11

Jul

by Jeff

Harvard-VeritasVer­i­tas is truth, but vérité, as in cinéma vérité, is (at least as I’ve con­ceived it) the style of pre­sen­ta­tion that helps con­vey the notion of truthfulness.

In other words, if truth alone isn’t enough to con­vince peo­ple — and it demon­stra­bly is not — then the ques­tion becomes: what can legit­i­mately be added to the truth to make it con­vinc­ing? And my answer is vérité.

So what IS vérité?

Let me give you a few examples:

Exam­ple 1

I have a part­ner who tells me that you have to eval­u­ate tes­ti­mo­ni­als the same way you eval­u­ate copy, which is to say that words which wouldn’t make con­vinc­ing copy don’t sud­denly become con­vinc­ing sim­ply because they leave the mouth of a cus­tomer. Either they’re con­vinc­ing or not, and the fact that they’re the “tes­ti­mony” of another has lit­tle to no impact.

I dis­agree. At least in terms of radio and TV tes­ti­mo­ni­als, where I think vérité enters into it. Case in point, this video pro­duced by leg­endary ad man, Tony Schwartz:

YouTube Preview Image

Frankly, the bare words this lady says would make for rather dis­mal ad copy, and yet, she’s pow­er­fully per­sua­sive on film. So what accounts for her per­sua­sive power? I think it has a lot to do with vérité. Her unique “voice” cre­ates cred­i­bil­ity in and of itself.

Exam­ple 2

This recent Microsoft Ad does largely the same thing, lever­ag­ing the “voice” of Siri to cre­ate added cred­i­bil­ity and emo­tional real­ity for the bare facts that are presented:

YouTube Preview Image

The use of Siri’s voice really dri­ves home the com­par­i­son in a way that the com­par­i­son alone couldn’t have achieved, right?

Exam­ple 3

testWhen nurses are given their patient com­ments for review, in terms of mea­sur­ing patient sat­is­fac­tion through a sur­vey tool like Press Ganey, it turns out that they are much more likely to “accept” the valid­ity of the com­ments and to take action on them if they are given not only the typed out and redacted com­ments, but actual, scanned copies of the hand writ­ten com­ments themselves.

For some rea­son, see­ing the actual scrawled-out hand­writ­ing of the patients made the com­ments real to the nurses in a way that the ster­il­ized and redacted com­ments couldn’t. In other words, that added bit of vérité made all the difference.

Exam­ple 4

Cial­dini (of Influ­ence fame) reports on a per­sua­sion test around re-using hotel tow­els. Merely telling hotel guests that the reuse of their tow­els will save water and resources (i.e., the truth) isn’t enough. But telling them that most other hotel guests WAS enough to con­vince most hotel guests to fol­low suit. But what really got the best results wasn’t just that most hotel guests saw the light, but that most hotel guests that stayed in that exact room had elected to re-use their towels.

In my mind, men­tion­ing the fact that the pre­vi­ous guests (who had opted to reuse their tow­els) had stayed in the exact same room as the test sub­jects pro­vided a level of real­ity hook or vérité to make the social proof just that much more persuasive.

Exam­ple 5

I owe this exam­ple to Kath­leen Jaime­son, of the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, who pointed out the fol­low­ing ele­ment of vérité in Tony Schwartz’s leg­endary “Daisy” ad. When Daisy counts up to ten, she doesn’t do so per­fectly, instead, she stum­bles over the num­ber 6 only to then go back from seven to count six twice — in exactly the way that lit­tle kids often do. This little-kid mess-up gave the ad just enough vérité to drive home the nuclear threat. You can watch the entire ad for your­self here:

YouTube Preview Image

Con­clu­sion

I wish I had a grand con­clu­sion for you, but… the only thing I can say is this: if you’re not search­ing for ele­ments of vérité for your ads, you’re sort of miss­ing out on a grand oppor­tu­nity. And since vérité can come in many forms — that of a telling detail, a real­ity hook, or a tone of voice — it’s well worth hunt­ing down and using what­ever ele­ments of vérité you can get your hands on.

Because vérité is just as impor­tant as ver­i­tas. And adver­tis­ers for­get that at their peril.

 

 

 

 

Spider-biteEvery super­hero fran­chise begins with a Gen­e­sis story.

Action Comics #1 starts with a baby superman-to-be sent forth from the doomed planet Kryp­tonite. Sent forth with his father’s desire that he become a force for good on Earth. The Amaz­ing Spider-Man #1 tells how Peter Parker gained super-powers after he was bit­ten by the radio-active spi­der and how he became Spider-man in reac­tion to his uncle Ben’s murder.

In the same way, if you take any super­hero movie that’s the first in its fran­chise, you’ll find a gen­e­sis story of that super­hero — a tale that tells the audience:

  • How the hero came to posses his powers,
  • Who the hero is as a per­son, and
  • What his mis­sion is and Why he’s ded­i­cated to it

If you don’t do that, you’re hero won’t be believ­able. Nor will he be sym­pa­thetic. You’ll end up with a char­ac­ter whose super pow­ers will seem too fan­tas­tic and “made up,” and who will fail to inspire any­one to care about or root for him.

It’s that sim­ple: no gen­e­sis story, no superhero.

Super­heros and Advertising

Inter­est­ingly, the three tasks of a Gen­e­sis story over­lay per­fectly with Aristotle’s three ele­ments of Ethos — the three things you must estab­lish in order to per­suade through an appeal to char­ac­ter. Here’s how they match-up, using Jay Henrich’s mod­ern updates for the Ethos ele­ments of phrone­sis, eunoia, and arete:

  1. Craft = Phrone­sis / Prac­ti­cal Wis­dom Pow­ers
  2. Car­ing = Eunoia / Good­will = Who the hero is as a person 
  3. Cause = Areté / Virtue = Mis­sion

Want to present a busi­ness owner as some­one prospec­tive cus­tomers should like and trust?

Then you need to cover these char­ac­ter ele­ments. You have to con­vince the audi­ence that the owner is great at what he does, that he cares about his cus­tomers, and that, at the end of the day, he’s on a big­ger mis­sion than just mak­ing money.

And once you under­stand the super­hero angle, it becomes pretty obvi­ous that the most pow­er­ful way to com­mu­ni­cate these ele­ments is through a Gen­e­sis story.

Put more directly, if you’re pre­sent­ing the busi­ness owner as some­one with super­pow­ers — whether that’s the power to hero­ically save the cus­tomer from a tough sit­u­a­tion, or sim­ply the power to do X bet­ter than any other busi­ness on the planet — than you’re pre­sent­ing them as a de facto super­hero, and you need to tell the darn gen­e­sis story to make that mes­sage at all believable.

A Jew­elry Super­hero Gen­e­sis Story

Want an exam­ple of an Adver­tis­ing Gen­e­sis story?

Here’s one from my busi­ness part­ner, Roy Williams [para­graph­ing mine]:

When I was seven years old, I held my father’s head in my hands as he took his last breath and died. A thing like that stays with you. It helps you under­stand that rela­tion­ships – peo­ple – are what life’s all about.You gotta tell’em you love’em.

This is J.R. Dunn. So now you know why I became a jew­eler. Fine jew­elry is one of the ways we tell peo­ple we love ’em. When I got older and fell head-over-heals for Ann Marie, the love of my life, I didn’t have enough money to buy her an engage­ment ring. She mar­ried me any­way. Go figure.

But I can promise you this: If you’re think­ing of get­ting engaged to the love of your life, come to J.R. Dunn Jew­el­ers in Light­house Point. No one in Florida, no one in Amer­ica, is going to give you a bet­ter engage­ment ring for your money than me. One of the great joys of my life is to make it pos­si­ble for guys to give the woman they love the dia­mond she deserves.

There was nobody there for me when I needed an engage­ment ring. But I promise I’ll be there for you.”

After hear­ing this ad, you now know, with absolute clarity:

  • What kind of per­son J.R. Dunn is
  • How he got his super­pow­ers (along with how those super­pow­ers can help you)
  • What mis­sion he’s on and why he’s ded­i­cated to it

Bet­ter yet, you not only know these things about him, but you believe them. You believe these things about J.R. Dunn because he told you his gen­e­sis story. See how that works?

So what’s YOUR gen­e­sis story, and are you both­er­ing to tell it the way it ought to be told?

Back in 1973, Mas­ter Lock ran one of the most effec­tive Super Bowl ads of all time. If you haven’t seen it before, here it is:

YouTube Preview Image

Now, I’m not sure how many crim­i­nals would shoot a lock — seems to me they’d be more likely to just use a pair of bolt cut­ters — but that doesn’t mat­ter, because watch­ing a lock lit­er­ally take a bul­let and still con­tinue to do its job impresses us at a fun­da­men­tal, sym­bolic, and sub­con­scious level.

And it’s this sub­con­scious, largely sym­bolic level where real buy­ing deci­sions are made, which is one rea­son why Mas­ter Lock, bol­stered by the suc­cess of this ad, went on to dom­i­nate the indus­try in 70s and con­tin­ues to be dom­i­nant today.

In fact, peo­ple still talk about this “tough under fire” demon­stra­tion to this day. Heck it fea­tured in an episode of MythBusters.

Of course, the dif­fer­ence between today and the 70’s is that now cus­tomers expect to be able to find more infor­ma­tion on the inter­net. So if Mas­ter Lock were to run an ad like that today, we’d expect to go to the web­site, see the ad, and then get more infor­ma­tion, pre­sum­ably includ­ing an added demon­stra­tion of how the haft of the lock is hard­ened against reg­u­lar bolt cut­ters and such.

In other words, the Web is where we expect busi­nesses to add more info, close more loop­holes, and really con­vince us — all after they’ve impressed us with their mass media ads.

And that brings me to the ad Mas­ter Lock really should have aired last Sun­day. Because you don’t know it, but the front door lock on your house is ridicu­lously, stu­pidly easy to over­come. It doesn’t even require reg­u­lar lock-picking skills or really any­thing close to what one might call spe­cial tools or skills.

Nope. Pick­ing the lock on your house sim­ply requires a bump­key and a few minute demo on how to use it. See for your­self within the first 90 sec­onds of this news special:

YouTube Preview Image

Think you could make a pretty dra­matic ad out of that bit of info?

Yeah. Me too.

Now, here’s the thing — Mas­ter Lock has come up with a lock cylin­der that’s pretty much bump-proof. Unfor­tu­nately their pro­mo­tional video for the tech­nol­ogy is slow, bor­ing, and long. It is, how­ever, convincing:

YouTube Preview Image

So why not have a super dra­matic, riv­et­ing Super Bowl ad that demon­strates lock bump­ing and how exposed 99% of all homes are to the tech­nique, then show­cas­ing how bump-proof Mas­ter Lock’s new lock cylin­ders are?

If you really want to get seri­ous, throw out a challenge:

  • View­ers pick out a replace­ment Mas­ter Lock for their door and order it along with home instal­la­tion to be done by a a local Mas­ter Lock dealer,
  • All of which is FREE if the instal­la­tion crew can’t bump lock the front door lock they’ll be replac­ing on your home.
  • If we can’t open your door lock as easy as this [image of bump lock open­ing] your new Mas­ter Lock is on us!
  • See com­plete details at masterlock.com

What do you want to bet that that ad would sell a boat load of new door locks?

And that’s the ad we should have seen this Super Bowl.

 

31

Jan

by Jeff

OK, before we do any­thing else, just watch this Audi Super­bowl Commercial:

YouTube Preview Image

Now, let’s talk about why that’s such an amaz­ing piece of storytelling…

How Long Is a Moment?

There’s an apoc­ryphal quote attrib­uted to Steven Spiel­berg that talks about feature-length movies as “60 two-minute scenes” — with each scene capa­ble of cap­tur­ing and riv­et­ing the audience’s atten­tion. It’s a fab­u­lous way to think about filmic storytelling.

And, for adver­tis­ing, it works just as well on the small scale.

Psy­chol­o­gists and neu­ro­sci­en­tists tell us that a moment lasts 2.5 to 3 sec­onds, which is also roughly the same amount of time our brains can hold and process in work­ing mem­ory.

Hand­shakes last a moment. So do hugs. So does a glance into some­one else’s eyes. Go longer than that and it’s both more than a moment and more than a slight change!

A moment, then, is exactly how long a sin­gle, vivid men­tal image is held in the mind’s eye. Draw the imagery out too much longer than that and you’re either build­ing ten­sion or risk­ing the loss of your audience’s attention.

So for me, I don’t think of a 30-second spot as 30 sec­onds, I think of it as 10 great moments (or 20 moments for a 60 sec­ond spot).

That’s 10 men­tal images, each vivid and inter­est­ing enough to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion, strung together to form a riv­et­ing mini-movie. For a TV spot it’s a real mini-movie, and for a Radio or Print Ad, its a movie in the mind. Either way, cre­at­ing one is a game of sequenc­ing men­tal images for max­i­mum impact.

All of which leaves only two questions:

  1. How do you pack as much wal­lop into each 3 sec­ond moment/image as possible
  2. How do you ensure that the moments all build into a mean­ing­ful story that ends with a bang

Pack­ing Wal­lop Into a 3-Second Moment

Obvi­ously, this is a big topic. Whole books could be (and have been) writ­ten about it. But here are the main tech­niques that come to my mind when I think about mak­ing each moment count:

And while all of these ele­ments are impor­tant (and can be found in the Audi ad) I can’t help but feel that the first one, the use of rit­ual, or what Terry Rossio describes as situation-based writ­ing, is the key to most of the oth­ers. It’s also the one that struck me the hard­est when I watched Audi’s 2013 Super­bowl Ad.

Watch the ad again and see if you can’t pick out every sin­gle rit­u­al­is­tic moment that whaps you in the face every three seconds:

  1. Look­ing in the mir­ror before a big event
  2. Mom see­ing you off before High School Prom
  3. Younger sibling/sister as truth teller
  4.  Dad hand­ing you the keys to the car
  5. The vis­ceral thrill of fir­ing up a high-performance V-8
  6. Pulling up to and glanc­ing over at the other car at a light
  7. Look­ing on with envy at the antics of the (limo-riding) in-group
  8. Burn­ing” the other car at a light
  9. Park­ing in the “Big Man’s” reserved spot to thumb your nose at authority
  10. Strut­ting into a build­ing while cooly flick­ing the car lock remote
  11. Enter­ing a hap­pen­ing dance/club/party
  12. Stalk­ing your way through a crowded dance floor/club/party.
  13. Spot­ting the hottest girl in the room
  14. Approach­ing a hot girl danc­ing in the midst of all her friends
  15. Tak­ing a chance at kiss­ing the pretty girl of your dreams
  16. The high school fight (over a girl)
  17. The post-fight black eye (worn with pride)
  18. The post-kiss sigh of ecstasy
  19. The “it was worth it” rebel yell
  20. The end­ing mes­sage: “Brav­ery. It’s what defines us.”

What you’ll notice, as you watch the film, is that the vast major­ity of those moments come and go before you ever have a chance to get bored with them.

The ad always enters these scenes late and then leaves early because the cre­ators chose each moment with care: they’re either arche­typal Amer­i­can growing-up rit­u­als or just every­day, everyone-has-them rit­u­als. No back­story or expla­na­tion required; we encounter them in media res and instantly know what’s going on.

Not only that, but many of these moments are fur­ther aug­mented by mul­ti­ple cam­era shots within the space of a sin­gle 3-second moment. These sto­ry­tellers are putting the ped­dle to the metal visu­ally, ’cause they ain’t tak­ing a chance with los­ing your attention.

Only two of those moments are allowed to linger and grow preg­nant with suspense:

  1. Spotting/walking up to the girl and kiss­ing the girl being one sequence, and
  2. The brew­ing, shocked, then angry reac­tion of the prom king.

Those sequences grow past a sin­gle moment because they gain in sus­pense and inter­est as they move past three sec­onds in length.

He kisses her for more than a moment, which sends your mind off spin­ning: How long is he going to kiss her? Is she going to slap him? No, holy crap, she’s kiss­ing him back! Shit, her date sees him, he’s about to deck him, isn’t he?

The other thing about these par­tic­u­lar moments is that they’re the oblig­a­tory scenes in the story.

Once the incit­ing inci­dent kicks off —- once you find out the kid is going to prom alone — the ques­tion arises as to what he’s going to do about it. What’s he going to do at prom when he gets there? Yeah, he’s got a cool car, but what’s he going to do after he parks it and shows up at prom all alone?  These moments answer that ques­tion, and so they deserve to play out over more than just a few seconds.

And this idea of set-up and pay-off brings us to…

Story Arc — Con­nect­ing Moments Together Meaningfully

The coun­ter­point to Spielberg’s blurb on “60 two-minute scenes” is his quote on story structure:

Peo­ple have for­got­ten how to tell a story. Sto­ries don’t have a mid­dle or an end any more. They usu­ally have a begin­ning that never stops beginning.”

So it’s not only about indi­vid­ual scenes — they still have to be con­nected in a way that makes a point.

Obvi­ously, this is a HUGE topic that many of the great­est minds in his­tory have tack­led. So by all means, go read what Aris­to­tle had to say on the sub­ject. Go read McKee’s Story and all the other modern-day story struc­ture gurus.

But also, let’s maybe bring this down to the level of a blog post and talk about some quick and dirty how-to’s. And with that in mind, here’s what I’ve got for ya:

And again, for me, the first ele­ment is key. If you’re not con­nect­ing one moment to the next through cau­sa­tion or upset, then what’s the point?  Either you’re pay­ing off the promise of a pre­vi­ous moment with a “there­fore,” or you’re throw­ing the audi­ence off-guard by sub­vert­ing their expec­ta­tions with a “but then.”

If you’re not doing one of those two things, you’re prob­a­bly wast­ing time and los­ing the audience’s attention.

What Makes Great The­atre and Holds Attention

Ulti­mately, most ads suck because peo­ple think they’re mak­ing ads, and are will­ing to accept ads that sound like ads. They think ads don’t have to grab your atten­tion and hold your inter­est like a great movie or TV show or radio drama.

They are breath­tak­ingly, spec­tac­u­larly wrong.

This is explained bril­liantly over at the Sell! Sell! Blog [Empha­sis Mine]:

Do You Only Know How To Make Ads?

The things that make a print advert work are the same things that make an edi­to­r­ial lay­out, or piece of printed art strong. The things that make a TV com­mer­cial great are the same things that make a TV pro­gramme, film or piece of video art great. The cru­cial dif­fer­ence being that, obvi­ously, the ulti­mate job of the com­mer­cial work is to meet its brief; sell a prod­uct, change your opin­ion about some­thing, etc. But still, the things that make it work in the end are the same craft skills that make other things strong in that media.

The prob­lem comes when you for­get this, and you think about mak­ing adverts. Peo­ple tend to do things to adverts that they wouldn’t do to an edi­to­r­ial piece of design, or to a film. But unfor­tu­nately ads don’t get processed dif­fer­ently by peo­ple. Either it’s good or it isn’t good. There are no excuses just because it’s an ad. But still, peo­ple try to cram in way too much infor­ma­tion, over-the-top brand­ing, social media logos, and other guff, because it’s an ad.

Some­times it makes you think that peo­ple, clients and agency alike, have for­got­ten how to make inter­est­ing things that also hap­pen to be great ads, and they only know how to make things that look and sound like adverts.”

So the ques­tion you ought to be left with is: does your ad guy just make ads that sound like ads, or is he a mas­ter at grab­bing and guid­ing people’s atten­tion and desires?

Could your copy­writer have scripted any­thing half as good as that Audi Ad?

P.S. Spe­cial shout out to my col­league Tim Miles for inspir­ing me to dis­sect this ad and answer exactly why I like it as much as I do.

Holy mega-bucks, Bat­man! On Sat­ur­day, the orig­i­nal Bat­mo­bile (from the old Adam West TV Show) sold for a whop­ping 4.2 Mil­lion Dollars.  

You can watch the entire bid­ding process in the embed­ded YouTube video, if you want, but I’d advise skip­ping to the 8:14 mark, where they inter­view the win­ning bidder:

YouTube Preview Image

In response to the ques­tion, “what made you want that car?” Rick Cham­pagne gave the fol­low­ing list:

  1. I grew up in that era, so it meant a lot to me.
  2. I’ve been watch­ing that car for 20 years and wait­ing for this day [when it would finally be sold]
  3. I’ve been a Bar­ret Jack­son cus­tomer for well over 15 years
  4. The car is going to go in my liv­ing room
  5. I KNEW I was going to get it

So, just a few reflec­tions from me on the event and Mr. Champagne’s list:

Sen­ti­ment & Emo­tional Con­nec­tion MATTERS

Yes, there is also exclu­siv­ity dri­ving up the price of this car, but by far the biggest fac­tor, and the one men­tioned first by the win­ning bid­der, is the emo­tional con­nec­tion to the old TV show, and in turn, to the famous Batmobile.

If you’re not tak­ing this into account — if you’re not bak­ing a lit­tle Mag­i­cal Think­ing into your mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing — you prob­a­bly ought to be.

Baby Boomers Con­trol 70% of the Dis­pos­able Income in the US

Of course, given the era of the Bat­man TV show, it’s not sur­pris­ing that the win­ning bid­der was a Baby Boomer. But don’t over­look the fact that the major­ity of the buy­ers slosh­ing obscene amounts of dis­pos­able income around that auc­tion house were also Boomers. That’s because Baby Boomer’s hold the major­ity of wealth and dis­pos­able income in Amer­ica.

If you’re sell­ing lux­ury or high-end prod­ucts or ser­vices and your mar­ket­ing speaks pri­mar­ily to or from a youth mind­set, you might want to rethink that.

Antic­i­pa­tion Com­bined with Con­fi­dence Is An Unbeat­able Combo

Rick Cham­pagne has been wait­ing to buy this car for 20 years. That’s a lot of antic­i­pa­tion, a lot of time Rick spent imag­in­ing him­self buy­ing that car.

Rick’s also done busi­ness with the auc­tion house, Bar­ret Jack­son, for “well over 15 years.” That’s a lot of repeat busi­ness and confidence.

It also helped, of course, that Bar­ret Jack­son had the car’s orig­i­nal builder/designer and single-person owner on hand to fur­ther ver­ify the authen­tic­ity of the vehi­cle. Per­son­ally, I think it would have been even bet­ter to have had Adam West there, too, but you can’t have every­thing, I guess.

At any rate, the end result is that Rick Cham­pagne was absolutely 100% cer­tain that he was get­ting exactly what he wanted — the 100% gen­uine real deal — from a com­pany that he had full faith and con­fi­dence in to deliver.

This is why he walked into the auc­tion KNOWING that he was going to walk out as the new owner of that car.

What does your com­pany do to help peo­ple IMAGINE buy­ing from you and IMAGINE get­ting the ben­fit from your prod­uct or ser­vice?

When peo­ple walk into your busi­ness do they KNOW that they are going to buy from you? Or do they think they might pos­si­bly buy from you, if the pric­ing is com­pet­i­tive and you seem to have what they want?

So what are YOU doing to:

  • Take advan­tage of, or estab­lish, emo­tional connections?
  • Give peo­ple full faith and con­fi­dence in your prod­uct or service?
  • Allow peo­ple to develop con­fi­dence in you through pre­vi­ous busi­ness dealings?
  • Pro­vide some­thing worth wait­ing for?

Here’s a small busi­ness exam­ple: for most HVAC com­pa­nies, the pay-off is when some­one buys a new Heat­ing and Air Con­di­tion­ing Sys­tem from them. That’s payday.

But the smart com­pa­nies don’t wait for pay­day to try to get your busi­ness. They’d rather you develop con­fi­dence in them BEFOREHAND.

This process is started with great ads that estab­lish an emo­tional con­nec­tion to the lis­ten­ing audi­ence. And if that emo­tional con­nec­tion seems based on old-timey val­ues and slightly older cul­tural ref­er­ences, well, that’s prob­a­bly NOT an accident.

This emo­tional con­nec­tion is fur­ther strength­ened by the offer of value-priced, high-quality tune-ups and fast, effec­tive repairs. A strat­egy that ensures prospects call YOU when they need a tune-up.

And after 5 or more years of hav­ing their sys­tem tuned by you, YOU become the first per­son they call when there is a break­down — and the only peo­ple they trust when it’s time to buy that new sys­tem. Payday!

The icing on the cake? Well, with any luck, that new sys­tem will come with:

  • advanced fil­tra­tion,
  • added humid­ity control,
  • room tem­per­a­ture equal­iz­ing func­tion­al­ity, and
  • energy sav­ing features.

The kind of sys­tem that makes a home notice­ably more com­fort­able and pleas­ant; a lux­ury sys­tem that the home owner desired for some time and planned on buy­ing “some­day,” when it was time for a new one.

And that’s how you can put some super-hero-powered CRACK-POW! — BAM! into your mar­ket­ing and advertising.

 

16

Jan

by Jeff

“Win­ning ad awards is a silly way to mea­sure suc­cess.”  – A para­phrase of thoughts expressed by my col­leagues, Tim Miles and Char­lie Moger.

And while I heartily sec­ond that emo­tion, I usu­ally let Tim or Char­lie express it, since it’s less sour-grapey to say it after you’ve won those kinds of awards, which they have.

But the inter­est­ing thing is that not all ad awards are based merely on creativity.

You can enter and win awards based upon mar­ket­ing effec­tive­ness! That award is called an “Effie,” and you can review the 2012 Effie win­ners here.

But if you’d also like to see a meta-analysis of win­ning cam­paigns, show­ing what win­ning and final­ist entrants had in com­mon, then you’re also in luck.

Effie World­wide has com­pliled just such an analy­sis in their 2012 Effie Report, and have also been kind enough to sum­ma­rize their  key find­ings as follows:

  • Effie Final­ists tend to spend more on paid media, but not nec­es­sar­ily the most. More final­ists spent in the $20 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion range than in the $40 mil­lion+ cat­e­gory, and nearly half spent less than $20 million.
  • Effie medal­ists have slightly fewer goals to achieve, and cam­paigns with a busi­ness objec­tive, rather than one to reach a tar­get audi­ence, col­lect more medals.
  • Never under­es­ti­mate David tak­ing on Goliath – he’s 47 per­cent more likely to win an Effie medal.
  • In the Shop­per Mar­ket­ing Effie cat­e­gories, about two-thirds of final­ists’ pro­grams demon­strated some aspect of dis­rup­tion – either by novel prod­uct place­ment in the store, chang­ing the way shop­pers per­ceived the retailer or chang­ing per­cep­tions of the brand.”

So what I’d like to do today is take each of Effie Worldwide’s bul­let points and dis­cuss it in terms of local advertising/branding:

Spend More on Paid Media

It’s tempt­ing to go after “free adver­tis­ing” such as Word of Mouth, Social Media, and var­i­ous PR and Guerilla Mar­ket­ing tac­tics, but while those are effec­tive, expe­ri­ence shows that there’s just no replac­ing old-school mass media mus­cle when it comes to grab­bing increased share of mind, and in turrn, share of mar­ket.

But if that’s the case, then why didn’t final­ist spend the most on media?  Frankly, I’m guess­ing here, but I think this indi­cates intel­li­gent media buys along with the desire to effec­tively con­cen­trate on one (or a few) media source(s) rather than a spend­ing spree spread out over too many media types.

It might also indi­cate the invest­ment in long-term, day-in and day-out media spends for brand­ing rather than mas­sive, flash-in-the-pan spend­ing for one-time mar­ket­ing blitzes.

In any case, accord­ing to Effie World­wide, effec­tive mar­ket­ing strate­gies are more likely to have intel­li­gently invested in paid media.

Focus on Fewer Goals & Tie Them to Busi­ness Objectives

There’s an apoc­ryphal story about a copy­writer who was late to a client meet­ing, wherein the board was going to dis­cuss with him the 13 Points they wanted to their ad to cover.

So the copy­writer walks in late car­ry­ing a hockey bag over his shoul­der. With­out say­ing a word, he places the bag on the con­fer­ence table, pulls out a board that’s basi­cally been turned into a bed of nails — a rather eye catch­ing prop that grabs every eye in the room as it’s placed on the table.

The copy­writer then takes a fry pan out of the bag and slams it down onto the bed of nails. Lift­ing the fry pan up, he shows the exec­u­tive team the dim­ples. Then writer-boy swaps out the bed of nails with a board fea­tur­ing a sin­gle, impos­ing spike potrud­ing from it. He slams the fry pan down, forc­ing the spike clean through it, cre­at­ing a half-inch hole big enough to stare through when mr. copy­writer holds the pan up to show the board.

At this point, our intre­pid copy­writer says, “Now how many points do you want the ad mes­sag­ing to convey?”

As it is with ads, so it is with cam­paigns: one point, goal, or objec­tive per cam­paign is always best.

And if you want to nar­row it down to one objec­tive, you’ll want to choose a busi­ness objec­tive. So, fig­ure out how you want to mea­sure suc­cess in term of your (or your client’s) busi­ness, along with what the required time­line is, THEN cre­ate a cam­paign clearly aimed at achiev­ing that sin­gu­lar, busi­ness goal.

And by the way, “dri­ving traf­fic” isn’t a busi­ness goal. Increas­ing gross sales might be, but merely get­ting traf­fic through the door isn’t. So con­ver­sion ain’t just a met­ric for online businesses…

Act Like David Rather Than Goliath

Increas­ing mar­ket share when you have very lit­tle of it to begin with is rel­a­tively easy, as there are plenty of com­peti­tors to steal cus­tomers from, and plenty of prospec­tive cus­tomers to steal. On the other hand, once you’ve cor­nered 30–35% of the mar­ket, grab­bing more of that same mar­ket is darned difficult.

This is why, again accord­ing to the Effie Report, smaller busi­nesses tak­ing on larger com­pe­ti­tion are more likely to find their adver­tis­ing effec­tive — because gain­ing mar­ket­share always involves steal­ing it from some­one else. So when you’re already hold­ing almost all the mar­bles, there are fewer and fewer left to acquire.

For local busi­nesses that means that once you become the Goliath of your cat­e­gory, you either have to open up a new store in another mar­ket, or open up another busi­ness, or business-line, in the same mar­ket. Either way, your future growth will be pow­ered by your Davids rather than your Goliaths.

Of course, this assumes that the smaller busi­ness has some­thing new or inter­est­ing to offer the cus­tomer… which leads us to

Prac­tice Disruption

If you look at how that last bul­let point is worded, it’s basi­cally say­ing you need to do two things:

  1. Grab people’s atten­tion through some form of novelty
  2. Pro­vide peo­ple with some sort of Unique Sell­ing Proposi­ton, OR change the way they FEEL about the brand

In other words, if you’re offerng the exact same thing as every­one else, in the exact same man­ner, and if your ads are pre­dictable, bor­ing and dull, then it won’t mat­ter that you’re invest­ing in paid media in order to air ads aimed at achiev­ing mea­sur­able busi­ness goals for a busi­ness that has plenty of mar­ket share left to steal — you’ll still lose.

But if you’re ads cap­ture the inter­est and imag­i­na­tion of the buy­ing pub­lic, while offer­ing them a strong rea­son to do busi­ness with you, you’ll soon dis­rupt the power struc­ture of your indus­try as you dom­i­nate every mar­ket you care to enter.

My only note of cau­tion is to add in a third point: cred­i­bil­ity. You can grab their atten­tion and promise them a tempt­ing and rel­e­vant ben­e­fit, but if your audi­ence doesn’t believe you, your ads won’t achieve much.

Rel­e­vance and Cred­i­bil­ity are the meat of the mes­sage. The nov­elty part sim­ply ensures that your mes­sage is heard long enough to be deemed rel­e­vant and credible.

Ah… Val­i­da­tion

Inter­est­ingly enough, these are the same prin­ci­ples espoused by all Wiz­ard of Ads Part­ners, includ­ing Tim and Char­lie, so it’s grat­i­fy­ing to see them espoused by a insti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing effec­tive adver­tis­ing, such as Effie Worldwide.

If you’re inter­ested in explor­ing these prin­ci­ples to grow your busi­ness, why not con­tact one of us?

2013 is just get­ting started, why not make it your year to thrive?