Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I’m Dreaming Of A…



The BBC news hit the airwaves while many Americans were still sound asleep…”Black Friday Sales in the US Increased Significantly Despite Economic Worries.”

The good news?

Black Friday sales increased by 8.3% compared to 2006 with more than 147 million shoppers purchasing $10 billion of worth of stocking stuffers…nearly 7 million more shoppers hitting the aisles on Friday compared to last year!

With all the gloom & doom and roller coast ups & downs of the last couple of months, you would think that Wall Street would resemble Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras!

But no…the CNBC ticker-flickers have been wringing their hands over the statistic that the average sales ticket was down 3.6% from a year ago. In actual dollars and cents, shoppers spent $12.60 less this past Friday than last year.

Maybe they spent it on the gas now selling over $3.25 per gallon driving from one store to the next to find the best deal?

But talk about naysayers…

The headline on CNBC.com…”Happy Holidays. Recession Worries on the Rise.” Their opening line… “The holiday season is here. A recession may not be far behind.”

I might be hooked on “oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh…", but hey!...maybe I am just a consumer cultural optimist!

On 11/1/07…CNN Money reports… “World's largest retailer, anxious to capture holiday sales early on, plans to offer a $348 laptop computer and a 50-inch plasma HDTV for $998.”

Twelve days later…CNN Money reports… “Wal*Mart sales posted better than expected earnings.”

Could it be that shoppers are getting wiser? Could it be that they actually compare prices on the web? Could it be that toys made in China are selling cheaper this year? Could it be that retailers are responding to the consumer voice that enough is enough and we will set market prices not you!

Could it be that the economic business model might be changing?

A good friend of mine called me on Thanksgiving Day to wish me holiday cheer. I asked him if he was cooking up the turkey. He replied, “no!”…he and his friends got tired of the same-old-same-old and instead, they were cooking up some Cajun shrimp and red beans and rice. They also planned on little-to-no-left-overs!

Maybe…just maybe…the marketplace is telling us something that the Holiday cheer is really all about!

Postscript Addition – Hey…the Tuesday edition of USA Today reports that Internet Sales on Wired Monday were up more than 30% over a year ago!

Knock Knock Wall Street…Who’s There?!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Human Desire To Win!

These first couple weeks of November are sacred.

The leaves on the trees here in Atlanta are right now at their peak. The nights are cool enough for the fireplace, but the days are still warm enough to wear shorts.

And it’s also a time when the best rivalries of football take place.

I spent Saturday afternoon in Athens watching the Georgia Bulldogs take on Auburn. It was a game that will long be remembered.

The Dogs were passionate about winning that game.

Earlier in the week, the seniors on the team requested that the whole team play the game wearing black. Doesn’t sound like much, except the team never before in history wore black jerseys despite the fact that the team’s colors are red and black.

With many of the games taking place in 90 degree+ weather, the majority of the fans don’t wear black either.

The coach went to the press last Tuesday and asked fans to wear black and not red.

98,000 fans come to the game and sit in the stadium. Another 20,000 fans tailgate in the parking lots around the stadium and watch the game on their portable flat screen TVs.

My father called me and told me not to even show up to the game dressed in anything but black.

My dad is a big time Georgia fan.

When I entered the stadium wearing my black polo shirt, black sweat-shirt and black hat, nearly all of the other 98,000 Georgia fans were also dressed in black.

Talk about brand loyalty!

After proudly singing the Alma Mater and National Anthem, we all waited anxiously to see if the team would be playing the game in black.

The team leaders coming out to toss the coin had on red jerseys, but black shoes and socks. I made a bet with the fan next to me that the team leaders had black jerseys on under the red ones and that the team would run out on the field wearing black.

Sure enough they did. And the stadium literally rocked.

Georgia went on to win the game. The score was 45-20. At the end of the game, dance music hit the airwaves and fans young and old stayed in the stadium and danced. The players actually got up in the stands and danced with them.

A few weeks ago, when Georgia scored their first touchdown in the Florida game, the entire Georgia team ran out onto the field and celebrated. They ended up getting penalized 30 yards. They knew they would have to pay the price, but the spirit it generated fueled the team to go on and win the game.

The coaches actually planned having the team do it.

How many of you reading this right now spend your marketing dollars getting the public to change behaviors? How many of you are brave enough to break with tradition and conventional rules and execute what some might call heresy?

I do admit it. There are a number of times that I question if we are crazy doing what we are passionate about doing here at BrandVenture. Then I quickly realize that the clients that sit on the defensive and cannot even begin to consider anything other than their standard way of doing business do so clutching onto a sinking ship.

Go Dawgs! Georgia was passionate about winning that game.

Here at BrandVenture, we are passionate about our journey into the Human Desire to Win!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

An Endangered Species -- Customer Service!

The front-page article headline in our Atlanta Business Chronicle reads “Delta Under Fire For Frequent Flier Change.” The article goes on to say that there will be fewer award seats and that Delta will be passing on a surcharge for the tickets.


The headline ought to actually read: “Delta’s Post Chapter 11 Team Stupidly Forgets Who Pilots The Airline.”

The President running Delta, Ed Bastian is also the CFO – the bean-counter.

Ed was previously vice president of finance and controller and was promoted to senior vice president in February 2000. In his online bio, it says that Ed “guided Delta through profit improvement initiatives garnering $5 billion in cost savings and revenue benefits between 2002 and 2004.

On September 14, 2005, Delta filed for Chapter 11.

Atlanta consumer advocate and WSB talk-show host Clark Howard talked about Delta’s decision on-air and made the comment that “the real trend in the industry is to just make fun of people.”

Ed is probably a very nice person…he probably also has an MBA degree from a top business school.

And Ed is not doing stupid things like this alone.

This past week, I went through a nightmare experience with the management team at Best Buy and my purchase of a washer and dryer. When I called customer service at the store, all I heard was a defense of the mistake. When I called the 1-800-number for customer service, I got a repeat performance.

BrandVenture recently conducted some customer in-store encounter surveys for a retail client to find out why a couple of markets had declining sales despite increased national chain sales.

The best news from the study?

Despite the lack of customer dialogue, despite counter clerks walking away from customer in the midst of their orders, and despite delays in receiving product, the customers still loved the product.

It’s simple. Service today sucks.

If we were in a product-driven economy, everyone from Ralph Nader and Consumer Reports to the FTC and FDA would be screaming, the press would be hounding Wall Street, and Business Schools would be driving home a message of product quality and product safety.

Airlines, banks, cable providers, phone companies, retailers… how many times in an average day do you think that they say the phrase “I’m sorry”? How many times do you think they say the phrase “Let’s make it work”?

Hey Ed and the rest of you CFOs running businesses today…the value of the Brand Experience is what drives the bottomline, not the bean-counters.

And in a service-driven economy, the Brand Experience is delivered in REAL TIME…even before the product arrives home and you take it out of the box.