Archive for the ‘Ad Advice’ Category

Social Media and The Rule of 150

Published by admin on October 18th, 2012

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Social Media and The Rule of 150.

Google uses social media engagement as a key metric in giving relevance scores to websites, so, the more “likes” on your Facebook page the better, right?  10,000 is 100x better than 100 and a million is 100x better than that, right?  It’s important to remember that metrics don’t buy your products or services, human beings do, and while social media has changed our habits, our motivations and the size and sphere of our social groups haven’t changed since prehistoric times. Turns out the number you as a business owner need to be focused on is 150.

Social media has changed the conversational medium by which human beings communicate; it just hasn’t changed human beings.  The typical social group size for humans hasn’t changed.  It is and has always been about 150 people.  With the explosion in population, travel and access, and now the internet, social media, etc. one would think our social sphere of influence would have expanded, but it hasn’t.  Dr. Michael Gazzaniga is well researched in this field, and articulates this in his book Who’s In Charge: Free Will And The Science Of The Brain

Dr. Gazzaniga sites the work of Robin Dunbar, head of Oxford University Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology:

“150-200 people are the number of people that can be controlled without an organizational hierarchy. It is the number of people one can keep track of, maintain a stable social relationship with, and would be willing to help with a favor.”

But why? What are the limiting factors that keep us at a social group of around 150? Turns out it has to do with the size of the neocortex in our brains.  He goes on to explain:

“To have social relationships, you call on five cognitive abilities:  (1) you must interpret visual information to recognize others, then (2)be able to remember both faces and (3) who has a relationship with whom; (4) you must process emotional information, and then (5) manipulate information about a set of relationships.”

Managing human relationships requires an immense amount of processing power and for whatever evolutionary reason our brains’ cognitive capacity caps out at around 150 people.  Yeah, but you (or someone you know) have 784 Facebook friends, right?  More from Dr. Gazzaniga:

Today’s social networking sites appear no different.  In an ongoing study, Dunbar has so far found that even people with hundreds of “friends” interact with a limited number of them.  “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world.”

Still think getting that lady who has 950 Facebook friends to like your page is super influential? Sure she is, but no more than that introverted customer who slips in and out of your business without much engagement or feedback at all.  They both have about the same size social group.  Every customer interaction, from your advertising, your Facebook page, your website, to your phone calls, your trucks and store fronts, is an opportunity to delight each person as if they have direct influence with 150 people, because statistically speaking, they do.

Write great ads, just don’t tug on Superman’s cape

Published by admin on July 18th, 2012

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape

You don’t spit into the wind

You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger

and you don’t mess around with Jim.

-Jim Croce: song-writer, marketing professor

You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, released in April 1972.  Lay the first line of the chorus on anyone over 40 (maybe younger) and they can recite the entire refrain.  I heard it again today over the house system while dining with a client and I stopped to relive that fantastic story.  The evocative descriptions and the magnificent choice of verbs told a feature length film story in three minutes start to finish.

What makes that story work is what makes great relational advertising work.  A memorable story with a hooks that are easily recalled, written in an economy of words. Unusual descriptions, funky verbs, knowing what to leave out.

Set the scene:  Uptown got its’ hustlers, the bowry got its’ bums and 42nd street got a big Jim Walker, he a pool-shootin’ son of gun.  I know that place.  Bet you do too.  Jim didn’t have a convertible, he drivin’ a drop-top Cadillac.  When a rival named Slim comes calling, Jim didn’t walk into the pool hall, Jimmy come boppin’ in off the street.  But when the cuttin’ was done the only part that wasn’t bloody, was the soles of the big man’s feet.   Man I loved that song as a kid.  The story hooked me every time the radio cast it.   And hell, even though I was a south Alabama country boy just like Slim,  I kinda felt sorry for ol’ Jim by the end.

Why do we spend time boring listeners with business blah blah when we could be telling fantastic stories like this??  If radio or TV advertising spun stories like this, you think they’d be memorable and sell product?   Maybe we should ask another bad ass character with a great storyThe most interesting man in the world.


Advertising for 3 Phases of Consumer Behavior

Published by admin on February 24th, 2012


Everything I know about Relational and Transactional customers, I learned from Roy H. Williams, founder of the Wizard Academy  and the those terms should be properly credited to him.   My friend and former co-worker Josh Yudin, president of The Marketing Academy, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, assigned a new meaning to those terms as different modes of consumer behavior in general.   It has occurred to me, however, that there is a 3rd phase, Transitional, that incorporates both the general ethos of Relational or Transactional buyers, and buyer behavior through the sales cycle of any give product or service.  That said…

There are three phases of buyer behavior:

Relational, Transitional,  and Transactional

Relational: The phase customers are in before the need arises for your product. 95-98% of your target. The longer the sales cycle (HVAC, jewelry, cars once every few years, vs. say a restaurant, grocery store, gasoline, etc.), the longer a customer is in Relational phase

Transitional: After an event occurs to move them into the sales funnel (anything from the everyday mundane events like “I’m hungry” to paradigm shifting life events like “my mother broke her hip and now she can’t live alone”). The length of time a customer stays in Transitional mode depends on a number of factors like personality types,  immediacy of solution needed, amount of expense, resources available, etc.

Transactional: After the consumer has had what my friend calls the “Popeye moment” (as in, “I can’t stands no more!”). They’ve done any necessary research and they are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.The immediate sales funnel. That 2-5% of your target customer that is ready to buy today.

  •  Each phase requires different advertising strategy.  One could argue for exceptions, but generally speaking, it works something like this.

Media Strategy for Each:

Relational Strategy: The “Why”.   Persuade with emotions. Authentically enroll people with the “why” of your company. Details and facts are irrelevant in relational mode because they are not yet in the market for your product.   While emotions can be conveyed in any medium, the human brain is uniquely wired for processing the human voice, thus making intrusive, sound-based media like Radio and TV a prudent choice for not only arresting the attention of an audience, but also telling the “why” story of your company in an emotionally compelling way.

Transitional Strategy:  The “How”.  An event has occurred in the customers life and they are looking for possible options to solve their problem. Articles and blog entries on your site found through a solid SEO strategy.   Social Media conversations on  Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest, etc.  Behavioral Retargeting is becoming more and more effective advertising tool in transitional phase. 

Transactional Strategy: The “Who, What, Where”.    They are ready to buy and they are looking for the details necessary to complete the transaction.  SEM (Pay Per Click) used correctly is a very effective tool in the Transactional phase.  Feedback sites like  Yelp, Angie’s List, Kudzu etc. are also becoming more and more important.  In certain cases print media can allow  a more comprehensive format to fill in the details and facts necessary to complete the transaction.  Search has a distinct advantage in that tools like Google Analytics allow advertisers to track metrics and provide reams of data that print media cannot (save tools like QR codes).

Trying to connect emotionally when consumers are in Transactional mode is too late.  Filling ads with details in Relational mode is too premature.

For more information, email me.

6 Quick Steps to Less Sucky Radio Ads (or any ads)

Published by admin on February 23rd, 2012

People don’t “hate advertising”.  Quite the contrary.  How many times have you forwarded a funny commercial or mentioned a clever ad to someone.  Multiple times.  No, we don’t hate advertising…we hate advertising that sucks.  Flacid, boring blah blah blah, and frankly most local radio ad copy sucks.  Heck, most local copy sucks, period.  Hate to be crude, but…it’s true.   However, ask those local advertisers who’ve built an empire on radio, those who you hear year after year? They’d tell you a different story.  So what’s the difference between sucky radio copy and not sucky radio copy?



Follow these 6 simple rules:

1) Arrest the attention: I had a well respected agency tell me once that she needed to “set the stage” before saying something significant.  The hell you do.  You don’t have time. You have 3 seconds for the brain to assess your message and either be intrigued enough to listen further, or kick it to the curb.  3 seconds. Between texting, talking, glancing at a GPS or whatever it’s a wonder anyone ever hears your ad.  Arrest their attention first. Not screaming like a car dealer, but by saying something out of left field for effect, then tie it back to the point you are trying to get across.    Email me, and I can show you several examples or even take your ad and do it for you if you are interested.

2) Ditch the details:  Tell an authentic, interesting story instead. There was a time when details may have mattered in radio ads.  That time dies with this thing called Google. We don’t have to remember details…about anything.  Google’s got it. Details are only important to those who are already in the market for a product, and 98% of those who hear it are not yet in the market. Your short :30 or :60 is too precious to spat details that are not important right now.  Let the details, (the who, what, when, and where,) be the domain of your website, blog, and search strategy, because when they do fall into the cue, they will search.  Tell of the story of the impact your product or service had on someone.  Make it interesting, and make it real.  To paraphrase Simon Sinek, “people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it”.  Give them the why.  Tell them your story.

3) Crush the cliche’ catchphrase:  Seems so obvious, but there are scores of ads running right now, in my top 10 market touting “There’s never been a better time to buy a _________”, or “Everything must go!”, or “Family owned and operated since19__”.  If you’ve hear it before, your brain has too…and your brain knows better.  Broca’s area swats irrelevant cliches like mosquitoes.   Listeners never hear it.  Ever.   There are so many fun, persuasive, and effective ways to say what you are trying to get across without resorting to this.  It just takes a little imagination.  Email me and I’ll show you some great examples.

4) Abandon the obvious:  Heard this one the other day…”Hey Atlanta, it’s about to be springtime! Time to take off those unwanted pounds”  Really?? I hadn’t noticed.  And who’s this “Atlanta” character, anyway.   Just by looking through a different prism we can come up with many different, more interesting angles.   Once again, Broca’s area of the brain anticipates the predictable and banishes it to the scrap heap of irrelevancy.  Take a unique angle.  If you need inspiration, look no further than the fabulous “2o Something Betters” scene from the 1987 classic “Roxanne”.

5) Be Real:  We live in a jaded, over-sold world.  Our bullsh*t trigger fires at the slightest inkling of “being sold”.  Don’t use a polished “voice talent” from a station. In this age of authenticity, nothing is more hokey than a staged radio voice.  Be real with your ads.  Use real voices.  Speak in broken sentences.  Shed the sheen of a smooth sounding ad.  Your listeners are going to relate much more to an interesting story told in an authentic way than some slick talking DJ voice spatting the same old tired manure.

6) Give up the quest for magic beans:  So many advertisers want to hear that we have the magic beans….that we’re the station that “gets results”.  Unfortunately too many sales reps have told them about “their station” as if a mass media audience has some magical predilection to buy the advertisers product that other audiences don’t have.  While  some stations are more credible than others in the marketplace to be sure, at the end of the day Radio (or TV, or any other mass medium) aggregates people.  That’s it.  That’s all they do.  What you say and how frequently you say it separates success from failure, period.  There are no magic beans. Focus on interesting, story-based copy.   I can help you do that.

Are You Arguing for Exceptions?

Published by admin on August 7th, 2011

The Quick Skinny:

  • Arguing for exceptions is rooted in pride, one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Local Business Advertising
  • Build your advertising strategy based on the rules that govern the masses: consumer behavior
  • Exceptions to the rule make great stories, but poor strategy

We love exceptions to any rule. Business owners particularly. Chalk it up to iconoclastic entrepreneurial spirit, I suppose.  Exceptions provide the opportunity for them to prove a point…the pride of needing to “be right”…Especially when it comes to advertising.

While discussing ideal local trade area with a business owner (a small law practice) last week, he proudly pointed out clients who had come from far and wide to seek his services, citing two obtuse examples of  clients who had driven from two states away.  “So your strategy is to target people in Mississippi, then?”

Recently, one of my best clients  finally (and reluctantly) acquiesced at my continued suggestion that he remove the phone number from his radio ads (plumbing).  “What if someone needs a plumber right when the commercial airs?” People don’t write phone numbers down and they certainly don’t remember them.  They don’t have to.  When they need his services Google has it, and they know it.  Sure, calling when an ad fires happens sometimes, but it is by far the exception, not the rule.  (Ask yourself how many ads you’ve heard and picked up the phone to call at that moment.)  So why did he insist on wasting the precious 7 seconds it takes to articulate a phone number when we only have 30 seconds to tell his story, his value proposition, and the “why” of his business?  Because he was arguing for the exception.

Are there legitimate exceptions? Absolutely.  Certain economic conditions, like the current job market coupled with the real estate value free fall, have created  a flood of opportunities for real estate companies, attorneys, etc.  who deal in foreclosures and short-sales.    Other examples might be a fit of hail storms creating short-term opportunities for roofers and cosmetic auto repair shops.  A radio ad with a phone number in these cases might produce a flood of phone calls on the spot. But these conditions are the exception and are impossible to plan for long term.

Are you arguing for exceptions?  Most retail businesses (that I deal with anyway) are in the business of selling to the masses. When building strategy, rather than argue for their exceptions, it is wise to follow the rules that govern the masses: Consumer behavior.   Customers fall into the market when they fall into the market.  And when they do, they are going to search the internet, they are not going to wait for a radio or TV ad to air.  More on this strategy at the bottom of this page.  Exceptions make great stories, but they are no way to build long term advertising strategy.

The Era of Big Brains is upon us

Published by admin on July 28th, 2011

Or “Why I no longer put phone numbers, addresses, hours of operation, or any other facts in radio and TV ads.”

The Quick Skinny:

  • Eliminate details like phone numbers, from your radio & TV ads. People don’t remember them. Tell an emotionally compelling story and they’ll find you.
  • Leave the facts for your search ads, website, and other passive media when people search for you and seek to know them.

After reading Bill Keller’s article in the NY Times called The Twitter Trap, I was reminded of a pretty major Kurt Vonnegut phase I went through back in college.  In his book Gallapagos, Vonnegut talks about “the era of big brains”, a time before society created so many creature comforts for ourselves that we began to devolve into stupidity.  Now a study from Columbia University published in Science and distributed through several newspapers documents “The Google Effect”, our brain’s innate sense that when it knows where to find something, it no longer has to remember it.   Put that in your advertising pipe and smoke it!

The more readily we need information the more likely we are to commit it to memory, however information that is not readily employed to operate in our daily lives gets “outsourced”.  Our brains intuitively know that information not needed to operate, to “survive” in effect, Google’s got it.   One of the articles published states that “people are better at remembering where to find facts, rather than the facts themselves. The students, they found, recalled the names of files where information was stored, rather than the information itself.” Still expect people to remember your phone number in your ads?

So does this mean we’re devolving into stupidity?  No, but despite many of my clients insisting on still putting phone numbers and web urls in their radio and TV ads, the “fact” is, we no longer have to remember facts like this, so…we don’t!  We either remember information we use to operate, or we remember information with emotional attachment. Everything else gets washed away on your pillow while you’re looking at the back of your eyelids.