“We’re Yahoo – May We Gouge You?”

I’ve been using Yahoo’s web services pretty heavily since starting my business a couple years ago. I have a premium small business account for their e-mail service, and I’ve reserved a number of web domains through Yahoo (a number being actively used, others held in reserve), because at $9.95/year/domain, I couldn’t afford not to.

However, Yahoo sent out notice earlier this year that the cost of domain name renewal was going up to $12.95/year, starting in March 2008. Oooookay, I guess that’s not too big a leap, even though I seriously doubt that their costs for administering those domains has jumped by 25%, but I’m not going to quibble.

All of a sudden, now, another renewal notice comes that, starting in July 2008, the cost has gone up to $34.95/domain/year! Why? Or should I say, Y?

That, my friends, is gouging. Other companies are offering domain registration for way less, and at last check, digital storage of domain names wasn’t on the short list of inflationary pressures. Yahoo is obviously counting on the relative pain of changing providers as a strategy for extracting maximum dollars from current users.

Way to alienate your customer base, folks. I’ll be looking elsewhere…

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The Cult of Harley Davidson

I recently had the unexpected experience of walking into a cult temple. Otherwise known as a Harley dealership. This is branding nirvana – beyond brand attachment to the creation of a user cult!

Read about on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog.

A Zin Moment: Case Study of a Brand Advocate

The dream goal for any brand is to create – somehow – a set of brand advocates who go out, on their own initiative, and “evangelize” the company’s product or service. Nothing is more powerful than having customers who sell for you – this is marketing nirvana.

And so here is a story of brand advocacy. This case study is one I’m intimately familiar, because I’m the one out there giving free exposure to the brand.

I’ve written previously on this blog about Ravenswood Winery, and how the way they’ve promoted their brand has made me (and others) a fan. As I speak, behind me on my bookshelves is a little “No Wimpy Wines” bumper sticker from Ravenswood, and when I work out at they gym, a t-shirt with the same message is part of my regular rotation of attire.

Ravenswood makes a variety of varietals but they specialize in Zinfandels – hence the No Wimpy Wines tagline. They also happen to make a killer BBQ sauce called Ragin’ Raven, and here is where the story gets richer. You see, I like their Zins, but I absolutely love Ragin’ Raven, and I tell people about it. I give it away. In fact, I just sent 58 bottles of it to my clients and partners, even creating a marketing campaign for my consulting business around the theme of: Are you Ragin’ or Ravin’? Ragin’ Raven BBQ sauce has received tremendous exposure within a very high-income and influential group…why? Because Ravenswood has bribed me? No. Because I’m an advocate. Ravenswood doesn’t even know (I think) about their unofficial East Coast marketing arm who has probably bought more bottles of their BBQ sauce than anyone on the planet. And, of course, via blog posts, now there is exposure to an even wider audience.

The product is good, but let’s face it – there are lots of good wines and great BBQ sauces out there. But because their branding included the phrase “No Wimpy Wines” and a name like Ragin’ Raven, I’ve latched on and enjoy evangelizing them.

Are you trying market your product or services, and hoping to create the magnification effect of word-of-mouth advocates? Take a look at the fairly straightforward steps that Ravenswood has taken to distinguish themselves. Find a way to stand out in a crowded market, with a branding message that resonates. Can you make your brand rise above the others with a bit of fun, a dash of cheekiness, and a message that makes the customer feel like he found something special?

Later this week, we’ll look at a brand that has created something beyond advocacy, crossing the line into the cultivation of…well, a cult! (Here is the link – this post on the “cult” of Harley Davidson is published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog!)

P.S. – here’s a review by someone who did a tasting at the Ravenswood winery…

(Image source – wine bottles)

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Pitching a Fit!

My initial blog post for Marketing Profs Daily Fix is now up: Go Ahead, Pitch a Fit!

Mystic Meetup?

NOTE: This event is postponed. A more complete update will be posted shortly.

Some of us bloggers have been talking about putting together a Mystic, CT meetup in October, mainly for Northeast and New England folks (MA/CT/NY/NJ/Eastern PA). I don’t know about you, but all this on-line interaction with folks who don’t live all that far away makes me really want to get together and socialize!

This would not be as elaborate an event as spring’s Blogger Social ’08 in NYC, but it would be somewhat more involved than a casual evening meeting, so that means some planning. Logistics. Arrangements. You know the drill. Here’s the outline of a plan for a Friday evening/Saturday “Mystic Meetup“:

Location: Mystic, CT (easy access by car from all points; on the Amtrak train line also.

Dates: October 17, 18

Schedule:

- Friday night: informal hangout time together at hotel, with hors d’oeurves and open bar. 7:30 ’til whenever.
Saturday morning: breakfast buffet, followed by morning brainstorming session, probably taking off from the theme of Breaking out of the Bubble (with due credit to our very own Alan “Tangerine Toad” Wolk). This would be an informal, high-energy facilitated discussion, undoubtedly live-Twittered like all such blogger events are nowadays!
Saturday lunch
Saturday afternoon – either planned group activity or open small group/individual activities (or both!)

So, it’s a combo social meetup and creativity session. I’m thinking we’d want to keep the event limited to perhaps 40-50 people (plus significant others if applicable). We’d also spend some of Saturday morning introducing ourselves and our work to each other in a fun and creative way.

Costs:

This could be an issue for some folks. Some might wish to come, but not stay in a hotel. Others may only be able to come for Saturday. Here’s a tentative outline of costs:

Hotel room rates look like they’ll be between $150-200/night, including tax (single or double occupancy).

Based on preliminary numbers from the hotels I’ve approached, cost of the total Fri-Sat event (meeting room, food, drink, etc.) looks to be about $200-225/person, give or take. I’m seeking to nail down ALL the details over the next week or so, but that’s the ballpark. Significant others who joined us for the Fri evening reception could be added on at probably about $75-ish. If a socializing blogger were to attend only for Saturday, best guess would be about $50.

Of course, you may want to stay in Mystic longer (it will be fall foliage season), break into smaller groups for dinner Saturday evening, or whatever. There’s a lot to do in that area! Perhaps some non-Northeast bloggers would want to join in and combine it with a New England foliage tour…

** Here’s what I’m asking you to do:**

This kind of event requires some planning, including contracting with hotels, etc. – and a team of motivated bloggers will gladly work together on this to make it happen. However, we need a pretty firm idea right now of how many people would be up for this event before proceeding into serious event planning mode. So – if you think you’d like to be part of it, please add a Comment to this post in the following fashion:

Indicate your interest by a YES!Probably, or Maybe

Indicate your likely social caffeine package with a Venti (hotel and full Fri/Sat event), Grande (Fri/Sat but no hotel), or Tall (Sat only)

Just add your 2 words in a Comment and that will help us gauge next steps with hotels, etc. And please do so this week – we’d like to make a go/no-go decision ASAP, and that will be based on the level of interest we all have in getting together this fall. Thanks! (put any questions you may have in the comments also, and they’ll be answered promptly).

P.S. – please forward this to other bloggers you think might be interested so that they can be included…

Hi

Welcome to new readers of StickyFigure, a small-to-medium sized outpost here on the long tail of marketing blogs! Your tour guide is Steve Woodruff, marketer, consultant, entrepreneur, and reasonably nice person whose writings are generally brilliant and life-changing (note: your results may vary).

Stickyfigure is where I publish ramblings and resources about marketing, branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and life in the business world. My paying job is as a pharmaceutical consultant, and in that realm, I maintain a focused blog called Impactiviti. My personal blog, stevewoodruff.com, is where I park “other” non-business musings.

If you’d like a sample of some “Greatest Hits” (well, in my opinion anyway!), here are a few links:

Branding:

How to be Unremarkable

Brand Paul Potts

Personal Branding:

Your Personal Brand: Does it Matter?

Wax-free Bloggers

Social Media:

Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

One Interface to Rule them All

Marketing/Customer Experience:

How to Waste 100,000 Billboards

Lowe’s to Home Depot: Take 5! No, Take Fifty!

Entrepreneurship:

How I Became a Consultant

10 Lessons Learned from Starting a Small Business

So, feel free to browse through the blog. You’ll also find a few spoofs, and a number of posts about collaborative blogging efforts. And, if you’d like to connect, I can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Image credit: Coollogcabin.com

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The Shopping Networker

I’m a networker. And, I occasionally go food shopping, although that responsibility generally falls upon my longsuffering wife. As a member of the blogging community who has been in his share of stores, I’ve never written about a shopping experience at Shop-Rite. Or A&P. Or Kings. Or Kroger. Or Stop and Save. In fact, the only food store I’ve written about (until now) was Stew Leonard’s, because it was a memorable experience created through a remarkable environment.

This week, I met someone at a Wegman’s in central Jersey. I was early, but I didn’t mind, because I found myself wandering around, figuring out why I had such positive feelings about being in this store. Someone had very carefully designed an environment that made me WANT to be there. What was it?

First of all, the store design managed to pull off a sense of both airiness and intimacy. The ceiling was high, but was painted an interesting rust/brown hue. Suspended from it, however, was an attractive gridwork of black metal, on which was carefully mounted a lighting scheme that brought the ceiling down while still leaving it open. The various lights employed nicely highlighted the shelves. It was quite brilliant in design, actually.

The floor pattern was not plain, but had a multi-hued, almost stone-looking pattern. Combined with the faux (but attractive) windows and siding that were mounted along the walls, the effect was that you were strolling in an Italian courtyard. You didn’t feel trapped in an impersonal box; instead, they managed to capture the feeling of small shops in a more intimate setting.

The layout was straightforward, but not sterile – pleasant signage mixed with easy-on-the-eyes displays. The cafe section (where I met my client) was set up upstairs, so you could grab some coffee at the coffee bar and just sit and relax at quiet little tables. The aisle widths and patterns varied somewhat, so that the usual institutional feel was absent.

I’ve been to exactly one Wegman’s – this one. Are they all this remarkable? I don’t know, but the store philosphy seems strong, and someone clearly wanted to create an atmosphere that was three cuts above your average food store. When I go to most stores, I just want to get in, get it done, and get out. At Wegman’s, I wanted to linger. That is remarkable.

(Image credit)

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Wax-free Bloggers

Are you without wax?

Let’s hope so. Because the blogosphere tends to punish pretense, and reward sincerity.

So what does wax have to do with it? Well, the etymology of the word “sincere” is actually disputed, but one of the proposed derivations is from the Latin words sine cera, meaning “without wax.” Purportedly, less-than-sincere sculptors would seek to hide flaws in their work by using wax to mask them. Thus, a true work was without wax, or sincere.

Whether folklore or truth, it does provide an interesting analogy. Because you can’t blog for very long with a mask on. People respond to sincerity, and the wax detectors in the blogosphere tend to be well developed. So, if you’re thinking of blogging, make it a first principle to be without wax. Because if you aren’t worth listening to as you are, then a blog isn’t going to fix it. The rest of us blogging sculptors are learning to create, converse, and collaborate with our flaws increasingly in plain view. If you’re a flawed human being, join the rest of us, and let’s see who you are and what you have to say sine cera.

(Image credit)

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Apple’s MobileMe = MobileMeh – for now

I really wanted it to work.

I signed on to Apple’s MobileMe because it purportedly would solve one of my nagging little digital needs – one place from which to sync my laptop and my iPhone, especially the Calendar and my Contacts.

So, I went on-line to pay my $99.00 and sign up. That was when Strike 1 occurred.

They have to ship the thing? You mean, you can’t just sign up on-line for an on-line service and activate? Oh well, says I, it must be a really cool program, since it has to be loaded up (assumes I) from a CD or DVD-ROM.

And, next day, the package arrives via FedEx. Cool! But wait – there’s no disc! The box contains packaging, instructions, and an activation code. I needed all that wasteful material just to get an activation code for an on-line service?? Strike one.

Then there are the well-documented problems with the service (which even Steven Jobs admitted to), which was rushed out too quickly. Now it does actually seem to sync my Contacts fine, but the Calendar is slightly flaky, and you cannot set an “alarm” within MobileMe – only on the iPhone itself. I wanted that pop-up and auditory alarm, to help me remember tasks and appointments! But the worst thing was more subtle – some sort of script-running problem on the MobileMe site that slows down my entire browser experience and leaves with no option but NOT to remain on the site all day (defeating the purpose). Strike two.

Will Apple fix it? Most likely. The concept is too right to give up on, and so I’ll wait and hope that things improve. I really want it to work, and I’d rather not issue Strike three on MobileMe.

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