Archive for the ‘Brand building’ Category
The better to listen
Allina employs people to work the space between a physician’s prescriptives and the patient’s adherence to said advice and prescriptions. (May 6 StarTribune: Care Guides show another face of health reform)
Maura Lerner’s story shows a comical side to healthcare that should surprise no one. The comedy is not that hospital systems would employ people with little to no medical training (that makes good sense to me). The comedy is how many patients and physicians have learned all sorts of dysfunctional ways of interacting and not listening to each other.
Betsy Snyder, 23, never wears a white coat on the job. She wouldn’t want her patients to get the wrong idea.
Care guides make sense because they feed corporate efficiency objectives of moving physicians quickly from patient to patient, which serves to maximize those costly human assets. And certainly care guides will try hard to work within their contractual obligation to not practice medicine not matter how hard the kindly older woman pushes for such advice (especially since they’ll quickly be out of a job if they do).
The key common-sensical notion here is that the care guide becomes another interpreter of the physician instructions. And as they discuss prescriptions and compliance with the patient, they are another voice advocating for improvement. And since they arrive without the baggage of years of training they are free to listen.
And listening is the key. Listening and talking—such simple things—but these are the missing ingredients in treatment. Just because a physician prescribes doesn’t mean a patient complies. But talking it through, why, maybe it is actually a kind of therapy trigger.
Care Guides are a positive development as healthcare corporations try to relate to humans and their conditions.
When to poke your target audience in the eye
My client needed to reinforce the why behind a clinical trial. We needed physicians to remember their tried & true therapies didn’t always apply under this particular set of calcified conditions. We hoped for a visceral reaction to help change fixed treatment habits toward a killer disease. The poster was both over the top silly and aimed at the gut of a largely intellectual audience.
Some hated it. Some loved it. Some thought it went too far and was not appropriate for a clinical setting. Some found their rage against the disease. The poster polarized even as it got attention. And that was the point.
Not all our communication is meant to slip into the space between us like links in a chain moving meaning smoothly from your mouth to my brain. Sometimes you need to jar me from my stupor so I can really understand what you are saying. Because what you are saying is urgent and important and not business as usual. This is why teachers make students stand and move every 15 minutes or so—to restart the brain. This why street preachers are uncomfortable and often memorable.
Rather than automatically aim for consensus, challenge your team about the kind of reaction you want from your target audience. When does it make sense to provoke?
You Complete Me.
The fawning devotee image is standard fare in our media diet. Models perpetually doing homage to the product at the focus of all attention. Chevy, Toyota, Cadillac—who doesn’t make ads like this? Product as hero. Forever. We see this everywhere.
Somersby recently turned the Apple experience on its head by grabbing the dead-earnest communication style to appropriately ridiculous ends. It is perfectly reasonable to poke fun at the high places certain brands have taken in our lives.
Can we get beyond product as instrument of life change? True: it is possible that some consumers (that is, those who have already chosen to purchase a car/beer/computer/whatever) may look with unbridled lust toward their purchase, this object of their desire. But is it possible to promote a product without making the (thoroughly ridiculous) promise that it will indeed change your life?
Maybe not. Because quickening desire has always been at the heart of selling, and nothing quickens desire (and loosens the wallet) like showing the person you will be once you buy this car/beer/computer/whatever.
Maybe so—and this may be what is behind the eventual victory of online advertising: product messages that follow our search patterns and interrupt us with the key to what we’ve already been seeking.
Maybe both. Because desire follows a need or want. And we want what promises to make us different. Better. Smarter. Hipper. Advertising will always make these promises and will find ever new ways to get the message to us. And because we self-identify as “consumers” we’ll probably never run out of the optimism that buying stuff will change our life
It’s just that the loving magnetism of the Chevy image seems, well, juvenile. It’s a credibility issue.
Not page hits or likes, though comments get closer to true engagement
Anybody who has tried to communicate a message knows it takes time, effort and budget. Or if not budget, patience and persistence. But budget helps.
Our writers know this. Louise Erdrich in a recent talk at Concordia University about her National Book Award-winning “The Roundhouse” talked about how she incorporated themes that were important to her in a way that would still be read by readers:
“As a writer, I want to get this message across. But I’ll only do it if it is a suspense novel. I wanted to make a book that you could not put down.”
“And then I would stuff in the jurisdictional legal issues like spinach in a sandwich.”
Spinach stuffed in so you hardly realize it’s there. To get her message across, she had to write a story so compelling that a reader would willingly read on.
Today we talk constantly about apps and software and sites and techniques that allow a brand to engage with consumers. Paul Dunay writing for Forbes wonders if engagement advertising is the future of brand advertising. He thinks we are approaching a fundamental shift in brands talking with, not just at consumers. Dunay named innovative companies already pursuing dialogue over monologue using mobile platforms. Of course, we’ve been thinking about dialogue over monologue for quite a few years, but just now we’re starting to see technology that enables monologue with more ease and simplicity.
But it’s more than technology, of course. It is a firm’s willingness to listen. Listening is on the uptick. Listening is the new thing (which is so absurd it makes me laugh). It’s new because companies realize they left money on the table by constant monologue.
But getting people to care about the stuff you think is important: it’s the writer’s problem. It’s the brand’s problem. Both want to engage to such an extent that one actually takes action. Erdrich wants her readers to do something. Dunay wants to make it easier for all of us to buy the stuff we are thinking of right now.
I argue engagement takes a lifetime.
No brand manager wants to hear this, but writers in it for the long haul know this instinctively. They know they have to write to engage and inform, but engagement comes first. Teachers know this as well. Brands and their managers have yet to learn this. That’s because most engagement strategies still put the brand first, not what’s best for the consumer (though consumer need and desire rank high in engagement messaging). Those brands that have begun to succeed are learning to well, shut up and stuff the spinach inside.
Is Your Message Mind-Ready?
- North Korea threatens to turn Washington and Seoul each into a “sea of flames” with “lighter and smaller nukes.”
- Dennis Rodman says Kim Jong Un is a “great guy.”
Sometimes our words create a believability gap. You can see the believability gap between words spoken and the possible results. You can also see the believability gap between the words spoken and the credibility of the speaker. The two bulleted statements above both suffer results- and credibility-deficits, so we don’t believe.
Personally and corporately, we know that we have to speak and communicate in ways that build credibility. That usually means not over-promising. And it means delivering on the few promises we do make. Most of us understand this, even if we don’t always practice it perfectly.
Closing the believability gap involves looking inside (again, personally and corporately) to identify those skills, motivations and insights that can support the results we want our friends, clients and customers to know us for. Sometimes that look inside shows us we’ve been emphasizing the wrong things to the wrong people. It takes courage to step away from a wrong-headed direction, especially when that wrong-way seems to work, for the moment.
Making our messages mind-ready means making sure we have the skills, values, motivations, insights and practices to carry out what we say. Mind-ready messages are credible and result-oriented. People see through bluff and bluster.
But that doesn’t mean we should take threats from North Korea lightly. I guess we’re back to pouring food into their corrupt system again. And Rodman? Let’s make sure he always negotiates when traveling with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Art: To stop. To stare. To listen.
In the debate over art versus commerce (or fulfillment versus earning a paycheck), let me point out two bits of commerce guided by artists. Eric Harry
Dustin O’Holloran wrote the score for this tourism commercial for Newfoundland & Labrador. The pacing of music and scene, from the first moments, present a different, irresistible world. I posted this commercial about a year again and have revisited it many times because it truly is a mini-vacation. The copy in the commercial is a let-down and a distraction: it’s expected and detracts from the persuasive work already accomplished by the score and visuals.
I’m a fan of Wes Anderson movies. Even his commercials are full of entertaining detail (Ad Age published a list of his great spots here). Here’s the famous American Express commercial, and then the Softbank commercial with Brad Pitt, which is itself an homage to another period of film-making. But it’s this Hyundai commercial that is chock full of detail in every frame. Anderson is known for his devotion to art direction and this commercial bears frame-by-frame examination to see the humor layered in: the kid in the cupboard. The kid in the white lab coat. The kid costumed for a Greek tragedy. I’m still puzzling over the dozens of robots that show up everywhere. I’m not sure this commercial sells cars, but it certainly fixed the carmakers name in my mind for a time.
If art is an invitation to reconsider what the world looks like, then Dustin O’Holloran and Wes Anderson have achieved art and were paid for it. Art is not about getting paid. But getting paid is not the worst thing in the world.
Check out this vimeo of Dustin O’Holloran inviting an audience to visit a different place, but without the pretty Newfoundland & Labrador visuals.
Training your CEO to blog
Not every CEO is a born monologuist—but many are cut from that cloth. Training your CEO to blog means helping her or him get comfortable with the notion she or he will be joining a conversation, not delivering a sermon.
- In a conversation, self-revelation is the norm. We tell things about ourselves as a way to foster relationship.
- In a conversation, we tell what is remarkable. We talk about those things that catch our attention because we think the people we are in conversation with might also find it interesting.
That’s the tone your CEO needs when blogging: a personal voice connecting bigger things that are going on out in the world, bigger things that say something about the mission of your company or organization, but delivered in a personal tone.
This takes time. For many if not most CEOs, it takes too much time to blog. But the potential benefits are that customers and potential customers will join into the relationship building. Authentic relationship building will be a big part of commerce going forward—so it is worth your CEO’s attention.
Image credit: via 2headedsnake
How can I personally understand poverty and wealth?
There is a fetching honesty to Living On One, the film from four documentarians out of the Claremont Colleges. These economics and film majors—all graduates within the year—set out to ask what it might look like to live on a dollar a day. “Living on a dollar a day” is one of those generalized statistics used to illustrate how a staggering number of people on our planet (over 1.2 billion?) live with so little.
The four friends set up shop (that is, a squalid camp) for a summer in a rural village in Guatemala and proceeded to shed pounds and acquire bug bites and diseases as they submitted to the economic rigor of making a life on the equivalent of 100 pennies per person per day.
Watching these friends sort out what to eat and how to eat it and how to cook it (firewood was a major draw on their 100 pennies) was a lesson in itself—especially when they realized that 1200 calories per person per day would not sustain them. They stepped over some invisible line the moment they bought their first bit of lard to cook in their daily ration of beans and rice—simply to get enough calories to keep lethargy partly at bay. They grew radishes, lusted after fresh fruit and longed for a chicken to nurture and then eat. The stories of the people who came to their aid and with whom they formed friendships are without question the most touching part of the film. All in all it’s an entertaining and affecting first-person account of trying to sort out the demands of poverty and wealth.
The honesty came in letting go of any pretense of actually being poor. They knew—and we the audience knew—they were choosing a particular limit. For a limited time. Resources were a phone call away, of course. But the thought experiment of trying to come to grips with a hand-to-mouth existence was compelling and begat practical lessons. The result was a kind of pragmatic knowledge that a textbook can never supply. I applaud their courage.
The Living On One bus stopped in Minneapolis a couple days ago. They played the film and took questions at the Bell Museum on the U of M campus, before a robust group of students and others. As they filmmakers took the stage I could see they were once again healthy people but also deeply affected by their experiment.
Their parting shot to the audience was to “Do something. Anything.” This final word was also an intrinsically honest call to action. The four friends had partnered with different micro-finance and poverty-fighting organizations, so they could and did recommend places to give cash toward the problem. But the big take-away was the struggle to personally understand this immense inequality.
That is a challenge that will stick with me.
How about a few less quotes from old dead white guys?
Post-election, let’s have a little less constitution-driven stuff. I need to sound hip and with-it (You kids still say that?). Sprinkle a few Malcolm X quotes in there (Yes?) and maybe—I don’t know— Nietzsche (why not?). Our business partners and potential clients need to see we’re deep and edgy. But trustworthy—so, ok—maybe a few quotes from Jefferson, but way less than three a week.
Jenny: Put the business books and blogs down: Covey and Collins are sounding stale. Give me more of that pithy stuff like Seth G. puts out. In fact—give Godin’s people a call and tap into that well they are pulling from. I want to sound more like Godin. And Spike Lee.
Jerrold: Give me more comments on human interest stuff. I need to sound warm and supportive. Potential clients need to see the entire organization as approachable—so that starts with me. And do the same with Ivan in the St. Petersburg office. He needs to sound a lot less like Putin, that grandstanding old propagandist. Ivan needs to sound like New Russia—starting now.
Jamison: you gotta tune my Twitter feed. Post-election, work with Jenny on the Godin and Spike Lee stuff—get me solid tweets that pull in about a thousand more young managers. Skew young!
All of you—people tell me I should read beyond history books. Make me current! Wired. Salon. The New Yorker (within reason). Whatever.
Jenny–What’s that? Godin writes his own stuff? Which of his people said that?
Your words make me so mad—and that’s good
I spend my days poring over texts. Reading internal notes and documents. Rereading interviews and meeting notes. Writing questions, asking those questions and writing the answers. And sometimes rereading the answers. Then I start making texts: mind-maps and cartoons and diagrams for starters. Then the short (or sometimes long) text that will go back to my client—ordered arguments and assertions. Emotive elements. Narrative. Jokes and anecdotes—whatever it takes to communicate the essence of what I take as my client’s central point.
And then I send it to them.
And they react.
Reactions vary from “you are right except for this point” to “that’s fine” (the worst possible reaction, it means my copy was so bland it stirred exactly nothing) to “you nailed what we’ve not been able to say” (my favorite reaction) to “We are deeply offended by this.” That last is my second favorite reaction—it means I got under their skin, though not in a good way.
And then we trim the right copy as a text for the target audience.
What’s remarkable is how the process of sorting through all the internal dialogue and the organization’s unexamined thought actually helps in finding the believable center of the organization’s identity. It’s got to be believable because if you can’t imagine an employee saying it with a straight face, you’ve not hit it. It’s got to believable or the promise won’t match reality—and that never gains traction with the target publics.
But the words themselves—right there on the page—can stir such a reaction from the client that they can sometimes catch a quick vision of what they aren’t. Or what they are. And that glimpse carries forward to what a team does next. And that glimpse can fold backwards into how an organization thinks about and treats itself.
That’s why copywriting is fun.
Image via 2headedsnake