Seven of us went to a local bar/restaurant the other evening. So much of the evening was pleasant that it is a shame we are each spreading negative warnings about the place.
Good food. Good service. Good drinks…except for the sodas. Not that there was anything wrong with the diet drinks. It is just that for the two people who ordered the sodas, as their glasses emptied, the waitress asked, “Would you like another?” And when we received the bill, it turns out that each “refill” cost three dollars!
Now, in the town where five of the seven of us live, you always get free refills. And, in fact, in many places in Manhattan that is the usual practice.
No, the waitress, to the best of our recollections, did not specifically say, “Would you like a refill?” And none of us asked if the additional glasses were complimentary refills. But somehow we feel the burden of pricing should be on the establishment, not the patrons.
I put this down under customer service—bad customer service—and say that the restaurant failed miserably. Putting aside the exorbitant price, for a causal burger and Mac and cheese eatery, eighteen dollars worth of soda gave us each a very bad taste.
Will we go back? Maybe, though we plan on drinking a lot more water. Will we spread the word, caution friends, and sip more slowly? Yep.
Yes, a restaurant is entitled to set their price points anywhere they want. You can read the menu and decide. But seemingly free soda refills that you are charged for is as bad as telling customers about that evening’s special without providing their price. That information is rarely given, because they are often way above the normal amount for their entrees, trusting that most customers will not inquire…until it is too late.
People react not just to actual customer service, but also perceived customer service. And it is not just remembering a patron’s name, being gracious, and making the evening run smoothly. If the perception is that you are trying to put one over on them, whether true or not, you will lose.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that my new favorite description for what I do for a living is: What to say. How to say it.
What I like is that it gives you a chance to define what you offer in a way that makes you the most comfortable. You don’t have to rely on clichéd phrases that promise to differentiate a brand from others, offer a list of features and benefits or other conventional creative claims.
“What to say” is basically how you will help with targeting, strategic direction, and to narrow down all the reasons the client might want to offer his prospects to the one convincing reason that makes the most sense and offers the most opportunity.
“How to say it” is the headline, tagline, text, brochure content, website copy and so on that turns the strategic insight into a sparkling, compelling clever and unexpected combination of words.
If you are in the business of creating, see if those two guides help you talk to your next new business prospect in a different way, as well as lead you to more unusual results for them.
I am not sure where I came across this combination of words: What to say, and how to say it. But I would love to give credit to whoever first put them down, because the more I think about it, that is a perfect definition of what I offer my clients.
I realize that we are all predisposed to over abundantly fall in love with our newest child. So I am inclined to put aside my current slogan (ideas that build brands) in favor of this new combination of words. I am not certain how much of this is due to corporate boredom; perhaps I have gotten overly relaxed with my slogan. It is by now unexcitingly familiar, suffering from the curse of not being the fresh new tag line on the block.
But I guess what triggered all this is that I have been noticing that so many claims from us creatives and marketing folk promise the same benefits, using identical language. For one representative example, how many of us promise to differentiate a brand from the competition? And we usually use the same word, “Differentiate,” so that, unfortunately, it no longer has any real impact.
Sure, in some cases familiar phrases act like shorthand, quickly communicating our story. But it’s as if each of us has read the same blogs and articles and attended the same seminars, and the alphabet soup served that’s supposed to nourish us always spells out the same words.
And, of course, it’s hard to differentiate ourselves from each other if we each provide similarly worded promises of differentiation to our clients.
So here’s what I like about what to say, and how to say it…(To be continued.)
I believe it is amazing that an ad agency, particularly smaller ones, ever actually gets a new client. (And the fact that I recently had an “interesting” new business pitch possibly has nothing to do with that observation.)
Think about the process. You have cold-called a potential client, or they are having a review and you have been invited. Or, even better, someone has recommended you, and the prospect asks for a meeting.
Let’s even assume that you are a good match and have the expertise they are seeking; big ideas, digital, promotional, whatever. You make your pitch, provide your strategic and creative experience—in areas relevant and maybe not so much—and discuss what you think their needs would be, with time parameters.
They agree, they like your thinking, and even personally like your team. And then you tell them what this will cost.
That’s when the fun starts. Because it doesn’t matter what your fee is. In their mind they have no guarantee you will be worth the price. After all, it is not like buying, for one quick example, a labeling machine. When they buy one, they know exactly what they are getting and how much each label will cost to print.
But no matter how good a job you might have done with previous and current clients, potential clients can never know with certainty that you will successfully come up with the creative solutions that they need. Your past success is just that—In the past, with different companies with different cultures. So, to feel reassured, they ask for references. But, they know, as well as you do, that that request is usually just allowing them to delay a decision. Are they truly expecting you to provide names of clients that aren’t happy with your work? Of course you will only supply references of those who are pleased with you.
Meanwhile, the client is wondering what else they could spend the money on. A new this, a consultant for that, whatever. After all, is their current marketing really that horrible? Maybe all they need is a minor tweak, not a major overhaul (That’s the subject of another post: Let us all praise inertia.)
Okay, it’s not as bad as all that. You lose clients, and you gain clients. Sometimes though skill, sometimes through luck, usually a combination. But there is no doubt that particularly in creative areas—advertising, movies, theater, books, and so on—past success is no guarantee of future accomplishment. Which is why clients are often justifiably at least a tiny biy wary.
So what do you do, what have you done, to assuage your prospects concerns?
I guess most of us would assume what we notice first is whatever has the largest headline. But day in and day out, I bet the thing most people usually look at first is the weather forecast. Or why would, for example, The New York Times always have that information on the top right corner of the paper? Every day, it is placed higher than any other piece of news, good or bad.
Even today, with weather apps more common than Starbucks locations, there is the forecast, all by itself, high and dry…or wet and windy. I guess that is because it is the quotidian information most people need and want in order to be able to plan for that day.
So, maybe the information that you think is the most important to your audience actually isn’t. Or, at the very least, maybe you are overlooking a way to attract attention with a different message because it seems so obvious you don’t even think about it.
No matter what I am reading or watching, I tend to filter it all through a marketing perspective. I instinctively and almost unconsciously wonder how and if the subject could also lead into a creative idea or insight.
But I did feel a tinge of going too far when I came across the quote that led me to today’s post. It was a quote from Franklin Roosevelt, “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something” [emphasis added].
The quote was in an article titled Ideology and Integrity, and I feared I was not only using a great president’s philosophy as the basis of a blog designed to help you come up with first-rate creative marketing, but also perhaps trivializing the column’s rather excellent insights into today’s political climate.
But you will probably notice, since you are reading this post, that I lost my self-imposed fight to find another topic. And I did put in a link so you can read the complete article.
To get to my point, the most important thing in creating a communication is to actually do something. Even if you have not gotten your task done to your complete satisfaction, it is arguably better to run an ad that you are sort of happy with, rather than giving up and having a page that says, “Compliments of a friend.”
So while this may not be one of my top ten blogs or best post titles (or, if you think it is, let me know) at least I posted something. As I have been doing for about eight years. As someone has said in a relevant, though different context, Just Do It!
When you see a claim that states “longest lasting,” and there are no obvious asterisks, even cynical shoppers like me tend to believe the assertion. Which is why Energizer batteries have received my annual Pinocchio award.
In a category that fights tooth and nail to convince consumers their products last the longest, they often end up with parity claims that they hope will sound like evidence of superiority. Such as, no other battery lasts longer. Or they compare their alkaline batteries to heavy-duty batteries. Or they put in a disclaimer about when used in toys, or flashlights, or games.
But I have never seen the duplicity evidenced by this ad, which clearly and flatly claims that it is their longest-lasting alkaline battery. Which may indeed be the case, but it turns out that they are not actually talking about how long the battery will last in terms of the use you will get out of it. They mean that it will hold its power longer while inactive in storage. So ten years from now, assuming you can locate them, they will provide power when you actually use them. How much power? No idea. After all, they say “our” longest lasting battery. Doesn’t even mean that others won’t outlast it, even in storage.
So, basically, their report of longest lasting has nothing to do with how long the battery will actually last when you use it.
No, the trick is not just wearing a tie. And certainly it should not require that you actually be well prepared. Or that you should be the smartest person in the room. After all, you only want to appear smarter, without actually doing any of the tedious work that might normally be required.
And so, as practically a public service, let me pass on an article from thecooperreviewe.com. The actual title is, “The ten tricks that will make you appear smarter in meetings.” So by labeling it “ten tricks” you know there is no intention of serious, time consuming, anxiety provoking preparation.
My favorite is the very first idea, since I have always regarded Venn diagrams as wonderful visualizations of random information I have no interest in learning the subtleties of.
Check them all out here, and let me know if they help. And hope no one else in the room has also read this blog.
Yes, today is Shakespeare’s anniversary. And I wonder if he was anticipating Marvel’s Ant-man, when he said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Ant-man is a Marvel comic hero, with the ability to decrease in size while increasing in strength. And whether you are a superhero fan or not, this certainly seems bizarre enough, as you can see from the trailer for the movie below.
For the purposes of my blog, it is not the strange concept I am concerned with. Heck, we’ve had blockbusters lately featuring talking raccoons and talking trees. But I did get a kick out of the marketing for the movie. As I saw in a piece at designtaxi, a teaser campaign in Australia uses tiny billboards to promote the movie. What a good/big idea.
Is there anything you can do with your product’s name, or size, or color, or packaging that will lead you to a distinctive take on what otherwise would be a stale media buy? (And not to directly steal, but if they ever release the classic film, Giant, boy is there an opportunity. And do people still say, “boy.”?)