Ouch! I’ve been branded!

I just
returned from speaking at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference in 
Las Vegas.  My panel was on branding.  There I was, seated next to some giant Brands like Southwest Airlines and Doubletree Hotels (I have to say I did love hearing my shows and Southwest Airlines mentioned in the same sentence.  I made a joke that our advertising budget on My First Time is probably about the same amount as one business class airline ticket). 

The speaker from Doubletree told the story about the infamous PowerPoint presentation prepared by two very unhappy Doubletree customers that appeared on the internet in 2001.  I call it the “Complaint Heard ‘Round the World” and for me it represents the beginning of the new era of customer/user reviews and the use of the internet as a word of mouth weapon for your consumers.The Doubletree representative said that this complaint was meant to “inflict pain” on Doubletree.

And that’s when I realized something about branding. In the media world, I think we’ve forgotten where the term “branding” comes from.  It comes from cattle.  When ranchers don’t want to lose their cattle, they take a red hot iron and burn their “tag” into their skin.

In the cave man days of advertising, this is exactly what the big companies did.  They spent millions on major advertising buys (TV, print, etc.) and since there was no competition, these big buys were the equivalent of a red hot iron used on the consumer.  The consumer had no choice, especially when faced with an iron the size of Proctor and Gamble’s, etc. And without even knowing it, all of a sudden they had a P&G brand on their butt. But times have changed. There are more choices now.  And customers have their own branding irons:  blogs, user reviews, creative PowerPoint presentations, etc.  And they’re a bit PO’ed.  Wouldn’t you be?

So what do you do as someone with customers who are ready to brand back?

Be prepared to take it. 

The best companies recognize that power is shifting.  They recognize that in this consumer driven market, their ass is sticking up in the air waiting for a customer to burn their “tag” into them. And online, those tags are permanent.  They never go away.

And when you’re that exposed, the only way to really CYA (cover your ass) is by being responsible to your customers. The great thing is, not only will you win with your customers and make them even more loyal, but they’ll probably go out and burn the butt of one of your competitors.

A picture is worth so much more than a thousand words.

I bet you thought this post was about the strike, didn’t you?

Why wouldn’t you?  The first thing you looked at was the picture, right?

And who could blame you for looking at the picture first.  Pictures are pretty. They have color.  They tell a story very, very quickly and with little effort required. But this post is not about the strike.

See, I was looking through my previous posts and I noticed that they had one thing in

common:  no pictures.

I have committed the cardinal sin of maintaining a web site and for this I am very,

very sorry. So, the community service that the blog gods are forcing me to do is to share the following with you:

All of the websites that I have managed and maintained have had one thing in common. The most popular page on all of the websites was the photo gallery. Always.  Without fail.  Photos are what visitors to websites want. 

So if you have a website for your show or your product (even if it’s a MySpace page), make sure you have more pictures than you can take.  And update them constantly.

More pictures mean more visitors staying on your site for more time. Who could ask for anything more when marketing on the web? 

Be stupid, Stupid.


Last May, I bought
the domain name
 BestMusical.com and put together a website that I hoped would spread like my favorite “Laughing Baby” video on YouTube.

At the height of
the campaign, Best Musical got a whopping 182 unique visitors in one day, and
now it struggles to break double digits, averaging about 6 visitors a
day.  2 of those are me, checking to make sure the site still works.

BestMusical.com is
arguably the biggest failure of my publicity-stunting life.

So, of course, I
had to obsess about its failure so that I didn’t repeat it in the future (see
Mr. Trocchio’s lesson from yesterday). 

At first I didn’t
understand why it wasn’t working.  I thought it was so clever and so
cool.  It cracked up everyone in my office. 

And then,
“The Laughing Baby” gave me the answer.

Let’s look at all
of the
 ‘Top Favorites’ of all time on YouTube:  the aforementioned “Laughing
Baby”, a one man “Evolution of Dance”, four guys doing Talking
Heads-style choreography on treadmills,  and something called “The
Potter Puppet Pals”.

All of these
videos have something in common. They are just plain stupid. 

And yet the
“Evolution of Dance” has been seen almost 62 MILLION times. 

All of a sudden,
they are not so stupid.  62 million is more than 20% of the
entire population of the US.  They are appealing to the majority, and what’s wrong
with that?

Simple and stupid
funny is what people want.  People
 falling down, anchorwomen making mistakes, etc.  If you’re too hip and too clever, you
alienate most everyone, which is the antithesis of the viral campaign. 

Virals are about
as many impressions as possible, so you better be a lot more like the Laughing
Baby than BestMusical.com.

Think for a moment
about the types of emails you send to your friends.

Anyone want to buy a domain

Your roots are showing.

I’m in the process of looking for composers for a few musicals I have in development.

You know what I’ve discovered?

When the root word of Musical is MUSIC . . . it’s a big freekin’ decision!

Music is why people see musicals.  Simple as that.  It’s what makes them unique.

And how many celebrity lyricists do you know?  How many celebrity book writers do you know?

Even when shows fail, good music can still live on your iPod long after the investors have claimed the losses on their tax returns (Parade, anyone?). Thousands of people know the words to “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife, but I don’t ever hear people humming the dialogue from Act II, scene iii.  (And how many of you even knew it was from The Baker’s Wife?)

Yep, it’s a big one. So I’m going to take my time and make sure I get my roots just right. Because these roots show all the time. Even when your dye job costs $10 million dollars.

You know what else?

The root word of Play is . . .PLAY.  Hmmmmm

The Marketing of Marketing

I hate marketing.  I love sales. 

A great marketer is a great
salesman:  someone who produces quantifiable and trackable results, and
then uses those results to create growth . . . and then does that over and over
and over.

But no one likes the word salesman
anymore.  It conjures up too many images of used cars and door-to-door
encyclopedia hawkers.

So, someone actually marketed the
word sales  . . .  and it became marketing. 

And that person must have been really

Look at the two words . . . which one
makes you feel that you have to produce hard data, and which one is more vague
and ambiguous in terms of your goals?

Be a salesman.  Hawking encyclopedias is hard
work and it’s not for the faint of heart.  But it’s a lot more rewarding
and you’ll learn a hawk of a lot more in the process.