Let’s say you raise chick­ens and farm eggs for a living.

And unlike big agribusi­ness, you’re try­ing to raise your chick­ens under humane con­di­tions, to fol­low the spirit and not just the let­ter of the law for “organic,” and that your chick­ens truly are “free range.”

How do you com­pete with all the aggribusi­ness jerks who cut cor­ners, spin words, play the loop­holes and then get to claim the same “organic” and “free range” titles as you?

When the aver­age shop­per looks down at all her options star­ing up at her in the Whole Foods aisle, most of her choices are all going to say the same things, over and over again: organic feed, free range/cage-free, omega 3s, yada yada yada.

How do you make your eggs stand out in a sea of sameness?

Answer: put a num­ber on your claim: 2014-09-13 12.23.41 The other eggs say “Cage Free” and leave it at that.

Alfreco Farms spec­i­fies “108 SQ FT Out­doors Per bird.”

They put a num­ber to the idea of “free range.” And that added cred­i­bil­ity was enough to win my sale.

But it’s the pic­ture they draw on their Web­site that really brings it home: 2014-09-14_2219 Now you know EXACTLY how much the other jerks are equiv­o­cat­ing when they call their hens “cage-free” or “free-range.”

And you not only know, but FEEL in your gut, just how big the dif­fer­ence is between Alfresco Farms’ pasture-raising and some mega-farm’s “organic” and “cage-free” practices.

So when you’re faced with a sim­i­lar chal­lenge, give this a try: Put a num­ber on it, then paint a picture.

P.S. Note that this com­pany also tries to use alter­na­tive labels and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions: “pasture-raised” vs. “free range” and “cer­ti­fied humane” over and above “cer­ti­fied organic.” All good things to do, but none of them have the power of putting a num­ber to the claim. 

I saw an Acura ad tonight that left me rivited.

Frankly, I’m not sure it’s all that great an ad in the big­ger pic­ture, but the edit­ing and sto­ry­telling was genius.

Some may think I’m over­stat­ing my case on this, but no less a genius than Stan­ley Kubric claimed that the very best film edit­ing was being done in com­mer­cials way back in a 1987 Rolling Stone inter­view. Check it out [ital­ics are inter­viewer, nor­mal font is Kubric, bold­ing is me]:

Books I’ve read on you seem to sug­gest that you con­sider edit­ing the most impor­tant aspect of the filmmaker’s art.

There are three equal things: the writ­ing, slog­ging through the actual shoot­ing and the editing.

You’ve quoted Pudovkin to the effect that edit­ing is the only orig­i­nal and unique art form in film.

I think so. Every­thing else comes from some­thing else. Writ­ing, of course, is writ­ing, act­ing comes from the the­ater, and cin­e­matog­ra­phy comes from pho­tog­ra­phy. Edit­ing is unique to film. You can see some­thing from dif­fer­ent points of view almost simu­lu­neously, and it cre­ates a new experience.

Pudovkin gives an exam­ple: You see a guy hang­ing a pic­ture on the wall. Sud­denly you see his feet slip; you see the chair move; you see his hand go down and the pic­ture fall off the wall. In that split sec­ond, a guy falls off a chair, and you see it in a way that you could not see it any other way except through editing.

TV com­mer­cials have fig­ured that out. Leave con­tent out of it, and some of the most spec­tac­u­lar exam­ples of film art are in the best TV commercials.

Give me an example.

The Mich­e­lob com­mer­cials. I’m a pro foot­ball fan, and I have video­tapes of the games sent over to me, com­mer­cials and all. Last year Mich­e­lob did a series, just impres­sions of peo­ple hav­ing a good time –

The big city at night –

And the edit­ing, the pho­tog­ra­phy, was some of the most bril­liant work I’ve ever seen. For­get what they’re doing — sell­ing beer — and it’s visual poetry. Incred­i­ble eight-frame cuts. And you real­ize that in thirty sec­onds they’ve cre­ated an impres­sion of some­thing rather com­plex. If you could ever tell a story, some­thing with some con­tent, using that kind of visual poetry, you could han­dle vastly more com­plex and sub­tle material.

Peo­ple spend mil­lions of dol­lars and months’ worth of work on those thirty seconds.

So it’s a bit imprac­ti­cal. And I sup­pose there’s really noth­ing that would sub­sti­tute for the great dra­matic moment, fully played out. Still…

After read­ing this I tracked down those Mich­e­lob com­mer­cials to see for myself, and of course Kubric was right:

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Kubric was right about the bil­liance of the edit­ing, but also in the lim­i­ta­tions of these com­mer­cials, as they are the epit­omy of style with­out sub­stance being used to sell style and fash­ion (i.e., prod­ucts with­out sub­stance). There is a hint of a sto­ry­line in these ads, but it’s left very inten­tion­ally vague, impres­sion­is­tic, and, well, fash­ion­able. And that’s OK for beer, I guess, but prob­a­bly not what you want for cars, though I don’t think those ads did any­thing for Mich­e­lob sales, either.

What you need for more sub­stan­tive prod­ucts like cars is a style that keeps the “visual poetry,” but har­nesses it to tell a “story with content.”

Which is pre­cisely what is so bril­liant about this Acura Ad:

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Same visual poetry, but now it’s in the form of a cohent nar­ra­tive that shows the pas­sion behind the sub­stan­tive efforts to make a sub­stan­tive prod­uct: a performance-oriented lux­ury car.

Will this ad sell some freak­ing cars? I don’t know. But it should at least gen­er­ate some inter­est. And maybe make you feel some­thing for Acura you might not have ever felt before.

And that’s no small thing.

But for­get about Acura, let’s talk about you!

Because I pre­dict we’re going to be see­ing more of this form of intense, rapid-fire visual poetry going for­ward. This Cirque Du Soleil-esque form of rapid distraction.

Sure, we’ll still pay atten­tion to the well done, dra­matic mono­logue. And some­times it’s bet­ter to zig when oth­ers zag, like Dodge did a few Superbowl’s back.

But intel­li­gently har­ness­ing the power of rapid-distraction sto­ry­telling is becom­ing more and more com­mon in main­stream adver­tis­ing. And it’s not lim­ited to just big national brands either. Frankly, I think the only thing stop­ping radio adver­ti­sis­ers from doing it is skill. Heck, it’s already been done once.

So what are you wait­ing for?

Do you know how to tell a story in rapdi-fire for­mat?

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.