T’is the Season



Grinches of the world, unite!

‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.’ This quote is famously attributed to 19th century Prussian statesman, Otto von Bismark. Sometimes I think that is a little bit true of marketing as well.

Let me declare upfront – I love Christmas, I love Christmas carols, the spirit of giving, presents, decorations, gift wrap, reindeers and snow.

But I like my Christmas to come with time limits. Much like you don’t want your child to be glued to the TV for hours on ends, surely you don’t want Christmas to carry on for a third of the year either.


Yet that is exactly what seems to be happening.

And as annoying as I find it in stores, seeing it in print  is as sad as finding a Santa costume hidden away underneath the Christmas decorations when I was six.

Here in Canada, shop displays start to turn towards green and red as the last of the Halloween merchandise go on sale, but there is still some measure of restraint until after Remembrance Day. But after that, it’s gloves off.

Trees are out, wreaths are up, and lights are twinkling. And Christmas tunes star filling the air.

So how do shoppers feel about that? Turns out, as many people love it as hate it.

According to the Harvard Business Review,almost 33% of people love early Christmas displays, and almost 33% of people hate it. The remaining 34% say they are neutral, or only mildly annoyed.

From a marketing perspective, I can certainly see the advantage of early Christmas promotions, but as a consumer, I’d rather put it off until December.

How do you feel about Christmas marketing?


Consumer Trends – A Tale of Two Planets


When we talk about consumers, we can classify them in a multitude of ways. I recently attended an event hosted by the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre. The guest speaker was Rainer Mueller, CEO of Williams Fresh Cafe, on the topic of ‘Emerging Trends – What’s Driving Consumers?’ Mueller is an excellent speaker, drawing on local examples and experiences to highlight key points in his presentation.

He focused his talk on the book, ‘One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One’, by Norton and Honeywill, who, after extensive research, identified two types of consumers:

The Traditionals, who are driven by

  • price,
  • product features, and
  • status, and

The New Economic Order, or NEOs, who look for

  • design,
  • authenticity,
  • provenance and
  • discovery.

A Tour Guide to the Two Planets: NEO and Traditional  is a short video animation that provides an excellent overview of these very different types of consumers, and what drives them.

Which group do you fall under?


When your customers turn against you – A cautionary tale.


We have all heard accounts of customers who take to social media to express their unhappiness in a product or a company. Sometimes the companies respond in ways that make us want to give them a standing ovation, while other responses leave us groaning with embarrassment at the sheer inaptitude it.

But I recently saw a customer response that went way beyond a social media post, although the action itself generated a fair amount of social media interest.

CellC is a mobile phone service provider in South Africa. When George Prokas decided he was not getting a response to the billing problems he presented to the company, he took to the streets.

6ea1029ce4a640c690b80e12af534cb2 And instead of making lemonade, CellC took to the courts.

Instead of addressing the customer’s concern, they just wanted the banner removed.

I know. Face-palm.

Of course CellC lost their case. With cost. The matter has since been settled out of court. And the loss in reputation to CellC? Much, much more than the disputed amount.

What is your best and worst examples of how companies have dealt with negative public opinion?


Networking made easier


A while ago, I wrote a bit about networking, and I promised some ideas for making it easier. So here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Set a goal: Decide how many new contacts you want to make. Be realistic about this. If you struggled to talk to 2 people at your last networking event, you want to set a goal of maybe 5 new contacts, not 20. And if you can exceed your goal, well done! Is there someone you specifically want or need to meet? That is a goal as well.
  • Practise your introduction: Say your name clearly, especially if you have an unusual name. You can also repeat it, e.g. ‘Riani…Riani de Wet’. You will be asked what you do. Think about how you want to answer this question before hand, and practise it. Do not say ‘I am in marketing’, but rather ‘I work with my clients/ACME company to find creative ways to introduce new product lines to their customers’. Focus on the benefit or value you ad to your employers or clients.
  • Ask open ended questions: Nothing stalls a conversation as much as a series of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions and answers. So frame your questions to allow for more personalized answers. Instead of asking ‘Are you enjoying the event?’, try ‘What did you think about the speaker?’
  • Listen: This is probably the most important part of networking. Listen to what the other person is saying. Sometimes we are so nervous about the conversation, that we end up thinking about our next questions more than about the response to the current one. You are filling in a questionnaire, you are trying to have a conversation. That means pay attention, and
  • Ask follow-up questions: If you listen to the other person, questions will often formulate themselves. If the person just mentioned they had had a rough day at the office, the correct response is not ‘What did you think about the speaker?’ but rather ‘Oh, I hate those days too. What happened?’ And again, listen! If the other person answers vaguely, he/she probably doesn’t want to talk about it. But if they do respond, pay attention. If you can offer advice or a suggestion, do so. If not, acknowledge the person’s feelings, and show some empathy.
  • Business cards: Going to a networking event without business cards is like…well, don’t, just don’t. Have cards ready. Make sure they are up to date. No scratched out numbers. Business cards are cheap, and can be printed very quickly. So no excuses. But don’t hand them out like you are handing out flyers on a busy street corner. Give them to people you have a conversation with, and people who ask for them. Make sure you collect some from the people you talk to, as well.
  • Take notes: Make a few notes about the conversations you have. Something interesting about the person you spoke to, or something they said. The back of their business cards is an excellent place to do this.
  • Follow up: Send a quick email to your new contacts within a few days, thanking them for the chat. Mention something about the conversation or the event, to remind them of who you are. And in your daily work, when you come across something interesting, think about all the people you have met at events, and share that with them. Do not put your contacts in the back of your drawer, only to pull them out when you need something. Add some value to the relationship first, before you expect any reciprocation.

How do you keep your networking contacts active?