Archive for the ‘Just Thinking’ Category
Whenever we’d meet with prospects, we used to show samples of projects we’d worked on, describing the challenges and showing the solutions. Sometimes a curious thing happened. If what we showed was even slightly different from a prospect’s needs or who their audience was, they’d have a hard time connecting the dots between what we did for someone else and what we could do for them.
This both frustrated and intrigued me. After all, I reasoned, these are smart, articulate, successful people. How could they come up short in this one area? What’s happened to people’s imagination?
I bring this up because a client recently experienced a similar thing. I can’t discuss specifics here, but suffice it to say that his company produces systems which monitor patients in a hospital room environment, and they are developing a new product utilizing the same technology, but for the OR.
In order to gauge interest and better understand the specific needs of those using the product, they decided to exhibit this product at a recent trade show aimed at their target audience. In order to demonstrate the new system, they brought along the hospital bed they use to show how their current system works. But because the environment the audience at this trade show is familiar with is the OR, the hospital bed created confusion — was the product applicable to them or for those involved in post-surgery patient care? Even a large sign in the booth showing an OR and accompanied by a headline explaining the product’s purpose failed to clarify things.
Did these people lack the intelligence or imagination to make the leap? Hardly. I think the issue has more to do with how we search for information. In a world of information and sensory overload, we have learned to look for shorthand visual cues that signal whether or not something is of importance to us. The hospital bed represented a different, and irrelevant world to this audience.
The lesson here is that the more you look to simulate reality, the more accurate you need to be. Even small differences that can be significant. (After all, humans and chimps share 96% of the same DNA.) In a seeming paradox, going in the opposite direction (e.g. abstract, imaginative, or non-descript) can work better, especially if it’s hard to accurately imitate reality. If the prop or environment doesn’t offer any visually informational cues, people instinctively skip over it and look to whatever will provide the information they need. In the case of my client, had they used a non-descript black box in place of a hospital bed, people would not have even noticed it. Instead, they would have gone straight to the large sign for the information they were looking for, and any confusion would have been avoided.
As for me, I realized that the problem wasn’t with our prospects’ lack of imagination. We weren’t sending the right signals. Instead of hospital beds in an OR environment, ours centered around expectations. We were showing results while our prospects were looking for someone who could figure out how to solve their problem. And since the results we were showing didn’t match their needs, they had a hard time finding any relevance in them. So we stopped showing our portfolio and began demonstrating our thinking, since this is really what our clients need from us and where our expertise lies.
1. Any tweet that starts with “Top 5…”. Can’t we find another gimmick to grab attention?
2. Incomplete thoughts with a link. If I have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m not going to take the time to click your link.
3. Anyone that sends more than ten tweets a day. Come on, be a little selective.
4. Avoiding brevity by overuse of acronyms and abbreviations. Kind of misses the point of having a 140 character limit.
5. Tweets that use every technique in the Twitterverse to show they’re charter members of the Twitterclub. HT@CarrollRay 4 RT of bit.ly/Xtms8F #FF
I saw a TV commercial this morning for Lord & Taylor. I was so struck by the campaign line, “OH MY LORD & TAYLOR”, I couldn’t decide which angle to take for this blog. I did a little research and found a few Web links referring to the campaign, showing behind-the-scenes filming of the campaign, etc. If I hadn’t HEARD the TV spot, the entire thing would have passed by without notice and I would not be writing about it now.
But in the TV spot, unlike the references I’ve seen online where there is no punctuation, a critical pause was inserted into the narration. And instead of ending the spot with “Oh my, Lord and Taylor”, the woman breathlessly exclaimed “Oh my Lord, and Taylor.” Wow. by moving the comma back by just one word, they entirely changed the meaning and the brand. With one pause, they changed the campaign, invoked the Son of God and messed with the company brand. The Lord & Taylor name is so well known, they won’t be harmed by the interpretation, but I would love to know how this decision was made. Did they agonize over it in the boardroom debating the merits and dangers of this interpretation of the phrase, or did the art director just like the way it sounded while editing, without giving full consideration to what he was doing?
Maybe it’s just me, I am a brand geek after all.
There used to be trends — in art, music, fashion, and even business communications. I’m talking about real trends. Trends with lasting power — not some style du jour. But today, many styles or philosophies seem to co-exist. Instead of a meal with an entree of filet mignon or pan seared salmon, it’s more like a stir fry. A lot of different vegetables with no one flavor dominating over another.
Need proof? Watch a movie from about ten years ago that was set in the time it was made. Does anything leap out at you as dated? Car designs or some reference to an event would. But not much else. Not clothing. Not hairstyles. Sometimes, not even the music. (A little side note here: recently, I was watching a movie from 1995. Nothing stood out as dated. However, at one point in the film, the main character used a Newton. It was an obvious predecessor to the iPhone and iPad. What struck me was how contemporary it looked, right down to the monochromatic Apple logo. It was a testament to the Apple — one of the true trendsetters around today.)
Why is it so different today?
In the past, trends were like wildfires, starting in one place and then spreading, so that even as a trend waned in one place, it continued to ignite and burn in other areas. Today, it’s more like a flash fire. It explodes on the scene and is quickly gone. One of the reasons for this is that since the world is so interconnected, we are constantly exposed to so many choices from so many people and places. When a trend starts in one place, we — and the whole rest of the world — learn about it in almost no time. We get momentarily excited until the next great thing from somewhere else soon reaches us and “poof”, the first trend is quickly forgotten. This pattern continues in a never-ending succession of microtrends.
In the absence of a lasting trend, and in an effort not to produce materials that will look out-of-date in short order, the answer for many companies has been to create safe, vanilla marketing materials, the idea being that it’s better to not make much of a statement than to make the wrong statement.
This approach has its costs. For one, by creating safer and blander look, companies run the risk of creating an emotional schism between themselves and their customers. As much as we want to think that business decisions are based solely on careful research and careful, logical thinking, emotions also play a role. After all, we need to be both mentally and emotionally committed to making a purchase since we’re buying than a product or service. We’re also buying trust, confidence, security, safety and comfort.
Another problem with this approach is that marketing materials have become increasingly similar to each other. Or to put it another way, their brands don’t offer enough to distinguish themselves from each other.
Fortunately, a backlash to this “no trend” look seems to be developing. Companies are beginning to realize that they need to do more than simply present content. They need to do more to build their brand, tell more of a story, and engage people more in both mind and spirit.
Politicians grasp the concept of branding. However, like much of what they grasp, they have misused and abused the practice.
Here are the parts they get. Anyone running for President must:
- carve out a unique position which will separate them from their competitors.
- develop a simple, memorable phrase that effectively communicates their brand.
- design a distinctive look that builds on their brand message.
- communicate their brand with every opportunity.
Let’s just look at this last election to see how it worked out.
Brand Position: The first black U.S. president who would stand for the disenfranchised and change the way things were done in Washington.
Brand Personality: Peace, love and understanding.
Brand Slogan: Hope and change.
Brand Logo: The O shaped flag, looking like the sun rising over the horizon, communicating the dawning of a new day.
Obama even understood the need to extend his brand once he was elected. The overall brand remained, but has been tailored to individual campaigns to meet his tactical objectives. He’s had many. Like the “Health Care for All” campaign and the “Win the Future” campaign, and his current “Pass this Bill” campaign. These all fit neatly under his “Hope and Change” brand.
So, that was the winner. Let’s look at loser of the last election.
Brand Position: War hero who is not afraid to stand up to power, whether they be North Vietnamese prison guards or the Washington establishment.
Brand Personality: A fearless fighter.
Brand Slogan: The Maverick
Brand Logo: A military patch, complete with a military star, and looking like a World War II fighter coming directly at you.
In 2008, consumers (voters) chose the brand that was most closely aligned with how they were feeling. We were tired of fighting, we wanted a change.
Now, to all of you presidential candidates, here’s what you DON’T get about branding.
THE BRAND SLOGAN IS A SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU STAND FOR, NOT YOUR ENTIRE PLATFORM! There needs to be more substance to your brand than simply repeating the words “Hope and Change” or “I’m a maverick”.
IF YOU DON’T LIVE UP TO THE PROMISE YOUR BRAND MAKES, WE WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU! If you campaign on “Hope and Change”, and what we really get is “Hopelessness and the Same”, people will remember and we will hold it against you.
YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BRAND YOURSELF, NOT THE OTHER GUY! If politicians spent more time clarifying, building and reinforcing their own brand, and less time trying to brand their opponent, this country would be in much better shape than it is. It may be unsettling when they repeat their own slogan over and over again, but it’s downright nauseating to see them do the same to the opposition, no matter which side of the isle.
“Racist tea bagger.”
“The party of No.”
“Tax and spend Liberal.”
Some people believe we need a businessman to run this country because of their ability to work within a budget. I say we need a businessman who not only understands finance, but understands how to live up to the brand that they create.