The Japanese martial art of Judo is characterized by the principle of using an opponent’s attack against him. When an attacker rushes a Judo practitioner the opponent will quickly pivot so the attacker’s momentum can be used to send him flailing towards the ground. Rather than relying on superior strength, Judo is about redirecting potential attacks, and turning them to your advantage.
For communications professionals managing complex brands, the practice of “Brand Judo” can help turn negative perceptions into positive brand stories—insulating your brand from ongoing or potential attacks, and providing a differentiating leg up on the competition.
One of the all-time greatest examples of Brand Judo may also be one of the first. Advertising aficionados (and fans of AMC’s Mad Men) surely remember the 1960′s Volkswagen Beetle campaign. As competing automakers built bigger and bigger cars for growing post-WWII families, Volkswagen’s Beetle was seen as too small, too ugly, and, well, too German. The legendary campaign played up the small and ugly perceptions with headlines like “Think Small” and “Lemon” that drove home the benefits of driving a small, German (i.e. well-made) car. The folks at Smart surely know their history…
For a more recent example, look at Hulu’s current campaign. We all know television rots ours brains and we should all get out and smell the roses a bit more. Why on earth do we need more ways to watch TV “anytime, for free”? The answer is in fact otherworldly: it turns out Hulu is actually “an evil plot to destroy the world.” They’re all aliens at Hulu, and that’s how they roll. Comical, sure, but a fine example of Brand Judo in action as Hulu turns a perceived negative into a fun brand story.
In branding, whether it’s Listerine making the most of its “burn,” Altoids promoting mints that are “curiously strong,” Volvo turning boxy-looking vehicles into the safest cars on the road, Volkswagen’s lemon, or Hulu’s alien plot, perceived weaknesses are often, in fact, great (differentiating) strengths.
Brand Judo works. Find your inner lemon…and squeeze.
Got any Brand Judo stories of your own??
I just got back from the introduction of a senior-level advertising campaign project at New England Institute of Art called “Designing Dissent: Advocacy Advertising Series”—adapted from Elizabeth Resnick, Massachusetts College of Art.
As a member of the professional advisory committee at NEiA, I was first tapped by Andrea Brenner two years ago to be involved with her class on this campaign project. This marks the fifth semester in a row that I eagerly agreed to participate in this popular class.
The eagerness I feel when I first accept Andrea’s gracious invitation usually subsides by the time the first class rolls around. Depending on what other plates I have spinning, I often dread being away from my desk for several precious hours of a busy day.
But then, when I find myself once again in that moment of being introduced to the new class, all the dread quickly goes out the window.
As visual communicators a big part of our job is education. We are often called upon to inform, enlighten, and educate our clients and our colleagues.
Typically, it’s our charge to explain—in our most patient, nurturing voices—such things as how color can have a life of its own and can enhance your message. That it should never be tasked with matching the new drapes in your client’s rec room or the newest addition to Red Mango’s frozen yogurt menu. How type selection is an important consideration and not a dart throw. How an image can have the biggest impact—and possibly even become proprietary to your client—through cropping, or slightly shifting, its DNA.
In these daily situations my reach is generally one or two people—a handful at most. People who are often pre-occupied, stressed-out, and multi-tasking.
What a treat then to have 18 or more individuals who give you their undivided attention as they sit unblinkingly absorbing whatever it is you have to say to them. Individuals who ask questions out of curiosity and interest and not because they feel they need to have their turn to talk.
Moments like this prove that teaching is indeed its own reward. One-on-one is great, but exerting the same effort times 18 is exponentially greater.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to teach, please find one. Teaching is such a great way to learn.
I’ve spent a lot of time on both sides of the fundraising fence: I’ve managed development communications at two different institutions, and worked as the liaison between marketing and development at a third. Sametz Blackstone’s 80% nonprofit client base is, therefore, a natural fit—and we do a lot of great work helping nonprofit institutions strategize development messages and produce their fundraising materials. I’ve seen, and see, a lot of solicitations and appeals.
Given my penchant for working at and with nonprofits, I’m also a pretty active charitable giver.
But not if you tick me off.
In an environment of scarce resources, nonprofits can’t afford to lose current donors, or alienate prospects—and yet they do it all the time. As much as we’d like to blame the proverbial “fickle donor,” it’s usually the institution’s own actions that make donors fickle, that tick them off.
So how do you avoid ticking off potential donors? Here’s a handy list for development offices:
1. Don’t violate their trust. I got an email today from an organization that I hold pretty dear to my heart. The emails I’m used to getting from them are a weekly event calendar that I signed up for.
But this wasn’t the event calendar, it was a solicitation.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m an interested constituent of that organization; I expect to be asked for money. I expect to get mailings that ask for money. I would even be okay with there being, every week, a subtle “Give to the [guilty institution] now!” link on the aforementioned event calendar. But not this.
ASK your donors if you can send them solicitations. Or make sure there are opportunities to give within the materials they expect to get (because most potential donors will tell you they don’t want to be asked for money). But don’t give them a bait and switch—that’s tricking them, and a sure path to ticking them off.
2. Give them a way to opt out. When I went to unsubscribe from the email, I was not given the option of unsubscribing to solicitations—only to the event calendar I originally subscribed to (proof positive they hijacked that list). So now I’ve been put in the anger-causing position of having to remain open to trust-violating solicitations, or giving up my weekly connection with what is going on at an institution I care about.
And all because it was easy for a development person to use a “ready-made” list.
Give your donors and customers options that work for them, not just for you.
3. Don’t presume your “need” is reason enough. And for what reason does the institution suggest I give? Because the institution needs it to remain a leader at what they do.
Um, no. Not good enough.
I don’t support that institution because it’s a leader at what it does, I support the institution because of the impact it has on the people it serves. I (like all donors) give through institutions to my own personal causes. In this case: helping dreamers realize their dreams. And while there are institutions that people give to because of the “marquee” name, you better be darn sure you have such a marquee name before you go throwing words like “leader” around.
Focus on why what you do is important. Your position in the marketplace may be interesting to you, but it is not the reason people give.
4. Don’t give arbitrary deadlines. Reading further, the email said, “Please give online by June 30th.” Now, if you’re in the business, you probably already know why the June 30 deadline: it’s the end of many nonprofits’ fiscal year. So this was, clearly, part of the classic it’s-the-end-of-our-budget-cycle-so-let’s-get-the-numbers-up appeal.
And what if I don’t want to give online? Does the deadline not apply?
Donors don’t care about your fiscal deadlines, they care about theirs. So if you want them to care about yours, you need to explain why. Why not say, “Hey! We’re about to close our books for the year, and we’d love you to help us [further advance our mission] before we do.” But you can’t stop there; read on.
5. Tell donors what they can support, not just how. So given what I do, and morbidly curious despite my pique, I decided to click through the email to see the pitch that followed such a no-no of development communications.
But there was no pitch. The click-through got me to a “ways to give” page.
And I got ticked off again.
I mean, really? You’re going to assume you’ve made the case so well that I’m now only curious as to whether I can pay by cash, check or charge? Really?
Tell donors what their money is going to support. Better yet, show them. Instead of linking to how to give (which most folks already know, and if they don’t, most can figure it out), link instead to a page that shows where the money goes and what impact it has.
6. Be concrete. When you talk about impact, tell your donors what that means. If you say that “when you give any amount—$10, $100, $1000 or more” helps you achieve your mission, you have to back that up. Why? Because donors aren’t stupid: they know $10 doesn’t help as much as “$1000 or more.”
If you really, truly care about and want the $10 gifts (and not just so you can ask them for $25 or $50 next year), you need to figure out a way to make the $10 donors feel like they’re actually helping, and you do that by scaling how you describe their gift’s impact to the size of the gift.
In other words, $10 does not buy “leadership,” or whatever other lofty, vague reason you’ve put out there.
But it might mean that you can provide a pair of clean socks to a homeless person, or feed an animal once, or ensure the cellist has a copy of the music they’re playing.
Figure out what you do that’s meaningful, put a number on it, and then link it to the gift amounts you’re asking for.
7. Proofread. Okay, I’ll tell you this much: this email came from a higher education institution. So it’s particularly egregious that the email I got explained that my as-yet-ungiven gift would be helping students “with the cost of their education, the foundation of their future.” (I’m pretty sure the cost of their education is not the foundation of their future, but that’s how the sentence is structured.)
It may seem minor, but the care you show in crafting a solicitation speaks to the care you’ll take with a gift. Make sure you’re sending the right message.
8. Empower your donors, don’t shame them. “Our students are counting on you.” Uh-huh. I’m pretty sure those students—wonderful, smart, and talented as they are—don’t give a flying fig about donors to the school. They’re counting on passing their classes, finding a job, being happy. So don’t try to make me feel like I’d be letting them down if I didn’t give.
They’re not counting on me. The Development Office is.
Close your solicitations with a reminder about why your donor or potential donor has connected with your institution in the first place. Leave your donors feeling powerful, not guilty.
Are you doing all of these? Have any more to add to the list?
Categories: Strategy and Management
Stacking logs, folding chairs and maybe even potato chips is cool. Stacking type is so NOT!
Presented with a vertically challenging environment for hanging a sign why do some “graphic artists” choose to stack letters totem-pole style, one on top of the other. Simply setting the type and then rotating it 90° counter clockwise is a far more readable solution.
Don’t just take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Take a word, any word (like grass) and type the word one letter at a time with a return between each letter. Type a similar word (like grasp) as you normally would (no returns) and rotate your page 90°. Now go find someone and flash each word in front of them and see which one garners the quickest read. For more obvious results try it with a more complicated word or a proper noun.
Of course your participants will eventually figure out the word comprised of stacked type. But if you’re a
owner on a busy street do you really want to puzzle your potential customers?
To report any flagrant violations of type please contact us immediately. Together we can slow and possibly even reverse the proliferation of senseless and profane type choices simply by exposing it for what it is – criminal.
Some people are born leaders. Some people are learned leaders. Very few people, however, are GOOD leaders.
Being a good leader is more than having the expertise. It’s more than giving direction or being in charge. As a leader, I don’t want to tell you what to do. I want to share with you the goal, and help you figure out how to attain it on your own. As a leader, I don’t want to micro-manage your tasks. I want to incite excitement so that you get there quicker simply because you want to.
Being a leader is about understanding the intricacies of your team and the distinctive personalities that make your team unique. Leadership is about motivation.
Motivation takes time.
To motivate someone, you must really understand them. You must listen to them (a whole other post) and use what you’ve learned to uniquely inspire each person following you.
We can all learn the steps to a dance. But if the music doesn’t move us, then all it will ever be is steps. Steps are boring. Steps are uninspiring.
Dancing is beautiful.
Categories: Strategy and Management
It’s only so often that I make a visit to the office (thus my “cameo canine” moniker)—probably every month or so. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me, these infrequent visits. Seeing my Sametz Blackstone humans and canines but once a month makes those few, great hours of social time on otherwise quiet afternoons particularly special.
Usually Momma keeps me banned to the 5th floor where she works, which is fine: I get to visit with Mr. Knightley (and steal his rawhide chews). When Momma isn’t looking, I try to escape downstairs so I can visit Callie and Moxie and Dylan. I love my downstairs friends, not to mention racing down those five flights of stairs! What isn’t fun about that?
But really, just look at me: have you seen a dog that looks more like an embodiment of fun? And if Dylan’s involved, I’m downright flirty.
So, yes, while I generally love everybody and everydog—except for those “baby” humans in their rolling carts and one, rather freakish-looking dog in my neighborhood—what’s great about coming to work with Momma is that everyone seems to like to visit and play with each other as much as I do (though I have noticed that they generally don’t share chewies).
Whether standard poodle (Moxie) or Tibetan terrier (Mr. Knightley), the man that leads the office (Momma calls him Roger) or the one that feeds me snacks (Will!), I mingle with everyone, and everyone mingles with everyone else, too. All of my canine pals come from different places (which means, I guess, the humans do, too)—I’ve never even heard of some of the parks they frequent!—but at Sametz Blackstone, it’s like their, and their humans’, second home.
Now, if only Mr. Knightley would go back to those other rawhide chews….
Categories: Quadrupedal Posts
Everyone wants results from their involvement in social media. Then why do so few allocate time and resources to this initiative?
While many social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs) are free, I’ve been surprised by how many companies and organizations think their involvement in social media will therefore also be free–and effortless. When social media is done correctly, this is absolutely false.
While it can be as simple as the hiring of a new employee (or employees, in many cases these days), or getting each staff member to dedicate 15-20 minutes a day to responding to or writing blog posts, Twittering, or finding connections and answering questions on LinkedIn, social media takes continuous maintenance and involvement on your end to be successful.
Though organic in its nature, and not the type of company decision that should be strangled by rules, “musts,” or strict editorial process, your company’s social media involvement should, without question, revolve around some sort of loose plan. For instance:
Chris Brogan, took 60 seconds to validate the importance of allocating your resources to the social media initiative, especially in this economy.
I wonder why there is a lack of focus around the time and resources that are necessary to success for organizations using social media. Is it a misconception? Is it that decision makers underestimate the importance of time spent on these sites? As Chris mentions, if social media is going to become the new “core” why are so many hesitant or unaware of how important it is to allocate resources to it?
The most likely culprits, most would say, are the internet and the current economic downturn.
And as someone who has been involved in print production for more than two decades—long before anyone had ever heard of PDFs, e-anything, or the World Wide Web—the headline on this post of course gives me great pause.
But now, at the risk of sounding totally self-serving, I’ll assert that print is NOT dead. It is, however, going through some radical changes and people everywhere are taking a hard(er) look at every dollar. The challenge is to hone in on where and how print best fits in and partners with online efforts (what is often called the “marketing mix”).
When we think of the wide range of printed communications we come in contact with each week—from a grocery store’s circular to the newspaper that brought it to you to the book you take to the beach and the seed catalog you use to plan your summer garden—we realize how intimate an experience we have with print. We carry it with us, keep it by our bed, and look forward to its arrival with great anticipation.
Print has substance and weight—it is in my hand; it is reality. Print has texture and thus affects more senses.
Print is one channel in a multi-channel world. Once, it was the only channel. Its role today is to integrate with other media and deliver results for its users. Too many marketers see an either/or role for print and other media.
Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus, School of Print Media, Rochester Institute of Technology, quoted in “Print with Purpose,” published by Appleton Coated
A few more statistics from “Print with Purpose” put things into perspective. 67% of online action is driven by offline messages1, including print, and consumers receiving a printed catalog are twice as likely to buy online than those consumers who do not receive a catalog2.
What these statistics bear out is that print not only has a purpose, but a place in this new-fangled world of ours that often seems overwhelmed with bytes.
As my colleague and former client Tamsen has rightly pointed out, while it is not fair to automatically assume that a reader will choose to download a 60-something-page PDF of a previously printed annual report, neither is it fair to assume that they will not. As with any kind of communication, we need to think about how to reach our audiences where and how they will be most receptive and most likely to become engaged.
Lastly, as we’re learning to become good stewards of our clients’ dollars by perfecting the “marketing mix” of print and electronic media, we are also learning to be good stewards of our environment by making sustainability part of our everyday decision-making when thinking about print. More on that in my next blog post.
So, see, no one killed print. It’s just finding its way in this new century and learning to get along with others.
1“iProspect Offline Channel Influence on Search Behavior Study.” Print in the Mix—A Clearinghouse of Research on Print Media Effectiveness. http://printinthemix.rit.edu
2“Household Diary Study” United States Postal Service, 2007