It’s a slight change, but it makes a world of difference, doesn’t it?
The photo comes courtesy of a rather clever ad campaign for The Cape Times – something I was turned onto by the always-wonderful No Caption Needed blog. The intent was to make us see these iconic photos with new eyes, allowing the idea of a self-taken-phone-camera-pic to shake up a classic. And it worked.
But it also transforrmed the photos into something creepy, especially this one.
It’s one thing to look on as the ecstasy of victory so overcomes a sailor’s sensibilities that he kisses a stranger in the street; it’s entirely another when the sailor still has the self-awareness to phone-pic himself during his supposed blissed-out moment.
Sometimes, it’s just a whole lot better when someone else is controlling the camera and the spotlight. In fact, not just sometimes, but often.
Translating this to advertising and marketing:
- When others sing your praises, it comes off as credible and genuine; when you sing your praises, you come off as a wanna be Donald Trump
- When reviews praise an item to the sky, we believe it; when product copy does so, we read it with a large grain of salt
- When you tell me how great someone else is, you come off as passionate; when you tell me how great you are, you come off as arrogant
Well.. you get the picture. Why not let someone else hold the camera. Or, if you’ve got the camera, why not point it at something other than yourself?
Instead, the majority of us decide based on context and self-image: what kind of person am I, and what should a person like that do in a situation like this.
And that’s what’s so great about the signage pictured on the left.
I took the photo with my phone after dropping my kids off at school the other day, just because the sign was so devastatingly effective. Honestly, how much more effective do you think that speed limit sign is at actually reducing unsafe driving speeds due to the added verbiage?
Forget percentages — I’d say it’s more effective by a matter of multiples! Like 2x or 3x more effective.
Why? Because it reframes how drivers interpret the sign, moving it from a governmental imposition that’s no big deal to flout to a community standard that would be bad manners to disregard.
How does it do all that?
By redefining the the speed limit as a “Neighborhood” speed Limit — i.e., a standard agreed upon by the local community — and by adding in the normative “Nice neighbors don’t speed.”
If you consider yourself a respectable, decent neighbor and you pass that signing going 30 mph, you feel like a heel, as if you were purposefully or carelessly endangering your neighbors’ kids and pets.
And so you slow down!
This does not often happen with just regular old stop signs.
The point is that marketers frequently fail to take this decision-making process into account, relying instead on pure self-interest, as embodied in the WIIFM acronym.
Marketers rarely consider HOW the prospect sees herself and how we can bring our desired action into alignment with her self image. We don’t emotioneer our persuasive messages. But we should…
The basics are not basic because they are easy, but because they are fundamental. And when it comes to Website optimization, the three fundamental questions pretty much never change:
- Who is coming to the site? How did they arrive? And what are their goals?
- What’s the next step forward for them both in terms of their goals and your conversion funnel?
- What do they need to understand, believe, and feel in order to confidently take those next steps
The beauty of these questions are that they help you understand WHY web visitors do what they do. Analytics can tell you what visitors are doing, but you’ll never really figure out WHY they’re doing it until you get a grasp on these questions.
I was reminded of this when looking at this week’s Which Test Won column. Now, I like Which Test Won, but my usual pet peave with their columns is that they often fail to give readers enough context around the tests and the user experience and clickstream in order to make a fully informed guess as to which of the two variants won.
At best you have to sort of make educated guesses regarding the three basic questions. Here’s an example:
The contest explanation/headline is: “Does Adding a ‘Refine Your Search’ Toolbar Help Clickthroughs on a Category Page with 99+ Products?” And then they just present you with the two pages, one with and one without the ‘refine your search’ toolbar. I’ve screenshot the images and pasted them below:
So… it sort of matters how people got to this page and what they’re shopping for, or if they are shopping vs. just getting information, and WHY they are shopping. But no one tells you this, so you’re sort of left to imagine or “make up” the visitor’s intentions/goals and path to this page. Here’s how I pictured it, based on the information provided in the breadcrumbs up at the top of the page:
- The visitors came to buy some sort of wood finish for a home improvement project, I’m guessing some kind of deck finish
- They came in from the home page, went to “Decorating,” selecting “Woodcare,”
- Finally clicking on “Cuprinol,” OR
- The visitor searched on “Cuprinol Wood Finish” (or similar) and this page represents the search results.
- Is it easier to refine by price or do you really just want to look and see what the price is? Probably the latter.
- Does it help to refine by brand? No, because you’ve already done that by specifying Cuprinol.
- What about refining by product type? Meh, what if you’re looking for a combination stain and preservative? Or maybe you want to see all your options?
- Might it help to refine by application? Yes, but would you even have seen that or would you already have dismissed the refining tool as useless by now?
Bryan Eisenberg Still Kicking CRO Butt w/ the 3 Questions
The Alamo Drafthouse, pretty much the coolest movie theatre chain on the planet, came out with the following promotion for the summer of 2012:
Yup. That’s pretty much PURE GENIUS.
They aren’t playing up the tangibles of the movie business — the latest release, the availability of 3-D IMAX or dolby sound, or say the comfort of ultra-plush seating — they’re tapping into the intangible draw that many or most 40 and 50-somethings have for the pop-culture milestones of their youth.
As a result of this emotional draw that they purposely tapped into, Alamo Drafthouse will likely pay less to show these movies and draw large crowds of very appreciative, excited audiences — crowds that likely wouldn’t have come out for the latest and greatest summer blockbuster fare.
Why Not Your Business?
Sure, The Alamo Drafthouse is IN the entertainment business. It’s probably easier for them to generate excitement around a night out at the movies than it might be for, say, a plumber to tap into the power of nostalgia. But it’s not impossible for the plumber. How about selling claw-foot tubs big enough to let a 6-foot adult stretch out and float, the way you used to be able to when you were a little kid? Sort of a feel like a kid again, bathtub for the affluent type promotion…
Maybe you’re rejecting that specific idea, and that’s fine, the point isn’t that that’s a great idea, but that it’s possible for most businesses to inject an element of sentiment and nostalgia and excitement into their business rather than resigning themselves to pushing nothing but tangibles.
Because when you’re nothing but tangibles, you’re a commodity, or on the road to commodity-ville.
So ask yourself this:
- What are your customers willing to re-call, commemorate, and celebrate with you?
- How can you help them do that?
- What kind of anniversary or connection or historical association could you choose to celebrate?
Most importantly, how could YOU use nostalgia and sentiment in your business?
Not only is it possible to animate your advertising with the proven cartooning principles of squish and squash, but it works even better when you apply some of that same strategic animation to your business itself.
But to do that, we have to understand how Squish and Squash is related to exaggeration and visual impact. Here’s an excellent example I downloaded and swiped from Mark Kennedy’s brilliant blog:
Before Squash and Stretch
After Squash and Stretch
The difference is pretty astounding isn’t it?
Full alignment with the direction of movement + exaggeration of the line of movement. And just to drive home the “exaggeration of the line of movement” part, take a look at this other swiped picture from a Willard Mullin download (also downloaded via Mark Kennedy):
What’s This Got to Do With Your Business?
First of all, understand that there’s the product or service your selling, and then there’s what your REALLY selling. Because unless your hawking commodities at commodity prices, what you’re really selling goes way beyond product or service and get’s down to brand promise.
And the delivery of brand promise within your business is where you need all that alignment and strategic exaggeration.
Take Starbucks, for example. Did they really need to call their small, medium, and large coffees Tall, Grande, and Venti? It’s almost kind of silly, isn’t it? The kind of thing that’s easily parodied.
But it’s also an exaggeration designed to make the names aligned with the brand promise (not to mention the brand prices). Same thing with the music, the decore, the ludicrous choices and special lingo for how you want your drink prepared, etc.
This kind of exaggeration and alignment takes guts precisely because it’s easy to make fun of. But the added profit makes it easy to endure the laughs : )
Bottom Line: the experience of whatever it is that you’re *really* selling could easily be improved with a little animation via alignment and exaggeration. You just need the desire and the guts to do it.
P.S. I apologize for the “brand promise” jargon. I generally try to steer clear of marketing-speak, but that was the only term I could come up with to get at the non-tangibles that allow a branded product to easily charge premium prices.
When animators, and often times writers, wish to show an internal, emotional state, they’re forced to look for and use “objective correlatives.” In other words, they have to use the outward cues and signs that correspond to the emotion.
And just as importantly, they then have to “animate” those cues and signs through a form of artistic exaggeration. For instance, when a man sees an excruciatingly attractive woman, his pupils will dilate, his eyes will widen, and his heart will race a bit, or “skip a beat.” This is all relatively subtle (even if the attendant leering and head snapping is not), but subtle is not how animators need to do things. So this is how they represent it:
Understand that this is not just crude exaggeration, but instead represents a process of:
- Finding the right cues and signs (aka small specific details) for a given emotion, reaction, or situation
- Exaggerating those cues and signs through the animation principle of Squash and Stretch.
Applying This to Your Marketing
When asked what makes them different, unique, and better, a whole lot of Main Street Businesses end up with the response that “we care about the customer,” or “we simply provide better quality and better service.”
Yet while it’s wonderful that they do care — I wouldn’t want to write ads for a business owner who didn’t, frankly — you simply can’t put that in your advertising and expect results.
So what do you do?
You look for the objective correlates and you apply some squash and stretch.
In other words, what are the signs and cues of your caring and your superior quality? Caring is an internal state on your part. How does the customer end up sensing or experiencing that care? What actions do you take and what sacrifices do you make because you care?
If you insist on higher quality, how does that play out in the construction process? How does that impact the customers experience of your product? In what ways would they be sorry if they didn’t get that higher level of quality?
Now exaggerate and animate these things in your advertising. So let’s suppose you own a bakery that specializes in donuts and, well, you really care about the quality of your donuts. And one of the objective correlatives of that is that you’re willing to get up at an ungodly hour in order to ensure that your morning customers will get freshly made donuts each day. Here’s what a little squish and squash might do for you:
If the squish and squash part seems a bit tricky, you’re right to think so — it IS tricky. And if you’re guessing this doesn’t just apply to the ads, but to the business itself, you’re guessing right on that as well. Creating some objective correlatives and then exaggerating them a bit is a big part of imputing quality and “learning to think like the customer.” More on this later : )