Samuel Adams

The new Samuel Adams commercials brilliantly reflect the company’s passion for their product. They manage to inspire us to imagine how a brewery run by passionate brewers leads to great products.   With this effective advertising, we consumers are more likely to entrust our consumption decisions to the brand, rather the people behind the brand who we believe takes great care in the creation of their products.

Great co-branding

Burton and Mountain Dew recently announced partnership to produce a clothing product made from recycled Mountain Dew bottles.

Why is this such a smart marketing? Because it connects the thrill-seeking psychographic profile and image of both brands customer base, while also recognizing the target youth market segment is now also environmentally-conscious.

Although a win-win for both brands, I think the Burton brand benefits most from this product effort.

Why I am short Walmart

As someone who feels strongly about a good retail experience and that retailers can offer a lot of value to consumers, I realized that I really can’t stand Walmart.  I find the business uninteresting and lacking in providing a value-add retail experience for consumers.

From an industry perspective, I worry and hate the idea that Walmart is putting other, perhaps smaller, retailers who add value by educating consumers and curating product inventory, out of business.  In my mind, the retailer serves a wonderful primary function of being a trusted solution provider.  This involves curating product inventory, educating the consumer on how to use products to derive desired solutions, and lastly, providing customer service when the product maybe doesn’t solve the problem.    Does Walmart do this?  Overall, I would argue, no.   Walmart’s business model and strategy is instead focused on everyday low prices and being a one-stop shop for almost everything.  Eye glasses, auto-repair, groceries, televisions, etc.   How can a retailer specialize in all these different product categories?  Answer: They can’t.  And service suffers as a result.  Essentially Walmart is the brick-and-mortar version of, but probably adds more value because they can at least recommend things you might be interested in buying.

customer service is terrible   Don’t blame Walmart employees for this either.  It isn’t their fault.  The Walmart business model doesn’t focus on the potential value that its employees could add to the consumer’s shopping experience.  Walmart doesn’t care that non of its employees are not experts in any product category, and they don’t care about employee turnover, as a result.   How can we expect this employees to be excited and informed about the products being sold in the store?

penny wise, dollar stupid    When people go to Walmart, they go there expecting to save money.  Instead, they end up buying more than they had originally planned and spending more money than they would have likely spent had they gone to a specialty retailer for the specific item that they needed originally.

no curation value-add    Walmart’s idea of curating its product inventory is looking at suppliers who can supply the large enough volume at low-enough prices.  Where does fit of product features and consumer preferences of different market segments get factored into store buying/merchandising decisions?    Am I finding anything unique in the Walmart store located in my hometown versus another Walmart store location?  Am I finding anything unique at all in the Walmart?  I would argue no.  The shopping experience is void of any taste and style…it is a colorless experience, from my point of view.   I prefer spending my money with retailers who are passionate about their products and business, and who help tell me what I should want.   Walmart presumes its customers already know what it wants, and it just provides it a low price.  Boring.

boring business model    Congratulations Walmart, you’ve become an expert at supply chain and economies of scale.   This business model existed and was well utilized in the 1900s.  How exciting it must be to be all about size and volume, and that’s it.


IKEA store’s pretty clever grassroots Facebook campaign

The grassroots Facebook campaign an IKEA store used to drive awareness of its new store opening, was a clever utilization of what social media offers: rapid information dissemination.  Essentially they used the tag feature in Facebook pictures to get people to tag themselves on items sold by IKEA.  Read the quick summary here.

Denny uses QR codes on menus to keep customers entertained

I think this simple campaign by Denny’s is a clever way to keep customers entertained while waiting to eat and to make customers feel like they are getting something special for free.  QR Codes provide this sense of specialness since we cannot see the URL and source of the information directly. For us, it is kind of mysterious, since we are taken directly to the video content.


Bogota uses mimes instead of traffic tickets!

A primary purpose of this blog is collect and share ideas that provide supportive evidence and examples of how great business can be as simple as returning to older, tried, and fundamentally important ways of doing business.  Hence the title of this blog “By Hand”.

This post is about how a city government used shame, a fundamentally powerful and effective force for influencing our behavior, to get people to obey laws and act more safely.   Peer pressure still works long after junior high school!  I came across the story while listening to a June 21, 2012 Freakonomics podcast, and a synopsis of the story is as follows…

In Bogota, Colombia, the capital city’s mayor at the time, Antanas Mockus, hired mimes to essentially make fun of citizens who were walking or driving unsafely in city streets.  A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers.  By publicly drawing attention to the citizens as they drove or walked unsafely, the Mayor’s brilliant idea was to use peer pressure and our natural desire for social conformity to cause these unlawful citizens to feel shame and change their behavior.   The city government did not hand out traffic tickets with financial penalties to these jaywalkers or unsafe drivers; rather it used shame prompt behavior change.  As a result, the citizens learned  Gazette 2004 03.11 Photos 1-Mockus1-450lessons learned by their heart instead of the wallet; and the rate of traffic accidents in Bogota were greatly reduced!

According to a article, initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn’t follow crossing rules, but the program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.



How to create brand advocates

I really liked Rob Fuggetta’s article on generating brand advocates, the pursuit of which I think should be at the core of almost every business and marketing strategy.  I agree with all five things Fuggetta says a company needs to do to create them:

  1. Provide an “insanely great product.”: This was one of Steve Jobs’s famous statements. Very few people go out of their way to advocate mediocre products or services. Advocacy starts with having a product or service people are eager to recommend.
  2. Deliver memorable service: In an era when so many products and services are similar, service is the great differentiator. Nordstrom, Zappo’s, and Four Seasons hotels are examples of companies that created legions of advocates by providing extraordinary service.
  3. Focus on good profits: As loyalty guru Fred Reichheld has stated, there’s a difference between good profits and bad profits. Bad profits include earnings from price gouging, cutbacks on customer service, and hidden charges.
  4. Do the right thing, even when it costs you money: It’s easy for companies to do the right thing when it doesn’t cost extra. But when doing the right thing costs companies money, many firms take the low road. For example, if allowing a customer to return a lemon costs you money, do it anyway. Much better to do this than create a Detractor. If your company has screwed up, admit your mistake and fix it as fast as possible. In the social media age, a handful of disgruntled customers can harm your company or brand’s cherished reputation.
  5. Have a social conscience or get one fast: People are more likely to recommend companies and brands that have a social conscience. When it was revealed that Nike was paying low wages to workers, its advocates abandoned the brand. Take a social stand on issues or give back to your communities. Brands like The Body Shop earn advocacy in these ways.