Frequent your competition to positively impact your business

Wouldn’t it be good management and marketing to frequent your competitor’s offerings to understand the market and the differences?

A man examines a tomato at an open air market.
If this man owned a produce market, should he buy his groceries from his competitors? I argue he should. “Shopper” by Carl Mueller, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It was supposed to be a relaxing moment on the couch, with a hot cup of coffee and my local grocery store’s magazine, but it quickly turned into frustration.

As I read the owner’s (and marketer’s) write-ups about the freshest produce at their stores, the highest-quality ingredients stocked in their aisles, and their family atmosphere, which translates to amazing customer service, I thought, “Have they been to another grocery store lately?!?”

And then it struck me, they probably hadn’t.

The reality is, their produce is terrible and rots quickly. It’s also highly overpriced compared to the Trader Joe’s just across the street. And interactions with their staff have been memorably bad.

So how did this gap between marketing and reality happen?

Probably a mix of the following:

  1. When they do go their own store, they are treated differently because employees know them.
  2. They don’t frequent their competitors and incentivize/encourage their employees not to frequent their competitors.

And it makes sense, if this grocery store owner went to a competitor’s store, it’d probably turn into a local public relations nightmare for him and probably hurt his store’s brand.

But is that the way we should react? Wouldn’t it be good management and marketing to frequent your competitor’s offerings to understand the market and the differences? Shouldn’t we applaud employees like this American Airlines executive who flew United?

We can hire secret shoppers, but I would argue that employee everyday interactions with competitors is  the key to small changes that could greatly impact your product or service.

  • If Hyatt hotel employees stayed in other hotels, they may realize how slow their elevators are compared to other hotel chains and investigate why.
  • If an oil company employee went to another gas station to fill her tires with air, she may realize how much safer she feels if the air pump is in front of the store vs. the side of the store and advocate for the change at her company.
  • If a restaurant employee went to a competitor, they may generate new ideas for the restaurant they work at, such as a new way of managing reservations.
  • And if my local grocery chain employees went to Trader Joe’s, they might realize the customer service difference between them and their competitor and work to try to fix it.

So my challenge for you this week is to deeply consider not only your own shopping patterns, but how you may be incentivizing or encouraging your employees’ shopping patterns when it comes to your product or service. Perhaps the best way you can help your own business is by frequenting a competitor.

How to make your political opponent look bad in TV ads: A step-by-step guide

Since I’m guessing you loathe television political ads as much as I do, let’s turn it into a game; how many of the TV political ads that you see follow this formula?

A black and white old television set. On the screen are found young people gathered around a TV themselves
“not everything has a reason” by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since I’m guessing you loathe television political ads as much as I do, let’s turn it into a game; how many of the TV political ads that you see follow this formula?

(written with sarcasm, but really, see how many actually fit this)

Step 1: Obtain footage of your opponent, preferably with them alone. Bonus points if it shows them walking away from people.

Step 2: Change the footage of your opponent from color to black and white.

Step 3: Add daunting music, as similar to the Jaws movie theme without being obvious. Also, you don’t want to distract your audience by having them think “I really want to watch Jaws now, that movie is awesome.”

Step 4: Contrast the black and white footage you’ve just showed with testimonials from senior citizens, veterans, and working-class people talking about how that candidate just “isn’t right for us,” but your candidate is. Bonus points for each time one of them says “trust” with your candidate.

Step 5: Show video of your candidate walking into a room, waving, while a very large group stands and claps like they’ve each just won a million dollars. Make sure the music is upbeat and hopeful-sounding.

Step 6: Show your candidate having one-on-one conversations with senior citizens, veterans, and working-class people. Bonus points for small children, especially babies.

Step 7: Show your candidate looking directly into the camera, saying how much he or she will “work for you.”

Step 8: End with the obligatory stuff. “I’m x candidate and I approve this message” and “This ad was paid for by x committee that sounds like it has nothing to do with politics.”

And, cut.

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Examples of digital marketing fails (broken windows)

The last time I gave a workshop on the Broken Windows Theory and how it related to marketing, a participant gave me feedback that I needed to include more web-based and digital examples. And, she’s absolutely right.

So to fix that, I’ve started collecting digital examples of broken windows. Taking inspiration from one of the blogs I read for fun, McMansion Hell, I’ve added parody comments to the photos.

Without further adieu, enjoy!

Priority Pass website with residence spelled incorrectly

Another fun fact about this one: I was nice and emailed their support department over a month ago and let them know about the typo. I got a standard, “thanks for your feedback” macro response. But did they fix it? Nope.

Cooking light recipe missing ingredients

So much for wanting to make this recipe

Branding to millennials web banner where millennials is spelled wrong. It also shows only white men and they are using their technology in ways that looks like work. There is only one woman in the photo. She's white, and taking a selfie

Thanks to a friend for sending me this one. Beyond the typos, my friend pointed out that the graphic is also problematic; it only shows white millennials even though millennials are incredibly diverse, and the only woman depicted is using her technology to narcissistically take a selfie.

Linked in notification, saying I haven't connected with a coworker for 2 years, even though I work with him every day

Let’s be real here for a minute: We really know why this came up. Phil hasn’t had a need to get on LinkedIn in a few years and they want him back, because eyeballs mean ad revenue. So it’s more about getting him back than doing to me a favor. But to me, it feels like that ex who tells your friends to tell you that they “just hope you are well” in hopes you’ll take that as a cue to contact them.

To give LinkedIn credit, this may be helpful at a large organization where you don’t interact with almost everyone every day. So, for this one, it could be a simple change to the algorithm; only show these messages if it’s an organization of x (200?) employees or more.

Screenshot of a law firm website where the photo of the lawyers is pixelated in a way that gives them a weird halo/aura around their heads

Two ideas of how this might have went down:

Option 1:

Web designer: Can you send me a high resolution version of the photo of you in the courtroom?

Lawyers: Sure. Here you go.

Web designer: Um, that’s low resolution. Can you send me the high res file?

Lawyers: We sent you the file.

Web designer: Yes, I know, but you sent me the low res file

Lawyers: We sent you the file!!!! Just do your file.

Web designer: (sigh) Fine. I give up (or a stronger version of this)

Option 2:

Web designer: We need high quality photos for the website

Lawyers: How much is that going to cost?

Web designer: (gives number)

Lawyers: What?!? That’s too much money. Ted’s kid does a great job taking photos. We’ll just have him do it with his phone.

Web designer: Those won’t look good

Lawyers: They’ll look fine…

On another note, the reason I ended up on their website in the first place is because of some entertaining billboard replacement.

A billboard for a law firm that represents drunk driving cases. Below it is a billboard for Miller Lite

Moving on…

A screenshot of an email promotion from a gym advertising a pizza and beer party after a new workout class

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the hypocrisy of gyms serving pizza and beer. This one is especially fun because the fitness center is tied to a hospital.

An iphone screenshot of Jason's Deli's website with the words "Access Denied" when I tried to click on their nutrition information

Actually they are right, I don’t want to see the nutrition info. I’m happy being blissfully unaware in this case.

iphone screenshot of a website with an error message that says "email not exists"

There, I fixed it.

Fair use disclaimer

All screenshots are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107.

Creative Commons Licenses 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

Creative Commons Licenses 101 (openly-licensed)

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Creative Commons Licenses, including the three layers of the licenses, the four license elements, the six Creative Commons licenses, how the licenses interact with exceptions and limitations of copyright, the licenses and public domain, and more.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included more wording than I normally would.

Copyright law 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

Copyright law 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Copyright law, including how to obtain copyright, copyright holder rights, fair use, public domain, and more.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included more wording than I normally would.

Jennifer Lopez’s Dinero music video: Product placement to the extreme

What struck me as over the top this time in her music video, however, was the level of product placement.

I have a confession to make: I’m a Jennifer Lopez fan. I don’t listen to her often, follow her career much, or really know that much about her. I usually have a very rational reason for liking someone, but JLo is just….entertaining. She’s so over-the-top so much of the time and I find it hilarious.

And she didn’t disappoint in her new music video for the song, Dinero. Walking an ostrich, roasting marshmallows over a fire made of cash, spray painting a luxury vehicle, etc. What struck me as over the top this time in her music video, however, was the level of product placement.

A breakdown of product placement in Dinero

(intentionally not linking these to product sites)

Mig Vapor e-cigarette – :28 (product use) :30 product use + hat

Jersey Mike’s Subs – 1:40

Lyft – 2:06-2:18, 5 times

Time magazine – 2:21

New York Yankees – 2:32. Although this might just be her fandom coming through. She is, after all, “Jenny from the Block.”

Jennifer Lopez in a mansion with high end clothing on, but has a Jersey Mikes sub in her hand.
Copyright Disclaimer: Screenshots are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107. Manipulated screenshots are considered derivative work and are Copyright © Nicole Finkbeiner, openly-licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Of course, this is just the obvious. She also wore $4.5 million worth of diamonds in a partnership with Tiffanys and every outfit, accessory, etc. was more than likely carefully selected for maximum commercialization.

But, it’s just this level of ridiculous that keeps me coming back (and snickering as I write this in an airport, annoying the people near me).

JLo, I heart you, but next time, go back to being over-the-top without so many product placements, ok?

Further reading:

Would you rather product placement be obvious or not obvious?

Leah Remini Is ‘Grateful’ for the Support She’s Received from Friend Jennifer Lopez Since Cutting Ties with Scientology

 

 

History of Creative Commons Powerpoint slides (openly-licensed, of course)

History of Creative Commons Powerpoint slides (openly-licensed)

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Creative Commons’ history.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included basic wording.