm not even sure why I wrote this.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

talkin' politics.

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to politics. The media basically feeds me my belief system (I choose what I want to believe, of course) and I know how very wrong that is.

On Christmas eve this year, my 18-year-old cousin was giving the family a lesson in Canadian politics. He knows his stuff, but he supports the Conservatives. I'm a bit of a Liberal man myself, even after the corruption, the non-confidence vote, etc.

I loved Jean Chretien. He talked funny, and he didn't take any shit from protesters, or even Dubya. Like Clinton, he gracefully dodged controversy and is still very well-liked. I'm not too stoked on Paul Martin, but I can't be bothered to learn all of the facts and decide whether it's time to change my mind.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a discussion about my political beliefs. The fact is, I'm as proud today as ever to be a Canadian. If I cared enough to do so, I could air my anti-government beliefs here, and go undetected.

That is not the case in China, where MSN is censoring Chinese bloggers to appease the Chinese government. Poor guy made the mistake of having an opinion. A different opinion.

Also, some unlucky party-goers and innocent by-standers were nicked by local police in Malaysia for so-called Satanism and other supposed mis-deeds. Their crime? Trying to enjoy a New Year's party.

And last but not least, our neighbors to the South, who's FCC has chased Howard Stern to sattelite radio (expect a boom there) and since the "Janet incident" have made every single live television event worth watching so sickeningly watered-down (don't forget about the 6 second delay...) that they might as well be taped. I even heard they were trying to put pressure on the Turino Olympic committee to promise that there would be no suggestive imagery in the Olympic ceremonies. After all, the Greeks managed to sneak some (very traditional) nude figurines onto some of the floats when they threw the party a few years back. Who do these Greeks think they are? You'd think they invented the Olympics with the way they try to force their culture on the rest of the viewing world. For shame!

Seriously though...I've never been an activist type, but it's nice to know that if I was, my goverment would protect my right to voice my opinion.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

isn't the new economy great?

A while back I did some contract PR work for an international firm. One of the Master Franchisors is formerly from Vancouver. Now, he's based out of Las Vegas. From here in my apartment, I connected with him and one of his franchisees in Chicago. We conference called, emailed and voice-mailed away until I got them into a Chicago daily. I won't lie, it felt good. Yankee ink on the first try.

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about that, except that is was a first for me...making the world feel smaller by using technology to do business from across the continent.

The only non-new-economy side to the story: The check is in the mail. Next time I'll tell them about my Paypal account.

The only real downside: One of the reporters actually said that I talk a bit funny. I thought us West Coasters had a homogenized, middle-of-the-road accent, but this guy said he could tell I was Canadian because I say "about" funny. (Truth is, it does sound like I'm saying "a boat" sometimes)

Oh well. He ran the story I pitched, eh.