Nuts for

I’m an Amazon Prime guy. Amazon probably captures 80% of my online spending. But I also eat a lot of fruits and nuts and does such a great job of marketing and customer experience that they get 100% of my spend on that category.

But why? Is the website magic? No, it’s a functional e-commerce site that’s nothing special to write home about. Is the product amazing? No, they sell a commodity – nuts. I defy anyone to tell me the difference between a $4 organic fair trade cashew bought at Whole Foods and one from a Planters can other than sanctimony and guilt. Are the prices the lowest? No, they’re about average. I’ve found lower, but I continue to give my business to and pay a little more.

So what makes so dear to this marketer’s beating heart? All the little things.


Awwwww. Just like Con Ed. (New Yorkers will get it)

The whole tone of their branding makes you smile. They market themselves as a family business that’s been around since 1929 when “Poppy Sol” started the business. That’s a warm and fuzzy. Where ever possible they use a goofy font that is friendly, approachable and resembles a grade schooler’s penmanship – emphasizing the story that there’s real people behind this purchase. The transactional emails are written in a jaunty friendly way that stands out from the cold cold copy of other emails. When my package arrived, they (through the carrier) sent me an email that said “Hiya Christopher! Doorbell. Special delivery from the nutmobile.”. OK, maybe it’s a tad hokey. But I’m a jaded New Yorker and I still think it’s cute.

The packaging is bright and cheery and has little anthropomorphic nut characters on it. The packaging is also durable, easy to open and easy to reseal. It has a little clear window so you can see the contents. Someone clearly put some time and thought into that consideration. Other sites I used to order from just dump the nuts in a clear plastic bag with a twist tie that may or may not be originally intended as a garbage can liner. well branded bag

Good branding! Nobody’s going to look at this bag and ask “Hey, where’d you get those pumpkin seeds?”

Fulfillment is great, I got an email every step of the way and I got my nuts the very next day after I placed my order. OK, it’s coming from a few miles away in New Jersey, but still!

They offer a 100% money back guarantee – for any reason. Now, I’ve had no cause to see if this is true, but it jibes with the whole brand message “we’re a family business of nice friendly people who just want you to enjoy some nuts”.

Jeffrey, Kenny, Uncle Sandy and Cousin David you’re doing a hell of a job.

Tesla segmenting

Mr. Musk’s patent surrender really has got me thinking hard about Teslas and marketing segmentation. I can’t think of another auto brand that says so much about a person than Tesla. Well, an auto brand that has a product for sale under $100,000. I think we can all imagine the type who drives a $250,000 Lamborghini and you probably don’t want to sit next to him on a long flight even if it is first class. But a Tesla? Tells me right off the bat you’ve got a lot of disposable income, you’re probably highly educated, interested in technology and environmentally sensitive. 

If I had a business in the Hamptons or Greenwich or any play ground of the 1% the first thing I would do would do is to go out and buy a Tesla Super Charger and market the beejeezus out of it. If you don’t know, Tesla is setting up a network of super charger stations that will recharge the Tesla’s batteries in under an hour, thus eliminating the “range fear” of running out of batteries before you can recharge your car.

What would I stock for these people? Solar cell phone chargers. Maybe some high end gluten free snacks. $10 organic artisanal scones. I’m not sure, but as I watch that Wall Street bond trader who wants the world to know he’s successful but not too full of himself exit that amazing car I will most certainly keep track of what he’s buying. ABT: always be testing.

Think of Facebook as a cocktail party.

I was at a wedding once on Cape Cod and the bride and groom had rented out a house for their close friends to stay at and party for 2 days leading up to the big event. One of the guests was a marketing manager for Coors. When she arrived she brought with her 10 cases of Coors products and started stocking the party coolers with them, even though the hosts had already selected other beer brands for the guests to drink. She brought out Coors t-shirts and started handing them out to the guests. She wore Coors branded clothing every day, but thankfully not at the wedding itself. It was completely inappropriate behavior for a small gathering of friends and downright obnoxious for a wedding. If I didn’t already think Coors products were awful (which I did) I certainly had an adverse opinion of the brand after this event.

And yet it’s this approach that a lot of companies use when marketing on Facebook.

Now, if that same Coors marketing manager had just been a normal guest and in the course of conversation had mentioned a new microbrew they were coming out with or had chatted me up on Coors’ environmental efforts knowing I was interested in corporate responsibility that would have been perfectly fine. I would have listened and perhaps her message might have resonated with me.

This is the approach companies and brands need to take with Facebook. Be conversational. Be informational without being super market-y. Bring value in the form of support for questions or issues. Bring hard benefits to the forum in the form of coupons or discounts. Be fun with sweepstakes or contests.

Be the life of the party.

Brilliant graph

social media expert perceptions

Click the image above for a most interesting article on customer vs. company perceptions of social media in e-commerce. The full article can be found here.

QR needs higher marketing IQ.

I was on a bus to New Jersey recently and as we exited the Lincoln Tunnel I noticed a highway billboard that could really only be seen from the highway with a QR code on it. Take a moment and think how absurd that is. You are barreling out of Manhattan at 40 miles an hour about to negotiate a corkscrew turn in heavy traffic and somehow you’re supposed to take out your phone, launch your QR code app and snap a picture in less than a second?

I see QR codes on subway posters. Ummm, no data connection underground, remember?

I see QR codes on bus ads. Not inside the bus, but on the outside of the bus. That’s fine if the bus is pulled up to the curb, stopped and picking up passengers and the ad is on the right (curb) side of the bus, but no campaign should contain so many “ifs”.

This is typical “we should do it because everyone is doing it” marketing mentality that is really quite shameful. As marketers we’re limited by budgets, sure, but we shouldn’t be limited by creativity and thoughtfulness. Because not only is the placement of these QR codes utterly worthless, most of them link to the company .com homepage which is not optimized for mobile devices. I don’t know about you, but I am not pinching to resize a site on my iPhone for minutes on end to get a marketing message.

I passed a window treatment for real estate listings a while back and one of the listings caught my eye. It had a QR code and I thought this would be a good use of QR codes if done properly. You could really make an apartment or townhouse come alive with video or virtual tours. The first listing’s QR code I tried brought up a page not found error. The next listing’s QR code linked to the real estate company’s home page which was not optimized for mobile devices. The third did link to the property listing page but it again was not optimized for mobile and it contained no additional information than the 8×10 glossy card display in the window. Pointless, completely pointless. Well, it did achieve one goal: it frustrated the bejeezus out of a potential customer.

Only partially tongue in cheek suggestion to Starbucks

For New Yorkers a Starbucks public bathroom was a much appreciated relief oasis in a desolate desert filled with “Restroom for customers only” signs. Of course, in New York as on the internet once something becomes common knowledge to the unwashed masses (craigslist, myspace) the quality goes right into the toilet (pun intended). So Starbucks has suspended their open bathroom policy which was previously a great way to get foot traffic in the door. A sad day for cross-legged and squinting New Yorkers but understandable given the antics that were going on in their establishments. But not all is lost, perhaps this is a new marketing opportunity?

In loyalty marketing there are two types of customer benefits: hard and soft. Hard benefits are quantifiable – think coupons. Soft benefits and more esoteric and psychological and meant to build warm and fuzzy branding feelings – think a customized card on your birthday. Sure, lots of retailers have mobile apps and the hard benefits are there to instill loyalty: discounts mostly. But what about a mobile app that had a soft benefit of epic proportions to the on-the-go New Yorker: it opens bathroom doors.

I personally hate Starbucks coffee: bitter and thin I find it. I think I’ve purchased 5 cups in the 15 plus years I’ve been exposed to the brand. Given their sales and ubiquity I’m clearly in the minority. But if their app could open bathroom doors it would be the very first app I would download when I get my Christmas present to myself: the iPhone 4s. It might soften my opinion, maybe get me to try one of those ridiculously overpriced double half skim whatever foamy fru fru drinks I’ve previously managed to successfully live my life without.

You listening Starbucks? Here’s how it works. You install those 4 number code push button locks on your bathroom doors. In the app, in addition to the announcements about new drinks and coupons and all that stuff that everyone already does, you have a section that lists the 4 digit codes to the bathroom locks. Of course, it’s geo-location driven so just push a button and the app tells you the code for your current Starbucks location. And maybe you don’t allow that feature to work unless push notifications is enabled in your settings allowing for greater app value?

Open letter to Groupon pt. 2

Dear Groupon,

In my last open letter to you in February of this year, Groupon, I wrote that in a few years you’d look back on the $6 billion buy out offer from Google and kick yourself for not accepting. Well, maybe it only took a few months for the self booting to begin, the interwebs do move with the alacrity of a jungle cat. According to Hitwise you suffered a 50% decline in traffic from June to August of this year while Living Social saw a 27% increase over the same period. Facebook launched and then killed their shopping coupon efforts due to lack of interest. Coupon sites in general have seen a 25% traffic drop off in traffic. Rumors are that merchants have negotiated down your 50/50 revenue split to 80/20.  And finally, Google launched their coupon efforts. More competition, less traffic, user overload, lower margins…not looking too good.

Six billion. You passed on six billion dollars. Oh, the hubris.

OK, I’ll stop now. Kicking a man when he’s down and all that. Just a few more words for you Groupon….


Vaya con Dios,


Retargeting needs an off button.

I recently became a customer of Clear the 4G mobile wireless internet provider. Before I signed my contract I visited the Clear website to check out plan options and look at reviews and probably did a few Google searches with the terms “Clear 4G” in them. My search and cookie history “Clearly” (groan) had potential Clear customer written all over it.

Smart ad networks picked up on this activity and began serving me Clear banner ads every where I went online. I don’t mind the intrusion, it’s targeted, relevant and at least they’re not those floating flash banners you have to chase around a site like an errant toddler. But what I do mind is that there is no way to make them stop. I’m a Clear customer now. I’m acquired. It’s been two months and I’m still getting served Clear banners.

Which is remarkably interesting and ironic. Because these banner ads are so well targeted they’re actually – in my case – completely, utterly and uncompromisingly irrelevant. And they would be so for every person who converted off of the Clear web site or Google search or whatever criteria they’re using to target me. Maybe in a hyper targeted world the old basic demographics such as males 21 to 35 aren’t as dead as we think they are?

Suggestion: a “next offer” button on retargeted ads to keep things fresh and the inventory more relevant.

Social media worth it? Pt. 2

A recent study of 2010 holiday purchasers gave us some really impressive numbers about the power of social media.

Of those that left a negative post on social media about a product or retail experience 62% were contacted by the company responsible. Of those contacted 33% deleted their original negative post and 32% turned around and left a positive review.

A few weeks back I posted about whether social media was worth it. Well, I’d say these numbers bear it out. With a simple tweet or facebook post you can change the minds of 65 out of 100 angry customers. Talk about cheap and effective customer service.

TV has a lot to worry about, or does it?

I recently read that three quarters of all TV viewers are multitasking in front of the glowing box. Some are texting, some are on the web and some are actually TALKING on the phone. How quaint.

Much has been made of this recent behavioral development in media chatter. TV is dying some say.  But I say different. This past Super Bowl I watched the game in a bar with a few close friends. But I also watched the game with a few dozen friends on my iPhone. Through Facebook status updates or Twitter posts I was getting my friends’ reactions in real time.

And this is not just for huge events like the Super Bowl. Living in New York I have friends who are theater people: actors, singers, etc. From them I learned about the show Glee. I may not watch Glee, but I am certainly aware of it even if musicals are not my thing. According to a recent Harris poll 43% of online adults in the US have posted something online about a TV show. That’s good buzz.

So this multitasking is actually helping to spread the word about TV content. In a market with hundreds of channels word of mouth can be critical to building an audience. I know word of mouth got me to watch Always Sunny in Philadelphia which is now one of my “can’t miss” shows even if I do watch them on and not in real time, because I don’t own a proper TV and have no cable subscription.

Which segues nicely to the danger for the future of TV – the rise of viewing TV online. Or not as the case may be.

I was a casual viewer of the ABC show “V”. I used to watch episodes on ABC’s web site but for some reason they removed them. And now I’m no longer a watcher of “V”. See how easy it is to lose me? Conversely, I found out recently that every episode of every season of South Park is on Comedy Central’s web site and while I was a fan of the show I never had cable so I didn’t get to see many episodes. Well, now my eyeballs are getting fully monetized because I’m slowly going through all 14 seasons episode by episode.

Why would ABC shun one new distribution channel popular with the youthful demographic that marketers crave in favor of the old distribution channel popular with geriatric fans of Matlock and Murder She Wrote? I’m sure some misguided executive decided that the revenue from ads on the website weren’t sufficient and they’re cannibalizing eyeballs that would normally watch at 9pm on whatever day V airs. Except they’re not. If I really, really, really liked V maybe, just maybe, I’d put a reminder in my video enabled mobile device to sit on the couch for an hour at the appointed time and watch 45 minutes of show and 15 minutes of ads. But I don’t really, really, really like V. I kind of like V. I’m in like with liking V. So, for me, if I can’t get to it quickly, easily and when I have time – you lose me, my eyeballs and my purchasing power entirely.

Now what if V were made into a video podcast? Well, now I’m a little less “meh” about those alien hotties from the crab nebula. I could watch on my laptop at home or my phone on the way to work. While the numbers may not be there to charge advertisers as much as you would TV, some eyeballs are better than no eyeballs. Plus, you have the advantages of sharing. With the click of a button I could tell my 200 Facebook friends or my 500 twitter followers about V.

The medium is the message. Did you get the message? Medium well done.