Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Would You Pay For This Newspaper Ad

I don't understand this newspaper ad. Someone please explain it to me! I look at it and wonder what does the left side of the ad have to do with the right side?

Tony Mariani

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Signage That Says Nothing At All

This is a shopping centre. Its not the Oxford shopping centre. There are no stores in the mall called Oxford.

Oxford owns and manages the mall. They own a lot of malls.

I am guessing that they didn't hire an ad agency or public relations firm to come up with the positioning line, "Manage With Pride". At least I hope they didn't.

I don't get the purpose of wasting window space.

Should have stuck to "In" and "Out". That tells me something.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You Are Wasting Money On Direct Mail

A lot of houses have sold in my neighborhood. Evident from the flyers stuffed in my box from real estate agents who have told me so. Some are printed on some decent stock paper but most on normal paper that you would find in a photocopier.

Some have their pictures on them, some have all their qualifications, their million dollar clubs etc..

One in particular highlighted Bank rates, gift ideas, color schemes and selling your house over the Christmas season. It was more of newsletter. I get it. Stand out from the rest.

Waste of money.

The rationale for using direct mail is that it costs peanuts and one sale will more than cover the costs for years to come.

Your direct mail piece makes no connection with me.

And to the "one hour" company that thinks by hand writing my name and address, with their return address only and an actual stamp is going to work, guess again.

The first time you did get me to open it. Fool me once shame on you.

No fooling the second time and it went right into the garbage.

And as for a referral, don't hold your breath.

Tony Mariani

Saturday, November 21, 2009

3 Things I Don't Understand About Retail

1. Why you will only open two registers when you have five and the lineup for the two registers is almost out the door.

2. That your employees have not been versed on the flyer you sent out.

3. You want me to join your frequent customer club, then make sure all your franchise stores are linked to the one main data base. I went into a different location than I normally shop at and was told by the cashier that each store has their own data base. I didn't have time to give all the information all over again just to get my 15% discount.

Tony Mariani

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Retail Can Be Hard

A quick 6 pack of my experience to buy a car charger for my cell phone.

1. Your staff member grunted at me instead of hello.
2. Your staff member had to ask me to repeat myself twice busy he was to busy talking and laughing with a co-worker.
3. Your staff member then grunted and pointed to the back wall where the car charger I needed was instead of going over and getting it for me.
4. I had to wait to pay because your employee was to busy trying to call into a radio station to win a contest.
5. I then got the rolling of the eyes when I asked if I could get my purchase bagged.
6. And lastly. Tell your employees the only phone your employees should be answering is yours, NOT their cell phone!

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Do Your Ads Say

Platitudes in ads. There are some beauties out there, but topping the chart has to be, "qualified and knowledgeable staff".

Its a wild assumption, but chances are that quite a few of your customers have used the internet and are pretty knowledgeable themselves.

Qualified and knowledgeable staff, 25 years in business, lots of free parking gives the consumer not one good reason to shop at your store.

Ask your customers why they shop at your store and see if you can find a theme. Use that information to craft an ad you can shout about.

Tony Mariani

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Know Your Customer Service Sucks When...

This is an Air Canada customer service response to a customer's complaint after the customer was bumped from four straight flights.

"We regret that you were dissatisfied with our response and our gesture of goodwill(the goodwill was 25% discount on the customer's next base fare flight)...while we understand that you are disappointed, we must remain consistent with our handling of similar requests for all customers".

Translation of last line: "We aren't going to do anything for you".

Here is what you should have done Air Canada.

Put the customer up in your Air Canada Lounge.

Buy them dinner and some beverages.

Upgrade them to business class when you finally put them on a flight.

If they are a frequent flyer bonus their account with miles for the inconvenience you caused them.

Offer them a free flight.

And to the tall foreheads at Air Canada, who wrote your customer service policy?

You don't ask a paying customer whom you have left a bad taste in their mouth to spend more money with you by offering a 25% discount on a full fare flight! That's not a gesture of goodwill, its an insult!

Tony Mariani

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pay Attention To Warranty Cards

Warranties. I often wonder if they are the biggest scam in the world. That little card when you buy a toaster, microwave or radio. I have even found one in a book shelf I bought. It warrantied the special screws.

Not that this is a a legitimate survey, but I asked 10 friends and co-workers if they have ever filled one of these warranty cards out. Zilch, zip, zero.

Take roof shingles. You can buy 10, 15, 20 and even 45 year shingles. But if you don't have the invoice for the shingles or fill out the warranty card, those shingles can be 100 year shingles, you are out of luck.

Have a look at this roof. These shingles are IKO 20 year shingles.

These shingles were put on 10 years ago.

This is the south side which gets most of the sun. Now look at the this picture of the north side of the house.

The warranty specialist at IKO who manufactured this shingles said, it looks like two different roofs.

This is my roof and no I did not install the shingles 10 years ago. When we bought the house, the shingles had been done the year before. No we do not have the bill and the previous owner was unable to find his records of the project.

I wasn't looking for them to give me free shingles to fix the south side just a break in the price to replace them. Pleading with the warranty specialist at IKO it looked like there was a glimmer of hope for a great deal on the shingles.

After a long pause came the question, "Are your soffits vented", asked the specialist. No my soffits are not vented but I do have three roof vents and a front to back airway in house peaks.

"Given your roof size you need at least 4 roof vents and the soffits need to also have venting. Your problem is you are getting to much hot air trapped in your attic and its causing your shingles to bake. Your problem is a venting issue not a manufacturing issue".

Which brings me back to the warranty. These shingles could have been 19 years old and I could have had the invoice and the crew's bill who installed them and that warranty would all mean bumpkiss. You see right in their FAQ section under Roof Types and Designs, how much ventilation do I need, there is a link to the CASMA site which goes on to explain how much you need, blah blah blah..

Now science was not my strong point in school and I did miss a lot of shops classes. But with all the hot air trapped in my roof wouldn't you think that the north side of my roof would have some "baking" to the shingles considering there are NO vents on my north side?

"Warranties, what are they good for, absolutely nothing"

I am thinking the warranty specialist at IKO might be full of hot air.

Tony Mariani

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pay Me Now United Airlines Or Pay Me Later

Dave Carroll's story is going to cause United Airlines nothing but headaches. In a nutshell, Carroll is aboard a United Airlines flight waiting to take off and witnesses the baggage handlers break his guitar.

United will not acknowledge the incident nor pay the $3500 to replace the instrument. So Carroll has created the first of three videos about the incident. You tube reports almost 2.5 million people have watched the funny music video.

You would think that someone at United would have handled this thing by now. Can you say Domino's Pizza and the public relations nightmare they went through earlier this year.

Hey United, get thee to some social media classes. This is going to leave a huge mark!

Tony Mariani

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tribes Are What Matter Now

Seth Godin is brilliant.

Buy his book Tribes. Look at it this way. If you were going for lunch you will likely spend about $20. So bring a bag lunch and use the money for the book. It will change the way you look at business.

Bon Appetit
Tony Mariani

Friday, April 24, 2009

You Lost Me At Hello

I was looking for a headphone/microphone for my laptop. I didn't know if I wanted the plug in one or the USB version.

My first stop is to the computer store that spends considerable advertising dollars and they were advertising both versions. I brought my laptop in and headed over to a salesperson and asked if I could test a unit before I bought it.

The sales person sent me over to service where I explained what I was looking for.

Here is how you lose a sale.

Service Guy-"We don't have any that you can try. You will have to buy it. If you have to return it, its an in store credit not refund."

So in a nano second all these things went through my mind:

Why wouldn't you have a display unit to test drive. I have my laptop with me. Is that not signal that I want to buy?

I am going to pay for it at that end of the counter and if it doesn't work I am going to walk 5 feet down that sales counter to return it but not for cash but an instore credit.

What makes you think I would want to shop here in the future.

I came in here to buy and you blew it.

Out the door and down the street to the competitor. Not only did they let me test drive it, the owner took personal care of me hooking it up to my computer, let me tap into his WIFI and I made calls using my SKYPE. Worked beautifully and I was a happy camper. Even better when I went to pay for it, it was on sale saving me another $10.

Here is the thing. All things being equal in price it all boils down to service and the first store failed because that employee was likely following store policy.

Like one of my first sales managers taught me, "Don't negotiate with me to make the deal. Save that for the customer." And, "its always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

You can't use the excuse that the advertising didn't work. Your company policy did that.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

3 Questions Any Advertising Sales Person Should Ask

When you ask these 3 questions, be prepared for the owner to have the deer in the headlights look.

For the most part advertising is foreign. Its usually is done on a whim and a prayer.

So try these 3 questions.

1. You know Mr. Business Owner, advertising is an integral part of any business operation. Would you agree that you need a plan and stick with it to the end?

2. My experience has shown me that many businesses fail to put enough emphasis on an advertising plan over the long term. Worse many businesses do not measure how well their advertising is doing. How do you measure your advertising success?

3. How do you determine your advertising choices?

Try it on your next call and then come back and leave a comment of the call.

Betcha your answers will be priceless!

Tony Mariani

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What If All Businesses Were Run The Zappos Way

I am following company CEO Tony Hsieh, on twitter. His twitter name is, zappos. It was somewhere among the tweets where I learned you could email Tony and he would send you a copy of Zappos 2008 Culture Book. A couple of hours after my email I received a return email from Tony telling me the book was on its way. And there it was a few days later sent by UPS.

The Culture Book is written by employees. Its refreshing to see a company empower their employees to WOW customers. What a novel idea, customer service.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lost TV Ads From SNL

One of the funniest things on TV was the old SNL spoof TV ads.

I wish I could say that these two ads where from the show. Sadly they are not.

The only thing good thing I can say about the first one is; are those a set of Calloway golf clubs in the garage next to the hockey sticks

And in this one are his collar buttons done up?

Tony Mariani

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Strength Of Outdoor Media

Whether its billboards, busboards or transit, why do companies insist on cluttering their ads with to much information.

And in some cases the print is to small to read. Keep in mind how high up billboards are. You don't want your print to look jibberish.

Be careful of the background colors that your copy isn't lost in it.

Rule of thumb: 5 to 7 words max and don't try and tell me a story. Before anything gets printed for goodness sake, use spell check!

Outdoor media does a tremendous job to reinforce the brand.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You Paying To Much For Your Yellow Pages

I am not sure why anyone would want to launch another Yellow Pages, Super Pages or whatever pages. I didn’t even know there was a new competitor to the yellow pages until a client showed me the new EZ Phone Finder book.

In the days of rotary phones, the yellow pages ruled.

Today my phone book levels the work bench in the garage.

Yellow pages are a service directory. It was and is used for emergencies.

You had a plumbing problem, you would call everyone in the book until someone came and fixed it. You didn’t care if they were Hare Krishnas. You want the problem fixed NOW.

The internet has changed the yellow pages. So why are you are still spending huge dollars in a book that sits closed 99% of the time.

It’s to late for this year, so print off this column and next year when your yellow page rep comes to sell you again, here are just a few questions to ask:

1. How do consumers use the yellow pages

2. Explain in column listings and display listings.

3. Share some success stories and of those success stories how many of those businesses were in the panic caller business.

4. Are there marketing dollars that manufacturers pay for where my business can be listed.

5. What are trade service listings.

6. Are their market research reports of usage of yellow pages.

Think of the top five businesses advertising today. Now take a look in the yellow pages and see if those businesses have full page color ads. Chances are its a column listing with their logo and list of addresses.

If you are using big colorful ads in more than one category, your money could be better spent especially if you are also using traditional media.

Here is a good exercise if you are spending money in the yellow pages. Open the book to your business and have a look at the ads around your business. If you cover up the name of your competitors, do all the ads look the same?

Tony Mariani

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Value of Each Viewer, User Or Customer

Thank you to Mark Ramsey from who first featured Gary Vaynerchuk.

The power of the internet and social media according to Gary Vaynerchuk.

Enjoy and please leave your comments on the video.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How To Write A Commercial

If you are looking for a great 30 minute teleseminar for free and from one of the best in the copy writing business, click on this link and download it.

Dan O'Day is a radio guru and ( real good at what he does. He shares some great exercises and strategies that you can add to your own writing talents.

And please put them to use so that I will stop this bad habit of yelling at the TV and Radio when really bad ads come on. Hopefully this will rid me of what Dr. Martin von Nostrand is calling, "People Don't Talk Like That In Real Life Condition"!!!

And just for fun click on Dan's Amazing Commercial Generator and have some fun.

Tony Mariani

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Even A Newspaper Ad Can Have To Much Info

Here is a good example of a car dealer using a great idea and not knowing when to stop adding to it.

This is a tremendous initiative to show that you care about the community helping youth groups to fund raise. For that you get a 10.

The execution, if I can be brutally honest (ala American Idol judge Simon Cowell) you get a 3.

And I would think the newspaper rep (and marketing agency if involved) should take the blame too.

In a nutshell the ad explains that the dealership has sectioned off the showroom into three quadrants and invited charities to research a vehicle (??)and then create a display (more ???). Customers will vote on the best display. Each group gets a cash donation and the grand prize winner a grand prize.

But this should have been two separate ads.

Allot a half page to selling cars.

The other half, your "Best Dressed Showroom Display". Use pictures of the charities involved with their spokespeople explaining the concept.

Two different messages, two different ads.

The way it is looks like a bad toupee.

Tony Mariani

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will You Be A Johnny Today

How do you spell customer service? This 3 minute 17 second video will revolutionize your customer service.

Tony Mariani

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who Thought Of The Packaging

Have a look at the packaging on these two items. The rechargeable unit uses a USB to charge. No normal plug. Both packages have a picture of a camera on them. A stretch to think the camera is digital? You would be wrong.

When I unpacked batteries and charger, there tucked in the back operating instructions on the charger. Underlined was the following, "Not recommended for digital cameras".

I called the company. You guessed it. They told me the batteries are meant for regular cameras not for digital.

Logic would think a lot more digital cameras would be selling than regular cameras.

So why would a company spend marketing dollars to feature a camera on their packaging and lead you to think they would work for digital? It ticked me off because I had to go back and stand in a long line to return the items. What a waste of dollars and hurt your perception in the market.

Tony Mariani

ps Last week the radio industry in Winnipeg lost a great personality. QX 104FM's morning man, Ron Able lost his battle with cancer. In an industry with very fragile egos, Ron was a genuine gentleman who gave to both the industry he served for many years and this great city he adopted as his home. Rest in peace Ron.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What Sells Cars Today

This full page ad for a car dealer is confusing. I am trying to figure out the relevance of the bride and groom in the ad. They look happy together in one picture and in the other she is running away. I guess to the,The LAST CHANCE....FOR MASSIVE CLEARANCE DISCOUNTS!

How do you use the word massive and then right under it only 5 no make that 4 2008's left!! And whats with the double exclamation points?!!

And I am not quite sure the purpose of the print type for LAST CHANCE. Looks a little tombstonish. Marriage and tombstonish in a car ad. hmmmm

And I wish dealers would stop using star bursts or what ever you call them. And don't get me started on using MSRP and discounts in ads.

These ads may have worked in the 70's but I question their success today. What works today? I think this video will give you some ideas of what your copy should look or sound like.

Tony Mariani

What Is The New Normal

I have been wanting to write about websites for some time now. It amazes me that there are businesses out there with no websites. This past week I called on a company in the health industry with no website. And they are a decent size player.

So when I stumbled across Greg Stielstra's blog, "More Than A Recession?:Discovering The New World", my work was done. So with Greg's permission, here is the post a few lines in:

Before the Internet we shopped in physical stores staffed by dozens of clerks and sales associates. The volume of help required meant that many were under-trained and under-paid. Those physical stores stocked multiple copies of a range of products limited by the store's square footage. Products were displayed on shelves and also boxed in the storerooms. The overhead was tremendous.

These physical stores were located in population centers and tended to attract business from that base. Stores were distributed and so was demand. If you lived in Grand Rapids Michigan, then you probably bought your new television from a store in that market based on advertising you caught in that city's media (local TV, radio, print, outdoor). Location mattered...a lot!

A store in Nashville might be selling that same TV for less money, but people outside Nashville were unlikely to know because they didn't receive that market's media. And, even if they did know about the better deal, the price difference didn't justify such a long trip.

But the Internet has destroyed the physical boundaries that once governed this process.

An electronics chain like Circuit City no longer needs stores in every market--each burdened with multi-million-dollar inventories, property taxes, light bills, staff, health insurance, etc. etc. It's inventory is no longer constrained by the store's square footage but expands as infinitely as the virtual shelf that holds it. Now, all Circuit City needs is one killer website and a UPS account. It doesn't even need its own warehouse. It can drop ship the TV you ordered directly from the manufacturer or ship it from a warehouse owned and managed by a shipping partner like UPS or FedEx. It doesn't even display TV's any longer. It displays photos and videos of TV's on its website.

That one website can serve every home in the United States--dramatically expanding Circuit City's reach--while slashing its costs. It knows no physical boundaries or store hours. It's open everywhere, all the time. A small room full of highly trained, well-paid customer support people can field calls from customers, providing better answers at a lower cost than the brick and mortar staff ever could.

The Internet is disinter mediating whole sections of the retail chain. We no longer need many brick-and-mortar retail stores which means we don't need the warehouses that supplied them or the malls that housed them, or the media that advertised them. Someday the manufacturer will realize it no longer needs Circuit City and will consolidate the process further by selling direct.

This is why I say the recession is masking another, larger issue. Are jobs being eliminated because the economy has slowed or because those jobs are no longer needed?
The current economic downturn may reduce TV sales in the short term and reduced sales may cause electronics chains to close stores and layoff staff. But even should the economy rebound and should people flush with cash suddenly desire new TV's again, I doubt retail chains will return to the old model by reopening the stores they closed and rehiring the staff they laid off. No, Those stores and those jobs and that way of retail life will be gone and it won't be coming back.

And now for the real shocker. This is good news. Yep. Good news. And it's not the first time it's happened. History is filled with these kinds of inflection points. It took dozens of monks to transcribe books until Gutenberg gave us the printing press. Suddenly one person could churn out more volume than a room full of scribes. Those scribes lost their jobs, but they were also freed to do something else...something more important. This is how progress is made. We continuously find more efficient ways to do things so that people are freed to invent the next thing and move us all forward.

Progress is painful when you focus on what's lost, so don't. Stop trying to preserve the old way, and focus instead on discovering the new normal. Spread the fire.

Greg Stielstra is the author of PyroMarketing: The Four Step Strategy to Ignite Customer Evangelists and Keep Them For Life (HarperBusiness, September 2005). You will find his blog at,

Tony Mariani

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Extra Extra Hear All About It

"Extra, Extra, Read all about it,
Wanted, young man single and free
Experience in love preferred,
But will accept a young trainee
Oh I'm gonna put it in the want ads..."
-Honey Cone singing Want Ads, 1971

Used to be when the want ads did the job in finding employees. That mode today is taking a back seat to sites like Workopolis, Monster, Kijiji, Craig's list and company websites. And with more choices today, companies are struggling to find people.

When you drill down there are really 3 types of potential employees out there.

  1. The person who will apply for every job posted because they hate what they do. Not a prime candidate.
  2. The person who is happy with their job but may be interested to know what else is out there. They occasionally check the want ads and might through their hat in the ring if something catches their eye.
  3. The best candidate, the one who is not looking for a job.

Numbers two and three are least likely to see your ads in the career section or specialty sites because they aren't looking.

We are starting to see a shift from newspapers as HR people are adapting to the changing times and the age of the internet. One of newspapers biggest source of revenue comes from the career section and the line rates are different from display advertising line rates. And unless you are a volume user, a typical career ad can run you about $2000.

Why not take that $2000 for your next go around and put into radio. That kind of money is a pretty solid two week radio campaign. Or if you feel you have to be in the paper, cut the ad cost in half, add radio. That same $2000 still gets you a career section ad and a week of radio. Whats the upside? Your radio ads could be speaking to that person driving home from a frustrated day at the office and you just piqued their interest.

Or consider what Ikea did in
Malmo, Sweden when they were looking for copywriters and project managers. They hand scrawled want ads in restrooms! Results? After only four days, they'd received 60 applications, which is five times the normal return rate on newspaper advertising for Ikea. The cost? 5 magic markers.

Tony Mariani

Extra, extra...Ladies and Gentleman.... Honey Comb

Friday, January 9, 2009

Who Is In Charge Here

I am screaming on the inside as I stand in line at the return counter at a national retail clothing outlet. It's six days in the new year and you would think that some tall foreheads would know there are going to be returns. So why is there just one person at the return counter and a whole bunch of staff wandering around looking busy.

A day later at another national retail department store to return another item. 15 minutes in a lineup because, bless her heart, the lone customer service representative can not find the right code on the cash register and you guessed it, staff wandering around looking busy. Who is in charge here.

I guess impersonal and poor service is the norm of the day. Being in radio sales its not unusual to hear, "the advertising didn't work". If customer service sucks, all the advertising in the world won't help.

It doesn't matter if you are an established business or new to the market, you will always win when you WOW customers. Would I have minded the little bit of a wait had I reached my turn and heard, "I am sorry those gloves didn't fit. I can get someone to help you look for a pair that do?" Instead it was a grunt greeting, sign here and next!

It's just mind boggling to invest in bricks and mortar and not in the trenches where your brand wins or loses. And if you are not working on how to keep your brand strong, you have no excuses. The web has a plethora of experts at our finger tips. One of my favorite is Joe Calloway.

Calloway teaches about branding and how to not lose focus on the customer. We have all experienced this type of service Joe describes here in this short video.

Make sure you check out Joe's website is He is the author of 3 best selling books, owns a very successful restaurant in Nashville and a great speaker.

Tony Mariani

Friday, January 2, 2009

Words That Should Never Be In Your Ads

Some ad copy I can do without hearing or seeing in 2009:

Our once in a lifetime semi-annual sale

Its our people that make the difference

The new models are here

The boss is on vacation

Friendly, knowledgeable staff

Service second to none

Store wide savings

Customer comes first

Won't last forever

Is going on now

Ends soon

Big savings time

That time of the year again

The sale you have been waiting for

Clear out the show room

Lots of free parking

and my personal favorite,

There has never been a better time to buy

The litmus test for your advertising message is, to take your name out of the ad and insert your competitor's name. See anything different?

The real litmus test is, can the customer you are spending your advertising dollars tell the difference.

Tony Mariani