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Southwest Airlines – You’re Free to Blog About the Country

September 10th, 2006

I know that Southwest Airlines isn’t for everyone, especially those who love to be pampered by high dollar airline perks like microwaved frozen chicken and stale rice served in an aluminum box complete with plastic utensils. As for me, I’m perfectly fine with honey-roasted peanuts complemented by an ice cold ginger ale … and that’s why Southwest.com is typically the first Web site I frequent when preparing a domestic flight itinerary.

Okay, some of you who frequent this blog are probably thinking I’m a hypocrite because I’m promoting a company that could easily be described as the Wal Mart of the airline industry due to their commoditized approach. However, I’d argue that Southwest is a different type of company than a commoditized retailer such as Wal-Mart in the fact that value is provided to me personally through customized services such as SWAvacations.com and a frequent flyer program that even a traveling novice like me can understand. To top everything off, as a valued customer, I’ve been asked by Southwest Airlines to engage with the company through their blog.

Although BlogSouthwest.com started out as a simple extension of the company’s marketing rhetoric, the content has improved dramatically over the past few months. Brian Lusk and the crew have started to focus the stories on the emotions of their customer base. In fact, of all the corporate blogs that I’ve visited, I’d have to say Southwest’s is the best in terms of capturing my emotions through docuvideos on subjects covering post September 11th traveling fears to eloquently describing cool vacations ideas in places like Seattle. Whether in a positive or negative sense, travel is an emotional subject for most people, and Southwest has done a terrific job at understanding issues that travelers face.

Please visit Southwest’s blog site and let me know if you agree.

Apple Isn’t Really Blogging – Mac Users Want Steve Jobs to Blog!

September 5th, 2006

For all of my love and devotion to the Apple brand, it bewilders me that the company isn’t blogging effectively and is even being shown up by the enemy who has created and pro actively maintains a phenomenal Mac-centric blog. Oh sure, there’s been a few feeble attempts like the .mac blog, but it’s pretty much ignored because it’s simply a forum to talk about product features and violates some of the basic essentials to building an effective blog. How could it be that an organization that prides itself on being at the forefront of quality customer-centric technology has been beaten at its own game? Great question.

To provide a little background, I’ve been a Mac user for 5 years now and I initially made the switch because I was forced to through my job. In fact, I once thought of Mac users as strange professor types that lived in virtual compounds and spoke weird utterances common to cults. Begrudgingly, I began to use my desktop G4 and it wasn’t long before I came to realize the value of the product … it actually was performing at a quality level as testified by all those whacko Apple heads.

Lo and behold, 5 years later I’m typing away on my PowerBook G4 and dreaming about my future upgrade to a MacBookPro while at the same time scheming how to get my business partner, friends, family, and acquaintances to make the switch. Yeah, I’ve gone out on a limb by trying to reveal to them how they’re actually living under the blue screen bondage of a beast that sucks the creative lobe right out of their brains. However, I have to confess that approach has been met with less than desirable results.

So as I sit here musing, I can’t help but wonder if the dynamic and charismatic figure who started my little Mac cult would be more effective than me in swaying popular opinion by addressing the blogosphere in a way similar to how he approaches the WWDC. If there is anyone who can sell Apple, it’s our man Steve, I’m sure the guy even convinced Bill Gates to buy an iPod the last time they got together to discuss compatibility issues.

Along with opening the value discussion up to the PC slaves … err, users, through blogging, Mac evangelists would also love to hear what Steve Jobs has to say in regards to the future of the company as well as trends and developments that effect the industry. I for one desire to hear directly from Jobs on issues relating to Leopard, the rumored wireless iPod, and future compatibility/integration developments with the Intel processor.

It really surprises me how Steve Jobs is missing a grand opportunity to engage with Apple’s loyal and evangelical customer base by choosing not to blog. The company obviously sees some potential in blogging technology since they’ve integrated it into the iLife suite. So why not use the technology and have Jobs or other Apple personalities, like Guy Kawasaki for example, to come online and lead the most powerful marketing force in the personal computer market today? – ahem, that being us Mac evangelists.

In conclusion, the energy Apple heads like myself expend toward selling the product to friends, family, and acquaintances should be harnessed and exploited by the company so as to further endure its customers to the brand while increasing market share by exposing the company to potential switch candidates through the blogosphere. In all, we evangelists want to hear from Apple execs and we’ll do all we can to bring others on board as well.

If you’re an Apple user or one of those other types like my PC partner Doug, please let me know whether agree or disagree with my premise.

Fiskars: Cutting-Edge Customer Evangelism

August 2nd, 2006

I recently became aware of the inspiring story of Fiskars, you know, the company that makes the orange handled scissors.  When started learning about Fiskars I thought, “What marketing insight could be gleaned from a company that makes such a boring commodity?” I was soon to learn that it’s the commonness of their product that makes the Fiskars story so inspiring.

Imagine being handed the job as the marketing director for Fiskars–a successful international corporation with a legacy dating from 1649. You’ve been given the world wide marketing responsibility for….long pause….scissors.

I’m sure it’s out there, but I can’t imagine a product that would be more dull (not literally of course) and more resigned to the classification of “commodity pumped out of China for a few cents each.”

Just for fun, here’s part of the provocative description of scissors from Wikipedia:

Scissors are a tool used for cutting thin material which requires little force. They are used for cutting, for example, paper, cardboard, metal foil, thin plastic, food, cloth, rope and wire. They are also used for cutting hair and nails.

So, given this bleak scenario what has Fiskars done? They’ve taken one of the toughest products imaginable and perfected the basic essences of marketing by:

  • Identifying the real need behind why their customers buy their product.
  • Branding themselves around those needs (not around their product).
  • Creating strong emotional bonds with their customers.
  • Creating an online community offering real extended value.
  • Embracing Customer Evangelism Marketing.

It’s not necessary for me to explain Fiskars’ near-perfect emotional branding, they’ve done such a great job it’s apparent just by visiting their website.

The story of Fiskars can be a big downer too. When I absorb the marketing masterpiece they’ve created out of such a ubiquitous product, it takes away all excuses for why any other product would be difficult to successfully differentiate. Almost anything, compared to scissors, would be better positioned to achieve marketing success. If you’ve been using that type of excuse, just imagine what the marketing leadership of Fiskars would do if they were at your company selling your product.

Fiskars deserves high honor for their leadership in quality consumer evangelism marketing, and for the inspiration they provide to the rest of us.

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