Two, Two…Two Posts in One

Something happened and the post did not feed into my LinkedIn page. And I am not paying for the app to allow me to link a past post (I am frugal). So, I will copy and paste last week’s post after the current post.

Predatory and Powerful Messaging

Using the right words is essential for great advertising to work. Forget the medium (and I haven’t seen any great digital ads, by the way), and allow me to share some recent examples I have seen and heard.

Driving through North Dakota is a nice drive, especially along the interstate – I29 and I94. We know the great classic rock stations (The rock Farm, The Raven, and The Fox) and there are a lot of interesting billboards to view.

Newman Outdoor is a successful outdoor and printing company and appears to own all the boards we see. They have addressed the direct claims of other mediums and worked a counter message into their self promotion. Here are a couple of examples, beginning with Newman itself:

  •  NEWMAN – the fastest way to reach mass audience. I love how they used the Google colours in their name and had a crisp message about the reach of outdoor.
  • NEWMAN – Use your outside voice.  Another terrific and powerful reinforcement to use outdoor.
  • NEWMAN.Real.Effective.Messaging. Real. Clear. Point – I love it.
  • A soup can, resembling the Campbell Soup colours had NEWMAN on the label, and the text for the ad was “ABC’s for memorable marketing.

And in Bismarck, an ad for a computer service company:

  • In orange letters to mimic the “other guys”…Why Hire a Geek…when you can call a professional.   And this company is good. They got our oldest out of a tech jam a few years back.

And there were two for Foster Parents that were powerful:

  • Foster Hope. Be a Foster Parent
  • Foster Love. Be a Foster Parent

The Girl Guides had a series of three inspirational boards that ran sequentially along the highway:

  • Be Amazing. Be a Girl Scout.
  • Be a Leader. Be a Girl Scout.
  • Be Yourself. Be a Girl Scout.

And Econolodge had a simple message just outside Jamestown “Easy. Stop on the Road.”

The new hospital in Jamestown also had a terrific message on their sign:

Emergency?

Turn

hERe

Motel 6 has moved away from their fantastic campaign, “we’ll leave the light on for you.”, and in an effort to show their new rooms features a picture of two nice comfy looking beds with the caption “Far better. Close by.” I certainly feel like I could get a great night’s rest there.

And there is an excellent public service announcement:

  • DNT TXT & DRV.

A wonderful TV ad features a local mattress store with the owner speaking in a civil tone and wondering why anyone would order a mattress in a box? And he proceeds to show some very comfortable sleep sets. A wonderful approach to targeting your competition without belittling or being overly caustic and negative.

Duluth Trading Company has some of the best ads and product descriptions that i have ever seen. They clearly have a fun brand, yet deal with the practical aspects of what people want out of the clothes and items sold at DTC.

The outdoor board just outside of Fargo features the mid-torso of a male wearing underwear and the caption is “Get BUCK NAKED in west Fargo” I 94 and Veterans”.

Their underwear is the most comfortable I have ever worn. And they have created product for a specific situation:

  • Buck Naked – feels like you are wearing nothing at all. No pinch. No sweat. no stink. The next best thing to working in your birthday suit.   This is the core message.
  • Bullpen – swagger without the swing. And then a detailed description…
  • Armachillo – put ’em on ice.  These are for the days when you are working hard and building up a sweat.

And they have men’s shaving and grooming supplies. The bars of soup are  “Duke Cannon” brand. Each scent has a unique message that will just make you laugh. If you want to check out their ads: https://bit.ly/2N2Yv4H and here are some of the videos https://bit.ly/2PkSf61

The key to the success of these ads and product descriptions is that the product or service claim is backed up be real performance and consistently great delivery.

This is the message that I want to leave you with today. If you say something, it better be true and it better be something your entire company understands and supports. You can have fun with something without being derogatory. And in some cases, your brand will allow you to have some fun with it as well.

As we near the end of summer, I mean construction season, there were several signs, mostly in Canada, that do not live up to my assertion.

End

Road Work

and

End

Construction

Here is last week’s post.

Would You Buy From You?

 

despise the flippant attitude and approach of many people in a customer service role.

Or am I being too harsh?

If you run a business, how do you know what the customer service approach is for your employees? Do you:

  • watch them in action?
  • listen on their calls while sitting beside them?
  • read customer comments?
  • travel with a sales rep to observe a client visit?
  • use a mystery shopper?
  • conduct research on your customers to improve your understanding of them?
  • talk to all departments that interact with a customer?
  • other???

You need to answer a very important question:

Would you buy from you?

If you want an honest opinion, you must answer honestly with a combination of your own assessment (subjective) and a view from the customer (objective) to create a holistic answer. If you do not take this approach, you may be missing important factors that might be contributing to not achieving your results.

I suggest that your “rock star” results are best achieved with a consistent approach over a long period of time. And there may be adjustments required. Darwin noted that it is those that adapt that will survive. As much as you want to be consistent, even boring, you must also look for ways to improve.

You should ask this question on a regular basis and ask your employees to ask this question. Do you have an environment, a customer culture, that encourages your employees to provide honest input to this question? Do you consider their ideas and suggestions and mine them for the gold that probably exists?

When was the last time you asked a current customer why they bought from you? If there is great trust they might tell you the truth. And they might not because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Using an outside researcher to collect this information typically achieves better results because customers are more at ease telling this independent person the truth.

The truth is what you must seek.

There is an old adage about poor reporting, which is, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” In business, you want to uncover the facts and reality and then craft this into the story that is your company and the relationship you have with your customers.

But, isn’t this hard work?

You bet. And it is work that is required.

If you only conduct some of these activities once a year, this is not likely a true reflection of the actual service delivery of your organization.

While social media can also provide inputs and data points, you should carefully consider the source and context of the comments – good and bad – and not rely solely on a single source.

The more holistic you can make your knowledge and awareness, the better served you will be with information that can assist with your improvement as an organization.

We each see from our own perspectives. And we can often be blind, or have blinders on, with respect to the things we see and hear. This human truth is why we need other perspectives and data points.

When was the last time you seriously looked at direct and indirect competitors to your business? Would you buy from a competitor instead of you?

Remember, you are asking this objectively, so be prepared to accept the results. Don’t fight it or try to justify. Try to learn from what you uncover so that you can add that in to your planning.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you try to duplicate or mimic what your competitors are doing. This “me too” approach is not a strong long-term strategy.

Hold up that mirror and take a close look. Do you like what you see? Or is there room for improvement? You must analyze big and small data to find those differences and advantages that you have, or that you have to create, to make sure you are “the apple of your customer’s eye.”

We all want to experience “service with a smile” and the only way this can happen is if you are honest with yourself and your company.

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Buy From You?

I despise the flippant attitude and approach of many people in a customer service role.

Or am I being too harsh?

If you run a business, how do you know what the customer service approach is for your employees? Do you:

  • watch them in action?
  • listen on their calls while sitting beside them?
  • read customer comments?
  • travel with a sales rep to observe a client visit?
  • use a mystery shopper?
  • conduct research on your customers to improve your understanding of them?
  • talk to all departments that interact with a customer?
  • other???

You need to answer a very important question:

Would you buy from you?

If you want an honest opinion, you must answer honestly with a combination of your own assessment (subjective) and a view from the customer (objective) to create a holistic answer. If you do not take this approach, you may be missing important factors that might be contributing to not achieving your results.

I suggest that your “rock star” results are best achieved with a consistent approach over a long period of time. And there may be adjustments required. Darwin noted that it is those that adapt that will survive. As much as you want to be consistent, even boring, you must also look for ways to improve.

You should ask this question on a regular basis and ask your employees to ask this question. Do you have an environment, a customer culture, that encourages your employees to provide honest input to this question? Do you consider their ideas and suggestions and mine them for the gold that probably exists?

When was the last time you asked a current customer why they bought from you? If there is great trust they might tell you the truth. And they might not because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Using an outside researcher to collect this information typically achieves better results because customers are more at ease telling this independent person the truth.

The truth is what you must seek.

There is an old adage about poor reporting, which is, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” In business, you want to uncover the facts and reality and then craft this into the story that is your company and the relationship you have with your customers.

But, isn’t this hard work?

You bet. And it is work that is required.

If you only conduct some of these activities once a year, this is not likely a true reflection of the actual service delivery of your organization.

While social media can also provide inputs and data points, you should carefully consider the source and context of the comments – good and bad – and not rely solely on a single source.

The more holistic you can make your knowledge and awareness, the better served you will be with information that can assist with your improvement as an organization.

We each see from our own perspectives. And we can often be blind, or have blinders on, with respect to the things we see and hear. This human truth is why we need other perspectives and data points.

When was the last time you seriously looked at direct and indirect competitors to your business? Would you buy from a competitor instead of you?

Remember, you are asking this objectively, so be prepared to accept the results. Don’t fight it or try to justify. Try to learn from what you uncover so that you can add that in to your planning.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you try to duplicate or mimic what your competitors are doing. This “me too” approach is not a strong long-term strategy.

Hold up that mirror and take a close look. Do you like what you see? Or is there room for improvement? You must analyze big and small data to find those differences and advantages that you have, or that you have to create, to make sure you are “the apple of your customer’s eye.”

We all want to experience “service with a smile” and the only way this can happen is if you are honest with yourself and your company.

Luckiest Man

This is my 52nd blog post. I have covered a wide variety of topics related to business and life. And there is no shortage of material to continue to write about.

Since this is a milestone, I want to zag today.

One of my favorite sports movies, actually a favorite in any genre, is Pride of the Yankees, with Gary Cooper playing Henry Louis Gehrig. I am not a big baseball fan, although I do marvel at the athleticism and intricacies of the sport. When I can understand these intricacies, that is.

After watching this movie over the years I then read Jonathan Eig’s book, “Luckiest Man.” This is a wonderful account into an amazing athlete and insights into a private and humble man. I didn’t know much about Gehrig’s stats, other than the 2,130 consecutive games he played, until I read the book. He had 12 consecutive years of scoring 100+ runs, batting in 100+ runs and hitting over .300. Not only did he always play, he always played at his highest level.

Lou Gehrig fit Coach Wooden’s definition of success. He did his best every day. He practiced harder than anyone. He used the amazing athletic ability and improved on the foundation.

And then came his debilitating disease – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It robbed him of his physical capacities and he had to retire. His speech to the 61,000 at Yankee Stadium on his special day included the iconic “today I consider myself the luckiest man on earth” comment.

Which leads me to the real reason for this anniversary post.

Thank you to everyone that stops by and reads my comments.

Thanks to those that click “like”. I am humbled.

Thanks to my clients and friends that let me reference you. Especially my clients that have entrusted me to work with them.

Thanks to the experts I have met online and in person that allow me to link to their brilliant thoughts, research and witty comments.

Thanks to my family (especially Gwen, Tylar and Turnar) for supporting my efforts in business and in reading what I write. You have no idea how much this helps when there is a tough day. And now I have a monthly column in the first Saturday of every month in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Thanks to Trappar for listening to my oddball rants from the 2nd floor of TK3 World HQ.

Thanks to the medical professionals that helped me beat this insidious cancer five years ago. Screw cancer…and run your feet! This is for you, Fedus.

Thanks to the good Lord for keeping me here. Now, please, just a bit more guidance to ensure I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Thanks to the human race for being so different, funny, maddening, and just plain interesting that there is never a shortage of topics to cover.

And all these points make me the luckiest man alive today.

One of the most inspiring pieces of literature is Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If.

I believe it fits with the Gehrig story, Wooden, Drucker and everyone else that I admire. It is a message for leaders and followers. I believe it is the credo for success in life.

My final thanks  is to share this with you.

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Make today your best day ever.

 

Where’s the beef?

I really enjoy reading, seeing, watching and listening to great advertising. There is something magical about the selection of words, sounds and images to position a product or service that captivates the heart so the mind will follow.

This ad from Wendy’s, back in 1984, had a tag line that was used and referenced in so many other instances. It was memorable for Wendy’s and for so much more.

Sadly, the digital revolution has not kept pace with this concept. And there are a few experts that are profoundly more adept at stating this than me.

First, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble told the digital world that the quality of their creative had to improve so that the P&G brands stories were improved and consistent with the quality that every other medium is held to. This video is well worth the 26 minutes you will invest in it.

Next, Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian, recently talked about the importance of creative and how digital fails miserably at achieving awareness.

And third, George Tannenbaum, writing as Ad Aged, and featuring words of wisdom from the great Dave Trott.

Bob, George and Dave all write regular blogs and I encourage you to read them and broaden your thinking about great advertising and the folly of much of what is claimed by digital platforms today.

I don’t want to be targeted and slapped into a generic persona. What I cannot figure out is how hard it is to remove me from the online onslaught. I have a solitaire and cribbage (played a lot in university) app on my phone and I will play a couple of games now and then. I am cheap so I downloaded the free app that includes advertising. I have few apps on my phone. I like a bigger screen so I use the phone as a tool not a major communication device. When I play these games I get inundated with ads for games I have never clicked on or downloaded (what the heck is fishdom?), trips to places I have never visited (what does a beach look like in an ad that is 2 1/4″ wide and 1/4″ high? Not that enticing that’s for sure.

But “the Google” has given me an out. I can click on the “x”, which is hard with big sausage fingers, and I get asked why I don’t like the ad:

  • content not relevant?
  • content covers the page?
  • content seen before?

When I click one of these answers, I get a message from “the Google” saying, “we will try not to show this ad again.” Call me skeptical, but, you used your algorithms to somehow place this content before me because of your wonderful targeting and you are saying you will “try” not to show the ad again?!?!?!

I fear Google is like Hamlet, “what’s done cannot be undone.” And I want it changed. No big brother!!!

Please help me understand how this level of new targeted advertising is better than the traditional media campaigns that truly helped build brands. I don’t have any recall of the ads. I skip them or never go to the page. There is nothing that grabs my heart or tickles Broca’s area in my brain.

Arguably the greatest ad campaign of all time for Volkswagen that was created by Doyle Dane Bernbach, helped build the brand value that ensured VW could manage through the recent emissions scandal many decades later. Nothing in digital land comes close.

There was a big idea, a necessity in advertising, that was reinforced with something practical or easily understood in the customer’s mind. It was not mental gymnastics that cause people to look at an ad and go “huh?”

The execution was fantastic and was able to run for many years and new concepts kept flowing. There is an amazing book that features the history of this campaign. I highly recommend it.

I have been fortunate to work with some talented creative people. I can write a decent strategy brief, but the execution is best left to professionals. People that actually studied the craft and practice and adapt and try new things on a regular basis.

I believe great advertising can also be used inside companies for internal communications. Helping employees understand the external campaigns, their purpose in serving customers and receiving a consistent, and believable, message can only increase their company engagement and commitment to the customers.

With respect to my HR colleagues, why do you think you can create a catchy theme? You never studied creative and you have an internal view. Ask your marketing colleagues to get the right message created. You can drive the strategy for your programs, but leave the design to the experts. You don’t want them to tell you how to do your job, do you?

Eugene Schwartz, was one of the top direct mail copywriters of all time. He offers one of the best summaries of what great advertising can do when he said, “Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires into a particular product.”

I believe you can only get to this stage by truly understanding your customer and what they want to do with your product or service. And making sure that you live up to the claims you are making. Then, and only then, let the creatives create.

Otherwise you’ll end up with a campaign and tag line that Time Warner Cable came up with, “Enjoy Better”. I have no clue what they are trying to say. And to add to their self-inflicted problems with the English language, the New York Times found out they were actually the worst cable company.

All this to say that in some cases it doesn’t pay to advertise – in traditional media or digital.

 

 

You See, But You Do Not Observe

This is a line from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, A Scandal in Bohemia. I often said it to our sons when they were younger to help them broaden their perspective and make them more aware of small things happening around them. They are quite bright and observant (proud dad) and it appears this suggested advice caught hold.

I have the Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, reproduced in complete facsimile, and it has all the pictures that ran in the Strand Magazine. It is a wonderful book and I enjoy reading a couple of stories at a time.

But what does this have to do with marketing?

In discussing the difference between seeing and observing, the exchange between Watson and Holmes went like this:

“When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning, I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

“Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

I believe the lesson for marketers includes this aspect of learning more about your customers. Don’t just see the numbers that represent them. You need to observe them and understand what they are really doing with your product or service.

Numbers are great in aggregate. However, they so often DO NOT portray the real behaviour of humans.

All the recent data from, say Facebook or Twitter, is not as pure as one might hope. The loss of millions of accounts because they were fake has put marketers on notice that they need to do more than just check likes and followers.

Or at least it should have.

Instead of demanding more transparency from these digital giants, many marketers are going to still spend money…without knowing if this is the total mess or just the tip of the iceberg.

I have downloaded some interesting research and position papers lately on creating a customer-centric culture and they are almost exclusively looking at driving towards digital interactions and tools only.

Despite what the media reports, most customer activity still evolves around traditional media and channels. This data was released in February 2018 and shows e-commerce in Canada at 2.6% of total retail sales. Be very careful when comparing percentage growth to actual growth as the story  narrative can be dramatically incorrect when you look at the actual numbers.

There is a lot of commoditization in many industries and great marketers must find out how their product or service helps the customer do their job better or faster to become more distinct and separate from the competition. You must observe your customer in different ways to increase your understanding.

More data points provides a more complete picture. You also decrease the reliance on only a few metrics when you pull all the pieces together.

I am a fan of Martin Lindstrom, and his book Small Data, is a fascinating counter-balance to our obsession about big data. We need to stop just looking at the forest and saying it has trees. We need to look at those trees and learn more about them in order to deepen our understanding of the forest.

Buyer personas are gaining rapid exposure and popularity.  I was working for organizations in the TV business over 10 years ago that created profiles of the primary and secondary viewers of specialty TV channels. This took research and analysis and always went beyond aggregating. We also knew we could never include everyone in these personas.

So we didn’t.

We focused on the core and next level viewers and achieved tremendous financial (sales revenue growth) and viewer (total audience and key demos) success.

You cannot put me in a box with my friends all the time because we have many different likes and dislikes. We are human and we have opinions. And we change our minds and react to different events in different ways.

To truly gain more insights you would have to observe us in different situations. Simply seeing high level numbers and assuming they represent us completely would be a gigantic and costly mistake.

And if you made that mistake, I would know why.

“Elementary!”