Friday, November 30, 2007

Future Markets

Finding buyers in the future may take a new set of skills and attitudes.

It seems one can hardly turn the page of a marketing trade publication or advertising "rag" without finding them trumpeting "virtual worlds" or "wikis" or "social networks" or "user generated content" or some other venue of supposedly heightened consumer openness or susceptibility to a marketing message [an interesting aside: my research into these various venues on the "internet" yielded this tidbit. The word "wiki" comes from several related words in various Amerindian, or aboriginal, tongues such as wiikiyaapi in the Fox language or wikiop in Menominee which denote a structure somewhat similar to a wigwam or tipi (teepee to those of us over a certain age!) - thus a "wiki" is a place where web "denizens" can live - or even their information can reside there. Fascinating!].

Invariably, it seems that the articles attached to these concepts advise the readers to relinquish control of their brands, to engage in conversations with their customers, rather than to lecture them. This seems to be the entire wisdom and promise of the Web "2.0" crowds - brand owners ought not to control their brands, they ought to ride the crest of the waves of consumer whims and fancies wherever they may lead.


I'll say it again. Hogwash.

We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC firmly believe in the power of the raconteur, rather than of the relinquisher. Yes, storytelling is alive and well, and at the heart of any strong brand.

Consider this droll little tale:

A young mother (perhaps played by the delicious Parker Posey?) is out strolling near an elementary school when the bell rings for dismissal.

A bright little moppet arrives at Mother's side, beaming seraphically, and asks for a snack.

Mom, returning the child's smile, hands him a Baby Ruth® candy bar and a bottle of Pepsi One®.

"Isn't it sad how President Cleveland's daughter didn't live to see the candy bar they named after her?" asks the boy. "We learned all about it in our history class today." He skips ahead, chewing a nougat-filled bite of his Baby Ruth® as Mom smiles and chuckles to herself.

"Honey, what would you think of getting a Quizno's® sandwich for dinner tonight?" she asks as they arrive at her shining new Ford TaurusTM, they have a pepper bar, you know."

She starts the car, but checks her son's seat belt to be sure it's snugly buckled. "Mom, I'm so glad you got this Ford TaurusTM - I feel so safe when I ride in it with you."

Now tell me (if you can!) that the rich heritage and brand attributes (and even a Unique Selling Proposition or two) didn't come through loud and clear - certainly more so than were we to let our customers (or our detractors!) tell us about our products.

Don't relinquish control of your brand conversation - Steer it!

A brief postscript:
We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC bid a fond and nearly tearful farewell to the late, great Evel Knievel, who shuffled off this mortal coil today.
If ever a man lived the Excelsior! life, it was he - it was he indeed.
Excelsior! Jay

Last time, Jay wrote about debts and Thanksgiving:
Irv Levin responded:
"I guess I'm glad you guys are making enough money to forgive some bad debts, but what about the rest of us, Jay? Some of us are drowning in red ink up to our armpits! It's getting pretty bad, and I don't know if you realize ..."

Irv, thanks for the heartfelt outpouring of anguish, ennui, and so forth. I think you'll find a closer reading of the last missive was a celebration of looking generous while actually getting a higher return than might otherwise be realized.
Please go back and re-read it, and calm down, my friend, it's not all gloom and doom, just the vast preponderance!

-- Jay

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We're Thankful for You!

Our Faithful Readers, Clients, and Friends
Make All of This Worth-While!

Well, the week is winding down toward its wonted end of Thursday, followed by "black" Friday, and it's time for those of us here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC to reflect on what it is that makes us thankful (and to whom - and to whom!).

It's all of you, our faithful readers, clients, and friends who swell our hearts (and souls!) with the true spirit of the holiday (viz. Thanksgiving). Not only am I personally thankful that I am still able to write these weekly (or so) missives, but I am thankful for all of my associates and partners here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC (former partners excepted, of course!). We have been very fortunate this year, both personally and financially, and in the topsie-turvie world of the current financial situation of many companies - large and small! - we can but say our thanks to each and every one of you.

What with the news of all the major financial institutions having to write off or write down vast amounts of bad or un-collectible loans, it seems a bit petty for an organization which has been as blessed as we have been these past several years to hang on to our own "bad" debts. This is, many of you probably realize, easier than it would have been a few short months ago, "thanks" to my former partner, Pat, and his scheme for business enhancement. But I digress. We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC have decided that every one of our outstanding invoices will be written "off" as a bad debt. This, as I said, is easier than it would have been, as there is only one such invoice at this point - an old invoice for some market research on an early iteration of our full-motion-capable beverage vending machines (this pre-dates WiFi by many months, if our time-line is correct). Accordingly - no names here, but you know who you are - said invoice is hereby canceled, and accounted as null, void, and ex officio. Frankly, it's a load off my mind anyway - we probably should have done this a long time ago, as it became obvious that he wasn't going to pay. But I digress again.

"But, Jay," I hear you wonder, "isn't there any marketing information this week?" Ah, dear friends, you've just seen as slick a marketing scheme in operation as you'd ever want to. While we are truly clearing that debt from our books, and while we still remain open to doing business in the future with the "stiff" (that's the technical term my bookkeeper uses), a large part of the reason for the "gesture" is to elicit good-will from the rest of our clients. By seeing that we do business in a friendly and gracious manner, our clients are encouraged to count on us to be equally gracious with them (and we will be - fear not!). Yes, we will try to extend similar "gestures" to other clients as the situations present themselves, but that doesn't mean we're not counting on doing business in an ethical, friendly manner to really boost the bottom line: we are, and you can too.

Not only does being nice boost the bottom line, it makes me feel good at the same time. I'm going to head out to the gym for a little extra fencing practice now, but please, visit the "blog" on the internet and let us know what you think, and for what you are thankful.


Last week, Jay wrote about Gas Station Television:
Thom Dranking responded:
"Jay, first off, I'd like to meet your sister - any bird who likes the scent of petrol is brilliant in my book! Next, though, I think you're being a bit too harsh in your criticism of this concept. I think you might find that "gear-heads" as you call them are strong consumers of many products, including news and information..."

Nice try, mate, but I still can't imagine being sold the idea of a tasty sub, a Quizno® perhaps, while choking on the fumes from the diesel at the next pump, let alone the "petrol" (ha! that's how I knew you were a "limey") odour from the pump at my own car.

-- Jay

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Everything Old is New Again?

"New" ideas spark memories of when they actually were new!

Perhaps you've seen announcements of the expansion of the “Gas Station TV” network. Not content with screens displaying full-motion video and audio to consumers while they are actively making a purchase (I wonder where they got that idea, don't you?!!), there will now be screens placed inside the stations in the “convenience” store portion of said edifices.

Growing up, my sister always wanted to work in a gas station. Not because she loved cars or because she was a gearhead – she loved the smell of gasoline. (I understand that gasoline fumes can cause brain damage, but I also wonder if brain damage seeks out those fumes!) At any rate, most people don't – pace Robert Duvall – love that smell, whether in the morning or any other time of day, so one wonders whether adding this olfactory experience to a commercial message will turn out to be helpful or harmful.

Our guess, here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC (as if one could reasonably characterize our data-driven marketing forecasts as guesses!), is that it will prove to be a net drag on the utility of this video distribution platform.

This development led me, this past week, into a bit of a reminiscence about the painstaking development of our own full-motion capable, Wi-Fi-enabled, beverage vending machines, equipped with CoollMisstTM technology. Long-time readers of this newsletter will certainly recall the various stages through which this product line has gone, what with the addition of the Wi-Fi capability (giving marketers the ability to change creative "on the fly" in near real-time, as it were.

Then, the CoollMisstTM technology was added, giving the consumer an extra sensory experience - although in this case, it was a welcome one!

The long list of participants in both market tests, research projects, and actual roll-outs of working prototypes gives mute testimony to the power of adding the sense of touch to the sight, sound, and motion already inherent in the product. We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC hope that those of us who "know better" won't be fooled into adding a negative olfactory experience to what ought to be a simple message delivery.

Clearly there are many better (and less smelly!) ways to get one's message to the consumer, wherever he (or she!) may be found.


Last week, Jay wrote about getting back in the saddle, only to find he'd been presumed dead:
Ronald Geary responded:
"Jay, it's fabulous that you're not actually dead. It certainly took the wind out of our sails here at the Cape when we heard you'd been killed. It was a bleak birthday celebration back in September without your "salutation" from the Rolodex ..."

Ron, you've made me very happy to know that our birthday missives are appreciated. Hearing my own eulogies, as it were, has been an eye-opening experience - but I'm still mad at Pat!

-- Jay

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reports of my Demise, and all that Jazz

Who knew Mark Twain was prescient?

First things first. Please allow me to apologize to all my regular readers, correspondents, and personal acquaintances.

In my absence (to be explained momentarily), my now-ex-partner, Pat Mullins, decided to test a rather bizarre (some might think "outré" a more appropriate term - and count me among them!) marketing theory on you.

Pat apparently theorized that if our customers thought I had been killed, they would be likely to book additional business, or at least to pay old, outstanding invoices (all of our invoices are outstanding - just as are the jobs we do for each one of our clients!). To my surprise (and chagrin, I might add), Pat's theory proved - at least partly - correct.

With the exception of one (1) "hold-out" [no names here, but you know who you are ....], all of our past-due invoices were cleared, and revenue rose a quite-healthy 13.7% (on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Basis, of course).

Still, Pat's been sacked.

I don't know how to put it more bluntly, or I would have done so.
Pat's been sacked.

As with most effective deceptions (or "lies," as I prefer to think of this, Pat's final outrage), Pat's ploy began with a kernel of truth (or fact), but spun rapidly away from the "straight" and true (if you'll pardon the expression).

I was, indeed, in training for competition in the Modern Pent-athlon, assisted by my new partner, Jody - against whom no charges have been (nor could be!) filed, as I was neither killed, nor even injured during said training. In fact, I was part of a reality series (which was produced and shot "on spec" as a promotional opportunity to link up with the upcoming Olympic Games® in Beijing (the Istanbul of China - I still think of them as Peking and Constantinople, don't you?).
As with all such programs, a very severe media and personal communications "black-out" was in force, with Pat naturally being my sole designated correspondee (in retrospect, it seems so obvious - but I mustn't obsess, hindsight is always 20/20 they say, how could I have been so blind? - but I mustn't obsess).

With a bit of luck and marketing acumen (to whom might we turn for that, one wonders ... ha!), this series should be gracing your local Ion or MyNetwork television affiliate station in time for the "Games."

At any rate, it should be clear by now that I am not dead, nor gone, nor (dare I hope?) forgotten. I look forward to re-establishing the cordial, professional relationships most of you have enjoyed with us here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC over these past several years.

For now, however, I believe I'll return to practicing my shooting and fencing; after all, one never knows into whom one may run - one simply never knows.

Last time, Pat wrote about
Jay's having been killed in a freak Pent-athlon accident:
Steve Babcock, responded:
"I'm sure there was no intent to upset us, but reading of Jay's death in a newsletter just about did me in too.
Pat, I'm hoping everyone there is OK, and I hope this doesn't sound too unfeeling, but will this affect any of the research and marketing projects you're doing for us? We don't have a lot of resources out here in Bozeman, MT, so we'd hate to lose you ..."

Steve -
Thanks for the concern, but as you can tell from the reports you should have received by now, we're still happily in the business of helping our far-flung friends in the pursuit of marketing excellence!
-- Jay