Marketing Partnerships

Is Obama Going to the Dogs?

Even though this post is going to be about Barack Obama and an election, there’s nothing political about it. I just heard about an interesting marketing partnership. Barack Obama and the American Kennel Club (AKC) are asking people to vote on who the “First Dog” should be should Senator Obama become president. There’s a website with the vanity url where you can vote for one of 5 dogs chosen to match the special requirements of the presidential life, such as “Must be able travel on Air Force One.” Also, Senator Obama’s two children are allergic, so the dogs must be hypoallergenic.

When I first heard of this, I thought it was pandering, that Obama was getting a dog just to win the critically important canine vote.

Then I went to the site. I saw that the site was apolitical, and balanced. The site also points out that Senator McCain and his wife have 24 pets including 4 dogs, but that this will be the Obama’s first dog.

According to the AKC, Senator Obama promised his daughters that after the election they could get a dog, win or lose. The site has links to the 5 dogs up for “election” as well as two breeds of McCain dogs, but being the AKC, they conveniently leave out a profile of his mixed breed canine Coco!

I saw the way the AKC is using the opportunity for education, pointing out that after the decision to get a dog, the next most important decision is the type of dog you get. Breed characteristics are critically important. (As my wife and I ponder a dog for our own family, we’ve been learning about the pros and cons of different breeds. For instance, as much as we love Bernese Mountain Dogs, they’re not the right dog for an urban apartment!)

By the time I was done checking out the site, I realized I loved this marketing partnership. Obama gets publicity, and his daughters get a dog. The AKC creates a buzzworthy opportunity to educate, inform and build brand awareness.

But there is one aspect of the promotion that bothers me. There are 5 breeds of dog in the running for First Pup: Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Miniature Schnauzer, Poodle and Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. Now, it doesn’t bother me that there’s not an American breed to be found in this bunch of foreigners. And I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I can’t stand any of the candidates except the Wheaten.

No, my question concerns Obama’s two daughters and the oftentimes questionable taste of the electorate.

Can someone please explain to me how the Obama girls are going to feel if the public elects a dog they can’t stand?

Directed Advertising

Something Is Rotten in Darien

I passed a sign the other day for the “Darien Days Carnival: Some Fun for Everyone.” I saw the sign quickly, so when I got home I looked it up just to make sure it actually said what I thought I read.

Yup. “Some Fun for Everyone.” (Read this article from the Darien News -Review if you need some confirmation yourself.)

Why the word “some?”

Is there some small amount of fun for each person who dallies at Darien Days, but not a lot of fun? Will each person find some single thing they enjoy, but not many things?

Or is “some” used as a superlative, like “That was some game!” or “You got you some mad Texas-Hold ’em skills there, Old Son!”

Or maybe, just maybe, in this era of super-sized-superlatives, somebody in Darien was just exercising some much-needed restraint.

I can’t help but be reminded of a favorite line from a favorite book, Richard Bach’s Illusions, that goes something like this: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.”

I think it’s far more likely that the slogan for Darien Days was created by a committee of some kind.

I can come up with some more reasons if I put my mind to it, but a man’s got to know his limitations, and I’m approaching mine.

So can someone please explain to me why somebody felt the need to put something extra into the Darien Days carnival theme line?

Integrated Marketing

Portrait of the artist as an integrated marketer


My friend, the artist named Marrus, is the best integrated marketer I know. That’s because she is her brand, she lives her brand, she presents a consistent brand image to everyone she meets, and she has a heck of a story to tell.

When she’s not fighting for the right to show her work on Jackson Square in New Orleans (Click here, then see pages 7 and 9 of the newspaper pdf), Marrus travels from Renaissance Fair to Kink Festival to Science Fiction Convention, selling her art and painting faces.

Her tribe is far flung, she’s always on the road, and yet she’s always connected to her community via the internet. And because of this connection, she actually makes a living as an artist, mostly from sales of her prints online and at these events.

She started LiveJournaling because it was the logical way to stay in touch with her far flung tribe throughout the nomadic lifestyle she’d forged. Her posts during and from post-Katrina New Orleans, where she’s rebuilding a home and studio, and those of her partner Jay, who geared up and went back into the ravaged zone and was soon an integral part of the rebuild in some tiny town in Mississippi, were riveting and real, and public.

Her growing involvement with her community of fans has been hard to keep up with. The more popular she gets, the harder it is to answer every post, meet every fan. Like anyone who dives into the Groundswell, she has joined a conversation that she may have started, but no longer controls.

She’s writing an autobiography-journal sort of thing, and I was privileged to read a manuscript and give my opinions. Marrus is a person who lives in the now, vibrantly, and so the last thing I would have expected is that her book about her life would feel anything at all like hanging out with her in real life did. Except it did. For the three days I read the book, it was like hanging out and having one long extended conversation with her. Like a holograph, any one slice of Jen can deliver a fully integrated experience.

She was even the subject of a question I asked Seth Godin when I attended one of his paradigm shifting book tour appearances for The Dip. The question? It was hard enough for creators to have any distance between themselves and their fans before the internet, and blogging. Now, building a community online, a relationship with your fans, is all about personal relationships, answering posts and emails, opening up. And once you’ve built it, you fail to nurture it at your own risk. So, how do you manage community growth when you are your organization and you have limited time? (His answer, as always, was on point (paraphrased from memory, so be kind, Seth): be honest and renegotiate your relationship with your community in a way they can understand, and then own the consequences.)

Marrus is a microcosm of every brand out there that realizes they don’t own the conversation, even when the conversation is intimately about their brand. She’s got scalability issues, budget issues, resource issues, risk management issues (she’s been burned out, flooded out, and victimized by unfair and uneven government intervention), marketing issues, advertising issues, inventory issues, customer service issues… you get the point.

And yet her brand is fully integrated, 360 degrees, 24/7, always showing a consistent message to everyone she meets from every angle. She doesn’t know whether the kid whose face she’s painting is the child of a potential buyer of her original art. She doesn’t know if the person trying to get her attention at a show is one of her most devoted fans or a blogger or the art critic for the Times or just somebody who wants to know where the bathroom is. And she doesn’t care. Her customer service department is fully integrated with her marketing department, able to make the right choice to deliver customer satisfaction and a good user experience with every interaction. Her advertising department would never say something that Legal wouldn’t approve. And her CEO champions every new venture, no matter how cutting edge or low tech, regardless of ROI, as long as it’s in line with her brand integrity.

So, can someone please explain to me why every company and every brand isn’t striving to be more like Marrus?

Integrated Marketing

Bronx Zoo SNAFU

My wife and I have been members of the Wildlife Conservation Society (The Bronx Zoo) for years. This year, rather than renew online, by phone, or by mail, we opted to renew in person. The mailer with our special renewal offer listed multiple ways to renew. We decided to renew on the Family Premium plan, an upsell from our normal Family Membership. Among other things, the plan offers 4 free parking passes, each worth $12.

This Saturday, renewal form in hand, we went to the Zoo. At the cashier booth at the entrance gate, we handed them the renewal form and my credit card and asked for the Family Premium Plan. I was told that I would have to do that up at the entrance gate, that this was the parking cashier, and that I would have to pay $12.

“Will they reimburse me for parking when I buy my membership?”, I asked.


I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation, which involved me trying every way I could to get out of paying the $12 that, had I renewed any of the other ways, would have been handled by a Parking Coupon. It turns out, the parking has nothing to do with the Zoo. And the parking cashier said this was a continual problem, a known issue, and that’s just the way it was.

We paid. We parked. We went to buy our Family Premium Membership at the ticket booth. There, in sequence, the preparer who hands you the clipboard with the form to fill out and then the membership specialist behind the counter (my term, I didn’t ask for an actual title), both repeated basically the same story. They were sorry, but the parking was separate, it’s not our fault, we hate that this is what happens all the time, and we won’t reimburse you for it.

I did get promised that he would notify his bosses that the direct mail memberhip renewal form, which he pointed out also was done by others, not zoo memberhip, failed to tell people that by choosing to renew in person, they’d pay $12 more for the privilege.

To add insult to injury, when we asked the membership specialist where we should go to rent a stroller, he pointed us inside the gate to a kiosk with a group of strollers next to it. But when we went inside the gate to that exact kiosk, we were told that we had to rent the stroller at the ticket booth, and that we would get the stroller 10 yards further up the parking lot driveway.

So outside the gate we went, back in line to the ticket counter, to rent a stroller. Then, ticket in hand, we went up the road that connects one parking lot to another, to a couple of guys standing around a batch of strollers. They gave me a beautiful example of a well-used Bronx Zoo plastic stroller, one with two matching numbered id tags. The stroller guy told me that, when I went to the first exhibit at which I’d have to check my stroller, give the attendant both of these id tags. Somebody had forgotten to take them off at a previous check in.

So, what does this have to do with integrated marketing? Well, to me, the consumer, the Zoo is the Zoo. It’s not the parking lot franchise, it’s not the direct marketing agency and fulfillment subcontractor. And even if I have no right to expect that all of those entities could work together to deliver a premium experience, I could certainly expect that fellow employees who worked all day and all year together a mere 15 feet away from each other, within speaking distance, would know what each did and how each interfaced with the customer.

In other words, hardly integrated. More like another example of segregated marketing.

As a long term, valuable customer to the Zoo, one who has increased his purchase level over time, who buys Camel Rides and souvenirs and overpriced bottles of water, one who might actually pay for one of the pricey overnight events this year now that his daughter is old enough, wouldn’t it have made sense to reimburse me for the parking?

If there’s nobody in charge of customer experience, then situations like the one described are common. If there were somebody who has an integrated view of every customer touchpoint, and the power to act to improve those experiences, could you imagine him allowing a situation like this to occur, continually, repeatedly, with his best customers, renewals?

Can someone please explain to me how one of New York’s top tourist attractions, a worldwide leader in the care and treatment of virtually every species of animal could fail so miserably at the care and treatment of the one species that pays for (justifies) its very existence?

Your Questions

Your Questions

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to ask as part of the blog, please post it here as a comment. And unlike the standard brainstorming statement, “There are no stupid questions,” I believe there are stupid questions, questions that can distract or offend or are just excuses for you to link spam me, and they won’t be approved. Now go ahead and ask your question. I dare ya!

Directed Advertising

I hope the U.S. Army aims better with guns than billboards

There’s a billboard off the northbound side of Rt 95 near Stamford, Connecticut advertising Army Football tickets. Why? Of all the places you could put a billboard for Army football tickets, why there?

I’d like to believe that there’s a reason. That research showed that a high percentage of West Point Military Academy alumni or people otherwise predisposed to buy Army football tickets drive by that very spot on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a guerrilla marketing play, and it’s there just to catch the attention of a single alumnus, now a military contractor, who buys tickets by the truckload to give out to legislators. Or maybe it’s just there to stick it to Navy, with the submarine base just up the road in Groton.

West Point isn’t the only college I’ve seen that’s advertised on billboards in strange places. I’ve seen college recruitment billboards for out of state schools on the New Jersey Turnpike. I can’t remember the school because it made such little sense. But again, I’d like to believe that there’s a reason. That a worthwhile portion of applicants to the school actually come from New Jersey. Or that a significant portion of a rival schools applicants come from New Jersey, and our school wanted to steal market share.

The alternative is just too grim to think about: that some agency (or in-house marketing department at West Point) made a specific choice to advertise there, or worse, they bought a generalized outdoor buy that delivers generic driver eyeballs in random locations with little oversight or audit.

Isn’t there a more targeted way to reach potential Army Football ticket buyers than a billboard in Stamford CT? Any form of directed advertising, from behaviorally targeted online ads, channel sponsorships, paid search, direct mail to alumni lists, blog ads on sports blogs, etc., etc., etc.

By the way, the day isn’t that far off when seeming anomalies will be spawned by the dozen thanks to media targeting programs that allow you to find anyone anywhere. There’s already Balihoo, which promises to let you find virtually any target across virtually any medium (including out-of-home). And I’ve got to believe that the best media buying companies have their own in house versions that go deeper, broader and faster than that.

But until that day, or if that day is here already, can someone please explain to me who the ad-snipers from West Point are aiming at on Rt. 95 north in Stamford, and why?


Pandas and Beavers and White Guys, oh my!

I like “The Ladders” job site. I used it, even after I saw their ad on TV. You know the one — there’s an average looking white guy playing tennis, when suddenly he’s deluged with people running on the court to play, too. The line is “When you let everybody play… nobody wins.”

I didn’t see the problem with the ad until recently when a friend of mine, Laura, pointed out that the “everybody” in the commercial were women, people of color, people who were overweight, or sloppily dressed, or older, or… well, basically, anyone who wasn’t our middle aged, white male hero. It’s a good commercial, centered on a great metaphor, as long as you don’t look past that metaphor at the reality of the institutional discrimination that suffuses every frame.

How did I miss it? Especially because, as an overweight, scruffy-faced, frequently long-haired and usually sloppily dressed guy, I’m clearly one of the undesirables. Come to think of it, my scattered mixed bag of experience probably makes me one of the undesirables on the job search front, too. CEO Mark Cendella seems to have missed it to, judging from his response on, which focuses on the elitism of the $100K salary threshold as opposed to the casting in the commercial. (Please note: Response no longer available.)

On the other hand, I was instantly offended by the Sales Genie commercials, both the “Panda” commercialthat aired on this year’s Super Bowl and the “Indian Salesman” that aired during last year’s Super Bowl. And while I clearly wasn’t alone, with some bloggers jumping on the commercials right away, there seemed to be a lack of outrage from interest groups, publications, the news and the rest of the powers that be.

Now, finally, compare all three of these ads to the Danica Patrick GoDaddy ad that was banned from running on the same Super Bowl. An off-color but not explicit extended beaver joke that winked at pop stars and their “accidental” exposures to get noticed when a good domain will do. Even though the full beaver ad never even ran on TV, it was met with shock, outrage and vitriol.

Why am I dragging this out now, months after the ads started running? Because I was watching a dvr’d show the other day when my 3 1/2 year old daughter came in just after the Sale Genie Indian Salesman ad ran. I started thinking about racism, sexism, elitism, and all the other isms that get bandied about all the time and wondered what I would have answered my daughter if she asked me about the funny man with the funny accent in the commercial.

Can someone please explain to me why the GoDaddy commercial gets banned, while the SalesGenie and The Ladders ads don’t?

Integrated Marketing

Segregated Marketing

The other day I was putting together a comparison of various media CPMs (define) to contextualize the extra value of paid search impressions for a local business client. So I went to Google and found the website of a local newspaper yesterday, looking for a rate card.

There was no online rate card. There was no “Advertiser” tab. There was no “About Us” or site map. I looked through all the contact us info. Nothing. There was a link to “Place your Classified Ad” (catering to the dwindling minority who’d rather place a classified ad than go on Craig’s List or eBay) but even that section had no link to display advertising information or an advertising department.

I spent 10 minutes searching the site, then returning to Google and trying a deeper search there. Finally, I picked up the phone. And got an answer in 30 seconds and a PDF of a rate card emailed to me in minutes.

Aside from the silly feeling I got from inhaling a little too much high tech irony while bouncing online and off, it occurred to me that this was a perfect example of what integrated marketing is not. It was, in fact, “segregated marketing.”

Integrated marketing is not forcing someone out of one channel and into another. Or making a potential customer feel foolish for having pursued a quite reasonable course of action. I believe that integrated marketing is about providing a consistent experience to your stakeholders, preferably organic, authentic and respectful.

I read a great post the other day by Elana Anderson on ClickZ called “Five Fundamentals of Integrated Marketing” . When asked for examples of integrated marketing companies, she said that while there are plenty of good integrated marketing programs, she had seen few companies that truly excel at integrated marketing.

The Center for Media Research is a bit more positive, reporting on an ANA study that finds that while integrated marketing is a trend and that 2/3 of executives surveyed say the feel their company’s marketing function has become more integrated, only 13% of them are satisfied with their company’s marketing structure.

So with that, here’s the first of what I hope will be many insight-provoking questions.

Can somebody please explain to me why we (marketers & consumers) still tolerate segregated marketing?