What’s in a Name?

March 27, 2015

by Kim Taylor

Lately I’ve been doing some research to come up with a name for a personal project I’m working on.  I’ve spent a ton of time thinking through options during my morning workouts or on long car rides.  But ultimately, I’ve been trying to walk myself through some of the same advice we give clients:

  1. Your name should effectively communicate who you are, what you do and how you do it.

One brand that comes to mind is Hotel Tonight—an incredibly useful mobile app that lets you book a hotel room for the same night at a discounted rate.  They really nailed it with that name, right?  Except last year they expanded to allow users to book rooms up to 7 days in advance.  Drat!

Six months later they’re still communicating that message to customers.

If your business model changes and your name no longer reflects what you do, would you embark on a re-branding campaign or hunker down and invest more in public relations, marketing and advertising to reinforce your message?

What would you do?

It’s Worth a Little Discomfort

March 18, 2015

by Kim Taylor

Have you been reading the dialog online since Starbucks launched its #RaceTogether campaign?  I have, and it hasn’t been pretty.

#RaceTogether was born out of a forum Starbucks held with some of its employees in December.  The initiative is intended to stimulate conversation and debate about race in America by getting employees to engage with customers on the topic.

From Howard Schultz’s perspective:

“We cannot continue to come to work every day aware of the difficult and painful experiences facing our nation, and not acknowledge them, together, as a company.”

Disclaimer:  I’m a big Howard Schultz fan.  I’ve kept his Proust Questionnaire from the September 2006 issue of Vanity Fair tacked to my wall for years.  But, beyond my admiration for Schultz is an admiration for a company willing to take a step forward without fear of retribution or snark.

Is it just Starbucks with its overpriced fraps or would our beloved Apple bear the same criticism?  Forget about all that could go wrong when people immediately jump to find the negative and think for a moment about what might happen if this did spur some healthy, positive conversation on an issue clearly still at the forefront of society.

Frankly, I hope Starbucks isn’t bullied into backing off this one.  They’re right.  It is worth a little discomfort.

How is Steve Jobs still newsworthy?

March 13, 2015

by Vianka McConville

Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, may have died in October 2011, but that means nothing to the media.

Almost five years later, stories are still running with headlines, such as, 3 Really Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs ‘went off on a rant’ about the terrible design of cars way back in 2006.

Why do I care?

I get it.  He was a visionary and revered by many in the tech industry, but it must be difficult being Tim Cook, current Apple CEO, and having to compete for his position with someone who is no longer alive.

Jobs deserves to be remembered, but it’s time to move on.  It’s time for Apple to take the reins, reel in the message, and put the spotlight back on Cook and the future.

A company can’t be expected to grow if it’s constantly looking at the past and the media sure has Apple pinned to the past.

The Space Between the Ads

March 13, 2015

by Roger Pynn

We often tell clients that a modern definition of news could easily be “the stuff that fills the space between the ads” as media are more and more limited in the space they have to devote to news.  I’m growing accustomed to bottom banner ads on section fronts of our newspapers even though my first and perhaps most revered journalism professor told us “it will be a cold day in hell when you see an ad on Page One.”

But now comes CNN to prove our point.  As if those scrolling news updates weren’t annoying enough, Variety reports that the home of Wolf Blitzer and other around-the-clock newsies may be toying with ways of inserting advertiser logos in the bottom-of-the-screen scrolls.

Next up:  intravenous advertising.

A Policy of Fairness

March 5, 2015

by Kim Taylor

One of the greatest perks of small business is the ability to be flexible on the fly.  Sure, we have rules and structure in place and general guidelines for how we do business, but making exceptions to those rules doesn’t require us to cut through layers of red tape for approval.

This flexibility benefits both our employees, who are empowered to make decisions in the best interest of client service, and our clients, who are on the receiving end of our solution-oriented philosophy.

But, this approach isn’t exclusive to small business.  Nordstrom proves that even big retail companies can come from a place of ‘yes’ with their “return policy” … admitting it’s not much of a policy at all:

What is your return policy?
We don’t actually have a return policy at Nordstrom stores or for purchases made at nordstrom.com. We handle returns on a case by case basis with the ultimate objective of satisfying the customer. We stand behind our goods and services and want customers to be satisfied with them. We’ll always do our best to take care of customers — our philosophy is to deal with them fairly and reasonably; we hope they will be fair and reasonable with us as well.

Is there any better policy than “the ultimate objective of satisfying the customer”?

Generational Decoding

March 4, 2015

by Roger Pynn

In an AdWeek interview, AT&T’s @CatherineBorda shared what she’s learned about marketing to millennials in her role as director of youth marketing.  Her Secrets to Millennial Marketing:  be transparent, authentic, immediate and versatile.

As I read the article whose subhead promised to decode how millennials use smartphones, I thought “how interesting.  At 65, those are exactly the things I demand if you’re going to market to me.”

Let’s hope all marketers are listening.

Government Cat Herding

March 2, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Remember when the U.S. succumbed to global pressure (and that of the engineering community) to abandon the inch, the foot and the yard?  The rest of the world, went the argument, uses the metric system and we ought to get in line.

It was in 1975 that the Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act.  Although some still claim we are in the process of converting, it may be simply the most stunning example of failed government regulation in our history.

But we may be about to witness something even more doomed to failure than mandated metric conversion.  For those who are saddened by the approval by the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on net neutrality and the havoc it could wreak on the wild west of the Internet, take heart.

Mark Hendrickson, a Forbes contributor and self-described libertarian economist, suggested in a post today that net neutrality has about as much chance of success as the old Soviet price setting bureaucracy.

The Internet has led to the most stunning transformation of communication since Gutenberg invented movable type.  A day doesn’t go by that we don’t see someone invent a new way to take advantage of its open, endless possibilities.  Hopefully net neutrality will prove to be the equivalent of a mandate for the government to herd cats.


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