Author Archives: Evelyn Starr

Car Talk

Silver Honda Pilot

Photo credit: Fiona Traub

I grew up in a family that bought large used cars.  My dad was good at finding sturdy, reliable cars that owners no longer wanted once they had logged 40,000 miles.  He bought the ones that a local mechanic blessed and could fix for a couple hundred dollars.  Then we drove them another 80,000 – 120,000 miles.

So it may not come as a surprise to you that I am driving a 2006 Honda Pilot with 113,000 miles right now.

And like most cars that have traveled that far, it is showing a little wear. The paint on the fender has chipped off in several places.  A few rust spots dot the bottom of the doors.

But the car has become an old friend.  It has served us well for over nine years.

I envisioned it taking my family through college drop-offs and pick-ups and being there for my kids to drive.

Since the car rides well, I thought it would just need some care to go for another few years.  Recently I invested in the car’s insides – new front and rear brakes, new timing belt.

Then I investigated repairing the outside.

I walked into the Coach and Carriage Auto Body shop in Natick Center and asked about getting my car painted.  An appraiser named Joe introduced himself and said, “Let me see what I can do to talk you out of this.”

Before he even saw the car.

We went outside and Joe circled the car twice.  Then he said, “Here’s the thing.  Rust is like cancer.  The little bit you see on the doors outside is just the part that’s visible, but inside there is much more. If I repair and paint your car now, it will cost $4000 – $5000, and the rust will return in six months.  You won’t be happy with it.”

Joe the car oncologist gave my car doors about two years to live. After I recovered from the news, I told him of my hopes for the car.

Joe said, “This is a great car for the kids. It’s reliable and safe. Keep it for them. You can always replace a door if you need to. Take the money you would pay to repair the outside and put it toward a new car for you.”

But Joe doesn’t sell new cars.  He was turning away my business.

Why would he do that?

Because Joe understood that the Coach and Carriage Auto Body brand is not about repairing and painting cars.  It’s about making the owners happy with their cars by restoring their luster.

And if I was not going to be happy with my car, that would not be good business for Coach and Carriage Auto Body.

Turning away my business was a good business decision for Joe.  He did what was right for the customer and not what would fill his coffers in the short term.

Do I trust Joe now?  Absolutely.  Will he be the one I call next time I need auto body work?  Yes.  Am I likely to recommend him?  You bet.

In fact, I am likely to tell this story and rave about him to hundreds of my closest newsletter subscribers.

The positive word-of-mouth will likely bring him more business than my one car repair would.

To build your brand’s reputation and generate customer enthusiasm that prompts word-of-mouth marketing:

  • Know the problem that your brand solves for your customers. It is unlikely to be the provision of a particular product or service.  Joe knew that the problem that brought customers in was that something adverse had made them unhappy with their cars.  They looked to Coach and Carriage to make them happy again.
  • Identify all the possible solutions your brand can provide well. This often leads to ideas for new products and services.
  • Forgo the quick sale in favor of doing what is right for the customer. If your brand can’t solve their problem, help them find other solutions.  Joe did this for me by listening to my problem, supporting my idea of keeping the Pilot for my kids and suggesting that I put the funds I would have spent at his shop toward a new car.  One that would make me happy.

On behalf of his auto body shop, Joe provided the solution that his brand offers.  He just didn’t make any money doing it.  While this is not a sustainable model for every interaction, it was a wise choice for my case.

Thanks to Joe, I’m now in the market for a new small SUV.  Any recommendations?

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Don’t You Forget About Your Brand

Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club, before and after her makeover.

Image source:

This past March marked the 30th anniversary of the movie The Breakfast Club

For those of you who might not know it, the movie portrays the gathering of five stereotypical high schoolers (a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal) for a day-long detention on a Saturday.  Over the course of the day, social barriers recede.  The teenagers share insights that both explain their stereotypes and undermine them at the same time.

The movie struck a chord with adolescents everywhere when it was released, and continues to engage succeeding generations.  My husband and I watched it with our teenagers a couple of years ago. read more

Posted in Brand Growth & Rebranding, Brands In Adolescence, Marketing Insights | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment | Back to top

Life is Good Goes for Grand

Original Jake drawing from Life is Good,  brand in adolescence

Original Jake Drawing
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While many families chose warm weather destinations for the February school vacation, my son AJ and I took a road trip to Vermont and upstate New York.  No, we are not skiers.

Why would we choose a subzero-temperature week to travel to these northern locales?

To look at colleges.

AJ is a junior in high school.  Though he will not be applying to colleges until next fall, we are visiting now so that he will know where he wants to apply then. read more

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15 Tips for Using LinkedIn Updates to Grow Your Network

LinkedIn Rolodex

Image credit: Social Media Quickstarter, now known as

Do you remember the card game Concentration?  Or maybe you called it Memory or Pairs?

To start, all the cards were face down in rows.  You chose two cards to turn over.  If you made a match, finding two aces for example, you kept those cards and could turn over two more.  If you did not make a match, your turn ended and the next person tried.

The person with the most matches won.

Early on the game was a real memory tester, because you had to remember the cards that you saw based on a single short exposure. read more

Posted in Marketing Insights, Marketing Tools & Tactics | 2 Comments | Back to top

What a Croc

Crocs in all rainbow colors

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I was a persistent child.  How persistent?  Let’s just say that several times during my childhood my father wished, “May you have a child just like you.”

Well, I did.  Two of them.

On a Monday in early January 2004 my daughter Fiona came home from preschool and demanded to know when we were going to Disney World.  Several of her friends had gone during the December break, so when were we going?  My husband Dan and I just smiled and said we did not know.

She inquired again on Tuesday.  On Thursday.  On Saturday.  On Sunday.  Our 5-year-old son AJ began asking as well. read more

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How To Beat Email Triage

Evelyn in simulated skydiving chamber

Photo credit: Daniel J. Traub

For the holidays, I unplugged for 9 days.  I went on a cruise with my husband, kids, siblings, their spouses and kids, and my parents.  We were a group of 14.

Depending on your family, that may not sound relaxing to you.  But it was for me.

I participated in trivia competitions with family members (and won a couple). I read. I ate. I danced. I flew in a simulated skydiving chamber. read more

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Brand Storytelling Lessons From Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin Heads & Tales album coverI missed seeing Harry Chapin in concert by three days.

If you don’t know Harry Chapin by name, you would probably recognize one of his songs, particularly Cat’s in the Cradle or Taxi.

I was at a summer program in East Brunswick, New Jersey with 21 other teenagers in July 1981.  We had tickets to see Harry perform on Thursday July 19thHe died in a car crash on the Long Island Expressway on Monday July 16th en route to a benefit concert at Eisenhower Park’s Lakeside Theatre.  He was 38 years old. read more

Posted in Brand Storytelling, Marketing Insights, Marketing Tools & Tactics | 2 Comments | Back to top

Holiday Card Dos and Don’ts

holiday-dos-and-donts-image-280x204Have you heard a holiday song on the radio yet?

It always amazes me how early the holiday music starts.  I am among the 81 percent of Americans who don’t want to hear it in stores before Thanksgiving.

But while I am not ready to endure endless loops of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” I am already thinking about my business holiday cards. read more

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In the Spotlight…SkreensTV!

Skreens_logo-280x59Congratulations to client Marc Todd and his firm SkreensTV on the launch of their crowdfunding campaign!  Marc is a serial entrepreneur who channeled his frustration at missing key sports plays into the development of an entertainment solution that allows you to watch multiple TV programs, shop online and play games all on one TV screen. read more

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The Downton Abbey Method of Marketing

downton-s4-series-like-relationship-marketing-2-280x156Are you good at remembering names?

Even if you aren’t, I bet you could recite the names of the characters on Downton Abbey.  Or Mad Men.  Or The Big Bang Theory.  Or whatever TV series you enjoy. read more

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