The Bigger They Are...


It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really.

The local Blockbuster shut down last week. Online rental, video streaming, and movie on demand dominate the brick and mortar video industry. And, although I’m sure all of these in-home options played a part in the demise of our local Blockbuster, there was another factor involved here. In our little central Texas town “going out to rent a movie” is considered “Entertainment.” So I think what really took this big boy down was the little kiosk called Redbox. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and you still get to leave the house to choose your movie. Never mind the fact that browsing takes place on a video screen. Hey, I told you it’s a small town. We’re easily entertained.

Twelve years earlier Blockbuster moved into our town and ran almost all of the mom-and-pop video rental stores out of business. Ironic that this giant was brought down by a little red kiosk with a footprint the size of a phone booth.

Did Blockbuster see Redbox coming? Or were they scanning the horizon for a bigger predator competitor? What about your business? It’s not always the big-boxes and the mega-retailers you have to worry about. Sometimes competition comes in a small package.

Just ask Goliath.

One of the aspects of Customer Experience Architecture that I haven't discussed much on this blog isCaricatures1_3
Corporate Art. My Wizard of Ads partner and friend, Sonja Howle, is an expert in the arena and has a great example of a no-cost way to enhance the Customer Experience on her blog, American Visionaries. Here's an excerpt: of the best (and longest lasting) "art as a tool of Marketing" programs in America was started because a restaurant in New York didn't even have the money to decorate their walls.  (This isn't too hard to figure out, is it?)

In the 1920s two Italians, Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi, decided to open a restaurant on Second Avenue in New York and name it after the region that was home to them in their motherland ... The Parma region of Italy.  The name was heard by the filing clerk as The Palm ... and it was never changed.

They opened on a shoestring.  Their restaurant was close to the King Features Syndicate and many of the cartoonists employed there would pay for their spaghetti lunches with a cartoon drawing on the wall.   So. Popeye, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible and Batman made appearances on the walls of The Palm.  Later, the King Features artists who became regulars would draw caricatures of the famous and infamous diners of The Palm (to the delight of the diners).

 Each of the walls in the flagship New York restaurant is insured for half a million dollars.  And, the American Cartoon Association wouldn't hold their annual dinners anywhere else.

They realized much later what a brilliant marketing strategy it had become ... all of their 30 U.S. and two international locations open with 200-300 local notables drawn on its walls.  New caricatures are added regularly.  These new walls become a "living mural" of the celebrities of the city ... new and old.

Pio and John didn't know much about art, but they knew what they liked: Happy customers who were having a great time at their place.  - Sonja Howle

Thanks, Sonja!

Okay, so you don't have a supply of talented cartoonists working next door to your business. I bet you have talented customers that would love to participate in a contest for best painting, drawing, or photograph. You could display the finalists in prominent spots throughout your business. Naturally, the participants would want to bring their friends and relatives to your establishment to see their work.

By the way, if you're keeping up, the caricatures on the wall at the Palm are an example of the Architectural trigger for creating effective Word-of-Mouth. Getting customers to participate is the Kinetic trigger.

Picture This!

Photoboothfm_1Everything old is new again. Remember the photo booth? You and your best friend or “significant other” would squeeze inside and make goofy pictures? You figured digital cameras and Polaroid’s had done them in? Me, too.

Well, they’re experiencing a come-back of sorts, as one part of Picture Marketing’s personalized advertising campaigns. Their website describes it as, “Picture Marketing In-a-Box™, an all-in-one solution that brings the benefits of true one-to-one marketing to businesses of all sizes. Picture Marketing enables businesses to create, manage and measure advertising campaigns that deliver personalized brand experiences.”

Now, the idea of putting the customer inside the ad isn’t a new concept, per se. (Think, getting your picture taken with NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, in front of her car covered with sponsorDanica_1 logos.). But, Picture Marketing-in-a-Box has figured out a way to offer a turnkey package for a variety of branding experiences. For example, the Photo Booth photos are free, after the customer has provided a brief survey of relevant information. And making a free Photo Booth available to your customers definitely enhances the customer experience in your business.

You have a camera, don’t you? You can design your own customer marketing campaigns. Something about a photo-op always draws a crowd.

The Excellence of Being First

AustinnightWouldn’t it be great to know all of the networking opportunities available in your community? Don’t you wish someone would provide something like that? Someone does – Scott Ingram, Networker Extraordinaire and founder of Network in Austin.

When Scott told me the story of how he created the first comprehensive online listing of all the networking opportunities in Austin, I said, "Oh man. What a great idea! Wish I'd thought of that."


But, I didn’t. Scott did. And he discovered what Baltasar Gracian calls...

Continue reading "The Excellence of Being First" »

Off the Streets and On the Creeks

Charlie_2 “That ‘customer experience’ stuff doesn’t work for me,” someone will occasionally tell me. Then they go on to say that they sell insurance, or they’re a financial planner, or a personal trainer. “I just sell one-on-one. I don’t see how I can use that personal experience factor in my job.” I sigh and think, “Is anything more personal than ‘one-on-one’?” But, instead of asking the question aloud, I tell them about  Charlie Pack.

“Charlie was National Sales Leader for American General Life Insurance in 1985, with personal sales of 44 million and $385,000 of premiums. Most of his 35 years of sales successes were achieved by taking potential clients fishing.” From

Charlie Pack is as good a fisherman as he is a salesman. When he takes someone fishing, they catch fish. His instinct and natural ability is legendary and he’s achieved local celeb status. To go fishing with Charlie Pack, is, uh… well, an extraordinary personal experience -- a factor that he used to sell 44 millions dollars worth of insurance. Today Charlie is active in The Tadpole Foundation, an organization he founded "whose mission is to make sure every child gets to go fishing." The motto of the foundation is  "Off the Streets and On the Creeks."

Your customers want a deeper relationship with the people from
whom they buy. You have natural abilities and skills that you take for granted. Somehow, with a little ingenuity, you can use your talents to create a unique Personal Experience for your prospects and clients.


The Personal Experience Factor in the Hereafter?

FunsportsthemeI read this article about a die-hard (literally) Steelers fan who had an unusual "viewing" prior to his funeral. He was dressed for game-day, in his recliner in front of the TV, while friends and relatives strolled by and said how natural he looked. Further research led me to several funeral homes that are enhancing the PEF in their services with "Theme Funerals." My favorite is "Big Mama's Kitchen" " complete with an apple pie fresh from the oven. This is another example of the degree of personalized service that customers expect from businesses today.