One, Two, Many Coupons

They’re everywhere these days; those ridiculously low-priced coupon deals for everything from sumptuous 3-course meals to ‘spa treatments’ in dodgy parts of Kepong.

Value-for-money seems to be the favoured business model for many businesses nowadays. But how long before offering products and services on-the-cheap eventually becomes bad for business?

Discounts Galore
Coupon deals are great for consumers; but not so for businesses...

Yes, we all like bargains. But if the bargain does not live up to the intended expectations, most of us would rather pay slightly more the next time – be it for better quality or improved service.

Even if you are satisfied with a particular coupon deal; would you return to the same outlet and pay ‘regular’ price for the same thing? Which – if I may remind you – can be up to 70% more?

Highly unlikely.

If you’re a business, and thinking of jumping onto the coupon deals bandwagon to attract customers, consider these:

  1. Is it worth cheapening your brand or business by offering high discounts just to attract one-time-only customers?
  2. You might get a high influx of customers in a short period of time. Can you or your staff handle a flood of customers and serve them properly?
  3. You don’t usually make a profit, especially if you offer a high discount. Sometimes you won’t even break even. Seems like a pointless exercise.
  4. Don’t expect prolonged advertising mileage by offering coupon deals. The people who use coupons are bargain-hunters who forget you as soon as you go back to normal price.
  5. The non-bargain hunter customers (the ones that you really want as customers) will see you as desperate for business. Not the kind of image you want to portray.

So instead of ‘selling out’ your business to coupon deal sites, why not invest in promotions that are easy to create and implement. You get the kind of customers you want, and get to sell at the price you want.

You know who to talk to 😉

Love Thy Customers, Not Screw Them!

A lot of you liked my post on how I whacked Maxis for pretending to be customer service oriented. But what’s the real issue here?

I must admit it; I was rather cheesed of with Maxis to start with. And then they go and air that stupid ad claiming they put customer service first. Of course, I sharpened my pencil and gave them a piece of my mind lah.

Maybe I was slightly rash and less eloquent in that post. And since this is a blog about marketing communications; let’s see what really went wrong with Maxis in that perspective.

Screws come in many shapes and sizes. So who's screwing you?

Here’s what my favourite branding blog – Brand Strategy Insider – had to say about Brand Arrogance.

“Consumers don’t value brands; they value the idea the brand represents to them. This idea will always be worth more than the product, or the actual bricks and mortar of the business enterprise. When marketers behave arrogantly, the value of the idea people care about is instantly diminished. And once this happens, the road to redemption is long, difficult and expensive”

Simply put, you like a brand not because the logo is red or that the product is great. Consumers actually value the personality that the brand projects more than anything else.

It makes sense because telcos offer essentially similar products and services. But what made you choose Maxis or Digi or Celcom? Think about it.

It’s like making new friends. You only click with certain types of people; as you do with brands. But once a ‘friend’ crosses you, it becomes really hard to be good friends again. There is just something intrinsic about this process that science can’t explain.

Once you screw up with a customer (especially a loyal one), you usually have to work really hard to win him over again. And most times, the defected customer will never return.

There’s a classic Direct Marketing adage that goes like this:

It’s more profitable to retain a loyal customer,
than to attract new customers

For all the advertising and promotions brands conduct to conquest new customers, why not sincerely care for existing customers instead? Those who are already customers may even advocate the brand to their friends and family for free.

And we all know nothing beats the power of word-of-mouth communication.

Clearly Maxis does not see it that way. I guess we are nothing but Ringgit signs that make their cash registers go Ka-Ching!

Babies: the Next Big Thing in Advertising

Have we advertisers finally crossed the line? Are we so blinded by conquering new markets that we are willing to stick a knife into innocence? It seems so, if the latest report on Advertising to Infants from Adweek is anything to go by.

It seems the phrase “get them young” is being held to high regard here. In the United States, brands like Disney, Audi and McDonalds have run promotional activities aimed at the very young.

Innocent Baby
C'mon! How can we try to make money from such innocence?

For example, Disney was observed to have given out free one-piece baby suites (decorated with Disney characters of course) to new mothers in hospitals in exchange for e-mail addresses.

What the hell is going on here? Or should the question be why the hell this is going on?

1. Babies or toddlers don’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. So it is a game of getting them while they’re still susceptible.
2.  Babies are able to record mental images of corporate logos and mascots; and request specific brands as soon as they are able to speak.
3. Parents are also easily influenced by their children’s brand preference. If you had a screaming kid wanting to go to McDonalds, would you take him to Burger King instead?
4. An American child, upon turning 3, can recognize an average of 100 logos. Brands are fighting to be in this list early on
5. Technology is being used to pacify babies: think smartphones,  iPads and even the humble TV. Brands are ever-eager to develop branded, baby-friendly apps and TV programmes.

It’s sad that infants’ susceptible nature are being manipulated and taken advantage of just for the purpose of increasing market share.

It’s sadder that kids these days are growing in front of LCD screens rather than their mums and dads.

And the saddest of all is the fact that brands are taking advantage of such an unfortunate development.

I know that this is only happening in the US, but who’s to say that we are far behind, especially with the availability of channels like Baby TV.

How long do you think it will be before marketers in Malaysia realize they can program babies into liking their products?

I shudder at this thought.

10 Tips for a Great Print Ad

1. Don’t do a print ad
Hardly anyone reads newspapers or magazines the days. Can you name 3 people you know who read them on a regular basis besides your parents or that frail, retired neighbour uncle?

I could end this post here, but there will come a time when you must do a print ad because your boss (still) thinks it’s a great idea. If that ever happens, then the following tips are for you:

2. Know your target
Wouldn’t it be nice if you got little details about someone you’re thinking about flirting with? It will help you customize your approach, your demeanour and what you say. Same thing with ads… you are courting business.

3. Don’t treat ad space like real estate
Real estate appreciates the more you build in an area. But the more stuff you cram into a print ad, its appeal depreciates. Leave some “breathing space” in your ad so your message is better absorbed. Readers will also appreciate the lack of clutter.

4. Make a pitch in 2 seconds
You only have a couple of seconds to convey the main message to your audience.  This can be usually achieved with a headline that promises a benefit or reward. If not, it’s flip-goodbye.

Mature dude reading a newspaper
If this guy somewhat represents your target market, then go for it!

5. “You”ize the copy
Notice how many times the word “you” or “your” is present in this post. It’s to make you feel as if I’m talking directly to you, and only you. Being personal is convincing.

6. A bigger logo means squat!
For the umpteenth time, a bigger logo doesn’t mean higher recognition. People will look for your logo if what you have to say in the ad appeals to them.

7. Stay single
Think about your favourite ad and what you liked most about it. Got it? Now think about what’s the second thing you liked about this ad? Anything? The human brain only remembers one thing, even when it’s from a great ad.  So focus your ad’s message on the one single most important thing you want your readers to recall.

8. Know the difference
Most people can’t differentiate between a feature and a benefit. For example 50% less fat is a feature, which could bring about the benefit of a slimmer you.  Got it?

9. Don’t try to be funny
Punchy, juicy, catchy, sexy and clever lines are great; if you are a stand-up comedian. But advertising is no funny business, so use clever or ‘creative’ lines sparingly or risk becoming a joke.

10. Clear call-to-act
You must tell your readers what you want them to do: be it call, walk-in, SMS or log-on to the website. A call to action is important because it can ultimately translate to sales.

Just so you know, I still stand by point No.1, unless you are talking to your parents and that frail, retired neighbour uncle.


When In Rome, Screw The Romans

When it comes to marketing, doing what everyone else is doing is a recipe for disaster. So screw what everyone else is doing if you want to stand out from all the monotonous clutter out there.

Yes, granted, sometimes copycat marketing works. But doing so will only get you a share of an existing pie but will not make you your own pie. If you’re saying what your competitors are already saying, then you are just another business saying the same old shit in the eyes of the consumer.  There’s no strong reason for consumers to buy from you, and only you.

The Colloseum Still Stands
Copycat marketing is as old and battered as the Roman Colosseum

It’s quite common where something printed, that was on air or seen online is made as a basis for drafting your own communications. I mean it is okay to emulate, but never imitate. A few examples:

1. If you’re selling energy drinks: instead of saying “gives you energy” say “makes others lazy”

2. If you’re selling cars: instead of saying “travel in comfort” say “it’s like you never left home”

3. If you’re selling pizzas: instead of saying “the best-tasting pizza” say “tastes like a real pizza”

4. If you’re selling beers: instead  of saying “refreshing, satisfying brew” say “never satisfying, if you stop at one”

5. If you’re selling handmade cookies: instead of saying “handmade every step of the way” say “machine-hating cookies”

Let’s face it. If you’re selling something, chances are someone else is selling pretty much the same thing too. Anything opposite of what your competitor is saying, something that evokes a little curiosity or perhaps adds on to what is already being said is good to go.

All the better if your product has that one Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that none of your competitors can’t live up to. But that’s a product issue, which goes to reiterate the fact that even the best marketing can’t sell a lousy product.

And don’t be afraid to change up when it’s not working; at least you won’t be called a failed copycat.

When e-mail meets Facebook

It’s a marketers dream but a privacy nightmare. When your e-mail address is paired with your Facebook account, your intimate data can be in the hands of marketers; and you pretty much can’t do anything about it.

Advertising is all about targeting. The more we know about you, all the better. It allows us to compose a message or communication that would be more relevant, interesting and personalised to you, which increases the chance of you taking action. As in make the call or click to buy and if it’s a really irresistible offer; run to the nearest store in your underclothes.

Facebook is a record of your life online. From general biodata and perhaps your work information to things you like and brands you prefer. If a marketer is able to access your information, he will be able to personalise a piece of communication that has a higher chance of making you pull out your wallet.

Can marketers access your Facebook data? Absolutely!

Facebook Privacy
Yeah, I know... a self-explanatory, stereotype image. What to do... no budget! 😉

All someone needs to do is enter your e-mail address into a data mining program, which will then pull and store your personal Facebook data. At the very least, they will be able to access your name and see your profile picture. And if your Facebook privacy settings are not set to the highest, then even more data such as location, friends, hometown, activities and “Likes” can be retrieved.

Another way is to create dodgy or silly Facebook applications which requires you to “install”  or “allow” to use. This is even worse because these apps can pull basically all your Facebook details,  including the names and images of all your friends.

Your e-mail address is possibly the most precious thing you own thanks to Facebook. Online marketers as it is are fighting tooth and nail to gather as much e-mail addresses as possible for blind e-mail blasting. And now they have the power of pairing e-mail addresses with Facebook data to gain deeper consumer insights.

There will come a time when marketers may know exactly who you are, where you live, what you do, what you like, what you drive and possibly even what you just had for dinner. And the more of yourself you put online, the happier unscrupulous marketers get.

So safeguard your e-mail with your life and never go into specifics while on Facebook. It’s just not worth it.

P.S. Even more disturbingly, more and more Malaysians are falling prey to cyber scams thanks to Facebook. This is something I will look into in my future post; just need a bit more data. Stay tuned.


Loyalty Doesn’t Pay; Not Even a Single Sen!

The thing is I am angry. Yes, angry. Not cheesed-off, neither dissatisfied nor unhappy. I am mad. I created this blog so that I can have an opinion. And have a freaking opinion I will

You know, I wanted this post to be a meaningful, heartfelt review of my online escapades of 2010. About how I made a humble yet determined start to create an online presence, which culminated in this site being listed on Page 1 on Google if you’d searched “Copywriter Malaysia”; for a very brief period that is. But screw that and let’s get down to business.

In my 12 years in the advertising industry, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And I’ve also seen many more committed by brands, marketers, agencies, advertisers and the like. And among all the mistakes; the biggest most unforgivable sin that a brand or company can make is taking their customers for granted.

And I have recently been given the middle finger by a company/brand that I’ve been loyal to for 12 years.

Ask any direct marketer worth his salt and he will tell you that once you become a customer, you should immediately be put into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programme. And most of the time, it doesn’t take much to keep a customer. A hello once in a while, maybe a small discount for purchase and perhaps a free gift or two; if budget permits of course.

The point is you want to keep your existing customer happy or at least contented. Just to let them know that they are valued for the business they’ve been diligently giving to you. And as long as customers know they enjoy just that little bit more than non-customers, everything should be well and good.

So for 12 years I was a happy camper with Maxis. No real issues or crisis-like situations, I simply got what I paid for. And then one day, I stumbled upon the fact that I was paying RM30 more than new customers for their broadband service. I was surprised and honestly thought that this was a small problem that their customer service will easily fix. Boy was I wrong!

Sour Lemon
Things between me and Maxis turned sour... oh lemons!

Here’s the gist of the conversation:

Me: Hello, Maxis Customer Service?

MCS: Yes sir, how may I help you?

Me: Well, I’m just wondering why I’m paying the old price of RM98 for 3GB broadband whereas new customers only pay RM68?

MCS: Well, you must be still under contract sir?

Me: No, my contract ended just last month. Correct?

MCS: Yes, sir your contract has ended.

Me: So why am I not enjoying the reduced price of RM68 for the 3GB package?

MCS: Well sir, you purchased the package for RM98, so you will have to pay that amount indefinitely.

Me: What?! Nonsense! Are you telling me that new customers can enjoy the new price but old customers still have to pay the higher price?

MCS: Yes sir.

Me: So what do I have to do to enjoy the RM68 price?

MCS: Well you have to terminate your current broadband account and return the modem. Then register again to enjoy the RM68 price.

Me: (not believing this shit!) Errr… you mean I have to cancel and register for the same thing over again?

MCS: Yes sir, that’s the only way.

Me: Errrr… (WTF!… lost for words, hang up)

If the price of a good or service goes up, I don’t see any company saying “oh, you can still pay the old, prior-to-increase price because you have a contract”. They don’t just make the new customers pay the increased price while the existing customers pay the old, under-contract price. But when the price is reduced, every effort is undertaken to make it difficult for old customers to enjoy the new reduced rates.

We don’t even have to look at this from a marketing, CRM or customer service point of view here; just see it based on freaking common sense! Some of my friends claim that I am a bit of a diva here. They say I should just go to the Maxis Centre and re-register to enjoy the reduced rates. But why the fuck should I? I don’t want to go along with the idiotic process of re-registering for the same bloddy thing because that would make me a bigger idiot.

Maxis is seriously deluded and very arrogant to think that I would succumb to their plain bullying. I think I am going to the Maxis Centre after all, but the re-registering will certainly happen someplace else. Yes, I think I’m going to take my business (Broadband + Principal Mobile Line + 2 Supplementary Lines) elsewhere because loyalty obviously doesn’t matter.

P.S. I gave Maxis close to 3 months to explain themselves, during which time I’ve been letting my RM30 a month go down the drain. After contacting their Customer Service, I recently raised the issue in their Facebook Page (with my name and account number). I have since received no acknowledgement whatsoever… not even a squeak.


Know You, Like You, Trust You, Contact You & Refer You

That’s it isn’t it? The full circle of making a sale, and perhaps earn a few more leads at the end of it. No complicated marketing or advertising mumbo jumbo; just plain clear and simple.

It's a deal!

Whether you’re selling a product, writing copy, pitching for a new client or looking for a girl/boyfriend (minus Refer of course), these steps could help you close the deal or at least put you in the right path:

Know You

I remember in college when A.I.D.A. was drummed into my skull. Getting Attention, then creating Interest, which leads to Desire and ultimately Action in the form of a purchase. But for AIDA to work, the prospect must Know You or better still Like You.  Would you pay attention to someone you don’t know, no matter how hard he’s trying to get your attention? Even of you do, would you actually buy from him? So for a sale to happen, you must take the effort to introduce yourself to your prospects. And if they want to Know You more, then you begin to work on the next step.

Like You

Okay. Now your prospects know who you are. It’s time to develop the relationship and get them to Like You. Freebies are good, but not a great way as most prospects can see through your gimmick. You should instead begin to persuade them in a compelling manner with hard facts thrown in. Anticipate a problem that requires solving or a need that has to be filled. If a prospect likes what she’s hearing, she’ll most probably begin to Like You as well.

Trust You

Trust is a powerful influencing factor. You can get people to join a cause, divulge their innermost feelings, get into bed with you and of course, spend their money buying your product or service. But just because someone Likes You, doesn’t mean he or she Trusts You. Here’s where the saying “Seeing is Believing” comes into play. Any form of visual representation of your product or service in action could do wonders to alter your prospects perception. Testimonials or endorsements are also good, as others’ trusting behavior could lead your prospects by example.

Contact You

When someone, on their own accord gets in touch with you, then you’ve pretty much done the job. Your prospects may Contact You for a number of reasons: to enquire, take up an offer and hopefully to purchase. The ball is now at your court to live up to their expectation: either by solving a problem or fulfilling a need. No hard-sell is required at this stage (or any of the previous steps for that matter) as your prospect – believe it or not – Knows You, Likes You and Trusts You. Now, it’s all about turning your prospects into customers by giving them exactly what they want.

Refer You

This is the bonus round so to speak. You can do without it, but it will be such a waste. Because referrals are great for building trust. More often than not, you can skip the Know You, Like You and sometimes Trust You steps through referrals. If a satisfied customer passes the word to his friends about your wonderful product or service, then your job becomes so much easier. Peer to peer “word of mouth” is still the most effective form of advertising, nothing beats it, nothing ever will.


Facebook Follies

If I remember correctly, I registered for a Facebook account in end 2006. Back then I had just a few friends to ‘poke’ and even fewer who commented on my status updates. We raced cars and bikes, fed our vampires and played a very 2D-looking Texas Hold Em’.

Fast forward 3 odd years or so, my online playground has mutated into a sort of an institution. You don’t just keep up with your friends’ updates, you keep yourself entertained. You don’t just join the discussion, you join sub communities. And you don’t just play what everyone’s playing, you play games that represent almost every niche possible.

The intuitiveness of the interface, the ease of use and the fact that pretty much everyone you know is on Facebook have attracted almost 6 million Malaysian users. And that figure is only said to grow with more and more Malaysians above the age of 30 begin to set up Facebook accounts.

Facebook or time to FaceHell?
Facebook or time to FaceHell?

Now, when there are 6 millions living, breathing, socializing, interacting, poking people under a neatly contained, active system; it doesn’t take long to attract marketers to sell their wares. Hence you see the mushrooming of Brand Facebook pages in the past year or so. This is supposedly to show that these brands have embraced the digital age and are in-tune with the digital natives.

The sole objective of these pages is to get as many ‘Fans’ or ‘Likes’ to justify the marketing money being poured into the effort. So if Brand A has more fans the Brand B, it’s an achievement – or so you’d think. Marketers tend to forget that the number of people who ‘Like’ their page are more than mere numbers. These are real people who either are consumers or have some kind of affinity towards the brand. And like most consumers, they have lots to say.

When we have a vocal group of people/consumers with the power to comment on a brands’ activities, all hell tend to break loose. Just visit a Facebook brand page and study the wall posts and comments. You are sure to find disgruntled, opinionated and sometimes verbally explicit customers who’ve left their mark. These Facebook brand pages have become a channel to voice concerns (acceptable enough) to a plain free-for-all, angry venting area (not ideal). The worst part, everyone can see these comments and it will be hard wired in the Facebook ecosystem until it begins appearing in Goggle searches (Bad, really bad).

Deleting unfavourable comments will only add to the fire with comments coming in spicier and in greater numbers. Try to respond to a delicate customer dissatisfaction comment is tricky as a brand’s every move is being watched. Ignore a negative comment and you lose the respect of the community you’ve painstakingly built.

Facebook brand pages are now starting to put brands in a spot. While the ‘you can’t satisfy everyone’ adage holds true in a less social environment, Facebook pages has put the power into consumers’ hands. One disgruntled consumer can wreak havoc and invite a barrage of other consumers to share the limelight. Do this: wrong. Do that: wrong. Don’t do anything: wrong!

How do I know all these? I manage quite a few Facebook brand pages, so believe me, I know. And maybe in the next post I’ll reveal some pointers on how to manage Facebook brand pages. In the meantime, I have to deploy some evasive manoeuvres to counter another freaking, useless, totally effed up comment!


Know Thy-Brand

Isn’t it a no-brainer to know thyself before your tell others about yourself? In the context of a product, service or brand, it’s about learning everything you need to know – from attributes to USPs and strengths to weaknesses – before even considering a marketing effort.

It really pains me to see the lack of knowledge and understanding that permeates the corridors of marketing departments. It is disheartening to come to terms knowing that marketing or brand executives do not take the effort to live and breathe their assigned portfolios. It has become so rotten, that almost everything is done to please the bosses instead of pleasing the targeted consumers.

Are SWOT analysis’ even conducted by companies these days? Maybe the fears of discovering the threats and weaknesses mix trigger a phobic reaction. There’s a serious lack of responsibility and a high tendency to make assumptions. Briefs these days do not even come with requisite information. Wait a minute… hell, there are sometimes no briefs at all.

At the very least, the absolute bare minimum, a job order (instead of a ‘brief’ since they are pretty much non-existent) must outline these points:

–      Who are we talking to? (psycho & demo)

–      What is the objective? (what’s the purpose of this communication)

–      What is so interesting about what we have to say/sell/give? (USPs)

I bet many marketing “professionals”, handling key accounts, would not be able to furnish the above without referring to their superior or Google. No doubt, there are many talented marketing and brand people out there whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with. And I must say I’ve learned tons from them.

But there are this I-Know-It-All, I’m-Better-Than-You and Do-As-I-Say bottom dwelling creatures that make me want to puke. But then again, I would not even waste my energy on throwing up for them.

Please, take the effort. Learn, ask questions and take the initiative. And don’t act smart if you don’t know what you’re doing, we notice you know?