N.I.F.T.Y Marketing

Novel, Intelligent, Flexible marketing that inspires Targets to say Yes!

There’s A Reason There Are 4 P’s To Marketing…

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It seems I might have to eat a little crow.  My last post celebrated Domino’s Pizza Turn Around promotional campaign for its innovative use of TV, Web and social media to launch a new pizza recipe aimed at restoring the Domino’s reputation on taste. And while I still believe that the promotional effort is incredible, the pizza (at least for me) was not.  Having 3 pieces of 2 different pizzas, I feel I can reasonably conclude more work still needs to be done for the brand to improve its taste issues.  This reminded me of just how important it is to address ALL aspects of marketing–Promotion, Price, Place AND product.  Or as a Ogilvy has recently evolved them the 4E’s of marketing (Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism).

So why the discrepancy?  How can all these people claim that there’s been an improvement in the pizza and yet so many comments on pizzaturnaround.com indicate otherwise?

My guess is that the Domino’s didn’t really want to rock the boat too much and alienate their core customers my making significant changes to the product (though as I understand it, you can still get the original pizza recipe), or the abilities of the corporate kitchen do not reflect the executional capabilities of the chain.  Either way in my experience, the product didn’t match the promotion. This is a rare case where an agency out did the client–in other words the campaign (what the agency is responsible for) brought customers in the door but the product (what the client’s responsible for) probably isn’t good enough to create a meaningful following.


Written by portlieb

March 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Dominos Pizza

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A  month and a half ago, Domino’s Pizza launched an incredibly novel but Domino's Pizzainherently risky marketing effort.  Approaching 50 years of business, Domino’s scrapped its legacy pizza recipe and, based on focus groups and customer feedback, reengineered its pie.  The new recipe boasts a new sauce, 100% mozzarella cheese and garlic and butter crust.  All key areas to focus on when designing a new pizza at least accord to consumer research featured in a February 2009 American Express Market Brief.

Turning the brand over to the customer

Domino's Pizza Customer Tweets

Reviews of new pizza via Twitter

While it’s definitely not novel or incredibly risky to re-engineer a product based on market research and advertise that you “listened”, it is extraordinary to have the chutzpah to publicly admit (via paid media spots) that the product they’ve been selling for years falls extremely short of your target customers’ expectations. Yet Domino’s did this and more.  In an age when most marketers are reluctant to admit that the brand belongs to the customer—not the company, Domino’s embraced social media and allowed for open and apparently unfiltered reviews of the new product.

The new marketing campaign announcing the new pizza, “Oh, Yes We Did” launched in mid-December with TV spots depicting the evolution of the recipe.  Along with the TV spots, Domino’s launched a micro-site pizzaturnaround.com, to tell the complete story about the inspiration behind the new recipe and to capture customer feedback.  The content on the site is honest and raw.  No sugar-coating.  And while much of the early participants tested the transparency of what Domino’s was sharing from customers (apparently everything), since then the conversation has shifted back to the product.  If I had to guess I would estimate that between 40 and 50% of the feedback was positive toward the new recipe.

At first blush, you might be tempted to argue that the risks of the new campaign far outweighed any benefits that could be received.  The chance for failure was far too great. Change a product and then open up a corporate forum for your customers to bash you?  Are you nuts?  Marketing experts across the country questioned the intelligence of the decision.  An advertising executive quoted in The Washington Post felt the line Domino’s was walking was dangerous.

“Two bad things can happen: You drive away the people who liked the old pizza better, and you don’t really make the new pizza better, which makes your [new] customers say, ‘You lied to me.’ Domino’s has to make damn sure they’re not making it 5 percent better. It better be 50 percent better.” Claudia Caplan

Prioritize properly

This is true. However, I still believe this move is more intelligent than most pundits give it credit.  Here’s why:  For years Domino’s had positioned itself as the king of delivery, offering free pizza if it wasn’t on your doorstep in 30 minutes.  With all the focus on delivery though, Domino’s lost site on  taste.  According to reports cited on CBS as well as a presentation from Domino’s to

Dominos Pizza Previous Taste Ranking

Domino's tied for last place in taste prior to launching a new recipe

investors—the chain tied for 6th in taste in a customer loyalty engagement index.  Who were they tied with you ask?  Chuck E. Cheese.  Ouch.

Differentiating your offering from substitutes can be extremely useful in establishing a competitive advantage, provided you prioritize these differentiators properly. But Domino’s (until recently) didn’t.  Putting all its effort into the delivery component, it forgot about the pizza. But in the pizza business, delivery speed just isn’t as important as taste. I’d be willing to bet that most people would wait 10-15 minutes longer, if it meant getting a more enjoyable product in the end. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can get it to your customers, in a competitive market they just aren’t going to order your food if it tastes significantly worse.

Focus on the customer

Domino’s decision to focus on taste is a move to align the product experience around what matters to the customer. Only time will tell if the new recipe resonates with consumers. If you believe Domino’s recent taste test results, you’d contend that they’re already making strides. Once it improves its taste perceptions with consumers, say in the top 3, delivery speed could once again become a meaningful competitive advantage for the chain, but not until then.

Keys to good brainstorming

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We’ve all participated in a brain-storming session that resulted in only a drizzle of novel thinking.  So, why are some brainstorming sessions more successful than others? 

My brother is a firefighter. He told me once that in order for there to be a fire you need heat, oxygen and fuel.  I think the same is true for a successful brainstorm.  It’s just that in a creative environment we define heat, oxygen and fuel differently.

Generate Heat

Everyone in the session needs to feel the heat a bit during the session. “Heat” is created from everyone feeling accountable for the results of the brain-storm.  Two easy ways to generate some heat are competitive pressure (e.g. assigning teams to compete against each other), and peer-pressure (having representatives present their ideas to the group).  When colleagues see that there is some sort of reward for the effort, or disincentive for not participating fully I’ve noticed that the intensity and focus for the session improves.

Pump Oxygen into the Room

 The word oxygen comes from greek oxys (sharp) and genes (producer or former). When I speak of  having “oxygen” in a brainstorm  I mean making sure your  “sharp producers” are in the room. These people will breathe life into a brainstorm. Sharp producers look at a problem from all angles.  They aren’t afraid of being wrong. They are willing to build off other ideas and capable of connecting disparate thoughts. And perhaps best of all, they are comfortable with ambiguity.

Sharp producers create an atmosphere of “renewable energy”  for the session, maintaining momentum and providing practical optimism when others in the group see obstacles or are jaded from previous failures. Sharp-producers aren’t compelled to blast down a singular path like a rocket, putting on blinders and focusing solely on one idea. Rather they float above the problem like a hot-air balloon–high enough to keep a wide perspective, but close enough to the ground to make out some of the details.

Fuel for Thought

For a good brainstorm you need an exercise to serve as fuel for the heat and oxygen  you’ve generated.  It needs to provide focus for the session and encourage new perspectives.  Additionally, it needs to set general guidelines to drive the group toward delivering new ideas and solutions. 

There are a number of good brainstorming exercises out there.  Do a Google search and you’re sure to come across thousands.  However, some are better than others. My recommendation is to look for exercises that:

  • Keep sessions fun, engaging and moving
  • Creates a goal for the session
  • Encourages collaboration between all participants
  • Re-focuses energy on what is possible–not just probable
  • Maximizes the quantity of ideas being generated–not the quality (there’s plenty of opportunity to apply filters later)

Written by portlieb

January 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

My Top Reads of the Last Decade

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A list of great books I read over the last ten years that will  influence me in the decade to come

Books for strategy development

1. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant

W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne 

 Stuck in a strategy slump?  Kim and Mauborgne offer an incredibly simply and effective way to size up a market and create sustainable differentiation.  I’ve successfully used their “strategy canvas” exercise with a team to determine where the competition plays and how we can chart a course to stand out in a crowded and confusing marketplace.

2. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

Dan Roam

I’ve  used the approach for solving problems Roam outlines over-and-over again. His theory is basic—but all good theories are—visualizing the problem leads to better solutions.  I keep a copy of his framework tacked up on my desk for constant reference.

3. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Al Ries and Jack Trout

A marketing classic.  Still relevant 20-years after it was first published.

4. Building Strong Brands

David A. Aaker

Aaker builds off the foundation from Reis and Trout.

5. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Seth Godin

When I read this book, I had flashbacks to Blue Ocean Strategy.  Fundamentally, they’re saying much of the same.  Blue Ocean is more Business Strategy while Purple Cow has a tighter focus on marketing.  These books complement one another like cake and ice-cream.

Interactive Marketing

6. Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Steve Krug

Intuitive Web design isn’t necessarily intuitive. Krug provides sensible recommendations on improving user-experience.

 7.The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

 Chris Anderson

The concept of the “long tail” isn’t novel—firms like Netflix recognized it long before Anderson, but Anderson is so incredibly perceptive in his analysis of this trend you still walk away from the book with gobs of insight and a sharper perspective of online retailing.

 Books to Build Better Teams

8. Gung-Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization

Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

Spirit of the Squirrel. Way of the Beaver.  Gift of the Goose.  Blanchard and Bowles tell an impactful story and provide salient messages for managers. If you seek to build a strong team or strengthen an existing one and haven’t read this book, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. 

9.  Strength Finder 2.0

Tom Rath

Know thyself.  If you believe that a key element to building an efficient team is to first take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, this is the book for you.  A combination book and online assessment, I walked away with a solid understanding of the fundamental skills

10. Yertle the Turtle

Dr. Seuss

Just because it’s a children’s story, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in adults reading it.  Someday I’d like to teach a management course and use children’s books as the required texts. The Emperor’s New Clothes and this story would certainly be on the syllabus. In Yertle the Turtle, Seuss offers a A timeless tale on the impact of ego-centric work environments.

Books That Inspired Me

11. With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln

Stephen B. Oates

Despite it being a work of non-fiction, the book reads like a novel with a vivid depiction of Lincoln’s public life.  If you want a real life example of a leader who kept it together in the face of tremendous obstacles—many of which go unmentioned in popular teaching, this is the book.

12. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Stephen Ambrose

Undaunted Courage is to the American West as The Right Stuff was to the Space Program.  Makes a cross-country trip with the kids to the Grand Canyon look like child’s play.

Written by portlieb

January 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm

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What My Daughter Taught Me About Marketing

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My daughter loves to play with our plastic-ware. It’s in the only cabinet in the kitchen that isn’t baby-proofed and she takes full advantage.  Lids, bowls, tubs, big, or small she doesn’t discriminate. It was during a recent cabinet raid, that I noticed our collection of  plastic-ware expanded considerably.  In fact, we have quite a few tubs of a particular size  from buying a particular brand of luncheon meat. Here’s the rub: What I originally perceived as a value-add of buying this product is now actually going to stop me from buying it in the future.  Short of adding another cabinet in the kitchen I just simply can’t store any more of this stuff. Throwing it away or even just recycling it seems wasteful.

Perhaps my household isn’t the ideal target for processed-meat-packaged-in-plastic-ware.  Maybe their targets are folks who make a lot of lunches and give away tubs full of homemade soups and cookies with their excess containers.  But I doubt it.  Instead, I just think the company may have forgotten that it’s possible to give your customers too much “value”.

Written by portlieb

November 3, 2009 at 12:29 am

Shared Experiences Build Stronger Brands

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Viral email form

Viral Email Campaign

Shared experiences fundamentally connect us.  Although we often seek to express ourselves as individuals, we also still long to be a part of a community.  Whether it be a hundred thousand fans attending a fierce rivalry between college football teams, or a few thru hikers on the Appalachian trail around a campfire–sharing an experience can create deep emotional connections.  N.I.F.T.Y. marketers  can create opportunities to build stronger brands using shared experiences as the impetus.  A great example is the Nike+Human Race Event, held tonight all around the world.  Billed as the “world’s largest one-day running event.” There are 24 official cities participating in the event.  Additionally, anyone can turn their local route into a 10k simply by registering on the site and using the Nike + gear.

Written by portlieb

October 24, 2009 at 2:27 am

Target Dorm Parties Pretty N.I.F.T.Y.

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It’s every marketer’s dream–a clearly identifiable and accessible target with a demonstrated history of spending Targetmoney–taking over their store to hang out and maybe pick up a few items while they’re there.

Target Corp. created just such an opportunity in recent years by targeting college freshman headed away from home for their first time.  The Minneapolis based retailer recently launched a series of very clever, very focused private store parties for freshmen.  Here’s why I believe it’s N.I.F.T.Y. marketing idea.

Novel: Target invited freshmen just arriving on campus to an in-store after hours “dorm party”. It coordinated with approximately 35 colleges and universities nationwide according to an article in The Daily Iowan (though it appears that at least some of these parties were not

Students arrive at a Target Store in Iowa/The Daily Iowan

Students arrive at a Target Store in Iowa/The Daily Iowan

limited to just freshman). DJ’s helped create a unique atmosphere and students had a chance to win prizes that ranged from an X-Box to goldfish(ones with gills–not the ones in the packaged foods section).  To be entered to win some of the prizes, students had to text their entries to the store.  Because some universities do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus, Target arranged for round-trip bus transportation.

Inteligent & Flexible: Strategically for Target, the back-to-school/college programs are extremely important sources of revenue for the third quarter. However, Target’s approach with college freshman wasn’t just N.I.F.T.Y. because it helped reach a short term goal.  It’s savvy because it establishes a relationship with young adults just at the infancy of their consumer potential.   According to Leah Guimond, spokeswoman for Target (as quoted on Marketplacethe initiative is expected to have an ROI that pays dividends into the future.  From Target’s point of view: “It’s way for us to build relationships with these students over the years as they evolve into different life stages of getting married and having babies and growing with us over the years”.   Brand loyalty aside, there’s also a more immediate pay-off to the tactic as well.  Boston College business professor, also quoted on Marketplace said that the parties help students find the closest campus Target so that when parents are in for a weekend and need to pick up a few items for their kids before heading back out-of-town, the students know just where to take them–extending the revenue stream for the retailer into Q4 and beyond.

Targeted: According to information for the National Retail Federation, college freshmen spend more money than upper classmen on dorm furnishings, electronics and school supplies–all things that Target provides at price points can afford. See the chart to the below.

While the information provided from NRF certainly justifies why retailers should target college freshmen, it doesn’t

College Student Speding by Class Rank/National Retail Federation 2009

College Student spending by Class Rank/National Retail Federation 2009

necessarily tell retailers when they should engage them.  Obviously, the back-to-school season makes the most sense and that’s when most retailers typically make their move.  Certainly, Target is no exception.  However, Target is also reaching out to freshmen during the few days they’re on campus ahead of upper classmen.  Traditionally freshmen arrive on campus 3-5 days ahead of the rest of the student body giving  them a little extra time to get settled in and take care of some of the university’s pre-class requirements (remember convocation: “look to your left and then to your right–one of you will not be here in 4 years??”).  Additionally,  when the upper classmen arrive on campus, freshman are more easily distracted by trying to fit in–finding the right bars, the right fraternity houses etc. SoTarget’s smart to hit campuses early when freshmen are likely to be a little more attentive.

Yes!: One Target store, located near the University of Iowa campus indicated that the sales from the Dorm Party represented 14% of  the receipts for the day. According to an August 19th conference call with analysts, Target’s August sales were trending slightly higher over recent months, though it was still early in the season. The company expects same store sales in Q3 to improve over last quarter partially as a result of driving traffic from aggressive back-to-school and college programs.