READY TO LEARN SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT SMALL BUSINESS IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE?
It's December 26.
It's the day after Christmas.
And I came to wish everyone happy Boxing Day!
Happy Boxing Day, everyone!
Of course, there's one small problem.
In the United States, from whence this screed originates?
WE DON'T CELEBRATE BOXING DAY
Yes, we were once part of the British Empire. That's apparently a common denominator for countries not of the UK that celebrate Boxing Day.
For what it's worth, Boxing Day is generally recognized as a day when postmen, errand-boys, and servants expect a Christmas-box from their respective employers. That info is just a click away!
Nonetheless, to this day, despite our heritage and the globe-spanning nature of the electronic climate in which we live, you say, "Boxing Day" to one of your fellow Americans, and you get a blank stare or a monosyllable like, "Hanh?"
Then again, due to the globe-spanning nature of the electronic climate in which we live, this screed has fans all around the world.
The thing is, I can't tell you where the screed's readers are other than the US and Canada. I'm not privy to that information.
So, to the Canadians, we can say, "Happy Boxing Day."
However, as for the podcast?
THE PODCAST ALSO HAS LISTENERS ALL AROUND THE GLOBE
Interestingly, according to the stats available from my syndication service, despite there being fans of the screed there, none of the podcast listeners are in Canada.
But one of those listeners is in the UK.
So, Happy Boxing Day, Mr. or Ms. UK Podcast Listener.
The podcast has more listeners in China.
But since China was not part of the British Empire (unless you count Hong Kong), China does not celebrate Boxing Day.
But let's not discount Hong Kong.
Hello Hong Kong! If you're listening, Happy Boxing Day!
SO, THAT'S ABOUT THREE POSSIBLE PODCAST LISTENERS WHO CELEBRATE BOXING DAY
Here's where it gets interesting.
You know where the most listeners to the podcast version of the screed are, outside of the United States?
Drum roll, please...
Happy Boxing Day to all our listeners in Botswana!
You heard me.
Hot Shots has a fan base in Botswana.
Didn't see that one coming.
BOTSWANA USED TO BE A PART OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
I did not know that.
My history of the British Empire is somewhat shaky.
So hello, Wikipedia!
Since its independence from the UK, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world.
Formerly one of the poorest nations in the world, it is now a middle-income country.
There's a high level of economic freedom.
The government maintains sound fiscal policy and a tiny amount of foreign debt.
Human rights are protected under the constitution.
AND, SMALL BUSINESS IN BOTSWANA IS A THING
Search "small business in Botswana," and Google does not disappoint.
One website (which looks like 2017 and not 1997) has an article called, "5 GREAT BUSINESS IDEAS FOR YOUTH IN BOTSWANA ."
They suggest Custom Made Clothing, Arts and Crafts, Magazine Publishing, Fast Food Franchise, and Baby Sitting Services.
An article on the top 20 reasons to do business in Botswana include everything from political stability, safety and security and lack of corruption to low levels of taxation, great technology and infrastructure, and a literate and skilled population.
LET'S START A BABY-SITTING BUSINESS IN BOTSWANA! WHO'S WITH ME?!
Kinda quiet out there.
Well, anyway, Botswana sounds like a Southern Africa garden spot.
So, to you in Botswana who are paying attention on this Boxing Day (which we understand you celebrate), Happy Boxing Day!
AND IF YOU'RE INCLINED TO SHARE, I'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR BOTSWANA SMALL-BUSINESS SUCCESS STORY
Just send an email to submissions at slow burn marketing dot com.
To everyone else here in the US where Boxing Day remains largely a mystery, if you've got a small-business success story you'd like to share for possible inclusion here in the screed, feel free to use the same address.
Hope your Christmas was merry, your Hanukkah was happy, your Kwanzaa is capital, and if there's any other holiday that you celebrate, here's to that one as well.
See you again in the New Year.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WILL YOU FIND IT AS HAUNTING AS I DID?
The images are etched into my memory.
The images are vivid. Rafts. Life jackets. Tears. Fear. Anguish. Relief. Men. Women. Children. Old folks.
The refugees clamor out of the rafts.
One youngster has an inflated inner tube over his head and under his arm.
You can hear waves, and you can see them rushing for the rocky beach.
They scramble and splash and hug and cry.
WHICH TELLS YOU ABOUT THE POWER OF THE HUMAN MIND
It can fill in the blanks.
It can make motion happen, and remember sounds that were barely there.
60 seconds. 70 fleeting still photographs. One voice.
"I see fear, I see desperation, but I also see hope.
"Thousands of people are arriving every day.
"Just think about how bad it must be in their country, that they would pick their families, their children, put them on a raft that barely floats, risking their lives to find a place to live, and find a place to be accepted.
"When you find it you recognize it, and that's when you really start pressing the shutter.
"I feel it's important to take photographs that are gonna make a difference.
"I'm Tyler Hicks, photojournalist for the New York Times."
It actually gives me a chill just seeing those words on the page.
WELCOME TO "THE TRUTH IS HARD TO FIND"
This is one of two TV commercials from the Gray Lady's anti-fake-news campaign that ended up on ADWEEK's list of "The 10 Best Ads of 2017."
If you were here last time, we looked at ADWEEK's #10 entry on that list, a sinister, brand-unfriendly creep show of a commercial for Halo Top called. "Eat The Ice Cream."
It was haunting, alright.
But not in any way that makes you say, "Hey, let's rush out and get some Halo Top!"
Instead, it leaves you with an unsettling feeling that robots are going to sequester you away in a sterile room and force feed you some fake, vegan approximation of ice cream.
HEY, THERE'S A COMBINATION FOR WINING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE
On the flip side, this commercial for the New York Times is haunting in a different and more productive way.
In the week since I first viewed it, it keeps coming back to me.
I keep seeing video footage that doesn't exist.
I keep hearing sound effects that do exist--but for only a scant four seconds at the very beginning.
The 60-second commercial is a montage of 70 still images, most in sequences of three consecutive photos. There is lots of black screen in between the image sequences.
The only audio is the aforementioned four seconds of sound effects, which is waves breaking on a beach and agitated human voices. Then, during the voiceover by Tyler Hicks, there is the muted sound of a camera shutter clicking away as the images click past your vision.
THIS IS SOME EXTRAORDINARY FILMMAKING IN THE SERVICE OF THE BRAND
The filmmaker is Darren Aronofsky.
You might know him for his theatrical efforts, like the Jennifer Lawrence psycho-thriller, Mother!, or the Academy Award-winning Natalie Portman psycho-thriller, Black Swan.
I'm always reminded of his 1998 feature debut, Pi. (Yes, the mathematical constant, not the baked dish with a pastry-dough casing.) Featuring themes like chaos theory, the golden spiral, non-linear dynamics, complex game theory, Jewish mysticism, the Quran and, ultimately, insanity, Pi is an unsettling, black & white mind-bender made for a budget of $68,000, and which thrashed the competition at various film festivals, and has grossed about 5,000% of its production budget.
Doesn't sound very much like this TV commercial, does it?
But there is a glimmer of a parallel in Roger Ebert's comment about the movie Pi, which he awarded three and a half stars. He bashed cookie-cutter Hollywood thrillers that follow a predictable playbook, that they are not thrilling, and said of Pi, "I am thrilled when a man risks his mind in the pursuit of a dangerous obsession."
THIS COMMERCIAL IS ABOUT PURSUIT OF AN OBSESSION
Mr. Aronofsky said in a statement also published in ADWEEK, "Photojournalists risk their safety, their minds and often their lives in order to capture what is really happening in the most tumultuous parts of the world. They rush face first into war, disease and human plight to capture the horrors that are unfolding on and to our planet. Many of their images end up changing us and how we treat each other."
An obsessive dedication to finding and presenting the truth in a hostile climate is a worthy goal for a newspaper brand.
And for a heritage brand long considered the nation's newspaper of record, this Aranofsky-helmed message about the pursuit of truth certainly raises the bar on the tagline, "All the News That's Fit to Print."
IT ALSO DEMONSTRATES THE POWER OF YOUR MIND TO CHANGE THINGS
I defy anyone watching this commercial to not remember motion and sound that doesn't actually happen.
The four seconds of sound effects in the opening of the message, accompanied by a black screen, is a powerful cue.
In some ways, it demonstrates the power of radio. There is no literal picture. But right away, you know something important is happening on a beach.
Then, you see still images of something important happening on a beach.
You also see lots of black space, where your mind gets to further fill in blanks with images that aren't there.
There's the sound of the camera shutter.
There's the voice of the photojournalist.
AND THERE IS PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITY TO INSERT YOURSELF INTO THE VIDEO SPACE
And why not?
After all, this message is not about the New York Times.
It's not about how hard it is to be a photojournalist in the wild.
This is a message about you.
It's about you, the customer, and your relationship to the truth.
It's about the one way you should feel about the brand.
THIS MESSAGE IS ALSO ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE
It's a little bit about the seasonal brand being peddled right now.
No, it's not about Christmas. Not on the face of it. Heck, it first aired in April.
But Mr. Hicks, the photojournalist, says, "I see fear, I see desperation, but I also see hope."
In an age when the Christmas brand has become about consumerism run amok, it's nice to find some small reminder of what the Christmas brand really is about.
And the Christmas brand, with its story of wise men seeking a baby in a manger, is ultimately about one thing: It's about hope.
Finding this commercial on the ADWEEK website was like a little Christmas present come early.
CALL ME A COCKEYED OPTIMIST
The Fabulous Honey Parker does.
This commercial is good enough that it gives me hope for advertising.
It gives me hope for my country and its people.
It gives me hope that we will all come to our senses.
And it gives me hope that you might get to share a little hope this holiday season.
Whatever holiday you celebrate in the season of hope, here's wishing you a merry, merry, happy, happy.
To see "The Truth Is Hard To Find - Tyler Hicks" visit https://youtu.be/zs4-rb0f7HI
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
SO, HOW MUCH WINE CAN YOU SELL OUT OF A GARAGE?
Answer: Not a lot.
But that's what Ryan was doing.
He was making wine in his garage. He was selling a few hundred cases a year. Legally. His landlord let him have the garage bonded as a winery by the Feds so it was all above board and he was paying his excise tax.
And understand, this is the Napa Valley.
Stories like this one are not that unusual.
Here's the problem: even if it's really good wine, nobody gets rich on a few hundred cases of wine a year.
IN A WAY, RYAN WAS THAT FABLED GUY WHO WOULD PERFORM BRAIN SURGERY ON HIMSELF
He just had to figure out how to stay awake during the operation.
That is one of the classic definitions of an entrepreneur.
The driven guy with the hyphenated job title who does it all himself.
Winemaker, Chief Bottle Washer & Brain Surgeon.
However, it seems that Ryan was not the egomaniac who insists on staying the brain surgeon.
One day, at a wine event he was running, Ryan met Crystal.
Crystal is a dynamo.
When she met Ryan, her career was vibrant and vigorous. She was getting on jets and going places. She was moving and shaking and making stuff happen for big companies.
CRYSTAL AND RYAN ALSO KNEW THEY HAD A CONNECTION
But they didn't hook up right away.
After the event, the Napa winemaker and the corporate shaker went their separate ways.
But that didn't last long.
Geography couldn't keep them apart, and good wine brought them together.
Crystal became the yin to Ryan's yang.
They married, and she joined the winery in the garage.
Fast forward to today. It's no longer in a garage. It's in a huge cave.
With Crystal's help, Ryan gets to focus on the winemaking instead of the brain surgery, so to speak. He focuses on the science and the art of turning grapes into liquid poetry.
Meanwhile, Crystal works a different kind of science and art: that of winning friends and influencing people. She handles the sales and marketing.
AND IN THE PROCESS, SHE DEVELOPED ANOTHER KIND OF POETRY
She has created the entrepreneurial poetry of building a desirable cult brand.
Through a combination of evocative personal touch and scarcity, she has helped attract legions of dedicated followers.
She also made it happen by doing something that would scare the pants off of a lot of business owners.
While Ryan began making more wine, and the hundreds of cases turned into thousands, Crystal made that wine harder to get.
No more retail.
No more restaurants.
Sales direct to the customer only.
And preferably, through a club-membership model.
YES, MEMBERSHIP DOES HAVE ITS PRIVILEGES
Make a better product.
Make it harder to get.
Make it available on a monthly subscription.
And you know what happens?
By cutting out the middleman and selling the product for what it's worth at retail, you double your margin. And boy are these wines worth far more than the retail price. Phenomenal.
By making it rare, it's made more desirable. They don't even sell it on their own website for the most part. As Crystal likes to say, "It feels like you need to know somebody to get it."
By making it available on a club basis, the worth of each sale is far more than just a single accidental retail purchase.
And by winning friends and influencing people, you create a steadfast and enthusiastic group of supporters who are there for you. Your die-hard fans help keep you in business and love your product.
THIS IS A FAMILY BUSINESS WHERE THE CUSTOMERS ARE LIKE FAMILY
Yes, it sounds like a cliché.
A cliché that yours truly has railed against.
Fortunately, in this case, it's true in the best way possible.
This was very much in evidence in the wake of the Napa fires.
Crystal says that she handles all the customer service, which means she handles a whole lot of email.
With the fires, the amount of email was overwhelming, all of it inquiring about the health and welfare of the family.
Crystal, who typically expedites such things, said that it was taking her weeks to catch up and let everyone know they were OK.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED HERE IS A LOVE FOR THE BUSINESS MADE INDEED MADE MANFIEST IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE
Talk to Ryan, and it's clear that he has a love for people, and for the science and the art of making wine.
He also has a word for the kinds of wines he likes to make: "Balanced."
In an age when it seems like vintners are trying desperately to show the world they can make wines that punch you in the face with a particular quality, he's making wines that invite you in and seduce you.
Talk to Crystal, and it's clear that she has a love for people and for sharing her husband's craft with them.
Talk to Crystal and Ryan together, and it's clear they have a love for each other. It's also clear that the business is a labor of that love. And it has balance.
Ryan has another word, this one for the reason why the business and the brand work.
THAT WORD IS: "RESPECT"
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I interviewed the two of them for the CoupleCo podcast.
And more than once in previous CoupleCo interviews, the husband has said, unsolicited and in no uncertain terms, the reason why the relationship and the business work is because of respect.
Ryan was just the most recent.
Also, something else happens when we're recording these podcasts: Honey and I get the best seats in the house.
We get to watch two people who never expected to be hearing the things they're hearing, about their business and their marriage, from each other.
It has been revealing.
It's also humbling. As Honey repeatedly says, "It makes me want to be a better couple."
And the thing about being a better couple in business together is it makes for a better business.
WHY IS A COUPLE LIKE CRYSTAL AND RYAN SO FASCINATING?
We've been pondering this.
And we think the answer is in something another one of the CoupleCo couples said in their interview: "It's not just your business. It's your whole life."
And the woman who said that is dead on.
It's one of the reasons we've found couplepreneurs so interesting to interview, and why so many people who aren't in business with a spouse are enjoying the test podcasts we've given them.
It's not just about being in business together. It's about risking everything.
In a culture where the marriage ideal is to live happily ever after? Running a business together throws all of that into question.
Because it IS your whole life.
IT'S ABOUT TWO PEOPLE WANTING TO MAKE THEIR LIFE EXACTLY THE WAY THEY WANT IT
And the odds seem enormous.
The deck is stacked in the other guy's favor.
And if a husband and wife business goes down in flames (or up in flames, as has been happening in Napa), what does that mean for life, the universe and everything?
Looking at Crystal and Ryan, and the fabulous business that has grown from a rental garage a decade ago, there's fortunately no need to answer that question.
They've survived the fires, this epic challenge, and their business is as strong as ever.
It's pretty cool.
If you want to know more about Crystal and Ryan's winery, visit www.waughfamilywines.com.
And if you want to visit Napa right now, the place is open for business. Honey and I spent an astonishing week there.
While you can see what the fires have done, you can also see the majority of the place, which is untouched and glorious, a joyful and thriving place full of entrepreneurs like Ryan and Crystal who are happy to welcome you.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
A CAUTIONARY TALE OF TWO BRANDS
This week's visit to fire-ravaged Napa is an anti-climax. That is, if you're looking for evidence of what the fire has ravaged.
We've been here for just about 24 hours. The place does not stink of smoke. What little we've seen is very much a normal, everyday, business-as-usual rural town.
However, we did have a poignant experience last night that serves to remind one what a brand really is all about.
We've long banged the drum for the fact that a brand as not a logo, a color, a font, a tagline, a website, or any other manifestation that one usually associates with a brand.
Nope. A brand is Thing One: Your brand is the one way your core customer should feel about your business.
GET THAT PART RIGHT, AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW
Conversely, you can get the other stuff right--the logo, the color, the font, the tagline, the website--and if you haven't figured out Thing One, it's all for naught.
A great example is last night's foray into town.
We'd asked someone for a recommendation for a good, local's kind of joint. The kind of place where you meet the real people who make the community happen.
We took the recommendation, and followed it up--encouraged by the establishment's website. It delivered all kinds of glowing, simple language about how they're steeped in history, how they do so much so well, and how they're fun, friendly and down-to-earth.
The rightness of Thing One seemed to be in evidence.
MARKETING, MEET REALITY
The place had all the right accoutrements.
It was an old building with an old bar, lots of natural wood and plenty of historical funk.
That's where the authenticity ends.
Off the bartender's New York Giants jersey, The Fabulous Honey Parker says, "Wow, Giants? You a Giants fan?"
"What? Oh. No. We were told we had to wear football jerseys. Someone gave this to me."
As a Philly native and an Eagles fan, Honey faces a lifetime of disappointment. Being able to commiserate with a Giants fan over the latter's tragic record this season would have been a natural opening to conversation, rapport, service and eventually, a tips
It didn't work out.
We tried to have some conversation with the woman. She was borderline helpful and disinterested.
IN FACT, EVERYONE WORKING THERE SEEMED BORDERLINE HELPFUL AND DISINTERESTED
Everyone working there seemed to have other things on their mind.
There was someplace else they'd all rather be.
The house-brewed beer was mediocre. The menu was uninspiring.
This was not the local's joint that we had hoped for.
Nor was it the fun, friendly place the branding elements had promised.
They got the down-to-earth part right, if you take that to mean "ordinary."
But they had ultimately failed at Thing One.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELTY DIFFERENT
Understand, this is Sunday night in Napa. Things are not exactly jumping.
We left exited the hall of disappointment and turned left.
Across the street was a block of restaurants.
We stumbled across one that looked different and better than the others. A tapas joint.
It was appointed in dark hardwoods with soft, amber lighting. It looked and felt comfortable. A few people were dining.
We stepped inside, ambled back to the bar and took a seat.
Our bartender was welcoming and gregarious.
He was ready and willing to make conversation--despite being the busiest guy in the place. He had other customers at the bar and was also the service bar for the wait staff.
IN THE KITCHEN, A CREW OF FOUR WAS SHUFFLING AND CLANGING AND MAKING STUFF HAPPEN
It was a well-practiced improvisational ballet of small-portion cuisinieres.
We knew we had found our place.
We asked questions. He made recommendations.
We asked about his story. We got details.
A fifth-generation Napa-ite, he is a career food service guy.
When he started quoting Bukowski, it was evident the party had started.
By the end of the evening, we had moved to the end of the bar. A couple from Chicago had sat down next to us.
THE BARTENDER HAD BECOME OUR MASTER OF CEREMONIES
He was making smart recommendations.
He was letting us taste unusual wines.
He was involved in the conversation just enough.
He was the Thing One incarnate.
And he was a raging profit center for that tapas restaurant.
He knows how to make his customer feel welcome, knows how to engage and entertain, and knows how to figure out what next.
He was tipped well.
SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED WHILE WE WERE THERE
The place became packed.
It was alive and jumping.
The waiters were always moving through the room.
The kitchen was in constant motion.
People were waiting for tables.
All this on the slow night in Napa.
And you know what this restaurant's website promises?
None of this.
THE WEBSITE MIGHT AS WELL BE A BUSINESS CARD THAT SAYS, "FOOD"
It makes very little in the way of promises.
It says very little about what they serve.
It says nothing about who started it and why.
It doesn't say, "We're a fun, friendly, down-to-earth place where you're going to have a great time with our bartender who's been in the business for 35 years."
The website is just not good. It is in no way a reflection of the Thing One that's going on in there.
But without the branding accoutrements that help make for a solid manifestation of the brand's message to the world, it still has a better and more competent brand than the place that has a good website and makes all kinds of promises that it can't live up to.
A BRAND BENEFITS FROM BETTER MARKETING
A good logo and an engaging website and marketing that gets attention and drives response--all of these things are good for business.
But without Thing One, without the foundation of a good, honest and authentic brand behind it all, those other things are for naught.
As David Ogilvy famously said, nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.
We left a place whose advertising was loaded with brand promise that it failed to live up to.
Going online and reading the reviews for that place, it's clear that our experience is not unusual.
WE THEN WENT TO A PLACE WITH NO BRAND PROMISE
It delivered beyond any reasonable expectation.
Going online and reading the reviews for that second place, it's also clear that our experience at that restaurant is not unusual.
The difference is that the general manager isn't having to routinely apologize to customers who've left lousy reviews--as happens at the first place.
It's possible that the first joint will never be ruined by the lack of brand integrity. This is a bar and restaurant in a tourist town in a location with a lot of foot traffic.
It may well survive.
But it will never be great.
It simply isn't all that interested in how the customer feels about the place.
Be Thing One. Everything else is just stuff.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
DOES THE NEWS MEDIA REALLY MEAN TO UNDERMINE A BRAND?
Yes, you heard the news.
The biggest brands in U.S. wine country, Napa and Sonoma, have been destroyed by wildfires.
Wineries, gone! Hotels, gone! Vineyards, gone! All gone, gone, gone!
Up there in California, it's like the dark side of the moon.
Maybe you've seen the news photo of the Malaysian gentleman who'd been visiting Santa Rosa.
He was staying at the Hilton Sonoma. In the photo, he's walking past a pile of charred rubble that used to be his hotel.
Gone! The Hilton is gone!
Who ever heard of losing a Hilton?
DEVASTATION, MAYHEM AND DEATH!
Yes, there are problems in Napa and Sonoma. Businesses have been destroyed. People have died. It has indeed been tragic.
And that's exactly why the Fabulous Honey Parker and I were planning on staying away.
We had business up there. We were planning on driving the CoupleCoach to Napa to interview couple entrepreneurs. We were gonna go all Charles Kerault on 'em.
We had delayed our plans in order to avoid hitting everyone during the harvest.
Then the fires hit. We saw the news. Oh, boy. We thought, Wow, let's just leave everybody alone. We'll go next year after they've cleaned up.
THEN, WE RECEIVED WORD THROUGH FRIENDS WHO ARE DEEPLY CONNECTED IN WINE COUNTRY
We were told in no uncertain terms, "Get up here!"
The person saying this has a business that supports tourists visiting wine country.
This person has lost all of her business. Visitors have cancelled their plans from now through February.
Because the news media in this country is vast and busy and immersive.
The 24-hour news cycle saturates the populous with ongoing stories and endless images of unimaginable devastation.
So what do you do?
You cancel your vacation to Devastation Land!
EXCEPT THAT, LIKE SANTA CLAUS, DEVASTATION LAND DOESN'T EXIST
"Despite the fires, the majority of businesses in both Napa and Sonoma remain open."
That quote is courtesy of the award-winning experiential travel magazine, AFAR.
It comes from an article they published online about two weeks ago. It's called, "What You Can Do to Help Wine Country Now--and Later."
Among their six tips, "Plan a visit."
And it made Honey and I say, "Of course. What were we thinking?"
It reminded us of the year that we changed our spring travel plans.
We are regular visitors to Jazz Fest, that immense and sonorous party on the New Orleans fairgrounds during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May.
IN 2005, WE HAD DECIDED TO TAKE A HIATUS
We had an immediate about-face.
What better way to support a town we love, whose major industry is tourism, than to come back as a tourist and bring tourist dollars?
The welcome we received was extraordinary.
Never have we been any place where people were so happy to see us.
We were even exhorted to take a Devastation Tour in order to understand intimately what had happened there.
SO, WHAT IS THE NEWS MEDIA BRAND IN THE INFO-SATURATION AGE?
It seems that the one way we're supposed to feel about it is we're getting the absolute horrifying truth at any minute of any day.
Here's the problem: it's like a microscope.
The news focuses narrowly on minute details without the context of the larger picture.
Hilton Sonoma destroyed!
Man visiting from Malaysia loses everything!
You know what else?
Seven wineries in Sonoma destroyed!
You know that that means?
Approximately 418 more wineries in Sonoma are still standing.
THINK THERE'S STILL A PLACE TO TASTE WINE?
Two hotels in Santa Rosa were destroyed, one of them the Hilton.
Cursory research shows at least three more in the area are closed.
Trip Advisor lists 75 more hotel options in Sonoma.
Think maybe there are a few other places to sleep off a day's wine tasting?
The 24-hour news cycle is largely about spectacle.
The spectacle of flames, destruction and death play to the old journalism adage, "If it bleeds, it leads."
Ironically, there are plenty of stories about how California wine country needs to lure tourists back to Napa and Sonoma.
WOULD THESE SUBSEQUENT STORIES BE NECESSARY IF NOT FOR THE FIRST ONES?
And those stories don't bleed.
They certainly aren't going to lead.
There just isn't much news value in, "Most everything's OK! Whoo!"
It seems that one of the best things we can do for our sanity is to avoid 99% of the news.
It just isn't worthy.
I have preferred news sources, they are time-honored and reliable. They go in-depth and tell you all of the what, where, when, how and why.
There are details and context.
When the superficial news media are reporting things that leave me scratching my head, my preferred news sources fill in the blanks so the stories make sense.
IN THE MEANTIME, WE'RE GOING TO WINE COUNTRY
Honey and I will be on location for Hot Shots and for CoupleCo, and we will return with stories.
With any luck, you'll enjoy them.
They will be about the brands and the people behind them.
There will be no devastation, mayhem and death unless it's relevant.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a teaser for CoupleCo.
It's fun, and the risky subtext of mayhem and devastation is certainly part of the allure. The stories these people tell are about how a business and a brand can survive--along with the marriage that launched it.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
HOW THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN?
I've left the mountain west and have traveled to the heartland.
I'm here to see a client.
I'm in the bar of a famous hotel chain.
It's a Saturday night, and the place is about half full. It's not long before a server comes over, welcomes me, and the next thing I know--
She's sitting on the arm of the chair next to mine, we're deep in a conversation, I know what her fiancé does for a living, and I'm having a great time.
I DON'T EVEN HAVE A DRINK YET AND I DON'T CARE
We'll call this woman Enid.
That's not her real name. But like her real name, it is unusual and it contains various letters.
Of course, eventually, Enid needs to get back to her actual work, and I need to place my order.
So, we do that.
And over the course of the next hour or so, she pops back periodically to check on my adult beverage needs.
And during those brief conversations, because it's part of what we do here at Slow Burn Marketing, the subject turns to personal brand.
I remark upon hers.
I say, "We define brand for the small business owner as the one way your core customer should feel about your business. So, what's the one way you want your core customer to feel?"
ENID DOES NOT MISS A BEAT
She is definite and concise.
She says, "I realize that my customer has been traveling, and I want them to feel comfortable and welcome."
Feeling comfortable and welcome means different things for different people.
I could've been a road warrior who showed up with a laptop, digging into my CRM software.
I could've been a family on vacation.
I could've been a team of reps here for a sales meeting.
She attenuates her degree of hospitality accordingly, for the person or people she's serving.
She knows how to read not only the room, but each table in it.
AND I'M WILLING TO BET THAT SHE GETS THE TIPS
It's hard to imagine anyone spending five years working in an airport hotel bar if it doesn't pay well.
But there's also another quality at work here, something I did not address with Miss Enid, but seems a significant quality so often missing in the workplace--especially one with a transient customer base.
Enid owns this bar.
Not on paper. This gigantic international hotel chain does not have a written agreement with her conveying rights, tenure and title to the bar.
NONETHELESS, WHEN SHE'S THERE, SHE OWNS THE JOINT
This is her bar and welcome to it.
Enid is one of those people The Fabulous Honey Parker and I enjoy stumbling upon: Someone we'd love to hire if indeed we had a business that actually hires people.
We don't have that. Honey is Slow Burn Marketing's President For Life, she keeps me around, and I do not get a salary.
Few employees would be willing to endure such an arrangement.
Nonetheless, "I'd Hire That Person" is a game we play.
And people with a passion and a commitment to their work, a joy for the job, and a strong sense of personal brand (regardless of whether they actually understand it in those terms or not) are huge and valuable.
THIS EPISODE IN THE HOTEL BAR ALSO GOT ME THINKING ABOUT THE ENTIRE TRAVEL DAY
How many different people did I interact with during my day?
How many service employee touch points did I go through?
There was the harried customer service agent in the airline's self-check-in area
There was the impersonal and efficient bag-check agent behind the counter.
The courteous, efficient hipster millennial working the Clear kiosk.
The big, goofy, smiling and happy TSA agent making sure nobody in the Pre-Check line was packing water.
YES, THERE ARE EVEN GUYS AT TSA WHO ENJOY THEIR WORK
In the premium lounge, there was the odd and grinning desk agent who may or may not have been on opiates.
The happy and efficient bartender in the premium lounge.
The frustrated and sweaty gate agent who laughed as he apologized over the PA for the failure of the fan in the over-warm gate area.
The first-class flight attendant who remained funny and engaging despite having to keep running and jumping through multiple hoops. (I high-fived her on the way off the plane.)
The hotel shuttle driver who pulled up to the exact spot where I was standing at the curb, opened the door, and laughed when I said, "See how you knew?"
The hotel desk clerk who was bubbly and fun after only five days on the job.
AND THEN, THERE WAS ENID
A server I don't know who plopped on the arm of the chair and started a conversation that led to this random blather about personal brand, ownership, and making the customer feel welcome and comfortable.
There were dozens of customer service touch points throughout my travel day.
Each of them was with the representative of a particular brand.
Some of them did better than others.
Some of the experiences were fleeting and unmemorable in the grand scheme of things.
But it now has me thinking about something that impacts how each of these people treated me during that day.
And it's my personal brand as a customer.
What is the one way I want my service providers to feel about me?
That's a whole other screed of a very different kind.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
ARE YOU STUCK ON YOUR BRAND?
And if you were paying attention on or after September 25, you've seen the video.
It's ridiculous. Those of us who appreciate the value of brands and trademarks and intellectual property rights have been having a good laugh.
And judging from the near 400,000 views at YouTube over the last week, it seems there are a few of us.
The video is called simply, "Don't Say Velcro."
It features an ostensible cast of lawyers for Velcro explaining why you should not be using the registered trademark name "Velcro" for describing just any hook & loop fastener--and they're doing it with a big, goofy rock anthem that recalls "We Are The World."
HAVING TROUBLE RECALLING "WE ARE THE WORLD?"
It was the 1985 charity single for African famine relief.
Recorded by a vast supergroup of musical stars, it was a big, swelling rock song dreamed up by Harry Belafonte, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones, and featured almost anyone you can name.
It became famous for a note pinned to the entrance of the studio: "Please check your egos at the door."
And now, 30+ years later, Velcro is borrowing the conceit of the rock super anthem as an awareness tool to get you to stop saying "Velcro" every time you encounter a hook & loop fastener.
BECAUSE IT DILUTES THE POWER OF THEIR TRADEMARK
The patent for Velcro-brand fasteners expired many years ago, so there are plenty of other hook & loop fasteners out there.
Why does this matter to Velcro?
Every time the trade name "Velcro" is used to describe some other brand, it increases the risk of Velcro Companies losing its trademark--and that would be catastrophic.
Did you know the generic word "aspirin" used to be a trademark?
IT WAS A HUGE MONEYMAKER FOR THE GERMAN PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY, BAYER
But because the name fell into rampant use by other companies around the world, and Bayer didn't defend it sufficiently, they lost their trademark.
It means they lost the exclusive right to market their own creation under its brand name.
Bayer also trademarked the name, "Heroin," which was marketed as a morphine substitute lacking morphine's addictive side effects, but that's another story.
As is Bayer losing the heroin trademark in 1919 in the wake of World War I under the Treaty Of Versailles.
As we often do here in the weekly screed, we digress.
Because you, like us, appreciate ridiculous trivia.
So, back to the ridiculousness of this Velcro video.
THE ABSURD, ANTHEMIC POWER OF THE VIDEO IS CAPTIVATING
The over-the-top craziness of this band of lawyers is impressive.
As is the production value--and the sensibility that created all this.
As part of the song goes:
And we know that this is confusing,
because Velcro Brand is who we are.
But if you call it call 'velcro'...
we're gonna lose that circled 'R'.
This is called 'hook and loop,'
This part's a hook, this part's a loop.
You call it 'velcro,' but we're begging you,
This is (bleep)-ing 'hook and loop.'
And yes, the "bleeping" is part of the video, the word they bleep is never heard, and you know exactly what the word is.
And Velcro Companies claims to be doing this on behalf of all brand names that struggle to protect their trademark, like Rollerblade-branded inline skates, Xerox-branded photocopiers and Band-Aid-branded bandages.
BUT HOW DID THIS CRAZINESS HAPPEN, AND WHAT CAN WE GET FROM IT?
This is a perfect storm of cooperation, sensibility, creativity, and an overarching plan.
The video was created by a North Carolina digital agency called Walk West.
In the making-of video (yes, there really is one), a Walk West Creative Consultant named Penn Holderness says, "Velcro Companies came to us with this educational brand campaign. We had a blast just looking at their creative brief and we said, so what if we just really kind of turned this into a ridiculous 1980s 'We Are The World' style benefit but for something that really is a first world problem?"
OK, it started creative. But how did the actual lawyers feel about it?
In the video, Velcro Companies' Legal Consultant Alexandra DeNeve says, "When they came back with this concept it was, for me, it was just like 'Eureka!' That's it."
Mr. Holderness goes on to say, "Once we met them and saw not only how approachable, friendly, [and] real they were and they were bold and they wanted to...take some chances... Velcro Companies has a really good, close-knit relationship between marketing and legal. And you kind of needed that."
I queried a friend and business associate who happens to be a certifiable smart person. She's also a lawyer and an entrepreneur. She says of the Velcro effort, "It's so uncool it's cool! And that's a pretty massive triumph for an IP issue. I also like it that these lawyers come across as endearingly human in all their geekiness, especially the guy who points out hooks and loops."
BELYING THE CRAZINESS IS RELEVANCE AND COOPERATION
In all the years I have been doing this, lawyers are often referred to as the Advertising Prevention Department.
Here's the thing about lawyers: If you can talk to them before you start working, if you can make friends with them and understand where the lines are, you really can go to the edge.
Lawyers can be friends of creative work if you bring them in early.
And at the risk of coming off as a cockeyed sexist piglet, I'm going to note that the lawyer quoted earlier is a woman.
Many screeds ago, we discussed a hedge fund manager we know who likes investing in companies with female CFOs.
He says the female CFOs often have a better outlook, that their approach to the job and the company is more holistic and not just about the balance sheet.
Maybe that extends to female lawyers. I queried our friend and business associate on this. She replies, "Interesting and complicated question. I think it's generally true. I also think that because of the gender-related pressure (and racial, for that matter) that any such tendencies tend to get suppressed in larger firms. Which is a real shame. But there's tremendous unspoken pressure (against the backdrop of "we love diversity!") to be just like the power people, who are mostly WASPy men... and so it goes."
Speaking as a WASPy man, this latter challenge is disappointing. But again, I digress.
CARRYING THE CONCEIT THROUGH TO OTHER TOUCHPOINTS
One of the problems with stunts like this video is often, they aren't carried through to the rest of the advertiser's touch points.
Velcro Companies has thought this through.
Now, using the trade name "Google" as a verb us another trademark problem. Nonetheless...
If you go Google the phrase "Don't say velcro," there's a link to their website, with the video right there in the banner, under the headline, "We ®VELCRO® Brand."
Beneath that, there's the headline, "Never a Noun. Never a Verb. Always on Brand."
The copy says, "We know. You don't mean to be a serial verber, but we decided to clear a few things up about using the VELCRO® trademark correctly--because we're lawyers and that's what we do. When you use "velcro" as a noun or a verb (e.g., velcro shoes), you diminish the importance of our brand and us lawyers would lose our *insert unfastening sound.*"
AND, YOU'RE INVITED TO JOIN THE CAUSE
Another headline reads, "Take a Stand with our VELCRO® Brand."
"It's not about doing it for us, it's about doing the right thing. Successful brands around the world need your support to help protect trademark guidelines. Pledge to end the era of broken trademark laws."
And you can opt-in for an email list.
And oh, just by the way, you also have the opportunity to find out all about the various Velcro products and how they improve your life.
And yes, they're even down to the minutiae of hash-tagging #dontsayvelcro. And tweets from fans are embedded in the "Don't Say Velcro" page.
BUT CAN THE SMALL-BUSINESS BRAND REALLY DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
Maybe not as enormously production intensive.
But it's entirely possible to start a movement, tongue-in-cheek or otherwise.
Online videos can be produced fairly inexpensively. Big expensive production value often isn't a requirement--but being thoughtful and consistent is.
In an age of WYSIWIG, drag & drop web development platforms, a dedicated website for the movement can be created very quickly and inexpensively. But again: thoughtfulness and consistency.
Using Facebook to promote the message can be done fairly cheaply. With the right material, people will pay attention. (Presently, a video for one of our clients has reached 2,000 people, almost 25% of whom have watched it more than once, 70% of viewers are staying all the way through it, and almost all of them are watching it with the sound on. The media cost? 50 bucks.)
Conflict is engaging. Humor with a core of truth is engaging. Letting people in on the joke and letting them play is engaging.
But like anything else, it needs to be done thoughtfully and with planning. And with consistency.
And it needs to inspire the core customer to feel the right thing. Never just a joke for its own sake. Like, "This is bleeping hook and loop," always, always, the right thing.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE EMERGENT CRISIS HITS THE FAN?
You know that we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are great admirers of breakthrough business models.
We will not use the phrase, "Outside the box." That phrase has become so overused, it is inside the box at the center.
That notwithstanding, one of those breakthrough business models hit me in the face in the wake of hurricane Irma.
I was sitting in my office, reading the news about the devastation in the Caribbean.
This was my old stomping grounds. During part of my misspent 20s, I worked aboard big boats that sailed the Caribbean, among other places.
So, as the news reports are rolling in, I'm wondering, What the heck?
WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THIS?
Homes and businesses leveled.
A friend's parents' house in Tortola is one of the mere 20% of structures left standing on that island.
The little island of Barbuda is uninhabited for the first time in 4,000 years. The entire population just up and left. Civilization there is gone.
Luxury resorts and charter-yacht fleets that were the economic fuel for local populations have been blown apart and scattered like kindling.
What do you do? Where do you begin?
AND ALMOST AS A RABBIT FROM A STORM-BLOWN HAT...
The answer landed in my Facebook instant message feed.
A yacht captain who lives in Antigua, an affable Brit with whom I had sailed years ago, sent a link to a non-profit that blew my socks off.
Not that you wear socks in Antigua.
But I'm in the mountain west. I'm prepared to wear socks.
I was unprepared for something that was such a natural fit, it made me wonder, How the heck did this not happen decades earlier?
It took someone with the right connections, and a little bit of thinking outside the boat.
YES, THE BOAT
Or, more accurately, the boats, plural.
The big, private boats that often use the Caribbean islands as their cruising grounds.
We're talking about the boats of the superwealthy, known in the industry as Superyachts.
These enormous yachts are more than the stuff of luxury St. Tropez daydreams and Hollywood movies.
Superyachts are businesses, operated by people who earn salaries.
These vessels are also underutilized by the people who own them.
What it took was an entrepreneur who has a support business that serves Superyachts to look at these underutilized assets and think, Here's an opportunity to do a lot of good.
YACHTAID GLOBAL WAS BORN
Yacht owners volunteer their vessels.
Yacht crews volunteer their time.
And the result is a de facto worldwide fleet of boats, and a crew of volunteers, ready to deliver humanitarian aid at any time.
Since 2006, YachtAid Global (known as YAG) has delivered relief to 50 locations in 20 countries via 40 superyachts and 400 volunteer crew members.
They work with other non-profit organizations, in-country connections, and NGOs.
And the work in the Caribbean has begun.
The volunteers are contacting yachts, obtaining relief supplies, managing logistics, and getting stuff where it needs to be.
IT'S IMPRESSIVE AND INSPIRING
Last week, I spoke to the two people spearheading the operation out of Atlanta.
It was about 5pm their time.
One of them had just gotten around to eating breakfast.
While we were talking, the other volunteer had to put me on hold.
He was taking a call from a Disaster Aid Response Team, comprised of former special forces soldiers, who were on the ground in storm-thrashed Turks and Caicos.
People are volunteering their time, doing good and making stuff happen in short order.
THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM
Many people see a yacht, and they see conspicuous consumption gone wild.
Typically, aside from an extraordinary feat of marine architecture and engineering, I see a microeconomic system that fuels the livelihoods of hundreds of people.
There's easily a couple of million bucks a year spent on maintaining and staffing that vessel.
That's a whole lot of income feeding and housing a whole lot of families.
But now, that vision has been supplemented by the potential for a charitable juggernaut that can move aid quickly, getting food, water and shelter to families in need, and getting it to the hard-to-reach places where it needs to be.
Super yachts doing supergood? Mmm...maybe we'll work on that.
In the meantime, if you're interested in knowing more, you can find them at http://yachtaidglobal.org
AND WHILE WE'RE SPEAKING OF THE CARIBBEAN...
Back in the spring, we talked about a breakout small business brand in St. Thomas called Pizza Pi. (Yes, that's P-I, "pi," as in the mathematical constant. The owners are certifiably smart people, and one of them went to MIT.)
Ranked on Trip Advisor as the #1 restaurant in the U.S. Virgin islands, Pizza Pi is a boat that anchors in Christmas Cove, dispensing gourmet pizzas to boaters in the area.
Pizza Pi was closed for the summer season, and Chef Tara and Capt. Sasha were off St. Thomas when the storms ripped through.
Reports are that their vessel is alive. It had been hauled for the season, and despite some damage to the rig, the overall outlook is good.
Also, Chef Tara is one of the organizers of a GoFundMe campaign to aid residents of the Virgin Islands. Funds are directed specifically to the USVI. More info at https://www.gofundme.com/us-virgin-islands-irma-relief-fund
In the wake of the storms, no matter where you are, here's to plenty of water under your keel.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHO REALLY IS RESPONSIBLE?
I woke up Monday morning to hear the news, oh boy.
The NBC executive who coined the phrase, "Must See TV" had died.
His name was Don Ohlmeyer.
A veteran of NBC Sports, Mr. Ohlmeyer was also the man responsible for having Norm MacDonald fired from SNL for too many jokes about his friend, OJ Simpson.
What about this smells wrong?
And how surprised is Dan Holm going to be?
DAN HOLM IS THE WRITER/PRODUCER WHO SAT DOWN AND WROTE THE PHRASE, "MUST SEE TV"
Of course, the success of NBC's famous Thursday-night promotion is going to the executive who happened to be sitting in the chair when it all happened.
In TV, nobody celebrates writers.
Except maybe the other writers.
And as the story is told, Mr. Holm didn't exactly trot out "Must See TV" as the powerhouse tagline to promote Thursday nights.
The story goes that Mr. Holm used the phrase in a promotional script. A gentleman named Vince Manze, who ran the network's promotional agency, saw the genius in it and cherry picked it for greater things.
This happens all the time. For one of my own clients, I've written a tagline that began its life buried in a piece of body copy.
THAT TAGLINE IS WORTH FAR MORE THAN THE CLIENT EVER PAID FOR IT
But it also required the ability to recognize its value, and be plucked from body-copy obscurity, and thrust into the spotlight as a defining statement for the brand.
And nobody's going around saying, "Hey, look at the tagline Blaine wrote!"
They're going around, repeating the tagline.
It belongs to the brand, not the person who wrote it.
And that's OK. If I go to my grave being known only for the brand tagline for a specialty product for the construction industry, it's going to be a grand disappointment.
I'd prefer to go to my grave for being known as a fabulous dancer.
But I digress.
Credit for copywriting notwithstanding...
FOR A WHILE, "MUST SEE TV" WAS A BRAND JUGGERNAUT FOR NBC
That was the era of the coveted Thursday-night viewership domination.
Shows like Mad About You, Wings, Seinfeld, Friends and ER all happened during that period.
And certainly, much good did come out of NBC during Mr. Ohlmeyer's tenure as president of the network's west-coast division.
That said, the gentleman also had a reputation.
Mention of that reputation probably won't be popping up in any of the obituaries-and it's a reputation for a trait that is so common in marketing.
The Fabulous Honey Parker has seen it repeatedly in her career in Big-Agency Advertising.
I've seen it repeatedly during my career in Small-Business Advertising.
THAT REPUTATION IS ONE FOR BEING A PREVENTION DEPARTMENT
Depending on the environment, sometimes it's called The Advertising Prevention Department.
In the case of Mr. Ohlmeyer, it might be called the Programming Prevention Department.
According to the Infallible Oracle Of Everything, Wikipedia, Mr. Ohlmeyer's reputation at NBC was that he was "...not the inspiration behind NBC's hits in this period, but was often a roadblock they had to work around to make them happen."
The article goes on to say that he insisted the hugely popular NBC drama, ERwould get destroyed by Chicago Hope at CBS.
Of course, ER went on to win a total of 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, 124 Emmy nominations (making it the most nominated drama program in history), and picked up 116 awards in total during its tenure.
AH, BUT WHAT ABOUT BEING BASHED IN THE RATINGS, AS PER OHLMEYER THE ORACLE?
Besides being a critical powerhouse, ER spent a couple of seasons as the most watched show in North America, and for years fought with Seinfeld, another NBC show, for the #1 ratings slot.
Mr. Ohlmeyer also didn't want to give the go ahead to Will & Grace.
He insisted a TV show with gay characters couldn't reach a large mainstream audience.
As the highest-rated sitcom among adults 18-49 from 2001 to 2005, and winner of 16 Emmy Awards out of 83 nominations, it seems that Mr. Ohlmeyer's nose for what people would buy was not 100% dead accurate.
And this is not a slam at all at Don Ohlmeyer.
Far from it, in fact. He helped make some amazing things happen.
BUT IT'S A CAUTIONARY NOTE FOR ANYONE PUTTING CREATIVE WORK INTO THE ETHER
And the cautionary note is perhaps best illustrated by a line given to us by a CoupleCo interview subject.
If you don't know, CoupleCo is a nascent project being launched by The Fabulous Honey Parker and me.
It will start life as a podcast about and for couple entrepreneurs, and grow into other media.
We were interviewing a couple who have a photography business, and are a raging success.
We asked each of them, "What is the single most important piece of advice you could give a couple who wants to be in business together?"
Without hesitation, he said, "Don't think your opinion is always right. Because 99% of the time, it's not."
AND THAT IS A FINE BIT OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE
Especially in a business where one either has to help create a brand, or has to put that brand before the public (I'm talking to you, all you writers and small business owners-you're all in this together), fear and ego are your enemies.
Again: Fear And Ego Are Your Enemies.
We've talked about this before.
We will talk about it again.
Fear says things like, "Oh, I can't do that, it'll insult someone."
We've literally had a client be afraid of a piece of copy that talked about how hard it is to read a menu in a dark Chinese restaurant.
Without using this exact phrasing, the client said he was afraid it would be considered a micro-aggression against Chinese people.
WHAT HE DIDN'T REALIZE IS IT HAD ALREADY BEEN RUNNING FOR YEARS
We were asking him to approve not the entire advertisement, but just an edit to the advertisement.
It had been on the air for seven years. In those seven years , no one had ever called him on his politically incorrect micro-aggression.
As for Ego, that's the little voice in your head that tells you things like, "Yes, those are the rules for other people, but I'm above that."
Or, "I don't like that so nobody will."
Ya know what?
I love olives. Happy to eat them.
Ya know what else?
Honey Parker hates olives. Will not eat them.
We will never come to an accord over this. It's just the way things are.
ONE THING WE DO AGREE ON IS THAT WE DON'T ENJOY WILL & GRACE
We are not the Will & Grace audience.
But we do not begrudge the TV viewing public its fondness for that NBC sitcom.
And we admit, it was well done.
And one of the brightest spots for us is Megan Mullally's supporting role as Karen Walker. This character is described (in know-it-all Wikipedia, of course,) as "'a spoiled, shrill, gold-digging socialite who would sooner chew off her own foot than do an honest day's work.' She is also a promiscuous borderline alcoholic/drug addict with an often tenuous grip on reality and very few morals."
Really, Ms. Mullally is just damn funny, and a stellar comic actress.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER?
After all, TV programming is an incredibly complicated big business. What can the small-business owner take away from this mayhem of convoluted mega-business mishegas?
Well, don't be afraid of good creative.
Don't let Fear & Ego rule your decision making.
And ultimately, it helps to turn to one of NBC's iconic leaders, the late CEO and Chairman Grant Tinker, who also co-founded MTM Enterprises with his then wife, Mary Tyler Moore.
Mr. Tinker was known for his distinctive approach to all things business, "First be best, and then be first."
Of course, that requires defining the word, "Best."
What is best?
That's a topic for a whole different screed.
But be guaranteed, it isn't fueled by fear or ego.
If you'd like to know more about couples who are not ruled by Fear & Ego, check out this teaser video for what's to come at CoupleCo...
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
ARE YOU DILUTING YOUR PROFITABILITY?
If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know that the Fabulous Honey Parker and I are big fans of the F-word.
Focus, focus, focus.
A relentless consistency and focus is the profit goblin of sharp minds.
Knowing that your brand is the one way your core customer should feel about your business can help drive a focused entrepreneur to big profitability.
But what happens when you split your brand focus?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF DOING TWO THINGS REALLY WELL?
When you have two ways and two core customers?
Well, ain’t that a conundrum.
Ultimately, it depends upon how you handle it.
Here in town, there’s a photo gallery that specializes in big, dramatic landscapes.
Their work is stunning.
But mixed in with their landscape photography are some other stunning photos. These photos are of horses.
You could argue that they’re also landscape photos, as the horses are usually shot in the context of the landscape.
BUT YOU’D BE WRONG
Moreover, the photographers won’t argue that.
They know that the horse photography is off-brand.
Fortunately, it’s on-fleek.
OK, yes, I said that. And I’m sorry. So poke me with eyebrow tweezers.
Anyway, the horse photos are off-brand and still stunning. So, it works.
While talking to one of the gallery owners, he said that in a perfect world, he’d have a second gallery up the street that specialized exclusively in the horse photography.
HE GETS HIS BRAND
He understands the one way the core customer should feel about his work.
And he knows that the horse images are speaking to a different core customer and engendering a different feeling.
Maybe someday, he’ll have that second gallery.
In the meantime, it doesn’t appear to be hurting his business.
He is focused and consistent enough.
He’s not the Grace L. Ferguson Airline & Storm Door Company. (Thank you, Bob Newhart.)
The brand survives the digression.
MANY BRANDS WOULD NOT SURVIVE
We recently did some work for a solopreneur who was rebranding her physical therapy business.
We’ll call her Margie Smith. That’s nothing like her real name.
Margie’s business was slow. To make ends meet while she built that business, she was doing some social media work on the side.
Ironically, the name of the physical therapy business was capable of being applied to the social media business.
So she did the smart thing.
She turned her business into the Margie Smith Physical Therapy Clinic & Social Media Agency.
No. No it’s not. And it’s not what she did.
She started a separate business using the same name, focusing on social media. The physical therapy business remains separate and distinct.
No brand would survive such a split focus.
Recently, while visiting a winery in (of all places) Iowa, we were talking with the winemaker and tasting his wines--which were quite good.
But in the tasting room, he two different wine lists.
One was for his estate label. These were his tried and true wines. This brand was established and very formal. This was the wine upon which he had built his name.
The other label was for his experimental wines. These were the wines that he wasn’t sure he was going to keep around. But he found them good enough and interesting enough to put on the market.
SOME OF THEM WERE ARGUABLY STUNT WINES
Really, what else would you call a red-hot, spice-infused wine that can remain tasty while stripping the varnish off your throat?
It was impressive.
I salute anyone for trying something so ballsy.
And the wine sells--especially in bars favored by motorcycle riders, apparently. That’s one of the places where these wines are favored--because the brand name evokes power and energy and romance.
It seems unlikely that the hot pepper wine would ever be moved over to the estate brand.
If it did end up there, what would it do to the otherwise respectable, heritage brand he’s been building?
It would help undermine that brand.
THE ESTATE BRAND WOULD LOSE CREDIBILITY
And he knows that.
So instead of splitting the focus of his product line, he merely has two different brands, each a two different focus.
Over here is the stately brand.
And over there is the wild child brand.
And not to pat ourselves on the back here at Slow Burn, but one of the million-dollar brands we helped build came as the result of relentless focus.
The business came to us wanting to advertise a particular service as part of their existing brand.
We said, “You could do that. But it’s a distinct specialty. And you’re going up against a national specialist brand in the category. So why not split it off and build a brand for that specialty?”
THEY DID. IT WORKED.
So, what about your business?
Do you do many things in your category?
Are you crushing it in those many things?
Or would it be smarter to take one of those things, split it off into a new category, and become the category’s 600-pound gorilla?
Understand, we’re not saying you should do it.
But it’s worth some introspection.
Because it could be that you’re doing seven things adequately, and one thing really well--and that one thing could be the ticket to building a monster brand.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.