Marketing Partnerships

One of the most effective marketing strategies any business can implement is that of forming partnerships, most notably, joining efforts with nonprofit organizations in the community. There are a number of benefits to doing so.

First, your company positions itself as a ‘good corporate citizen’, part of the community, caring and engaged. Not a bad image to have. You also earn the respect of the people of that organization: the administration and staff, clients and their families, and board members. This could amount to a significant number.

Is there marketing value to your company? You bet. Here’s a good example. Keynote recently brought together four seemingly diverse entities – White House Fruit Farm, Second Harvest Food Bank, Alberini’s Restaurant and WFMJ TV – for an event as simple as an apple dessert recipe contest.

White House will hold the contest and accept food donations the week of the event for Second Harvest; Second Harvest will supply the donation bins at White House; entry fees will be donated to Second Harvest; the director of the charity will be one of the contest judges; Alberini’s will donate gift certificates as prizes and Chookie Alberini will serve as a judge; commercials and promos will run on WFMJ TV and two of the station’s personalities, reporter Glenn Stevens and cooking segment host Regina Reynolds will help judge the recipes.

The publicity for this event will be widespread and all four of the involved ‘partners’ will benefit. We anticipate significant participation by the public.

A company’s relationship with a nonprofit can be a single-event as above, or ongoing. Encouraging your employees to get involved ‘hands on’ is effective as well. Every marketing plan we develop contains a public relations strategy based on this type of partnership. There is no downside.

Remember, good marketing begins at home.

The Name Game

A company name and its slogan must work together. This is especially true if the business or product is a new one. Without a massive marketing budget and/or a well-established brand it would have been difficult to make even “Coke. It’s The Real Thing” work, right?

If your business name contains the type of product or service you provide, go ahead, be creative, your slogan could range from the general to the abstract.

Example 1: ScumSuckers Pool Cleaning, Inc…Nobody Does It Better!

Example 2: ScumSuckers Pool Cleaning, Inc…Who You Gonna Call?

Obviously, ScumSuckers cleans pools, so the business does not require further explanation. But if the company name was simply ScumSuckers, Inc. I better be a little more descriptive in my slogan line...

Not Good: ScumSuckers, Inc…Nobody Does It Better!

Good: ScumSuckers, Inc…Nobody Cleans Your Pool Better!
At least now I know what service the company provides.

Save yourself a lot of time and money trying to explain what it is you do. Develop a company name and modify it with a great slogan that does it all and your marketing and branding efforts have a lot better chance of succeeding.

Remember, great marketing begins at home.

Going Viral

Viral marketing. You’ve heard about it, but what is it? Simply stated, viral marketing or viral advertising is marketing strategies that use social networks to build brand awareness of a business or product. Uploading a promotional video to YouTube is a popular viral method. The whole idea is to get people to pass along the video to others, thus promoting your brand to a wider audience. And the best part is your only expense is in some minor production costs. What you do need to invest in, however, is the time to create a concept then find someone with a camera and some editing equipment.

Does it work? It does if you do a lot of things right — right concept especially. The most effective videos are those that offer high entertainment value or deliver traditional messages in totally unique ways.

Obviously you want the viewer to pass the video along to someone else, but you would also like that individual to remember your brand, and even look you up on the web for more information. That’s what Keynote is doing with our “Bob The Box” video. First we draw them in with cool, hip open and then offer some basic marketing tips. The ultimate goal is to use our ‘brand neutral’ website to drive them to one of our ‘brand’ sites: or

Peddling To Pedalers

I just returned from a five-day bicycle trip through western Virginia and northeastern Tennessee. The event was hosted by Bike Virginia and attended by 1,800 avid cyclists from across the country.

After a day of struggling up and coasting down some pretty substantial hills we camped on the grounds of local high schools in small to medium-sized towns along the route. Having done similar rides through Ohio, Oregon and New York over the last few years, these trips provide opportunities to experience breathtaking scenery, enjoy local culture, and meet some pretty interesting people from around the world.

After a shower, the next thing on everyone’s mind after setting up camp is food. (Some days the tour covers as much as 100 miles, so calories are not an issue.) On every organized ride I’ve ever been on in the past, local restaurants made sure they had someone around the campgrounds passing out fliers with their menus and directions. The Virginia trip was different: no fliers, no directions. Riders were left to their own ingenuity or consulting with locals to find out the best places to eat.

In addition to providing all the ride itineraries and amenities, it is usually up to the tour organizers to let the local businesses know that a couple of thousand ‘customers’ would be in town for a night or two. Either way, it was a missed opportunity. All it required was a business to invest in the most Either the locals on this trip never got the message or just didn’t care.basic of marketing strategies — a few printed fliers and a couple of high schoolers to pass them out at the campground. Cost? Probably less than $75.

Three years ago a local public official in southern Ohio told me that when the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure came into his town, cyclists and their families spent close to $100,000 in one day on everything from food to souvenirs.

You certainly shouldn’t need a marketing consultant to give you this advice, but here it goes: Opportunities to brand yourself, sell more, or simply gain a little publicity avail themselves almost daily. Checking newspapers or websites can tell you a lot about what will be happening in your community, events of which you can take full advantage.

So pay attention.

This is basic “Inside The Box Marketing,” a marketing strategy you can implement all by yourself at very little cost. Remember, effective marketing begins at home.

Best Spin Line in The History of The World

I am constantly intrigued by the daily dissemination of ‘spin,’ that usually pejorative term referring to ‘a creative presentation of the facts.’ Don’t confuse spin with lying. Even though there is some degree of gray area existing between them, spin involves more of a ‘massaging’ of the facts as opposed to dreaming up a whole new set of them.

Personally, I love spin. I love hearing people use it. I love to watch people eat it up. I love when a phrase is so well spun that even the speaker smiles with delight. The people I feel sorry for are those who are ordered to perpetrate ‘spinspeak’ by their superiors (flashback to Secretary of State Colin Powell embarrassingly pointing out the preponderance of Iraqi WMDs during the run-up to ‘schlock and ahh’).

Of course, spinning is modus operandi for politicos whose liberal (in the nonpolitical sense) use of ‘spinspeak’ normally has wonks and wags shaking their heads in disbelief. Candidates and office holders, however, do not have the spin market cornered. The corporate and retail world certainly are not averse to inserting a little obfuscation, deception or manipulation into their marketing and PR efforts.

Which brings me to the best spin line in the history of the world – and it was created, I can say proudly, right here in my town, Y-town. I did not come up with this line. I do wish, however, that I had. It was well crafted. It was terse. It was elegant. And, for about five seconds, I actually fell for it. Sadly, for the corporate flunky who was forced to impart it, he did so to me, a student of the genre.

Let’s go back a few years. A local publication was going through a pretty contentious labor dispute. Enmity on both sides of the picket line was ramping up on a daily basis.
Because of the length of the impasse, the paper was forced to cut back to a single, morning edition. I was oblivious to this fact, however. My carrier was still bringing my paper at 6:00 P.M. It wasn’t until I stopped at a friend’s home early one morning and saw his paper, fresh and crisp, lying at his doorstep. I called the publication and wanted answers.

So I dial up customer service and get a recorded message saying that ‘all lines are currently busy’ (I’m sure they were) and a representative would get right back to me. Since I was going to be on the road the rest of the day, I left my cell number and hoped for the best. About an hour later my cell rings.

The following is a pretty accurate transcript of the ensuing conversation:

[Ring, Ring]

Me: Hello.

Caller: Hi, Mr. Hahn. Joe So-And-So from Customer Service. How can I help you this fine day?

Me: My paper. It comes at 6 at night. Everybody else seems to be getting it early in the morning. What’s up with that, dude? (I didn’t really say ‘dude’ but I wish I would have. I would have sounded so cool.)

Caller: Well, Mr. Hahn, some of our routes run later than others.

Me: 12 hours later? The news ain’t news anymore 12 hours later. The root word of ‘news,’ after all is – ‘new.’ If this is a morning paper, I would really prefer to receive it – inthemorning! (I was starting to sense the ‘party line’ being mustered on the other end.)

Caller: Well, Mr. Hahn, the publication is much more than a ‘morning’ paper. (He was setting me up for the kill. The magic sentence that would appease lesser subscribers than I was welling up in his throat. So I fed him my set-up line.)

Me: Whadda yah mean “more than a morning paper?

Caller: You see, Mr. Hahn, what we deliver to our valued subscribers on a daily basis is an ALL-DAY PAPER.

There it was! An ALL-DAY PAPER! Poetry. Sheer poetry. I was speechless. I stared at the receiver dazed, confused…impressed. I could imagine those three words taped across the top of his computer monitor in 48-point bold Times New Roman. I envisioned myself relaxing at the home, my trusted, all-day paper in hand, its headlines and photos changing before my eyes as world events ebbed and flowed throughout the course of the day. He had me. He had spun me like a top. I believed. Oh, how I believed! But how I wanted it to be true! I gathered my composure and responded in my typical calm, dignified manner...

Me: Huh?

Caller: You see…

Me: Did you just use the phrase ‘all-day paper?

Caller: That’s right, Mr. Hahn. You see…

Me: Hold it right there, buddy boy. First,…what the hell does that mean? And second,…who was the genius who told you to say that? (I was torn between tears and laughter.) That was beautiful. I mean it. (I really did mean it. Honest.) Kudos to your PR department, or marketing consultant, or the janitor, whomever.

Caller: …and our sports section is one of…

Me: Just get my paper to me by 6 A.M.


That was spinspeak in its grandest form . They knew they couldn’t deliver everybody’s paper in the morning. No way. So they did the next best thing. If anybody complained, they had the magic line – All-Day Paper. It sounded plausible even though it made absolutely no sense. Heck, it didn’t matter when you got it, the news lasted ‘all day.’ In that case don’t bother wasting all that energy stopping by my home everyday, why not just wait until the end of the week and drop them all off at once?

I guess then you would have yourself an All-Week Paper. Even better.

Not A Face for Radio – Part Deux

After sitting down at his desk the tone turned serious.

“I’m getting traffic,” Clyde said, perplexed.

“Considering the amount of money you must be spending on advertising you darn well better be getting traffic,” I replied.


“It’s your ads, Clyde. Your ads. They sound like they were made in your basement on a cassette recorder.”

“Well, they are.”

I detected a subtle sense of pride in his voice. I told him that his radio spots sounded like he was selling discount, low-quality merchandise, not the nice stuff that was out on the showroom floor. Sure, people were coming in. The tenor of the spots along with the low-quality production made it sound like he was having a weekly fire sale. Customers came in expecting a really low price, but even at the 20 to 30 percent discount he was promising, it was still higher than they were expecting to pay.

The perception of this brand was way out of whack with the reality: low-end, low-price merchandise is what the brand represented in the mind of the consumer. Unfortunately, the reality was that the store was selling decent quality products at a medium to high price point — a stark disconnect. The culprit? Surely the sad radio spots Clyde was running played a role.

As far as I was concerned he had two choices, either improve the quality of his advertising or start selling lower-end merchandise.

After an hour or so of spirited discussion he decided to give us a shot at the radio production. Our plan? To keep his voice on the spots
in a minor role — simply stating his name and his very recognizable slogan.

The balance of the spot was carried by a professional announcer backed by a contemporary music track.
We ran the same budget, same time slots, and the same radio stations. The results? Over the period of a couple of weeks, he was getting a whole new customer in the door and he/she was not turning around after seeing the prices and quality of merchandise.

Clyde was happy. I was happy. Brand perception and brand reality started to come into sync. And that should be the goal of any business.

A quick sidebar: During this same period a competing retailer of Clyde’s also was running extremely poor ads, poor to the point of embarrassing. The difference was that this competitor actually was selling crap merchandise — and selling a lot of it. If I wanted low-end goods, that’s where I was going to go. As terrible as their TV spots were, they are still some of the most effective I’ve seen.

Not A Face for Radio – Part One

Here is a classic story I have probably told a hundred times. It’s a case of the quality of one’s advertising, whether radio, TV or print, speaking louder than the words or pictures contained therein. And not in a good way. This is what I call ‘Brand Busting,’ where brand perception and brand reality are diametrically opposed.

The names, by the way, have been changed to protect the guilty.

A number of years ago I was referred to a client by a local radio rep. This individual was a big advertiser on both radio and in print. He spent a boatload of money, however the quality of his advertising was extremely low end. Naturally, I assumed the merchandise he sold was of the same quality.

The problem stemmed from the fact that he wrote, produced and served as the announcer on his radio spots. The only apparent positive was the fact that he had a memorable positioning statement that he stuck with year after year. I had never met the man, but I knew exactly what he looked like ...

Height: 5’4”
Weight: 240
Hair: minimal
Sartorial attributes: Leisure suit (lime green), white shoes, white belt, open-collared shirt — probably orange in color — revealing a gold chain or two, black transparent hosiery.
Distinguishing characteristics: mole just above left eye; wears soda-bottle-thick glasses with black frames; cheeks sporting a perpetual red hue; sideburns to die for.

Well, at least that’s what he sounded like on the radio.

The station rep told me that this store’s problem wasn’t traffic — people were coming in the door. The problem was they just weren’t buying. Customers would walk in, look around, and then head to Valu-Mart. Sales were abysmal. The sense of panic amongst the staff, palpable.

The radio rep pleaded, “Could you talk to him and see if there was anything you could do?” As much out of curiosity as for the quest for new business, I agreed to place the call.

Five days later I walked in the store’s door, ready to finally meet the embodied Voice of Mahoning Valley Retail. After a few minutes of roaming through some pretty nice looking, definitely-not-cheap merchandise, the receptionist showed me into the legend’s office. He stood up from his beautiful mahogany desk.

Gulp! Who the hell was this guy?

In his early 50s, his salt-and-pepper hair was, well — perfect. And not only was he an obvious graduate of the George Hamilton School of Tanning, he sported the whitest teeth east of the Mississippi. His right hand extended, walking toward me was an obviously fit man sartorially resplendent in a navy blue blazer, light blue dress shirt, red and navy striped tie, khaki slacks, and burgundy penny loafers (beyond that, I was guessing boxers).

“Hi. I’m Clyde Summerfield,” he beamed.

I froze in my tracks. “Ahh, no your not,” I responded, my voice dripping with equal amounts of disappointment and shock.

“I beg your pardon.”

“Well, the Clyde Summerfield I know is short, fat, bald, thick glasses, wears a leisure suit, white shoes, white belt…”

What ...?

I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into the office’s rich, shag carpeting. “Sorry, Clyde,” I apologized, “but that’s how you sound on the radio."

Dazed, he shuffled back behind his desk. He gestured toward the wing back chair across from him. I settled in and the ensuing conversation took on a rather serious tone.

Drop in next week for Part 2. Does Clyde see the light or is it business as usual?