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DiMassimo Goldstein blog

Welcome to our blog! Each week, our inspiring action content creators work hard to update this page with the latest and greatest in the world of DiGo.

#SitOutSantaCon

Let me start by saying, we here at DiMassimo Goldstein love a good bar crawl. Be it for a 21st birthday, bachelorette party or a fantasy football draft. A small group of friends hitting up one bar at a time in embarrassing matching T-shirts one person in the group all demanded they wear can be a lot of fun.

And then, there’s SantaCon, when thousands and thousands of overserved Santas, inebriated elves and freaky Frostys takeover the streets and bars of cities around the globe. Every year here in New York, there are articles about bars and businesses bracing for the impact of SantaCon, while neighborhoods fight over who has to host the thing, like relatives arguing over who has to take home an unwanted fruitcake. It’s annoying. It’s inconvenient. And most of all…is that cool for kids to see Santa and his friends acting that way?

At DiGo…we don’t think so.

We noticed that these drunken Santas mostly seem to be of a certain age that is both a.) far from their belief in Santa Claus and b.) far from the stage in life where they would have a child of their own who believes in Santa. And because of this, they don’t realize that their “unique” portrayal of old St. Nick does not go unnoticed by young eyes.

That’s why we partnered with our friends and creative collaborators at Crew Cuts and made this ad to encourage people to #SitOutSantaCon.

We wanted to hear from the children themselves some of the horrors they have witnessed during SantaCon, in order to maybe encourage people who were planning on going to SantaCon to if not sit it out completely, at least please, think of the children.

In just under a week, the video amassed over 20,000 views (and counting). The social campaign received over 50,000 impressions and was picked up by ten different publications, including a write-up in Adweek and a televised feature on Pix11.

Our Facebook event received over one hundred RSVPs – that’s 144 small inspiring actions that together can make a big difference.

Thank you to all who supported the campaign and helped spread the word. We’re looking forward to continuing this mission next year, and with your help, we can end SantaCon in our lifetime.

The A-List Podcast: Episode 018 with Sandy Greenberg and Terri Meyer

This week on The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO is joined in the studio by Sandy Greenberg and Terri Meyer, co-founders of TERRI & SANDY, an award-winning, brand-igniting agency that was recently named Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year.

Before founding their own agency, both Sandy and Terri left their creative marks on some of the biggest agencies in the world, helping to build some of the most iconic brands, including Mars, Kraft, Campbell’s, Disney and Nestlé. Along the way, they’ve won virtually every industry award, including twelve Effies. Terri and Sandy’s work has permeated popular culture, and has been featured on TBS’ Funniest Commercials, Conan, CNN, The View, Fox News, Access Hollywood, and Today.

For just under an hour, Terri and Sandy tell Tom all about starting their own agency, why young creatives struggle with strategy, the importance of building a strong client relationship, and so much more. Full episode and show notes below!

Show Notes

  • [0:00 – 1:42] Intro
  • [01:43 – 4:03] Terri talks about growing up in St. Louis, and how she knew she wanted to be an Art Director from as early as age 15.
  • [4:04 – 7:17] Sandy talks about moving all over the East Coast during her childhood, and getting her first gig at D’Arcy in St. Louis.
  • [7:18 – 9:51] Sandy and Terri recall how they first met, and why it took some time for the two to become friendly with each other before eventually becoming partners.
  • [9:52 – 14:07] What it was like being a female team in the early 90’s, and why politics are the dark side of advertising.
  • [14:08 – 17:39] The two creative mavens discuss each other’s strengths, why loyalty is so important to a good partnership, open communication, and screaming until you laugh.
  • [17:40 – 21:46] The two discuss some of their early work together, like the Twix “Oh Yeah” spot, and why young creatives struggle with strategy.
  • [21:47 – 28:33] The story of Sandy becoming Terri’s birthday present, remembering the wisdom of Richard Levenson, and the importance of not burning bridges.
  • [28:34 – 32:39] Terri and Sandy talk about starting their agency 7 years ago, and how not having a plan took them from a couch at Terri’s house to on office on Broadway.
  • [32:40 – 39:10] Building a great client relationship through honesty and listening.
  • [39:11— 41:00] Growing an agency culture.
  • [41:01— 44:08] Terri and Sandy talk about some of the favorite campaigns they’ve worked on, including Avon’s “This is Boss Life”
  • [44:09 – 50:00] How advertising has changed since the Mad Men era, and why agencies need to unite more to give back.
  • [50:01 – 50:52] Outro

 “The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter

What’s Behavior Change Marketing?

We can help people change their decisions and habits in ways that empower and delight them.

We combine the findings of behavioral economics, mobile clinical interventions, persuasion design, direct marketing, CRM, and decades of A/B split testing and optimizations into an integrated practice of behavior change marketing.

This video of our Chief recapping his time at the Yale Behavioral Economics Intensive dives into the topic in greater detail:

Want to learn even more about Behavior Change Marketing? These articles are a great place to start:

Behavior Change Science Update: Moral Reframing

What’s different about the one-in-a-thousand organization that thrives and outperforms? That builds a brand and inspires a movement?

Inspiring Action Brand of the Month: Duolingo

If you and your team are trying to build an inspiring action brand, or know anyone else who may find this helpful, feel free to share this amongst them. If you want to join the conversation yourself, reach out to us on twitter, we’d love to hear from you.

 

The A-List Podcast: Episode 017 With Tom Christmann

On a very special edition of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann switches seats and becomes the interviewee. Lauren Slaff, founder, president, and director of podcast sponsor Adhouse Advertising School plays the role of host as the two longtime friends talk about conquering fears, the importance of leaving your ego at the door, creating a personal brand, and so much more. Full episode and show notes below!


Show Notes

  • [0:00 – 2:30] Into
  • [2:31 – 6:32] Growing up in New Jersey, and how his childhood love to draw and write stories was inspired by his father “Mongo”
  • [6:34 – 13:32] Tom talks about the benefit of going to college in Manhattan and the difficulty of getting a job in the recession
  • [13:33 – 20:11] Getting his first gig at Ogilvy direct, and how young creatives can promote themselves today
  • [20:12 – 22:39] Living on his own for the first time in Hoboken and rebuilding his portfolio after two years at Ogilvy
  • [22:40 –24:05] The transition from a big direct agency to working at Kirschenbaum
  • [24:06 – 31:38] Tom talks about the nerves he first had when meeting Richard Kirschenbaum, why he shaved his mullet, and growing up in the industry
  • [31:39 – 36:14] Working at the agency of the future, TBWA/Chiat Day
  • [36:15 – 41:40] Tom recalls his time working with people he long admired in Gerry Graf and Eric Silver at BBDO, and the speech that saved him from being fired.
  • [41:41 – 48:29] Creating a personal brand and entering into the Freelance world. The importance of personal toughness.
  • [48:30 – 50:57] Writing every day, the value of being yourself and getting people to start knowing you for your thinking.
  • [50:58 – 53:10] Networking. Getting over social anxiety and conquering fears
  • [53:11 – 56:36] Tom gives advice to young creatives and sheds light on an amazing industry
  • [56:37 – 57:32] Outro

 “The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter

Inspiring Action Brand of the Month: Duolingo

Photo from Business Insider

After he sold his second company to Google, Luis von Ahn received a phone call.

It was Bill Gates.

The richest man in the world, and co-founder of Microsoft, was personally recruiting the young computer scientist to join his team.

But for von Ahn, joining a world-changing company wasn’t enough. Like Gates, he needed to create his own.

So, the Guatemalan-born web wizard —who has become famous for combining humans and computers to solve large-scale problems that neither can solve alone — founded Duolingo, a free, science-based language education platform that is now the most popular way to learn languages online. And while von Ahn’s portfolio consists of several successful ventures, Duolingo is likely to be his masterpiece.

Von Ahn’s passion has always been rooted in the world of academia. A graduate of Duke University, who later received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon, where he now serves as a professor, he knows the education system all too well.

Both sides of it.

He’s seen the prestige of the world’s most elite universities, and the wealth that feeds them. He’s also experienced the resources, or the lack thereof, of the schools in a developing country. This side, sadly, is much more prevalent globally, and it’s the problem von Ahn has made his life work to solve.

In countries like Guatemala, education does not bring equality to social classes, as some may think. It does the opposite. Those with money can buy themselves an education, while those without it can barely read and write. This system sets up career barriers that are almost always insurmountable, and only widens the divide between the upper and lower classes.

By launching Duolingo, von Ahn was taking a seat at the intersection of technology and human behavior, inspired to create a product that could change outcomes in more permanent and integral ways to tackle the global-scale problem of language learning.

The mission was simple: make language education free and accessible to everyone all over the world.

Why language?

Of the 1.2 billion people in the world learning  foreign languages, 800 million of them satisfy three properties:

  • They are learning English
  • The reason they are learning English is to get a job
  • They are from low socioeconomic classes

For these individuals, learning a language can be the gateway out of poverty, but doing so can cost up to $1,000 dollars. Without the money, and no other alternative, the odds are unfairly stacked against them. To change those odds, von Ahn would first have to change behaviors.

Behavior Change Marketing

Learning a language is difficult. Everyone wants to do it, but most give up. The key is making it a habit. Duolingo could never work unless a user visited it regularly, so the success of the company hinged on it becoming a regular behavior, which also meant dislodging other long-held behaviors.

And change, according to world-renowned behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, “comes not from the inside, but the outside. If you want people to lose weight, give them a smaller plate. You have to change the environment.”

For von Ahn, the environment was technology. How could behavioral design be used to  prevent the poor retention rates of other language-learning softwares? How could he reinvent the teaching process to make it a memorable experience worth the consumers’ time?

You gamify it.

American psychologist and behaviorist, B.F. Skinner, once said, “No one really cares whether Pac-Man gobbles up all those little spots on the screen… What is reinforcing is successful play, and in a well-designed instructional program students gobble up their assignments.”

As the work of behavioral economists has shown us, consumer decision-making is not just about the availability of information. Instead, it’s about how that information is framed and delivered. By framing language-learning as a game, von Ahn was applying behavioral design to keep consumers coming back for more.

He and his team incorporated gameplaying elements to increase engagement. Like other mobile-game apps, Duolingo is friendly and fun. It uses images, video clips, and the microphone on the mobile device to not only help you learn words, but to recite and write them as well.

Behavioral science has proven that marketing efforts that activate goals have a much greater impact on consumers. Duolingo rewards right answers with “points.” Consecutive daily lessons can help the consumer build “streaks.”

“It’s like a video game, where you have to do something every day or you lose your rank,” says Gina Gotthilf, VP of Marketing and Growth for Duolingo.

The streaks give you  virtual currency that can unlock bonus skills or purchase outfits for the game’s mascot, a green owl named Duo. Von Ahn picked an Owl because owls are associated with wisdom, and chose to make it green as a joke on the company’s co-founder, Severin Hacker, who’s least favorite color is green (seriously).

An educational resource that’s actually enjoyable to use, Duolingo combines fun with function in a way that no language-learning platform has before.

A major point of differentiation amongst competitors like Rosetta Stone, other than the price, is DuoLingo’s use of Artificial Intelligence. In his research, von Ahn discovered that the hardest part of learning a new language is overcoming the fear of sounding it out in front of others. With AI chatbots, DuoLingo users can practice without pressure, preparing them for real-life conversations without the awkwardness and anxiety that come with the learning process.

The performance data also allows Duolingo to measure how effective different teaching methods are. If a person makes a mistake, or even hesitates to answer a certain question, the app registers that behavior, and will serve a new series of questions to help that person overcome that difficulty.

The Duolingo team has conducted thousands of A/B tests exploring the biases and cognitive shortcuts that affect how people absorb and process information. In doing so, they continue to build on their mastery of behavioral techniques, analyzing how millions of people learn at once, to create the most effective educational system possible, and then tailor it to each student.

For example, if Duolingo wanted to know if people learned faster when being taught plurals before adjectives, or vice versa, they would simply split the next 400,000 users into two groups and test each. Once they have their answer, they can implement it across the entire platform. This allows Duolingo to get smarter and more efficient as the company grows; and it’s working. A recent study by the City University of New York shows that 34 hours of learning a language on Duolingo is the equivalent of an entire university semester learning that same language.

Today, with over 200 million users, it is the most downloaded educational app in the world. In the United States, there are more people learning languages on Duolingo than there are in the nation’s school system.

Outside the U.S., entire countries like Costa Rica and Columbia have adopted Duolingo into every public school that has access to the internet, and the company is currently working on creating offline platforms for countries that do not have stable or reliable internet connectivity.

Von Ahn wanted to show the world that true equality  exists only when money cannot buy  better educations; and, while he’s just getting started,  he realized his impact when he received news about a familiar friend.

Bill Gates used Duolingo to learn French.

The richest man in the world and kids in developing countries – both using the same educational tool to learn.

Now that’s inspiring action.

 

Don’t Go Out There Without a Beloved Brand

Today, even the largest corporation in the world is naked without a beloved brand, full of positive content.

Not so long ago, I received a call from a senior leader of a large corporation, and he was clearly in significant emotional distress.

This distress reflected the emotions of senior management and of the people in his organization.

This was one of several similar calls over the past couple of years.

All of these organizations had been world-beaters, with seeming strangleholds on their categories, at least, in their strongest regions or sectors.

At the times of these calls, each was being trashed in social media, destroyed in the press, and humiliated in the U.S. congress.

The reasons for their turnabouts varied. Suffice it to say that bad things were done, or the right things were left undone. The companies had fumbled, and the world had decided that they no longer deserved to exist.

Empathizing with my callers, I invariably told them some version of the following story:

“You may be aware that Warren Buffet said that his idea of a perfect business would be to own the only toll booth, on the only bridge, to an island.

Many large businesses share qualities of Buffet’s fantasy. While not being perfect monopolies, they have elements of a monopoly. Perhaps their bridges are not the only ones to the islands, but just the most convenient ones, for example.

People inside these companies say things like, “We have the size. We have the relationships. We have the supply. We have the data. We own the cables. We laid the pipes. We’re the only ones who have it… We don’t need to waste time or money building a brand. We don’t need to be loved – it’s enough to be rich!”

But here’s the thing about companies like that – people hate them.

They won’t say that in surveys nearly as much before, as after, the lapse, because the hatred is mostly unconscious, implicit, and waiting for a trigger to emerge.

But, make no mistake, people are waiting to get even. When you have power like that, people are waiting to set things straight.

Invariably, these brand owners who had called me had spent years trying to get their senior management to embrace brand strategy and brand-building processes. To a one, these senior managers had fought for efforts to make their brand experiences delightful, and to express  noble purposes to the world and prove those purposes with inspiring on-strategy actions. And every one of them noted sadly that he or she had, more or less, lost those battles.

The companies had been fat and happy; but now, they were bleeding and miserable and mortally wounded… by what? By shame. By infamy. By the fury of a global mob empowered by social media, by the people who prosper by attracting their eyeballs, and by those whose pensions depend on their votes.

And… now they were very much interested in the brand, the purpose, the experience. Now they were interested in being delightful,  customer-centric and socially valuable. Now, they needed a quest, and hoped that we might help them find their purposes, above and beyond commerce.

And yes, we can.

But, the time to have a purpose is before. The time to build a brand is before. The time to be delightful and meaningful and worthy of cheerful word-of-mouth and sharing, and 5-star reviews, and thousands of caps and t-shirts, and maybe even a few permanent tattoos, is before.

Because, even before social media and the monsoon of shaming, it was coming for them. Organizations with purposes, understanding the inspiring ideas that drove them, expressing them not just through communications, but through iconic actions, infusing exceptional experiences with the ideas, and generating waves and ripples of word-of-mouth – these organizations were coming to take away their clients and customers anyway. They just didn’t know it.

When selling is just selling, you are building a house of cards today, more than ever.

When your inspiring idea is your best-selling idea, you’re not only selling more, you’re building something that can stand the test of time.

Every large corporation stumbles. No collection of people that large is without a few bad actors. But, some companies are protected by the powerful, positive feelings that people have for them. There are companies about which most people don’t want to hear anything bad. Their love for those companies, their belief in their goodness, and most of all, their identification with the heroic qualities they attribute to the companies, dramatically alter their behavior. This is why building the brand in this way is the ultimate behavior change marketing strategy for brand and business growth.

Some organizations planted those seeds from the beginning, from their startup phases; and that’s always best. Others found their inspiring ideas in the growth stage; and that works really well, too.

The important thing is to find it, live it, act it out, communicate it… before.

You’re naked in the icy winds of change without it.

 

Inspiring Action Organizations

Some organizations so outperform most organizations that it seems wrong to put them in the same category.

While most organizations fail in their early years, most of the survivors also fail. Among the majority that survive, generating average growth means growing at a few percentage points per year.

Only a small minority are fast-growing companies. Of the fast-growing companies, many are in fast-growing categories. No doubt, the leaders of these companies know that they are beating the odds. Likely, they feel very successful. But the fact is that most of these companies only grow fast quickly for a limited time, and then they revert to the mean — or fail. Particularly in gold rush industries, there may be many fast-growing companies, but nearly all bubbles end in pretty much the same way. They burst.

I’ve long been fascinated with the extreme exception — the company or organization that builds an iconic brand and inspires a movement.

Most businesspeople miss the most important things that make for this kind of success. Perhaps this is because they try to reduce the life of the business to just business. Working closely with the leaders of rare outperforming, high-impact organizations, I’ve always found them to be on a mission to create something very different in the world. While the people at the top of these organizations are typically extremely savvy about business, they haven’t been so much business managers as movement leaders.

Call it “purpose” or “meaning” or “an inspiring idea” that fuels these businesses. Behavior change scientists might call it “a moral frame” that attracts, inspires and encourages the identification we measure as brand affinity, customer loyalty and advocacy.

While most businesspeople seem to judge incentives by the simple measure of whether they bring about the desired action, the leaders of these companies see incentives differently. They realize that all action is not created equal, and they appreciate that the meaning behind the behavior is actually much more important for long-term success and impact. The results of behavioral economics experiments actually bear this out.

Most business managers incentivize action, but great leaders inspire action.

Part of inspiring action is actually forgoing the easy results that could come from generating action with cheap but unaligned incentives. Don’t read that wrong — they don’t forgo the results. In fact, their results are much, much better.

It’s not the results they sacrifice. It’s the ease. Cheap tricks are common, easy to explain and relatively easy to execute. Copying your competitor’s “loyalty” program, for example.

Building a distinct and meaningful brand with an entirely integrated experience is a whole other thing entirely. It just happens to work so much better.

Desiree Cortez Wins 2017 SmartCEO Brava Award

We are so proud to announce that earlier today, DiMassimo Goldstein CFO and Partner Desiree Cortez was recognized as a winner of the 2017 SmartCEO Brava Award!

The Brava Awards program celebrates high-impact female business leaders who set their companies on the path to tremendous growth, and no one is more deserving of that honor than Desiree. She is a fearless leader who brings an unmatched enthusiasm and passion to everything she does, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that her hard work is being recognized by the rest of the industry.

In addition to being agency Partner and CFO, Desiree is also the head of our human resources, finance and operation departments – but even that would be selling her value and importance to the growth of this agency short. For 12 years now, she has been instrumental in helping establish DiGo’s position as the lead behavior change agency for life-changing marketers. We simply would not be where we are today without her.

Internally, there isn’t a better representation of our agency culture than Desiree. She puts our core values of love, courage, and understanding at the center of everything we do, and the team is better for it. Whether it’s our weekly meditation sessions, salad bars, quarterly internal surveys, or our buddy lunch system, Desiree has had a hand it all.

She has a passion for helping people grow. A former intern at the agency herself, she helped establish our internship program, which over the years has evolved into a cornerstone of our company. She creates the training materials for all new team members, ensuring that they are both prepared and comfortable to contribute right away. For team members who have been here for years, her door is still always open for mentorship. Desiree goes out of her way to make sure that every person within these walls knows that they are valued member of the team, and works hard to help them realize their potential.

This latest award marks yet another accomplishment in Desiree’s already inspiring career — which she wrote about on this very blog last year. But above all of that, she is a rock to her family and an incredibly active member of her community. We are so lucky to have her.

From all of us here at DiMassimo Goldstein, Congratulations Desiree!