Letters, Oct. 20, 2008

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Split Decision on Starbucks Oatmeal

RE: "Starbucks' Surprise Success: Oatmeal" (AA, Oct. 13). I was happy to see it on their menu last week while I was on the road. I only wish my taste experience had lived up to that initial reaction or expectation. It was awful.

I was hoping the oatmeal would provide a more healthful (and better quality) alternative to Starbucks' nondescript muffins, scones and coffee cakes. But, like other food items on the Starbucks menu, in choosing the oatmeal, one should value convenience above other attributes such as taste.

I'm afraid I won't be able to give up the stove-top variety, so I'm resigned to continue making two stops in the morning -- one for food, the other for coffee.
Nick Chakalos
Hopkinton, Mass.

I was one of the lucky ones who got a free sample card in the mail, as well as a toppings packet and flier as I walked out of Penn Station.

One morning on my way to work, not feeling like stopping at McDonalds for a greasy, fatty sausage, egg and cheese muffin, I went to Starbucks for my macchiato and decided to use my brown-sugar sample. It makes total sense! As I got on the train and headed to work, all I could think about was settling into my office chair with my warm drink and my oatmeal, and it did not disappoint. The price and convenience are so on point.
Spring Petford
Stanhope, N.J.

I was excited to find it on their menu and ordered one right away but literally threw it out after a couple spoonfuls. It is awful. They will not see a repeat customer in me. This article, though, demonstrates that the American people want fast, healthful food options and the first to be able to produce high-quality offerings with appropriate distribution is going to win here.
Lilian Tham
New York

I'm in San Francisco for a conference, and reading this prompted me to go straight down to Starbucks and order the oatmeal. Am eating it now as I type this, and it is absolutely delicious. Starbucks just gained another female regular-oatmeal-breakfast customer.
Cindy Gallop
New York

More unconventional thinking, please

RE: David Armano's "Unconventional Times Call for Unconventional Marketing" (DigitalNext, AA.com, Oct. 13). Solid post! I agree that testing unconventional tactics, going with your gut and learning on the fly are important. Our new digital reality makes this much more cost effective and easier to execute (and sell through) to established brands for sure. A lot of this is, as you mentioned, part of what companies have been trying to do with understanding content paths, interaction and behavior via analytics.

My one caution is that, as a discipline, "marketing strategy" (vs. channel tactics) does need to tie back to ROI for a business to be successful in the long term and keep folks employed. It touches on sales distribution, brand development, product, etc. and in a downturn being able to speak to how everything integrates and informs each other will provide the longest-term success.

In the end, though, having solid, valuable content and experiences online will keep your "audience" engaged and participating!
Tamera Kremer

I can totally identify with you. I started my blog back in January. I've built my new business consultancy to small- to mid-size advertising agencies primarily through my Fuel Lines blog. The blog helped me to be focused, and differentiating that has been appealing to my target audience. I've steadily built traffic through SEO, good content, e-mail newsletters, Twitter, PRWeb, surveys, polls, Facebook, LinkedIn, article marketing, white papers, etc. It has been a tremendous learning experience for me and has helped both personally and professionally. I've been able to assist clients in developing their online footprints and to experience new media for themselves.

I've found that helping my agency clients create their own blogs forces them to differentiate themselves, focus on a target audience, category or discipline or a combination of these. It forces them to always lead with benefits to their clients rather than boast and brag about agency capabilities. It helps them to build trust and relationships. It can position the agency as being experts with a keen understanding of the challenges and obstacles of their target group. It also allows for new business beyond an agency's location, networks and referrals. Agencies can create a strong appeal to their target audience. ...The prospective clients will actually initiate the call when they are ready, and that conversation will be much further down the road than a cold call.

They will be ready to do business.
Michael Gass
Birmingham, Ala.
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