Dollar Shave Club — The Courage Of “Drive From Viral”

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The CEO of Dollar Shave Club expects his future acquisition strategy to be driven by about 50% viral (and 50% paid) media. But his current acquisition strategy is predominantly viral. This doesn’t take a lot of money. It doesn’t take a lot of anything most marketers don’t have. Except, perhaps, a rather large pair of cojones.

Now here is a fast-growing direct model challenger brand that:

1) Knows who the enemy is — expensive shavers and the people who make them.
2) Knows who the target audience is — young men who don’t want to spend so much.
3) Knows how they want to make him feel — smart.

And, finally, they know just how to do it. Dollar Shave Club, DIGO salutes you. You are F@#king Awesome! You are also a DiMassimo Goldstein dream client of 2014.

Marketing Automation: Don’t Forget That John Henry Died.

When it comes to marketing, how do you find the right balance between human judgment and the power of the testing and optimizing machine?

You’ll remember the story of John Henry, who competed head-to-head with a machine laying down railroad ties and hammering in spikes to secure the rail. Most people remember that John Henry beat the machine that day. Few remember that he dropped dead immediately after.

Brad Stone writes, in his definitive book on the history of The Everything Store, how over time and through testing it was established that automated and personalized recommendation messages outperformed the creative copy created by proud, literary editors. This ultimately led to the end of the editorial department. At that time, one of the departing editors ran this add in a local Seattle newspaper: Keep reading…

Headlines. Heartlines. Gutlines. Groinlines.

Maybe we’re writing too many headlines and not enough heart-lines. Maybe we’re appealing too much to the brain and not enough to the heart, guts or gonads. Maybe that’s because we’re trying to write “headlines.”

We in advertising should know better than anyone the influence of an unconscious connotation. We should also know that the best way to overcome that unconscious tendency is to create a new one.

If we can advertise to change other people’s minds and, then we can advertise to ourselves too by choosing the words and images we use. Keep reading…

Turning Around Slowing Growth —’s Good-to-Great Moment.

Why do most companies fizzle or flat-line, while others become truly great?

Consider a decisive moment in the history of

2001 was the Waterloo for most highflying dot com companies, but it was also the year that Amazon went from good to great. Under intense pressure after an influential New York analyst had predicted the company would go under within the year, bleeding enormous amounts of cash, and with slowing growth in their core book business, Amazon had begun to flail about. But then, they not only pulled it together, they lay the groundwork for domination. Brad Stone tells the story in his authoritative book on the history of the e-commerce giant, The Everything Store.

“At a two-day management and board offsite later that year, Amazon invited business thinker Jim Collins to present the findings from his soon-to-be-published book Good to Great. Collins had studied the company and led a series of intense discussions at the offsite. “You’ve got to decide what you’re great at,” he told the Amazon executives.

Drawing on Collin’s concept of a flywheel, or self-reinforcing loop, Bezos and his lieutenants sketched their own virtuous cycle, which they believed powered their business. It went something like this: Lower prices led to more customer visits. More customers increased the volume of sales and attracted more commission-paying third-party sellers to the site. That allowed Amazon to get more out of fixed costs like the fulfillment centers and the servers needed to run the website. This greater efficiency then enabled it to lower prices further. Feed any part of this flywheel, they reasoned and it should accelerate the loop. Amazon executives were elated; according to several members of the S Team at the time, they felt that, after five years, they finally understood their own business.”

The emphasis is mine. A beautiful clarity. What can we best in the world at? What drives our economic engine and makes our flywheel turn? And what excites us enough to commit to making this work? Keep reading…

Drive to Apply – The Ultimate Growth Tool

There’s a tendency to lump all DRTV – short for direct response television – into one bucket. But, if categorization can spell the end of thought, this is a danger.

While there are certain principles that tie a Proactive infomercial to a Geico commercial, there is a world of essential difference which separates them.

How to know when you are doing a Drive To Apply campaign:

1) You offer a service, membership or other engagement that requires an application.
2) Your media plan includes TV spots and/or Internet videos shorter than two minutes in order to increase reach and/or frequency.
3) Your success relies on reducing the cost per successful application (sometimes called the cost-per-account).

Here’s what you need to know about Drive to Apply:

1) A Call to Action is not enough – you need a mnemonic.
This is something to aid in memory, because a good percentage of your responses will come in long after the 30 seconds of your spot has passed. Jingles, great names, catch phrases and unforgettable demonstrations, simple and differentiating statements — all can work.
2) Don’t go out there without a clear, different and better promise. Progressive – We let you compare prices so you can make the best decision for you. Dollar Shave Club – It’s smart to pay a lot less for razors.
3) Boil your differentiating promise down to a memorable, repeatable phrase.
Geico – 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance. American Express – Don’t leave home without it.
4) Keep the cost of research and testing low so you can do a lot and learn a lot.
5) Test multiple promises to find the most responsive.
6) Test multiple expressions of the promise.

Changing a single word can sometimes increase response by hundreds of percentage points.
7) Keep the cost of production down so you can test a lot of different creative approaches to deliver the promise on an ongoing basis.
8 ) Remember that you must break through.
You must touch a nerve. You can’t bore your way to the hall of fame in this business.
9) Brand is not something you invest in or slow down for.
When you’re doing it right, brand is what you build with every sale.
10) Keep the cost of media down by not paying commissions improves your results before you even start.
11) Extend your media dollar by integrating viral, digital and social content that builds word-of-mouth and sales. (For example, Dollar Shave Club closes more than half of their new accounts through viral videos.)
12) Spend enough money to hire the right agency to help you do this right.
Your power to help your company grow may depend on it.

The Blue Marble Shot

The Big Picture – A Platform for the Next Hundred Years.

If I were running the company, what would I do? If I were running the country, what would my priorities be? If I were running the world, what would I focus on?

I ask these questions so I can better serve in my much more humble role. If I can understand the big picture, I can better understand where I may fit in. If I appreciate what is right on a large scale, I may have more insight into what is helpful right here. That said, here are some thoughts on the big picture – a platform for the next hundred years.

We are focused on the wrong things, talking about the wrong things, and squandering precious time. Keep reading…

Jesus, Storytelling & Peace – Or, How I Got The Wet Towel Off My Driveway.

My two thirteen-year old sons were in a vicious argument. Feelings hurt, awful escalations, horrible things said and done, and devastated feelings.

At the end of a long line of mutual insults, one had promised to carry a bag, but then left it behind in a friend’s father’s car. The other had rescued the bag from the car, but thrown the wet towel on the driveway.

It lay there overnight.

The standoff over who would pick it up consumed them like some argument over the West Bank, Communism vs. Capitalism or Higher Taxes vs. Lower spending.

I took both boys for a drive and told them a story. Keep reading…

NYHRC Celebrates 40 Years of Advancing Fitness


New York Health & Racquet Club (NYHRC) put fitness on the map in NYC when it first opened its doors in 1973. Now, of course, New Yorkers have more exercise options than NYC has pizza joints. Yet they keep coming back to NYHRC, the original NYC health club, where they feel part of a tight-knit community of health-conscious people in pursuit of fitness and vitality.

At any of NYHRC’s nine Manhattan locations, virtually any fitness need or interest can be met, whether on your own and taking advantage of the well-equipped gym floor, or with the guidance of seasoned group fitness instructors and certified personal trainers.

NYHRC is truly in a class by itself, with amenities you won’t find at many other health clubs, including saltwater pools, squash and racquetball courts, basketball courts, a beach club and a yacht, perfect for beautiful sunset cruises around Manhattan.* Keep reading…

The NEST Thermostat

Every Touchpoint Matters.

Just wrote the welcome message for our DiMassimo Goldstein employee Intranet. Thought I’d share:

Welcome to the Growth Agency Network.

If you only remember three words, remember these: EVERY TOUCHPOINT MATTERS

In the center of you there is a double helix of DNA that sets in motion who you become. Clip a fingernail and this same code is there.

In the center of every experience is the truth of the brand. If the reception desk is boring, the brand is boring. If the invoice has no charm, the brand has no charm.

An inspiring receipt. A stylish notepad. A creative collection letter. A box with spots. A one-page owners manual.

Empires have been built on such small things as these.

If it is, it is a part of the brand.

Brand. Driven. Growth. That’s four, five and six. That’s how we do it.

Banner, hang-tag, balloon. Truck to television commercial. If we can do it, we can make it deliver the brand.

Here we tend to these individuals we call brands. We grow and evolve them. And we can tell you what is in the fingernail, before you clip it. Keep reading…

How Is An Ad Agency Like Google?

An agency is a machine that a client uses to get a result.

Maybe someone at Google, or down on Wall Street, thinks Google is a humungous corporation with many business interests.


Google is a wonderful little machine that you use to produce results. Search results, to be precise. If Google wasn’t that first, it would never have become any of those other things.
Keep reading…

Why we call it Client Fulfillment.

Account management with a mission.

Account management is the heart of the agency. Here’s why:

Let’s start with the word “agency.” The definition I like is from Webster’s: an agency is a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved.

It is fashionable today to run away from “agency” and to denigrate it’s meaning. For ourselves, we completely reject every departure from a pure agency model. We are here to be used by others to exert power to achieve worthy ends. We reject any proposal that might detract from our operating as a pure agent. We won’t create a conflict of interest, for example by trying to own intellectual property in our creations for our client. We don’t want to get confused.

Keep reading…

Account Management IS The Agency Business.

Anyone who wants to get anywhere in the agency business ought to start out in account management.

Though “creative director” has been the title I’ve held for the most years of my career, I owe a good deal of my success to having started out as an assistant account executive.

BBDO Direct. 385 Madison Avenue.

Pepto Bismol was the agency beverage of choice. There were as many ulcers as vice presidents. But I didn’t know enough to be scared. That was piece of luck number one.

Keep reading…

Don’t limit your growth!

Here are 7 ways agency people can delimit their own growth.

Why aren’t agencies helping their people to grow and develop?

At DiGo, we’ve been learning a lot lately by interviewing account people by the dozens. While we’ve met some spectacular people, I’m sorry to say that most of these interviews have been just shocking. Too many people come in with limiting attitudes about themselves and their possibilities. Experienced account managers typically don’t even have an understanding the agency business. They don’t get what agencies are here to do. They don’t understand the role we play in our client’s lives and businesses. They view themselves as narrow specialists. They are people in boxes, decades too early.

Keep reading…

Growth isn’t work. It’s life.

Here’s a quick dispatch from the intersection of personal, creative and business growth:

Some folks turn off at the phrase “personal growth” because it sounds like a lot of work. “Hey, I’m OK just as I am!”

But growth is as natural as breathing. It’s what we’re meant to do. Only sometimes we block what’s natural for us, and that takes a lot more work and energy.

Like staying in a job for “security” when we know we’re stultified. Like choosing the “safe” campaign rather than the right one. Like picking colleagues or partners who won’t challenge you.

Keep reading…

The Founder CEO, A Marketer’s Orientation.

I love working for and with Founder/CEOs.

No doubt, this makes me an eccentric marketer and an odder ad guy, and casts extreme suspicion on my membership in the creative community.

Marketers are supposed to want to run their own empires – otherwise why spend all that money on a Harvard MBA and all that energy climbing the corporate ladder? Creative directors think the ideal client listens to their presentations, and then applauds. Ad agencies think their job is to please the target audience no matter what the client might think.

Keep reading…

Bigger Isn’t Better: Mad Men Season 6, Episode 6

This week’s Mad Men opens with intoxicating talk of an IPO for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. This brings out the worst in nearly all of them.

When personal greed comes in, client interests are soon forgotten.

An agency focused on cashing out is not an agency focused on client success.

Don inadvertently torpedoes the IPO when he resigns a client. This particular client happens to be a snake and should never have been allowed to slither into the agency in the first place. This is a rare righteous moment for Don.

So, now the agency’s hopes turn to winning a much bigger client. But why?

Keep reading…

To Have And To Hold.

MadMen Season 6, Episode 4: Theme – Agency Conflicts.

Well, not exactly. Episode 4 is all about infidelity and the various ways the characters prostitute themselves or remain true. Mostly, they cheat.

Don is having an affair with his wife’s friend who also happens to be the wife of his only male friend. Nice guy.

But where he pays for his infidelity is back at the agency.

Don’s Heinz client brings in the prestigious ketchup brand leader to meet the agency, but then tells the Sterling Cooper Draper Price folks that under no circumstances are they to pitch or work for the peacock, who it turns out is his arch rival.

Now, hold on. Yes, clients sometimes have unreasonable or at least eccentric reasons for considering certain agency commitments to be “conflicts.” In this case, working for another division of the same company is off limits.

Keep reading…

Suddenly, Everyone’s Apologizing.

Is it the era of the mea culpa for marketers? Could it be that, forced to start a conversation, some marketers have learned that they have some apologizing to do?

In rapid succession, McDonalds, American Express Open and J.C. Penney have all joined the mea culpa trend.

Here’s the story, and a few thoughts on where, when, how and how not to apologize.

J.C. Penney just launched this video on Facebook, under the theme JCP Listens.

It was a good idea to start the conversation, a good idea to listen, and a very, very bad idea to go beyond the first couple of lines of this treacly video.

Keep reading…

Two Tracks, Simultaneously.

Two Tracks, Simultaneously.

Clients shouldn’t have to wait months to see returns from an agency engagement.

We often deliver incremental revenue in the first 30 days. And we don’t sacrifice future success to do it either.

We call it Two-Track Planning.

You’ll find this works in most situations:

1) Consider the ideal, the vision. People may not be clear about how long it will take to get there. Most teams, left to their own devices, will ruminate on this project of getting to the ideal for weeks, months, even years. We put a proven plan in place to get there. With processes and milestones. We manage and report.

Now, hold on. Sit right back down. Do not close up that notebook and go back to your office. Let’s take just a couple of minutes more and let’s figure out how we’re paying for this meeting.

2) Consider the immediate problems and opportunities. The low-hanging fruit. Typically, this is not a bitter fruit at all, but a quite tasty variety at the peak of ripeness, and within easy reach. Yet people will sit under that tree and plan for next year’s harvest and let those cherries rot on the vine! Perhaps that’s what Newton was doing when the apple fell on his head.

You want a Newton at your agency, but you don’t want Newton as your agency. We don’t let Newton out from under his tree without a GO – a project manager with total forward motion. Because in the uphill battle of growth, gravity is the force we are working against.

3) Plan to attack both, simultaneously. Is it possible that these “short-term wins” will be a distraction that further delays the other much more important achievement? On the other hand, is it also possible that the business can grow fat and strong and successful on meal after meal of low hanging fruit, picked off daily?

This is one situation in which, when faced with a choice between two compelling options, the right answer is often “Both!”

But here’s the thing, you must manage to move them both forward simultaneously.

For the low hanging fruit, you need one kind of planning. For next year’s harvest, you need another. The first should be driven by a ruthless calculation of time efficiency. You need to create a something that is better than a nothing. And you need to do it in the shortest time and with the least effort possible. You can always improve on it after that.

Now go!

4) Two-Track Reminders. Find ways to bring this concept of Two Track Planning dramatically to the foreground for your teams. Run the schedules side by side on the same page. Do the same with the plans. Celebrate two-track planning. When you see a plan for just one thing, ask about the other track.

How did we learn Two-Track Planning? The same way we learned most of what we know about modern-day marketing, by working side-by-side with successful entrepreneurs and leaders of the direct model revolution. For the entrepreneur, money never just appears from nowhere to finance the pursuit of your dreams. You must earn it, raise it or pick it yourself. So you get good at paying for tomorrow’s possibilities with today’s opportunities.

Whenever people tell me that they have no time to think strategically because they are too busy getting things done, I teach them this system.

Two Track Planning is one great way to be more successful today and more strategic about your future in a time-starved world.

Brand Direct Revisited.

It’s just over thirteen years since I introduced the concept of “Brand Direct” in an Op Ed style piece in Adweek. It’s a time capsule that holds up well, especially in light of subsequent events. In fact, while most of the “dot coms” went off the cliff like so many lemmings, some of our clients went on to define and lead the next and more lasting boom. Direct Model Leader: “There is no time but the present to build a brand.” Check it out:

Keep reading…

Engineering desire.

You wake up on a speeding train, in a bubbling landscape, on a fragile orb careening through space. You open our eyes, and you try to make sense of your predicament. There are other eyes. And they come with explanations. The explanations conflict. If you’re lucky, you learn how to make yourself happy. And then you’re happy with your own explanations, and nearly all the new that occurs to you gets filed in the established folders.

Keep reading…

Who wants to build a better banner?

If you read what people are writing about display advertising, you will be tempted to think that the answer is, “Hardly anyone.”

It’s not that people – consumers, users, surfers, people – hate banner ads. It’s the people who make them and use them that hate them.

Keep reading…

Inspiring Experiences.

A good friend of mine nearly died when he was 35 years old. Something to do with a heart valve.

He needed an eight-hour operation.

Before the operation, the surgeon looked at my friend and said, “I’m not worried about you. There are going to be 26 experts in the room all working together to make sure that you are OK in every way. I trust these people without question, and I’ll be there every step to make sure. You’ll be OK.”

Then the Dr. turned to my friend’s wife and said, “But I am worried about you. You’ll be off on your own, waiting, and it can feel like an eternity…” The doctor proceeded to tell my friend’s wife some things that would help her get through the waiting and some resources that were available to her.

Keep reading…

The Perils of Persuasion? More like “the Role of Persuasion.”

Cennydd Bowles is an interaction designer and a very, very smart guy. I like reading his blog and came upon this post from three years ago. I hasten to add that Cennydd’s views have evolved since he wrote this post, but because it represents a truly intelligent expression of thinking that seems to me quite common in the design world, I was moved to clarify my own thoughts and respond.

This link leads you to Cennydd’s entire post, but I’ve included a few key paragraphs below from the actual blog.

The perils of persuasion
The success of UCD has sustained demand for user experience design skills, and the land rush has continued in 2010. UX is becoming a cookie cutter add-on for digital agencies and I rarely meet a web designer now who doesn’t claim UX proficiency, although not all can articulate what that means. And it’s not just the designers: I also see back-end developers, SEOprofessionals and marketers rapidly appending these two magical letters to their CVs.

Keep reading…

Authenticity vs. Customer-Centric Communication #1

Communication is really interesting. It is about authenticity on the one side and about user-centricity on the other. The communicators that disappear or that come the closest to disappearing do not necessarily do best. And yet there does seem to be a tendency, as propositions and brands grow, for the edges to be filed off and the broad audience to rule. Coke is about the broadest conception of happiness, for example.

I like eccentric, unprofessional, authentic brands.

I do think that the spectrum runs from naïve to masterful, with professional in the middle. And I think that the ends tend to outperform the middle.

There’s something very interesting about that.

Keep reading…

Dogs, Babies, Horses, Goats, Funny Old People, Skin, Stars, Romance, Humor, Patriotism.

Dogs, Babies, Horses, Goats, Funny Old People, Skin, Stars, Romance, Humor, Patriotism.

Judging from this year’s Super Bowl spots, the surface of advertising doesn’t change much. The old saw about Dogs and Babies still applies. When Doritos brings in crowd sourcing, it works best when there are men in dresses or greedy goats. When Coke tries to go social audience participation, it falls flat due to the lack or poor use of any of the above.

Keep reading…

Screen shot 2013-01-08 at 4.47.28 PM

Change What’s Changing In Media.

People get ahead of advertisers, and when they do there is opportunity for change agents like you to seize advantage.

In this case, a few words from the very smart to the wise should be sufficient to get some productive conversations going.

Mary Meeker of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins analyzed the percentage of time spent on each medium and compared it to ad spend. She found consumers spend 26% of their media consumption time online, while marketers spend 22% of their ad budgets on digital. TV should fare better, with consumers spending 43% of their media time watching TV and marketers spending 42% of their ad budgets on the thing we used to call the “tube.” Mobile is the area best poised for geometric growth, as consumers are now spending 10% of their time with mobile, while marketers are only spending a wee 1% of their ad budgets there.

Print once again looks like the big loser. Consumers spend 7% of their media consumption time with print, while marketers spend 25% of their ad budgets in print.

One further word to the wise: Think about the implications not just for your paid media, but for owned and earned media as well.

Now, let’s make some change!

Read more about Mary Meeker’s analysis here.

How to Write a Winning Essay.

I wrote this little system to help my twelve year olds write their school assignments, then took a look at it and realized it would work pretty well for you and me too. Enjoy!

1) Talk it out. Find a subject that really interests you. Play around with a few different “points to prove” until you come up with one that really excites you.

2) Write down your main point. Make sure you’ve really stated it clearly and well.

Keep reading…

5 Classic “Reframing” Movies You Must See Again!

So, by now you know I’m obsessed with reframing. In short, it goes like this: Your brain is a lazy piece of meat, it needs to be shocked into seeing things differently!

I absolutely love these classic movies and each one of them is all about reframing. If you want to become a master of changing perceptions, do as I do and watch them again and again. It’s fun work.

1) A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens classic employs the ghosts of past, present and future to change an old man’s mind, which changes his life. Get to know it like the back of your hand.

Keep reading…

Perception Matters More Than Reality.

Things I believe:

1) You’re wealthy. If you are not freezing in your own house in the winter, if half of your 17 kids didn’t fail to survive to adulthood, if you can warm up and charge up in a public library and get treated in a modern emergency room, if you have access to antibiotics, then you are like a God compared to the robber barons of a century ago. Deal with it.

Keep reading…

DIGO Brands Account People.

Account People. I’m not going to say that account people have the hardest job in the agency, but I will say that there is no harder job in the agency that being an account person.

You are responsible for all the work you do — and there is a lot of it — plus all the work everyone else does. You are accountable to your teammembers, to the agency and to the client too.

When you’re great, you can make the difference between absolute brand, business, creative and relationship victory. When you’re not, it all can come crashing down.

Keep reading…

Would $337 Million change your brand loyalty?

Donald Lawson, who claimed his Powerball prize last month in Michigan, doesn’t think so. At $337 Million, it’s the 3rd largest Powerball jackpot ever.

Keep reading…

What Bruce Springsteen Taught Me About My Career

More than a few years ago, an advertising colleague told me a great Bruce Springsteen quote I often think about. I can’t remember who told me the quote and I can’t actually remember what the quote was, but I can assure you it was great. He said something to the effect of this: when you go on stage, you have to think like you’re the biggest rock star in the world. At the same time, you have to remember you’re not saving lives out there; it’s just music.

Keep reading…

Think your job is murder?

Your job is killing you.

According to The Huffington Post, hours of sitting motionless in front of computer screens are driving us all to truly motionless positions in satin-lined boxes. The long hours, the sleepless nights, the junk food, the stress, it all adds up in a big way. A permanent, and often premature way.

Keep reading…

Mind on your money, and money on your mind.

Personal wealth. It’s a topic no one likes to discuss in mixed company. To pony up a true salary number is almost too intimate. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and subscribing to the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. As Albert Bandura, a psychologist at Stanford University, said:

“Accomplishment is socially judged by ill defined criteria so that you have to rely on others to find out how you’re doing.“

Keep reading…

Neil Armstrong: First Copywriter on the Moon

As you’ve probably heard, national hero Neil Armstrong passed away on August 25th. The first human to set foot on the moon, not only was Armstrong smart, he was apparently a great writer. His immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” have gone down in history as one of the greatest quotes of the twentieth century. It’s well deserved—was that not the perfect thing to say? Imagine trying to come up with a tagline for space travel; I can’t imagine a better one. To think, what if Buzz got out there first? And all he said was a loud, “Eat it, Russia!” The moment could have gone an entirely different way.

Keep reading…

Let my people go!

Will any of you take me up on this? Unless your job is to operate a computer – get away from your computer!

Get out of the office, and leave it behind, chained to your desk where it belongs.

The best ideas have been received in bars and coffee shops, garages and showers, beds and walks and shopping trips. Digital tools are so seductive, our lust for seeing our idea produced is so overwhelming, we are missing the whole game.
Keep reading…

Be Authentic.

On Fast Company last week, Baratunde Thurston, comedian and former Director of Digital for The Onion, recounted a social media anecdote that would make any digital marketer squirm: he mistakenly activated a 3rd party tool for Twitter that spammed The Onion’s entire following every time they got a new follower. While his story may give me nightmares for weeks, the portion of his piece that really stood out was about the importance of brand authenticity within the social space:

“For companies that see this new frontier as a marketing opportunity (and that’s basically all of them), it is a thin line between relevant and creepy stalker. You want to be where the conversation is and join it in an ‘authentic’ way, but just because someone is talking about your product does not mean he wants to talk about it with you.
Keep reading…

Clients are people.

It seems like a simple enough truth. It doesn’t take that many Venn diagrams to reach this conclusion. But it’s easy to slip into the pattern of viewing clients as just forces in nature that must be overcome, instead of seeing them for what they really are – human beings who happen to be paying us to solve a some of their problems.

Keep reading…

How Curiosity Killed the Cannes Lion.

Are you a student of advertising? Do you absolutely love it? Are you soaking up all the cases, reading all the sites? Are you doing this so much that you leave little time and focus for your own work? This is a challenge many of us face – how to make time to keep up with all the incredible content that can help us do our jobs better, while making the time to focus on doing our jobs, on creating our work.

Keep reading…

Hang Out With A Bad Crowd.

Stuck? Blocked? Or worse, mediocre? Boring? Average?

Maybe you’re hanging out with the wrong ideas. You see, your best ideas aren’t going to be found in a crowd of professionals all dressed for the office. The great idea isn’t the guy wearing the cooler tie. That crowd can’t help you now.

Your best ideas are where you might never think to look. They are right there in the middle of the crowd of your worst ideas. They are with the rude, the preposterous, the angry, the unpolished, and the infantile.

Keep reading…

It’s just not that complicated – the one thing you’re always selling.

You know, it’s just not that complicated. Whatever it is that you’re selling – and you’re always selling – it always comes down to something pretty simple.

People want to feel more alive.

Keep reading…

Why You Can Take Share From The Big Guys.

If you want to see why growth-stage companies have such an advantage, read this little post from Seth Godin about the values of decision-makers in larger organizations: Keep reading…


Hire A-Minus Sales People

All the way back in 1964, David Mayer and Herbert M. Greenberg reported the findings of their research on what makes “the best salesmen” in the Harvard Business Review.

They correlated sales performance with personality test results and identified two key factors. The first – Ability to Feel — was essentially empathy, the capacity to sense what the sales prospect was feeling. The second trait – Need to Conquer – was the drive to close the sale, not just for money’s sake but because their egos absolutely required it.

Keep reading…

Ignorance Isn’t Stupidity.

My first day working in an ad agency. Assistant Account Executive. BBDO Direct. 1986.

I hadn’t studied advertising. I was in love with ideas, and that was my window in to brands. All my searching, comparing and contrasting – without any plan at all – led to the day I started my advertising career, and from the first I was full of opinions, convictions, relevant knowledge and confidence.

Keep reading…

The Pitch Ruins Reputation Of Ad Agency.

While people outside of the ad industry seem to enjoy AMC’s The Pitch, quite a few people inside the industry are understandably concerned about the inability of the television series to portray every single truth about ad agency life and every role that makes agencies go. At first, I thought this was just a lot of whining and posturing, but then I saw the show, and I have to agree! Here are my impressions:

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The Last Slide-Rule Manufacturer.

If you want to look at the downsides and limits of “market category thinking,” the slide rule category provides some excellent examples. Keuffel & Esser Corporation, a company founded in 1867 in Manhattan is a good place to start. In 1962, the company introduced it’s DECILON slide rule into the booming market for slide rules, and on the strength of this line was able to go public on NASDAQ in 1965. But by 1982, the firm was forced to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy. This same year, AZON corp buys ownership of K&E Trademarks and K&E is no more. [1]

ARISTO had over a century of slide rule production, but was forced to close in 1978. [2] Keep reading…

Talk About it_751x501

Talk about it. Do it. Don’t look back.

When I started my agency, I reached out to someone I had been working with to gage his interest in being my partner. At the time, he said he was intrigued, but was just not ready to make the leap.

I would have liked to start my business with a partner, to share the weight and to make the growing easier. But, I knew that partnership was like marriage, challenging even with the best match, so I decided to make a start as a sole proprietor.

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Market Categories are B.S.

We can’t see the world as static. Conceptual boxes can be helpful as long as we realize we have invented them ourselves to help us understand things. The moment we forget that we can uninvent them, we’re stuck.

There is a tendency to view market categories as a given. We think we’re in the “server hardware” category. Or the fitness club category. Or the E-commerce category. Like Blackberry (Research In Motion) was in the smartphone category and Apple was in the personal computer category. Oops.

Or Starbucks was in the coffee shop category and McDonald’s was in the Fast Food category. If categories tell us which competitors to ignore and which competitors to track, than category thinking is dangerous. You won’t see them coming!

If category thinking limits your imagination about how to expand and grow your brand and business, then category thinking can be deadly.

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Productive Paranoia.

Intel founder, tech genius and billionaire Andy Grove titled his book, Only the Paranoid Survive.

Since we can’t see everything, the truth is that we make decisions based on our biases. Most of us don’t question our biases, they are just “the way we are.”

Grove developed a set of biases that propelled him to the top of the digital world. Where did he get them? Nazi Germany.

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The Fountainhead: Why to do thought leadership and content marketing.

If you understand the value of the content you create to your audience, then you’ll have a much better idea of what’s worth doing and how to do it.

Let’s start with the current norm. Those of us who are doing this because we think thought leadership or content management is a good thing to be doing. We think we’re helping people make a product decision. Or we think we’re simply building the reputation of our company. And perhaps we also think we’re creating inexpensive ways to expand the potential for prospective customers to engage with us, and then perhaps be converted to customers down the line. Maybe we also think we’re arming our brand advocates with information and data they can use to advocate for us with others.

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DIGO Brands Google and Goldman Sachs

How the relatively new phenomenon I’ve called “Cultural Whistle Blowing” is rocking giants and creating opportunities for virtuous midsized companies – Cheetahs – to take share!
Today we read two telling and purposely public resignation letters. The first is from a high level executive at Google, the second from a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs.

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double cross

How to Double Cross Vodka Advertising

When you have a name like Double Cross Vodka, April Fool’s Day is just too good an opportunity to pass up.

The ultra-premium vodka brand — distilled in Slovakia and launched (at least originally) specifically for the U.S. market in September 2008 — will kick off its first official consumer campaign on April 1, premised on helping people “double-cross the mundane and frustrating moments of life.”

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Bias Toward Action.

Capture, delegate and execute action steps. I’m told that Harvey Weinstein has two assistants that follow him around and capture every single action step from every meeting and conversation.

Then they go down those lists and check off actions until they are all competed. Every day.

Harvey has acheived some miraculous things. A lot of miraculous things. In fact the list of things he’s produced on the Internet Movies Database includes 239 titles! And there’s a lot of good stuff here. In fact, you’ve got to see it…so here it goes.

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Don’t be better. Be different.

We try to be good children. We have a report card of As and Bs and one C, and we focus on how to turn the C into a higher grade.

What’s wrong with us? Well, perhaps it starts with a question, What’s wrong with us. A better question is what’s different about us? And who can that matter and how?

The stone cold marketing fact is that it works much better to be different than better.
Would you rather be The Ground Round or Hooters, assuming business success were criteria. Let’s face it, there are a lot of restaurants offering greasy fries, dark decor and lots of undercooked beef.

But how many mammary-themed restaurant chains are there?

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Celebrate the Messenger

I don’t shoot the messenger. Ever.

When someone brings up bad news, raises a controversial subject, or just tells the ugly truth in a meeting, I go out of my way to praise the messenger right there and then.

I want to make an example of them for everyone else. THIS is what I’m looking to for. Honesty. Openness. Realness. Challenge.

If you don’t do this, you will hear less and less of the truth. And then where will you be?

If you want to know the future, invent it.

There are so many excuses. So many shades of red and yellow light. You need to see these for what they are, or you’re going to take “Wait” for an answer.

We never get all the facts. Speed chess masters. Champion poker players. Genius stock traders. Anyone who runs a business, a marketing campaign or a brand – they all have one thing in common. They make better decisions with nothing like all the facts.

In other words, they gaze into the same cloudy ambiguity that everyone else sees, and they choose a better path.

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We need GO lessons

All of us. We are taught what it should be, but we’re not taught what to do about it.

Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals, the little firm behind revolutionary products like Ruby on Rails open source programming language and BaseCamp, writes in his wonderful book REWORK, “Start making something.”

He quotes director Stanley Kubrick’s advice to aspiring filmmakers:

“Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”

Kubrick knew that when you’re new at something you need to start creating. The most important thing is to begin. So get a camera, hit Record and start shooting.

Can You Be Too Smart For Advertising?

Early in my career, I came in to find I had a new boss. It wasn’t long before he shared with me the following priceless and absolutely useless advice, “Mark, being too smart can be a disadvantage in this business.”

Inside my big brain, I thank him every day for the motivation that remark still gives me. Every successful day of my career is at least in part a victory over the stupid, thoughtless, and hackish impulses that are inside of every one of us.

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Why do some people almost always get better advertising?

Why do some people almost always get better advertising?

In a word, it’s the BRIEF.

“Now hold on,” you may be thinking, “I’ve heard this before.” But stick with me, and I’ll share some hard-earned knowledge that changed my creative output and, yes, my life. Seriously.

More than twenty years ago, I began collecting creative briefs and the resulting campaigns. I’m not ashamed to admit I geeked out on this raw data, working with a tight team to do an ongoing content analysis of the briefs and correlating their qualities with the excellence of the resulting work.

The briefs had to be the ones that the creative people had received. We never used the cleaned up document created for awards submissions and agency new business!

In the end, the formula was simple: The simplest, most clear-headed briefs led to the best work. The most consistently excellent agencies, judged by their creative output, also write the simplest briefs.

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Learn E-mail Marketing From The Motley Fool

Someone over at The Motley Fool knows a hell of a lot about how to create emails that cheer up the CFO. These are industrious testers, not lazy followers. In this era of short, sweet, vacuous little telegrams, only rigorous science could have led to these enormous letters. But let he or she without an ounce of the human emotion of greed just try to stop reading before either the end or clicking on a link. And when you do click on a link, you have another pleasure waiting for you, because someone at The Motley Fool knows how to do landing pages too. The center of these overwhelmingly seductive experiences is an at least equally lengthy video – I mean the thing just seems to go on and on as long as a presidential primary debate. But it’s like that swirling hypnotist’s spiral – I defy you to try to pull up and out of it. What story telling! What wonderful stimulation of curiosity, admiration and greed. What direct response writing! What direct marketing! What was the symbol of that stock again?

New Yorker Reports Brainstorming Doesn’t Work

I used to think that I had to overcome people’s natural reticence in order to get them to be more creative.

I suppose I thought this because I had overcome my own natural reticence in order to be more creative.

I was reinforced in this belief by the Rules of Brainstorming, which had come down to me as secular commandments. Though I started my career at BBDO, I didn’t know then that Alex Osborn, the O in Batten Barten Dursteen & Osborn, actually introduced the world to the Brainstorming session.

I also didn’t know that decades of studies have concluded that creative problems are better solved outside of traditional “no bad ideas’ brainstorming sessions. So, I cheerfully harangued and pushed people out “of their comfort zones” and felt I was doing my creative duty. But, I couldn’t help noticing that breaking up our sessions and letting people work alone or in much smaller groups to write down ideas actually yielded many more good ideas!

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The Way of The Cheetah – How agile mid-market fashion and lifestyle brands outpace the giants

How do luxury, fashion and retail brands out-pace and out-grow their larger competition?
I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing midsized organizations and I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Of course, the Cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. Cheetah leaders do move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth.

When it comes to luxury marketing, I’ve had the best seats in the house. Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Mikimoto, Van Cleef & Arpels, The Plaza Hotel, Fairmont, Jumeirah, Starwood Preferred Guest, Paul Stuart, Lotus, BlueFly, Belle & Clive, Coach.

According to the CEO of the Luxury Institute, Milton Pedraza, “Luxury is defined by wealthy consumers as the best in design, quality, craftsmanship and service, all combined into an extraordinary experience that is truly relevant, both functionally and emotionally.”
Of those elements — design, quality, craftsmanship and service — is there one more important than the others?

In a word, yes.

Keep reading…

The Way of The Cheetah – What We Can Learn From the Research In Motion/Apple Rivalry

Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO’s are stepping down. RIM stock has gone nowhere since 2008. Today, RIM’s (RIMM) market cap is $7.74B. Apple’s (AAPL) market cap: $391.88B. Which means that Apple is 50 times more valuable than RIM!

There was a time when RIM seemed on top of the world, and Apple was the challenger. There’s a lot that mid-sized challenger organizations can learn from the way that Apple approached competing with RIM.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing midsized companies and I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Of course, the Cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. Cheetah leaders do move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth.

Keep reading…

Battle of the Cheetahs – Romney and Gingrich Run In Florida

Gingrich pulls off a surprise victory in South Carolina and the Romney Campaign lurches into action, deploying new messaging, tactics and commercials in just a matter of days.
Now that’s fast! And I know fast…

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing, midsized organizations, and have coined a term for these leaders and their companies. I call them “Cheetahs.” Of course, the cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. I’ve found that cheetah leaders and their organizations move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth.

The thriving U.S. Presidential campaign best exemplifies the way of the cheetah. These campaigns must build winning brands with consistent core values at breakneck speeds, amidst vicious competition buffeted by dizzying change. A candidate can go from challenger to leader and back again in a matter of days. Which is why I love watching, analyzing and writing about political campaigns.

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It’s Morning In Advertising

So you get up in the morning, and the first thing you want to do is pull your pillow over your head and suffocate… or at least get another fifteen minutes of sleep. There’s a little boy yelling in your ear. “If I give you a hug, will you get up?! If I give you a hug will you get up?”

The gambit you used to delay rising for sixty seconds all those mornings ago has come back to haunt you as an entitlement. You gave him an incantation on the order of “Open Sesame!” Now he insists on making the incantation work.

You get up. Your head is swimming. Ideas are crawling on top of ideas like a kicked over anthill.

I’m brushing my teeth. I’m brushing my teeth. You repeat the mantra of the mundane to yourself, trying not to be too alarmed by your reflection in mirror. It’s too early to take on all those ants, too early to solve the problems of industry, so you try to bring yourself into the moment. Be present. Take a shower.

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What a Lincoln and A. Lincoln have in common

Presidents and Companies as Challengers and Leaders.

Successful presidential candidates and innovative fast-growth companies have lot in common. Both must succeed first as challengers and ultimately as leaders. This is as rare a trick among companies as it is among politicians.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing mid-sized companies. I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Cheetahs out-challenge, out-pace and ultimately out-lead their competition. They do this through a process of brand-driven growth.

Brand is a much-abused word, mostly by overuse. To some it means merely a name. To others, it embraces a product’s visual identity as well. To still others, brand denotes the dollar value of the corporate reputation. My definition is a simple one.

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DiMassimo Brands Newt Gingrich

Definition of hypocrite? Here’s a “fiscal conservative” who will come to your state and literally promise you the moon!

While Romney can seem dull and disconnected, Gingrich is troubled by brand character weaknesses which led to a Job-like pile on of torments, only without the consolation of innocence. “Disloyalty” is the key idea undermining Gingrich’s electability. It resonates with his personal, political and campaign history. As he takes his Romney attacks to def-con five, he risks appearing to be willing to take down the Republican cause along with his own chances. Meanwhile promises of a Moon Colony “by the end of my second term” play into the image of a shifty and pandering D.C. insider and play up the grandiose and even delusional aspects of the Gingrich brand.

Continue reading: All That’s New Is Negative In Campaign Commercials

All That’s New Is Negative In Campaign Commercials

It’s all attacks all the time now.

The average voter doesn’t know as much history as Newt Gingrich. Until recently, this must have given the former Speaker some comfort, but Mitt Romney is effectively taking that comfort away. Romney’s new commercial continues a campaign of dramatizing Newt Gingrich’s political history for the current generation of primary voters.

“Credits- Mitt Romney” Jan. 28th (Appears to be the credits at the end of a black and white film) These are not the end credits of a movie these are the names of 196 House Republicans voted to reprimand Newt Gingrich when he was speaker. It was the first time in the House’s 208-year history it had disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing. 88% of Republicans voted against Newt Gingrich. These colleagues agreed. This isn’t the end of a Hollywood movie. This is reality. Don’t let it happen again. I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message.

Meanwhile, Gingrich has stepped up attacks to a level that looks desperate and downright mean. This is from his PAC:

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The Way of The Cheetah

You can take the elephants and the dinosaurs – I like the Cheetahs.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing midsized organizations. I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.”

It is a privilege to be able to work intimately with these visionaries. Every working day is like going to the school of my dreams. As a young man living in Paris in the 1920s, my former client, the late Roy Neuberger, founder of Neuberger & Berman money management firm, studied art working along side such figures as Pablo Picasso (Neuberger was born in 1903, died in 2010 at age 107). I imagine he felt as I do, with the chief difference being that my masters are business artists.

Of course, the Cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. I’ve found that Cheetah leaders do move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth. I’ve learned so much working with Cheetahs – about what makes an effective growth leader, and how to best accelerate growth in Cheetah companies, divisions and brands – that I’ve accumulated a great deal of writing on the subject.

Keep reading…

Learn Luxury Marketing from Coach

One of the wonderful things about agency life is that you get to learn from so many smart clients. When it comes to luxury marketing, I’ve had the best seats in the house. Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Mikimoto, Van Cleef & Arpels, The Plaza Hotel, Fairmont, Jumeirah, Starwood Preferred Guest, Paul Stuart, Lotus… Coach.

According to the CEO of the Luxury Institute, Milton Pedraza, “Luxury is defined by wealthy consumers as the best in design, quality, craftsmanship and service, all combined into an extraordinary experience that is truly relevant, both functionally and emotionally.”
Of those elements — design, quality, craftsmanship and service — is there one more important than the others?

In a word, yes.

I would offer that service — a fierce customer-centric ethic — is the essential value. Design, craftsmanship and the other elements of product quality are table stakes and too easily matched to be decisive over time.

A recent study of the unmatched brand success of Coach speaks to this eloquently:

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Learn from Zappos

You have to try on shoes. So who’s going to buy them online?

Turns out the answer is “a lot of people!”

Zappos earned trust and a lot of loyal customers by taking the cost and risk out of ordering shoes online. Free shipping both ways means people can order, try, return, repeat and end up with some awesome shoes that fit.

Zappos believes they are in the customer service business, and customers believe it too.

If you want to build a direct marketing flash-in-a-pan, come up with a product or offer that’s irresistible. If you want to build a direct marketing brand, then build a service culture. Analyze the problems of your category and innovate ways to solve them. Then, deliver.

Learn from PostSecret

PostSecret is the Haiku of the web. And it’s long been a very highly trafficked site. It’s so simple. People submit postcards, which conform to simple guidelines, sharing their secrets. PostSecret posts them online, and perhaps ads a bit of the comments they inspire.

What can you learn from PostSecret? To give people a simple art form, with rules that make success more likely. Discover something that needs to be expressed and give them the chance to express it.

DIGO did this when we created, “Talk Back To Cancer” for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. We knew people had an intense relationship with their cancer, so we built a simple social outlet for them.

It worked.

Learn from Wikipedia

People will work hard even when there’s no money and little credit involved, if the challenge and subject matter moves them.

Thousands of volunteers around the world can keep an encyclopedia up to date and accurate enough to be incredibly useful without a great deal of hierarchy.

All of this can be led with a relatively small team paid for by donations, not advertising or commerce.

The resulting content can lead search results in many categories and become a cornerstone of the web.

Learn from Squidoo

Marketing genius Seth Godin founded Squidoo. This in itself is not a guarantee of success. Godin has founded many things, and quite a few of them didn’t work out, as he will freely admit in his own bio.

I’d bet on Squidoo. It has more than the spark that Godin brings to everything he does. It operates as the intersection of several trends that put together a compelling engagement model that is also a likely business model. This is rare.

On Squidoo, people put up their own “lenses.” A lens is basically a web page or site, that is the owner’s view of a situation.

You could do a lens about your love of a certain breed of dog. Or you could do one about a kind of chili you live. A recent “Lens of the week” winner was about a man’s childhood memories from the 1940.

Anyone can put up and maintain as many lenses as they want. In this sense, Squidoo is not unlike WordPress, Flickr and other similar sites. But, there’s an added incentive and focus for Squidoo lenses — money.

Keep reading…

Learn from Television Preachers

“Word of Christ! Send money.” I have actually heard a huckster by the name of Robert Tilton say that many times. God I love to watch him. I’m endlessly entertained by his tacky sets, his Texas twang, his biblical lessons interrupted by alien-invasion-like attacks of speaking in tongues followed by the inevitable translation of God’s will into a call for more money.

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it! God will bless you all the more!”

“I heard from a man who was sleeping in his car in the church parking lot! This dear man could not afford a better place to live. He sent in his last $150 dollars. And GOD BLESSED HIM tenfold with a $1500 inheritance!!! He had faith! Send money!!”

I watch the golden voiced preachers fill churches that grow to the size of stadium arenas. I once traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia just to see Jerry Falwell, who had the demeanor and attire of a chairman of the board, preach at his own church there.

Was I appalled by some of what I heard there that day? Absolutely! I counted on it.

Keep reading…

Learn from QVC and Infomercials

OK, it’s already established that I’m a bit of a freak. From the time I was little, I loved the sound of the human voice, especially when talking. I loved to listen to Bob & Ray and Jean Shepherd on the radio. Church was a hot, hard, stifling, uncomfortable place, but I loved a good sermon (we called them homilies and served them up lukewarm in the Catholic Church, which was a constant disappointment to me).

From my early teens, I collected missionaries and evangelists. If someone knocked on the door – a Jehovah’s Witness, two Mormons – I would invite them into the family living room to show me their “pitch.”
I loved analyzing the differences in beliefs and therefore benefits between the different religions. I loved their slide presentations and enjoyed reading the brochures.

I supposed I entered each of these pitch situations with an open heart and mind, but I was never converted. Because, in truth I didn’t know it but I already had what I was looking for. I loved the music of the pitch. I loved letting the words and images wash over me. I loved the back and forth of the sales (or evangelism) process. And I loved analyzing the benefits, attractions and differences between the various pitches.

Keep reading…

What comes first, belief or behavior?

A lot of marketers (and a lot of people) think it’s perfectly obvious: belief comes first. I voted for Soandso because I believe in her policies. Or I buy this because I believe it’s better.

Well, there’s reason to turn this whole paradigm on its head. People believe what they do. People are, in fact, more influenced by what they themselves do than they are by what others do, say, show or play.

We just don’t like to think so. We like to think that we gain information and then make rational decisions in our heads, then delegate the follow up to our bodies.

In fact, what our eyes see our hands doing has a great effect. And this effect has been experimentally proven.

Steve Jobs, and the one that got away

Marty Staff, our client at Joseph Abboud, told us about a call he’d received from Steven Jobs, the CEO of Apple. Marty’s company had their flagship store in a prime location in New York City, and Steve was looking for the perfect spot for the first New York City Apple Store. And here’s the first interesting thing: Jobs didn’t want Joseph Abboud’s store, he wanted the store next door. But his design scheme envisioned using half of Joseph Abboud’s storefront for his super-amazing Apple Store sign. Jobs decided that this was something that he must have for Apple. If he couldn’t get it, then the whole plan wouldn’t work for him. It was all or nothing.

So the CEO himself gets on the phone to “talk” to CEO Staff. What ensued was a two-hour sellathon during which Jobs tried everything in his bag of tricks to get Marty to give up the storefront to Apple. He spent a good part of the time on how perfect the new sign would look! At the end of the call, Marty wouldn’t and couldn’t give up half his valuable storefront, but he came away impressed by Job’s salesmanship and commitment. The man would not give up. He wanted the best for Apple and he would do what he needed to do to get it.

Successful salespeople fail more. This is precisely because they pitch more. They push themselves into situations only a great salesperson can close. That’s why real sales professionals scoff at “order takers.” Anyone can take an order. Selling a difficult prospect is something to take pride in.

Keep reading…

Make everything you touch more persuasive

Professor BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, discovered a relatively simple principle for making every interaction more persuasive. I’ve further simplified (without oversimplifying) it here. You can apply this to everything you touch to make it more persuasive and effective.

What Dr. Fogg discovered in his research is that three factors impact the persuasiveness of virtually anything. The first is motivation – as in how motivated is the person. The second is ease – as in how easy is it to take the required action. And the third is time – is there a trigger at the intersection of the peak of motivation and ease?

It comes down to this. High motivation plus easy to do at exactly the same time = the action that leads to persuasion.

Here’s a key you can apply to un-sticking the potential for persuasion in literally everything you touch. Ask:

  1. Is this as compelling as it can be? Have we captured and whipped up the motivation of the audience?
  2. Have we made this as easy as it can be to do?
  3. Will the audience experience both the motivation and the ease at exactly the same time? (trigger)

This is part of our system for accelerating brand-driven growth® at DIGO. Find resources and tools to get even more persuasion and growth from this insight here.


Computers and Cowspots

Many people made small fortunes in the direct-to-consumer computer boom of the nineties and early 21′s century. Unfortunately for many of those people, the small fortunes were made out of much larger fortunes.

When we began working with Ted Waitt, founder of Gateway, his company and Michael Dell’s, founded in the same year, were just two of 7,500 PC direct marketers in a gold rush mentality.

But Ted wasn’t just a savvy direct marketer, he was also a brilliant brand builder. He knew the shakeout was coming long before others realized it. While most people would just count their millions and feel brilliant, Ted had a small City to keep employed, so he had to peak around corners and try to see what was coming.

Luck for North Sioux City, South Dakota, Ted saw keenly and knew what to do. He’s the guy who said, “We have to stand out in a way that anybody can see. Let’s put cow spots on the boxes.”

What a brilliant, entrepreneurial, brand-driven growth move. Frugal, because Gateway already owned the boxes. They were what we call at DIGO, “owned media.” We counsel, beg and hector our clients not to miss the media right in front of them… the touch-points they own. We used creative hangtags and sewn in labels for Joseph Abboud. We put men running in human-sized hamster wheels in the window of Crunch gyms. In the seatbacks of JetBlue planes, we placed Airplane Yoga and Flying Pilates cards. In the airport terminals, we hung punching bags labeled, “Middle Seat” and “Missed Your Flight?” Snapple got messages under their caps, and Vitamin Water used the labels of the bottles to tell a unique and charming story every time.

Keep reading…

The No Asshole Rule

There is a business book with the clever title of, “The No Asshole Rule.”

This is a rule suggesting that businesses not allow assholes in. I think this is just as dangerous metaphorically as it is physically. The asshole serves an essential function.

My No Asshole Rule states that, “Any organization without an asshole will tend to bloat.”

Bloating is not growing. It is an unsightly, and ultimately dangerous condition of carrying too much dead weight. A well-placed asshole can prevent that.

No psychopaths. No serial killers. No dangerously dysfunctional people. Just effective, well-functioning assholes. To clear the waste out of the system.

Not a company of assholes, unless that’s your thing. But a healthy diversity. Different organs doing the job they were meant to do.
Some people love peace. Others enjoy conflict. Some look for similarities, while still others are vigilant in their search for differences. The world needs all kinds.

Nice people are nice. But an organization of sheep needs a dog, or it is surely headed for a hostile takeover by a wolf.

Now that’s a big idea!

BIG ideas are different. They don’t so much defy logic, as go beyond it. They most of all challenge the risk averse illusion of costless compromise decisions that are the bread and butter of large organizations. If you are competing with, you need to be able to green light the big idea.

So, what is a big idea? What does it look like before it becomes a big idea? How can you recognize an opportunity to turn a pragmatic necessity into a big idea? What does it feel like to face a decision on whether or not to green-light one? And how do you know your decision was the right one?

Howard Schultz certainly made his share of Big Idea decisions while building Starbucks from a tiny company into one of the worlds largest retailers. Called back to the CEO role after an eight year working hiatus as Chairman, Schulz turned to the Big Idea again to help affect a massive transformation of the coffee giant. Schultz begins his book on the turnaround, Onward, with this story of green-lighting a Big Idea:

One Tuesday afternoon in February 2008, Starbucks closed all of its US stores. A note posted on 7,100 locked doors explained the reason:

“We’re taking time to perfect our espresso. Great espresso requires practice. That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.”

Keep reading…

Love your brand

People want to commit to things that give their lives meaning, but of course people fear committing to things that will fail to return the love. Many institutions have done just that, leaving people with a lack of faith in any organization. So today, the dream seems to be of “passive income,” “the 4-hour Work Week”, the billion-dollar exit, freelancing, personal branding, trading in and out to make money.

In other words, the current popular dream is all about Freedom. Freedom from commitment. Freedom from sacrifice. Freedom from geographical limitations. Freedom from work. Freedom from want.

Yet, most people either fail to achieve this freedom and therefore exist in a dissatisfied purgatory of long hours and no love, or they achieve their detachment and feel a lack of meaningful connection in their lives. They realize they want to be part of something.

Look at it from the customer’s point of view. Do you want to do business with something that is just good enough to be easy money for the owner, or do you want to interact with something that represents a core commitment of the people who are involved? Do you want to work for someone who just wants “envelope money” or do you want to be part of something that is incredibly meaningful to the owner.

Love for one’s company strikes the post-modern ear as almost completely ridiculous, a total anachronism. Yet, I will argue that this sort of love is both more needed and more effective today than ever, and that love for company alone has separated many of the super-performing organizations of our era from the also-rans and failures that are all too common. This love that I speak of is not a “strategy” or “tactic.” It’s not an MBA lesson that can be trained into managers in some sort of executive finishing school. It represents a very real, deep, often painful level of commitment, a level of commitment that can ultimately create great success, great wealth, but much more than that, great fellowship and a great sense of significance and achievement.

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