Saturday, June 30, 2007

Trading Cards

Hey, kids! Be the first ones on your block to get the hottest thing in trading cards. That precious “Dale Earnhardt Showcar ‘05” card your daddy picked up in Alabama – that’s for wusses. Your grandpa’s “Mickey Mantle” card? Fuggedaboutit!

Now you can get your hands on genuine Power Plant Trading Cards from Industcards. They’re the most exciting thing to hit card collectors since…oh, four-color printing. Made right here in the good old USA by Ultra Graphics in Columbus, NE, you can get your favorite power plants and hydroelectric dams, with all the outstanding highlights for each one on the back of every card. Leaf and Topps don’t even come close to trading cards like these! Not since the heady days of “Rails & Sails” has there been a collectible like Industcards.

Your friends will throw up all over their Florsheims when you show off your PP207, the “Fayette Power Project” near Lagrange, TX – a real stunner that will only gain in value as your collection grows. It’s a terrific shot (see above) of this 1,605-megawatt, coal-fired steam-electric plant that burns sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River Basin! Riveting details on the reverse side not only include the owners’ names, but the architects and engineers, and the boiler supplier too.

Add to your collection with cards showing units from all over the US (like “Grand Coulee” and “Indian River”) as well as some of the great power-producing facilities of the world. Don’t miss the stunning “Sayano-Shusenskaya Hydro” dam in Russia. Collect entire series – if you can find ‘em – like the unique Orion Power Holdings set; or the US Nuclear Fleet cards that include both “Brown’s Ferry” in Alabama and California’s famous “Diablo Canyon.” Wow!

Get your first set of cards absolutely FREE! Just send a stamped, self-addressed envelope (41¢ stamp) to Industcards, 5605 Bent Brand Road, Bethesda, MD 20816 today.

But hurry! Supplies are limited and you don’t want to wait ‘til these beauties show up on eBay for twice or three times the price. Start your collection today.

NOTE: Despite Internet rumors, my sponsored ten-card series, featuring coal-fired generating stations with boilers and other equipment supplied by Japan's Babcock-Hitachi KK, is not for sale. Yep – this is the set that has the notorious “Tarong” error in it. Eat your heart out, Joel.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Elective Emotions

I decided not to write this fast. So it appears today instead of right after the American Marketing Association-Houston’s Healthcare SIG event. I hope you take a moment to read it.

My previous Elective Surgery post invited medical marketers to hear about “Marketing Elective Medical Procedures.” All the information we needed to begin to market elective medical procedures was laid out by four speakers this past Wednesday.

Yep, there were tips and takeaways about marketing plans and media; measurements to determine which campaigns worked and which campaigns did not. Why out-of-home doesn’t work for people who don’t go out much, but the Internet does.

These are mere nuts-and-bolts, the things we ought to have learned in college or through years of working in the industry.

It became clear in our speakers’ presentations that marketing the “electives” – urological and gynecological procedures in one case, bariatric surgical solutions for the morbidly obese in the other – is intimately connected with humanity.

The most difficult group of people to whom to market elective procedures are women with these health problems because of the extremely sensitive and revealing nature of the conditions.

What did I re-learn?

1. Genuine empathy is important and intensely personal. Kimberly P Taylor (left) is Director of Marketing Brand Strategy for Bariatric Partners and is rolling out a new brand image for the organization’s flagship program, Journey Lite for Life. She pointed out, “The mission of a bariatric program is to treat the disease of obesity. It must be done with compassion, sensitivity, and be heartfelt in order to succeed.”

“Heartfelt.” Every speaker, from the physician and the nurse to the directors of marketing, repeatedly emphasized it. Taylor spoke specifically about her specialty: “If your heart isn’t touched by the obese, don’t even consider going into bariatrics.” Empathy applies no matter what the area of practice.

2. Connect with prospective patients in meaningful and intelligent ways. Patient needs can be medical, certainly; but also psychological and social and financial: elective procedures often contain a monetary component that is part of the “worry structure” and it ought to be addressed in the marketing process.

3. Select creative and media that transmit compassion, that help build confidence and trust.

4. Continue the relationship with your patients – not only to retain them, but to grow your practice (whether you’re representing a major hospital or a small group of physicians). Stay connected with them. Enable them to form additional connections that “continue the campaign” long after the actual procedure.

The four speakers: Dr. Richard Collier and Kimberly Taylor of Bariatric Partners, Inc.; and Nurse Practitioner Joleen Bishop and Mary Beth Robinson of Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates, PA. They spoke to more than 30 marketers for a full hour and a half about the topic. Several attendees commented that the program was too long. But for every attendee that left to return to work, there was another who stayed on, talking to the speakers well after 2PM.

Sooner or later, our Association is going to release a new definition of marketing. Right now, it’s this: Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.

Among the famous “4 Ps” of marketing (Product, Position, Price and Promotion), it seems that “People” has gone missing. Check out the current post by Susan Kirkland on pharmaceutical pricing practices if you don’t believe me.

Although the AMA mentions “stakeholders” in its definition, it’s clear we (sometimes) institutionally forget the human in the equation – at least when it comes to healthcare marketing.

Thank goodness our speakers came along to remind us.

Photograph © _ib_

Monday, June 18, 2007

Big Wheel

Remember that Stakeholder Rule I created a few posts back? Like here and here?

The rule says, A company’s position ought to take hold – and take place – in the minds of all its stakeholders.

What happens when the position, or the brand, keeps on interacting – even when there is no “overt” activity on the part of the brand owner? Sometimes, these brands maintain their solid connections to our culture while no one is looking. Except in the minds of millions of stakeholders.

In the case of one well-known product, time flies – literally: the Frisbee is 50 years old as of this past Sunday. I couldn’t have written a better story than Michael Liedtke did for AP, here. As you can read, the company (now owned by the Chinese Cornerstone Overseas Investment Limited) vigorously protects its trademark. Although the Frisbee® flying toy isn’t the “choice of champions” anymore, the brand still exercises a powerful hold over peoples’ minds and hands.

But Gary Richardson sent me the above photo from, and I wondered what happened to the original Big Wheel® ride-on trike.

Answer: it’s still rolling at age 38. Louis Marx Toys developed the Big Wheel and presented it to the public at the 1969 New York Toy Fair. Because of its outstanding popularity, many of today’s parents have special childhood memories that include endless hours of joy on their Big Wheels.

Big Wheel sometimes bears a registered trademark but (like escalator) became a generic name for any toy whose design resembled Marx’s. Marx sold the Big Wheel brand name and molds to Empire Plastics, Marx's biggest competitor, in the early 1970s. The ride-on got high marks for safety because it was built much lower to the ground than the old steel-type trikes.

Marketing surveys from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s put Big Wheel near the top of the list as one of the most recognizable household brand names of all time.

Today Alpha International, Inc., makes and sells Big Wheel ride-ons, re-launching it at the 2003 New York Toy Fair. Its use of the registered trademark is inconsistent. Target is selling the “Original Big Wheel” (no ® here) for just $29.99 – to very mixed reviews.

We Barons and Slaviks, from an older tradition, raised our kids on the classic steel Radio Flyer® #34 Classic Red Tricycle. We still have one in the garage we bought and assembled for our grand-daughter. But even Radio Flyer has a Big-Wheel-type ride-on called “Big Flyer.”

More important, though, Big Wheel continues to interact with its stakeholders. There’re Big Wheel Rallies, giant versions of the toy at one of the DisneyWorld venues – even the motorcycle version you see up top. Still interacting with your Big Wheel ride-on? Just google “Big Wheel Events and Promotions” and go crazy, you old stakeholder.

“Stakeholder Rule” © Richard Laurence Baron. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Moon Dog

If there really is “a tide in the affairs of men,” as Shakespeare writes, “which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” then it changes with maturity. For white guys of a certain age (like me), the tide seems to lead on to tropical shirts.

For cutting-edge Hawaiian shirt fashion, it’s been hard to replace Reg Mombasa and the Loud Shirt Gang who used to work under the Mambo label out of Australia. It’s been look-around, peek-into-corners action; keep searching the Worldwide Web. I’m not talking about your chain-store stuff here – that’s for the hoi polloi.

I mean your really OUTRAGEOUS aloha shirts, the kind that, when you’re 6-feet-6-inches tall and weigh 270 pounds, make a definite statement (such as “I’m color-blind and I don’t care” or “Aren’t you amazed that my wife let me out of the house wearing this!”)

Thanks to the power of word-of-mouth advertising, though, I’ve scored this super-fine “Rose Tattoo” shirt from Judy and Richard Kuenstler at Moon Dog in Austin, TX. This is a handmade cotton beauty, a spectacular piece of work that shouts, “Hey, look, I dressed myself.”

I ran into this guy at one of Roni McMurtrey’s gallery openings a couple Saturdays back; we could see each other across the room because no one (man, woman or child) had shirts that remotely mustered the sheer candlepower of the ones we were wearing. Only his was…different. It had like these Mexican Day of the Dead figures on it. Really rocking.

Naturally I complimented him on his shirt. He responded in kind. Then I asked where he had purchased it. He said, “You can buy one just like this from Moon Dog in Austin.” That was simple enough to remember. But I said right back at him, “This shirt is your statement. I’d never buy your shirt. Thank you – I’ll check out the company online and see what else it’s got.”

And I did. See above.

Sure, I could have gone stronger but I like to think I’m more subtle than that (sounds of many people in background unsuccessfully smothering their ridicule). Moon Dog has plenty of options which the Kuenstlers make to order. Excellent!

Here’s a firm that’s been around since ’84 and I’m just hearing about it. But then I purposely don’t spend time in Austin either. Fortunately, word-of-mouth works once again and I’m proud to pass on the favor: Moon Dog Shirt Company.

I don’t know the name of that guy was at the McMurtrey Gallery, but he’s got a great shirt! Happy Father’s Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New: Cynapsus

Once upon a time – oh, about two years ago – Mary Jo Martin went out on her own. She created a company called Knowledge-Based Marketing. You’ve seen some of the joint efforts she and I have created, like the disaster communications research study here.

Presto-Change-O! Knowledge-Based Marketing is now Cynapsus. (Magical, ain’t it?)

Martin’s business model changed. Knowledge-hyphen-Based Marketing seemed right two years ago. Today, Martin doesn’t really do marketing. She has increasingly and successfully concentrated on multi-faceted market research.

At the same time (after two years in business) her organization became successful enough to be confused with another company called “KnowledgeBase (no hyphen, no “D”) Marketing,” a large business unit of the even larger Wunderman international marketing communications agency.

Knowledge-Based Marketing…isn’t.

This Wunderman business unit – it never registered with the Texas Secretary of State. I guess those big agency types figured they didn’t need to. Maybe it’s not too surprising: Wunderman is part of WPP, a hugeous multinational agency group with so many operating units, even the ad mags can’t keep track of them.

Martin’s smaller company passed unnoticed (except by her clients) for a couple dozen months. But then, people started to call Martin instead of Wunderman. They asked Martin about mailing lists, which the Wunderman group sells. Very annoying, specially since Martin doesn’t do lists either.

It’s time for a change and Martin has made it.

The old name was quite serious but boring. Way too much is happening in our marketplaces today to be boring. So first, Mark Rothenburg pitched in to invent a whole new name for her firm. Rothenberg believes (with quite a bit of justification) that arbitrary or fanciful names offer the best choice of protection and securing a trademark.

Now Martin says:

Cynapsus describes the left-brain thinking that we apply to our many market research projects…the analytical thinking that helps our clients move from the research findings to activity. (Hear those synapses firing yet?) Cynapsus is about asking the right questions of the right people at the right time. We even included the question mark in our new logo – because we want people to ask us what we’re all about. Cynapsus moves clients from data to knowledge to action – exactly the way your own synapses move you into action when your brain has assembled all the data you need. Cynapsus is also about connections. That’s what the word “synapse” actually means. We’re the connection between you and your customers, the connection between you and your prospects.

I got the opportunity to counsel Martin on her new logo and color scheme – we aimed for something that combined “distinctive” with “professional.”

When Martin had her new logomark created, this question mark got right to the point of her business, with a dash of sass. The burgundy color scheme makes for a grounded, corporate look.

I’m just as pleased with the new Cynapsus website. Feel free to drop in…and compliment her on the photograph we used: an attractive payoff to the Kurt Vonnegut line, “New knowledge is one of the most valuable commodities on earth.”

A lot of companies frame their first dollar and hang it on their walls. Mary Jo gets a whole new moniker – a nifty and distinctive brand.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Razoo Up

Razoo is in beta.

I only found out about this from a copyrighted article by Brad Hem in the Houston Chronicle. The company’s called and “Four Houston entrepreneurs” are credited with launching the search engine they expect to challenge Google and Yahoo.

Click on the site and you’ll get a coming-soon sort of intro, but a nice story with beat-driven Indian music…clapping hands rhythm out the words: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive.”

Like the article says, there are hundreds of smaller search engines in operation beside the Big Guys. What’s special about Razoo? It requires users to log in, which may slow it down. It is points-driven: I have never tried that. Trust in a new search engine is another big factor. Nevertheless, I always enjoy seeing hometown boys make good, even if they aren’t originally from around here.

Such an odd word, razoo; potentially, a great brand name. So I Googled it (well, why not? isn’t working yet). Turns out razoo is Down-Under slang for an imaginary coin of trivial value, the Oz version of a farthing; according to some definers, it’s used only in negative contexts: “Not worth a brass razoo” – though Encarta identifies it as Aussie for a gambling chip.

The latter definition fits this case pretty well. iRazoo is a gamble. Best of luck to ‘em, though.

If it works, you heard it here second.