A Day Out in New York

10_31_16-towerLovely readers, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything to this blog. Happily I’m getting a chance to share my musings with a wider audience at the Apttus blog, and I invite you to follow me there.

Recently I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Manhattan. There’s nothing like it—a place where the endless variety of human experience is on full display for you to pretend to ignore it.

You never know what you’re going to see.

A man is dancing and yelling along to the deep bass line of music coming from his stereo. “Yeah, yeah, OH YEAH,” he shouts, throwing his arms to the left and the right. Which would be unremarkable, except that the man is driving at the time, paying no obvious attention to the road as he blasts through a light at 26th and Lex. Perhaps he won the lottery.

On 9th Avenue, a man is eating at a sidewalk table of a bistro. With him are four poodles in a baby carriage, all dressed up in identical French sailor shirts with pink and white stripes. The man nuzzles the dogs and feeds them tidbits from his plate. An Asian tourist is trying to take photos discreetly, but it’s hard to hide a telephoto lens. This isn’t normal in his hometown?

Near Columbus Circle, a homeless man has dropped a lit cigarette into a shallow grate. He’s trying to fish it out with a stick of aluminum foil, and two young women are holding out fresh cigarettes to coax him up off his knees. “Take them, take them!” they insist. Walking by, I wonder if this street scene is a setup: Drop a lit loosey, accept charity of two more smokes from well-meaning pedestrians, walk a few blocks and repeat.

And on 5th Avenue, in front of Trump Tower, a man wearing a cartoon-poop hat is selling “Dump Trump” buttons. He tells me he’s sold thousands online, and while we’re speaking a tourist approaches to buy one. The button entrepreneur explains that he’s exempt from the usual vending laws because he is exercising free speech—I certainly see no evidence that a squad of New York’s finest, ten paces away, is paying him any mind. It’s capitalism and political commentary at their finest, but he’s not attracting nearly as much attention as the other protesters, who happen to be four dressed-up small dogs.


It’s just another day in New York.


All photos taken by the author.

Want a Wealth of Attention? Think Socks

Marketing Masterpieces: short essays on product marketing

In technology marketing we often think bigger will be better. Complexity must be cool, and sophistication is sexy. But with everyone locked in an arms race to one-up each other for attention, sometimes the best attention comes from going back to basics.

Such as socks.

This week is Dreamforce, the giant technology conference and be-in for those of us in the jeans-with-suit-jacket set. The expected attendance this year is 150,000. The show is so big Salesforce rented a cruise ship.

So it’s no surprise that there are lots of companies vying for everyone’s attention. On the expo floor, exhibitors are up to their usual tricks to one-up each other.

Did your team come dressed in matching outfits? There’s somebody else with a full farm getup. I didn’t catch what this company was selling or how coveralls and fake cherries were related to their product.

Farm theme was not differentiated

Did you hear about the sponsor that’s giving away a Tesla? Yes? Somebody else is raffling off a Maserati. I don’t see their logo anywhere on that ride.

Maserati was not differentiated

And there is no shortage of costumed characters. This robot was coming over to fist bump me. But mascots don’t talk, and I couldn’t spot this one’s company in the mob.

Robot was not differentiated

In short, these cries for attention didn’t make a huge splash at Dreamforce today. No doubt some people are talking about these tactics, and they are surely better than nothing. But they lack uniqueness.

What did stick out was a more understated approach on display at WealthEngine. Like hundreds of vendors, WealthEngine has a swag giveaway. Rub the scratch-off to win one of the four prizes: power pack, adapter, selfie stick… or socks. The booth staff told me the socks were the most desired item.

WealthEngine use of swag is product marketing perfection

After visiting WealthEngine I stepped to the side and watched people coming to their booth. Sure enough, socks were the biggest draw. I stopped a few attendees who were out for swag. When I mentioned that WealthEngine was giving away socks they became animated.

“I’ll remember WealthEngine,” one woman told me, “because nobody else is giving out socks.”

In retrospect, socks are an ideal giveaway item for this company in accordance with the MEDICAL method.

  • They are memorable because socks will go in a drawer for years – even if you only wear them for Halloween. No one keeps or remembers squeeze balls.
  • They are exciting because you laugh when you first see them. Pens are dull.
  • They are differentiated because no one else is handing out socks. A dozen companies are giving away t-shirts.
  • They are informative because they have the brand right on them. Candy and coffee are consumed and forgotten.
  • They are consistent with the brand. WealthEngine’s website invites visitors to schedule a free demo: “Try us on for size and see how we fit!”
  • They are actionable – to the extent any giveaway can be – because the brand is printed on them. See the socks, go to the website.
  • Finally, they are localized – again, to the extent possible – because this company can serve any industry. A company giving away only tech junk may imply that it only helps technical clients.

In the technology arms race, WealthEngine differentiated itself with the lowest-tech swag possible.

The lesson here is not to go print socks for your company. Rather, it is to use your show giveaway as something more than a way to get people into your booth for a conversation they’ll quickly forget. Use this overlooked aspect of event marketing to stand out and to further your product marketing strategy.

When I think about socks and WealthEngine, I imagine that the company is trying to say several things about itself:

  • Socks are one-size-fits-all. We are able to serve your organization no matter your size.
  • Socks are simple and useful. Our service is easy to understand and will add value, not complexity.
  • Socks are comfortable. Your buying experience with us will be low-stress and easy.
  • Socks are considerate and practical. Everyone needs new socks. Your grandmother puts them in your Christmas stocking because she loves you. We hope this giveaway will lead to a corporate relationship that is equally fulfilling.

Socks are just right for WealthEngine. What is the promotional item that could set your company apart?

Graphic designed using Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator

Talenti: A Delicious Marketing Success

Marketing Masterpieces: short essays on product marketing

This is the first of what I hope are many excursions from the usual subject of B2B product and content marketing. Today we are going out for dessert. I hope that’s okay with you!

I love frozen treats, so I was really excited the first time I had delicious gelato from Talenti at a dinner party. The product is first-rate, but there is a lot of premium ice cream and gelato here in San Francisco. What really got me was Talenti’s unique packaging: clear jars with understated text and images, with the product totally visible from the outside.

From the Heart of Texas

Talenti is a classic story of start-up perseverance. Company founder Josh Hochschuler started the company in 2002 as a retail store in Dallas. After years of struggle and multiple brushes with bankruptcy, the company pivoted to a distribution model and reached $1.2 million in sales by 2007. Hochschuler then teamed up with Steve Gill and Eddie Phillips, the founders of Belvedere and Chopin vodkas, and from there everything changed.[1]

With an injection of capital and new distribution muscle, Talenti took off. Sales roughly doubled each year, reaching $120 million in 2014. In December of that year, Unilever bought the company for an undisclosed sum.[2]

How did an upstart like Talenti become the hottest thing in cold treats? The product is great, but that doesn’t matter if no one tries it. The secret is in the packaging.

Everyone Loves Jar Jar

Market research confirms that many consumers first bought Talenti because of its packaging, clear plastic screw-top jars which provide a literal insight into the product. Hochschuler wanted product displays to mimic the case full of colorful flavors in a gelateria.[3] Not only did he succeed at this goal, he got more than he bargained for.

The Talenti jars live much longer than the gelato (especially in my house!) They are incredibly useful for a variety of other things. Last year, I worked in an office where one woman brought homemade soup for lunch in Talenti containers. They were just the right size, easy to carry and hand wash, and inevitably sparked conversations about the wonderful gelato that came in those jars.

With such great “accidental marketing”, it’s no wonder Talenti grew 100% a year in a slow-growth industry, largely by word of mouth.

It’s Clear: Be Transparent

We can take two valuable B2B marketing lessons from Talenti’s success:

  • Be transparent with customers to win their trust.
  • Be so useful that your customers are compelled to share you.

Retail purchasers are four times more likely to buy products in clear packaging.[3] Yet most software companies have a hard time providing “clear” views of their products. When we go window shopping on the Internet, the software we’re considering is mostly hidden from us. We can see feature lists, testimonials, live demos, and even free trials – but does any of this have the magnetic pull and implied brand promise of a perfectly marbled Caramel Cookie Crunch gelato?

Usually, we hide our software behind many opaque layers. But why do this if our customers are going to love it? Why not strip away the gates in our marketing funnel and let them drool over our great software? There must be a way to do this – right?

A Talenti jar can get used over and over, tempting us to buy more gelato every time we use it to take leftover chicken to work. And then the jar can start a truly “viral” pitch, when a colleague asks about it. But B2B companies struggle to go viral. Even with all the marketing channels available to us, no billion-dollar budget is half as valuable as talkative, happy customers.

How can we put our B2B brands somewhere that millions of people will naturally see them, because our customers find our products too wonderful not to share? This is possible – isn’t it?

If we can apply the lesson of Talenti to our marketing efforts, then the outcome will indeed be sweet.

Talenti gelato is an example of great marketing packaging


[1] Got a whole gelato love – Fortune

[2] Unilever buys Talenti gelato e sorbetto for undisclosed sum

[3] Talenti Gelato’s Clear Packaging Advantage – Businessweek

Graphic designed using Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator