Author Archives: Mustang Marketing

Mustang on the Air

Check out Ventura County Credit Union’s latest radio spot, featuring the voices of Joby Yobe, the owner and general manager of Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura, and Mustang’s own client and media relations coordinator, Ginny Beauchamp!

10-9Barrelhouse101 Spot

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Don’t Just Ask Questions, Ask the Right Ones

In 1967, Jack Kent Cooke opened the Fabulous Forum where his expansion hockey team, The Kings, would play. The Forum opened to rave reviews, with Cooke calling it the “most beautiful arena in the world.” Unfortunately, the Kings were a flop on the ice and, more importantly to Cooke, at the box office. Years later, Cooke was asked about why he had thought a hockey team would be successful in Los Angeles. He pointed to market research that showed that more than 300,000 former Canadians lived within driving distance of the Forum. He then famously said, “Now I know why they left Canada. They hate hockey!”

The Kings eventually became a success in Los Angeles, which had a lot more to do with Wayne Gretzky coming to town then it did with ex-Canadians. However, the initial failure is a terrific case with regards to market research. The only thing worse than doing none at all is doing it poorly. And the easiest way to screw up market research is to ask the wrong questions, or to not ask the right ones. In this case, it seems pretty obvious that the glaring unasked question was, “Would you attend a hockey game in Inglewood?”

There is another story, perhaps apocryphal, about early market research done on frozen dinners. Swanson introduced the “TV” dinner in the 1950s. Housewives were asked if the food tasted good, was it fairly priced, was it easier and quicker to prepare, and would their families enjoy it. The answer to all questions was a resounding yes. Yet early sales flopped. The researchers never asked the critical question: would they buy it for their family? It turns out that quite a few housewives felt their value to the family would be diminished if they did not prepare home cooked meals daily. Swanson soon found a market with bachelors, who had no such qualms about popping a $0.98 dinner in the oven, and eventually TV dinners caught on with the rest of us; but it was an expensive mistake as a result of not asking one obvious question.

I point this out because after nearly 30 years in the marketing business, I continue to be amazed by the number of companies who base an entire campaign on the “gut instincts” of the management team, marketing team and/or the marketing agency.

The first step in successful market research is to commit to doing it. The second­—and equally important—step is to do it well. And the key step in doing good market research is to ask the right questions. This means that you have to strip away all assumptions—like that 1950s housewives would absolutely purchase your product. It is easy to see how one might assume that Canadians love hockey; it is, after all, their national sport. But it does not follow that all Canadians love hockey.

In addition to not making assumptions, don’t ask leading questions. I’ve seen far too much market research that was designed (consciously or not) to support a decision already made. It’s waste of time and money and no better than not doing it all—unless one is simply trying to protect one’s backside. Go into all research with an open mind, a willingness to hear the results—whether or not they correspond or support any preconceived notions or hoped-for results—and, most importantly, the ability to learn from and act on the results.

-Scott Harris

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Say It Right

I had a less specific, more general work life blog planned, but I came across one of my biggest punctuation pet peeves today on a company’s website (not ours, obviously): a period outside the quotation mark.

Punctuation and quotation marks are a lot like English grammar: the rules are inconsistent. But they also aren’t that hard. If you’re writing a sentence that includes a quote, or a word or phrase in quotation marks, there are three general rule categories that dictate where to put the punctuation mark(s):

Always Inside

Closing periods and commas always—always—go inside the quotation mark. The structure of the sentence or quote has no effect on this rule, whether or not the period is part of the quote or part of the sentence.


Scott said, “I’ll be back from my meeting at three.”

In this case, we’re quoting an entire sentence, so it makes more logical sense to put the period inside the quotation mark anyway. And you’d be right.

Scott said his meeting went “mostly well.”

This time, “mostly well” isn’t a complete sentence, and the period is designating the end of the sentence that contains this small phrase. So it might make more logical sense to put the period outside the quotation mark—but you’d be wrong. It goes inside.

Scott said his meeting went “well,” but that he isn’t sure how much work we’ll get from the client.

Again, the comma isn’t part of the quoted word itself, but…it’s just the rules. I didn’t make them, I just follow them.

Always Outside

For every action, there is an equal and…you get the idea. All the more “unusual” punctuation marks—colons, semicolons, asterisks, dashes—go outside the quotation marks. Always.


Scott said something about being “better prepared”; all the meeting agendas are now printed and stapled ten minutes before we walk out the door.

The blog post I wrote this week is entitled “Say It Right”—please see that you follow its advice.

This is what I mean by “follow up”: call your media contact regarding your email, and make sure they received it and answer any questions they may have.

Pretty straightforward—the nature of these punctuation marks doesn’t call for them ever being a part of a quote, unless the quote goes beyond that punctuation (e.g., Scott Harris’s book is entitled, “RoadMap: A Guide to a Successful Strategic Marketing Plan.”).

It Depends!

It wouldn’t be a writing rule without a little leeway, would it? When using question marks or exclamation points, you need to listen to that logic and determine if the punctuation is a part of what’s being quoted or the original sentence. If the former, keep it inside the quotation marks; if the latter, put it on the outside.


Dianne asked, “What time does the meeting start?”

Dianne asked a question, so the question mark is part of what she said—the quoted material. It goes on the inside.

Why did Chris ask if I knew the meaning of the word “deadline”?

In this case, the quoted word/phrase isn’t a question—the sentence itself is asking a question about the quoted material. So the punctuation goes on the outside.

One of Danny’s favorite movies is “Moulin Rouge!”

The movie Moulin Rouge! actually has an exclamation point as part of its title—inside.

Danny actually used the word “perfect”!

The word “perfect” here, nor the quote, utilizes the exclamation point, but rather the context of the quote—the original sentence—is what asks for an exclamation point. Outside it is!

**NOTE: If you happen to find yourself in the UK, disregard these rules: they stick to the “logic” rule with all punctuation marks.

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Scott Harris Contributes Article to Regarding Ad Clutter–And How to Avoid It

Scott Harris, president of Mustang Marketing, wrote an op-ed piece for about how your marketing campaign can beat the overwhelming “ad clutter” your target audience faces every day.

To read the article in full, click here.

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