Beyond the Lemonade Stand: You Get What You Give

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote an introduction to a group of posts I will be making about teaching economics to middle school students. I will be talking about what I learned by coordinating State Farm Summer Business Camp. The first thing I learned is to get “buy in” from the kids. 

When I first started at the Business Education Partnership Foundation, I was able to make friends with many people who provided me with information and resources that I was able to apply to my teachings. Dr. Ron Kates at Middle Tennessee State University introduced me to Lions Quest. I adapted one of the most profound of the lessons from that training, a questionnaire called “Get to Give,” into a format I could use with the campers on their first training day.

I put up two easels with flip charts and use either interns or a couple of the camp participants to help. I ask a series of questions and had the answers written on the flip charts (Hold on to those flip chart papers, they will make a come back at the end of the camp/lessons). Write down everything that is said. DO NOT JUDGE (unless there is something said that is not appropriate, it happened once during my 10 years).

Question 1: Why are you at this camp (can substitute class/taking these lessons/etc.)?

Question 2: What do you want to get out of this camp?

Question 3: What is something you know about business?

Question 4: Is there something you’d like to learn about business that you do not know?

Question 5: How do you think you will use the information you will be learning during this camp?

Question 6: To get what you want out of this camp, what are you willing to give?

Do not skip any questions, whether you end up using this information to teach middle school kids, high school kids, college students or adults. During my 12 years at the BEP I found that there was buy-in from almost every person involved when I started with these questions. When I didn’t use them, I had a lot of fall out and much more negative behavior.

Advertising 101: Off-Target is a Real Horror

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seems to me that a lot of current advertising is spending so much time trying to be odd or hipster cool that it’s shooting at zombies and missing the head. I mean, talk about ineffective.

According to Communicus’ report on 2014 Super Bowl ads (those get maximum buyer attention), the creative world struck a big zero as far as effectiveness. Advertising, the report further stated, needs to engage consumers and persuade them to buy. Comments made by participants in the study said most of this year’s Super Bowl ads didn’t make them want to buy anything. Some were just a turn off (Hello,Godaddy). 

So, what keeps ads from turning into a creep show? First and foremost, getting into the head of the customer. It is not easy. Many don't even try. Here are a number of the horrors that get in one’s path:

1.     Company owners/managers have advertising created that they like or that speaks to them.
2.     Companies try to copy successful campaigns run by the competition.
3.     Ad agencies indulge themself in creativity for its own sake.
4.     Going for the “shock factor.”

Single-Minded Creatures

Ads created for a company’s management are often off target and/or lack a strategy. Suppliers of a product and their customers can be very different. One person’s World War Z is another person’s Shaun of the Dead. They are two very different takes on the same product. They don't necessarily appeal to the same audience.

When I was a buyer of women’s lingerie (which has nothing to do with zombies, however it does appear in many ‘70s Hammer vampire movies), I had one vendor I sold tons of because I purchased all the items in the line that I personally disliked. The more I disliked an item, the better it would sell. That was fine with me. I'd found a strategy to sell product. The point is, ads need to appeal to your potential customers. Find out what appeals to them. 

Mindlessly Following 

Plan on copying someone else’s effective ad concept? Don’t. This recently happened in the insurance industry. When Flo's Prudential Commercials became so successful, other insurance companies jumped on the idea of using humor to sell their products. Most with less than delightful results. Bye-bye “Answer Man.” He just didn’t speak to customers. As Judy Garland once said, "Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else."

Mind Blowing

Developing advertising that sells product is and isn’t about creativity. What? Tell me it ain't so. You see, creativity without strategy does not sell. David Ogilvy says, if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t great advertising. Some of today’s “oddvertising,” while entertaining, doesn’t make customers want to buy the product. As a mater of fact, sometimes they don’t even remember the product the commercial is suppose to be selling. What was Morpheus doing singing in that - what kind of car was it - ad?

Something Hannibal Lechter Would Love

And then there is "shockvertising." Little Baby's Ice Cream. The perfect desert for those having a friend for dinner, after some fave beans and a nice Chianti. 

Aim for the Head

If you took all the books, blogs and other articles about what makes advertising great they would circle the world, but they all agree on this point. Good advertising creates interest in the product and a desire to purchase. Consistently. Over time.

How do you create effective ads? First, learn all you can about your customer. Then, study the best creative work of today and the best of yesterday. There are all kinds of resources on the internet. Take what you learn, blend and make sure you have a strategy behind your choices. Strategy is created from the old who, what, where, when, why and how. 

Advertising has been around as far back as the ancient Egyptians. So, know your history. Advertising is always the same. Keep up with pop culture. Advertising is ever changing. Be well read. Read marketing research. Read books about and by great creative minds. See who has won awards. Creating advertising is simple, but creating effective advertising is not easy.

At it’s worst advertising can make you scream in terror and run away from a product. At it’s best, it can create ideas that sell so well that they become part of the texture of our society. And sometimes it has to do with Zombies. 

A Tasty Morsel

Here’s one that’s timely andworks