When bleach is not enough

I have been an avid swimmer all my life, from swim team during middle school to community centre swims instead of office lunches. Typically, I would leave the office, drive to the pool, change, shower in, swim a mile, shower out and be back at the office in less than 90 minutes. Sometimes before and sometimes during a swim, the guards would clear and close the pool. The reason, they said, was that, “There has been a fouling,” intoned in the manner of, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Sure enough, you could sometimes see where some kid had failed to make it to the washroom and there were … foulings in the pool. Chlorine can erase the physical traces of that kind of problem, but it can’t erase the indelible impression and aversion reaction that builds against public pools.

Kerry Knudsen

Well, there has been a fouling. I am a life-long subscriber to Consumer Reports magazine. I don’t buy into every “value proposition” they present, but the product testing is sometimes helpful, and the value discussions are part of my job. So yesterday I got what may be the fifth demand that I complete their winter survey. I sometimes complete surveys if they interest me, but I never feel I am under any obligation to fill out a survey just because I bought a bird feeder on Amazon or a magazine.

The thing is, the digital world has become survey-drunk. They can’t get enough. They are data gluttons, and I am their refrigerator.

We spent a bit of time again this year in Costa Rica. It has become my favourite destination. This time we stayed for a series of days at two separate residences under the AirBnB protocol, and each time we were hit with a “survey” before we were reasonably gone. In one case, I was asked to review my Costa Rica trip when I was languishing on the patio during the second phase of my Costa Rica trip. In the other, I got the survey as soon as we were wheels-down in Canada and not yet at the gate.

To the point, we are quitting our popular November Readers’ Surveys. As with photography, Fakebook, desktop publishing, music, videography and news, the digital rebellion has made every profession into Amateur Night and polluted the environment with foulings of every description.

Our readers have been absolutely fantastic about responding to our questions, giving us the highest response rates I have ever heard of, and the highest praise. However, you can feel the energy going away, and I am not about to badger them for responses until the last dog dies. They have treated me with respect, and I will do the same for them. Besides, I am tired of hearing that our competitors are calling our respondents liars and claiming they could get the same results if they tried. It’s just more fouling.

Our readers have told us time after time that they love ads and new product releases, but they don’t want the advertisers to control their magazines. The competition delivers a fouling. Our readers have told us they don’t want spam in their in-boxes. The competition delivers a fouling. Et cetera. So, we quit. The market is what it is, and there is no point destroying our relationship trying to prove the obvious while the jackanapes scream from the bushes, fouling the environment at every turn.

For our suppliers, the art of sales is not getting easier in the digital world. It is getting harder. It is harder to identify and attract a market, harder to get a response and harder to track return on investment, which has never been easy in advertising.

I see Weight Watchers (now WW) took a deep dive in January, losing 36 percent at one point. The Street’s take is, as usual, multi-faceted, some citing Weight Watchers as being an “old-school” brand, and others citing emotional overreaction from the “stockholders,” now properly known as algorithms. There is scarcely a value buyer left in the market.

There are a couple of other items, too, that may have an impact.

First, WW decided to try that fair-haired child of marketing geniuses, celebrity appeal, so they brought in Oprah Winfrey with a package that gave her eight percent of the company. Now, of course, that means she owns her share of a multi-million-dollar loss, but that’s a different topic.

The question is, even if celebrity marketing works, does that make Oprah the poster kid? They thought so, but Oprah’s audience may not be the actual market they are seeking. I’m not saying there are no fat ladies watching Oprah. However, recent research had discovered, amazingly, that, “there are many reasons to suspect that body image in adult women both may differ from and possibly be more complex than that of younger women. Adult women face myriad factors influencing body image beyond those delineated in the body image literature on adolescents and young adult women. For instance, aging-related physiological changes shift the female body further away from the thin-young-ideal, which is the societal standard of female beauty.”

In English, people tend to become more accepting of reality as they mature. So, in the case of Oprah’s audience, maybe the critical mass of viewers has focused away from body image ideals and toward family and life issues.

Another matter is advertising. I confess to never having watched the Oprah Winfrey Show. I know what she looked like and looks like, and I know that the show made her one of the richest people on the planet. But on the media I watch, and it’s quite a bit because of my job, I see either no or almost no ads for WW. I see South Beach Diet, I see Nutrisystem, I see Jenny Craig and I see a smattering of allusions to keto, low-carb, paleo, etc., but no WW.

I tend to watch quite a bit of media aimed at younger viewers, largely because I think we need to try to figure out what they are thinking. On that note, I think they are all thinking Artificial Intelligence will come along and save them, which is the opposite of thinking, but I watch and wait, and nobody is asking.

Anyway, dollars are flowing in torrents for body image stuff, including more perfume for men, and they are not flowing to WW. Is it Oprah? Is it AI? Is it mis-targeting? Is it wrong messaging?

Or is it just a fouling?

You may notice I did not mention original, valuable content in this note. Not even once. That has to be a record.

We have a several shows coming up soon. As an added value to our advertisers, we are offering a special promo opportunity: Buy two print ads at earned-frequency rates, and get 50% off a great promo package including Supply Side exposure, a three-month web ad and your choice of a Wood Industry or Wood Industry US e-letter sponsorship. Steve King can reserve your space.

Wood Industry: Complete, focused, attentive, responsive and energized.

On target

Let’s face it. Targeted marketing is not getting any easier. The broad, “something-for-nothing” promises of the internet have failed to materialize, and the thundering herd moves from fad to fad as though there really is a pot of gold at the end of the internet rainbow.

If you are inclined to be on the bleeding edge, the next big thing is interruptive voice ads where you can commandeer time on somebody’s Alexa or Siri function, and blast.

Kerry Knudsen

Not so long ago, distributors of wood industry products had no media access in Canada. In the mid-՚80s, there was nothing targeted at your market, so marketers had to spend time and resources in broader, not-so-targeted media. Largely, this meant machinery shows that were designed for metalworkers, and the would-be sellers of wood industry machines would exhibit and hope a forlorn group of searching wood-products manufacturers would wander by.

Things got so desperate that a group of suppliers, to include Bruce Akhurst, of Akhurst; Peter Feindel, of Taurus Craco; Richard Bluteau, of Cooper and Horton (SCM); André Normand, of Normand; Horst Petermann, of Homag and Claude Arsenault of Holz-Her approached a salesman for the metalworking magazine owned by Markham, Ont.,-based Action Communications and literally begged him to approach Action about starting a magazine for wood.

Action agreed, and Woodworking was born, which magazine I took over editorially in the ՚90s and created a reader-focused, original-content publication that has seen drastic changes of its own along the way since I left in 2005 to found Wood Industry.

I was watching the internet for opportunities all along, having had a continually active e-mail account since 1983. The provider back then was CompuServe, and I can still remember my old e-address: 70713.300@compuserve.com. Media, after all, is my business. I remarked then, and I maintain now, about the only thing the internet does well is archive and search. Little did I know how right I would be, when the internet can archive the most mundane details and reveal them to the darkest searchers. Even such seemingly benign activities as on-line retail have recently taken on a more sinister hue as they become the world’s most powerful economic engines.

Unfortunately, many marketers and many media still think buying an ad is buying the medium. The object, they think, is to buy ink or pixels and a list. They think advertising is a product. It is not. Advertising is a service, and what media sell is not ink or pixels, but access to a responsive market.

The basis for a response in advertising, is, as in the rest of life, credibility. People have to trust what you are saying. Imagine a rocket-engineering firm where the assemblers could not trust the blueprint. It would be chaos.

Yet, contemporary media is still chewing the old bone of “it’s a numbers game,” and the more people you can hit the more sales you will make, accountability and trust be damned. This results in such irritations as your getting dozens of e-propositions a week, simply for allowing somebody to “notify” you. And if you think your customers are not irked, think again. We have surveyed them, and they don’t like being used as a bowery-pub dart board.

Magazines Canada – often a strong proponent of digital advertising – came out with its survey of media consumers recently, again reporting resounding responses by the public for print. Steve King has the data for you.

So, why print? Maybe the question is not print versus digital, but rather, “who do you trust?”

If that’s the issue, then a quick review of Wood Industry on your part might be in order. We have been around. We know the business. We are unique and offer original content. We are not a stenographer for “the big guys.” In fact, your competitors, Homag and Biesse, won’t even advertise with us because we won’t do as we are told. It is not “sour grapes” to point out that by disrespecting our readers, they are asking to be treated as they treat others. Producing bigger, newer or faster machines will not create quality or trust. Trust is what it is, and it is not gained by force or bribe.

In all, it’s for the good. The metrics are basic. The fewer energized and loyal potential customers their ads reach, the better for the rest of us.

Trust does not come from glad-handing and classy shenanigans. Trust comes from trial by fire. And trust begets trust. So when your customers look for answers, they look to Wood Industry and our associates.

Wood Industry is once again sponsoring Canada Night at AWFS in Las Vegas this July. This popular event is designed to show the world that Canadians are a viable and energized market by stepping out of the crowd at the show and having our own event. We are accepting sponsorships, and, as always, Steve has the answers to all your questions.

Product or service?

Suppliers in one industry are always consumers in another. It’s the way things work. Predictably, the way things are marketed from supplier to consumer transfers between and among industries, leading to a kind of plain-vanilla, monkey-see/monkey-do approach. So what’s it going to be this week? Webinars? Facebook pages? Tweeties? Or do you throw your hands up, declare you’ve “been there; done that” and quit?

Going back to basics, the “event” is the gold standard in today’s marketing leaders. And it has been for millennia. Some of my associates overseas are charging sponsorship rates that equate to $10,000 per qualified attendee. This goes back to the whole idea of market focus. If you are selling 10 karat diamonds, the local unemployment recipient list is of no value. Conversely, an attendee list that identifies people with a net worth over $10 million would be of interest.

Kerry Knudsen

Events are fascinating as a study. This week we saw over 1 million people gather in Times Square to herald in the new year. Quite the event. Yet, if you think about it, there was no offering of a product or service, and there was no unpredictability in the outcome. People showed up to participate, interact and react to the event as it unfolded.

Magazines and other media may or may not participate in an event, but it is mandatory for the health of the event that somebody report on it if it is to be recognized. An event with no report is a non-event. As far as the world is concerned, it never happened. This is true for everything from murder to a space walk.

Properly conducted, an event can raise awareness, energize a market, create loyalty and generate a mass response. A marketer’s dream.

Trade shows are an obvious example of an event, but it is also an example of an event that has been manufactured to create a specific response – that being to bring sellers to buyers in a business-friendly environment. However, that business-friendly part sometimes gets lost in the mist as trade-show providers lose track of the goose and focus on the golden egg. “Monetize” is the current jingo. They try to monetize the attendees, monetize the exhibitors, monetize the parking, monetize the drinking fountains, monetize the chairs and monetize the electrical outlets and phone service. If you are a trade-show supplier and see yourself in that list, and if you have not read The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, here is a link. It is a fable of Aesop, it is short, and I created and checked that link.

So, what happens? In a nutshell, some trade-show suppliers have switched from providing a service, that being to bring buyers and sellers together, to providing a product, and losing the “business-friendly” criterion altogether. Then, the “big guys” exhibitors, taking a page from the idea that killed the shopping mall concept, start using their size as a threat to claw back money from their competitors through the offices of the show, and demand kick-backs and concessions, ultimately pulling out to punish and renegotiate. This causes a loss of energy and business-friendliness in the show, overall, that is passed on to the attendees and, unless a transfusion is offered, the event is in jeopardy.

The same is true of the media. The media should be offering a service: to provide access to an energized, loyal and responsive audience, or market. Along life’s way, most of the media have lost the service idea and, like shows, have defaulted to presenting a product that some “big guys” advertisers see as an opportunity to negotiate, blackmail and engage in any other sort of skullduggery that will help them put the rest of you out of business. We have covered this topic before, and we have invited our competitors in Canada and the U.S. to cooperate with us in publishing and complying with any one of several codes of professional ethics already recognized by international public relations, advertising, marketing and editorial associations. So far, no takers. However, we comply voluntarily, and we publish the list of codes on our home page at www.woodindustry.ca.

Back to events.

Most of our larger events spin off smaller, supporting events. These can be annual general meetings of associations, seminars, demonstrations, finance lectures and just-plain-old entertainment. The idea, as with the parent event, is to provide a service, not a product, and each subordinate event is more or less successful, depending on the market’s response.

Wood Industry is supplying such an event. Canada Night is back, thanks to our friends at the AWFS show coming up in July at Las Vegas.

For those that are not aware, the first two Canada Night events in the wood industry were smashing successes, generating a feeding frenzy among some show managers and an effort to steal the event for themselves. We put a law dog on the tree, and kept our brand, but the “other” show went on under a new “international” banner that I call Mexicans with Sweaters to illustrate the elementary principle that “international” is not a market, and a product called International Night is not a service.

Despite that the waters have been muddied by interlopers and usurpers, our friends at AWFS are once again offering us the space and time to recognize Canadians at the show. The idea is simple – Canadians are a strong market, yet it is difficult to focus on that market at a trade show. We simply do not stand out. So we offer Canadians a chance to get off the show floor at closing time, have a few free brews and some canapes on us, say “hi” to other Canadians and, importantly, to show the suppliers (you) the strength, energy and responsiveness of Canada’s wood industry.

If you like, sponsorships are available. We will begin promoting the event in this month’s issue of Wood Industry magazine and in our web and e-letter services between now and the show. That means if you want to be associated with the event from the beginning, you have only a few days to contact Stephen King, our associate publisher, or phone him at (416) 802-1225. We have continued to offer Canada Night to the audience and suppliers of our “other” publication, Coverings, for Canada’s floor covering sector, and it continues to be a smash value for the attendees, for the suppliers and for the show, The International Surfaces Event (TISE), also in Las Vegas, and occurring at the end of this month.

In fact, if any of you will be in Vegas looking at stone, countertops or other design ideas, Canada Night is at the Border Grill, just outside the show venue at the Mandalay Bay, at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 23. It is always sold out, so contact us immediately to get on the list.

We have a good wood-products industry here in Canada. Despite some unfair burdens being placed on it, both externally and internally, we can make it work if we work together.

Until then, ad sales are also closing for the January issue of Wood Industry. It will be another good one. If you don’t want to miss out, contact Stephen King by Monday at 5:00, wherever 5:00 is to you. Shanghai, for all I care. Steve always looks better when he’s lost a night’s sleep, and he’s most vulnerable on deadline.

Importantly, space on this letter is available for $250 per ad. If you are a supplier to suppliers, or if you have a message to send to every important supplier to the wood industry worldwide, this is the space for you. It’s cheap; it’s read by everybody; it’s an event.

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