We became friendly with a chief marketer who had found some success selling consumer packaged goods, sweet and salty snacks.
One of our creative leaders had worked with him on a candy brand.
The marketer had just left the giant packaged goods company to follow his CMO to a different kind of organization – a behavior change marketing company.
Except, this company didn’t understand that they were in the behavior change marketing business.
All the senior leaders came from either private equity or packaged goods. Yet this company had a mission to help people improve their wellness. It did so through memberships and subscriptions with a heavy component of education and community.
This was not the mere awareness and preference building of the packaged goods world. This was the long road. This was behavior change. This was building new habits that would require commitment, resilience, and ongoing effort.
We told our friend exactly this.
“You’re playing a whole new game now. And this game is different. It’s behavior change marketing. That means recruiting members, selling subscriptions, building relationships, smoothing out gaps, drags, and blocks in the membership experience, building a rich and compelling experience, designing for encouragement and persuasion at each stage, building an encouraging, safe and secure community. You’re playing the long game now.”
He listened politely and then said, “I think you’re right, but I’m new here. My boss has a plan. Let’s see how it goes.”
A year later, after a failed campaign and selling season, his boss was fired. We got the call.
“The game plan you were telling me about… I need that now. And I don’t have much time to show some success.”
We got to work together and put in twelve quarters of record revenue growth before he left to take the CMO job at another company where his now proven behavior change marketing chops would be highly valued.
We can help great marketers become successful behavior change marketers. CEOs and Investors often bring us in or recommend us for exactly this purpose. When marketers are new to behavior change, their agency contacts aren’t truly knowledgeable about the full range of behavior change marketing skills.
Most agency experience is still packaged goods experience. Other agencies are specialized in other areas and, frankly, insufficient thought is typically given to differences in business models. Shallow strategic thinking about awareness and preference may be appropriate for driving decisions between adjacent cans of soup on a grocery store shelf. Still, this level of thinking is wildly inappropriate when misapplied to behavior change.
Behavior change must be taken in steps. It is a series of actions. Actions are the result of motivation and ease coming together at the same time. The brand can help drive motivation, while design informed by behavioral science can reduce friction and complexity.
Solving the wrong behavior problem at the wrong time is too common. In the true story I told at the top of this post, the failed campaign aimed to recruit new members but focused on a promise to help them through the challenging times down the road.
After that decision, nothing else really mattered. The wonderful creativity of the agency people who worked on the campaign didn’t matter. The amazing production values and gorgeous editing of the spots didn’t matter.
The brilliant integration across platforms, digital and traditional advertising didn’t. The excellent media planning and buying only served to spread the fatal message virus. The wonderful public relations program only ensured that failure would be a famous one.
Because the advertising wasn’t working as intended. It was actually undermining recruitment. The result of the campaign was that recruitment declined significantly. The campaign ran for less than two months. They killed it on the same day they ended the CMO’s employment. It never had to be that way.
If you are in the business of helping people make better decisions or form more empowering habits, you are in the business of behavior change. Whether healthier, wealthier, wiser, kinder, saner, calmer, less anxious, better for the planet, happier, fitter, more resilient, a better citizen, better educated, or even just better entertained, if you are helping people to become better versions of themselves, you are in the business of behavior change.
If you are disrupting a category, you ask people to make a different decision and build a different habit. You are in the business of behavior change. If you are working at a non-profit trying to scale positive impact, you are in the business of behavior change.
And behavior change is different. Marketing, branding, advertising, design, content, and community building for behavior change are different.
Assembling a team to tackle these challenges is different too. But when you work with the right team, you can achieve amazing and important things.
Behavior change is different. Advertising for behavior change is different. This difference matters because the quality of people’s lives hangs in the balance.
Warby Parker sells a behavior change – a different way to buy eyeglasses.
Peloton Interactive doesn’t sell an exercise bike.
Peloton sells a behavior change – a way to make sure you exercise and keep exercising, no excuses.
Airbnb doesn’t sell rooms and apartments.
Airbnb sells a behavior change – a different way to travel.
Uber doesn’t sell rides.
Uber sells behavior change – a different way to get from here to there and a different way to earn a living too.
Dollar Shave Club doesn’t sell razors.
Dollar shave club sells a behavior change – a different way to buy razors.
HelloFresh doesn’t sell meal kits.
HelloFresh sells a behavior change – a way to make home cooking fit modern life.
Sun Basket doesn’t sell meal kits.
SunBasket sells a behavior change – a way to cook Paleo or Whole30 or Vegan…
Stitch Fix doesn’t sell clothes.
StitchFix sells behavior change – a totally different way to get yourself dressed.
If you’re in the direct-to-consumer business, you’re a behavior change marketer. Period.
Your customer doesn’t choose you to get something.
Your customer chooses you to change something.
You are in behavior change marketing.
Branding for behavior change is different.
Designing for behavior change is different.
Content for behavior change is different.
Advertising for behavior change is different.
Marketing for behavior change is different.
Learn more about behavior change marketing here. It’s free. No funnel.
“We can’t solve your problem because we haven’t done our strategic work yet.”
When I worked at other agencies, I always thought this to be the ultimate bureaucratic blindness.
Building the BRAND While We Build The BUSINESS.
This is the core promise of our agency, DiMassimo Goldstein. This is the experience our clients have bought when they’ve bought us.
Not: “First we’ll build the brand, then we’ll build the business.”
Not: “First we’ll build the business, then we’ll build the brand.”
Instead, we do both, and simultaneously. Like you do!
Sometimes this translates as “Building the brand while lowering the cost of acquisition.” Sometimes it’s “Building the brand while driving sales efficiency.”
Sometimes it’s just “Growing the business and the brand.”
Our clients never wait months to see returns from an agency engagement. We typically deliver measurable revenue within the first 30 days, and we don’t have to sacrifice future success to do it.
We call it two-track planning, and it’s implemented in everything we do. Imagine two columns on a page, the left titled URGENT and the right titled IMPORTANT.
Some urgent things are truly unimportant, but some we term “The Runway.” The board meeting coming up. The quarterly results reporting. The partner’s meeting.
If a plane doesn’t get aloft by the end of the runway, it doesn’t matter how good the food service and the movie was going to be. There are things you just need in the short run to make the long run possible. Often these things include results. That’s the Runway.
And, we don’t lose our strategic heads. We see the long-term opportunities in urgent problems. We see growth in behavior change. Every
And we manage them both, so that our clients can move forward, paying for tomorrow’s opportunities with today’s wins, all while strategically planting the seeds that ensure growth for the future in a time-starved world.
Yes, we build the brand. Yes, we build the identity and design the brand. Yes, we develop a theory of growth and build out a marketing plan. Yes, we develop advertising and content. Yet, we view all of this through a Behavior Change Marketing lens.
In short, behavior is where brand and business meet. Until someone acts, nothing changes. Until behavior changes, businesses don’t grow. Behavior is the intersection of meaning and emotion.
Every KPI in a business is driven by a Key Behavioral Indicator. Behavior drives results.
By keeping our eye on the behavior and the result, we see eye to eye with our clients as we accelerate value creation for the business.
Your name and your logo are the essential seeds of your brand identity. No brand strategy can really get off the ground without these essential elements of identity. Start-ups need to build the brand foundation to power the growth-stage company they will one day be.
Your brand is your most powerful behavior change tool. If you’re disrupting a category, building a new one, promoting a new way of doing things, building subscriptions, memberships, community or a habit, then you’re in the business of behavior change.
Branding for behavior change is different. It’s tools for the present and tools for the long road, for each stage of the customer journey.
That said, it hard for me to imagine “no logo.”
Of course, the company will have a name. If the company has a name, you will need to represent the name in some way. Anyway you choose to represent the name will appear as “the logo.”
If you don’t designate a way of representing the name then you might use whatever typeface you’re working in at any given time to represent the logo.
Apple. Think different.
Nike. Just do it.
DiMassimo Goldstein. Inspiring Action.
This variability will be, in effect, your logo. And, it’s pretty bad.
So, then the question is – what would be worse? A good way to begin to think about this is to think of the strengths of this particular approach to the logo.
For one thing, it’s readable.
An unreadable logo would be worse, especially if the brand wants to stand for clarity, simplicity or ease-of-use.
Apple’s use of the apple icon with the bite out of it isn’t unreadable. We say it’s “iconic” precisely because people look at it and immediately think Apple. Not everyone, of course, but enough people do.
Same goes for Nike’s Swoosh.
The approach to the logo above also has the strength of feeling appropriate for the context it’s in. On the other hand it doesn’t stand out, but blends in.
Kim Kardashian. Nothing to see here.
Blending in is a brand value for some companies, but not for others.
Another thing you can say for the variable Zelig (the Woody Allen character who took on the appearance, dress and behavior of whoever he was with) logo is that it is not especially ugly or stupid or crass or inappropriate.
Diesel. bE sT0oPid
Diesel actually had a successful “Be stupid” campaign. The idea: smart is boring; stupid is more fun. A stupid logo might make sense for them, but would be an absolute disaster for Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo. sTuPid in LoVE wITh yOUr MoNEy
I would propose that you start out with a good-enough logo.
I started my own company with DiMassimo Inc. as the name, using the Courier typeface that used to be associated with typewritten material. It was the mid 1990s and the world was full of wild, pixelated, digital-influenced type faces, so I thought that Courier said that we didn’t need any flash or pretense – in short, it showed confidence.
It worked well enough until we had a better logo and identity designed.
Apple started as Apple Computer Co. They didn’t have such a great logo.
Microsoft’s first logo was OK…
Amazon’s first logo was no great shakes…
But there is such a thing as a truly awful logo. Some people think Pepsi’s logo is not so great:
Doughboys Pizza has cleaned up it’s logo since this one. I know what you’re thinking – no, with a designer!
Also, today it’s important to make sure your logo isn’t offensive in and outside your own borders and culture. This one from Locum in Sweden is particularly unfortunate.
I tried hard to confirm this last one because it’s a pretty unbelievable fail. From all I can find it appears real, although it may have been a company holiday card design rather than an all-year logo. The company currently has a more regular typographic mark, which now looks more like I o cum. So, better.
Now, you know a firm with just this specialization, because you know our name and you know our logo.
A hint: If you’re not sacrificing, you don’t care enough.
90% of what we do to help our clients succeed, you will never hear about. We do it because we care. We do it because we are obsessed with client success. We do it because it’s more fun and more inspiring to have successful friends.
There are things we do for which the client should get all the credit. They do. We have a few terrific clients for whom we do exceptional work, but whom we can’t talk about. We don’t.
Everything we do is a collaboration, and the success of the collaboration is the client’s success. A significant part of what we do, we do when the client is between jobs. There is no bill. There is no expectation of future gain. You’ll never hear a word about these services, unless you happen to be one of those clients.
I hear Nordstrom stories and Zappos stories and I think… if only people could hear our stories, they would be even more amazed… but discretion is one of the most important commitments we make to our clients.
Client success isn’t the same as “customer success.” It’s not just about being happy with our product. Client success is client success and fulfillment in career and life.
Here, I’m going to try to get you to do something that, for most of us, doesn’t come naturally, something that just feels wrong.
It will fly in the face of your professional training. You will find it very hard to get there by using your normal processes. When you even suggest doing something along these lines, you will face immediate resistance. People may think you’re crazy. People may call you crazy. People may use the “crazy” word to shut down all conversation around the idea and make the discomfort go away.
Most of us believe that marketing is trying to put a good face on our product or service. Most of us look for the benefits. Most of us believe that a certain amount of “positive spin” is absolutely essential to “work that sells.” And most of us have some successes to show for these beliefs.
If your product or service is good, if there aren’t great alternatives, and for a while, this level of marketing communications will probably work. And yet the greats have done something very different. They’ve told the truth that most marketers would view as ugly, and in doing so they have stolen the show, and significant market share.
Nike. Dove. Starbucks. Dominos. Telling the ugly truth is a strategy challengers use to become market leaders and market leaders us to remain market leaders.
Our core client is an organization or brand led by people who are committed to their doing good and being better.
That said, many potentially good organizations have much to feel embarrassed about.
There is a tendency to hide the struggle and the failings and thereby inadvertently hide the hero’s journey. As a business leader I have been guilty of this much of the time, missing the opportunity to engage others with the facts of our very human struggle.
I have sought out authentic entrepreneurs as clients so that I can be continuously exposed to the challenging and edifying example of people who tell the radical truth.
Change agents tell the truth. They believe in radical candor. The look for the truth that remains unsaid. They use it to unblock progress, and it works.
For the company with its heart in the right place, a sort of insane honesty can show confidence and clarity of thought and charm while earning trust. Here are some corporate PR examples, followed by some advertising examples.
Elephants, like humans, have wonderful memories. This is both a strength and a weakness. A superpower and kryptonite.
Look at this picture of an adult elephant tied to a small bar, with a lightweight rope. A grown elephant can easily bend that bar or break that rope.
But, sadly, they don’t.
The trainers start tying them when they are little. They learn that they can’t break the rope and as they grow they never again test that theory. To them, it’s not a theory at all – it’s just the truth.
“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
But it’s worse than that. Bring the human equivalent of adult elephants together to envision possibilities and not one of them will even suggest tugging at that rope. It just won’t come up. They will focus on solving the problem of how to achieve their goals within the range that the rope allows them. The rope length will define their limits. I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times. I’ve been part of it hundreds of times.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit. Talking about possibility and feasibility together is a habit. In most places, it’s just the way things are done. There is a strong taboo against separating the two. Someone may suggest something foolish! Unprofessional! Incorrect! Impossible! Embarrassing!
But, breakthroughs don’t come from doing the right things. Breakthroughs come from doing brave, incorrect, inspiring things.
Twenty-five years ago, I developed a process that has driven my career and life ever since. It’s a process I built off of all I had learned in my career to that point, comparing successful projects to less successful projects, and a system for realizing possibilities that I learned from the pioneering executive coach, Trisha Scudder.
I had seen her breakthrough process shift the culture and results of a team from ordinary to extraordinary in just a few days. And, while Trisha taught many powerful concepts and processes, one stood out to me as the most powerful of all.
The brilliant sales and marketing consultant and author, Mark S. A. Smith says that, “We are in the epiphany business.”
Trisha’s most powerful idea struck me as an epiphany, and that epiphany has fueled my career ever since.
Here it is:
Discuss Possibility and Feasibility separately. Start with possibility.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like very much to you. It didn’t strike me as Earth-shattering either when I first heard it. Trisha made it fun, so I was engaged. The results of the process she led us through, starting with Possibility, then moving on to Feasibility, led to some surprising breakthroughs. This stimulated my curiosity, always curled up like a cat ready to pounce. I committed to playing with this process and to keeping my eyes wide open.
Here’s what I noticed. People come into conversations about the future weighed down by the past and the present.
We’ve all heard the classic, “We tried that before and it doesn’t work.”
We’ve all seen that little chestnut over-applied.
“Are you sure it was THIS that you tried?”
“Are you sure we are proposing testing exactly the same thing in the same way?”
We’ve all witnessed this idea-killing malpractice. But, what I noticed is that most possibility killing is much more subtle. It’s the ideas that people don’t even bring up in the first place. It’s the invisible limits that people bring to these conversations.
By insisting that the first phase of the conversation be entirely focused on Possibility, while reassuring everyone that the next phase will focus on Feasibility, you will find you develop breakthrough results.
While possibility is all about what might be, feasibility is about, “What can we really get done.” Feasibility is important. Hell, it’s essential. But don’t let it get all mixed up in your discussion of the possible. Don’t let it cloud your vision.
Looking back, I see that this principle is so powerful when practiced that it has played a part in every breakthrough I’ve seen in my career. And, though I built my agency’s process around this epiphany, it is like a brain of which I’ve only used about 10%.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit, between having a process and using it. I see the possibility of using this process ALL of the time. I see that I can do so much more good if you use it too.
Let me know how it goes! I’m happy to help. You know where to reach me.