Archive for January, 2011


DATE: January 13th, 2011

“There is nothing so easy to learn as experience and nothing so hard to apply.” Josh Billings had plenty of pithy wisdom. Had we taken this 19th century journalist to heart, consulting would not be nearly as lucrative an industry today.

Marketing does not come from the gut – that’s a myth. Marketing is about spread sheets, algorithms and forecasts. Tracking is everything. But once you have tracked the results, it is critical that you use marketing skill and the tools that you have gained from experienced to analyze the results.

About a year ago Barefoot was hired to put a specific program in place for a company. The client kept the raw data and gave us their interpretation. Now, we should be bright enough to push for the raw data – but we trusted our client. Unfortunately, the client used the gut, not the numbers. A year later, new staff in place, the team was confused by Barefoot’s lack of insight into the program.

If you have made one marketing resolution for 2011 I hope that it’s this:

“We will track with accuracy and apply dedicated analysis to the information.”

The strength of your future success lies in tracking your current results. As an experienced marketer, I can give you trends. I can even look at general numbers and predict some trends. BUT your data base and customer strategies are unique. For success in your marketing you need to track the results and analyse them month over month, year over year.

Resisting solid tracking techniques is much like a man who sets out in the morning to find wood for his fireplace. He has no idea where the forest is, nor does he have a map. He stands at his doorway, looking as far as he can see. But it’s not obvious where the forest is. So he uses his gut. Setting out where he thinks there may be a forest, he walks for hours. As the sun begins to set, he traces his steps and returns home.  Exhausted and frustrated, he forces down a cold supper one more night. Tucked under warm comforters, he gets a solid sleep. He sets out again the next day. Unfortunately, the snow has covered his footsteps, so he is unable to trace his path – and, following his intuition, heads out in the same direction, walking the same route.

Silly story?

I don’t think so.

So many companies are doing the same thing again and again because they believe that marketing is a gut feeling based on clever creative. While clever creative is a great benefit to any campaign, tracking your results, comparing campaigns, understanding the times and seasons is much, more important.

Don’t take a stab at it. Be intentional, purposeful and deliberate in understanding the effectiveness of your direct response, brand, media and social media.


DATE: January 6th, 2011


In the 70’s the marketing industry was buzzing with theories of “relationship marketing.” As if building a relationship with your customer or donor was a novel idea. We bandy about the idea of “personalization” all the time. In fact, I have my own name tattooed on the butt of a gorgeous woman in my own personalized calendar. Unfortunately, the company printing the calendar assumed their audience was male.

Relationship marketing, personalization and localization are not new concepts. They simply acknowledge that your customers/donors are real people who live in real communities and have real lives. Companies like President’s Choice have incredible opportunities to personalize campaigns to their customers – if you have their credit card and use it to buy groceries; the company knows a lot about you. Facebook uses localization and personalization very well – because you volunteer very personal information. Why Smirnoff is the ad that appears on my facebook page is beyond me, but on the whole, facebook quickly ascertains your core identity.

The future of marketing lies in the algorithms that mine information out of data.

We need to be prepared. I have seen few data-wise, localized marketing pieces that show intelligent selection, but all of the pieces are falling into place to make that happen.

I am not wise or prophetic, so you need to discern this blog for yourself, but I believe that the future of successful marketing lies in these three factors:

–          A rich customer/donor data base

–          An intuitive analyst

–          Smart testing

We have the technology – we just haven’t accessed the full knowledge and resource pool to use it to its full potential.

Direct Response

DATE: January 5th, 2011

First of all, direct response is NOT direct mail…. it is all channels that effectively give consumers/donors a chance to engage immediately. The response is able to be tracked directly from the channel used (web, mail, TV, radio …).

Direct response advertising is carefully crafted to allow the customer/donor to understand the sales proposition and respond immediately and directly to the store/corporation/organization. The Snuggie has already sold 25 million products in the US alone…. all from that little infomercial popping up at Christmas. That means that tonight, as the sun goes down, 1 out of every 12 Americans is curled up in their little Snuggie, playing on the iPad, messing with games on their android phone or using the remote – without any fear of their blanket falling from their shoulders.

Is direct mail dead? For more than 10 years this little question has been lingering in the minds of marketers. According to All Business, more than $37 billion advertising dollars are still invested into direct mail. Where surveyed, 18 – 34 year olds preferred offline marketing for health and household products. 45% of US men and 35% of Canadian men do not use social media – at all (Epsilon).

Direct response tactics, carefully crafted and implemented should impact all of your marketing efforts. The days of a chasm between brand advertising and direct response marketing are gone – especially in on-line formats and immersion marketing tactics. With new mobile and tablet devices, the opportunity using direct response theory to effectively increase your sales or donations is critical. Understanding the push to purchase will make all the difference in your bottom line.

So here are some foundational principles for success using direct response tactics:

1.       Know who you’re talking to. Whether you are using a house list or purchasing a list, the audience is will determine your tone, your offer and your format.

2.       Start strong. David Olgilvy, famous for pithy marketing wisdom, said: “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80% of your money.” You have to catch the customer/donor’s attention immediately.

3.       Understand that your ultimate purpose is to motivate the customer or donor to ACT. Direct response marketing is designed for action. It is not to educate, inform or inspire; your ultimate goal in choosing direct response tactics is to get a response.

4.       Take the time to convince your audience. Professional direct response writers are savvy – they understand that the amount of copy required for a direct response piece is the amount of copy that it will take you to convince your audience to act – no more, no less. This is counter intuitive. Most of my clients tell me that a one-page letter out-performs a two page letter. I tell them to show me the numbers. Frankly, a well written 4 pager that is easy to read and motivating is often the winner. Don’t trust your intuition – test.

5.       Talk to your customer – not to your programmer, project lead, board member, great aunt or product designer. Use simple words. When I worked as a copy writer, my boss would automatically discount any word with more than 7 letters. Oops…. he would slash any word with more than 7 letters. He immediately questioned any sentence that was verbose and refused to accept my argument that the reader wanted a more intellectual approach to the sales. Oops, again – he insisted on sentences of 14 words or less.

6.       Sell, clearly outlining the way to buy. I saw an ad for a new video in a magazine. It was on the back page – good choice, easy to see, easy to read. It was bold. As I scanned the ad, I realized that I had no idea what they wanted me to do. I think they wanted me to order the video – but it had no order information, phone number or e-list. Using words like “Call now.” “Go to www.”; “Respond immediately…” work. Frankly, the longer I work in a marketing environment, the more I realize that we are simple people, requiring simple instructions (Go IKEA).

7.        The offer is KING. The copy is queen, but using a medieval, gender biased example, offer is king. Fashioning the offer in a way that will motivate the sale means that you have to know your customer. Think about these two offers: “BUY 2 iPads today and we will reduce the price of both of them by 50%.” OR  “Buy your iPad today and we’ll give you another one FREE.” The very same ad – but one packs a punch.

8.       Test, test, test…. Testing helps you understand your audience, product offer, graphics and copy. There are many different ways to test and important factors to take into consideration…. it’s a great topic for another blog!

Here’s my little quirk – I talked about a past boss (thanks Grant, I learned sooooo much from you) – but I too have acquired little quirks about marketing writing. Whenever you see the clause “it is….that” edit is out. Those of us who have suffered the trials and tribulations of academia have been well versed in passive writing. There is ABSOLUTELY (I realize I’m shouting, but it’s the end of the day and I really want to emphasize this)… once more, there is no reason to ever use the words “it is… that.” Check your writing and see if it ever crops up! Enjoy cutting it out, making your writing active and interesting. You may want to edit this article and see where I’ve messed up!

Innovation… brand

DATE: January 4th, 2011

Air Canada promises their customers to “Go Far.” West Jet is Canada’s “preferred airline.” Air Canada is firmly entrenched in corporate Canada; West Jet, the people’s choice air line. Air Canada’s “personality” is created by the public’s perception: financial bail outs by the government, poor service and the “bully” air line. West Jet’s employees own the company; they care about their customers – enough to run after them when they forget things on the plane. West Jet is driven by community, for people, by the people.

Air Canada promises that you will travel far in a plane that is safe and well managed. West Jet promises that you will enjoy your trip.

In today’s marketing climate, innovating your brand and developing your own personality, is critical. Positioning yourself in a crowded market is extremely important.

Innovations in brand development begin where you are, within your customer’s and potential customer’s perceptions.

This is not new, it’s not riveting and it’s not rocket science – but it has huge potential for innovation.

Left on its own, the brand will be determined by others. Nurtured and positioned well, your brand will speak clearly about the company you want to be. One only has to watch Steve Jobs for a moment to understand this ego-centric, eccentric digital guru. He has thousands of i-followers who believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is the leader. He is a genius in marketing.

But most of us are not Apple. We are small and have an intimate client or donor base that supports our product or service. Brand is still essential – no matter what our size.

One of our European charitable sector clients wanted to be perceived as young, informed and on the leading edge. Yet when they met their donors face to face they were tired, in their early 70’s and, well, old and out dated. The challenge for them was that their aging audience defined them and they were very careful not to disorient this aging group of donors. This is a very real challenge for older companies and charities. The Bay faces that challenge every day – strongly supported by blue-haired matrons, women under 40 don’t choose to shop there. Eaton’s made the fatal mistake of misunderstanding its audience and plummeted into bankruptcy. Innovations in brand understand the reality of the current understanding of personality and, if they desire to re-define their brand, they will begin with their current customers.

Another client is young and entrepreneurial. Yet they want to highlight their team driven environment. Their youthful enthusiasm gravitates to extreme sports – men jumping off of mountains, climbing step and rocky slopes, skiing unexplored territory. Their imagery consistently portrays them as independent, self-directed and extreme. They are walking a slippery slope. While they want the passion for their product to resonate, they have not yet discovered a way to articulate that in an exciting team environment. Their design team is creative and is able to approach each new communication piece with a new perspective. Applying a variety of creative approaches is fun – but does not affirm the brand promise. Rather, it re-affirms independence and inconsistency.

In many ways innovative brand development is difficult for highly creative people who want something new. Innovation means taking what we know, using that knowledge to affect change. To truly build a powerful brand, means that each member of your team needs to know your brand promise. And that promise should be articulated in 20 words or less. Tim Horton’s: fast, priced low and convenient; Starbucks: an experience we’re willing to pay for. iPhone: cool and young thinking; Blackberry: middle aged and corporate. Air Canada: cool, impersonal and dependable; West Jet: young, friendly and fun. Interestingly, none of these brand personalities is intimately tied to the actual product – they are intimately linked to the user experience.

And that’s the key.

Your personality is not tied to your product, it’s tied to the experience your customers or donors feel when they engage with you. In 2011 true innovations in brand will start with understanding your personality, building a consistent user experience within that personality and extending that experience to everything you do and say: from face to face encounters to magazines and written communications to your web experience.

I dare you….. be innovative.

Innovation… trends for 2011

DATE: January 3rd, 2011

Like all innovative bright minds, I began this blog with quick Google search on innovation. There were over 112,000,000 results in just 0.12 seconds. The first page listing, after the definitions, included: innovative interfaces, innovative systems, innovative surface solutions, innovative scuba concepts, innovative integration. Ironically “” is under construction.

Derivatives of “innovation” slip smoothly off of our tongues. Innovation appears so frequently that the word has lost much of its meaning, become reductive in its overuse. Yet innovation is essential for growing companies and organizations.

Many of us confuse innovation with invention. Innovation is not invention. Few of us invent new things. Rather, to innovate is to begin with something that already exists. True innovation takes the present and changes it in ways that increase the productivity, effectiveness and/or usefulness.

Over the holiday lull, I have been ruminating on what it means to be innovative. (After all, we describe ourselves as innovative.)

I believe that innovation is the most important trend in 2011. While social media has demanded unlimited attention, a Twitter account will not save a tired marketing plan. True innovation will come from marketers who are savvy, understanding the underlying principles of marketing. They will apply those principles with creative innovation.

Marketing innovations in 2011 will include:

1.       Re-invention of brand, positioning for increased performance

2.       Direct Marketing strategies and true personalization

3.       Localization in digital streams

4.       Increased tracking

Check in tomorrow – I’ll start with brand….