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    Mar 2008

    Dell Direct Mail Offer Challenges

    Posted by / in Marketing, Tips and Tricks / Link

    A lesson in marketing and consistency.

    I was recently selected to save up to 75% off VOSTRO systems from Dell.  Pretty exciting eh? The glossy enviro-green and white direct mail piece was personalized and they even got the spelling of my name right! The headline had two footnotes. One said that I was selected based on factors such as historical purchases but I never bought a Dell through my company name so I wonder what other factors it could be.  The second footnote said that it was a promotional offer valid between March 21, 2008 and April 3, 2008 etc…good thing my business does not have to put laptops into a capital budget first! The strong call to action was duly noted.

    If you are one of Dell’s target business customers, as I apparently am, you are probably too busy to muck around a website getting educated on the various systems and configurations that Dell offers. So this offer was particularly enticing. In 3 simple steps, I could find out if my business was selected to save 25%, 50% or 75%. Here is what I had to do:

    1. Visit their website or call their toll free number.

    2. Enter my personal access code to find out how much I’d save.

    3. Choose my technology and enter the access code (again) to purchase it.

    Sounds simple enough so I decide to give it a try as one can always use another laptop right?

    Step 1 – No problem getting to the Dell site that immediately redirects to a tracking page with “mystery coupon” in the URL. First thing I see is the header Direct Mailer Offers. Now I wonder if I got the best offer. Second thing I see is a text box header with the question “Did you receive a Coupon Code”. Umm…I don’t know…I received a personal access code. Is that the same thing? I check the fine print on the direct mail flyer and it calls the personal access code an E-Value code so maybe I don’t have a Coupon Code? Figuring that Dell would not waste their money sending this to me only to have it fail on Step 1, I decide to try using my personal access code. That’s gotta be the same thing. As a potential customer, I’m not feeling too comfortable right now. I think I’m on a legit Dell site with the blue corporate colour in the navigation buttons. But the flyer was all green so now I’m not too sure – something phishy going on? Oh wait, there are green buttons lower on the page so all is good.

    Step 2 – The personal access code is 14 alphanumeric characters long. Dell will know exactly who came to the site, when they came and how far along the sales funnel they went by simply using this tracking code. I unfortunately got stumped at this step. The personal access code…oops, I mean Coupon Code, did not work. I try again – still no luck. I realized I keyed in an I instead of a 1 and probably an O instead of a 0. I can’t tell the difference since they used ALL CAPS in the code. Woohoo….I can save a whopping 25%! Good thing I did not call the toll free number. I can’t imagine repeating a 14 letter and number combo over the phone. What if I had to key them in and ended up at a remote call centre? On to Step 3 now.

    Step 3 – I look at the laptop solutions and desktop solutions, wondering why they are called solutions and not just business computers. Must be some marketing jargon. Does anyone google “laptop solutions” when looking for a computer? Google “laptop” and you get all the smart retailers that know what keywords are relevant ranking high on the search page. Hmmm…just made a mental note to contact Dell about helping them optimize their website 🙂

    Ok not interested in a solution at this point and also not very impressed.

    What are the lessons learned?

    Be consistent.

    The personal access code was referred to as the E-Value code in the fine print on the flyer. It was also referred to as the Coupon Code on the website. One of these is the appropriate and relevant term from a marketing and legal standpoint. That term should be used consistently.

    The layout of the flyer was similar to what one would expect to see on a tech oriented website. However, the Dell website is blue, with an orange and black graphic but the flyer is various shades of green. Not disconcerting but it would be nice for some design elements to be consistent across various marketing media.

    Make it easy for the customer.

    Don’t have a title that suggests better offers might be available. I was feeling special when I received the direct marketing piece but after reading Direct Mailer Offers, I’m not too certain that I was specially “selected” for this amazing limited time offer. Why does a customer even need to see this – it’s more for the marketing folks at Dell that say “go to the Direct Mailer Offers page” when describing their latest promotional offer to internal people. I would recommend calling it VOSTRO system special offer instead. A unique landing page for each customer could be created to really personalize the experience but that involves a bit more work. Hmmm….ANOTHER mental note to contact Dell and offer my consulting services!

    The 14 character personal access code was not very user-friendly. Instead of ALL CAPS, they should have made it all lower case so there would not be any opportunity for confusion with i’s, 1’s, o’s or 0’s.

    If I made a purchase I would have to key in the 14 character personal access code again. I can think of a solution here – capture the personal access code from Step 2. Better yet, knowing that I had keyed it in already, don’t ask for it again. Instead, personalize Step 3 by including my company name in the window. That would make it really easy for me and I’d feel oh so special too.

    Have you received any direct mail marketing pieces that made you feel special? Did you end up acting on the offer? Please share.

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    Mar 2008

    7 easy steps towards becoming more creative

    Posted by / in Marketing, Tips and Tricks / Link

    Ever wonder how those marketing geniuses come up with incredibly creative ideas? Well now you can too can be creative just by continually giving your brain hardware upgrades. Not a techie? No worries – below are my 7 easy steps towards becoming more creative:

    1. Go against the flow.

    Don’t do what everyone else is doing. In fact, try doing the opposite. Challenge assumptions. When they zig you zag so to speak. Be a contrarian. Be counter-intuitive.

    Take a different route to work, instead of putting on your left sock first, put your right sock on. Hold your phone in your left hand when you’re chatting in that restaurant. Have cereal for dinner and pasta for breakfast. And don’t forget to smile while you’re talking because a happy mind is a creative mind. Force your mind to do the unordinary and it will become extraordinary.

    2. Chatter incessantly.

    The more you talk, the more you expose yourself to opportunities to have a conversation with someone. And if you tie this in to point #1 above, even better. Just be careful that you’re not always talking to yourself. The barista at your local Starbucks, the cab driver driving you to your innovation seminar, the math teacher at your child’s school, the annoyed and tired looking gentleman on that transatlantic flight can all help with your verbal rapid prototyping efforts. Someone might even give you an insight that later could lead you to step out of your bathtub and run naked in the streets shouting Eureka! Warning…do not try this in the winter and check with municipal by-laws before opening that door! Or maybe not.

    3. Consume text like Kwame Kilpatrick.

    Read often and as much as possible. It can be Twitter posts, blogs like this one, articles, novels, textbooks, StumbleUpon, tradeshow displays, your competitor’s web content, press releases, news related to a totally unrelated industry or the nutrition label on your favourite cereal box. The point is, the more you read, the more you are able to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts. I think that’s what brought the mayor of Detroit and Christine Beatty closer together.

    4. Carry a pen and notebook.

    My friend Gabriella Pacione of Concept Genesis, a creative consultancy based in Canada, recommends that we all carry a pen and notebook to capture flashes of brilliance that often get lost as we do the more mundane things in our lives like breathing regularly. She says you can’t discount the visual aspect of creativity. If you scoff at this idea because you’re a digital maven, I humbly suggest that you do what I do. Use your Blackberry as a voice recorder or key-in your thoughts and email them to yourself. Best email you will get all day and no spam – guaranteed!

    5. Draw

    As mentioned above, the visual aspect of creativity cannot be ignored. Drawing, doodling or sketching out ideas will not only entertain your spouse or Wacom-enabled kids it will give you another way of looking at things. Making unique connections is what it is all about.

    6. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    Better yet, try some Green Tea to get the antioxidant benefits as well. Stimulating your senses is important to open up your mind to possibilities. This includes the sense of smell. You may remember or hopefully still play the smell game. This is where you blindfold someone and place a series of items under their nose. They have to identify what it was based on the smell. Or, to be more PC I guess I should say scent. It’s very hard to identify what the item is without seeing it as we require both sides of our brain to identify and then articulate what that smell is. Struggle and you build up those connections over time.

    7. Look around and be inspired.

    There are numerous stories about people getting inspiration from merely observing. Richard Feynman, joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics is said to have been in the cafeteria at Cornell when he saw something that helped him solve an equation that ultimately led to his Nobel Prize. A student was spinning a plate and as it wobbled, Feynman noticed that the red medallion of Cornell spun around at a different rate than the wobble. For “fun”, he calculated the relationship between the wobble and the spin of the plate (2:1). However it also led him to look at the problem about the spin of electrons differently. Solving that led to the prize!

    Post your ideas here!

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    Mar 2008

    There’s always a marketing opportunity!

    Posted by / in Advertising, Marketing / Link


    CBS (CBS) is broadcasting the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament known as March Madness starting March 18th. Advertisers will spend about $500 million during tournament games to get their message out. They expect over 150 million people to watch this college basketball tournament and another 1.5 million to watch it online. This year, CBSSports.com is allowing all tournament games to be watched on-demand without requiring viewers to register – and opened it up to over 200 websites like ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports, SI.com, YouTube and Facebook to link directly to the CBSSports.com live streaming video. Lots of young and middle-aged men (and women) will be glued to the screens.


    If you’re an advertiser without the big bucks, how do you take advantage of this event? Well, one creative idea comes from The Oregon Urology Institute. You might be wondering how a urology institute fits in to March Madness. Well, their pitch is “…lower your seed for the tournament…when March Madness approaches, you need an excuse … to stay at home in front of the big screen…Get your vasectomy at Oregon Urology Institute the day before the tournament starts…It’s snip city.” Is this relevant? Is it a good spend of their marketing dollars?

    Understanding consumer behaviour is the key. Men are literally parked in front of the screen during March Madness – in fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc, a global outplacement consultancy, estimated that the lost productivity due to watching online alone would be $1.7 billion! Apparently men need a legitimate excuse to stay at home during the weeks leading up to the April 7th final. It takes 2-4 days to recover after a vasectomy, so why not do it during the games?

    The radio station got in on the action as well, leverage the investment with their own ‘package’. Each patient will get a “recovery kit” that includes sports magazines, free pizza delivery and a bag of frozen peas. I wonder if it will be a Green Giant. :)