Blind Luck

Words from Seth worth repeating:

A million blind squirrels

My dad likes to say, “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.” And it’s true. You shouldn’t pick your strategy by modeling someone else’s success. The success might have been strategic and planned, but it’s just as likely to be a matter of blind luck. Someone had to get that big deal, and this time it was him.

The numbing reality of the net is that now we can see all the blind squirrels, all the time. A recent piece in the Times talked about bloggers getting six figure book deals in just a few weeks after posting community-driven goofy websites. It’s easy to read this and say, “I should do that! I could do that!”

What’s missing from the article is that for every 10,000 goofy websites that get launched, one turns into a six-figure book deal and the other 9,999 fade away. If you want to build a goofy website, go for it. Just don’t expect to be the lucky squirrel.


ReBranding a Successful Brand

When you have a successful brand, is it wise to Re-Brand it? Take a look:

Dollar Brand

Dollar General Logo, Before and After

Dollar General has 8,400 retail stores, $10.5 billion in annual sales and everyday low prices on everyday products. Its new identity has been designed by Interbrand Design Forum, who share with us the positioning and rationale they worked with.

Brand positioning:

We provide top brands and quality alternatives to her at the lowest prices so she can provide her family with all the essentials and treats they’ll love. We understand she wants a great quality of life, but has to manage it on a modest budget. We operate the same way, with clean, no frills stores that provide ease, convenience, and friendly service to her. Helping her save time, save money, everyday.

The identity design rationale from Interbrand:

Our identity is our signature icon. As our brand ambassador, it proudly celebrates our heritage of delivering value with the “stretched dollar” shape of the carrier and the straight-forward typography of our wordmark. Our identity is friendly, bold, simple, and energetic. Our core brand colors, yellow and black are our most sacred brand equities and have been carefully balanced to maximize the impact of our identity.

Dollar General, Old Store

Dollar General, New Store

Old (above) and new (below) store exteriors.

Some of what you would expect is happening here. Updated typography to try and strip out some of the dated feeling but still retain some of the quirks. Focusing the color palette on the yellow and black, two-color scheme, rather than the previous three-color scheme. A payoff — “Save time. Save money. Every day!” — to speak to their audience about their intention to embody a convenient shopping experience with low prices. And the new visual gimmick that communicates stretching a dollar. All the pistons firing away to bring you this bright, shiny, new 1992 Mercury Sable. That’s really the first analogy that came to mind: it’s the low-cost model that was based off of another low-cost model. While it’s true that Dollar General is a generic store with convenience and low prices, there still remains no differentiator in the brand presence between them and other establishments. The red, black and yellow previous logo, with its condensed boxy letters had some equity and was easily identifiable. This new identity, while cleaned up and feeling a little less 1968 and a little more 1992, still appears like it came right off their shelves.

New Ad Campaigns

From Amy at Mediapost:

Who is Cherry Girl? DIYer goes head-to-head with a “Hardwarian.” Cardboard is multifunctional. Let’s launch!

Campaigns for fertilizer tend to lack humor. Until now. Scotts Canada launched three TV spots that promote its Turf Builder fertilizer products in a manner that’s reminiscent of hair restoration ads. Remember the Hair Club for Men ads of yesteryear? Here they are in fertilizer form. Men want a full head of hair and a yard full of thick grass. The first ad, seen here, shows the founder of Scotts Thick Lawns for men, laying his sales pitch on thick. Someone thinks thinning grass is a hereditary trait in the next ad, seen here. Thanks to Scotts, his grass is green, he’s no longer frumpy and his attractive wife finds him more desirable. “Winter Care” launches later this year, featuring a testimonial from a man who no longer has receding grass lines following the winter season. Watch the ad here. Zig created the campaign and MEC Global handled the media buy.

Let a stranger drive you home. And by stranger, I mean cab driver. Heineken launched an energetic TV spot under its “Give Yourself a Good Name” umbrella that encourages responsible drinking. A group of friends are seen in a car rockin’ out to Biz Markie’s ’80s hit, “Just a Friend.” As the spot continues, the driver cranks up the radio volume and viewers realize that the friends are riding home in a taxi. “Let a stranger drive you home,” concludes the ad, seen here. Wieden + Kennedy Portland created the ad.

Sending a delicate package is like walking a tightrope. At least that’s how it’s portrayed in a mostly animated ad for The UPS Store. A woman and her cuckoo clock are thrust into a world of acrobats, elephants, cannonballs and tightropes — a cardboard circus that seamlessly packs and ships delicate objects. Once the woman reaches the other end of the tightrope, the spot goes from animated to present day. “Hey, we do a lot more than shipping,” says the UPS Store employee to the woman, as the elephants trumpet from inside the package. Watch it here. Love is a battlefield and so is the company boardroom. A man opens a conference room door and finds himself inside a coliseum fighting a gladiator and lions. Oh, my. His trusty UPS associate assembles weapons from cardboard and saves the day. See the ad here. Doner created the campaign and Psyop created the cardboard animation.

True Value launched a print, TV, online and outdoor ad campaign targeting DIYers and first-time homeowners. In one TV spot, a verbal duel takes place between a True Value “Hardwarian” and a DIYer who’s done extensive research. It’s a close battle, but the Hardwarian one-ups the DIYer at a pivotal moment. Watch the ad here. The next spot shows a man who’s embarrassed at screwing up his shower re-grouting project. He whispers his troubles to a Hardwarian, who slips him the product he needs. See the ad here. Print ads, seen here and here, are running in Better Homes & Gardens, Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, This Old House and Outdoor Life, among others. The ads picture Hardwarians in confident poses where they almost resemble super heroes. They are saving the day… MARC USA created the campaign and handled the media buy.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched a TV spot that encourages parents to research information about drugs online, so they are better equipped when talking to their kids about the subject matter. The ad takes place in a crack den, where an inquisitive woman saunters in, observes the surroundings and casually asks the group of addicts, “That’s crack?” “There’s a better way to find information about drugs, so you can talk to your kids,” says the voiceover. Watch the ad here, created by Allen & Gerritsen. Media buying was handled in-house.

MTV launched an environmental campaign via its MTV Switch brand that coincided with Earth Day. Viewers are introduced to Cherry Girl through a 60-second PSA that very, very subtly broaches the issue of global warming. Almost too subtly for targeting a young, teenage audience. Here’s my take: Cherry Girl works at a dry cleaners, and eats cherries. She spits a cherry pit into a piece of paper, places it in an envelope and puts an envelope into every suit jacket that comes her way. Whenever a customer discovers the envelope, a pit falls to the ground, and over time, cherry trees emerge in an otherwise sterile city. Once a city is filled with trees, Cherry Girl moves on to her next destination. Kind of like David Banner, without the Incredible Hulk angle. Watch the ad here. Cherry Girl also has a Web site, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog. Makes me feel behind the times… The Scarlett Mark created the ad.

Last Friday, Apple ran a daylong print and online campaign to celebrate the 1 billionth app that was downloaded the previous day. And it only took nine months. Print ads ran in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Online ads ran on,, and The online ad showed apps downloading onto an iPhone as a counter kept track. When the counter hit 999,999, a lone app made its way onto the iPhone. Watch it here. The print ad has the same gist, sans animation. See it here. TBWA/Media Arts Lab created the campaign and handled the media buy.

A room with a fantastic view can mean different things to different people, but a view of a parking lot would not be defined as “fantastic” in anyone’s book. Travelocity launched a TV spot where a vacationing couple booked a room with a fantastic view. But the view looks directly into a parking lot. Take two. The couple enters their hotel room again, looks outside, and their view has changed from parking lot to ocean, because they used Travelocity to book the room. Watch the ad here. McKinney created the ad and OMD Dallas handled the media buy.

Amy Corr is managing editor, online newsletters for MediaPost. She can be reached at

Stop Riding a Dead Horse

Do you know when to say goodbye?

Know When to Let Go

I often talk to salespeople who continue following a lead even when it is clear that a sale will not happen.

This usually happens when their pipeline is not active with prospects. If you have done everything you can to move the sales process forward but it has ground to a halt, you must consider whether it is the best use of your time to keep trying to make it happen.

More often than not, it is not worth the time and effort. You have a finite amount of time in a day or week, which means you need to focus your attention on leads and prospects who are interested in your product, service or solution.

Source: Sales consultant/trainer Kelley Robertson (

You Can’t Reach Everyone

And the good news, is you don’t need to. Chuck McKay writes:

Reticular Activation – How the Human Anatomy Prevents Ads from Reaching “Everyone.”

One of the things guaranteed to make copywriters (and to a lesser extent media salespeople) groan is an advertiser who claims he needs to reach “everybody.”

No ad can possibly reach everybody. The human anatomy prevents it. If you have a minute, I shall happily explain why.

The Shoppers Mindset

Amazingly, most people are not poised in front of their television sets breathlessly waiting to hear of an opportunity to dump the cash from their purses into Mr. Advertiser’s cash register.

Nope. Most people are instead attempting to ignore thousands of radio ads, e-mails, product placements, signs, newspaper and television ads, billboards, matchbook covers, calendars, and the odd Rubic’s Cube with some company’s logo on it.

Out of self defense human brains are physiologically prevented from paying attention to things that don’t directly apply to them. And truthfully, most of what they see doesn’t apply.

What does apply to most people? Their kids, plans for the weekend, the empty box of corn flakes, remembering to program the TIVO, getting to the game on time, the in-laws coming to dinner, filing for an extension on the tax return, running late for work, or getting home before “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

They’re eager to find information which will solve their problems, and yet, they’re not paying attention. They see and hear advertising with their eyes and ears, but they don’t consciously notice those ads.

That’s because the human brain won’t let them. Again, let me explain.

Four Sets of Brain Waves

The synapses of the human brain fire at different rates during four different mental states. They are:

1) Delta – 0.5Hz to 4 Hz – Deep Sleep.
Delta waves trigger release of growth hormone, which helps the body to heal. This is one reason sleep is critical to the healing process.

2) Theta – 4 Hz to 7 Hz – Drowsiness.
Theta states most frequently occur fleetingly as people pass from higher consciousness to deep sleep, or return from it. Theta waves occur during meditation, and have been linked to visual and emotional creativity.

3) Alpha – 8 Hz to 13 Hz – Relaxed.
The alpha state is a highly creative condition of relaxed consciousness. People in alpha state tend to recognize non-obvious relationships. Interestingly, it’s also the resonant frequency of the earth’s electromagnetic field.

4) Beta – 14 Hz to 30 Hz – Alert and focused.
The beta state is associated with peak concentration, heightened alertness, improved hand/eye coordination, and better visual acuity. During beta state new ideas and solutions to problems literally flash through the mind.

Degrees of Consciousness

The higher frequencies represent more brain activity, and require greater energy consumption. Like every other part of the body, brain activity kicks into higher performance only as necessary. The more familiar the activity a person is engaged in, the less conscious activity is necessary.

Most of us have driven to work only to note upon arrival that we have no conscious memory of the trip. Individuals who drive a lot of highway miles frequently find themselves coming up with good ideas as they drive. Daydreaming while driving is an example of the brain in theta state. It’s easily induced by the hypnotic sameness of road markings and sounds.

As long as there are no surprises on the trip, driving to work can also easily produce an alpha state. The driver is relaxed, and the familiarity of the surroundings allow the driver to sing along with the radio, or listen to conversation without planning to respond.

But imagine the car in front of our driver slamming on the brakes. Our driver immediately transitions into a state of heightened awareness, faster reflexes, and instantaneous decision making. This is clearly a beta state of peak concentration.

The Reticular Activator.

At the top of the brain stem, between the medulla oblongata and the midbrain is a collection of nerve fibers known as the ascending reticular formation. Activation of this reticular system is necessary for higher states of brain activity. Think of the reticular activating system as a sentry constantly looking out for conditions which require a conscious response. Anything important or relevant snaps the brain into higher states of consciousness, even from deep sleep.

Anyone who’s moved to a home near the railroad tracks has been awakened by a train passing late at night… for the first few nights. While the loud noise is unusual and potentially threatening, the reticular system jerks the brain from deep delta sleep to beta wide awake consciousness. After a few days, when the experience becomes commonplace, the reticular system doesn’t even bother to activate, and the resident sleeps through the night.

Mothers recognize their child’s cry even in a room full of children. The reticular system catches the familiar tones of the child’s voice, activating a beta state in the mother.

And most of us have heard someone call our name in a crowd, only to discover that the caller was trying to catch the attention of someone else with the same name. The reticular system activates a beta state at recognition of the name, and de-activates for the brain to return to alpha mode once the mistake is obvious.

Newspaper readership increases with the addition of a photo, especially when it’s a picture of people. Why? Because the reticular activating system zeros in on other people, to see if they’re familiar.

Familiar is only one of the conditions the reticular system watches for. It is also ready to draw our attention to unusual, problematic, or threatening conditions. Any of these which appear to be important or relevant activate a beta state. If the conscious mind dismisses this “false beta” as not relevant, the brain returns to a lowered state of consciousness.

Can we plant a reticular activator to trigger a beta mode state at a later time? Yes, we can.

Embed a specific sound and get your listener to recall a whole series of emotions. Law and Order’s “Doink Doink” sound when the next scene starts. The sound of Pac Man wilting at the end of play. Duracell’s three tone logo. “You’ve got mail.”

Or embed a visual cue. Since 1997 Liberty Tax Service has done no advertising other than to place people in Statue of Liberty costumes on the street in front of the franchise. From roughly the first of the year until April 15th the Statue of Liberty costume serves as an activator, reinforcing Liberty’s function, as well as this location.


Here’s an interesting fact: the effect of advertising is greatest closest to the purchase. And if you think about it, that makes sense. Remember, a purchaser only buys when she feels the gap between what she has and what she wants. If she has an empty box of cornflakes, she’ll want more corn flakes. Once she’s become aware of her need for more flakes (by pouring the last of the old flakes from the box) she will also become more aware of corn flake advertising.

What a great time to present your message. Advertise your brand on television, or send her a letter, or show her a point of purchase display. Give her a compelling reason to choose your brand while her reticular system is most likely to bring your message to her conscious attention.

But how can you predict when that metaphorical box of flakes will go empty? Unless your business is seasonal, you can’t. And that pretty much means you need a constant presence in the marketplace.

How Shoppers Use Media.

We read from left to right, from top to bottom. The eye is drawn first to photographs and headlines, seeking, finding, and sorting through the information on the page. The reader scans in alpha state for anything familiar, unusual, problematic, or threatening. When one of those conditions is noted, the reticular activator pulls the readers attention to the words or pictures, and in beta state the conscious mind weighs the evidence.

It makes no difference whether the reader is considering news stories or advertising. If further examination reinforces the condition, the reader is engaged and stays in beta state. When the content has been read, the scan through the paper continues with the reader back in alpha mode, ignoring most of what he sees.

And though the consumption pattern may differ from left to right, top to bottom, this is how we use all media. People watching TV, listening to radio, or driving past outdoor ads will switch from alpha to beta modes and back as the content triggers the reticular activating system, and is accepted or rejected by the conscious mind.

Your corn flake ad will scream for the attention of someone who’s out of corn flakes. The rest of the readers / listeners / viewers (those who don’t have an empty box, as well as those who just do not like corn flakes) will either note the ad and quickly return to alpha state, or ignore it all together.

Got it? You’ll never reach everyone with any ad. We don’t all run out of cornflakes at the same time.


Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who helps customers discover you, and choose your business. Questions about embedding reticular activators in your advertising may be directed to

A Social Media Game Plan

When you are presented with new options and ideas, do you jump on board or wait and see?

This week I met with a doctor who signed for a Twitter account and yet is not sure what to do with it. Over the years I have met many business people who are avoiding social media for the same reasons. But just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it unimportant.

I am on Twitter. You can find me @ScLoHo. Follow me if you want. I do not automaticly follow everyone back. I have a game plan for using Twitter just like I have a plan for using Blogs, and other internet based resources. I also have a plan for my real-life, face to face meetings and work and networking. And my plans are working the way in the manner that I want them to work.

Coming soon, I will be doing some marketing presentations based on a number of topics and one will include the tools we call social media. In the meantime, I want to give you some food for thought. (Twitter is responsible for this article show up right now on Collective Wisdom. Earlier today, someone that I follow on twitter, wrote a headline with a link to this article.) The article was found here.

These days, I am hearing from many friends and clients who lead various types of businesses that they are being pitched social media strategies from all angles. Their own employees are excited about Web 2.0, and are offering their ideas to management. At the same time, outside marketing consultants are cold-calling company leaders with offers of grand, off-the-shelf social media plans. Often, executives and managers tell me they feel completely overwhelmed with all of the possibilities, and they don’t know where to start.

Unfortunately, I see too many companies start by getting completely ahead of themselves. They are so eager to get “out there” with something related to this hot, new area of communications and marketing that they don’t lay the same solid foundation they would if they were, say, launching a new product or opening a new location. Instead, they are deploying their social media planning in a relatively scattershot way, with little information to guide their direction. Unfortunately, results from such an approach are likely to be just as unfocused and random as the implementation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By taking a step back, and spending a little extra time on the front end with a “first things first” approach, companies can reap meaningful benefits from the time, energy and money they spend on their foray into social media.

While the specific tools and opportunities presented by social media may still be unfamiliar to many businesspeople, these same folks are real pros when it comes to smart strategizing in general. It’s those stellar planning and execution skills that put them into corporate leadership positions to begin with. And as it happens, smart, effective social media campaigns benefit from that same thoughtful, executive-level planning process, a process that puts first things first.

The Three Fundamentals of First Things First Social Media Strategy

  • Define your goal(s): Ask yourself and your leadership team what specific results you hope to achieve with the resources to be allocated to social media. For one company, desired results might be unaided brand awareness, while for another, it might be all about the number of customers who walk through the door. The strategy should be crafted to produce these results. Without clearly and proactively defining goals, however, your plan can end up a complete misfire.
  • Survey the landscape: No businessperson would spend money on a traditional marketing plan without some basic research to guide their execution. Social media implementation benefits from the same preemptive intelligence gathering. A well-implemented social media monitoring plan offers useful data on the online conversation already taking place about a particular brand. Social media marketing and public relations is all about developing authentic relationships and conversations with customers and potential customers. In order to get that two-way dialogue underway, you first have to go where your target demographic already is. By thoughtfully gathering some preliminary information, you will know whether that’s My Space, Google Groups, niche site message boards, Yelp, or Twitter – each of which requires a distinctly different and nuanced approach. Again, this sort of up-front data collection can prevent misdirected allocation of social media resources.
  • Work from the inside out: Odds are that many, if not most employees of any given company are already engaged in some sort of social media usage in their private or professional lives. Whether it’s a Facebook or Linked In profile, neighborhood listserv participation, or an employee-authored parenting blog, these pre-existing, internal online networks can either work to a company’s social media advantage or disadvantage. The vast majority of employees want to do what they can to promote their employer’s success and profitability. What these loyal employees need is some validation and specific guidance in best practices (as well as the big no-no’s) in how to conduct themselves while online. By creating an official Social Media Engagement Policy that is clear, reasonable and positive, companies “start at home” with their social media strategies – a smart approach. Not only will such a set of house rules help to prevent unintended public relations snafus by employees, it can also yield tangible benefits. As an example, imagine what a cost effective recruiting tool it could be if a female employee who happens to author a popular mommy-blog on her personal time were to write about her employer’s generous maternity benefits. Voila! Instant and authentic brand evangelism, which is pretty much the holy grail of social media marketing.

These three fundamentals of social media planning can prevent a lot of waste and stress in the longterm. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are feeling pushed to jump ahead of themselves when crafting their strategies, skipping over these important steps.

Cold Calling Mistakes

From Jill Konrath’s blog:

The Top 10 Cold Calling Mistakes

By Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling

Note: Wendy is presenting at the Sales Stimulus program on Cold Calling in the 21st Century – The New Rules. Don’t miss this chance to learn from the Queen of Cold Calling! I always do . Check out the details now.

Feeling frustrated and defeated by prospecting? Tired of hearing, “We already have that covered?” Tired of hearing, “I’m not interested?” Tired of hearing “no?” These are the Top Ten Cold Calling Mistakes that ‘The Queen’ sees on a regular basis. Eliminate these mistakes and see your results change.
1. Not understanding the goal of the call
When you hang up the phone, where do you want to be? What action do you want your prospect to take? What commitment do you want your prospect to make? Too many prospectors don’t identify the goal of their phone call and so they do not get the result that they want. Before you pick up the telephone, identify the goal of your conversation.

2. Sending literature when you don’t have to
“Send me some information” does not translate to, “I’m going to read it.” Too many prospectors get quite excited to send brochures or emails to prospects and then call them back. Unfortunately, too many prospects use “Send me some information” as a polite way of getting off of the telephone. “Send me some information” generally really means, “I’m not interested” or “I’m too busy to talk.” You want to find out why your prospect is asking for information and if they are a true prospect. If your prospect is asking because they do intend to look over it, agree to send it out and get their commitment to a time to continue the conversation.

3. Poor telephone etiquette
Chewing gum, eating, music or television blaring in the background, talking to other people while you’re on the phone, mumbling or not speaking clearly, not getting to the point… These are all ways to turn your prospect off and reduce the chances that you can have a productive conversation.

4. Poor listening skills
Prospects will tell you everything that you need to know, if only you’ll listen to them. Listen actively so that you’ll hear what your prospects’ are really saying. Unfortunately, poor listening skills go hand in hand with the next mistake on the list.

5. Projecting your fears onto the prospect
“The prospect is in a meeting,” does not translate to, “The prospect knows that you are calling and does not want to speak with you.” “I’m busy and cannot talk right now,” does not translate into, “I don’t want to speak with you and I’m not interested.” Too many prospectors read extra and always negative meaning into statements made by gatekeepers and/or prospects. You will always do better by simply taking these statements at face value and assume that your prospect is in a meeting or is busy and cannot talk at the time that you called.

6. Inadequate or nonexistent questioning
It is vital to gather information about your prospect. Make sure that you have good questions planned to ask your prospect in order to qualify them and learn about their needs. Divide your questions into “Need to Know” and “Nice to Know” categories. Make sure to ask all of your “Need to Know” questions first.

7. Poor or no preparation
Few sales professionals would go into an important meeting with a top customer and wing it, yet that is exactly what far too many prospectors do when they get on the telephone. On the telephone you have approximately 10-30 seconds to grab and hold your prospects’ attention and you will not get another chance. Prepare so that you can have the best possible conversation with your prospect.

8. Not asking for what you want
Fear keeps many prospectors from asking for what they want. Others simply do not understand their goals for each call (see # 1) so they either do not ask for what they want or they ask for the wrong thing. Identify your goal for the call and craft the verbiage that you will use to ask for what you want. Practice that verbiage out loud so that you become comfortable. You can even make a “cheat sheet” and have it in front of you when you make your calls so that you remember to ask for what you want.

9. Creating objections where none existed
If you do not have a good call opening, you will immediately create an objection from your prospect. Anything that you say to a prospect that does not resonate deeply with them will create an objection. You want to be prepared with a good call opening and good script that will preempt objections (see #7). If every prospect with whom you speak says, “I’m not interested,” you’re not saying anything interesting.

10. Not leading with the value
The value or benefit (“WIIFM-What’s in it for me?”) from your prospects’ point of view is what will gain their attention. (see #7 and #9). Always, always, always lead with the value.

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Wendy Weiss, “The Queen of Cold Calling,” is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Get Wendy’s free Special Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script, at

© 2009 Wendy Weiss