Selfies suck. They're even worse as advertising.

Self­ies suck. They’re even worse as advertising.

What are the two biggest mis­takes in advertising?

Depends on who you ask.

My part­ner, Roy Williams, has a list of The 12 Most Com­mon Mis­takes in Adver­tis­ing that’s awfully hard to argue with. But they’re the most com­mon mis­takes, not “biggest.” Plus, they are 12 of them.

For me, the biggest mis­take is cre­at­ing great adver­tis­ing for a lousy prod­uct. By putting the adver­tiser out of busi­ness that mis­take will have the biggest neg­a­tive repurcussions.

Once you take that off the table, though, then I’d list:

  1. Not say­ing any­thing that’s worth say­ing (let alone adver­tis­ing), and
  2. Bor­ing your audi­ence with ignor­able and for­getable ads

Ira Glass’s Two Biggest Mis­takes in Advertising

But if you ask Ira Glass, he’d tell you the two biggest mis­takes are:

  1. Using an inau­then­tic, over-hyped “voice” or pre­sen­ta­tion style, and
  2. Keep­ing the focus on your­self instead of the customer

Don’t believe me? Check him out:

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In other words, respect your audience.

Respect them by talk­ing to them like a friend,  one sit­ting right next to you at the bar. And respect them by keep­ing the focus of the ad on them and what mat­ters to them, rather than on yourself.

Use Real Peo­ple Lan­guage. Talk Like a Friend

Here’s how all-time copy­writ­ing leg­end Bob Lev­ensen says to do it:

“Start off with ‘Dear Char­lie,’ then say ‘this is what I want to tell you about. Make believe that the per­son you’re talk­ing to is a per­fectly intel­li­gent friend who knows less about the prod­uct than you do. Then, when you’ve fin­ished writ­ing the copy, just cross out ‘Dear Char­lie’.“

This is the same guy who told us that most intel­li­gent peo­ple ignore adver­tis­ing because most adver­tis­ing ignores intel­li­gent peo­ple. And he was right.

So skip the hype, the pre-amble, the hemmin’-‘n-hawin’, and just say the thing.

Instead of wast­ing your cre­ativ­ity on witty, charm­ing, and clever lan­guage, save it for fig­ur­ing out how to be believ­able and cred­i­ble and to best sub­stan­ti­ate or dra­ma­tize your major claim.

Ditch Your We-We: Keep Your Focus on the Customer

Most adver­tis­ers try to stay cred­i­ble by focus­ing on why they’re bet­ter than the com­pe­ti­tion. Not a bad thing to do.

Unfor­tu­nately, they for­get to tie those dif­fer­en­tia­tors back to ben­e­fits that the cus­tomer will actu­ally care about. Instead they just thump their chests and make We-We claims:

  • We’re the best at this,
  • We’re num­ber one at that,
  • We’ve been in busi­ness since 1893.

We this, we that, and they we-we-we all the way home, and all over them­selves in their ad copy.

Everyone’s Favorite Radio Station

Ditch the we-we and take up the you-you. Make the cus­tomer the hero and the focus of the ad. Remem­ber your copy­writ­ing basics: always answer “What’s In It For Me?” for your customers.

WIIFM: everybody’s favorite radio sta­tio, play­ing 24–7 in their heads.

The good news is that ditch­ing the we-we, switch­ing to you-you, and answer­ing WIIFM makes it a lot eas­ier to talk to your audi­ence in a human voice.

And get­ting back to my list of mis­takes, it’ll also ensure you have some­thing worth say­ing, and keep you from bor­ing your audi­ence. Way to go, Ira. Thanks for your won­der­ful, won­der­ful radio show, and all the great sto­ry­telling (and adver­tis­ing) advice.

Now all you have to do is make sure your prod­uct lives up to its advertising ; )

P.S. Yes, I skipped Part III. I’ll cir­cle back to that later this week or early next week. Trust me, that les­son will work best com­ing last. 

11

Feb

by Jeff

beef

Where’s the Beef?

Imag­ine you’ve been hired to cre­ate a PSA for the local police. Too many peo­ple are speed­ing in res­i­den­tial areas, and the police want a PSA-style radio ad designed to get peo­ple to slow down.

What kind of ad do you create?

If you’re like most adver­tis­ers, you DON’T dig for the facts and the insights and the logic. You won’t research the issue, and that means it’ll be tough to put real sub­stance behind your messaging.

Instead, you jump right to brain­storm­ing ways to dra­ma­tize  your safety mes­sage: How can we cre­ate the most shock­ing, dra­mat­i­cally pow­er­ful ad, built around a “Don’t speed or lit­tle johny will get hit by a car” premise.

And because you skipped that essen­tial first step of dig­ging for sub­stance, you’ll never get the chance to cre­ate some­thing as awe­some as this:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you hit me at 40 mph there’s around an 80% chance I’ll die. Hit me at 30 and there’s around an 80% chance I’ll live.”

You wouldn’t cre­ate that because you (likely) didn’t stop to ask: why is the speed limit set at that speed to begin with?

In order to say some­thing pow­er­fully, you must start by hav­ing some­thing pow­er­ful to say.

And that means you have to spend as much time look­ing for the “stuff” of your ads (or radio drama) as you do writ­ing or pro­duc­ing them. Which is exactly what Ira Glass says in Part II of his video series on storytelling:

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The amount of time find­ing the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to pro­duce the story. And that as some­one who wants to do cre­ative work, you actu­ally have to set aside just as much time for the look­ing for stories…

…I think that, like, not enough gets said about the impor­tance of aban­don­ing crap.” — Ira Glass

I con­cur with Ira on this.

Stop choos­ing to work the heart with “emo­tional” ads and great pro­duc­tion when what’s required is for you to dig harder for the right insight, fact, prod­uct dif­fer­en­tia­tor, or ben­e­fit that’s actu­ally worth adver­tis­ing in the first place.

The key is to start with what Leo Bur­nett called the “inher­ent drama” of the prod­uct or ser­vice itself. THEN you can add in all that great writ­ing and production.

When you don’t start with the inher­ent drama of the prod­uct itself, you get some­thing like this:

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No one believed those ads because no one drinks milk as a high-performance sports drink. The adver­tiser was try­ing to stick a false drama onto the prod­uct and the approach flopped.

Com­pare that to the “Got Milk” cam­paign. It started from the truth about — the inher­ent drama of — milk, as in when, and under what con­di­tions, do real peo­ple actu­ally crave milk and only milk? When eat­ing a peanut but­ter sand­which, or eat­ing rich cook­ies. That’s when noth­ing but a cold glass of milk will do. An inher­ent drama that led to ads like this:

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What about you? Are you set­ting aside as much time search­ing for great sub­stance as you do for writ­ing and pro­duc­ing your ads?

Or are you still try­ing to bluff with fluff?

P.S. I’d like to pro­vide proper attri­bu­tion and credit for the radio ad, but… I can’t seem to remem­ber or re-find wher­ever it came from. My apolo­gies to the ad group that cre­ated that PSA

Surprise! The "Best" Ad Ain't What You Think

Sur­prise! The “Best” Ad Ain’t What You Think

When most peo­ple judge a Super Bowl Com­mer­cial, they typ­i­cally judge it as:

  1. A piece of 30 or 60-second, feel-good the­atre, first and foremost,
  2. A pos­si­ble brand-awareness tool, sec­ond, and
  3. An actual ad, not at all—doesn’t even enter into the equation.

Basi­cally, if the ad looked cool, made you laugh or gave you the feel­ies, and was some­how vaguely related to the brand, then it’s judged a good Super Bowl Ad.

This is stu­pid. 2015-02-03_2333

The first thing an ad has to do is sell.

No, not every ad has to have a hard sell. I’m not advo­cat­ing for a Super Bowl full of Billy Mays-style infomercials.

But, yes, every ad should be selling.

And by that stan­dard, the real “best” ad of the Super­bowl is actu­ally a pretty crappy ad. There’s no emo­tional appeal and the “idea” behind the ad, if it could even be called that, is mis­guided at best.

Good drama it ain’t.

The Best Crappy Ad of the Superbowl

But the ad for Jublia is really the ONLY ad that actu­ally had a snowball’s chance in hell of mak­ing a sale.* Watch it:

YouTube Preview Image

Again, it’s a gen­uinely crappy ad that makes no dra­matic sense.

And yet it packs enough moments of clarity—enough infor­ma­tive, sub­stan­tive messaging—to actu­ally sell the product.

Even dur­ing the game, at a noisy party, I was able to pick-up on and remem­ber these three things about Jublia:

  1. It’s a new FDA-approved drug to treat toe­nail fungus
  2. It’s top­i­cally applied (rather than a pill), and
  3. It’s capa­ble of going under and through the toe­nail to actu­ally get at the infec­tion and kill it.
Stupid, but the idea of a topical solution to toenail fungus that works DID get through

Stu­pid, but the idea of a top­i­cal solu­tion to toe­nail fun­gus that works did get through

Hall of Fame Wor­thy stuff? Not hardly.

But enough of a value propo­si­tion to actu­ally sell some product?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

I can say that because I have toe­nail fun­gus and the ad man­aged to sell me on giv­ing Jublia a try.

More to the point, I bet you can’t name one other ad for a prod­uct (not count­ing movies and TV shows) that actu­ally accom­plished the same feat (pun intended) of mak­ing a com­pelling USP sales propo­si­tion of any kind?

Go ahead, name one other ad that told you some­thing new or com­pelling about the prod­uct or ser­vice. Some­thing that would likely make you con­sider buy­ing, if and when you are ever in the mar­ket for what­ever was being sold. Name another ad that said some­thing of substance.

The Bud­weiser “Brewed The Hard Way” ad came close.

I really liked the hard stance Bud took. Yeah, “punch­ing down” ain’t the best brand strategy—if the so-called “King of Beers” is that threat­ened by pumkin ale, it’s prob­a­bly time to relin­quish the beech­wood throne—but defin­ing what you stand against always brings clar­ity to the brand, and that’s a good thing. Appar­ently Bud stands against decent beer. God bless ‘em. At least they know their tar­get market.

And while the BMW i3 Ad got me intrigued by the new car, it didn’t actu­ally sell me on it. Know what I mean?

So What Was The Worst Ad of the Super Bowl?

I’m not sure of the actual worst ad, but I’m will­ing to pre­dict which ad rep­re­sented the biggest wasted opportunity.

That would be the Loc­tite Commercial.

That ad cost Loc­tite their entire ad bud­get for the year. Seri­ously. The entire adver­tis­ing bud­get for the freak­ing year.

And what did they get for a year’s worth of ad budget?

An ad that barely reg­is­tered as hav­ing some­thing to do with… glue? And fanny packs. I think. 2015-02-03_2350

But here’s the real shame of it: Loc­tite actu­ally makes an awe­some prod­uct that most home­own­ers should have on hand and would likely buy, if only they knew about it.

And isn’t that where Super Bowl ads can do the most good: for great prod­ucts with mass appeal but low awareness?

The prod­uct is called thread lock (though most peo­ple refer to it as Loc­tite, natch), and you apply it to screws and bolts that keep com­ing loose. Just put it on the threads and it keeps every­thing “locked tight,” effec­tively pre­vent­ing screws and bolts from back­ing out, vibrat­ing loose, or rust­ing shut, etc.

  • Got a kid who wig­gles in her seat and causes the bolts in her chair to work loose? Loc­tite ‘em.
  • Does your lawn­mower vibrate a tiny metal screw loose on the reg­u­lar? You know what to do.

You get the idea: it’s a great must-have prod­uct that most peo­ple don’t know about—who wouldn’t want to adver­tise that on the Super Bowl? Plus, you’ve got the entire comedic world of “loose screws” and “stuck nuts” to mine… I mean, c’mon, people!

But instead of adver­tis­ing that bit of great­ness with a com­pelling ad capa­ble of actu­ally, you know, sell­ing some­thing, we had that harlem shake dance num­ber and lame jokes built around Loctite’s me-too super­glue prod­uct. Whoopee!

And that’s my curmed­geonly take on “Best Super­bowl Com­mer­i­cal That Actu­ally Sold A Prod­uct” along with my opin­ion on “Biggest Missed Opportunity.”

P.S. I am pre­pared, of course, to eat my words (along with some hum­ble pie), if Loc­tite super glue starts sell­ing like crazy fol­low­ing Sunday’s ad. If you get news of Loctite’s 2015 sales, send it to me and I’ll do a follow-up post.

P.P.S. Love to hear your thoughts on which ads kicked butt and which ones failed in the com­ments section.

*OK, the “Like a Girl” com­mer­cial was a bril­liant piece of pro­pa­ganda that “sold” it’s per­spec­tive. Kudos to it. But I believe PSA’s have a leg up on the old “rel­e­vance” depart­ment, mak­ing them an unfair, Apples to Oranges com­par­i­sion when judg­ing actual prod­uct ads. I think that’s at least one rea­son why we were OK with the domes­tic vio­lence PSA and not at all OK with Nationwide’s downer of a “Make Safe Hap­pen” commercial.

2015-02-03_2324

The Mighty HIPPO

The Mighty HIPPO!

“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 HIPPOHigh­est 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

2014-10-30_1027So now all you need to do is craft and get buy-in for your personas.

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.

2014-10-17_1512A 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.

But what is a trigger?ElectricDrill

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.

Dig­ging Deeper

In my arti­cle on Gen­e­sis Sto­ries, I talk about how Aris­to­tle breaks Ethos down into three com­po­nent attributes:

  1. Prac­ti­cal Wis­dom (aka domain exper­tise) — Do you trust this person’s sub­ject mat­ter expertise?
  2. Dis­in­ter­ested Good­will — Do you believe they have your best inter­ests at heart?
  3. 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.

marlboroAnd 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.

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.