This email showed up on my phone this morning (yes, the name was changed to protect the hapless):
Can you believe it? This person wants to showcase their portfolio, wants to work with us, and ultimately wants to generate revenue, and this is what they send?
Why not just write:
Did I go to the site and look at their newly updated work samples? C’mon, would you?
Of course not. I think we can all agree that this online pitch will result in absolutely no new visits and no new clients or new revenue for the sender.
While it’s easy to snicker at the unsophisticated person who sent it out and even easier to just hit delete and not give the mailer a second thought, step out of your customary comfort zone and take a minute to think about what was wasted.
Whoever XXX XXXXXX is, they spent time and money having their site designed and developed. They spent time and money buying their distribution list and sending out their email blast. And they spent opportunity cost (past and future time and money) overseeing the entire process, including the lost potential sales that they might have gotten if they had used a different technique.
I’m even willing to give XXX XXXXXX the benefit of the doubt and assume that their work is good and that I’d like it if I ever saw it. That makes it all the more unfortunate that their ham-fisted marketing effort doesn’t give me any reason or incentive to open their portfolio.
Okay, enough grousing about XXX XXXXXX. Now let’s get a little uncomfortable and think about YOUR marketing.
Have you sent out things that matter only to you?
Have you created materials that delve into painful detail about issues before you’ve established any connection with your reader?
Have you made offers that dump the entire effort on your intended audience but don’t give them any reason to actually take the next step?
There’s no need to answer these questions in a public confessional but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth asking and answering. Because the unfortunate reality is that many of us create marketing materials that are directed only at ourselves and then wonder why our self-conscious outreach doesn’t generate the results we want.
Next time you send something out, why not direct it with laser-sharp focus at the prospect you’re trying to reach? Why not tell them the story that matters to them? And why not give them a reason to step out of their comfort zones and respond to your offer?
By simply changing your communications from all about you to all about them you’ll change the way people respond to what you have to say. And who knows? You might even get XXX XXXXXX to respond too.
Speaking of things that are important to me, last week I wrote about the Elite Branding Intensive that we’re putting on to show people EXACTLY how to build their brands. I don’t want to use up the time you generously share with me to read this blog but if you want to know more, click HERE. Of course there’s no obligation to read the post but think of what great things could come from it!
Last month I presented the keynote speech on building brands at the NSA Annual Convention in Philadelphia. Before you glance over your shoulder or check if your phone is tapped, this NSA stands for the National Speakers Association NOT the National Security Agency. Or as someone at the conference pointed out, “We’re the ones who talk, not the ones who listen.”
Something I noticed was that when you meet people there, the first thing they ask you is “what do you speak on?” Not who are you, what do you care about, or what’s important to you, but what do you speak on. So when I did my concurrent workshop after the keynote, I asked everyone to raise their right hands and solemnly swear never to ask that question again. Because what they were doing was exactly opposite of my assertion and recommendation that successful brands don’t sell the function of what they do but the results they achieve for their clients.
If speakers are only selling what they speak on, then they each compete with one another for a limited number of speaking opportunities — just like any run-of-the-mill product. Selling what they speak on suggests that speaking is a generic activity and any one of them would be equally suited to fill the 55 minutes that a meeting planner has open on the agenda. By leading with their subject, speakers suggest that their specific advantage is that subject – that is, whether they speak on diversity, leadership, motivation, woman’s empowerment issues, technology or whatever — that’s what matters.
But as we’ve discussed so many times before in this blog, the real opportunity — and the real profits — comes not from selling generic functions but the individual talents and advantages that each speaker can bring to the platform to solve their audiences problems.
It’s the same with most other products these days. Because all new cars sold are equally proficient at getting us from Point A to Point B, you never see an auto company advertising the functional benefits of their products. Instead, they sell the brand. Mercedes sells quality. Volvo sells safety. BMW sells performance. Audi sells design. Kia sells affordable style. Toyota sells dependability. Ferrari sells picking up girls at nightclubs.
The big problem occurs when businesses large and small try to reduce their core brand to simple attributes like the ones above. Egos, expanded product offerings, insecurity, and indecision all get in the way and make the practice nearly impossible. And so most of the people and products that brand themselves do so with complicated, hard-to-digest, and even harder to remember messages.
Feeling this first hand at NSA was almost painful. I had spent my time on stage and in the workshop showing people exactly how to position themselves and so many people stopped me in the hallway to ask for help and or show me their admittedly confusing brand images. Ouch.
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” but I’m sure the same can be said for opportunities.
Our advertising agency is committed to helping our clients build powerful and profitable brands. Witness the work we’ve done for Miami, Kissimmee, MetCare, Discovery Networks, and so many more. And part of the way we’ve been successful is by showing our clients how to build their own compelling brands and how to exploit those brands to exceed their marketing goals.
Our mission is to build our business by helping people build their own brands. And so we are hosting our first ever branding master class. You are invited to Miami where I’m going to show you exactly how to craft a successful brand. We’re putting the event smack-dab in the middle of our buzzing advertising agency where you’ll learn exactly what you need to know to profit from a powerful brand. No fluff, no gimmicks, no hogwash. Just proven techniques that the best companies hire us for.
If you’re interested, click HERE for more information and pricing. The program includes everything you need to create and build your brand, including all materials, meals, special guests, and lodging, and is priced at a fraction of what we charge to build brands for our corporate clients.
But act quickly. I want everyone to get hands-on attention so I’ve limited attendance and have already signed up a number of NSA members. Because we’re sticking to that limited attendance, we’re offering seats on a first-come, first-served basis. In other words, when they’re gone, they’re gone.
To find out more, click HERE. If you’d rather talk to a real live person, please call Toma Rusk at (831) 402-5574. And learn how to put your brand to work for you.
What was going through your mind on 9/10/01?
I’ll bet you don’t remember. I don’t remember what I was thinking about either. Life was just sort of buzzing along like it usually does. I was aware of some of it and much of it went by unnoticed. But I sure remember what I was thinking on the morning of 9/11.
And so do you.
What did we lose when those jets slammed into the World Trade Center? Worst was the loss of 2,977 unsuspecting victims and the pain their families have gone through since. But also a sense of peace of mind that we weren’t even aware we enjoyed until it was ripped from us.
Like when the doctor walks into the examination room holding your test results and says, “Why don’t you sit down? I have something serious to discuss with you.”
Like when the phone rings in the middle of the night.
Like when the parents of a military man or woman serving overseas look out the window and see uniformed officers walking up the drive.
Our bodies know before we do that something’s wrong; that things will never be the same again. It’s the lump in your throat, the catch in your breath, the staccato beat of your heart, the suddenly sweaty palms.
In his New York Times article, “The Trauma of Being Alive,” Mark Epstein writes: “While we are accustomed to thinking of trauma as the inevitable result of a major cataclysm, daily life is filled with endless traumas. Things break. People hurt our feelings. Ticks carry Lyme disease. Pets die. Friends get sick and even die.”
After writing about how his mother is dealing with the death of both his father (her second husband) and her first husband, Epstein concludes “the willingness to face traumas – be they large, small, primitive or fresh – is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”
But at the risk of sounding too pollyannaish, I think there’s another way to deal with Epstein’s trauma of living.
What if, by some intentional rejiggering of the way we look at the world, we could learn to appreciate the things that we usually take for granted BEFORE they’re taken away from us?
What if we spent more time with friends and loved ones while they’re still alive instead of just missing them so intensely once they’re gone?
What if we celebrated our good health while we have it rather than wish for the “good old days” only after the doctor shakes his head slowly and sits us down?
What if we learn to appreciate what we have now instead of moaning about what we don’t have — or worse, what others have that we don’t?
I know that none of this is new rocket science and that the self-help aisles of most bookstores are jammed with cheesy gratitude journals, posters with uplifting messages, and calendars offering daily affirmations. But why do we need to be reminded of such a simple, yet potentially powerful message?
I don’t think it’s the human condition to wallow in our woes, and I don’t believe that we’re all destined to lead Thoreau’s lives of quiet desperation. It just seems that sometimes we’re too jaded, too distracted, and too busy to see all the beauty that’s already in our lives.
I, for one, am determined to pay attention and enjoy what I have before events and happenstance — big or small — conspire to jolt me out of my complacency. If this makes sense to you, I hope you’ll join me.
You can commit yourself right here, in the comments section of this blog, or you can do it privately. But please do make the effort to know what you’ve got BEFORE it’s gone.
We all believe that one thing causes another.
It’s only natural to believe that the things we do cause other things to happen. Taken to a fare-thee-well we wind up with chaos theory. Commonly called the butterfly effect, it’s the belief that a small change at one place can cause large differences somewhere else. And so the apocryphal butterfly flaps its wings in Madagascar and ultimately causes an ice storm in Minnesota.
So why is it that even though we accept and believe that one thing leads to another in most situations, we don’t apply that standard to many of the things we do ourselves?
Another place where we don’t practice what we preach is when we’re in the audience and witnessing a great live performance. What we believe is that what’s happening on the stage is completely dependent on the quality of the material as interpreted by the skill, preparation, and presentation of the artist. But in truth the performance — be it theater, dance, a keynote presentation, a sermon or a concert — is a conversation between the artist and the audience.
Whether it’s music or speaking, the person on stage NEVER does it alone. What the performer accomplishes is in part a reflection of what the audience encourages to happen.
It’s the same in marketing, branding, and advertising (you just knew I’d get there sooner or later, didn’t you?). Although it’s the client who provides the inspiration and pays the bills, and it’s the advertising agency that creates and implements the messaging, it is the audience that interacts and ultimately makes the campaign successful.
Twentieth-century advertising – Interruption Marketing – used to get in your way and get you to pay attention. Commercials would interrupt your TV show. Print ads and inserts would interrupt your magazine and billboards would interrupt your view. But unfortunately for marketers, remote controls, TIVO, satellite radio, and other digital technologies have made it too easy for consumers to simply step over the marketing roadblocks placed in their way.
And so today’s savvy marketers shoot for engagement, where they try to facilitate a conversation between clients and consumers. And the best of them understand that just like Newton’s third law, they can only create an action if they also allow for the reaction. Which – thanks to the low cost of entry and ubiquitesness of digital media – you can do too.
Social media sites are perfect examples of how you can build an engaging dialogue with your customers. Blogs — such as this one — are another way to build a productive relationship with your various audiences, much like we’ve done together here.
So when you watch a performance you appreciate — or see an ad you love — or read a blog post you enjoy – take some credit that you helped to facilitate it.
After all, as those great philosophers Lennon and McCartney wrote: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
It’s not reach, it’s not renown, and it’s certainly not status. But all three do reach a particular audience, all three have been prolific, and all three have some hits and some misses. Plus there’s something else.
Somewhere in the middle of his career, Picasso ran out of things to paint. Worse, he also lost the inspiration to create something new. Needless to say, Picasso’s agent was climbing the walls, wondering when his prized client was going to start working and provide his gallery with art to sell again. But no matter what the agent tried – yelling, cajoling, bribery – he couldn’t get Picasso painting.
Then one day Picasso called his agent and asked him to stop by his studio. When the agent arrived, he was stunned to see that the walls of the studio were covered with bright, colorful paintings. Picasso was back!!
After the agent had examined all the work and probably calculated how much all of the new canvases were worth, he asked Picasso the obvious question – “What was it that made you start creating again?”
Picasso responded, “I still haven’t created anything.”
“Then who did all this work?” The agent asked.
The artist told a quick story. He was depressed about having lost his muse and was wandering aimlessly through the streets and alleyways of Paris. Suddenly he came across a gallery opening and stopped in to grab a free glass of champagne when he realized that all of the work on the walls looked like Picassos. He’d been ripped off.
“So THAT’S what did it?” asked the agent. “Seeing that someone else was doing what you do inspired you to create something new?”
“No,” answered the artist disdainfully. “I haven’t started creating again. This work looks exactly like my old work. I just figured that if that guy could copy Picasso then Picasso could copy Picasso.”
The Stones started playing around England in the early sixties and so far their discography consists of 29 studio albums, 17 live albums, 30 compilation albums, and 110 singles. But most Stones fans will agree that it was during their early years that they put out their five best recordings – Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, Let It Bleed (my personal favorite), Exile On Main Street (a very close runner up) and Goats Head Soup. Yes, I know some of you would add Their Satanic Majesties Request and Some Girls to the list to which I say “pshaw”
The thing is, the last album on the list – Goats Head Soup – came out in 1973 and since then the Stones have released 61 more albums but nothing that competes with those five. To be fair, many of the 61 are best-of compilations or live recordings and a few are the band’s attempts to be relevant during disco and new wave. But since the early 80s what the Rolling Stones have really been is the world’s best Rolling Stones cover band – continuously recreating what they’d already done. What the Stones did was channel Pablo Picasso and copy themselves.
And so this blog is a lot like Pablo Picasso and The Rolling Stones in that it too has endured over a number of years (c’mon, you didn’t really think I was going to compare myself to those two icons by quality or notoriety did you?). And while it’s often chock full of new ideas and new directions, there are times when my posts are simply renewed versions of what’s come before.
When I started this blog, one thing I promised you was that I would be totally transparent and share what I was doing and what I learned. As I see it, this blog is a journey we’re taking together in harnessing new media and my goal is not just to communicate what I’m thinking about but also to share what I learn so you can benefit from the technology too.
Lately I’ve spoken to a few people who are interested in creating their own blog but are worried about the time commitment or hesitant because they don’t think they’ll be able to create new things week after week after week. And while I certainly understand and have experienced those concerns, I’ve also learned that just like the Rolling Stones and Pablo Picasso, sometimes the best ideas to copy are your own.
David and I were at the gym the other day talking about a race we had run in the Everglades. He was congratulating me on my performance when I pointed out how much better he did than I.
“It was a great race,” he said, “You and I did the same thing.”
“What are you talking about? You ran 50K to my 25 and your time per mile was faster than mine,” I answered.
“No, we did exactly the same thing. We both went out there and ran the course as fast as we could.”
This reminded me of the conversation between a Victorian worker and his liege.
Rich man: “If you bow to the king you wouldn’t have to live with so little.”
Poor man: “If you learned to live with less you wouldn’t have to bow to the king.”
Often the only thing that stands between success and failure — or the feeling of the two — is how the situation is framed.
If you can stand another running story, let me tell you about my friend Adam.
Adam has been training as hard as I’ve ever seen anyone train – up before 5 a.m. to run grueling repeats around the track. He gets there so early and works so hard that he’s often finishing up when I get there. By the way, in his spare time Adam runs a world-class corporation and is a terrific father, husband, and community crusader.
Two weeks ago Adam ran his big relay at the national championships. I couldn’t wait to hear how he did.
“Let me tell you what happened in Kansas City,” Adam said dejectedly. “One of our guys didn’t show up so we couldn’t field a team in our 50 to 59 age group. We found another runner to take his place but he was in his forties so we had to drop down to the 40-49 group.”
“So how’d you do?” I asked.
“Well, we won that division but there was no one else in it. If we had run in the 50-59 age group we would have come in third.”
“You won? You won the national championship? Wow – that’s amazing!”
“Nah, not really. I mean yeah, we won… technically. But we didn’t really win.”
Do you see what just happened? Adam took months of training, the loss of a team member, AND a national championship and wrote it all off simply because it didn’t happen the way he wanted it to happen. Because – last time I checked – the officials at national qualifying events don’t give out trophies unless you actually win fair and square.
Before you judge Adam too harshly, think about the last time you did the same thing.
Maybe you returned a compliment on how nice you look with a disparaging, “Me? No no no, my hair looks terrible… and I need to lose at least 20 pounds.”
Perhaps you blew off a congratulations for a new job or winning a piece of new business by crediting it to knowing the right person or being in the right place at the right time.
Or maybe you wrote off a smart investment or business decision to just being lucky.
Why is it we so willingly beat ourselves up for the things we’ve done badly or haven’t done at all, but we’re so loathe to take credit for the things we’ve actually achieved?
You see this in marketing all the time when companies build their branding programs around their weaknesses. They enumerate the items that they think will make their customers think they’re big or accomplished or credible or whatever they’re worried about instead of talking about what matters the most to their clients.
But like the best of friends, the real savvy marketers don’t talk about themselves. Instead they focus on the things they do that help their clients overcome their own negative feelings.
And like those friends, good brands make people feel good. But GREAT brands make people feel good about themselves.
Some things get better with age — wines mellow and so does balsamic vinegar. Classic music, both symphonic and rock, sounds better and better each time I hear it. Jeans and khakis get more comfortable, running shoes do too. To my eye, older Porsches, BMWs, and Alfas look even better over time.
Hopefully, we human beings improve as well.
Although it’s probably true that there’s no fool like an old fool, there’s also no substitute for experience. As George W. said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
When I was in art school I remember being told that advertising was a young person’s business. I never understood why that was but I assumed it was because of creativity. Young people are creative, I thought, older people less so. I was wrong, of course, because what I’ve learned after years and years in the branding business is that lots of people get more creative as they age. Art Directors Hall of Fame member Mike Tesch started his agency career in the Mad Men 1960s and nearly 50 years later still cranks out prodigious amounts of paintings, books, and creative solutions for our clients. From Mike’s example I’ve learned that life experiences provide resources to call on for creativity.
One of the great things experience teaches, albeit often the hard way, are the things that should only be done once (if at all). For example, one need only touch a steaming teakettle one time to know never to do it again.
What are some of the other things that we’ve learned to do no more than once? I was walking with a very good friend of mine one day when we saw an acquaintance of his coming the other way. As we got closer he greeted her by name and inquired, “When are you expecting?”
“Expecting what?” she asked.
I immediately turned and walked the other way, but knew full well that I had just experienced something my friend would only do once.
In his song about “pool-shooting son-of-a-gun” ‘Big’ Jim Walker, Jim Croce listed a few other things you wouldn’t do more than once. “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.”
So what else? If we’re all going to mellow like fine wine and get better with age, wouldn’t it make sense that we all learn the things we should only do once? I think this blog could be a great vehicle for crowdsourcing some ideas for this very important list.
What I’d like you to do is come up with your own suggestions of things you’ve learned you should do only once. Please click on the “COMMENTS” link at the end of this post and upload your tips for everyone to read. And if you feel like learning from other people’s mistakes, come back to the blog and check out the growing list.
In the meantime, here are a few ideas to get our list started:
With summer finally showing its sweaty face, those of us who live in Florida are starting to hear about hurricanes again. Just this morning I heard about one of the first named storms of the year — Chantal — which is swirling its way out of Barbados and up towards the Greater Antilles.
Newspaper, radio, and TV stations are inviting us to stay tuned for all of the information we need in the event a storm makes landfall nearby. And the uproar about named storms seems perfectly positioned to get us all atwitter and lined up at the local retailers to stock up on hurricane supplies; grocery stores are enticing us to buy can goods and bottled water and hardware stores are reminding us to stock up on flashlight batteries, plywood, and shutter hardware.
But after a winter of freakish storms in other parts of the country, hurricanes no longer have an exclusive on all the “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” press we see down here each summer. It seems like this year the Northeast and Midwest have also had their fill of sensationalist headlines. It’s gotten so bad that The Weather Channel has even started naming winter storms. According to them, this is to provide a better service for their viewers. Under the headline “Why The Weather Channel Is Naming Winter Storms,” they list their reasons:
Of all these reasons, the one they somehow manage to leave out is that naming storms is good for business. After all, think about how much easier it is to sell special media packages for a storm named Saturn or Triton then it is for an unidentifiable ice event. In fact, look at the following list of names The Weather Channel is using and tell me any other good reason for these names than drama and commerce: Athena, Brutus, Caesar, Draco, Euclid, Freyr, Gandolf, Helen, Iago, Jove, Khan, Luna, Magnus, Nemo, Orko, Plato, Q, Rocky, Saturn, Triton, Ukko, Virgil, Walda, Xerxes, Yogi, and Zeus.
Brutus, Magnus, Rocky, and Q? Really??!! Those sound more like the names of gladiators facing off against the lions at the Colosseum than a list of snowstorms.
The bottom line is that marketers like to name storms because it’s much easier to spread fear and panic with names than with unidentifiable titles. And when people are scared, they open their pocketbooks. Last year’s Snowmageddon was an excellent example of a terror-inducing label but how many times can we expect the creative people at The Weather Channel to come up with such a humdinger? You may not worry about pulling your kids out of school and buying new chains and shovels if eight inches of snow are predicted, but you’ll surely rush out and stock up on precautions to keep your family safe from Zeus or Khan!
Looking over the list, my only question is how they came up with innocuous names such as Euclid, Gandolf, Helen, Nemo, and Yogi. While Draco sounds blood curdling, Euclid sounds mathematical; Gandolf reminds me of that hairy-foot little troll from Tolkien’s trilogy, Helen was the beautiful woman who launched a thousand ships, and Yogi reminds me of a bearded holy man or Boo Boo’s best friend. And while Nemo might have been chosen because of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it just reminds me of Disney’s hapless little clown fish from Finding Nemo.
The Weather Channel says, “naming winter storms will raise the awareness of the public, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact and inconvenience overall.” The cynical marketer in me says the only thing naming winter storms will raise are the little hairs on the backs of our necks and opportunities for the channel to make money.