Friday, March 30, 2007

Brand Value...

Young & Rubicam, developers of the Brand Asset Valuator(R), see four phases of branding: differentiation, relevance, esteem, and knowledge. Y&R generally works for consumer megabrands like AT&T, Sony, Colgate and Ford. However, the same principals apply to small and b-to-b brands.

Branding may seem costly. But, big spending isn't needed to build a brand -- consistency is. You're building a name. It takes time. The first thing you need to do is be different and stand apart. You also should be relevant -- ask, "Is this important to my prospect?" Then, according to Y&R you need to build respect. I agree. When you're building a brand, you're also building trust. And finally, you reach the knowledge phase. You're a recognized expert in your market.

Often clients come to me for help building an ad. My real job, however is to build sales. And the best way to do that is to brand your product. I guess I'm a little like a cowboy. My job is to drive your cattle home -- not the other guy's. So I brand it to separate yours from the others.

Sorry. Gotta run, pardner. There's a doggie goin' astray. Yee Ha!

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Marketing in a Recession...

Q: What begins with recess but isn't any fun? A: Recession.

Fear of a recession is in the air. I'm not an economist, so I'm not sure if it's warranted. But I can tell you the best marketing investment if an economic downturn happens: Advertising. Research indicates it's best to maintain or increase your ad spending. Really.

McGraw-Hill studied 1980-85 advertising by 600 companies in 16 SIC codes. The results? B-to-B firms that maintain or increased advertising in the '81-82 recession averaged higher sales growth both during and after the recession than those who reduced or eliminated advertising. By 1985, sales of recession advertisers jumped 256% over those that didn't keep up advertising. Since 1949, aggressive advertising in a recession has increased both sales and profits says a study by Meldrum & Fewsmith. And a Coopers & Lybrand study of the 1990-91 recession shows better performing businesses seeking new customers, exploring new markets and running more ads.

Strategically advertising during an downturn can help you capture customers your non-advertising competition will lose. And it will allow you to maintain profits while others are forced to rely on price-cuts. As the old adage goes: "In good times, you should advertise. In bad times, you MUST advertise."

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Color in Advertising...

Call it the color of money.

Color gets results. Color ads scored 23.7% better than black-and-white
ads in a study by Babcox publications. Both two-color and four-color
ads pulled about the same return.

Color is a powerful tool. It grabs attention, emphasizes key points and
aids in recall. In our experience, certain colors actually increase

Different hues also send different messages. Cool colors tend to say
stability, whereas warm colors convey energy.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Innovate or Stagnate

Less than half of small businesses have a website. And only 5% complete transactions online, according to Small Business Banker magazine. Perhaps they’re overly cautious. Over 70% have Internet access (up from 57% in 1999) and almost 40% have a website. But more than half say the web has not impacted their business, according to D&B.

SO? So, why are big businesses establishing entire Internet divisions? Because they see the trend. ($100 billion in online sales in 2003, according to Forrester.) If you don’t have a website, get one. But even more important, you need to get your distributors to get web-enabled. Because if they aren’t, a distributor in their area will be and they will get the sales. Your sales.

A good way to nudge your distributors onto the Internet is to help them. Give them web content they can customize. Link from your site to theirs. Offer to co-op hosting costs. Do whatever you can to get them online. Because their sales are your sales.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 26, 2007

Marketing Pruning...

Prune branches, not roots

In outdoor gardening, you prune branches to encourage growth. In Bonsai gardening, you prune roots to stunt growth. The same works in business.

Dot-coms profited more by cutting operating costs vs. marketing costs, says a recent study by turnaround consulting firm Getzler & Company Inc. Of 190 firms studied, 46 cut marketing and 25 cut operating costs.

"While sales growth among the two groups remained approximately the same, there was a dramatic difference in profitability," said Brian Mittman, V.P. at Getzler. From second to third quarter, losses more than doubled at firms that cut marketing.

In my experience, the same is true in the traditional marketplace. Clients who cut marketing have been forced to lower their prices -- and profits, to keep sales. But clients who trimmed operating costs maintained or increased sales while staying profitable. It seems marketing is a lot like a plant’s root.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 23, 2007

Act Now...

Setting limits can make people want more. Shoppers grabbed 3 or 4 cans of soup when it was advertised on sale with no limit, in a study by the University of Illinois. When the the ad read "limit 9" people bought twice as many -- an average of 7 cans each!

The same technique that works in consumer marketing, works in business-to-business marketing. Setting limits or deadlines creates a sense of urgency. We are all motivated by urgency at some time or another. It could be urgency of a broken furnace on a cold January night. Or the urge to buy a Coke on impulse.

I used this technique in a direct mail letter for an entrepreneur program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "For the best learning environment, class size is limited. So, contact us immediately..." reads the postscript. The response? We're almost at our goal. So call today!

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Web Saavy...

Guess the average age of a Web Designer: 20? 25? 30? 35? If you guessed 30, you're right. And, according to TrendWatch, about eight out of ten have a 4-year degree -- in fact, over half were hired right out of college. This young, educated group is also known for being highly free-spirited and one of the best paid for their age.

A 2001 salary survey co-sponsored by * says Internet marketing professionals, who averaged $66,030/year plus bonuses, overall felt well paid -- and weren't seeking a new job.

My point? Despite the burst bubble of Dot Coms, the Internet is still an integral part of 21st Century marketing -- a part that companies are willing to pay top dollar for. Now, don't confuse Dot Coms with using the Internet as a marketing tool. Dot Coms had no bricks and mortar or distribution networks, were trying to build brands overnight, and most had no revenue stream.

Instead, I encourage clients to use the Internet as a cost-effective marketing and customer-service tool. Their customers can download lost manuals, learn about new products, and even give useful feedback all at a fraction of the cost of more labor-intensive traditional methods. This frees your sales and customer service people for more important and rewarding work. Which, in turn, will improve their productivity, overall morale -- and the bottom line.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Profit begins with PR...

In news releases, less is sometimes more. The average trade journal editor I've talked to gets 300 or more news releases a month! Really. The more work editing your release an editor has to do, the less likely they are to use it. Keep it short and focused. But be sure you tell all the facts. And try to be objective. A lot of new releases go unused because they read more like an ad than a news story.

Also, don’t flood editors with too many news releases. If your news releases start coming too often, the editor will be biased against you before she opens the envelope. I suggest sending one, single-page, double-spaced news release every one or two months. And be sure to include a photo whenever possible. Or better yet, put the hi res. files online like we do with

Many editors I've spoke with tell me they like our news service because it makes their jobs easier. We either email or mail them news releases (based on their preference) and they can download the text and photo in seconds -- on their own schedule. They also appreciate the fact that our releases are already in professional journalistic style -- saving them a lot of editing time.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Free Publicity...

There's no such thing as free publicity. Successful PR requires an investment.

For example, public relations is the second biggest marketing line item for the average tech start-up (15.9%) -- just behind print advertising (21.1%), says a report by Launch PAD and Silicon Valley Bank.

Media relations, perhaps the most visible part of PR, requires building relationships with key editors and reporters. That takes time -- and money. A good way to shorten the cycle and reduce costs is to hire a PR firm. An outside firm brings a lot to the table: they have established contacts, they know journalism, and they're an objective third party.

Most PR firms are experts in an industry. Editors often call PR firms for insights on industry trends, expert interviews, or even photos for a story. Smart PR pros, usually former journalists themselves, can help you refine your news releases to get more placements. And the good ones will even tell you when a release isn't worth releasing.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 19, 2007

Do Gooder...

"More than 80% of the money raised by charities in this country comes from individuals," says The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance ( It seems sad that business giving is so little. But, being a good corporate citizen can have big marketing potential.

Most charities are happy to work with you to raise support. And the media is more than willing to give free publicity to honest charitable efforts. Years ago I worked with Chicago's Olive Branch Mission, the oldest homeless shelter in the US. My client, the John Hancock Observatory, held a personal care item drive. We got tons of publicity before, during, and after the event. Ticket revenues increased. And, most importantly, the homeless benefited.

With a little creativity you can develop a program that works for you. It's usually best if the charity somehow ties in with your business -- like MADD for an auto bodyshop, Illiteracy Volunteers for a bookstore, or Humane Society for a pet shop. Depending on how and to whom you donate, there may even be tax advantages. (Ask your tax consultant beforehand.)

Don't get me wrong. Doing good is it's own reward. But if that's not enough incentive for Corporate America to give more, then let me appeal to self-interest. Whatever it takes, let's get that business giving number up!

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 16, 2007

Real World Promotion...

Yesteday, McDonald's began to roll out packaging featuring pictures of customers. Not models. Real people. Twenty-four real people to be exact, picked from an "open casting call" of 13,000 entries from around the world, according to Reuters.

"It's about real people connecting with our brand," said McDonald's CMO Mary Dillon. "People are really interested in reality."

Reminds me of the early 80's TV shows "Real People" and "That's Incredible!". But where those shows featured real people doing unusual things, today's trend is about ordinary folks often doing ordinary things. I think we like seeing other's people's flaws because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

As I often told Beth when we were newlyweds, "I love you warts and all."

She didn't like the warts part. So, I stopped saying it. But in reality, I think what makes people different often makes them interesting. Warts and all.

That's why there is such a push for "user generated content" like blogs and You Tube. Not because the average person is necessarily more interesting. But because sometimes they just say it in a much more interesting way. A way that's real. A way that's authentic. I think it touches on what author Tony Schwartz (, calls "The Responsive Chord."

Is your advertising contrived or authentic? Does it feel real or is it too flashy and plastic? How can you make your ads feel more real?

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Internet: e-nough!

"The average worker spends nearly an hour each day on e-mail," says an article in the Chicago Tribune. An hour! That's 12.5% of the working day. How much is work? How much is waste? And, given the growing use of email marketing, how much is trashed?

As our email boxes become more stuffed, the danger is we'll build up an immunity. As marketers, we may see email as low-cost advertising. There's no design. No printing. No postage. But, with continued overuse, there will also be no effectiveness. And that costs us all a lot.

I just deleted more than 20 emails this morning -- unread. In fact, I filter out most of my junk mail so I don't have to waste time reading subject lines any more. And I have two email accounts: one public, one private. The private one I give only to clients and friends. I always read that one.

My suggestion: don't use bulk email as a ploy. Only put people on your email list if they "opt-in." And only use email to give meaningful information, introduce new products or provide valuable offers. You'll get better results -- and reduce the cost of unsolicited email for all of us.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Internet: Ahh-Choo

Here's a virus worth catching. It's called "viral marketing." And although it sounds destructive, it's quite innocent. According to Target Marketing, it works like this: a clever or informative message is emailed to an "opt-in" list. People who find it funny or interesting then forward it to one or more friends or associates. Then each member of the group forwards it to more people. And so on. And so on. And so on... That's how it spreads -- a lot like the flu does in my home every winter.

According to 24/7 Media, an online direct marketing firm: 80% of online companies use viral marketing, 81% of recipients forward these emails, 49% forward to 2 or more people, 5 - 15% click a website or email link in the message. Corporate giants like Pepsi and are using this technique, adding "rich media" (like streaming audio/video or Flash animation) and getting great results.

Viral marketing works offline, too. Anytime you can create a buzz with your advertising, news releases, direct mail or faxes you're creating a kind of "marketing virus." However, to be really successful, be sure you're sharing meaningful information -- not just a self-serving sales pitch.

In fact, why don't you pass this tip along and watch what happens?

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ads: More Bang For Your Buck!

Good News: Ad spending is flat according to Competitive Media Reporting ( While advertising grew by double-digits early last year, it grew by only 6 percent in 4th quarter.

That good?! Sure. While recession-phobics are slashing ad budgets, smart marketers are gaining market share by sustaining -- even increasing ad spending. Sound crazy? Here's why it's smart: If your competitors advertise less it gives your ads more impact. You'll be the first brand a buyer thinks of because he sees your name more. Competitor's sales reps will have to work harder generating leads and closing sales. (I document this in my January 19th tip.) One client told me when they stopped advertising once for a few months, someone started rumors that they'd gone under!

By way of example, let me tell you the story of my adman idol: Leo Burnett. Leo started his ad agency on August 5, 1935 -- in the depths of the great depression. People called him crazy. But, he retorted "There's nowhere I can go but up!" Actually, ad agencies boomed during the depression. Why? Advertising reduced sales costs. Companies that advertised stayed alive --and many prospered in the midst of economic turmoil. Today, Leo Burnett Advertising is one of the most successful agencies in the world.

I'm not worried about another great depression. In fact, an accountant friend tells me the average US recession lasts about 11 months. So, I advise clients to jump on this short window of opportunity to turbo-charge their advertising and branding. But, do it now, before the pendulum swings back.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ad Strategy: Love/Hate Inserts

They kind of annoy me when I'm trying to read a magazine, But, love 'em or hate 'em, inserts work. Advertising inserts scored better than full-page ads according to research by aftermarket divisions of both Babcox Publications and Adams Business Media.

Sometimes, inserts cost less than a full-page ad (check with your ad sales rep), yet they can give you two pages -- or more of space to tell your sales message. And because inserts are usually printed on a different stock than the rest of the publication they naturally jump out. (That's the part that annoys me!)

Another great thing about inserts is you can have a response device built in (Business Reply Card or Fax Back Form) to help you generate more leads and track the results.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ad Strategy: Hey, you in front...

I learned something new, today. I used to think ads in the first half of a magazine got much better results than ads in the last half. But in reviewing a report from Adams Business Media's Automotive Group, I saw the error of my ways.

According to the report, ads in the front half of the magazine scored only incrementally better than ads in the back. The difference was less than 10%. And adjusting for differences in size, color, brand, and product the results may be even closer.

I still believe, if you’re not paying for a preferred placement (like one of the covers or opposite the table of contents), it’s best to ask the publication to rotate your ads from front to back. This takes advantage of different reading habits. Some people read magazines front to back, others back to front, and still others (like me) just jump around almost randomly. Hope you learned something new today, too.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 05, 2007

Web Strategy: When Life hands you lemons...

The best marketing is proactive. Usually. Sometimes, however, a quick reaction can save the day. For example, a few months ago a prominent trade journal ran a short article about one of my clients. They even mentioned the client's website. The problem? They misspelled the website. Since the publication was already in the mail we had great publicity -- but the wrong contact information. The solution? We bought the misspelled web site name!

That little story generated thousands of hits to the web site that would have been lost if not for our quick response. Often a quick, creative solution can turn lemons into lemonade.

In our experience, it's usually a good idea to buy multiple domain names and point them all to your site. For instance buying a common typo or misspelling is a good idea. (Misspell as and you'll get someone else's search engine.) Also, buying the .net and .org extension for your domain can save mistaken identity. (For instance, and both point back to

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dig Deeper...

In my Tip Remix last week, I said that using opinion polls as behavior research is fraught with problems. By asking a prospect what they MIGHT do you can't always assess what they WILL do. We don't always know what we'd do until we are in the actual situation.

For example I was the perfect parent. That is before I had a child. Somehow what I thought I'd do isn't exactly what I do. Turns out I'm a little less patient in reality than I was in my imagination.

The other side of opinion polls as behavior research is even if you ask what people DO, they are not honest. Not that they're lying to you. The real problem is often we aren't honest with ourselves.

For instance, if my dentist asked how often I flossed, I'd say a couple times a week. But the year-old spool of dental floss in my medicine chest might tell you differently. (Maybe it just FELT like I flossed a couple times a week!)

A better way to get the answer in a survey might be to ask me how often I buy dental floss. You could check that against a question about my flossing habits. If the answers don't jibe, you need to dig a little deeper. (Perhaps asking Beth how often she thinks I floss might be more accurate!)

Another option is to track my dental floss purchases on my grocery store rewards account. The problem? Aside from privacy issues, you don't know if I buy floss at another store or if I share the container with six others in my home.

Moral: True research isn't always easy. And easy research isn't always true.

- Phil Sasso