I fell for this marketing scam – and hope to replicate it

My son signed up for a list to audition for movie and tv shows.
There was a booth outside the movie theatre when we went to HSM3 (he’s 9 and can sniff adolescent drama from here).

So Friday night they called – they have an opening at their Saturday audition. They named a reasonably well known director that would be there and that this would be an open casting call. They emailed a script.

Nate was very excited and didnt even complain about having to shower and comb his hair right after his basketball game. He memorized his lines. He was excited and invested, as of course was I, who helped him memorize his lines, laid out a nice outfit for him, and drove him there.

We get there, and they tell the assembled crowd about all the famous actors who started as kids. How its hard work, and how we need to understand that few would be chosen – for their film acting school. Which costs $1800 for 6 weeks (so says the brochure) and $8000 for a year.

Anyway – after the pep talk, each kid is “interviewed” and asked why they want to be an actor, told how hard it is, and asked do they really, really want it. Of course they declare devotion to the task. The interviewer (talent director) tells us that if they get a “call back” we need to be ready to act, as the process moves quickly. We’re to call at precisely 11 am tomorrow to hear if we got a call back. Then we go on to the “audition”.

In a small group of about 6 families (out of about 75 all together), the kids go through their lines in a sound studio in front of a camera and lights. Nate does admirably. Remembering all his lines and saying them with some level of expression.

Now – he’s dying to call to find out if he gets a call back, to which both parents are supposed to go along with him (for the financial pitch, I’m sure).

So these guys got him to feel invested, declare devotion, and feel among the chosen, so they can get some money out of us.

This version’s a little sleazy. Especially because it targets the kids. But, I’m sure there’s a way to do this the “right” way. To get your potential customers to be devoted to you before you’ve even tried.

How would you do it?

What’s in a name nayme naime mname?

Ok – I haven’t blogged in about 2 months, but this I just have to say.

Its about names. I have worked, in some capacity or another with about a dozen start ups, and maybe three dozen or more products. All of which had names.

Startups especially tend to spend an undue amount of time, and often money as well, on choosing one.

What is a name for? Its for identifying a product or company. I know your name. It means I can refer to you, talk about you, and others know who I mean.

So. Let’s talk about the online music company I consulted for that wanted to name themselves “Audacy”. Cute. I get it. But this is an audio thing. Anytime the name was mentioned, it would have to be spelled. Oy.

Or my recent client who wants to change a perfectly good, though 5 syllable, name to a 3 syllable one that is clever but unspellable and unreadable. I won’t mention Will by name (sorry Will – perhaps I can change your name to whylle) who has a geat idea with an absolutely inscrutable name.

People want their name to be clever, memorable, evocative of the intense thoughtfulness and wonderful qualities of their brand/company/product. They want it to become a “verb” like “Google”.

Horse manure.

If you are successful, then your name won’t matter. Who gives a second thought to coke, google, ebay, intuit, adobe, charmin, amazon, aol, fedex as to the quality of the word itself?

So – there’s not a ton of upside to a great name.

There is, however downside to a bad one. Like one that you can’t spell or remember, or get the URL to.

Here are the 3 laws of acceptable product and company names.

Breaking them does not mean you’ll fail, it means you have an extra challenge that you could have avoided. And aren’t there enough when you’re trying to launch something successful?

So –

1. You gotta be able to get the URL.

I know its hard these days, and this motivates people to all sorts of twisted spellings and such. But here’s number 2:

2. It should be obvious how to spell it.

I hear about it from a friend, i go check it out. Except if I can’t find it cause you spelled it Cynergy (sorry guys). This is ANTI-MARKETING. you are loosing people before they can even get interested. Word of mouth? Doesn’t work! Yeah- most people will send a link. But I still have actual conversations with people – don’t you?

3. It should, please, be obvious how to pronounce it.

So my friend, Whylle – the way he pronounces it makes it make some sense. But I he had to spell it out for me, so to speak. Same with the little 5 syllable to 3 syllable company.

I expect both of these companies to meet with some measure of success. 5 syllables, in fact, really rocks (I don’t know as much about Whylle’s company yet – stay tuned, cause after this I’ll owe him some good press, if I like it). But this success would come just a touch easier if they got a name that worked for them, instead of against them.

Oh yeah, Audacy? They blew half their operating budget on getting a new name, and that was good indication of their general decision making ability.

So one last thought on this – if you’re spending more time or money on your name and logo than on making sure your product knocks it out of the park for your intended users – then its time to re-think. Are you futzing with the name because you feel blocked on other fronts? Or is it perhaps time to take a breath and get focused again on what matters – providing value for people who care in a way that has a reasonable chance of paying the rent.

faithfully yours,


the most powerful marketing feature on facebook

Its brilliant. viral marketing is now passive. its voyeur marketing. its marketing nirvana.

The News Feed on Facebook. I “friend” people I like and/or admire (or who like and/or admire me). I visit my home page, and I get snippets of what they are doing. Joe joined a new group or made a new friend or became a “fan” of a new brand or product. “Gee”, I say to myself, “Joe’s a pretty savvy guy, I wonder what that group is, who that person is, what that brand is”.

And there it is. I’m checking it out because Joe checked it out, and Joe didn’t have to take the active role of advocate. I am interested in what he does, so I can follow it passively.

I’m not sure if this was the original intent of the News Feed, but I think its the very most powerful form of viral marketing I’ve seen. Why? Because Joe doesn’t need to take the step of endorsing something. It’s his interest in something that is conveyed. And since I’m interested in what he’s interested in… it works. And I don’t need to become some smarmy “brand ambassador”. And as a marketing person, I don’t need to go find some way to incent or create some a “viral feature” that doesn’t really match my audience. Its gorgeous.

Even better! The Facebook Beacon application. Its a fantastic opportunity. I’m integrating this into my client’s project TODAY. The Facebook Beacon lets you make actions on your site feed into the News Feed on Facebook. Yes. If someone buys something, watches a video (I hope this works, I’m going to try it later and let you know), posts a comment or what have you, it will post to the News Feed. Yes, they’ve made it opt-out and privacy respecting. But the facebook audience is really into sharing. They don’t opt-out in droves.

So – what you get is a tool. If you create engagement on your site, you’ll be spreading the news of that engagement among your users’ friends. Without that user needing to do anything.

It’s perfect. For companies that have been trying to reach a younger demographic through social networking, and have had some trouble knowing where to start, it provides a great, low effort, low risk opportunity. I am going to be working with this quite a bit over the next few weeks, and I’ll report the results.

Nobel Prize for Marketing

Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace prize for his very urgent and important success in making Global Warming one of the most visible issues of our time. His prize is essentially for marketing – for championing a critical cause and successfully changing how people think and act because of it.

His efforts have made alternative energy, hybrid cars and progressive policies mainstream rather than issues of the radical left. This was no small task. Just ask the green party.

And how did he do it? Well, he did have star power, yes. But he also went to his strengths, the ones he always had, like intelligence and integrity, and new (or at least newly expanded) like humility. He identified a crucial, but ignored issue, went after it from an intellectual perspective, brought in people who could help him tell the story best, and then he changed the way the world thinks.

Pretty cool. And pretty amazing what great marketing can do.