Check out this video:

YouTube Preview Image

Ok, now check out a similar technique:

Or how about the same general technique used for another cause:

YouTube Preview Image

And just so you can really see the pattern, how about this:

In every case, the ad’s effectiveness comes from what Cialdini calls Pre-Suasion and the creation of “Privileged Moments.”

Cialdini’s overall thesis is that the persuasiveness of a given appeal greatly depends on what takes place immediately before the ‘ask.’

It’s harder to deny someone a favor if they’ve just done one for you, and you just finished expressing how grateful you are to them. Of course, you could explain that using Cialdini’s principles of reciprocity and consistency, but the point remains: it wasn’t the request itself that was persuasive — it was the pre-suasion before the request.

In the case of the above advertising campaigns, the audiences were tricked into taking an action they could be called out on, thereby creating a privileged moment.

It’s almost impossible to deny that you’re cheating on your diet when you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar and your mouth full of cookies.

So all of these campaigns looked to place their audience in such a “compromised” position, creating a privileged moment that left them especially open (or vulnerable) to the intended message:

  • When you’ve just clicked out of a video featuring “food porn,” you can’t help but feel guilty about those who dream of food on a painfully empty stomach.
  • When you’ve just put food into your own grocery cart, you can’t help but feel for those who have no food.
  • When you’ve just told someone else how bad smoking is for their health, it’s hard to deny or ignore its effects on your own health
  • And when you’ve just looked away from your drink and failed to notice someone slipping an umbrella into it, it’s impossible to deny how vulnerable you would have been to a date rape drug.

None of these requests for aid or donations or changed behavior would have worked as well or hit as hard had they not come immediately following this kind of “gotcha” experience — had they not enjoyed a privileged moment.

Now,  at this point, you might be thinking that this is a neat psychological trick, but it won’t work for most (or, more specifically, your) advertising.

But in my next post, I’ll show you how that’s simply not the case.

Until then, ponder what would constitute a privileged moment for your persuasive message…

Well, first of all, do they suck?

And compared to what?

Do they suck any worse than most ads on TV?

Yes and no.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Most people think radio ads suck worse than TV ads because the average radio ad one hears sucks compared to the average TV ad one sees.

But is that a fair comparison?

No, because that’s comparing local radio ads to national TV ads. And comparing a radio ad for a local sporting goods store to a national TV ad for, say, Nike is absurd.

Of course, the Nike ad will be better!

But what about comparing local radio ads to most local TV ads?

Or comparing national radio ads to national TV ads?

Well, all things considered, most local radio ads suck, but only to an equal degree as most local tv ads.

And most national radio ads — when you actually hear one — are as good as most national TV ads. Just check out Motel 6’s radio ads:

YouTube Preview Image

Or how about Jimmy John’s current radio campaign:

YouTube Preview Image

So Why Aren’t There More National Radio Ads?

So it’s not that radio ads suck, it’s that the ratio of local to national ads on radio is way higher than on TV, and local ads suck regardless of whether they’re on radio or TV.

But then, why are there so few radio ads for national brands?

Because the big brands that can run national campaigns have enough budget to use whatever media they want, and most big-time agencies would rather run a TV campaign, with alternative media as supports, than to focus on radio.

Yes, you’ll sometimes get a kick-butt agency that recognizes the value of radio, such as The Richards Group

But for the most part, agency-produced, nationally run radio ads are comparatively rare.

This sucks for radio, but it’s a huge opportunity for local businesses.

But Why Aren’t Local Radio Ads Better?

The thing is, local radio really SHOULD be doing better than local TV.

Because the budget required to produce a world-class radio ad is well within the reach of most local businesses, being somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to $700), whereas the budget to produce a world-class TV ad is mid five-figures if not into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When it comes to radio, voice talent isn’t that expensive and can be recorded asynchronously from almost anywhere. Sound effects can usually be acquired without much expense or too much effort. Most stations have all the microphones and tech they need. You don’t need a complete film crew to do a radio ad, etc. And so on.

Whereas if you want to produce a TV Ad to rival Apple or Nike or Bud Light, you’re typically going to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the more special effects you have, the bigger the budget will need to be.

Can a really creative script overcome crappy production?  Sometimes and to some extent, but your ad will still look mickey-mouse if you don’t pay for a professional quality film crew, and those don’t come cheap.

Why Radio Doesn’t Do Better

So with that massive advantage, why doesn’t radio do substantially better than local TV?

If local TV Stations can’t make great ads due to costs and technical limitations, what’s holding local radio back?

Three things:

First, Radio Stations have largely abandoned Theatre of the Mind

Don’t know what that term means? Watch this:

YouTube Preview Image

Radio people love to talk about the power of “theatre of the mind,” and they can sometimes point out examples of it.

But they’ll never tell you exactly what it is and how to use it effectively in an ad.

And they’ll rarely write ads that take advantage of this powerful technique because they don’t train their people to do it.

That means the radio industry has simply abandoned one of the most powerfully persuasive advertising weapons they have.

Second, most stations no longer have dedicated copywriters

The stations require the salespeople to write the ads. Your ad can only be as good as the writing and messaging.

Which could be OK, except that the sations don’t bother training the salespeople how to write good ads.

And your ad can only be as good as the writing and messaging.

So if you don’t train your people to write great ads, how can you expect to put great ads on the air?

Unfortunately, this not only results in crappy ads, it also hurts sales.

Because if you’re the guy writing the ads you sell, and you know your ads aren’t that good, then how in the world can you possibly have any confidence in what you’re selling?

I’d also point out that, since the creative revolution from the Mad Men days of advertising, it’s been common practice to have the artist team up with the copywriter to ensure that the art and copy work together. Yet, somehow, radio never got that message.

Because theatre of the mind and sound effects are radio’s pictures and art. Yet the production guys never seem to talk to the ad writers (be they professional copywriters or salespeople writing their own ads).

Why should it suprise anyone that this state of affairs produces mediocre and relatively uncreative ads?

Third, most stations give away free production 

If you view production as a cost center rather than a profit center, you try to squeeze as much productivity out of the production team as possible.

And that means giving away free production as a deal sweetener to boost sales.overworking them to the point where they have little time to do anything but produce crappy ads.

Which results in an overworked production team that has little time to do anything but produce crappy ads as fast as possible.

But what if you valued production enough to charge for it?  What if you felt that the quality of ads you ran reflected the quality of your radio station itself, and you’d be ashamed to run an insipid, badly produced ad?

You can laugh, but such an approach has been done before and it worked like gangbusters.

But here’s the rub? You can’t tack on production costs at the end of a sales pitch.

You have to bake the value of production into the sales pitch from the get-go.

Unfortunately, no stations seem willing to do that.

So, yes, most radio ads do suck.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Radio just needs to get its mojo back, if only its leaders would find the courage to make it happen.

What’s the difference between a demo and a dramatization?

You might have a different answer, but for me, it boils down to:

  1. Character vs. Salesperson
  2. Scenario vs. Situation
  3. Focus on Stakes vs Focus on Feature

A demo, in essence, is a salesperson putting a product in a situation wherein it can showcase the operation of this or that feature.

The salesman dumps some dirt on a scrap of carpet and then demonstrates how the vacuum sucks up the dirt and renders the carpet immaculately clean.

Whereas a dramatization will have at least one character, put into a true-to-life scenario, wherein he could win or lose something important. And at that point, once the stakes are established, the product’s feature will be instrumental in helping the character to save the day.

That’s not to say that the drama is always better or that there’s never a place for a terrific demo.

Ginsu sold a whole lot of cutlery by demoing their knife cutting through a soda can and then cleanly and effortlessly slicing a ripe tomato. Great demo.

But dramatization shines when the true value of the feature isn’t immediately apparent.

And the great thing is that — with a little skill — it doesn’t take any longer to dramatize than to demo. Just check out this Toyota ad:

YouTube Preview Image

That’s a 15-second ad. Talk about entering late and leaving early. Yet we still get

  1. a character,
  2. a real-life scenario, and
  3. clearly established stakes.

So we instantly understand why the foot-activated, powered liftgate could be a lifesaver.

What’s crucial here is that the dramatization shows how the product can help the prospect win the day. We see that story and we put ourselves in that guy’s place. For who is the character, really, other than an audience stand-in?

In other words, the customer is the hero, not the product.

The other advantage, of course, is that the dramatization pulls the audience into a story, which means it pulls them out of a skeptical buyer-seller mindset, and that’s never a bad thing when you’re branding (or bonding), rather than direct-response pitching, à la Ginsu infomercials.

“Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak” — or so says Elmer Wheeler

And if you’re in marketing or sales, either you like that phrase, or rather strenuously object to it.

Those who object say things like:

  • If you sell sizzle without the steak you’re a con artist
  • “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” is for people who don’t understand good steak and/ or hope you don’t

In other words, the phrase should really be “Sell the steak through the sizzle,” by which I mean, sell the steak by evoking everything associated with the sizzle.

Clearer, perhaps, but not nearly as snappy, right? But here’s the point, and it’s why this is really important for radio advertising:

People don’t buy diamonds so that they can own a rock that perfectly maxes out the 4 Cs of color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. They buy the diamonds for the smile and joy they hope to see on the face of the woman they love.

Well, people don’t buy steak so they can intellectually appreciate how long it was aged, or the fact that their slab o’ beef received a “Prime” rating from the FDA or whatever. They buy the steak for the pleasure of the entire dining experience.

But these experiences are subjective and internal. It’s hard to “show” them. And if you attempt to visually show these things, you risk alienating the viewer with whoever you use as a stand-in for the woman or the steak-eater — that’s not their wife, and that’s not the kind of steak they prefer!

This is why De Beers had their ad campaign featuring shadows as viewer stand-ins. Remember those?

the shadows allowed them to visually communicate the inherent drama of their product (aka, the sizzle), without alienating the viewer from imaginatively putting him or herself into the story.

Radio Excels at Communicating Inner Experience

Radio doesn’t have the limitations of visual media.

Radio easily evokes subjective experience without mucking up listener identification. You hear the sound, and your brain puts you into the situation, filling in the details most appropriate for you.

The listener enters into and becomes part of the drama, no shadow BS required.

That’s why the sound of steak sizzling works for everybody, regardless of whether they prefer a ribeye, a filet, or a NY strip, and regardless of whether they prefer their steak as God intended, or perversely desire to muck it up by over-cooking it beyond rare.

So, indeed, do sell the sizzle — but realize that sizzle is a sound effect, and choose your media wisely.

If you want a great example of radio’s unique ability to convey subjective experiences in ways that TV and print just can’t, check out these Dove radio ads*, and you’ll become a believer:

But what if you’re not running radio?

Well, you should give it some thought, but if you’re stuck with something like print, realize the principle is roughly the same as “Show, Don’t Tell.”

You want the reader to infer how incredibly marvelous the steak is, rather than telling him outright. So your ad might look something like this:

*Dove Radio Ads created by Ogilvy & Mather London

P6QgNVyIt’s one of the best ad campaigns from the last two decades.

To the point where it’s become a massive internet meme you’ll recognize as soon as you read the phrase: “I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y

YouTube Preview Image

From a “going viral and impacting the culture” standpoint, that’s a huge victory for Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man In the World” campaign.

But did you know the campaign also sold an equally epic amount of beer?

Or that it consistently created increased sales every year of it’s 10-year run, from 2006 until 2016?  When the whole of North America was opting for craft and micro brews over imports, Dos Equis was up 34% by the end of the campaign.

So what’s the secret behind this phenomenally successful campaign? It started with some basic truths that connected:

  1. The target market, and
  2. The product itself

The Essential Truths About The Target Market

2017-05-01_1159As for the target market, here’s a quote from Ken Kuenz, the then-CMO of Heineken (yes, Heineken — ownership of breweries and distribution rights is complicated, OK?):

“We had a consumer segmentation study and the target segment was “monsters” — young guys who go out A LOT, and drink A LOT and don’t care what they drink. This was the insight that informed “I don’t always drink beer” line. The line was controversial internally, but it was rooted in consumer truth.

Casting an old guy was controversial. Originally Euro presented younger guys more in the target. But the concept wasn’t credible without the guy being more seasoned. The inspiration was the uncle who never got married and was always doing cool shit, Hemingway-esque…

…The original tagline was a lame translation of the strategy statement, something like “Dos Equis, the most interesting beer in the world.” Our challenge was always can’t we say it without saying it. And right before the work was going to be shown at the [distributors] convention, Kling called me up and said I think I’ve got it, would you consider changing the end line to “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

And here’s a quote from another insider from the campaign:

When we pitched the campaign, we imagined the MIM as an older man — the embodiment of a life well-lived… We wanted to address any concerns about casting a gray-haired man so we created additional comps for focus groups with a few younger men in them… Side note: The closer the MIM was to the age of our respondents, the less appealing he was. He became threatening and they disliked him. The MIM was meant to be aspirational and that only worked when he was significantly older than the target, since that gave the target a few decades to become just as interesting.

Do you get the important points, here?

It wouldn’t be credible for the Most Interesting Man to always, or even usually, drink beer. He’s cultured, and a man’s man. Think Hemingway-meets-James-Bond: a man who drinks martinis and scotch and well-aged rum. So the line, “I don’t always drink beer” nods to that truth about the character — which reflects an important truth about the audience as well.

This was more of a bonding campaign than a traditional branding campaign.

In some ways you could think of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man as The Marlboro Man rebooted for the 21st Century. And in turn, you could think of The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, as the MIM’s younger brother.

All three are campaigns focused on creating an emotional and aspirational bond with target audience with only a rather tenuously associative (but still important!) connection to the product itself.

Remember, explicitly saying that Dos Equis was the most interesting beer in the world was lame, while having the most interesting man in the world prefer Dos Equis (when he occasioned to drink beer) was gold.

Great writers don’t speak about character and action, they speak through character and action. That’s how you say it without saying it. And it’s what makes these kinds of bonding campaigns so powerful. People bond over the imagery and values of the character, rather than any kind of logical evaluation of the product.

All of which is why it was so important that the Most Interesting Man be older:

  • First, there’s the basic truth that any man needs time to accumulate life experiences and great stories — again start with (and stick to) the truth!
  • second, as the second quote states, the target audience needs to feel that they can aspire to become the MIM, and thereby identify with him, rather than feeling outcompeted by him.

The Essential Truth About The Product

gallery-1444234213-hemingwaymarlinBefore the campaign, Dos Equis was a niche import: a premium beer from Mexico.

And if you’re in charge of getting more people to buy more of that beer, you’re basically in charge of getting those beer drinkers to change their mind about the beer. Which means you can do one of two things:

  1. Present them with new information with which to make a new decision, or
  2. Make them feel differently about what they already know

In this case, what those beer drinkers already “knew” about Dos Equis was that it was an unusual contrast: Expensive Mexican beer?

The way to get people to feel differently about that unusual contrast was to frame it as interesting and intriguing rather than odd or questionable.

Where the creative team tapped into genius was the Hemingway connection.

Because of Hemingway’s well known love of Cuba, most American’s had a built-in, Spanish-speaking, south-of-the-border association with the idea of an iconic manly-man-of-many-tales. So connecting the unusual Dos Equis with the inherently interesting Hemingway-esque character allowed people to bond with both the character and his preferred beer.

In other words, the team started with the essential truth about the product: it WAS interesting to have a premium beer from Mexico marketed in North America.

Think about it, would that campaign have worked for freaking Budweiser? Or Molson? Hell, no!

So if you’re going to copy something from this campaign, don’t blatantly rip off the “I don’t always” line. Copy the desire to start with the truth.

P.S. Of course, the writing talent for these commercials was off the charts brilliant for this campaign, as well. Would it surprise you to learn that the writers created their own style guide that said what could and could not be done by the Most Interesting Man?  

2017-04-10_1410Fair Warning: this post explores some not-so-noble aspects of human nature and how you could (maybe even should) get them to work for you when planning your advertising strategy.

If you’re not comfortable with that, skip this post, OK?

So let’s start with two “givens” most of you already know:

  1. All real persuasion is actually self-persuasion, and hinges on Identity & Self Image
  2. Decisions are made emotionally, not logically

Now connect the dots:

The only emotions that reliably inspire action are those that affect self-image.

Joy is a wonderful emotion, but since it doesn’t touch on self-image, it won’t reliably inspire action. Happy, satisfied people don’t buy much.

So what actions do touch on self image? According to Aristotle, they are:

  1. Anger & Fear
  2. Patriotism
  3. Emulation

Fear comes from the threat of loss or damage, and Anger is basically a defense against ego threats. If you threaten a person’s identity, you’ll get fear and anger — emotions which can be channeled towards action aimed at defending against that threat. When one “adds insult to injury,” it’s the insult which provides the greater ego threat, and therefore provokes the retaliation.

Patriotism (AKA, Tribalism) acts on identity through group membership. People routinely buy things to proclaim their membership in this or that tribe. Or sacrifice to protect their family, tribe, country, etc.

Emulation (AKA, Aspiration) touches on what we wish we were and hope to become. One buys Air Jordan’s because one wants to “be like Mike.” Similarly, we use the products our gurus use in order to become more like them.

Obviously, tribalism and emulation can overlap quite a bit. One can certainly buy an Apple laptop as much to emulate the creative crowd that tends to prefer them, as to signal one’s own membership within the Apple tribe.

The Karmic Counter-Balanced for Honest Business People

featuredimageBut how do you use this for small business advertising?

First, I think these things work best when used for premium (and premium priced) products and services.

Heck, I’d even venture to say that they’re a sort of a karmic counterbalance to the uphill battle most honest-goods, premium-priced business people face when it comes to human nature.

Trying to convince people to pay more now because it’ll pay off in the future is a hard sell.

That desire for immediate gratification is human nature too, and it works against the honest business man. The same thing can be said of our desire to compare things based on easily compared and quantifiable numbers (like price) rather than a nuanced appreciation for overall quality.

So let’s say you are the high quality and premium priced option in your market. How do you counter-balance those biases of human-nature that push prospects toward low priced options?

Is it enough simply to talk about your own high quality standards and product (or service) advantages?

Well, if you’re a fan of Ogilvy’s “Positively Good” theory of advertising, you might think so. And perhaps that option would be partially effective.

But taking that approach falls short if your ads aren’t fully engaging prospects’ self-image and evoking action-oriented emotions.

A straight claim of features and benefits frames the buying decision in terms of cost vs benefit instead of identity.

Leveraging the Power of Us vs. Them

ingroup-outgroupIf you’re going to make a play for identity then you have to show that those product advantages are there because you, the owner, INSIST on them. And you insist on them because of the values you hold and the kind of person you are.

The other companies’ owners don’t insist on them because of the values they don’t hold and the kind of people they aren’t.

So while I understand that it’s not nice to urge business owners to take shots at the competition, the reality is that if you want to create limbic-level contrast between you and the low-priced competitors, this is the strategy to use.

Those competitors already have human nature working for them in the form of instant gratification and decision-making bias.

And they’re already busy claiming to be “just as good, but cheaper” (or 90% as good for half the price).

So either you’re going to let them successfully make that claim, or you’re going to counter their attempt to leverage human nature against you by tapping into the greater power of identity-based emotion.

Meaning that your best defense is to brand those competitors as morally tainted. “Those people don’t share our tribe’s values, and their product suffers for it.”

If moving from “they don’t make the same decisions I make, therefore they have a lesser character” seems like a bit of a stretch, don’t worry, humans are hardwired to think that way. Social scientists even have a name for it: the fundamental attribution error.

And when you do it right, not only will that cognitive bias allow you to play on identity, it will evoke the necessary emotions of tribalism/patriotism — are you like me, or are you like those other guys?

Simply divide the world into people like you, who identify with your values, and those who aren’t and don’t; Us vs. Them.

Increasing the Limbic Contrast

anger-inside-outNow here’s how to put this strategy on steroids (while also getting a bit closer to “the dark side of the force” that I warned you about): bring in Anger.

See, it’s not enough to simply point out that the competition uses lower quality materials, cheaper manufacturing methods, and shoddy shortcuts. Hey, what’s wrong with having a lower priced option on the market, right?

You have to give motivation to those acts — motivation that would threaten the ego and identity of the customer.

In other words, you have to provide the insult to the potential injury that your competition would inflict on the unsuspecting buyer. That is, you have to provoke anger.

Those competitors aren’t doing those things to lower costs. They’re doing them to screw you, the customer, over. And they’re laughing about it all the way to the bank.

They know that their product or service is less likely to give you, the customer, the end benefit you want — the benefit you are rightfully paying for. They know that their product or service might fail you in the worst possible way. And they don’t care. Because if you’re stupid enough to be fooled by them, then (as they see it) you’re their rightful prey.

So do you want to take a chance with those assholes who are laughing at you behind your back? Or do you want to invest in the sure thing, provided by people who believe what you believe, and who genuinely care about doing right by you?

See how that works?

A Word About Ethics

karmaObviously you ought not to demonize an honest business who is simply aiming to sell at a lower price point than you.

Not only is that wrong, it’s bound to backfire in relatively short order.

But if your competition really is selling an inferior product, cutting corners, and engaging in false advertising — and relying on some of the downsides of human nature to get away with it — then this is the best way to:

  • Level the playing field,
  • Call them out on their shenanigans, and
  • Stomp their low-priced butts into the ground.

Just remember: with great power comes great responsibility.

And harnessing peoples’ anger, tribalism, and emulation — their emotions of Us vs. Them — provides a great deal of persuasive power.

Page 1 of 3412345...102030...Last »