All Posts By

Fred Driver

Travel UX

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I just returned from some business travel and once again was struck by the lack of “User Experience” that is applied within the airline industry.

Boarding process. This is just barely managed chaos (except for Southwest Airlines, which may have it figured out). Just a jammed-up cattle call and a rush for overhead bin space. And the little three-foot strip of red carpet that is supposed to make you feel special? C’mon. Oh yeah, and what sense does it make to board First Class early, and then have a flight attendant jam up the aisle serving drinks while everyone else tries pass through to the rest of the seats? Just “plane” dumb.

Useless Instructions. Most everyone totally ignores the ubiquitous pleas to place smaller items under the seat in front of you. “We have a very full flight today, blah, blah, blah”. And, do we really still need instructions on how to operate a seat belt?

Gate Announcements. OK, so this is information critical to every flier. But nearly every PA system is unintelligible and the voices sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Drink Carts. Take forever. Smash elbows in aisle seats. Send ice shards all over and block access to restrooms. Brilliant.

Rental Car Counters. A completely archaic, broken process. They’ve got the return part pretty well nailed, but getting the keys? Kill me now. Oh, and let’s have a single agent working the counter during busiest times.

Airport Road and Terminal Signage. Apparently designed to confuse. Mission accomplished. Atlanta’s airport is the poster child for bad signage. Phoenix is a close second. I can’t imagine what people do who don’t have English as a first language.

In-Airport Restaurants. Service is almost universally slow and inattentive. Not to worry, nobody has anywhere to go or anything. You are just a captive audience at their mercy.

Outlets. Travelers are often seen wandering gate areas looking for the rare and usually hidden electrical outlet to recharge their devices. Look for people lying on the floor like crash survivors with a cord trailing from their bodies to said outlet. It’s a sad sight.

That’s it for my rant. The next presidential candidate should run on a platform to fix this stuff. He or she would win in a landslide.

Management Perspective – Tagline Tips

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Creating a powerful, meaningful and memorable tagline is a tricky creative challenge. Done poorly, it falls flat and fails to bolster your brand position. Done well, it serves to significantly elevate your brand and help you stand out from your competition.

When developing tagline options, strive for the three C’s – clear, concise and creative.

Clear – Your tagline should be transparent, easily understood and descriptive. It should capture the essence of what makes your company different and be a clear reflection of its brand personality. Don’t make your audience work too hard to get the picture.

Concise – The best taglines are usually the ones that say the most with the fewest words. Great tags are elegant in their simplicity. Some are so effective they stand-alone and can evoke the brand outside of the context of the logo (“Just Do It”, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, “We Try Harder”, “The Uncola”).

Creative – Here’s where the real genius kicks in: being highly creative and memorable without falling to the temptation of being too clever (something I have to constantly fight given my predilection for comedy and improvisation). Your goal should be to create the promise of an experience tied to your brand. Trying to be overly humorous, use puns, or be cute blurs the issue and often hurts credibility.

Two examples of taglines developed for clients by d.trio using the three C’s as a guide include Remedy Medical (mobile MRI scanning): “Turn down time into scan time.” and Opportunity Services (an agency serving adults with disabilities): “Pride. Put it to work”.

A great tagline is a powerful weapon in branding. Keep in mind the three C’s and you’ll increase your chances of striking gold.


How to win friends and influence people? Improve your storytelling skills.

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That’s right.  Storytelling is a skill (just ask anyone who can’t tell a joke worth a damn).  And like any other skill it can be improved and polished with practice.

Why work to improve this skill?  Because it’ll serve you well in innumerable situations, both personally and professionally.  It’ll help with your verbal and written communications for conveying ideas, framing challenges and enlightening the uninformed.   It will enhance your social communications (see joke reference above), sales pitches, presentations, public speaking and networking.  And just overall make you a hell of a lot more interesting.

A few simple things to remember:

  • Relax
  • Know your story well – practice, so it comes across naturally
  • Have a point (a la Steve Martin –
  • Keep it simple – add no extraneous details
  • Make eye contact
  • Exude energy – it’s actually a bit of a performance
  • Be appropriately, not overly demonstrative
  • Use analogies and metaphors
  • Avoid people’s names and references that your audience won’t know
  • Start and finish strong

Put a little work into developing your storytelling skills.  Who knows, you might be the next Jimmy Fallon.

So, two marketers walk into a bar …

Be Direct

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In the rush to embrace rapidly emerging and evolving digital marketing channels it can be easy to ignore tried-and-true tactics like direct mail in your marketing mix. Direct has evolved as well, with much more sophisticated list/targeting methods, postal efficiencies and tracking tools and innovative print and format options.

Direct, integrated with digital channels, can significantly enhance the impact and response of B2B and B2C marketing campaigns. And it offers several valuable marketing benefits, including:

It’s tangible and tactile. You can touch and feel it. It has texture, depth and visual impact.

Message real estate. It has room to more fully represent a product, service, brand or value proposition.

It’s measurable. Direct can be designed to accurately measure response and ROI attributable to the campaign.

It’s not digital. It can be a welcome respite from the mass of electronic content bombarding customers and prospects.

It gets noticed. With less competing messages in today’s mailboxes, your piece can really stand out.

It’s preferred. Current research shows that many people (including Millennials) prefer mail to receive product information.

So, when planning your next campaign, be sure to consider direct in the mix. You might discover that what’s old is new and breathe fresh life into your marketing communications.


Don’t Confuse Discounts with Customer Service

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I heard from a banker friend of mine the other day about his frustration with his commercial bankers’ habit of waiving fees for “good” customers. This practice is often viewed by the “donator” as providing good customer service, but in fact has the opposite effect of commoditizing service overall.

Service is one of your primary deliverables, and any overt focus on pricing will tend to devalue that service. Your company’s brand position should support your pricing and discounts or waiving should be a rare occurrence. Your customers likely did not come to you, or more importantly stay with you for price considerations -so why would you resort to price reduction as a retention tactic?

Good customers recognize truly good service and are willing to pay for it. Those who are not, do not value what you deliver and will be subject to abandoning you for price-driven competitors.

Defend your position. Hold your ground and keep delivering exceptional service. Your truly best (and most profitable) customers will stay and pay and you’ll be far better off in the long run.

Management Perspective – “Solitary Refinement”

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I do a lot of bicycling.  For workout purposes all year and to-and-from work a couple days a week, Spring through Fall.

Outside of the obvious cardiovascular benefits derived from the exercise, it provides me with rare “alone time”, free from common distractions (I don’t even wear headphones – for safety).  It’s one of the only solitary things I do and I find it allows me to noodle on things, generate or refine ideas and concepts or, sometimes best of all, think about absolutely nothing.

You know how many people say their best thoughts hit them while in the shower.  Well, a long, rigorous bike ride is kind of like an extended shower.  The familiar, rhythmic, repetitive motion of pedaling along releases the mind to free-associate and go down creative and problem solving pathways often otherwise unexplored.

I am a gregarious person that usually draws energy and inspiration from being around others, but I equally value the solitary respite provided by a simple bike ride.  Sometimes one is not the loneliest number.

Top Ten Bike Path Chaos-Causers

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Note: Fred spends a lot of time on his bike during the summer. We are often treated to tales of his encounters along the way and he’s been good enough to provide us all with the following taxonomy.

Wrong Way Wabbits
Proud, serious, usually speedy runners who believe their considerable athletic prowess is too constrained by the pedestrian path and feel that running against one-way bike traffic is somehow a logical and safe alternative. They will play “Chicken” with you and never flinch.

Curb Feelers
Runners who insist on running on the narrow strip of concrete that in many places buffers the bike path from the surrounding grass. These folks must have been raised by tightrope walkers. They fail to grasp that their flailing arms and elbows tend to invade the bike lanes and that their precarious narrow beat requires their full concentration to avoid stumbling – keeping them from paying adequate attention to fast-moving rolling objects with humans aboard.

Rollerblade Rockers
Fortunately, a vanishing breed. These typically talented skaters are characterized by moving along the bike path in a serpentine fashion, gliding from one lane to the other almost always lost in a headphone-induced musical trance – and frequently can be seen going backwards. Often unable to hear your, “on your left” verbal warning.

Boat Blockers
Rare, but extremely dangerous. These are usually pairs of folks carrying a canoe or kayak who pause to determine their best point of water entry while having their craft suspended between them, completely blocking the path in both directions. There is almost no way out when encountering this calamity.

Book Club Babblers
A group of 4-6 almost exclusively women who travel in a pack on the path, blithely and energetically discussing the latest book assignment (or something). These groups are impossible to disperse and should be given a wide berth, as their reaction to any audible warning is entirely unpredictable.

Water Buffalos
Again, usually a group (sometimes friends or a family) who choose a random spot to stop for a water break. The buffalos themselves tend to make it off the path to rest and rehydrate, but they often leave all or part of their bikes parked on the path. Seriously?

Texting Tyrannosaurs
These technical terrorists are really scary. They’ll unexpectedly stop their bike mid-path, straddle it and begin texting. Called Tyrannosaurs because their arm positions while texting makes them look too small for the rest of their body.

No-Look Schnooks
This is a wide swath of mouth-breathers (alone, in pairs or groups, carrying coolers, pushing strollers etc.) that are so hypnotized by their ultimate destination that they simply stride onto the path directly in front of speeding bikes. Do not warn them, as they will invariably stop on the path and stare at you like a deer in a car’s headlights.

Clueless Campers
Hard to blame these folks as it’s not entirely their fault, but beware. Our culture frightens and confuses them. These are people from the ‘burbs who have rolled in to experience the urban landscape and know not of things like bike paths.

Spandex Ballet
The most colorful (and potentially deadly) beasts. This is a gaggle of middle-aged men, tightly stuffed into stretchy Lance Armstrong outfits, riding $3,000 bikes and traveling as a single, organic unit. Kind of looks like a bag of Starburst candies on wheels. Avoid at all costs, as the domino-effect crash that could ensue would be epic.

The ABC’s of Problem Solving

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When you really boil it all down, life (and business), is really just an endless stream of problem solving. Some problems are simple, but others are big, hairy, complex beasts that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. So, what to do?


That’s right. It has been said, and I agree, that tackling a big problem is like eating an elephant – it should be done one bite at a time. But, where to start?

I learned from a great manager many years ago that most problems can be broken down into manageable chunks of A, B, C, D, in descending order of importance. The trick is to focus your best energy on A and B and leave C and D alone. If you prioritize correctly and conquer A and B, you’ll usually find that C and D no longer matter or have taken care of themselves.

One of my favorite quotes is from writer/philosopher Elbert Hubbard, “The more one knows, the more one simplifies”. Truly a pragmatic mantra for life, business and the art of solving problems.

So, when encountering those nasty business problems, take a deep breath and simplify by remember your A, B, C’s.

The Coffee Stain Theory and Branding

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Your brand.  That treasured sense of self that your company strives to project and perpetuate every day is as fragile as it is critical to your success.  That’s why one should never discount the details when dealing with anything brand related.

Your brand is far more than your logo, website or tagline.  It’s how you and your employees dress, the condition of your building/offices/grounds, how your phones are answered (or not), the words you use to describe the company, even the quality of paper and printing on your letterhead and business cards.  All these things and many more tangibly effect the impression you make on the market.  So never compromise on what might seem to be a minor thing.

One of my favorite illustrations of this fact is The Coffee Stain Theory:

So you decide to take a trip and go to an airline’s web site.  The site is easy to navigate and you quickly find the flights you want at the time you want for a great price.  You go to the airport, sail through security and encounter courteous staff at the gate. The plane boards efficiently, you get a spot overhead for your carry-on and settle in.  The plane takes off smoothly and on time.  Your impression of this airline is fantastic.

Then you lower your tray table.  Right in the middle is a nasty, dirty coffee ring stain.  Yuck.  Bad enough that you’ve got to get someone to clean this up, but it calls into question the cleanliness of the rest of the plane, and even how well the engines are inspected and maintained!  Your impression of the airline so carefully cultivated to this point is dashed.  By something as seemingly innocuous as a coffee stain.

Over dramatic?  Maybe.  But, maybe not.  The point is that the devil is in the details and you need to treat everything that represents your business with care and respect – lest your customers and prospects begin to wonder how well your engines are maintained.