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