Chase Sapphire Preferred: Using a Simple Way to Deliver a Big Message

Next week, you’ll hear a lot of talk about Super Bowl ads. Many brands will go big to try and outdo everyone else. Most brands think bigger is better—super ads for the Super Bowl.

But sometimes, it’s the little things that make an ad truly effective. This is the case with the new Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card commercial.

Your attention is drawn in right away by their simple, yet smart, concept—you’ll reach an actual person every time you call Chase Preferred customer service. Or as they put it, “You’ll immediately get a person, not a prompt.”

Why does this work?

Automated voice response systems, especially in the credit card industry, were great when they first came out. If all you wanted to do was check your account balance (or something simple like that), you could do so more quickly using the automated system.

Companies then got carried away, and it became more difficult to reach a person when you needed one. In fact, for many companies, the option to speak to a person often does not appear until you run through one or more sets of menus. Frustrating!

Customers get so frustrated that by the time the poor customer service representatives answer, the customer takes out all that frustration on the unsuspecting employee.

There are even websites (like Get Human and Dial a Human) to help you navigate those dreaded personless menus and reach a human more quickly. That’s how great our frustration is!

Reaching an actual person, though, is not Chase’s only message.

The two biggest complaints most people have about customer service are that it’s so difficult to reach an actual human and that, often, the person on the other end is in a different country—you have trouble understanding him and he has trouble understanding you.

Notice at the very end of the Chase Sapphire Preferred commercial, you hear a (supposed) Chase representative answering the phone:

Chase Sapphire Preferred, this is Julie, from Springfield…

Am I wrong, or did Chase find a politically correct way to say, “our reps are Americans, too”?

This isn’t a big budget commercial. There’s nothing fancy about it. And one of their biggest messages comes in a tiny little blip at the end that makes a large impact.

Brilliant. Take that, Super Bowl ads!


Thought I’d add this disclaimer: I don’t need all the customer service reps I call to be from this country or to speak perfect English. However, if I need a complex issue fixed or explained, I do get very frustrated when the rep and I can’t understand each other. And I know many other people share that same frustration. Chase seems to realize that too. That’s what I mean by the “Americans” remark.

Picture of Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno & Reputation: A Lesson for All of Us

Picture of Joe Paterno

When Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State Football and used as a scapegoat for the failings of several Penn State administrators, I stayed quiet. This blog was not the place for that discussion.

Now that Coach Paterno has died, I feel like I must say something. His story gives us valuable lessons in character and in reputation (or what we marketers call brand). What’s scary is his story also teaches us how forces much greater than ourselves can disrupt and seriously damage your brand, your reputation, and you may not be able to do much about it.

That’s why character and consistency matter most. Stay true to who you are at all times and people respond well to that, especially in crisis.

As a former Penn Stater, I can tell you that Joe Paterno was a man of outstanding character. His name, his presence, his influence was everywhere at that institution. And he quietly gave money, time or advice to almost anyone who needed it.

For the past few months, Penn State University has been trying to destroy that brand, that man. Why? To protect their own asses and because they know the most visible man at that school is JoePa—a man big enough to hide behind. Despicable that they decided to do that and worse that ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other prominent news organizations fed the fire.

There is no evidence that Joe Paterno did anything wrong. There’s no evidence he knew what Sandusky was doing while employed under him. He was not the man who gave Sandusky permission to use Penn State facilities after retiring. He didn’t witness anything and did exactly what he was supposed to do when Mike McQueary, the actual witness, gave him an incomplete recount of what he saw. But, when you listen to the Board, to ESPN, Sports Illustrated or the news, they all focus on Paterno.

And what did Paterno do? He stayed quiet. He stayed true to his character and his focus on others and reminded people that he would be okay, just “pray for those kids.” Classic JoePa. For as much positive attention as he always received, he also always deflected it and gave credit to others or downplayed his influence.

Urban Meyer, talking to ESPN after Paterno’s death, mentioned a rumor that Paterno kept a rotary phone. The lesson? To take time, take a deep breath before you react to something. Wise advice—something Joe Paterno was full of.

O.J. McDuffie (former PSU wide receiver) recounted memories of a “father figure” who turned boys into men and remembered everything that was important in your life.

Adam Taliaferro (former PSU football player) spoke of a “caring, honest man” who “always had your best interest at heart.”

This is not a man who would knowingly let someone he knew harm others—especially kids. This is not a man who deserved to be disowned by the very institution he helped build.

Paterno had every right to lash out, to blast the Board and the school for its own inaction and for their recent decisions. Every news outlet around mentioned his name more closely with child molestation than they did Jerry Sandusky’s.

Students rioted, alumni lashed out at the Board, yet Joseph Vincent Paterno—staying true to who he was and confident in his own character and the reputation he built—stayed quiet. Even when Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post gave him the opportunity to bash his detractors, he stayed classy and respectful. One final tremendous lesson he granted us all in the days before passing away.

There’s enough yelling and finger-pointing in this world, and it’s making us all ugly. Coach Paterno knew the secret to being a beautiful human being. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfectly true. We Penn Staters don’t worship him, we admire him, know him and love him. He earned that in word and deed.

He said, “Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.” I would add, “and don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Just stay consistent and true to you and your own heart.” And maybe get a rotary phone.


The Paterno family as a whole has shown how full of class they are. Read their statement on Joe Paterno’s death. Note they ask that in lieu of flowers, they ask that donations be made to Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or Penn State’s THON fundraiser for kids with cancer.

Cover of On the Dot e-zine on Tumblr

Target’s On the Dot is On the Mark

Cover of On the Dot e-zine on Tumblr

An e-mail landed in my inbox last week that made me instantly take a tumble. No, I didn’t fall. Target piqued my curiosity so much that I instantly clicked through to their new feature on Tumblr—On the Dot.

On the Dot is a sort of blogazine—my word, for now. It’s an informative little online style magazine, complete with features from big names in the fashion industry—like Nina Garcia and Jason Wu, in this month’s issue.

Target is not the first brand to interact with customers on Tumblr. In fact, fashion brands are already doing similar things (see The Bergdorf Goodman Swipe). What makes Target’s move brilliant is that they picked a seemingly perfect spot.

According to Quantcast, 55 percent of Tumblr users are under 34 years old, and another 30 percent are between ages 35 and 49. The average income of Tumblrs seems to be in Target’s sweet spot as well, with a low to middle class economic rating.

Sounds like Target’s perfect target audience. Tumblr is a great place to interact with and engage that audience. And with built-in tagging and sharing capabilities, the content they post is easier to find and more spreadable than many other social sites.

Customer/fan inclusion

Target not only offers customers value, but they also value their customers. It’s apparent in many moves they make, and this move on Tumblr is no different.

Like other Tumblr users and brands are doing, Target has found a fun way to integrate the very popular Instagram, offering fans a chance to be included in an upcoming issue of On the Dot.

Fave Finds page asking fans to add their pics from Instagram

“Want to be featured?” they ask. “Complete one of our style missions on Instagram and you may be next month’s Fave Find.”

Nice idea and pretty easy to do.

Final thoughts

Tumblr is quickly going from a small, fun platform for people to post quick thoughts, photos and blogs, to an important place for brands to be and interact with their target audiences.

In the era of the social web, successful brands stay fresh and creative and stay in tune with what their audience wants.

Target is doing that, time and time again.


Read more about Tumblr’s rising popularity on and CNN. Also, check out Mashable’s HOW TO: Build Your Brand on Tumblr.

State of Confusion — State Farm Advertising

What is going on with State Farm? Do they understand brand?

They have a bunch of commercials out, but there seems to be no overall strategy. Okay, I admit, I think they have one, based on their “See the ways State Farm gets you to a better state” tagline. But, does it work?

Other than their tagline, there’s no obvious link to their currently airing commercials. You’d have to know each commercial’s title to even think they’re linked.

State of Chaos

First, and probably most offensive, is their blatant (and poor) ripoff of Allstate’s tight stream of Mayhem commercials. See what you think of State Farm’s State of Chaos.

State of Anonymity

This ad is an example of how you’d need to know the title to catch the link. Plus, it’s also much more different and serious in tone than all the other “State” commercials.

Their YouTube copy under this video gives a great explanation of the thinking behind the ads. Unfortunately, the ads aren’t cohesive enough to give you that same impression.

State Farm's explanation of their theory behind these commercials

There’s also State of Unrest, which has a wife catching her husband talking to their State Farm agent at 3:00 a.m. And State of Confusion may be their silliest yet, showing men walking down the street with odd items (knight’s armor, a falcon) they bought with money they saved from State Farm.

State of Imitation

And finally, there are the relatively new commercials with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the “discount double-check.” I love Aaron Rodgers, but this one is almost as goofy as the falcon ad.

So now you’ve seen all (well, most) of the evidence. What is your verdict? Smart marketing or complete state of chaos?

Oh yeah, and don’t forget, their Magic Jingle ads are still airing too. People in trouble sing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and their agent appears, ready to help.

Maybe I’m biased—I do love Allstate’s Mayhem ads. But I just think State Farm’s strategy is all over the place right now. And I don’t think “Get to a better state” is resonating enough because of that.

Resolutions for Marketers in 2012

2012 concept pic with world & businessmenI’m not big on making specific resolutions for the new year, but I do take time to reflect and see what’s working and what’s not both in my personal and professional life. It’s a great habit to get into on a regular basis, not just once each year.

So, marketers—especially CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers)—what are your plans for 2012?

5 Resolutions to Bring Marketing Success in 2012

1. Listen to your customers more.

Technology and social networks continue to make it easier than ever to listen to your customers. You have no excuse for not knowing what your customers want. Focus groups are no longer the most powerful tools in your hand.

Many social networks (like Facebook and LinkedIn) let you conduct polls on as many topics as you want. SurveyMonkey allows you to poll customers in even greater depth. There are many tools you can use. The point is you should use them to your advantage.

Beyond polling, your employees who manage the social networks for your company can use all sorts of filters on each network to find out what people are talking about. Even better, platforms like Radian6 and Alterian do the listening for you, compiling comments and posts from across many networks.

I repeat, you have no excuse for not knowing what your customers think and want.

2. Learn how to speak the language of your customers.

No customer wants to hear about verticals, synergies or continuums. Listen to the words your customers use. Use those same words when you speak to them. Get rid of marketing jargon once and for all.

The more simply you speak, the easier it is for people to hear—especially among all the other noise out there. If you want to be heard, you don’t have to be the loudest, you just have to be the most clear.

3. Create the ideal marketing department.

Do you really have the right distribution of strengths and skills throughout your marketing department? Or is your marketing department still structured the same as it was in the 1980s or ‘90s?

Your marketing department should be full of people who understand three things—technology, human behavior and communication.

You need at least one person (ideally, more) who not only understands new technology quickly, but also keeps up on all the latest developments and can readily inform you and the rest of the marketing team. Being quick to adapt is crucial in this new age of marketing.

Communicators are also key. Your team must be able to understand and communicate well with all types of audiences. The immediacy of social networking requires communicators who can engage, entertain and stay calm under pressure.

4. Listen to your employees more.

Your employees are already on social networks in their free time (and while working). Use their expertise, even if they’re not in your marketing department. The best ideas often come from those who know what it’s like to be a customer and have good and bad experiences to share.

Find people most excited to spread the word about your company and let them. Marketing can be easily taught—personality and enthusiasm, not so much.

5. Don’t try to do it all.

Just because a social network exists doesn’t mean you have to be on it. Choose your channels wisely. (For more info, see: Which Social Media Channels Should Your Business Use?)

Consider the following:

  • Where is your audience hanging out?
  • Where is your audience engaging most?
  • Do you have the resources to handle the channels you choose?
  • If you could only handle one channel well, which would that be?

Don’t be afraid of only being on one social network. If that’s where your audience engages most, that one network might be enough.

And one more…

If you haven’t figured mobile out yet, you’re already behind. Hire designers, writers and technology experts who can start figuring out how to best reach your customers through mobile. With tablet and smartphone growth, you’ll need to have useful apps and promotions that appeal to customers rather than annoy. If you’re in retail, understanding this technology is even more important. So, get to it!

Good luck with all your resolutions this year!


Photo provided by Kookkai_nak at