Allstate Gets It

Dennis HaysbertYou get your new insurance bill, and grumble about the rate. You’ve grumbled every month when the bill comes, but today you’re especially irritated. “I wonder if I’m overpaying,” you mumble as you walk to your computer and search for “auto insurance.”

You go to the first site, and click on the “get rate” button. Whatzzis? You want me to register to use your site? Why do I have to register to get a quote online? Amazed, you look for an answer. A couple of clicks later you find this explanation:

* The online Rate Quote uses personalized pricing data. We use a one-time registration process to make sure we keep confidential data confidential.

* It takes only 2 minutes to register, and within 24 hours you’ll be set up and ready to receive personalized rate quotes and lots of other customized information to make your use of our web site easier.

These points constitute an answer?

I don’t want to use your web site. I just want to know what it will cost me to insure my car. You won’t tell me what your premiums cost without me telling you who I am? Why do you need to know that?

I know what this is all about. You’re going to send some salesperson to pressure me to buy from your company. I’m not sharing anything with you.

And with that, you go back to your search engine to try some other site. Pity. You still don’t know what the first company charged, and now you’re not going to say anything positive about them, are you?

Maybe it wasn’t insurance you wanted pricing on. Maybe you were searching for a gift for your mother, or checking the price of a rental car. Or maybe you’d actually found something you wanted to buy, but they won’t let you put anything in their shopping cart until you open an account. Have you ever had this particular experience?

It must have happened to Jim Whimpey and the Brisbane Creative Team. They’re parodying useless accounts at a site appropriately called Useless Account.

Every Obsticle Costs Sales

Here’s a truism: everything that gets in the way of your customer is going to cost you sales.

  • Should you hide the $20 jeans featured in your radio ad to see if anyone asks for them? NO! You should place them prominently and count how many you sell.
  • Should you charge your customer’s credit card, then tell her the item is back ordered? NO! You should inform the customer that the item can’t be shipped for a specific number of days, and not charge her card until you’ve actually sent the item.
  • Should you “capture” visitor information so that you can add one more name to your mailing list? NO! You should give people the information they’re seeking, and then let them choose to associate with you.

Now, the good news. Allstate gets it. Allstate’s newest television ad* is delightful. Here’s the script:

Say you want a hot dog. You go up to the vendor and you ask “How much?” He says “Give me your name and social security number.” Humm. You probably won’t buy from him. So why put up with it when you’re looking to buy car insurance on-line? At Allstate you can get a ballpark estimate without even giving up your name. Go to the new Without even giving your name or Social Security Number you can compare different car insurance options and levels of coverage and get a ballpark estimate. Then, if you like the price, you can go on to get a full, personalized quote with an option to buy on-line. People who switched to Allstate saved an average of $338 per year. Log on to now and see how much you can save. Protecting you should start with protecting your privacy. That’s Allstate’s stand. Are you in good hands?

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many of your prospects take the bait, online or off, when you make it easy for them. And that bait is critical when you’re fishing for customers. .

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about uncovering the obstacles to letting people buy?  Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

* Article written and originally published May 15, 2007. Obviously no longer Allstate’s newest television ad.

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How Many Pancake Restaurants?

Originally published April 16, 2006


A stack of pancakes.

People seem to naturaly rank things. They list things in order. They tend to remember things at the tops of the various lists.

On nearly any list, most people can remember the top three with little effort. It’s generally accepted that seven is the maximum simultaneous number of items that the average person will remember.

In 1980 consultants Al Ries and Jack Trout suggested that as astute marketers we take advantage of this human characteristic, and “position” our products against whomever tops the list.

This creates a new list, with us at the top. That makes it easier to remember.

One of their examples was 7-Up

As a soft drink it was way down the list. As the “Uncola” it was number one, beating out Coke.

As a soft drink, 7-Up needs you to remember Coke, Pepsi, Royal Crown, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, before you’re likely to remember 7-Up.

As the Uncola, 7-Up needs you only to remember 7-Up.

The Uncola is a marketing position. It’s a mental shortcut. It let’s you get your message across in just a few seconds. A marketing position reminds your customers “Here’s why we’re worth recommending. Here’s why your friends and colleagues will be glad you told them about us.”

Let’s apply this concept to an industry familiar to all of us.

Hamburger Restaurants

How many hamburger restaurants can you remember? Four? Six? Most people can remember seven. Did anyone do nine (without peeking)?

Suppose you have a hankerin’ for a double cheeseburger. Does any particular restaurant come to mind?

Here are the rankings of hamburger restaurants in the U.S:

  1. McDonald’s
  2. Wendy’s
  3. Burger King
  4. Sonic
  5. Jack In The Box
  6. Dairy Queen
  7. Hardees
  8. Roy Rogers
  9. Carl’s Jr.
  10. Rax
  11. WhatABurger
  12. White Castle
  13. Krystal
  14. Fudrucker’s
  15. A&W
  16. Ralley’s

How many of these names did you remember?

Our question was, “Does any particular restaurant come to mind?”

Did anyone say “IHOP?”

Silly question?

Perhaps. After all, you can get a double cheeseburger at IHOP.

Even though they don’t mention cheeseburgers in their ads, IHOP has them on the menu.

So, why does IHOP not mention cheseburgers in their ads?

Two reasons: the cost of advertising; and the number of names down the list IHOP would find themselves.

Share of mind roughly equates to share of market.

In order to to create a space in your memory and help you to remember that IHOP has burgers, they’d have to beat out all of the hamburger chains listed.

They’d have to help you to remember at least seventeen down on this list. That’s a formidible undertaking. And, since we can predict minimal success, it’s likely to be very expensive when costs are compared to results.

No matter how much they spend, IHOP will never have more than a tiny fraction of the hamburger market.

How many pancake restaurants can you name?


So, instead of hoping that you’ll remember at least sixteen other restaurants and still have mental space (and frankly, the willingness) to remember IHOP, they don’t mention burgers at all in their ads.

Instead, they make it easier for you to remember IHOP by becoming the top of a completely different list.

Instead of getting the crumbs of the hamburger market, they get the biggest share of the breakfast market. And in the minds of the public, IHOP pretty much owns the pancake position.

Marketing position = “specialization”

Frequently when I recommend specialization, people think I’m talking about refusing business.

I’m not.

Our objective is to capture a larger share of market. The actual competition for a greater share of awareness happens within shoppers’ minds.

By specializing we create a position at the top of some small list (market) rather than attempt to compete for awareness from way down a much bigger list (market).

Specialists do not refuse customer’s money * at the cash register. Their ads just don’t talk about things that are not likely to be remembered.

Let’s take a test

  1. IHOP is famous for _______?
  2. Waffle House is famous for _______?
  3. Tony Roma’s is famous for ______?
  4. Marie Calender’s is famous for _______?
  5. Spaghetti Warehouse is famous for _______?
  6. Black Angus is famous for ______?
  7. Olive Garden is famous for ______?
  8. Lotus Garden is famous for _______?
  9. Panda Express is famous for _______?
  10. Pizza Hut is famous for ______?
  11. Taco Bell is famous for _______?
  12. Kentucky Fried Chicken is famous for ______?
  13. McDonalds is famous for _______?
  14. Red Lobster is famous for _______?
  15. Hometown Buffet / Old Country Buffet is famous for _______?
  16. Benihana is famous for _______?

Humm. Same number as the list of hamburger restaurants. And yet, you do remember most of these.

Each has created a unique marketing position, and that position places each of them the top of a completely different mental list. Each has stopped trying to get a smaller share of the “dining out” market, and is instead competing for dominance within their speciality.

Your business is not likely to be a restaurant. Regardless, to compete in the minds of shoppers, it needs a position. That position will be a specialty.

What is your business’ position? Owning one is almost a requirement when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Have questions about exploiting your own position / marketing niche? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

* Ok. I lied. Specialists do turn away some potential business.

A Chinese restaurant will not maintain its position in the minds of customers by adding Mexican dishes to the menu.

If you found a menu that contained Chinese dishes, and Mexican delicacies, and Italian cooking, as well as burgers, would you believe the food was likely to be good? Or would you assume that these people can’t possibly excell at all different styles of cooking?


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Your Favorite TV Ad

Honda Pilot

The car in question.

I like group a capella singing. I love group a capella sound effects.

My favorite radio commercials of all time are a series for Trop ArcticTM All Season Motor Oil produced in the late 70s.  A group of exceptional jingle singers imitated the sound of a railroad crossing, complete with warning bells, locomotive sounds, and a perfect doppler effect as the train roared by.

That was radio in 1979.  In 2011 there is an equally well done television ad.  Its running right now.

Have you seen this ad?

An SUV drives down the highway. Three boys in the back seat. Three girls in the middle seat. A pair of adults (Dad and Mom?) in the front. The blonde boy in the middle of the back seat starts making mouth noises.

“Bum bum.”   (high) “Bum bum.”   (low) “Bum bum.”   (back to normal) “Bum bum.”

As he repeats, the leftmost girl in the middle seat opens up with “ah-ee ah-ee ah-ee ah-ee.”

The kid directly behind her holds up his soft drink cup, empty of soda, and rattles the ice.  Cut to Dad simulating downward a bass glissando.

Bam! The eight people in the car are now each performing their respective parts of a song intro which is becoming very familiar. Kids are fingering their shoulder belts as if they’re playing guitars, and as the camera pulls back to show a full view of the automobile, the passengers all burst into the classic Ozzy Osborne, “Goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.”

Have you seen this ad? If not, I’m sure you will. The ad is scheduled to run during “Dancing With the Stars,” “Big Bang Theory,” and“The Biggest Loser.”

Shall we make some predictions?

People all over America will claim this is their favorite ad. The RPA agency of Santa Monica will win awards. And sales of Ozzy’s catalog will spike before Christmas.

This ad won’t sell cars

Here. I’ll prove it. Show of hands – who knows the ad of which I’m speaking? Oh, a bunch of you. Let’s see… one, two, three… twenty-seven, twenty-eight, two hundred nineteen, a few more…

Now, keep your hand up if you can name the car.

Oh. My. Nobody?  Nobody remembers the car being advertised?

And that’s the issue, isn’t it.

In my favorite radio ads the singers pause the sound effects several times to sing out boldly, “Trop ArcticTM, All Season Motor Oil. Long live your caaaarrrrr.

Thirty years later I still remember those Trop ArcticTM ads.

But vast numbers of viewers who will claim this new TV ad is their favorite, won’t know who to thank for the entertainment. An automobile manufacturer who probably spent half a million dollars to produce this ad, and several million more for TV airtime, will not receive the highest and best use of his advertising dollars.

Because we don’t remember the name of the automobile. We remember “Crazy Train.”

This is a catchy, very well produced, and very bad ad. Please don’t create ads like this if you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

PS. Oh, you really can’t remember the make and model of the car in the ad, and it’s driving you crazy? Here’s thirty seconds of some pretty well done TV.

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about creating ads which help customers to remember your name? Call Chuck at 760-813-5474. Or “E” him at [email protected].

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A Few Good Ads

My introduction to the business of advertising was through the characters in Bewitched.

Each week Samantha and Darren would have to come up with something highly creative to explain the presence of whichever historical figures were hanging around the Tate Agency.

In Lover Come Back Rock Hudson and Doris Day were competing advertising executives landing the account with tricks, schmooze, and everthing but good advertising. And Good Neighbor Sam had Jack Lemmon focusing on keeping the client happy rather than on creating ads which boosted the sales curve.

The more recent films, Richard E. Grant and Rachel Ward in How to Get Ahead in Advertising; Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah in Crazy People; Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason in Nothing in Common; Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in What Women Want, all share a similarity in plotlines… cleverness and creativity will save the account (and the ad man’s job).

What’s the ROI?

So it shouldn’t surprise me that advertisers expect cleverness and even entertainment in their ads. We all grew up in the same culture, watching the same shows, reading the same books. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does. I’d have thought that return on investment was the standard by which we judged the ad.

After all, media reps all tell us that advertising is an investment. Shouldn’t we judge this investment by the same ROI as all of our other investments?

It’s not that a good ad can’t be entertaining, but rather when attention is drawn to the ad itself, it’s already failed. The instant your audience focuses on the delivery vehicle the message becomes irrelevant.

Years ago at a live community theater production an actress slipped and fell on stage. Up until that moment the whole audience had been pretending they were looking through an invisible wall, watching people reacting to each other and to the situation in which those people found themselves. But in a single brief moment the play was forgotten as the audience wanted to know “Was the actress hurt?”

The instant we focused on the delivery vehicle (actress on stage) the message (story line) became irrelevant. To this day, my strongest memory of that evening was watching the other cast members help the actress off stage.

A Good Ad…

A good ad doesn’t draw attention to itself, focuses the audience’s attention on the message, and produces a solid ROI.

By that definition, let’s look at a few good ads. I picked them at random. Here are their headlines:

  • Stop Snoring Tonight – Guaranteed!

  • Lose 20 Pounds in 9 Days.

  • Lower Your Mortgage. $200k Refinance for Only $583/Month.

  • Affordable Life Insurance. No Medical Exam. No Waiting Period.

    Dull, aren’t they?

    Agreed. These will never win an award.

    But assume for a minute that you sleep with a snorer. What words would capture your attention better than “Stop Snoring Tonight – Guaranteed?

    If you’ve already tried willpower and treadmills, can you find an ad with higher salience than “Lose 20 Pounds in 9 Days?

    There is nothing clever or creative about these ads, but you know they work. You know it because they provide the information to solve their problem(s) to people who have a real need that information.

    What’s your message? When you try to deliver that message to potential buyers, is your ad carrying the promise of a solution to a very real problem? Will it act as bait to draw them into your solution while you’re fishing for customers?

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about headlines with big promise? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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    Advertising and Air Conditioner Sales

    Air Conditioner

    Window AC Unit

    Bear with me as we set up the facts of this story.

    This story is true. It actually happened. The people and the company involved are very real, but shall not be named. If they must have a name, call them . . . oh, let’s call them Little Brother Bob’s Hardware.

    L.B.B.’s Hardware has several stores in southern states. Each summer they stock, and sell, window air conditioners. Not too long ago, the company partnered with HVAC specialists from as an implementation of their expansion and consolidation program. 

    The company had tradionally offered an incentive program for superior sales performance when it came to air conditioners. Each month’s quota was set at 110% of the sales from the same month a year ago. If any store outsold its quota of air conditioners, there would be a bonus of $25 per additional unit. The bonus money would be pooled, and the store’s manager could distribute to employees according to their contribution.

    The Advertising Started

    They bought ads in local newspapers. They passed out flyers in the stores. They mailed those flyers to the regular customers of each store.

    First month: the store in our little tale sold 16 units over quota, and earned a bonus pool of $400 for the manager to distribute to assistant managers and salespeople.

    Second month: 20 units over quota. $500 bonus.

    Enter the Contractor

    In the first week of the third month a local builder came in to the store carrying one of the flyers.

    He explained that he had just been awarded a contract to remodel a local hotel. He wanted to purchase 200 identical window air conditioners, and wanted to know how quickly he could arrange delivery of such a large number of units. He also mentioned that he’d purchased the same number of air filters from

    The manager called L.B.B.’s Hardware’s home office.

    Home Office Reaction

    The home office took over the sale and dealt directly with the customer.

    Within 48 hours a new bonus program had been implemented. Effective immediately, the bonus potential was capped at $500 per month.

    In three years since the new bonus program has been in effect, Little Brother Bob’s Hardware has never again exceeded quota. At least, not this store.

    Most of us see a cause and effect relationship in this example.

    Do you have a bonus program for your salespeople? Is the program working with, or working against your advertising? How do you know? A strong repellent can cancel a great bait when you’re fishing for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about incentives which reinforce your advertising?  Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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