Google & Rosetta Stone Battle it out over Keyword Sales

Google and Rosetta Stone are in the midst of a legal battle that could have dramatic impact on future SEO marketing strategies (

Google is selling the Rosetta Stone brand name as a keyword in competing advertiser SEO campaigns. Rosetta Stone is claiming trademark infringement. While using competitor names as keywords in search engines is a very common practice in online marketing, this case could have long lasting effects on how SEO campaigns are conducted in the future.

Using another brand name as a keyword in a search engine doesn't automatically drive the user to the competitor's site. It only brings up the site as a possible option in the search results. Therefore, I don't think that Rosetta Stone has any solid ground to stand on, but how the court rules will be interesting. Stay tuned!

They’ve Got Ronald McDonald in their Crosshairs! – Where will it end?

OK, now they have crossed the line!

I believe that activism has its place. I believe that watchdog organizations and ombudsmen who spend their time trying to improve the quality of life for consumers and taxpayers by holding corporations and the government accountable for their actions are a valuable asset to our country.

But when these organizations begin spending valuable time and resources trying to mess with a beloved American icon that has made children happy for decades, I have to draw the line and ask “why?”

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, (, the same group that successfully led the effort to eliminate the Joe Camel character is now targeting Ronald McDonald for “retirement”.

The article states that “Corporate Accountability International, which has waged campaigns against bottled water companies and tobacco companies, said it plans to present the results of a survey Wednesday showing that most Americans agree.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t think you need to be a research expert to question the validity of such a survey. I’d really like to see the survey design and the research methodology that were used in this study.

Ronald McDonald is as much a part of Americana as baseball and apple pie. He represents the McDonald’s experience just as Mickey Mouse represents the Disney experience. As many of you probably did, I grew up eating at McDonalds when my parents allowed. Raise your hand if you believe Ronald McDonald made you obese? As far as I know, they sell burgers and fries at Disney World too. Will Mickey be CAI’s next target?

I have a suggestion for CAI and those who support this effort to attack one of the world’s most identifiable and lovable icons: Step back and refocus. Present the data that shows how healthy or unhealthy McDonald’s food is. I fully support those messages. But Ronald McDonald doesn’t get in front of the camera and tell kids that McDonald’s burgers and fries are healthy. Ronald doesn’t tell kids to eat his food three times a day. Where is the personal accountability in all of this? McDonald’s provides customers with the fat and caloric content of all of its meals and provides several low fat options as well. From my perspective, I think they’re doing their part. How about focusing your efforts on the parents who take their kids to McDonald’s every day, rather than on a clown who promotes having fun while you’re there (who by the way, also promotes child safety, literacy, healthy eating and the importance of an active lifestyle)?

While I’m all in favor of activism when properly targeted, I think this effort is a bit misguided.

The FDA Curbs Cigarette Advertising again - Wait, aren’t cigarettes legal?

Okay, here we go again.

First, let me begin my comments by clearly stating that I am not a smoker, I don’t encourage or condone smoking, and I will do everything in my power to prevent my son from smoking.

However, on Thursday, the FDA once again took what I believe are unconstitutional steps to regulate the advertising of cigarettes ( The goal is to make it harder for cigarette manufacturers to target children at public events with “harmful and addictive products”.

As a parent and a non-smoker, I admire the good intentions behind this effort. However, as a believer in the US Constitution, I think that the FDA is in violation of the 1st amendment by attempting to further limit the rights of a company to market a legal product.

In 1996 the Clinton administration tried the same thing. Fortunately, these efforts were overturned by the Supreme Court who even then found the FDA’s attempts at regulatory control unconstitutional.

I also find the FDA’s selectivity interesting. Under the new FDA rules, tobacco companies can no longer sponsor sporting events or sell merchandise using their brand logos.

If the goal is to make it harder to target children at public events with “harmful and addictive products”, why are these same restrictions not also thrust upon, oh lets say… beer or liquor manufacturers? Last I heard these were also harmful and addictive, yet I can’t recall the last sporting event I attended where Budweiser’s logo wasn’t everywhere.

I’m not proposing that the government slap similar restrictions upon alcohol manufacturers, but I find a certain hypocrisy in how they selectively choose some potentially harmful products over others. These decisions seem to be determined by the direction the wind is blowing (or perhaps by special interest groups and lobbyists).

If the government wants to end the marketing of harmful products to children, why not just make the manufacture of such products illegal? Oh yeah, they tried that once. It was called the 18th amendment. And we all know how that turned out! I guess this time they figured it would be better to kill these products slowly by regulating them out of business; starting with marketing. I get it.

Hispanic Consumers: Why do we continue to ignore a growing customer base?

A recent study by independent Hispanic agency, Orci, as reported in ( ), showed, “80% of US marketers say that the Hispanic market will impact their products and services in the next five years”. However, the same study indicated that half of those companies are not even marketing to the Hispanic population, and 80% of them have no plans to increase their efforts in the next 12 months.

Additionally, a study conducted last year by AOL and Cheskin showed that internet usage by Hispanics living in the U.S. has outpaced the total U.S. online population, closing the gap from 16% in 2002 to 13% in 2009. Yet even fewer businesses target Hispanics online.

There is still a real fear among marketers to engage the Hispanic population. I think there are three reasons for this trend: First, marketers don’t believe they understand Hispanic culture or have the appropriate resources to market to them effectively; second, marketers are concerned about alienating their “core customer” who is not Hispanic; and finally, marketers fear that this will lead to demands from other ethnic groups that they be marketed to in their own language and according to their own cultural preferences, causing marketing chaos.

However, the bottom line here is that Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and the population is only going to rise. To ignore them is to ignore huge revenue opportunities for smart businesses.

Even companies that focus on B2B are missing the boat, as Hispanic run businesses are increasing along with the population.

From discussions I have had with the leadership team at the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latino business owners are itching to become more engaged with non-Hispanic consumers and businesses. They also recognize the opportunities, but share similar concerns; in particular, language and cultural barriers.

At Goodwill, when we decided to begin actively marketing to Hispanic consumers a few years ago, I shared concerns about how our core shoppers would react. As a result, we were very gradual and methodical in our marketing efforts, slowing increasing them over several years. Now we actively engage the Hispanic community through the use of bilingual signage and direct mail, bilingual sales associates, advertising through Hispanic media channels, and the development of Hispanic social media sites. We even conducted a market research study to learn more about the shopping habits of Hispanic consumers (thanks to a terrific graduate student named Lorena Jordan from Johns Hopkins University), and gained some valuable insight that has improved our Hispanic marketing strategies. None of our efforts have alienated our core customers. As a matter of fact, the education and household income level of Goodwill shoppers in the DC area have actually risen over the past four years.

The DC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (of which I am the president) is soon going to become a member of the Hispanic chamber, and leaders at the Hispanic chamber are going to become members of the American Marketing Association. It’s time we stop fearing the inevitable and begin sharing best practices across cultural divides for the benefit of all.

The Customer Lifecycle: Are you moving them along?

I recently read a white paper on the 7 Steps of Effective Customer Lifecycle Communication by Right On Interactive (

While I already understood the concepts behind the customer lifecycle, I hadn’t read any updated research on the subject since graduate school. I expected that as I read the white paper, I would ascertain some new ideas on managing the customer lifecycle that may lead to a new or evolved perspective on the subject.

What I learned was that the philosophy behind the customer lifecycle hasn’t changed much in the past several years. So I really didn’t need to reevaluate my viewpoint. However, it did result in a reevaluation of our marketing strategies to ensure that they are still appropriately focused on the customer lifecycle. I discovered that our programs are sound, but that there are stages within the customer lifecycle that may require a little more attention.

The goal with any customer lifecycle program is to move customers (or prospects) along the stages within the lifecycle (which can be defined by you). The further along the lifecycle you can move prospects or customers, the more likely you are to convert or retain them respectively.

The basic stages to an acquisition lifecycle are:

1. Initiate – Identify prospect
2. Develop – Engage prospect
3. Convert – Customer makes purchase

The basic stages for a retention lifecycle are:

1. Adopt – Customer consumes product
2. Value – Customer gains value from product
3. Advocate – Customer begins promoting product

According to Right On Interactive, there are seven steps to consider when launching your own customer lifecycle communications program, with number 1 being the most important in my book:

1. Define the stages of your own customer lifecycle
2. Select the highest priority stage to migrate to the customer lifecycle communications methodology.
3. Develop a baseline measure of the churn rate within this stage. Analyze the key touch points that best identify a constituent’s propensity to engage in a deeper relationship.
4. Develop the customer lifecycle communications plan for this stage
5. Determine how to allocate your resources to support the customer lifecycle communications strategy and automation roadmap.
6. Automate the customer lifecycle communications process. It’s okay to ‘think big; start small.’
7. Measure the outcomes against your customer lifecycle baseline and analyze improvement opportunities.

In closing, just remember this: it’s easier to acquire customers than it is to retain them, but it costs less to retain customers than it does to acquire them.

Networking is what YOU make of it

I’ve been to a lot of networking events during my career; some good, some bad.

A few years ago I significantly reduced the number of networking events I attended when it became apparent that most of them were becoming oversaturated with salespeople more interested in convincing me I should give them my money than in listening and learning about my organization and its objectives.

With all due respect to sales and marketing folks; the best are those who listen, not those who love to hear themselves talk and believe that the more people they pitch, the more likely they are to eventually strike gold. I would prefer to have a conversation with one person, who may be a solid lead, then 10 people who are giving me their business cards just to shut me up.

So I began to assume that all networking events were filled with the same types of sales people I had previously encountered. Therefore, I all but stopped attending them, unless I knew the right people would be in the room or my presence was required.

I compensated for attending less networking events by becoming more involved on committees and boards, which I saw (and still see) as a great way to network while developing strong professional relationships. It requires more work for sure, but it also helps strengthen business and management skills.

However, a few days ago I attended my first speed networking event put on by DC Councilman Harry Thomas’ office. While I was not particularly looking forward to it for the reasons I mentioned, I found it to be highly beneficial. Why? Because the format forced every person in the room to spend at least 5 minutes with every other person in the room! Were there some people who fit the negative “sales guy” stereotype? Sure. But there were MORE people who had a product/service they were passionate about and who were also willing to learn about my business and objectives. If I sat across from someone whose business had no synergy with mine (and there were a few), we simply got to know one another until it was time to switch tables. I walked away from the event with a half dozen contacts I will likely follow up with because there appears to be a mutual benefit to us working together. And that’s the key to effective networking: recognizing that working together may benefit both parties.

While I’m not suggesting that all networking should be done via a speed networking format, it did give me a renewed sense of hope in attending future networking events. It also helped me recognize that perhaps the previous problems I had with networking were not necessarily due to the rooms being filled with the wrong people; but possibly that I was not effectively engaging the RIGHT people.

Newspapers: Love Reading them; Hate Buying Them

I read in last week’s Washington Business Journal that the Washington Post Company’s fourth quarter profits more than quadrupled from the same quarter one year ago. However, most of the net profit came from divisions other than the newspaper, which like many print publications around the country is struggling with digital media competition. In fact The Washington Post’s print advertising revenue was down 23 percent in 2009.

Call me old fashioned, but while I am a huge consumer of digital media and a major proponent of social media, I’m also probably part of a dying breed of news junkies who still subscribe to two daily print newspapers (as well as four magazines). Up until about a year ago, it was three prints, but I finally had to cut the Wall Street Journal loose since I just didn’t have the bandwidth to read all three, and could access the WSJ online when needed.

While I enjoy reading the newspaper, I must admit, I don’t fully understand some of the pricing strategies that are used by a few large print publications. One would think that they would be discounting advertising rates to incentivize frequency buying. However, the rates seem to be much higher today than they were a few years ago when there was less competition. I can buy TV and radio combined for less than some newspapers charge. And let’s be honest, why does anyone still use line inches as an ad measurement formula? Seriously!

They also make it more difficult to place your ad where you want it. What ever happened to good old fashioned customer service?

For the past few years, we have been placing regular ads in the classified section of the Washington Post promoting Goodwill’s job training programs. Recently I tried to place an ad and was told that I could no longer place the ad in the job listings page. I had to place it in the "training programs" section. I told them that our research found that many of the applicants for our job training programs discovered us while looking for jobs in the Post jobs section, therefore it was important that our ad continue to be placed there (plus the job training section is difficult to find). People don’t go to the paper looking for job training. They go to the paper looking for a job. Through our ads, they then learn that free training programs are available to them through Goodwill and decide to apply.

While I wasn’t happy about moving our ad, I was willing to give it a try. After all, it seemed I had no choice. The result was a much smaller number of applicants for our programs. Given that the change in ad location is the only variable that could have led to such a drop in applications (especially in today’s tough job market), I see no reason to continue placing ads in the Washington Post. If they can’t give me the placement that is going to generate results, why make the financial investment? I simply don’t understand the strategy behind forcing customers to place ads in areas that won’t benefit them. How is that providing value to the customer and incentivizing them to return?

Hmmm….do you think that might be impacting their ad revenue?

I’m just saying…