So here’s what the New York Times reported: Some vendors were given a slightly different version of the form used to report rebates they owe the government. The result was that companies acknowledged they owed an extra $1.59 million in rebates. Yet the only difference was that the signature box came at the beginning, rather than the end of the forms.
Apparently, according to the article, this happened because promising at the outset to be truthful actually caused people to answer more truthfully. Read the entire fascinating article here. (In fact, Google “New York Times nudge” and see a slew of interesting articles on the subject.)
This was pointed out as an early success of an effort to apply academic research to the business of running the government. And left me wondering how we might apply this type of academic research to the business of running a business. Specifically, what small steps can we take to increase blog readership, coupon redemption, advertising headlines, and so on?
How can we make simple changes that might make our writing more effective? Is it a straightforward readjustment of the text? Moving the slogan to the top of the page? These may only lead to modest improvements but, as the article points out, there is very little cost involved, since nudges are cheap.
Everyone loves a sale. But not everyone loves an endless sales pitch. While repetition is necessary to insure your message gets out there, constantly advertising that you are having a sale really lessens the effectiveness of the message.
What brought this to mind was the latest circular from “The world’s largest store.” This week’s edition proclaimed, “New season. New looks. Spectacular savings. Lowest prices of the season.” Very impressive, till you recall that last week it was a very similar version of the same thing, as it was the week before, and the week before. And so on. Each week’s sale had its own reason for being (Holiday specials, better than ever pricing, never before prices so low), but the total impact, rather than being a call to action, was diluted.
You just assume that special sales pricing will always be available, in one form or another, so you lose any incentive to rush right out. Having a sale every week—while it obviously gets your name out—certainly does not make each sales advertisement sound as appealing as you hope.
Now, I must admit, lots of businesses do it. Michaels arts and crafts stores always seems to have a sale going on. And if you are on a cruise line mailing list, you are barraged with special offers, though somehow they never seem to affect the total price of the cruise. And how often do you pay full price on Shutterfly? When they do not offer something free, you know that sooner rather than later there will be a big sale.
Is this any more effective than never having a sale? Or holding a special sale once or twice a year? I am not really sure. I assume the constant sales idea is working, or why would they continue to do them? But certainly there is no longer any sense of purchase urgency, when you know that this sale is just the latest in a constant stream of sales. And why would anyone wait for a sale, when there is no longer a need to wait?
Here’s what I think is a major problem when you are attempting to be a freelance (creative or otherwise). People are reluctant to work with or hire people whom they don’t know. At the very least, they want you to be recommended by someone you have in common.
So sadly, no matter how good your resume, how wide-ranging your experience, how exciting your successes, how masterful your email subject lines and how persuasively crafted your cover letter, it is depressingly difficult to stand out from all the other talented people knocking on the same doors.
You would think that as skilled as you are in building a brand you would have a better sense than most of how to get a future employer’s attention.
But there is the same major obstacle: I don’t know you. I don’t know if we will work well together, I don’t know how much you actually contributed to the successes you claim, I don’t know if you are difficult, egotistical, or plain lazy. And I don’t care how many endorsements you have on LinkedIn, because I know that my own LinkedIn endorsements, for the most part are simply people trying to be nice, or hoping that I will endorse them.
So now that we’ve entered “Bleak House,” what to do about it? Well, there are no magic answers; you know what to do, but you actually have to do it. You have to network, mine your LinkedIn contacts, join associations, maintain relationships with everyone you work(ed) with, ask current clients who they might refer you to, and, in spite of the odds, keep sending those emails.
The bottom line, though, is that over 90% of the clients my ad agency has acquired over the past twenty-two years has been through referrals. From someone providing the answer, “Porte advertising,” when somebody they know asks if they know anyone who does marketing/advertising. And yes, 10% has come from our “clever” mailings—like sending flowers to prospects and asking for a blind date—but the meaningful long-term work has come from referrals.
So now that I have thoroughly depressed you, may I suggest two things? One, go out and order a perfect Manhattan, straight up, stirred, with a twist, and preferably Maker’s Mark. And second, remember that for some inexplicable reason, if you are talented, it usually eventually works out.
They say that when your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. In my case, I tend to connect most news stories and articles as to how they might relate to a marketing/creative insight.
So when I read this interview with Archbishop of New York’s Cardinal Dolan discussing the Pope, I of course latched onto this answer to the question as to why he believes the Pope is so effective: “I think it’s the simplicity of his message, the fact that he keeps repeating it over and over.”
Though I doubt the Pope had marketing in mind with his insights, those are two good points that we can keep in mind as we go about our secular business. One, keep it simple. Let me repeat that: Keep it simple.
And two, keep repeating that simple message, over and over. All too often I have seen good ideas get tampered with out of things such as corporate boredom (Oh, that ad again). That doesn’t mean the idea can’t be refreshed, but do not be so quick to throw out a good slogan or campaign just for the sake of proving you can come up with new ideas. Your task is not to show how clever you are, but rather how effectively you use your creativity.
I must admit a love a good “…Walks into a bar” joke. Maybe that’s why I put one, featuring a penguin, on the home page of my website.
Maybe that’s why this ad caught my eye. But for whatever reason, I like its inventive way of talking about the ingredients. There are so many ways of saying what your product contains, and, as in this case, the actual ingredients aren’t that different from what other products offer. But this is indeed an ad that passed one of my “good idea” tests: it made me smile.
Jonathan M. Tisch is Chairman of Loews Hotels and Resorts. You have probably stayed at one of his hotels, and also probably complained about having to pay extra for Wi-Fi. But on a positive note, you also probably don’t know his feelings about creativity.
I am delighted to say they are right on, at least according to his response in an interview from The New York Times. When asked how he hires, his answer was, “…I want to see that you have the ability to be creative. It doesn’t matter what role you’re in, you have to be creative in how you look at the challenges you face.”
What particularly struck me about his answer was his not caring about your title or responsibilities. In a hotel, everyone from the bellhop to the concierge has to be ready for the unexpected. By definition there is no specific guidance in the hotel manual for black swans. So coming up with a creative solution to an unforeseen problem is vital.
Same with any company, ad agency or not. It should never be just the responsibility of the creative or marketing department to produce the good ideas. The secretary, intern, media buyer, whomever, should be encouraged and expected to challenge the system and suggest ways to think different.
If nothing else, this keeps the “creatives” on their toes. And more important, welcoming input from any and all sources produces better results and happier clients.
(I also liked his additional response: “I want people who know how to listen. You can learn a lot with your mouth shut.” Much better than the cliché, “That’s why you have two ears and one mouth.”)
Puzzles and problem solving can be a great help in keeping your mind stimulated. And a mind that’s active is certainly more likely to find unexpected creative solutions. In that spirit, may I present a riddle attributed to Einstein, or Lewis Carroll, or possibly neither.
It is claimed that only 2% of the world’s population is able to solve it, though the person who provides the explanation finds that that is likely overstated.
Anyway, here is the link to the riddle, along with a video of the solution. I hope you have more patience than I do, since I think I broke most state’s speed limits getting to the solution.
A musician provided the quote for the headline. A musician who is about to become very well known, since he is the bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” which debuted last Tuesday. And the quote comes from an article about the musician, Jon Batiste: “…There’s an opportunity for innovation….your imagination is your best friend right now. Be imaginative.”
You can see him in action in the video below. And even if you don’t know your glockenspiel from your euphonium, you surely recognize that innovation and imagination are the basis for everything that is considered creative, not just instrumentalists. How could you create your next marketing piece without them?
Steve Jobs's signature, on an Apple keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Business meetings. Co-op board meetings. Networking meetings. Often useful, and just as often mostly a waste of time. Not a waste of time in the sense that nothing gets accomplished, but rather a literal waste of time, when everything takes too long.
This article from DesignTaxi talks about some rules Steve Jobs had about meetings.
Keep meetings as small as possible. Keeping meetings small makes sense. If someone doesn’t really have to be there, then they shouldn’t be there. Simple enough.
Make sure someone is responsible for each item on the agenda. Making sure some is accountable was the core of Job’s mentality, the article says, and quoted an Internal Applespeak called “Directly Responsible Individual,’ or DRI. That person’s name was put next to each action item.
Do not let anyone hide behind PowerPoint. Finally, Jobs has said, “He hates the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking.” He preferred “freewheeling face-to-face meetings.”
All of the above will certainly improve any meeting, and with all due respect to Mr. Jobs, let me add one more. Though we never actually did it with my co-op board, preferring to have causal dinner meetings, the idea sounds quite effective. That is, have meetings where everyone has to stand. No seats for anyone. You would be amazed how much more quickly you reach “This meeting is adjourned.”