Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Best Love Letter to a Company Ever (And one of the best online portfolios you should be advertising on but probably aren’t)

A friend of mine, Joe Cronin, owns a company called (@edvisors). It’s a college student marketing company.

(Full disclosure: Joe is a close personal friend and my company sub-leases space from him)

Joe started the company about 12 years ago by buying up just about every URL related to education and student loans and has built it into a nicely profitable business that employs about 12 people and has its own corporate foundation. The business is essentially an intermediary between college students and service providers. Joe is one of the nicest guys on the planet. His company doesn’t deal with shady lenders and a great deal of his sites are dedicated to helping people navigate the college universe.

He’s got a database of about 2 million students and pulls in about 150,000 new users each month. His site is the epitome of the little engine that could.

Early on when we moved into his office space we were in the kitchen and I noticed a lined piece of notebook paper on the fridge. I took a look and it was a handwritten, single spaced, double-sided letter from a college Sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University. He was writing to say thank-you.

First of all… who hand writes letters anymore? Let alone thank-you letters? To companies? Let alone college Sophomores?

This letter in particular was addressed to The way it works is simple.

1) Sign-up to

2) Earn points by completing simple, fun activities (surveys, etc). Each point you earn is worth one entry into the free scholarship of your choice.

3) Enter your points into multiple scholarships, or use all of your points towards one free scholarship to increase your chance of winning.

The site has more than one million members and is growing at about a rate of 100,000 members a month. In 4 years they’ve given away more than 60 scholarships between $1,000 and $10,000.

I’ll share with you a few excerpts from this letter…

“Dear management,

Though I had no specific individual to whom I could address this letter, I am hoping all of you have the chance to read it because I intend it for all of you. I am continually thankful for and impressed by Scholarship Points! The site is such a generous philanthropic venture… I hope to be a winner at Scholarship Points one day also, but I am most thankful for the incredible information provided on the site.

I have been “money-conscious” since early high-school, but Scholarship Points’ articles, which I discovered late in my first year of college, were the catalyst to my becoming money-responsible! The site is the reason I got my first credit card (Citi Dividends!) and a large contributing reason to my use of ING Direct Orange Savings. The resources on your site sparked my investment in myself and personal finance and this new learning is inspiring me to pay off my loans while in school and graduate debt free. I’m finally taking real responsibility for my money and am so thankful for the resources and encouragement I found at Scholarship Points.”

He then goes on to very graciously ask several questions about entrepreneurship. The folks at Edvisors did answer him back.

He closes by saying…

“I wish the very best for the Scholarship Points program and the various sister sites united under the Edvisors banner. I am incredibly grateful for all I’ve learned there and I hope to become a scholarship recipient. I know the others probably expressed gratitude for your program by which this short letter is overshadowed! I hope to hear back from you and until then, I am

Sincerely yours,


In my humble opinion, this is one of the best love letters to a company I’ve ever seen and the guy hasn’t even won a scholarship yet. That it comes from a Sophomore in college gives me hope for the future. But in all seriousness it demonstrates a few very powerful dynamics:

1) The power of a good idea and sound business strategy will win most of the time. @edwardboches had this to say in one of his recent blogs about Panera's new non-profit endeavor, “This week's Fast Company declared that the most important leadership quality a CEO can possess is creativity. Not operations. Not finance. Not management. Creativity. Creativity means breaking with the status quo, trying things that have never been done, innovating on a regular basis.”

2) Having a company with good core values will win most of the time and it starts with the leadership. Of course Joe desires to make money but it’s clear a greater motivation is to provide avenues for more kids to be able to have access to higher education. For the record, Joe’s dad was once a state secretary of education and a president of a local university. Education is in Joe’s DNA.

3) Consistently providing valuable, relevant and meaningful content will allow for a strong and meaningful relationship with the consumer.

4) You can do well by doing good.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yet Another Example of Not Getting It

Cadillac broke new work today by BBH. All I have to say is, why?

This work is no better than the last few rounds of work by Modernista! or the work of their previous agency. I will give Modernista! props for the “My Cadillac Story” effort but Cadillac a thumbs down for abandoning it.

The line “Mark of Leadership” is meaningless especially when they’ve been playing catch-up to the Europeans, Japanese and now Korean’s (Hyundai Genesis) when it comes to quality. Simply saying it does not make it so. Sure the blokes at Top Gear found new love for the second generation CTS-V but they weren’t making apples-to-apples comparisons to other Euro (M5,RS4, C63)/Japanese (IS-F). The comments in the AdAge article are all sadly accurate. Probably the best comment was about the tagline being “destined for the ‘one year and out’ dumpster.”

Most importantly what this shows me is that what Cadillac nor BBH seems to understand is that :30 spots aren’t necessarily the name of the game anymore. Start with a great product and build compelling content around that product at strategic touch-points. It’s great that Cadillac has a YouTube channel but judging from the total views of all of the work on their channel (885,329) the “content” is hardly compelling. You want compelling content? Have a look at Ken Block’s DC Shoes/Monster Energy Drink/Subaru“infomercial” which is at 14 million views and counting. The aggregate of the DCShoesFilm Channel is at 34 million views and counting.

Cadillac has a great story to tell. Did you know the gear shift pattern/pedal configuration as we know it is courtesy of Cadillac? It’s unfortunate that no one is able to help Cadillac try to tell it.