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December 2005
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February 2006

Sundance Film Festival and Branding

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival here in Park City  (thanks Bob).   Three things happen every year.   First, you need to take the bus, 'cause parking will be scarce.   Sundance_06 Second, it will snow.  And third, people will try to hook their brand to Sundance.   Sometimes you see the connection and sometimes you just say "huh?".   A clever tie-in I saw was the opening of a new night club, the Depot and Butterfly restaurant in Salt Lake City.  For their opening, they booked bands with actors in them.   Minnie Driver's did a pretty good job.   O.K.  this makes sense.

Then on Thursday as we were walking down Main Street and I see Intel took over the Mexican restaraunt.   Now I've seen the technical horsepower required to product movies and sound both at SkyWalker Ranch and at Third Wave Productions.   So I'm thinking we're going to see some great editing software built on top of the Core Duo processor, or something very similar.  Instead, it's  a very blue color scheme setup showing the lastest Intel logo with a place to check your email and play multiuser first person shooter games.  Huh?

Brand image is a squishy area.   It's great to sponser events and organizations,  but if you are going to have a presence, at least try to show some connection.   Or you just wasted a lot of money.  And confused a lot of people.


Handles and Suitcases

Many times in high tech marketing we have a very complicated product.    And quite often it can be in infrastructure (don't yawn yet).   Try as we may, we just cannot simplify the explanation of the product or service.   Just cannot put a handle on it.  Handle So instead we describe the shape and contents of the entire suitcase of features and benefits.  And during the presentation our audience elects to read their email instead of listening to us.

A very effective technique is describing a quick story which starts with "Have you ever......."   Hopefully something somewhat witty and terse.   That can be your handle.    And then people have an anchor point from which to understand your product or service.

A few weeks ago we got into a channel discussion, trying to figure out which features would appeal to which portions of the channel.    I was getting excited about the potential for resellers to really expand their business.   My associate explained many of them were Winnebago accounts.    Maybe I went cross eyed then, but he went on to explain.  They were just fine with their current customer base, thank you very much.   Their only interest was how to make enough new money to buy a new Winnebago for the upcoming vacation season.   Now that was a precise handle on a complex segmenting problem.   And you can do it too.


Surfing the black holes

Every now and then we get to define new products, or combination of products to create a new one.   Which makes me think of black holes.   In any industry there are events and players which impact everyone else.    Stellarmassblackhole Just like the huge gravitational pull of a black hole, cross the event horizon and you get sucked in.   

A few of you may have been lucky enough to create a black hole, but the rest of us just look at those black holes wondering "Why didn't I think of that?" 

But observing these events can lead to many lucrative opportunities.   Call it surfing the black holes.   The trick here is to use the power created by the market impacts and skim the edges.   Even better is the convergence of several of these black holes.   Harnessing the energy of several events will give a huge boost to your new product.   But while you are doing this, beware the event horizon.   They tend to expand.   You need to be far enough way or nimble enough to avoid getting caught.


Going the Distance

The devil is in the details.   Think beyond your product or service and instead pay attention to your total customer's life cycle experience.   After your focus groups, usability studies and whatever else you typically do, create a flow chart which shows the different ways your product is purchased, installed, used, supported and returned.   But don't stop there.   Distance I believe marketing is the voice of the customer.  So be the customer.   Do everything yourself which is on the flow chart and I promise at least one detail will have escaped you.

Before Christmas I bought two pieces of jewelry from Overstock.com.   They came in one small shipping envelope.   Well the sizes weren't quite right so I attempted to return them.   Problem is, whoever designed the return system never had enough imagination to think someone might want to return more than one item.  That's right.   You cannot return two items.   Instead you have to print out 2 shipping labels, pay 2 shipping costs (and that doesn't include the fine print restocking fee of $4.95 per item).   Customer service had no idea what to do either, because their system also could only handle one item.   So I put both items in one package and mailed it back.   This is going to be interesting.  Maybe the system will crash.