4

Jun

by Jeff

Came across this DBB ad recently and was struck by how true every­thing in it remains. In fact, by how much more true it is today than on the day it first ran. Read it and see for yourself:

DDB Do This Or Die

Seems like the world of adver­tis­ing — both in mass media and online — is in des­per­ate need of another Cre­ative Rev­o­lu­tion, just as this post and this cool video suggest.

And frankly, if you’re not part of the solu­tion, you’re part of the problem.

 

22

Apr

by Jeff

com.quora.androidHave you ever heard of Quora?

It’s a Q&A-style social media site. Peo­ple ask ques­tions and gen­uine no-kidding experts answer them. Then mem­bers vote the answers up or down. The Q&As you see in your news­feed depend on who you fol­low, the inter­ests you indi­cate, and (of course) the ques­tions you pose.

My addic­tion to Quora flows from the qual­ity of the answers: they’re almost always insight­ful, experienced-based, and often brilliant.

The List of Trig­gers I Snagged from Quora

At any rate, one of the first Q&As I read on Quara was this one on cog­ni­tive biases: “What are some good exam­ples of biases being exploited in mar­ket­ing?”

And this answer from Kevin William Lord Barry struck me as well worth read­ing, copy­ing, and (even­tu­ally) post­ing and riff­ing on as a (series of) blog post(s) [bold­ing is mine]:

I think exploita­tion is too strong a word. Humans com­mu­ni­ca­tion in gen­eral is an emo­tional thing. In any case, here’s my mas­ter list:

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.”

I’ve got to admit, Kevin cre­ated a pretty good list — why esle would I have reprinted it here? — but…

  • One, it’s hardly exhaus­tive. I bet most of you could think of a few prin­ci­ples and biases well worth adding, and I invite you to do so in the comments,
  • and Two, there’s no com­men­tary, just the bare list, even though each item begs for some elaboration.

So in future posts, I’ll dis­cuss what I’d add to the list, and then move through Kevin’s list and offer a deep-dive on each item. But for now, I’m just kind of inter­ested in your thoughts.

What psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples or levers would you read­ers add to or take away from this list?

P.S. I’m sure many of you Cial­dini fans will rec­og­nized item #6 as an expres­sion of Social Proof — which sort of begs one to add the other “Weapons of Influ­ence” to this list of cog­ni­tive exploits. And if you’re not famil­iar with Ciadlini, you can get an excel­lent quick and dirty intro to his 6 Prin­ci­ples of Influ­ence from this video that my col­league, Tim Miles, sent me:

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2014-04-23_0836Balls Beat Brains, Balls Beat Bud­gets” — Andy Nul­man

Adver­tis­ing with heart kicks two ways:

1) Adver­tis­ing with Val­ues &                    Pas­sion (heart = soul)

2) Coura­geous Adver­tis­ing                       (heart = lion hearted) 

And, as you can see, both ways inter­sect in the heart. The word “courage” even comes from the French word for heart, which is why you can not only be coura­geous, but can encour­age oth­ers, help­ing them to “take heart.”

This isn’t just the­ory, either; it’s observ­able fact.

Every small busi­ness adver­tiser I’ve worked with who had the guts to take a strong stand in their adver­tis­ing (and then to back their claims up when the time came) always found the source of their gutsy courage in deeply and pas­sion­ately held beliefs and val­ues. Val­ues imparted through fam­ily tra­di­tions, defin­ing moments, and relationships.

This is impor­tant because it’s the busi­ness own­ers capa­ble of adver­tis­ing with heart that expe­ri­ence the most impres­sive (and sus­tained) growth.

So let’s take a closer look at Andy Nulman’s quote:

Balls Beat Brains

Of course smarts mat­ter and sound strat­egy is cru­cial. But when it comes to small busi­ness adver­tis­ing, the obsta­cles to adopt­ing and imple­ment­ing a sound strat­egy is rarely a lack of smarts or the inabil­ity to come up with (or have a pro­fes­sional come up with) a great strat­egy. The obsta­cle is always a lack of courage to embrace that great strat­egy once it has been presented.

Because great strate­gies are  always gutsy.

This isn’t to say they are risky, though. Often the riski­est thing is NOT to use a gutsy strategy.

Gutsy gets con­fused with risky sim­ply because the iden­tity of a pri­vately owned com­pany is inex­tri­ca­bly tied to the self-image of the owner. So an owner of good taste and respectabil­ity can’t help but react to any nec­es­sar­ily out­ra­geous (i.e. gutsy) adver­tis­ing strat­egy by feel­ing as if it requires tak­ing excep­tional risks with her self image.

Here’s how that usu­ally manifests:

1) “The risk of insult is the price of clarity”

To make an adver­tis­ing claim pow­er­ful, you have to use sur­pris­ing, vivid lan­guage, and your state­ments have to be made with­out the usual con­di­tion­als, exemp­tions, caveats, and con­tex­tual pre­am­bles that would ren­der them per­fectly defensible.

In other words, your words have to be dra­matic. And to be dra­matic you have to “cause a scene,” which is to say you have to exhibit the crass bad man­ners of draw­ing atten­tion to your­self by lever­ag­ing other people’s atten­tional triggers.

Busi­ness own­ers with man­ners don’t want to “cause a scene,” so their nat­ural ten­dency is to wimp on the mes­sag­ing by fil­ing off all the sharp edges from the ads. “We just can’t say that!”

It takes courage (or shame­less­ness in gen­eral) to look at sharp mes­sag­ing strat­egy and com­mit to it with­out flinching.

2) Say­ing what you stand against means mak­ing enemies

This one’s pretty obvi­ous, isn’t it?  If you choose whom to lose and state what you stand against, you’re not only pur­posely exclud­ing some peo­ple and draw­ing a line in the sand, you’re also call­ing out any­one who believes otherwise.

Most busi­ness own­ers don’t want to do that. They want every­one to like them (and give them their busi­ness), so piss­ing off any­one seems like a bad way to adver­tise. Unfor­tu­nately, no busi­ness can be all things to all peo­ple, and you can’t have insid­ers with­out out­siders. You have to be for some­one in par­tic­u­lar, not every­one in gen­eral, if you want your mes­sage to resonate.

So only those busi­ness own­ers with the emo­tional pas­sion to take a stand and the courage to make ene­mies end up with loyal cus­tomers, real brand value, and adver­tis­ing capa­ble of attract­ing and build­ing such.

3) Strong Offers Absent Fine Print Means Occas­sion­ally Tak­ing It On the Chin

My part­ner, Roy Williams calls it “bud­get­ing for the knuck­le­head fac­tor,” and it comes down to this: when you make uncon­di­tional guar­an­tees on some­thing — the qual­ity of your prod­ucts, a no excuse deliv­ery date, an offer of a free trial — you have to over­come the fear that peo­ple will take advan­tage of you.

Make no mis­take, it’s not a base­less fear; a small per­cent­age of peo­ple WILL take advan­tage of you. That small per­cent­age will shame­lessly return an obvi­ously abused or past-the-service-life item and ask for a replace­ment. Or glut­to­nously thieve three or four free tri­als, rather than lim­it­ing them­selves to one. And so on.

Those peo­ple are knuck­le­heads, and yes, you should antic­i­pate and bud­get for their shenani­gans, pre­cisely so that you can take it on the chin and smil­ingly live up to your promise.

Yet the real fear that busi­ness own­ers face isn’t the rea­son­ably assessed risk that a small per­cent­age of peo­ple will take advan­tage of them; it’s the night­mare sce­nario where 30% to 100% of them do. For­tu­nately, that sce­nario only exists in night­mares. Any busi­ness owner with the heart and the courage to face that fear down inevitably finds that the knuck­le­heads make an exceed­ingly small per­cent­age of the population.

Believe it or not, the vast major­ity of peo­ple will treat you fairly, the vast major­ity of the time. Just ask com­pa­nies like Wal­mart and LL Bean and Nord­stroms — com­pa­nies that make uncon­di­tional guar­an­tees and suf­fer the knuck­le­heads in order to enjoy the busi­ness and loy­alty (and prof­its) from the rest of us.

So for small busi­nesses, this kind of adver­tis­ing requires a dou­ble dose of courage: one to look past the irra­tional fear and make the strong promise or guar­an­tee, and another to take it on the chin when the inevitable knuck­le­head forces the issue.

4) Telling Your Gen­e­sis Story Requires Real Vulnerability

Telling an audi­ence about your life-defining moment takes guts because you are openly expos­ing your soul. But it’s also one of the only ways we’ll ever believe in your mis­sion and your irra­tional com­mit­ment to it. As I wrote ear­lier, if you want us to believe in your super­pow­ers, you’ve got to tell us about your gen­e­sis story.

And because telling a gen­e­sis story requires vul­ner­a­bil­ity, includ­ing one in your adver­tis­ing takes guts. It takes heart in both senses of the word. Some busi­ness own­ers have it. Most don’t. Just ask your­self, would you be will­ing to expose some­thing like this:

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.”

That’s J.R. Dunn’s Gen­e­sis story. And it took real heart to broad­cast it to the world in a radio ad. Would you have the courage to do the same?

Balls Beat Budgets

The for­mula is quite simple:

Salience * Rep­e­ti­tion = Long Term Mem­ory Storage

Salience is just another word for emo­tional impor­tance (aka rel­e­vance). The more emo­tion­ally impor­tant some­thing is, the less rep­e­ti­tion it takes to lodge in your long term memory.

You can prob­a­bly remem­ber how and when you pro­posed to your wife, even though you only pro­posed once (and if you had to pro­pose more than once, that def­i­nitely got per­mantly chis­eled into your con­scious­ness). You can also likely recall exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news about 9–11.

And as a for­mer high school teacher, I can also tell you that the oppo­site is true: as emo­tional impor­tance falls to zero, the num­ber of rep­e­ti­tions required to make some­thing stick approaches infinity.

Coura­geous Adver­tis­ing amps up the emo­tional impor­tance — the sur­prise and the audac­ity — of the ads in order to boost the salience of the mes­sage. Assum­ing, of course, that the mes­sage had any rel­e­vance to the cus­tomer to begin with. Com­mit­ing to a rel­e­vant mes­sage to begin with requires courage, and then accept­ing gutsy wording/copy requires addi­tional courage from the busi­ness owner.

The upshot is that coura­geous ads require sig­nif­i­cantly less rep­e­ti­tion. And in adver­tig­ing, rep­e­ti­tion = money.  That’s how small bud­gets beat big bud­gets, or in Andy’s terms, how Balls Beat Budgets.

Bet­ter yet, auda­cious adver­tis­ing gets it’s own free press and atten­tion — on an order way beyond what even most big bud­gets can buy.  Just ask the cre­ators of the Poo Pourri video below how much free news cov­er­age and viral shar­ing their video received. It’s on the order of hun­dreds of mil­lions. And it was made for just a few thou­sand dollars.

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Of course, it takes some audac­ity to make an ad like that, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

And it’s not just about videos. This applies to pub­lic­ity stunts, sig­nage, store dec­o­ra­tion, direct mail pack­ages — every­thing. Audac­ity gets noticed, remarked on, and spread by word of mouth, social media, news, etc. This is another way that balls beat budget.

Of course, audac­ity is one thing, but audac­ity that reflects your val­ues and deeply held beliefs is even bet­ter. Remem­ber, it’s best to com­bine both mean­ings of courage — heart and balls.

That’s why effec­tive adver­tis­ing is almost always coura­geous advertising.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.