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Why Bud Light Had the Best Ad Last Sunday

Hi, my name is Phil and I’m a Detroit Lions fan. It was easy being a Lions fan when I was working retail. Every season we would buy into the hype, get all excited, and then somewhere down the line get our hopes dashed by catch that wasn’t a catch, the pass interference call that wasn’t called (sorry New Orleans, it happened to us first), or the simple ineptitude of a team that couldn’t keep the best running back ever motivated enough to keep playing. It was always something different, but something always happened.

The good years were when it happened before the annual Thanksgiving Day game. Then I could focus on retail.

The bad years were when it happened later and I would get the heart-crushing news from a customer while working a Sunday afternoon in the store.

As a lifelong Lions fan, we are granted the right to pick another NFL team to root for. As a University of Michigan graduate, I chose the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Y’all can hate me for that, but you can’t argue the numbers.

I tell you this to let you know I had more than a passing interest in the game as well as the ads last Sunday. Some of you who tuned in just for the ads were likely sorely disappointed at both the game and the ads. I know the ads let me down more than ever.

Still from Bud Light’s 2019 Super Bowl ad

In fact, there was only one ad that truly stood out to me for being effective. It was the Bud Light Corn Syrup Delivery Ad where the king took a large barrel of corn syrup back to Miller Lite and Coors Light since Bud Light doesn’t use corn syrup and the other two do.

The ad wins for several reasons:

  • They made only one point. We don’t use corn syrup but our competitors do.”
  • The humor was tied to the message. Humor is good in an ad because getting people to “feel” something is good. But too often the humor is gratuitous and doesn’t connect you to the true message. (The mint fox ad left a bad taste in my mouth both literally and figuratively and now I have no recollection what the ad was even about.)
  • They spoke to their tribe. The ad gave all the Bud Light drinkers one more reason to feel good about drinking Bud Light.
  • They got people to complain. Remember, your ad’s ability to attract is equal to its ability to repel. This ad repelled a lot of people including Miller Lite who felt compelled to take out a full page ad in the NY Times defending their use of corn syrup, and the corn growers of America who also complained. Those two actions alone testify to the power of that ad.

You can debate all you want about whether using corn syrup is good, bad, or indifferent. Bud Light recognized a clear difference between its ingredients and its competitors’ ingredients and found a fun, funny, and pointed way to get that message across.

There is one more thing Bud Light did right …

They told a story.

No matter what the year, the ads that get talked about the most all have one thing in common. They tell a story. Stories sell because stories make us feel (speak to the heart) and stories are easier to remember.

One of my sales reps for HABA USA emailed me to talk about the “story” for selling HABA this year. She knows that the better the story, the more products she will sell.

The lesson here is that when you can tell a story that makes people feel something while also getting across the one point you want people to remember, your ad is going to be more effective. Yes, you’ll get haters and complainers. Consider them a badge of honor that your ad was strong enough to get them to react.

I want to leave you with one more resource on storytelling. I ran across the following TEDx talk and was blown away. I highly encourage you set aside 17 minutes to watch it.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Just because an ad doesn’t make you compelled to take action doesn’t mean it wasn’t an effective ad. The story just wasn’t for you. The smart advertisers have figured out they don’t need to convince masses to grow. They need to convince niches. Target your stories and your message to a very narrow audience and convince that group incredibly well. You’ll be surprised how much more effective your advertising becomes.

Your First Point of Contact

I remember the email clearly. Hit me like a ton of bricks. “Why aren’t you open later for the holidays?”

We were open later for the holidays. It just didn’t say so on our Google profile. Nor did it say so on Facebook. Nor did it say so on our own web page.

I had changed the sign on the door and the answering machine. Fifteen years ago that would have been enough. Today that’s the kiss of death.

If your website, Google Profile, and Facebook Pages aren’t all up-to-date with accurate information, you’re killing sales before they even happen.

It isn’t a generational thing, either. I’m 52 and I use Google Maps on my phone to check a store’s hours all the time. I use it to find their web page, too.

If your web page isn’t optimized for mobile, not only will Google bury you in the SEO game, these old eyes won’t even bother to look around. Unless I’ve already decided I want to visit you, I’m moving on to option #2.

After getting that email and missing out on a potential big sale because of it, I added “Change Hours Online” to my Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve checklists. (You don’t have a “changing of the season” checklist? Dude, we need to talk.) 

I also started looking at those three online sources more critically.

  • Are they easy to navigate?
  • Are they answering the questions people who stumble upon them are asking?
  • Are they accurate?
  • Are they written for the customer, not some corporate lingo or legalese mumbo-jumbo?

Those sources are your customer’s first point of contact. It is the first impression people get of your business. It is the first point at which they judge your ability to solve their problems and take care of their needs.

They are either your worst or your best salespeople. 

They either build or destroy the trust you are trying to win from your customers. Yet far too often we neglect to look at them in that way.

I gave you Five Rules of Websites last April. Take those same rules and apply them to your Google Profile and your Facebook Page. Your digital profile is more important than ever before. Don’t let it kill sales before they happen.

(For those of you who don’t like to click links, the rules are:

  1. You don’t have to have eCommerce on your website to be successful.
  2. Every single page must have a clear and distinct purpose.
  3. Your website is your silent salesperson. Make it your best.
  4. Your hours, phone number, and address have to be prominent and easy to find.
  5. It has to be compatible for mobile platforms.

For an explanation of each rule, click and read. It will be worth it.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you have special circumstances for your hours such as certain times by appointment only, make sure those are clear as well. You actually do sometimes get a second chance to make a first impression, but it is incredibly hard to overcome the first first impression.

PPS The sixth rule is simply – Make sure your Core Values are evident on every page.

Self-Diagnosis Tool #5 – Marketing & Advertising

My favorite class segment in the Jackson Retail Success Academy was always the Marketing and Advertising Segment. One portion of that segment was dedicated to Media, Myths, and Money. We would discuss all the various forms of media and how/when to use them properly. We also discussed several myths about advertising. One of the biggest myths was this …

Advertising will fix your business.

No it won’t.

If your customer service sucks, advertising will only draw in more people to find that out and tell their friends to beware.

If your product selection sucks, advertising will only find you more disappointed and empty-handed customers.

If your market isn’t big enough to support your business, advertising will only drain your coffers faster, and hasten your demise.

That is why, of all the Diagnosis Tools, this one is last.

Abandoned Boat on the Pond by the House

Think of your business like a boat. Your Core Values are the hull and body of the boat. Your Market Potential is the size of the body of water. Customer Service is the driver of the boat. Inventory is the engine/oars. Advertising is the launching of the boat. Would you launch if you knew you had a leak, didn’t have a driver, or had an engine not working? Of course not.

You need to make sure your boat is rock solid and ready to go before you launch. (Check out Tool #1 Core Values, Tool #2 Market Potential, Tool #3 Customer Service, and Tool #4 Inventory Management if you think your boat has even the tiniest of leaks.)

Advertising will not fix your business, it will only speed up what was going to happen anyway. If your boat is leaking, advertising will just sink you faster.

DEFINE THE TERMS

First, let’s understand the difference between “Marketing” and “Advertising”. Marketing is everything you do to attract customers to your store. Advertising is a subset of Marketing. It is the paid marketing you do through a form of media.

MARKETING

Marketing includes your building, your signage, your front door, the “Open” sign on your building, the events, activities, and classes you hold inside and outside your building, the networking you do by joining clubs and being involved in your community, the free publicity your garner, etc.

One of the first steps in this self-diagnosis is to list all of the ways outside of Advertising that you are Marketing your store. For some ideas of different things you can do, check out the FREE eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

You should have a healthy list of ways you are marketing your business outside the realm of traditional advertising. Fortunately most of these ways cost more time than money. If you don’t have enough customers—the whole reason you’re marketing your business—then you should have the time.

Once you have that list, see which Core Values are evident in each activity. All of your Marketing efforts must be aligned with your Core Values to be most effective. If there is anything you are doing that doesn’t speak to your values, change it or drop it for something else.

ADVERTISING

The next thing to do is to look at your paid advertising through the same lens as your other Marketing efforts. Pull out all of the ads you ran last year. Look closely at the message you sent. Ask yourself these six questions …

  • Does it look or sound like an ad? Chances are good that it does. Did you know our brains are hard-wired to ignore advertising? Maybe you should create something that doesn’t look or sound like an ad to keep from being ignored.
  • Does it tell a story? Stories are more interesting, get people to pay attention, and are more memorable than facts and figures. Your ad needs to tell a story if you want it to work best.
  • Does it make only one point? The person seeing or hearing your ad will only remember one point at best, so only give her only one point to remember.
  • Does it speak to the heart? Emotions always trump logic. Always. What emotion does your ad invoke?
  • Does it speak to your tribe? Does it align with your Core Values? If you want to attract better customers, speak more directly to those people who share your values and ignore everyone else.
  • Does it make your customer the star? Ads about you will be ignored. Ads about your customer and what you can do to help her will gain her attention.

The message is more important than the media. Here is another big myth in Advertising …

You must reach the right people.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. You can reach all the right people but if you don’t say the right thing, all is for naught. Also, everyone you reach is potentially the right person because even if they aren’t your customer, they know someone who is your customer.

It isn’t who you reach that matters. It is what you say to the people you reach.

Get the message right and everything else will follow.

(Note: to help you choose the right media for your business, go to the Advertising Media Reference Guide and check out your options.)

BUDGET

The last thing to check is your budget. How much should you spend on Marketing? Notice how I said Marketing, not Advertising? Part of your Marketing is your location. If you spend a lot in rent to be in a high-traffic area, you don’t have to advertise as much as the guy under the bridge on the wrong side of the tracks. The Cinnabon store at the airport doesn’t spend a penny on Advertising. He just bought a fan to blow that cinnamony goodness out into the terminal. That’s his Marketing Budget.

There are many formulas for calculating a budget. The one I like best came from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. He suggests you take 10-12% of your Gross Sales as your “Total Exposure” budget. Then multiply that by your Percent Markup (this is different than Profit Margin – the formula looks like this Percent Markup = (Gross Sales – COGS)/COGS) to adjust for your pricing and profit. Then subtract your rent from that number to find out what you should spend on Advertising.

For many businesses, however, that leaves a budget close to zero as rent is often 10-12% of your budget.

I will tell you to push that upper limit to 15% of Gross Sales, but only if you can find that money without taking it out of Payroll. If push comes to shove, Great Customer Service is always more important than Advertising. It is what drives your boat. You can still get across the lake from a bad launch if you have a strong rower and good oars.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There you go … Five tools for evaluating your business to see where you need to improve as you sail into 2019. Take a critical look at all five in the porper order and you’ll find your silver bullet for success. If you don’t think you can be those critical eyes because you are too busy trying to drive the boat yourself, call me. I’ll come do an analysis of your boat using all the criteria in these five Tools and show you where the boat needs work.

The Thirty Questions to Find Your “Silver Bullet”

I got suckered in once. Long before the phrase “fake news” came into existence, back in the days when Norton and MacAfee were the only names in anti-virus protection, my computer started slowing down.

Then up popped an ad for a free diagnostic test of my computer, guaranteed to clean it up and take it to speeds the factory settings never could. I downloaded it and immediately all these warnings came flashing on the screen telling me I was infected and needed to download this fancy, official-sounding fix right away before I lost critical data.

Yeah, you can probably guess the rest.

I took the computer to a local shop who cleaned several viruses and Trojans off the hard drive and got me back to my normal, plodding, limited-by-my-service-provider-not-my-computer speeds.

We’re all looking for that quick-fix, aren’t we? That guaranteed, take-you-to-the-next-level tool that will transform your business? That’s why scams like that computer virus one worked so well. We all keep thinking there is that one silver bullet we’re missing that will make all our ills go away.

Here is where I’m supposed to tell you there isn’t a silver bullet. Eat less and exercise more, right?

The truth is there is a silver bullet. And a bronze one. And a gold one. And a titanium-plated, platinum-infused, diamond-encrusted, gold-leafed, emerald-cut, space-aged aluminum, time-released-capsule one.

The problem is that every business needs a different bullet. In retail there is no one-size-fits-all bullet.

You might be struggling with cash flow while your neighbor down the street needs help with a better marketing message. The store on the next block has a customer service problem, while the store across the street is in a market with too many competitors.

What retailers really need is a good diagnostic tool to help you identify the true problem(s). Unfortunately your business isn’t like an automobile where you can plug it in and see what’s wrong.

You can hire a consultant, but unless they have a background in understanding independent retail, they might not be able to diagnose your true problem either. You can try to do it yourself (I gave you a few Measuring Cups to use in an earlier post), but it is often hard to read the label from inside the bottle.

Since I am the DIY guy of retail, though, I want to show you the approach I would take to diagnose where your business needs work so that maybe you can find the demon holding you back. If you were to hire me, I would look at your business in this order …

  1. Core Values – Is your business aligned with your Values? If not, how and where can we change things?
  2. Market Potential – Where do you stand in your market? Who are your competitors? What is your share of the market? Is it shrinking or growing? What local factors influence your market presence?
  3. Customer Service – How much of your business is Repeat and Referral? How much training do your front line people have? What skills do they have? How well do they greet, meet, and interact with customers? How are their “closing” skills? What services do you provide? Do your services lean customer-friendly or business-friendly? Do you meet and exceed expectations?
  4. Inventory Management – How is your cash flow? What is your Profit Margin, Turn Ratio, Accounts-Payable-to-Inventory Ratio, Cash-to-Current Ratio, etc? What are the “must-haves” and how was your stock position on those items last year? Where is the fat that needs to be trimmed from the inventory? What systems do you use to keep from over-buying?
  5. Marketing & Advertising – What is your Marketing Message? Is it consistent across all platforms (including the in-store experience)? How can we make that message more powerful and effective? Where are you spending your marketing money? Are there cheaper, better alternatives for reaching the people you want to reach? Are there collaborations that make sense? Are you harnessing all the free publicity available to you?

Notice the order of things. Most businesses come to me saying they need help with their Marketing because they aren’t getting the traffic they want. Yet sometimes the problem is their business isn’t aligned with their values so they aren’t attracting the right types of customers. sometimes the problem is there aren’t enough customers in their market to sustain their business. Sometimes the problem is their service is so bad, those who do visit are telling friends to stay away.

Better Marketing won’t fix those other problems or help the business.

If you want to run your own diagnostics, there are several hyperlinks to articles and blogs related to the thirty questions posed above.

If you want to hire me to run your diagnostics, I’m going through that list in that order until we find the first problem.

There is no single silver bullet to fix any and all retailers, but there is a bullet to slay the specific demon holding you back. I encourage you to run your diagnostics on your own to see if you can isolate your problem. When you do find it, send me an email and I’ll help you brainstorm several solutions to solve your problem on your own or with help.

There is a bullet for you, but it’s buried in the haystack next to the needle.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I hired a consultant once. He compared my Turn Ratio to Walmart’s and told me my problem was inventory control and that I needed to go to “just-in-time” inventory where I had at most a one-week supply of inventory on hand. My dad hired a consultant. He compared our prices to Kmart and Toys R Us and said our prices were too high and then pitched a total revamp of our sales floor into a circus theme (not sure what that had to do with prices). If you’re going to hire someone, make sure they have extensive experience working with indie retailers. Make sure they have a list like this one, too, that spells out what they’re going to evaluate.

PPS Sorry for the mixed metaphor at the end. It sounded good in my head.

The Right Measuring Cups

When the recipe calls for 1 cup Vegetable Oil do you reach for a teaspoon? When it says 16 ounces Sour Cream do you grab a scale? Of course not. Sure, you can get close with those tools, but it won’t be as accurate nor as handy.

Yet we do that in retail all the time. We use the wrong tools to measure our business.

For instance, most businesses look at Sales Growth as a barometer of their business health. If sales went up, business is good. If sales went down, business is bad.

The problem with that tool is that it doesn’t take into account what happened in your local marketplace. If your sales went up 5% but your market grew by 10%, then your business is not on the right path. If your sales were down 2% but your market shrunk by 5%, you captured a larger share of your market.

You have to know how to calculate Market Share to truly know the health of your business.

RECIPE FOR MARKET SHARE

Market Share: your percentage of the Market Potential for your trade area. Calculate Market Potential by finding the Annual Sales for your entire industry, divide that by the population of the United States and multiply that answer times your own trade area population. Then adjust for income levels. The math looks like this …

  • Industry Sales = $20.2 billion
  • US Population = 325 million people
  • Your Trade Area = 150,000 people
  • US Average Household Income = $59,039
  • Your Area Household Income = $63,026 (6.75% higher than US average)

$20.2 billion / 325 million = $62.15/person

$62.15 x 150,000 = $9.3 million

$9.3 million x 1.0675 = $9.9 million Market Potential

(Note: that number can be adjusted again for one other factor dependent on your industry. For instance, if you’re in the toy industry you can adjust for the number of children in your area compared to the national average. If you’re in the boat industry, look for something along the lines of percentage of boat owners nationally and in your area.)

Figure out your percentage or share of that market and whether it is growing or shrinking. That will be a more accurate measurement than your top line sales.

CUSTOMER SERVICE MEASUREMENT

How do you measure something as abstract as Customer Service? One tool is Units Per Transaction (UPT). While several factors can influence this number including your merchandising skill of impulse items and whether the items you’re selling have more or less accessories than last year, the largest influence on this number is your sales force. Are they taking care of the customer properly? Are they completing the sale? Are they making the customer feel welcome, comfortable, and happy? Are they building trust?

The calculation for UPT is simple. Take the total units sold during the year and divide that by the number of transactions.

75,000 units sold / 22,000 transactions = 3.4 Units Per Transaction

If that number is going up, your team is doing their job.

Another measuring tool that is slightly harder to quantify, but equally effective in telling the true tale of your customer service is Repeat and Referral Business.

Repeat Business is a sign of Good Customer Service. Referral Business is a sign of WOW Customer Service. Your service was so good they had to bring their friends back with them. If you’re tracking transactions by name in your POS, you’ll know your Repeat Business. You can also ask when you enter someone new into your POS how they heard of you. If they say “from a friend” mark them as Referral.

The ideal business has a majority of their customers as Repeat and Referral. The raw number of Repeat and Referral Customers should hopefully be growing and should be a larger percentage of your traffic. The larger, the better.

MARKETING AND ADVERTISING MEASUREMENT

Sure, you can run a coupon or a Call to Action in every ad to see how many people it drives to the store. But if you have been reading this blog or following the wisdom of people smarter than me like Roy H. Williams or Seth Godin, then you know that kind of advertisement leads to short term gain and long term pain.

One other way to measure the effectiveness of your advertising is from your Repeat and Referral Business. Add those two numbers together. The remainder of your traffic is your marketing-driven business.

Yes, some of that traffic is based purely on your location. Your location is part of your marketing. Your signs on your building are part of your marketing. Your parking situation is part of your marketing. Your advertising is also part of your marketing. If the raw numbers of people coming through your doors for the first time and not by Referral are growing, your marketing is working.

Which part of your marketing is working? That is a little bit harder to measure. As famed retailer John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

At least you have a tool to see if it is working in general. (Check the Free Resources for Making Your Ads More Effective to figure out how to make all halves work.)

When you use the right measuring tool, you get a better result. That’s true for cooks, bakers, and small business owners. 

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you plan for 2019, you really need to know what happened in 2018. Even if your top line sales rocked the world and your bank account is fatter than usual, if your Market Share decreased or your Repeat and Referral Business fell off, you have important issues you need to address sooner rather than later. I’d love to help you address those issues.

Looking Back at the “Top” Ten Blog Posts From 2018

Somewhere around the first of the year a lot of writers like to publish their “Top Ten” list of most viewed posts from the previous year. Wouldn’t it be smarter to post the least-viewed posts, the ones most people missed? Give people a second-chance to read your wisdom. As it is, just because a post is the most-viewed doesn’t make it the best.

This year I’m going to give you a variety pack of posts from 2018 and why you should read them (again).

The post you didn’t miss: Yes, I have Heard About Toys R Us. This was the post with the most views last year. I made a prediction in the PS of that post that has turned out to be right. Go read the post to see what I predicted.

The post you missed: Few Things Go as Planned. This was the post with the fewest views. I wrote this at the beginning of the year to remind you to plan, but to also understand that things don’t always work out the way you plan them and that you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Ask yourself, “Did 2018 happen the way you planned?” I’m betting right now your answer is No. Go read this post.

The milestone you didn’t know about: Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout. This was post #1000. To some people, those numbers are kinda cool. I didn’t make a big deal about it then because it was the busy holiday season and those posts were designed to be short and sweet. by the way, this isn’t just a Christmas time tip. It is a smart business practice.

My favorite post of 2018: Five Proven Recipes. In this post I give you Paul Harvey’s recipe for a backyard mosquito spray, an all-natural weed-killer that works (if you spray regularly), and simple, tech-free recipes for raising the bar on your Hiring, Advertising, and Customer Service. Sometimes the simple ways are the best.

The post that got the most social media interest: So You Got a Bad Review? This post had the most comments on social media and was the first post of mine that was “shared” on LinkedIn (a new feature they’ve added). Best of all, it had no negative reviews, lol. If you’ve had a negative review, you might want to read this.

The best question you will ask your staff all year: How to Learn From the Best. This was actually the second least viewed post, yet the most telling about where you stand in your local retail marketplace and what you need to work on the most. Ask your staff this question and listen to their replies.

The post I wished you had commented on: This “Free” is Really Free. The site stats counter tells me I get hundreds of downloads of the different Free Resources each year. I’d love to know how you’re using them and what success you might be seeing because of them. Go ahead and leave some comments there (or here).

That’s your lucky seven posts you should have read (and hopefully did). I’m going to leave three more links in the PS below for the adventurous souls among you to round out the “Top Ten”.

Happy New Year!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I triple dog dare you …

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

“Customer Service” is Dead

The Ad Everyone is Talking About

By now you’ve probably already seen this ad. You may love it. You may hate it. You may wonder what all the hype is about. You may wonder who the heck is John Lewis and why should you care?

Since it is getting all the hype (and it made me cry, something very few ads do to me these days) I figure I would break it down for you to show you why it is going viral.

If you haven’t seen the ad, you can watch it below or follow this link here. It is just over two minutes long. (Note: spoiler alerts below.)

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I teach six principles that anyone can follow to make your ads more memorable and effective. Those principles are:

  1. Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Make Only One Point
  4. Speak to the Heart
  5. Speak to the Tribe
  6. Make Your Customer the Star

Don’t Look or Sound Like and Ad: Check! When I first clicked on a link for this ad that a friend shared with me, I thought I had accidentally linked to a trailer for the new Elton John movie Rocketman. This definitely doesn’t look or sound like any ad you’ll see on television outside of the first Sunday in February—if even then!

Tell a Story: Check! I love how they tell the story in a reverse timeline. Like any good storyteller, they take you from what you know to something you don’t know.

Make Only One Point: Check! I’m sure John Lewis sells all kinds of products and offers all kinds of services. They don’t talk about any of that. The tagline “Some gifts are more than just a gift” is about the thought you give into gift-giving and the thought John Lewis gives into the products it sells.

Speak to the Heart: Check! John Lewis is known for their touching, moving Christmas commercials. This one brought me to tears. Twice. Once at 1:45, again at 2:12.

Speak to the Tribe: Check! If you read the comments below the video on YouTube you’ll notice that not everyone is gushing over this ad. In fact, while 90,000 have given it a thumbs up (at the time of this typing), 8,500 have given it a thumbs down. Several people have written comments that they don’t get it. That, in my humble opinion, is the most telling point of how well John Lewis is speaking to the tribe.

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, has been teaching for years that, like a magnet, an ad’s ability to attract is equal to its ability to repel. The more powerfully you speak to your tribe—your customers, the people who share your Core Values—the more likely others won’t get it or like it. Roy also says, “Choose who to lose.” Don’t try to speak to everyone, just the most important ones.

This particular ad speaks to several tribes—Elton John fans, Musicians, people with Nostalgia as a character trait, Christmas saps, and people with Giving Gifts as one of their Love Language. I happen to be all of those. If you’re not one of those, you might not get why the rest of us are grabbing a tissue.

Some people loved the ad just because it was Elton. Some felt at the end he was lamenting the loss of his parents more than he was waxing nostalgic on the gift—another tribe. Some were remembering their own favorite Christmas gift that inspired them or that they still own today.

The ad evoked powerful emotions from several groups of people.

Make Your Customer the Star: No Check. I do have to agree with one comment on YouTube where the person said it looked more like an ad for Elton John’s next tour or movie than it did an ad for John Lewis. It certainly did feel that way up until the scene with the little boy coming down the stairs Christmas morning. Prior to that scene it was all about Elton. but in that one moment it was any one of us who has ever come down the stairs wide-eyed and full of excitement on Christmas morning.

That scene at 1:45 was the first part that really got to me emotionally. My first blog post ten years ago was about my favorite Christmas gift—a six-string guitar.

I’m okay that this ad didn’t fully make “you” the star. It works because of the story. The story works because we all know of Elton. You don’t have the budget to get Elton John into your commercials and that’s okay. John Lewis did and it worked for me.

Five out of six boxes checked. That’s why everyone is talking about this ad, and John Lewis.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Want to do a fun exercise? Go through all the John Lewis commercials here and write down the different tribes each ad is speaking to. It will help you when you start crafting your own powerful ads like these.

PPS If you didn’t get this ad or like this ad, that’s okay. It just wasn’t written for you. I watch ads every day that make me scratch my head until I remember, they weren’t written for me. Speak to your Tribe with your ads. That’s what really matters.

Change or Stay the Course?

I read a quote the other day and it has stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work it into a worthwhile post. The quote is from author William R. Inge. He says …

“There are two kinds of fools. One says, ‘This is old, therefore it is good,’; the other says, ‘This is new, therefore it is better.’ “

“This is old, therefore it is good,” is the trap we get into when we say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“This is new, therefore it is better,” is the trap we get into especially whenever a new form of advertising comes along. We think we need to be on the cutting edge or we will get left behind.

The problem with both of those statements is that they are completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Some old things are really good and shouldn’t be changed. Some new things are truly better and will disrupt your industry and kill your business if you don’t adopt them.

I was at a presentation a few years ago when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we had any employees that had been with us twenty or more years. I raised my hand.

He said the best thing we could do for our business is to fire those people the day we got back. They were the keepers of the flame of everything old. They were the standard bearers for, “We’ve always done it this way.”

I didn’t fire those people (I had two at the time), but I took to heart his meaning and paid close attention to who was willing to change and who wasn’t.

The other side of the coin was fascinating, too. Back in the early 90’s we had newsprint, radio, TV, billboard, yellow pages, and direct mail as our advertising options. There was no social media, email, or mobile marketing. The movie theaters weren’t running pre-show ads. Most of us didn’t even know the word Google, let alone have our own website with SEO optimization.

Yet each one of those was going to disrupt the advertising industry and change it forever (or so we were told).

The sales pitch from every rep was the same. “If you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re going to miss out on the biggest change the industry has ever seen, and you’ll be left in the dust by your competition.”

Some of those new things (like email and having your own website) really have changed the game for small businesses. Some, like closed-circuit TV, haven’t been quite as lucrative as promised.

How do you know when to change and when not to change? For many of us, that is the biggest question and hardest task. I wrote about it once before and came up with these three points of what to change …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

The best way avoid becoming one of the two fools above is to have a process for when and how to change.

WHEN TO CHANGE

When someone asks you to change something you’ve always done, you get defensive. That is a natural reaction. Here is a process to help you decide when to change the old (or chase after the new.)

First ask this question …

  • Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

If it is a tweak and the tweak makes the current process more efficient and/or more customer-friendly, you should do it.

In fact you should always be looking for tweaks, small changes that make things work better.

If it is a wholesale change—some shiny, new bauble—then you have to ask a few more questions …

  • Does the new process/system fit within our Core Values?
  • Is it customer-friendly?
  • Is it faster or more efficient than the old way?
  • Can it be easily taught to everyone on the team?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it is a good change.

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, you’re better off staying the course.

If you answered no to the third question, but a strong yes to the first two, it might be worth considering. sometimes it is worth giving up a little efficiency on your end if it helps delight more customers.

If you answered yes to the first three but not the last question, just understand there will be some growing pains to get the new system implemented, but it is still worth making the change.

If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can do what I did. I always liked to ask two more questions …

  • Is the old way no longer working?
  • What statistics were slain to make this bauble look enticing?

Change costs time, money, and other resources. Change is not always easy. In Seth Godin’s book THE DIP, he shows how change often causes a dip in productivity at first, followed by the gains you were hoping to get when you made the change.

Sometimes it is better to keep the old ways. Sometimes it is better to embrace the new.

The true fool, however, is the business owner who doesn’t have a process to evaluate when and how to change your business for the better.

Fortunately, you’re no fool.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll explore how to change later this week.

PPS I had one more technique I used for making decisions on the shiny, new baubles presented to me, especially in advertising. I slept on them. If something new is good, it will still be available tomorrow. In fact, if it is really good, tomorrow there will be two more people trying to sell you on it.

When it came to new advertising methods, I would also ask …

This “Free” is Really Free!

I was looking at the Free Resources page on my website yesterday. There are nine eBooks on Marketing & Advertising, twelve on Customer Service, and five on Money. You can download any and all of them for free. No strings attached. No limits to how many or how often you can download them. No limits to how far or wide you can share them. I don’t even ask for your email address first, just credit for having written and produced them.

Yeah, pretty stupid to give it all away like that for free.

Free eBook Icon from Phil's ForumYet, if you read yesterday’s post, you would understand why I do it. Of the three questions and the fifteen answers I gave yesterday to why I am doing what I do, the last question about the problems I want to solve and the last five answers were the easiest.

Helping other businesses succeed drives everything. It is the starting and ending point. If these eBooks can make a difference, you should have them.

  • You’re more likely to download them if you don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops.
  • You’re more likely to read them if they are short and to the point.
  • You’re more likely to share them if they are smaller files that you could even print if you wanted.

“A man who doesn’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t.” -Mark Twain

My sales staff got a copy of everything I had written about customer service at that time either through a staff training or by printing copies for their handbooks. (That included Generating Word of Mouth which is technically a Customer Service issue even though you’ll find it under Marketing & Advertising.)

My buyers all got copies of the Inventory Management and Pricing for Profit eBooks (the latter of which is the second most downloaded after Understanding Your Brand). 

While the stats counter shows how many times each gets downloaded, it doesn’t tell me how you’ve used them.

Would you do me a favor?

Drop me a comment on this post or an email and tell me which eBooks you’ve used and what, if any, difference they have made for your business. I’d like to know which ones have been most useful and which ones need to be revised, revamped, or removed for better content.

Thanks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The five newest eBooks are:

Those first four make up the basis of the new half-day workshop The Ultimate Selling Workshop. (They also stand alone as great Breakout Sessions!) Yes, the live event for any of these eBooks is a far cry better than the eBook, itself. You get more stories and examples. You get the whole presentation tailored to your specific industry or region. If it is a session with owners and managers, you also get tips and techniques for teaching it to your staff. If it is a session with the staff at your business, you get hands-on activities to really drive home the points. While I encourage you to hire me for a live event, please keep sharing and using this information. Together we can tilt the playing field back in your direction.

What Value are You Selling?

Sell “Play Value”

That’s the first line of the business plan my grandfather wrote back in 1949 when he founded Toy House. I found his spiral notebook with the plan while looking for something else in the archives of the store. Page two outlined the possible names for the store including Toy House and House of Toys.

Having written a few business plans over the years, what fascinates me is the simplicity of what he started out to do. He didn’t say he was going to open a retail shop. He didn’t even say he was going to sell toys. He was going to sell something of value—“Play Value.”

In an interview I did with my grandfather a couple years before he passed away I asked him what he thought was the reason for the long success of Toy House. We were about to celebrate our 60th year in business. He said, “I think its because we didn’t set out to be just a toy store. We wanted it to be a store of value. I’ve always sold on the value.”

In a 2005 survey I sanctioned about toy shopping in Jackson, the survey respondents were asked to name the first store that popped into mind when certain words were read. We were mentioned most for words like Friendly and Helpful. Walmart owned Affordable and Cheap. Kmart owned Dark and Dirty. Toys R Us owned Cluttered and Confusing.

The most surprising result from that survey was that we also owned the word Value.

While my competitors were advertising low price, I was talking about Play Value. While my competitors were offering discounts, I was teaching customers how to calculate the True Cost of a Toy (Cost per Hour of Play).

Value.

Products come and go. Nothing is exclusive anymore. You’ll never make it in retail if your only calling card is exclusivity of product. You need to be clear on what you are really selling.

Your competitors are going to advertise the heck out of brands and discounts. If you want to stand in stark contrast to them, advertise the Value your customers are buying.

For instance …

  • A shoe store customer is really buying health, comfort, or safety
  • A clothing store customer is really buying self-esteem, success, or comfort
  • A jewelry store customer is really buying love, romance, or gratitude
  • A candy store customer is really buying happiness, comfort, or indulgence
  • A gift shop customer is really buying nostalgia, relationships, or contentment
  • A sporting goods store customer is really buying health, happiness, or even time

What Value are your customers buying?

Does your staff know this? Do you talk about it daily, weekly, monthly? Do you do things to reinforce this ideal?

Do your customers know this? Are you making sure your social media posts, email newsletters, and other advertisements all portray this message?

Here are some radio ads I ran back in 2016 …

Happy Dance
Last year, a professor said the toys that are most open-ended and creative are the toys kids play with the longest. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s. Another professor last year said that a toy should be 10% toy and 90% child. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s, too. When the professors confirm something you’ve already known, there is only one thing to do… A happy dance. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. Come join us in our happy dance.

Real Play Value
Remember that toy your child saw on TV that he begged and pleaded and wore you down until you bought it? Only to find he never played with it again? Quit making that mistake. Anyone can make a toy look good for 30-seconds. Do your child a favor, don’t cave. Get toys with real play value. Your kids will be playing, laughing, and growing. They won’t even turn on the TV. Go to Toy House in downtown Jackson, the largest selection of toys in America. We’ll make you smile, while your kids play

Play is Important
Everyone is talking about education and how to fix it. The answer is easy – Play. Google Play. You’ll get thousands of studies why kids who play more do better in school. Don’t wait for the politicians to figure this out. They don’t win votes stumping for recess. For the greater good of this country and your child, you need interactive, open-ended, creative play. The same kind we’ve been advocating for sixty-seven years. Toy House in downtown Jackson, because Play is actually quite important.

While Target was trying to cram as many brand logos into one TV spot as possible, we were talking about making a difference. Value.

When you make it clear what Value you are selling, you’ll find plenty of customers who want to buy those Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Does selling Value really work? When we closed shop in 2016, our Market Share was at 16%—far larger than the typical indie toy store, the largest in our market, and the same it had been for several years even as Amazon was growing. It was only the shrinking local market that helped us decide to hang it up.

PPS This “value” is only slightly different than your Core Values. I know the terms can be confusing because of similarity. Think of your Core Values as being the driver behind what you do. Think of the Value you Sell as being the Benefit your customers buy.