How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

If I had $1 for every business owner who thought he/she knew their customers very well, I’d be wealthy and retired at this point.  The sad reality is, most businesses think they know their customer, but their perception is almost always inaccurate (and sometimes by quite a bit).

I once worked with an established retail business in Rochester, NY that sold men’s fine clothing.  They were convinced their clientele were, on average, “male, 50 years or older, from the eastern suburbs, wealthy and watched prestigious networks on television like CNN.”  While that seemed plausible, I still conducted market research analysis with two main goals.  The first was to verify their customers’ demographics and the second was to research the media consumption of the actual demographic.

When the data was tabulated, it showed their customer base to be much younger and less affluent than they thought.  As a result, different television networks were a better fit.  Imagine their shock when I demonstrated how their advertising would be more effective (and cost-effective) on MTV instead of CNN!

Since seeing is not always believing, the client wanted to stick with the media plan involving CNN.  I was able to convince them to incorporate MTV into the plan as a trial, and suggested they simply ask customers if and where they saw their television commercial and keep a manual tabulation next to the cash register.  At the end of one month, MTV had a 3x advantage over CNN.

Seeing that MTV was significantly less expensive than CNN at the time, by concentrating on the proper network for their customer base, they could cut their ad spend, double their advertising frequency and triple (at minimum) their impact.  Now that’s what I call bang for the advertiser’s buck!

If you own a business, how well do you think you know your customer? If you haven’t conducted market research recently, I’d suggest there are many things you could learn.

Did You Get a Lexus for Christmas?

Did you get a Lexus for Christmas?  You know, the beautiful luxury car, complete with the bow on top and the little jingle playing faintly in the background.  Me neither!  Do you know anyone who has received a new luxury car in such a way?  Me neither!

Advertisements serve multiple purposes, including brand awareness and brand envy to name a few.  While their commercials are likely a pipe dream for 99% of the population, they are memorable.  In fact, throughout the month of December, it’s difficult to watch any television channel without coming across one of their ads.  Chances are, you’ve seen one or more of the variations.

But maybe their purpose isn’t to cause you to run out and purchase one for your loved one without their input on model, style, color and without their knowledge.  Then, you somehow arrange for it to magically appear in your driveway with a big red bow on top that’s the size of a golf cart while you creatively surprise the recipient.  Perhaps Lexus is thinking more strategically and more long-term than that.

Quick! Can you recall the last commercial you watched for Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Jaguar, BMW or Infiniti?  I’m sure you’ve seen them, but they’re likely more of your “typical car ad” than something as unique as Lexus’ approach.  When it’s not unique (even if slightly more practical), it often gets lost in the clutter.  So if/when you’re in the enviable position of being able to purchase a new luxury automobile, which brand might you think of first?  Which brand will create as much joy?  Which one would be seen as a priceless gift?

As unrealistic as their ads might seem at first for the majority of viewers, I’m guessing they’re actually quite effective in the long-term for creating brand awareness and brand envy.

What other television commercials do you recall from this past holiday season?  What made them stand out?

Do You Fit The Demographic?

Nearly twenty years ago (yikes!), Bruce Springsteen wrote 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).

Technology and how we watch television has changed tremendously since 1992.  Who could have imagined we’d watch streaming video on smart phones?  After all, cell phones were the size of a shoe box then!

What hasn’t changed is there’s still a lot of junk on television.  With far greater than 57 channels to choose from, why is it that we have so little quality to choose from?  I had lunch with some old friends not too long ago and we discussed one show in particular that they swore I made up as a joke.

Television channels exist to make money, mostly through advertising.  They use research to illustrate the demographics of their audience and set rates for commercial spots accordingly.  Below are 10 shows currently on air with descriptions mostly taken from their websites.  It makes you wonder what the demographic profile is for their audience.  See if you can spot the fake.

  1. Pawn Stars (History Channel).  Pawn Stars takes you inside the colorful world of the pawn business at a shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
  2. Hairy Bikers (History Channel).  A classically trained French chef who loves motorcycles pairs with a motorcycle mechanic who loves food to travel the back roads of America.
  3. My Strange Addiction (TLC)The compelling stories of individuals battling unusual obsessive behaviors.
  4. I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (TLC).  As impossible as that sounds, apparently there are tons of women who receive the surprise of their life with each new episode.
  5. Sweet Home Alabama (CMT).  Inspired by the movie of the same name, a southern bachelorette (or bachelor) searches for love among 22 contestants (11 from the country, 11 from the city).
  6. Silent Library (MTV).  Modeled after a Japanese game show, six friends vie for a cash prize by imposing unimaginable, beyond hysterical stunts on one another in a library setting, but they must maintain their silence to win.
  7. Jerseylicious (Style).  A “docusoap” that follows the owner and employees of a renovated hair salon in New Jersey, showing off Jersey fashion and style.
  8. Beer Money (SNY).  A fast-paced, non-traditional New York sports quiz show, with cash given away to people (in bars, tailgating, on the street corner) who know their New York sports.
  9. Hillbilly Handfishin’ (Animal Planet).  A reality show about noodling, the sport of fishing for catfish using only bare hands and feet.
  10. American Loggers (Discovery).  Follow brothers as they carry on the family tradition of harvesting timber in the Maine wilderness.
  11. Swamp People (History).  Follow Cajuns who live in the swamps of Louisiana during the 30-day alligator season.

I’ve actually seen about half of the above shows.  Some are actually interesting, although I can’t imagine I’d be considered in the target audience for most of them.  As for the fake?  Trick question – they’re all legit.

What show do you enjoy despite not being in their target demographic?

3 Reasons Why You Should Not Auto-Synchronize Social Media

There’s a common metaphor that explains social media which perhaps you’ve heard . . . Facebook is like a backyard BBQ (closest friends and family, sharing of some personal details), LinkedIn is like an office party (co-workers, colleagues, clients, vendors with many professional conversations), Twitter is like a cocktail party (may or may not know others in the room, many conversations that you will hear, some you’ll participate in, on numerous topics).  If you agree with that metaphor, then you’d most likely agree each of those three social media sites have different participants, in a different atmosphere, with different goals, objectives and expectations.

There are many tools available that allow you to auto-synchronize your messages across the various social media sites.  LinkedIn can auto-synchronize to Twitter.  You can have Facebook auto-synchronize to Twitter too (and visa-verse).  There are numerous third-party sites that allow you to auto-synchronize in various combinations too (, HootSuite to name a few).  While there can be valid reasons to auto-synchronize your message on occasion, to do so full-time is a major mistake from a marketing perspective.  Here are three reasons why:

1)  Different target audience.  McDonald’s is not going to market to the Happy Meal crowd the same way they’re going to advertise to the late night meal crowd.  Why?  Different target audiences!  Go back to the metaphor in the beginning of this post.  Different target audiences need different messages to be effective.

2)  Different platforms with different etiquette.  Using McDonald’s as an example once again . . . how they advertise on television is (and should be!) vastly different from how they advertise in the newspaper.  It’s a different medium, with different norms and expectations.  Tweeting about your tasty sandwich is okay (not a great use of a tweet, but okay).  Talking about your sandwich on LinkedIn is not.

3)  It makes you look lazy.  Yes, synchronizing saves you time from having to alter your postings and manually upload to the different platforms.  As mentioned earlier, there are times where it’s appropriate and acceptable to do so.  If you do it 100% of the time, you risk alienating your followers/fans/connections because you likely look lazy or think I’m not worth the few seconds it takes to customize a message for the social media platform.  If we’re connected on more than one platform, it’s very noticeable.

Now that this blog entry is written, let me go cross-post it on every social media platform I can find.  😉

Welcome To My Blog

Through my blog, I hope to share my thoughts and opinions on various marketing efforts I come across:  advertising, marketing research, social media, direct mail, commercials, branding, personal branding.  While you might be thinking, “I’m not into marketing, what will I get out of this?”  I can assure you that you encounter and participate in marketing on a daily basis.

Need to convince your spouse that your idea should be considered?  That’s marketing.  Need to demonstrate to an interviewer that you’re the perfect candidate to be hired?  That’s marketing.  Have a used car that you’re trying to sell?  Getting bombarded by politicians’ messages?  Trying to sift through coupons and offers from area restaurants?  Engaging with companies on Facebook?  It all ties into marketing.

I hope to share my thoughts, observations and experiences on the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to marketing.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride.  After all, you live and breathe marketing every day.