October 30, 2006

The Stupidity Of Recycling Plastic Bags

Recycling facilities hate plastic grocery bags. They clog up the machines, interfere with sorting, and are ultimately thrown out, not recycled. Waste Management estimates plastic grocery bag related issues costs each of their recycling facilities at least one hour of productivity and thousands of dollars in maintenance every day! Like most people when faced with a problem, they looked for a solution.

They decided to launch a public information campaign. There was a well massaged newspaper article, flyers attached to the inside of recycling bins, and materials were distributed to elementary school students. A commercial even ran on a couple of cable channels. Waste Management was dedicated to stopping people from trying to recycle plastic grocery bags.

The irony here is that plastic grocery bags are completely recyclable. Waste Management simply has no desire to do it. Instead of trying to solve their plastic grocery bag problem by educating an otherwise apathetic and confused public who believes the bags should be recycled, Waste Management needs to create a mechanism by which to recycle the bags. In place of expensive public relations campaigns, they have an opportunity to build the infrastructure to make themselves more money, create a convenience for their customers, and be environmentally responsible all at the same time.

Alas, yelling at the guy who is doing something (perceived as) wrong is easier (but not necessarily cheaper) than envisioning a creative solution.

October 27, 2006

Shadows And Light

Telling people everything about a product or service, how it is made, what it does, where it comes from, is not marketing, it is education. Unfortunately, many marketers frequently confuse the two ideas. Marketing is telling people about the parts of the story they want to hear.

Apply this logic to sausage factories and you will quickly understand.

Creating shadows is just as important as shedding light, but one is for you and one is for them.

October 25, 2006

Because Life Is Serious

Every once in a while, you need to blow 20 minutes of valuable time doing nothing in particular (and be able to forward such preoccupying activities to your friends and colleagues).

Here are three favorites...

October 24, 2006

Fuel Efficiency

An advertisement arrived today from Staples, the office supply place. They were trying to sell their delivery services by listing features and benefits which included ease of ordering, huge selection, and fuel efficiency. Hmmm... fuel efficiency.

They looked outside of the office, where the ad is probably being read and where the order would be placed, for a trigger to catch a potential customer's attention. They found a rally point for almost everyone, some common ground in the real world. Their suggestion of fuel efficiency is a sign that they understand there is more to making a decision about office supply products than simply saving the boss some money.

See the space, know the people, and make an offer that helps solve a real problem. Not many people believe that a paper clip sale will change their lives or earn them a promotion, but if they can keep a couple bucks in their own pocket or have a few extra minutes so they can be on time to pick their kid up from school, that is a valuable offer.

October 23, 2006

Rock 'N Roll Marketing

Popular music is the ultimate venue for creating a worldview and marketing it. Musicians do their best to come up with an original sound, perspective, or innovation (in most instances - see Spears, Britney for exceptions). They carve out a unique position, voice, and culture then hope people buy into it. Let us repeat that... they carve out a unique position, voice, and culture then hope people buy into it. Not making stuff for their audience, but finding an audience for their stuff.

Those silly artists are crazy and egotistical enough to believe they have something to say and that the world needs to hear it. As an entrepreneur, that same attitude works, too.

Record labels push, but worldview, taste, and consumer preference make the ultimate decisions (believe it or not). Of course, that assumes musicians can find a record label to begin with, but that is another story about perseverance and talent.

Most worldviews will never flood the market, but they can make a big splash. They can influence the industry, and every once in a while, they are sold to Google for $1.6 billion.

Take a side - preferably your own.

October 18, 2006

Even Shrines Go Bankrupt

Legendary New York venue CBGB is forced to close its doors because of escalating rent due to gentrification. Once located in the slums of the Bowry shipyards full of homeless, the club spent its last few years engulfed by trendy bars and upscale apartments.

No matter how the public feels, no entity is an institution in America. The only institution here is capitalism.

October 17, 2006

Marketing Is Too Easy... To Screw Up

And the wise Mr. Godin says...
    Marketers and designers will be quick to tell you that marketing and design are critical to the success of any venture.

    That's why it's so sad/disturbing/surprising/wonderful to discover that so many successful ventures were created by amateurs. Yes, they were professionals at something (coding, perhaps, or raising money or managing or even selling) but the marketing and design was not created by a 'professional'.

    The list is long, and runs from the Boy Scouts to Google, from Nike to the New York Yankees.

    One possible lesson is that marketing is easy.

    The other, more likely lesson is that marketing is way too important to be left to professionals. Every person is a marketer, and anyone crazy enough and passionate enough to start something is definitely a marketer. It's not great programming that turns one Net company into a success while another flounders. More often than not, it's about how good a job the amateur running the marketing and design did.

Marketing and design seem simple and uncomplicated to many because it is easy to tell yourself your own story. You know all the characters, complications, and twists. You have heard all the objections and eliminate them before they arise. You know the ending before you begin. Telling your story with passion and expertise is easy. Telling your story effectively and persuasively, on the other hand, can be tricky.

Smart and successful businesses realize the importance and necessity of having a professional help them tell their story (but not tell it for them). Having another perspective interpret your story and translate it to the masses, or at least the interested few, can drastically increase its absorption.

It is the same reason you hire a plumber. You could fix the garbage disposal yourself, but it will work better and the job will be done faster when a professional is involved.

October 16, 2006

It Hurts To Watch

Watch this video done for the Dove Self Esteem Fund, then go hug your kids and stop paying attention to advertising.

When reality is distorted this much, when advertising moves away from the product and creates a fictional world, how is it possible to be honest with customers? They will find out and they will despise the lying. Even worse, they will stop buying the product.

Plaudits to Dove for their expression and support of healthful honesty.

October 13, 2006

Do Something (Epilogue)

Doing something socially conscious is not about activism, liberalism, jerking knees, or bleeding hearts. Doing something is about being responsible for a small part of the world - your part.

There are opportunities - small, accessible, and possible ones - each day in every corner of the world, from villages in Ghana to the table in your kitchen. Simply giving money lacks any investment of your person. Extend and open up more than your wallet.

Hopefully, this week has incited you to find a way to make a difference. Hopefully, this week has illustrated that the only way to make a change is to act. Hopefully, this week has inspired you to... do something.

Do Something (Day 5)

"My family history begins with me, but yours ends with you."
- Iphicrates

No supporting facts or dramatic statistics here - family conversations are simply important, necessary to support the unit, and commonly taken for granted.

Do something.

October 12, 2006

Do Something (Day 4)

"A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."
- Albert Camus

The largest urban farm in the United States was closed down to make room for warehouses to be built. The area has less than a 70% occupancy rate for similar spaces. Over 300 families had their farms taken from them. It is estimated that the 14 acre community helped to feed about 2000 people while simultaneously having a substantial impact on local air quality.

Do something.

October 11, 2006

Do Something (Day 3)

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
- Thomas Edison

One half of the world's population live on less than $2.00 per person, per day. One out of seven people subsist on less than $1.00 per day.

Do something.

Kiva - loans that change lives

October 10, 2006

Do Something (Day 2)

"We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about - farming replacing hunting."
- Jacques Cousteau

In the last 50 years carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 30% while 80% of the world's kelp forests and 90% of the world's large pelagic fish have been eradicated.

Do something.

October 9, 2006

Do Something (Day 1)

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
- Mother Teresa

Every three seconds a child dies of malnutrition somewhere in the world.

Do something.

Do Something (Prologue)

This week is about doing something with all that accumulated wealth and squandered free time of yours. Looking outside daily culture for perspectives, experiences, and opportunities, this week you will be supplied with enough thoughts, facts, and options for action that you had better go do something. Yes, it is a challenge.

We are the only obstacle in our way. No divine hand is going to intervene. Technology will not create an answer. It would be nice for our progeny to inherit something besides the mistakes of our consumption. Covering your ears will not make any difference because the volume is going to be turned way up this week. It is up to you to do something.

October 6, 2006

Be Determined And Advance

Life is about moving forward from where you are. About stopping yourself in times of hardship from slipping backward too far. About recognizing the line between opportunity and disappointment is a fine, and sometimes perforated, one.

Life is about your will to live it. Be determined and advance.

October 3, 2006

Fast Food ATMs

Arby's has created self-serve kiosks inside their restaurants. You walk up, use a touch screen to order from an attractive, picture-laden menu, swipe your credit card, and pick up your food at the counter. The kiosks themselves are an ingenious addition, but Arby's uses an even better idea to entice you to use the things.

The brilliance is in the thinking behind it all (hopefully). For each order you place using one of the machines, you receive a free size upgrade to your meal or a free dessert. You immediately think they are being cheap, cutting costs of labor by automating the order process. Then you see the offer, and suddenly, your thoughts of corporate frugality transform into a feeling of delight from the graciousness of their newly offered efficiency.

They want you to move in and out of the restaurant faster. They are sending the right message. After months of use, the offer will probably go away. People will have become accustomed to the kiosks and then Arby's will be using them as a cost cutting measure. But by then you will have forgotten about how cheap corporations are and remember only how you were trained to order your roast beast sandwich - from a robot.

October 2, 2006

As A Marketer, Remarried Women Bother Me

Because hyphenated last names (much like conglomerated brand names and professional firms piled high with partners) are imprecise and dilute the ability to be approachable.