Posts

How to be Unignorable

We have a running joke at every agency brainstorm meeting. At the point it gets quiet, when everyone is deep in thought on how to solve a challenging marketing problem, I slap the table and say. “I’ve got it! We get a guy dressed up in a costume and have him wave a sign at motorists driving by.” It never fails to get an improvised response. And a few eye-rolls.

Most marketers understand how hard it is to “cut through the clutter.” It the old days, before the internet, we used to say the average person experiences over 500 “ads” a day. That would include the usual radio, television, billboard and print advertising. But it would also include logos and signs one encounters in a daily walk or drive. Today we would have to include the 147 average emails we receive each day and the average 32 hours a month we spend online (I’m sure you spend much more time than that).

A recent survey by Oracle found that folks are now “dual screening.” In other words, they are watching TV and checking their phone. They are doing work on their computer and texting their honey. They are Twittering and Facebooking at the same time. Essentially, we are multitasking both at work and at home and whenever we can.

Which means advertisers have about 30 seconds to command our attention.

Are you still reading this?

The obvious solution to this problem is to be as loud and crazy as possible. At least within the norms of social acceptance. But as we all know, when everyone shouts, no one is listening. We counsel a different approach that is simple in strategy and offers a return on investment. And it’s deceptively simple:

1. Change the conversation

2. Be authentic

3. Engage deeply

The trick, of course, is in doing it just right. But let us elucidate further.

Changing the conversation means to avoid the cliches the rest of your competitors use every day. This requires thinking differently. It also requires thinking like a leader. And you don’t have to be the market leader or the sales leader to be a thought leader. Don’t play the game, change the game—and you will win. Just as we did with the Oregon Humane Society.

When is comes to being authentic, we advise brands to do a little navel gazing, or at least allow us to do it for you. It requires a discipline of recovering your core values and making sure your mission and vision are relevant for internal and external audiences alike. Naturally, we assume that your product or service is worth promoting. Because if it isn’t, the best marketing partner in the world can’t help you. We did exactly that for Pendleton Whisky.

It’s easier now than ever to engage with audiences on a macro and micro level. At the same time. But our belief is that you need to think about how to engage with your customers emotionally. This requires the ability to communicate on a human to human level, to provoke a response and to evoke a sense of personality. How can you go the extra mile to treat your customers as human beings instead of an ATM machine? Can you get more personal? See how we did that for Umpqua Bank.

From here you can choose a host of tactics to implement this strategy. Social Media. Public Relations. Digital advertising. The list goes on and on. But if you follow this framework you will succeed in being unignorable for a very long time. And you won’t need a guy on the street in a costume with a sign pointing to your business.

Would you like some specific examples? Download our brochure, “Be Unignorable,” to see how we created excellent results for clients such as Umpqua Bank, Tillamook Cheese, Benchmade Knives, Omega Morgan and more.

Do you have Infinite Game?

Most likely, you are playing a finite game. And if you are, you are short sighted.

Finite games are about beating the competition. They want to end with a clear winner. Infinite games want to continue forever. They are inclusive and collaborative. They are win-win.

Finite games have clear rules. You play within strict boundaries. Infinite games change the rules over time. They are more creative. The goal is to continue the game forever.

The idea comes from game theory. And it has the potential to inform business, politics and your personal life as well. Philosopher and theologian James P. Carse extended the idea to include all aspects of life in his book, “Finite and Infinite Games, A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility.”

Wikipedia describes the theory and practice:

“Finite games have a definite beginning and ending. They are performed with the goal of winning. A finite game is resolved within the context of its rules, with a winner of the contest being declared and receiving a victory. The rules exist to ensure the game is finite. Examples are debates, sports, receiving a degree from an educational institution, belonging to a society, or engaging in war. Beginning to participate in a finite game requires conscious thought, and is voluntary; continued participation in a round of the game is involuntary. Even exiting the game early must be provided for by the rules. This may be likened to a zero-sum game (though not all finite games are zero sum, in that the sum of positive outcomes can vary).

“Infinite games, on the other hand, do not have a knowable beginning or ending. They are played with the goal of continuing play and sometimes with a purpose of bringing more players into the game. An infinite game continues to play, for the sake of play. If the game is approaching resolution because of the rules of play, the rules must be changed to allow continued play. The rules exist to ensure the game is infinite. The only known example is life. Beginning to participate in an infinite game may be involuntary, in that it doesn’t require conscious thought. Continuing participation in the current round of game-play is voluntary. “It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely” If you think about it, most businesses and individuals are playing a finite game. You achieve a goal and then move on to the next. You want to beat the competition and win the game. But life isn’t like that. We are involved in an ongoing series of events that arguably, continue even when we aren’t “playing the game.”

An example might be the “War on Terror.” Most wars have a beginning, a middle and an end. But with the war on terror, there is no nation or person to either completely subdue or surrender to. It’s not a finite game. It’s an infinite game. And once you reframe this game, you begin to look for multiple solutions, instead of just a handful.

Let’s look at the business world; Amazon is playing an infinite game. The rest of the world is only now catching up to the idea that Amazon wishes to control all of commerce — not just to sell books. The difference between Microsoft and Apple is a study in infinite and finite games. One is playing the infinite game, and one is not. I’m sure you have figured out which is which.

Once you begin thinking about this concept, it opens a new door to the world. One of infinite possibility. Where you can rewrite the rules as you go. And contribute to the ongoing story of our existence.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather play in the infinite game.

What’s Your Story?

When I was a child, around the age of one and a half, my mother would put me in a playpen while she did chores around the house. At the same time, she had the TV on for background noise. And at that time of day, she was watching soap operas. Naturally, a little boy of 18 months paid no attention to the programming. As my mother tells it, I would be happily banging my toys together and rattling my cage while General Hospital was playing. That is until the commercials came on. During the entire commercial break, I stood transfixed as each mini story passed the screen. And when the show came back on, I went back to chewing my toys.

Because of that, mom always knew I would become an adman.

This story is a nice example of the power of story. I could have given you personal stats on where I went to school, how many years I’ve been in the business or the types of clients I’ve worked for, but you won’t remember any of that. However, you will recall a story. Because as many psychologists and anthropologists have documented, human beings are wired for stories.

And now research shows that a good story can increase the value of a product, service or brand. Take a look at the graphic below. Clearly, a good yarn can increase perceived value. It is part of the human condition to be empathetic, to want to be emotionally involved in the theater of the mind. And when we do become involved, we also become attached.

Stories get better results.

Following our own advice. With Direct Mail.

Marketing agencies of all stripes implore their clients to promote, promote, promote. But few of them actually follow through on their own advice. Well, we think that’s just a little bit hypocritical. So we try to market ourselves in the most appropriate way for a consulting firm such as ours. In the past, we have sponsored drivetime on OPB radio, participated in trade shows, used digital display advertising, hosted open house events, gave speaking engagements, told stories in the press, and we’ve even decorated the front of our building (which may have given us the best results so far). For 2017 we are initiating a direct mail campaign. Why? Because it cuts through the clutter. It turns out people like getting something in the mail—as long as it is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece. What we created was a mailer that challenges our prospects to be “Unignorable.” The piece itself is unignorable because it highlights a few of our greatest successes and we personalized the mailer each time. We expect great results.

For more on the efficacy of direct mail, check out this link. It really works.

The Oregon Humane Society is a World Class Facility

In an excellent article on the Oregon Humane Society our client is lauded for their world class facility. But it isn’t the facility that gets good marks, it’s the overall organization that gets the nod by pulling all the details together into seamless organism focused not only on adoptions but also spaying and neutering, animal rescue, criminal investigations, legislation and advocacy. Here’s the money quote:

Very few shelters score 100%,  but the Oregon Humane Society has now scored 100% three times in as many scoring visits over a 10-year span.

The writer is very thorough regarding his assessment of the facility. It’s good to see citizen journalism is alive and well. Here’s the link.

Optimism Wins

Americans are an optimistic bunch. Our constitution codifies the pursuit of happiness as part of the American dream. Self-help books like The Power of Positive Thinking and The Happiness Project regularly dominate the New York Times bestseller list. Walt Disney took the swamplands of Orlando and made them into “The Happiest Place on Earth,” thanks to tourists looking for buoyant, positive fun.

And it’s no secret that McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Apple promote themselves as cheerful, optimistic brands. Incidentally, they are companies who are also some of the most successful in the world.

That’s why we tell our client/partners to become a beacon of optimism. Attract with kindness and hope instead of bludgeoning with facts, figures and common knowledge. In our experience, people want to be a part of an aspiration of something better. Our work with the Oregon Humane Society, Tillamook Cheese and Oregon Public Broadcasting bears this out.

A recent study by Havas Media suggests that folks want much more meaning from brands because frankly, “Most people worldwide would not care if more than 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow.” The study also suggests that “only 20% of brands worldwide make a significant, positive effect on people’s well-being.” Yet, “The top Meaningful Brands outperform the market by 120%.” You can read the full study here.

So not only do Americans want optimism in their selected brand partners, they want meaning, and when you can do that, you will outperform your competitors. Now that’s some optimistic thinking.

(And now, a video: Steamboat Willie)

 

Lead With Vision

What makes an industry leader? Is it the top revenue generator? The social media favorite? In our humble opinion, an industry leader is one who expresses their vision for a better world and welcomes those who want to participate in it. For our partners, we offer to help them find their truth and express their vision eloquently. Done correctly, they will discover greater influence. Naturally, influence will generate sales, loyalty and greater brand value. Not to mention more “likes.”

A few examples:

• The Oregon Humane Society is about saving you from petlessness rather than saving lives from certain death.

• Oregon Public Broadcasting is about “Thinking as Entertainment.” Their rally cry, You can’t not think positions them as the true news leader.

• What it means to be a “Benchmade” knife in a world of obsolescence and lack of craftsmanship gives them an opportunity to clearly demonstrate superiority.

• Pendleton Whisky was made for a very specific audience: cowboys and those who love that way of life. The brand speaks their language authentically.

 

Vision can clearly differentiate your brand and provide a platform for innovation. We’ve seen it time and again. We can show you how.

Benchmade Knife Company

Brand Spirit:  Striking in their grace

The Challenge:  Benchmade, a maker of premium knives, wanted to grow but was concerned that moving their production overseas would damage their reputation and sales. How do you launch a foreign-made, value-priced line of products for a premium brand without damaging the equity and prestige of the parent brand and company?

Insight:  Being handmade in the U.S. is integral to Benchmade’s perception as a premium brand. Any move downmarket by manufacturing overseas would have to be countered by a move up market.

Big Idea:  Create a portfolio of products that would allow for increased production overseas but wouldn’t hurt Benchmade’s reputation by maintaining an “equilibrium of premium.”

The Work:  We created a new product line structure that color-coded line extensions at price points both below and above Benchmade’s original range. Red represented the entry-level products produced overseas. Blue, the color that was already synonymous with Benchmade’s premium knives, and gold was for a new line of ultra-premium, limited-edition knives that counterbalanced the red line. We also created a black class for military and law enforcement products. Beyond our portfolio work, we rebranded Benchmade with a greater emphasis on the premium nature of their knives, then introduced the new products to consumers.

 

Friedrich Air Conditioning

The Challenge:  Friedrich Air Conditioning is well known in New York. In the finer buildings you’ll see their window and thru-the-wall air conditioners studding high-rise apartment buildings in Manhattan. The trouble is, cheap-labor manufacturers were gaining market share based on price. Friedrich’s response was to innovate by offering a well-made, price-competitive unit with an important new feature: the ability to change color to match your interior decor. The question to Leopold Ketel was: How do you market that?

Insight:  Friedrich’s dealer-customers and consumers believe in the heritage and reliability of the brand. Our job was to update the company to communicate reliability well into the future.

Big Idea:  Reinvigorate the entire brand to match their cool new line of air conditioners, signaling a change in the company from the inside out.

The Work:  We began with an updated brand look and feel, making the Friedrich badge on their new units contemporary and upscale. Our work on the brand extended to create an anthemic video to reintroduce dealers and employees to the heritage of Friedrich and express their vision for the future. We named the new units “Kühl” (the German equivalent of “cool”) and launched the brand with targeted lifestyle magazines and behavioral digital ads, flipped on during the hottest days of the year.

 

Pendleton Whisky

The Challenge:  Innovation is a potential revenue stream that can easily be overlooked.  Fortunately, our client Hood River Distillers realized that new product innovation was an important growth strategy when they asked us to create a new Canadian whisky brand for them.

Insight:   As we examined the category, we saw a huge opportunity — Crown Royal sat uncontested as the only premium Canadian whisky.  What’s more, Crown Royal was an exceptionally diffuse brand, appealing to communities ranging from cowboys, to NASCAR to hip-hop. Of these communities, we found Crown’s association with cowboys to be the most curious. Crown’s imagery of purple velvet and ostentatious gold crowns seemed categorically opposed to the stark and humble lifestyle embraced by cowboys.

Big Idea:  This insight refined our opportunity.  We knew that there was space to attack Crown at the top, and then we saw where Crown was most vulnerable. We had to create a premium whisky for cowboys.

The Work:  To keep our brand as authentic as possible, the famous Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon, became our inspiration. This choice gave our brand a sense of place, and eventually became its name. Everything about Pendleton Canadian Whisky, from packaging to its taste profile, was born from the tried and true Cowboy lifestyle found in Pendleton.

We were also responsible for the marketing around Pendleton Whisky’s launch and growth. For this, we used a community marketing approach that has more in common with Harley Davidson’s marketing than traditional spirits marketing. Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, our work was polarizing. It was only meant to resonate with a specific group. Just like with Harley, outsiders need not apply.

Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the cowboy community. We used real cowboys and cowgirls from Pendleton as models and shot ads and POS in the rodeo arena to achieve just that. And we were very successful. Cowboys from all over the West became our disciples, putting Pendleton Whisky patches on their hats and stickers on their trucks. As they traveled the circuit from Cheyenne to Oklahoma City, these cowboys worked as our brand ambassadors, proudly sharing Pendleton Whisky with their peers.

Results:  Since its launch, Pendleton Whisky has been one of the fastest-growing whiskies in the US, enjoying a compound annual growth rate of 82% during its first five years. Last year, Pendleton Whisky was asked to sponsor the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, which helped elevate its status to that of other iconic cowboy brands like Wrangler and Montana Silversmiths.

But more than just being a successful one-off brand, Pendleton Whisky allowed Hood River Distillers to develop an entirely new revenue stream with a portfolio of premium spirits. We developed two new brands for them, Yazi Ginger Vodka and Ullr Schnapps, both of which are growing quickly. And with the distribution leverage created by Pendleton, Hood River Distillers has also been able to become the US distributor of award-winning brands like Broker’s Gin and Cockspur Rum.