Steve Kaplan's Blog

November 16, 2011

What’s in a Name?

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 3:22 pm

A lot.

We’re all familiar with company name changes. No matter the size, the industry… this happens often. In 2007, publishing giant Warner Nooks changed its name to Grand Central Publishing. In 1991, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC in an attempt to divert attention away from the “fried.” Who could forget about when AT&T got rid of Cingular? A lot of people. That name-change transitioned gracefully.

The fact of the matter is, there is always a reason why company changes its name, and it always has to do with branding. However- it is a gamble. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Often times, consumers are attached to the original name, and can’t seem to let it go.

This month, after a short-lived rebranding to “,” announced that it would once again be known as

The company’s experiment started in July, and quickly ended this month.  “We have been listening to our customers and have learned that they we’ve moved too quickly in the transition,” Jonathan Johnson, Overstock’s president, tells Mashable. One of the reasons?

Customers continued to call the company “” even after the transition.  They were already attached to the brand name the company had already created.

Overstock isn’t the only company who saw that consumers got attached to their devoted names. When Netflix renamed their DVD service to Owikster, it quickly changed the name back after a mere few weeks due to the consumers’ response. Pizza Hut and Radio Shack tried to rebrand their names into abbreviated “The Hut” and “The Shack.” They too learned an important lesson about branding when their consumers’ reactions caused them to change back to their original names.

But it’s not just the attachment to the name that made this re-branding flop. Although the company aired an aggressive run of TV commercials that explained, “ is now,” consumers were confused.

And while attachment is a huge problem with rebranding a company name, consumer confusion is just as troubling.

An abundance of customers went to “” instead of  This rebranding a.k.a confusion contributed to a major decline in revenues. “We were going too fast and people were confused, which told us we didn’t do a good job,” Overstock president Jonathan Johnson told Ad Age. will still use the one letter domain so consumers to use the shortened name as a short cut to reach its website.

What do you think of this name change mistake?




October 12, 2011

The Most Recognizable CEO

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 9:54 am

Regardless if you’re an Apple fan or not, no one can deny that Steve Jobs has majorly changed the world we live in today. I am blown away by his impact.  A visionary who refused to “go with the flow,” Jobs is associated with many things, including the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and the iPad.

However- while it is his products that make him so brilliant, it is his black turtleneck that makes him one of the world’s most identifiable CEO.

And just the other day, in a report from Gawker about Walter Issacson’s upcoming biography on Jobs, I learned the origin of what some say makes Jobs a fashion visionary as well:

“On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

This excerpt jumped out at me, and I started thinking of the concept of a uniform- especially from a business standpoint. Plenty of employees wear uniforms, but not so commonly in a corporate setting.

What do you think uniforms could do for your business? For your brand? For you and your colleagues collectively?

June 27, 2011

Four Categories of Customer

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 9:21 am

Once you know what your customers are buying and why, you can generalize by putting customers into the four basic categories of need.

1. Quality Seekers

Quality Seekers buy only when the find what they consider the best product out there. Price is secondary.  They are savvy customers who comparison shop and research at length before they reach for their credit card. They want to know details about performance and materials- whatever makes your product or service the best.

Needs: The Quality Seeker wants to feel special- that she is getting the very best.

Buzzwords: performance, materials

What she’s thinking:

  • In a specialty store: What ingredients are used:
  • In an executive search firm: How do they screen applicants?
  • In a marketing company: What’s their bottom- line result?
  • With an online retailer: Which brand names are sold?

2. Service Seekers

Service Seekers need to feel you care about them, will do things for them, and won’t forget them after they buy. Warranties, guarantees, and service are the music to their ears. They want to know that any problem will be addressed right away.
Needs: The Service Seeker wants to be taken care of abd acknowedlged as significant.
Buzzwords: Convenience, customer service, warranties and returns
What he’s thinking:
  • In a specialty store: Can I find what I need and pay for it without standing in line? Do they deliver?
  • At an executive search firm: What’s my guarantee on candidates who are placed with us? What happens if they leave? Are they replaced?
  • In a marketing company:Who will manage my account? Will she be open to my requests?
  • At the dentist: Can I get a convenient appointment? Does the dentist run on schedule?
  • With an online retailer: Is buying easy and painless? Can I return things I don’t like? Is there online customer support?
3. Price Seekers
Price Seekers want to get the lowest price, even though they may be able to afford better quality and higher prices. The deal is what excites them. Businesses that guarantee to beat any competitor’s price warm their hearts.  For them, paying less than the next guy is a matter of pride.
Needs: The Price Seeker wants to feel she is a shrewd customer.
Buzzwords: Lowest price, sale, discount
What she’s thinking: 
  • In a specialty food store: If I buy two items, will I get the third for half off? Could I get the same item for less at a grocery store? Is there free gift-wrapping? Free delivery?
  • At an executive search firm: If I find my own candidate, will the firm lower its rates?
  • In a marketing company: Will the company reduce my rates if it fails to attract more customers?
  • At the dentist: How much will insurance pay? Are follow-up visits included int he price?
  • With an online retailer: Does it offer online promotions and discounts? Is buying online cheaper than buying offline? Will I get a coupon for answering an online survey?
4. Satisfaction Seekers
Satisfaction Seekers are motivated by status, security, and the approval of others. These cosnumers are influenced strongly by the following factors:
The cool factor. The customer buys a product, because it makes him feel part of the crowd. This is a powerful dynamic in the teen market, but adults fall prey to it as well- buying a particular brand of stroller for one’s child, using a specific landscaping company, choosing where to go on vacation, or even buying a certain brand of beer, because the right crowd drinks it.
The safety factor. The customer buys a product, because he believes it will protect him or someone he cares about. Think of the Michelin tire slogan: “There’s a lot of riding on your tires. The safety-conscious family consumer is this company’s target.
The job security factor. This factor emerges primarily when businesses buy products from other businesses. Corporate managers and executives tend to be wary of purchasing an unconventional product that may come back to haunt them. I often saw this fear in my marketing customers; potential clients accustomed to traditional programs like coupons were afraid they stood a greater chance of being penalized or even fired if my product didn’t work.
Needs: The Satisfaction Seeker wants to feel safe and enjoy a sense of belonging.
Buzzwords: Security, status, everyone has one
What he’s thinking:
  • In a specialty food store: If I walk around with bags from this store, will people think I buy only the best?
  • At an executive search firm: Should i use this firm even though my boss uses a different one?
  • In a marketing company: If I buy this new service, will I be putting myself at risk with my bosses if it doesn’t work out?
  • With an online retailer: Does the site make me feel i’m joining the pioneers in the online world by embracing the latest technology?
Once you understand how your customers perceive value, you’ve laid the foundation for developing the unique selling proposition and communicating it to the world.

June 17, 2011

Why Customers Buy

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 7:02 am

By identifying the real reasons your customers buy what they buy, you’ll be able to tailor your selling proposition (the “why” they should buy) to each customer base.

First, of course, you need to know which category your customers fit in. Say you’ve never even thought of categorizing your customers. Well, what are you waiting for?

I divide customers into 4 categories. Remember that no category is inherently superior and that customers can shift from one category to another: A quality seeker at Macy’s might be a price seeker at Blockbuster and a satisfaction seeker at Joe’s Pizza Parlor. When customers decide whether to buy something, they are often motivated by more than one need.

To discover what motivates your customers:

Know your categories. Read and understand each category definition (in the next  post), especially the buzzwords and what each type of category is thinking.

Gather intelligence. Ask your customers why they buy. Develop a simple two-or three- question survey your sales or customer service personnel can use. Depending on your type of business, ask customers to rank their priorities: price? quality? style? selection? safety? If yours is a B2B, ask your salespeople to fill out the information based on their knowledge of customers and their purchases.

Get out and observe. There’s no substitute for your own eyes and ears. Walk your retail space; talk with customers; join a company call. Ask for opinions on how you’re doing and how you can improve. You’ll be surprised at how much people want to help you.

Once you know what they’re buying and why, you can generalize by putting customers into the four basic categories of need.  Next post: the Four Categories of Customer.

April 11, 2011

Growth Strategies: keep it simple

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 11:48 am

When thinking about growth, many businesspeople equate “complicated” with “powerful.” This is a beginner’s mistake. Over the years, I’ve heard, seen and studied many plans for growth, and the best plans are usually the simplest ones. Complexity in planning is often unnecessary, sometimes even counterproductive.

In my direct experience- which includes tons of business growth and, yes, a few disasters as well- there are two, and only two, possible growth strategies:

1. Vertical Growth. Focusing on your current customers and getting them to buy new products or services.

2.  Horizontal Growth. Finding new customers to buy existing products and services.

Below is a bit more information about each strategy. If you want to learn more about these strategies, check out Be the Elephant, here.

Vertical Growth Strategy: these tactics will help you identify new offerings for your business:

1. Sell more of the same products or services to existing customers. Consider hiring more salespeople or changing your sales policy or commision structure to motiavate your sales team.

2.  Extend your line to offer current customers a new product or service that either complements or upgrades a product or service you’ve already been offering.

3.  Develop entirely new products or services to appeal to your existing customers’ demographic and psychographic profiles.

Horizontal Growth Strategy: These are two manu options available. Keep in mind: you must be prepared to modify your product line to suit your new target customer’s needs.

1. Expand the geographic reach of your business, but sell the same product. In other words, you’re looking for the same sort of people, but in a new neighborhood, state or region.

2. Sell to different types of customers in the same geographical area.

That’s all for now.



March 31, 2011

Fastest Dying Industries in America… and YOU

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 12:19 pm

Just read an article from Business Insider that highlights the top dying industries in America. Below is the list. Some would look at these industries, and avoid them at all costs. I don’t know if I would. Check these out, and read in between the lines. There may be an opportunity for your business.

1.  Apparel Manufacturing

2.  Record Stores

3.  Manufactured Home Dealers

4.  Photofinishing

5.  Wired Telecommunications Carriers

6.  Mills

7.  Newspaper Publishing

8.  DVD, Game and Video Rental

9.  Formal Wear and Costume Rental

1o. Video Postproduction Services


March 18, 2011

Wishing Someone Luck Can Improve Performance

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 12:57 pm

According to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Stat,”activating a positive superstitious belief can boost people’s confidence, which in turn improves performance.”

This article explains that in an experiment conducted, a dexterity task that usually took more than 5 minutes was accomplished in 191.5 seconds if participants were wished good luck before starting the test.

Other than thinking this is an interesting stat, I’m sharing this with you, because this notion can be applied to business. Not necessarily the “superstitious aspect,” but the idea that positive reinforcement in general can boost performance. When a participant (or an employee) feels appreciated and hears direct positive encouragement, they’re likely to want to do better, and actually perform better.

What do you guys think about this? Do you agree?


March 10, 2011

Is Bigger Always Better?

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 1:32 pm

Nope. It’s certainly not. When running a business- no matter what the size of that business may be- it’s always important to assess when it’s time to grow, downsize, consolidate, expand, or let it “express itself” the way Walmart is.

We’re all aware of our favorite restaurants and stores’ “express”  versions. We see them off the highway, in airports… in many different areas. Check out this article from Business Insider.

Even if you’re not crazy for Walmart, what do you think of a business “expressing itself”? Is this a business model that may work for your business?

February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day: A $16 Billion Industry

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 2:04 pm

Valentine’s Day isn’t just a day to express love…

valentine'sday it’s a way to make money. Big money.  Apparently, it all started when Hallmark decided to create holidays to persuade people into buying cards. It worked. Not only did Hallmark leverage this “holiday” into major greeting card sales (according to Hallmark, 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are sold worldwide), but Hallmark also created a lucrative holiday for several other entrepreneurs to bank off of, including the 10 listed below.  For more information about these entrepreneurs, check out this Business Insider article.


  • Daniel Chase created conversation hearts; 100,000 pounds of these conversation hearts are sold each Valentine’s Day.
  • Jim McCann founded 1-800-Flowers. He gets one million NEW Valentine’s Day customers every year. As w result, he hires 6,000 additional workers to work on this holiday. Talk about a new business success story!
  • Jules Armellini and his wife founded Armellini Express. They transport 4.5 times their usual volume of flowers before Valentine’s day.
  • This is a favorite of mine. John Sortino invented Vermont Teddy Bears. He’s made multi-millions on lazy men during Valentine’s season!
  • Milton S. Hershey- founder of Hershey- is behind many of the 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate sold each Valentine’s Day.
  • Irene Steiner created PajamaGrams; Profits double every Valentine’s Day
  • Way to go, Roy Raymond!  Creator of Victoria’s Secret Roy Raymond  profits on the $1.6 billion that consumers spend on clothing for Valentine’s Day. WOW!
  • Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young – creators of Tiffany & Co- help Americans propose on Valentine’s Day. According to the National Retail Federation, 11% of American couples say “yes”on Valentine’s Day.
  • Thanks to founder Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark sells more than 1,600 Valentine’s Day card designs.
    Hallmark creates more than 1,600 Valentine’s Day greeting card designs. The company first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing their own cards in 1916.
  • Ben Franklin created the concept for The United States Postal Service. The USPS handle 5-7% more greeting cards and small packages the week before Valentine’s Day compared to most other weeks of the year.
  • Last, but clearly not least is founder of Hallmark,  Joyce C. Hall. The company first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913. Now, they offer over 1600 designs and sell 141 million Valentine’s Day Greeting Cards.

Big lessons here. What can we learn from Hallmark and the entrepreneurs who created the companies that drive this holiday?

January 26, 2011

Social Media Marketing

Filed under: Steve Insight — stevekaplan @ 12:22 pm

Although I’m not a huge social media junkie, I see its value, and I absolutely know that there’s a great need for it… for specific companies… and if it’s used correctly.

Check out Business Insider’s article about the 9 most important sites for social media marketing. The sites listed were pretty predictable (Yelp, Groupon, YouTube, Facebook, and more.) Obviously, companies that live and solely exist in the online space and social media world are going to thrive in the social media space.

Social media is a great solution (quite possibly the best sometimes) for BRAND ENGAGEMENT, brand awareness, and spreading and sharing information. However, it’s important to be careful when using social media as a marketing tactic. We all are well aware of the social media marketing no no’s out there.

Having an online presence is crucial in 2011. Digital marketing (especially social media) has provided so many people and companies with tons of wins. Think of companies you know have that use it properly and think of companies you know that don’t.

So let’s talk about social media! Which companies do you think use social media best? And why?

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