Friday, June 17, 2011

The Story Of A Memorable Friday

Today started out simple. AT&T as an Internet provider of my corporate apartment in the city and a new router was to arrive this morning shipped overnight.

When the UPS truck pulled up at 9am sharp, I anticipated getting the box and getting the Internet running even faster.

Instead, the UPS driver handed me an overnight letter envelope.

Nope. Not addressed as coming from AT&T.

The UPS “urgent overnight” package was shipped to me from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Sounds like a law firm, but it’s instead a financial advisory stepchild.

Inside the envelope was a simple post card stating, “Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is pleased to announce that ‘so-and-so’ has accepted the position of First Vice President, Financial Adviser.”

So-and-so is a new agent that I have been working with from another financial advisory firm.

When I showed the announcement card to the UPS driver, he quickly replied… well I am sure it is something valuable they sent you on that card because that sender paid close to $30 to get it to you overnight.

I am sure that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Duluth, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) brand office was focused on getting me to switch over my investment portfolio to them since they hired the agent managing the account.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney… at least this local Atlanta office… probably has little-to-no understanding of what an action like this conveys about their brand in an economic environment where small business owners are having to tightly manage spending costs to deliver some form of financial return.

Shortly after I called the Atlanta Morgan Stanley Smith Barney office and left a message of concern, the agent they hired who I had worked with, so-and-so, called me. He was unaware of my calling concerned about the use of UPS “urgent overnight” delivery.

He laughed when I asked why would his firm spend close to $30 versus $.50 to mail the announcement card, and replied, “well, you know, that is the personality of my new firm.”

I quickly replied that while I think he’s a nice guy, there is no way in heck that I am going to move my investment portfolio over to a financial company that places little-to-no value on how it manages its own spending.

BIG BRANDS often do dumb, stupid things… round #2.

Later when I got the snail mail delivery, there was another letter that surprised me.

The letter was sent from a Volkswagen dealer also out of Atlanta… Gunther Volkswagen at the Mall of Georgia. The letter was sent “direct from the desk of Joseph Gunther” himself.

In the letter, Gunter “personally offered” me $29,883 for my Volkswagen Touareg … an offer higher than $28,460 that he offered me in a “personal” letter three weeks ago.

When I received the letter from Joseph Gunther three weeks earlier, I picked up the phone the moment I received it and spoke directly to Joseph Gunther about the offer.

Specifically I thanked him for the offer…the only problem was that I no longer had possession of the car and never owned it. I returned the leased car back to Volkswagen nearly 2 years ago.

Embarrassed, he told me it was a mistake in their “database” and he would personally make sure it was corrected.

Upon the receipt of the letter this morning, I picked up the phone again and called Joseph back. He was not there, but I was sent over to their “head of sales.”

When I outlined the scenario that occurred, the first response I received was that it was not a fault of the dealership. If anybody was at fault, it was the firm that does the mailings.

“The Buck Stops Here” can play several roles in this scenario… the least of which is that other customers receiving letters like this probably will not even take the time to express it directly over the phone to the dealership.

It my case... "The Buck Stops Here"... Mr. Gunther will certainly not be receiving any of my future business... along with the other folks who read this blog!

Dealerships of BIG BRANDS often do dumb, stupid things.

The third highlight of my morning was simply another chapter of an ongoing BIG BRAND saga.

After an hour and 20 minutes on hold, I finally… FINALLY… got a live person from AT&T on the phone to ask where was the router box that was to be delivered this morning.

The person at AT&T was a nice person. I give her extra credit for being nice.

Turns out, that the router box was not being delivered today.

Instead, the shipping order was placed today. The box will arrive on Monday morning.

Unfortunately, no one will be here to receive the delivery.

I know it sounds boring and you are probably wondering… why is this part of the story included in this blog? What does it have to do with BIG BRANDS doing dumb things?

Well, after being on hold for more than an hour and 20 minutes, an “aha” insight hit me.

When I called to place the order and keyed into the automated answer service that I was a NEW customer, an AT&T person answered on the other end of the phone within less than a minute.

Soooo… I ended the call where I had been left on hold and called the same number back…but this time when the automated system asked me for the phone number on the account, I entered in that I was a new customer and did not have a number.

Guess how long it took for the nice person from AT&T to answer the call.

Less than a minute.

Maybe someone needs to send the CEO of AT&T that chapter of Marketing and Sales 101 that it costs a lot more to land new customers than it costs to retain existing customers.

Then again, if you are a BIG BRAND that has a monopoly on the marketplace, perhaps you don’t care.

A new client that I landed yesterday is a German company that oddly is in the business of owning and constructing cell phone towers.

I am really looking forward to working with this client because they hired our team based on strong belief that a brand has to represent something of value… that is competitively unique… and most of all, believable and translated directly in the experience with the brand.

That’s refreshing.

Enough about AT&T, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Gunther Volkswagen.

Enough is enough!

My final observation on this Friday… the glass is indeed half full for businesses and entrepreneurs that care enough to venture out and deliver a positive brand relationship with their customer base.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Passion Does Not A Brand Kill

Passion does not a brand kill.

But process flows, corporate management hierarchy, systematic rational thinking, organization for the sake of organization… all of that… will.

I don’t know if you have seen the YouTube video about Grand Rapids yet.

If not… here is the link…

Watch it.

But know that in less than one week, there have been 2,453,145 others that have as well… it’s on YouTube.

In fact, the YouTube video made the Major Net’s Nightly News on Friday evening this week so I guess we can toss in several million more that have watched it in the last week.

It’s a great video based on the song Bye, Bye Miss American Pie.

The production of the video was sparked by a young twenty-something who discovered that the city was cited in a Newsweek article of the Top 10 dying cities in the U.S.

He was so passionate about his city roots, that he raised $40,000 in donations and rallied together about 5,000 folks to be part of the video.

He staged and filmed the video in 3 hours with a single camera and film truck he rented.

The kids filming it, the local citizens, the mayor, the police chief, the fire post and the local high school band were all passionate about it.

Passion does not a brand kill.

Here in Atlanta-land, home of corporate giants like AT&T Mobile, Coke, UPS, Georgia-Pacific, InterContinental Hotels and AFLAC, the city was hell bent a few years ago with building a brand for the city.

Those MBAs and Corporate Cultured Leadership got together with the Chamber of Commerce and raised a pool of funds to hire an ad agency and do a research study to identify the rational benefit pay out of the Atlanta band experience.

Did they hire a local Atlanta shop to assist?

No. They hired the New York-based ad agency Grey that serviced what was then BellSouth.

Did they find a team of passionate local folks to bring the brand to life?

No. They played out their MBA models to craft a brand story.

Did they decide to tap into the online social networks and go viral with the brand message?

No. They believed strongly in using the local television network affiliates, the Cox radio stations (local Corporate “good ole” boy), the Cox-owned (and dying on the vine) Atlanta Journal Constitution and last, but not least, the local outdoor billboard giant.

I bet, if you’re reading this Blog- dialogue from anywhere outside I-285 (outside the perimeter – OTP), you have no idea what was the Atlanta brand campaign.

Well here is the link to the Atlanta brand campaign on YouTube…

That video has been up posted on YouTube for more than a week.

It’s actually been up on YouTube for more than 156 weeks.

And in 156 weeks, that video is posted a total of 1,216 views. That’s not a typo.

Those MBAs and Corporate Cultured Leadership crafted that campaign around the tagline… “Everyday Is An Opening Day.”

The day it premiered, about 2,000 folks over at Coke Corporate received pink slips and a few days later AT&T merged with BellSouth and announced that the headquarters was being moved to Texas.

The annual budget for the campaign was over $6 million. That’s not a typo.

I knew the woman that served as the “marketing director” of the Brand Atlanta team. She raked in more than $150,000+ per year for a couple of years.

The agency got its share of the dollars and so did Cox media, the local outdoor company and the local network affiliates.

I’ve posted stories on this blog before about interactions I have had with area Chambers and business organizations.

I have highlighted and shared how they see the world around them, define opportunity and believe that business will build in the future.

I have used adjectives to describe them and won’t retype those adjectives again, but you can go back and discover the type of adjectives I have used.

In one week, another city city that was on the death list is now back in conversation about cities which are taking on the challenge of change and paradigm shifts. Passion is moving that city forward, not a business model or the communication of a rational benefit.

A few days ago, I conducted a set of conference calls with some great travel agencies in the Midwest and the Northeast about how they can tap into targeted market potential sitting right in their own backyards.

We talked about using online newspaper and identifying new Millennials that see the travel agent in the same perspective as they see their “helicopter” parents.

One of the travel agencies is owned and managed by two Baby Boomer women that work out the basement of a house just outside the Philadelphia metro.

They both got excited about what was shared and said “Wow, we can share our passion for our those great resorts with some cool folks right here in our backyard.”

I am going to Email them this afternoon with a link to the Grand Rapids YouTube video.

Passion does not a brand kill.

But process flows, corporate management hierarchy, systematic rational thinking, organization for the sake of organization… all of that… will.