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See You On the Internet

See You On the Internet

Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing
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This I Know

This I Know

Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence
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When you create a message with emotional content, it attracts people. Leadership consultant Edwin H. Friedman puts an even finer point on it, saying, “People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them.” Emotion pulls, it doesn’t chase.
    I’ve always been a fan of humour in advertising, and most of the ten-thousand-plus commercials I’ve directed over the last twenty-five years were humorous. All marketing is an intrusion. It piggybacks on the real reason people have focused their attention—watching television, listening to radio, perusing a newspaper or surfing online. They are there for the content, not the advertising (though the Super Bowl may be the one exception to this rule). So if advertising is an interloper, how do you make that interruption the most polite or, at minimum, the least intrusive message possible? Even more, how do you give something back in return for the loud knocking? Humour is one answer.
    It’s important to understand the difference between humour and comedy. Humour is giving, it’s generous. Comedy subtracts and is usually sarcastic or biting. That’s why humour is better suited to marketing. To make someone smile, or laugh, forges an emotional connection. Humour gathers people. Think about people you know. The ones who make you smile are the ones you most want to be around. Humour doesn’t pursue, it pulls.
    Not long ago, I attended a talk given by filmmaker Richard Curtis at the Cannes advertising festival. Curtis is a very successful screenwriter and director whose credits include Mr. Bean, Blackadder, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Notting Hill, to name but a few. Not a bad resumé. He was in Cannes to unveil a new marketing campaign he was spearheading to tackle extreme poverty and climate change. The campaign was going to begin with a cinema ad that would be shown on the same day in every movie theatre in North America and Europe. It would be the first global cinema ad ever done. When Curtis previewed the ad during his talk, the press was surprised that its treatment of extreme poverty and climate change was humorous. Didn't the subject matter call for a more serious tone?
    Here’s what Curtis said: In his early days as a writer on Blackadder, he realized the only way to get the audience to remember an important plot point was to attach it to humour. So if Sir Nigel Ridgley was coming for dinner, few people would remember that beat. But if Sir Nigel Fatbottom was coming, no one forgot. Humour made it stick.
    Now, humour isn’t the only answer to effective marketing, but it illustrates the rule. Emotional content makes people care. That said, most learning institutions put much more value on intellectual reasoning than they do on emotion. Yet emotion fuels the world. Even in a math-and-science-driven institution like NASA, the decision to go to the moon wasn’t driven by rational facts. It was propelled by the emotion of John F. Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the moon by 1970 to prove American superiority. Throughout the 1960s, NASA continually marketed the moonshot with emotion. It signed an ongoing contract with Life magazine to feature full-colour stories on the astronauts and their families; it framed the new satellite communications technology and even the small RCA cameras the astronauts took onboard as innovations that would have a beneficial impact on the daily lives of Americans. Maybe the most emotional pitch was the one that warned of letting the Russians (read: Communists) control outer space, dropping bombs on America “like kids dropping rocks from a highway bridge.” That pitch alone persuaded the government to keep sign- ing those big cheques.
    The space organization needed the support not only of Congress, but also of the American public. Landing men on the moon was going  to  be  the  most  expensive  endeavour  America  had  ever undertaken, totalling over $170 billion in today’s dollars (and by the way, there was an expensive war going on in Vietnam). If the decision to go had been based strictly on logic, it never would have happened. Emotion made the difference. America felt invested in the outcome.
    When companies like Duncan Hines marketed instant cake mixes after World War II, all you needed to do was add water and two eggs. It was a big hit with homemakers, but then in the 1950s, sales started to drop off dramatically. As time wore on, women stopped enjoying the quick baking mix. They felt unfulfilled by the process. It was too easy. It felt like they were cheating their families. The product that was created for ultimate convenience became too convenient.
     So what did brands like Duncan Hines do to turn sales around? The secret was to make homemakers feel like bakers. It was literally the icing on the cake. The company showed cooks (read: women) how to add decadent frosting—not just to the top, but also between each layer and all around the cake. That suggestion made them feel like they were truly baking. With that, cake mix sales soared again. As a matter of fact, the photo of a frosted cake became one of the defining advertising images of that era. Once women felt invested in the process of baking a cake, they couldn’t buy enough cake mixes.
     In his fascinating book Creativity, Inc., Pixar CEO Ed Catmull says the definition of superb animation is not just movement, but intention. Put another way—emotion. As of this writing, Pixar has had fifteen number-one movies in a row. The trick isn’t just outstanding animation, it’s that you tear up when a robot named WALL-E no longer recognizes his robot love, EVE, due to a programming reboot. It’s a cartoon, it’s about robots, and you need a box of Kleenex. If people feel something, they are invested. They will pay more, they will stay longer, and they will spend more time seeking you out when they are emotionally moved by storytelling in marketing.

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Design Thinking at Work

Design Thinking at Work

How Innovative Organizations are Embracing Design
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Thinking Like a Designer

 

How Design Keeps the Dutch Dry

 

Delft is a quaint Dutch city located about halfway between Rotterdam and The Hague. Sometimes called “little Amsterdam,” its canals, churches, and narrow streets have a way of transporting you back in time (Figure 1.1a). If you didn’t look too closely, you could be forgiven for thinking it unchanged since Johannes Vermeer immortalized it in his painting View of Delft in the 1600s.

 

From time to time, the city’s charms are less obvious. Winter storms batter the North Sea coast, bringing gale-force winds and driving rain, testing the patience of its residents – and the durability of their umbrellas, which tend to flip inside out in the high winds.

 

In a single week in March 2004, Gerwin Hoogendoorn lost three umbrellas to the elements. Frustrated by the experience, the industrial design student at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) set out to improve a product that had been essentially unchanged for 3,400 years. The ultimate result was Senz, a stormproof umbrella designed to withstand whatever nature could throw at the hapless Dutch pedestrian.

 

Hoogendoorn explored everything about umbrellas: their tendency to flip inside out, to block visibility, to poke people in the eye. Umbrellas were a boring utilitarian product that didn’t fulfil their function well – so boring, in fact, that Hoogendoorn had to endure the ridicule of his fellow design students, Gerard Kool and Philip Hess, for even working on such a product.

 

His early ideas included a magnetic field to repel the rain and a helicopter-like device attached to the user’s head. Eventually, however, he focused on the aerodynamics of umbrellas. With no background in aerodynamics, he sought out the help of university contacts with expertise in the field. To build prototypes, he bought a couple of umbrellas, tore them apart, and rebuilt them. He tested his ideas through computer simulation, wind tunnels, and “in-use” tests (i.e., taking them out in the Dutch rain).

 

With Kool and Hess – who, by now, had begun to come around to the idea – Hoogendoorn founded Senz in 2005. The first Senz umbrella was launched in November 2006; its original, quirky design captured the public imagination, and the initial stock of 10,000 units sold out in nine days. In its first year, Senz won almost every major design award and went global in 2007.

 

Hoogendoorn’s design school, TU Delft, is a venerated institution in the design world. A few years ago, I spent a sabbatical there, during which I experienced the Dutch rain on more than one occasion. As a former marketing executive and a professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, I had been on a journey to explore “design thinking” for some years. I wanted to know everything I could about design and design thinking. What was design thinking anyway, and how was it different from any other kind of thinking? How was it practised in business and the public sector, and what happened when it was?

 

I felt the best way to conduct this exploration was to immerse myself in the world of design. I hung out with designers. I read deeply about design and design theory. I worked with designers on projects. I talked with designers, design educators, and design thinkers in organizations. I taught business strategy to designers and design thinking to executives. My design journey led me not only to Delft but also to many more places around the world.
I found that designers look at the world in a distinct and interesting way. I found not just creativity but also curiosity, rigour, and discipline. I found some answers – and many more questions.

 

To a designer like Hoogendoorn, what was design thinking? On the face of it, his idea of design sounds fairly simple: “I think good design is an object or a service that exceeds the user’s expectation,” he says in a promotional video.

 

But even if we had a good way of understanding what the user expects, how would we know which problem to work on? Flimsy umbrellas are just one of those everyday problems that seem to plague us. We take such problems for granted and don’t think much about them, much less about solving them. Hoogendoorn’s genius seemed to be in selecting the problem as much as in solving it.

 

Once he had decided to work on the problem, he went back and forth, drawing things, building rough models, testing them, redefining the problem, moving on from ridiculous ideas to more practical ones, and learning as he went along. His approach was exploratory, driven by curiosity.

 

For companies that make consumer products, the ability of designers like Hoogendoorn to find genius in the everyday is inspiring – and perhaps a little disconcerting. Hoogendoorn approached Impliva, a major umbrella distributor, and was turned down before embarking on his own project. It seems to suggest that designers see possibilities that companies don’t see.

 

Many organizations have taken this to heart, wondering what the “secret sauce” of design might be, and whether it could be applied to their own problems. Design thinking has been touted as an answer to this question and has grown from a fringe activity to a central weapon in the problem-solver’s arsenal. An army of consultants and management gurus now promote it as the long-awaited answer to the problem of innovation in organizations.

 

If only it were that simple.

 

Most of my career to date has been spent in large organizations. Exciting as design thinking is – and I still find myself passionate about it – it is not easy to apply. As I have explored design thinking, I have encountered many with a similar passion who struggle to make it work in a large organization. It is such a different way of looking at problems that it can pose a challenge to the prevailing culture and approach.

 

I’ve found that organizational design thinkers face common problems, tensions that they have to manage in order to survive. Fortunately, some are not merely surviving but are thriving. How they do so is the subject of this book.

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Spin

Spin

Politics and Marketing in a Divided Age
edition:Paperback
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Emerging Issues in Global Marketing

Emerging Issues in Global Marketing

A Shifting Paradigm
edition:Hardcover
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Let's Get Frank

Let's Get Frank

Canada's Mad Man of Advertising
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The Internet Trap

The Internet Trap

Five Costs of Living Online
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