Dan Hill, founder and President of Sensory Logic and author of About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising joined our show recently. You can listen to our conversation here.
Sensory Logic is a scientific market research firm that specializes in quantifying emotional response through the facial coding tool known as the facial coding action system.
About Face shows how 21st century advertising can realize success by being 'on-emotion' first and foremost. Using data from eye tracking and facial coding to analyse consumer responses, About Face demonstrates exactly which advertising strategies are successful and why. Moving beyond the old Ps of product, price, place and promotion, Dan Hill outlines ten rules for emotionally effective advertising including simplicity, familiarity, relevancy and believability. Emotions rule decision making. About Face shows you that by focusing on the three new Ps of passion, purpose and personality, your campaigns can become more effective and emotionally engaging, taking you closer to the consumer."
That's from his website. I think it's pretty accurate.
Dan answered some of these questions:
- Why do we hate ads so much? What can be done to change that?
- Why are ads so unproductive? (See above) What can be done to change that?
- Why aren’t advertisers doing what Dan, his book and oodles of research show they should?
Dan, thank you for being on our show.
I’m delighted. I’m looking forward to a great conversation.
Thank you for writing a great book! When did you decide to write this book?
Well, we’ve been running the company for 13 years. You’re right. We’re trying to be innovative because the breakthroughs in brain science that have been documented increasingly over the last 25 years prove that we are largely emotional decision-makers.
A couple of key statistics right off the bat:
- the conservative estimate is that 90 - 95% of thought activity isn’t fully conscious.
- the emotional part of the brain sends 10 times as much data to the rational part of the brain as vice versa.
Those are well documented out there in the advertising world. And yet they’re not being incorporated in advertising, marketing, marketing research.
For 13 years, we’ve been dedicated to changing this paradigm, to making emotions front and center. And the book was inspired by looking at the database and saying “Look I can give you both those examples and statistics and patterns. Let’s see if we can wake people up and make a difference.”
Erika Andersen coined a great phrase and question in her book Being Strategic. the phrase is reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. The question is what is your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future? What was yours with writing this book?
Well, there’s really probably 2 or 3 key markets I’m trying to get to. For the Creative Director I’m hoping to liberate them a bit. In a lot of cases they have a client who believes that the solution and the path to great advertising is to be uber-rational, to come with message upon message. It’s what I call message-itis. Take a TV spot for instance. The truth is it’s a 30-second film. You have time for one idea, maximum. You may not be able to get that out and talk to people about something they already know and put a slight twist on it. You have a really limited canvas.
On behalf of the Creative Director, I’m certain they have many cases where they get a brief from the client who says “These are the 7 points we have to make in the next advertisement.”
It’s not going to work because of people’s attention spans. It’s not going to work because we are mostly emotional decision-makers. And if you are feeding us like we are drinking out of a firehose....sorry, that’s not the emotional experience most of us are looking for. And it’s not going to engage people. And they’re going to turn away.
So, one of the reasonable aspirations is to say “Let’s dial down the message.” People are mostly emotional decision-makers anyway. Hitting them with rational point after rational point is not going to work.
I think in the case of the Creative Director, they also need to wake up a bit. I think the clients often get frustrated. They don’t think they’re breaking through and the Creative Director gets caught up in being an artist. I have a Masters in Creative Writing from Brown...I have a PhD in English ...I was a poet for many years in my background; I like the creative process.
But what we see in our testing is that it’s too clever by half. There are too many special effects, the spacing is too fast by half. It loses people.
I call "frustration the hidden emotional cancer" in advertising. Half the households in America didn’t buy a book last year. 20% of the adults in the Western world are functionally illiterate. So, it’s easy to lose people and you can do too much messaging. You can do it by being too clever in your message. Both the advertisers and for the creative person I’m hoping to have the ammo to help them make the decision to clean up their messaging.
The ultimate beneficiary is the consumer, quite honestly. They will get advertising that isn’t demeaning, that doesn’t make them feel stupid or lost, that has significance and relevance and everyone can benefit in the end.
Being an advertiser this next question should be easy. What are some of the metrics you'll use to measure your progress towards that hoped-for future?
The first thing is engagement. We use this tool called facial coding. Any of your listeners have read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. This is the only research tool described, 30 pages i fact. And it’s the basis of the Lie to Me show on Fox on Monday nights.
Facial coding is a killer ap. You’re reading the face to judge emotional reaction. It’s so universal that even a person born blind has the same facial expressions as you or I.
When we look at participant, the first key metric is the level of engagement. How much activity on the face is resonating that this is engaging for them. If you don’t engage people you can win them over.
The other engagement is what I call “on emotion”. 20th century advertising was much more rational than it should be. It was, especially from the advertiser’s point of view, on message, about talking points.
I think the future of advertising is not just about being ‘on message’, not just about talking points. It’s about being ‘on emotion’ and creating feeling points. Is it the right emotion at the right time?
I’ll give you a little brief instance. We were testing recently for a large package goods company. They were getting a lot of happiness and a lot of halo around the offer. People were enjoying the commercial. Then they flashed to a little scene that was on a beach. It was really close to the end of the commercial. And, it was filmed on an October day; no one’s on the beach. And it looked a little forlorn. We took the people from feeling happy to feeling sad. And that broke the emotional momentum of the commercial. So, getting the right emotion that pertains to your offer and fit into people’s lives and build on a story...that’s where you want to go. Those are the metrics we are interested in.
Excellent. So how are those metrics measured with your book that shows your reaching your audience?
It’s book sales.
But, it’s also invitations to give speeches. I was invited this morning to speak to the industry leaders in market research. Keynote speech. Their paradigm is still a supremely rational one.
I know the book has just appeared in Germany and in the Washington Post as one of the Top 5 Emerging books business should be paying attention to. You want to be influential and you want to have readers.
Describe the reader you had in mind as you prepared this book, late at night, laboring...? You have answered that, talking about the Creative Director and hopefully the consumer.
There’s a lot of Saturday mornings where I rolled out of bed to start to write for a 12-hour day. You have to have some passion and belief in what you’re doing to keep yourself going.
Some of it is the Creative Director, yes. I think they realize 2 things matter the most. You gotta have a visual. After all, if a picture is worth 10,000 words. You don’t have time in advertising and no one wants to take the time to consume 10,000 words. You’ve got to have a visual or draw a picture quickly that really resonates with people. You have to have a defining visual. Over 20% of the brain is exclusively devoted to processing visuals.
On behalf of the Creative Directors, I don’t believe their clients are oriented towards thinking of the visuals very often. Especially if you move up to the CFO or CEO, they are left-brain, analytical people. They have got to be aware that people are operating on a sensory emotional level and that’s how advertising can be effective.
So, part of the book was trying to give ammo to the Creative Director to say
- Yep, here’s the evidence to prove that you are right.
You’ve got to have the dominant visual. And then you have to make the emotional connection. You’ve got to be ‘on emotion’.
The other audience is the client. I’m hoping they can see ways they can push back on the Creative Director and say
- You’re making this thing too complicated. You’re being too clever by half.
One of the statistics we looked at was how many scenes do you have in your 30-second radio or tv spots. In other words, as you move from one element of your script to another, if you put a lot of scene changes...that might be fun for you, kinda like MTV editing. But, as you move beyond 3 or 4, the more people start having it all blurred for them. And you are less effective.
I want to give the client the ability to say to the Creative Director:
- I love that you want to be a movie director. But I have a 30 seconds to communicate. Please don’t lose my audience. Make it a bit more compact so people can take it home with them and stay with it.
Drilling on this point just a bit, ‘cause I think it’s important...W-I-I-F-M is the streaming media channel we play all day. That's the channel of what's in it for me. What's in it for these two groups of readers? Why should they care?
There’s a tremendous problem. In the desperation to get our attention there’s a heavy use of humor and sex. There’s some justification because after all if it creates some happiness.That’s an emotion that cases us to get more oxygen in the brain and causes us to be more willing to consider more things, to put them into perspective. So, if you’re introducing new things to people then creating happiness is great.
But, how often do we see humor overshadow the product so we forget its offer. How often is the humor considered sexist?
There’s a real important initiative to bring more diversity to the Creative Director’s ranks. Ad Age had a report that looked at last year’s Super Bowl and I believe out of all the ads that were shown that if you go beyond white male creative directors I think there were 2 of the spots that were created by someone else.
The humor might be amusing to the Creative Director. But, I know a lot of people, certainly women in the target audience that say:
- That doesn’t make me feel good. That doesn’t reinforce my self-worth. It’s irrelevant; it’s offensive.
That’s humor in its own right. Sometimes it’s sex in the humor. But, the WIFFM is the key thing. What we’re looking for is this is communication. We’re not interested in a joke. A joke is not as valuable as a sale, certainly not to the sponsor of this stuff.
You have to get to the value proposition and the values proposition. Your values proposition, how you see the world, what matters to you is a reflection of your upbringing, your outlook, your heroes and value systems. It’s intrinsically who you are. And it’s hugely emotional. You have to have some way to connect on their values level. You certainly don’t want to insult their values otherwise you’re losing out big time.
In your book you promise to reveal to us the secrets of effective advertising that big global brands have a paid big global amounts to learn and master. You and your book delivered on that promise.
But judging from the ads of big global brands they haven’t learned yet. Ads remain unbearable for us and ineffective for them. Where's the disconnect between your teaching and their learning?
It’s a very provocative and wonderful question. I’m going to give you a really honest answer and more honest than I should give you.
One thing is billables. The ad agencies do not want to disrupt their billables. They need to create the aura that they are the magicians and they can do it well. So, to admit that they have some shortcomings or they could improve their game.
I had a BBC interview and there was guy from a major ad agency and he was saying:
“We have perfected our market research.”
And I said:
“Wow. Perfection is a pretty high standard. How do you do it?”
And he wouldn’t divulge it.
And I said:
“Well, this is how we do it with facial coding.”
And he came back with:
“Well, that’s fine if you want to create consumers like rats in a maze.”
I came back that:
“I'm a poet by training. I’m trying to create emotional content that connects.”
I think some of this is that nervous pushback.
I think the other one is ego. I have a lot of sympathy. They get their stuff worked over and challenged by clients who may not have a feel for what makes for a wonderful ad.
But, I’m not sure a Creative Director always does either. How often do they indulge their ego? Insulting both genders, not just women? In surveys male and female alike can’t relate to the depictions of them in advertising.
So, the Creative Director...it’s their love-child, their advertising. So, it’s hard to back off and take criticism. Yet, some of the criticism could make a difference and make a better ad.
It’s ego and money. I call it the Casablanca Effect. It’s that point in the movie where Claude Rains says:
Round up the usual suspects.
It’s really easy for human nature, for all of us, to follow rote patterns. Yet, there’s a tremendous upside opportunity to have better creative in their own right and to have better sales results.
I look to the most rigorous studies out there. They estimate that only 15% of advertising pays for itself.
I think it’s up to the clients to ask their Creative Directors how do we get into that 15% range.
Early in your book you talk about Al and Laura Ries and their critique that advertising's too often one-sided, biased and selfish...rather than consumer-oriented or consumer-facing. Ads tell us about a product. And then ask us what do we think about their product. But a Yale University study came up with a list of 12 most persuasive words. What was the number one word?
The number one word was YOU. That’s very much similar to WIIFM, what’s in it for me. Show me that you actually care about my situation in life, not just selling me something.
We have gone through and looked at the engagement rates, really key metric across a 30-second tv spot. And it dies in the last 5 seconds. It falls off badly in the last 5 seconds because what typically happens in the last 5 seconds is you’re not presented with an opportunity to say as I consumer “would I but this?”
You get the distinct impression you are being sold to. Suddenly the corporate logo is there, the music, the tagline, the last hard push of why you should buy X-Y-Z. And it sure doesn’t feel like a WIIFM. It feels like what’s in it for the company.
And yet, what do people remember? Openings, closings and peak moments. So, the advertiser is throwing away one of the three most important places by not going to the YOU.
If you look at the other words on the list a lot of them really are about me, defending myself. You’ve got words like ‘proven’, ‘guarantee’, ‘results’, ‘money’ which is about the fact that most basic human emotions are to defend myself.
That could be defending my self-esteem, my family, also defending my pocketbook. But, beyond that, do I want to look at ‘new’, ‘love’, ‘discovery’, ‘my health’...ways in which you can expand your world in a profitable way without depleting your resources.
And that all comes back to the individual. How do you feed the ‘me’. And it should be interpersonal connection and I think a lot of advertising doesn’t leave us feeling that way and it’s a shame.
Aren't ads and their self-absorption just a reflection of us and our self-absorption? Why don't we recognize our own faces in those self-absorbed ads? Or maybe we do.
Well, I think another point we should go to here is casting. They almost always are in the commercial. And this is a moment where we could see ourselves in the company, where our self-interests could be the same.
We have found that more dramatic versions of story-telling ads and testimonial ads, is among the least effective.
It could be more effective. If you connect to a human being could be a very powerful way to be brought along in the situation, to see what’s in it for you. But, we have discovered over our 13 years that the casting is really crucial. We have seen swings of as much as 30% for a piece of advertising where the format could be the same, the offer, the color-scheme, the music are all the same except for the actor. Certain people have stage presence, certain people we intuitively like and trust. And you never like someone you don’t intuitively trust.
A lot of the acting isn’t that good. You probably get sent over a lot of grip and grin photos from the casting people. They are showing what is know as a social smile. That’s a smile you can try and manipulate just around the mouth. A true smile involves muscles around the eye. That’s how you get the twinkle in the eye. And it’s very hard to fake.
The very nature of the casting process is to receive a whole bunch of photographs with people flashing social smiles. And although we’re all experts in facial coding, flashing a smile that we don’t really believe or trust or buy into...that’s another reason why being on emotion is important.
And when that is off, and I’ll give you a prime example. You have a lot of CEOs who like to be in their own ads. Few of them are effective. A lot of them are not. And I remember one who was trying to pick up on the angst and frustration with the bank bailouts and downturn and he was talking about how angry he was on behalf of his fellow lovers of the product. I’m looking at his face and thinking
Huh. There’s no anger on your face. I believe you’re still making a lot of money on your product. And you’re well-removed from your target market in terms of their lifestyle. And your face is not showing the emotion your words are talking about.
That disconnect is something that is going to resonate for people. And it’s going to be a way in which we are blocked from relating to that commercial.
I think about because last night I was watching a documentary on PBS about Egypt. And there’s a point in the speech where Mubarak says:
I never wanted power.
And everybody who was watching that speech in the square snickered when they heard that.
You have to be very aware of that as a speaker. Authenticity and trust is indeed the emotion of business.
You write that fear and self-defense are the two themes underlying that list of 12 most persuasive words.
Fear and self-defense are ruled by our reptilian brain, the amygdala. So....should ads target the reptile in all of us? That’s a cheeky question. But is it possible that ads can target perhaps our higher reasoning powers, our altruistic and social nature?
Well, I think that the social nature is a key point we haven’t touched on yet. You want to belong to a group. It feels good. You want to belong. Defending is our most core emotion. But the other three are to acquire status and products. One of them is to learn and discover which is a word that shows up on that list.
The 4th key motivation is to bond with people. Romantically, with your family, with your peer group. That makes you feel better and feel comfortable, a sense of power. And it’s a really key dimension that you could rationalize
Your book explains how to communicate with us, a three-brained monster called the consumer. We just touched on one brain, the reptilian brain, What are the other two brains and their functions? Which one do most ads fail to reach?
I think it’s essentially emotional. The reptilian brain is 500 million years old. The emotional brain is 200 million years old. The rational brain, the executive function brain, is 100,000 years old.
That’s longer than I’m going to live. It seems like a long time.
But, in the course of evolution the rational brain is the odd man out. It does not have the first-mover advantage in business terms. We are overwhelmingly sensory, emotional, decision-makers. One of my favorite quotes is from a famous attorney. And he said “I don’t like spinach. I’m glad I don’t like spinach because if I did I’d eat it and I’d just hate it.”
I think that’s how we make decisions. Everyone has a comfort zone. Everyone feels for it before they think. The key thing is to make that connection. Make that connection to ourselves, to how we fit into a group. It allows s to defend ourselves, to bond. It does everything for us.
That’s the part that’s missing. And in an ad that’s effective, yeah, you can draw the distinction between our users and your users. Apple’s done this very effectively with Microsoft and PCs saying:
- We’re the wonderful, cool, crowd. And you’re the flat-footed geeks.
So, there is some advantage in drawing those distinctions but only if you have made people feel good about being part of that crowd.
We’ve known this about the 3-headed brain since 1948. So many GI’s suffered head wounds that the US Government threw research dollars after to figure out how to help GIs. And they discovered that we have this 3-part brain.
So, this is something now that even after the MRI brain scans added some additional insights in the ’80’s, you’re going all the way back to WW2. And this is documented and well-known, but not it’s not well-known enough.
You should ask yourself how do I make the sensory connection whether it’s the visual or tactile impression.
- What’s the one way I have that’s the signature clue that’s going to hook people in and make the reptilian brain and make it work.
Then you need to ask:
- What one emotion am I trying to get at? Is it pride, is it alleviation of fear? What one emotion am I trying to tap into and leverage with this commercial and get to the mammalian brain.
And then the "rational brain". I would frankly put quotation marks around it. We’re not like Mr. Spock, we’re like Homer Simpson. We make decisions based on greed and laziness and stupidity and jealousy. What I would call the rational brain is the intellectual alibi. Give people a reason, a statistic, some way to justify the decision that they have made in their gut.
You need the signature visual, the one emotion you’re going to leverage, and the intellectual alibi. You do those three things in your print ad, your tv spot or your website then you’re a lot farther ahead than you were 20 minutes ago.
You describe the first key to an effective ad as Stopping Power? Where does stopping power end and interruption begin?
That’s a fabulous question. I love the way it’s even worded. It is not an interruption if it’s a welcome interruption.
Stopping power is so much more an important term for those who want to make sales than mere awareness. Because you can do surveys that find out how many people know your brand name. All the ad agencies love awareness because that’s the top of mind response. “I’m aware of Saddam Hussein. I’m aware of Adolph Hitler.” I’m not going to buy their brand. Awareness means nothing in the marketplace by itself.
Stopping power means you change the behavior. You made them pay attention. One of the ways you do this is surprise. Surprise is an emotion where you’re seeing things. You’re eyes go wide and your mouth drops open. Almost as if it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying:
- Why don’t you shut up and listen.
And if you can make people surprised then they’re on alert and you can take it from there.
So, that’s really where Stopping Power starts in. And yes, if it proves to be lame or offensive or boring then you have lost your opportunity and then it’s an interruption.
What I talk about in the first rule is “Get physical.” That’s so important in the reptilian brain. In addition to facial coding, for half a decade or more we’ve used eye-tracking. It’s commonly available and I think I was one of the first purchasers of this software from a Swedish company with eye-tracking technology. Eye-tracking software lets you get down to the split-second. You’re getting data every 1/25 of a second so we know what people are looking at.
And what we’ve discovered is yes it’s nice to have a dominant visual. People really gravitate to faces so don’t blow that. That’s where casting comes in. If, the visuals have some significance for people’s lives; that’s a key one.
And there’s one more that the client would often miss. There’s gotta be change; there’s gotta be motion. People notice contrast. You’re taking me from problem to solution. You’re taking me from ideal product maybe. But how do I get there? Me vs A Rival. People need the contrast because that’s friction. Story-telling plot has gotta include a tension that gets resolved.
And, I think a Creative Director gets that. But the client can be such a motor-mouth "let’s get out message after message", that there’s no chance for that contrast to build. Even visually you gotta have the contrast.
We notice motion. Let’s go back all the way to being on the plains of Africa. If you could catch the moving animal you could have dinner. If you didn’t, you starved. We notice motion, changes in our environment.
Advertising introduces elements of change, conflict, tension, that it can build on. The resolution of course is the branded offer that makes you a hero.
Given all the data that’s now available about us consumers and our habits and where we go..why is it so difficult then for advertisers to interrupt us with an ad of some relevance to our interests?
I think the key word is data. Anybody can drown in tons of data. I think the issue is do you hear any of it? Do you have the story-line? Do you know who the people are?
Take demographics for instance. So often they’re just looking for their target market. To them it’s just a series of numbers. They’re 42 years old, they make this much money and they live here.
Well, we did for a little bit of fun we went through and we checked out Martin Luther King vs Malcolm X. They would have fit the very same demographic profile. But, that didn’t tell you about the heart of the individual. Both of them were fighting for the same cause. They certainly had very different routes and philosophies about how to get there.
And if you just stick with the data, if you just stick with the demographics, you don’t have an intimate sense of who someone is.
One of the initiatives we’ve launched, I’m going to introduce a new term it’s called The Big 5 Factor. It’s the leading academic model on personality. And it’s often called OCEAN because it refers to Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroverted, Agreeable and Neuroticism. And if you can figure out what someone’s personality type is, which is reflected by in what emotions are most common for them. Obviously if someone is more neurotic and not emotionally stable well, then, fear is a more relevant emotion for them. If someone is agreeable then...they’re going to be more happy, for instance.
So, knowing what that personality type is will get you a lot closer to who Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are and give you a chance to have commercials that resonate to the individual’s psyche and not just a flat depiction of a sea of numbers.
Honestly, if you look at most market research and a lot of ways most companies would see their target market, I don’t think they see people. They see pocketbooks and demographic numbers. They don’t have a feel for the people they’re trying to reach. That’s the terrible shame of it. And that’s why there’s the need to make a difference.
The key has to be connecting on the sensory emotional levels. Those are the two oldest parts of the brain and if your message sits in the rational part of the brain you’re getting almost none of the action.
My friend Michele Miller at Wonderbranding blog writes about advertising and particularly to that gender that makes the majority of household purchases: women. She shared recently part of a TED presentations where the speaker discussed the shift in advertising from demographics to shared interests. And I’m thinking as you’re talking that this movement from demographics to shared interests might bridge the gap between seeing numbers and seeing people. What’s your thoughts on that?
I think it’s hugely important. We were just testing a TV spot for a financial services company and at one point they have Ellen DeGeneres in there, just briefly. They had a whole bunch of other celebrities in there. But, I think, because of the nature of her talk show, being open, even crying on the air...she’s shared who she is and a level of vulnerability and people like her show and her approach. There’s a real connection. And she was the only celebrity that got a response on the emotional thermometer, so to speak, in that piece of advertising.
You’re seeing a huge lift in cause marketing. I don’t think that’s going to go away. That brings the values proposition not just the value proposition. It makes the offer more than an offer. Maybe, donations are going to be made to a cause. You see how lives of people, or initiatives you support, it gives you a sense of community.
There are so many products out there so many more than anyone has the pocketbook to buy. Companies are struggling mightily with differentiation. Anything they create gets copied almost immediately by someone else if it’s selling well.
The thing you can’t take away is inside your own person. Your own feelings are unique to you. They are customized in the extreme by definition.
And making that emotional connection, which is often referred to as brand equity. But brand equity is so often tested it’s back to the awareness game. Brand equity is really entirely about emotions. It is about “I care”, “I believe”, “This brand is meaningful to me”.
Brands are really a central repository of value. The ad campaigns come and go. But how you feel about a company is going to be the key. If you can relate to them, if you can feel like it is sharing, I think is a model that works for women.
They do make most of the purchases. And yet, the Creative Directors are mostly male. The CEOs are overwhelmingly male. I’m amazed there aren’t more females in CMO positions. There really should be or there has to be guys in that position who get it, authorize, support it.
Social media. I don’t know if I drink the kool-aid all the time, but I have sipped it and it is good. I’m thinking that social media could help in connecting those with shared interests. How would advertising change to address this shift from demographics to shared interests?
It’s a complicated question. It’s not just a fad; it’s not going away. It’s a question of learning and doing it well.
But I like the kool-aid analogy. It is potentially treacherous. Think about it. Who is on social media? You’re connecting with your friends. You’re talking about your life, your self.
You better make sure you’re not interruptive here, that you’re not just airlifting in here something that’s entirely about the company, there’s no WIIFM. That’s a risk. You could have initiatives that the target market just doesn’t care about. So you’re just annoying them.
It’s also possible that you’re going to be liable to being flamed. Greenpeace put out a piece about Unilever and how the rainforest was creating problems. It was a very powerful, emotional piece. They have to be very careful there.
You have to make sure your value proposition is very emotional. So, how do you manage to not get flamed.
We have 7 core emotions and 5 of them are negative. Anger and contempt and sadness and disgust and fear. I think it’s very possible that social media can be a very energizing, propelling thing and we’re seeing that in the middle east right now, can be something that your company finds is a two-edged sword and your company finds the sword is getting rammed into it.
So, you play it carefully. There are some companies doing it well. I mention one in the book. Ford had offered one of its cars to a whole bunch of people. I think 20 or 50 people. They did not have to blog or tweet about it, talk about it on Facebook. It was their choice based on how the car performed for them.
So, it didn’t put as much pressure on them. It wasn’t a hard sell. It was a wow because “Suddenly I have this car that shows up in my life.” And you can communicate about the car.You can boast about it to your friends; you’ve got the social dimensions. You could post videos. And Ford had a lot of positive press out of this far more than they could have paid for out of a campaign and with a lot more authenticity.
The key to the social media stuff is you don’t offend their value system, you give them the WIIFM - the reason why they should care for themselves and communicate this their friends and does it feel authentic and are you offering the chance for an experience.
I think social media also ties into the fact that you are going to blow past the traditional TV, radio, print, even website. You’re going to get out into the public arena. One of my favorite pieces of advertising that I’ve been talking about a lot is a company that donated a skate-board ramp. And suddenly, teenagers get to ride up and down that ramp. They’ll get to see the logo over and over and over. Hundreds of times, a lot more than any TV ad campaign. And, you can, if you’re a teenager, you can ride over the logo and express your rebellious side by saying “I got the logo, I got this company under my feet, literally.” And I think that’s very attractive to a 16-year old boy.
I think that’s a brilliant piece of advertising that’s kind of an adjunct to the social media thing. But it gives people a chance to feel like they can own it, that it’s a part of their lives, that it’s not an imposition, that it’s not an interruption. That’s got to be the key thing. Otherwise, it’s just another way of imposing.
I think we’ve all gone to websites where we’ve seen, almost every company has a site that says "so and so sucks". I’ve seen cases where I’ve gone on those and I can tell where certain ones of those postings feel manufactured. They feel like pre-fab housing. Someone from the PR wing said:
- We better post some positive things.
It just feels stilted.
I think people have a really good BS detector. And you can blow yourself up quickly by being those kinds of liars.
I loved your whole book. But one section stood out for me. It’s where you analyzed a 60-second ad and showed what looks like an ad agency who can't help itself. They have 38 seconds of engagement. They’re clever; they’re creative; they’re personal...the test subjects are completely engaged. And then they just HAVE to use the professional voice over and the interest is lost. Why do they do that?
I think their hand is probably forced by the corporation becase now they have to put in all the talking points. And it is one of my favorite examples. It’s in the telecommunications field. They start telling the story. They open with characters. It’s engaging; the emotions are flowing. And then the corporate voice over comes in and it reminds me of my favorite New Yorker cartoon where 2 women are talking and one of them says:
- But enough about me. What do YOU think about me?
It’s the company talking to itself. It’s talking in a really boring way. It’s very generic. It’s faceless, almost literally, pun intended.
That’s important because if you go back to emotions and how they’re generated, there’s really 3 key elements. There is the visuals and the sound effects and how it’s working on the sensory level. There’s the value proposition. And a 3rd one is a personality type.
I’ll give you an amusing instance. I was in a grocery store. I’m going down the aisle. I suddenly see that General Mills has taken Betty Crocker off the packaging; they’ve replaced her with a spoon.
I get really curious and I go home and look up all the old Betty Crockers on the website. She’s supposed to be the epitome of the ‘happy housewife’. And yet over 7 versions and 100 years, she’s never had a true smile on her face. Never once.
How do you get this wrong for 100 years in a row? Someone’s at fault whether it’s the ad agency or whoever at the company that signs off on these things. But it’s just amazing.
You want to respond to a person, a sense of who they are, trustworthy, warm, provocative; something that gets our juices going. And we have these corporate voice overs. And they’re really common. And I have to add that I show they are 1/3 as effective as a more casual, intimate, dialogue between people.
And yet, over and over, they are used. I believe they are used to deliver the messaging. And because it saves money. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face by just going to a single actor rather than using a couple.
It’s hard to hug a giant. That’s what I would urge the corporate clients to realize. If they are a big company with a lot of resources then that’s potentially really great. They can put a really good product in the marketplace and they can support it.
On the other hand, it’s easy to draw into your tower and not connect with people. Lose a sense of who they are. Put up a stone wall and not be personal.
We all experience this through customer service unfortunately where very often we get the kind of service we don’t really like. It’s important to make those personal connections. I guess in essence that’s the purpose of the book is to re-human-asize the advertising process. Get away from data and get back to people.
Let's talk about the Rise of the Creative Class. And, that's not Richard Florida's book, but the opportunity for brand evangelists or vigilantes to create more powerful ads, cheaper, than the brands themselves. What's the role of consumer-participation in collaborating w/ brands to create messages the consumer care about.
I think this is a fascinating adjunct to the social media conversation we had just a few minutes ago. Doritos has been very much out there, on the super bowl, running ads that were consumer created. There are a lot of creative types using the internet to do mashups and parodies. Parodies, quite honestly, draw a lot more traffic than original advertising.
Do creatives get burnt out? Do they get frustrated with the signoff process? Are there other possibilities, take teenagers who have a better feel for what the product is about.
My best friend lives in LA and I said to him one time:
- “What should be your number one criteria for choosing an ad agency?”
Because seemingly they all have resources and won awards.
And he said:
- “Oh. It’s easy. You choose the agency, if you’re smart, that can get you closer to your target market than you can get on your own.”
Within the agency, do they have people who really know and feel this brand.
I think this is going to scare the agencies to death. This is a great chance to tap into the WIIFM, people’s lives and what it really means for them. This is something I would hope the agencies could collaborate with without killing off the spirit. And it would offer tremendous cost savings for the client. Ideally, it could lift the amount of advertising that’s effective.
Thomas Friedman’s written about this in The Lexus and the Olive Tree. The companies and individuals and countries that do best are the ones that are most connected. So, the more you have that flow and the reachouts and the brainstorming I think the better off you are. The more ossified you, the more isolated you are, you’re going to pay for that in the end and probably sooner than it.
How do you use social media for your work? Where can we find you?
I am not your best example because I am not nearly as good as I should be at doing those things. I’m going to have to make apologies there. Certainly, I do respond to individual emails. So, dhill at sensorylogic dot com works. I expect within a couple of months I’ll be tweeting.
If you go to our website, the obligatory 3 w’s and sensorylogic.com then you can more of what we do. I did write a book on the presidential race in 2008. That’s another way to learn about what we’ve done. It was called Facetime. I was very prescient on picking out who was going to do well in the race.
Another way people can find out more is go to YouTube.
You're a leader. Leaders are readers. Jim Rohn says that. I just quote him. What are you reading these days?
I am reading a book on evolutionary psychology, mating and romance.
I’m reading constantly a book on the brain.
I’m reading native american novelists.
I jump around a lot.
A book just arrived about sports and statistics. That’s a project we’re working on. Matheletics just showed up for me.
Leave us with one parting thought for our listeners to remind us what we should expect to see in an effective ad.
The most important thing in the end is probably to keep it simple. If you took a print ad, you should be able to look at it and flip it upside down almost immediately and something should stay in your mind. There should be a dominant visual, a keyword choice that stands out. Some way that it’s been memorable to you and that made a connection. The joke that has to be explained to you is never as funny as the joke you just get.
If you really look at the psychology of the emotional connection, you’ve really got the 3-second rule. Hut, hut, hike and the play is on. If something can’t be understood readily....you are making it mostly into an intellectual exercise. It’s not going to have the stopping power, the memorability, the persuasion that you actually need in the gut. Keep it simple. Find that one thing that’s going to matter in that ad. And anything that detracts from the power of that or augments it, drop it.
That’s the key.