Monday, November 23, 2009

The Muppet Show Pitch and the Experience

Here's a perfect example of entertainment with an embedded sales pitch. It's a video that the creators of The Muppet Show made to try to get CBS to buy the show and run it during prime time.

Essentially, it's an element of an ad campaign touting the profit potential of The Muppet Show, aimed at CBS executives.

I think that the entertainment of the video is the pitch and the pitch is the entertainment. Here are two reasons why I think that:
  1. They fused The Muppet Show concept (which is a spectacle in itself) with a spectacular call to action ("It will be loved and adored by every Nielson home in the country...when this show hits, the careers of the men who put this show on the air will skyrocket.")
  2. They found the inner gem of The Muppet Show brand...its unique soul...and created an experience around it. This engaged their target audience with a sense of excitement
Think of the brand you manage. How can you create an experience around its unique soul to engage your customers? How can you fuse your brand personality with a call to action?

It's a technique applicable to many industries. Take Chipotle, for example, who launched in an effort to increase awareness of menu variety, while harnessing dedicated fans who are passionate about customizing and personalizing their Chipotle meals.

The Muppet Show was a song-and-dance variety show that promised absurd comedy and hilarious parody - and that's exactly what viewers of this pitch were treated to. Similarly, The site experience delivers the customization and personalization experience that turns customers into evangelists.

In both cases, the marketing efforts are entertainment experiences with embedded sales pitches.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Very Funny Thanksgiving Statistical Data

Listen to this hilarious snippet from this past weekend's broadcast of my favorite radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Turn on your speakers, enjoy, and have a happy upcoming Thanksgiving! :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Abundance of Sweet Creamy Liquid Stimulants

I recently came across a blog dedicated to using simple lines and dots and words to making sense of stuff. It's a blog called Indexed, published by Jessica Hagy. I found this index card particularly insightful.

This diagram says that in a commodity market, artistry is useless. In a specialty market, artistry is profitable.

Here's why I think it's insightful.

Hagy titled this card "Ordinary is Abundant," which I take to mean the forces of commoditization are stronger than ever. In other words, it is hard to sustain brand differentiation when there is an abundance of competition.

Easy to understand. Like Starbucks and other premium coffee shops having trouble carrying a premium price on their specialty coffee drinks when Dunkin' Donuts has their own and McDonald's launched McCafe, with extremely similar products at a lower price.

Sweet Creamy Liquid Stimulants

McCafe serves some pretty tasty lattes, cappuccinos and other frothy drinks. The hazelnut iced coffee is a favorite of mine during the summer. McDonald's probably saw that the Starbucks business was a specialty market but the perception of the coffee product was moving more towards commodity.

After all, the real product they're selling is sweet, creamy liquid stimulants. The "specialty" for Starbucks is environment and place. If they're going to survive, they need to leverage that better, or find another point of differentiation.

The Wikipedia entry on Commodity is really insightful. Here are the main points:
  • A commodity is some good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. It is a product that is the same no matter who produces it.
  • The price of a commodity good is determined as a function of its market as a whole.
  • Commoditization occurs as a goods or services market loses differentiation across its supply base, often by the diffusion of the intellectual capital necessary to acquire or produce it efficiently. As such, goods that formerly carried premium margins for market participants have become commodities, such as generic pharmaceuticals and silicon chips.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Buy a PC Because it is Cheaper than a Mac

I thought this (not so recent anymore) ad was pretty effective for a number of reasons other than being entertaining and informative:

It drives home one of the biggest reasons why you need to buy a PC (a computer with Windows operating system) versus a Mac: the price. After all, most consumers really only use a web browser, music software, a picture viewer, and a word processor, right? So why pay a premium price for a Mac?

I have used both Macs and PCs in my career. Both crash and have occasional problems. But that's not the perception in the marketplace. The perception is that Mac is simple and cool and PCs are bothersome. With the launch of the critically acclaimed new Windows 7 operating system, PCs are fun and useful again. But, if anyone ever asks me what the difference between a Mac and a PC is, I'll tell them: for 99% of the population, it's price.

It doesn't just drive home the price point; many of the underlying messages in this ad are strategically sound and creatively produced:
  • If you have some rational needs (who doesn't?) like speed, comfort and screen size, then a PC is a good solution.
  • Lauren walks fast, looks happy, is productive, speaks articulately and makes logical decisions. Those are all symbolic traits of smart shoppers.
  • Lauren says she's "not cool enough to be a Mac person." This helps reinforce the point of differentiation that PCs are for using - not showing off.
  • Lauren mentions that the look of one computer is drawing her to buy it. Everyone can relate to that. We can also relate to the joy of making the final buying decision. It's good to have those emotions in the makes us want to feel the same emotions.
  • For $700 cash, you can get an awesome computer with everything you want.
The 24-year battle between Mac and PC is like an anthem of my life; one of the defining competitions of the culture and technology that my friends and I have embraced through not only our working lives, but our personal lives. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are the business inspirations and guiding lights of my generation.

So it matters to me. I want both companies to succeed, but I can't stand to see Windows perceived wrongly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do You Need a Magic Pocket?

DropBox just came out with a video explaining what it is. It's like a "magic pocket."

Now that DropBox has an iPhone app and syncs all your stuff seamlessly between your work computer, home computer and your mobile phone, it seems like it truly is a magic pocket that you can always reach into.

Here's the video:

It looks like DropBox made the video to better explain its features and simplify how one starts using it. They relate it to a "magic pocket," which I think is a brilliant metaphor. A few years ago I wanted my "Google calendar in my pocket," and now that I have a smartphone that does that, I feel like all my info is always within a magic pocket.

The DropBox team hired a video production company named Common Craft to make the video. Smart move. They've made videos to explain many of today's complex Web 2.0 apps, ideas and processes.

Kudos to the DropBox team for not only having a great web application but for effectively explaining what could be too complex for some, in a simple way using a creative metaphor.

Not to get too off-track, but we live in a world where simplicity makes economic sense:
  • Dating services used to me a huge expense and a long process. Now, a "picture and a paragraph" is really all we care about.
  • Startup companies are using simple, plain-English "pitch decks" to express a big idea to venture capitalists rather than a full-fledged business plan.
  • Redbox respects the spontaneity of a movie craving.
The economics of simplicity is what makes CommonCraft so powerful and useful. Here are some other hard-to-explain concepts that CommonCraft explains in plain English:

Have you struggled to explain Twitter to your parents? Try this:

Are you confused when somebody tells you they're a "social media expert?" Well this is what they do:

Worried about surviving a zombie attack? Follow these instructions to stay safe:

For more information about Common Craft, check out their blog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Like Movies?

I just started reading this manual. If you also find it of interest, let me know! - Internet Guide for the Movie Addict

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Flash of Genius and the Future of Food

You know how sometimes a movie looks like it's about one thing on the surface but it turns out to be about something much bigger?

That's what happened when I watched the movie Flash of Genius on DVD recently. It stars Greg Kinnear as Robert Kearnes, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. Aside from an examination of the big business of auto accessories and the challenge of genius, it's about intellectual property.

At the end of the movie, it said, "based on the article 'The Flash of Genius' in New Yorker magazine, 1993." I just read that fascinating article, and I posted it here.

The Flash of Genius -

So, that was the year shortly after Robert Kearnes finally won the settlement from Ford, and was around the time the settlements from Chrysler were about to come his way. Kearnes just died in 2005.

My point is that this New Yorker article comes out about this fascinating story of an inventor suing one of the biggest companies in the world, and winning, in 1993. But it wasn't about a lawsuit, nor was the story really about David versus Goliath.

It was about the future of patents and intellectual property. That's what the lesson was for corporate America.

But today, it's a much more complex issue and it's not a war the little guy can win anymore.

Patents are a billion dollar business. I just watched "The Future of Food" recently and learned some startling facts.

Genetic food research is done through patenting of genes. And the level of corporate control over our agricultural system is worrisome. Corporations own genes in corn and wheat!

And it's not just agriculture anymore. One of the genes for breast cancer is patented. And researchers working on a cure were no longer allowed to use that gene in their research because a company patented it and charged very high fees to use it. Big pharmaceutical companies have gone into research labs and sued researchers using the genes they own.

This is a disturbing economic trend, and a problem we can't let get out of control.