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(Suggested listening while reading this blog post:R.E.M.s The End of the World as We Know It)

“The internet is the biggest thing to happen in human history. If you don’t get it, you’re toast.”

In 1997 I saw Frank Feather speak. He’s kind of a dweeby looking guy and when he took the stage (with about 5000 in the audience) there was no electric light show or even a PowerPoint presentation. It was just him. And he said again, very slowly….

“The internet is the biggest thing to happen in human history, if you don’t get it, you’re toast.”

That was 10 years ago. I’ll admit it. I didn’t really get it. I thought by having a website (albeit a static electronic brochure rack) that we got it. I thought when we added flash elements, we got it. I didn’t really start to get it until we made Intel’s BITCH site (their corporate Intranet). I was the VP Marketing for their credit union at the time. They got it. They would email us code to improve our website. We listened. We engaged them in our learning we joined the conversation.

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.
Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.”

That’s the beginning of the Cluetrain Manifesto. In 1999 (one year later) I hopped aboard the Cluetrain. In 2000 I bought the book The Cluetrain Manifesto. I’ve read it several times.

In 2006 I joined the Blogosphere. The notion of the blogosphere is an important concept for understanding blogs. Blogs themselves are essentially just the published text of an author’s thoughts, whereas the blogosphere is a social phenomenon. My dear friend Shari Storm gets it. As Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Credit Union, she started one of the first CU blogs. A conversation with her members. She’s not marketing to them – she’s talking with them. Her personal blog examines Motherhood the new MBA.

Then I met the boys at Trabian. I heard their presentation on Social Media. I have built a shrine to their hand-outs. I flew to Dallas, Texas to bask in their greatness. They get it. They’re doing it. They are shaking things up. And they are all twenty-somethings.

No one is going to stop this conversation. The Clue-train has left the station (that’s a metaphor for us Baby Boomers). If you’re not on it by now, you’re toast.

Adults are cynical learners. We often learn best when we can relate it to something we already know. So as not to get too far out of our comfort zone. That’s why so many web pages STILL look like electronic brochure racks. We have no experience with anything remotely like the information superhighway. The internet is merely an on ramp. Blogging is the beginning of the paving.

My three favorite theses in the Manifesto (there are 95 total):

#28 Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.

#38 Human communities are based on discourse – on human speech about human concerns.

#39 The community of discourse IS the market.

The goal is NOT to build consensus. The goal of the modern marketer should be to listen and learn. The internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass marketing (#6 of the Manifesto).

We all need to get on the Cluetrain.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Now I live in Seattle – where yes, it rains even more. Yesterday I drove “home” to visit family. I always stay in a hotel, which has been really fun. I’m able to see the city through travelers eyes.

I got a killer rate on Orbitz for the oldest hotel in the city, The Benson. I have ALWAYS wanted to stay here. The Benson has a restaurant called The London Grill, which boasts Portland’s ONLY four-star restaurant. My parents would go there for their anniversary – it was THAT kind of restaurant. I remember the doorman wore this elaborate costume, red velvet with gold scrolly things on the shoulders and a top hat. I had only been in the lobby once but I remember mahogany wood everywhere, tall ceiling, rich carpeting over marble floors. Super scary elegant.

When I pulled up, there was a huge tourist bus blocking the valet parking spots. I circled around a couple of times and just gave up and went to find my own parking. Dragging my suitcases up the four steps, the doors were blocked off with rope (it has been bitter cold) forcing me to use the revolving door which I barely fit into with briefcase and suitcase. No one offered to help me. The lobby was as I remember it except the smell of cigarette smoke smacked me in the face. There is a lobby bar now and smoking has not been banned in bars yet in Oregon.

I checked in, waited for the elevator which was charmingly tiny (cuz it was built in 1912), ding I’m on the third floor, nothing too fancy, thick striped wall paper and nice dark mahogany doors. Insert the key, push the door open — the moment I’ve been waiting for — the “moment of truth”.

The room was perhaps the smallest one I’ve ever stayed in. The carpet was gunmetal grey, the bed looked hard and was black and grey with white pillows. There was a tiny little desk, a tiny little bathroom, nothing special. I went to the window to see my view. I literally looked at the big grey wall of a bank building. No windows to peak in, nothing but big grey concrete. I panicked. It’s been raining or snowing in Seattle for like a month now and I’m wondering, what IDIOT would convince the management of a hotel in Portland, Oregon that grey would be the right color. Welcome to our fair city — we decided to decorate your room exactly like the outdoors. That way you won’t know if you’re in or out.

I never do this, but I called down to the front desk. You should never ever be mean to front desk staff for they DO hold the key to your comfort. Literally. But I explained to her that I live in Seattle and as she should know, it’s been raining there for like 3 months straight and I cannot look at a grey wall — I need some hope. Some kind of light. Some pinch of a view that makes me want to get up in the morning. She put me on hold. When she came back she said, yes, she did have a room higher up and would have someone bring the keys to me. Whew.

I had to get out of that room so I wheeled my stuff to the elevator and waited. Up to the sixth floor I had an even smaller room BUT it had a view of a vacant building that was painted the most beautiful salmon color, with green trim. I could do this. Now I started my ritual of unpacking. I traveled 148,000 miles by plane last year — god knows how many by car and stayed in hotels at least 120 nights.

One of my goals is to consult with the hotel industry. Conference hotels. Those middle to high end Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton types that draw the conference crowds from doctors to plumbers. I am their target audience. They compete for me. And to gain my loyalty they have to differentiate. Simple business practices. If you go to any hotel comparison website (Orbitz,, Expedia) you can side-by-side compare these folks by price, amenities, local attractions. The internet has the potential to commoditize almost anything. That’s where Modern Marketing comes in. You can’t beg for business anymore, now you have to earn it.

One of the biggest mistakes a hotel can make is to have an over-the-top gorgeous lobby with fountains and beautiful furniture and fireplaces with cozy couches and walls of books and magnificent stairways leading up to balconies with sitting areas. I’ve seen it all. ONLY to have the rooms be ridden hard, with stains on the carpet, leaky faucets, scary cootie-infested bedspreads, slivers of soap, bad coffee, and scratchy towels.

That to me is the metaphor for what “marketing” has become. That frosting on the pig. That big splashy promise of what you’ll get, only to take the elevator up and find you are in a hole. Those hollow promises of “we are here for you” only to have to sit on hold for 15 minutes. Those shiny happy people on your websites and brochures only to be greeted by a disgruntled teenager with wet hair sipping furiously from a Big Gulp cup.

When you focus on your target audience. Really listen to them, get inside their heads, walk in their shoes, or sleep in their beds (okay — you get the point) then you can begin to differentiate. Some of the most amazing things I’ve seen in hotels. And these are just my top five favorite moments:
1. A computer lap desk with padded wrist rest so you can sit in bed, watch TV while you check email on your wireless high speed connection.
2. A coupon for a free drink in the bar wrapped around the TV remote.
3. Free bottles of water. And they replenish them every day.
4. Bathrobe AND slippers — in leopard print.
5. A pillow menu. Do you like feather? Foam? Soft? Hard?

You don’t have to advertise that you have these things. In fact, I think it’s better that you don’t. Your competition will R & D you (rip off and duplicate). Word-of-mouth will build your business when you take the time to be different. AND, you will get REPEAT business. Loyalty. Steady income stream. All because you took the time to care.

The Benson doesn’t care. The lobby is still pretty gorgeous, they had live jazz in the bar last night and a nice complimentary wine tasting between 5 and 6. But all the love was in the lobby. My room — where I spend the majority of my time with them, is grey and dull, and such a let down.

I guess it’s true what they say, “You can’t go home again.”

Several of my clients have shown the FISH Philosophy video to boost morale, teach customer service, or maybe just to entertain and fill space at a staff meeting.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should check it out.
There are four principles to the philosophy:

Be There
Make Their Day
Choose Your Attitude

Pretty simple stuff. The philosophy came to the folks at Chart House Communications while watching the Pike Place Fish Mongers. I live a few miles from the famous fish market and I can say these guys live it every day. The weather in Seattle sucks most of the time. These guys work in an open air market, cutting and cleaning fish. Not glamorous work. It’s cold and smelly, they are on their feet all day, dealing with the public.

Makes your job look kind of easy, doesn’t it? Fish is a commodity. The market backs up to Puget Sound. There are several other fish mongers in the market. All selling the same stuff (whatever comes out of the ocean). They cannot differentiate themselves by selling bigger fish or better fish. So they have to BE better. And they are.

People will line up to the point of violating fire codes to see these guys work. To watch them throw fish, yell out orders, make fish talk, entertain the crowd. They play. Whenever we have out-of-town company, we always take them to the market. They are always there. And each and every time the guys have put on a great show. That’s choosing your attitude. My brother-in-law is blind. We took him to the market just so he could hear and smell it. It was magic. They made his day.

Someone made my day last year. I was out of town and my car was parked in front of my apartment in Northampton, Massachusetts. I discovered an antenna ball on my car. I questioned all of my friends, they all claimed to not put it on there. I truly believe it was a random act of kindness. I have since driven that car across the country to my home in Seattle. She lost a ponytail somewhere in North Dakota. But today she still makes me smile — with three inches of snow on her head.

Make someone’s day today. Be there. Play. Choose your attitude.

If you do all of those things — you don’t have to run ads, beg for business or bribe people with cash offers. You will be a modern marketer.

1984 Meets 2001

I don’t know for sure, but I think GM is having a difficult time getting their demographic to embrace the On-Star technology. I imagine I am their target audience. I just bought a new Saturn fully equipped with On-Star features. I have not read the manual they gave me, nor opened their emails, nor returned their phone calls.

So the other day, I was leaving a meeting downtown and I was driving in a parking garage, suddenly, my music stops and a voice on my radio says, “Ms. Storm”?

What the heck? I say to myself. To her I say, “yes?”

“This is Deloris from on-star. We noticed that you have not activated your account. Would you like to do it now?”

I pulled over because I was too freaked out to drive.

“Um, no. I am driving” I say to her.

“Most people do it while they are driving” she replied.

“I’m not that talented. I’ll have to do it later.”

“My system shows that you are stopped now. Can you do it now?”


“Deloris, how do I make you go away?”

“Just push the little button on your rearview mirror, Mrs. Drummond”

“OK. Thanks”. Hit button.

I don’t want to learn a new piece of technology. I am having a hard enough time keeping up with what sits on my desk at work, let alone my cell phone, TiVo, children’s DVD players and the new fangled coffee maker. I just want to keep things simple.

But alas, On-star now has me signed up as an $18 a month card carrying member. How did they do it? Sheer brilliance.

One evening our phone rings. A pleasant female voice asks, “is Dave there?” I hand the phone to my husband and hear this end of the conversation, “no? Really? Cool! No, I didn’t know that. Wow. Sweet. Yeah, I’ll sign her up.”

Now, when I get into my new Saturn, I can tell my car, “dial Denise” and it will call my good friend Denise Wymore. I feel just like David Hasselhoff in Night Rider (without the freakish international cult following).

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the pleasant voiced woman who called my husband a few nights ago used the Knight Rider reference as her opening remarks to him.

Now that is knowing your demographic.

Note: Shari Storm is the mother of two beautiful girls with a third (word on the street is it’s a boy) on the way. She is the Chief Marketing Officer for Verity Credit Union in Seattle, Washington and is one of my very dear friends and a fabulous traveling companion.

The first time I ever saw a Brian Andreas print was in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 90’s. I fell in love with the “story”, and have had it with me — in every office I’ve occupied — ever since.

It simply says:

“Most people don’t know that there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable & fall asleep & miss your life.”

Many times I have looked up from my desk and read that sentiment and chuckled. So true.

This Christmas my wonderful husband Mark bought me another print by Brian. I have a few Storypeople books and fell in love with yet another nugget of wisdom. This one says:

“This is a giant block of whatever is most difficult for you to carry & trust me on this, you’ll carry it more times than you can count until you decide that’s exactly what you want to do most & then it won’t weigh a thing anymore.”

With the print came a Brian Andreas book, Strange Dreams, with a bookmark tucked inside.

It said:
“Thanks for the order!
(No, this isn’t a mistake. We thought you should have a free book)
With Love,
from The Crew at

Sometimes a simple act of kindness, and it may not be profitable on paper, makes all the difference in building a strong brand and loyalty. I hope you all visit his website and find your Story Person.

From every pore of the organization. Literally. Your brand should show up in your people, your products, your bathrooms, your employee break rooms, on clothes, bars of soap, you get the idea.

Last week-end my husband and I stayed at a place that oozes more brand than any other place in the universe. No, we were not at Disneyland (although they do it freakishly well), we were at McMenamins Edgefield Manor in Troutdale, Oregon.

The McMenamin brothers began building their kingdom (and they really do call it that) over 30 years ago. It began with one pub and micro-brewed beer in Portland, Oregon. Unheard of at the time. They made, on the premises, small batches of incredible beer — Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby Tuesday Ale….then in 1987 they opened Oregon’s first theater-pub, the Mission Theater. Introducing the people of Portland to the beauty that is beer paired with movies. They have since rescued the Bagdad theater and added burgers to the beer and the movies.

Their Kingdom includes over 50 locations today. Seven of those are hotels — or should I say rescued buildings turned into adult Disneylands. The “mother-ship” as my husband and I call it, is Edgefield (circa 1911) with over 100 European-style guest-rooms (means you share a bath), is a national historic landmark. Some people reading this may say, “Oh, I don’t think I’d like that — sharing a bath.” Let me put your mind at ease.

There are 7 bars on site at the Edgefield property. The Distillery Bar (where, you guessed it, they make their own gin, brandy and whiskey) The Winery Wing (yup — they make their own wine and have an amazing tasting room) The Power Station Theatre and Pub (watch a movie with a burger and a beer) Jerry’s Ice House (which is a freaking shrine to the Grateful Dead — the brothers are BIG fans) The Pool Hall (billiards, not swimming) The Black Rabbit House (tiny tiny bar — seats about 4) and my all-time favorite, The Little Red Shed (you’ll have to go yourself — too amazing to describe here).

Each one of these bars tells a story. A powerful branding tool. They tell the story of the Edgefield manor. It began as a poor farm after the war. The indigent were allowed to go there and become self-sufficient. After the government funding ran out, the building sat empty for a while and eventually became a nursing home. Each of the 100 sleeping rooms are named after a resident of the manor. And inside the rooms instead of televisions, radios or bathrooms, you get to read the story of that person. It’s painted on the walls. It’s beautiful and reverent. There’s a big white fluffy robe on your antique bed for you to put on while you pad down the hall to use the bathrooms. The ladies baths have a parlor you can sit in if the private rooms are in use. It’s all very dignified. PLUS, after you’ve experienced all seven bars (which we have done in one night) you tend to be less inhibited. In fact, this is where the magic begins. An adult slumber party emerges. You smile and nod to people you pass in the hallway. You often run into the same people at the different bars and end up joining them. And the next morning it’s hard not to recognize someone in the Black Rabbit restaurant for breakfast.

McMenamins has, on staff, historians and artists. All of their lodges are rescued buildings. From a grade school to Masonic Lodge to a Biker Bar/Hotel. They all have amazing stories to tell. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian McMenamin last year. He told me that the Oregon Historical Society can be a pain sometimes because they are used to people creating museums of their landmarks — not using them as hotels and bars! His response to them is so beautiful….. we want to be part of their history — because it’s not over.

I’m proud to be part of the history of Edgefield Manor.

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January 2007