You have to respect the ad agency that recommended the AFLAC duck.

by: Charles Gaiennie on

This week we had sales reps from AFLAC stop in to share the benefits of their insurance plans for our growing company. They were professional and very helpful, and we may take a look at their products. Please don't tell them this, but what really stood out to me during their presentation was that big, white duck.

As they flipped through their presentation binder I just couldn't help but focus on the duck — that silly bird that has become the iconic symbol of AFLAC. While the duck is now well established as the symbol of the company, as a marketing guy who regularly makes recommendations on company branding, it made me reflect on the courage and vision of the agency that stood up before the executive management of AFLAC to make a recommendation of a duck  as the brand in an industry known for its conservatism and status-quo mentality.

Here's the picture in my mind...

Ad agency: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time today as we set the course for what will be the public identity for your company."

(stone face stares)

Ad agency continues: "In developing your new brand, we have carefully considered the leadership position that AFLAC has earned in the market and the vision of its executives who have brought us to this moment."

(nods of self-approval).

Ad agency readies for the big moment: "And now, your new brand!"

(pulls the drape off the easel to reveal - a duck)

(stunned silence)

Did it go down like this?  Who knows?  But the point is that suggesting a duck as the leading image of an insurance company had to take guts.

This leads me to the observation that in branding and communications the message is ultimately not about you but rather what the market remembers about you. For AFLAC, we are pretty sure that a duck has little to do with the insurance industry. Had the ad agency followed the safe route, AFLAC would likely be an also-ran insurance company doing business as American Family Life Insurance of Columbus (pardon the yawn). Instead, they are busy touting their climb to the 125th spot on the Fortune 500. Maybe the duck was a good idea after all.

So when it comes to branding, have a little backbone. You just never know where it might lead you.

SEALs - the next big thing?

by: Charles Gaiennie on

What a dramatic week this has been. Like other historic events, people will forever remember where they were when they heard the news Osama bin Laden was dead. In that instant, heroes were born, tears were shed for those lost, and - perhaps - our nation finally began to heal as justice was carried out. 

Overnight, the men and women of SEAL Team Six have become superstars in demand the world over. Just this week we've tracked an increase in the explicit mentions of SEALs in materials like video game ads and web searches.  We even received a pitch to attend a conference featuring a retired SEAL as guest speaker.

From a royal wedding to the death of a long-sought terrorist, the market's focus can shift dramatically without warning. Should your marketing focus shift with it? 

So what should you do?

Nothing. Sure, your regular marketing message isn't as dramatic as the events of this week. But it also isn't as tragic, either. Don't hitch your wagon to tragedy. If your message is  compelling, the market will listen and even seek you out.

God Bless America and God Bless the men and women of SEAL Team Six.

New social media tools

by: Matthew Gaiennie on

Great news! The social media sites you use to help promote your business have made some major upgrades. Facebook added Facebook Questions, TweetDeck added a tool that allows you to make an update longer than 140 characters, and both added a feature that allows you to let people know where you are.

Now time to show you how you can utilize these additions to make Twitter and Facebook even more valuable.

For the Facebook users, I have a question for you: Have you wondered what would entice your customer into doing more business with you? Or maybe you want their option of new product or service you came out with. Who wouldn’t want an inside look into their customer’s thoughts?  With Facebook Questions, you can utilize your already free marketing tool - your Facebook Fan Page - to ask your followers to answer a question and share it with their friends who may or may not already be your followers. This does two things:

  1. Gives insight into what will drive your customer to buy more of your products or to request more services.
  2. Has the potential to increase your following on Facebook, which gives you a larger audience to market to.

For those of you who tweet and have had such a great idea you just couldn’t fit it within 140 characters (even after using tweet shrink) TweetDeck has added a feature that will allow you to finish your thought by clicking “long update.” By clicking this wonderful add-on you will have the first 140 characters plus a URL link to the rest of your update. Even though the initial idea behind Twitter was to encourage quick, short updates, you now have the ability to finish a thought without being confined to 140 characters.

Finally, if you are hosting a grand opening or some special event and aren’t sure everyone knows the location event, you can now add your location to your updates. This is great for many reasons. It allows people who may not know where you are to see your exact location on a map without requiring the customer look it up and find it on their own. Or, if you’re at an offsite location, it makes it easier for customers to find you without the need for directions for people to follow.

Look Before You Leap

by: Matthew Gaiennie on

Have you ever been completely enamored by a new product or service because it’s new? Of course you have, we all have at one point in time. An example that has happened very recently is the iPad2. How many people do you think bought the iPad2? Of those people, how many of them do you think bought the original iPad not even a year before?

Do you see the point? Yes, the iPad2 was a huge upgrade from the original iPad, but was it worth the $1000 people spent in less than a year just to have to latest and greatest? Some would argue that it was worth the price to upgrade since the upgrade was so significant, while others - like me - ask:

  1. Can you actually do your work on an iPad? (Remember, no word processing software is available on the original iPad or iPad2.)
  2. With so many competitors in the market, don’t you think someone will come out with something better or at least on par with it?

Even though it may seem like I’m picking on Apple, making sure the technology you buy is truly what you need is always a good practice. Here are a few steps you should follow before buying the next latest and greatest:

  1. Evaluate your current technology by asking these questions:
    1. Does current technology meet your needs? (enough memory, adequate processing speed, ability to run all your programs)
    2. Will cleaning out/optimizing my current technology fix any of the issues without buying new technology?
  2. Determine whether the new technology will help enough to justify the cost. (HINT – If your technology is 5+ years old, the answer is probably yes, but not always.)
  3. Research and ask for opinions about the new products.If you follow these steps, you will seldom waste money on buying the latest and greatest without just cause.

Check out this video and graphic that inject a little humor into the equation.

Hope you enjoy.

Click here to visit

When the box is as exciting as its contents

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Look, we know it's spring but for a moment, let's pretend it's Christmas time. Let's pretend that we are standing in front of a beautiful Christmas tree surrounded by beautifully wrapped presents. While all of the presents are wonderful, one really stands out. It's larger than the rest. The paper is embossed and catches the lights from the tree. There is a large, hand-tied bow on top and a big gift tag dangling from the ribbon. How exciting!

Can't you just see this gift in your mind's eye? It's impressive isn't it? You can't stop thinking about it, right? You can hardly wait to open it to see what's inside.

Now, back to reality. Wouldn't it be cool if your customers and prospects felt that way when they saw your advertisements, your store displays, your social media and your website? It can happen, but as with our Christmas present, generating that kind of excitement lies in the details.

Here's a real-live example of a case where generating excitement about opening the package was crucial ...

Our firm is interested in supporting the promotion of our wonderful Louisiana seafood, especially as it relates to changing misunderstandings about how last year's oil spill affected - or didn't affect - the quality, safety and availability of our seafood. There are organizations right now are seeking help from companies like ours to change perceptions and restore demand for Louisiana seafood. We just recently submitted a proposal to one such organization.

We knew going in that there would be others who were very qualified to help in this project, so we knew that what we did had to be special. We knew the organization reviewing the proposals would have dozens of responses and lots to consider. They would, in effect, be standing in front of our figurative Christmas tree looking at dozens of packages to be opened. Our goal was to make sure that our package stood out from the rest and that from across the room, they could see it and wonder what lay inside.

Here's what we did ...

The Box
- No ordinary box would do for this proposal! Since the organization was all about seafood, the box we used to pack and ship our proposal was an actual seafood packing box. It was white, wax coated and stamped with the message "Fresh Seafood" right on the box. Anyone in the seafood industry would recognize it immediately as being the real deal.

The Label
- As if the box were not enough, we created our own label to look like something that would come with fresh seafood. But rather than the expected "Perishable, fresh seafood inside," ours read: "Perishable, fresh ideas inside." We also added our own Certified Cajun label to let them know that we were the real deal in matters of all things Louisiana.

Inside the Box
- Our proposals were the main content of the box. But these were no ordinary proposals. No, these were vacuum sealed in plastic just as you would find fresh packed shrimp or crawfish. Not only was this a visual tie-in to seafood, it also protected our proposals from the real ice packs we used to pack the box - a not-so-subtle differentiation from hopefully anything else that the organization received.

Other Stuff
- Just to make the point, the box also was filled with a good supply of plastic seafood just in case our messaging was somehow overlooked.

The Proposal
- All of the clever packaging in the world is pointless if there is no substance to the product. Our proposal was deeply designed, an easy read but chock full of the information the organization asked  for.

Did we succeed? We think we did, at least in getting our package noticed. We know this because when it was delivered, the recipient did what we hoped he would: he opened it immediately and touched the ice packs, and he commented - albeit generically - on the presentation. 

Not a bad start, and it all began with the package.


by: Charles Gaiennie on


How do you like our use of different colors in the title of this week's Marketing Minute? Annoying, isn't it? Possibly even bordering on obnoxious. But in true Marketing Minute style we are using eleven different colors to draw your attention to the absolutely essential requirement of consistency in your branding, marketing and advertising.

Here's why...

In marketing, you are constantly competing for space in the minds and hearts of your market. This is true whether you are Coca-Cola or Slop-E-Joe's Barbecue Shack. (we just made that name up so apologies is there really is a Slop-E-Joe's out there somewhere) Success in gaining ground in that mind and heart space starts by making it ridiculously simple for someone to recognize you immediately whenever and wherever they encounter your brand.

Here are three rules to guide you.

Rule 1 - create a brand that is clear, simple and recognizable.
Rule 2 - don't allow your latest flight of creative fancy to mess up a perfectly good brand.
Rule 3 - use the un-messed-up brand with perfect consistency as to colors, font styles, images and tag phrases every time, all the time.

By following these three important rules, you are avoiding creating confusion about your brand in a marketplace where confusion is already the norm.

So whatever you do, when it comes to your marketing, advertising and branding,

Stay Consistent! :)

Be careful what you say. Someone just might believe it.

by: Charles Gaiennie on

There is a television ad running right now by Chrysler that is doing a great job of contrasting what people think they know about Detroit, Mich., and what the realities of the city really are. The ad is called "This is Motor City and This is What We Do." You can see the ad here The basic message encourages the viewer to not judge Detroit by stereotypes and misconceptions but to learn more about what is really happening in that city.

There is a lesson in that commercial about how perceptions are created and managed. In the case of Detroit, we can pretty well assume that no one in Detroit is purposefully putting out a negative message about the city. But neither are they rebutting the message that everyone knows exists, however - at least not until this Chrysler commercial.

The issue is that in communicating who you are, it is extremely  important to think through your messaging carefully. It's hard enough to create an image in the minds of the market but even harder to change that image later. The Chrysler ad is an in-your-face example of what it probably will take to shift the perception of Detroit from a dirty, industrial, broken town to a place of enlightenment, perseverance and innovation. The commercial does a great job of beginning that process, but it will take a long and protracted effort to get people to think differently about Detroit. 

The commercial also creates an opportunity for us in Louisiana to reflect on the possible need for our own Chrysler-like commercial. We who live here know that Louisiana is an amazing place of beauty, with talented people who enjoy a quality-of-life that the rest of the world only wishes they could have. But ask someone from Nebraska or Wisconsin or Seattle what they think of when they think of Louisiana and chances are that they will not share the same perspective. What a shame.

The point is, just be careful what you say or allow to be said about you. People just might believe it.

Just in case you are of a mind to share truths about Louisiana, here is some recent information about our great state just released by our Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

  • Despite a national recession, two hurricanes and the BP oil spill, as well as rapidly declining hurricane recovery spending, our economy has outperformed the South and the United States by any reasonable measure over the past three years.
  • Additionally, we have been growing jobs faster than the South and the United States since the official end of the recession. In just the last 12 months on record, employment in Louisiana grew at nearly twice the growth rate of the United States and almost 50 percent faster than the South.
  • Our unemployment rate has remained well below that of the South and the United States every month since the beginning of the national recession.
  • Since 2008, leading companies have announced moves of their headquarters or other significant operations to Louisiana from a wide variety of states, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
And if that is not enough, during a record cold winter in the United States, no one in Louisiana had to shovel snow from a driveway in order to get to work in the morning. That alone makes Louisiana a great place to be.

God Bless Louisiana!

Flashing your customers

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Everyone loves a pretty picture. The same is true with websites. Everyone loves a web that moves and rotates and does interesting things when the mouse hovers over something on the site. Sites in this category typically are built with a technology called Flash. Flash sites are especially popular with creative types like bands and photographers where image is everything. And while they are very pretty, we never recommend a total Flash site for any serious business application of a website. Here's why...

Flash is essentially a picture, not text. Why should you care? The reasons are many but the primary ones are these: indexing or the ability of search engines to find your site, the need to have Flash player installed on the computer that is viewing the site, troubles rendering the site where the viewer has slow bandwidth and the technical expertise required to update a Flash site. Let’s take each one in turn.

Building a site is one thing. Having your site found and viewed is another matter entirely. Other than someone knowing your exact website URL, most people who are looking for something on the web will Google a name or keyword to find what they are looking for. What this means is that if you are ever to be found by a keyword search, you must have – get ready for it – WORDS on your site. Flash, you’ll recall, is not words but a picture and while there are ways to add captions and tags to a picture, you are creating a barrier to viewers who are trying to find you by creating a picture-based website.

Also, if you’ve ever been to a site and been greeted with a blank page but for a message such as “download Flash plugin” or something similar, what you are seeing is evidence that Flash requires that something be installed on the viewer’s computer. While most up-to-date PCs will have it already installed, that is not always the case. Downloading the plugin is easy and free but in our opinion, why create one more barrier between you and your clients and prospects?

Another rub with Flash is the inherent issue of pictures requiring more internet bandwidth and computing horsepower to view than text. Again, many current configurations of internet and PCs blow right through this to allow nearly any size image to be viewed, but this is not always the case. Also, if the viewer is in a business setting, the company may prohibit images from coming through their firewalls or create other barriers to the images being rendered.

The final trick of Flash is that in order for you to update a Flash-based site, you must own and know how to use Adobe Flash – not the freeware reader but the actual fully-licensed program. Not that it’s impossible to learn, but just to let you know that we have college-trained professionals using Flash and they spend a good deal of time keeping up with the changes and evolution of the product. Again, one more layer of complexity that really does not have to exist.

Are we saying don’t build a Flash-based site? Absolutely not. What we are saying is consider deeply the purpose of creating your website. For most of us, our websites are places where we encourage interaction with our markets. They are places where information is ideally updated frequently. The more barriers and risks we build into our sites, the less likely it is that they will yield good things for our companies.

So before you expose yourself to flashing your customers, consider all that is involved.

Email Marketing - How to make it worth your while?

by: Matthew Gaiennie on

A common concern moving into 2011 is whether email marketing is still worth it. The answer is yes, however; you will need to follow a few guidelines.

  1. Integrate your email campaigns with your social media. – Social networking continues to be on the rise and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So, if you don’t have a Facebook fan page, Twitter or YouTube account, we definitely recommend you get at least one of these. Plus there are many more social networking sites that can greatly boost your exposure. But that’s a topic for another day. (Get our social media evaluation here.)

    Once you get a social networking account for your business, start posting links to your emails immediately. Thanks to companies like Constant Contact, they allow you to set up links or directly post links of the emails to your social networking accounts.

  2. Make it a two-way conversation. – Drawing in your readers is very important, and making it a two way conversation is the best way to do this. Start your email with a question or issue important to your reader base, have a promotion or contest, create a survey or request comments on certain topics in your article.

  3. K.I.S.S. – An acronym taught to me by my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Quick, “Keep it simple stupid.” (Looking back, calling your fifth grade students stupid isn’t very nice. Oh well.) The point is to keep your emails short and to the point. Your emails are meant to get clicks to read the rest of your article, buy something or to read more about your business. So just remember, when writing an email, K.I.S.S.

  4. Plan your email campaigns – This one is pretty simple but a lot of people let this get away. Planning your emails to have a purpose rather than the “Ooops I forgot to write one this week, let me throw something together” approach. Either pre-write about a month at a time or plan in advance what you will be writing about and when you will sit down to write it. This way, you give yourself a chance to research and make your emails more informative and more interesting to read.

  5. Last but certainly not least, track what your readers are clicking on – This is one of the most important bonuses of using email marketing. You can, usually, find out where the reader clicked and can start to promote and let your readers plan your articles and emails for you.

If you follow these guidelines, email marketing will always be worth using.

An Agency or An Ad Rep

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Here's something we deal with all of the time. "The (INSERT ADVERTISING SOURCE) stopped in yesterday with an offer to run our ad next Tuesday at (INSERT SPECIAL RATE). Oh yeah, they said just to send over our logo and they would put the ad together for us too!" Another common scenario goes something like this: "My brother's youngest daughter just started college in graphic design and we're going to let her use to design our new website."  

What's going on here is natural and very understandable. Companies just like yours and ours know intuitively that getting their message out is important - no, more than important, it's critical - if they are to survive and succeed. What is also going on is a clear yet common disconnect between what marketing and communications really is and what it's designed to do. Many companies still view it as an afterthought or something to be done in fits and starts rather than a core and essential part of their business processes. With that mindset, it is fully understandable that companies would rank low cost as a key deciding factor in how or if to market.

Here's the thing to consider. Marketing not tied to a clear and measurable strategy is a luck of the draw approach at best. Can it yield results?  Sure, but if it does it's more likely just chance that someone saw and noticed the message. 

Marketing and communications properly done has a clear cause and effect. It is not random and it is always tied to a clear business strategy. It is also measurable, repeatable and supports more than just a single event. It's a long-range strategy for your company. Can an ad rep do this? Possibly, but it's not what they're getting paid to do nor is it likely that strategy development, branding consistency and return on investment analysis is part of their repertoire.  Can your brother's youngest daughter do this? Maybe, but would you hand over other core functions of your company to someone lacking a real perspective of what they are doing and why?

The lesson is this: marketing is as serious and important a part of your success as human resources, accounting and safety training - or whatever it is you do that you take most seriously. Can you cobble together something low cost? Sure. Should you? We think you know the answer to that.


Now that you're convinced of the importance of doing marketing right, we'd like to introduce you to a resource that might help you pay for part of it. It's called the Small and Emerging Business Development Program, a project for Louisiana Economic Development that can pay as much as 60% of the cost of things like brand development, marketing strategy and website design. The program is managed locally by the South Louisiana Economic Council and the wonderful and charming Ms Jan Labat. You can reach both at 985-448-4485 or by email at

© Copyright The W.L. Gaiennie Company 2016