Dear Kraft: Please do not promote negative stereotypes
Packaged Greek food is big. So how does Kraft advertise its Athenos brand? By featuring a bent-with-age, black-clad, disapproving Greek hag who accuses her granddaughter of dressing like a prostitute, and says that she is hell-bound for living with a man. But, on the positive side, the younger woman serves her guests Athenos-brand hummus. The hag approves of that.
Says Kraft: “While these ads may be controversial, for the most part people will see them for the light-hearted fun they are having. Any Greek Americans we ran them by thought they were really funny.”
Sorry, but “…any Greek Americans we ran them by” hardly constitutes research. Nor does it make stereotyping OK. Moreover, “light-hearted” is in the eye of the beholder. It is always easier to deem cruelty as “light-hearted” when you’re the perp and not the target.
Remember a tire company called “Gator Bait”? Probably not. It’s just as well. Its logo included an impoverished-looking African-American child seated in a tire-swing. I suspect that, at the time, that was considered light-hearted, too. I also suspect that, with careful selection, the tire company could have found African-Americans who thought it was really funny.
Meanwhile, here is what The Greek Institute, a non-profit cultural center, has to say about the Athenos spots: “These commercials are not appropriate from a Greek perspective.”
Nor, I might add, are they particularly appropriate in the way that they make a negative stereotype out of the elderly, ethnic minorities, people who dress differently, people with osteoporosis, people who grew up in a different world, and people with accents, to name a few.
I recall an unhappy advertiser lamenting not long ago, “It’s getting to the point that you can’t make fun of anyone any more.”
That’s a bad thing?
Hidden-Points Trigger Systems:
A Great Way to Surprise
and Delight Your Customer
NOTE: In a blog post below (“Hugged Your Best Customers Lately?”), I alluded to hidden-points trigger programs. A reader was kind enough to post this comment: “May I ask what you mean by ‘hidden-points trigger program’?”
I posted a reply there, but since hidden-points programs are powerful, I am reproducing the reply here as well.
Awarding points toward goods or privileges is a hallmark of loyalty programs. Usually points are awarded openly, but sometimes there are advantages to keeping them hidden.
American Express Rewards is a good example of a non-hidden program. Cardholders know that they earn one point per dollar charged on the American Express card. They can log on at any time, see how many points they’ve earned, and browse a catalog of items that they can use their points to purchase.
By contrast, a hidden points trigger program is one in which the marketer tracks your purchases and awards points behind the scenes. As a customer you’re unaware that there even is a program. When you reach a certain number of points, the tracking system “triggers” the marketer to send you a freebie or privilege. You feel like you have received a thoughtful gift of appreciation out of the blue — which, in fact, you have. It’s immensely flattering and motivating. That’s why hidden points programs are also referred to as “surprise and delight” programs.
Some companies use both. The mail-order book marketer apparently did. I knew that my purchases were accruing points toward a free book, but the unexpected freebie with a kind note from the president was an utter and welcome surprise.
Taking on the quacks
Marketing can be used for good or ill. On the good side, it is thanks to marketing that most Americans today own and use a toothbrush, that most Americans vaccinate their kids, that my coworkers use deodorant, and that I, living in Salt Lake City between the Rocky Mountains and the Utah desert, can enjoy food from all over the world, all year long.
Yet marketing comes with no built-in conscience. It is driven by whatever a buying public is willing to gobble up. Given that buyers do not always make rational choices and that many marketers lack scruples, there exist opportunities to harm as well as to help.
Thus there are, for instance, people who sell fake bomb-detectors to governments, careless of the thousands of soldiers who get blown to bits as a direct result.
There are the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Sommers, who, apparently duped themselves, promote harmful, even life-threatening quackeries big-time.
I am grateful when high-profile persons or organizations take on nonsense and set the record straight. Here is an instance of Dateline NBC taking on the Suzanne Sommers quackery
, and another concerning the bomb-detection scam
, both reported by the James Randi Educational Foundation. I am a proud member of the JREF. I encourage you to bookmark the JREF blog
. Should you feel moved to join and support them
as I do, all the better. —Steve Cuno
NOTE: This post is an excerpt from The RESPONSE Agency Guide to Direct Mail. Download the entire 35-page booklet FREE by clicking here now.
A question that often comes up is, what’s a good response?
Is it 1%? 2%? 3%?
It’s a trick question. Successful direct response marketing isn’t defined in percentages. A good response is one that achieves break-even or better, regardless of percentages.
A good response leaves you in the black after you’ve paid for your list, printing, mailing, and postage.
When you’re promoting a product or service, calculate the expected lifetime value of a new customer. Suppose that, on average, you earn about $500 over the life a customer relationship. If you target 75,000 prospects and spend $50,000 on printing, mailing, and postage, you’ll need to win at least 100 new customers to break even. Expressed as a percentage, that’s about 0.14%. But if a customer is worth only $25 in profits over a lifetime, you’ll need about a 2.7% response to break even.
So, in the former scenario, a “good” response is 0.14% or higher. In the latter scenario, a “good” response is 2.7%.
The question that usually follows is, what response should we expect?
This is not a trick question, but it’s still a tricky one. If you have a product or service that is often sold via direct mail, response rate data should exist, which you can use to guide expectations. If you want to sell credit cards, for instance, it will be helpful to know that direct mail credit card offers historically pull between a 0.4% and a 0.6% response. But always remember that no two products, creative approaches, and sets of market circumstances are alike. Your own credit card offer may fall outside the norm. The only way to know what to expect from your mailing is to complete valid test mailings.
It’s important to agree with management on what constitutes a good or successful mailing before you begin. Otherwise, returning to the above example, you may find that management is disappointed because “...response was only
0.28%”—even when that represents a two-to-one ROI.
No matter how skillfully you execute your direct mail, it’s unlikely that the vast majority of your target market will respond. The trick is in winning a response that generates a profit. —Steve Cuno
Coca-Cola wants you to know that the formula revealed on NPR’s “This American Life” isn’t the real thing. So to speak.
Never mind the fact that their secret formula is no secret. Neither are the so-called secret recipes behind Mrs. Fields Cookies and KFC. (You can have all the crispy you want. It’s the original recipe or nothing for me, please.) There are scientific means of divining food ingredients.
Still, the cachet of a purported secret formula makes for good marketing. Everyone likes a bit of mystery and exclusivity. It’s fun. And on occasion it’s a great way to get your name in the news.
Unless, that is, you happen to be Taco Bell.
This article was just published in Deliver Magazine for Valentines Day.Happy Valentine’s Day: Hugged Your Best Customers Lately?
This time of year, I can’t resist pointing out marketing’s penchant for love-and-courtship metaphors. We woo
. We remain faithful
to brand promises.
We build relationships
Let’s push the metaphor a step further. After a sale has been — dare I say it? — consummated
, day-to-day demands can consume our attention, causing us to unwittingly take for granted those who matter most.
It can wreak havoc on any relationship, business or personal. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are a few tips for keeping customer relationships alive. (Who knows, maybe these tips will prove useful at home, too.)
- Don’t shy from the expected. Some marketers fear that an appreciation strategy may be expected and appear contrived. Indeed it may, but that’s hardly an indictment. The greater risk is failing to do the expected, as anyone who served time in the doghouse after forgetting Valentine’s Day or an anniversary can attest.
- Next, go for the unexpected. One day I received a note, seemingly out of the blue, from the president of a mail-order book club. A free book coupon was enclosed. “You’re a good customer,” the note said. “I wanted to say thanks.” Though I know a hidden-points trigger program when I see one, even I felt recognized and flattered. I also bought lots more books.
- Make it personal. Perhaps ironically, today’s technology can make mailings of any volume feel personal. Take advantage of that! Address your customer by name. Shoot for a warm tone. And for once, resist the urge to blather about a commitment to excellence.
- Remember the power of just “thank you.” When I left a surprise bonus check with a note of appreciation on an employee’s chair, he choked up — because of the note. Yeah, he’d seen the check. “But,” he sniffled, “the note…!”
- Be picky. It rarely makes economic sense to send remembrances to all customers. But acknowledging the 20 percent who likely account for 80 percent of your success can pay out big.
- Keep going. You can’t build and reward loyalty with infrequent contact. To remember hearing from you at all, most customers will need to hear from you often.
- Give yourself reminders. Whether you set up a database-driven trigger system or just mark a calendar, showing due appreciation only happens when you make it part of your routine.
I suppose I should concede that marketing doesn’t limit itself to love metaphors. We also seem to like war metaphors. We aim
, use guerilla
tactics and wage campaigns
. Maybe we’ll talk about that on Veterans Day.—Steve Cuno
Most emphatically, no one should text while driving. So Utah Valley University student Jalise Hinton had her heart in the right place when she created the above-pictured billboard.
Yet consider the time a driver’s eyes must spend not watching the road in order to decipher “c u l8tr,” not to mention take in the headline and tagline. Ironically, this board could be an accident waiting to happen.
Not long ago, I noted another another local billboard that was filled with long, hard-to-read copy sure to keep anyone’s eyes off the road for far too long. That was bad enough. Even worse, the advertiser happened to be a law enforcement agency.
(By the way, you shouldn’t talk
on your phone while driving, either. No, you are not the exception. I admit that I used to balk at that notion, but eventually I conceded that the data are conclusive. That is why if you call my cell while I’m driving, you’ll get a recorded message promising a call back once I have safely pulled over. For a great read on this and other topics, pick up The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
.) —Steve Cuno
An unknown author dedicated his first book to John Smith. Not that he knew or cared about anyone by that name. Here, in his own words, was his reasoning: “It is said that the man to whom a volume is dedicated, always buys a copy. If this prove true in the present instance, a princely affluence is about to burst upon THE AUTHOR.”
The book was called The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaverous County, after a story by the same name.
In the time the author won fame. You may have heard of him. Mark Twain.
Though there are many aspects to your brand, one of the biggest is the experience you create for your customers. Permit me to illustrate.
I just ordered a set of eight books. I found the set online at a favorable price from a vendor I’d never heard of. I also saw that Amazon offered the set via a third-party vendor, but for $20 more.
Last time I ordered from an Amazon third-party vendor, I was dissatisfied. The book I received was clearly used, whereas I had ordered one described as “like new.” I informed Amazon. Within 24 hours, the third party vendor apologized, refunded my money, and told me I could keep the book with their compliments.
So I just ordered the set through Amazon and paid the extra $20. Gleefully.
The brand experience Amazon created for me is one where I know I can count on them. In this case, that assurance was easily worth an extra $20 to me. Now, had Amazon failed to come through earlier, the coolest logo and the slickest slogan would have made no difference.
When a client asks the RESPONSE Agency for a magical creative solution that is sure to attract a new market, my first question is: What is it about the experience you deliver that the new market will appreciate? Branding isn’t just about spewing hot-air promises in slick ads. It’s about delivering an experience that is meaningful to the customer you hope to win.
I just listened to a radio spot for Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water—and I’m upset. The essence of the spot: that all water may look the same, but since Arrowhead comes from springs unavailable to the other guys, the folks at Arrowhead “believe” theirs is better; and they “believe” you’ll taste a difference, too.
Used in this way, “believe” is what the advertising industry calls a weasel: it sounds like a claim, but doesn’t quite say what it sounds like it says, so the advertiser remains legally safe. That is, they didn’t outright say the water tastes better. Only that they believe it does.
Thus we have this gem, taken verbatim from the Arrowhead website (I added the italics): “We believe our spring sources, bottling process, and our dedication to giving customers the most refreshing product possible are what give Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water its remarkable quality and consistently great taste.”
Weasel, weasel, weasel.
I am aware that Arrowhead contains minerals. It’s conceivable that you could taste them. But if you truly can taste them, then Arrowhead should be able to demonstrate as much by means of a controlled, third-party, triple-blind test. The fact that Arrowhead chooses to weasel instead suggests that their claim is bogus—and that they know it.
Sadly, the human mind readily fools itself. Doubtless a number of people, after hearing or reading Arrowhead’s tripe, will sample the product and convince themselves that it really does taste better. Which, I suspect, is exactly what the devious folks at Arrowhead hope.
Such practices help give advertising and us advertisers a bad name. As if we needed any help in that department.
Minerals aside, water is a parity product. There are other, ethical ways to sell party products without resorting to weaseling. After all, I would be hard-pressed to tell you the difference between a “weasel” and an outright “lie.” Without, that is, resorting to weaseling myself.