Monday, December 17, 2007

Garbage as fashion

Getting back in touch with my friend Roy Tan was one of the most pleasant moments provided to me by technology this year. This for several reasons.

First because Roy, an ex-Citibanker who now lives in Indonesia, and his colleagues at Brandt International have developed a very effective sales performance management tool, which we are about to start marketing in the Caribbean. The premise: Just because someone is a good salesperson doesn't mean s/he can become a good sales manager. One needs different skills.

Second because Roy is involved in a project called XS Project Europe. They make artsy fashionable laptop and other tote bags from plastic garbage collected by poor trash pickers on Jakarta's streets. Each is one of a kind and artistically designed. Sometimes you can even recognize which brand the tube of toothpaste was from. It's well worth a visit.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marketing, advertising, public relations. What's the difference part III

Marketing and MarkStra

This is the third of a series on the difference between marketing, advertising and public relations. People often use the terms as synonyms, or are not sure what the difference is. By doing so companies like yours fail to notice and make full use of the tools available to convince the customer to buy from you.

At one point companies realize that public relations, advertising and promotion alone will not convince customers to buy or remain loyal. While many companies arrive at "marketing" at a later stage in life, it is a function that is performed before (in time and planning) "advertising and public relations". Advertising and public relations are quite explicitly just a part of marketing.

Marketing theory has it that there are more aspects that influence buyers to buy and which companies can be unique in. Conveniently, we use four (or six) p's, as follows.

  • product itself (design, innovation, features, color, taste, etc.)
  • price
  • place. Meaning the way a product is distributed (in person, via mail, Internet, phone, etc.) and where it can be obtained. If it is a store, if the store is conducive to buying, or if products are well displayed
  • promotion. Meaning public relations, advertising as well as sales promotion.

I usually add two p's. Technically, they belong under "product" and/or "promotion". But their existence and usefulness may get lost when talking about product or promotion. And how useful and relevant they are in our times!

  • people. Meaning the customer care and sales potential of employees. Companies that provide a service are increasingly important. In addition, the level of service (customer care) can be an important distinguishing feature.

  • partnerships. Meaning alliances your company has with others to provide a product. Think about American Airlines with Visa, several hotel chains, car rentals, etc.

At MarkStra Marketing is what we do for a living. We assist the client with determining the right product content, price, distribution channels, promotional tools, people and partnerships.

We may work with other companies to create and execute advertising campaigns, but we ourselves are not equipped to design or write copy for them. The campaigns we may create together with our partner companies are better than the average, because we have considered thoroughly ALL the other aspects that influence a buyer.

In the next post more detail about the marketing process.

Marketing, advertising, public relations. What's the difference Part I

There is still a lot of confusion among non-marketers and some "marketers" alike about what the difference is between marketing, advertising and public relations. It is the marketer's own fault because we assume everyone knows. Even as I set out to write this post, I am wondering if it is useful. This is most definitely not a post for marketing professionals. But it may be helpful for their non-marketing colleagues.

Of special concern is the fact that marketing and advertising are used as synonyms, interchangeably. By doing so clients and their providers omit to consider some important aspects that influence buyer behavior and hence their bottom line.

Next the first of a three part series which overview in what I think may be the order in which an established company that is seeking to increase its marketing performance may arrive at each stage.

Public Relations

Public Relations is "building good relationships with the company's various publics by obtaining favorable publicity, building up a good corporate image and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories and events" (Armstrong,Kotler).

There was a time when "public relations" was the only tool companies used to connect with their clients. Think of issues such as cutting ribbons and making donations, followed by press releases. This, primarily because competition was much less than it is today. Just appearing in the paper was enough for people to consider your product. In addition, often every company in the category provided almost the same good (a commodity). Banks are a good example. Prior to the US deregulation of banks in the mid 1980's, all banks had the same product, same interest, same branches, etc. They were only promoting their "corporate image", but not specific products. In addition, this "image" was just "a picture". It was not a "picture-with-a-meaning", which is what a "brand" is.

The public relations functions has changed through the years. In good hands, it is now being used more explicitly and more effectively to gain customers. This year Cura-Peska held workshops and appeared on talk shows to provide information about fishing in Curacao. While these activities can be classified as "public relations", they were most definitely meant to attract customers.

Read the next post for Advertising.

Branding Curacao's International Financial Sector

Some 18 months ago, out of pure interest, I started examining what could be the unique competitive advantages of Curacao's international financial sector. The many years of expertise suggest that a unique competitive advantage must exist. Only, I believe the sector has been promoting benefits that now exist in most jurisdictions.

Recently a picture of a beautiful Curacao monument used in a some promotional material for the sector, triggered a discussion and further thought. First about the image the sector really wants to portray. Second, about what potential clients are impressed by and therefore what image (brand) the sector should portray. And then we discussed what picture would best fit with what these clients look for in a Caribbean jurisdiction and therefore what picture we should use. A classic brand essence exercise, but done informally.

I do not know. As many Curacaoans I am proud of our monuments and the fact that our city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Monuments are classic and depict a proper conservatism. That image may very well be necessary. I also know that in at least some sub sectors of the industry, the people are young, risk-takers, educated at some of the premier schools of the world. Now everyone is connected 24/7, the world is fast, global. Unfortunately, in international business, we expect images to be the same wherever we are. That suggests a "seamless fit".

So, it merits further thought and discussion. Most people in the industry are accountants or lawyers, who are less inclined to truly "market". That is not their strength. Proper market research, followed by the appropriate strategy would be a good step to take.

Of Curacao Cantaloupe and rum

Brand and product development exercises for (alcoholic) beverages is one of our strong suits. So, I have taken to collecting cook books published by Caribbean producers of different liquor and have developed some recipes of my own as a result.

Curacao Cantaloupe

  1. Peel a cantaloupe (melon) and cut it in wedges of 2-3 centimeters thick. You can use other fruit, especially those that are not tasty enough on their own.
  2. Make a thick syrup of equal parts of sugar and water. This means you would have to heat up the two
  3. Throw in the cantaloupe wedges and boil for a few minutes until the fruit is softened somewhat
  4. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, divide the wedges in sterilized (previously used) glass jars and fill up to 2/3 with the syrup
  5. Fill to the top with orange Curacao liqueur, preferably the authentic one
  6. Serve at room temperature with your best local ice cream
The recipe above is adapted from Edward Bottone’s Spirit of Bermuda (cooking with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum). It is absolutely delicious. I also have a love-hate relationship with the matter because cantaloupes are the one vine in my (organic) garden that lizards absolutely will not leave alone.

Colorful tropical fruit steeped in rum also makes for a nice gift, drink and fruit. Red hot peppers in rum makes for a nice hot gift. Both ideas are from Steven Raichlin’s The Caribbean Pantry Cookbook

Make your Holidays Caribbean Green

I suppose I am not an environmentalist in the true sense of the word, even though I do believe in giving all species, including our own, a fair chance of survival. Given the current oil prices, even a little bit of environmental action can produce great returns in our pockets.

A few months ago I made a pledge to include an aspect that has to do with the environment in everything MarkStra does. It's for the environment, but fortunately some environmental action also supports our small businesses and saves us money.

  1. Carry your own reusable shopping bag or crate when shopping. Refuse bags or accept only durable ones.

  2. Eco-friendly gifts? Energy saving light bulbs, shower heads, reusable shopping bags or crates.

  3. Buy nothing – give a gift certificate for a manicure, lunch, some lessons, a donation. They use no raw material and help our small businesses.

  4. Use simple wrapping paper. Use those colorful glossy folders marketers send you. Or use useful and reusable items: a bandanna, a nice towel, hand kerchief (remember those?), pillow case, or a storage box.

  5. In the Caribbean in December there is enough green outside to bring inside. Hibiscus (kayena) and West Indian Jasmine (faya lobi) provide the red.

  6. Give your Christmas ornaments a new look with a fresh coat of paint in this year's fashionable colors or with a collage of those direct mail pieces. Remember the kids.

  7. If you must buy new ornaments, buy durable ones which you can use next year. Store them well.

  8. Plan your meals around ingredients that are locally grown. It helps your local growers. It also uses less transportation. Did you know that in Curacao there are 24 types of fruits and vegetables that are produced locally year-round?

  9. Use durable table ware. China, metal and cloth are much nicer than paper and plastic anyway.

  10. If you must use paper, use plain white un-imprinted kitchen, bath, toilet tissue, cotton and the like. Why would you need design imprinted on it?

  11. Recycle your glass bottles. In Curacao there are glass bins at gas stations. Remember to tell your guests, caterers and cleaning lady.

  12. Turn those beautiful lights off if there is no one there to enjoy them.

Safe and Happy Holidays to all

Some of these ideas are our own. Others are from:

And tips for your office from Scotland