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Paul Newman

April 26th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

The Hustler was Paul Newman’s greatest film.

Yes, yes, I know some of you will plead the case of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Sting. Others will call for Hud, The Color of Money or Cool Hand Luke.

But Fast Eddie Felson is one of the greatest characters in the history of American cinema. Newman’s performance was spellbinding.

I first met Paul Newman at a popular restaurant in Anaheim.

Perhaps “met,” is not the exact right word. I was a busboy at Carnation on Main Street in Disneyland and he and his wife, Joanne Woodward, came into the restaurant with several kids. I bused the table when they were done – cleared the dirty plates and cleaned the ashtrays. This was the first of two intimate connections with the man.

The second has its roots in the community of Toluca Lake, a small enclave next to Burbank surrounded by some of the largest movie studios in the world – Warner Bros, Universal and Disney.

Toluca Lake is also home to a high-end burger and salad hangout called, Mo’s. I moved to Toluca Lake in the nineties and was stunned to discover that Mo’s used to be called Hamptons. And Hamptons was owned by… that’s right, Paul Newman.

See? You gotta’ love that serendipity.

Which leads me to a point about marketing, a point that will bring us back to Mo’s and some of the most exotic hamburgers on planet Earth in just a moment.

But the point I want to make here has to do with whether or not you should use price as factor in your marketing strategy.

A client came to us wanting to market a telecommunication system to government entities. There were several big players in this market and the common wisdom was that pricing factors were the primary motivating factor in getting the purchasing agents by buy the system.

But the client wanted us to survey this public and see if this was true. We conducted the survey. The client was stunned. So were we, frankly. Money was not the issue. The overwhelming desire of this public was for durable, well-built telecomm systems.

The client created a PR and marketing campaign around this attribute and was extraordinarily successful.

In point of fact, in the vast majority of surveys we conduct, price is almost never the top “button.” People will often pay extra for something they want if they know it is of a finer quality.

We find this in survey after survey. The exact wording isn’t always “quality”- it depends on the product or service – but most buyers know that excellence has a price, and many are willing to pay it.

I will shop at Nordstrom knowing that I am probably paying more than I might pay elsewhere, because they have an excellent selection of high quality clothing, good service, and a liberal return policy, if I wind up not liking the apparel I bought.

And Mo’s, of Paul Newman fame, is another excellent case in point. They have, as I said, the world’s most exotic selection of hamburgers. Here’s just a few so you get a sense of the burger menu.

Baja Burger
Salsa, sour cream, and Swiss or cheddar cheese

Bleu Cheeseburger
Covered with fresh bleu cheese

Foggybottom Burger
With peanut butter and sour plum jam

Frank’s Fantasy Burger
Sour cream and black caviar

Menage a Trois
Avocado, bacon, and Swiss or cheddar cheese

Mo’s Veggie Burger
Homemade blend of mixed vegetables, nuts and grains, no dairy

Nelly Burger
Creamed horseradish and bacon

Mushrooms, marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese

Rose street burger
Blue cheese and caramelized onions

Slam Dunkburger
Spread with sour plum jam and Dijon mustard

White Delight Bacon covered with bleu cheese dressing

There are more.

But it gets better: you can get anyone of these burgers made with Kobe beef. Kobe (the actual name is Wagyu) is an exceptionally fine breed of organically fed, Japanese cattle. It is the most succulent beef in the world. I realize this is dinning pornography to the vegetarians in the audience, but I say unto them, you can often cut a Kobe steak with your fork, and the taste is…well, it’s sinful.

Kobe burgers at Mo’s go for a few bucks more than the regulars, but I also spend the extra because they taste so damn good.

You don’t have to have a Kobe burger at Mo’s to know that customers are willing to pay extra for something they want. Whole Foods markets started in Austin, Texas with one store in 1980. Today, they are the largest organic and natural grocery store in the world with 292 stores, 53,000 employees and revenues of $8 billion a year.

Awesome growth.

All this while, Whole Foods has been the highest priced major grocery chain in the country. But that is not to say price doesn’t matter – of course it does. The point is that it isn’t always the hottest button in the marketing oven.

There are certainly those that take a “low price” position and thrive. Motel Six, which was actually $6 a night when it started in 1960, is the largest hotel chain in the United States and Wal Mart is still the largest food retailer in the country. Price is a position for these two companies. And it has worked for them, just like Nordstrom and Whole Food have their niche.

But my point is this: I find a lot of clients that think they must push the “price” button in their marketing… they think this until they see the results of the surveys we do for them.

When they have a chance to look at what their customers tell them is important, marketing strategies change.

This is not always the case, but it happens enough, that I wanted to make sure you weren’t just throwing “price” into your marketing programs without at least checking with your customers.

And that is what we have been doing for nearly a quarter of a century, finding out what our client’s customers and prospects think is valuable about their product or service and what will motivate them to buy it.

If these are questions you feel you need to have answered, or if your marketing programs simply aren’t biting the way you feel they should, contact us via phone, email, or Internet and we’ll let you know what we can do, what we charge and how long it will take.


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