Monday, May 16, 2011

Where To Get Advice

It's been my experience that one can obtain sound advice from a variety of sectors, to include business, the church, education, etc. I just read Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown and came across some interesting nuggets that I found beneficial and that you may also. The first was a quote that he gained from a general in the military which states:

"If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance a lot less."

This is so true, especially when it comes to communicating in a manner that your market can relate to as well as understand. While change for change's sake can be considered a strategy, it's important that you effect change in your communications methods with an eye towards keeping in touch with and growing your market or as the phrase states you'll like irrelevance (loss of business to a competitor) a lot less. Many are the businesses and churches that have died or are dying as a result of becoming irrelevant.

The second item I obtained from the book was Rumsfeld's strategy setting guidelines. These will be beneficial as you set goals for your church or business and determine what they should be. Here is what he listed in his book.

Strategy – Setting large, longer-term goals that are realistic and can be balanced with the means available to achieve them.
Step 1: Define one’s goals precisely and write them down.  The number of goals has to be limited. Any more than 4 or 5 means they are probably no at the strategic level.
Step 2: Identify the major assumptions associated with the challenge at hand, always recognizing that they are based on imperfect information that can change or even turn out to have been incorrect.
Step 3: Evaluate the possible course of action in light of the assumptions (To include consequences, both positive and negative).
Step 4: Execute the chosen course of action, realizing that this can and will change based on circumstances. Oversight of these constant adjustments requires careful balance to avoid the extremes of disengagement and micromanagement.

Strategy is not linear. It is never completed until the challenge at hand has been resolved. The means must be continually reviewed to see whether they still serve the goals, and if the goals are sensible and realistic in light of one’s means and unfolding events. Inertia can be an obstacle to formulating and maintaining sound strategy.

Sound advice that translates well whether you are involved in business or in ministry. He has many other words of wisdom as a result of his service in government as in business over the last 4 decades. I encourage you to purchase his book (I receive no financial benefit from this, I just enjoyed the book.). And I encourage you to read and obtain materials from other disciplines besides the one you are engaged in as a means of broadening your horizon and increasing your ability to communicate creatively.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lead Time

A lead time is the latency (delay) between the initiation and execution of a process. For example, the lead time for ordering a new car from a manufacturer may be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. This is due to the ‘Just in Time” production system that we employ in the United States (And that much of the world utilizes as well). The lead time takes into account the amount of time it will take to get the parts necessary to build the automobile.

Lead time is a necessary component of communicating your message, event or product to your target market as well. For example I attended a couple of Army-Navy football games in the past, since my son attended one of the service academies. As a result they will send me emails announcing when tickets are available for sale. They generally do this several months ahead of time. This year they sent my email announcing availability of season tickets and individual game tickets on February 25th. The earliest I recall ever receiving such an email. Seven months ahead of the regular football season and a full ten months prior to the month that the Army-Navy game. 

So what factors go into determining when to start communicating your message, product or event? Well, no doubt due to the economy, many organizations are making you aware of what they are offering earlier than usual. They know that people have limited dollars to spend so they are trying to get their event or product offering to you first. But generally you have to consider the launch date of your event or product offering and work backwards from that date. Items to consider that will determine your lead time are:

  •  The size of the target market you are trying to reach.
  •  The time it would take for them to receive any targeted advertising,
  •  The time it would take to create the media you will utilize.
  •   And the time for that media to be delivered.

It’s been my experience that too long a lead time can be detrimental to your creativity, as you tell yourself that you have plenty of time to work on a project. The flip side is that if you don’t give yourself a long enough lead time, you will end up getting overly stressed out and again you may settle for a creative campaign that isn’t your best. 

This is why it is essential to plan out your business year with a broad creative communication campaign, taking note of the major calendar events that impact your market. This frees you up to concentrate on the details of the media you are creating during your actual launch lead time, which results in your being able to creatively communicate to your target market.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Like It! Very Creative!

A few posts ago I discussed "Guerrilla marketing" as a creative way of presenting your idea or product to your target market. As I was perusing I came across this rather creative method of Guerrilla marketing campaign produced for Unicef to enlighten people about the proliferation of landmines in war torn countries. I can't help but think that this creative technique used in this campaign might not be re-purposed and used again to market your product, idea or church.
Click on the picture for a larger view.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Apply What You Learned

If you had a chance to read my previous blog on propaganda, you can put it into practice here. If not read my  Propaganda or good advertising? and return back to this one. Alright now watch this commercial and see how many techniques are used.

This Ad campaign by Miracle Whip is witty. Here is a link to a more in depth article on the series of commercials that were run. Brandchannel Blog - Kraft Miracle Whip

Propaganda or Good Advertising?

This week I’d like to look at the dark side to creative communication (Heavy breathing ala Darth Vader). It’s one that plays on the susceptibilities of people to various techniques that fall under the category of propaganda. Understand I have participated in developing marketing campaigns to attract people to church, to get them to consider the teachings of the Bible or to get involved in giving campaigns. That said, I find nothing wrong with the type of marketing whose objective is to get people to check out the product or idea being marketed and give it a chance to stand or fall on its own merits. But when the purpose of marketing is to manipulate a person to purchase a product or buy into an idea solely on various emotive strings that are being plunked then you’ve crossed the line into propaganda.

Some may consider the use of propaganda fair game when it comes to marketing, taking the philosophy of “Caveat Emptor” – Let the buyer beware. But I’ve found that the buyer has to be aware before he can beware. And a great majority of people simply aren’t aware that they are being propagandized. Too many of us are so over or underwhelmed with life that we coast through it on mental cruise control, which leaves us susceptible to some of the techniques I highlight below.

Here are 7 basic propaganda techniques as set forth by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in the early 20th century, others have been added since then, but these seven by and large cover the majority of techniques that are used to manipulate people.

Bandwagon: This approach encourages you to think that because everyone else is doing something, you should do it too, or you'll be left out. Bandwagon is an appeal to the subject to follow the crowd, to join in because others are doing so as well. The average person wants to belong, to be part of the in crowd. This techniques plays off of that need of people not wanting to be left out.

Card stacking: This term comes from stacking a deck of cards in your favor during a card game. It seeks to slant a message. Card stacking involves presenting only information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. Keep in mind that an advertiser is under no obligation "to give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Glittering Generalities: Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects and have little or no real meaning, although they are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an valued concept is involved. For example, when a product states that it is “new and improved”, makes “whites whiter”, or has “scrubbing bubbles.”

Name Calling: Name calling occurs most often in political advertising. This technique consists of attaching a negative label to a person or an idea. People engage in this type of behavior when they are trying to avoid supporting their own opinion with facts. The propaganda attempts to arouse prejudice among the public by labeling the target something that the public dislikes. Often, name calling is employed using sarcasm and ridicule, and shows up often in political cartoons or writings.

Plain Folks: The plain folk’s device is an attempt to convince the public that the products/ideas/views reflect those of the common person and that they are also working for the benefit of the common person. The user will often attempt to use the accent of a specific audience as well as using specific idioms or jokes. This technique is usually most effective when used with glittering generalities, in an attempt to convince the public that the propagandist views about highly valued ideas are similar to their own and therefore more valid.

Testimonials: This technique uses "big name" personalities to endorse a product or an idea. Testimonials are quotations or endorsements, in or out of context, which attempt to connect a famous or respectable person with a product or item. Whenever you see someone famous endorsing a product, ask yourself how much that person knows about the product, and what he or she stands to gain by promoting it.

Transfer: Transfer is an attempt to make the subject view a certain item in the same way as they view another item, to link the two in the subjects mind. This technique can be used to transfer negative or positive feelings for one object to another. By linking an item to something the subject respects or enjoys, positive feelings can be generated for it. For example, using the American flag as a backdrop for a political event makes the implication that the event is patriotic in the best interest of the U.S.

There are several other propaganda techniques that have been developed or are subsets of the ones listed here. Techniques such as the “Either/or fallacy” that encourages "black-and-white thinking" because only two choices are given. Or the “Snob Appeal” technique that tries to play off of a person’s desire to be unique and have something, or know something that the majority doesn’t.

Hopefully being aware of these techniques will better prepare you to spot them when you are purchasing products for yourself, your business or non-profit, to insure that you make an informed decision. If a company/government/church has to use propaganda to sell something to us, then it merits us taking the time to dig deeper into what they are pitching to insure we aren’t being taken advantage of.

In closing I’d like to thank two of my professors for making me aware of these techniques and providing me with the tools to see past them. They are: Ray Fabrizio, who taught a course entitled “Propaganda in Media, Politics and Advertising” at Monterey Peninsula Community College in the 1980’s and Dr. John Williamson, who taught a course on “Critical Thinking” at Nazarene Bible College in the 1990’s.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Using the Headlines To Creatively Market Your Community

This is a brilliant way to communicate creatively. There's already a buzz in the news surrounding senators who have fled their state to hide out in Illinois. This town has taken advantage of the situation and turned it into an opportunity to highlight their community as a great place to getaway to. Instant connection.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creating A Creative Team Part 2

In my last post I shared how to set up a creative team. In this post I want to share how to operate a creative team so that you can generate and develop ideas to creatively communicate your product or message.

You’ve got your team together, it’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and you’re in a relaxed, creative setting.

First, you start the Creative meeting before the actual meeting by informing your team a few days in advance, what they are supposed to be getting creative about. If it’s a product, tell them what the product is. If it’s a message or idea, tell them what it is. This gives your team members opportunity to start thinking about ways to creatively communicate.

Second, start the meeting by reminding them of the rules mentioned in the first blog post, assign someone to write down the ideas that are mentioned where everyone can see them (Have a white board, or some means of recording the ideas) and then tell your team to start firing out different ideas. It doesn’t matter how crazy they are, how stupid they sound, how out of reach financially it is to do it, write it down and don’t allow anyone to trash anyone’s idea (Not at this point). Have your team think out of the box, under the box, behind the box, don’t even have a box.

Third, after you’ve gotten a list of ten to twenty ideas start culling them out.

Start by asking if there are any ideas listed that go counter to the core values/mission/beliefs of your business or non-profit (This is a good way of reminding yourself what your core values are). Immediately remove those ideas that can compromise your companies or non-profits values. One egregious example is an outreach event that occurred at a mega church. The event was geared to families with young children and they brought in an acrobatic team whose program turned out to be a bawdy burlesque show and far too racy for the age group intended. The persons who scheduled this team could have prevented this by asking if this acrobatic troupe's act went counter to the organizations core values. They could have gone to the acrobatic team’s website where they would have found a nude calendar the team had produced. And the sensuous nature of the team’s rehearsal before hand should have been a blatant red flag. Here is a case where a little due diligence could have prevented the fiasco that occurred.

Next, determine if any of the ideas presented would alienate your target market. Two recent examples of advertising gone wrong were the Groupon Superbowl Commercial Campaign (Here is one of the commercials videos).

Another is a recent restaurants ad campaign that made light of a religious cult that resulted in mass suicide several decades ago.  Indiana eatery pulls billboards

There is a school of thought that says “Any press is good press” as it provides free publicity. This only works, if your intended market prefers such scandals. Regarding the aforementioned ad campaigns, if they weren't intentionally trying to shock their audience then they fell short in the creative development by not asking if these ads would alienate their market. As an aside understand that using shock as a marketing idea will only take you so far. And you can’t use it too often.

Now have your team members list their favorite five ideas and have them state their reasons why they like that particular one. By doing this you will gain insight on that idea based on what that team member brings to the table (IE. the demographic they represent, their experience, their knowledge base). This is important especially if your market and that team member’s demographics match.

If someone’s idea doesn’t make the final five cut, give them the opportunity to defend it and add it back to the list. This is not an all or nothing venture. Nor is it majority rules. If you have someone standing up for an idea and they have a track record of picking winners, then go with their idea, no matter how crazy it might sound. Also as the business owner, or non-profit head, you have the ultimate say, but remember the reason you put the creative team together.

Fourth, take the favorite five and start throwing out more ideas surrounding how to develop and implement them in regards to your product or message. Look at the various scenarios they would work out best in, compare them to your target market, has anyone else done this? Why or why not? How does this idea compare with the trends that are currently moving up among your target market? (If the trend has peaked or is in decline toss the idea.) Depending on how far out you are planning you may utilize all five ideas, or just one or two. At any rate, if the ideas have made it this far, they each have value, so definitely save the ones you don’t use for a second look down the road.

And fifth, take the idea(s) you settled on and run with them.

After the meeting take time and determine what worked and what didn’t. Was the team creative enough to provide the spark needed? Were the ideas fresh or stale? Was there someone there that shouldn’t have been? Or was someone missing who should have been present. Make note of these things and make the changes prior to having your next creative team meeting.

Now go gather a team and start getting creative.