Category Archives: Uncategorized

Less is More

I went to a seminar this week on getting new business. The speaker made several interesting points regarding presentation slides. Here’s a short recap…

– Most presentation slides have too much stuff on them. He called the typical tiers of bullets “son of bullet” and “grandson of bullet.” His advice is to never have bullet grandchildren.

– If everything you say in your presentation is on the slides, then the listeners may assume that you’re not so smart. Anyone can read a slide. But, if you just have a few words on a slide and then you can expound on the topic, then you look smart. And, the beauty of it is that if your presentation time gets cut short, you can easily shorten the amount of time per slide just by providing less detail in your voiceover per slide. You can’t do this as easily if every slide has a long slew of copy on it.

– There should be just one key takeaway per slide. Get in, make your point, and get out. Next slide.

I thought this was good advice. It reminded me of a Business Week article earlier this year called “Deliver a Presentation Like Steve Jobs.” The article recommends creating visual slides. It said, ” Inspiring presenters are short on bullet points and big on graphics.”

Behind the Curtain

I really liked Tom Fishburne’s cartoon he posted last week titled Wizard of Ad with the balloon copy "Pay no attention to the company behind the curtain, just watch our ad." Tom writes "Someone in the group was talking about company transparency, and how reluctant many companies are to reveal their inner workings.  The traditional approach is to concoct a persona via advertising and point to that instead.Yet, more and more consumers seem to be looking for the company behind the curtain.  They’re no longer as swayed by the concocted brand image of advertising.  Instead, they want to know who’s behind the products they buy."

This really rings true. So often company’s use their advertising to express their desired persona instead of what they are. Consumers aren’t fooled by this. An ad sets up expectations and if those expectations aren’t met when the consumer interacts with your company, then I think it is worse than if you hadn’t advertised at all. The reason it’s called a  "brand promise" is because you are making a  promise to your customers. I think my Mom was right, "Don’t make promises you can’t keep."

Fill the Void

A couple of months ago, there were two fascinating stories on NPR by science correspondent Robert Krulwich. The stories described how the brain
creates hallucinations in order to fill a void. One story
described how people who have gone deaf, or are put in a situation where they
hear no sounds for a long period of time, will start hearing music.

The other story was about a man who went blind but now “sees” very vivid images. An
ophthalmologist explained it by saying, “When visual cells in the brain stop
getting information the
cells compensate. If there’s no data coming in, they make up images. They

The same holds true for your company’s communications. If
people are expecting a product launch to happen and it doesn’t – or if rumors
of a product issue or glitch remain unchallenged – don’t think those things
will just go away. Your customers and prospects will fill the void with their own information if
you don’t.

A great article in Public
Relations Strategist
last summer by John Doorley referenced work done by sociologist Tomatsu Shibutani that “When activity is interrupted for want of adequate information,
frustrated [people] must piece together some kind of definition, and rumor is
the collective transaction through which they try to fill this gap.”

Don’t let the market fill the void. Respond quickly whenever
damaging, or even just incorrect information, about your company or products hits
the streets.

This Scoop’s for You

Ampersand1A Wall Street Journal story on 4/24 reported that a Miller Brewing sponsored blog, Brew Blog, broke the news that Anheuser-Busch was getting ready to launch a new beer called Budweiser American Ale. The trade publications and St. Louis’ major newspaper had been scooped.

The blog was started at the behest of Miller’s communications consultants “who wanted the brewer to have more influence over what’s covered in the industry.” They recruited a former reporter to do the writing. This is essentially a good ol’ public relations strategy. The blog reportedly reached 12,000 individual visitors in the month ending April 10 – most of them beer-industry professionals.

A couple of lines in the story really intrigued me – “They [Brew Blog] are trying to aggressively go around the gatekeepers in newsrooms and the trade press…It’s something you couldn’t do five years ago before the proliferation of blogs.”

Instead of influencing media using traditional PR tactics, the Brew Blog influences media by “out-reporting” them. Then, the traditional media plays catch up to chase the scoop.

Makes me wonder what other traditional marketing strategies could be turned on their heads. Your thoughts?

Good Enough for Government Work

The usual horror stories regarding dealing with the IRS tend to pop up this time of year. I thought of this last month when I read the article in Newsweek "C’mom and Be a Bureaucrat."  The gist of the article is that federal employees are retiring faster than they can be replaced. Reasons cited are the salary gap when compared to private employment salaries and "an aura of incompetence around government work."

Government agencies’ solutions center around hiring bonuses, job fairs and national advertising that touts how great it is to work for the government. I don’t think any of those tactics will work. Why? Because the only way you can really change your positioning in the minds of your prospects is to change your behavior. All the national advertising in the world won’t change the day-to-day experiences with the government that are less than ideal. Ever called the IRS to get a question answered? Been to the Post Office lately to send a package? Tried to correct an error related to Medicare payments? Those experiences won’t be washed away with a big bonus and a TV ad.

If you want to reposition your company, don’t start with advertising. Start with changing the behaviors so that you REALLY are DOING what you say you are.

Make Lemonade

Many times, what you think is going to be a great new product or business doesn’t quite work out the way you thought. Then you have to get creative…

That’s what the folks at Flagler Productions did. They were the long-time video production company for internal Wal-Mart events. Wal-Mart made up 90% of the company’s business. The owner sold the company to two employees. A short time after the purchase, Wal-Mart informed the new owners that Wal-Mart would no longer be needing the company’s services.

Now what? After Wal-Mart counter-offered $500,000 instead of the $1 million for which Flagler offered to sell the video tape library, the new owners decided to see if there were other potential buyers. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Flagler now is becoming a must stop for a variety of parties interested
in Wal-Mart. Critics of the company have been looking there for clips
that support their views." Flagler now offers video research for an hourly fee and will sell specific clips.

So, before you throw in the towel when a new product or service doesn’t quite work out…get creative.

Status Stories: Part 2

Our last post referenced Trendwatching’s  Monthly Trend Briefing for April. That reminded me of the December 7, 2007 McKinsey Quarterly, which covered a parallel group of companies in an article on co-creation, the idea that customers will collaborate with companies in creating products or content. McKinsey sited:

    * OhmyNews  – a South Korean online newspaper with the motto, “Every Citizen is a Reporter”. OhmyNews’ army of citizen reporters number 60,000 and produce 80 percent of the online newspaper’s content. These citizen reporters successfully collaborate with 60 professional reporters and editors. OhmyNews is credited with influencing the election of South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, when daily page views exceeded 2 million

    * Wikipedia  – what else can we say.

    *Threadless  – a quirky online clothing store that markets t-shirts based on submitted designs. Designs are chose by a community of registered users and successful designers win cash awards and credit. Threadless opened a retail operation in Chicago last September.

Status Stories

Really enjoyed Trendwatching’s Monthly Trend Briefing for April. Interesting idea regarding "status stories" — individuals telling stories about their experiences instead of brands telling their stories to the masses. Some wonderful examples throughout the briefing. A few of my favorites…

  • Domino’s Pizza BFD Builder "lets consumers create the pizza of their dreams" and then "name and register the pizzas they design…where they can be viewed and ordered by other consumers."
  • Yosimiya "selling bags of rice printed with a newborn’s photo, name and date of birth…the bags contain the baby’s exact weight in rice…holding the bag will therefore feel like holding the baby."
  • Netgranny "collective of 15 grannies recruited…to knit socks on demand and sell them online…Customers can choose their favorite granny by picture."

Get Real!

In the last 30 days, every time I open a publication I seem
to see a reference to the trend toward “authenticity.” It is one of Adweek’s “Six Trends You Should Know” with Dove’s advertising
campaign as a key example. In a Wall
Street Journ
al’s commentary, “The Authenticity Thing,”
Daniel Henninger queried, “Who’d have thought that the presidential accessory
that would prove most popular in this election would be authenticity?” In the most recent issue of Marketing Management, the cover story is “Keep it Real: Learn to
understand, manage and excel at rendering authenticity

We don’t think this is a new trend. What we’ve consistently seen
over the years is the critical importance of establishing third-party
credibility or “authenticity,” especially when launching a new product. In
general, people don’t trust what you say about yourself. In the “2008 Edelman
Trust Barometer
” report,
corporate or product advertising was ranked near the bottom of credible sources
of information.

So, if you want to be authentic, who does your audience
trust? According to the Edelman report, the most trusted spokespeople are peers
(“a person like yourself”), financial and industry analysts, and academics.
Least credible sources were bloggers and company CEOs. 

Among sources of information, articles in business
magazines, stock or industry analyst reports, television news coverage,
articles in newspapers and conversations with your friends and peers rose to
the top as most credible. Least credible were blogs, social networking sites,
and web-based video-sharing sites.

Based on all of this, we recommend that you spend your time
cultivating those that can really make an impact:

  • key opinion leaders with characteristics similar to your target audience
  • top analysts that focus on your industry
  • major academic professionals working in your product’s field
  • journalists that cover your product’s category at key publications

Junk Charts

I think we have all seen them…really bad charts that are so jammed with stuff that you can’t figure out what they are trying to communicate.

That’s why I really like the blog "Junk Charts." It offers up horrible charts and makes recommendations on how to make them better. And, readers join in with their suggestions. Check it out at

What is the worst chart you have ever seen?