Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Do Glade®, Raid®, Ziploc® and Windex® Have In Common?

The answer is simple. Not only are they all very big brands worldwide, they also are all owned by the same company - S.C. Johnson & Family, which also owns and produces Oust®, Pledge®, Shout®, and many others. Notably, each of these brands individually generate billions of dollars in annual revenue.

I've always been impressed by S.C. Johnson & Company and how they were able to create a line of products that people use during their entire lives. Even more impressive is the fact that some of their brands are so big that people have adopted them as dictionary words.

For instance, many people will refer to all glass cleaners as Windex®. Others will reference any bug killer as Raid®. I find this very amazing and ingenious when a company is able to get people to do this.

That, however, is the power of branding, and all businesses (big or small) should attempt to create some type of brand recognition for their products and/or services. True, S.C. Johnson spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in television and print advertising, but this is not the only way to accomplish this.

The key is to constantly promote your brand with the resources that you have. Every month, you should have some type of active marketing program in place. Press releases, classified ads, web banner ads, conference booths/exhibits, postcard marketing campaigns, etc. are great ways to inexpensively keep your brand alive.

Also, don't forget the element of simplicity. Make sure that that you have a professionally designed logo, and a short name that's easy for people to remember and pronounce. In addition, remember to use the same colors on all of your marketing materials.

For more tips about branding, I highly recommend reading the following article on About.com entitled "What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy?":

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Put Some "Stimulus" In Your Marketing Plan

It's no question that we are living in difficult economic times. People are losing jobs every day, and more and more companies are going out of business. Amongst all this chaos, its very common to hear words and phrases used such as "recession", "economic stimulus", "bailout", and even "recovery".

Why not implement these words into your marketing plan? If these words are designed to make the American people feel hopeful about the U.S. economy, imagine how it could make your customers feel about doing business with you.

For instance, I just launched a "PR Stimulus Package" theme (pictured above) to help promote my BlackPR.com service. The theme is displayed on the web site, was included in an email blast to our clients, and was on 5,000 postcards that we just mailed out. The concept is to encourage people to "stimulate" their PR efforts by using our service to distribute a press release to the Black media.

I played around with other phrases such as "PR Bailout" or even "PR Recovery", but felt that "PR Stimulus" had the best appeal.

Other companies from different industries can utilize that theme in a similar way. For example, if your company offers a credit repair service - you can launch a "Credit Bailout" or a "Credit Stimulus" campaign. Or if you own a restaurant, you can launch a "Taste Bud Stimulus" campaign.

Obviously, such themes won't work for every company. The point is to be creative, and try to be innovative with your marketing efforts. Consumers love to be marketed to in a fun, but relevant way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

$20,000 In Capital For Startups?

I discovered this by clicking on an ad on Facebook, so I don't know if its 100% valid. However, it does look very interesting and may be worth taking a look at.

It's called Capital Factory, and they are a seed stage mentoring program for startups that provides a small amount of seed capital and weekly mentoring sessions by entrepreneurs who have founded successful companies.

Startup companies apply to participate in their 10 week summer program intended to get a startup pointed in the right direction with a clear path to profitability and growth. This year the program runs from May 22nd to August 7th. At the end of the program, they'll host Demo Day and stream it live over the Internet.

Each company receives up to $20,000 in cash, and they provide you with all of the basic infrastructure that you're not spending that money on office space or legal fees. That's meant to be enough to cover your living expenses, hire an employee or contractor, and do some test marketing.

The deadline to apply is April 3, 2009.

For more details, visit:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Public Relations Conference Canceled; Shifts To Free Webinars

In a bold step reflective of its commitment to provide meaningful information to its membership in a difficult economic environment, the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS) is converting its Annual Conference & Career Fair to a series of free online, interactive webinars. The online events will be held on April 23-24.

NBPRS, the largest organization of African Americans in the field of public relations, was co-founded by Pat Tobin - a well-respected PR veteran who passed away in 2008.

This year's conference was originally to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. It was to be their 10th anniversary. However, the conference was apparently canceled due to the current U.S. economic crisis that has affected so many other events and companies.

I personally attend every year, and am a huge advocate and supporter. In fact, last year my company sponsored the conference in part, and we were planning to be a major sponsor this year as well.

I was a bit disappointed to hear about the cancellation, but am glad to hear that they are scheduling a series of local conference and opportunity fairs in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. between March and December 2009. These one-day events will focus on communication strategies, professional development, career and business opportunities.

For more details, visit www.NBPRS.org

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama Family Helped Spur Marketers' Interest in Black Consumers

The rumors are true: When Obama was elected to the White House, many people let go of a lot of age-old stereotypes about African Americans. Even more, many companies that were formerly stubborn about marketing specifically to Blacks suddenly saw the benefit in doing so.

My favorite marketing news publication, DMNews.com, reports:

President Obama is making his mark with large spending bills and a unique approach to leadership, but he's also creating subtler effects in the world of marketing by bring­ing African-Americans into the spotlight as a consumer segment. Lexus, for example, has started targeting black women with ads for its luxury hybrids, and Amtrak recently launched an Acela Express campaign aimed at blacks and Latinos.

"Since the election of President Obama, there is more curiosity about the African American consumer and their behavior on behalf of marketers," says Esther Franklin, EVP, director of cultural identities for Star­com MediaVest Group (SMG)'s multicul­tural unit, SMG Multicultural.

"The whole Obama phenomenon should make it easier for marketers to embrace multicultural and diversity in advertising," adds Sonya Grier, associate professor of marketing at American University.

Of course, Obama can't be held solely responsible for this renewed interest in marketing specifically to black consum­ers. The tight economy — which is driving marketers to target more tightly — combined with improvements in the data and analyt­ics space also may be playing a role in this increased focus on a particular segment of the population.

Click here for the full article.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Despite Previous Growth, Rate of Stock Ownership Among Blacks Drops

According to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University, less and less African Americans are investing in the stock market.

A recent Black Enterprise article reports:

Though black investment rates have historically trailed whites, the rate of stock ownership by blacks increased to 34% in 2001, up more than 17% from 1992. Those gains have since diminished 12% between 2001 and 2004, according to the study, which looks at individual stocks and those within a 401(k) and IRA.

"It may be that white investors are more experienced with the stock market, so they are prepared for the inevitable drops," says Hanna Sherman, a financial planning professor at Ohio State University, referring to the 2001 recession, which scared off many black investors.

The rate of stock ownership among white households increased from 1992 to 2001, topping off at 57.5%. Unlike minority investors, their investment rate dropped less than a percentage point between 2001 and 2004. What’s more, even after equaling out traditionally higher income levels of whites to that of blacks, whites still invest more than African-Americans.

Click here for the full article.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sesame Street Layoffs

The recession has gone from Wall Street to Main Street to...well, Sesame Street. According to Bloomberg, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the hit show "Sesame Street," is cutting 20 percent of its workforce.

"After careful review, we have concluded that we will have to operate with fewer resources in order to achieve our strategic priorities," New York-based Sesame Workshop said today in an e-mailed statement. The company said it eliminated 67 of 355 staff positions.

"Sesame Street," featuring characters such as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, has been on the air since 1969 and is the most widely viewed children’s TV show in the world, according to the producers. Three months ago, Sesame Workshop Chief Executive Officer Gary Knell told Bloomberg Radio that while the company was "able to withstand" recessions, it was not "immune."

Sesame Workshop receives income from product licensing and the sale of "Sesame Street" and other programs to the Public Broadcasting Service and overseas syndication. The company is also funded by government agencies, foundations and corporations including Astra Zeneca LLP and McDonald’s Corp., according to its Web site.

Revenue at the company increased 12 percent to $145 million in 2008, while operating expenses rose 14 percent to $141 million, according to the Web site. Program expenses at Sesame Workshop, which include content distribution and product licensing, totaled $116.4 million last year, up from $100 million the year before.

$145 million in revenue? $141 million in expenses? That's a profit of only $4 million. You would think that the world's #1 most watched children's TV show would be worth billions!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Online Shopping By Black Consumers is Up 50%

Target Market News reports:

Online shopping by African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other minorities has increased dramatically during the past five years, according to a new report from The Media Audit.

"The 88 markets surveyed for this report have an aggregate adult population of approximately 145 million and 58 million of those adults are members of a minority," says Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics, Inc. "As a result of their numbers, their increasing tendency to shop online is very significant to most marketers," adds Jordan. International Demographics, Inc. is a 37-year-old market research firm which produces The Media Audit.

Among African-Americans, 40.6 percent now shop online, compared to 27.1 percent five years ago. More than 20 percent now make five or more purchases in a year and 10.9 percent make more than twelve purchases. The total adult African-American population in the 88 markets surveyed is approximately 17.6 million.

Among all minority adults surveyed, 55.8 percent now shop online, compared to 44.1 percent in 2002. In addition, 35.7 percent made five or more purchases and 19.8 percent made 12 or more purchases.

The Data Source The Media Audit, a syndicated media ratings service currently covering more than 80 metropolitan markets, provides qualitative data for media websites as well as for traditional media. Traditional media -- print, broadcast and outdoor -- have used The Media Audit data in sales, marketing and management for more than 37 years. In 1998, the survey started providing data on local media websites. The surveys now contain more than 400 fields of qualitative information in addition to quantitative measurements of local web audiences.

Source: www.TargetMarketNews.com

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Business of Domestic Violence

It's sad to say, but domestic violence is very profitable these days. Every since news broke about a physical altercation between singers Chris Brown and Rihanna, many companies have taken advantage of the hype to add a few dollars to their pockets.

Believe it or not, but the media generates millions in revenue when such significant events occur. Newspapers and magazines sell more copies, television and radio stations get more viewers/listeners to tune in, and blogs get more visitors and subscribers.

I'm not exactly proud of it but my site, BlackNews.com, has published several online articles about the Chris Brown/Rihanna issue, and I'm thinking we've made at least $500 so far from our advertisers who's ads showed up on those pages. In addition, my BlackPR.com service has generated about $1,000 from clients who have submitted press releases and editorials about it.

But some are making much more than that. Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks, and Dr. Phil have all recently dedicated entire episodes to the subject of domestic violence - which no doubt brought in millions of viewers, and thus millions in ad revenue for them.

Others are writing new books, promoting their old books, or just somehow trying to link their books to the subject of domestic violence. For instance, Steve Harvey, who recently authored a book entitled Think Like a Man, Act Like a Lady has released a public statement to Rihanna saying "you are not to blame." This is a typical PR move to somehow make people think that his book addresses domestic violence, when it probably doesn't.

Even more, many are launching domestic violence workshops, seminars, and conferences - all of which come with a fee.

Major online retailers are in on it too. Amazon.com is promoting domestic violence prevention DVDs, and iTunes is selling related e-books and podcasts - available for immediate download.

I guess its true what they say: Money can be made off of just about anything.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Warm Spirit

Warm Spirit was a national health and beauty empire based in Exeter, New Hampshire. Generating nearly $2 million a month in sales, they sold products that "heal, nourish, nurture, and restore balance - to mind, body, and spirit."

The company was one of the only Black-owned network marketing companies out there with more than 30,000 independent sales consultants. They sold more than 200 different products, and had a huge nationally-recognized brand. They received tons of publicity from local and national media, and were even a recent recipient of the 2008 Black Enterprise Emerging Company of the Year award.

Unfortunately, Warm Spirit no longer exists.

Rumors are that founder Nadine Thompson was forced out of her company - the same company she started by herself in her home basement. Things got complicated as she sought after capital to grow the company, and gave her business partner Daniel Wolf majority of the shares.

On her blog at NadineThompson.com, she writes: "It was my fault to believe in friendship and not force the equity to be put in writing. I tried but I was not forceful enough. That was my failing as a CEO. I should never have believed in combining friendship with business. I gambled on friendship and trust and lost 12 years of sweat and sacrifice."

Let this be a lesson for us all to always get things in writing, and always have a contract in place. People are greedy and selfish, and will do anything to destroy you.

Fortunately, Nadine Thompson has moved on and started a new company called Soul Purpose (www.SoulPurpose.com). This company, similar to Warm Spirit, is a network marketing company that sells unique health and personal care products.

According to a recent press release, the company is doing extremely well and has already sold over $1 million dollars in products in less than 12 months.

Congratulations and best wishes Nadine! We all know that you will make a triumphant comeback.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

20 Billion Hot Dogs

According to Southwest Magazine and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans eat 20 billion hot dogs each year. That means we eat about 633 hot dogs per second.

Those astronomical numbers don't even include hot dog sales from Wal-Mart, sporting events, or street vendors - all of which do not disclose sales data.

What does this mean for me and you? Well, its means different things to different people. But one thing is for sure: Despite a recession, people are still eating, they are still spending money on food, and they are making food companies filthy rich.

If people are buying this many hot dogs, imagine how many hamburgers, loaves of bread, and cartons of milk are being sold. Imagine how many bags of chips, bags of candy, and bags of sugar are being sold.

As entrepreneurs, maybe we should consider getting into the food industry. Or maybe this just means that we should explore more simple ideas.

Whatever it means to you, it will vary - but it does mean something.

Friday, March 6, 2009

2009 African American Magazine and Internet Summits Come To Chicago, March 16th - 17th

For the first time, Target Market News will hold two of its highly anticipated Summits on back-to-back dates. The Sixth Annual African-American Magazine Summit will be held on March 16th in Chicago, and will be followed by The Second African-American Internet Summit on March 17th. The combined Summits are expected to attract 400 marketing, advertising, media and research professionals.

The African-American Magazine Summit will offer an entire day of presentations and panel discussions examining the latest research and trends in advertising, acquisitions and start-ups; circulation strategies; Internet strategies; untapped business opportunities and more. Specific topics and participants will be announced shortly. The most recent Magazine Summit was held in New York at Time Inc. and featured participation from Carol H. Williams Advertising, Essence Communications, Footsteps Group, Johnson Publishing Co., Media Economic Group, NV Magazine, On Wheels Inc., Uptown Magazine, Vigilante Advertising, and ESPN Magazine among others.

The African-American Internet Summit follows a highly successful debut event held last October in Chicago. The gathering featured presentations from AOL BlackVoices, BET.com, BlackWeb 2.0, Burrell Communications, Google, GlobalHue, Lee Moss Media, Interactive One, Nia Enterprises, RushmoreDrive.com, Synovate, The Media Audit, TUVOnline, The Axis Ad Agency, and UniWorld Group, among others. The last Internet Summit had a sold-out capacity of 200 attendees.

Both events will take place at the Wyndham hotel in downtown Chicago. Pre-registration is required. Attendees can register online by visiting www.targetmarketnews.com.

I, personally, will be attending both events - and encourage you to do the same. These conferences are one-of-a-kind, and offer excellent networking opportunities.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Newspaper Industry Is Officially Dead; Major Convention Canceled

According to the Associated Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has canceled their annual convention for the first time since World War II.

Their decision to skip this year's convention coincided with the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News - the largest daily U.S. newspaper to shut down so far during a steep two-year slide in advertising revenue that's draining the life out of the industry.

If it hadn't been canceled, this year's convention — scheduled from April 26-29 in Chicago — probably would have attracted a sparse crowd because so many newspapers are pinching pennies to ease their financial pain.

Newspaper staffs have been gutted, stock dividends have been suspended and, in the most extreme circumstances, bankruptcy petitions have been filed as more readers get their news for free from the Internet and advertisers curtail their spending on the print medium amid the recession.

This is a very clear sign that within the next 3-5 years or less, 90% of all newspapers will be non-existent. I think the only survivors will be major newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, etc.

Next year this time, many magazines will likely be going through the same thing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

From Office Space To PO Box

Are you one of the many entrepreneurs being forced to move out of their office spaces and back into their homes? Or have you always worked from home? Doing so almost always requires you to have a PO Box as your mailing address.

Believe it or not, but most entrepreneurs run their companies from home. Even before the recession, it was estimated that more than 50% of all small businesses did not occupy commercial office or retail space.

Despite this, small businesses collectively generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and are the driving force of the U.S. economy.

So, don't feel bad if you are forced to run your business from home and list your company address as a PO Box. It's perfectly normal, you're saving tons of money, and it may very well make good sense in a economy like this one.

The only complication is when you have a staff. But this too can be addressed by either downsizing into a smaller cheaper office space, or allowing your employees to work at home.

Whatever happens, just know that you can run a profitable business from home. It's not something that you want to broadcast to your clients, however. Keep it to yourself. When they ask for your mailing address to mail a check, just tell them that you accept all mail through your PO Box. You don't have to mention that you don't have office space. You could even invest in a service that allows you to accept credit cards and checks over the phone.

Either way, you'll be fine. I've found that most clients could care less about whether or not you have office space. They're much more interested in whether or not you're providing good quality services.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

DHL Falls Victim To Recession

January 2009 was the last month that DHL offered shipping services domestically within the United States. I heard about it then, but it didn't register with me until today when I tried to ship a package and could not find our country listed in their selection box on their web site.

For those of you who aren't familiar with DHL - they are a global shipping and logistics company just like UPS, FedEx, and USPS. In my opinion, they were the most affordable option when shipping packages and boxes - although they weren't necessarily the fastest.

Their reason for shutting down U.S. operations: The recession.

"This is the right move for our U.S. Express operations given the current economic climate and for the long run," said John Mullen, CEO of DHL.

Despite having to let go of thousands of employees, they are not going out of business. They're just re-focusing their efforts to international shipping. They ship to over 225 countries and 120,000 destinations.

You can still ship from the United States to another country, and from another country to the United States - but not from state to state.

I am personally very upset about this because now I have to go back to getting ripped off by FedEx.