Marketing By Committee

Last week we all witnessed a textbook case of "marketing byCyhawk trophy new  committee" when the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Learfield Sports and the Iowa Corn Growers unveiled the new Cy-Hawk traveling trophy.  The reaction was not what Mindy Williamson of the Corn Growers was expecting.  People from all sides...hated it.  I know that's a strong word...but true.  And when, the ever mindful of polls, Govenor Branstad weighs in and says, "I think they can do better."  You know the new trophy will have a very short life.

This fiasco does allow us a "teachable moment" and something we've warned about in the past.  Don't dabble in something you know nothing about especially when it's a committee with competing interests.  The corn folks know corn...and Learfield, based in Plano, Texas knows...uhm, let me get back to you on that.  That's how we ended up with a trophy that has nothing to do with football...or reality.  (There hasn't been a "farm family look" like that for forty years.  Well, maybe in Texas.)

New Coke Use "Hold on their Libbie!  In my company we all have our product/service at the top of our minds.  There is no competition here."   Sure there is.  When the new head of marketing comes in, talks with the folks in accounting and they talk with the sales department we get mistakes like...New Coke.  To name one.

Let's say you have an idea for a product or service that you've developed.  It might be wise to ask the advice of an expert before you dive head-long Edsel.  No?

The good news...later today there is going to be a press conference among some of the folks involved in this.  The spin will be...amazing.  And that leads us to another "teachable moment":  Rather than dance around the issue and talk about corn and families and whatever they should simply say"We made a huge mistake and we've heard from the people of Iowa.  We're going back into design and come out with a new, new Cy-Hawk Trophy." professional advice:  Maybe a likeness of Nile Kinnick on one side and Jack Trice on the other?  And, no...not running through a corn field. 


It's Not The Hockey...It's The Marketing

Today the Des Moines Register announced that the AHL franchise owned by Schlegel Sports may be up for sale and out of Des Moines.  Lot's of problems with the decision and nothing is set in stone.  Hockey fans and the folks at Wells Fargo Arena are Iowa Chops Sign watching things very closely.  And, as usual there is plenty of finger pointing.  "Des Moines isn't a hockey town!" and, "Glad to see they are going hockey is a bore."

But, friends, in a market of 435 households it wasn't and isn't the hockey.  It was and is the lousy marketing of a great sport.  We watched it from the beginning and begged...honestly begged to help the Iowa Stars and then the Iowa Chops become successful.

And, I'm convinced we could have done it.  Maybe we'll still get a shot.  But I doubt it...we're "too Iowan".

Stars Faceoff Over the past three years, starting with John Pettit the former president of the Iowa Stars we've had several meetings about how to better market the team.  When the current management group showed up with the "new" Iowa Chops we again made a pitch to Steve Nitzel through several people in the sales and marketing arm. phone call, no return

And, because of our love of the sport we were willing to cut them a heck of a deal.  But, they went it alone.  Oh sure they had some local help on projects but nobody to guide them through the maze of being accepted.  Now...that may never happen.

It's frustrating when a bunch of outsiders stroll into town and "think" they know the pulse of our state and city.  It's not only's also arrogant.

Iowa and Des Moines are "hockey towns" or could be if only the marketing would have matched the skill on the ice.  If only the folks from "out there" would have listened to the folks who buy the tickets.  If only their pride had not gotten in the way.

It's not over...yet...there are lots of legal and financial hurdles to get the meantime.  We're here, just in case.

Thanks for reading.  Learn more about us on our site, and follow us on Twitter @Michael Libbie.




Feeling "Special"?

Using social media, or e-mail messages to clients or perspective clients?  Here is a quick lesson in what NOT to do.Iowa Chops Sign

We're hockey fans.  In Iowa we've had an American League Hockey (AHL) team for three years.  First it was the Iowa Stars, now it's the Iowa Chops.  The Chops are the farm team for the Anaheim Ducks.

Did I mention we're also season ticket holders?  So, we're "in the club" which gives us that sense of belonging.  We're feeling "special".

Sort of...

Today, I (and we'd guess a bunch of other season ticket holders) got a "Letter from (Chops) President Steve Nitzel".  It's their way ot communicating with the "special" folks who are season ticket know...the people that brave blizzards to see as many games as possible because we have an "investment" in the team.  He was explaining what went wrong with a shipment of team jerseys they hope to sell us.

The letter was informative...gave all the facts...told us how hard they were working to get the shipment to Des Moines.  Trouble was the first line: 

"Dear First Name,"

Look, they've got more on their plate than putting my "first name" in the space provided. But it does call out the critical issue of making sure somebody proofs the document...especially when using e-mail blasts to "special people".  Like your customers.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - "Go Chips...err...Chops!"


There's A New Coach In Town...

Gord_dineen During a Des Moines Iowa Chops (American Hockey League) press conference held this afternoon at Hy-Vee Hall, Bob Murray, General Manager-Iowa Chops; Sr. VP of Hockey Operations for the Anaheim Ducks introduced Gord Dineen (L) as the new Head Coach for the Iowa Chops.  That's right...GORD!

Coach Dineen took the microphone and within minutes had the crowd of Des Moines Hockey Faithful excited by his promise to, " hockey so tough that other teams that come here to play, won't want to come back."  He added, "We want people to know we're a tough, in your face team.  We'll compete with hard fore-checking and we'll finish off the checks."

Laatsch_dineen_murray He also praised the facilities and thanked, several times, the Anaheim Ducks for allowing him to come from Portland, MA (the former home of this AHL franchise) to Iowa.  "We had a good year in Portland and I'm grateful that the Ducks were willing to let me continue in this new role."  Dineen was the assistant coach in Portland. (L-R:  New Iowa Chops Assistant Coach Matt Laatsch, Coach Gord Dineen & Bob Murray)

Dineen was originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1981 draft and played for the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, where he was a team captain during the 1993 - 1994 season.  He was with the Penguins when they won a Stanley Cup in 1991.

Bill_dineen   Here is the frosting! 

He is the son of none other than Bill Dineen who won two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings back in 1954 and 1955!  Yeah baby!  This young coach knows a thing or two about playing tough.  Now maybe you can figure out why his name is Gord....

Go Chops!

(Bill Dineen Image from a great place for memorable sports products.)

The China Brand...

China_olympics There is a message here for all who are attempting to brand or alter your business brand.

Can the Olympics reverse the "China Brand"?

That, of course, is if you think China has a brand at all...because just like the countries leadership...their brand is not only confusing but fractured.  (We find that in business as well...) Utter the word, "China" and dozens of images come to mind.  And it ain't all Moo Goo Gy Pan.

What China will emerge from the Olympics?  The leadership will China_woman want you and I to see China as not only an emerging nation but a bona-fide Super Power.  They will want you to see modern, sleek, sophisticated, capable, strong and determined.

That's the message I received last year as I spent a week with five business people from China.  You could see it in their eyes as they presented me with a gold and silver lapel pin for the 2008 games.China_warning

At the same time these same employees from the largest  agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer in China marveled at the fact that US farmers had indoor plumbing.  And they still have trouble writing warning signs in English.  See the contradiction?

China_smog What "China Brand" will we think of on 08-08-08?  Will it be the filthy air quality of Beijing that clearly (yes a pun) gives us pause?  Will it be the memory of tainted pet food that killed thousands of dogs?  Will it be the lead encrusted toys shipped here?  Will it be the crushing of freedoms, both political and personal?  Will it be the failure to live up to what the country promised when they bid for the Games?  Will it be the reality of slave labor that turns out the garbage you'll find at Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot and others?

China_bejing Or will 18 days of fawning media attention turn the brand?  Unless, that is, you see the existing brand as a positive.  Clearly we don't...but you can change our mind.

What say you?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Where we DO like eggs rolls.

Hockey News...Anaheim to Des Moines

Anaheimducksnhl_3 Welcome to our business publication about advertising, marketing and public relations.  Thanks for coming by.

Later today Bob Schlegel owner of the "now gone to Austin" Iowa Stars will announce a new agreement between the Anaheim Ducks and Des Moines.  It seems the Portland Pirates are headed from Maine to Iowa.  It will be the second AHL franchise in the city in four years.

Portland has had a good run (15 seasons) in Maine but they've been playing in an aging facility and the fan base seems to be stuck at "nearly 5,000" accorting the their website.

In addition a move to Des Moines would allow them to be closer to California.  But, the question is:  Will they stay?

A visit to the Ducks website has owner Henry Samueli saying his "long term goal" is to have all their farm clubs "playing in California".  They just inked a deal (May 21) taking their ECHL farm club team out of Georgia and moving them to Bakersfield in the Golden Bear State.

Other questions:

  • Will they remain the Pirates or is that too close in conflict to the Des Moines Buccaneers?  We think they will change.
  • How will they market to Iowa?  We tried to help the Stars but nobody was listening.  Maybe this time.
  • Will California "play" in the Midwest?  It might not matter there are only seven years left on the AHL deal and if the Ducks want all their teams in California, Iowa could be just a stopping off point.

The announcement will be this afternoon at 2:00PM at Hy-Vee Hall.  See you there.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications.  "Me Like Hockey!"  "Let them fight, let them fight, let them fight!"

Davey, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Welcome to our Business Publication -Iowa_stars_dave Last week the Iowa Stars made if official.  They are outta here.  Headed to Austin, Texas.  Davey Allison and the gang have already cleaned out the lockers.  While I've been in mourning...

It was a good idea.

And it was also good timing.  The Iowa Stars had a good run for the first two years.  The bottom dropped out this year and we landed in last place in the division.

But...I don't write about hockey.  We do marketing and advertising and public relations.  The stuff that really matters.

And from all of those fronts this was a decision that had to be  Here's why:

Timing - We'll have another AHL hockey team in Des Moines but we're going to need time to name them and brand 'em.  If the decision were to have come much later 2008/2009 would have been a tough sell.  It may be that already.

Hockey_manBranding - Conventional wisdom says we should not tie ourselves too closely to another NHL team so the name should be "neutral"  I'm not that convinced.  The other thing the future team needs to consider if the negative brand left behind.  There were lots of "green and gold" sold (see the guy with the jacket?) that is just one negative.  The other?  The Iowa Barnstormers.  Last Saturday night there were 10,800 fans in "The Well".  We've got to come up with a way to bring more excitement to hockey and it's got to be done quickly.  Here are some other quick branding problems we've got to overcome:

  • High Prices - Season Tickets are $20 each.  There are 40 home games.  Do the math.  Two dozen french fries - $4.00.  A family of TWO can drop $100...easy.
  • Fair Food - I love the State Fair...but something has to change at "The Well".  Funnel Cakes and Roasted Nuts....we can do better.
  • Get Wild - Hockey is a full contact sport.  I've seen people ejected because they were "too loud".  Please.
  • Poor Cross Promotion - Imagine giving away food certificates to Prairie Meadows "good only during the evening of Saturday, January 23rd"  Which just so happened to be a home game night.  What are you thinking?
  • The "Out-of-Towner's" - The folks that make up the marketing and development arm of The Iowa Stars all came from "someplace else".  And you could spot that a mile away.  Want to win fans locally?  Get local.

Hockey_equipment In the end, this was a classic example of poor marketing and branding.  So, we need the time to build.  Will I be as solid behind another team?  Don't know...we've not yet started the process.  Besides, I'm a little grumpy these days.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we're just sore nobody listened to us three years ago.  See ya guys...


Stars On "The Iowa Sportsman" - Tonight

Stars_ice_girls_ron_michael There are plenty of reasons to be an Iowa Stars Hockey Fan...and tonight on the other radio show I do, The Iowa Sportsman we'll talk hockey!  (This was simply an excuse for me to use this photo of some friends at a game!)

The Iowa Sportsman Radio Hour is heard each Monday evening at 7 only on 98.3 WOW-FM here in the Des Moines Market.  If you want to listen from wherever you might live or work you can always listen live using your PC.

The Iowa Sportsmans Radio Hour is the broadcast version of The Iowa Sportsman Magazine and something I've been doing for our client for about 15 months.  I'm usually joined by my co-host Thomas Allen...but Thomas is out tonight.  So....I get to choose the topic:

Stars_faceoff Iowa Stars Hockey!  And before you scratch your head and wonder what the heck that has to do with hunting, fishing, cross country skiing, or noodling.  (Someday we'll have to talk about that!)  The answer is pretty simple:  It's all Iowa...and it's a great, tough, fast moving sport that many Iowa kids learn about on lakes and ponds (when they are not ice fishing!). 

Our guest tonight is the Assistant Coach of the Iowa Stars, Paul Jerrad_paul Jerrard.  Paul skated with the New York Rangers and the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL and was a member of the AHL Calder Cup Winning Hershey Bears in 1997.  Coach Jerrard is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and was hired as the assistant coach of the Iowa Stars in June of 2005.

We'll spend most of the hour with Coach Jerrard and you're invited to take part. 

The Iowa Sportsman Radio Hour...tonight at 7 on 98.3 WOW-FM here in central Iowa and brought to you by:

Toyota_logo Mid-Iowa Toyota Dealers the home of the Toyota Tundra.  Looking for a great deal on a great truck...find your local Toyota dealer on the Mid-Iowa Toyota Dealers dealer locater site.  Our thanks to Toyota for their sponsorship!

Hoyt_logo_2 Hoyt - The Bow Hunting Experience - Looking for the right bow...find it at Hoyt and D&J Archery in Fort Dodge or Southern Archery in Spencer.  Get Serious - Get Hoyt!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications you NEVER know where we'll show up!

What If Your Employees Were Like This?

Michael_and_ron As you can see...we're gearing up for the 2007/2008 Iowa Stars Hockey Season.  I know...we're a little nuts about this sport and we're darn lucky to have the farm club for the Dallas Stars here in Des Moines.

As the calendar gets closer (just 38 days away) to the first puck drop of the season we're washing jerseys and unpacking the Iowa Stars posters, pucks and (of all things) bobble heads, I get a timely note from an employee of the Wells Fargo Arena.  I'm sharing this with you...because it's really a remarkable letter and something folks should point to as a baseline for employee participation.

John_jayne John Jayne is the usher in Section 104...our section.  He has been the regular usher there for the past two years.  While on duty he has been spectacular.  Always considerate, asks about the family and goes out of his way to be of service.  His e-mail of today is no different:

"I just wanted to let you know that The Arena this year has asked for staff ushers for the Stars and Energy (basketball) seasons.  This is to have regular ushers at each section for every game. (unless illness, etc.)  Before, it was whoever was available and we were assigned a spot.  I have been appointed officially to the 104-105 section again this year.  Just wanted you to know that."

Pretty good to this point huh?  John had one more sentence:

"I'm looking forward to seeing and serving everyone again, and hope this will be a fun and successful year."

Ahhhhhhhh....  And, no the Wells Fargo Arena/Global Spectrum folks didn't ask him to do this...he just did. 

Employers often bemoan the lack of positive, engaged and loyal employees.  Wells Fargo Arena officials have a jewel here...we thought you might like to know.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we celebrate the good stuff...daily.

Selling Hockey - Like Selling Seed Corn

Corn_kernnels This past week the Iowa Stars (AHL Hockey) replaced John Pettit who served as president of the club for the past two years.  (You can read the DSM Register article here.) John is a good guy...but the Stars need to come to grips with HOW to market the team to Iowans.  They can learn something from seed corn producers.

"What?", you scream..."What in the world does marketing seed corn have to do with selling a hockey team to Iowa?  Farmers need seed corn, Iowans don't need hockey!"  Let's look at it...

Michael_and_ron The Iowa Stars put less butts in the seats this past year (9.5% less) then they did in the first season.  Some of that is to be expected as the "first season hype" settled down.  But where the Stars failed was making the team "one of our own".

Look, there are a dozen seed corn producers.  Go to any farm show and you'll see a bunch.  They all survive because of BRAND LOYALTY.  While some will argue the small points there simply isn't much of a difference between Ottilie Seed Corn and Renze Hybrids.  But, both companies have created a solid fan base and they survive.

What can the Stars (or your company for that matter) do to capture the attention of a more broad fan (customer) base?  Here's a short list:

  • Admit you just don't know Iowa and get an Iowan to help you market the team.  It's not that these folks from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Canada aren't great guys...but you can spot them from the length of the arena.
  • Become part of other very successful Iowa events.  The Iowa State Fair, Iowa Power Farming Show, The Pork Expo are just a small sample of where you can mix it up with "regular Iowans".
  • Create a "reason" (Other than good seats) to be an Season Ticket Holder.  Several corporations in the city did not renew their season tickets...why?  Why should they?  Got to give them reasons.
  • Stop being so Politically Correct.  Hockey is a loud "in your face" sport.  Experienced fans "get into it".  If you want a sedate crowd...head to Principal Park and watch the I-Cubs.  Get the crowd into it at the game...raise the level of activity and noise.

Did we suggest these things to John and the team over the past two years?  Yes.  Response:  "0"

These four things work the same for selling hockey, seed corn, insurance or compact tractors

  1. Know the Target Audience
  2. Partner with Success
  3. Create or Invent a Reason to Buy
  4. Passion for the Product

Thanks for reading...what say you?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations where we love our Stars and our passion for marketing and can reach us by clicking here.