This story starts with a CMO getting fired, two months into a hundred million dollar campaign.
Fired, after hiring one of the best agencies in the business.
The campaign was expensive to produce. The whole team was so excited that they added a million dollars to the production budget to produce an additional spot.
The goal of the campaign was to recruit more users and activate them.
And here’s the rub – from the day it launched, this campaign drove recruitment numbers down.
Down is what led to out.
The CMO had been a strong marketer, with a record of selling consumer packaged goods, and sweet and salty snacks. But this was a different kind of organization – a behavior change marketing company.
The problem was, this company didn’t understand that they were in the behavior change marketing business.
All the senior leaders came from 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.
A year earlier, our friend and former client had gone over to this company to work for the now-former CMO.
Our friend also had a package goods marketing background. To help our friend succeed in his new role, we told him,
“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, designing for motivation and momentum at each moment, building a 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 the failed campaign and selling season, 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 a success.”
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.
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.
Marketing, branding, advertising, design, content, and community building for behavior change are different.
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. Shallow strategic thinking about awareness and preference may be appropriate for driving decisions between adjacent cans of soup on a grocery store shelf. This level of thinking is misapplied to behavior change
That’s why assembling a team to tackle these challenges is different too. When you work with the right team, you can achieve amazing and important things.
We can help great marketers become successful behavior change marketers. CEOs and Investors bring us in or recommend us for exactly this purpose.
This story has a happy ending.
We got to work with our friend on this brand 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.
Of course, he hired us to work there too, so we got another great brand to work on. And the new management of the now successful first company have been great clients to us ever since.
Increasing recruitment led to over five million people enjoying the life-changing benefits of our client’s excellent service.
As one of our clients likes to say, “Now that ain’t salty snacks.”
About DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo)
DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo) is a Behavior Change Marketing agency, trusted by sophisticated marketers and committed change agents to understand complex situations quickly and to bring forward highly-effective creative solutions.
DiGo helps life-changing brands grow by helping people make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
The brand, advertising and design agency’s clients, from start-ups to blue chips, have built legendary brands that inspire action.
DiGo is applied behavioral scientists, growth strategists, brand planners, designers, writers, marketers, data storytellers, technologists, social and digital media experts, project managers, producers, artists and brand leaders – all of them change agents.
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.
Behavioral science tells us that most marketing strategies overemphasize motivation. Moderately motivated people are more likely to do what’s easy than highly motivated people are to do what’s hard.
Ease beats motivation. That explains the fate of most New Year’s Resolutions.
Google’s competition had gone in for massive cross-selling and indexing. Yahoo and Netscape’s homepages were cluttered with links.
Behavioral economists confirm what direct marketers long knew – choice depresses response.
Why, because simple is easier, and ease is the single most important factor in designing for behavior change.
Google had a simple search bar, a logo and that’s it. Faster is easier.
And, the distance in time between action and reward increases effectiveness geometrically. That’s why Google uses a little of its precious homepage real estate – to tell you exactly how many nanoseconds it took to get your result.
So, what is “the age of AI,” what does it mean and why should you care?
To start to get a sense of just how powerful Artificial Intelligence machine learning powered by machine empathy can be in inspiring action and caring for people, please watch this amazing episode of YouTube‘s “The Age of AI” with Robert Downey Jr.
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.
No one has ever seen one, because they only exist as an idea or a myth. So, where did the myth come from?
Imagine a time before photography, videography, TV, film, Instagram, all of it… a time when information was passed mouth to ear and walked on foot.
In 400 B.C.E., the historian Ctesias wrote about the one-horned creature for the first time in Greek literature. He was probably referring to the Indian rhinoceros, but readers imagined unicorns.
People hear about a rhinoceros and they imagine a unicorn.
That’s the short of it.
Author and essayist, Adam Gopnik, uses the story of the rhinoceros and the unicorn to explain the difference between modern liberalism (a rhinoceros) and other political philosophies (libertarianism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, etc.) which he likens to unicorns.
Unicorns are ideal. They have a sort of mythic perfection. We love to think about unicorns. We like to believe in unicorns.
On the other hand, a rhinoceros is an awkward thing. It’s basically a pig with a horn on its head. It’s funny to look at and is politely ignored by proponents of Intelligent Design.
The rhinoceros is a compromise. The rhinoceros is also a perfectly successful animal.
We like our ideals ideal. We like our goals and objectives that way too. We want to build our businesses to some ideal template, some golden form of a business.
Often one hears talk of the leader of successful challenger in a category spoken of in unicorn-like terms.
“Why aren’t we more like Netflix? Google? Apple? Wieden? Droga? RGA? BFG? CPB? DDB? etc.…?”
Tech disrupters with billion dollar-plus valuations are even known as “unicorns.”
They are not. They are rhinoceroses.
Everything successful is an evolved compromise. So, instead of trying to force people into inhuman ideals, why don’t we try to build our organizations from splendid compromises. Why don’t we use the parts well, respecting each one as a successful animal?
Yes, the result may be funny to look at, a bit awkward and ungainly, but it will also be real and more likely successful. And it will be human too.
Why don’t we try to build rhinoceroses rather than unicorns?
Behavior Change Marketing is a rhinoceros, not a unicorn. It isn’t an impossible idea, nor does it claim to be a pure and new thing in the world. It isn’t merely academic and philosophical.
Behavior Change Marketing integrates perspectives and learning from a range of disciplines.
It recognizes that Behavioral Economics is nice old Behavioral Science with some great PR.
We accept the gifts of Behavioral Economics, but we equally welcome that longer heritage of concepts and learnings from Behavioral Science more broadly.
Our long experience in the trenches of direct and digital marketing have taught us that the single best funded program of behavioral economics experiments and their results are mostly lost to us. Lost because their very existence constituted the protected trade secrets of the companies that ran them.
These hundreds of thousands of A/B split tests, multi-cell tests and other experiments form priceless expertise carried around in the heads of venerable brand response wizards, are sometimes set down in writing but always through the distorting lens of hagiographic self-promotion, agency promotion or awards entries.
The knowledge is legend, and much of it is lost to science. That said, we will take all of it we can get, and we will work to see our clients and the broader world get as much benefit from this Fort Knox of intellectual property as we can.
Equally we recognize that the first design thinkers were not denizens of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s, that design thinking was not an invention but at best a rediscovery. If you want to read an excellent compendium of astonishing design thinking, read the Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Jay and Madison’s case study and pitch presentation of their brilliant and flawed rhinocerian creation, the U.S. Constitution.
No, design thinking has been with us a long, long, time. In fact, it took science to get us off the trail of design thinking. Science limited its scope. For example, economics focused on rational homo economicus rather than irrational human beings, and behaviorism focused on observable behavior and demeaned cognition. In dealing with shadows of human beings rather than the whole, scientific thinking led to flat, rational, poor design and communication.
Design thinking was a rediscovery, an attempt to make whole again, to bring in empathy, humanity, uncertainty and chaotic reality. Behavior Change Marketing integrates design thinking as well.
The field of Positive Psychology has seen enormous growth in influence over the past two decades. Today, nations consider Gross National Happiness along with Gross National Product and Subjective Wellbeing is measured by the U.N. to balance their scorecard in evaluating the progress of nations.
And Evolutionary Psychology has helped us to understand the important of signaling, including self-signaling, which challenges the logical, simple, rational and largely incorrect view of human motivation.
The Modern Era loves Unicorns. We love the mythic simplicity. We want to believe that class struggle along drives history and that the future is knowable. A mechanical view of the Universe and envy of natural sciences supported a culture of simple certainty. But, today we understand that even our physics doesn’t operate that way. That, at the best, there is probability. That even if you know everything about the present, you cannot predict the future with any certainty. Randomness is a feature of every system.
So, we are building a Rhinoceros, and we couldn’t be more proud. If you’re building a Rhinoceros too, maybe we could help.
On this week’s episode of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO, Tom Christmann is joined by none other than, our chief and the founder of DiMassimo Goldstein, the most Inspiring Action agency in the world, Mark DiMassimo!
Okay, we can’t lie, we’re obviously excited about this episode. As chief, Mark has overseen the production a lot of great work in the advertising space over the past 23 years. However, Mark was not always the leader of an ad agency…
After a career as a young entrepreneur and musician, Mark DiMassimo began his second career at twenty-five years old in the direct marketing division of BBDO. There, Mark apprenticed to the Direct Marketing author, Ed Nash, and soaked in the atmosphere at a time when direct marketers were entrepreneurial, and brands where built through direct marketing.
As an account executive and without asking permission, Mark started writing ads for a client that had frustrated the creative department into mass creative block. Instead of being fired, he was invited into the creative department with the proviso, “But you won’t be able to tell us what to do anymore.” With time, he emerged as a pre-eminent creative with his career took off due to his track record of success.
Mark worked on choice assignments and launched major brands with the philosophy of exploiting the blind spots of fellow direct marketers by using brand insights to create integrated brand response advertising campaigns that dramatically out-performed more tactical work.
Mark led integrated creative departments and produced notable work at some of the best creative agencies in the world before founding his own in 1996. He founded DiMassimo Goldstein in the spirit of leading the charge for “a brand revolution among direct marketers and a direct revolution among brand marketers” as well as laying the groundwork for our practice of #InspiringAction.
On this episode, we follow Mark through his career and delve into his gritty origin story from start to finish.
You’re not going to want to miss this one. Listen here!
[3:01-7:25] Mark talks about growing up in NJ and his early upbringing.
[7:26-9:29] Mark’s imagination and first forays into creativity as a profession.
[9:29-13:46] Mark’s super-dark childhood short story and learning how to express himself.
[13:47-16:11] Wayne Dyer’s ‘Erroneous Zones’ as a marketing inspiration.
[16:13 -20:23] SUNY Fredonia, majoring in music, and discovering the library.
[21:17-24:45] Transferring to Cornell and Industrial and Labor Relations.
[24:54-27:44] How he made the switch to communications and ultimately deciding on Advertising as a career path.
[25:00-32:30] BBDO Direct and Mark’s first job working on brand accounts in advertising.
[32:31-40:20] Mark discusses his first creative experiences as a copywriter and being challenged for the first time.
[40:42-49:00] Being laid off, freelancing, and getting copywriter positions.
[49:15-55:59] Mark on his rise through the ranks and deciding to start his very own agency.