WHO ON EARTH IS RUNNING THE INTERNET RADIO SHOW?
Recently, I'd been sent a solicitation by a major internet radio provider.
They're one of the few online radio platforms that has a distinctive and unique position.
There is no other service like it, and it's one of the reasons I listen to it.
When it comes to music, my terrestrial radio market is marginal at best.
One of the only reasons I listen to commercial radio is to find really awful radio advertising.
But we're off topic.
This major internet radio provider sent me a solicitation disguised as a primer.
How to tell powerful brand stories using audio.
I ADMIT IT: MY CURIOSITY WAS PIQUED
As a longtime writer of radio advertising, and as an award-winning, audio-loving, ROI-producing, brand-story-telling small-business marketeer, I'm always looking for insight into telling brand stories.
In fact, I just saw a terrific little video starring Bo Eason, the former NFL player turned story guru.
He talked about four crucial tips for successful storytelling. He was great.
So, in this mode, I clicked on the link to this ostensible lesson from the internet provider on how to tell brand stories using audio.
Interestingly, they also four crucial tips.
But as I wound my way through the copy to get to the tips, I was concerned. This was not shaping up to be enormously insightful.
AND BY THE FIRST OF THEIR FOUR ESSENTIALS, IT WAS EVIDENT WE WERE IN TROUBLE
1. USE A CONVERSATIONAL TONE
Most audio is consumed through
earbuds, so there is no need to shout
anymore. Consumers will appreciate
you more for speaking to them like
you would a friend.
Let's forget the assertion that it's all about earbuds now.
There's no need to shout anymore?
Friend, I hate to tell you this, but there never was any need to shout.
Shouting out of the radio has always been the province of those with nothing to say.
Have I ever shouted out of the radio?
And it was always in an effort to make fun of the people who feel they need to shout out of the radio.
SPEAKING AS IF TO A FRIEND HAS LONG BEEN AN ESSENTIAL TRUTH
Since the beginning, radio advertising has worked best when delivered as a conversation.
Speaking one-on-one to your listener has sold untold billions worth of product.
Even epic and successful efforts that one might remember as "shouting," when you go back and revisit them, are not shouting at all.
Look at a hugely successful radio ad campaign that ran for years, and created a significant sales increase for Bud Light: The "Real Men Of Genius" campaign.
Double-digit percentage gains in market share, over 100 advertising awards, CD compilations of the commercials, endless parodies (which is ironic, as the campaign itself was a satire), the Bud Light "Real Men Of Genius" campaign was gold.
And announcer Pete Stacker shouted his way through that campaign, right?
If you do...you'd be wrong.
But a lot of folks who like to imitate Pete Stacker's brilliantly deadpan, self-important baritone on those messages get it completely wrong.
One of the reasons it works is because it is larger than life while still being on the down low and part of a conversation that gives you enough credit to be in on the joke.
"But what about all those car dealer commercials that shout at you out of the radio," you ask. "Doesn't that prove that shouting is a viable and necessary approach to radio advertising?"
It does nothing of the kind. It proves only that those messages exist. It tells you nothing about their efficacy.
"But," you ask, "Why would they keep doing it if it didn't work?"
WELL, A COUPLE OF REASONS WHY SHOUTING MIGHT WORK
If you shout and you spend more money than anyone else, you're bound to get some traffic.
You're essentially annoying people into remembering you.
But I once worked with a Los Angeles car dealer on their radio, using the exact opposite approach. Intimate, one-on-one conversation. Honest and real and friendly and engaging.
They had tiny radio budget.
And every month, their new-car inventory sold out.
There is no need to shout. There never has been. And to tell your prospect, someone who's considering using internet radio advertising, that there is no need to shout "anymore" immediately brings your credibility as an audio advertising authority into question.
AND IT MAKES PEOPLE LIKE ME CRAZY
At best, you're stating a truth that never was.
At worst, and I fear this is the case, you have no clue.
OK, so earth-shaking creative truth number one is predicated on a fallacy.
What about the other three truths?
Well, the second truth was about speaking to an individual and making it personal.
Truth indeed! Can't argue. It's not new. But it's essential.
Truth number three, have a clear call-to-action.
Again, truth! Can't argue.
BUT THE FOURTH TRUTH IS MUDDLED
It's about complementing the audio advertising with display.
The internet radio provider asserts that, "In an ideal scenario, audio and display go hand-in-hand. Let the audio message deliver the hardworking information, while the display captures the eyes."
Here's my big, fear, which is probably not the reality: "Have a really good display ad up when your audio message is playing! That's the ticket."
Because everybody who listens to the radio sits there staring at it the entire time, regardless of whether it's an old fashioned terrestrial radio signal pumped out of an antenna farm, or a flurry of zeroes and ones pumped out of your internet provider's server farm.
I suspect, I hope, this is wrong.
I hope that what they really mean is having a complementary media mix. Which is good.
Here's the problem: How on earth does an audio message "deliver the hardworking information"?
AUDIO MESSAGES WORK BEST NOT WITH FACTS AND DETAILS...
They work best by creating a feeling and focusing on a simple, easy to comprehend message.
So, what is the "hardworking information" that this audio advertisement is supposed to deliver?
If it's a focused, emotionally evocative message, right on!
If this is supposed to mean that you want to deliver all the hard facts in your audio message, well...
You need to study radio advertising 101.
So, why are we harping on all this?
BECAUSE I AM ANNOYED
Yes. It's all about me.
That's because I have spent a huge portion of my professional life dealing with the psychology and the techniques behind sales messages.
And lately, I've been venturing into the digital realm to augment my toolbox.
The ongoing problem is that I'm besieged by excited, enthusiastic young professionals who have all kinds of new information to convey-and they are completely reinventing the wheel without ever having understood the genius of the wheel in the first place.
The technology has evolved.
Human beings have not.
YES, PEOPLE MIGHT BE PAYING LESS ATTENTION THAN BEFORE
That just means we need to be even more skilled at the essentials.
And that skill requires understanding what makes people listen (or read, or watch), and then feel compelled to act.
It means looking at and understanding the historical truths about advertising.
Oooh, "advertising" is a dirty word now.
So is "radio."
Get over it, kids. "Radio" is from the Latin "radius," for "beam" or "ray."
AND JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE BEAMING DIGITS FROM A SERVER DOESN'T CHANGE PEOPLE
It doesn't change their psychological triggers.
It doesn't change their need for story.
It doesn't change the decades-old, proven, historical truths about advertising.
And it doesn't change the elemental foundation of branding a business before ever going out to advertise it.
The self-styled digital-marketing geniuses of 21st-century internet advertising need to understand history and psychology and story and brand and stop trying to reinvent and rename everything.
They need to get off their high horses.
Because, at best, they're really just riding around on dogs and ponies.
We have truths, we have vocabulary, and we have people.
Come back to the fundamentals, meet the truth, and serve your client better.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHY ARE WE CHEERING A BRITISH INVASION?
Yes, it is July 4, 2017. In the United States, we are celebrating our declaration of independence from the United Kingdom.
Last week, our neighbors in Canada celebrated their sesquicentennial (that's the 150-year anniversary for all you civilians) of their independence from the UK.
No doubt, many Americans today are wishing they could move to Canada for more than just celebration.
But we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are not going there.
We will not make this a political screed. We never have. We never will. Because politics is just too divisive.
We are inclusionists.
We like to invite everyone to celebrate.
Which explains today's celebration.
WE ARE CELEBRATING A BRIT WHO CHANGED THE SHAPE OF AMERICAN ADVERTISING
Indeed, as creators of advertising, it's hard for us to not appreciate a man who famously said, "Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels."
And is there anything more American than an appreciation for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion?
Well, yeah, there is the national pastime of banging the drum for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion while making sure it conforms, agrees and complies.
"Let's all be different by dressing alike and indulging fanatical groupthink about the same stupid idea! Woo-hoo!"
But I digress.
REBELLION IS THE GAME THAT GAVE THE U.S. ITS INDEPENDENCE
And this Brit, the son of a Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander, was fascinated by the American character.
Back in the middle of the 20th century, in the days before the mayhem and the menace of the over-communicated digital culture, this man was an iconoclast, a subversive, a revolutionary.
He came to the U.S. banging the drum for a sea change in advertising.
In an age of the hard sell, he made a convincing pitch for the soft sell.
And his soft sell built brands with ferocious intensity. He won more major advertising accounts than any ad man before or since.
He never won any advertising awards for creativity. He didn't believe in them.
The idea of an industry's creative people giving awards to each other left him cold. He always maintained that if something didn't sell, it wasn't creative.
I COULD ARGUE THAT IF IT DOESN'T SELL, IT MIGHT BE STILL BE CREATIVE--IT JUST ISN'T RELEVANT
But why parse words with a genius? He'll always run rings around you logically.
And this man's particular genius is responsible for so much of what we do in our business that wins friends and influences people.
He changed advertising using his soft-sell methods combined with research.
Yes, that pox, research, always a nuisance, a bother and a misery to so many creative people.
In a famous quote, he said, "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN HE LOOKED DOWN UPON CREATIVE
Remember, he was all about the talented nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.
In fact, despite being an enormously successful businessman, he disdained businessmen who lacked the ability to be creative.
This man famously said:
The creative process requires more
than reason. Most original thinking
isn't even verbal. It requires "a groping
experimentation with ideas, governed
by intuitive hunches and inspired by
the unconscious." The majority of
business men are incapable of original
thinking because they are unable to
escape from the tyranny of reason.
Their imaginations are blocked.
BLAMMO! TAKE THAT, BLOCKED BUSINESSMAN!
Talk about potentially biting the hand that feeds you.
Who makes the decision to hire an advertising agency?
But then, don't Americans like to imagine themselves as the outlier, the nonconformist, the rebel?
"He's right! Let's be rebellious and hire the creative guy! Yay, we're nonconformists! Let's start dressing like nonconformists and pretending we're the new originals!"
But one of the most significant pieces of ad think propagated by this rebellious Brit regards branding.
And interestingly, "branding" is not a word that you hear him use a lot.
But when you look at his track record of iconic brand development, he was a king.
HE SPECIALIZED IN MAKING THE PROSPECT FEEL ONE WAY ABOUT THE PRODUCT
In fact, he called it essential to winning. He said:
There isn't any significant difference
between the various brands of whiskey,
or cigarettes or beer. They are all about
the same. And so are the cake mixes and
the detergents, and the margarines...
The manufacturer who dedicates his
advertising to building the most sharply
defined personality for his brand will
get the largest share of the market at
the highest profit.
We at Slow Burn might argue that this thesis becomes shaky when applied to various small-businesses with whom we work. Because many of them really are different than the competitors.
Nonetheless, the core concept--that the most sharply defined and most attractive personality wins--is one with which we have no argument whatsoever.
Hands down, we have seen it work for our clients. We have even seen it inspire the competition to scramble and regroup in an effort to redefine their own personality--with laughable results.
AND, THIS BRIT EVEN USED AN EXPRESSION NEAR AND DEAR TO THE FABULOUS HONEY PARKER'S HEART
He said something which is not only similar to a phrase she uses repeatedly, but is an idea which is uniquely American.
Honey loves a good sports story, and likes to talk about helping our clients "Knock it out of the park."
And lemmetellya, that is fun to do.
And this Brit liked to say, "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park."
And then he said, "Aim for the company of immortals."
Aim for the company of immortals.
I just got chills.
And interestingly, the Brit was also realistic about this.
He wasn't about winning at all costs. He had perspective and balance.
He also said, "Play to win, but enjoy the fun."
WE HAVE A RULE HERE AT SLOW BURN MARKETING
We've repeated it here before.
We will do business only with people whom we'd look forward to joining for dinner.
Life is too short. We will not take a client just for the money.
It has to be a good fit.
They, like us, have to play to win but enjoy the fun.
Interestingly, this describes not only the person who hired us, but every single person we met when we were engaged in a branding effort for a division of Wells Fargo.
HARD TO IMAGINE--BUT TRUE
And finally, one of the most practical quotes from our British invader.
It is just as piercing and relevant now as it was then.
And it speaks to a mindset seen too often in the hucksterish sales messages that come at us over the airwaves and through the ether.
This man was adamant that, "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Try not to insult her intelligence."
On this Independence Day, a salute to you, David Ogilvy.
Here's to being fascinated by Americans, to burning it up with the soft sell, and to nonconformity, dissension, and rebellion.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
FULL AUTHENTICITY & ZERO MEDIA BUDGET?
Last week, that of June 17, 2017, a portion of the advertising world was focused on the south of France. The Côte d'Azur. Promenade de la Croisette. Le Carlton et Le Majestic.
Yes, the Cannes film festival is long over.
But we've just seen the passing of this year's festival of creative selling: The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Why should we care? The Cannes Lions is big. We are people interested in the small.
Well, let's remember one of the Slow Burn Marketing mantras: brand your small business like a big business and you can make great things happen.
And forgetting a lot of the advertising nonsense that comes out of Cannes (it is a festival of creativity after all, which sometimes becomes creative for its own sake and serves purposes other than ours), Cannes still has a prize category that is near and dear to my heart.
MEET THE CANNES GRAND PRIX IN CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS
Yes, even the great global advertising creativity dog pile, or pile de chien, in the south of France has an award for effectiveness.
So, are you one of those people? The ones who love to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
If so, back off, Jacques.
There's plenty of award-winning advertising that produces results. And as it happens, I've even created some myself.
But I've produced nothing of the magnitude that anyone at Cannes would care about.
Nonetheless, the beauty of the effectiveness award is twofold.
One, it fires a bazooka right at the guy who loves to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
AND TWO, IT PRESENTS GREAT IDEAS WORTHY OF STEALING
Well, maybe "stealing" is too acute a word.
How about, the category presents ideas that can inspire.
Because again, this category provides documentable results. It shows the world creative and inventive advertising that made stuff happen.
But on a huge budget, right?
The category's winner this year was a campaign for the Art Institute of Chicago that ran on Airbnb.
The campaign was celebrating the first-ever visit to the US of the iconic Van Gogh work, The Bedroom. Or, if you prefer the proper French title, La Chambre à Arles. Or, since Van Gogh was not French but Dutch, Slaapkamer te Arles.
The Bedroom campaign gave people an opportunity to sleep in a life-size recreation of the room in Van Gogh's painting by renting it on Arbnb.
THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CAMPAIGN WAS IMPRESSIVE
ADWEEK reports that the campaign attracted 133,000 visitors to the Art Institute, and generated $2 million in revenue.
And this happened with an investment of just $500,000.
I know what you're saying.
You can't recreate Van Gogh's bedroom in life size, and half a million bucks is your annual revenue if you're lucky.
Plus, didn't I tee this up with a promise of full authenticity and zero media budget?
The authenticity here is questionable, and the budget is way above zero.
This is not the campaign to which I was referring. But it is fun.
THE CAMPAIGN THAT WAS AUTHENTIC AND CHEAP DID NOT WIN
It was an also-ran.
But it is really cool.
You may have heard about it when it was running.
It was a social media darling.
The campaign is called, The Swedish Number.
How's this for affordable: a media budget of zero.
No media was purchased for this campaign. None.
And it generated $147 million in earned media through international news coverage.
SO, WHAT IS THE SWEDISH NUMBER?
Sweden is a country with a grand tradition of tourism.
Swedes are a gregarious people who love to welcome visitors.
They also don't have any standout tourist attractions that make people say, "Hey, let's go see the Swedish fill in the blank!"
IKEA? Meatballs? Lutefisk?
And Sweden's tourism marketing budget is tiny. They don't have a lot of money to tell you, "We're so much more than IKEA, meatballs and lutefisk."
Enter Swedish PR firm INGO.
Their solution? Simple: a phone number for Sweden.
Anyone in the world could call Sweden on the phone, and a random real live Swede would answer.
Yes, I know. This conjurs up images of 12-year-olds dialing Sweden and saying, "Sven, is your refrigerator running?"
IT MAY HAVE HAPPENED
But far more consistently, random people from around the world called random people in Sweden and had very nice conversations about what it's like to live there.
Over 180,000 calls were made to Sweden.
They totaled over one year of talk time.
35,000 volunteer Swedish telephone ambassadors fielded calls from 180 countries.
The longest call lasted almost five hours.
And the media budget was zero. The Swedish Number was promoted with a couple of online videos and some PR, and news outlets worldwide picked up the story and ran with it.
Radio and TV programs everywhere picked up the phone and called random Swedes live on air. That included Good Morning America and the largest TV news channel in China.
If you search The Swedish Number on YouTube, you can see a Swiss TV host calling Sweden and asking about how all Swedes live in an IKEA and eat free meatballs, and Switzerland and Sweden always get confused for one another. (But only by Americans, apparently.)
AND TALK ABOUT AUTHENTIC
It doesn't get much more real than talking to a truck driver, a school teacher, a farmer, a pharmacist, a designer...
The list goes on.
Even the Swedish Prime Minister took a phone call. It was videotaped for YouTube.
It's safe to say that more people around the world were suddenly attracted to the idea of visiting Sweden than ever could have been accomplished with an under-budgeted TV campaign.
Why did this campaign work?
And why did so many people from around the world make so many phone calls to speak with people they didn't know?
ONE WORD: CONNECTION
Simple, human connection is a powerful thing.
The sound of one voice speaking to another.
Two people making contact.
It's just that simple.
And in a world where advertising contrivance runs amok, where everyone clamors to get your attention with offers and absurdities and craziness and scarcity and discounts and yelling--
A simple, human connection cuts through.
It shouldn't be that surprising. Some of the most effective advertising campaigns of all time have been based on simple, human connection.
At Slow Burn, some of our most powerful advertising campaigns have capitalized on just that. Last week, I was recording Dr. Sam Giveen from New Hampshire for yet another series of radio commercials where he speaks simply and candidly about having a better life with better eye care. Straight talk. Better vision.
SIMPLE, PLAIN-SPEAKING, UNGLAMOROUS DR. SAM IS A LOCAL CELEBRITY
He has never once made an offer in any of his advertising.
He has never pitched product.
He has never been a huckster, nor has he hired one.
Dr. Sam has always worked for a simple, human connection with his patients.
Throughout my career, I've created dozens of campaigns just like that. Recently, in fact, I was asked to record more announcer wraparounds for the legendary Sonny Sardo, an interiors specialist in Southern California.
Over a decade ago, I created a campaign that now numbers well over 100 commercials--all of them Sonny talking candidly, telling stories about things like re-upholstery, drapes and custom furniture.
He, too, is a local celebrity. He makes bank on making a simple, human connection with the radio listener.
BUT THE SWEDISH NUMBER STRIPS THE SIMPLE, HUMAN CONNECTION TO ITS RAW BASICS
And with zero media budget, zero actors involved, zero funny copywriting, and zero trendy art direction, a dinky nation of 9 million people got $147 million in free advertising around the world.
Pick up the phone.
Talk to a Swede.
How much simpler could it be?
You often don't need huge budgets, fancy production, or The Next Big Idea.
Sometimes, all you need to do is be human. Be real.
It's all good. And it all works.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.