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When I attended my first communication theory classes in the 1970s, the name Marshall McLuhan loomed large. He’s the imaginative scholar who proclaimed “the medium is the message” and referred to media as “the extensions of man.” Was he talking nonsense, common sense or sixth sense? “I may be wrong,” he said, “but I’m never in doubt.”

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One of the first things that attracted me to the marketing and advertising profession was a ketchup bottle. Sound weird? It’s true—before picking a major and packing up for college, I was walking through a grocery store and some Heinz ketchup labels caught my eye.

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A recent conversation with my nearly five-year-old daughter has reminded me of the basics of crisis communications.  She started the discussion as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Or, the best laid plans of mice, men and fish can very easily go awry (with due apologies to Robert Burns).

flying fishConsider this: your marketing and public relations campaign works wonders, and one of the country’s largest aggregators of funny videos sends an email with a link to YOUR COMMERCIAL on YouTube. The video of your product — radio controlled flying sharks and fish — gets hundreds of thousands of views – nearly 1.4 million total. You are smart and include a hyperlink to your website on YouTube.

And guess what? Your marketing team didn’t tell your IT team, and your website can’t handle the traffic. Instead, you give potential customers a “Sorry, our store is currently experiencing higher than normal volume. Please try again later.” message. And how many of those potential customers will REALLY try again later? My guess? Not many.

Now consider this scenario: your national sit-down restaurant chain sends out a flyer with a special meal offer and coupons in the local newspapers. Your customers see the meal — a combo of seafood, steak and chicken — and decide to visit your restaurant. The customer notices that the flyer mentions “limited time offer” — but no date is listed. The coupons, however, include an expiration date at the end of the current month. So, the customer assumes that the meal will certainly be available for at least as long as the coupon applies, right?

And guess what? Your operations staff and your marketing team didn’t communicate, and the restaurant is no longer offering the meal combo. “I’m sorry,” says the waiter. “We stopped that offer last week.” Well, of course, the customer is at the table, so he’ll order something different. But do you think that customer will think twice before responding to a marketing offer from this restaurant in the future?

The bottom line: make sure your logistics are in line with your marketing. It does no good to spend money marketing a product that your customers simply can’t buy, even if they want to.

If you ever walk the streets of Detroit during the dead of winter – as I have – you’ll shudder at the thought of spending an hour sleeping outside. And if you ever had to endure the entire night that way, you’d surely want to wrap yourself in the coat-bag featured below (see full story here).

The Detroit Empowerment Plan

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