Movember Apple Cup Challenge

Apple Cup Movember
Happy Thanksgiving Coug and Dawg Fans. I'm thankful for all of you (even the ones that wear purple and gold). I have a few days left in Movember and I'm less than $400 away from the $5000 fundraising goal I set. So let's have a little friendly competition.

For every dollar donated to my Movember campaign between now and tomorrow a point will be generated. The donor simply indicates which team to credit their points to by putting "Go Cougs" or "Go Dawgs" into their comment line. Double points will be awarded on gifts of $50 or more.

I'll even wear the school colors of the winning team to work for a day next week. How's that for incentive Husky fans? (I'm not worried. Cougs are a lot more generous!)

So let's get the Movember Apple Cup started right away. Click here to contribute and score some Movember Apple Cup points! 

Quick. Nimble. And Responsive.

Where Technology and Marketing Meet. 

Ins & Mktg

If you're an IT professional, you've likely heard this a thousand times from marketing colleagues in your company: "I don't care about the code or how it happens, I just want it to work!" That's usually followed by an enthusiastic shout, "And I want it NOW!" Am I right?

We marketing types are about quick, nimble, and responsive. We care more about why, what, and when than we do about how or how much. Process isn't part of our wiring. But you knew that.

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Social to the 12th Power

12 bannerThe Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII. In fact, their defense dominated Denver's number one ranked offense so soundly that most of the country called the game a yawner. Not so where I live. In the Northwest, the 12th Man knows how to yell, how to win, and how to celebrate. So how would a hyper-local insurance company find marketing opportunity in an event that is played on a global stage? With focus, passion, technology and social engagement.

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CMO's and COO's - Friends In The C-Suite

Ins & MktgIn a space where customer interaction is increasingly digital and where customers increasingly use key technologies, CMOs and CIOs are working outside their existing comfort zones. It only makes sense for them to do it together.

In my monthly column for Insurance and Marketing, I shared my thoughts about the growing importance for these two members of the C-Suite team to "buddy up!"

You can read the by clicking here!

The Proudest Moment

BP Easton

Late last winter, while visiting with my son Ryan, I learned that my grandson Easton had been invited to be a member of a "select" little league baseball team. He could become a member of Utah's Herriman Mustangs - a hand picked team of nine-year-olds who showed enough potential to move to the next level of competition. Mustang coaches had noticed Easton on his prior season's team and felt that he would be a good addition to the team.

The first conversation was between the coach and Ryan. The next between Ryan and my daughter-in-law Rachel. It would be a bigger sports commitment than Easton or the family had been involved in before. A longer season, more practices, more tournaments, and more games. It would also be more of an investment with more travel, more equipment, and nicer uniforms. It was an opportunity that needed consideration on several levels. Ultimately the decision was to give Easton the option to decide. He considered the opportunity and chose to join the new team of boys - most of which he didn't know. From that day forward, Easton was all in. He listened intently to his coaches, asked for extra batting practice with his dad, and his appetite for a playing catch was never satisfied. It was obvious that Easton was going to do what it took to be a ballplayer. I didn't think that I could be any prouder of him, but I was wrong.

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Ask for compliments and see what happens

Several years ago my wife and I were driving home late in the evening and decided to stop by one of the local fast food chains to get a quick bite to eat. The experience was nothing more nor nothing less than was expected. Very routine and unremarkable. We shouted our order into a speaker box and strained to understand the broken replies from a teenager inside the building one hundred feet ahead. When we arrived along side the first window we offered our payment to the cashier and expected to receive our bag of quickly wrapped food items at the second window. Of course, we would examine the contents to make sure we actually received what we had requested. 

But then the unexpected, and unfortunately unintended, happened. The restaurant made us smile!
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Movers and Shakers

It was the evening of our company's annual sales recognition dinner and the theme of the event was "Movers and Shakers." The top sales producers for the year, their spouses, company executives and special guests filled Seattle's Palace Ballroom to socialize, receive achievement awards, and hear from a handful of the leaders that were present. I was asked to share some thoughts about how the game is changing. This is an excerpt from my remarks. If you'd like to read the full text, please click here.

"Built To Change"

Change Ahead
"Few want to be sold to but everyone loves a great story. Movers and shakers know that we must converse before we convince. Consumers want inspiration and inclusion. We can no longer interrupt, but must instead interact. Brand advocates are listened to more than brand advertising. Asking exclusively about return on investment is the wrong question today. We need be asking about return on involvement, and return on relationship.

Successful brands will be defined and shaped by consumers more than companies. Winning businesses will be built to change in order to be built to last.

In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, winners will need to do more than spin the wheel or roll the dice. Winners will be those who disrupt the foundations of conventional thinking by the strength of their imagination and vision. Winners will be people with positive, energetic demeanors who initiate change and influence events.
The winners will be the movers and shakers."

A Rookie With An Edge

Russell WilsonYes it's early. The NFL season is only two weeks old and already there have been surprising upsets and unexpected performances. There are ten starting quarterbacks who have one year or less of NFL experience - the most since 1950. It's much too early to predict how each will turn out or how their respective teams will fare. But we can enjoy the moment.

In Seattle, there's a new starting quarterback too - just as everyone expected. Last years starter, Tavaris Jackson, is now in Buffalo and Matt Flynn, who the Seahawks signed in the off-season, is reportedly one of the league's most highly paid backups. 

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Alumni Edge: Easy come - easy go.

Please Don't Treat Me Like A Dawg... Even For 15%

13 CoinsIn Washington, there are two kinds of people that come to mind when college loyalty and affinity are discussed. You have your Cougs (Go Cougs... 1975) and you have your Dawgs.

It's not hard to tell which is which. One group wears crimson and the other purple. Neither group would ever change places with the other. That's just the way it is.

And that brings me to the point of this post. In order for a business to get an edge with either of these card carrying alumni groups, the business won't need to pick one over the other (although that might be optimal), but the business will have to know who belongs to which group.

Last week, after years of hosting breakfast meetings at Seattle's 13 Coins Restaurant, I was delighted to be able to flash my newly issued WSU Cougar Card in exchange for a 15% discount. I was impressed.Coug and Dawg

Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed for long. When the final bill was presented for my signature, the discount was listed as a "15% Dawg Deal." Something that for any self-respecting Coug is totally unacceptable. One step forward and two steps back.

A lesson learned long ago applies here. "A brilliant strategy that is poorly executed is far worse than a mediocre strategy executed brilliantly."

By the way, the Joe's Special at 13 Coins is outstanding.

Go Cougs!

Where's The Social Sales Professional?

Have you heard what they’re saying?

social funnelAnalysts watching emerging engagement trends have identified sales professionals as the least likely group to commit to the adoption and use of social media. Really? Marketing departments and communication teams get it. Public relations and brand managers are on board. And now we’re seeing a shift toward the use of social media by customer service teams and contact centers as well. What about social media for sales people? Why has it taken that group longer to catch on and catch up to their peers throughout the organizations that they work for?

Some argue that the lack of explicit buy-in is due in large part to the time-honored truism often expressed as WIIFM, or “what’s in it for me?” In short, the sales professional hasn’t been able to see the sale as an outcome of their engagement. Are you still wondering how time spent utilizing popular social media tools will favorably impact your revenue and income? Let’s look for some answers.

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Tip 9 - Advice For Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


bait and switch: When a fairly attractive woman or man introduces themselves to a group of the opposite sex in order to get their ugly friend in the door." - Urban Dictionary

If you are going to make the pitch, stick around to field the ball.

We all know the drill. The client tells a group of agencies it intends to review capabilities for potential engagement. If chosen, you’ll add that brand to your client list, unleash creativity for the market to admire and enjoy a valued relationship for years to come.

Weeks later, after copious information exchange, your agency is up to speed on the mission, vision, values, business model and unique selling proposition of the brand. It’s time for your pitch. You walk into the client’s conference room with your agency’s founder, owner, partners, president, creative chief and head strategist.

Whether you flew across the country or walked across town, at that very moment the client’s brand is Priority No. 1 in your minds. You say all the right things. Collectively, you’re the best and brightest your office has to offer. You’re experienced, smart and really seem to understand the client’s needs. You know them as a brand, a business and as people. It feels just right.

So, your agency gets the order, the account and the business. The client gets your promise and thinks, “This might be the start of a professional partnership.”

And then it happens. 

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Tip 8 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective


"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." - Phil Jackson

Collaboration Looks Good On You

Once you've come to understand and accept tip number five, that there's no such thing as full service, it follows that successful agencies will need to learn to embrace collaboration with the variety of service partners that have been selected by your clients. You won't get a vote on who the partners are, the skills that the client has asked them to bring, or the degree to which each of the partners are engaged. 

To use a familiar metaphor, your client is the chef and your agency is but one of the important ingredients in the stew. In order for the dish to be as savory and satisfying as the chef intends, it will require an number of equally important ingredients and none of them can be allowed to overpower the flavor of the dish. Instead, each ingredient as it is added to the stew must enhance the flavor and bring out the best of the other ingredients that are added to the mix. 

Being willing to collaborate instead of competing is the secret to long term success in the new millennium. Collaboration is a behavior trait that reflects well on those who are willing and able to put their own wants and needs off to the side of their clients. Those who arrogantly or selfishly presume that they are the strongest partner or that they have more of the best ideas will not only be the biggest loser, but will ultimately kill the partnership between the remaining agencies. Consider the following suggestions for successful collaboration:

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Tireless and Talkable Campaigns:

Decisions slide

Four decisions every brand can make to fuel the conversation

In the Northwest, everyone knows the guy who sports a pair of sandals with a pair of wool socks. Around here, there are certain quirks that set the people of this corner of the country apart from other regions.

That’s the sentiment at the center of PEMCO Insurance’s award-winning “We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different.” advertising campaign, which features more than 70 tongue-in-cheek descriptions of people frequently spotted around the Northwest, including the ever-popular Sandals and Socks Guy.

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Tip 7 - Advice for Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Clients Perspective


bells and whistles - "things that something has or does that are not necessary but that make it more exciting or interesting" - Cambridge Idioms Dictiionary 

7. Don't forget the bells and whistles! A weathered bell and tarnished whistle tied together on what is now a faded and discolored ribbon sit on the credenza behind my desk. They aren’t expensive but they are a tremendously valuable reminder of what not to forget or take for granted. A client deserves your very best – and that includes the bells and whistles – not just on the presentation that you make to win the initial business, but throughout the relationship as well.
Early in my career as the advertising director at Schuck’s Auto Supply, I worked with a Portland based agency that had won our account long before the company hired me. They continued to produce campaign components that were consistent, affordable and in line with expectations that had been established when they were hired. Looking back, I remember that they didn’t seem to invest much in the relationship. They had the account and were in service and delivery mode. Some might say that they delivered the steak, but seldom exposed the sizzle.

A time came when we looked to refresh and relaunch our brand position and marketing campaign. The incumbent agency, along with two or three hand picked challengers, was invited to make presentations. As expected, all were very good. Two were exceptional and separated themselves from the pack. One was the incumbent and the other a smaller firm with everything to gain and nothing to lose. One of the two, while not significantly better than the other, brought an almost magical presence into the room. Their presentation was inspiring, entertaining and just plain fun to witness. There was a feeling of enthusiasm and energy. They delivered the sizzle. They brought the bells and whistles.

In the days that followed, the final decision was in my hands. I wrestled with my feelings about loyalty and commitment, but couldn’t separate the energizing appeal of the challenger. Ultimately, it was the challenger that was selected. It was a great call to make and I never regretted the decision.

Bells and Whistles

The call to the incumbent was more difficult. They were shocked by my decision and the reality that it would not help them to appeal to my boss. When they were ready to listen and asked me why I’d made the choice that I did, I told them that while their concepts were solid and strategy was sound, their energy and passion during our meeting was clearly lacking. I told them that of all the businesses that I worked with I expected a marketing firm to be the best at selling themselves – complete with bells and whistles.

In the next day or two, a package arrived on my desk. It was wrapped in a multi-colored foil that was brightly decorated. Inside, the box was packed with confetti and streamers. And in the center of the box was a ribbon tied to a hand written note. As I pulled the ribbon from the confetti I revealed a collection of bells and whistles. On the note were just a few sentences. “Thank you for the lesson about the importance of bells and whistles. Here’s what we forgot yesterday. We won’t make another presentation without them.”

Tip 6 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.


""The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the credit" - George Carlin

Which are you, the caterpillar or the butterfly?

6. Excuse me, but isn’t that “our” award? There’s a time of year when agency principals and senior staff don their tuxes, slip on their gowns, or at least dry clean their blue blazers to go with their newest designer-label jeans. When more than a few of them do it at the same time and place, you know it must be an awards banquet. It’s a night long anticipated, one that determines bragging rights when agencies pitch prospective clients or update collateral and websites.

The next time you attend one of those events, pause and look around the room. Note who’s there. Count how many people work for agencies, public relations firms, or the service providers that so effectively support our craft. Then count again. How many of the brands who paid for the work and bore the risk do you see? I’m betting that client employees will be hugely under-represented. You probably know where I’m going with this. Maybe a little of my disappointment is showing through … and maybe you feel a bit embarrassed.

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Tip 5 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective


While it might be tempting to take on a client's entire business, there's no way one agency can do everything well. 

Brands marketers have a way of sorting things out. It doesn't take long to see through the full service makeup that agencies put on these days. Many excellent botique firms tend to lose sight of what they are best at in a quest to be bigger... but not better. Too many agencies, in trying to be all things to all marketers, are getting bogged down and doing a disservice to themselves and their clients. 

5. There’s no such thing as full service. Just like major department stores have felt pressure from specialty retailers who line mall corridors between the giant anchor tenants, so have full-service agencies. They feel the pressure from boutique service providers in the marketing world.

Fragmentation and specialization is a reality and it’s a strategic advantage to the client who masters the skill required to hire and manage the boutiques. I’m wary of large firms who hang a “we do it all” banner above their door. I simply don’t believe that a single firm can be the best at everything. For that matter, who can?

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Tip 4 - Advice For Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


"We don't nickel and dime customers with extra fees; other airlines do." - Southwest Airlines

4. It's not your money. If you’re wondering why that tension exists between you and your client, it’s probably got something to do with the money that isn’t yours. You know, the money you’re seeking in proposal after proposal that appears as if you think your client has direct access to the U.S. Mint.

Would you really spend that kind of money to market your agency? I didn’t think so. In fact, I’ve not seen you spend much of your own money promoting your agency at all. So surprise us with a proposal that looks like you thought about our money once in awhile. Be a little different and show us what hungry, scrappy, and efficient looks like.

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Focus on fitness, communication, and connections.

focusFocus is a very good thing!

Earlier this month, as the new year began, I boldly posted an entry to this blog declaring that I would have "No New Resolutions" in 2012.  The reason, simply stated, is that my resolve to accomplish a few specific goals in 2011 needs my continued focus and commitment. To spread myself too thin only deverts my attention from the most important things.

As a PEMCO colleague likes to say "Keep the main thing the main thing."

Within days of my post, Russell Sparkman, the founder of FusionSpark and organizer of the second annual Content Marketing Retreat in Langley, Washington, contacted me with the following question.

"With focus being core to your success, what would you say is the most important area of focus for marketers in the coming year?"

This was my response...

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Tip 3 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.







"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a  person.  You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well."  Jeff Bezos

It can be an awkward dance - the one between an agency and a client. Who leads? At what tempo? Is it a waltz, rumba or salza? Through all the mystery and suspense one thing is certain. There is only one prize... and the client decides who they will add to their brand dance card.

3. The brand is everything.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been contacted by an agency that wanted a chance to win a piece of our business but hadn’t taken the time to understand our brand. Agencies often have a tendency to make it all about them—their competencies, their awards and their ideas—even their other clients.

So here’s a tip from someone who’s been on the other side. We don’t care as much as you’d like us to. We’d prefer to hear that you’ve done your homework and have taken time to get familiar with our brand; that you’ve shopped our stores, tried our products, called our service centers and visited with our employees. Stand in the customers’ shoes. Learn something about our history, our values and our promise. If you haven‘t done your homework, you’ll find that we won’t be very good listeners.

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Tip 2 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective.








"Never stop educating your client" - David Dallaire, Principal, Fennec Consulting

The type of relationship a client has with an agency can take several forms - strategic or tactical, partnership or vendor, long term or temporary. Regardless of the relationships design there are ways that agencies can increase their value to the client. In response to last weeks tip regarding loyalty, David Dallaire wrote, "... an agency should always be bringing new ideas - not just about the client's current business and industry, but some "blue ocean" strategies as well as even more mundane things like the process you use to work together." I couldn't agree more.

After more than thirty years on the client side of the equation I've come up with some tips to offer agency colleagues an edge... as seen from my side of the coin. This is the second installment in the series.

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The Coachable Have An Edge

"Almost all of the top producers that I know are always seeking an edge. They’re always looking for a new idea, a new approach, or a new way to create value for their clients. They want some edge that will allow them to produce even greater results, and they are open to trying new things to get those results." 
                   - S. Anthony Iannarino

Are those with an Edge Coachable?

What kind of people would you expect to be continually looking beyond the obvious to see what others don't? Competitive people? Driven people? Self starters and people with ambition? I suspect many of those who strive to see the edge would be described like that. In addition, I think words like curious, inquisitive, bright, and accomplished are words that could be used.

And what do edge seekers do? Are they executives, sales people, athletes, artists, scientists? Might they be public servants, philanthropists, and volunteers. Or are they simply the cream of the crop. The people who make it to the top in every walk of life?

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Tip 1 - Advice for Agencies Looking For An Edge - A Client's Perspective


"Clients get the advertising that they deserve" - Dan Gross, Principal & Executive Creative Director of DNA, Seattle

I think I've heard Dan say that at least a half-dozen times in the 15-20 years that he and I have been doing business together. And I think he's right. In many ways, the quality of the work produced by an agency is in direct relationship to the quality of the client the work is being done for. Some clients never seem to understand that. Of course, some agencies never seem to get it either.

Earlier this year my friend Larry Coffman, publisher of Marketing NW, suggested that I tap into my 30 years of working with local, regional and national brands (while never working in an agency) to provide some insights from the client side of the relationship.

I stopped creating the my list of suggested insights when I got to 25. It turns out, or so it seems, that I think there’s a lot of advice to share with agencies. Here's the first of several tips that I plan to highlight over the coming days.

1. Loyalty matters. What I’m about to say may not be what you expected. But like the company I work for, PEMCO Insurance, I know I’m a little different in this. I’ve never been a client who milks every good idea from an agency partner and then walks them to the door prior to the next agency review.

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Still Running Strong In The NW

One of the Things that help CMO's have really good days!

Seattle Magazine
For the rest of the story, simply click right here.

Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night...


Butch brings crimson to Seattle and the place looks better already!

Seattle, The Emerald City Turns Crimson This Weekend

This spirited WSU Cougar video was prepared by alums, faculty and students on the WSU Vancouver campus. It was shown at the WSU Foundation Trustee luncheon yesterday and was played again (by popular demand) at the Foundation Gala last night.  I was lucky to be in the front of the room and with my iPhone available to capture the second viewing.  

The Cougs play the OSU Beavers in "The Seattle Game" at CenturyLink Field tonight. So... tonight's gonna be a good good night... Go Cougs!


Someone was listening!

Rod Card - Prolango

Relationships matter!

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a large group of people attending the ProLango Career Mixer in Seattle.  It was a great networking style event with people from a variety of careers engaged in conversations on topics that were as varied as the people in the room. One thing that most everyone had in common was an understanding that relationships matter and that it is important to build your personal and professional networks before you need them. The power of our network is directly related to the energy we put into it.  Last night there was a lot of energy being shared.

Someone was listening!
As I closed my remarks I shared my thoughts about the power of a handwritten card. I believe that this simple and "old school" tool, used appropriately, can help differentiate the writer from the pack of similarly skilled individuals. It's memorable.

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Time for a new scale?

ScalesIf You Don’t Like Your Weight, Go And Get A New Scale!

No kidding. I’m not the only one making this journey at our house and the other person, (I won’t name names), was having some issues with our scale. It just didn’t seem to show the right numbers! When stepped on, the old scale would display the letters ERR. I have a hunch that just meant error, but it was interpreted as “Hey you heavyweight… Get off my back!”

So the quest for a scale that wasn’t so offensive was on. A new scale was purchased but it would seldom create the same reading two times in a row. It was returned. And this is the best part, my loving wife asked the sales person at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to come over to the scale display and step on each scale two times each. She was looking for one that would get the same weight twice. He accommodated and now we have a fancy new scale.

By the way, the old white one, consistently says I weigh two pounds lighter. But I love my wife, and we’re using the new one!

Here's where you can read more about my journey to a Healthy Edge

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.

Fascinate-ing Cards

Fascinating Edge - It's in the cards!Fascinate Cards - Med

Every now and then an edge comes along and hits you right in the face. You recognize it the moment you are exposed to it. An edge like that is so easy to see and share that you can't imagine why it hasn't been presented before. That's the power of 20-20 hindsight. Once the edge has been exposed, it's easy for others to see. 
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A career in the making

Career path sign (med)

Twenty Five Incomes

Not long ago I recieved the annual statement from the Social Security Adminsistration that recaps all the years that we have paid into the struggling federal retirement system. You know the one – we all get them. They list the years we worked and the amount we paid into the system. It even gives us an estimate of benefit that we will someday hope to collect. Frankly, it’s pretty depressing.

As I looked over the statemeent, I thought about all the different types of work that I’ve done and all the jobs that I’ve held. There were jobs that kids have to make a few bucks in the summer, and jobs that develop into a career. I decided to make a list and see how much I could remember. The first social security payment was in 1968 and the time frame spans over fourty years. No wonder I feel so tired!

I suspect that each of these endeavors could be a story in their own right. Maybe I’ll tackle that someday. For now, this short summary is at least a record for my grandchildren to think about someday. A work ethic is something that is built and developed from a young age. I don’t think we see enough of that anymore. Here’s my list… not necessarily in chronological order.

Check out this list! 

Likeable takes more than the push of a button

Like Tee Shirt med

If you had a like button, how often would it get pushed?

Have you considered what it really means to be truly likeable? What draws you to those that you like? Is it the way they look, what they say, how they interact with you? Is a persons likeability earned or is it simply a matter of convenience? Are you quick to like the people who are there to help you... or does developing a like for someone require longer term and more meaningful relationships than that?

These are questions that on the surface appear to be all about interrelationships between people - but look again. Have you noticed the growing number of brands that are inviting, encouraging, even propositioning you to "like" them?  You can't go far without a "like" button being nearby in our digital world.
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Crimson and Gray

Being a Cougar provides an edge of lifetime value!

Yes my friends, being a Washington State University Cougar is something that lasts a lifetime. It's an edge that every Cougar alum knows about - benefits from - and loves.  I can't begin to count the times that a warm and uplifting "Go Cougs!" has been shared between men and women of different generations, different nationalities, different political affiliations, and different religions simply because one person sees the other wearing "the logo" on a hat, jacket or shirt. It happens when you least expect it. For me, most recently, it happened in a 747 at 30,000 feet during a quick hello with the couple who shared my row.

It's something that belongs to us and that no one else can have.  It's Crimson Pride. And it's baked into our very core. 

Twin Cougs - Med
I've been very fortunate that I have found ways to get back on campus with more frequency during the past few years.  A role on the College of Educations Advocacy Board allows me to interact with the Dean, faculty, staff, and students.  I've had the opportunity to serve as a guest lecturer in the College of Business, and most importantly, I took two future Cougs on a campus visit that helped our twin girls make their decision to become Cougs next fall.

Not long ago I was thinking about my life as a Coug and I wrote down a random list of memories - the things that Coug's know and enable us to see and apply our edge. I thought I'd share my list for those who are interested.  

If you would like to add to the list, you are welcome to leave a note in the guestbook

Where's the Joy?

shore view - med

Do lakes have low tides?

We've all heard them.  Phrases like, "The cup is half full" or "When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade?" In a way, that is what "seeing the edge" is all about - looking hard to find an advantage in whenever possible. I found myself in a situation like that this past weekend. 

Cindy and I were making our annual pre-season trip to Lake Chelan to get things set up for Memorial Day weekend - the traditional kick off to a spring and summer season of good times on, in and around the water. We had heard that the water level was low, but we weren't really expecting to see what we saw.

So what's the edge to take away from that? When you've been cheated by Mother Nature how do you find an advantage? We'll we only had to look beyond the dock and the rocks and the empty lake bed to see it. It was the perfect time to do maintenance on the buoy chains used to anchor our paddle boat and floats. It's something we wouldn't have been able to do if the lake had be at a more desirable height.

Lowering the bar

Insurance Man - Med

Selling protection... And I don't mean condoms!

Just about the time you come to grips with the fact that there is a great chance that you're responsible for marketing one of the most unremarkable and uninteresting product categories on the face of the planet, something comes along to make you think twice.

Now don't get me wrong, insurance isn't the only product that people wish they didn't have to buy that I've promoted in my career. There were the do-it-yourself auto parts like carburetors, starters, and alternators. I still smile when I think about the fact that sales of those replacement parts went up when the price went down by putting them on sale. Who stocks up on starters and alternators anyway?

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What gets said matters

Culture, advocates, & word of mouth  

SCS Swag - Med
During the past week I had the opportunity to attend the fourth annual BazaarVoice Social Commerce Summit in Austin, Texas. It was a great even that was exceptionally well hosted and was attended by over 600 practitioners and thought leaders. 

I couldn't help notice the frequency with which featured speakers and attendees spoke with authority about the importance of word of mouth marketing and advocacy as critical success factors in the social commerce space. The message was loud and clear. The consumer is quickly becoming the "brand manager" for your company. What she experiences, shares, and talks about is far more influential than what a brand can say and share about itself.
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Fan Auction Rocks!

AEV Logo MedWhat's a fan or follower worth?

Just when you thought that Facebook fans and Twitter followers had to be earned by building relationships, offering relevant content, and generally being helpful and interesting, the world is being introduced to FanAuction. And it's a CMO's dream.

Ant's Eye View, an industry leading customer engagement consulting firm, after years of development effort announced the launch of a groundbreaking fan arbitrage service this morning. This is one that most people didn't see coming and it's definately going to be a edge to those who use it.

As an Ant's Eye View client, I've had the chance to be part of the "stealth" test period. As amazing as it sounds, FanAuction really works. No longer is listening, responding, or adding value a requirement. Now it's as easy as placing an order and writing a check.  How many fans do you need? Just start bidding.

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Years of Experience

Sometimes The Edge Is Learned.

1-5 numbers - medAfter a person has done something they love for more than 30 years it can be hard for them to see how what they have learned might be considered special. They think of what they have done, and are doing, to be pretty normal. After all, they've been doing it for a long time. It can be hard for them to differentiate the special from the routine.

I found myself to be in a situation like that when I was recently invited to write a guest column for Northwest Marketing - a locally produced and published Seattle area newspaper primarily distributed to agency and brand marketers in the Seattle area.

Media & Engagement - Nouns & Verbs

SM Logos with Twitter Bird -Med

Where You Focus Makes A Difference

There's a lot of talk, interest and even fear associated with "social media" these days. 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the big four that most of the conversation gets focused on. And certainly they deserve our attention and consideration. But at the end of they day they are just tools. 

That's right. At it's most base level, social media is a noun, and these popular social networks are tools that we can choose to use to build our businesses, our brands, and our personal and professional networks. Nothing more. Nothing less.
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Edge to the little guy? Or will billions win?

Fighting Carriers - Med

What will $4 BILLION buy?

The big guys in the personal lines insurance industry must be charging way too much for their product.  Why else would they be able to spend BILLIONS, yes I said BILLIONS, of dollars kicking each other around the broadcast airwaves. Flo versus Mayhem vs Geckos, Cavemen and whatever else Warren Buffet's money can buy.  Where is it going to stop? And when? 

According to Advertising Age, it doesn't look like the budgets on crazy spending are going to be cut anytime soon.  And all for a product you don't understand, don't want to buy, and don't want to use once you've bought it.  How does that make any sense? 
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When Marketing Is Good. . . or Bad

Question Mark

Are your products remarkable?

Jeff Bezos, founder of, has been quoted for saying that “Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service.”  

My friend Andy Sernovitz, the man referred to as the early leader in the current wave of word of mouth marketing, often presents that message at conferences and seminars. I think his exact words are "Advertising is the price of being boring." These are tough concepts for brand marketers to hear and agree with. But it's true. 

For decades, brands and their agencies have been looking for the magic message that we could shout through a megaphone into the unsuspecting ears of the public - a message so compelling that they would rush to the stores (retail or online) and buy our product.  

Things are different today. The public is onto us. They trust their friends, neighbors, even perfect strangers, more than the voice of the brand - far more than advertising and marketing.  Unless, of course, the marketing is really good. 
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Excitement Creates An Edge

Bells and Whistles 2_Med

Don't forget the bells and whistles

It's not always enough to be right. It's not always enough to be affordable. And it's not always enough to be timely. Sometimes, you need a little extra. Something that will set you apart from the competition. Something that will give you an edge, make you memorable, and help you to win. 

Whether you are pitching new creative, selling merchandise to a major account, or presenting a plan to more senior executives in your organization, you won't want to forget the bells and whistles.
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Stories Provide An Edge

Brains on Fire Book - sm


Friends of mine - people I met through the Word of Mouth Marketing Association - wrote a book last year. They named it after their company "Brains On Fire," and now they are igniting movements and inspiring story tellers far and wide. Co-founder and "Courageous President" Robbin Phillips sent me a special autographed copy during the holidays that I finally had time to begin reading. Wow! I'm really enjoying it!

It's a rapid fire page turner for sure.
Filled with ideas, insights, and inspiring cases of effective word of mouth movements, it inspired me to use some of their key thoughts when I spoke to PEMCO's top sales people at our annual awards dinner.
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Talk - Talk - Talk

Sharing stories

PEMCO Insurance is the company where I am the Chief Marketing Officer.  I share that not just as a matter of pride, but to fully disclose the relationship I have with the company. Over the years, PEMCO has put together a story that is truly remarkable. A story of a challenger brand that has found ways to compete with companies many times their size.

The story can't be told without talking about the importance of relationships.  It's truly a special edge that has been carved out over 60-plus years. And what are relationships about? Simply put, it's the people. And recently, it's become a story of northwest people that gets told with a bit of a twist.

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"Social Media is Like Teen Sex *

Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how.

Teen Sex

There are at least two versions of this presentation on SlideShare these days.  The two most recent are identical to one another except one gets your attention a little faster by using the "F" word in the title.  It's just there for the edginess and doesn't add value to the message. So I'm using the PG-13 version here.

I've returned to this presentation several times and find it to be informative and somewhat inspiring. 
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Thank yous with an edge

Thank You Card

Never Underestimate The Power Of A Handwritten Thank You Note!

This small gesture, done well, will almost certainly provide the sender with a competitive edge. Why? I think it is because these simple moments of communication are viewed as personal, genuine, and handcrafted. They can be saved, reread, and shared. Top it off with the fact that it still feels good to get an envelope in the mail that isn’t a bill and doesn’t require a response.  

For my five tips and a "bonus edge" read on. . .

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Activating Advocates - Example

The fundamentals of elements of WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) are pretty straight forward and easy to understand: 
  1. Step one: Figure out who the people are that care enough about what you are selling to talk about it. (Know your talkers).
  2. Step two: Create easy to remember talking points about what you are selling so that you can share them with the people who care enough to talk about you from step one. (Give them something to talk about).
  3. Step three: Provide easy ways for the people in step one, to communicate the messages from step two, easily, quickly and broadly to other people who might be persuaded to join the ranks of the people in step one. (Make it easy to share).
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Comcast Customer Sees Timeliness As An Edge

Jack be nimble, @ComcastWA be QUICK!

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of public relations professionals at a meeting of PRSA, Puget Sound. I asked them to consider examples that they recall observing as a competitive edge. Walter, who is a self defined member of the "Comcast Washingon Twitter Response Team", sent this me this reply. From it, I was reminded that sometimes it can be the smallest act of communication and kindness that give us our edge. In this case the customer recognized it as timeliness. Great job demonstrating your edge @ComcastWA Twitter Team. And thanks for sharing your story.
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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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