The Danger of Using a Spokesperson in Your Marketing

Don't  worry about your cartoonTestimonials. Spokesperson. Celebrity endorsements.

In many ways these seem like a great idea for promoting your brand. You ride the wave of recognition, likability, and repeatability.

And your brand image edges blur into the reputation of the person who is speaking for and about your brand.

It usually starts out smoothly and everyone is all smiles.

But then something happens.

Sometimes a celebrity’s personal life choices are not what you’d want to have your target market think of when they think of your brand.

Or the spokesperson does something illegal, or is just being investigated for maybe doing something illegal.

Because of the immediacy of social media, it may not even matter if they are guilty or not, the mob mentality has already gotten a hold of the news and “shared it”.

As the owner of the brand, you have some tough choices.  Sometimes the best choice is to “immediately sever all ties.” In other situations, when the behavior is “inconsistent with the company’s image”, announcing that you and the spokesperson have  “mutually decided to suspend the relationship” may the best course of action.

When using a spokesperson or other endorsement where the brands get intertwined, good marketing plans include an exit strategy, just in case things don’t work out.

Brands like Nike, Kellogg, Speedo, Subway, and Jello have all had these types of discussions with athletic celebrities who have done endorsements for their brands.

So while have a “Tony the Tiger”, a “Burger King” or a “Dough Boy” might not be as powerful as a star athlete, or top celebrity or even a real person who has successfully used your brand to lose weight, as the marketing manager on the brand, you don’t have to worry about your cartoon character going “out of character.”

How Many Interviews Does it Take to Make a Decision?

I recently read that Ikea will be doing market research with their customers.

They want to get some ideas for new product development. No big surprise there.

What did surprise me was HOW MANY they were going to do. Not a focus group of 10-12 customers in 3 different cities… or even 2 sets of 10-12 customers in 3 different cities.

Not the 125 or 150 people of one-on-one in person surveys that are sometimes called a mall intercept.

No, they are going to talk with 1,000 of their consumers! In person – at their house – looking at their furniture.

I find that number pretty amazing. I imagine that they will be using customer service staff, R&D staff, marketing staff and more to get all those interviews done in a year. I can just imagine the report! Better not print it out unless you have a few reams of paper!

They’re sure to get lots of ideas, but with a 1,000 interviews, it’s almost like combining qualitative and quantitative market research!

I’m curious… How many in-person interviews have you done with your clients or customers to make a decision? Do you use the results to improve current products, validate new products before launch or brainstorm new ideas? Leave a message in the comments below.

Marketing to People over a Certain Age

Life Expectancy Changes in the US
Click to view the “Next Four Decades” PDF from the Administration on Aging.

The word OLD – ELDERLY has shifted. At first I thought it was because I was (am) getting older. But I found out, it’s not.

We know that by 2030 about 20% of the United States will be in that “Certain Age” category.  And there will be more people in that category than before. (That’s only 15 years away!)

The terms have changed because as a group, in general, we are living longer. So “old” is “older” than it used to be.

Why don’t I use the term elderly, senior or even retired? Because the terms have shifted.  People don’t necessarily retire at 62. And what used to be considered entirely appropriate has changed. The facts have changed!

No wonder no one knows what the term elderly actually means! (does it mean someone more frail, difficulty walking and who needs mid-day naps? Or is elderly actually an age?)

Where you were born as well as how long you have lived (the longer you live, the more your life expectancy increases) both make a big difference in how long you will live.

Silver is used as a code word: “silver sneakers” (although it’s not just for “older” adults. “silver tsumani” refers to the aging workforce where 25% will be over 55 in 5 years. Maybe silver refers to the hair color?

I thought that the word “silver” was used because the silver anniversary is at 50, but that’s actually the Gold anniversary.  (The silver anniversary is 25 years!) Gold and golden are also used as in the “Golden Buckeye” card for those 60 and older in Ohio.  (And 60 is the diamond anniversary!)

You can see why it gets confusing for marketing terms.

The New York Times in 1998 calls it “Junior-Seniors”  “Near elderly” are people ages 40 to 60? (So I guess that makes 60 elderly?)

How do you describe an exercise class for a “certain age” age group.  As marketers, we’re always trying to describe groups of people. Active seniors or active adults. What do you picture? Stereotyping people can be offensive at best, but really bad when you pick an unflattering term.

So we need a way to describe this marketing group that doesn’t offend. Why are people so touchy? In part because the words elderly, old, and senior citizens-  even retired! – were used describe someone of a different age bracket and “life expectancy for Americans jumped from 47 to 71..”

Stereotyping a group of people for marketing is always hard not to offend. Adding a positive adjective can help, but not solve the challenge. Active senior for example. As a marketer, I know what that means, but if I’m thinking of that term as it relates to myself, I think of an active senior as what I was in my last year of college/high school… Maybe mature? Experienced?

Unfortunately, it is possible to age without gaining experience or maturity!

The other important point about aging, the older you are, the more likely you will get older. That is, if life expectancy when you were born was 65 and now you are 65, it hasn’t stayed the same number. In simple terms, half would make it to 65 and the other half wouldn’t. And if the Social Security expectation is another 13 years, that means on average half will make it and half won’t another 13 years, right?

Either way, the older I get, the more surprise I get at the term elderly being used to describe someone I think of as a peer. Active aging, strong seniors, older adults

Your thoughts?

Celebrating a Company Anniversary

17 year anniversaryRecently my company celebrated its 17th year anniversary.

We didn’t make a big deal about it, or use the anniversary as a marketing platform,  mostly because it’s not a nice “round” number for a celebration like 10, 15 or 20 years.

Sometimes it may seem silly to celebrate an anniversary, but I like to use anniversaries to take stock and reflect on how far things have come, as well as where challenges and short falls came, compared to the goals for the company.

It’s neat to go back and look at or even create the timeline.

In 1998, when we started:

  • We weren’t worried about the internet, it seemed more important to get a fax machine at the time.
  • Mobile phones were mostly described as “Car Phones”, were bigger than land line phones and seemed both expensive and awkward.
  • Only a few companies had a website on the internet.
  • Most press releases were still mailed to the newspapers and magazines.
  • Postage was only  $.32 a stamp for first class.  Today June 1, 2015, the postcard rate went from $.34 to $.35.
  • If you believe the calculator on this site, things cost about 45% more due to inflation since 1998.

How about your company’s anniversary?  What do you to for it? Do you celebrate it among the employees? Customers? Suppliers?

Making the Sale: What is Appropriate Women’s Business Attire?

In the world of business, marketing yourself is very important. And we all are guilty of judging a book by the cover.

This is especially true in sales, where you are calling on customers and meeting people in networking situations. Doing sales is like going on a job interview every day, and when  55% of what people think of you is the nonverbal stuff, it’s very important to be wearing the right clothing!

This article is focused on professional attire for women. Because there are so many choices in clothing for women, I believe it is often more difficult to know what is appropriate for women.

Here is a list of various articles, links, photos, powerpoints and “how to’s” that are specifically focused on women’s attire.  If you know someone who just graduated from college and they are selling themselves at an interview with a potential employer, you may want to forward a link to this article.

I firmly believe that if you are in sales (even more than other professions) you have to know the difference between Business Professional Attire and Business Casual Attire.

Here are some good PPT slides with examples of the difference between business professional, business ready, business casual, and “casual casual” with different sections for men and women. Check out both men and women, so you can see the similarities.  With the concept of “business ready”, you can just put on your jacket /blazer (and change shoes if you have open toed sandals) and you’re ready to go in a moment’s notice…without being stuck wearing a suit all day.

The SalesHQ website describes what to wear to match your audience and accessories do’s & don’ts.  Here’s a quick overview of what to wear suits, shoes, jewelry, colors etc.

Business casual might be appropriate for what people are wearing in many companies, but on a sales call to a large company you are in much stronger position if you show up wearing business professional vs business casual.

The difference can be confusing sometimes. There are many fashion examples that might show a woman in business casual and call it business professional, but I believe that they made a mistake.…

Like this example when a women is wearing a bulky red top, with no jacket. If it doesn’t have a jacket over it, so to me she looks like an assistant, not the one in charge.

Compare it to the man who is wearing a suit jacket, shirt and tie (3 layers vs one layer for the woman.) If they both showed up for the same job, he would get the job because he is more professional.

Plus I think that blue, grey or black is better. Red is usually too strong unless you’re going for the close or you know that there will be hecklers in the room and you need more power to keep control of the room. Bright red can be intimidating red.

This infograph shows the right blouse with the suit, but then shows the wrong shirt (v neck, short sleeves) in the next frame. Compare it to the guy’s shirt right next to it. And he will have a tie over the buttoned up shirt. So that is 2 ways that top is wrong for the woman. If it doesn’t compare to showing the same amount of skin as the guys, you won’t be treated with the same respect (or have a change at getting the respect). While you probably won’t take your jacket off, you might. And if you have short sleeves, you won’t be “business ready”.

This visual is pretty good, but again I think he would get the job over the woman. See how she is hiding behind her hair… maybe it should be tied back or at least behind the shoulders.

Also notice how their body language is with their hands & toes. Who is more confident? Who could handle the job?

To me, she is hiding behind her hair (bangs) and her arms… and her feet say “I’m nervous.” Compare his posture to hers, where I think his hands and feet are saying, “No problem, I’ve got this.”

Business professional dress is more formal, more neutral.

What do you think? Do you agree with my examples of business professional and business casual? Do you have website links to add. I’d be interested to see what you think! Please leave a comment below.