Advertising Thoughts, Copywriting, Marketing Thoughts, social media, Uncategorized

Why Seth Godin’s Rejection Email Was Better Than Most Acceptance Letters


Yesterday, my application to participate in Seth Godin’s summer seminar, “The Agenda Session” was denied. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little sad, because (as a marketer who believes that the acts and voices of businesses and organizations can be used for good and profound work) Seth Godin is my hero. I wouldn’t say that I was shocked when I read my rejection email, however. Only 15 people are accepted to the session every year, a lot of people look up to Seth Godin, and my application was a bit rushed because I wanted to be among the first to apply. All that said, I kind of saw it coming. But one can always dream.

People get rejected all of the time. From jobs. From people. From colleges and universities. What’s the big deal?

What was remarkable about this rejection (yes, his rejection email was worthy of remark) was how touching it was. We’ve all read the We regret to inform you‘s and Unfortunately you were not selected‘s time and time again. And typically we stop reading after we interpret that first sentence to the full intention of the communication. Not only that, but when we receive these rejections, whether it’s in response to a college application, job application or marriage proposal, it leaves a bad taste in our mouth about the organization/person that rejected you. Maybe Microsoft said you wouldn’t be a great fit for that role, so the next computer you buy is a Mac. Maybe USC said their MBA program was full, so you start rooting for the Sun Devils. Yet Seth Godin (as he is one to do) turned the common rejection letter on its head and found a way to create a personal connection with me through a presumably negative interaction. His rejection email was more moving than most acceptance letters and phone calls that I’ve received in my 27 years on Earth. It felt personal. It felt honest. It felt like Seth had called me into his office, closed the door, and with a solemn expression told me why I wasn’t going to get that promotion. And it built in me an even deeper and more profound level of respect for Mr. Godin.

The point is that we as marketers, advertisers and communicators often miss opportunities to create a stronger connection and greater engagement in these kinds of situations. Of course, we are all wonderful at celebrating the good stuff. That’s the easy part. But if you really want to stand out, we need to consider every touch point an opportunity to win more trust and more loyalty. If brands are becoming more like people every day, then think of your brand in terms of your best friends and acquaintances. Your acquaintances love to chat with you about the good stuff, the big stuff, the Super Bowl, the raise, the wedding. But only your best friends will sit down and have an honest conversation about the layoff, the troubled marriage, the loss of a loved one, the rejection from your dream job. That’s the conversation Seth just had with me, via email. And I’m a more loyal fan than ever, now.


Advertising Thoughts, Marketing Thoughts, social media, Uncategorized

The Rise of Experiential: Marketing’s Next Evolutionary Step


Experiential marketing is exactly what it sounds like. And yet it is so much more than anything consumers and marketers have been able to grasp yet. But some are getting close. Indeed, experiential marketing and advertising is creating a new level of consumer interaction that goes beyond selling products to consumers, but guides them along a path that is intelligent, intuitive and, well, the next step in the evolution of marketing sales.

Read this brief selection out of Darrell Rigby’s groundbreaking Harvard Business Review article, The Future of Shopping to get a better idea of what I’m talking about…

“It’s a snowy Saturday in Chicago, but Amy, age 28, needs resort wear for a Caribbean vacation. Five years ago, in 2011, she would have headed straight for the mall. Today she starts shopping from her couch by launching a videoconference with her personal concierge at Danella, the retailer where she bought two outfits the previous month. The concierge recommends several items, superimposing photos of them onto Amy’s avatar. Amy rejects a couple of items immediately, toggles to another browser tab to research customer reviews and prices, finds better deals on several items at another retailer, and orders them. She buys one item from Danella online and then drives to the Danella store near her for the in-stock items she wants to try on. As Amy enters Danella, a sales associate greets her by name and walks her to a dressing room stocked with her online selections—plus some matching shoes and a cocktail dress. She likes the shoes, so she scans the bar code into her smartphone and finds the same pair for $30 less at another store. The sales associate quickly offers to match the price, and encourages Amy to try on the dress. It is daring and expensive, so Amy sends a video to three stylish friends, asking for their opinion. The responses come quickly: three thumbs down. She collects the items she wants, scans an internet site for coupons (saving an additional $73), and checks out with her smartphone. As she heads for the door, a life-size screen recognizes her and shows a special offer on an irresistible summer-weight top. Amy checks her budget online, smiles, and uses her phone to scan the customized Quick Response code on the screen. The item will be shipped to her home overnight.”

Decades ago, these ideas would have seemed to come from some futuristic novel or movie, but now they seem all too real. Consumers can receive mobile alerts from their favorite brands when an item they might enjoy goes on sale. If it’s close to lunch time, consumers might receive a text message when wander within a 100 foot proximity of a restaurant they like inside a shopping mall or casino. With modern technology like smart phones, tablets, interactive maps and more, experiential marketing almost seems like a natural step. But it actually began in the 90s, and has taken off ever since. Unfortunately, however, few companies have taken advantage of modern technology to develop experiential marketing and advertising to the full extent that they can.

Let’s take a step back and ask an important question: What exactly is experiential marketing? According to Tyler Lacoma of Demand Media in his article What Is Experiential Advertising, it “uses modern forms of communication and interactivity to approach marketing from a different, more personal angle. It combines salesmanship with the ability to connect with consumers and give them something to encounter and interact with, rather than just see or listen to.” With such a broad definition, experiential marketing could include a wide array of advertising tactics. Indeed, when a consumer buys something from and they begin to receive recommendations of other similar items that they might like, would that fall under experiential? Most likely, yes. Amazon is interacting with their consumer using prior behavior to help them find something else that they might like, while also garnering increased revenue for their company.


That said, what is it that experiential marketing brings to the table that traditional and even newer forms don’t, beyond Amazon’s consumer history product matching? It is the deeper level of interaction that consumers don’t just prefer, but crave. With the invention of the loudest communication tool in the history of the world, social media, consumers desire to connect on a deeper level with brands than ever before. They don’t just want to buy the latest pair of Nike shoes, they want to post pictures of them to show their friends. They want their Nike+ mobile application, which comes free with their shoes, to show all of their peers how they are using their latest pair of Nikes to set a new personal record at their next 5K. And they want it all to be intelligently streamlined and easy to use while offering exciting and cutting-edge interactive capabilities. It’s about developing not just buyers, but followers. No problem, right?

Well, yes and no. The problem is that developing these experiential campaigns isn’t cheap, and the companies that have the budget for them don’t necessarily have the inclination. If traditional advertising has worked in the past for these successful organizations, then why do they need to spend all that time and money when their standard mix of television, radio and print are working just fine? Hell, they spent close to a million dollars to develop a cutting-edge website, what more do consumers want? Of course, that isn’t always the case. Many forward thinking companies like Nike, Amazon and Apple understand the shifting landscape of modern marketing. But even the ones that have made the leap into this new era of advertising aren’t finding it all fun and games.

While experiential marketing seems to have a great deal of promise for a new era of consumerism and interactivity, there are (as always) going to be some downsides. These intelligent systems, like the ones described in The Future of Shopping are sure to lead to some Big Brother-esque fear of intrusion. Just how much is too much in terms of what a company knows about you? Or, how much communication is too much? Sure, the intelligent offerings created for our fictional character Amy were a blessing for her, as she clearly enjoys shopping and had a need for a product ASAP. But what about the millions of other consumers who give a bit of personal information at the register or online in order to get the initial 10% discount, but don’t want to be pestered every day about a new pair of shoes that just went on sale?

As the term “experiential marketing” indicates, those who are participating are creating a unique brand experience. It makes the buying process easier, more intuitive and more fun for their consumers. But like any new paradigm, there will certainly be kinks to work out. Not everyone who buys a pair of Nike shoes wants to be part of that community. Maybe they just want to go for a jog in peace. So there will be trial and error, of course. The right experience needs to match the right brand, and perhaps even more importantly, the right consumer. The last thing we can do is assume that everyone wants to join the cult of your company. Many will. Others won’t. And that’s okay. But either way, this is a very exciting new level of marketing that we should all be considering in our next campaign.

Advertising Thoughts, Marketing Thoughts, social media, Uncategorized

Why Red Bull’s Advertising Makes Me Want to Jump Off a Mountain (In a Good Way)

We all remember those old Red Bull television commercials. You know the ones I’m talking about. Shaky cartoon. Innuendos everywhere. Odd banter between strange characters. And the fact that we remember them speaks highly of the advertising, or budget, or both, of Red Bull. But over the last few years, Red Bull has somehow managed to make a fluid transition from cheesy oddball commercials to extreme, life-inspired viral videos that have swept the world off its feet. Their new video efforts have even earned them comparisons with the glory days of Nike advertising. Indeed, Red Bull has made its way from corny side conversation to extreme sports enthusiast. We see Felix Baumgartner plastered in Red Bull gear leaping from space. We see people in squirrel suites (so I’m told they are called) zoom mere feet above the sharp treeline of a tall mountain. We see surfers thrashing across perilous waves. And you know what? It’s actually really cool. My wife may kill me, but I think I’m going to have to try that “squirrel suit” jump in the near future.

Type “Red Bull advertising” into Google and you’ll get results like Red Bull as Adweek’s Ad of the Day, a Mashable article entitled “How Red Bull Takes Content Marketing to the Extreme” and AdAge talking about a Red Bull video catapulting to the top of the chart. AdAge even named Red Bull’s historic 120,000 foot free fall from space video as the best integrated campaign of 2012. But why did this transition happen?  And has their strategy worked?

After doing some digging, I learned that the “cartoon” advertisements that we all knew and, well, maybe liked, had been aired “for 23 years in 160 countries” (Beuker, 2010). Red Bull had been sponsoring extreme sports for quite some time as well, but their brand identity did not really reflect that. Enter: The digital age. In a Fast Company article by Teressa Iezzi that ranks the Red Bull Media House as the world’s 29th most innovative company, Iezzi describes how Red Bull was able to capitalize on their vast knowledge of extreme sports by creating videos and selling them online. But it wasn’t until they realized that this extreme sports lifestyle was really the DNA of their brand that they made the decision to transition their advertising away from the cornball cartoon ads, and more in the direction of Nike-esque advertising.

And has it paid off? According to Yahoo Finance, Red Bull maintains a 40% market share in what is understood as one of America’s fastest growing industries (projected 86% growth over the next five years). But what’s more important is how ingrained this company has become in the very extreme culture it has supported for so many years. Oh, and let’s not forget the huge revenues they are making off of these amazing videos. According to Iezzi, they spent just $2 million on a video that went on to reign “atop iTunes’s sports, documentary, and overall movie sales charts for a week, at $10 a pop” (2012).

So what do you think? In my opinion, Red Bull is the coolest energy drink company in the world. But, I also drink a combination of Rockstars and Mosters on a near daily basis. To be honest, I haven’t had a Red Bull in years. So is a positive opinion as important as an actual sale? Has Red Bull’s immersion into extreme culture through iconic videos and historically extreme events (think 120,000 foot free fall) persuaded you to buy a Red Bull? Or, perhaps more importantly, has it changed your image about their brand? Something is obviously working for them. All I know is I love their marketing.

Oh, and for old time’s sake, here’s one of the cartoon style Red Bull ads, which they are still coming out with from time to time.

Advertising Thoughts, social media

Let’s Get Social People!

Why are brands so hesitant to adapt to the new era of advertising?

Since the dawn of time, man has been advertising. It’s a simple fact. In the early phases, man advertised himself for the purposes of procreation. One man would show that he is the best hunter and provider and in turn would likely receive the best mate and produce the best offspring.

As the years went on, advertising took on various new faces, one of which was the promotion of products and services to ensure marketplace survival. At first, shouting, “My fish tastes better than his fish,” and “My wine is better than his wine” took precedence (a tactic still used by many copywriters I know). Eventually, stone carvings and signs were made to convey these same sentiments.

Move forward a few millennia and we reach the advancement of electronic media by way of the television. Alas! Consumers can both see and hear these “talking heads” telling us how dentists recommend their brand of cigarettes.

And finally leap forward a few more decades and we reach the “Social Era” of advertising. Now, our advertisements are not only audible and viewable, but interactive and must cater to the consumer’s every question, comment, and whim. This creates more value and brand loyalty through personal connections between brands and consumers.

The point is that advertising, in all its growth, adaptation, and change, is still one guy trying to “yell” louder than another guy about why their brand is better. All that’s changed is the tools we have at our fingertips to get that message out.

While some brands are taking advantage of the incredible new social media tools, others are lagging behind. So why do some brands fear jumping into this new domain of promotion? Is it the thought that social media is a fad or the fear that they won’t be able to keep up in this seemingly cutting-edge form of communication? If so, maybe you should see this:

Whatever the case, social media is here to stay. Its exponential growth will eventually plateau but is unlikely to experience any kind of “bubble burst” because, well, we are social people and we like to communicate with one another. And as for the fear of jumping into the new media realms, the fact is, there is a conversation going on out there . . . brands can either stay out and let the vicious criticism of online consumer discussions continue unabashed, or they can choose to participate constructively and collect meaningful, qualitative data from the people who mean the most: their buyers.

After all, how are you supposed to tell consumers about your “fish” when they’re fast-forwarding through your TV ads, listening to CDs in the car, and canceling their subscriptions to all their newspapers and magazines? It’s time to get social people!

Advertising Thoughts, Commentary, social media

Exploring the Functionality of Twitter

Every night the dream is the same . . . I jump off my TweetDeck into the social network. Hash tags and Retweets overwhelm me as I drown in an endless ocean of vast and relatively meaningless information while that damned blue bird circles above.

And then I wake up.

Twitter is a deep abyss of information that can overwhelm even the most social network-savvy individuals and swallow them whole. @ symbols are thrown around like rice at a wedding. Retweets and trending topics create the most irrational 140 character messages. And individuals follow others for a small number of reasons: possibly in an attempt to grow their own followers, they find the other person interesting and someone they may want to share information with, they’re trying to sell something, or they are just being genuinely creepy.

With that being said, Twitter is an absolutely useful tool in the technology, advertising/marketing or business industries. Twitter allows for a strong and swift interaction between individuals in respective fields, industry verticals and the business universe as a whole. If you are in advertising and you want to keep up with all of the latest news, then all you have to do is follow a few reliable information sources such as Mashable’s Pete Cashmore, Ad Age, and AdWeek, among others. It’s like RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, but better. Like RRSS. You can also follow individuals in your industry via 3rd party Twitter sites such as, which allows you to search “Tweeters” by category. This will allow you to stay updated, and update, within the goings-on of the advertising, and any other, industry. This makes Twitter a very powerful tool when used correctly.

And to get the best use out of your Twitter account, I would strongly suggest leveraging TweetDeck. This is another tool among the many 3rd party Twitter additions, but it is really helpful in being able to see everything going on with your Twitter account. It allows you to see people talking about you, other’s tweets, direct messages, and other stuff, all across one large and efficient board.

From the brands and celebrities perspective, Twitter gives a more personal feel between them and their consumers and fans by updating followers on what they’re doing, their likes and dislikes in the online community, and even holding contests and giveaways. Twitter has become a perfect arena to hold contests. Brands will have followers retweet a message to all of their followers so that they can win a prize. This blasts the brand’s message across the social webs while also getting fans involved with the brand or product. Recently Apple held a contest where followers just had to tweet the term “Moonfruit” to win a laptop. The idea was simple, easy to do, and got millions of users involved.

From the point of view of the average citizen out in the world who is questioning whether or not they should get involved in Twitter, just ask yourself what would be your greatest reason to join. If it’s for social networking and catching up with friends, I strongly recommend Facebook over Twitter . . . as Twitter will be a passing fad for those individuals who are only there to update friends what they’ll be making for dinner. Facebook has social “fun” covered. But if your reason to join Twitter is for social and business, to network and get your name out there in digital, if you’re in the technology community and find many online articles absolutely fascinating . . . if any of these apply to you, Twitter is a great opportunity to grow your social networking portfolio. But remember that it should be part of a portfolio and cannot be the sole essence of your social media footprint.