As someone who commutes to downtown Cleveland from the south, I have the luxury of looking at the traffic snafus caused by the filming of Captain America a little differently. I don’t see gridlock. I see the opportunity to meet an unmet need. And, in this case, it’s a highly emotional need — which, when it comes to successful branding and business, is the best kind of need there is. Think about it. Right now, how much would westsiders pay to dump their cars in Rocky River to bypass the temporary Shoreway closure with a quick ferry ride to Voinovich park?
Granted, as an ongoing venture, the idea has issues, such as reliance on a thoroughfare that’s frozen and impassable for several months every year. That would really cut down on my annual volume of customers. I’m going to have to charge a lot!
But that’s not my point. This is my point. When launching a new product or service, developing a brand or embarking on a rebranding effort, never lose sight of the fact that your chances for success are greatly improved if its introduction will meet some unfulfilled need. There have been endless new brands dreamt up that boasted a neat feature or two, but they didn’t really satisfy any perceived need. So they failed.
A critical part of the branding process here at Melamed Riley is identifying the key emotional need that a brand satisfies. Because when you uncover that — and it’s a really good one — you can sell just about anything. Like $20 boat rides. One way.
Being comfortable is the key to making a great impression. So, when it comes to presentation tips, why has the adage of imagining your audience in their underwear survived for so long? Would that really work? Would that ease your nerves and help you make the presentation of your life?
I think not. Whether it’s an audience of fanatically fit folks or a room full of couch and cookie lovers, I’d find imagining them in their unmentionables rather distracting either way. While the scenarios are quite different aesthetically speaking, both would be just as unsettling. Certainly not the calming effect that the adage perpetuates. So my first piece of advice is to keep everyone’s clothes on.
Here are three presentation tips on how to relax.
Know your audience. Whether it’s a client or a prospective employer, do your homework. Know all you can about them and what they are looking for. Plus if you can find out something “personal” and less work related, something you may have in common, it will give you something to discuss at the outset that can help you and them feel more comfortable. It’s the pre-presentation banter—don’t underestimate its value.
Know your material. This is every bit as important as knowing your audience. Know your material inside and out. If you have five days to get ready, use four to come up with your presentation and use one to really absorb and internalize your whole show. The more comfortable you are making your presentation, the more comfortable your audience will be hearing it.
Know when to shut up. It’s way better to leave your audience wanting more than to have them fidgeting in their chairs praying for you to finish. That’s all I’m going to say on that point. (See, I’m practicing what I preach.)
So to make yourself more comfortable whenever you present, don’t strip your audience down to their imaginary Vic Secrets or Underoos. Just stick to these three simple presentation tips instead and everyone in the room will breathe a little easier.
For more helpful presentation tips on how to make lasting (positive) impressions—ranging from the ones you make to get your job to the ones that help you keep your job—register for The Nightmare About Your Dream Job, the first webinar in the Grad School online lecture series scheduled for April 17th. Just click here to register.
I like our blog. Written by a talented group of authors with diverse backgrounds and interests, it provides an always-fresh take on agency activity, industry trends, news of the day…or whatever the blogger feels inspired to share. Individually, they make fun and interesting light reading. In total, they paint a pretty accurate picture of the people and personalities of Melamed Riley.
If you asked everyone here to list their five favorite posts from the last year, I guarantee no two lists would be the same. In fact, narrowing it down to my fave five wasn’t easy—I like ‘em all. After all, I approved ‘em all. But never wanting to back down from a challenge, I came up with my list of favorites. Here they are, in no particular order, and why they stood out to me.
Neuromarketing: A blessing or brainwashing? By Dave Morawski
Like many creative types, I am not a huge fan of testing concepts. I should clarify. I am not a huge fan of it when it is handled poorly, and much of it is unfortunately. We are always fine-tuning and developing the means by which we test our work. So I found this particularly interesting…not that we’re installing our fMRI machine just yet.
What the job demanded. By Joseph Hughes
What I like most about this blog is the subject matter—a really smart campaign we developed to help DAP launch this very innovative product line. Here at the agency, we are big believers in the power of a strong visual solution. They don’t get much better than this.
A lot goes into a spot. By Stephanie Landes
This posting was both funny and informative—especially for those who may not be as familiar with the whole production process as we are. When the topic comes up at things like family get-togethers, non-ad people always have a tough time fathoming all that goes into a television production. I think I may print out a mini copy of this post to keep handy for future family gatherings.
Election 2012 Post-Mortem: Truth in Political Advertising? Notsomuch. By John Butler
Like most respectable advertising professionals, we are always careful to make certain that the claims our ads make are honest and accurate. So it was bewildering to see so many half-truths or outright lies during the past election campaign. We were scratching our heads, wondering how they get away with it. This post explains how.
MetroHealth advertising wins gold at Healthcare Marketing Awards. By Stephanie Landes
This is another post I like a lot because I absolutely love the subject matter. It was the perfect storm of things going right. The campaign concept first survived multiple client presentations (of rather large committees) with enthusiastic support. It then passed pretty rigorous consumer testing with flying colors. And then not only won coveted awards in the ad business, but also garnered top honors in the world of healthcare marketing.
And there you have it, my five faves from 2012. What were yours? Would any of these make your list? Would any of mine make your list? C’mon, throw me a bone.
In the fridge here at work, I have a grapefruit, an apple, and a Greek yogurt in a lunch bag left over from last week. Not very exciting.
It’s not that those foods are necessarily boring, but hearing about them certainly is. And that’s exactly why so many “old” people have been reluctant to jump into the deep end of Facebook, Twitter, or the social media platform du jour. They just assume the conversation is a bunch of drivel — stuff they have no interest in or time for. In fact, on more than one occasion when I’ve asked someone in my age bracket if they use social media, I got a snarky response: “I really don’t care what’s in someone’s refrigerator or what they’re watching on TV.”
I’m ashamed (but honest enough) to admit I was one of those old codgers not all that long ago. But after experiencing firsthand what our well-oiled social media machine here at Melamed Riley has accomplished for our agency and our clients, I am a believer. The power of these platforms is nothing less than phenomenal … for brands and businesses.
For personal use, however, the jury is still out for me. Why? Frankly, because both my Facebook and Twitter accounts collect a lot of digital dust. (It’s tough to see their real value if you don’t use them, right?) I’ve just never been able to get very excited about either platform for enriching my personal life. I think mostly because, early on, I was seeing too many postings about refrigerator contents and the like. But in 2013, I resolve to get more social.
To do so, I went to Rachel VanArsdale, Melamed Riley’s social media specialist, for the most basic of basics on getting more active. She’s written plenty of other more in-depth material on the topic of social media, such as social media etiquette, profile maintenance, and making first impressions. But for this blog, I wanted her to dumb it down to a whole new level — my level — to make the initial social media experience as easy and as attractive as possible for someone “my age.” Here is her advice for getting social media newbies hooked:
Friend only friends: Only request to be friends with your closest friends and family members first. If you don’t want to constantly read the political views from that guy you really weren’t that close to in high school anyway, then don’t “invite” or “accept” just anyone initially. Dip your toe in the water with those people in your life you care about most. Get the hang of how you want to use Facebook, then broaden your circle bit by bit.
Follow only favorites: Tweets can be just as inane and annoying as Facebook posts and can turn off a newcomer just as quickly. So when first jumping in, start by following just a few of your favorite folks — people you almost always find fascinating or funny. You can always branch out from there.
I’m actually a big fan of vanilla — it happens to be one of my favorite flavors. Vanilla mini Tootsie-Rolls are the ones I dig for in the candy dish. I really like white chocolate chips. And vanilla ice cream? Damn yummy! But vanilla advertising? Yuck. It’s worse than just being a little plain, a bit bland. It’s downright nasty. And here’s why.
Folks don’t remember it. And for any advertising to really be worth what it costs the advertiser to create and run, it really ought to be memorable. So why is about 80% of it practically invisible, leaving little to no mark in the mind of the consumer? Well, it’s usually because it fails to make an adequate emotional connection. Yep, that’s basically it — that emotional connection we ad folk can’t seem to shut up about.
To prove my point, think about the moments in your life of which you have the most vivid memories. They tend to be the very best of times, when you were experiencing incredibly positive feelings, or the worst of times, when you were feeling some sort of significant emotional distress. The ordinary vanilla days — well, they pretty much just blend in with all the other not-so-special days. Oh sure, you might recall some of these more typical times given some prodding (aided recall), but they aren’t the ones that really left a lasting, indelible impression.
Ads work in your memory bank the same way. So when agency folks preach about the importance of making an emotional connection with the target audience, this is why. It’s not just a bunch of prima donna creative types trying to create ads so touching that you tear up or so funny that you crack up just to win at Cannes. It’s because passionate ad professionals know that eliciting an emotional response is what makes for the most powerful, most effective advertising campaigns.
Here’s an important note, however. You can probably rattle off a list of ads so bad you would love to forget them, but you can’t. That’s because, unfortunately, it’s not just the ads we love that we remember. Hate can be a pretty powerful emotion, too … and just as sticky. So while it is important to make that emotional connection with your audience, you really want to focus on making it a positive connection and avoid falling into that undesirable 10% of memorable ads where you’ll rub elbows with lots of car dealers, politicians, and fast-talking hucksters peddling the latest wiz-bang gadgetry.
This graph doesn’t chart data from any study, but is only a visual representation of my experience and opinion after nearly 30 years as an advertising professional and an educational background and passion for psychology. This discussion on the reason for the big bowl of vanilla advertising is the companion piece to my last blog in which I discussed my Possum Principle. It’s merely for argument’s sake — though it’s an argument I feel is tough to argue against.
What are your thoughts on vanilla advertising? What do your favorite days have in common with your favorite ads? What do your least favorite days have in common with the ads you hate? Do you see the connection?
It’s a fuzzy idea I named twenty-some years ago — the Possum Principle. And with the onslaught of new media and the ever-increasing number of messages trying to make their way into our heads, I think it bears a quick review. Simply put, the Possum Principle purports this: if something hangs out in the middle of the road, it has a pretty good chance of dying.
It’s why those of us in the business of creating ad campaigns work so hard to not only find a truly differentiating brand position, but then also work just as hard to develop branded, differentiating advertising to bring that position to life. Each little element of every communication is another opportunity to keep the critter out of the middle of the road, from the messaging to the visual idea, from the voice to the fonts to the tone … all of it. Being lazy or complacent about any single piece of the puzzle can have the unfortunate effect of letting the creature — step-by-step — wander dangerously toward the centerline.
Therefore, if your goal is to create a memorable advertising campaign that builds your brand in a positive way, just keep these tips in mind:
1. Throw a few cooks out of the kitchen. Building campaigns by building consensus almost always pulls things toward the middle.
2. Don’t play it safe. If it feels cozy and comfortable and familiar, it’s probably not very differentiating. There’s rarely anything safe about playing it safe.
3. Beware of little changes. They can make a big difference. Campaigns don’t usually get shoved into the middle of the road with one big change, but wind up there through a series of seemingly harmless little nudges.
I know, easier said than done. But just being aware of how good ideas can become road kill is the first step in protecting them. Share these thoughts with your team. They aren’t opinions. They are facts. And how tightly we embrace them is a matter of life and death.
After watching the Ohio University football team defeat Penn State in Not-So-Happy-Valley for the season opener this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be struck by how much things have changed since my days down in Athens. When I attended Ohio from ’80 to ’84, football wasn’t as much of a sporting event as it was a happy hour preceding an afternoon trip uptown. And games were only two quarters long. That’s right, two quarters — game over.
Back then, the reason we all went to the game was simply to see what kind of dance moves the Marching 110 had in store for halftime. The caliber of football left a lot to be desired, but the performance of the band was always worth the trip to the stadium. But that was it. As soon as the 110 marched off the field, we marched our butts right on up to Court Street. And so it went all four of my years there.
My, how things change. Today, my school is now my client. For the past few years, Melamed Riley has been planning and buying media for Ohio, handling some market research and most recently have been lending a hand in branding and creative. The campus itself, while maintaining its quintessential college atmosphere, has been transformed with one new impressive facility after another. And, of course, its football program has exploded and the Bobcats are well on their way to yet another season chock-full of wins. Thankfully, the halftime show is no longer the finale, but an exciting intermission. Geez, I may even make the drive down to Athens once or twice this season, and it won’t be just to see the band.
With roughly 85% of Melamed Riley blog postings being about cycling, I figured I’d go ahead and saddle up with one of my own. But mine’s not going to be about riding one of those run-of-the-mill, single-seated set of wheels. I’m going to discuss the nuances of riding a head-turning tandem and what we can learn from the potentially perilous pastime as it relates to client/agency relationships in the ad biz.
There are two roles to be played on the tandem. There’s the Captain who rides up front and gets to steer, shift and brake, and the Stoker who takes the rear saddle and is basically just a motor to help propel the whole apparatus forward.
So, in the client/agency relationship, it is usually best if the client takes the position of the Captain. For one reason, they’re paying for the bike, so it’s only fair. They are also the one who should know best where they want to wind up, so they may as well be the one steering the unit. However, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Having a communicative Captain is key to successful tandem journeys. One reason is that the Captain can see bumps in the road that the Stoker is shielded from. And if the Captain doesn’t provide a little warning, the Stoker gets a painful shot to their undercarriage with each seemingly little bump. If this keeps up, the Stoker will certainly choose to end the ride before reaching the destination, or will arrive battered and bruised and less enthused about going for another ride.
It is also important for the Captain to warn the Stoker when shifting gears and/or braking. Without knowing of a shift, the Stoker will continue applying all of his power, which can cause a lot of nasty, damaging grinding. In addition, it makes very little sense and is counter-productive to have the Stoker going full steam ahead if the Captain is secretly putting on the brakes.
To be fair, Stokers aren’t the only ones who might find themselves annoyed on the ride. All Captains find it extremely aggravating if they’re trying to go one way but the Stoker keeps leaning in other directions. In fact, this can be downright dangerous and can bring the entire journey to an abrupt and painful stop with both parties on the ground, bloodied, bitching and pointing fingers.
Lesson in all of this? Talk, talk, talk … and be very clear about what the roles of both the Captain and the Stoker are before heading out. And if once underway there seems to be some sort of confusion over who should be doing what, where you are headed, etc. … just stop. Pull over in the shade and have a little chat.
Beware, however, if the Captain asks you if you’d like to steer for awhile. Even though they say they want you to guide the ship for a bit, they are not used to taking the backseat and will more often than not start leaning this way and that way and create all that “steering” frustration previously mentioned. It’s their bike — let them steer the damn thing. Just try to get ‘em to talk more all along the way while you do the best you can at powering it.
Don’t miss my next blog: Committee Decisions and the Client/Agency Relationship.
Unfortunately, these are tough to always avoid. However, you can imagine the difficulty in trying to steer one of these machines with everyone on the back leaning in different directions. There needs to be an extremely strong Captain for this sort of rig to have any prayer of not winding up in a heap. And don’t think you’ll be better off taking one of the back seats. You will likely still get blamed for not getting the whole operation to its intended destination.
On the way back from having lunch the other day, I spotted this tree growing out of the top of a long-abandoned building several blocks west of Playhouse Square, home of Melamed Riley world headquarters. It made me laugh. I mean, sometimes you see some pretty impressive weeds growing out of the crack where the curb and the road surface meet, but this was something special. Sure, we have a Medical Mart on the way. And we have the bustling new Horseshoe Casino just down the road. But this growth … well, this came out of nowhere.
Cue the crazy non-linear thinking of a creative person. No, seriously, it got me thinking about all the unexpected places growth is occurring in the ad agency biz these days — places we would not have predicted just a few years ago. And a few years from now where will it come from? How ‘bout a decade from now? Twenty years from now?
Of course, all forward-thinking agencies are scrambling to position themselves better for the new growth opportunities by continually retooling themselves to be better aligned with the rapidly changing world. They are evaluating all sorts of different service offerings, trying to decide which ones to invest in, which ones to perhaps let go by the wayside. Obviously, getting that right is important. Here are the kinds of things being debated, evaluated, and contemplated.
All the traditional stuff plus: Content generation, community management, product/service innovation, brand creation, media strategy and management, mobile, app development, analytics and research, puppeteering (just kidding … seeing if you’re paying attention), licensing, experiences and events … and the list just gets longer every day.
However, what’s possibly even more important for success than choosing the particular mix of services to go with is deciding on the shape of the shop itself. That is, the agencies that will likely enjoy the greatest long-term success will be those that structure themselves to be … well, less structured. That is, to be more fluid — to be more malleable in order to transform themselves on the fly, with the ability to quickly add or beef up certain new services while diminishing and or jettisoning others. Because, as this silly little tree told me on the way back from lunch, you just never know where the next opportunity for growth will be.