Marketing tip #2 – The secret ingredient to storytelling

Marketing tip #2
Q: What does every story need to be successful?
A: An attentive listener.
That means you must grab the attention of the audience in an unexpected manner, through a visual cue. Once that is accomplished you have their attention and permission tell the most compelling story you can.


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Marketing tip #7 – You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Ken Kesey used to say, “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”  He would say this to his band of Merry Pranksters with the understanding that you can’t be “on the bus” and not fully engaged in everything that happens on the journey and you can’t be “off the bus” and engaged in the activities that are taking place on the journey.  You’re either in 100% or you’re out. You can’t have it both ways.

So how does this relate to marketing? Marketing is a fast game, it’s never static and it takes individuals who are constantly engaged with consumers and their behaviors. For us to stay proactive in our efforts  we need to always be on our toes, not only looking at current message consumption behaviors, but also new methods and technologies associated with targeting the fast growing “digital tribalism” that exists today.

As experts in our field it’s our job to stay engage 100% in what’s happening around us. Involved in the journey and “on the bus.” Staying static with marketing/messaging tactics and mediums because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it anymore. If you’re not challenging yourself or your team to go to the extremes of what’s possible then you’re “off the bus” and not fully engaged. Sure, you can maintain specific traditional marketing tactics that are effective, but there’s a whole new crop of consumers coming into their own. How do you plan on reaching these people? A 14 year old today is consuming their messaging in a way that most of us can’t comprehend. This 14 year old will be 18 in four years and will be a target demographic for services such as banking, healthcare, insurance, automobiles, real estate, recreation, travel…you name it and they’ll be a target demographic. If you think this group will consume the majority of their messaging through newsprint, broadcast media, radio and old forms of social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn you are sadly mistaken.

The new crop of consumers are extremely wise when it comes to filtering out clutter. Old school marketing and advertising tactics simply don’t work with this demographic. Just as we need to be engaged with the consumer, the consumer wants to be hyper-engaged with their brands of choice. They consider themselves stakeholders in the brand and they demand two way conversations. That’s what you need to deliver to the consumer.

Here is a short list of basic recommendations where businesses (or us folks that are the marketing experts responsible for these businesses) need to be headed to maintain relevancy and stay ahead of the curve:
Content Creation
Content Marketing
Mobile Marketing
Trend Targeting
Trend Branding
Behavioral Targeting

If any or all of these terms are foreign to you then it’s time to get re-engaged in your marketing efforts and consumer behavior studies. The bus is pulling out of the parking lot. Are you on the bus or off the bus?




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Marketing tip #1 – Keep em hanging. The art of a great story.

It’s the basic foundation that all marketing is build upon. Understanding that a great story is the best vehicle to command attention and drive message awareness. If that’s the case, why do so many marketing professionals fail miserably at story telling? In a nutshell, they’re too eager to get to the punch line, the happy ending or in our world what we like to call the “big payoff.” In other words, they are too busy selling and not focused on telling a proper story.

Telling a story is easy. Telling a great story that leaves the audience captivated is a craft that takes time, dedication and pure talent to master. All great stories contain certain elements that draw the reader in. Think of the great characters in literature – Steinbeck’s Tom Joad, Abby’s Hayduke or Nichols’ Joe Mondragon. These characters are filled with complex traits, each facing internal struggles, self doubt, heartache, joy, uncertainty, defeat and success. What makes these characters come alive is that they are portrayed as humans. They aren’t perfect, they don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes things don’t go their way. The audience emotionally connects with these things, they’ve been there, they’ve felt that way and have experienced these same emotions and struggles. When presented with this type of a story they want to stick with it and invest their time into finding out what happens in the end. Your audience is willing to make it to the “big payoff” but they want to earn it. They deserve something with substance, not a sales pitch.

So, the next time you’re working out concepts for that new campaign, keep the story in mind. Here are a few elements that any story must contain to be captivating: Tension, drama, emotion, connection, anxiety, self-doubt, internal struggle, conflict, joy, defeat and success. How you incorporate these things into your work is the difference between telling a good story and a great story.

And sometimes…the best stories told are the ones that can convey all of these things without saying a single word. That’s a brand that has confidence in who it is.

Now get out there and start telling great stories.


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Marketing tip #7 – A tip for young creatives

I get asked daily by young creatives how they can break into the game of marketing/branding on a large scale level and start creating a name for themselves and begin working on regional, national and international projects.

Here’s my answer:

If you are a young designer, copywriter or creative wanting to make it in the big leagues, the first thing you absolutely must do is quit acting like an hourly employee. Quite whining about your work load, long hours, unrealistic deadlines, not being able to work on the “fun” projects etc. This is the game you signed up for and if you can’t handle it then hit the door. This mentality will not get you where you want to go. Sure, you may be an hourly employee now, but if you start acting, thinking and most importantly working like a dedicated and seasoned creative, you will get there. You must also let go of your ego, accept the fact that you are still wet behind the ears and become a sponge to all the amazing people that are working around you and soak up everything you can.  It’s all in your attitude. Start kicking butt everyday and going above and beyond without complaint. Soon everyone from the account executives to the senior creatives and Principal will start to take notice and good things will happen in an exponential way.

If, for some reason you’re busting your ass and becoming a major player on the team but not getting recognized for your effort, then it’s time to look for new opportunities. As my dad used to say, “If you ain’t learnin or earnin…it’s time to move on.”

Good luck out there. Now get motivated and go get some.


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Marketing tip #2 – think simple and be amazing

Wanna blow your customers minds? Here’s the most overlooked but simplest marketing tactic you can do to beat your competition…Have a real person answer the phone when it rings. It’s that simple. Have someone pick up the phone and say, “Hello, thanks for calling ABC company, it’s a great day. My name is (insert actual name here). How can I be of service to you?”

I just tried to secret shop a competitor and was stuck in a vortex of voice mail hell and after 3+ minutes of pushing numbers then listening to prompts and pushing more numbers I was rewarded by being disconnected without ever talking to a live person. I sat there thinking “What if I was a real customer looking for real information?” Then I smiled to myself and thought, “This is great, these people have no concept of Customer Service 101!”

If you think your business is too big to add this personal touch, I would challenge you to come up with a solution to make it happen.

Give it a try and thank me later.


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Marketing tip #2 – Nobody cares about your business

It’s true. We don’t want to believe it. We do everything possible to trick our minds into thinking that it isn’t reality but in fact, at the end of the day, the sad truth is that people just don’t care about your business. There. I said it and  you know what? It doesn’t bother me at all to tell you this. They. Don’t. Care.

Unless someone is currently engaged in the sales cycle of your business, product or service, you are not the first thing they think about when they wake in the morning and the last thing they think of when they go to bed. It just doesn’t happen.

So, how do you get people to think about your business when they aren’t currently looking for your product or service? Here’s a hint…advertising isn’t the answer. There’s no way general advertising will reach through the daily cognitive congestion that an average individual must sort through. Example: Unless I’m actively looking for a specific car that’s on your car lot, I could give a rats banana about your cars, your awesome financing deals, how many miles per gallon your cars get, how amazing your sales staff is, what type of service certifications you have and how comfy and nice your waiting rooms are, or that you’re #1 at anything. I just don’t care. I’ve got more important things to think about.

Here’s what people do care about and here’s what makes people think about your business on a daily basis: It’s about the things you do that have absolutely nothing to do with selling  a product or service. Toms could just sell shoes. No biggie right? Millions of people buy shoes. It happens every day. However, it’s the story behind Toms shoes and the fact that for every pair of shoes they sell, they give another pair away in a third-world country. That’s something to think about. It’s an act of global good. It’s charity. It’s giving back. It’s also making a difference. By gosh, there’s a story there and you know what? Humans like stories. It’s one of the oldest forms of communication.

Sure, Patagonia could pocket 100% of their profits each year, pay out massive bonuses and keep on trucking without blinking an eye. They could also fill their catalogs and website with nothing but product and sell sell sell. But it’s the fact that they give 1% of their profits back to causes that work to preserve the environment ($46 million to date) and dedicate catalog and website space to telling stories (there’s that word again) of preservation efforts, environmental responsibility and stewardship that lifts them beyond being just another outdoor gear manufacturer. They’ve transcended the typical and have become a community of doers, thinkers, activists, content providers and a  manufacturer of consumable goods.

What both Toms and Patagonia have in common is that they spend just as much time, effort and money doing things that are not related to selling their product or service as they do marketing their actual products and services. They invest these additional resources into creating stories, experiences and changing lives for the better. This is called “storydoing” and the brands that understand this concept are the brands that end up grabbing more consumer cognitive space on a daily basis.

There’s no magic bullet here and you either get it or you don’t. This type of dedication to putting time, energy and financial resources into doing things that aren’t directly related to selling  products is not for the weak. It takes years of commitment to gain traction but ultimately, this is your story. It’s gotta go beyond the sales pitch to get people involved, interested and passionate about your brand.

Now get out there and do something so radical and different that it makes people take notice and actually care about your business. Good luck.


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Marketing Tip #9 – Employees are also people

Branding and messaging to employees is just as critical, if not more so, than what you put into the public sector. Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors, so are you treating them like one?

Here’s an example: An organization sends out a communication via postal mail to it’s employees. The individuals did not allow themselves the time to wait a week to get proper business papers ordered so that the employees would receive a nice, crisp and properly branded piece in the mail from the organization they work for. Instead, what the employees received was a mishmash of mixed envelopes, letter head and a poorly written letter. Basically putting time before brand and message.

It makes one wonder how the employees must have felt when they got a communication from their employer that basically looked like it had been put together by a group of third-grade students but yet see that their branding to outside consumers is very sharp and thought provoking. It’s rather disrespectful to the intelligence of the employee. This happens every day in thousands of organizations.

Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. Think about it, they have chosen to come to your business five days a week, spend an average of 8 to 10 hours per day focused on selling, promoting, using and living amongst your product and or service. Every one of their friends, families and neighbors knows what they do for a living, where they go everyday. When they meet someone new, one of the first questions asked is, “Where do you work?” or “What do you do for a living?”

Well…here’s two possible responses:

An employee that knows and understands the brand, culture and message:
“I work at ABC company. We specialize in providing an exceptional multidimensional experience for our customers that are fortunate enough to use our product line. You should check it out. Yeah, we rock.”


An employee that has no concept of the brand, culture and message:
“I work at ABC company but to be honest, it sucks and I’m looking for another job. Will you keep your ears open for me if you hear of anything? Hey, where’s the beer? I thought there was going to be beer here?”

Don’t think your employees don’t notice when you’re not treating or talking to them the same as your consumers (that’s a triple negative hat-trick by the way). They know it and the way they act towards your customers while at work and out in the real world after work dictates how entrenched they are in your culture, brand and message.

Here’s the takeaway:
Go up to five of your employees individually and ask them what is the sole purpose of the company and why does the company exist (answering “to make money” or “to make a product” doesn’t count). If you get five different answers, you have work to do internally. Basically, every employee should be able to tell you the same thing when you ask them this question. It’s called a “brand mantra,” something that is a mind-set and not written in an employee manual. The employees at Nike, Starbucks, Patagonia, Disney, the Ritz Carlton and every other major brand in the world gets it. If you’re getting different answers then you need to turn your branding, messaging and marketing efforts inward. Don’t spend a dime selling the dream on the street if you’re delivering a nightmare on the inside.

Want your brand to shine? It starts with shinny happy employees that are 100% committed and treated like they are the most important part of the brand. Get busy homies. You’ve got work to do!


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Marketing Tip #7 – best practice means settling for 2nd place

There is a saying in the competitive world that I absolutely love. It goes something like this: “Second place just means you’re the first loser.” I love that, it just make me smile and reminds me every day that second place is not where I want to be.

I like to translate this same thought into the business world, especially when I hear people mention two words that make my skin crawl. Those two words are “best practice.” Just physically saying those two words makes me suddenly feel claustrophobic and short of breath.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: “Best practice is used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.”

Now, for some aspects of a business, utilizing best practice makes sense. It’s a way to track and emulate results driven and proven processes that can ultimately help an organization survive. However, those of us who live, breathe, eat, sleep and earn a living in the creative world know that “best practice” will find no quarter in our compound.

Too many times I’ve seen the results of campaigns that have been based on what is considered best practice. They all look the same and there’s absolutely nothing that sets it apart from all the other messages cluttering our daily lives. Basically, there’s nothing groundbreaking about them. Nothing unexpected.

The thing that I find interesting about best practice is that at some point in time, some radical thought was introduced into an organization and that idea was given the ability to come to fruition. That radical idea was so successful that it soon became known as best practice for other organizations to emulate.  My point being, at one time, everything that is now considered a best practice was a radically different thought that had never been done before.

Volkswagen is a great example of an organization that doesn’t use best practice in their marketing. Heck, I’d be surprised if they use the concept of best practice in much of their everyday business and that’s why they are such an amazing enterprise. Here’s one of my favorite VW ads as an example of presenting a brand in a very fresh and interesting way.


Volkswagen may not win the Indy 500 but they’re in first place in the brand race.

Here’s the takeaway – VW breaks all the rules of best practice with this piece. There’s no voiceover, no pitch person, no fancy graphics and most importantly – you hardly even see a Volkswagen car. What the piece does convey is that Volkswagen is the purveyor of an exciting, fun and carefree life. How do you become this type of person? The first step is driving a Volkswagen. There’s no way the implementation of a best practice campaign strategy would get them to this point. They broke the rules and broke new ground. That’s where I want to be. How about you?


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Marketing Tip #2 – Not all media is created equal

What makes a great campaign stand out from a good campaign is that the creative team needs to fully understand the power and value of different medias. They should understand that each medium presents the message in a unique way. When it comes time to make your media buys, you better be able to decide which medium is the correct choice for your campaign. In other words, let the message dictate the medium.

There’s no official rules to using different media but here’s a breakdown of a few and how I see their good and bad points.

The Good: Visual, tells a story, quick to grab attention and create an emotional connection. Production is the key to success in video. Because you are relying on so many elements in video, your team has to be able to deliver on every element for it to be impactful and most importantly, create an instant emotion in the viewer. Dodge did this during the Superbowl two years ago with  God Made a Farmer.

The Bad: The biggest misconception is that length dictates quality of a commercial. Not true. Anything over 30 seconds and you’re pushing your viewers attention span so you better be able to do something magical and by magical I mean something along the “God Made a Farmer” type of magic. If you can’t afford to have it done professionally and keep it at 30 seconds or less, then skip it and go a different direction.

The Good: Print is not dead. Print is a highly visual medium and quick to grab attention. It gives you a chance to present your message and brand in a way that is unexpected as well as tell your story through well written copy.

The Bad: Too much copy or copy that is poorly written will kill your message. Using “expected” stock photography or imagery will not grab people’s attention. Print is 100% about the visual aspect. If they aren’t connecting to the image the rest of the print message will not matter. Creating a visual that delivers instant emotion is where it’s at in print.

The Good: This is purely a visibility medium. It’s about maintaining and making your brand/message “sticky.” It’s the daily reminder  to the audience that your brand/message is relevant, in action and here to party.

The Bad: Trying to convey too much information and cluttered visuals will kill a billboard faster than anything. When’s the last time you memorized a phone number off a billboard? If some C-suite suit says they want a phone number on the billboard, ask them when was the last time they wrote a phone number down while driving 80mph. You should probably compliment them on their tie after you say that of course.

Social Media
The Good: If conversation and content is king, then social media is a  playground for building your castle. It’s real time engagement, it’s giving you an opportunity to have open and honest conversations with your targeted demographic and audience. Facebook ad campaigns are cheap and you can drill down your target demographic insanely well.

The Bad: If you can’t stand open, honest and candid feedback about your brand then don’t even bother. If all you have to say or present on social media is some form of chest thumping about how awesome you are then step aside. If you think all social media is used for is to sell stuff, move along. You get the picture? If you can’t be real then this isn’t your place to be.

The Good: Radio is awesome for presenting a solution for someone with an immediate need. If I have three hot-dogs left to sell, radio is how I’m gonna get that done. It’s down and dirty, in your face and all about the message. And in radio that message is “if you need it now, we’ve got it.”

The Bad: There is literally nothing worse than bad radio spots. Well, there is and that would be bad local television spots that use kids and sports mascots to sell auto body work or tractors (that’s another story). Production is critical and so is time. When done correctly, give me 15 seconds and I can sell you the world, or at least my last three hot-dogs.

What’s the takeaway here? You can’t stuff one message into every medium and be successful. It’s takes strategy, planning, commitment to good production, budget and most of all, the ability to utilize different mediums to their potential while still maintaining a consistent message and brand. Good luck camper…now get out there and get some.


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Marketing Tip #6 – Let Whitespace Tell the Story

A few months ago I was asked to be a guest blogger for Imageworks. I’ve known and worked closely with this team of talented individuals for five years now. They asked to me to discuss any topic that folks might find interesting about marketing, so I decided to write about the concept of “less is more.” A concept that is missed by many, but for those who realize ad space isn’t a dumping ground for bad copy and cheap sales pitches, can be an emotional and powerful brand builder.

Here’s the link to my original post: Let Whitespace Tell the Story.

Or…read it here:

Geoff Peddicord works for Missoula’s Community Medical Center, a favorite client of ours. Officially, he’s the Director of Marketing & Public Relations. Unofficially, he’s just really great at what he does and what he does is connect people with brand. Here, Geoff shares the moment of inspiration behind a very successful marketing campaign.

Letting go and letting the whitespace tell the story

We all have those defining moments in our professional world when we read or see something that puts everything we do into perspective. It may be a quote by the original madman David Ogilvy. Perhaps it’s re-reading Theodore Levitt’s flash of genius in his groundbreaking whitepaper, “Marketing Myopia.

Oddly enough, I found a fresh perspective by reaching deep into the past. Antoine de Saint Exupery was a French aviator alive in the early 1900’s. He flew airplanes and was a poet and literary master. He understood the most basic principles of aeronautic design, what makes something fly. It is his paragraph about shaping the wing of an airplane that rattled my foundation and forever changed the way I go about building a marketing campaign and driving a brand.

“Have you ever thought, not only about the airplane but about whatever man builds, that all of man’s industrial efforts, all his computations and calculations, all the nights spent over working draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity? A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery (1939).

So many times we get caught up in thinking we have to hand deliver our story to the audience with a silver spoon. We find ourselves speaking to the lowest common denominator, slaving away on copy trying to convey every possible aspect of our service, product or offering. It’s almost as if we have some strange drive, that if we are purchasing 9.89 columns X 7.00 inches of print space, then by God, we are going fill that entire area with words, pictures and design elements.

Personally, I’ve grown tired of marketing to the lowest common denominator. I refuse to fill whitespace with useless graphics and unnecessary words. I’ve started trusting that our audience is intelligent and can think for themselves. Know that they have the ability to look at the work, find their own story in the whitespace, and take themselves to this space I’m asking them to go. I don’t need overdesigned pieces, tons of copy and huge logos. It’s all unnecessary. The imagination of the audience is a powerful tool when effectively prompted.

Is this an easy task? Is embracing the whitespace something that the C-Suite corporate suits will stand behind? Probably not right away. But I promise you that fighting for that whitespace will pay dividends.

Audi doesn’t tell us how they make steering wheels or what kind of gas pedals they use. All they want to do is convey the way we will feel when driving their cars. Patagonia became a brand leviathan because they showed their garments being used by real people, in the real world. They added nothing else to the photos. No fancy copy, no quirky headers or tag lines. Patagonia sells a lifestyle and produces the best quality outdoor clothing in the industry. They don’t need to tell people that. Customers figured it out for themselves and today they are still the brand to beat in the outdoor industry.

And what about that C-suit executive who fancy themselves as marketing experts? How do you respond to the inevitable “I want to see the logo bigger” discussion? This is likely your best retort.

You have to be able to explain to them that subtlety goes much further in the mind of the consumer. Big logos in marketing are the equivalent of shouting and we never shout. Confident organizations that trust themselves understand that you don’t need a huge logo on a marketing piece to make a point and we all know that people relate to people, not logos. If your brand is consistent across the board the audience will ultimately recognize the campaign as yours regardless of the size of your logo.

Taking Exupery’s advice, we strip away the unnecessary elements, build power with fewer words and ultimately have faith that in that whitespace, in those areas of the undefined, that is where the audience finds their own story and creates that pure connection to your brand.


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