Impressions

by Cochran

My Accidental Direct Mail Lesson

A couple of weeks ago, I had a minor car accident. Someone ran a stop sign and plowed into my left front bumper. Luckily, neither I nor the other driver was injured.

As this was my first (and hopefully, last) auto accident, I was unprepared for the deluge of direct mail I’d receive at my home. As soon as the police report was made public, I was inundated.Mail

As a marketing professional, I was immediately intrigued and a bit surprised. I’ve often heard (and even used) the phrase, “Your direct mail piece needs to stand out in a crowded mailbox.” And, yes, several of the envelopes I received stood out. One envelope was bright yellow. Another was red. One was thick, oversized and expensive. Several of the envelopes had the words “free gift” printed on the outside. There was one postcard (for a quick read), offering me a free biscuit if I acted today. The senders were mostly attorneys, chiropractors and auto body shops.

But, none of these envelopes or messages stood out in my mailbox.

Why? Because they all arrived on the same day. All thirteen were crammed into my small mailbox on the same day. My first reaction, since I had to work very hard to extract them from my tiny, overstuffed box, was to toss them all out immediately. They were creased, folded, torn and tattered. Instead, I decided to try to learn something from the experience of being on the receiving end of 13 simultaneous direct marketing campaigns.

Sure, a colorful envelope, a clever message, a free gift, even a biscuit might sway some to act. But, did any of the business owners consider timing? In this case, being there first was akin to not being there at all. I have to admit that I did not open a single envelope.

I wonder … If I had received a single direct mail envelope the following day, would I have opened it? Probably.

How would you have responded in a similar scenario? I’d love to hear your impressions.

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Direct Mail, Marketing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Saturday Branding Lesson

A parking lot with landscaping and a diagonal ...

Image via Wikipedia

So, I was exiting one of my favorite coffee shops after enjoying my Saturday morning cup. I tend to linger longer on Saturdays.

Just for the record, I drive a metallic blue Honda Accord.

As I was leaving the shop, I was reading an incoming text message on my smart phone. Since I was focused on my phone display, I wasn’t looking at my car. But, I knew the general direction in which I had parked.

As I approached my car and pressed the “unlock” button on my remote, I noticed that there was a half-used legal pad sitting on the back seat. My first thought was, “How did that get back there? I never use the back seat and, by the way, I don’t use legal pads (well, not in public, anyway).

Then came the a ha. This wasn’t my car. Mine was parked in the same overall position, just one row over.

My first instinct was to feel embarrassed. Who saw me? Did the owner of the “other” car think I was trying to steal something? Who was having a good laugh at my expense?

As I unlocked my car door, hopped in and sped away, I had a good laugh at my mistake.

Then, another a ha. This was my Saturday branding lesson. Thank you, Honda.

The “other” car I tried to enter was also a Honda. Not an Accord, but a Civic. Not metallic blue, but metallic gray, and probably the same model year as mine.

It dawned on me that this was branding at its best. Even though I wasn’t focused on the cars in the lot, out of a tiny little corner of my eye, subliminally even, I had shown my brand loyalty to Honda. I didn’t walk up to a Toyota or a Mazda or a Nissan and make this mistake. My eyes took me to a Honda, albeit not my Honda.

Was it the color similarity that fooled me? Was it that I sometimes park in that exact parking space (the one where the Civic was) many a Saturday morning? Was it the overall design of the car that I recognized? Did I unknowingly glance at the Honda logo and gravitate towards it?

It was probably a combination of all of these factors (and probably some I haven’t even thought of yet) that attracted me to the Civic. All in all, it was an interesting branding case study. This Accord is only the second Honda I’ve owned in my lifetime. Oh, but I did receive a telemarketing call from Honda this week. Scary, huh?

Pity I can’t time travel back to notice whether there were other Honda models in the same general area of the parking lot. Or notice if there were other cars the same color as mine. Or any of a myriad other factors which may have affected my choice of the gray metallic Civic.

I’d love to know what you make of my branding experience. Please comment and let me know what factors I’ve overlooked in my analysis.

P.S. Thank you, Honda, for the interesting study in branding and brand loyalty. And, by the way, I love my Accord. Keep up the good work.

February 11, 2012 Posted by | brand loyalty, design, design thinking, Marketing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Quick Steps To Effective Marketing

Today, effective marketing is more about brains than it is about budget. Whether you’re a start-up or an established company, you’ve no excuse not to jump into the fray. Here are 4 quick steps to finding your marketing sweet spot:

  1. Prototype like crazy. Faster experiments mean better results.
  2. Measure, but don’t over-measure. Use your gut, too.
  3. Re-tool and correct. Adaptability is key.
  4. Repeat.

The bottom line? Just get started. Today’s pace doesn’t allow for stragglers.

July 20, 2011 Posted by | business, design, design thinking, Marketing, prototyping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You. On Twitter. 10 Tips.

Last August, I wrote a post entitled “You is #1.” At that time, I was inspired by a new Yale study which revealed that “You” continues to be the #1 most powerful word in the English language, both online and off. “You” is personal. “You” attracts customers. “You” also attracts Twitter followers and keeps them engaged.

Here are my 10 tips on how You can enjoy more success on Twitter.

1. Be yourself.

2. Use your photo. If you use a logo or other avatar, I won’t get to know you. Unless you’re @HarvardBiz or @fastcompany, without that personal touch, I’ll probably lose interest and unfollow you.

3. Use your online bio to give potential followers a snippet of information about you. Your bio can make or break whether someone wants to follow you or not.

4. Whom you choose to follow reflects on you. Be choosy, and remember, as your Twitter strategy evolves and your standards change, you can unfollow anyone at any time.

5. Tell me something about you. This doesn’t mean “Here’s my company name, what I do and please buy something from me.” Tell me something about you. “Happy Birthday to you, Mozart” tells me you’re interested in classical music. “Meet you at the live music milonga tonight at 10” tells me you’re interested in tango. “Think you’ll appreciate today’s op-ed by @NYTimesFriedman on healthcare reform” tells me even more about what interests you.

6. Ask my opinion. Show that you’re interested in me, in how I think and in the issues that matter to me. “What do you think about the new iPad? Is it just an iFad or here to stay?”

7. Ask me what I’m doing. Questions like “What are you reading lately?” or “What are you listening to on your iPod right now?” can really start the conversation.

8. Do tell me what you’re doing, but do so in a way that reveals more about you. Rather than tweeting “I overslept this morning,” a more engaging tweet might be “Stayed up way too late last night reading Roger Martin’s new book, The Design of Business. Overslept, but it was worth it.”

9. Tweet your thoughts. Sure, re-tweeting is encouraged and adding links to other people’s content is an effective strategy. But, make it a priority to regularly post your own thoughts. What is important to you right now? Share that with me. At least 20% of the time, post tweets in your own words. Let me know you can think on your own, that you have opinions and that you truly wish to foster a relationship with me.

10. And, be yourself. (Did I mention that?)

February 3, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009: Journey Into the Marketing Unknown

A close friend recently sized me up this way: “You’re most comfortable residing in the ‘unknown’ because that’s where the most learning takes place.”

If that was an accurate assessment, then 2009 was definitely my best year ever. It was chock full of unknowns.

After 10 years as the owner of a marketing and creative design group, all of a sudden, new customers were not beating a path to my door as readily as before. Even long-time customers were scaling back on their marketing initiatives. I took a deep breath and began brushing up on my sales skills, reacquainting myself with some tried and true methods and attending a seminar or two to learn some specific tactics for selling in a down economy.

The marketing and advertising industry was in serious change mode well before the economy took its nosedive. The Internet had already changed everything. No longer were companies relying solely on traditional print and broadcast media to market their products and services. There was and continues to be a whole new set of skills necessary to compete as a marketing professional.

Several years ago, the unknowns of the online world began presenting themselves to me. Website design and email marketing were quickly becoming prerequisites for maintaining a viable business model. In true form, I jumped into those unknowns with both feet, learning as I went and happy to be doing so.

Much to my delight, even more unknowns showed up in 2009. The year has found me gaining fluency in search engine optimization, blogging and social media, especially Twitter. And, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about design thinking to learn how better to help my business and my customers’ businesses grow in more innovative and human-centered ways. Books of particular note include Ideo’s Tim Brown’s “Change By Design” and “The Design of Business” by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.

Despite the unruly and disruptive nature of 2009, I was a bit sorry to see the year come to a close. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that 2010 will present even more unknowns to us all. The pace will quicken too.

Let the learning never end.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Me? Use Twitter? 10 Reasons Why You Should

10 Good Reasons For Using Twitter
  1. To become a better listener
  2. To learn to say more with less
  3. To join in the conversation, globally
  4. To network, globally
  5. To allow your customers to get to know you
  6. To learn what others are saying about your company
  7. To attract new audiences
  8. To foster ideation
  9. To stay current
  10. To interact with society

Why and how do you use Twitter? I welcome your comments here or via Twitter. You’ll find me @cochrancreates.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | creativity, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Twitter “Aha” Moment

As a marketing professional, I am regularly asked, “What is Twitter?” or “How does Twitter work?”

I’ve been using Twitter for about a month now and am learning much with each successive inbound and outbound tweet. I’ve read one of the many books on how to use Twitter effectively in business. I’ve also been talking with other Twitter users about their experiences with this social media phenomenon.

This morning, though, when I was offline, I had my first Twitter “aha” moment. It happened during my weekly business networking meeting. (Yes, the one that convenes at 7:15 a.m. each Wednesday) Turns out, that’s when I’m freshest mentally, before being bombarded by all the various messages and stimuli du jour.

When it came time to give my 30-second commercial, I mentioned my name, company name and quick list of services I provide (as usual). Next, I quoted from an article that I had just read online and how, historically, companies that continue to focus on marketing and advertising during a recession, benefit from increased market share for many years following the recession.

First, simply by passing along that information, I built credibility for Cochran Creative Group. Then, no fewer than four other members of the group tagged on to what I had said within their own commercials, agreeing with me and adding their own personal touch to what I had stated. In each case, the member publicly endorsed me by name. My credibility level was elevated within the group just by having four other members listen to what I had to say, repeat it (“re-tweet” it in Twitter-ese) and add to it. There were approximately 50 business people in the room so, assuming they were all awake, my “marketing during a recession” mention received 250 impressions! That meant 250 impressions for Cochran Creative Group within a span of a few minutes, helping to further position me as an expert in my field.

This is exactly what happens every day, tens of thousands of times, at a rate of 140 characters per tweet, among the millions of Twitter users around the world. Think about it. The possibilities are mind-boggling!

Please comment, sharing your own Twitter “aha” moment and/or how you’re embracing Twitter within your business.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | social media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Brand Running Smoothly?

Even in the best economic times, every company is wise to periodically examine, refocus and retool its marketing strategy. BrandCheck, a new service offering by Cochran Creative Group, facilitates this process bringing new clarity and consistency to your branding initiatives.

During your personalized half-day BrandCheck session, we’ll explore questions such as:

  • Are you satisfied with your logo?
  • Does it reflect who your company is today?
  • Are you using it consistently across all applications?
  • Does your company’s online persona reflect the same look, feel and voice as your printed marketing materials?
  • Is your website generating the results you need?
  • Are your customers aware of your complete range of products and services?

If you cannot honestly answer yes to each of these questions, then now is the time to schedule your BrandCheck session. During your personalized, half-day session, we’ll be your guide in bringing new clarity and consistency to your branding initiatives.

Click on the BrandCheck icon at http://www.CochranCreativeGroup.com to download an information sheet.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Web Is Still In Its Infancy

Don’t believe me?

Consider this: According to the Discover Small Business Watch, April 2009, 62% of businesses (that’s right, 62%) do not yet have websites. I found this statistic almost hard to believe, but, when I got over my initial disbelief, I looked at this in a positive light.

Probably, a good percentage of that 62% are companies that desire a web presence, but have just not been able to find the right partner to get them on-line. Lucky for them, it’s becoming easier and less expensive to establish an on-line presence and, in fact, if a company has been successful over the past ten years without being on-line, that surely speaks well of the company. And, for us marketing professionals, it also means there are still many good opportunities out there.

And, now consider this: 62% of Americans (there’s that number again: 62%!) with an internet connection at home, are still using dial-up. Many American families live in rural areas where high-speed lines have not yet been made available (hard to believe, I know!) and the high cost of service where it does exist prevents many Americans from enjoying it. So, for any business attempting to drive the average American consumer to their website, it is still critically important to keep your site easy to use, uncluttered and dare I say, basic.

The web is still in its infancy. Stay awake. There is much yet to learn.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Online Marketing | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Keeping Your Page Content Updated and Fresh

Keeping your web page content updated and fresh is critical to attracting new customers. Doing so will also give former customers and formerly tentative shoppers a reason to return to your site and buy from you. New content entices the search engine spiders to scan your site and increases the odds that your site will appear in the rankings.

Depending on your on-line goals, investing in a content management system can be an effective use of marketing dollars. A content management system gives you the power to easily update all copy, graphics and other content within your site without any programming knowledge whatsoever.

A content management system, coupled with a strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plan, will allow you take an active role in driving more would-be customers to your website and choosing you over the competition.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Online Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments