The Biggest Obstacle to Personalization Is the Creative Element

In a world where everyone is exposed to constant marketing through every conceivable media channel every day, messages that are not relevant to the target will be utterly ignored. And don’t blame the consumers for it, either. You, as a consumer, are trained to ignore irrelevant messages, as well.

In this consumer-centric environment, personalization is something all marketers must practice constantly, not only to increase the level of customer engagement, but also to not be ignored completely. And if your messages keep getting ignored, decreasing click-through rate isn’t just some annoying KPI that doesn’t look good in front of your boss, it may be an existential threat to your organization.

Unfortunately, personalization isn’t easy, simple, or cheap. There are many elements that must work harmoniously, so that each target sees something that is uniquely relevant to “her.”

4 Elements of Personalization

First, you need data about the target. What is she about, and what does she look like? That may require data from all kinds of sources — be they online or offline transactions, browsing history, store visits, reactions to previous campaigns (requiring both campaign and response history data), call-center logs, third-party demographic data, etc. Putting them all in one place, and rearranging them to create coveted Customer-360 View is often the first hurdle. But that is just the beginning. Without customer-centric data, there is no personalization — unless you count on your guesswork.

Then you need to make sense out of collected data. We often call such work analytics, which includes segmentation (or clustering), modeling, personas development (a series of affinity models), etc. Many marketers consider this to be the highest hurdle, as it requires different types of talents. Data scientists tend to think that the modeling work is the pinnacle of personalization, and they may not be wrong. But is it enough? So, what if they have 40 personas meticulously built by top-notch statisticians? How would you use them to differentiate messages for “each” target?

That leads to the third and forth elements in personalization, which are “Display Capability” and “Content and Creative.” Basically, you need to be able to show different creatives to different targets. If you are uniformly displaying the same content to everyone, what is the point in all this, no matter how many personas or affinity models you built?

Display capability is a technical hurdle. And you can procure technologies to overcome it, whether the challenge is dynamic web content, or personalized email delivery. You have to align pieces of technologies to make it happen. If Person A shows up on your website, and her affinity score is higher for “Luxury Travel” category in comparison to “Family Oriented Activities,” you should be able to show a picture of luxury cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean sunset, not necessarily a picture of happy children surrounded by cartoon characters.

As you can see, I am actually mixing three elements in this one example. I am assuming you built a series of personas (or affinity models). Your website should be dynamic so that such models can trigger different experiences for different visitors. Then of course, I am assuming you have ample amount of marketing creatives to differentiate messages. Display technology is a prerequisite in all this. If you don’t have it, go get it.

Your Persona Menu

Building a Customer-360 View is a customer-centric activity, but creating a persona menu is a selfish activity. What do you want to sell? And what kind of person would be interested in such products or services?

If you are selling fashion items, personas such as “Fashionista” or “Trend Setter” would be helpful. If you are pushing cutting-edge products, an “Early Adopter” persona would be necessary. If you are selling various types of insurance or security-related products, you will benefit from personas such as “Security Conscious.”

The important point here is that you should create persona menu based on your product and marketing roadmap. Be imaginative and creative. What kind of persona would be interested in your services? Once the goal is set, we need some samples of people who actually displayed such tendencies or behaviors. If you are building a persona called “Luxury Travel,” gather samples of people who actually have been on a luxury cruise ship or checked into luxury hotels (of course you have to define what constitutes “luxury”). Modelers do the rest.

Now, here is the reason why setting up a proper persona menu is so important. Not only will we define the target audience with it, but also categorize your marketing contents and digital assets with personas.

The most basic usage of any model is to go after high score individuals in a given category. You want to send messages to fashion-oriented people? Just select high score individuals using the Fashionista model.

But personalization is a little more complex that that. Let’s just say this one individual showed up at your website (or your store for that matter). You may have less than one second to show something that “she” would be interested in. Pull up all persona scores for that person, and see in which categories she scores high (let’s say over 7 out of a maximum score of 9). Going back to the previous example, if the target has score of 8 in Luxury Travel, and 4 in Family-oriented Activity, pull out the content for the former.

The Creative Element

Now, why is this article titled “The Biggest Obstacle to Personalization Is the Creative Element”? Because, I often see either lack of enough creative materials or lack of proper content library is the roadblock. And it really breaks my heart. With all the dynamic display capabilities and a series of models and personas, it would be a real shame if everyone gets to see the same damn picture.

I’ve seen sad and weird cases where marketers balk at the idea of personalization, as their creative agency is not flexible enough to create multiple versions of marketing materials. In this day and age, that is just a horrible excuse. What are they dealing with, some Mad Men agency people from the 1950s with cigarettes in their mouths and glasses of Scotch in their hands?

I’ve also seen other strange cases where proper personalization doesn’t happen – even with all good elements ready to be deployed – because departments don’t know how to communicate with one another. That is why someone should be in charge of all four elements of personalization.

How will the persona menu be created with grand marketing goals in mind? Who would procure actual data and build models? How will the resultant model/persona scores be shared throughout the organization and various systems, especially with the dynamic display technologies? How will the content library be tagged with all the relevant “persona” names (e.g., Tag “Luxury Travel” persona name to all digital assets related to “Luxury Cruise Ships”)?

Model scores (or personas) may function as a communication tool that binds different departments and constituents. Personalization is a team sport, and it is only as good as the weakest link. If you invested in building CDP solutions and analytics, go a little further and finish the work with the creative elements.

If you have a bunch of pictures stored in someone’s PC (or worse, some agency guy’s drawer), go build a digital content library. And while you’re at it, tag those digital assets with relevant persona names in your persona menu. Even automated personalization engines would appreciate your effort, and it will definitely pay off.

Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.


WWTT? Bud Light Promotes #OpenForTakeout During COVID-19

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer, as well as automakers producing medical equipment. But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, but important: a campaign from Bud Light that supports the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

March 2020  which felt like it was a year long  is finally over. However, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over; many of us are staying at home under order of our local, state, or national governments, and doing the best we can personally and professionally. Through it all, it’s been uplifting to see communities come together to support each other (of course, while practicing the phrase of the year: social distancing), as well as the myriad brands stepping up and away from business as usual to also do their part.

We’ve all heard about breweries and distilleries shifting production to hand sanitizer, as well as automakers realigning their plants to produce the much needed medical equipment that healthcare workers need. These are such important stories, which have been covered a lot (as they should be). But for this week’s “What Were They Thinking?” I have something a little different, yet still important: a campaign from Bud Light in an effort to support the restaurant and bar industry, badly hit by COVID-19.

Our local restaurants and bars feed us; give us a place to come together with friends and family; and they make up so many of the important small businesses in our communities. While some have had to shutter, there are others who have managed to stay open (again, depending on local and state regulations here in the U.S.), offering takeout and delivery options. And this is where Bud Light steps in.

On Mar. 25, Bud Light debuted a new campaign, “Open for Takeout.” Powered by Bud Light, the new website encourages those establishments still open within the restaurant and bar industry to submit their info to be included on the website. The site’s focus is to help consumers across the U.S. locate spots that are #OpenForTakeout, while still practicing safe social distancing.

While money might be tough for a lot of people right now, there are those individuals who do have the spare cash for a takeout meal, which means Bud Light using their extensive reach can go a long way in extending the reach of the restaurant and bars they aim to help.

For me personally, there are at least 157 restaurants or bars within a 10-mile radius of my ZIP code, which gives me a lot of options after being cooped up all day in front of a computer and having no desire to cook (it happens from time to time).

Bud Light also is diverting some of their media spend to drive awareness of this consumer resource, offering added visibility for #OpenForTakeout, and their parent company, Anheuser-Busch has the following initiatives planned to support other COVID-19 efforts:

  • $5 million donation to the American Red Cross, as well as the donation of media air time to the Red Cross for PSAs.
  • Working alongside sports partners, Anheuser-Busch will identify available arenas and stadiums to be used for temporary blood drive centers.
  • The company’s tour centers in St. Louis, Mo. and Merrimack, NH will be made available to the Red Cross.
  • Anheuser-Busch’s supply and logistics network will produce and distribute bottles of hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer will be used at Red Cross blood donation centers, as well as in an effort to support shelters for future relief efforts.

This partnership between the macro brewer and the Red Cross is, again, just another example of brands stepping away from business as usual, and considering what they can do with the resources and talent they have to play a role in the fight against the pandemic.

As for Bud Light’s initiative, this is personal for me (and I’m sure many others). I’m fortunate to know a lot of wonderful people in Philadelphia’s vibrant food and drink scene, and it crushes me to see so many of them out of work, many fighting to obtain unemployment, uncertain of their futures, and the restaurants and bars that once employed them facing the heartbreaking question of if they’ll ever be able to open their doors again.

I hope Bud Light’s Open for Takeout campaign truly helps those in the restaurant and bar industry across the country who are still open and feeding their local communities.

And finally, in my previous post from a couple weeks ago, I looked at two well-done email messages about COVID-19 that hit my inbox. Some readers shared publicly in the comments, as well as privately in emails to me, about what they had worked on and the response received, as well as about some of the good pieces they received themselves.

Feel free to keep commenting, and send me messages about what you’ve seen and done as well. As I’ve said, now is the time for sharing good news, and celebrating the little victories.

WWTT? So Many COVID-19 Emails … But Are There Any ‘Good’ Ones?

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. But there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Right now, the world feels like a very scary, uncertain place, as we all make adjustments to our daily lives during this pandemic. And while each day often seems weirder or scarier than the one before it, there is also a lot of room for hope and positivity. For today’s “What Were They Thinking?” post, I want to look at some COVID-19 emails I’ve received from brands and nonprofits to my personal email account, showcasing a couple that I think did an excellent job at standing out in my inbox and offering value.

Because if you’re not offering up value right now (and no, I don’t mean a sweet sale on a pair of shoes), then maybe think twice about what campaigns you’re running, especially if they include COVID-19 messaging.

Also, a little tip I’d like to offer: Consider removing inactives from your list BEFORE you message your entire list. I don’t need to know that you’re keeping your establishment clean and being decent to your employees if we interacted maybe once, back in 2014. If you can wash your hands, you also can take some time for list hygiene.

So much like an episode of MTV Cribs, step into my inbox with me, and let’s look at some examples of COVID-19 emails done right:

COVID-19 email message from Lush I received this email from Lush on March 14, and the headline reads: “Be safe, get clean.”

Already I’m thankful the subject line isn’t the usual canned “[Company name] and COVID-19 update.” Yes, in some cases we do need an update from a particular company we do business with — for example, when my hair salon emailed me how they were were taking care of their staff and the salon, how this would affect services, hours, etc, I definitely read that email. My salon is a very personal marketer to me … some others who email me, however, are not.

Back to Lush. So the subject line is great and has me curious enough to open. The main message is simple: “Wash your hands for free at Lush.” The rest of the short email says that their stores are still open in North America, come on in and wash your hands for free with no expectation of purchase.

Now yes, this can be looked at as a way to increase foot traffic, but they are offering a service that is very relevant right now (How many of us have replaced our usual goodbyes with “Wash your hands!”?) Sure, some people might make a purchase, but the focus of this email is about a beneficial service Lush wants to provide the community, wherever one of their brick and mortar stores reside.

Unfortunately, the next day I received a second email from Lush alerting me to North America store closures from March 16-29, but even that didn’t feel like a boilerplate email. You can check it out here.

The bottom line about Lush is that their emails were compassionate, offered value to their customs, and were on-brand.

Now, let’s look at a nonprofit I support:

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in the Western New York (WNY) region of the Empire State. It’s a second home to me, due to the fact I went to college there and I have friends and family in the area.

While the WNYLC’s subject line is a bit closer to some of the boilerplate ones I’ve seen out there on other COVID-19 emails, what works so well is the message. It starts with a note from their Executive Director, leading off with a cancellation of a specific hike for the safety of others, as well as information about how future events will either be conducted via phone or video, or rescheduled. All important info, especially if you’re a donor who actively participates with this organization.

But what I appreciate the most is how this email ties into part of the land conservancy’s mission — to experience the land. The call to action to go outside and take it in during these uncertain times is what a lot of people need to hear: to take a break, step away from the constant news cycle or ding of email, and go breathe some fresh air. The specific mention of the Stella Niagara Preserve (land the WNYLC has protected) is fitting, and the P.S. includes a reminder that social distancing is great for the outdoors, so send photos of your favorite moments.

This call for photo submissions isn’t only user generated content, but when the WNYLC posts these images, their follows can enjoy them and feel a little less distant. Something we all need.

As marketers, before all of “this,” our jobs were to educate prospects and customers about our services and products, and to often help people be their best selves, whether professionally, personally, or both. Our creative and analytical minds were put to work building campaigns and helping support sales teams. And yes, those are all still our jobs right now.

But I think we have some new ones. We need to be there to help lift up our customers and donors (when appropriate and relevant, don’t just barge in out of nowhere). We need to make sure we share good, accurate information, no matter what the topic is. And we need to be positive … because I think keeping a positive attitude through the darkness is the only way through this. And we’re gonna get through.

Marketers, what do you think? Tell me about some thoughtful, well-executed COVID-19 emails you’ve seen in your inboxes (and if you’ve seen some cruddy ones, tell me about it on Twitter, over at @sass_marketing). And take care of yourselves, each and every one of you (Gary, stop touching your face.).

The Psychology-Based Marketing 2019 Roundup of Top Stories

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

I wrote these pieces in 2019, though you were still reading my columns from previous years. I think, though, that it’s important to look at the thoughts from this year and perhaps take a look at evergreen pieces at a later time.

These posts are listed based on popularity.

No. 1

“Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words” from Jan. 15 interested the largest number of you. Marketers who are used to using “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free” wanted to see what was new.

I wrote:

“Marketing copy strategies that align with ‘feeling good’ address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.”

No. 2

“3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn” on May 7 gets into how good customer experiences are essential to customer retention.

“Without carefully planned and executed employee onboarding programs, employee attrition goes up, and so does corporate waste, as it costs about nine months of an employees’ salary to terminate and start over again.

“This same principle applies to customer loyalty and the very high cost of losing even just one customer. Yet it’s hard to find “onboarding” programs for customers that are as robust as those for employees. Even with the cost of losing a customer being much higher than the loss of a middle management employee. When you lose a customer, you lose not just the cost of acquiring that customer, you lose the next transaction you were counting on, and you lose their entire lifetime value, which can be pretty substantial in the B2B world.”

No. 3

“The 4 Most Critical Steps for Happy Customers, Profits” appeared on March 12 and got into how the face of your brand needs to be happy, too. Sure, customers care about whether your employees are happy and treated well — especially if it affects how those employees treat them. But Target Marketing blogger Jessica Nable recently pointed out that business partners care, too, and will check if you have heavy turnover.

I write:

“With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.”

No. 4

“The Danger of a Single Story for Marketers in the Age of Storytelling” piqued your interest, starting on Oct. 22.

Stories from us are what pull customers in. If they like the experience, they tell good stories about us. Or, I should say, good stories about what we did for them.

As I say in this column, “We marketers today are really the new age of storytellers.”

  • What’s your story?
  • Do your customers know it?

Here’s how we tell it:

“Our websites, white papers, and content marketing are written just like classic novelettes. A teaser to create intrigue, a climax that builds with all of the reasons a customer needs us and needs us now, and a conclusion for how customers can get what they need from us. For a price.”

Back to You

What do you think will be the top psychology-based marketing stories in 2020? Please let me know in the comments section!

3-Part Pre-Production Content Marketing Checklist

Here’s a three-part pre-production checklist of the questions your content needs to answer in order for it to succeed. Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

This month, let’s look at a checklist of what your articles need, regardless of length, in order to succeed as content marketing. We’ve found that the best way to build a checklist that works for you is to identify the questions you must answer before you put pencil to paper — or fingertips to tapping.

Who Am I Trying to Reach?

Your first checklist item should focus on who you are trying to reach. You may be pro or con when it comes to the value of creating prospect personae, but they are an excellent way to draw a clear picture of who your target audience is. If you have another approach you prefer, that’s fine. Just as long as your profile includes data points on your prospects’ professional lives, as well as demographic information. Here are a few examples. The data points that are relevant to your marketing will vary.

Professional Profile

  • Title
  • Role
  • Department
  • Company size
  • Location

Demographic Profile

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Level of education

What Is My Prospect’s Motivation?

Once you have a picture of who your prospect is, you need to understand what is driving them to seek the change that you could potentially provide. In other words, what are their pain points around this problem?

The key here is to dive into their pain points as deeply as possible. Your goal should be to not only know what their pain points are, but to understand why they are pain points, in the first place.

In most cases, that will require calculating what the value of solving the problem is to the prospect and his or her organization. That can help you determine your pricing and their sense of urgency.

As critically, you’ll want to identify what the costs will be of doing nothing. (That is often your biggest competitor, rather than another solution provider.)

As you identify the most critical benefits to your prospect, you may find your content beginning to take shape. Those benefits — or language alluding to them — are often best used as sub-headings in your article.

What Is My Goal for This Page?

Your goal is always the same: Get the prospect to take action.

What that action is will depend on all of the data we covered above, as well as where in the buying cycle your prospect is. That last piece will likely determine the nature of your offer: Asking someone who is just beginning their research to agree to an in-person meeting is likely a non-starter, while a prospect who is putting together her short list will be much more open to the idea.

What’s Next?

Regardless of the action you seek, be sure you are thinking a few moves ahead, as a good chess players does. Once they’ve taken this action, what action would you like them to take next? What content can help you move your prospects in that direction?

With luck, your pre-writing checklist can help you not only with the content piece in front of you, but with fitting what you create into a broader content library and content marketing strategy.

Dog’s-Eye View: Marketing Thinking That’s Outside of the ‘Dog Box’, which has out-of-the- box marketing thinking that relies on proven methods, should inspire copy mavens to resist the boring, tried-and-true benefit recitals and think about better ways (“narratives”) to capture the attention of dog lovers and sell them stuff. It’s about building relationships.

[Editor’s note: Peter Rosenwald may be pulling our legs saying that his dog, Jordan, wrote this post.]

My name is Jordan, and I’ll bet you didn’t know that in England, when you’ve been naughty, you are sent to the “dog box.” (It’s really your usual sleeping spot in the household. But your person says, “Stop that barking, or you’re going to the dog box!” So I’ve been there a lot.)

marketing thinking from Jordan
Jordan | Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

But now my person, Peter Rosenwald, is a big fan of, which he says has lots of seemingly out-of-the- box marketing ideas that rely on proven methods — but should inspire copy mavens to resist the boring, tried-and-true benefit recitals and think about better ways (I think they are called “narratives”) to capture the attention of dog lovers and sell them lots of stuff. As the gurus keep saying, it’s all about building relationships. We dogs can be very good at that.

Chet Womach is the human personality behind DogTrainingSecret and he is the one writing to you or speaking on the promotional videos. He comes over as such a nice guy, with all of the same dog training problems as his clients and prospects, that you can’t resist his almost daily come-ons.

For a dog training masterclass, Womach sends you a “ONE-HOUR WARNING,” with just a bit of a threat:

“Now for some bad news …
There are more people registered for this
class than the system can actually hold.
… So please get there a few minutes early
to avoid losing your seat.”

My person says that’s one of the best calls to action he has ever seen. I think it might have been better if Womach offered a bonus of free dog biscuits. But what do I know? I know that, like our owners (we actually own them as much as they own us), we have foibles that might be smoothed out with a good fix.

That’s why Womach rolls over the idea of a “most beautiful” competition, and completely involves the prospect when he creates a “Caught In The Act” VIDEO CONTEST” to “Show me your dog’s WORST behavior … any habit you can’t break!!! … And you’ll be automatically entered to win 1 of 3 GRAND PRIZES: Plus, be entered to win 1 of 7 FREE COPIES of my soon-to-be-released new dog training program.”

I’m sure my race of canines, especially the ones whose owners aren’t too embarrassed to enter them in a “worst behavior” contest, could do with some behavior modification. This contest ought to generate very qualified leads, while everyone is having a good bark. That “soon-to-be-released” new dog training program is what Womach is softly selling. Who would want to pass up the idea of improving his best friend?

Womach is always telling us dogs simple stories we can relate to. For example, after explaining to my person how wonderful it is to bond with your dog, he admits that “You’ve probably seen your dog get so hyper that he goes deaf to your commands … You tell him to “sit” or “stay,” but he doesn’t listen … He just goes about his business.”

The story continues, and then there is the part I like best. Because it is about Greeley, a Golden retriever just like me. “But if a small animal races by,” Womach tells us, “Greeley forgets his self-control and goes on a wild chase. Yelling ‘wait, stop!’ had zero effect on him.” He’ll end up in the dog box, for sure.

The owners of the dogs I hang out with fully understand this — and having become sufficiently involved in the narrative, they can’t resist a classic “no obligation, FREE trial offer with a hefty $37.95 monthly open-ended subscription.” If it works for them, I hope this won’t create any substance abuse problems.

marketing thinking about medicament

My person says that, like all good medicament ads, there has to be a big promise. And what could be better than Womach assuring us:

“Today, my friend can take Greeley anywhere and feel at ease around each other. If you’d like your dog to get in touch with his calmer side and develop self-control, Click Here Now.

Sometimes, these messages can be really way OOB (Out-of-Box) but you can’t argue that, however unusual, they are certainly eye-catching.

marketing thinking about 'Playing God'

I’ve often mused about the idea of playing God, and it sounds like fun. Womach must have thought so, too. Because, in addition to the video, he goes on and on and on like a possessed preacher promising Dog Heaven on Earth — and winding up, after very long copy, with a very personal promise:

And even though you’re getting a total package valued at $194 for just $37 … I’m still willing to let you have it all RISK FREE for the next 60 days, with my generous 100% money back guarantee.

marketing thinking about a free trial

I’m confident that “Socialization Secret” is going to make a significant difference in your dog’s life, transforming him into a happier, more relaxed, more confident companion in as little as 2 weeks.

Actually, while I know that my person really admires this imaginative promotional magic and he says he learns a lot from how Womach finds new ways to use tested DM methods, I have to admit that I find it all a bit too complicated and long-winded. But perhaps that’s because, at heart, I treasure what’s disparagingly called “a dog’s life” — playing with my toys, sleeping, eating, and being adored.

Please get your dog out of the dog box. Ask him/her what he/she thinks about all of this, and let me know. Barking preferred.

How Passion Projects and Cause Marketing Can Power Your Marketing

Cause marketing can tie passion and product together and help you connect with your target audience on an emotional level.

It’s not news that your marketing can’t be all about you. To borrow a pop culture expression, your prospects just aren’t that into you. They’re into what you can do for them.

But once they’ve established that what you can do for them will address the problem they’re trying to solve, your prospects will want to know what kind of company you are and what it’s like to work with you.

Tie Passion and Product Together

A great way to do this is to get behind a cause that ties into your business mission. One of my favorite examples of this is Honda’s support for Project Drive-In, which is an effort to save the remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.

It’s a fun project, it’s as close to controversy-free as can be imagined, and its automative focus ties in with Honda’s business.

“Sure,” you might be saying. “Easy for Honda. Cars and drive-ins are fun and interesting. Who wouldn’t love that?” That’s a fairly common refrain from those of us in less exciting businesses, particularly in the B2B world. There is, after all, no “Project Fax Machine” to save the last beeping, whirring, thermal-paper spitting wonders of the 1980s.

So anyone marketing copiers may have a little more work to do, but consider the approach of Skody Scot & Company. It’s an accounting firm. Not too sexy, right?

‘Boring’ Industry Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring Marketing

Boring or not, Scody Scot is so passionate about its mission to help non-profits manage their financial reporting — it works exclusively with non-profits — that it provides its services free to any non-profit with annual revenues below $50,000.

Some of those firms are non-profits that are just getting started. Some will grow and eventually become clients. Others are simply small operations that will never grow — and they’ll never provide revenue.

What they do provide, though, is arguably more important: a concrete demonstration of Skody Scot & Company’s commitment to its mission of helping non-profit organizations.

Adding Cause Marketing to Your Marketing Mix

The trick for marketers is to find a cause that you and your team are passionate about, identify how it aligns with your message, and how you can support that cause. It may be a very personal approach, like that taken by Skody Scot, or a much more public effort, like Honda’s.

These kind of passion projects provide the perfect counterpoint to parts of your marketing that attract your target audience with a focus on how you can help them. By also demonstrating how deeply you believe in your work, you can deepen the emotional connection between you and your audience.

And if you really, really, really can’t find a cause to align your business with, it’s not because you’re in a “boring” industry. Chances are, you have a brand and positioning issue to solve before you can tackle you marketing questions.

Healthcare Marketing Messaging: Science Is a Cornerstone of Health

As lawmakers in California debated tightening vaccination requirements for schoolchildren, a protestor threw a menstrual cup with red liquid across the Senate chamber. Although that person’s goal was to disrupt a vote on the bill, it became law. The anti-vax movement is a sign of a larger issue facing healthcare.

In September, as lawmakers in California debated a proposed new law to tighten vaccination requirements for schoolchildren, a protestor threw a menstrual cup with red liquid across the Senate chamber. Although that person’s goal was to disrupt a vote on the bill, it was passed and signed into law. The anti-vaccine movement is one sign of a larger issue facing healthcare — growing public mistrust of science. This wave of doubt should concern all who work in healthcare.

Science is foundational to healthcare.

Yes, compassion in healthcare is essential. Yes, health insurance is an important mechanism to provide access. And yes, the cost of care will continue to challenge state and federal budgets. But what is the future of healthcare, if we turn away from science?

September also marks the annual Rally for Medical Research, an event where scientists from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to increase funding for the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Each year, the NIH invests nearly $40 billion in the pursuit of basic, translational, and applied science through grants to more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and research centers. Lives are saved, improved, and extended with the scientific knowledge developed by this financial support.

What Healthcare Marketers Need to Ask Patients and Why

When we show up to a doctor’s office or hospital as patients, we expect there to be a treatment for whatever ails us. It’s easy to forget that today’s commonplace treatments were developed by the application of science to the human condition. So when we begin accusing pediatricians of harming children with vaccines, or denying that climate change is real, or mocking the science that tells us that too many chemicals are entering our water and food sources — we are harming ourselves. The emotional satisfaction we get from snarkiness is short-lived, but its implications for science and medicine are much longer. Will politicians continue to support scientific investment, if a growing segment of our population doubts its validity?

No one is suggesting that we should have blind faith in science and medicine. There is a need for healthy skepticism in all things. Research is fundamentally a way of challenging conventional wisdom, but is based on a process that physicist Richard Feynman once described as “a way of not fooling ourselves.” The scientific process — based on repeatability by different teams with a peer-review process — is the way to differentiate between what we believe to be true and what is demonstrably true.

Today’s polarization is driven by many factors — economic, political, and belief systems. In healthcare, clashes over health insurance, access to care, and its cost, pale in importance to a more fundamental disturbing trend: Do we still believe in science? The treatments that will cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and reverse heart disease will depend on our answer.

The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally.

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally. Or we didn’t experience the results firsthand that a customer claims to have experienced from a company’s products or services.

So can we really trust or should we believe what others “report” to us? The answer to this is widely debated on Facebook and news stations as we face all of the “fake” news we get daily, and as we become more aware that so much of what we see and hear is just that: fake. We are finally being made aware of the fact that many propogandists will overlay someone’s face on another person’s video image to “fake” that someone in the public eye said something harming that, in most cases ,they never did. Scary. We are also learning that so much of the posts we see on social media — Facebook, especially — were created by propogandists and posted to our accounts because of the demographic profile Facebook created from our past posts and those of the “friends” connected to us. We’re really starting to get it, whether we face it or not.

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received. As consumers are starting to watch the “news” and read social media with a different lens than before, we need to look at how that new lens affects their vision for our marketing messages. Here’s just two examples.


These have been the foundation of marketing since the beginning of time. They’re claims from one customer at a time about how products or services changed their worlds. We’ve used them, believing prospects will believe them if we attach them to a real person. Perhaps not so much anymore. Celebrity endorsements have been decreasing in influence rapidly for the past few years. We all know celebrities can be bought for the public appeal of their personal image, and that many are willing to put their mouth when the money is, and so these appeals don’t influence our purchasing choices like they used to. The same is holding true for ordinary people testimonials. Especially as more brands offer to reward us for posting reviews about them.

A testimonial is only true for the person speaking, and at the time they wrote the testimonial. Their truth may not apply to someone else, and it may not be true anymore, due to subsequent experiences with the brand involved. Testimonials can also backfire, as the prospects will expect to be just as delighted as those customers they believed, and the reality is that this is not likely the way it will go. Ever. As all customers’ needs, expectations and experiences are as different as the individual using the product or service. We see and judge life’s experiences through lenses of our experiences, culture, expectations, social situations, life’s challenges, and so much more.

Product Claims

Time to drop the hype. We’re so used to making self-proclaimed endorsements of our competitive advantages, product quality, results generated, and so much more. If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated. We marketers need to start writing more like journalists were trained to write decades ago, before they cared more about ratings than news or truth. When I attended to journalism school as an undergraduate, our work was thrown out if we used adjectives or made suggestions that were not attributed to quotable sources. This needs to become the new norm for marketers, many of whom were raised to use big words, project big claims, and spark curiosity, and then explain later.

Many consumers today have become jaded, skeptical, and cautious to trust, and for good reason. They have been bombarded with “fake news,” “fake promises,” fake claims,” and more “fake” truths. Generation Xers, Millennials, and the up-and-coming generations are learning not to believe more than believe. There are a lot of reasons for them not to trust what they hear or see. TV and digital and print news can be manipulated with Photoshop and other special effect tools. Video and comments from spokespeople can easily be taken out of context and, in reality, we are learning to expect that they are more often than not.

What Marketers Can Do About Truth

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements. Apple’s stores are a great example of how this can be done. The atmosphere is open and engaging, not stiff and overwhelming with merchandise and sales signs popping out in front of you at every corner. They simply ask how they can help, educate you about their technology and your options, and let you explore and experience the products for as long you want to, in an engaging, no hype, no hard-sell setting.

In short, “truth” is not in the written word or video snippets, but in the actual experience of each customer. Creating personal realities that are meaningful and relevant should be every marketing team’s top goal.