Marketing to Vulnerable Populations & The POSMarketer

 

Emotions, Conversions.pngMarketing – it’s everywhere! Advertisements and sales pitches surround us like birdsong in the forest. In general, people have come to ignore ads and some can’t even see them, becoming “ad-blind.”

So it’s no surprise that Waze has snappily announced the launch of special geo-targeted ads that will pop up inside it’s mobile-navigation app, as potential customers drive by determined locations. The possibility to convert users of the app is too good to pass up – What could possibly go wrong? marketing, advertising, social media marketing, emotional intelligence, POSMarketing, distracted driving, WAZE

Erika Lehmkhul is a Visual Designer with Waze, and she suggests that the success of an ad on their platform lies in its creativity, and the clarity of its design. Opting for the simplistic look of billboards, Waze suggests to advertisers that they keep it simple – “When you eliminate clutter and distracting elements, your ad can shine.”

What a load of dangerous bullshit.

US traffic deaths are on the rise for the second straight year, and along with high speeds, no seatbelts, and driver impairment, distracted driving is quickly becoming the main reason for accidents and fatalities on the road.

“It’s not just talking on the phone that’s a problem today,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “You now have all these other apps that people can use on their phones.” 

  • Surely, Waze knows that in a growing number of states, its illegal to use a handheld GPS device in a car.
  • Surely, they must also be aware that every year, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that have involved a driver who was distracted, and the alarming increase in distracted driving fatalities in 2017 alone.
  • Surely, Waze is using it’s influence as one of the most downloaded navigation apps in a grand attempt to address the dangerous vulnerabilities of cellphone addiction, which is at epidemic levels amongst all drivers.
  • Surely they know that pop-up ads on a navigation app would be distracting. And surely they know that we are all vulnerable to the random notifications we get from our phones. And they have to know that distractions in a car usually end like this. . .

(Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post)

Marketers traditionally take pause when advertising to kids, the elderly, or anyone not able to cognitively understand the underlying purpose of an ad. These populations are considered to be “vulnerable.” The audience behind the wheel of a car is certainly not able to cognitively engage with advertisements, and they should be classified as a vulnerable population.

According to “Marketing Ethics,” by George Brenkert, “Marketing directed towards vulnerable populations should be aimed at lessening or removing the vulnerabilities, not self-profits.”   

Waze has yet to address its role in distracted driving and the accidents, near-misses and fatalities associated with this epidemic. Neither Waze, nor its parent company Google, have any initiatives or safety campaigns to educate the public on distracted driving or cellphone addiction. And, with a recent partnership with Spotify, which allows use of both the Waze and Spotify apps AT THE SAME TIME WHILE DRIVING, Waze demonstrates that generating ad-revenue from its 50 million-deep user-base is the only topic they consider valuable. And why not, that’s how you make money!

But imagine what they could do if they launched a nationwide campaign to end distracted driving, if they developed proprietary safety features that made using the app less dangerous, launched events to educate new drivers on the dangers of distraction, provided online resources on safety behind the wheel and partnered with National Highway Traffic Safety to engineer distraction proof roadways and intersections in towns across America. If they did that, what’s the worse that could happen?

Bottom line – Waze pushing distracting ads to cellphones inside a moving car is a blatant disregard for safety, its unethical, its a manipulative marketing move to grab cash out of eyeballs that might soon fly through a windshield, and its a classic example of some POSMarketing.

For more insights on ethics, marketing, and POS – Follow me on twitter – @POSMarketer 

 

Emotions, Conversions, and the POSMarketer

marketing, advertising, social media marketing, emotional intelligence, POSMarketing Emotional Intelligence, the latest buzzword to fly through marketing’s living room, has all the promising language of a meaningful progress in the march towards moneymaking – and none of the ethical foresight, or foresmell, to realize the manipulative sh*tstorm it unleashes on the world.

The marketer-drones swarmed towards “emotional intelligence” during Advertising Week Europe at the beginning of April, and why not? Who wouldn’t want guaranteed conversions based on an unparalleled understanding of the hidden realms of customer intent? Who wouldn’t want to know how to use emotional channels to drive “user engagement,” sell more products, create desire for services, or to enhance a site’s “stickiness/addictiveness?”

Sensum’s CEO Gawain Morrison believes emotions drive every decision. He believes that brands are headed towards forging relationships with their consumers vs. simply selling a product. Sensum is an “emotions-based software company” that has founded it’s success with huge brands across the world, by measuring, reporting and driving ad campaigns all based on emotional intelligence.
marketing, advertising, social media marketing, emotional intelligence, POSMarketing
Sensum believes that the core of a relationship between a brand and a customer is centered around emotion, so to understand the reasons behind purchase behavior, loyalty and even enjoyment with a brand, that business has to understand it’s consumers on an emotional level.

Imagine a world where immersive and responsive advertisements read your facial features and adapt to your apparent emotional state. Imagine a totally immersive horror movie attuned to your fears, drawing on an experimental emotional response database. Sensum has already been working on these concepts, and their work unlocks deep, impactful marketing insights and applications.

However, any marketing effort that’s based on triggering and gaining response on emotional levels, should be carefully monitored for any ethically questionable use outside of the marketplace. I wonder if Sensum is worried about this…

“The changing shape of the media landscape, from audience participation to the blurring of media lines and boundaries, offers up a wild range of opportunities to people and companies able to experiment in this space.”  – SENSUM640px-Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statueGiven the current state of media manipulation and mistrust, the proliferation of fake news, digital ad-fraud, the government-sanctioned sell-off of private user data by Internet Providers, and the hyper-targeted ability to covertly mine emotional data from social media to use in selective ad campaigns that can influence society and even swing election results – the above quote is a slap in the ethical testicles.

On a personal level – emotional intelligence is an important concept to cultivate. Building a comprehension of emotional signals & responses, and then using this to strengthen connections with another person seems psychologically-sound, empathetic, humane, real. However, we should be clear on one thing. When emotional manipulation is used on a personal level, against someone’s best interests or wishes, it can have extremely negative effects on a relationship and can damage trust irrevocably. Furthermore, emotional manipulation is not only deplorable, it is essentially against Article 22, 26, & 28 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

marketing, advertising, social media marketing, emotional intelligence, POSMarketing

Our Emotional Wheel of Sales Opportunities

So when a business chooses to collect emotional intelligence from a chosen group (usually covertly), and then analyzes this for patterns, and engineers information and ad campaigns designed to subconsciously effect and slightly nudge someone’s cognitive ability to make decisions in one direction or the other – how is this not viewed as emotional manipulation?  How does the normal marketer, escape the feelings of being a POSMarketer?

I’m not here to throw sweaters on all the strippers inside the nightclubs of the free-marketplace, I’m just here to ask questions –

Can we learn about our customers, but ethically pursue research that isn’t covert and is understood clearly by the participants? Should we pursue ad campaigns that seek to remove emotional vulnerabilities, rather than prey on them? And can the value we provide to our customers or target audience be so abundantly clear, that we pull them in, rather than push ads out?

I’ll close out with some choice words from Tamsin Shaw, in her NYTimes review of a behavioral science book, “The Undoing Project”  – 

We are living in an age in which the behavioral sciences have become inescapable. The findings of social psychology and behavioral economics are being employed to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part. Aspects of human societies that were formerly guided by habit and tradition, or spontaneity and whim, are now increasingly the intended or unintended consequences of decisions made on the basis of scientific theories of the human mind and human well-being.

The behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations do not appeal to our reason; they do not seek to persuade us consciously with information and argument. Rather, these techniques change behavior by appealing to our nonrational motivations, our emotional triggers and unconscious biases. If psychologists could possess a systematic understanding of these nonrational motivations they would have the power to influence the smallest aspects of our lives and the largest aspects of our societies.

So what kind of marketer are you? An ethical marketer ready to take action on behalf of protecting our marketplace eco-systems – or are you a POS?

Advertising/Marketing Industries Have Civic Responsibility To Fight Fake News

When Interactive Advertising Bureau President & CEO Randall Rothenberg called for an industry-wide commitment to fight “Fake News” at an Annual Leadership Meeting in Hollywood, Florida in January of this year, the response from the audience was mixed.

randall rothenberg marketing blog ad-fraud googleRandall Rothenberg went on in his truly inspiring speech, to elaborate the important role advertisers and marketers now find themselves playing. He outlined the myriad ways algorithms, big-data, and the eco-systems that prop up digital advertising, are ruining the exchange relationships of information online. And he suggests to his audience, CMOS and ad agencies representing some of the top companies in the world, that they need to help bring the change, or suffer the consequences of an eroding trust in the digital landscape.

Looking back now, Rothenberg’s speech takes on a Nostradamic hue of prophecy.

Marketers and advertisers have unwittingly taken public discourse and the connected community of the Internet into a navel-gazing, filter-bubble filled, truth-destroying, civilization-shaking, death spiral. And to pull out of it, we have to realize our place in the cockpit, and understand how we got here.

Entertain me – what’s the worst that could happen?

A group of our marketing and advertising colleagues working with the Data and Marketing Association literally stood up and cheered as they were on hand to witness Congress, then the Senate, then the President, peel back Obama-era protections/regulations, allowing ISPs to access and distribute consumer data, browsing history, in-app messages, and emails, to third-party companies for profit, all without consumer consent?

Getty Images marketing social media

The interested parties have struck a deal – people love relevant ads!

When the vote passed the Senate, on March 23, 2017, we heard this from Emmett O’Keefe, SVP of Advocacy at the Data and Marketing Association:

“Today’s vote in the Senate and expected approval in the House signal that our nation’s top policymakers recognize that our current system of responsible data use works.”

The trust was apparently so overflowing, and the data of the marketplace was handled so responsibly, that the same day, these US companies followed the lead of brands in the UK, and pulled entirely out of Google & Youtube digital display advertising agreements, resulting in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for the digital ad giant….

  • AT&T
  • Beam Suntory Inc.
  • Dish Network
  • Enterprise
  • FX Networks
  • General Motors
  • GSK
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Nestle
  • PepisCo
  • Starbucks
  • Verizon
  • Walmart

These companies, “unknowingly,” were buying programmatic ad-placements that were being paired up with hateful content on Google & YouTube – a Snickers pop-up under an ISIS beheading, or Nazi propaganda brought to you by Mercedes. Truth be told, digital ads have always been placed wherever they can be, and who cares where they go cos they are cheap as dirt! You got the impressions/clicks/views – digital advertising, accomplished. So we spend a few bucks on digital display ads – What’s the worst that could happen?


One of the Managing Directors at Edelman PR, Gavin Coombes, has a quote that sets us up perfectly for the next slippery slope we need to slide down – – –

“As Internet-based communication has become used more often and by more people, we have found ourselves in the paradoxical circumstance of more information arguably leading to less understanding. The “echo chamber” – identified in the latest Edelman Trust Barometer as a major factor in feeding fear and distrust of institutions – is a phenomenon that reached a tipping point in 2016 and with potentially epochal implications. And, seemingly, without warning.”

Edelman Trust Barometer marketing blog, content marketing, advertising, digital marketing, social media marketing

Coombes goes on to explain that social media operates more like tabloid media, vs traditional mass media – using content that entertains or connects emotionally, rather than content that empirically informs. Users prefer, and come to rely on, a steady diet of things that are happy, sad, funny or violent. This diet is typically filled with people like them and based on info they provide freely. So your social media stream is hand-selected by algorithms owned and operated by the social media ecosystems – always designed to keep the most engaging content in front of you, forever regenerating, endlessly attached to advertising revenue, open to marketers of all stripes.

In 2014, it was revealed that Facebook was able to manipulate users emotions depending on what posts a tailored algorithm allowed onto their “Wall.” Positive posts on a user’s wall were shown to illicit more positive posts in return, conversely, exposure to negativity promoted the sharing of negative material . Facebook performed it’s experiment without any user consent, and since the Terms and Conditions covered the unfettered access to user data, it was all above-the-board. Google and Yahoo both follow this same protocol – provide a seemingly “free” product, observe usage, get as much data as possible, get advertising content, and tweak the delivery to get the “relevant” info in front of the right people. 

The reaction to Facebook’s experiment from the marketing and advertising community was shock and hidden joy. Here they had proof of a proper approach to gaming Facebook – emotions spread, and targeted, relevant emotions triggered at the right time can cause action. Proof that information, if properly placed at the right time, could affect change. Facebook’s algorithms keep it’s growing 1.7 billion user base glued to the platform – showing them whatever keeps them engaged, and not too pissed off – and all the while, user data is shared with anyone willing to pay for it.

So what? Marketers and advertisers get to sell soap to people they know like soap. We might use emotional triggers to get people to take action, but it’s with babies and puppies. It’s all good – What could possibly go wrong?

For those unfamiliar with the rising prominence of the newest and least experienced player to step on the field of international diplomacy on behalf of the United States, Jared Kushner – or how the former real-estate mogul turned dad-in-law-Trump’s campaign around by scaling existing marketing technology and “expertly” manipulated the filter-bubbles and emotional triggers of social and search….

For those unfamiliar with the technology he purchased through Cambridge Analytica, and how that company can provide it’s clients, through their OCEAN targeting, info on users political affiliation, race, gender, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness and other psychological/emotional triggers……

For those unfamiliar with Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, which, since 1993, has made its name providing “psychological operations” for political campaigns around the world, marketing its services to militaries and state security agencies, providing impeccable, highly- targeted, and politically-weaponized disinformation campaigns to such countries as Pakistan, and Great Britain….

For those unaware of the role of mega-hedge-fund-lord Robert Mercer in funding Breitbart, Brexit, his huge investment in Cambridge Analytica both in the UK and US, his not-so-shadow-funding of pro-Trump media blitzes through the new non-profit media company “Making America Great Again,” and his insane amount of influence in the de-globalizing, anti-intellectual, climate-denying, xenophobic, media-exploding, war-mongering shit show we are currently living through…….

You should look into this stuff. What’s the worst that could happen?

This quote from Professor Jonathan Rust, director at Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre, can help fit the final piece of our puzzle –

“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”

So what should/can marketers and advertisers do about this?

Looking at the above information, the marketer and the advertiser can see several opportunities. Opportunities for more user-generated data, enhanced abilities to track and deliver personalized ads on behalf of brands, nuanced insight into consumer behavior, ways to sneak our messages through emotional pathways, unlimited access to centralized audiences, and access to an ever-expanding marketplace.

Or are the opportunities aligned with a larger civic duty, not just towards our profit margins, but to our society, our fellow humans?

  • Could advertising, done the right way, save the world?
  • Can we open the conversation with our digital marketing companies about ways we can fight ad-fraud together?
  • Can we hold our marketing and advertising associations accountable for their Code of Ethics, and be active, ethical allies for conscientious consumers?
  • Can we work to protect the marketplaces and technology that enable ethically and mutually agreed-upon exchange relationships from “bad actors” or manipulative entities?
  • Can we not sell everyone’s private data up the damned river, just so we can send them “better ads?”

Whatever your stance on ethics and morality and marketplace logic and free-will, we have to realize that while we’ve been engineering the latest and greatest ways to sell stuff in our marketplaces, we’ve also greased the tracks for a whole host of nefarious players to enter into these spaces, use our marketing technology of demand-engineering, targeted behavior modification, and etc., and these sinister forces are inflicting serious harm to the information eco-systems so necessary to our livelihoods and the continuation of modern civilization.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Rothenberg, and it’s a perfect ending for this rant of an article, because it’s how he ended his speech, mic drop style.

“. . . now I am asking you to reach higher, and deeper into your own better nature. The values we hold dear – diversity, freedom of speech and religion, freedom of enterprise – are under assault, and digital marketing, advertising, media, and technology companies bear some measure of responsibility. The route from self-interested “standards” to fraudulent ads to blind-eyed negligence to the financing of criminal activities to support for hatred is clear, and it is direct.

What we say here – and what we do here – makes a difference. Please leave this conference with this understanding: You have the power to move fast and fix things. You have the ability to repair our credibility. You have the power to rebuild the trust. Thank you.”

So are you a marketer that is willing to stand up and make the world a better, more trusting place? If you rise to the occasion and exhibit the best of what humanity has to offer, at least in a marketer, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

The Spectroscopy of Content

WARNING – Huge Marketing Metaphor Ahead.

The Spectroscopy of Content is an attempt to find the connective and underlying structures that all marketed messages share. Whether it’s account based marketing, content marketing, mass market advertising, native, guerrilla, paid, earned, owned, taglines, slogans, calls-to-action; marketing is about humans communicating with other humans.

The Spectroscopy of Content provides an understanding of human behavior, it’s shared triggers and environments, and uses this information, preemptively, to increase the relevancy and effectiveness of the marketing we choose to foist upon the world.

"How far that little candle throws his beams! 
So shines a good deed in a weary world."
      
        -William Shakespeare - The Mechant of Venice

First – let’s cover what spectroscopy is;

Spectroscopy is a scientific measurement technique. It measures light that is emitted, absorbed, or scattered by materials and can be used to study, identify and quantify those materials. One thing that you need to remember is that “light” is a lot more than just the colored visible light that we can see. – NASA

This is interesting for two reasons –

  1. What we see as plain, white, visible light, actually contains all the colors of the rainbow, plus a collection of wavelengths that we can’t even sense as humans.
  2. Spectroscopy breaks up a complex, noisy signal, such as light, into discrete, constituent parts, provides a glimpse of once imperceptible structures, and brings meaningful data points out of the chaos.

So far, so good. Now, let’s bring this back to marketing. Below, “Content” refers to any marketed message, in any marketing vertical.

Content starts as this solid concept, a beam of light, ready to illuminate the minds of our target audience. The beam is the message, and the message is the beam. Strong calls to action. Tracking is set up. We’ll know what success means and we’ll be able to point to business goals that Content will help to achieve. We fire the solid beam of light into the blackness of Deep Space/The Internet/America’s Living Room.

Now, let’s briefly return to the science of light.

Light is perceived by it’s reflection off of surfaces, and two different reflections are possible – Diffuse and Specular.

The light rays that allow us to see non-luminous objects such as our hands, the floor and the people around us, are rays that have traveled from a light source and then have reflected off of an object towards our eyes. There are two types of reflection: specular and diffuse. Specular reflection sends discreet beams in specific directions. Diffuse reflection sends many different beams in several directions.

So what about our Content? Once our beam of light is perceived by our audience, will they, via the specular reflection principle, be able to understand specific messages or triggers embedded in the beam? Or will the light spread out into a million different meanings, fade into the background – a diffuse reflection of our loaded beam?

Well, didn’t we think about the audience and the affect our content would have on their Mind Prisms? Did we think to analyze our content’s Impact Spectrum?

We require a few more metaphors.

Just as prisms help to break apart light, the interpretation of your content happens in the audience Mind Prism. The Mind Prism is the only medium through which your lighted message is decoded and understood.

Content is not what you think it is – it’s what your audience thinks it is.

Content is not the beam of light you send, it’s the beam of light that is received. And, further complicating things, each Mind Prism is unique and it’s absorption can change with it’s environment – and no two will absorb information the same way.

So in The Spectroscopy of Content, we’re seeking to consciously pre-fabricate the beam of light, knowing what spectral lines need to be absorbed by the audience, amplifying the strength of those wavelengths, and thoughtfully anticipating the myriad ways our Content may be interpreted, or misinterpreted, by the Mind Prism.

Once the light is considered through the Mind Prism, the Impact Spectrum should be analyzed and considered. To explain this last piece – we return to the light. . .

The spectrum from distant stars contain the signatures of the elements that compose the star. Spectral absorption lines in the wavelength of visible light, correspond with elements, present in the stars chemical makeup. There is a Hydrogen Line, a Sodium Line, Magnesium, etc.

In The Spectroscopy of Content, the “absorption lines” reflect the ideas or concepts that are anticipated to hit the intended Impact Spectrum – and we have several different Spectra of Understanding. Below are three versions I’ve created specifically for this piece – but there is room for thousands more!

Are we soliciting buyer behavior, are we making someone mad, are we talking about cultural values? Is this a curveball with a mysterious trajectory, a fast pitch in an elevator, or a beachball in a stadium? Does this message leave enough room for the recipient’s ego? Does the Content talk about personal things, or relevant ideas in society? Will this make them think of Church, School, the bedroom, the barber shop?

Before we launch any Content, we have to ensure that it’s light will reflect into at least one Impact Spectra, if not multiple. And although it is true that each Mind Prismis unique, certain concepts like the ones briefly covered in the above examples, work on more basic levels. Humans are unique, but human behaviors and reactions tend not to be.

In closing – The Spectroscopy of Content aims to understand the ways information impacts people on this basic level, and use this information to fortify and empower the messages we send in the future. Whether we’re analyzing various Mind Prisms, or their associated Impact Spectrum, one this remains true throughout this “new” marketing metaphor. . . Our success depends not on how much we put ourselves into our marketing, but by how strongly our marketing considers our audience.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about The Spectroscopy of Content.

Six Marketing Insights from “Miracle on 34th St.”

I recently watched the 1994 version of “Miracle on 34th St.”, and other than being sad I was dissecting a holiday movie for marketing lessons, I was way too happy to discover no-less-than six top-notch marketing insights packed into this Christmas classic. For those not familiar with the movie, a brief synopsis will help. For those who are ready, follow along as I unwrap these. . .

Six Marketing Lessons From “Miracle On 34th St.”

1) Uncover Resources by Changing Perception 

They could see Santa was drunk. The special events director for the annual Cole’s (Elizabeth Perkins) Thanksgiving Parade needed to find a replacement Santa ASAP. So seeing a man that fit the part in Kris Kringle, (Richard Attenborough) she saw an opportunity present itself. Disaster had forced her to see things differently, see the hidden opportunities in the calamity.

That she “resourcefully” picked the ACTUAL Santa Claus is not important here, what’s important is that resources can present themselves if we decide to see things differently. Or when fake Santa gets drunk. But being scrappy and resourceful isn’t just for Elizabeth Perkins.

Marketing strategist Nick Westergaard beats the resourceful drum hard and loud in his book Get Scrappy. By focusing on core competencies, simplifying processes, and taking the customer experience into account, Westergaard shows that our strongest resources can be found when we focus on customers. When we focus on the Allison Janney in front of our face.

Lesson One – in the chimney.

2) Listen To Your Customers, ALL THE WAY

Later in the movie, the Cole’s marketing director is on the floor of the department store, watching the new Santa knock it out of the park. He’s approached by a customer (Allison Janney). She informs him that Santa is sending folks AWAY from Cole’s, to other stores where the toys are cheaper. He starts to walk away to confront/fire Santa, and as he does, the woman says,

“Tell Santa he made me a Cole’s shopper. I’m coming here for everything but toilet paper. Any store that puts the parent ahead of the buck at Christmas deserves my business. Tell Mr. Cole his Santa Claus ought to get a raise.”

The marketing director, rather than admonish Santa for sending customers out their door, chose to listen to his customer, all the way. He ingeniously ascertained from some very direct feedback, that customers want to do business with a company that can help them “get a job done,” not just push product. By sending people to places where they could get the job done, Cole’s marketing director was creating loyalty – and by saving the customer money, there’s more for them to spend loyally at your store. Happily, the “jobs to be done” framework is not just for the miraculous.

Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and his team have built several successful business strategies using the “jobs to be done” framework. Here is a brief explanation of their work, that mirrors the Miracle on 34th marketing metaphor magically –

“The jobs-to-be-done framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the ‘average’ customer in their category may do—but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the ‘job’ for which customers find themselves ‘hiring’ a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.”

I highly suggest you get amongst Clayton Christensen’s tasty work HERE.

Lesson Two – Good for you = Good for me.

3) Narrow Your Focus

Once Cole’s realized they were dedicated to helping the customers find the best deals, the latest communication tools were made available for every employee to fulfill the current selling model. In 1994 – these tools were phonebooks.

Goods, services, price points, angles, coupons, deals, size, packaging – Rather than focusing on multiple ways to differentiate their company’s assets, the marketing department of Cole’s listened to customers and focused in on one thing – helping their customers “get the job done.” Once they narrowed their focus, they had a collective mindset to sell from, reaching across the entire company, providing a unified vision that every employee could easily understand. The store had differentiated in a powerful way. Once Cole’s concentrated on serving the actual needs of their customers, and narrowed their focus, Cole’s business boomed and the competition couldn’t hang. And this isn’t just restricted to 1994 NYC – this can work in your world too.

In his book “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design,” Brian Solis demonstrates the powerful impact of creating easily understood, company-wide selling strategies. By visually mapping out the experiences of their sales process, businesses were able to see the focus of their sales strategies – providing a clear-cut concept to everyone in the company. One they can easily understand, and use in whatever job capacity they have within that company. “X” is a great, beautiful book on marketing and design, and I suggest it.

Oh, Lesson Three – Oh, Lesson Three – Thy leaves are so unchanging.

4) Crush Competition Through Focus and Service

Cole’s is not without their competitors. Right across 34th St., the greedy mega-chain store Shoppers Express sits like a snake in the grass! Their attempts to thwart Cole’s is made apparent at the beginning of the movie, when we discover that, due to slow sales, Cole’s will be bought by Shopper’s Express at the end of the year. But the competition, who sells the SAME thing you do, who buys the SAME ad spaces you do, who uses the SAME selling strategies, is not prepared for the subtle, two-sided-knife of focus and service.

By embracing this Service-Based Anti-Selling Model sourced straight from Santa’s laptop, and by focusing on solving specific problems based on actual insights from the customers, the idea of competition on a product level or a price level became a secondary concern to Cole’s. How did they do it? To stand out – use your resources, listen to your customers, and use their feedback to narrow your focus on solving specific problems and being super useful – and it works in even the most competitive verticals. And this isn’t just for Santa to slay with…

David Ogilivy, arguably the Father of Advertising, embraced the idea of focusing in on specific unmet needs and then using those to differentiate from competition. He also made sure salesmen didn’t bad mouth competitors – Even if your product or service is far superior, no one wants to listen to you bad-mouth the competition. Focus your sales conversations on your customers’ unmet needs, instead of your competitors’ faults. Here are other ground-breaking sales tips from Ogilvy’s 1935 book on selling Aga stoves.

Lesson Four – There’s More In Store

5) Communication IS Experience

By far one of the most touching moments in the movie, is when a mother places her daughter on Santa’s lap and tells him that she is deaf, and just would like to look at him. Santa takes pause, inhales, and then begins signing to the little girl. She lights up and begins eagerly speaking with him, and tells him what she wants for Christmas. I’m getting a little emotional right now as I write this, because this is the soul of the world; successful communication with others. The allegory here is deep – even when you think someone can’t hear you, or you’re unable to speak – always strive for understanding and connection.

Luckily, the human takeaway is similar to the marketer’s – every point of communication you have with your customer creates the customer’s experience of your brand – and experience is everything. When you clearly communicate with your customers, you create experiences full of value and meaning. And experiences aren’t just for the silver screen….

In “Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing,” Robert Rose and Carla Johnson emphasize the coming importance of content-rich experiences. Businesses that can create cohesive experiences across the brand that communicate value to the customer, and communicate it well, are the businesses that are positioned to succeed.

Lesson Five – Create The Vibe, Know The Jive

6) Belief Creates Reality

Throughout this whole movie, the themes of belief, faith, and disillusionment are omnipresent; struggles that affect every character in someway. When he realizes that Dorey doubts his true identity, Santa Claus explains that there’s more to the red suit than she is willing to see.

“I’m not just a whimsical figure who wears a charming suit and affects a jolly demeanor. You know, I’m a symbol. I’m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives. If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.”

The message here is powerful and poetic – Santa Claus becomes real when we choose to believe and have faith in the intangible qualities he represents. We make him real when we believe in the best of mankind. Stuff that in your stocking. So what’s the final marketing lesson?

The sixth marketing lesson of Miracle on 34th St. is that you have to believe in something to make it real – and belief is a choice. When we launch our content initiatives, when we roll-out our new designs, when we reach out for customer insight – we have to consciously choose to believe in the intangible benefits we’re providing. And this ethical-jive-talk ain’t just for the North Pole…

In “Marketing As An Act of Faith,” marketing consultant Pat Sullivan brings this lesson home for in this quote from a well-known book, The Bible – “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Sullivan continues…“Marketing requires faith in our products or services. If we can’t have faith in them, it’s either time to reshape each product or service so we deeply respect it and can affirm its value — or it’s time to offer other products and services that are more ethical, meaningful and useful.”

To Re-Cap

Let’s quickly review the six marketing lessons in Miracle on 34th St. –

1) Get Scrappy to Find Resources – See the opportunities in front of your face!

2) Listen To Your Customers – Find the hidden gold in customer feedback!

3) Narrow Your Focus – Use customer insights to find their “jobs to be done.”

4) Crush Competition Through Focused Service – Serve solutions, and slay.

5) Communication is Experience – Create valuable experiences through thoughtful communication.

6) Belief Creates Reality – Believe in the value your product or service offers – otherwise the gig is up.

And that’s it.

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Merry Christmas!