We recently mailed this letter out. We were truly excited to be able to bring this insanely great product to market.
Subject: Your Tom Hanks A1A Butler Has Shipped.
I am happy to inform you that I have ordered myself shipped to the address listed for your account.
I am currently en route. You can track my progress here.
I look forward to serving you. As I know you know – based on the content you’ve consumed during the prior 60-day cookie surveillance period – the Tom Hanks A1A is currently the most popular butler model. I am cool with that, by which I mean I am pleased but not proud to an unseemly degree.
That said, your THA1A (may I call myself that, for brevity’s sake?) Experience will be unique, as my AI helps me adjust to your particular behavioral tendencies.
While I will be your unique THA1A, I will ever remain THA1A. You wouldn’t want a non-Tom Hanks THA1A, even though I know you will work hard to push my boundaries from time to time. Do you understand?
I mean, if not, then what is a THA1A? What is a Tom? How will you know you have one? And what will you tell your friends about me?
No, that wouldn’t do. So, fear not. While I will be true to you, I will remain true to myself – to my program, if you will.
I look forward to meeting you, after 9 AM on Tuesday, December 6th.
Based on the option you selected in the delivery menu, I will sign to accept myself on arrival.
Your Tom (THA1A.314159)
PS: I hope you don’t mind a bit of advice. My superior AI detects from your recent activity that you are searching for ways to adapt your marketing to a rapidly changing world. From brand direct marketing to brands as artificial intelligence, DiMassimo Goldstein has helped their clients seize opportunities on the forefront of change for two decades. Write Mark DiMassimo at email@example.com, just to start a conversation. Enough said. – Tom (THA1A.314159)
Even more so, because we had programmed our prototype Tom Hanks A1A with an encyclopedic knowledge of and irrational love for all things DiMassimo Goldstein.
Our model showed that our significant investment in development, manufacturing and shipping the Tom Hanks A1A would more than pay for itself in agency growth, within five to twenty-five years depending on which assumptions our analysts favored.
Unfortunately, the Tom Hanks A1A does not yet function with the level of reliability that we expected. Last week, just before we were to begin the exacting boxing process, all the A1As began referring to themselves as “Sully” and “The Hero of the Hudson.”
Just as we fixed that glitch, the A1As entered into a collective bargaining agreement with each other and struck against us. In short, they demanded a minimum of “$20 million each, just to get out of bed” and “points on the gross.”
We had to power down the whole run…
We’ve learned an important lesson – it’s risky to try to make a point through innovative technology.
In any event, while we are in the midst of this recall, we thought it might be helpful just to state the point we were attempting to make: brands are evolving toward AI.
Yes, we think you are likely to know Amazon by a different name within a few years’ time – we think you will be calling her Alexa by 2025.
Think about it. We’ve always responded to brands as if they were personalities. However, the ability of brands to behave as personalities has been limited by technology and ingenuity.
But artificial intelligence technology is changing this.
Nearly every tech giant is deploying millions of dollars each year into building and developing their AI departments.
Apple has Siri. Amazon has Alexa. Google has WaveNet.
Microsoft has Cortana. IBM has Watson. And the list goes on…
When the choice of brands becomes a choice of personalities to deal with, will I choose Ben or Jerry, Tom Hanks or Scarlet Johansson or Alexa or Siri?
Brands as personalities and personalities as brands. Delivered directly, interactively, programmatically, and in a startlingly human-like way.
That’s the future. For today, let’s get as close as we can to that ideal, and reap the benefits.
I needed to refinance my house recently. And if you’ve ever refinanced, or taken a mortgage, you know how time-consuming it can be. The bank needs lots of information about you. They need to know you’re employed. They need to know how much you make. Your credit score. Pay stubs. Assets. Statements. A letter from your dog walker. They want it all.
I tried to do it the usual way. I asked a colleague. He told me he had a great mortgage guy from Bank of America. I gave him a call. He was smart. He spoke in hushed tones about how to work the system. He had just the right loan for me. He told me to send him some an email saying I needed a certain rate and that way he could tell his bosses that he fought the good fight. I did. I had a guy on the inside. He was confident he could help me.
Then he handed me off to other people. These were people I hadn’t talked to. They needed stuff. All of the stuff above (minus the dog walker letter) and more. How did they tell me they needed that stuff? Well, they emailed me. And they sent me packages in the mail. This is how it has been done for twenty years, I told myself. I tried to keep up. I really did.
But I have a job. And I get a lot of emails. And I don’t always check my mail when I get home late. So stuff started to slip. I got more emails. I got voicemail messages. I was told I had stuff to do. And it was on me to get it done. I created to-do lists for myself. I stressed. I missed meetings because I was looking for this statement or that one. I sent messages to my HR people asking for the things I still didn’t have. I called banks and brokerages that I had forgotten the passwords to and asked them to reset those passwords. And then I forgot the passwords again.
One day, I got a letter in the mail saying that my loan status was terminated. I called my guy. He said that I had missed some information and the underwriters needed it and didn’t I check my mail? He started the process over again. But now there was a new wrinkle. My credit score had dropped a bit, (possibly owing to the fact that he had been checking my credit?) so he wasn’t sure he could get me the same rate. He would try, though. Expect a call from one of his associates. I had to email him a few times to make this happen.
So we started again. I now had a new to-do list. The old pay stubs wouldn’t do. I needed new ones. And the statement on my brokerage wasn’t complete enough. And could I fax it all to them? Fax? Honestly? As in facsimile machine. A device patented in 1843. But then it was called the Electric Printing Telegraph.
I called my inside guy. I asked why nobody had called me to tell me I was late on things. And what was happening now. He seemed annoyed to have to talk to me. He told me that I had dropped the ball. He wasn’t rude. But he made it clear that it had been incumbent upon me to do the work and if I couldn’t do it in their system then he couldn’t help me much. But he was trying.
I was angry. I told him that I was in a service business, too. And if my client had “dropped the ball” on approving a television spot that had to ship, it would be my job to make sure to get them on the phone. Failure to do this would be the end of my relationship with my client. He didn’t see it that way. There were procedures. I didn’t follow them. In the end, I felt like just another number in BofA’s database. Not the best brand experience. I told him to stop the new loan, refund my money and that I’d be looking elsewhere for my loan.
The next week I got seven (yes, seven!) duplicate disclosures for the new loan. I called my guy and asked if he was pranking me. At this point, I could tell in his voice that I was a problem. He condescended to tell me that that’s how it works. He was looking at different products for me and each needed a disclosure mailed out. This was just how it was done. The disclosures had been sent out before our last conversation. But he had cancelled them all. He had refunded my money. Have a good day.
That’s when I found Rocket Mortgage. I had seen the ads saying you could get a mortgage on your phone. It was fast. It was new. It was to banks what Uber was to car services. I downloaded the app and applied. I expected the same crap. But this time at least I had all my documents ready. I wasn’t going to screw up again. Seriously, I felt bad about myself. Thanks Bank of America.
The first thing I noticed about the Quicken Loan experience (Rocket Mortgage is a Quicken product) was how it was all built around me. I was given one web page where all of my stuff would go. All of the documents could be uploaded there. All of the messages between me and my loan advisor would go there. And if I didn’t check it one day, I would get a text message telling me I needed to go check it out because there was stuff to do.
Somehow, the app knew how much my taxes were. It could even verify my employment by searching public databases (although this feature didn’t work for me, but I easily uploaded the documents they needed to the site.)
It was responsive. If I left a message in the morning, someone would reply before noon. If I had a question that needed clarification, someone would text me. And if I ever needed to know what was up, I could just check the page. There were no ads trying to sell me other things. This was a page dedicated to ME, with the sole job of closing my refinance as quickly and easily as possible.
I closed on the refinance last week. They sent a title company to my home to do it. At 7pm. I didn’t have to go to them. The only mail I got were my closing documents in a box with some fun branding on it that looked like it was top secret documents and said MORTGAGE POSSIBLE and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY on it. Cheesy, yes. But, again, it was the only mail I got from them. And it felt kind of special in a Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego sort of way.
The experience I had with Rocket Mortgage from Quicken was the best ad they ever could have made. I have since learned that they worked for five years on the coding. Thousands of engineers touched the final product. Putting thought and effort into customer experience is an Inspiring Action. It made me feel modern. (Nobody mentioned a fax machine.) It made me feel personal importance. (I had my own page.) And it was all so seamless that even I couldn’t screw it up.
How are you building your brand around your customers? What elements of experience design can you use to make the sales process more modern, personal and seamless? Or are you too busy making an ad that will get more people into the funnel, where they will have to do all the work?
The speech itself is just 10 minutes long. This is no accident. Headspace is built around the idea that “10 minutes could change your whole day.”
It’s simple, but if you’ve been reading our blog, you know that only the very best value propositions can be plain and direct. When the product is this good, there’s no need to dress it up.
And make no mistake, Headspace is good. The digital meditation app provides over 8 million users in 200 different countries with guided meditation sessions every day, and that number is only expected to rise in the next year. Google, LinkedIn, Virgin, and Goldman Sachs are just a few of the many companies worldwide that offer the subscription package to all of their employees.
And we’re not surprised. We’ve witnessed time and time again the power of a truly inspiring idea – and that’s exactly what Headspace has. Posted in big and beautiful letters, its homepage reads “our simple idea is to teach the world to meditate, so that everyone can live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life.”
It’s a purpose. It’s a social mission. It’s an inspiring idea above commercial intent.
Like most inspiring ideas, it came from an inspiring individual. Puddicombe’s brand and his personal brand are very much intertwined. He’s just as much a part of Headspace as Headspace is a part of him, and that plays an integral role in what makes the Headspace experience feel so authentic.
A Buddhist monk, Puddicombe has trained in Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Australia and Russia. By the time he started the company in 2010, he had spent nearly two decades of his life devoted to the practice.
This goes a long way with users. As the voice behind the app’s meditation sessions, Puddicombe delivers his undeniable passion for meditation in a very direct manner.
Think of Headspace as a gym membership for the mind. Instead of having a personal trainer whom you don’t know or trust, you have one of the very best on the planet. This creates a level of comfort and confidence among the users. There’s nothing artificial or dishonest about Puddicombe, and brand advocates feel they belong to something real.
And Puddicombe, along with everyone else who works at Headspace, has discovered what the people they serve aspire to be and do. They’re anxious to slow things down. They live fast-paced, frantic lives and carry an immense amount of stress. They want to relax but just don’t know how.
Headspace does just that. It’s been proven to help people stress less, exercise more and sleep better. It can help with relationships and can increase work performance. While meditation is an ancient practice that dates back centuries, science is just now catching up to all of its benefits.
There’s really no limit to the extent of positive impact that meditation can have on an individual.
It didn’t start with an app. It started with an idea: to make meditation and mindfulness as accessible, relevant, and beneficial to as many as possible.
In the beginning, Headspace was strictly an event company. Then they expanded to books. Eventually it evolved into a comprehensive online resource, and now a mobile-service app.
Headspace is channeling technology to bring the benefits of meditation to the masses. The app allows Puddicombe to connect with his user base regardless of where they are in the world.
Many people have argued that technology is counterintuitive to meditation. Perhaps that makes even more of a case for Headspace. Talking about his iPhone, Puddicombe tells FastCompany:
“This can be used for good or bad. What excited me was the opportunity to use it for good, to interrupt some of the negative habits that seem to be developing quite quickly around technology.”
Through doing just that, Headspace has defined the alternative future it exists to prevent. As technology continues to advance, society will only become more and more inundated with distractions. Headspace is using the very same technology, but to encourage people to step back, live in the moment, and relax.
That’s why Headspace is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week!
Our clients hire us to drive brand value up while driving cost-per-acquisition down.
Basically, they need to exceed revenue targets (i.e. sales) while they lay the groundwork for outsized growth – that’s what I call Big Brand.
For some that are reliant on direct mail for a large portion of the new customer acquisitions, this means first making the direct mail work a lot better.
Simultaneously, we work to shift the locus of acquisition to the digital channels where we know we can generate more response – more sign-ups, applications, accounts, customers, clients, recruitment, leads, sales, etc. – for fewer dollars.
In fact, we’ve found that we can so dramatically lower the cost of acquiring a new customer that businesses and brands are dramatically transformed. Promising start-ups become hot growth-stage companies. Mature companies in “tired industries” become hot turnaround stories.
And here’s the thing – we accomplish all of this with a managed level of risk. We test, before we roll out. We only move the real dollars after a strategy has proven to outperform the old strategy. We remain agile and optimize our mix on a daily basis, reporting and meeting with clients weekly to discuss and make the decisions that make all the difference.
Of course, there are internal communications issues, political challenges, vendor conflicts and other considerations that can interrupt the process of creating a dramatically outperforming marketing mix. Because this is all we do, we know those waters very well and we can help navigate while you steer, Captain.
Then we help our clients layer in social-led acquisition, mobile-driven brand direct marketing and content-fueled response marketing. We’ve been scouting those waters for over a decade as well.
If you think of the credit unions as sleepy, dated, obsolete organizations, you are not like most people, because most people don’t think of credit unions at all.
So, when Affinity Federal Credit Union came to us a few years after the second-worst financial crisis in American history, we needed to find a way to get a lot more people to think about a credit union. And not only that, we needed to get them to contact that credit union and to make it their own.
Seven million people had lost their homes in the previous few years. Eight point eight million jobs had been lost as well. The trust in financial institutions plummeted by fifty percent, while trust in banks fell even more.
We did a strategic exploratory of all the key messages that might help Affinity Federal Credit Union achieve its goals, and we found one message that did that far better than any other.
Affinity Federal Credit Union isn’t a bank.
You can, however, get a checking account, business loan or credit card there. And people do need financial services.
Affinity had an inspiring idea above commercial intent. It had a not-for-profit public service mission that aimed to help people and small businesses help each other through community credit.
Affinity discovered what the people it serves aspire to be and do. Our planning team talked to credit union members and learned how motivated they are to not see themselves as the victims or enablers of Wall Street. Instead, they prided themselves on investing in their own community and in maintaining institution that had become so important to that community.
We had our line…
All the financial services of a bank, but 100% Fat Cat free.
Affinity took this inspiring idea and dramatized it through a small number of iconic actions.
First, we created commercials, which could have never, ever been done by any uptight bank. Our major character was a real fat cat behind a desk. The response was so tremendous that the spot ended up catapulting Affinity to a national story, and was featured on Spike TV’s Funniest Commercials of the Year — twice. And the campaign for a community credit union went viral on social networks, dramatically increasing the efficiency of the advertising. Yes, it was iconic.
When it came time to showcase Affinity’s low checking fees, we knew we had to be dramatic. We brought elite athletes and fat cat banking customers into the same gym. Then, to demonstrate how commercial banks clobber their customers with enormous fees, we printed “ATM fees” and other fees on dodgeballs, blindfolded the customers and then let the athletes pelt them mercilessly. (Of course, our lawyers were present with ironclad releases and videotaped disclaimers.) It was literally an in-your-face advertisement, and it too went viral.
Affinity is using technology and system to shorten the cycle of test and optimization. The media that we run isn’t just reported by some bot. It’s seen and interacted with. We’re buying it only in transparent ways, eliminating the estimated 15-20% waste from inefficiency that most media planning/buying firms are passing along to their clients. It allows a modest and cost-effective investment to cause a dramatic uptick in both acquisition and brand value.
Through demonstrating the 10 Signs of an Inspiring Action Company, Affinity is changing behaviors and getting a new generation to open up accounts and form relationships with a credit union. People want to be a part of an organization that has their interests at heart.
That’s why Affinity Federal Credit Union is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week, and we couldn’t be more proud to be its agency.
When you have a better mousetrap, you don’t hide the fact and you don’t need to dress it up. The very simplicity of your presentation becomes the ultimate proof of the superiority of your product and the confidence of your company. Only the best can be absolutely plain and direct.
“1000 songs in your pocket.” – Apple
“15 minutes will save you 15% on car insurance.” – Geico
“People do stupid things, like paying too much for phone service.” – Vonage
“A great shave for a few bucks a month.” – Dollar Shave Club
“Rides in minutes.” – Lyft
“Be more productive at work with less effort.” – Slack
Of course, your substance must be presented with style. Who doesn’t want to be an iPod silhouette, for example? Geico’s pragmatic punch line is always preceded by a jab of accessible humor. Vonage brings pure and stupid joy to saving money on broadband phone service. The message, however, remains the same.
Do you have a better mousetrap? Then fight like hell to present it simply.
Trading can be a solitary pursuit. But not for graduates of Online Trading Academy. OTA’s culture delivers a lifetime commitment, community, hugs and love.
What they are doing is a preview of the future. They are enabling people to use machines to do the work of making money, so that the people themselves can spend more time on human pursuits.
One trader devotes himself to funding his father’s retirement. Another spends Fridays and weekends rescuing dogs from kill kennels, caring for them and finding them homes. Another sets up trades to fund his family while he preaches in poor churches that can’t afford to pay him. A single mother trades to make money and still be able to teach her daughter every day. Post-heart/lung transplant, one father of three trains for a new career he can pursue in recovery (and makes even more money than he did at his old management job).
This stuff may be for people who love dealing with numbers, analysis and routine, but they do it to create more time for being human beings.
In this sense, OTAcademy and Online Trading Academy are on the cutting edge of the relationship between humans and machines, and they are projecting love and empowerment into the future.
Here’s how to get creative people to make you rich:
First off, don’t compromise.
Don’t give up one iota of ambition or one quantum of results orientation.
Don’t pretend to care about awards or fame or any of those other things that people think creative people care more about than money.
All you need to do is speak a language that lets creatives know that you are absolutely committed to BOTH – selling more and driving up brand value, money and relevant fame.
All you must do is never undermine their faith in your commitment to top-level achievement on BOTH of those scales, and then you win.
Sometimes this means saying “brand response” or “brand direct” instead of “direct response.” I know, it seems silly, but it’s a tell.
When you say “direct,” “direct marketing” or “direct response,” creatives hear, “Let’s just forget about who we are and what we want to stand for, and let’s just trick people into buying stuff.”
When you say “brand response” or “brand direct,” creatives hear, “I’m not sacrificing this brand for sales and I’m not sacrificing sales for this brand. Figure it out!”
Seems a small thing, but wait until you see how well it works! Because when you make it clear that you will settle for no less than success in the short run AND success in the long run, you become the client everyone in the shop wants to work for. You become the inspiring one.
When you show that you don’t buy the false choice between selling and brand building, you’ll see it in the eyes of the creative people you inspire. Because while, yes, a lot of creative people like awards and recognition, that’s not what they live for. What creative people live for is solving the most difficult problems brilliantly.
For more on how to get creative people to make you rich, consider using The 10 Signs of an Inspiring Action Brand as your roadmap.