This is your brain. This is your brain on brands.

December 11, 2006

Mri Wow. 

Just stumbled upon a WSJ article from 11-28 of this year that talks about new research that suggests that  brands can stimulate the  the human brain.  When shown the well known brand, there was a strong pattern of activity in the part of the brain associated with positive emotions, self-identification and rewards.  The lesser known brand "provoked activity in the parts of the brain associated with negative emotion and memory — suggesting that the brain has to work for a response."

The use of MRI technology to track responses eliminates the risk of dishonest or incomplete answers according to the researcher, who did this test as an add-on to a more traditional research project.

Cool eh?

Tip of the hat to David Wolfe over at Ageless Marketing for spotting the article and writing about it the day it hit the paper.  He has some very pointed and valid things to say about those in the marketing world who suggest that because of new age of one-to-one marketing, branding is dead. 

You of course, already know that’s a load of garbage.  As marketing grows more intimate and closer to the consumer — branding becomes even more vital to doing business today.  Any stranger can shout at you.  You sure don’t let just anyone whisper in your ear.  Branding matters.

Just in case the WSJ decides to take down the free posting of the article…you can download the PDF here.  Download 112806wsj.pdf

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Ease into the week — An oops policy

December 10, 2006

I don’t know about you but Sunday nights are time for me to catch up.  On my reading, on my work, on my relationships — all with an eye on Monday morning and knowing that the 180 mph pace is about to resume.

Sundays also seem to be my day for deep thoughts.  I thought it might be fun to ease into the week together with a question that is sort of about branding and marketing but also has a personal element to it as well.  A chance to get to know each other AND talk shop.  Perfect for a Sunday night.

Oops No matter how good a company is, they’re going to make mistakes.  It’s a given.  The question to be asked from a brand perspective is how do you brand the fix?  How do you make sure your brand promise is present as you work to make that client happy again?

Tom Vander Well tells a great "brand fix" story about Best Buy’s geek squad over at his blog QAQnA.

So here’s the question:

What company best lived up to their brand when they initially disappointed you?

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Want to feel good about our world?

December 10, 2006

Sometimes our world is a little too focused on what’s wrong.  Especially this time of year, that can be a bit wearing.  So here’s something that will fill your heart with appreciation for the capacity of love that exists within us.

I promise you…this is worth the read and the watching.

[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day.

Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old.  "Put him in an institution.”

But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”

"Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.  Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that.”

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.”

That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, It felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”

And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”

How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? "No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for  "the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992–only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” One doctor told him, "you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

"The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”

And the video is below….

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Make ’em wait to see your turtle

December 9, 2006

Turtle I’m in Kansas City tonight because I am facilitating a board of directors retreat (for Variety the Children’s Charity) tomorrow.  So…I’m sitting down in the hotel bar people watching and eavesdropping while I wait for a business colleague.  (I know it’s rude but it’s one of my many flaws!)  Two twenty-something women are at the bar, talking loudly. 

Clearly the first twenty-something has brought her new boyfriend (he’s stepped away for a moment) to the bar to meet her friend.  As soon as he walks away, she declares (quite loudly, in my defense) "He finally let me meet his turtle.  I’ve been waiting for weeks!"  (Admit it, you would have perked up at hearing that too!)  Her friend responds enthusiastically about the meeting.  Eventually, they discuss how cool it is that he has an exotic pet, etc. etc.

(Stay with me, there’s a marketing message in here somewhere.)

Her boyfriend, whether he knows it or not, has the makings of a marketing genius.  He understands the power of anticipation.  All too often, marketers work so hard to get a prospect’s attention that when they do get it — they panic and data dump.  It might be the only time they get to share the information, so they’d better tell the prospect everything.  Right?

Wrong.  That’s why we see ads that have no white space and your eyes surrender before they get past the first sentence.  It’s why we have brochures packed with text and no visuals.  And why some web sites are so difficult to navigate.  Too much, too soon.

If you try to tell them everything all at once, first you probably have a terrible execution.  But even deeper than that — if you tell them everything, why do they need to contact you to learn more?  You are telling a story.  Take advantage of the power of anticipation and curiosity.  Let them build a little.

Repeat after me…make ’em wait to see your turtle.

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Use your powers for good

December 8, 2006

I truly believe as marketers, we can and should look for ways to use our powers for good.  Not unlike superheroes, really.  (I vote minus the cape and tights!)

Soldier_2 There’s no reason why you can’t showcase your skills, products and services while also making the world just a little bit better.  Want proof?  Check out this promotion from Xerox.

If you go to this web site ( you can pick out a postcard and Xerox will print it and it will be  sent to a soldier who is currently serving in Iraq. You can’t pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the Armed Services.

You pick the graphic and either one of their pre-written messages or you can write you own.  I just sent one and I think it took me about 3 minutes.  But I am going to feel good about it…and the company that created the opportunity for a lot longer than that.

Regardless of where you sit politically, this is a cool thing.    Bravo Xerox — you’d look good in a cape!

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The devil’s in the details

December 7, 2006

Proof1 When it comes to marketing and business communications tools, there are few things that can derail a good piece faster than a typo or misused word. 

Proofreading is one of those thankless, tedious, painfully boring tasks.  It’s easier and dare I say it, short-term pleasurable to skip.  But, it will get you every time. 

Here are some proofing pointers:

  • Don’t rush it.  Ideally, if you are the author, you’ll set it aside for a day so you can look at your writing with fresh eyes.
  • Read it out loud.  Sure it sounds silly, but you’ll be stunned (and relieved) at how many more mistakes you catch this way.
  • Don’t rely on spell-check alone.  it’s fallible, as I’ll bet you have already discovered.
  • Make 3 passes.  Read through it first for content.  The second time around, check for grammatical, punctuation and structural errors.  Finally, go through and watch for typos and spelling problems.

The best solution of all — have someone other than yourself do the proofing.  Theres nothing more aggitating then having a mis take fowl up your good work.  (how many did you count?)

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A book worth snatching up

December 7, 2006

Bookcover_1 John Jantsch writes a great marketing blog, aimed squarely at small businesses. He’s gone one better and written a new book.  I have pointed you in his direction on numerous occasions, by linking to his blog.

To promote his book, he’s put together a big bushel of freebies that you can get if you pre-order his book here.

I have no doubt the book is well worth the price and the read.  John does not disappoint.

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Too Little Too Late?

December 6, 2006

As Barenaked Ladies sing…"or is it too little, too late?"

I’ve been thinking about the tradition of giving clients a holiday gift.  Probably because we’re putting on the finishing touches on ours…and the gifts to us are beginning to arrive. 

Gift In late October, we talked about how to choose a gift that isn’t the same old, same old.  But here’s what I am wondering today:

Does the fact that most everyone does a holiday gift diminish the impact of the "thank you?"  Before you give me the PC answer — think about it.  Would you notice and register a gift that is given to you on a day when everyone gives you a gift as much as a gift that is given just out of the blue, on an ordinary day?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t thank clients.  Or thank them now.  I’m just wondering if there is significance to the timing of the gift and the fact that during the holiday season, we’re just one of many.

And…and here’s perhaps the most significant aspect of my musing…we probably don’t do a good job of saying thank you any other time of the year.   So does that make the holiday thank you seem more obligatory and less genuine and spontaneous?

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Your big deal is no big deal

December 6, 2006

An ad come on the radio the other day and I was struck by how often they emphasized that they offered a free consultation.  Yes, absolutely free.  No strings attached.   Yours for the asking.  You know what I thought to myself?  Duh.

Lonely_1 Who doesn’t offer that?  We can call it a free initial consultation, obligation free quote or a no risk trial but it all boils down to the same thing.  And since everyone does it, it seems silly and self-serving to make such a big deal about it. 

If that’s the only thing you have to offer or spotlight, you need to go back to the drawing board.    That’s not an offer that is significant enough to make someone raise their hand and say they want to buy.  That’s just the price of admission.

Pull out your brochures, web copy, radio scripts or whatever communication tools you use to sell.  Circle any of these phrases that you find:

* Free consultation
* Free initial visit
* No risk trial
* Obligation free quote/meeting
* Money back guarantee
* Convenient hours
* Guaranteed 100% satisfaction

Are these important elements of your offering?  Sure.  Should they be bolded, highlighted and put in the center?  No.  They are givens.  It’s the bare minimum of what people expect.  Does including some of this language reassure your audience?  Maybe but if they need that reassurance, you’ve still got a lot of work ahead of you.

If you can’t find it within yourself to stop including this language, be sure it’s in the background, not front and center.  In the meantime, start to figure out all the reasons why someone should be tripping over themselves to get to you, not all the ways they can weasel out if they’re unhappy.

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2006: A marketing perspective

December 5, 2006

On November 28th, I wrote about a project that David Armano posed at his Logic + Emotion blog.

In short, he asked what was the most significant "something" of 2006, from a marketing perspective.  I encouraged you to drop by and share your thoughts.  Whether you did or not, try to make time to check out the post and comments now.  Lots of insightful comments  there and well worth the read. 

As he promised he would, David culled through the many perspectives and selected some to create a visual in slide show or PDF formats.  This is something you’re going to not only want to see, but to share.  Go grab it today and start a conversation. I’m honored that David used some of my thoughts on pages 5 & 7.

After you have a chance to read through it…here’s what I am wondering.  Obviously, since he asked the question on his blog, all the answers are from people who either blog or follow them.  These are, I think its safe to assume, people who are pretty up on the new media exploding in our world.  How do you think the answers would have differed if he had asked the question in a more traditional venue?

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