“Advertising is the only business where the largest clients with the most amount of money can bully and demand the agency’s worst work…while the smallest clients with little or no money must meekly accept the agency’s best.”
I don’t think there’s an advertising or marketing professional working in America today who hasn’t had the challenge of convincing their boss or client to run what should have been an obviously brilliant ad campaign or marketing idea.
The first solution to this, of course, is to learn how to explain, defend, and sell your work and then having the simple courage to do so.
Learn to Wrestle — and Defeat! — The HIPPO
But even professionals who are normally great at selling their work run into obstacles when faced with an obstinate, heavy-weight HIPPO — Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.
And that’s when one has to use the magic words.
The Magic Words
The magic words are: Let’s Do An Experiment. Or perhaps, “Let’s Just Test It, First.”
No one wants to be seen (or to think of themselves) as a don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts dogmatic bully. And that makes it hard to refuse an experiment or a test, which then gives you some room to prove out your idea.
Unfortunately, you still have to convince the HIPPO of the validity of your test, and this is where personas come in.
The One Opinion to Rule Them All
Without a persona, the question of whether this or that ad or initiative is worth doing (or even worth testing) comes down to personal opinion and gut feel. So naturally, the highest paid person’s opinion wins out. Hence the power of the HIPPO.
But, when you have a 3-dimensional, fleshed-out Persona that represents the customer’s use-case, buying motivations, and descision-making style and criteria, you’re no longer forced to argue your opinion vs. the HIPPO. You can now resort to the persona’s opion. And since the persona represents the customer (and therefore sales), that becomes the one opionion capable of trumping the HIPPO.
Combine the power of the Persona with the magic of lets do an experiment, and you’ve got the key to push your best work past the HIPPO. The persona lets you argue why your idea is meaningful to the customer, and the test gives your idea a fair chance at proving itself with actual customers.
Build Your Own Personas & Learn From The Best
And fortunately for you, THE experts in the field of persona-based marketing have just created a short, how-to on doing just that in the form of an easy to read kindle book available for just $2.99.
It’s called Buyer Legends and if you buy it now, you can have a set of personas finished within a few hour’s work.
Need help selling your ideas/ads/campaigns/strategies/initiatives?
Download your copy of Buyer Legends now. Then use the magic words.
P.S. As a “side benefit,” personas will not only help you sell your brilliant ideas, they’ll also help you create more of them
P.P.S. If you’re too cheap to pay $2.99 for the book, my Wizard of Ads colleague (and all-around good guy), Tim Miles, is giving copies away, no strings attached.
A few weeks back I posted a list of 11 Marketing Triggers I swiped from a Quora answer, and also promised to eloborate on each item on the list, starting with the first, Ethos.
If you’re not familiar with the list, here are the 11 triggers:
1) Ethos (your perceived character) is the most important, as opposed to an appeal to pathos (emotions) or logos (logic).
2) People make judgments by comparison/anchoring.
3) People process information best from stories.
4) People are foremost interested in things that affect them.
5) Breaking patterns gets attention.
6) People look to other people’s decisions when making decisions.
7) People will believe things more easily that fit their pre-existent mindset. The converse is also true.
8) People handle one idea at a time best.
9) People want more choices, but are happier with fewer.
10) People decide first, then rationalize — If people are stuck with something, they will like it more over time.
11) Experience is memory, the last part of the experience is weighted heavily.
What’s a “Trigger”
First, “trigger” is probably the wrong word for this list. “Principle” might be a better term. But for better or worse, trigger is what the author of the list used, so I’m sticking with it.
Ultimately, it’s a lever you can pull to give you access to stored energy. Think in terms of electric drills or trimmers or firehoses, and not just guns.
So a marketing trigger is a communicational lever you can pull to tap into already present and stored up desires, emotions, or instincts for the purposes of empowering action on the part of the audience. You want the people who see or hear your ad to take action: to buy the product or service.
And for your ad to cause (or at least influence) action you’ll need to present your audience with more than just information and reason-why — you need to trigger emotions, desires, and instincts.
Let’s Talk About Ethos
I’ve written about Ethos before but let’s start with the ABC’s of the topic:
A) Customers prefer to do business with people and companies that they like and trust. If they neither like nor trust you, chances are you won’t get their business if they have any other reasonable option open to them. Ethos determines your likability for a given audience.
B) People have expectations around how a banker, bouncer, and surf instructor should look and act, such that an investment banker who shows up to a nine figure deal in boardshorts probably isn’t going to go over so well, and a not-so-muscled guy in a three piece suit probably isn’t going to incur much respect trying to break up a fight in a biker bar. Meeting audience expectations through proper decorum, or strategicaly violating those expectations, is also an aspect of your ethos that should be intentionally planned out.
C) Given enough respect for another person, you’ll not only accept but act on their advice. Maybe that person is your grandfather. Or an old boss or commanding officer. Maybe it’s a mentor or coach or a personal hero of yours. Whoever it is, I’m sure you can imagine how their advice is acted on almost instantly while most advice you recieve gets taken with a grain of salt and/or a large dose of procrastination. That’s what makes ethos a powerful marketing trigger.
In my article on Genesis Stories, I talk about how Aristotle breaks Ethos down into three component attributes:
- Practical Wisdom (aka domain expertise) — Do you trust this person’s subject matter expertise?
- Disinterested Goodwill — Do you believe they have your best interests at heart?
- Virtue (not just honesty and integrity, but overall excellence) — Do you respect this person in general?
Or, in the terms of Jay Heinrichs, you could think of these three as: Craft, Caring, and Cause, respectively. Good advertising should positively position the brand / company / owner in terms of their craft, caring, and cause. And, as mentioned, one of the best ways to kick that off is with a strong genesis story.
But the thing to remember about Ethos and advertising is that there are multiple aspects of ethos involved in persuasion:
- How the audience percieves you, the advertiser (in terms of caring, craft, and cause)
- How the audience percieves themselves (in those same terms),
- How they WISH or ASPIRE to be perceived (again in terms of caring, craft, and cause)
When using ethos as a marketing trigger it’s best to focus on the gaps between these aspects of ethos:
- What’s the disconnect between how your audience actually see themselves and how they WISH to see themselves? Is the disconnect primariy in terms of caring (they wish they cared more or were more passionate or maybe more compassionate)? Of craft or skill (they wish they had greater abilities)? Or in mission (they wish they were motivated by a larger cause and could consider themselves a dedicated member of a tribe)?
- What’s the disconnect between how they see you and how they see themselves? Do they see you as more dedicated? More skilled? More objective? All three? Which one will have the biggest impact? How can you create that perception?
If you can answer these questions, you can use ethos as a persuasive trigger.
In situations where you have no real competitive advantage (and neither do your competitors), you can build your ethos to get people to like and trust you more than your competitors. This will become the core of your advertising strategy.
In situations where you have a competitive advantage or a USP or a special sauce, you can relate the benefits delivered by all that to the prospect’s self image. Or better yet, to bridging the gap between their current and their aspirational self image. How can your product help them move from who they are now to who they really want to be.
And if this sounds a bit too theoretical and high-drift, just remember that we’re really talking about the essence of image-based branding. The Marlboro Man didn’t sell billions of dollars of cigarettes by engaging in reason-why advertising copy. Marlboro’s campaign established an ethos for the brand that appealed to the audience’s aspirational gap.
And that’s how it’s done.