Great Marketing

Jay Baer on Youtility

Jay Baer is an acclaimed keynote speaker, New York Times best selling author, entrepreneur, technology investor, and social media and digital marketing consultant. His latest book is Youtility, and I had a chance to chat with him on Marketing Over Coffee (click if you prefer audio).

John:  Today, we have a special episode. We have the author of Youtility, Jay Baer, with us. Jay, Welcome to the show.

Jay:  Thanks very much. Time will tell whether I am a special guest or not.

John:  We’ll be watching the numbers, and I think given the Jay Bayer freight train that has been accelerating over the past couple of months, I’d put money on you.

Jay:  Thanks.

John:  So, you’ve written NOW Revolution with Amber Naslund a while back. Your latest book is Youtility. It’s made the New York Times Best Seller List. Congratulations. Tell me a little bit about the book. Let’s give everybody the elevator pitch. What is Youtility about?

Jay:  The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters make all the difference. If you sell something, you could make a customer today. But if you help someone, you can make a customer for life. And the way you do that is by creating something that is so useful, people will pay for. It’s marketing that is truly and inherently valuable. It has intrinsic value. If you do that, you will win in the end.

John:  Right. You’ve got a bunch of great case studies in there, too. It’s a perfect example of a strong business book. You’ve got a big idea, and then you’ve got a bunch of great examples. I have to give you credit for that because so many of these books, I can only hear so many times about Zappos before I’m all set. You definitely rocked a bunch of case studies here.

Getting to the bigger part of this, at the core of it, you’re doing something helpful. You’re doing some marketing activities that are not directly related to the product. You talked about the psychological front here, where the people in the company expect an immediate return. How do you address that? How do you tell people to take this leap of faith?

Jay:  No doubt, it is a leap of faith because what Youtility really requires is for you to take a longer approach to the marketing success horizon. I will paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuck who says, “One of the problems with marketing today is that everybody wants to be a hunter and nobody wants to be a farmer.” And that’s exactly right.

Youtility is almost a playbook for becoming a marketing farmer. For building lifetime customer value through useful information and useful things that will yield attention and sales, and loyalty and advocacy, but over a longer period of time than what we customarily have been trained to think about.

Marketing has for 5,000 years, since the caveman tried to sell a rock to another caveman, has always been about buy now, not buy eventually. But since consumers are in control now, both with the messages they receive and how they receive them. You have to do something different, and I think that the thing that you need to do different is Youtility.

John:  I love that hunter-farmer analogy because that fits perfectly. You talk about frame of mind awareness where like you said, it’s hunting. It’s hoping that the day you show up that somebody there is ready and willing to buy – and that’s really getting to be more and more challenging.

There’s the classic study about saying that 60% of the buying decision is made before the trigger gets pulled, which is just basically the death of enterprise software as far as Oracle yachts and all that kind of stuff.

You had Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Warby Parker, a few other case studies. Give us one case study of somebody that’s doing something on the Youtility front that is working well and fits your mold.

Jay:  You bet. And thanks very much for mentioning earlier the variety of case studies that are in the book. That was very much curated and calculated in that I have read a lot of business books that had case studies, but they are of a particular type. I wanted to make sure that whether you’re B2B or B2C, small business, big business, anything in between, that you can see yourself in the stories that are contained in Youtility. So far the feedback has been that is the case, and I’m really very delighted about that. I’ll give you a couple of examples, just because I think that they epitomize what we are talking about a moment ago quite well with the psychological redirection.

One of my favorite examples in the book is from Columbia Sportswear. Columbia, of course, makes outdoor gear and jackets and pants and hats and stuff. They have a mobile application called What Knot to Do in the Greater Outdoors, and it actually shows you how to tie knots. It’s like “Hey, here’s how you tie a whatever, a fisherman’s knot, or a half hitch.” There’s dozens and dozens of knots. If you’re camping or hanging off the side of a cliff, that is massively useful information. If you’re recording a podcast, less so. I’m not tying any knots right now but maybe in a bit.

What’s interesting, though, is that Columbia Sportswear doesn’t sell rope. They’re not in the rope business. So the obvious marketing place – the old school marketing mentality for them – would have been, “We need a mobile app. Let’s create a jacket finder or a jacket configurator, where you decide are you fishing, or are you skiing? We’ll recommend a jacket to you.” That’s modestly interesting, and you’re going to use that one time, at best.

But instead, Columbia went the extra mile. They surveyed their customers and determined that, indeed, the vast majority of outdoors enthusiasts have their smartphones with them when they’re outdoors, both for safety and GPS purposes, and they said, “Oh, well let’s try and give them information that has greater value and over a longer period of time.” So, they created the knot app, which allows them to market sideways instead of marketing head-on, and now introduces their brand in their customers’ lives in ways that transcend the transactional.

In many cases with Youtility, that’s a really key concept, providing value in ways that transcend the transactional. Sometimes your products and services don’t have to be the star of the show. Sometimes information can be the star, and the products and services follow. We’re so eager to both lead customers to water and to make them drink. Maybe we should just lead them to water and they can figure out whether to drink themselves.

John:  Right. You’ve got an interesting concept there: superior knowledge of your customer. Because as I said,  basically anybody that’s really interested in knots, that’s probably somebody that could be buying Columbia stuff. Someone who’s not an Avid Indoorsman.

Jay:  Right. Actually, I have the Avid Indoorsman domain name. Someday I’m going to do something with that.

John:  That sounds like a merit badge. It would just have a picture of a couch on it.

Jay:  I love it.

John:  There’s a related point to this too, which is because this is not head-on marketing like you were talking about, you do have to market your marketing, which is a phrase that you use. Tell us about that.

Jay:  Many companies are starting to embrace content marketing, which is fantastic. And one of the reasons that I wrote Youtility is that you see all of these companies starting to make content, but most of them don’t really know why they’re making content. They’re just making it to make it. It’s like making sandwiches. Youtility really is a strategic scaffolding for why to do content marketing.

But what I find – and I’m sure you’ve seen this, John – is that a lot of times companies, even good companies, smart companies, good marketers, put together some sort of a thing. It’s a blog, it’s a podcast, it’s an e-book, it’s an infographic, it’s a series of videos, it’s a new vine campaign or whatever, and it goes nowhere. It just falls flat. It’s not always – in fact, not often –because of the quality of the thing. It’s because the thing got no support. You have to create a marketing plan for your marketing assets.

You mentioned the Phoenix Children’s Hospital application, another mobile app. It’s a hospital in Phoenix obviously. They’ve got this app that’s very simple, that shows you how to pick out the best possible car seat. They have a two-person marketing team. For that introduction of just that very simple app, they had a 60-day launch plan with all kinds of different facets to it.

If you’re going to go through the trouble of using Youtility, use your corporate voice to actually promote that. Not only does that make sure that your utility will actually get more attention, it’s actually what people want.

This is why I say “content is fire, and social media is gasoline”. All companies would be better off using their social media to promote their very useful utilities than they are to promote themselves one 140-character press release at a time.

John:  Yeah. I have to give you a shout out for pointing out Tom Fishburne’s cartoons. He’s got some marketing cartoons and there’s a great one talking about social media strategy. Basically the light grab, or the broadcast – these one-shot wasted campaigns that litter the corporate social media landscape. It’s everywhere.

Jay:  Tom is so fantastic. Have you ever had him on the show?

John:  No. This is like the classic new reality of business. Here’s somebody who is ridiculously awesome and has been doing their thing for five years and I’ve just never run across them because they’re in a total other world.

Jay:  You’ve got to go through his archives. The hardest thing I had to do with Tom Fishburne is figure out which of his cartoons I wanted to license for the book. I started with 15 that I pulled up. I can’t have 15 of the same guy’s cartoons in the book. That’s going to look a little weird. It would be a graphic novel at that point, so I had to narrow it down to a couple. But he is just terrific. He’s so spot-on.

John:  Are you going to be at the Profs B2B in October? Is that on your list, normally, of shows to head to?

Jay:  Normally, yes. Unfortunately, I am otherwise detained this year. It is a little fast and furious with the book release and the unofficial book tour, if you will. I think I have 30 conferences between now and Thanksgiving. So unfortunately, I couldn’t get that one done this time.

John:  You’re definitely in the burning a lot of fuel section of the book.

Jay:  I fly on every airline, but because there’s no hub in Indianapolis, none with any concentration – and this is a true story, ladies and gents: I am Silver on 10 different American airlines.

John:  I was going to say, this is one of my favorite stock travel tips for people that don’t know. Once you crack that nut with a single airline, you can just go to the other airlines and say “Hey, I’ve got status here. Give it to me. Otherwise, they’ll never fly you”. Most of the time they will say, “Okay. Just fax us your paperwork to prove it, and we’ll let you in.”

Jay:  Interesting. I’m going to take you up on that because that could change my life considerably. I can’t even get TSA Pre because I’m not Gold on anybody, even though I’m at the airport almost every day, because nobody will let me in the program.

John:  No kidding, to crack through security. Keep going back to Fishburne – he has that great article of the guy being by TSA and then over on the sign they’ve got the poster “Like us on Facebook.”

Jay:  And that’s true. They actually do have those posters in some airports. I actually did a blog post once. They had a QR code in the TSA line that you could shoot to download a video of what to put in your carry-on. I’m thinking, “All right. This is a little bit technology for technology sake”.

John:  Right. Where to find a quart-size bags.

Jay:  I prefer the guy randomly screaming. You know how they do that? Every once in a while, you get the screamer guy at the front of the line like, “Make sure you take your laptops out, and take off your shoes.” But not all of them do it. It’s almost like at the ballpark where you’ve got some guys who sell popcorn who sell one way, and other guys have the red licorice and they’re like, “Red licorice!” It’s the same thing with TSA. You get some guys who are the screamers who have to go through every single regulation in case nobody’s ever flown before.

John:  Right. And then there’s still 30% of the folks in line who will get to the front and they will have no clue of what the hell the guy was talking about.

Jay:  No idea.

John:  Shoes still tied, and a bushel of food that they’re wheeling through.

Jay:  Five jackets. I feel bad for people who clearly don’t travel much, who have to dump something of value, and it happens all the time. Yeah, you should read instructions and you should pay attention and have some situational awareness, but it does make me sad to see somebody like, “Well, I can’t take this back to check it, so I’m going to have to leave my expensive wine,” or whatever the deal is.

John:  Grandpa’s pocket knife and they have a 55-gallon drum of pocket knives in the back there.

Jay:  Actually, there’s a blog about that I’ve seen, and it’s unreal. They get some crazy number just in loose change that’s left in the bins, they use it to partially fund TSA. No joke, John. It’s like $200,000 a year or something just of loose change. It’s great.

John:  Yeah, I know. You just don’t respect the volume of the thousands of flights out of every single airport every day. It’s insane. So yes, GoToMeeting, why the hell are you not sponsoring this podcast? I guess that’s the question I have to ask about that.

Getting back to the book, you had another neat stat in there that I had never seen talking about IBM training their employees at social media, and the fact that in the classroom setting, one in eleven would succeed whereas employees trained one-on-one would hit three out of four. That blew me away. Have you got logic behind that?

Jay:  Yeah. We weren’t involved in that program, but that kind of employee activation in social and training is some of the work that we do at Convince and Convert for corporate clients. We see those same kind of results all the time. It’s not so much about knowledge of social and understanding. It’s having that support group – somebody who is in the company who can give advice in the moment, who can cajole, who can advise.

This idea that what companies need to do is train their employees in social is not really true. They have to train, activate them, and support. It’s really a day to day hand-holding exercise. And when you do that, when you staff that, when you put the effort into that, the results are fantastic. But if you just say, “Well, you went through the webinar, good luck to you,” which is how most people do it, your results are mitigated.

John:  Jumping over to mobile, too. There’s a section of the book where you talk about customer location-based stuff as far as being useful in location, their situation, and then taking advantage of seasonality or external factors. Talk a little bit more about that. How does that fit into Youtility?

Jay:  Well, because the premise of Youtility is to provide things that are fantastically useful, one of the easiest and best ways to do that is to do so in a mobile environment because mobile, by definition, gives you information about what people are doing. Therefore, you can more easily add relevance that becomes useful. There’s lots of examples in the book on not only mobile apps, but sort of the mobile future that allows you to say, “Look, we know where you are from a location perspective, or we know what you’re doing, or we know what context you’re currently operating in, and we can deliver value to you in the moment.”

One of the things that I like as a mobile data opportunity is Cloth. Cloth is an application that formerly allowed you to organize your closet. You would get dressed, and then take pictures of what you were wearing and store those in a mobile app so that you could know what it is that you own and also what combination of outfits you particularly like, etc. (A) I’m a dude and (B) I’m middle-aged, so that use case didn’t resonate with me. It kind of seems like first-world problems, like “I’ve got to organize my closet on my iPhone.”

But then, what Cloth did was they added some additional data that is location aware. They have a real-time weather feed, and it knows where you are because your phone has got location services turned on. Using that real-time weather feed, Cloth now recommends to you based what’s in your closet, what you should wear that day based on the weather forecast. So now, it went from something I’m kind of like “eh” to something that is actually terrifically useful based on the fact that they can tap in to location data via mobile.

John:  That’s great. It’s funny. As I was reading, I thought the same thing. Middle-aged guy, two kids under five years old. I really need a vomit detector. That would be the only thing that I could use for my wardrobe.

Jay:  Which t-shirt could I wear unless I’m in a video webinar?

John:  Right. You got the white collared shirt to pull down when the camera’s on. But otherwise, I’m pulling a Chris Berman in my Hawaiian shorts here. The joy of podcasting – theatre of the mind.

You had a part in the book here that flipped a light for me. We talked about showrooming a number of times on Marketing Over Coffee, and the death of the big stores, people price-comparing on site and all of that. But you had a great point with these big box stores. If you’re just a vending machine, that’s it. You’re out of luck. The vending machine thing kind of hit me. That’s exactly what’s going on. You literally put in your money and walk away and there’s no other value. Do you see this as the death of big box stores? Are they basically on the path to extinction, or is there a way around that for them?

Jay:  There is a way around it, but it’s very difficult. Is there a way around it that will work economically? I’m uncertain. What you have to do is compete on something other than price. You have to make the experience of being in a store, being in a physical environment demonstrably better than buying something from your phone. If it’s not, you will eventually be gone. I think book stores are perhaps a better case than electronics stores, at least at this point.

I went to Barnes and Noble recently. I’m not picking on those guys. It’s just the reality. I went to Barnes and Nobles to find my own book, and it took me a long time to find the business section, and then is this organized by author’s last name? Is it organized by topic? If so, what topic would I be in? Social media or marketing or something else? There’s nobody there to help you and there’s all this other craziness going on. I’m thinking, unless I’m just browsing around and I want to be inspired by what books are available and I’m just sort of hoping for lightening to strike me in the book sense, I just couldn’t fathom a reason why that would be an easier way to shop, because it’s not.

But if you actually created an environment in an electronics circumstance or a book circumstance where it really was a better place to shop, and where you see that is in your independent book retailers who purposely have very much curated their offering. They’re like, “Look, we don’t have every book, but every book we have, we know is awesome. And we have a very high staff-to-customer ratio so we will proactively see if you need anything, and we will recommend books to you, and we’re going to have author signings, and we’re going to have readings, and we’re going to have free coffee, and we’re going to have comfy chairs, and we encourage you to browse instead of scolding you for browsing.”

If you create a better customer experience, you can win. But so far, very few of these big chains have been able to or willing to create a better experience because they’ve always won on price and now they can’t. There are some examples in the book of retailers that are trying to do that. They’re trying to make the shopping experience an experience.

John:  Before we wind down, I did notice from your bio that you are a tequila and barbeque fan. Is that correct?

Jay:  That is true. Sometimes simultaneously, but not always. I live in Indiana now, but I grew up in and was in Arizona forever. Subsequently, tequila is certainly a terrific beverage of choice and a maligned cocktail in most places because everybody has their bad college tequila story. But it is one of my goals to educate the public about the wonders of tequila. I have a party every year where we do a whole tasting and things like that to bring people into the fold.

I’m actually a certified barbeque judge at the Kansas City Barbeque Society and do that on occasion, go to competitions and judge. I’m actually having about 20 people over on Sunday, and doing a bunch of pork shoulder and six racks of ribs and all kinds of stuff.

John:  You’re going to town. That’s great. As far as tequila, I always counsel, much like any alcohol, if your college stories involve a version that comes in a plastic bottle, don’t hold that against us. You get what you pay for.

Jay:  Right. Don’t hold that against the spirit. You got what you deserved. That’s why I don’t drink gin. I have that college story about gin, and so it’s just not on my radar.

John:  Now and then, we’ll go for a Bombay Sapphire or something like that. I was going to ask you, my friend, Chris Hart, a former co-worker of mine, has done a book, “Wicked Good Barbeque”. Have you checked that out? Have you seen it?

Jay:  No, I have not. I will do that right now.

John:  I’ll hook you up.

Jay:  I will go down to Barnes and Nobles and I will look for it.

John:  Yeah right – and not find it. I’ll talk to him, and I’ll get you a copy. When we get off, I’ll get your snail mail.

Jay:  I’d appreciate that. That’d be great.

John:  So the book is Youtility on It’s climbing the charts over there, so you should have no trouble. Instead of just wandering aimlessly around your big box bookstore, you can just search for Jay Baer or Youtility.

Jay:  The best place to buy it, if somebody wants to buy it, buy it at an airport because I can get some more airport copies sold this month, they will keep it in the airports. So, if you’re traveling, buy it at an airport.

John:  It’s all about airport frontage, isn’t it? Just like the spare change, those copies just fly away of their own accord. That’s the place to be.

Jay:  That’s right.

John:  Good deal. That will do it for this week. Jay, thanks for stopping by.

Jay:  Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Great Marketing

David Spark on Brand Journalism

David Spark is an 18 year veteran of tech marketing and journalism. He’s been in over 40 media outlets in print, radio, TV, and online, has been involved in podcasting, video, and came on to talk about Brand Journalism.

John:  Give us your elevator pitch. What do you do and how do you do it?

David: I own a company called Spark Media Solutions. We are brand journalists, which means we create media for companies to increase their thought leadership in this space. The angle that we’ve been really successful with is building influencer relations through content. That is, I think, the best way to make a friend with somebody: to create content or interview them. If you want to be their best bud, that’s probably the best way to do it. I don’t think I’ve failed at that yet.

John: You were just quoted recently in Forbes. They had a whole article about content marketing. There are a lot of ways to fail at content marketing. You can’t just jump into this and assume that because you are doing what everybody is doing it’s going to be right.  Talk a little bit more about that. Where do people screw this up and what do we have to look at?

David: I should say I despise the term “content marketing” because I think it’s insidious. I think to say to someone, “Here is some content.” But it’s also marketing. It’s like someone would want to drop it like a hot potato: “Ah! I don’t want this! Who wants this crap?”

The industry uses content marketing for their own selves and understands, “We’re generating this content to ultimately sell product.” But if it’s delivered to someone as marketing material, even though it’s “subtle,” as this writer described in the Forbes article, it’s still not good.

This is the big thing, especially if you have a very complicated product: Most people are not morons, although I get a lot of arguments like, “Everybody is an idiot. You can easily sell them to whatever.” Most people are not morons, and if you are trying to soft sell something or sell something insidiously, they’re going to pick that up. They’re going to sniff that out. If you can sniff it out, they can sniff it out as well.

We have a big thing about doing everything above board, like it’s really clear what we’re doing. We’re just generating content with these people and we’re trying to build our brand and build our thought leadership through this. But if you try to do something weasily, it’s going to slap you in the face. It may work short term, but it’s not going to work long term.

John:  I definitely agree with that. That whole duplicitous nature, that kind of like “baiting the trap”, is the feel that I get with some of this stuff.

David:  It’s all how you approach it. If you make it clear what you’re doing, then everyone’s above board. They had this whole thing about, “Oh, never do a fake blog. Don’t do a fake blog.” If you’re trying to pull a fast one on your audience, don’t do a fake blog. But there have been fake blogs like the fake Steve Jobs thing that have been hugely successful because they are above board on what they’re doing.

When Wal-Mart – the very famous case – hired someone to blog for them and try to do it all clandestine, now you are not being above board. They refer to this as transparency. But I like to stay above board, saying “Hey, we’re all on the same page here on what’s going on.” That’s really what I’m trying to get through. As long as you are doing that and you are true to your nature, then you’ll be fine. It all depends on if the audience wants this kind of stuff. That gets into a deeper discussion of building your editorial voice.

John:  I agree with you. One thing that’s been oversold is the idea of transparency – the fact that you should show customers and prospects everything that’s going on in your business. That’s not it at all. It’s about remaining above board, being honest with what’s going on – not telling them everything that’s going on.

David:  Right. But again, you can create something fake as long as it’s clear, “This is a joke. This is fake,” and say who is in on the joke. There are examples of this that work really well. You can create fiction, too, and that can work really well as well.

John:  I know you have some stand-up comedy experience. I’ve noticed a recurring theme in a lot of stuff. You have an article I’ve linked to about getting Twitter hashtags to run. All that stuff is built around humor and kind of being clever. Talk a little bit more about that. How does that fit into the mix? How do you make it work?

David:  If you look at the top trending hashtags at any given time – and I’ll start with the Twitter thing – you will notice half of them are memes, and they’re usually issues that people want to talk about or people come up with.

Coming up with a great punch line is not the trick. It’s coming up with a great setup.  I’ll give you a perfect example. There’s the classic “Why did the chicken cross the road?” There are actually about a thousand punch lines to that joke or saying. I used to have a whole bit in my routine. There’s an old joke of, “You like your women like you like your coffee: hot and black.” That’s an old, old line. It’s an old joke. I used to do a whole series of variations on it. I think the brilliance was, “I like my women like I like my coffee,” and then I came up with 100 punch lines to it. They would be like “sitting in a mug that says: I love Mondays,” or “pounded into a brick, or concealing the smell of smuggled heroine”. These are variations on that.

Similar to these Twitter hashtags, I think the brilliance comes from – and maybe brilliance is overselling it – but the success of the viral nature of them comes from how can I come up with that “Why did the chicken cross the road” or the “I like my women like I like my coffee” setup that people want to write 100 punch lines to?

You’ll notice that’s essentially what those meme hashtags are. They’re just great setups for other people to write punch lines for. That’s kind of the trick to succeeding in a meme-generated trending hashtag. Not all of them have to be that. The meat of that article about how to trend on Twitter is all based on live events, actually. I think that’s really where you can actually get a lot of success – in live events.

Going back to comedy in general, we do a lot of this in video stuff. Again, it all depends on what the client wants and if it’s appropriate to their brand to put in comedy. Some don’t want it and some do. It just all depends on what they want.

John: Let’s talk a little bit more about brand journalism. One of the big problems I see everywhere is classic marketing people – advertising people – have viewed social media and all these things as another channel to force the same garbage down. “Check out our product and buy it.” Brand journalism is a different approach. I feel it’s the way that these channels are actually meant to be used. Talk more about what you do on that front and contrast that to the garbage that’s gone before.

David:  People have been hyper complicating this and I’m going to make it really simple. Forget about brand journalism all together. Just think about how any 

media outlet becomes successful. They become successful by writing content, creating videos, producing radio shows and whatnot. The more they produce of good quality content that the audience wants and gets the interviews with the key people in the industry, the higher their stature raises in the industry. Therefore, the editorial outlet becomes very, very popular. By also maintaining their editorial integrity, they become very popular and they gain an audience through that.

Take that same exact concept on how any editorial media outlet operates and just apply it to your brand. Do nothing different. Do that exact same thing, because that’s exactly what you are shooting for.

Think about it. Wouldn’t you love to have the brand equity of a Time Magazine, of an ABC, of any media outlet that’s out there? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, start behaving like them.

True, it’s not as easy to all of a sudden amass a whole editorial team as big as that, but you can do something small, especially if you are in a very niche market. It’s very possible to do. Just speak to what your audience cares about.

John:  How do you combat the idea that these brand journalists are just marketers in disguise?

David:  Here’s my whole saying about that. There are good doctors and bad doctors. There are good lawyers and bad lawyers. There are good journalists and bad journalists. There are good brand journalists and bad brand journalists. I can’t speak for all the brand journalists out there. I can only speak for what we do.

If someone else is going to do crap, which it happens, and unfortunately, it hurts my reputation as well, because whenever that happens it puts a mark on the industry and puts a mark on me. Ask any other professional anytime bad news comes out about another lawyer or about another doctor. It hurts them as well. They don’t like seeing it either. For those who choose to keep doing the marketing, you’re just hurting the industry and you are hurting yourselves. That’s really all I can say on that.

As I said before, we try to stay above board. We have in our contracts that myself and my whole company is completely transparent about what we do and what we create. We refuse to do ghostwriting because we know it would damage our brand and inevitably damage our client’s brand as well. It’s very important to maintain your editorial integrity.

While other people are doing their thing, I can’t control it. It’s not going to help you if you keep doing it. If you want to be a pure marketer, go be a pure marketer. That’s fine. But don’t be a marketer that claims you are also a brand journalist and you’re not actually keeping the ethos of brand journalism.

John:  Right. Talk a little bit more about the ghostwriting thing you just mentioned. That was interesting. I haven’t heard somebody lay that out.


David:  The only way that we will agree to do “ghostwriting” (and it’s not really ghostwriting) is we’ll create content and not put anybody’s name on it. Therefore, no one labeling in it at all. We’ve had situations where clients come to us and ask, “Will you ghostwrite and put our CEO’s name on the thing?”

We know that’s going to be damaging because it will somehow come out that the CEO didn’t write this and find out that Spark Media Solutions wrote it or something. That hurts our brand and it hurts our client’s brand. It’s going to do nobody any good.

What we suggest in a situation like that where they say, “Well, the CEO doesn’t have time to write,” I say, “That’s fine. Let me interview the CEO and I will publish an interview with the CEO.” I’ve got no problem with that. That’s fine. Then the CEO gets his voice out there.

There are ways to do what you want to do without ghostwriting and trying to pull a fast one on the audience. This just goes back to if you do that, you’re not being above board. You’re trying to pull a fast one on your audience. It’s a slippery slope to even worse behavior. I will say that.

John:  That kind of begs the question: You’re talking with somebody about ghostwriting on behalf of the CEO. You say, “No. We can’t do that.” So what happens at that point? Does every company have to have somebody that can do this role and be the spokesman in blogs, or videos, or whatever? Somebody’s got to step up then?

David:  I always think it’s critical that the people within the company can speak for themselves, their own voice. We would love to take on all the responsibility and create all the content for all clients we work with. We’d be crazy, crazy busy. It would be fantastic, but that’s not going to do you good in building your own thought leadership.

One of the things we do know and the reason we’re hired is creating content can be super-duper expensive if you don’t know what you are doing. You can also waste a ton of time and money doing this as well. That’s why we’re hired. We streamline the editorial and production process for our clients, for that matter.

But if people are not on board on creating content within the company themselves, if you’re not a good writer, there are other ways to do this. Are you good on camera? Are you good just talking in an interview? Maybe you’re not good overall, so we’ll have to heavily edit the interview. Maybe you don’t have a good speaking voice and we’ll just have written content. There are still ways to do this and get that out and get it from your voice.

Look, if nobody in the company can speak intelligently about the company and about the industry, I’m surprised you are still in business. Someone there has to be able to do it. If you don’t think it’s valuable, that’s what I find really foolish. You’re communicating with people anyway, so why not do it in a more public way so you’re not spinning your wheels having 100 of the same conversation with people?

This is one of the arguments I hear constantly: “I have no time to blog.” But my whole attitude is you should blog because it’s going to ease up all your other communications as well.

John: Getting back to timeframe, this is another thing that is a big deal. You talked about how people always underestimate how much time it takes to create content. What do you prescribe when you start working with a client? Unfortunately, we’ve got people that are hooked on AdWords, where, in six hours they’re going to know whether stuff is working or not. What kind of time do they need to get a brand journalism program going?

David:  There are both short-term and long-term goals that you can set up. We actually focus a lot of our efforts around conferences and trade shows. Getting back to the time and cost situation, it the cheapest, most cost-efficient way to create a ton of content in a very brief period of time. That’s step number one.

Also, if you go through a live event, you can get a lot of attention in just a period of a week or two weeks – or a day or two as well.

But if you don’t commit to it, that’s the other thing. You’re committing to everything else. You’re committing to your advertising. You’re committing to your business. You’re committing to your products. This is just something you need to commit to. But you can create little short-term plays and measure it. You can do traditional things like measuring traffic and measuring shares and stuff like that.

Many of our clients are in the B2B space. That’s the place that we roll the best. They have long-term goals. They have sales cycles that take six months to two years sometimes. What’s really, really key in those issues is relationship building, especially with the influencers in the space.

If you start branding your company as having relationships with these influencers and creating content through these influencers and the influencers know you, anytime you have a little fun content project they’re happy and eager to participate in it and they love your content projects – if you’re really selling to the influencers in terms of their participants and they like your content – then everything else trickles into place, because they end up  sharing it with their audience and you get access to the entire audience you want to get access to. We have learned that’s been the most successful. I try to measure success with my clients on how many relationships with influencers we’re getting.

John:  Obviously, leverage is a big part of this. The fact that you guys create content all the time and you’re doing audio, video, blogging and all that stuff, you’ve learned all the hard lessons. Just ballpark: if you were looking at trying to do this from scratch yourself versus the content that you guys can create, how much more could you get done in the same time? How much is a lift there between having to spend time?

David:  I’ll just give you an idea. Here’s a perfect example. One of our old clients is a company called The CMO Club. They bring 50-100 CMOs into a single room to engage and talk about marketing issues. It’s a great event. I am physically arm’s reach away from all these CMOs. In a single event, I can produce 20 videos and articles with these key CMOs.

If I was not at that event, here’s what would have to happen. “David, I need you to get 20 interviews with CMOs of various companies.” I have to call the companies. I have to then go to the media relations department. I have to then fly to all these places, probably with a crew or book a crew in the location. I have to clear all the questions with the media relations department, and they’re going to probably want to see the end product as well. Now we’re getting into crazy six figures. It’s going to be super crazy expensive.

Alternatively, for a lot, lot less money, you just go to an event and I’m physically there, I’ve got camera equipment, and I’m standing two feet away from you and I say, “Hey, I’m shooting this video for The CMO Club (or for this other blog, or for this other event). Can I ask you a question about what you just talked about on stage or what we’re all taking about at this event?” My success rate is in the 90th percentile and higher using that technique. We just go with the technique that works the best and is the most successful, and costs less for the client, too.

It’s a really powerful, powerful statement when you go to an event and you put 15-20 influencers’ faces and names on your blog with your branding around them as well. I’ll have a microphone that has the company’s logo on the mic flag. That’s hugely powerful. It’s a series of implied endorsements even though they’re not talking about your company.

John: That’s a great point, the fact that it extends beyond the event. You’ve done all this work to build a great event and get all these great speakers. To be able to stretch that into content that you can use the rest of the year is a huge plus.

David: I should also mention that’s if you’re producing the event. A lot of times – almost always – we go to events that our clients aren’t producing, sometimes not even sponsoring for that matter. We just go purely as press and create a ton of content. The event producers love us as well because we’re creating a ton of content and recognition for their event as well.

John: Yeah. Even just having a video crew on the floor attracts attention as the kind of hype people want.

David:  The number of times people take photos of me holding the microphone interviewing somebody with the camera equipment or the mic flag, which has the logo of the company on it, gets tweeted out, Instagrammed out, or Facebooked. That’s a nice little side benefit I never really expected.

John:  How about virtual events and things like that then? Obviously, that doesn’t kind of play into this model. Do you have clients that try and do stuff around those events? The bigger question is we’ve heard a lot over the past couple years about live events kind of declining and dying off, do you just say that that’s wrong that people need these personal connections or can we work in the virtual world?

David:  I’m in the San Francisco Bay area. I was just at an event that was packed to the gills last night. There may be industries where they’re falling apart, but I mostly roll in the tech industries and I have not seen a slide at all. I know running an event and producing an event and trying to get people to your event is extraordinarily hard. I wouldn’t want to do it full-time. We actually do produce some events. That can be extraordinarily stressful. But, man, I keep going to events and they’re packed – tons and tons of events. People still come out to it. They still see the value in it.

I should also mention I think the reason for that is I think the quality presentations have gone up dramatically. I used to go to events and think all the presentations were horrible. I think now since we have TED Talks and SlideShare where people can put presentations, they’ve jumped dramatically. I was at this one conference just a few weeks ago – Velocity Conference – and I thought all the presenters were phenomenal. You’ve probably seen this at conferences, too. You go to a conference and the person presenting is horrible – just God awful. What happens to the Twitter stream? People are just slamming this person left and right. You want that?

It used to be before Twitter, if you had a horrible presentation, you had a horrible presentation and that was the end of it. Nobody knew about it, except the people in the room. But now if you do a horrible presentation, everyone around the world knows it.

John:  The back channel is a fierce judge. That’s for sure. Anything else you want to tell us about as far as what you guys do or is there anything we missed here?

David:  We create tons of great content. We build thought leadership. The focus of content building to influence relations has been hugely successful for us. Check out all our fun videos on our site. The ones that I’m most proud of lately were we went to the RSA conference. If you don’t know, it’s a big information security conference. It’s a huge, huge conference. Tons of security professionals. For the last two years I’ve been roaming around the floor asking all these security pros to just tell me what their password is. As you might imagine, I get some rather funny reactions out of that. The first year I did it I actually got some people telling me their password on camera, which I thought was really strange.  But they did.

John:  We’ve been tracking over the past couple shows people using Google Glass wearable technology. I wanted you to check in on that. What’s your opinion on Google Glass? Are you pro, con, or looking forward to getting a set or never buy a set?

David: I love the idea. I think it’s really cool. It is a little unnerving, a lot of people think. But you know what? Facebook is a little unnerving as well. The thing is we’ve seen all these demos of virtual reality type things and being layered on top of our real world. But it requires one to hold up a cell phone in front of their face and walk around, which people just don’t do, so they’ve been more kind of demo type things.

But the Google Glass thing is kind of amazing. I think where it’s going to be monstrously powerful is in facial recognition. I can go to an event and I can literally scan the room, and if you can identify you are John Wall, then immediately I can get access to things like your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn, etc. and have all this info. I can scan the room and also do searches, like “Who in this room is doing this kind of work?” I can immediately pinpoint those people and go directly to them. That, I think, is powerful. It’s also going to be powerful I think in dating. Who is available? Who is single in this room?  I think that’s going to be pretty powerful as well.

You constantly hear people complaining, “Well, what about privacy and what about security?” But every time they complain about it, when they start to see what this can do, they’re like, “Well, I’ll give up my privacy and security for that because that’s damn cool!” I think this is just going to be a continuation of that.

The EFF and the ACLU are going to fight it tooth and nail because they see what’s happening to it, but people give up personal and privacy information for more capabilities than they have before. And it will just continue to happen. That’s why I see Google Glass will just continue on. But I think that will be the big power, is once you get facial recognition. That will be huge.

John: That sounds good. David Spark, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate having you on.

David: Thanks for having me.

Great Marketing

The Marketing Over Coffee Awards

Three years ago, around the end of 4th quarter I was talking with Christopher S. Penn about the shortage of interesting things going on in the industry at the end of the year. Everyone is trying to close business for the end of the year, retailers are flat out with the holiday crush, and the back to back dietary threat of Thanksgiving and Christmas eliminate the chance of much excitement in marketing headlines.

We had talked about awards many times on Marketing Over Coffee and Chris joked that we should do our own awards. To get the full impact of the joke you need to know that in Marketing and PR circles awards are often given little respect. There are many that aren’t much more than “pay your application fee and get a trophy” (and half ass agencies hope to dupe green clients into believing that they really are “award winning”) and then there are others that large organizations shoot for, and at these companies there’s often a person that has applying for awards as one of their major job functions.

I do have to say that when recording some audio with David Meerman Scott a few years ago, he did get me to see an angle I had missed. There are certain awards that you should pay attention to because of who the judges are. In many industries there are awards judged by influential people that you might already be trying to reach through your normal marketing channels. Paying a couple hundred bucks to get some guaranteed time with the right people is a no brainer if there’s a fit.

Our joke was, we would give the awards to who we liked. If you were doing something cool, and you were a fan of the show, you could win. No “Yes! You’ve won, please send us $295 for your trophy”, no automatic winners by paying the fee, in fact – no entry fee at all. To demonstrate our uncanny marketing prowess, in 2009 we rolled out  the first “23rd Annual Marketing Over Coffee Awards”

By the second year though, it was less of a joke. By giving the awards to people who were doing exceptional things, it took on a life of its own very quickly. Despite our best efforts to make it a counter-culture joke, people started taking it seriously.

You can check out the list of winners (and the latest show) over at the MoC blog, but I wanted to give my director’s commentary.

So far, every year there are one or two people that I come in contact with that change my outlook completely. Of course when nomination time rolls around, I nominate these, and their odds tend to be pretty good.

In 2010 Simon Sinek’s book had that impact on me. Anyone in Marketing must read this book. As we talked about it, he said that he had noticed at the agency he was at, that one team could do amazing work for a client, and the have mediocre results for another. His quest do figure out why that happens resulted in “Start With Why“.

Simon tweeted about winning and he has a loyal following that re-tweeted his message, and I have to give a hat tip to the group from Gainsville that tweeted about their offer to see Simon, the award winning author at their next event. Awesome job with the magnetic grappling hook!

The other winner from day one was Alure. I was very busy with work when the Inbound Marketing Summit rolled around and couldn’t attend the event, but Foxboro is a short drive from my home and I wanted to meet Ben Strong, one of last year’s winners in person. As we were having drinks I saw this guy come in and I recognized him but couldn’t place him. It was killing me because I knew that I recognized him from TV or the movies, not business networking. After about 5 minutes it finally hit me that it was Sal, who I had seen many times on Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I won’t get into the full story, but besides the fact that I think it’s the best show on TV, it has also been a tremendous motivator for my family. Sal introduced me to some of his guys, including John Doyle, who has been covering a lot of ground, and that’s where the MoC holiday interview came from this year.

This year I realized we should have been doing an Entrepreneur of the Year award, as risk-taking is a critical part of testing new marketing waters (and Chris also mentioned that next year we need a “Boring” award for those who execute perfectly on things like emailing their customer base every month – things that make a huge difference t the bottom line but are pretty light on sex appeal). C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley had been nominated for their book “Content Rules” but I’ve known them both long enough to see the book as only the latest in a long string of “Next Big Things”. Having worked over at ClickZ Ann been part of MarketingProfs rising to the top of the Marketing Publication heap, and I’ve known C.C. since the days when being a podcaster would get you on Network TV and a feature Article in the Globe (unlike now, buried deep in the trough of disillusionment), and he was an easy choice for Entrepreneur of the Year.

On products, the  Toll Free Freedom Virtual Phone System won on votes (so we didn’t have to do our first sell out award since they are a sponsor of the podcast), and deserves it, taking the risk to sponsor a rebel marketing audio program.

I met Saul at Blogger Social 2008, he was one of the followers of the now defunct M Show, and is a contemporary, so we get each other’s absurd 70’s references. He has also done an acceptance speech – where else can you see Erik Estrada covering Kool and the Gang?

Finally, it has taken on a life of its own – every year there are a couple of winners that I meet for the first time through the awards. These people usually take the awards more seriously than the organizers, but I’m thankful to meet new people doing exciting projects:

This year Ryan Holota worked hard to get the votes, and has even done a Press Release on his win.

Ryan and Brian blew away all other vote getters, and their book on Social Media is “Still Awesome, and Still Free”. A sense of humor is greatly appreciated in this space, and I welcome them aboard, Gavin MacLeod style.

Congratulations to this year’s winners, thanks for making 2010 a great year.

Brain Buster Great Marketing

The Paradox of Choice

Yesterday I saw two demonstrations of  Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice in action. This is one of the most useful books about decision making that I have found, and is a must read for anyone in marketing.

Jeff Bussgang asked why everyone still uses 4 year vesting schedules at startups when, in the current economy, exits usually take longer. For those that don’t speak VC – employees at startups get shares of the company, usually granted in 25% chunks at the first four anniversary dates – to encourage them to stay four years and get all their shares. (Shameless plug – if you want to learn more about how to speak VC, check out the Marketing Over Coffee interview with Jeff that will be posted the first week in June)

It’s a good argument, but as you can see from the post it has generated many comments – and this goes right to the Paradox of Choice. The more alternatives someone faces when making a decision, the less likely they will make a decision.

This is most easily demonstrated at a store I go to during the summer in Northern Michigan. They sell different kinds of jam and jellies, and they have about a dozen of them out to taste test, and that’s a problem. If there were two out you would like one better than the other, and maybe buy it. An Economist can mathematically represent this, they use a unit called Utils (rhymes with noodles) to measure the benefit of making a purchase. Bob really likes Jelly A, buying it gives him +5 utils, he does not like Jelly B, buying it would not give him any utils. 5 utils beats the 4 util cost of giving up the $7 to buy it, so he does. His day is now 1 util up with his jelly, the store owner closed a sale, and there is much rejoicing.

Things get more complex when Jelly C is added to the table. Bob likes it, but not as much as Jelly A, he only thinks it’s about +3 utils. Here’s the problem – let’s also say that Bob will only buy one jelly because he knows that even one is really too much and it will sit in his fridge for a year and he will throw half of it out when it’s moldy.

With the third jelly on the table, now if Bob buys Jelly A he’s going to take a hit of -1 util for the regret of passing up Jelly C, which he also liked (but not enough to give up Jelly A). A buyer will be less satisfied with their purchase if they have to rule out alternatives. You can see where this goes, by the time the store owner puts Jelly K (the 11th jar of jelly) on the sample table, the psychological baggage of having to make a decision, including the negative impact of the foregone alternatives actually outweighs the pleasure of making a purchase.

So, changing a 4 year vesting schedule is an interesting idea, but is opens a world filled with alternatives. Unless any of these options are REALLY great (unintended VC pun), the odds are good that no decision will be made. This is the basis for all the stats you hear about having to be 10x better than a competitor to win customers away from them. If you only have one or two features that are better than the competition, odds are that’s not enough to get them to wade through all the work of making a decision (“switching costs” in Economese, which can be real dollars or just psychological labor).

At the other end of the spectrum, @cc_chapman generated some heat admitting that he’s never been to a Trader Joe’s. Many fans of the store cite the quality of the goods, the low cost, the selection. There’s one factor that’s consistently misunderestimated (yes, both): choice is often removed from the equation.  Schwartz gives the example in the book of 85 types of crackers at the local supermarket, again the weight of the decision making baggage. There are some items at Trader Joe’s that have only one option, from there the benefits pile up: smaller footprint for the store, more efficient use of space, more types of products, ability to cut the best deal by limiting suppliers.

And so, as my Friday begins I offer two pieces of unsolicited advice: read Paradox of Choice (and use that link so I get my affiliate kickback), and to C.C. (and everyone else), get the frozen Tuna Steak from Trader Joe’s, thaw it, throw a cast iron pan on to your grill on high to warm for 10 minutes, throw on half a stick of butter and blacken the steaks with a dry rub. Add your favorite beer and enjoy the long weekend.

Great Marketing

Mr. Rogers and Authenticity

Mr. Penn had a good post last week about refreshing quality content that’s deep in the archives, and I was looking for something that dealt with authenticity.

Authenticity is one of the topics that came up in last week’s Marketing Over Coffee interview with Simon Sinek, which I highly recommend, it is one of my favorite interviews:


A supreme example of authenticity is the speech from Fred Rogers in the link below:

Although Fred Rogers ability to lay the smackdown is seldom discussed, I think this is a quality post that is underrated. It also addresses the important question of Mr. T vs. William Shatner.

Fear naught, more serious marketing copy to follow, but I’ve been searching for levity after a week of getting the water out of my basement after 3 solid days of rain…

Great Marketing

Beer You’ve Never Heard Of

A few years back we went with our neighbors to make some beer at the local self brewery. I made up some custom labels for us and stumbled upon them last week and I still got a laugh out of them so I thought it would be worth posting.

The beer was a light lemon brew, a summer beer. I started with the Sam Adams Label for inspiration:

Our friend does an excellent job landscaping and takes great care with his lawn. The irony is that the guy across the street is the exact opposite, so the joke was that maybe beer would get Bill to take better care of his lawn:

Talking about High Street led to this:

The word “Hootch” is funny enough on it’s own, and that led to “Pimpin’ wit da Hootch”

And finally, the only beer tougher that MF’in Snakes on a Plane…

Here’s to your beer of choice this weekend!

Geek Stuff Great Marketing Podcasting Productivity Booster

How to Record a Phone Interview

Even though I said I was taking November off, I’m back again. A friend asked me about recording a phone interview and I wrote so much that I thought it would be a shame not to get a post out of it too.

The Phone Tree Option in Order of Sound Quality:

Best – Skype to Skype
Still good – Skype to regular phone (Skype Out) A lot of people use this if your interview subject can’t handle skype (doesn’t have the bandwidth, or the technical skill).
Last Option – Phone to Phone

For skype to skype or skype to skype out, use one computer for skype and another, or a digital recorder to record, do not skype and record on the same machine (yes, I know, lots of people do skype and record on one machine, remember that you’ve only listened to their successes, you haven’t heard the files that were lost or ruined). Another benefit of this method is that you get full studio sound on your side.

Ways to do phone to phone: like most tech stuff, the trade offs are that cheap and/or easy are at the expense of sound quality.

One thing to test is cell vs. land line. Cell can be clearer, but if reception is an issue go to land line.

Another important factor – headsets are best, handset next, Polycom conference phone is rough, speakerphones are terrible.

Cheapest and easiest: Many conference call services, such as the good folks of TelSpan can record your conference call (I am a customer of theirs). Give your subject the number, tell the service in advance that you want this one recorded, and download an mp3 when you are done. This is as low a quality can go, but it does work.

Next, if you already have recording gear, put the subject on a polycom and record the room. You get studio sound on one side and this method is a good compromise on price / sound quality. The setup we use for Marketing Over Coffee (this link goes to a page with the full gear listing) is great for that, it’s about $600 but is NPR quality sound and durability. You can go cheaper, but the question is: “How screwed would you be if you lost an interview?” for some it’s no big deal, for others it may be once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most expensive – a device that operates as a phone but pulls the caller into your mixer and pushes your mic back down the line. I don’t know many people that go this route since skyping out is cheaper and better sound quality. But, it should be noted that JK Audio has a full assortment of devices that do this (as well as some other devices that are great if you want to do your own webinars – again, I am a customer and vouch for them).

It will also depend on if you are doing it once or if it’s an ongoing project, for one time call in some favors, rent gear, or pay a pro. If it’s a regular thing, get some decent gear.

Another big tip – when you are done, run it through the Levelator, it’s a free software tool that balances out the volume levels.

Have fun, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Great Marketing

Bootstrapping PR – Live from WebInno 23

At WebInno tonight there’s a panel on bootstrapping PR. You can get the bios of the panelists and an overview of the event here. Some overall pointers on how to get attention. Quotes are direct, stuff without quotes are my summaries.

Bob Brown:
“CEOs need personality”
Journalists are becoming cognizant of page views.

Peter Kafka:
“Get a referral from someone I trust”
Entrepreneurs are better off without a PR firm, you can tell your story better than a 3rd party.
“Use your blog to put out your view of the world”
Know when to adapt if the reporter is not interested in your one talking point – staying on message will not always work
“Embargos are dead” he tweeted an embargoed release today

Scott Kirsner:
“Meet in person, don’t get introduced by your PR guy”
Dealing with multi-channel reporters – talk to them about where it will be published – online, print, is any of it off the record?
This is retail not wholesale
Exclusives are worthwhile

Wade Roush:
“Don’t write stories and send them to reporters”
Pick the reporters that are relevant to your space and start a relationship with them
Blogging helps complete the picture of the entrepreneur and can be useful to reporters
Only 4 Real hooks for him – Raised money, Change in leadership, change in direction, new product
Keep in mind that exclusives are shafting everyone else

Mike Troiano
“Treat reporters like people”
Mike was busy moderating so he didn’t spend any real time commenting.

There was one question from the crowd asking why PR firms were not represented. David said it was because they wanted a panel of first person accounts from the reporters. I think a key point on whether or not you need a PR firm is your ability to tell your story effectively. You either want a PR firm that has existing relationships with the specific publications or channels you need to get into, or to help you craft your message if you are not a passionate and effective storyteller.

Congrats David on a great event with a huge crowd.

p.s. – Plug for my own stuff for webinno attendees – If you are interested in marketing and PR tips check out Marketing Over Coffee

Graphic Design Great Marketing

Rebirth of the Cool

While in Traverse City, Michigan over vacation (“Up North”) for those in the know, I came across a store called M-22. They had casual clothing with the M-22 logo on it, a highway that runs along the coastline and is travelled by kiteboarders. You can read their story here and check out their stuff.

In the store you can see that the merchandising was done with the brand in mind – it’s not just “How much crap can we put our logo on, and how cheap can we get it”, but rather going a higher quality route. Between having a higher quality product, and the hip Tribes-style appeal of the kiteboarding community you’ve got a great brand that will attract all the cool kids… at least for a couple of years until enough middle-age bozos like myself start wearing the stuff regularly.

Amid a whole street of “Traverse City” T-Shirts, and lots of cherry or fudge related tourist bait, M-22 takes the higher ground. What’s your edge?

Great Marketing

Superior Design

I’ve used Samsonite luggage all of my life. My parents gave me an old school suitcase when I was a kid (back when one of their competitors had an ad with a gorilla beating the crap out of a suitcase).

When I graduated from college I had a Samsonite Briefcase (yes, and I even wore a suit to work too, every day), and a garment bag that I put 5 years of heavy travel on before it finally fell apart. From there I got a rolling carry-on that I was able to beat up on for more than 10 years. A few weeks ago I noticed that one of the wheels had cracked in half and I knew that it would only be a matter of time before the bag was retired.

As I was dragging it around New York City last week the wheel hit the doorframe as it came in and I saw a piece of the wheel fall off. To my amazement, more pieces continued to fall off and when it was done I saw that the wheel was made up of an outer and inner shell. As the original wheel fell off, a second interior wheel was exposed and the bag continued to roll along with no problem.

You can talk all you want about a product but when one performs like that under fire, the stories are very easy to tell.

I’ll probably be able to squeeze a few more trips out of this bag but I imagine by Christmas I’ll be looking at an upgrade.