Stimulating Action With Color

There is growing scientific evidence of how the brain processes color and how color impacts our feelings and how we respond. Over the years, some direct marketers have wondered about color’s contribution to the overall success of direct mail. However, color usually isn’t high on the list of test priorities. But you don’t have to go with your gut, considering what research

There is growing scientific evidence of how the brain processes color and how color impacts our feelings and how we respond. Over the years, some direct marketers have wondered about color’s contribution to the overall success of direct mail. However, color usually isn’t high on the list of test priorities. And unless you have great flexibility to test colors, most direct marketers simply go with the colors they feel will work best. But you don’t have to go with your gut, considering what research is telling us.

Today I’ll share with you recent research from university studies, along with The Theory of Colours by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1810.

Goethe published one of the first color wheels and shared psychological impact. His theories are still widely used:

  • Red conveys gravity and dignity.
  • Yellow connotes brightness and soft excitement, yet noble.
  • Blue is at odds with itself, being both exciting and retreating.
  • Green is reassuring.

So how do these 200-year-old conclusions stack up against recent research that expands into more colors? A 2014 study of logos by the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests additional consideration:

  • Blue logos invoked feelings of confidence, success and reliability.
  • Green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability.
  • Purple logos invoked femininity, glamor and charm.
  • Pink logos gave the perception of youth, imagination and fashion.
  • Yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity.
  • Red logos brought feelings of expertise and self-assurance.

Other recent studies from the University of British Columbia in 2009 and Dartmouth College in 2011 make these observations:

  • People have emotional responses to color, and linking color responses to our brain’s neural processes. The brain is most triggered by red, then green, then blue.
  • Red can make people’s work more accurate. Blue can make people more creative.
  • People tested with red, blue or neutral backgrounds on computer screens found red to be more effective for recall and attention to detail. Blue was better for creating imagination.
  • If you seek “avoidance” action (for example, toothpaste for cavity prevention), studies show red to have greater appeal. Conversely, if you seek “positive” action (for example, “tooth whitening”) then blue holds more appeal.
  • Across cultures, red represents “no.” It’s a common emotional association that is innate. A study involving monkeys (who don’t process the meaning of a red stop sign) found that the animals avoided humans who wore red.
  • Red is also credited with helping people focus.
  • Red is a color of stimulation.
  • Blue is more relaxing and calming.

Remember, though, when considering colors: You must consider context. The visual impact of words or images in isolated environments can be different than when you are trying to connect a user to a brand, website or direct mail package.

Bottom line: As you prepare your next direct mail package, print ad, website, landing pages or video background, consider your environment and desired reaction from your prospective customers. Use colors that can stimulate, then calm, your prospective customer’s minds.

3 Ways to Use the Spell of FOMO in Copywriting

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls, and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used, you can write copy and create messaging to leverage this basic human fear.

The term FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The acronym may be new, but classically trained direct mail copywriters have recognized the power of the fear of missing out for generations. We can use it in our copy to effectively sell because of how our brains are wired.

With mobile technology today, it is genuinely possible to become addicted to social networks because of the fear of missing out. It’s now effortless to compare and evaluate our own lives against that of our friends.

A survey last year of social media users by MyLife.com and reported by Mashable suggests:

  • 51 percent visit or log on to social networking sites more frequently now than two years earlier.
  • The average person manages 3.1 email addresses (up from 2.6 a year earlier).
  • 27 percent check their social networks as soon as they wake up.
  • 42 percent have multiple social networking accounts (61 percent for those age 18 to 34).
  • 56 percent are afraid of missing something such as an event, news or an important status update if they don’t keep an eye on social networks.

These stats suggest you’re more likely than not to be in the spell of FOMO.

But the reality is this: We’re all wired to have basic fear. And without taking inappropriate advantage of your prospective customers, there are ways you can appeal to this part of the brain—the amygdala—with messaging to make your sales programs more effective. Here are three uses with FOMO in mind as you write copy and create message positioning:

  • First to Know: If you fear missing out, you must surely want to be the first to know of an important development, new product or news. And, when you’re first to know, you’re most eager to tell others you’re first to know, and pass it along (to your benefit).
  • Inside Story: People like to have the inside scoop combined with effective storytelling. Combine the concepts of revealing your inside story with a unique selling proposition, or positioning, and the sum is greater than its parts.
  • Limited Time: When there is a limited time a product is available, it intensifies desire to acquire it now. The challenge today, however, is that it’s easy for customers to check out competition and discover that limited time appeal has its limits.

These uses also create urgency in your copy. Writing copy and messaging based on this intense human primal fear will drive higher response. There can be no question that the spell of FOMO is real and a part of your customer’s minds.

Copywriting: Stir Emotion, Calm the Mind

Stimulate. Calm. In the direct marketing world, these are two related, but contrasting messaging and copywriting concepts that every marketer and copywriter should master. Why? Because a sure-fire way to get attention from prospective customers is by stimulating emotion. But you don’t want to stimulate emotion and drop the ball there

Stimulate. Calm.

In the direct marketing world, these are two related, but contrasting messaging and copywriting concepts that every marketer and copywriter should master. Why? Because a sure-fire way to get attention from prospective customers is by stimulating emotion. But you don’t want to stimulate emotion and drop the ball there. You must then immediately calm the mind so your prospect’s fears are relieved, allowing them to become engaged with your message, so they will pause long enough for you to introduce them to your solution.

In my most recent column, “Leveraging Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Copywriting,” I described how fear paralyzes thinking because it’s an instinctive response from the amygdala, our lizard brain.

But because fear is so overwhelming as a natural response, it shuts off the thinking part of the brain. So while, as a copywriter, you want to stimulate emotion by tapping into fear, uncertainty and doubt, you need to quickly calm the mind so decision-making is unblocked. And you can do that by dangling a carrot in front of your audience to moderate their mood.

Search the Web for “how do you calm the mind” and you’ll get thousands of websites with meditation advice. While you don’t want to steer prospects to meditate—at least in the stereotypical way you think of meditation—you do want your prospect to be calmed enough to focus on your message.

To more fully grasp the connection between stimulating emotion and the need to calm the mind, it may be helpful to take a deeper dive into how our brains respond to stimuli. Your brain is filled with neurotransmitters, and knowing the signals they transmit will help you better understand how the brain functions. For marketers, it’s important that you know how to use these signals to strengthen your messaging.

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brains and bodies. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.

There are two kinds of neurotransmitters: inhibitory and excitatory. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain. Inhibitory neurotransmitters calm the brain and help create balance.

So as a direct marketer, after stimulating emotion you must quickly balance the mood. When you over-stimulate, the inhibitory neurotransmitters can be depleted and instead of focusing on your solution, you leave your prospect focusing on their fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Those inhibitory neurotransmitters—those brain chemicals—include:

  • Serotonin, which is necessary for a stable mood and to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter firing in the brain.
  • Gaba helps to calm and relax us, by balancing stimulation over-firing.
  • Dopamine is a special neurotransmitter because it is considered to be both excitatory and inhibitory. It’s very complex. When it spikes, it can motivate and give a person pleasure. When elevated or low, it can cause focus issues such as not remembering what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it (obviously, not something marketers want to happen when reading our copy).

With a cocktail of brain chemicals swirling around in your prospect’s mind, here are a few ways you can calm your prospect’s mind after stimulating their emotion:

  1. Announce a new discovery
  2. Introduce a solution
  3. Assure with a promise
  4. Promise a reward
  5. Brighten the mood of the message to evoke pleasant memory
  6. Introduce new learning

Stimulate. Calm. With these two initial steps, you’ve grabbed attention and have moderated mood so your prospect desires to hear and read more about you.

Why and How to Let Prospects ‘Pick Your Brain’ Online

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources. Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources.

Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

Is It Stupid to Give Away Your Best Secrets?
“What kind of a business owner would be so stupid as to give away a company secret?” asks business owner Jerry X. Shea. He says prospective buyers constantly ask him how he does what he does.

“My answer … ‘that is why you are paying us to do it, because others can’t,'” says Shea.

“In 1992, I purchased a six-year-old screen printing/embroidery company,” says Shea. “We developed a way to print a four-color process on a T-shirt, and as a result I knew we would get the 10,000-shirt job as other shops in the area could not do it. Now why would I want to post on the Internet what it was we did get that end result?”

Because the Internet is an insurance policy on prospects finding what they need—with or without your help. If they want to do it themselves, they’ll find out how.

Businesses have always created and defended competitive advantages. Today, the Internet speeds-up the spread of information and exposes advantages faster. Bottom line: It’s smart to rely less on proprietary knowledge (to drive success).

The DIY Myth and the Damage It Inflicts
“Giving prospects my best advice for free will help them to do it without me.”

Not always. Here’s why believing this can hurt you.

Don’t confuse customers qualifying you with what you perceive as their purchase intent.

The act of seeking out knowledge does not always translate to customers’ wanting to do it on their own. Even in cases where it does “signal” a customer’s desire to do-it-themselves, what they want may change.

You want to be there when it changes.

Who will be there when customers change their minds? Who will they turn to when switching from, “Oh, heck, I can do that” to “Oh my, that didn’t work quite like I expected” or “Oh my. I had no idea it was that complicated.”

You should be there. You can also structure the (free) knowledge to foster prospects’ change in mindset.

Beware. Avoid the following:

  1. Misinterpreting customers intent to buy. Don’t presume customers want to do (themselves) what you want to be paid for. They may be qualifying you or the challenge they face.
  2. Over-valuing your knowledge. Avoid believing what you know is more valuable than what your knowledge DOES for clients.

Effective Content Helps You Filter Leads
Should every interaction have a financial return? Of course not. However, your time is valuable and in limited supply. Let content do the heavy lifting for you. Let blogs, white papers, video tutorials nurture prospects toward or away from buying.

Effective content marketing on YouTube, blogs or LinkedIn is all about using words to let customers:

  • get confident in their buying decision and/or ability to buy (at all)
  • self-select themselves as leads to be nurtured
  • change their mind and not do-it-themselves—returning to a trusted adviser (you)

Success is not determined by how much knowledge a business gives away. Your success is based on the material effect your advice and knowledge have on prospects.

We cannot afford to say no when customers ask for free advice. Because the act of asking does not always signal a desire to do-it-themselves. Plus, even if they are in “DIY mode” they may try, fail and come back to you—the clear, proven authority.

In my business I try to remind myself daily: Few people are willing to pay for my knowledge … but many are willing to pay for what my knowledge will DO for them. My knowledge isn’t my competitive weapon; my higher level of service is.

“The world does not pay men for that which they know. It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do.” —Napoleon Hill

Two Summer Must Dos: Play and Play On!

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

Nowadays, there are serious adult-level articles, books and TED talks encouraging us to play. Experts from the fields of research, creativity, management, innovation, medical, education and human relations all want us to set up play dates. They want us to take play seriously. They remind us how important it is to unplug and unwind. To detach. To disconnect. To pause and be. To give our multifunctioning, always-on brains a rest. These experts nudge us a step further and call play a necessity. A must do for long-term vitality, for peak performance. Samuel Johnson believed, “All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.”

We don’t quite believe it. Or, we believe it but we think it’s for everyone else but us. Or we nod and agree and think yes, it is valuable for us, but we just can’t get to it right now … and then right now becomes three months from now which becomes six months from now … which becomes well, like never, not this year!

Play
Perhaps we need a permission slip … a permission slip not to read or listen or intellectualize about play but to actually play. To catch up with our souls, to feed our imaginations, to simply rest and be. DO IT! Mark some days off to be totally off. Soon. This month! Then do something not related to business at all. Whatever that brings you joy. Do it all slowly. Let the work brain rest. No business books, articles, videos. Nap. Stroll. Wander. Daydream. Journal. Paint. The “whatever” does not matter. What matters is actually doing it. And soon matters. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

We must develop this talent so that we will have the capacity to …

Play On!
Our business lives are demanding. Brand leaders must be on their A games day in and day out. Without recharging our batteries, we may get winded … or worse … we may lose our passion. There comes a time when we might need a reminder to keep in the game, to play on. Missy Park, Founder of Title Nine, knows the value of staying in the game. Take a peek at the letter of encouragement she recently shared with her customers:

So, before this summer wraps up, give yourself a gift: take some time to play. There’ll be plenty of time to play on soon enough!

Is Your Customer Service Killing Customer Loyalty?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time, money, energy and brain power designing and building programs that will drive inquiries, close sales or increase brand engagement. And once a sale is secured, we move into loyalty mode—lovingly nurturing that customer to buy more and buy more often in order to derive a long term revenue stream and ROI for the marketing investment. … So what the hell is wrong with the customer service folks?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time, money, energy and brain power designing and building programs that will drive inquiries, close sales or increase brand engagement.

And once a sale is secured, we move into loyalty mode, lovingly nurturing that customer to buy more and buy more often in order to derive a long term revenue stream and ROI for the marketing investment.

So what the hell is wrong with the customer service folks?

Didn’t they get the memo that says, “Our customers are those people who make sure you get your paycheck. So let’s treat them with respect, concern and understanding. Because if we do, they’ll keep buying from us again, and again and again.”?

Apparently, the customer service folks at Dell never got the memo—and shame on them, because they’ve now lost my business for life.

Granted, I run a smaller agency and my lack of future purchases will not put Dell out of business. But I think there’s a big lesson that many companies can learn from my experience, and that’s to take a moment to really examine what goes on inside these departments.

For the record, we’ve been purchasing Dell products for well over 10 years now. Laptops, towers, printers, screens … you name it. My IT guy likes the ease of ordering online and the ability to carefully customize each of our purchases for the user.

So when we recently did a little expansion by hiring a new employee, we turned once again to Dell for a new desktop PC. Little did we know it would be the last transaction we’d ever make with them—and all because of how we were treated when something went wrong with the order. Here’s a quick factual summary:

  • Friday, Aug. 24: Order placed online.
  • Monday, Aug. 27: Order ships.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 4: According to the FedEx tracking number, the order was delivered and signed for—unfortunately, FedEx delivered it to the wrong company at the wrong address!
  • Thursday, Sept. 6: FedEx reroutes package to us. It arrives and appears to have been opened and resealed. Since this is a PC, I don’t want an opened box, so we try to refuse the delivery. FedEx persists and requires us to contact their customer service to arrange a return to sender.
  • Monday, Sept 10: FedEx picks up tower.
  • Monday, Sept 10: Alert Dell; they promise to “expedite” a replacement order.
  • Friday, Sept 14: Dell informs us the PC is still “being built.”

I must interrupt the facts to say “Wha–?” When we ordered the first time, it took them 2 days to build it. But when we ordered our replacement, it’s now taking more than 5 days to build the same computer? It only gets better …

  • Monday, Sept. 17: Dells says, “Still building.”

What on earth are they building for us? We try to reach a “customer care” rep. (BTW, I HATE that term. I wish organizations would call a spade a spade— it’s plain old customer service. Or perhaps since “service” doesn’t seem to be part of the equation, that’s why they changed it. So they “care” but they cannot “service”?)

Net-net, phone numbers we are provided don’t work. (Ring, ring, ring… apparently Dell hasn’t heard of that new-fangled technology called voicemail.) Emails go unanswered, emails to the supervisor bounce back as “out of the office.” Did I mention my new employee is twiddling thumbs doing idle work as she can only get so much done on her smart phone?

  • Tuesday, Sept. 18: Dell emails us saying the order will now be “escalated” and we’ll be kept aware of the status.

Okay Dell. It’s been 25 days since I placed my order and there is still no confirmed delivery date is sight. I give up. I cancel the order and buy from a local retailer.

No apologies from Dell to try and retain my business. No offers on a future purchase. Nothing. Nada. Apparently Dell’s customer care folks forgot that those marketing millions spent on driving in leads, nurturing relationships and transacting sales have all been an investment in their job security.

Not only did Dell blow it, but I won’t even attempt to make another purchase from them—ever.

As a customer, I get infuriated just thinking about this incident. As a marketer, I cringe.

If you are responsible for marketing in your organization, do you spend any time at all investigating what goes on in “customer care”? You should—because it may be the reason you’re not making your marketing and sales goals.

Making Your Video Go Viral

Having your video go viral is every direct marketer’s dream. Imagine your video sales message, reaching your best prospects with them loving it and sharing it with their tribes. Then friends of friends share it, and within days you have hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions of views. You sell a boatload of products and you’re hearing ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching

Having your video go viral is every direct marketer’s dream. Imagine your video sales message, reaching your best prospects with them loving it and sharing it with their tribes. Then friends of friends share it, and within days you have hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions of views. You sell a boatload of products and you’re hearing ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching all the way to the bank. Well, here are five ideas about creating videos that will be watched and perhaps shared.

But first, let’s make this very clear (and you already know this even if the boss or client doesn’t get it):

You can’t MAKE your video go viral.

Only the audience will decide if your video is worthy enough to go viral. For the most part, it’s out of your control.

So clear your brain of this fantasy and come back to reality. You may have to clear the boss’s brain or your client’s brain, too. Your odds of getting struck by lightning may be higher than having your video watched by the masses.

But there are two things you can do to encourage more people to watch your video, and maybe, just maybe, it will be a success for you on a down to earth scale.

Part one, discussed in today’s video, revolves around how you stimulate emotion for your online video, along with introducing you to the amygdala (a-mig’-de-lah)—the lizard brain.

Part two, in our next blog, revolves around how you influence the opportunity for your video to go viral through shared, paid and earned media, to create a ripple effect for distribution of your online video.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Addendum to our last blog about video viewing on tablets:
The recently released “Adobe 2012 Mobile Consumer” report reveals a bit about the preferred activity of U.S. Tablet users by age. The percentages below reflect the percentage that cites “view videos” as the “most common tablet activity.”

Age 18-29 5.4%
Age 30-49 6.4%
Age 50-64 14.3%

It’s clear that an older age demographic—Baby Boomers, who grew up with television—use their tablets to watch online video at a much higher rate than people under the age of 50. And it’s clear, too, that as consumers discover the ease of video viewing on tablets, more and more will be there to watch your video, too.