Realistic Product Placement

I got the Madden ’09 for the Wii this past week. It’s amazing that the franchise is 20 years old. It certainly has come a long way since I played the first version way back when. That includes the product placements.

At first, it seemed like it might only be music artists getting some extra exposure. However, in their attempt to make the game as real as possible, EA Sports has added sponsored segments, interspersed at key points in the game.

The move is somewhat brilliant. Our real NFL world is plastered with sponsorships. It only makes sense to translate that to the video games worshipping the sport. And make additional profit in the process.

The difference here is that we sort of expect it. We aren’t taken by that much of a surprise. It seems to fit. So there really isn’t much to complain about. We’re used to it. We’ve been conditioned to it. And it really doesn’t come off as overt.

I wonder, though, where else it might work in a seamless manner such as this.

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Unknown Is Just Fine

We are working on a project that could partner us with another company. It is quite exciting, to say the least! A small group of us met last week putting the structure together for an upcoming meeting. One of the questions that came up centered on the fact that, prior to this, neither company had heard of the other.

The implication, though unintended, was that if we didn’t know them before, how good could they really be? The reverse implication holds true, as well. And it is a valid concern.

But simply because you haven’t heard of a company doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do. They could be the absolute best in their industry. They might execute better than the competition, produce a better product and do it with more integrity and professionalism. That might be why you’ve never heard of them.

Or maybe you’ve never crossed paths. If your industries never intersect or they produce something you have not had the occasion to use or need, then you’d only know about them through reports.

That’s where due diligence comes in. Learn about them. Learn about their past and their key people. Meet with them. Get to know what they do and how they do it. Partner with someone because they will make a great partner and because, together, you’ll succeed.

It is perfectly OK to partner with someone you had never heard of before, so long as you take the time and make the effort to learn.

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Service Contracts

Since moving into my new house, I have had the occasion to work with a couple of companies using service contractors and one using its own staff. In each instance, the experience has been fine. Using contractors for your in-home service work makes sense in the right situations:

  • The contractors’ vision and mission aligns with your own
  • The contractors seek to exceed your customers’ expectations
  • The contractors offer a greater value to your customers and to you than you could do on your own
  • The cost of have the contractors is equal to or less than the cost of handling it yourself
  • Your customers agree that your contractors provide a needed service and do it well

If these things aren’t happening, then hiring out might not be right for you. Thrill your customers, and it won’t really matter who is doing the work.

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The Challenge of Segmentation

Segmentation is a difficult thing to wrangle sometimes. When internet-based sales starting picking up steam ten years ago, people weren’t sure how to respond, though the thought process really shouldn’t have been much different than for catalog sales. The main difference is that the catalog was now online and accessible to anyone who was interested.

What the internet, and catalogs for that matter, gives you is another channel for selling to customers, even if the audience is different. Thus is the challenge of segmentation. The essential question is this: what do you offer to sell people, where and at what price? OK, maybe it’s three questions. Regardless, there are four basic ways to segment your offering:

  1. Selling the same brand, with the same features and pricing, through different channels—You offer the same thing online or in a catalog that you do at retail for the same price.
  2. Selling the same brand, with differing features and pricing, but through the same channel—Your retail offerings for the same brand are priced differently, based on the features.
  3. Selling the same brand, with differing features and/or pricing, through different channels—What you offer online is exclusive to the channel and different than what you sell at retail, even for the same brand and similar product.
  4. Selling the same product, with the same features, different pricing and brand names, through the same channels—You offer the same product with the same features and through the same channel (online or catalog or retail) but under different brand names.

What’s going to work best for you depends on the product you sell, the channels available to you and your customers and how effectively you can manage the process. A major concern will be how the channels (or brands from option 4) compete with each other and cannibalize sales. Sometimes, none of these options make sense as there is only one way to sell your particular product.

But make no assumptions. Explore the options. Do some tests. See what makes the most sense. And most importantly, sell to your customers where they are, at the price they expect to find and with the features and benefits that deliver on your brand promise.

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Make It Important to Them

While attending a conference this week, there was some discussion about how to bring other people along on projects, particularly when you need them for your success. I immediately thought of a post I wrote last month called “Our Own Bias”. Then, I saw this post, titled “Brand confluence beats brand influence” from Brands Create Customers.

The problem starts because the cause or need or desired result is obvious to us. Its importance goes without saying—at least to you. But because it means the world to you, doesn’t mean it’s on everyone else’s radar. They have their own biases, their own important things to do, their own set of obvious things.

To get them on board, you have to bring them along on your journey—from the beginning. If you’re already down the path, you’ll have to back up and start over.

First, you’ll have view the world through their eyes. Get to know them. Learn what is important to them. Then take that view and meld it with your own, perhaps creating a new view together.

As a result, you’ll have a true advocate on board, and you just might end up with an even better result.

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The Choices We Make

I know that I am exactly where I am because of certain choices I have made. Some of those I can trace back nearly 20 years. Certainly others’ choices have factored into it. But how I chose to respond, behave and act put me on one path or another.

The same is true for your brand. Its success or failure is based on certain choices you have made when facing a variety of decisions. And if we could all accurately predict the future, selecting one option over the other would be that much easier.

Maybe you don’t need a crystal ball, however, to make a good guess at where your decisions will lead. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of extra thinking and analysis. For example, when Apple suddenly dropped the price of the iPhone by $200 just a few months after its launch, the company should have easily predicted that those who had purchased one of the gadgets would feel like they’d been duped. Instead, they waited for their customers to complain loudly before responding.

Think about all of the choices you can make about your brand:

  • Price changes
  • New products or extensions
  • Product deletions
  • Packaging modifications
  • Component changes
  • Re-formulations
  • Cost-cutting measures

Before you select an option, play it out with some people. Use a whiteboard. Get feedback. Consider what the various reactions would be from your customers, competitors, suppliers, ultimate consumers, employees. Do you like what those reactions will most probably be? Are they right for the long-term health of the brand?

The more consideration you give to the choices you make, the better those choices will be.

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