Thursday, December 11, 2014

Marketing vs Sales

I've recently had several discussions with various people about the differences between sales and marketing. Many would say that they're nearly the same, right?

Wrong. Sales and marketing work closely together, but they are fundamentally different. In fact, they are so different that those people who excel at one are often not very good at the other.

In peeking at job listings over the years, I've noticed numerous postings that try to merge together both sales and marketing. Have you ever seen a posting for a Vice President of Sales and Marketing? How about Sales and Marketing Coordinator. This is a clear indication of a company that does not truly understand what marketing is.

Everybody knows what sales is. We deal with sales people every time we walk into a retail environment. Many of these people are good at what they do: learning and understanding the need of the customer and cross-referencing it with their product knowledge to make helpful suggestions. Sales guys and girls make business happen.

Not everybody knows what marketing its. Marketers sit in offices at their computers developing brand strategies. What exactly is a brand strategy, anyway? For that matter, what exactly is a brand? Consumers are exposed to the effects of brands and their strategies every day but they don't always understand what's happening. There's a reason for this.

Years ago I was asked to explain the difference and I answered that the marketing person tries to get the qualified customer to walk into the car dealership and the sales person takes over from there to try to sell a car. While this is true, it doesn't fully explain the fundamental difference.

When was the last time you bought a car? Try to remember the experience. You probably came to some sort of needs recognition (maybe your old car died) and decided it was time for a replacement. You already had some thoughts about which type of car you wanted. And you walked into the dealership and talked to the sales person. This is key - you talked to them. It was a face-to-face conversation.

However, that skips over the many things that happened before you ever walked into that dealership.

We are exposed to hundreds, no thousands of marketing and advertising messages every day. Our conscious brain doesn't even know about most of them. In fact, the conscious mind can only focus on a maximum of four things at any one time. If we paid attention to every single message that is delivered to our eyes our brain would probably explode from information overload.

So how do we keep from exploding? It's our subconscious mind that acts like a giant filter. If you are flipping through a newspaper you probably won't even notice that there was an ad on page seventeen for the new Ford. Your subconscious mind noticed it, but decided it wasn't important. However, if your existing car broke down yesterday, your subconscious mind would have recalled that, and brought the Ford ad to your conscious mind's attention. Because it suddenly became relevant.

We are exposed to so many messages in today's world that this is the only way our brains can cope.

However, the subconscious mind doesn't forget. While it won't always remember specifics, like the model, price or promotion details, it will often remember the brand (if the advertisement was properly designed). So your conscious mind may not notice because your current vehicle is perfectly functional. But then maybe six months down the road your car packs it in and you find yourself at the automall shopping for cars. When you see that brand's dealership there will be some familiarity. You probably won't remember where you saw the ad (or many ads) but it will be more comfortable than a brand that you aren't as familiar with.

So if it's immediately relevant (you need a new car) then you will consciously notice and read the ad immediately. This is a marketer's ideal situation because it can result in immediate action on the part of the consumer. However, if it's not immediately relevant, some component of the brand gets tucked away in your subconscious brain for future consideration.

It is the job of every marketer to speak to the subconscious mind, hopefully in a way that's relevant enough that the subconscious brings it to the attention of the conscious. And if not, at least in a way that adds some familiarity and comfort to the brand for future consideration.

It's easy enough to recall the sales process we went through to purchase our last new car. But we don't usually remember what kind of marketing activity we've been exposed to before that sales process began, and we don't usually understand what impact it had on our purchase decisions.

Sales people have face-to-face conversations. They speak directly with the conscious mind. Marketers communicate first and foremost to the subconscious mind. And therein lies the fundamental difference.

So next time you see a job posting for a Vice President of Sales and Marketing, especially if it's at a competing company to yours, have a smug chuckle to yourself over the knowledge that that company doesn't truly understand marketing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Android is in Trouble


I have been considering my last post, the one where I boldly announced the death of the tablet. I am now wondering if I should have entitled that post Why Android is in Trouble.

The Samsung Galaxy and other Android phones are flying off the shelves in record numbers. I even have an android phone - an older Motorola Atrix - which I quite like. Android is, in fact, leading all competitors in mobile devices sold right now. So how is it possible that Android could be in trouble?

As I previously suggested, it appears that tablets are making the switch to non-mobile operating systems. It follows that phones will do the same. The next logical step is that consumers will want one consolidated operating system for all their computing devises, mobile or stationary.

Apple iPhone users can have a Mac environment at their home or office. Widows Phone users have Windows. What do Android phone users have on their desktop? You can bet your bottom dollar that some senior folks at Google are losing some sleep over this.

So this post doesn't really provide any new information. It's just another way of looking at the conclusions I made in the last post. It will be interesting to see what Google does to address this over the next 12 months.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Death of the Tablet

No really, it's been murdered. No more tablets.

At this point, you might be wondering about my sanity. After all, Apple has just sold 14 million iPads in the last quarter of 2012 alone. But bear with me.

I recently purchased a new Windows laptop. It's an HP Envy x2 that runs Windows 8. That's the full edition of Windows 8, so I can run all my regular PC applications. This laptop has a touchscreen, and like several new laptops available from major manufacturers, it converts to a tablet.
Convertible laptop/tablets are the latest thing. There are numerous types now available, and  you can read about some of them here.

This, my friends, is a game changer for the tablet market.

Before I go further, a little about Windows 8. I've been making friends with Microsoft's new operating system for the past month. It's not perfect, but it's certain that there has been some serious thought put into the use of touch screen computers. Microsoft has invested a lot into this, betting that all computers will be touch screen in the near future. They are probably correct.

If you don't have a touchscreen computer, Windows 8 is probably not for you. I tried, at first, using it with just the mouse. It was an exercise in serious frustration. It's not that it doesn't work, it just works in different ways that those of us who are familiar with Windows are used to.

But once you use Windows 8 on a touchscreen, you can see where they are going. It's easy, intuitive, and highly efficient to navigate between and around your Windows applications. Importantly, the introduction of Windows 8 has allowed for convertible touchscreen laptops. On my HP, I can remove the screen with one easy button and POOF, it's a tablet.

Only, it's not a tablet.

Sure, it's a touch screen device with Wi-Fi connectivity, cameras on both sides and apps that you can download. But it's also a fully capable PC computing machine that can run full versions of your regular desktop or laptop software. Things like MS Office programs. Or your favourite Adobe Creative Suite applications.

When Apple introduced the iPad, and at the same time popularizing the tablet, they used the existing operating system from their successful iPhone. That made sense at the time, given the success of Apple's App Store, and the ability to take advantage of the many hundreds of thousands of apps available. The iPad (and so the tablet) became a popular and effective media consumption device. Internet, games, movies, etc.

But iOS (and Android, Windows RT, and even the new Blackberry 10) is a mobile operating system, designed primarily for phones and subsequently extended onto tablets. This limited the tablet from running full productivity software. Further, typing on the touch screen was awkward, making even email easier to do on your laptop or desktop.

With Windows 8, this all changes. No longer do I have a laptop AND a tablet. I have both, in one machine, and even when the screen is separated and it's in tablet mode it's still a full productivity PC.

So the tablet has graduated from mobile OS to running full Microsoft Windows. The 'tablet', in it's old definition of entertainment and media-consumption product, has ceased to exist in the Windows environment. Hence the title of this post. Further, you can bet any money that the next iPad will run OSX.

My prediction, is that phones are not that far behind. Current smartphones have enough processing power and memory to run most desktop functions, it's just that they don't have the screen size and keyboard. But just imagine a phone that you plug into a docking station that itself has a full sized keyboard and large touchscreen attached. You have the same docking station at your office and at your house. In fact, you can drop your phone into a docking station at your friend's house and it will work there too. Your entire computing experience will fit in your pocket.

So what does this do to the iPhone vs Andriod battle? It throws a giant wrench into it, that's what it does. Apple has the existing iMac owner base who can graduate to OSX tablets and eventually phones. Andriod does not.

Some really smart people at Microsoft figured this out. And they realized that, even though they were late to the table with mobile offerings, they have a key strategic advantage - a huge number of Windows-based laptops and desktops that people use in their daily home and office life. So as mobile OS disappears and desktop OS takes over tablets and phones, people will look to consolidate so all their devices integrate with each other. This is how Microsoft, not that long ago considered to be incapable of breaking into the mobile market, may in fact come out the winner.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SWISS Confusion - A Follow Up

A while back I wrote about a text message campaign by Swiss Chalet. In it, I described how text-based marketing activities can fail when not properly executed. As a follow up, I have come across this picture of the bus-back advertising that promoted the campaign. I think you can see why this would not work as well as expected.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Biggest Social Media Fail Ever

I've written recently about some failed social media activities, including the lack of public announcements by ski hill Sunshine Village during an HR and PR crisis, and negative reaction on Twitter to a new chicken product from Domino's Pizza.

Now comes a story from The Ad Contrarian about Pepsi's recent forays into Social Media. Specifically, that they have failed spectacularly in terms of keeping Pepsi's share of the cola market.

Pepsi recently cut back significantly on their traditional advertising spending, and took that chunk of change over to the social media side. It's likely the largest allocation of money to social media by any company so far. There were some good statistics including 3.5 million 'likes' on the Pepsi Facebook page and 60,000 Twitter followers.

But the one stat that matters most - sales - looks grim. For the first time ever, Pepsi slipped from 2nd to 3rd on the list of most-consumed soft drinks. Do you know what drink moved up the board to take 2nd place behind Coke? Why, Diet Coke, of course.

Overall losses to Pepsi's bottom dollar is estimated to be somewhere between $350 million and $500 million dollars.

So, while social media is certainly a large part of strategic communications going forward, there can apparently be too much of it, and not enough traditional. The trick is to find the right balance.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Social Media Fail

As social media develops an almost 'magical' aura in the communication industry, and as it grows in scope and execution, there will inevitably be some blunders along the way. In fact, I suspect that going forward one could create an entire blog out of social media failures.

Enter the Domino's promotion for their new boneless chicken. They invited consumers, right on their delivery box, to tweet their thoughts about the new chicken with a specific hashtag #DPZChicken.

A great idea, upon first glance. Get people talking and sharing their thoughts about the new product. Except that there is just one problem. People are talking and sharing their negative comments as much (if not more) than their positive ones.

A quick search on Twitter of the hashtag shows that many people don't like the product. To my cursory glance, it was well over half. To add salt to their own wounds, Domino's website features a live feed of what people are tweeting with their hashtag - good or bad.

So what is the lesson here? It's that the 'magic' of social media lies in the ability to start, foster and engage in discussions about your brand and your products at a grassroots level. Unfortunately, it's not magical enough to make food taste better.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Twist

Regular readers of this blog may notice that I've been a little neglectful in the past month in writing new posts. That's because I've been busy with my new job.

That's right, folks, I am now Account Director at Twist Marketing here in Calgary. And I'm pretty excited about it.

One of the big things that attracted me to Twist is their appetite to try new things in new media areas. That, and the group of really smart marketers that I now get to work with.

The good news as far as this blog is concerned is that I'll be able to report on some really exciting mobile marketing activities that are currently coming down the pipeline for some of our clients. Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More World Health

Recently I wrote about a text message campaign that I came across for World Health Gym here in Calgary. I promised that I would follow up on thier campaign.

The whole point of text message marketing is the opportunity to remarket to people who opt in. Actually it's more than that, it's the opportunity to engage the consumer in a dialogue. But to do it properly, you first have to ask their permission, and then you have to balance the proper amount of contacts. Too many and you will annoy your subscriber, too few and they will forget about you. Of course, the messages have to be relevant and provide value, too.

So what did World Health do after they collected my number?

First, they didn't actually ask my permission to contact me again. I originally signed up by texting a keyword to a shortcode for a free 7 day pass. They sent me that pass (via text message). They then assumed that I wanted to hear from them again - not exactly best practices.

They also waited a long time to contact me, over 3 weeks. Some consumers will have forgotten their initial interaction with World Health in amount of this time (especially when text message marketing becomes more popular) and may consider a message sent 3 weeks later to be spam.

Their message after 3 weeks was an invitation to join a contest. In conjunction with a local radio station, it's a weight loss contest along the lines of some of the reality TV shows. Not a bad promotional concept for a gym but I do hope they will realize that this contest requires some significant committment from the consumer, and consequently will likely have a low percentage of participation.

Hopefully they don't rely on this one message to measure partipation in a text messaging program. If they do, they will probably conclude it to be a failure, and that would be a shame. They should be messaging me 3-4 times per month with a new offer or deal, with the end goal to be get me in the gym at one of their locations so they can release their sales force on me (I'm actually thinking of joining a gym sometime soon).

I applaud World Health for their efforts, and for trying new things in the mobile space. But, while not as poor as the Swiss Chalet campaign I wrote about earlier, it seems that this effort needs some help with execution.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Even More Sunshine

This is a quick update. I'm certain that there will be much more to write about after the weekend.

First, if you haven't read the story, see the first part here: Social Media Fail. Then read the second part here: More Sunshine.

Today there are some updates. If you are following the what-actually-happened story, the Metro News reports that the dismissed employees have filed a lawsuit.

But that's not a discussion for this blog. We are here to discuss how it's being handled from a social media point-of-view. And what is happening with discussions online.

And the big news here is that yesterday the Facebook page disappeared.
They probably had no choice. Scathing comments had spiraled out of control and it had reached a point of no return. So gone is the Facebook page. This leaves Sunshine Village without much of a voice in the social media and online discussions.

So what are those discussions? This is important to explore, because it demonstrates what can happen online when issues go south.

There are now several ski/mountain related forums discussing this issue - one of the threads is now 20 pages long. Posters from as far away as UK are chiming in, and the general sentiment of the posts are against Sunshine Village. A new Facebook page has been started in support of the (allegedly) wronged ski patrol. A quick search of Twitter reveals dozens of negative comments. Various review sites (such as Yelp) now have fresh negative comments and reviews, with low ratings for Sunshine Village.

Unfortunately for Sunshine Village, this entire event makes a good social-media case study.

I'll have more to post next week. In the meantime, we will see how this unfolds.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Sunshine

Yesterday I posted about Sunshine Village and their handling of some controversy on their Facebook page. It turns out that I made a few mistakes.

Mr Doug Firby, Associate Director, Communications for Sunshine Village emailed me directly to point out some of the errors of my post. Some things I wrote about have not been proven as fact. So I should have used more words such as 'allegedly' and 'apparently'. For those possible misrepresentations, I publicly apologize to Sunshine Village and to Mr. Firby. At the bottom of this post I have cut and paste a portion of Mr. Firby's email which directly addresses his concerns about what I said. I believe that is fairest for me to do for Sunshine Village as it addresses the comments I made in his words, not in mine.

However, the real facts of the situation are not pertinent to this blog. I'm not here to discuss what actually happened. That is for those involved to sort out between themselves.

This blog is about mobile marketing, and by extension social media marketing. My commentary is about their handling of the event on their Facebook page. And nobody can disagree that it probably hasn't been handled in the best way.

In yesterday's post I mentioned that at no time did Sunshine Village hold up their hand to their Facebook audience and make a bold, pronouncing statement of what happened, what is happening and what is going to happen, in a way that assures consumers that the right steps are being taken. The sample message I wrote yesterday was "Yes, we know there are some challenges with our staffing right now, and we are working to resolve those issues. We are also sorry to inconvenience anybody who was planning to ski at Sunshine Village on January 19th."

Mr. Firby indicates (see his comments below) that there were numerous examples of Sunshine Village attempting to respond to comments on their Facebook page. I was wrong, he is correct.

However, responses that I saw were inside the comments. And many of them came from Mr. Firby himself, using his own Facebook ID. So it wasn't clear, from a consumer point of view, that he was responding on behalf of Sunshine Village. And while addressing the individual Facebook user comments can be important, this situation warranted something much bigger in the bold, pronouncing statement. In this case, a Facebook status update would be more appropriate, and the message should be written to assure the Facebook fans of Sunshine Village that appropriate steps were being taken to address the situation.

Although I have already apologized for some inaccuracies, it is important to note that all of my information was gathered from Sunshine Village's own Facebook page. While this doesn't exactly ensure its accuracy (much of it came from comments), it DOES represent what most people who follow the Facebook page will believe. And those beliefs (accurate or not) could lead to a negative image for Sunshine Village.

I also note that the worst part of the entire episode, the posting of a link to an article about bad behaviour on the internet, has now been removed. This is proper - it should never have been posted in the first place.

I don't believe this story has ended. Sunshine Village still has an opportunity to fix this, but it will take some work. Time will tell how this finishes.

See also: Even More Sunshine.


Here are Mr. Firby's comments copied from an email sent to me. Only the part of yesterday's post that had comments on it has been copied.


Apparently several senior members of the mountain patrol staff (IT IS NOT ACCURATE TO SAY SEVERAL SENIOR PATROL STAFF WERE DISMISSED)were recently fired. The reasons for their firing have not been made public, but according to the rumourmill (on their Facebook page) the firings were controversial. So much so that a large majority of the staff (??? THIS SUGGESTS ALL STAFF – IT WAS ACTUALLY NINE PATROLLERS WHO PHONED IN “SICK”) chose not to come to work the following day to support their fired colleagues. This led to most of the mountain being closed, and a number of upset customers who had driven fair distances only to have the bunny hills (MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE SKIED WAWA AND STANDISH WOULD NOT CALL THEM “BUNNY HILLS.” THEY HAD BLACK AND DOUBLE-BLACK DIAMOND RUNS) available.

What has followed has been nothing short of a social media PR disaster for the mountain. One that every marketer should study.

On January 19th, it was announced that a number of the employees were sick, and that 9 (EIGHT) of the 12 lifts would be closed that day. This post was made at 10:34 AM, not exactly enough time to allow people to make other plans. Following the post are 88 comments, many of them from locals who claim to know the real reason the lifts were closed; the staff were on strike (STRIKE IS A LEGAL TERM REFERRING TO LAWFUL PROTEST. UNLESS A COMPANY IS UNIONIZED, ANY WITHDRAWAL OF SERVICES CONSTITUTES AN ILLEGAL JOB ACTION.) to protest (ALLEGED) unfair firings. According to some posts, the original four were fired after confronting some people who were skiiing in a closed area of the mountain, one of whom is a family member of the owner. (AGAIN, SUNSHINE CANNOT COMMENT ON PERSONNEL ISSUES.)

The comments express some serious anger toward the mountain for decisions made that led to this. And for being essentially closed (except for bunny hills) (SEE NOTE ABOVE) on short notice.(THE CLOSURES WERE NECESSITATED FOR SAFETY REASONS. SINCE WE HAD NO ADVANCE NOTICE OF THE JOB ACTION, IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO GIVE GUESTS ADVANCE NOTICE, AND WERE ONLY ABLE TO COMMUNICATE ONCE WE UNDERSTOOD WE HAD FEWER PATROLLERS ON DUTY THAN NORMAL.) Among those 88 comments, many of which are scathing for the resort, Sunshine Village responded exactly zero times.

In another bit of storyline, two other staff members claim they were fired for participating in the non-work-day protest. Apparently some of the fired staffers are seeking legal advice.

Subsequent posts in the following days by Sunshine Village on their page offer status reports of which lifts were open. But none addressed the concerns raised in the comments. (THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE. WE HAVE A TRANSCRIPT OF ALL CONVERSATIONS ON FACEBOOK, AND THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF THE COMPANY ATTEMPTING TO RESPOND TO QUESTIONS. AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT, EACH RESPONSE ONLY ESCALATED THE VITRIOL, AND SO WE EVENTUALLY CHOSE TO RESPOND VERY SELECTIVELY TO INFORMATION REQUESTS (e.g. “are all lifts running today”, “can I get a refund”, etc.) Each of these posts garnered significant comments, again many of them scathing.

In perhaps the worst bit of PR I've seen in a long time, the January 24th post by Sunshine Village on their Facebook page was this:


So instead of addressing the general concerns of their Facebook fans, they effectively accused them of collective bad behaviour. Instead of facing the issues, they became defensive.

This has led to a number of other scathing comments on their Facebook page. Clearly, Sunshine had no plan to deal with their public relations via Facebook in a time of crisis. And it has now also spilled over onto Twitter, Yelp and probably other social media areas. Not to mention the writeups in the local newspaper, the Calgary Sun and on the CBC news website.

Although they did offer a $20 discount (COUPON) that day (off a $70+ lift ticket), ($79, INCLUDING gst) that wasn't enough. Anybody who showed up that day should have been allowed to ski their 3 open lifts for no charge, AND should have been given a voucher for another free ski day.

More importantly, at no time did Sunshine step forward and say (via their Facebook page) "Yes, we know there are some challenges with our staffing right now, and we are working to resolve those issues. We are also sorry to inconvenience anybody who was planning to ski at Sunshine Village on January 19th." (THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE. WE HAVE A TRANSCRIPT OF ALL CONVERSATIONS ON FACEBOOK, AND THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF THE COMPANY ATTEMPTING TO RESPOND TO QUESTIONS.)


Marketers need to have a plan. Social media needs to be based around a strategy. And contingencies must be in place to deal with crises. Otherwise, you are just flailing in the dark.