Archive for the ‘General’ Category

London, Ink Sponsoring ‘Government 2.0 Camp’

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

London, Ink is proud to sponsor an exciting event on March 27 – 28: Government 2.0 Camp (http://gov20camp.eventbrite.com/).  Here’s a brief description of the event and the “camp” concept:

What is Government 2.0 Camp?

Government 2.0 Camp is the unconference about using social technologies (aka web 2.0/social media tools) to create a more effective, efficient and collaborative U.S. government on all levels (local, state and federal).

Government 2.0 Camp will bring together the leading thinkers from government, academia and industry to share Government 2.0 initiatives that are already in process and collaborate about Government 2.0 ideas that are currently just visions.

There is also a wiki for the event where attendees and other can discuss topics and other themes: http://www.barcamp.org/Government20Camp

Why is London, Ink sponsoring this event?

  1. I’m very dissatisfied–to the point of taking action–with the lack of efficiency and abundance of waste in government and am a big believer that new Web technologies, Web 2.0 applications and social media/networking applications can help.  Trimming the Federal budget by a quarter of one percent over the next five years could pay for a lot of fixes (long-term) to our educational system or seed the nascent but promising field of alternative energy.
  2. I fully support transparency in government, particularly government spending–it’s our money after all–and again believe that Web 2.0 technologies and social media/networking apps can enable this.
  3. I believe the Gov 2.0 arena will yield good business opportunities for London, Ink, long-term.
  4. Sounds like a great event!  (I like the participatory BarCamp approach.)

Hope to see you there.

London, Ink announces major “green” initiative: changes logo color.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

For Immediate Release

FEBRUARY 7, 2009–POTOMAC, MD  London, Ink, a full-service marketing and communications consulting firm based outside of Washington, DC, announced today a major initiative intended to demonstrate its commitment to ‘green’ practices that are highly visible and high impact.  Effective immediately, the letter “k” at the end of the London, Ink logo will change to a compelling shade of green from the original basic black.

“London, Ink didn’t just want to jump on the green bandwagon and announce another green initiative,” said London, Ink president Bob London, who is also known as the DC region’s Virtual VP of Marketing for providing marketing expertise on demand.  “Changing the letter ‘k’ in our logo to green represents a major commitment, as it is the letter most people focus on since they are expecting a ‘c’ after the ‘In.’”

Old Logo:

londonink-logo-copy.jpg

New Logo:

londonink-green-logo-copy.jpg

Taking this initiative a step further, London, Ink is issuing a challenge to other Washington, DC area marketing, communications, PR and design firms to make similar commitments towards ‘greening’ their businesses.

Continued Bob London, “I’d like to see some of the more traditional service providers, including ad agencies, public relations firms, Web design and digital marketing agencies follow London, Ink’s lead.  After all, there’s always room for each of us to be ‘greener.’  Take it from me, it feels great doing something good,”

About London, Ink

London, Ink is a full-service marketing and communications consulting firm based just outside of Washington, DC.  London, Ink’s unique Virtual VP of Marketing model differs from other traditional marketing and communications service providers such as ad agencies, PR firms and Web design firms in that (a) the client receives independent guidance on when and how to prioritize, execute and measure a wide range of marketing initiatives, from PR to SEO to lead generation to channel marketing; and (b) all services are provided on an on-demand basis, providing clients with budget predictability and flexibility.

London, Ink’s low overhead, client-focused model eliminates the common conflicts between agencies’ profitability goals and creative philosophies versus the client’s requirements. Please visit www.londonink.com for more information or contact London, Ink president Bob London at info@londonk.com or +1 240.994.7644.

Marketing’s “China-Bicycle” Syndrome According to the Venture Capital Community by David Frankil, President, NAFCU Services Corp.

Monday, October 20th, 2008

An Inside-Out Branding Guest Post by David Frankil, President of NAFCU Services Corp. (bio)

Everyone has heard the cliché — “We know that half of our marketing budget is wasted, we just don’t know which half.”  And the corollary, that marketing is just the law of large numbers – “We’re going to get a 1/2% response rate no matter what we do, so let’s just do more.

 

In the venture capital world, the short-hand term for business models built on such brute force market response assumptions is “China Bicycle (CB).”  It refers to a presumably mythical entrepreneur seeking funds for a bicycle factory in China, with optimistic revenue projections based on a sketchy analysis — that “All we need to do is get just 0.01% of a billion people to buy our bicycles.”

 

‘CB’ is the proverbial kiss of death if a reviewer writes it on the title page of a business plan, because it says the entrepreneur is inward-focused on the business or technology, and has not thought carefully about which segments of his or her target market are most likely to respond to marketing initiatives. CB assumes that all one billion consumers are identical in terms of their desire and willingness to purchase a bicycle, whether they be young or old, rich or poor, healthy or infirm. And that there are no differences in style, construction, or performance which might be more attractive to some than to others.

 

An example from my inbox today: Washington-Reagan airport is most convenient for flights from my office.  An unnamed airline–on which most of my flying occurs and which has easy access to data showing my preferences – sends me a weekly e-mail with “My E-Saver Fares.”  However the flights are usually originating in cities other than mine and terminating at destinations to which I’ve never been.

 

How much more effective would it be for this company to tailor the e-mail with an offer that might actually get considered?  Flights out of my location and preferred airport to the destinations I’ve been to in the last 36 months.

 

So now the e-mail just gets deleted, because past experience has shown that there will be nothing relevant to me in that communication. More fundamentally, they’re telling me that they care more about themselves (inward-focused — the fact they have plenty of extra seats on flights between Toledo, Ohio and Buffalo, NY) as opposed to my needs.

 

Marketers are better served by understanding their value drivers, segmenting the needs of target markets, and then looking for the intersections of values you provide with needs they have.  A process that sounds simple but is all too often overlooked.

 

If you get the process right, you’ll never see CB written in the margins of your marketing plan!

 

See related post: David Frankil on London, Ink

 

Want to sponsor my new patio? (A creative way to subsidize home projects during a recession.)

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Let me just say that since we are in an economic downturn/recession/bust/depression, money-saving or cash-raising ideas that before may have seemed tacky or ill-conceived now deserve another look.

That’s why I decided to try and raise money for an expensive home improvement–my new flagstone patio—by selling something I call Brick Sponsorships.

Here’s how I got the idea:  Just before breaking ground on our new flagstone patio my family and I were at a local park when something I saw immediately struck me as an innovative albeit potentially controversial way to save some coin.  The park’s developer had taken contributions from local families and businesses who in turn got, as a permanent, tangible representation of their gift: a brick engraved with their names.

These bricks, hundreds of them, formed the border around the play area and sent an overall message of community involvement and certainly gave the donors a nice warm feeling not to mention another way to lower their Adjusted Gross Incomes.

But at their essence the sponsored bricks helped the developers defray the cost of the park by a few thousand dollars.

Could this same approach be applied to private, residential projects such as my new patio? For the answer, let’s review an excerpt from a conversation with my neighbor Mac regarding the possibility of becoming a Charter Brick Sponsor for my patio:

Me: Mac, have I told you about a great new opportunity?

Mac: What’s that, Bob?

Me: Well, a limited number of our friends, neighbors and family have a special, once in a lifetime chance to see their legacies permanently and elegantly enshrined in a highly visible area while also helping beautify the neighborhood!

Mac: (Suspiciously.) Tell me more, Bob.

Me: Well, you know that Monica and I are planning a new flagstone patio out front, right?

Mac: Right.

Me: And you know how many people come by in a given month, from our friends and family, their kids, our kids’ friends, neighbors, my parents, Patti’s folks, Patti’s book club, the poker gang, the FedEx guy and too many door to door solicitors to count?

Mac: Yes!

Me: Well, you and a select number of other individuals have a unique chance to have a beautiful, high–quality, U.S.-made brick with your name and message placed around the edge of our patio!

Mac: Really!

Me: Just think of how many people will see your name! Mac, this is the most unique way I’ve ever found to get your name out there in a high profile, quality fashion without the high costs usually associated with other marketing programs.

Mac: Yeah!

Me: You know the Greene’s a block over?

Mac: That new family from Columbus?

Me: Right! They’re in for three bricks! One for themselves, one for their kids and one from his parents in honor of their new house!

Mac: Is that so?

Me: They’re absolutely certain that their investment in these permanent, high quality pavers will result in more rapid awareness and acceptance in the neighborhood!

Mac: Bob, this sounds…expensive.

Me: Mac, you’d be surprised how affordable a brick sponsorship can be. But first let me tell you about our sponsorship levels:

Our most affordable package is Terra Cotta, which includes your name and message on one brick, plus a full color photo of your brick that you can proudly display in your home. This picture can easily increase your reach by 30% – 50% depending on the traffic through your home and specific room placement!

Our next option is Grande Terra Cotta, which gives you three bricks for the price of two. Think of what you can do with three bricks, Mac! You can honor different family members, resell this exclusive opportunity to your parents at a price you determine, or use two or even three bricks together to display an even longer message! Of course this options comes with a photo as well, in beautiful panoramic mode!

Our highest value option–and quickly becoming our most popular, is the Founder’s Club, which gives you the unbelievably distinctive opportunity to engrave your name and message directly onto a 2 foot square piece of flagstone! You can select either a perimeter slab or one towards the center of the patio, to maximize visibility. Which options sounds best to you, Mac?

Mac: Bob, I don’t know how I’d ever choose.

Me: Well, before you choose, there’s one more thing: If you order today I can guarantee your brick will be in place by the holidays–which guarantees an extra 30% viewership by virtue of the increased Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s foot traffic on our patio!

Mac: Wow.  I just have one question, Bob.

Me: Shoot!

Mac: Have you taken your meds yet today?

UPDATED 26Sept–CEOs & CXOs: Prune contacts to increase effectiveness.

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Anyone who is lonely or bored enough enough to notice would have seen that, a few months ago, my LinkedIn contacts recently went from over 300 to below 270.

Was I suddenly abandoned by almost three dozen contacts? No, I did something we should all do 2x per year: LinkedIn Pruning. (Note: I’ve since climbed back over my original “unpruned” total.)

(UPDATED–See this LinkedIn Answers page for feedback from others on this topic: http://www.linkedin.com/answers/using-linkedIn/ULI/330103-131735)

As a “Virtual VP of Marketing” (a/k/a outsourced CMO or, if you prefer, “marketing consultant”) for growing companies, my policy is to use LinkedIn and Facebook for “knowing” not for “showing.” My criteria for adding/keeping someone on my list is that I know them well enough to reach out to them with a question, introduction or even a favor. With rare exceptions, I do not put people on my list simply because they are well known or have 500+ contacts themselves. (See a tongue in cheek riff on “professional networkers” by clicking the graphic below.)

LinkedIn Etiquette

So from time to time I look at my LinkedIn list specifically with the goal of pruning those with whom I have lost touch or with whom relationships simply did not develop over time as expected.

Try it, it’s quite refreshing!

(By the way I unintentionally coined the term pruning to apply to the act of occasionally trimming one’s social networks. Commenting on a recent Jeff Pulver note about the limits of Facebook friend lists, people used a variation of the word “pruning” eight times after I used it. See http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=25322506668&)

Bob on Bisnow, Part II

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

http://www.bisnow.com/washington_dc_tech_news_story.php?p=1562

092408d.jpg

Good post from John Quelch on “How CEOs should work with customers.”

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Once again, John Quelch with Harvard Business Publishing, strikes at the heart of the CMO/CEO issue with this post on “How CEOs should work with customers.”

How CEOs Should Work With Customers

Yet an increasingly high percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs have not come up the ranks through marketing or sales. At the same time, in many companies, the chief marketing officer position turns over every two years. Facing the current economic downturn, companies need marketing skills more than ever. But while every corporate mission statement pays lip service to respecting customer needs, actual customer expertise is typically a mile wide and an inch deep.http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2835

Java Blocking, Verbal Bear Hugs and Nuclear Coffee Breath. (Your Networking is Notworking, or How not to work a room.)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008


Your Networking is Notworking.  (Or How Not to Work a Room)

There’s a highly recommended book called, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” that I have not read.

But hearing “The Wisdom of Crowds,” reminds me of the unwise things people sometimes do at crowded business functions.

Your average business networking breakfast or company event is basically full of insecure people who are forced either by their bosses or by the mortgage on their second homes to show up and attempt something called “schmoozing” with a room full of other insecure people, many of whom are armed with a dangerous thing called a quota.

So understand that no one-repeat no one—is there of his or her own volition.  This forced yet totally unnatural dynamic results in a veritable Petri dish of strange and often boorish behaviors, some of which I will now attempt to describe.

  • I have overheard hotel lobby cellphone conversations where full-grown professionals beg their bosses or spouses for permission to return to the comfort of their Lexus sedans rather than through those dreaded fake-wood paneled double doors.
  • I have witnessed well-dressed and otherwise polished individuals whisper pep talks into bathroom mirrors.
  • I have observed semi-articulate, regionally-accented executives rise to ask a question of a panelist and proceed to deliver a nine-minute preface/soliloquy containing his views on Net Neutrality, Sarbanes-Oxley, the coming of another Cold War and Dilbert, all without taking a breath.
  • I have experienced a phenomenon known as Java-Blocking, where someone decides that the coffee station is the perfect place to set up shop and begin to network, thus creating a backup of which the Woodrow Wilson Bridge would be proud.
  • I have smelled Nuclear Coffee Breath so intense, even at a distance of ten paces, that it caused carbon dioxide detectors to sound and the fire department to show up.
  • I have consoled a colleague who was deemed by a fellow networker not to be Cardworthy—she only had four cards left and didn’t think he merited one.
  • I have talked to people who spent the entire 12-minute conversation looking past my shoulder as if they expected one of the Steves (Ballmer, Jobs, Case, Seagall) to enter the room at any moment.
  • I have picked up distress signals from associates trapped in an interminable conversation known as a Verbal Bear Hug, desperately seeking a knight in shining wing-tips to come to the rescue.

I hope this column will, in some small way, build awareness of these all-too-common dysfunctional behaviors and contribute to their ultimate demise.  Wishful thinking, I know.

Bob London is president of London, Ink LLC (www.londonink.com), a full-service marketing and communications firm, and serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership in marketing strategy and planning.

Everything I know about marketing I learned from summer camp. (Coordination is everything.)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

We received a very nice DVD from our son’s sleepaway camp in the Poconos (Lake Owego Camp, if you’re interested) which had a lot of great photos, footage and interviews of kids, counselors, administrators from this past summer.

From the perspective of a CEO interested in marketing, the most notable element of the DVD was the timing of its arrival: Right after we received the bill for next summer’s experience.

One of the best ways to get a free bump in your marketing output is by coordinating the timing of various activities.  You would assume, in the above example, that the camp’s renewal and sign-up rates are higher among people who view the DVD and get the emotional lift during the time they receive the bills.

Here is a simple way that I have applied this principal to my business.  When I do an e-newsletter, I can either send it when it’s ready and when I have the bandwidth to edit/proof it to within an inch of its life (!), or send it one or two days before a big networking event where I know I will be seeing many of the people on my house list.

The cost of executing the e-newsletter is the same either way.  But by coordinating the timing with the event I get the combined impact of (a) seeing someone in person, (b) having them mention “hey, I just saw your email,” and (c) having something else to talk about that demonstrates I practice what I preach regarding nurture marketing.

And let’s face it: The more relevant things you have to say at networking events, the more at-ease and successful you will be.

Bob London is president of London, Ink LLC (www.londonink.com), a full-service marketing and communications firm, and serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership in marketing strategy and planning.

Seinfeld/Microsoft campaign promotes Seinfeld brand of humor (barely) but not Microsoft…and still not interesting.

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Yes, it’s getting noticed and maybe people are clicking on it, but Microsoft’s expensive new powered-by-Seinfeld campaign is looking like the dud that many–including me–predicted it would be, both in strategy and execution.

http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/09/05/microsofts-seinfeld-campaign-random-humor-no-vista/trackback/

We suppose the ad makes Microsoft seem less stodgy and uptight, which is the image Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads paint of the company. But we can’t see this going a long way towards reversing the popular impression that Vista is buggy and unnecessary. The ads would probably have to, you know, mention Vista to do that.

Presumed Microsoft Business Goals: Grow revenue, protect margins by increasing acceptance/take rate of Vista.

Presumed Marketing/Comm Goals: Fend off criticism and negative perception of Vista.  Counter the effects of PC vs. Mac campaign which have eroded/pigeonholed image of PC/Windows while boosting that of Mac.

Assessment: How does this execution accomplish the above?  It doesn’t.  Autopsy: First, who should use celebrities? Brands that want more name recognition or those that want to draw attention to a new product.  One could infer that Microsoft gave Seinfeld a bunch of money without fleshing out the actual marketing goals and getting him and everyone else on the same page.  In fact one of the key deal points was probably “free reign” and “creative control.”  After all, Jerry doesn’t need the money. So everyone probably assumed the ads would be clever and memorable.

In addition the spot doesn’t even stand on its own as an interesting piece of entertainment.  It is, in a word, inane.  It’s tone is dated.  So there won’t be much of a viral (pass along) halo except for forwarded links accompanied by nasty criticisms of the ad.

Which brings us to the next point below.  The WSJ quotes two branding executives (”those who can’t sell, market; those who can’t market, brand.”) asserting that the ad has done its job by generating chatter.

This point is supported by the following quote: “Most companies would have to spend a billion dollars on advertising to get this kind of attention.”  First, I think he means most unknown companies would even want this level of attention.  Second, Microsoft has already spent billions of dollars over the last 30 years to get “attention.”

Dear branding experts: “Attention” is not the goal.  “Attention” is not, in and of itself, a positive thing.  Microsoft is globally known and doesn’t need more “attention.”  Microsoft needs (a) great products that (b) create a better customer experience, which in turn (c) results in a better perception.  This campaign does nothing to advance those priorities.

Microsoft is breaking the basic premise of Inside-Out Branding by trying to solve a product problem with an advertising solution.  Unfortunately they can’t just paper over the negative perceptions with a big media spend featuring a waning celebrity.

Critics Say Gates-Seinfeld Duo No Laughing Matter

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122082676065908265.html?mod=2_1567_leftbox

Despite the negative online chatter about the ad, Microsoft has succeeded in getting people talking about the commercial, ad experts say.

“The initial reaction might be on the fence or leaning negative but the ad did its job,” says Dean Crutchfield, a brand consultant. “Most companies would have to spend a billion dollars on advertising to get this kind of attention.”

Bob London is president of London, Ink LLC (www.londonink.com), a full-service marketing and communications firm, and serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership in marketing strategy and planning.