Monday, December 26, 2011

Apple...the New Hard Rock Cafe?
Anyone who isn't living under a rock knows Apple has been quietly taking over the world during the past ten years or so. While Apple has always been a company many kept in their view out of the corner of our eye given its coolness, the early days seemed to be concentrated on a small group of sort of hippy-ish people. Then came the iPod...and the adventure into main stream began exploding. If you didn't have an iPod, well you didn't have your very own personal music store! After the iPod introduction we simply watched the iPod get smaller and smaller and hold more and more music - we were truly amazed!

Next the iPhone. Most thought it would never really catch on big and that the Blackberry was the winner. After all the iPhone was very expensive and lacked a keyboard. Well, now the iPhone is the leading smart phone and along with our iPods we're beginning to say but don't i need an iPad and iMac too? Just amazing how this brand has taken over our lives by a guy named Steve Jobs.
Even the Apple stores early on seemed more like a museum than a hard core retailer - akin to the Nike stores. But then that too began to go main stream like Starbucks with a store in almost every mall on the planet! Their biggest store, 23,000 s.f. just opened in NYC's Grand Central Terminal replacing former tenant Charlie Palmer's Metrazur restaurant, who Apple reportedly paid $5 million to vacate the location early.

And now the crowds build for every store opening and there are actually groupies that attend every store grand opening hoping to be one of the first 100 to receive the grand opening T-shirt...attempting to collect them all. The grand-opening shirts and their minimalist design hark to the first of Apple's more than 300 stores, which launched in McLean, Va., and Glendale, Calif., over a decade ago. Most are black with white lettering. But Apple sometimes marks major new openings with a special design or color, such as red for this year's Hong Kong debut.
I'm quite surprised that Apple hasn't designed the T-shirts to feed the collection (or should we say bragging rights) fever and steal a page from the Hard Rock Cafe...same logo on every shirt with a simple listing of the city below the logo. "Oh, were you at the Beijing China Apple store opening? Wow aren't you cool!"

All I can say is it seems everything Apple does is well planned and thought out...they Make It Matter and have built one of the largest most loved brands in the world!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Intergalactic Puts the "GO" in GOLF!
Imagine what golf would be like if it became more like a rock concert with an energetic audience, celebrities, artists and hot cars.  More like a "live" sporting event such as football, baseball or basketball where the crowd goes crazy when great things happen. 

A tour and competition where anyone can enter and based on performance can become number one overnight.  Maybe even a playoff format produced like a Super Bowl, World Series or NBA Championship.
Well a guy by the name of Luke Kohl has just that vision.  Luke has been around golf his whole life including being a caddy for some of the most famous golfers in the world.  Having always viewed the game as an "old guys" game he began to wonder.  What if this game could have the energy of other competitive sports?  Maybe be played in arenas across the country under the lights.  Luke created Intergalactic Golf designed to be golf that everyone can play...not just the senior guys!  He has been planning and programming the idea for quite some time and in 2012 you should begin to hear more about Intergalactic Golf.

When experience and passion come together around a unique idea you never know what might happen, however, one thing is for sure, this guy has his heart on Making It Matter! ...Stay Tuned!!
Golf as you have never seen it before...Rock On Luke!

Friday, November 25, 2011

BLACK FRIDAY...Why Many Retailers Leave Money On the Table!
Have you ever gotten excited about a ridicously low priced "door buster" deal like an large screen TV, high-speed computer or a name brand Blu-ray DVD player only to find out you would have to camp out for a week to even have a remote chance of getting the deal? 

While there are always die-hard people who will line up days in advance the fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of people simply just say "not me, not worth my time" and unfortunately that is the end of it! 

But wait, seems like a missed opportunity don't you think?  If as a retailer your strategy is to deliver a message that anyone looking for a TV, Computer, DVD player or any other electronics would be crazy to shop anywhere else you need a Black Friday strategy that motivates the masses! 

So, how do you do this?  Well you need to think differently...not just promotional marketing but traffic driving marketing that rings the registers! 

Here's my thoughts...develop a simple multi-layered product strategy that is designed to atrract the most customers between (Black) friday and Sunday.  For instance if your TV deal is $199 for a 42" LCD TV and you only have ten per store (to satisfy the 50 or 100 people lined up outside your store) how about an additional $150 of any other TV on the floor for the next 6 hrs, then $100 off the following 12 hours then $50 off any TV through Sunday!  Limit it to in stock only and no rain checks.  Then do the same think in the computer dept and the DVD department.

Don't you think that would bring the largest number of customers over the 3-day Black Friday weekend, result in the highest sales volume and cement the message that the best TV, Computer, DVD deals in towm are at......well you get the idea.  Linked with a well thought out and timed omni channel communications strategy including web, social media, mobile, store, print, direct and TV would be immersive and engaging and MAKE IT MATTER to the bottom line!

Friday, September 30, 2011

GLASSY BABY...A Good Brand with a Shot at GREATNESS!

I Love this brand story!  I came across GlassyBaby a few months back and was quickly captured by themagic of the brand.  Intrigued, I began to research the company, brand and story and quickly fell in love with authenticity of the brand story.  I was very impressed with the authenticity of the brand story and how Lee Rhodes (a cancer survivor) integrated the "human-ness" and "love" starting with glassblowing artists handcrafting each GlassyBaby - an original work of art (no two alike  just like people).  The warmth of the web site (candles on wood tables, comfy couches, etc.) and simplicity of the product line really sets up a great background to "tell the brand story" which is what people are buying for $44.00.

The key is making it easy for fans (customers) to connect to the story and as well tell others.  That starts with staff training on the brand story so they can tell in a believable way, strong cues in the retail store (ideally you would see the artists making the GlassyBaby in the store), a highly effective public relations strategy to tell the story and a powerful social media plan to help connect and expand the fan base.
GlassyBaby has the one thing most brands die for...a real story that touches the human spirit - unless all the touch points are aligned to reinforce the story, people will look at the product as a commodity and say "who's going to pay $44.00 for a candle holder?" - missing the REAL VALUE of the Glassybaby brand.  I could go on but I think you get the point!

I believe Glassybaby has what it takes to succeed.  With a few tweaks to their plan and a strong focus what MAKES IT MATTER this could be huge...GOOD LUCK!

Recent Article of GlassBaby's Challenge:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH QUITE SOUNDS LIKE THE TRUTH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ryan Blair - Nothing To Lose, Everything To Gain

It was a crisp Friday July morning and I was meeting with a business colleague I'd only recently met via Skype.  It felt sort of like meeting someone I'd known for awhile based on the immediate connection we established a week earlier on the video conference call with her partner.  I was looking forward to our face-to-face meeting.  We met in an open air cafe at a hip and cool west LA hotel on Sunset Blvd that could have easily been plucked right out of Miami south beach.  There is just something especially invigorating about open-air cafes in LA and the way they generate a sense of optimism and creative energy. 

The energized conversation began as we headed to our table and flowed easily and free picking up right where left our initial discussion when she suddenly changed the subject and said to me "I know we're here to discuss another matter, however, I had a meeting with a company here in LA that's very interesting named Visalus, have you ever heard of them?"  I said "who?...Visalus?...I've never heard of them, what do they do?"  She explained "Visalus is a health and wellness company started in 2005 and sold to Blyth, Inc (BLY) in 2008. They are attracting 40,000+ customers a month and generating over $15 million in monthly sales with a keen focus on nutritional weight loss and weight management products through a multi-level-marketing (MLM) approach."  Yikes, did she say MLM? - aren't they all scams I thought to myself.

I recalled an experience I had in the 80's with an MLM company I joined in college hoping to raise money to help pay my way through college. It lasted about a month.  Once I learned that trying to sell a product nobody wanted and that I didn't really believe in, I knew the business was doomed.  The product was some weird freeze-dried spaceman chocolate beverage - no one needed it!

Having been fortunate enough to work with emotionally-based experiential brands including industry leaders like Disney, Starbucks, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and Commerce Bank, I learned how they build a powerful brand by immersing the Customer in the brand experience and creating strong emotional connections.  Those connections easily spread by storytelling and word of mouth marketing. something I was skeptical about with most brands in the MLM industry.

However, I continued to listen to her as I consider myself open minded and I'm always intrigued to learn about new things and how they work.  I listened as she told me the Visalus story, about the young 34 year old CEO named Ryan Blair that went from gang member to multi-millionaire as a serial entrepreneur.  Honestly, my BS meter was on high alert!   At the same time, with my wife and I being committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle, what interested me was the focus on a highly nutritional natural products centered around a beverage called a Vi-Shape shake.  And in my experience, great products that are well positioned within a successful business model lead by an authentic and believable brand always do well.

I read how the management team, lead by the three Visalus founders, Ryan, Blake Mallen and Nick Sarnicola were creating strong "emotional connections" and energizing the Visalus brand by promoting the Vi-Shake with a 90 Day Body by Vi Challenge where people set goals and are offered incentives to meet their goals. One of the incentives involves FREE products through encouraging people to form groups and build relationships within the Challenge reinforced by a bring 3 (customers or distributors) and yours is FREE offer. Very compelling especially knowing that the most successful fitness and weight loss programs usually involve people working together.
I was starting to alter my initial reaction about MLM based on what Visalus was doing.  I told the person "I'm about to leave for 2-weeks on vacation so I'll order some of the Visalus product, do a little research on the company and let's speak more when I'm back."

I ordered the Vi-Shape shake through their website (which felt a bit overly focused on the distributorship model and short on promoting the great products and results) and began researching the company, management team and most importantly their culture and philosophy.  I must admit, I began to get excited about what Visalus was doing and believed they were in a position to turn MLM on its head and redefine the entire industry.  My sense is Visalus has a huge opportunity to lead with the products and results given the license the brand has been given by the customers and their success.  Dial-up the voice of the customer and unleash the emotional brand love every customer is expressing about Vi-Shape shakes and results which are truly amazing - the distributor business model will take care of itself!

I also learned that the CEO, Ryan Blair was about to release his first book titled Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain in the next week.  To be honest, the book title immediately brought my mindset back to everything I disliked about MLM companies, however, I forced myself to keep an open mind.

Upon my return, I opened the package and found my Vi-Shakes and chocolate flavoring - just the product inside - nothing special.  Seemed like a missed opportunity to further tell the Visalus story, offer additional products, maybe include a catalog/flyer for apparel/cups/etc.  Maybe even offer a special invitation via website as a new customer.  Basically further the early emotional brand connections!

I tried the Vi-Shape shake and was pleasantly surprised how great it tasted.  It is the shake mix that tastes like cake mix!  Add a little chocolate flavor and peanut butter and you have a peanut butter cup!  WOW!

I was equally  impressed with the nutritional values.  I wondered how well it compared to the competition especially since I just forked over more that $50 for 15 servings.  Researching the comparison of Vi-Shape shakes to the competition - Visalus blew them all away! I continued to dig deeper into the company. 

It was clear these guys had put lots of work into developing Visalus.  By now Ryan's booked was released and he was in 100% promotion mode through facebook, twitter, email, video and a book tour.  I read a few pages on Amazon and being a big reader of business books like Good to Great, The Tipping Point, Outliers, and dozens of others his book seemed fairly basic and common sense to me.  Still, I thought why not order the book and hear what he has to say.  Also, I started following the guys on Twitter to see what they were saying - amazing how easily it is to get access to people today!
I also listened in on several weekly Vision calls where people like Blake, Nick hold court with their distributors, customers and anyone else who wants to listen in as they share success stories, introduce guest speakers (i.e. Dr. Seidman - Chief Science Officer) as well as offer new product at a 40% discount to drive customer trial (just like a real retailer!).  I literally was listening to the call on my iPhone speaker while at the same time through an iPhone app called Vi-Net watched the product orders race over 400 within 10 minutes.  These guys not only had a great product and great business model, they were also pushing the social media networking revolution as far as it would go - very impressive.

A few days later I received Ryan's book and read it cover to cover (still a little doubtful). I must say what makes this company different comes directly from Ryan's core beliefs of doing well by doing good.  Ryan has had more opportunities than most to put this approach to work (trust me, read the book and you'll know what I mean) and my hats off to him - he proves through his actions throughout his life that he is always learning, applying, and improving his skills with a focus to be a better leader through positive change.  It is what it is - Ryan speaks from the truth from his heart!

In all my experience in business and working with founders like Howard Schultz-Starbucks, Vernon Hill-Commerce Bank and visionaries like Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffery Katzenberg-Disney, it is the power and belief of the founder/visionary that fuels the brand's culture.  And it is the brand culture that makes the difference to "Make It Matter" within every fan of the company (Customer, Team Member, Distributor, Investor, Supplier, Vendor) - and that is something Customers notice.  Great read! ...and a great (potential) one-of-a-kind MLM company.

Cool company with a great opportunity to redefine MLM....let's see if they do!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cool Companies Give Beer to New Hires....Really?

Have you ever heard of a company called "HIPSTER"? The lastest in social media companies trying to change the engineer geek at a time! Here's what their website says they are trying to do:

"Hipster is building a fun way to uncover the vast amount of information about real-world locations that isn’t yet available online. Based in SOMA, San Francisco, and founded in 2010, Hipster is tackling a really large problem in a really large market in a really unique way."

So if you what to be relevant, different and attract the right people to engagage in your mission you need to think differently and "make it matter" from the new hires point of view.
This should be a very interesting company to watch develop as they build their unique company culture (a bit like Zappos - which was recently aquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion). It's no wonder the investors line up like a who's who...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Like Us Like You Mean It!!

As more and more brands leverage the social media community and build brand buzz there is always the danger that brands shift from building "relationships" to driving "transactions"...better know as spam and/or advertising.  That strategy will absolutely back-fire!  Here's a great short piece by Emily White of Facebook on building local level relationships that are authentic, real and "make it matter".

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sometimes A Smart Move....Well, Just Feels Wrong!


Ok, I love Disney and believe they have done an incredible job of storytelling, touching the hearts of many all around the globe. While there are many great creative companies, it seems no one does it quite as well as Disney. However, the lastest move to trademark the SEAL Team 6 marks just feels a bit shady...not something often associated with Disney. It would be one thing if Disney was approached by the military and together formed a partnership to benefit the armed services that would be uplifting and really "Make it Matter". Love to hear your thoughts...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Twitter is a GOOD thing?

I just read this story and it takes me back to my childhood when I play sports and always wanted to meet my favorite baseball players.  The best we could do was wait for them to visit a Department store and m-a-y-b-e get an autograph.  Today kids just "follow" them on twitter.  So why not, just ask them to come see one of your little league games and "make it matter" to all the players...  Low and behold, he did!  WOW!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Brands are Like People....People Like Jerry Seinfeld are Brands!

 Recently Jerry Seinfeld just launched his very own and brand new website entitled, what!  To his credit and his amazing way of keeping everything so plain and simple, which is the essence of the "Jerry Seinfeld Brand"...his website is exactly that...plain and simple!  three new comedy bits a more, no less!  It's always impressive when a brand "gets it" and is able to stay true and on message, bulding off every message that comes before it and building the brand's foundation for everything that will follow.  Leave it to Jerry to "Make It Matter" and keep it plain and simple!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Global Brand Expansion Takes Leadership, A Strong Business Model and the Right Partnerships!

Building a successful global brand requires a few "key" ingredients.  First, being a leader in your category with innovation, passion, and a little bit of brand magic. Second, having a solid business model that that drives strong sales and profits. Third, identifying partnerships that share not only the belief in your business model, but the passion and commitment to your brand. Brands like Chipotle, Cheesecake Factory and Pinkberry are proving with these key ingredients you can make global expansion a part of your growth story early in the brands expansion plans! ...and Make It Matter to your customers.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just Enough Familiarity...and Just Enough New!

It's great when retailers create innovation that taps into a consumer's conscience.  With the rich history of "Black Friday" around the holidays already occupying a highly emotionally-charged place in consumer's minds and the relevance of home improvement stores in the Spring...what a simple yet highly effective way to create positive brand connections and build an annual emotional memory in the consumer's mind each and every Spring.  The simplicity is what makes this genius!  ...and the relevance to the brand is what Makes It Matter!  With any luck at all they might even be able to shift the event to "Green Friday" and own the occasion outright as a retail category!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Digital Menu Boards...You know it makes sense - so what's taking so long?

As if there is not enough reasons to advance your menu boards from static to digital.  Let's see, there's impact, calorie counts, consistency, timeliness and of course the lower cost of changes.  However, the initial set-up costs (capital costs) are significant.  My guess is new concepts will lead the way and force the rest of the industry to follow.  Because we all know in our hearts the digital boards are better and more effective and better and effective Makes it Matter to our customers!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aha! there is a difference between Marketing and Advertising.

No doubt many of you have worked with and for advertising firms - very creative and energetic people that are usually quite fun to be around.  They are great at changing it up and providing strong creative thought leadership.  Their newness to a brand or product allows them to think freely and unencumbered by past associations with the brand....and that is good...and sometimes bad.  As the head marketer of a brand or product your job is to marry the creative sparks and ideas with the brand personality to maintain the synergy between where the brand has been and the new places it can go.  Your customers (and potential customers) are counting on you!  Failure to deliver your role successfully could disrupt the customers connection with your brand and possibly result in an uproar or revolt.  It might be fun creative expression at the time however, could alienate your true brand owners...your CUSTOMERS!  Remember advertising is designed to create attention and marketing is designed to build relationships.  So when engaging advertising partners Make It Matter and ensure the creative expression helps to build your brand marketing relationships!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Advertising...(not branding)

This is very clever and memorable advertising...simply great creative. It is actually an airport advertising sign for Accenture (they have some of the best creative ads).  However, without the Accenture logo you would never know the brand.  Now imagine the fish was a classic bottle of Coke...that would have been awesome branding leveraging the polar bear as a widely recognized icon for the Coke brand and raising the advertising to a higher level to Make It Matter! (of course Coke wasn't the client here)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Like it or not, it's changing the world!

We all have stories about Facebook - good, bad, and ugly.  The responsibility it places on young people when at the flip of a "enter" button they can change their life forever (and not yet has there been a way to "remove" stuff) by posting a comment or pic that was in a momentary lapse of reason.  At the same time there are stories of how people are finding friends and family they have lost and likely would have never seen or heard from again.  However, the most amazing thing is the world is talking and on many fronts simply telling it like it is and as someone I met long ago said "nothing quite like the truth sounds like the truth" - and that is changing the world - hopefully for the better....time will tell.  Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg did something no one had done on the Internet to date - he connected the power and speed of information with the power and speed of emotion and not surprisingly it spread like wild fire!  Facebook has found a way to Make It Matter!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Calorie Count Posting Requirements

OK, I'm sure if you’re like me you have recently felt like your eyesight was getting worse each time you go to a fast-food establishment.  Surprise! - It's not you, but rather the smaller print as a result of almost doubling the text on the menu boards to accommodate the new nutritional calorie posting laws.  Like we needed the calories posted to tell us fast-food was high in calories and fat.  I personally think it is overkill and unnecessary to place the calorie count directly on the menu next to each item...wouldn't just requiring the restaurant to have the nutritional info available on request have been enough?  Oh wait, that was the requirement and unfortunately people kept eating the food anyway.  So now the "smart people" have forced restaurants to put the info directly on the menu.  Next they will want the establishments to put pictures of obese people on the menu and in their TV ads!  But here's the deal, once someone enters the restaurant and is salivating about what they are going to eat, guess what...their habits don't change - they eat what they like!  They are satisfying emotional cravings and the logical side of the decision is out the window.  If you want to make a difference in how and what people eat, you must educate them when they are already thinking logically like in our schools.  Then the best bet is people will make better decisions long before they reach the feeding line.  So if you want to make a difference you have to Make It Matter - menu labeling makes no difference (check out the research in the article).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Win with the "right brain"...

Ad Age recently had an article on Limited Time Offers (LTO's) vs. Limited Time Discounts (LTD's).

Interestingly enough when done well - our hearts and souls are inspired by LTO's because they represent something new and/or special that's not always available - think seasonal flavors like holiday peppermint or seasonal Copper River salmon (usually runs for only 6-8 weeks). Bringing attention to these offers even when tied to a special offer price delights our emotions.

When everyday products are put on special - LTD's we like it initially, however, we can't help but feel a little ripped off when they go back up in price once the promotion is over. That in turn erodes our emotional connection to a brand and trains us to consider future purchases of an item often only when it is on sale. If this is the strategy of your brand you’re better off making an everyday strategy of low prices (like Wal-Mart and an increasing number of discount brands). It's better for the customer, better for the brand and will reduce confusion.

So if you want to touch a consumer heart and drive traffic to your business, make your offers truly special and Make It Matter in your customers’ heart!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Flowers, candy, gifts, etc. - Valentines Day is upon us! More than the "material things" touch somebody's heart. Make It Matter!

The Answer Always Makes the Question Look Easy...

Who would have thought the power of the internet and social networking could free a country?  What we are witnessing in recent days and weeks is simply amazing...and very comforting (most days).  Regardless of whether it is advertising, business, relationships or thoughts - authenticity is king!  Todays digital age creates a forum for ensuring we "keep it real" and that helps Make It Matter!