Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to choose an advertising spokesperson for your product

I often wonder why some companies flog the proverbial “dead horse” when it comes to choosing their entertainment personality to help sell their products. In this case, my focus is on Home Depot in Canada although I suspect its online service is nothing but another computer connection to their head office in Atlanta.

I recently wrote them a “permanent divorce” email since their service on a particular product just plain “sucked”—no other way to phrase it. It was a product that they only sold online from a Canadian distributor/manufacturer and was a special order. 

After about 6 weeks it still hasn’t been shipped and all emails to Home Depot have only got the “I have to check with warehouse” spiel and no return response. The order on “my Home Depot” reads inventory fulfilled. Well it looks like the warehouse has done the old “not my job” routine on this one since it is the distributor that they hold responsible for the product shipment. I cancelled the order on July 4th.

I ordered a similar product on July 4th from, got an acknowledgment that day for the order and the thank you. It was also a direct from manufacturer product and on July 5th got the shipment acknowledgment and the UPS tracking number via email. Since the 5th is a Friday I will likely get delivery around noon on the 8th. Needless to say, Lowes Canada is now my choice for home improvement products.

(The order showed up Monday at 1:10 in the afternoon. I would think that business volume is a little heavier for my UPS guy on Monday. Need to ask him that question next time. What was curious is that the packing slip listed ATG Stores (which is a subsidiary of Lowe's) and all the appropriate contact information which will be the subject of another article with the tentative title of Committing to Excellent Customer Service)

What does this all have to do with choosing an advertising spokesperson? Well in my divorce letter on the Home Depot website, I noted that it seems that my relationship all went up in smoke ever since Home Depot no longer sponsored Tony Stewart in NASCAR (Tony Stewart’s nickname happens to be “Smoke”) and that it seems that there business decisions are just like their choice of replacements. (I used a lot of other words but it had the same meaning).

First it was Joey Legano who has virtually no personality and doesn’t have a large fan following in a sport where personality rules. Then they switched to Matt Kenseth who is only marginally better. Lowe’s uses Jimmie Johnson whose nickname is “Five Time” because he has won the NASCAR championship five years in a row (which no one else has ever done), won tonight’s race at Daytona, is leading the points race and is on his way to possibly winning another championship.

After the race, his interview involved thanking the fans, his sponsors, Lowe’s employees, Sprint for sponsoring the championship race and overall his television presence is remarkable. You can see that he has been trained in speaking since he has improved tenfold over his early years. So he is a good spokesperson for Lowe’s and helps to get customers shopping at their stores or online like I do.

So I thought, how would I present this to someone at Home Depot if I was asked to work as a consultant to their marketing department which I know will never happen because they are the experts in their eyes. My working years involved many years as a marketing representative who happened to sell to Home Depot and all of its competitors in Canada. I also possess above average skills in spread sheet analysis and have reasonably good presentation skills. 

I also had a job interview with one of their stores and felt sorry for the assistant store manager because I had to help him read the canned questions in the canned interview script that was part of the head office structure for hiring in a local store. I didn’t get hired even though I spent 10 years in the paint business, was an avid woodworker at the time and owned my own home. It seems Head office needed a bunch of references that I didn’t provide in a timely manner. Some of my former employers are either dead or have gone out of business so I only had one local reference.

So I worked out a simple spread sheet that essentially puts a value to a number of NASCAR drivers using four criteria which are more like fan awareness/popularity of the driver, success rate in NASCAR, on camera presence and how likely they were to shop at Home Depot. Jimmie Johnson would get a zero in the last category because his sponsors wouldn’t like it much and he wouldn’t do that any way.

Then I put a weighting on the categories which resulted in the popularity and on camera presence being about 70% which might be high but I thought that was more important than the other two categories. And I deducted a score for contention so that drivers who had a negative approach at times would be penalized. Tony Stewart and Kyle Bush got above average scores in that category since they have been known to fly off the handle at times.

Everything was just a scale of one to ten and purely subjective on my part but it still told a story.

It shows that Joey Legano and Matt Kenseth don’t have very good scores and current drivers Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon all measured up better than those two. Senior and DW were put in the mix as references for drivers that could pretty much sponsor anything. Well that’s what I found for Home Depot.

What if the product changed? Well you would change some of the numbers next to the driver’s name and get a new score. So for a brand like Cuisinart, you would find Danica Patrick’s score improve mostly because the more segmented fan base there would be more aware of her but the other 3 categories would stay pretty much the same. In the next group down Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon showed as the leading candidates probably because the women would find them handsome and they were probably more likely to use Cuisinart’s product than Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch.

And what if the product was aimed at a younger crowd like the Apple iPod, well the ratings would lean towards Danica Patrick and Earnhardt , Jr. since they would have greater appeal in that target group than say Tony Stewart who is a more seasoned driver (polite way to say he is older).

And then you could go completely off the map and take a product like Samsung electronics who would more likely sponsor Formula One than NASCAR but what if they wanted a North American presence and follow in the footsteps of Toyota in NASCAR.

So I changed the players and included other folks from other areas of entertainment and posted their scores in their own field and came up with a short list of Oprah, Darryl Waltrip, Shaquille O’neal and Blake Shelton. Tiger Woods and Robin Williams scored a little lower since their contention scores would be quite high. I would probably pick Shelton because he is a pretty good fit even if he is from Oklahoma. Oprah wouldn’t be in our budget range I think.

Now this was only a simple exercise by me but it proved my point regarding Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth because they consistently got the two lowest scores which brought me back to Home Depot and I decided that it has more to do with a reluctance to break a connection with Joe Gibbs racing. So it ties in with Home Depot who doesn’t seem to like change and they will stick to their position because that’s the way they want to run their business.

That’s fine but that doesn’t mean your customers will stay loyal to your program particularly when something better comes along. In Canada, that turned out to be Lowe’s and Home Depot and its other major competitor in Canada, Rona, will see a significant decline in their business since they aren’t doing a bang up job of meeting customers’ expectations.

Well it is only a simple analysis from just one former customer but that’s how they all start. Sears Canada is suffering from the same malady and will soon disappear from the retail mix in Canada.

The Sports Authority and The Olive Garden operated in Canada at one time and are gone. Zellers became Target. Radio Shack became The Source. Best Buy bought out Future Shop and continues to market both operations from a shared warehouse.

There is a reason these things happen to retailers. The major one is they stop listening to their customers and start putting up road blocks to doing business and they start the slow process of “nails in the coffin” of their own demise.
Lowe’s has tried to buy out Rona but they are probably best to just open up some more stores in markets where Home Depot currently has a presence but it probably would be wise that they wouldn’t be too close to existing locations. The real estate prices will be quite low for a suitable warehouse style store that can be converted to the Lowe’s brand when the Home Depot operation shuts down in Canada.

That’s my prediction.

And maybe I showed some people some good ideas on how you could use a similar spread sheet to help drive your business in a forward direction like Lowe’s is doing right now.

Did you ever notice how small the branding for Home Depot is on Kenseth’s #20. Joe Gibbs racing is working on alternate plans it would seem.

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