I experienced that fateful day on a very personal and professional level. On September 11, 2001, I was an employee of Van Kampen Funds/Morgan Stanley. After seeing the horrific events around the country unfold live on my computer in our Oak Brook office, it was my job as the designated floor warden to conduct a safety sweep of our floor to ensure that all employees had safely left for home. A mandatory building evacuation had been issued from our home office in New York immediately after the World Trade Center attacks fearing the possibility of further retribution on related financial, military and government buildings.
As I opened each office door, my mind recycled and replayed the images I had just seen on my computer screen. As I checked under each desk of every office and cubicle on my floor, I prayed for the safety of all those impacted in New York, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, I was struck by the amazing resilience of the American people, first responders and the business community at-large. The overwhelming outpouring of fellowship and ‘community’ exhibited by all was nothing short of remarkable. I carried that newfound sense of fellowship, community, and perseverance into the next few years at Morgan Stanley and subsequently, into the next chapter of my life and the opening of my own business.
Each year, I endeavor to remember September. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you find the strength and courage to do the same not only on the anniversary of 9/11, but the remaining 364-days of each and every year that follows.
God bless you and your family.
Chief iDEA Officer + Founder
RESZEL iNDUSTRIES iDEAVERTISING
Now that the county property taxes second installment due date has come and gone … let’s review the use of outdoor advertising/signage as a property tax collection reminder.
I own a small business and collecting fees for my services goes with the territory. Like many small business owners and entrepreneurs in the services industry:
> We advertise (or iDEAVERTISE) our services to prospects.
> We sell and hopefully win new business.
> We provide remarkable services for a fair fee.
> We collect said fees upon completion of our work.
For me, sending an invoice via email and snail mail is the iDEAl method of notifying my clients when attempting to collect fees for services rendered. For others, snail mail, financial software or even web-based financial programs that automatically issue invoices ‘fills the bill’ from an accounts payables/billables standpoint.
Since starting my business some 9-years ago and having worked in the advertising, marketing and communications space for going on 30-years, I can safely say that I have never once entertained the iDEA of using outdoor signage as a method of alerting/reminding clients of pending invoices and/or their financial obligation to pay for services rendered. 😉 Why? Because in my mind, placing a large banner in a high visibility public place simply to remind individuals of a bill due date is insulting let alone A BAD iDEA AND BUSINESS PRACTICE! Really? Our county believes taxpayers NEED a property tax payment reminder in the form of a large banner installed at a well-traveled in-town intersection? It’s not like they didn’t send their fair-share of snail mail communications well in advance of the actual property tax bill due date, right? The cost to produce and send those snail mail communications wasn’t enough? I guess I’ve answered my own question since earlier this week I found myself staring at what is by most standards, a very large outdoor banner reminding taxpayers of their financial obligation to pay for county services rendered!
Not sure about other taxpayers, but the very sight of a banner like this begs a question or two … or thirteen. Questions like:
Q. How much time was spent on the iDEA to post these banners?
Q. How much did the banners cost?
Q. At the time of banner purchase, did the county pay sales tax? 😉
Q. Who pays to have the banners printed?
Q. Who pays for the labor to put the banners up?
Q. Who pays for the labor to take the banners down?
Q. Are these banners a good use of taxpayer dollars?
Q. Why a red, white and blue banner color palette? Subliminal or intentional patriotism?
Q. Why the need for another promotional vehicle to further the current snail direct mail campaign which already includes ‘our bill’ and due dates? Is the current snail direct mail campaign not producing the Return On Investment (ROI) the county had hoped for?
Q. In 2014, will we begin receiving reminders via Facebook and Twitter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of strategic and tactical social media communications. I’m just not sure how many of us will be able to summon the strength to ‘LIKE’ or ‘FOLLOW’ a tax-oriented Facebook or Twitter page.
Q. Is the county entertaining the iDEA of promoting Foursquare check-ins for those taxpayers making their tax payments onsite? I can see it now … “Hey fellow taxpayers! At the assessor’s office paying my property taxes ;-)!! Tip for those coming down, FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE prior to stepping through the door.”
Q. Are we going to begin seeing a flood of Instagram pics and Twitter Vine videos from the county, showing us how to write our property tax check, place in an envelope, apply a stamp and place the envelope in a town mail box?
Q. Is this new out-of-the-box reminder signage a trend? Hope not! I really don’t want to begin seeing banners in town reminding me:
> My Kids School Registration Fees Are Due.
> My annual Park District Health Club Membership Fee Is Due.
> My Traffic Court Date Regarding a Parking Ticket Is Next Month.
> I Have Two Books Overdue at The Library.
> My Annual Prostate Exam Results And Bill Are Now Ready For Review and Payment.
If this is a trend or ‘SIGN OF THE TIMES’, let me know where I can SIGN UP to OPT OUT.
We live in an age of Immediate Gratification. Strike that. We live in an age of Immediate ‘Didyouseethat’ification. As most brands know all too well, the advent of social media has elevated the art of PR crisis management to dizzying heights! Today, news travels at the speed of not just sound, but ‘surrounded sound’. The definition of surrounded sound in today’s marketplace means; something bad happens and citizen reporters armed with camera-enabled smartphones have you SURROUNDED, ready to SOUND off.
Maybe in the case of this most recent FedEx package pitching performance, PR crisis management traveled at the speed of GROUND surrounded sound … FedEx GROUND that is! Forget here we go again, more LIKE here WE THROW AGAIN. The combined social and mainstream media universes (or is it universi) are all a flutter about the most recent FedEx package pitching performance. If you haven’t seen it, check out the video here. I’m struggling as to how FedEx didn’t learn their lesson after the 2011 ‘Cranky Customer Computer Monitor Gate’ incident. For those of you that don’t remember, a FedEx driver at that time was seen pitching a particular package packed with a computer monitor over a gate. I’m no transportation/shipping/logistics wizard but I’m thinking it’s probably not a good iDEA to throw anything over a gate, starting with an extremely delicate piece of equipment LIKE a computer monitor. How ironic that the FedEx driver pitching said computer monitor over said gate was in fact, the person being ‘monitored’.
Wouldn’t you think that FedEx would have slightly altered the content of their driver training course after the 2011 incident? Example; cover topics addressing difficult delivery situations AND the explosive use of handheld camera technology firmly in the hands of a huge segment of the population. I’m just saying, feels LIKE a no-brainer right? Here’s an iDEA, add a new chapter to the training manual called; DON’T THROW ANYTHING, EVER, ESPECIALLY OVER A GATE! Or, THE EYES OF TEXAS, FedEx AND THE WORLD … ARE UPON YOU! While this latest media gaffe is unfortunate, FedEx did do a good job of DELIVERING a SPEEDY response (sorry for the logistics pun) in an attempt to combat this most recent situation.
I would imagine Jamestown Settlement staff charged with reenacting life in the 1600’s may be firing up their resumes after reading the NBC News story “CSI Jamestown: Anthropologists lay out evidence of colonial cannibalism.”
Think about the possibilities. One day you’re making brooms in a quaint village from the 17th century and the next minute, you’re quite possibly making brooms in a quaint village from the 17th century AND reenacting … colonial cannibalism.
While downside(s) vs. upside(s) appear to be a wash, it’s clear that with this kind of news, some colonial reenactors could find themselves ‘reenacting out’.
Source: NBC News
If the Mayans are correct, we’re only a scant two-days away from the end of the world and yet, I haven’t seen one End of The World Sale … ad. How is this possible? I fully anticipated an onslaught of campy/over the top “End Of The World Sale (EOTW/S)” ads on tv, radio, the web, social media, email, etc. To my dis’mayan’, I’ve yet to hear, see or read one ad taking full advantage of this shameless promotional opportunity! I had my heart set on seeing, reading, hearing such phrases as … Everything Must Go … Have You Been Dying To Get Your Hands On A New (Insert Product/Brand Name Here) … This Sale Is So Crazy, It Will Be The Death of Us … and so on. But no! Not one mention of the EOTW in any advertisement.
iDEAl businesses and industries that missed the boat on prospective EOTW campaigns include; Funeral Homes (offering EOTW BOGO sales), Travel Agencies (offering EOTW escape junkets to Vegas because now more than ever ‘what happens in Vegas STAYS IN VEGAS … FOR ETERNITY), Health Clubs (offering EOTW get skinny in time for the afterlife), etc. Instead, it’s biz as usual with the normal juggernaut of holiday ads. How ironic! Retailers are pushing their wares on the all consuming public, ringing up sales of items that may’an’ or may’anot’ be of any use to anyone after December 21st. It appears that many advertisers missed possibly THE GREATEST promotional opportunity of all time, neglecting to think outside the box … which in this case could very well be a coffin!
Before we race headlong into the frantic holiday marketing season, I wanted to take a moment to look back on Halloween 2011 and a missed marketing opportunity. Missed that is until now.
In neighborhoods across the country, the act of ‘booi-ng’ someone has become big biz. Everyone from large candy conglomerates, to real estate brokers/agents, home product/service companies, seasonal retail shops, etc., etc., have all missed a prime seasonal marketing opportunity to create awareness and market their goods and services. Missed that is, until now. Scary right? 😉 Those not taking full advantage missed the opportunity to reach hundreds if not thousands of regional customers. Their only recourse, cry ‘boo’ hoo. Or maybe, ‘boo’ who? Allow me to explain.
For those of you neighborhood newbies, ‘boo-ing’ someone is part ding dong ditch, part trick, part treat and part chain-letter. The act of being ‘boo-ed’ takes place on a doorstep as someone you know creeps through your front yard under the cover of darkness. The goal of their covert Casper mission is to; place a ‘boo’ bundle on your doorstep, ring your doorbell and make a mad dash away from the door so as not to be seen. Upon closer examination of the ‘boo’ bundle content, the ‘boo-ee’ realizes that being ‘boo-ed’ ain’t just fun and games and that a fair amount of responsibility is attached to this seasonal ritual. It is now the responsibility of the ‘boo-ee’ to complete two very important things:
a.) Promptly post an image of a ghost (normally included in your ‘boo’ bundle) on your front door, alerting the neighborhood to the fact that you have in fact been ‘boo-ed’. This important first step prevents the costly act of multiple ‘boo-ings’. Being ‘boo-ed’ once … harmless. Being ‘boo-ed’ multiple times during the course of one Halloween season … a grave mistake that can take a real bite out of your wallet. More on that in a little bit.
b.) Find and ‘boo-ing’ others in your neighborhood.
The first year my house was ‘boo-ed’, we found a small bag with a few treats and a dime store rubber spider. Over the course of the next several years, the act of ‘boo-ing’ became a competition of sorts as one neighbor after another attempted to outdo or should I say … out-‘boo’ the next. ‘Boo-ing’ virgins out there might think that being on the receiving end of all this out-‘boo-ing’ competition would be great. ‘Boo-ing’ virgins would be wrong! Remember (b.)? “Finding and ‘boo-ing’ others in the neighborhood? This aspect of the ‘booing’ ritual involves the expectation of the ‘boo-ee’ to ‘boo’ two other homes in the neighborhood. Based on what we received this year, the mere act of ‘boo-ing’ two additional families in the neighborhood could require an impromptu credit line increase request and/or use of our home equity line. For example, this year our anonymous ‘boo-er’ bestowed upon us a large pink plastic pumpkin with tons of candy, small toys, decals, miscellaneous rubber seasonal items and a 52” flat panel HD TV. Okay, the flat panel HD TV did not fit in the pumpkin. Truth be told, the HD TV wasn’t actually in the pumpkin at all … but you get my point. Those doing the ‘boo-ing’ are going all out to really make an impression on those they ‘boo’. Sounds a lot like distinguishing your brand in the sea of competitive clutter.
As I sat in a heap of empty seasonal candy wrappers, slowly slipping into a candy corn induced coma, I couldn’t help but wonder why brands with or without a seasonal investment in Halloween, have never made a move to distinguish themselves by … ‘boo-ing’ their own brand. Before me is this brilliant pink plastic gourd, smiling up at me, eagerly awaiting to be customized and filled with not just goodies but branded messaging and materials to make a dramatic impression on the lucky recipient.
Just when I thought another Halloween would pass without someone seeing the true potential of this amazing marketing opportunity, Hershey’s entered the fray with quite possibly one of the more brilliant branding iDEAs since the advent of ‘fly-by-night’ seasonal Halloween costume shops. Hershey’s saw an opportunity to create awareness for their brand by creating and distributing a unique foam ghost that doubles as a “you’ve been ‘boo-ed'” door hanger. The door hanger prominently displays the Hershey’s parent brand and child product brands like Reese’s. The brilliant part here is that Hershey’s created brand signage of sorts by stamping their brand id and that of their products to the one ‘boo-ing’ item consumers would keep and display. Hershey’s got it! They realized that ‘boo-ing’ someone is all; about doing something out-of-the-ordinary; about having fun; about extending yourself and about enhancing an experience. Hershey’s has done all that and much more. The only question I now have is … ‘boo’ will be next?
What is a V I P worth today? Better yet, what is the customer experience worth today? Better still, what does it mean to clearly identify your brand’s ID and positioning as it relates to the “first impression” customer experience? Short answer, to some $5.00. Allow me to explain. While traveling this past weekend with my family, kind of a last summer fling before the new school year begins, I came across what I like to call a Brand Blur. What’s a Brand Blur? Happens when the positioning of a brand’s product/service (or the product/service of a brand’s alliance provider/partner) blurs the line between perception and reality. Majority are unintentional, happen upon first impression and most require a little closer review.
Back to the family mini-vaca, already in progress. As my family and i passed through the threshold of our “standard hotel room”, my gaze was immediately interrupted by three letters boldly declared on a particularly attractive room amenity. Amazing how my brain immediately interpreted these letters. All I saw was V I P emblazoned on what appeared to be a complimentary bottle of water. How nice I thought, that this particular household brand name hotel had provided us with, not just any bottle of water but a VIP bottle of water! Again, amazing how my brain immediately interpreted the three letters as V I P AND that VIP, at least in my mind, equates to the word – complimentary.
Considering we had already shelled out a modest amount of money for our “standard hotel room”, I wasn’t exactly anticipating any V I P treatment. But as the perceived appearance of a complimentary V I P bottle of water loomed large in the focal point of our room, intentionally paired with the “standard hotel room” clunky plastic ice chest and squatty drinking glasses, I began to give in to the seduction of the V I P (Very Important Person) mindset. Immediately my brain began to conjure up visions of complimentary poolside cocktails, valet parking privileges, extra towels, unlimited shower caps, etc., etc.
Then of course I was slapped back to reality as I took a closer look at the brilliant blue V I P tag resting neatly around the neck of what my brain had perceived as a V I P complimentary bottle of water. Upon closer examination, I came to find out that this is NOT in fact for V I Ps NOR is it a complimentary bottle of water. No. This is a V | P bottle of water. In mere seconds I had gone from V I P to V | P, falling victim to an abbreviated brand stamp and creative use of the keyboard symbol for “pipe” found on the right-side of the primary keyboard, immediately under the delete key. With reality crashing down around me, stripped of my V I P status, 😉 I read on. It was now all as clear as the sparkling water in the bottle I held. This particular bottle of water is NOT only NOT complimentary, it is in fact “provided for my convenience” at a charge of $5.00? So, if I am so inclined to be convenienced, I am to conveniently pay $5.00 for the bottle of water upon consumption of said convenience. Not exactly the V I P treatment.
Brilliant or baffling? The simple fact is that I was momentarily taken in by the iDEA of exclusivity and three unassuming letters. Separately they mean nothing. Put them together and they take on a very specific customer expectation. Our eyes met across a not so crowded “standard hotel room”. As is often the case, anticipation, excitement and expectation reigned and upon getting to know one another better, reality set in. V I P? No. V | P. A brilliant attempt by a hotel and their alliance partner to create up-sell opportunities? Hardly. A baffled customer experience brought on by delusions of grandeur? 😉 Could be. Either way, it all comes down to crisp clear brand and product positioning. In this case, what could have been originally perceived as a complimentary offering to an exclusive set of clientele can and probably often does give way to confusion with the later leaving some customers thirsty for a better brand/product experience?