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Monday, September 29, 2014

Show. Don't Tell.

The best way to change someone’s mind is to show them something, not to tell them. When my daughter’s were young, I could talk to them all day long about the type of boyfriend or future husband they should aspire to find. But the best way I could teach them this life lesson was by being loving toward them and toward my wife. Showing not telling. 

If I wanted them to learn the lesson of hard work, they could observe me and my daily work ethic and that lesson, over time, would sink into their own way to approach their work. They could observe both a mom and a dad, working hard every day, in our own ways and absorb our lesson better than any finger-wagging approach. 

Same in marketing
I don’t think this approach is any different in marketing or business communications. There was a wonderful article about the founder of the Minneapolis based advertising agency Fallon describing a great example in the Harvard Business Review. In the case study, Pat Fallon describes the problem that H&R block was having convincing people to switch tax preparers.  Apparently most of us are resistant to change tax preparers. It is just too much of a hassle. How can you motivate people to change their behavior? 

In the story, the agency came upon an idea where they would go to a town and offer to take a second look at tax returns for an entire community. They picked a city with a wonderful tie-in, Greenback, Tennessee to make the point.  They set up shop in a gymnasium and invited people in with their returns. They filmed the event and created a mini-documentary that they used in advertising. They found a big savings for the community of $14,683 dollars.

They didn't say they could save people money. They showed them.

How is your business showing its value proposition?  Have you found a way to demonstrate something you say all the time? Can you move from talking and get customers helping you tell your story? There is power in this lesson for marketers from small to mid to big sized businesses. 
  1. Can you turn something you say into a demonstration that you can film? 
  2. Don't get hung up on making it a fancy documentary. You can do wonders with an iPhone today and some basic editing software. 
  3. Get your message on social media or in places where the message is relevant to the audience. 
  4. Stop talking about what you do. Show it. 

Jeffrey Slater

Do you have a challenging marketing issue that should be as easy as sliced bread to communicate?  Perhaps you could use a marketing coach to help you show instead of tell your story. Connect with me through Clarity to schedule time to talk. 

This is from a photo of me with my daughter Fanny teaching a Hebrew School class how to bake challah in 1991. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Voice of the Customer

Steve Mark is a guy who can’t pass up an opportunity for a bad pun. 

He runs a small but growing company specializing in a dice game called TENZi. He lists himself as the Dice President because if he were President, he couldn't make the same bad joke. If you call his voice mail, he encourage you to have a dice day. 

I'm a sucker for bad puns.

Steve knows quite a few things about humor, and marketing and advertising. For many years he and his friend Steve, were collectively known by all as The Steves from North Castle Partners, a now defunct advertising agency from Stamford, Connecticut. I sometimes wondered if they hadn't escaped from somewhere. 

The Steves were often tied up in their work.
Steve Mark (aka Good Steve) and his buddy (Steve Garbett AKA Bad Steve) were the genius at the core of the Slim Jim Advertising that we ran for many years. Under their guru Hal Rosen, they led the charge to bring insanity and craziness to the brand I helped grow for GoodMark Foods. If you have ever seen Slim Jim Guy and his antics, it gives new meaning to the name mad men and advertising.  

Eat Your Vegetables - A Slim Jim Commercial featuring Slim Jim Guy

That business had a compound growth rate of 19% during the time I was involved in giving the green light to many wild and crazy marketing campaigns. 

Today Steve (Good Steve) is on the other side of the table growing his own brand of unique products called TENZi. TENZI is a simple dice game that appears to have an addictive additive. Customers can’t get enough. Once the independent stores stock the product, it flies off the shelf. Although a young brand, things appear to be on a roll. (sorry)

The short video of voice mail messages from independent stores that Steve posted to YouTube is hilarious and brilliant. 

It’s a great lesson for how to make testimonials fun and motivating.  In Steve’s short voice mail video, he is targeting the independent mom and pop toy stores to convince them that their peers have bought the game and it sold like hotcakes. 

Taking actual voice message from customers allows Steve's customer to help sell his product to others. It shows how important it is, especially in a small business to use all the low-cost tools available. 

Unlike Slim Jim or other big brands, he isn't going to be spending millions of dollars on advertising, sponsorship and events. He has to make each marketing activity work hard to support the growth of his brand. 

Steve is not leaving his marketing to a roll of the dice. He is taking a creative approach to convincing other retailers to carry his product and that it will sell through. Have you ever used voice mail messages as part of your marketing communications? 

How are you sharing the successes that your customers are having using your products? 

My friend Steve has generously offered a 20% discount off of Tenzi to any MomentSlater readers who would like to place an order. You can go to  and use the promo code momentslater to get the discount. The promo is good through 12/31/14,

And have a dice day.


Jeffrey Slater

Have a challenging marketing issue you are wrestling with? Perhaps you could use a marketing coach to help you put a choke hold on your brand. Connect with me through Clarity to schedule time to talk. 

This is from a photo shoot in 1995 with North Castle Partners in New Mexico. In the photo, Macho Man Randy Savage, Gorgeous George, Steve Mark, Steve Garbett and others from North Castle and the Slim Jim marketing team. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Unoriginal Original

Imagine a selfie from the 1920's?  

You thought it was a product of the smart phone generation didn't you? This photograph is from December 1920 taken across the street from St. Patrick's cathedral. Seems like nothing is all that original. 

To be sensationally successful, Ideas, products or services demand originality. You have to find a new and different way of seeing the world. It is the original that gets noticed. How can you have a meaningful twist on how you present yourself, your product or your work to the world? 

Everything is derivative of something but the trick is to bring something new into your world from the outside. 

This painting from 1523 is a self portrait in a convex mirror by an artist named Parmigianno. The same impulse but 500 years before we all started to take selfies on our iPhones.  

The selfie we know today is derived from painting that is over 500 years old. And if you looked back further in art history, you'd see even more examples of group self-portraits through other reflections from even earlier periods.

The need to be original in marketing almost always comes from borrowing from outside of your market space. Brands crave a fresh way of presenting themselves in their markets. We see originality when companies bring something fresh from outside their universe. 

A sporting goods brand that looks to technology brands. Nike has been been doing this for years. 

A dog food company that gathers inspiration from non-profits. Look at Iams and some of the work they do. 

A watch company that looks at how disposable razors are sold. Swatch

A video firm that borrows its business model from magazine subscriptions. Netflix

A taxi service company that sees a brand new way of delivery value to customers based on sharing from a sharing service in the hospitality industry. Uber

A B2B company get inspiration walking around Comic Con and checking into a fantasy world? They see a great idea to borrow from the world of comic books and start creating sales collateral as illustrated artwork. 
Beg.   Borrow.   Steal.
 That is what marketing is about. The trick is to pull things in from outside of your own market and add your own flair.  

New Innovative Marketing
I like to approach marketing problems by searching for an idea I can borrow from outside of my industry. My main challenge to myself is, what isn't anyone else doing in my space? Can I find a new way of seeing something that no one else is doing or thinking about. 

The key is getting away from your industry and go somewhere different, uncomfortable and surprising. 

  • If you market shoes, go spend some time watching and learning how insurance is sold. 
  • Spend a day at a friend's high-tech start up for apps.  
  • Hangout some time with a nonprofit studying how they go to market. 
  • Read a biography about an innovator from outside of your world and see if there isn’t a gem that is shining right in front of your eyes.
  • Wander into a store that sells things you have NO interest in like knitting, pottery or clothes for pets.
  • If you sell premium wine, what can you learn from luxury perfume segments
  • Look at other industries and their business models. Look at the "unbundling economy" as best illustrated by the airline industry. They charge for everything from legroom to meals to pillows. Soon we will be paying to use the toilet. They strip away everything into an ala carte menu. Is there a lesson here for me? 
  • Go to a skate park. Watch young kids taking risks with their boards. Observe how they communicate their failures and successes. Find a little inspiration and maybe bring some new and fresh energy back to a tired industrial segment. 
These unexplored worlds can be filled with sparks that ignite your imagination. Soon you are asking, what if we could sell X like Y does? You find a fresh approach not by studying your competition but by studying other companies who sell to the same demographics. 

Finding Oxygen 
I had a challenge at work to figure out an innovative way to tell a complicated story about how and why oxygen matters so much in wine making. The company I work for, Nomacorc makes a highly engineered closure that is like a very sophisticated air filter. We can control oxygen so a winemaker can control the aroma, flavor and taste of wine long after the wine is bottled. 

I didn't want to use another PowerPoint to tell the story or even a traditional video. While watching a Ted Talk about space exploration, something I am not really interested in, they showed a clip from a whiteboard animation. I had found my inspiration and it resulted in something that in a short few minutes tells a complicated story in an entertaining manner. Check it out: 

The secret that isn't so secret  

Don't look to your own industry for ideas. Get outside of your world. Start reading magazines from business segments you have no interest in that may give you an inspiration. Get away from how everyone does things in your industry. 

See things with a fresh eye and don't forget to smile like Mona. 


Jeffrey Slater

Have a challenging marketing issue you are wrestling with? Perhaps you could use a marketing coach to help you reflect on your brand image. Connect with me through Clarity to schedule time to talk. 

This is a selfie of me with college friends Ed Solomon and Jeff Blattner from1973 at The University of Pennsylvania. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Convention Challengers

“If you don’t like change, wait until you see how much you enjoy irrelevance”

General Shinseki

Brands are faced with the fast-pace change of the marketplace.  

Suddenly cereal consumption is on the decline and Paleo diet is rising fast. Carbonated soft drinks are in a bit of a free fall. Consumers were moving away from the iPhone because Samsung was satisfying the need for bigger screens and functionality that Apple refused to do. Until now. Biodynamic, natural, organic and sustainable products are starting to blur together. 

Your friends on Facebook aren’t seeing your post because Facebook wants to enhance your experience so all that work you put into building 100,000 likes proves less valuable than just 12 months ago. Instagram is the new place to be until it isn't tomorrow. Life on social media is like a SnapChat - there one minute and disappear the next. 

Things are always changing but who would argue that the rate or velocity appears to be set on turbo charge. How can brands keep up?

I have always embraced challenging convention

It is part of who I am and was a big part of my liberal education. Fortunately, I got to study with people who would keep asking me difficult questions like ‘why do I believe what I just said", causing me to pause and examine my foundational views. 

My favorite quote from my college days was Professor Ray Birdwhistell who used to say that 

"once a culture starts believing in an idea,

 that is when you know it probably isn't true. "

Branding and marketing requires that kind of challenging mind and action. Here are nine questions every brand manager must be asking today to prepare for tomorrow by challenging the conventions right in front of their eyes. 

Ray Birdwhistell and Charlie Wright circa 1976
Where is the herd going in your industry and how can you find a different road to travel? Be like Gretsky - go where the puck is going not where all the hockey players are huddled together. 

What could we lose from our brand that may be making things complicated and difficult for our consumers and not adding value? Can we grow through doing less because of the power of simplicity? 

Why do we do _____________________ activity every year and never challenge that part of our marketing mix? (Fill in your own blank – it could be the industry trade show, print advertising or printing brochures).

Where are threats in the next 5 years going to come from and how do we prepare for them today? Brands sometimes focus on today’s competitors not realizing that the real challenges may not be from their category. Taxi drivers in NYC never saw Uber coming. Hilton had no idea AirBnB could be grabbing share from their business.

Do we really understand how our product fits in with our consumer’s problems? And are we seen as solving different problems for different audiences? What can we do about this in the next twelve months?

Is your business model no longer bringing you the return you need because it’s based on antiquated view of the world? Can you test a new model to see if there isn’t a new road to glory? Maybe investigate subscription, licensing, setting up cooperatives or franchises or other approaches. This book might help called Business Model Generation. 

Do you have the right type of people trying to solve your business and marketing issues today? Is your staff solving 1990’s problems in a 2014 world? Kodak struggled and ultimately bankrupt not because it didn't have digital technology, but because it couldn't change its cultural to adjust to a digital mindset. 

How can you deliver value framed in a new and unexpected way to customers? Perhaps you have too wide (or too narrow) a view of what true value you are delivering to your customers. Maybe there is a universe of opportunity that you are missing because you are seeing the world with an outdated reference frame. Do your team agree what business you are in? 

Did you ever play the game, let’s attack ourselves? Get several teams together from within the company to plan a strategy to challenge your business and brands. Give them the freedom to imagine, without constraint, how they could upend your business. Turn those scenarios into a component of your strategic thinking in the coming year.

Being a brand leader is a thrilling job if you embrace your role as agent of change. 

What are you going to bring to your marketing, communications and messaging activities so that you are getting ahead of complacency? The greatest risk to most brands isn't your competition

The big threat is inaction and staying stuck in today without challenging convention every moment of each day. 

How will you forge a new direction in your business this morning to attack the status quo? 

Cartoon Credit: Check out the great marketing cartoons from Tom Fishburne here. He is one of a kind! 

Jeffrey Slater

Have a challenging marketing issue you are wrestling with? Perhaps you could use a marketing coach. Connect with me through Clarity to schedule time to talk. 

This is a photograph of me with Ron Doggett, former CEO at GoodMark Foods and Randy "Macho Man" Savage in 1995. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Scraping the Surface

Have you joined the 39,323,434 people who have laughed about bad breath with the Orabrush brand?

I’m a big fan of brands that find powerful ways to tell their story particularly when they entertain me and I walk away motivated to either learn more or buy the product. Clever is wonderful but clever that motivates is powerful. Check out this brilliant video that has closed to 20,000,000 views and on YouTube. I never thought about scraping my tongue so through this marketing effort, I became aware of this topic. 

Distribution is King
We marketers love to talk about content marketing but it is in content distribution that there is power. When an advertiser buys space to tell me a story, I’m skeptical. When it interrupts my TV viewing or magazine article, I get annoyed. I know TV viewership is growing and people watch more TV than ever but don’t confuse that with watching commercials. The DVR has given us the gift of commercial free content not to mention all the options from Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and so forth. 

Marketing like this Orabrush video is brilliant beyond the content because it comes from my friends sharing something funny. This video was sent by a friend whose goal was to make me happy. (I don't think he was telling me to check my breath). But instead of a network delivering an ad to me, it came from someone I know and trust. 

And when enough friends post a clever video or animation to a social media site, you are going to take a peak and watch.

Context Counts
So context really matters and who shares it counts just as much. 

If you go to a dinner party and some stranger corners you about insurance and puts on the hard sell, you know what your reaction would be.

But if your friend introduces you to that same person who shares a story of how he helped save a life that day, you will be all ears. He may have saved a life by helping a family member provide for their well-being with insurance placed in a trust. But you respect your friend enough to at least listen to her connection tell their story. Some marketers think of this as getting under the radar

You have to find a way to get your message heard by being useful and through the benefit of trust.

Recently native advertising is creeping into the marketing lexicon. These are ads created by broadcasters, radio stations, magazines, video games or other channels that create proprietary messaging for that channel. 

Last week, while doing research - er, wasting time on Buzz Feed, I came across this very funny video called Dear Kitten. It perfectly illustrates my point. 

It is very clever and tells a funny story. Since the video involves cats, I’m already a sucker, but this native ad didn’t feel like it was interrupting my time on the site. In fact, I didn't realize it was advertising to me at all until my second viewing. I assumed I was watching a funny video of an older cat giving wise advice to his young kitten friend.

I thought it was just humorous content until the end. Check it out and see what its about. Don’t worry, it’s worthy of 2 minutes and 57 seconds. At least 19,243,231 thought so. 

Envelope Pushing
How can you better market your message by having it passed along and shared? What ways can you push the proverbial envelope so that you are reaching your targeted audience with content that tell the right story when your audience is open to listen. Remember listening and hearing are two different things. A few suggestions: 

  • STOP SELLING SO HARD: Are you just scraping the surface of getting through because you are still interrupting your audience with overtly salesy messaging? 
  • DELIVER THROUGH AN UNEXPECTED CHANNEL: Why not take a page from these Orabrush and Friskies to find a way to create and distribute your message in a fresh and unexpected channel?
  • DON'T TELL THE SAME STORY AS YOUR INDUSTRY TELLS: How will you breakthrough the clutter of how your category delivers its messages and find a way to reach your audience? 
Now go scrape your tongue or feed the cat or scrape your cat's tongue. 


Jeffrey Slater

Need a marketing coach? You can reach me through where I can advise and guide you with your marketing efforts. 

Here is a photograph from 1995 of me with Ron Doggett, former CEO of GoodMark Foods and the late Randy Savage, AKA Macho Man. Snapping into it, oh yeah. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brands Aren’t Consumer’s Friends

Facebook introduced the language of friending into our social media vocabulary. 

It continues to confuse brand managers who believe that consumers want to be their friend. Nothing is further from the truth. Brands and consumers engage in commercial relationships and that is always at the root of the connection. I don’t confuse what I expect from a friend with what I expect from a brand.

Yes, I do love the values and ethos of certain companies and the products they offer. 

There are plenty of businesses and brands I deeply admire for how they operate in the world, for the products they create and for their approach to being part of my community.  Whole Foods, Dyson and Charity:Water are three organizations I deeply admire. When I read stories about Tom's Shoes and the great work they are doing with their One for One program, I'm only pulled in closer to brand and their mission. 

But they aren’t my friends. 

They all want something from me. It doesn't change the depth of my emotional attachment to them as well as my loyalty. But, I don’t confuse them with people who would do anything for me without expecting a purchase in return. I don't expect them to help me change a tire or to come and give me a lift to my office without asking for something in return. 

Now it is true that some friends give more and some take more but the relationship isn't built on the expectation of reciprocity and equivalency. It is built on a human connection to that person. 

Businesses aren’t like my friends where the relationship isn’t about a one for one exchange. And as much as we marketers try, a customer relationship will never equal a personal friendship. 

You witness friends unselfishly doing things for you without an expectation of getting something in return. Perhaps you are that type of person too who would do anything to help a friend in need. I witness my daughters in the most unselfish ways helping, loving and supporting their friends without looking for something in return. I see my 87 year old Mom Bea helping her best friend in small ways with no expectation attached. They give from their heart and they give without expectation. 

Brands try to act this way but ultimately there is always s a quid pro quo at the end of the evening. I did all this stuff for you, now will you please buy something for me or help me sells something.  Even the greatest brands require a payback through some commerce to make the business viable. There is nothing wrong with this relationship. But please let’s acknowledge that its different from friendship.

When you recognize this as a marketer, you still strive to build deep-rooted connections with your community. You can still give generously and set up wonderful community based programs to make this a better world. My concern is that brands not be deluded in thinking that consumers and brands are in the same relationships as people have with their friends. It is by nature different.

I'll be there for you. 
I advocate for brands to be true to themselves and behave in a way that is appropriate for the community they choose to serve. Often this mimics the behavior of friends. And of course consumers do become friends with people who work at brands but that isn't the same as becoming a friend with a brand. 

Transactional relationships are what businesses do. So stop thinking of the consumer as your friend. Tell them your story. Engage with them on deeply emotional levels. Be genuine to your own brand vision. 

But don’t kid yourself into thinking we can be friends.

You may see things differently. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Even you Joey. 

Jeffrey Slater

Are you looking for a marketing coach or mentor? You can hire me by the moment - well by the minute through to consult with your company. Check out the details here

I donate 100% of my fee to Charity: Water who helps serve communities that need clean water. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Secrets as a Marketing Tactic

 I was flying home from Europe from a business trip and saw something interesting in a magazine.  There was a small ad for Pimm’s Cup. It was an alcoholic beverage I was vaguely aware of but had never tasted. 

What struck me was the copy:

Pimm’s No. 1 is made to the original recipe which remains a closely-guarded secret, known only to six of Pimm’s top people called ‘the secret six’.

It got me curious. Now I really wanted to taste this product that only six people knew how to make.

When my wife and I had our bakery business, our secret recipe was probably known by about six people who helped bake the brownies. We were constantly asked to share the recipes and I remember saying that I could give you the recipes but without my wife, you'd wouldn't have Rachel's Brownies. Yet the illusive recipe did play a key part of our story. 

 In my Slim Jim days, we had roughly six people in the company who also knew that formula. (not me) We even had suppliers who only had part of the seasoning blend so that no outsider could know the formulation. It was a guarded secret that we used in our marketing to explain that our product was like no other snack. 

A secret can be a powerful marketing message because it helps to reinforce the idea that your product is so unique that it can be duplicated. 

I imagine the Google algorithms have only a limited number of Googlers who know how their secret formula works. Those algorithms are probably some of the world's most valuable secrets today. 

In the age of transparency in marketing, secrets are a powerful tool to allow you get some distance between your product offerings and others in your category. Handled properly, you can find creative ways to talk about this ‘black box’ filled with wonder and amazement. In some respects, a secret formula can be like a placebo where there is a belief that is amplified beyond the rationale.

Marketers use secrets to help create some mystery about a brand and a wonderful story to perpetuate its importance. 

If the KFC fried chicken recipe or a the Big Mac sauce recipe was revealed, most people would be shocked at its ordinariness. In fact, I’d wager that it is probably remarkably similar to other similar products available. Yet in the consumers mind, the secret sauce is one of a kind.

Coke loves to talk about how it recipe is the most guarded secret in the world. 

This plays into the notion that a secret that special must make the product better than all of its competitors.  The mystery is magnetic in attracting the attention and imagination of the public although it isn't enough to overcome the slumping carbonated soft drink category. The coke recipe was put on paper over 100 years ago and they allege that only two senior executives know its content. It is kept behind a Fort Knox-like vault.

CEO Muhtar Kent wtih the Coca-Cola Secret Recipe 
Do you use a secret process or ingredient or material in what you sell? Have you used the power of the secret to separate what you sell from the competition? If not, maybe you are missing a valuable way to market your brand that could help you expand your base of business.

Four Secret Thought Starters

  1. Can you talk about a secret element of your product that reinforces your brand story? 
  2. Do you have a proprietary way you do business that qualifies as a trade secret and can be communicated as a part of what makes your company different? 
  3. Is there a manufacturing approach that only your business follows within your industry that can be positioned as somewhat mysterious? 
  4. Are you using any special procedure to protect the business secrets that can also be used in your marketing communications? 

As Paul and John famously teased, "Listen, do you want to know a secret?" 

Jeffrey Slater

Are you looking for a marketing coach or mentor? You can hire me by the moment - well by the minute through to consult with your company. Check out the details here

I donate 100% of my fee to Charity: Water who helps serve communities that need clean water.