August 31, 2006

Chalk One Up For Corporate Advertising

If you are going to mount a traditional advertising campaign, follow the rules completely.

1. Have panache. Assert some personality. Your company has one (hopefully), so what better way to show it than cleverly crafted advertising art?

2. Deliver your message. Enforce the brand image. Show the product. Make them want you.

3. Connect with the audience. Show it at the right time, in the right place. Make sure it is seen by the right people and that it is designed to impact them. No denture ads with buxom young models during Saturday morning cartoons.

4. Follow up. Have a plan to involve your new, interested, taking-time-out-of-my-day-to-wander-around-your-website prospect. Really good offers, thoughtful partnerships, or a payoff are particularly effective here.

All that being said, congratulations to J. C. Penney for their campaign during the MTV Video Music Awards. It exuded persona, showed they can be hip, had interesting and alluring commercials, and was well integrated with the broadcast, both on and off the air.

If you are trying to start a relationship by using the media, take some notes from J. C. Penney's performance, because they nailed it.


August 30, 2006

Dry Sex

Check out this great article about why manuals should be more like the brochures that have the customers reading the instructions in the first place.


August 29, 2006

You're Out, But It's Safe

The Sports Authority, nationwide retailer of everything athletic, has horrible artistic and symbolic judgment.

On the doors when exiting their stores are photos of a catcher tagging a runner at home plate. Over the photo is a balloon with the words "Thank You!". Directly above the photos are those generic "Out" signs with the green circle and the arrow. Get it? "You're out!". Thank you for being out? Goodbye! Leave! Could you hurry, there is a line!

Surely, most people would prefer to be "Safe!". At the least, they want nothing to do with being congratulated for being out.

Some smarmy retail environment genius probably had a great idea on the drawing board but it lacks thoughfulness and consideration for the customers' frame of mind - not to mention that the marketer was probably clueless about the out sign above his clever graphic. All the positive merchandising and astute customer service so well crafted and trained into every last linoleum tile of their superstore will never obscure that last image visitors take in as they walk away to tell everyone they know about their experience.

Is the last image you want your customers to see that of the winning run being sent to the bench, the fans filing back to the parking garage in depression, Casey standing in the rain, mouth agape, staring at the scoreboard?


August 25, 2006

In Someone Else's Shoes, Er, Claws


Richard Feynman, populist physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and contributor to the atomic bomb, used to be fond of telling a story about helping out a friend in the psychology department at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. His friend was conducting behavioral experiments with rats. She had set up a corridor with several doors on each side. On one side, the rats would be let into the corridor. On the other side, there would be food behind one of the doors. She wished to see if the rats could be trained to go in the third door to the right every time, with or without the reward of food and regardless of the door at which they began.

The rats would immediately go to the door where they had found food the time before. Which door they had started from or how many doors away it was appeared to be meaningless.

Making the realization that there had to be some clue instructing the rats toward the door concealing the food, she decided to meticulously paint each of the doors to be exactly alike so there would be no visual cues. Still the rats found the food immediately.

Assuming they could smell the food, she used chemicals to disguise the food's odor. It made no difference. The rats continued to go directly to the door with the food.

She covered the ceiling with sheets in an effort to eliminate the lights as what she believed to be obvious navigational markers. Yet the rats promptly honed in on the food once again.

While his friend was confoundedly wringing her mind, Feynman began to crawl around the hallway trying to emulate the rats' experiences. What he found was that the floor made different sounds in different places. Each door had unique hollow or hard or noisy spots around it. He suggested to his friend that the rats were relying on sound to seek out the food.

The two covered the corridor with sand and then released the rats again. Sure enough, the rats were confused and could not find the food. Eventually, the rats were able to be trained to go toward the third door on the right every time.

As soon as the young scientists stopped making assumptions of what the rats were experiencing and began looking at the problem from the rats' point of view, everything was illuminated.


August 24, 2006

Leadership With A Singular Vision

You need to be a leader. You need to rise up and assert your vision of yourself, your world, and those around you. And if it is a good enough assertion, people will follow you toward your vision. Along the way, those who are uncomfortable or incapable will fall away and other passionate and adept people will materialize to fill in the voids. You will become the head of a momentum that moves your vision into the white hot spotlight of realization. It is your determination which will propel you into success.


August 23, 2006

Popularity Barometer

Ever wonder what the rest of the world (or at least the internet) finds interesting, relevant, or topical? Now you can find out in real time.

(Suggestion: Bookmark the site and look at it for a few days in a row.)


August 22, 2006

Breaking Out Of Prison

When you come into (or more accurately, are brought into) the booking room at the Orange County Sheriff's Department, there is a prominent sign in front of the administrative officer's desk. It reads...

"THIS IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE."

Sometimes it takes a big, shocking event to catalyze positive change. It is usually uncomfortable and almost always full of unknown outcomes. Fear and uncertainty will abound. All that apprehension does not mean change should be avoided, because until change comes, the problem will still exist - whether it is locked securely in the closet or is traipsing unyieldingly around the office.

Of course, winding up in the Orange County Sheriff's Department may be too big of a change....


August 21, 2006

"How Much Does It Cost?" Is The Worst Question You Can Ask

Have you ever bought a three-handled credenza? Me either. But when most people walk into the three-handled credenza store, after browsing around for a while, what is the most likely first question they will ask the salesperson?

"How much does it cost?"

This is no place to start a conversation. There are no details, no needs being filled, no comparisons for value, no sparks of desire. But none the less, the question has already been asked, so the game has begun.

Let us back up. Why was that particular question asked in the first place? Because every consumer knows the value of their money but most have not considered the value of the product before they go to shop for it, especially in terms of comparison to similar items or long-term gains or losses. When consumers have no idea what questions to ask, they go with what they know - price. They know it costs money. They want to sound intelligent. So they ask the question, "How much does it cost?".

And it gets them nowhere. An eager salesperson picks up on the cues then sells them twice the three-handled credenza they needed for four times the price. But this is not about consumer intelligence.

This is about consumer needs and wants. The deep down ones. Needs that they may lie about or avoid discussing. Wants they may feel embarrassed about having. The next time someone asks you, "How much does it cost?", keep in mind that they probably need some coaching. Start at the beginning and ask some basic questions. In your particular field, you know what those questions are, and you know which answers lead to which products and services. Continually fit the right product to the right consumer and you will be selling a lot more three-handled credenzas.


August 18, 2006

You Lying Son Of A...

Consumers and salespeople lie to each other all the time.

Traditionally the consumer and the salesperson have a classic love/hate relationship. Struggle, tug, prod, and play games - then in an instant, someone wins. The consumer feels he negotiated down to the "best deal ever" while the salesperson tells his buddies about this guy who was nailed by "the oldest pitch". It all happened on the same transaction. Next time, maybe the consumer will return for another fight. Maybe not. Even though he was comfortable with the outcome, the consumer experienced a lot of conflict, tension, and stress over the deal. Those will come back to haunt him when he goes shopping next time.

The consumer hides his intentions. The consumer feels the salesperson has no interest or place knowing his life, his goals, or his interests.

The salesperson hides his profitability. The salesperson believes the consumer will hold the profit against him.

What if both sides were open with each other? What if the consumer said, "This is what I am trying to accomplish and here are the criteria. Here is what I would really like and this is why. By the way, my wife would kill me if I spent more than...." What if the salesperson said, "How much time do you have to spend with me? Why do you want this? Does anyone else have a say in this? Will your wife kill you if you spend more than....?"

Consumers and salespeople both want to make friends. A friend will give you a good deal and a friend will trust your suggestions. Alas, since most people on both sides of the capitalist equation lie to each other, those friendships rarely develop.

Be sincere, be honest, and be genuinely curious. Whether you are a consumer or salesperson, be the first one to start the friendship. You can always walk away should you become uncomfortable with the relationship. When you hit your stride and that first person opens up because of your sincerity, you will know it by the truly satisfied smiles on both of your faces.


August 17, 2006

Wackos Everywhere, Plague Of Madness

The next time you think your technology is taking too long, having too many problems, or is too expensive, just reread this article about connecting exiled Buddhists in India to the rest of the world and to themselves (especially in Tibet) so they can tell their story and continue their valiant efforts to fight for justice and freedom.

There are even subplots about secretive pornography and rampaging monkeys!

If for any instant you have trouble believing this issue could affect your life or that it lacks importance to the overall environment of the world order, join in on the discussion.


August 16, 2006

New Storytelling


The filmmakers of The Men Who Fell are taking the engineered reality of their tale to the fullest, logical level of immersion. Besides being visually absorbing, they have created an entire backstory and corporate website for the company at the center of their movie.

When you have an audience interested in a story leading up to the primary story you are trying to tell... good work.


August 15, 2006

How To Live Happily With A Great Designer

Good ol' reliable Seth Godin applies his purple thinking and tells us how to live happily with a great designer. Mind you, he says a "great" designer, not a "mediocre" or "inexpensive" one. You should take notes or just print the thing outright.


August 14, 2006

Recommended Reading (Just Add Macaroni Edition)


Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.

The first book in a seemingly autobiographical series detailing the odd and dysfunctional (to say the least) journey of a young teenager. While not as funny as its sequel (April's Recommended Reading), the characters are indelibly illustrated and fascinating to watch as they travel through the sometime-carnival, sometime-asylum that is their lives.

"[The doctor] believed that anger was the crux of mental illness. He believed that anger, unless it was expressed freely, would destroy a person. This explained the constant fighting in the house. [His] children had been encouraged not just to sing, dance and jump rope but also to vent.

Anger was like the ground hamburger of [their] existence. Its versatility was inspiring. There was Anger Turned Inward, Repressed Anger, Misguided Anger. There were Acts Made in Anger, Things Said in Anger and people who might very well die if they didn't Face Their Anger.

[The doctor's family] screamed at each other constantly. It was like a competition and the prize was mental health. Every so often [the doctor] would say, "[My daughter] has been expressing a lot of healthy anger lately. I truly believe she's moved up to the next level in the stages of her emotional development...." So then everybody hated [her] because she walked around being so smug and emotionally mature."


August 11, 2006

Now You Care

Regardless of the outcome, the historical significance, or the longevity of the story, Floyd Landis deserved to be on the front pages of American newspapers long ago. Landis' life story of rivalry, victory, and tragedy have been told but are listened to by few. Only when the perspective is culturally or socially familiar, as with sports related controversy, do stories rise to the top of the editor's desk.

Paying attention to the point of view from an insider with one eye on the outside can provide a tremendous spark. Find one and never forget that the page thirteen story is a page one story to someone, maybe even you or your customers.


August 10, 2006

Real Serifs

Typefaces are the handwriting of an organization. So, to add to the psychoanalytical complexity of your organization, here are some places where you can download gadzillions of quality fonts for free.

Thank you to dafont.com and urbanfonts.com. Be sure to check out the Top 100 sections of each site.