Doctor smiling and talking on phone

Why Don’t Doctors Need Super Bowl Commercials?

Doctor smiling and talking on phone

If you’re wondering why my blog post for the week is late or why I didn’t write about Super Bowl ads, the plain truth is that I have pneumonia and decided to take care of myself first. And, full disclosure, sometimes the fever associated with consumerism and Super Bowl commercial madness makes me sick too, so I didn’t watch the game or the ads this year.

This juxtaposition between all the doctors’ offices I’ve been in lately and the super-hype over the Super Bowl ads has me thinking.

How do doctors get customers without marketing and what can businesses and marketers learn from them?

Word-of-mouth advertising

Basically doctors get patients through old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. How did you find your doctor? Most likely, a friend or family member recommended the doctor to you.

Yes, a doctor’s practice is much different than a retail store or other business. But one concept is the same. It’s the reason doctors and small local businesses don’t need to spend $3.7 million for a spot during the Super Bowl.

What’s the reason? Why does word-of-mouth marketing work for doctors so well?


I’ve had the same primary doctor for almost 20 years. I have to drive almost 45 minutes to get to her, and I dread the day that she retires.

Why? Because we have a fantastic relationship. I trust her as a doctor and a person who has my best interest at heart. She trusts me as a patient. Her reputation—or her brand—can be summed up as smart, trustworthy, reliable and caring. Everything you’d want in a doctor.

Now think, is there a store or a business you’ve been going to and exclusively relied on for 20 years? 10 years? 5 years even?

I’m guessing most people might be able to answer “hairdresser” to that question…if you’re lucky. And if you’re really lucky, maybe one or two more businesses, most likely small, local ones.

I went shopping with a friend of mine not too long ago to Bloomingdale’s. It’s a place where I never shop, yet my friend returns there regularly. One of the things she kept saying was, “I wish Sheila was here. I wish Sheila was here.” (Okay, the name wasn’t Sheila, but I can’t remember it. Not important.)

The point is, my friend gets a consistently great shopping experience at that particular Bloomingdale’s from that one salesperson, who has come to know her likes and dislikes and makes her shopping more efficient and pleasant. And, if I decide to start shopping at Bloomingdale’s, I’m going to ask my friend what that salesperson’s name actually is and then go find her.

Why do big brands and even medium-sized brands need to spend millions on Super Bowl ads and regular TV advertising? Because they’re not good at building relationships with their customers. They just want to sell products.

And yeah, if you sell a fantastic product, that will get you good word-of-mouth advertising too. But unless you’re Apple and all your products are that good, you’ll still need to keep spending big bucks on those TV ads.

Don’t believe me? Then answer this question—how did Zappos build such a great business?

I’ll give you a hint. The word you’re looking for starts with an “R” and rhymes with “She hates her hips.” Zappos built their brand on it. You can too.


Bowls of brand flakes

It’s that time of year again—college football bowl game time. The TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville…

What the hell do these names have to do with football?

And what sort of brand value comes from simply slapping your name on an event?

TicketCity doesn’t even sell tickets to the Bowl game they sponsor. (Thanks, SportsPickle!)

Only a few game sponsorships make sense, like Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Anyone can see the relationships there.

Who cares if there’s a relationship? Well, that relationship makes the brand easier to remember. And isn’t that the point?

These brands could all learn from Mountain Dew.

A while ago, I heard Mountain Dew was coming out with new flavors again—something that hasn’t gone too well for them in the past. This time, they let Dew-drinking fans decide. And the new one, as they say, “chosen for the people, by the people,” was White Out.

Snowboarder over halfpipe and Dew White Out signs

A week ago, I tuned in to the Winter Dew Tour on NBC. The snowboard halfpipe competition was airing live from Breckenridge, Colorado. I could barely tell which snowboarders were in the pipe because of the heavy snow falling. It was a literal white out.

The camera zoomed in to the starting area and there it was, the most perfect brand placement ever. A barrel cooler of Mountain Dew White Out…in white out conditions. What a way to promote the product!

Dew definitely knows its target audience.

Other brands should be more like Dew and put more thought behind choosing events that make the most sense. Yes, sometimes the decision might be based on the amount of  reach and visibility. And that’s ok, as long as the audience the event is most visible to is your target audience.

As for the college bowls, brands would get more bang for their buck if they sponsored events that made sense. Like instead of Allstate, maybe UPS could sponsor the Sugar Bowl and name it the Brown Sugar Bowl.

Well, I was going to say Domino, but it’s kind of not their target audience. And hey, how much fun could UPS have with that? Maybe someone can forward this blog to them??

Or, do you have any better ideas?


Have you seen Mountain Dew’s “Waves” commercial yet? I love the creativity, and it’s what inspired me to talk about Dew this week. And tune in to the Winter Dew Tour. There are two events left. (Above photo of snowboarder JJ Thomas is from the official Dew Tour site.)

Even with a bad Apple, breaking up is hard to do

I am a Mac user and a fan of Apple products, but lately I can’t help but think that I’m in a sort of abusive relationship—along with all other Apple customers. So, I’ve made a list of positives and negatives to help decide if I should stay or go.

Turn ons

1. Better products.

Face it, almost everyone wants a Mac, an iPad, an iPod or an iPhone. Apple products aren’t just better, they’re cooler. Like the gorgeous star quarterback in high school, Apple knows everyone wants it and so can get away with almost anything.

2. Ongoing workshops

One of the highlights of buying a Mac is that you can take free workshops any time they’re offered. Run by enthusiastic Apple “Creatives,” these are a highlight of the Apple experience. And every time I go to one, they restore my faith in the company.

Turn offs

1. Arrogant CEO who treats customers poorly.

Customers camped out overnight for the iPhone 4, giving Apple about $1.7 million in sales in three days. When they complained about poor reception, what did they get? Steve Jobs told customers it’s their own fault. And you can get a quick fix if you buy a $29.99 “Bumper.”

Don’t we have a reasonable expectation to have a product work out of the box without having to buy add-ons?

2. High prices with no sales.

Speaking of the money we spend, Apple products are priced at the premium end of the scale. I’m somewhat ok with this because normally their products are superior. However, once a new version is introduced, the price of the previous version should drop.

3. “Experts” and “Specialists” help you only until you agree to buy.

Do high prices necessitate rude service? I think not. But, in an Apple store, often the salesperson is very happy to help you…until you decide to buy the product. Then you’re on your own. (This happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to others.)

4. The Genius Bar.

Isn’t the hallmark of a Mac the fact that it’s simpler to use than a PC? If it’s so easy, why do I need a genius to help me? And why do I hear so many stories of these so-called geniuses being rude to customers seeking help? (See example here.) Oh, I know. It’s because the whole “genius” thing has gone to their heads.

5. Response to poor data service from AT&T? They extend contract.

If Apple is a company filled with geniuses, why do they still insist on partnering with AT&T? Even people without iPhones have heard how frequently calls drop with the iPhone on AT&T. Customers made it known they wanted different choices. But, what did we expect? Geniuses know it all—why should they listen to lowly customers?

6. Questionable labor practices in China factory.

More than 10 worker suicides this year certainly make me question conditions at the factory Apple uses to make its iPhones and iPads. Apple and FoxConn have both publicly committed to improving things. But this situation is disturbing enough to make you wonder.

7. Doesn’t play nice with others.

Steve Jobs’ notorious inability to play well with others (See Adobe and Google) worries me. While he has valid concerns about security of Flash®, he seems to be welcoming a battle that would leave Apple customers with very few choices.

As we get closer to Internet television being a reality, I would like to know that having a Mac won’t handicap me when it comes to choosing other services. What makes Jobs think everyone should do things his way?

Is it time to break up?

Putting up with all of this, why do we still buy? When you buy a so-called elite brand, isn’t one of the perks better service? When will we finally stand up for better treatment?

I have to admit, I cut boyfriends away much faster. But I’m not ready to kiss Apple goodbye. Am I crazy?

How about you—what would it take for you to say no to Apple?


For more on Apple, check out these Apple and Mac blogs: Cult of Mac, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, The Apple Core, and for fun, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. There are many more out there, so Google away.

Marketing with one hand tied behind your back

Whether you work for a large corporate marketing department, run a small business or work for a city that depends on tourism dollars, you often have to work with some challenge that makes you feel like you have one hand tied behind your back.

Marketing challenges

Corporate budget cuts—In a recession, marketing departments are often hit first and hit hard. Both layoffs and shrinking budgets can stress already overstressed workers. How do you continue to market well to bring in more business?

Small business vulnerabilities—Simple road construction can put a small business out of business. Closing a bridge or closing a road for 3 weeks, 3 months or more can have a devastating impact. How do you convince customers to make the extra effort to get to you?

City disasters—Nashville, Tennessee is a recent example of how quickly a city can be at risk. Nashville depends on tourism dollars. Opryland Hotel alone brings in 25 % of the city’s convention business and 20% of its hotel tax revenue, and it will be closed for 4 to 5 months. How do you keep business travelers and tourists coming?

What’s the solution?

AT&T tells you to “Rethink.” KFC wants you to “Unthink.” I’m telling you to think –think ahead.

Really, bad economic turns, construction detours and natural disasters shouldn’t be a surprise to any organization. Stuff happens, right? It’s our job to be prepared.

Make these actions regular practice and you’ll be ready for (almost) anything.

1. Nurture creativity.

  • Encourage your creative professionals to present ideas that don’t always match your preferred style.
  • Be willing to take creative risks. Go with some of those ideas that are out of your comfort zone.
  • Give all of your employees a channel to contribute their own ideas to make your company better (like Dell’s EmployeeStorm).

Creative employees can solve almost any problem, with or without a budget. Encourage participation and collaboration so employees feel like they can be important parts of a solution when a problem arises.

2. Build relationships.

When people love you they want to help when you’re in trouble. But you can’t start building all your relationships when you get in trouble.

This is particularly important for small businesses. If you give great service and build a loyal customer base, you will have half the battle won if a crisis hits.

Knowing your customers is key. If a bridge near the main access route to your store or restaurant is out, you will have loyal customers still willing to come in. It’s up to you to make it easy for them and reward them for their effort. If you don’t know your customers, how will you do this?

3. Do your homework.

  • Stay on top of (or ahead of) marketing trends.
  • Know what the best way is to reach your customers.
  • Understand different types of marketing and how to use them.
  • Test, test, test. Find out what doesn’t work and then focus your energy on what does.
  • Tap experts to learn what you don’t know how to do.

Obviously, You can’t do only these three things to solve all your sales and marketing problems. But, you do need to do these three things to have your best chance at success.

If you start taking these steps when you are already in crisis, not only will you have a much tougher time, but you may not make it through.

So, what are you waiting for? If you don’t prepare and think ahead, you might as well tie your own hand behind your back.


Speaking of Nashville, if you’d like to help, go to Nashvillest and scroll down to the fantastic list of the many ways you can help. Thank you.

Help! Philly needs a new brand

Philadelphia’s brand has been taking a beating lately, from flash mob violence to the newest low, a stupid Philly sports fan puking on a dad and his kids—on purpose. (I wish I was kidding.)

Besides the horror and disgust I feel, I am also angry. Why should idiots like this dictate our city’s brand?

Should our brand really rest on the shoulders of obnoxious drunk men or out-of-control teenagers? Should our brand rely on bad mayoral decisions or Eagles fans booing Santa?

The answer is no…and yes.

You see, the brand of a city is no different than a company’s brand. It doesn’t matter how many good citizens or employees you have if the bad news outweighs the good.

Think of AIG. Many hard-working employees there had nothing to do with the misdeeds of the company. Yet they were painted with the same ugly brush.

Philadelphians sick of the drama and trauma know how AIG workers feel. But how can we turn our brand around?

Patience is key, but so is having a solid, long-term strategy.

Hyundai turned their brand around, from crappy to Car of the Year. Converse sneakers went from invisible to invincible (without the public realizing they’re now owned by Nike).

Surely Philly can come back from flash mobs and puke attacks.

Yes, cities are at a disadvantage because they don’t have the same leverage over their citizens, sports teams, etc., that companies have over their employees. But, yes, we can still turn things around if the right people commit to change.

Steps to Philly’s brand recovery:

  • We can all work to understand the problem and know what our role is in causing it and fixing it.
  • Parents and citizen groups should organize and set a plan of action—things they can do on their own (like setting rules and curfews for kids) and things they need government help with (like finally improving Philadelphia schools).
  • Sports teams and local and state governments have to commit to solving the problem and involve the community in their efforts. (Mayor Nutter, how about fewer ribbon cuttings and more updates on how you’re solving problems?)
  • Laws and consequences must show that we’re serious about demonstrating and maintaining a positive brand. (Yes, this means curbing alcohol at games more if we have to.)
  • We have to live our good side and advertise what’s great about our city.

Philadelphia is so rich with history. We have wonderful museums, excellent universities, and top-rated medical centers. There’s so much to love about this city!

Did you know that we were ranked 27th on Bicycling magazine’s list of top bike cities? Or that we’re ranked the 5th best city for single women?

Are we building relationships outside of the city and state that promote all this goodness?

Are we making it easy for Philly residents to take pride in their city?

No. Not well enough anyway. And until we do, drunken idiots will rule.


Two interesting blogs I came across this week, but did not use in my blog are the ThirdWay blog and Old Magazine Ads. Check them out.