"If James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actor's Studio" BRAVO television program, were to interview a marketing person , here's how he'd probably adapt his famous 10 questions that he asks at the end of the show. How would you answer them? At next week's Corante/Columbia Marketing Innovation conference I plan to pose this questions to a number of outspoken people and share what they have to say."
The Warrior: Successful companies need at least one Warrior—the aggressive innovator who conceptualizes and defines the organization and who fights the
tough battle to make it successful. Some companies have many Warriors,
which can sometimes make for really great organizations or, in other cases,
can lead to disaster, depending on whether or not the Warriors can work
The Worker: The backbone of any company is the Worker—the dependable soldiers who take direction from the Warriors and make things happen. Great com- panies always have great Workers. Workers understand their essential role in society, and they also tend to live the most balanced life among the four categories. Great Workers take tremendous pride in their craft, be it building jets, answering phones, driving a truck, designing microchips, writing legal briefs, or managing a large staff. Workers come in every shape, size and economic category; they perform duties that range from the mundane to the complex.
The Whiner: Whiners might be competent workers, but their negativity and dissatisfaction over- shadow their performance. Often, their whining is a mask for their incompetence. They spend a disproportionate amount of time complaining about others and blaming everyone else for their personal lack of success. They usually attempt to recruit more Whiners from the workplace, creat- ing dissatisfaction among the Workers. One of their great pleasures in life is to contemplate and spread other’s troubles (hence they tend to be big gossipers), as it provides a welcome distraction from their obsession with their own perceived problems.
The Weasel: Weasels are always negative, personally and professionally. They operate from a profound sense of insecurity that clouds their existence and drives them to destroy, for the strangely misguided sense of fulfillment it provides them. They have no regard for honesty, relationships, long-term credibility, or friendships. Weasels tend to be strong in personality, which can make them diffi- cult to identify at the onset. They may initially appear to be a Warrior or Worker. But the core trait of a Weasel is to instill confusion and distrust within his or her structure. Trace back a nasty rumor mill, and usually there was a Weasel involved in its initial development. Weasels delight in stirring up trouble between factions, fueling it with distrust, rumors, and outright lies. They will claim to be everyone’s friend, while not honoring any friendship. Every motivation they possess is designed to fill their in- ternal void, and true friendship is almost impossible for them to attain. Due to their aggressive personalities and relentless methods, they can often become successful and achieve positions of power.
Likewise, unhappy employees make unhappy customers.
There are ways to make your employees happy. Perhaps more importantly, there are ways to make your employees feel proud. And no, rewarding them isn't something you can fake or buy off with plaques and pins and little bonuses. It's something that has to feel real.
If you want to inspire your customers, you first have to inspire your employees. If you want to do that, you have to make them feel like they truly are a part of your company and not just worthless pawns.
You have to make them feel like they are on a mission.
You have to make them feel good about the work they do for you.
Does that sound complicated? It really isn't. It's actually the simplest thing in the world. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is Loreal. So is Nike. So is Coca Cola.
Treat people with respect. Give them something worthwhile to do. Inspire them to be knights in your kingdom... or at least happy to be there for as long as they want to stay. That's it. That's all you really need to do to get things rolling in the right direction.
First: Stop dreaming and do. Co-founders Maurice Blanks, John Christakos and Charlie Lazor all quit paying jobs to start Blu Dot. Christakos, a Bain & Co. consultant, was the first to leave. He then waited for his two college buddies to say “adios” to their architecture firms. Brand ownership embraces uncertainty.
Second: Stop complaining and create. All three knew they were sick of “compartmentalizing their creativity while toiling at their day jobs”. Either bring your creativity to work every day and let the chips fall where they may or make your own place where you decide on how things are done. Brand ownership is about YOUR creative difference.
Third: Stop wishing for a solution and be the solution. Blu Dot is the solution for those who live in the land between budget-conscious IKEA and label-conscious Philippe Starck. Blu Dot supplies relevance on at least three levels: great design, great price, great simplicity. Brand ownership is relevance defined by the people you sell to.
Fourth: Stop hoping for more money and find your version of resourcefulness. These college buddies paid their logo designer with plans for a tree house and their web designer with tables. Christakos likes to say, “Furniture’s our favorite form of currency.” Brand ownership is about resourcefulness in an age of limited resources.
Fifth: Stop thinking you’re “all that” and be who you are gifted to be. Blu Dot founders learned to submit to each others gifts and abilities. Christokos is the business guru. Blanks, the operations/administration guy, and Lazor remains the designer. Brand ownership is seldom about the lone genius and more often about co-workers humbly finding their place on the team.
"It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value." - Ben McConnell.
"It's easy for organisations to stigmatise the one-percenters. Marketing types often sneer at fanatical customers for their lunacy in being more passionate about the organisations' product or service than the professionals are. Focus groups exercises tend to average out the views of a wide customer base rather than looking at the core enthusiasts. New business drives focus on acquisition of the new rather than enthusing with the existing customers.
"Seems to me that this is a mindset worth reviewing." - Johnnie Moore.
"On our trip to New York we met Richard Wise, Chief Strategic Officer at Agency 16, modern marketeer and a very saucy fellow to boot. He has paid close attention to that great US company Harley Davidson and the history of its brand. He explained that at one point the bikers that are so closely associated to the epic motorcycles were quite reviled by the company's management. So much so that they were referred to as the one-percenters - as in the one percent who spoil it for everyone else. HD's mindset was that it was best placed to decide what its customers wanted. The management were shocked when...
"...tattooed-hooligans started taking their beloved bikes apart - or chopping them - to meet their own warped 'hog' desires. It was only when the company's worth hit rock-bottom and a younger member of the HD clan took control of the business that that view changed. The company embraced the one percenters and reframed their destructive tendencies as a guide to what their most hardcore and loyal customers wanted. As a result, the company's fortunes were reversed and its value soared. This struck me as a great example of open source marketing and the value of a co-creative approach. Hells Angels as lead-users - what a great notion." - from the Modern Marketing Blog's January 16, 2006 "Why Hells Angels Know Best", by James Cherkoff.
"To some marketers, the polar opposite of the 1% Rule -- the Law of Big Numbers-- might doom any decision to dedicate resources toward a democratized community. Should it? Not necessarily, although any community organizer should be prepared to accept the reality of slow, incremental growth, not a big, Hollywood-style opening." - Ben McConnell.
"We're sorry you're experiencing problems with our products, but these things happen, and you just happened to be one of our few unlucky customers whose experience with us was less than stellar. We'll try to do better next time. We hope that the next product you purchase from us will work better for ya. Thanks, and have a great day.
"Oh, and if you feel like wasting your time, please feel free to call our complaints hotline, where your call will be parked for at least twenty minutes and a customer service representative who has absolutely nothing to do with this company will do everything he or she can to discourage you from pursuing this matter any further.
"If you would like to yell at an imaginary person right now, please press 1 or stay on the line."
No kidding."Brands should put their customer service at the center of their brand universe. Customer service is where people give you real feedback about their brand "experiences," and most often when things start going negative, as was the case when Jeff Jarvis started documenting his negative experiences with Dell on his blog - it starts off in the customer service department. In fact, Pete said, "the value of the customer service department may be 10 times as valuable as bean counters account for..."
(from a conversation with Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen Buzzmetrics)
I have a personal theory about surfing. It takes riding a thousand waves to
become a surfer. It doesn’t matter if you catch 20 waves a day for 50 days or
one wave a day for a thousand days; you just can’t get around the experience of
learning the hard way.
Just as in surfing, there is no substitution for one thousand waves, or
in this case, a thousand personal interactions with your customer. I know it
seems like an overwhelming number, but there is just no way around it. Mastering
the seven steps above takes lots of practice. And practice will give you the
chance to develop your own style of engaging in a bottom-up strategy with your
customers and the marketplace, giving you the opportunity to drive real
Well, after a thousand waves I learned last week that there’s
still a lot to learn. Surfing in a place called Ticla, a big south came in last
week producing 15-20 foot waves, much bigger than I’ve ever been in. Surfing
these big waves was a fresh experience. To be in the ocean with such power was
inspiring and made me use all of the surfing tools I’ve learned. It forced me to
take off much deeper on these big waves, commiting to a much bigger ride. This
experience got me a lot more excited about surfing.
Just like engaging with your customers, once you’ve had a thousand
personal interactions with your customers things can start to feel stale. Up the
ante. Try new ways of engaging them in a dialogue. Get them more involved in
creating your marketing and product development.
As Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, told me when I was writing Spark:
Shake it up, amplify the focus, energize the sense of urgency, get on a
mission, get each other excited, and create momentum.
Try taking off deeper.
"At first, Ingram was going to do an ad campaign around "partnering" with their customers. They pulled some prospective ads together.
The ads were abysmal. Stock shots of the attractive business people of all genders and races, smiling cheerfully at the camera. Ingram knew their customers would (rightfully) call B.S. on them. So, the drawing board was revisited.
In other words, it's not that the strategy is aimed at the customers...the customers ::are:: the strategy
Crotty brought up a number of very salient points. In particular, he shared another insight that was spot-on, especially in a commodity business. "If you can get customers to help you develop your go-to-market strategy, the you don't need to sell to them anymore." Think about that for a second."
When you think about the nature of advertising, it's interesting to note that very few people actually seek it out. With the exception of... well, me (and a few others, I hope) most people don't flip through their TV channels to skip regular programming in favor of the latest advertisments. Likewise, most people don't pick up magazines specifically to browse through advertising content either. Most people only are only "accidentally" exposed to advertisers'messsages... several hundred times per day.
Okay, sure, we make exceptions during the superbowl. The ads are as much a part of the experience now as what happens on the field, and that's nice, but it's the exception that confirms the rule. At least for adults. With kids, it's a different story. Mine are captivated by toy ads on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. My kids know how to change the channel, but they don't during "commercial breaks". And that's a point that I'll come back to in a bit.
My point here is that we typically don't seek out advertising. We don't go to it. It comes to us. In the industry, we use the word "exposure". Well, let me tell you about exposure: I don't usually hear people say that they have been exposed to love or excitement or enthusiasm. When people use the word "exposure" it is usually in the same sentence as things like "virus" or "bad language" or "TV violence".
Unless you're a photographer, "exposure" is typically not a positive word. Yet we use it, because it describes the relationship between advertisers and the public fairly well. That tells you a lot about the nature of this business, or at least our perception of it.
As I've said before, advertising seeks you out. It comes to you. More and more magazines now offer more advertising content than... actual content. (Advertising is content now.) Every ten minutes or so, whatever show you're watching on TV takes a break so that advertisers can get get some more face time with you. On your commute to and from work, you're "exposed" to billboard ads. The ads come in on the radio, at the multiplex, at the amusement park, at the store and just about every time you access a website. It follows you everywhere, hence the advent of ad-killing technologies like TiVO, pop-up blockers and satellite radio.
You know how annoying those telemarketers are? You know, the ones who call you every five minutes while you're trying to eat dinner? That's the path that the advertising world is on with its blatant oversaturation. Instead of boring us to death, inspire us. Make us sit up and pay attention. Shorten your campaigns. Be aware that most of you aren't as cool as you think you are. Don't make yourselves a nuisance. Read the warning signs, guys. Your game plan needs to change.
A question you have to ask yourself is this: Assuming that advertising actually affects purchasing habits, can it be argued that more advertising and more repetition will actually translate into more market penetration and more sales? Well, it depends on whether or not you a) have a great product, b) have a captive audience, and c) have the right kind of ad to begin with.
Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Washington State University recently examined consumers' responses to advertising. They took into considerations a variety of elements like brand beliefs, responses to informational and emotional appeals, efforts to avoid advertising, attention to ads and reliance on ads versus other information sources. The test group was shown eight TV commercials, half of which were defined as emotional and the other half as informational.
For the sake of clarity Nancy Gardner (who publishded an introductory report on the study's findings) explains that:
"Emotional ads are characterized as providing an emotional experience that is relevant to the use of the brand.
Informational ads predominantly provide clear brand data."
The basic results:
Consumers who considered themselves highly skeptical of all ads were persuaded less by informational ads than they were by emotional ads.
In contrast, non-skeptics were more responsive to informational advertising.
Co-Author and professor of Marketing and International Business at the UW Business School explains that "Skepticism leads to less attention to and reliance on advertising, and generally a decreased chance that the consumer will purchase the advertised product."
He continues: "Highly skeptical consumers have likely become skeptical over time, in response to numerous interactions in the marketplace that have led them to distrust ad claims."
The study further concludes that "skeptical consumers like advertising less, rely on it less, and respond more positively to emotional appeals."
Per Carl Obermiller, professor of Marketing at Seattle University and co-author of the study: "Those who are more skeptical respond to advertising in negative ways - they like it less; they think it is less influential and, they do more to avoid it--zipping past ads on recorded programs and switching channels during commercials."
Furthermore, "Skeptical consumers also are inclined to need to validate the truth of ads by consulting with friends and family members."
"The advertising skeptic regards advertising as not credible, and therefore, not worth processing. (His) perspective differs from the consumer cynic. A cynical consumer is critical of advertising because of its manipulative intent and indirect appeals. Such consumers may prefer simple, direct, informative advertising. Skeptics, however, do not."
In other words, skeptics can't be sold on a product or brand through the use of informational appeals.
So... it doesn't really matter how many times you play the same ad over and over again. If your ad isn't helping your intended audience to connect with your brand, you are wasting your time... and ours.
Once again, quality (or rather specificity) trumps out quantity.
Unfortunately, the report did not touch on what percentage of the US population might fall under the "skeptical consumer," "non-skeptical consumer" and "cynical consumer categories.
Speaking of quantity and oversaturation, do you know what the average TV ad campaign's life cycle is? 5 weeks. It should be more like 2-3. By week 5, it's probably safe to say that we're more than ready to move on.
But don't take my word for it: Somebody is actually working on a study to validate the arguent. The ongoing test, called Project Wanamaker (in Omaha, Nebraska) has already shown some interesting results. Per Lee Weinblatt, CEO of The PreTesting Company:
"After two weeks of watching commercials, viewers generally become fatigued."
And there you have it, folks.
"The things killing TV commercials are overexposure and poor creative," adds Weinblat. "Give them more interesting commercials." Wayne Friedman, the author of the piece, notes that one advertiser--Subway--kept changing its creative during the test, and experienced less weariness among viewers.
Right. (Note to self: If you aren't going to be effective, at least be entertaining.)
A sad, sad word of caution, however: Erotic and violent images may cloud viewers' ability to focus on the actual object of the ad.
"We observed that people fail to detect visual images that appeared one-fifth of a second after emotional images, whereas they can detect those images with little problem after viewing neutral images," says Vanderbilt University psychologist David Zald.
The effect is known as attentional rubbernecking.
"We think that there is essentially a bottleneck for information processing and if a certain type of stimulus captures attention, it can basically jam up that bottleneck so subsequent information can't get through," says Zald.
In other words, although a provocative or visually loud ad is likely to grab your attention, it also hinders your ability to focus on the brand or product it promotes.
The findings, however, do not seem to take into account the effect of such an ad over time. Through repetition, it is likely that we might become desensitized to the distracting elements of the ad and naturally begin focusing more and more on its actual message. Since the more interesting the ad is, the longer it will continue to attract our attention, no matter how distracting the ad may be, we'll eventually get the point.
(And that is good news.)
So, look... after all of this yapping about this and that, I'm going to make it simple for ye of the advertising world:
1) Know what you want to say.
2) Know whom you want to say it to.
3) Ask yourself why you want to say it. (No, really. That one's more important than you think.)
4) Once that's done and the next question becomes "how do I want to say it," remember to keep it simple, keep it true, and make sure it isn't boring. (At the very least, be courteous enough to make your ads either entertaining or inspiring... or both.)
Remember the thing I mentioned about my kids not changing the channel when commercials come on? That's all you have to do: Make ads for us grownups that won't prompt us to change the channel. Simple, isn't it? If you guys allow us to fall in love with your craft again, maybe you won't need to work so hard to get our attention in the first place.
When I sat down to write this piece, I purposely chose the title, "What Not to Name Your Product," so that you would better appreciate and understand that there are specific rules pertaining to the registration of trademarks. These rules dictate, for example, which marks are not registrable (generally) and which marks relating to specific products or services are not registrable. And my subsequent comments about trademarks will be applicable to both trademarks and service marks.