Our Blog – Arkside


You’re In The People Business

by Nathan Greenberg, CEO

This may have been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn in my career. I spent my early professional years focusing on mastering my craft, expanding my opportunities, and gaining prominence within the industry. But I was more than a decade in before I began learning the complexity and necessity of a fundamental truth: no matter how much I knew or how much money I made, I was and always would be in “the people business”.

Hopefully, a few of you thinking something akin to, “how did you miss that?”. If so, that means you already understand this lesson – or you are aware of its importance even if you are still learning it yourself. My fundamental belief rested upon the notion that my intellect and insight would carry me. It was hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want to work with me if I had the right answers. Call it hubris. Call it ignorance. Call it whatever you want, but it should be synonymous with mistake.

And it took time for me to correct the mistake. I would pick up hints from friends, colleagues, and managers. The pieces came together over time. But eventually I understood something critical to success. Relationships are the basis for business. There is a difference between what people buy and why people buy it. People fundamentally buy things from companies they don’t object to. People do business with people. If the customer likes the salesperson, they might overlook some of the objectionable actions of the manufacturer. Customers may choose to do business with a friend who charges more than the stranger with a discount. This is what I didn’t understand. It wasn’t about what I sold, but rather how I sold it. Was there a relationship with my customer?

Then I had to learn the key principles of the relationship. I said earlier, “People fundamentally buy things from companies they don’t object to.” You may have heard that phrased differently: “People buy from people they like” or something like that. Unfortunately, I no longer believe that is most accurate. In today’s economy of polarization, moral alignment, and behavioral transparency, there can always be something that a customer doesn’t like about a company. And yet you will still find atheists who eat at Chick-fil-A. You will find Republicans who voted for Joe Biden. The information firehose being blasted into our consciousness about companies and employees every second of the day has exceeded its value proposition. Consumers now choose from the options they dislike least.

Years of research shows that customers do business with those they “know, like, and trust”. Sometimes those quantities need not be very high, but they must be higher than the competition. Sales managers have been giving the “sell the benefits, not the features” speech for a long time. It now applies to more than the product. It applies to the relationship.

In recent years, the definition of “benefits” has changed. Customers now include ethics and personal satisfaction in their purchasing decision. This changes the relationship. Customers want to know the people and organizations from which they buy. They want to feel good about doing business with them. At first I viewed these adjustments as a minefield that made sales more difficult. But I later learned that these were opportunities. I had all new ways to connect with customers than ever before based on their personal interests. My slowness to grasp relationship value suddenly shot forward by understanding how I could foster them. This is why no matter what you sell, you are in the people business. The necessity now to demonstrate ethical behavior, get to know the customer, and be a resource for them is more important than ever. They aren’t buying what you’re selling. They’re buying their personal pleasure of being able to tell someone, “I bought from that company because they’re a good company.” Ethical street cred is a vital component to today’s consumer shopping – and every consumer is a person. You’re in the people business.

(Originally published in IE Business Edge magazine, March 2022)


LGBT Employment Equality

by Nathan Greenberg, CEO

As someone with more than 20 years of marketing experience, I have enjoyed the value of difference. Perspective, action, appearance…these and other elements of the creative process can drive ingenious breakthrough. So what sense does it make to fill a room with people who are similar? It is important to represent the people you want to reach. The storytelling of marketing needs to understand its audience. And according to a recent Gallup poll, more than 5% of Americans today identify as something other than “straight” or “heterosexual”. So why are their voices so often ignored or prohibited in everything from brainstorms to Boardrooms? That doesn’t happen here.

The celebration of Pride began after the Stonewall Riots which was a response to police harassment of gay Americans in New York City. The gay community has been demonized (literally) by religious institutions, political figures, governments, corporations, and non-profits. But in recent decades, our LGBT friends and family have shown courage to share their experience with the world. They’ve been empowered and encouraged to tell their stories and fight (literally) to obtain the equal rights they deserve. Here at Arkside, we stand with them.

It wasn’t until 2014 that a Fortune 500 company had the first openly gay CEO. LGBT voices have been -and continue to be- marginalized in the professional world. Comments such as, “She may be a woman, but she looks like a man” and “What could a fag know about sports?” have been used to keep knowledgeable, professional, driven individuals out of roles they richly deserved. They have limited the voices at a table that begs to hear their input. The inherent worth of diversity has been ignored.

At Arkside, we want to hear from the kaleidoscope of life. LGBT people are welcome, as equally as every race, culture, language, gender, and handicap. You will never face discrimination or judgement in hiring or employment. You have allies in this office. It starts with the CEO – me.

Feel comfortable when you apply here.
Feel empowered when you work here.
Feel pride when you create here.
Feel safe when you talk here.

Our conference table has plenty of room for your chair.

Have a happy and safe Pride Month 2021.


Our 2020 Card: Recognizing Struggle

Why should anything be easy? At the end of 2019, my team and I began the process of assembling our end-of-the-year card. My blog post about the card mentioned that it was comparatively uneventful in marketing and general pop culture. Ultimately, we refined an impactful message that encapsulated the year.

2020 presented no such challenge. Why? ‘Cuz COVID.

The year began with Presidential campaigning and the death of Kobe Bryant. It quickly devolved into one of the most challenging years of our lifetimes. We endured with you through health, economic, business, and personal struggles. To call it a roller coaster may not do it justice. So few peaks and plenty of deep valleys. Everyone on our team, our clients, and our families experienced loss. Loved ones were lost due to a deadly pandemic. Businesses made difficult decisions to lay off valued staff or close their doors. Friends lost friendships. Children lost classrooms and play time. But there have been many moments of hope and help as we rallied together. Our society has pushed through pain and will come out stronger for it. The pandemic may instigate and define much of what happened, but it is the lessons we learn that matter most.

The creation of our 2020 card would be unlike anything else because it was a year unlike any other.

Many of you know that the Arkside card is not a holiday card. My simple rule is that it should represent the year. That’s why, on some occasions, it is delivered in January. Whatever the year brings, our card is intended to be a thought-provoking reflection on the events that shaped our world. This year provided too much to work with. Our brainstorming sessions were long and emotional.

Children Represent the Best of 2020

The lessons of 2020 will never be mirrored more acutely than by our youngest generation. While we adults faced so much, it is our children that were most unfairly burdened. They shouldn’t be asked to rise up to such epic challenges. But they were. Parents lost jobs or health, friends couldn’t come over, school was locked away, and family became a virtual experience. Their lives were not stable.

The kids of 2020 showed us resilience. They sat at desks in their bedrooms, connected with friends online, made “thank you” signs for hospital nurses and restaurant servers, and hugged their parents during moments of grief. And they listened during conversations about racial justice, politics, and patriotism. No doubt it was painful, but they continue to shine and will have much to teach future generations.

So as the Arkside team discussed the good and bad of 2020, we came to realize that the future is bright. Far brighter than 2020 would lead us to believe.

How to Creatively Capture 2020

This card would be our most ambitious and important. You deserve that. No expense was spared. No creativity was blocked. We set out to make something special.

How could we reflect the endurance of children and the challenges of our society?

We selected Riverside City College as the site of our photo shoot and they generously supported us with space and staff to help. To represent the children who have survived such struggle, we found Chloe: a young Black girl who is waking up every day wanting to be a good kid who can learn and have fun, no matter what challenges she is given. She has watched Black men and women die on the news. She has watched her teachers via video. She has wanted to play but couldn’t touch her friends. She was also a wonderful talent that was always positive during the shoot!

Distance learning represents 2020

The scene seeks to depict many of the events she experienced including the death of Kobe Bryant, the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule, racial justice protests, and virtual learning. It also shows the iconic kid stuff of cute posters and doodles on a notepad that will keep her generation going. Maybe they keep older generations going as well.

There were other events of 2020 that were discussed but ultimately didn’t make the cut for the card: Jeffrey Epstein, the Tesla Cybertruck, murder hornets, George Floyd (separate from the protests and marches), massive wildfires, TikTok, “Karen”, Harry & Meghan, and BREXIT. Each was important but were left out of the final image for various reasons.

Looking Forward

2020 is behind us but its obstacles are still in our path. Our optimism and pride are also there. We have seen how communities come together. We know people are supporting each other and helping where they can. We see hope in our children as they continue to learn. Each of these positive examples will serve as reminders of that which we are capable. Challenges will always rise before us, but because of the kindness of the human spirit, we look forward to seeing each challenge overcome.

So let us be inspired by Chloe and all children of 2020 who will learn lessons not seen in in a century. If they can do it, so can we. And we wish each of you a very prosperous and healthy 2021!


10 Years of Marketing Success

by Nathan Greenberg, CEO

Today is our 10 year anniversary. We are official made of tin. The decade milestone has been achieved and I am very proud to be here. The pride is anchored in humility and many hard lessons learned, yet here I stand along with my team as we celebrate success. The success is not ours alone – not even most of it. In all likelihood, we are here because of you.

Where Arkside Began

When I look back at the beginning, I remember a very challenging and exciting time. Arkside’s origin was far from auspicious. It was December 2009 and January 2010 when I had discovered the ad agency I was with was going to collapse. The owners were mismanaging and co-mingling funds, vendors weren’t being paid, employee tax payments were missing, paychecks were bouncing, and they were gripped in a very nasty divorce. I had joined this agency three years prior as part of a buyout – largely because of my accounts. Now it was my job to protect those accounts.

My two largest accounts had ongoing media spends, creative work, and long relationships with me. I wanted to ensure they’re operations were not interrupted by this disaster. But how? I wasn’t comfortable with other agencies in the area and I took the success and protection of my clients very personally.

Ultimately, it left my serial entrepreneur attitude with one choice: start an agency.

So I did. With supportive family, friends, media partners, clients that came with me, and a couple of investors, Arkside Marketing was born.

Challenges Through the Years

Arkside is not my first business but it was my largest at the time. Different challenges have come through every business: Personnel, client goals, budgets, market changes, and certainly outside influences in personal life.

But Arkside has taught me more than any other. For example, despite my initial investors and extreme fiscal conservatism, Arkside was underfunded. This limited our options and capabilities in the beginning. I initially built a completely remote-work company. Everyone worked from home! That didn’t offer the structure needed by some and I lost good employees. I failed to invest enough time and money into marketing (cue the cobbler’s shoe story) so it took us longer to grow than I expected. HR issues within the company, clients who wanted to take our success in-house, unpaid invoices requiring me to file lawsuits, opening and expanding offices, changes in traditional and digital media landscapes, and a dozen other factors have taught me valuable lessons.

All of them have made me a better person, a better entrepreneur, and a better manager. Still far from perfect, but I appreciate every lesson learned. More will undoubtedly be coming!

How to Succeed

Success is much harder than failure. I admit that Arkside is not where I thought it would be today. We’ve missed some goals and even had to realign our mission. But none of that is failure. They are educational days and Arkside is a success because of them. We have grown and continue to succeed.

We have made incredible achievements in the last decade:

  • Generated millions of dollars in revenue for our clients
  • Enabled clients to reach or exceed their long-term goals
  • Created award-winning artwork, layouts, and concepts
  • Originated the 2 Rules of marketing
  • Super-served clients in some of the most regulated industries on Earth
  • Crafted sales, loyalty, and education campaigns that benefit consumer education
  • Donated time and money to a wide variety of local and national charities
  • Helped employees grow their knowledge, careers, and networks
  • Provided opportunities to interns from many colleges and universities
  • Educated thousands of event attendees on marketing, psychology, sales, and technology
  • Witnessed the amazing dedication, passion, care, customer service, and pride of our clients

Every item on that list is something that we look forward to continuing and expanding in the years to come. We have been able to make these achievements because of generous support from many clients, friends, family members, colleagues, partners, and vendors. I hope I have been generous with my gratitude over the years.

So what happens now?

The Future of Arkside

This 10 year anniversary has given me pause. After the failures and successes that continue to teach me, I’m excited about the future. It has already begun…

I am already making new investments in technology, partnerships, and capabilities. There are new hires I look forward to announcing in 2020 to continue growing the company and provide new levels of service to our clients. All of us here at Arkside are working on new processes that can streamline our work and make things even easier for our clients. (This is one way we live up to Rule #2.) We will be hosting private client events beginning this year that will offer exclusive opportunities and give us a chance to show appreciation for their business.

For me, the future is about living up to the goals I’ve set for myself and many of the expectations you have set for me. Perfection isn’t possible but I will be working toward greatness.

Gratitude for You

For those that have hired Arkside to work with you, sent referrals to our doorstep, written a review, given advice when it was needed, provided excellent service to us or our clients, donated with us to charity, offered constructive criticism, Liked a social media post, or been a positive part of the Arkside team:


You have my gratitude.

May the next decade and more to come open opportunities for us all to make a difference.


The Darkness of Our 2019 Card

As we look back on the year 2019, the Arkside team came to realize how it was truly bizarre. Each year we gather in our conference room and review all the major happenings in marketing and pop culture. It is a time to reflect on tide-changing moments. Those memories serve as fuel for our annual end-of-the-year card. We select a theme for the card and then begin discussing design ideas. For the first time in six years we faced a lack of inspiration.

2019 was difficult to summarize. The marketing industry saw no important shifts. We did not have any major moments that genuinely shaped or redefined culture. Brexit was stalled, we were blessed with a lack of devastating natural disasters, no major elections, and a relative lack of large scandals in marketing.

Further complicating our discussion was a rule I instituted for 2019: no politics. The conversations of our nation and world have been defined in recent years by the acrimony, conflict, and chaos of politics. Massive upheaval and drastic turns have turned neighbor against neighbor. Despite the tremendously positive responses we have received in the past to our neutral inclusion of politics such as our “Clinton/Trump mashup” in 2016, or controversial topics such as Colin Kaepernick in 2018, it was important that we go beyond those targets.

Once we turned our attention to media, we started to find some hope. We began with a list of major movie and television productions. Avengers: Endgame broke the box office revenue record (currently $2.8 billion) this summer and did it in record time. More recently, the audience-acclaimed Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history and also did so in record time. This was due largely to the incredible performance of Joaquin Phoenix. Audiences had a chance to revisit Stephen King’s creepy version of Maine for IT Chapter 2 and see the end of Pennywise 30 years after first venturing to Derry. And of course, there was the much anticipated but massively derided finale to Game of Thrones. It became the most watched single program in HBO history with 19.3 million viewers.

Common Themes in 2019 Media

But what did these major moments have in common?

Two things. The first was that none of them were firsts. There are now 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe feature films. There have been at least a dozen Batman feature films with many including Joker. Pennywise was making his third feature film appearance. And Game of Thrones was wrapping up after eight seasons and seven books. Lest we forget the many other reboots and remakes this year.

The second commonality was evil. All of these successes focused on evil characters. Thanos is a genocidal narcissist in Avengers, the Joker is a homicidal genius, Pennywise is a deranged alien, and Daenerys is a murderous ruler. Does this speak to a cultural dark turn in today’s society? We’ll let you decide if the collective billions of dollars spent on these stories says so.

A Light in the 2019 Tunnel

In all, it took us three separate meetings to find this thread woven through the year. But not all hope was lost as we wrapped up our 2019 year in review. Many of us felt like something was missing. And then it hit us like an anvil in a cartoon.

The Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Many Americans expected that Chick-fil-A had the best chicken sandwich. Why should anyone try to dethrone the king? It turns out that people were willing to consider options and when they got a hold of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich creation, they were thrilled! There may have been media-hyped incidents of insanity but it could not be denied that America had embraced a chicken sandwich alternative. And this one could be found on Sundays.

It was simply a good product that met the unmet needs of an audience. It was promoted through effective channels. These are all the things we love as marketers.

Back at 2019 and Forward to 2020

The year 2019 taught us that while audiences may deride the lack of new stories from Hollywood, they are more than willing to ignore their criticism in the face of a good story. They still love the theater experience, especially as more theaters add better food, comfortable leather seats, and even seat-side service. Even things we didn’t need -like a new chicken sandwich- are warmly welcomed.

Each of our cards is a look back on the year. It isn’t about the holidays or winter season, but the year we experienced with you and the lessons we hope to take into the next one. Marketing shapes all of our lives as we experience products, services, and messages daily.

So we take these lessons into 2020. We hope to work with you to provide a better experience, better service, and tackling any preconceived bias about things already done. The people have asked for good stories and good experiences. Let’s provide them together and grow your business.

Looking forward,
Nathan Greenberg, CEO


The Google BERT Update

“What do you mean?” This is Google’s ultimate and fundamental question. They want to answer your question. They want to provide the resource you need. They want to know what you really mean. The Google BERT update began the week of 28 October 2019 and is intended to answer that question.

Welcome “BERT”

The acronym stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”. This update from Google is about understanding human language. It began to roll out last week. It uses A.I. (artificial intelligence) on a neural network powered by machine learning. Google already knows perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but it needs to know lingo, intention, and meaning. That is what BERT studies and interprets.

“Bass” can mean the lowest male singing voice or a fish.
“Rose” can mean a flower, a color, a wine, or a cut.
BERT uses context to understand meaning.

The Impact of Google BERT

Instead of just trying to match keywords from the search to a website, BERT is trying to match your intent to a web result that gives the most relevant answer.

This is a big change! Google has said it is their biggest update of the last five years and will impact 10% of all searches in the English language. (Other major updates affected 2% – 5%.) The goal is to understand the meaning of longer, conversational queries such as:
“cost of a college degree in a job interview”
“credit report needed for car financing”
“2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”
“sale commission to real estate agent”
“do estheticians stand a lot at work”

This will impact:

Your SEO and BERT

Nathan Greenberg runs our SEO strategies and in his opinion BERT is going to negatively impact websites that employ “keyword stuffing”. He also believes it is going to impact image and video search as more ADA-compliant content is created utilizing ALT tags. For Arkside clients, no strategy change is necessary. We have not observed any negative impact on any client websites at this point from Google BERT!

Bottom line: It reinforces the need to write website copy for human readers instead of search engine bots.


Marketing Email Scams

Nigerian princes may be going out of business, but the number of email swindles that target the marketing industry continue to grow. The reasons they appeal to our industry come from a variety of pressures: short deadlines, unreasonable result demands from clients, budget constraints, and general laziness. Here is a list of marketing email scams that our industry receives on a daily basis. If you know of one that isn’t mentioned, add it in the comments section.

Chinese domain

This one is common and especially targets white collar businesses that are likely to care about their international and/or professional reputation. The irony of this scam is that it is based in a real threat: intellectual property theft in China.

If you own a domain and your contact details are public via the registrar, you can be targeted for this scam. You will receive an email that says the Chinese version of your domain is being claimed by a Chinese company and you have the option to block their claim. Of course, it comes at a cost. Fail to block their domain registration and they will charge you a huge fee to get it back…so act now!

Complete fraud. Unless you are selling your products or services in China, you don’t need the “Chinese version” of your domain.

Google 1st page

“We are an American company that can get you on the first page of Google!” Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The drive to rank on Google is feverish. Business owners have finally begun to understood the revenue benefits of showing up on the coveted first page in a search result.

Thousands of companies spread across the globe know this too. They are almost never an “American company”. They send millions of marketing email scams a day from millions of different email addresses with various versions of the same promise: getting you ranked on Page 1 for an inexpensive fee.

The vast majority of these claims are bogus. You pay them – they run away. You never hear from them again. In other cases, they may actually deliver some version of search engine optimization but it will utilize “black hat” techniques that actually risks your site being completely blocked by Google or moved beyond page 100 of search results.

This is one of the more lucrative email scams because while many businesses may not care about a Chinese domain, they all care about Google.


Along the same line as the Google ranking scheme is the promise of “high quality backlinks” for your website. This gets marketers excited because backlinks are a top ranking factor for Google. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “backlink” is a link from someone else’s website to yours. Search engines place a value on these links because it indicates that someone else finds your content valuable enough to share it.

Google began to seriously address the root of these marketing scams back in 2012 with their Penguin update. Google will quickly and harshly punish a website it detects is using a non-organic link building scheme such as blog farms, paid link tricks, or spammy content.

If you pay a firm to do this, it is almost certain that your website will be punished and every dollar you spent will be wasted.

Website and app design

Plenty of sage-like wisdom applies here:

“You get what you pay for.”
“If you think it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Your website is arguably the most valuable marketing tool you can possess because it is entirely under your control. Google can delist you, Facebook can delete you, and the media can jack up their prices. But your website is yours to do with as you wish.

Similarly, many companies want to become apps. They know people use apps so they think they should have one -or better yet- be one!

A fairly obvious spam email will come to you or be submitted through your website “Contact Us” page. They will promise incredibly low fees to pay for a full team of IT, SEO, and design specialists. What a deal!

The odds of you getting a good website or any result at all are slim to none. Your money is paying for someone’s apartment in another country.

Invoices, Payments, Wire transfers, Faxes

These marketing email scams all fall under a more insidious category of theft and security risks. The email may seem to come from a legitimate source such as IBM or Vonage or Microsoft Outlook. They look like an official notice of an overdue invoice, pending payment to your business, a halted wire transfer, or an innocent fax.

The problem comes when you click the link that is included in the email. That link will take you to an imposter website. It will ask you to “confirm” a variety of details including your email password. Now they have control. Alternatively, you may be prompted to pay the “outstanding balance” to a company with which you have never done business. With a simple wire transfer or actually providing your bank account details, your money is gone. Your account may even be compromised.

Boost your followers/engagement

And finally, we come to the social media scam of increasing your follower count. Let us be clear now that you should not focus your attention on the size of your audience. We routinely warn our clients about the dangers of building a “Useless Army” of followers that don’t actually care about your content, much less engage with it.

All major social networks have policies and procedures in place to deal with such junk. They delete millions of fake and spammy accounts every year while their machine learning and AI-powered algorithms identify and block millions of suspect comments, likes, shares, and even posts.

The email you receive may talk about getting “real people” to follow your Instagram account or “organic engagement” on Twitter. This is a lie. If they can promise it and predict results, the operation has to be automated. This violates the Terms of Service of every major social network and risks your account being suspended or deleted.

Quality Content Should Be Your Priority

Avoid the marketing email scams. If you want to achieve meaningful SEO or social media results, focus on creating quality content that will be of interest and use to your audience. Meet the needs of your intended customers and you will find rewards on Google, Facebook, and your bottom line.

If you would like information on how Arkside can help you achieve a 295% organic reach on social media or how to rank the same page on Page 1 of Google TWICE, then call us at 951.579.4121. We can show you how and why quality content is the smartest path to higher revenue and greater marketing ROI.


Disney Gets Harsh Reminder that It Needs Advertising

There are those who believe that some businesses are so well known that they don’t have to advertise. The notion of “too big to fail” may only apply to banks, because The Walt Disney Company was reminded in calendar Q3 2019 that even the Mouse needs advertising to reach the public.

The Power of Disney Branding

Audiences are certainly familiar with names such as “Avengers: Endgame”, , Star Wars, The Disney Channel, ESPN, Disneyland, and “Toy Story 4”. That familiarity is the result of long-term effective marketing. Jingles, vivid images, emotional storytelling, positive customer experiences, and merchandise investments all make for the largest entertainment company on Earth. They generated US$20.25 billion in the second calendar quarter of 2019 alone.

It may seem natural that a behemoth could skimp on some marketing here and there. When you combine such beloved brands as Disneyland (the most famous theme park in the world) and Star Wars (arguably the most famous science fiction franchise in the world), advertising was considered optional – something that could be skipped because the public was already addicted. This is what Disney tried to do with the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyland. Tried – and failed.

Despite Disney’s colossal box office success in generating US$8 billion so far this year and the new Star Wars-themed areas in Disneyland and Disney World in Florida, the company’s fiscal Q3 (Apr-Jun 2019) earnings were far below analysts’ expectations and theme park attendance was off 3%.

“Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger had said he didn’t even need to advertise the new attraction, since anticipation among Star Wars fans was so high. But the company has since stepped up promotions of Galaxy’s Edge on billboards and social media.”

Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg

Marketing is Mandated

So what happened? How did two iconic brands miss the mark? How did the most expensive upgrade in Disneyland history not put feet in lines?

As CEO Iger said, they thought the people knew and cared enough. They failed to account for the negative effects that higher ticket costs, long lines, and boosted food prices would have on affordability. There was also a significant over-correction for enthusiasm. Iger believed interest would be so high that they needed to persuade potential visitors not to come. Competition also stepped up their attacks by spending more on marketing and offering discounted ticket prices.

Assumptions are risky and Disney’s blew up in their face. The public didn’t materialize as expected and posts abounded on social media of the nearly empty new Star Wars land. Not great for a billion-dollar product launch.

Every brand must advertise. The public not only deserves to know about your product, but they also must be comfortable choosing to use your product. This is where Disney failed. People were concerned about affordability and experience. Mickey and his friends didn’t effectively communicate with their audience because they believed they didn’t need to. Thankfully this has changed.

Digital and Traditional Media Save the Day

Disney is now advertising the new land in digital and traditional media. Even the marketing titan of Disney with their billions of dollars and millions of media tools understand the value of a media mix. It could be assumed that Disney would only need to go digital. Everyone is sharing experiences on social media, using the official Disneyland app, and searching for tickets online. But billboards, television, and radio remain prominent and trusted parts of daily life for hundreds of millions of Americans.

So don’t repeat Disney’s mistakes. If the Avengers, the Sith, Hakuna Matata, and Buzz Lightyear require multimedia marketing to get the job done, so do you.


How Politics Influence Purchase Preferences

The American Marketing Association recently published six studies about the luxury goods purchasing differences between American conservatives and liberals. For those in the automotive, travel, and other affluent-targeting industries, knowing this information can greatly improve the ROI of your marketing efforts.

A Symbol of Status

One of the key functions of a luxury good is to communicate the owner’s social status. Wealth, ability, and personal network power are examples of status that can be visually demonstrated with a luxury item.

Conservatives and liberals buy different luxury items

As Rolex puts it: “Wearing a Rolex watch enables entry into a world of unlimited possibilities.”

Or from a rival watchmaker: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

Dubai-based DAMAC says their luxury real estate properties “complement your stature”.

In each of these instances, the object under consideration does not elevate your status – it maintains it. They show what you have already achieved. Status-maintenance is a vital component to how political ideology can influence purchasing decisions. Conservatives and liberals in the United States view and approach status-maintenance differently. In the AMA research, a total of six studies were conducted to analyze the differences and the result they have on the purchase of luxury goods.

Conservatives Prioritize Status-Maintenance

We recently developed a magazine for a luxury car dealership. As part of the design process, we discussed with them the idea of placing an “aspirational” vehicle on the cover – the type of vehicle that one would literally dream of owning. For example, many people may want to own a Mercedes-Benz, but it is something else entirely to own a Mercedes-AMG® S 63.

Status is an integral part of desire. It shapes how we define ourselves, both in terms of our own self-worth and how others see us. For marketing purposes, it is important to understand how consumers perceive their own status because of its influence on desire for luxury goods.

For the purposes of the AMA research, “political ideology refers to beliefs and principles that reflect a person’s views on how society should be governed.”

Ball and Dagger 2006

As noted in the research, political conservatives tend to favor the status quo. They are more comfortable with lifestyle elements which are familiar to them. They are more likely to evaluate a person’s social status than to evaluate the system in which that status is ranked. Therefore, it is important to note their preference for status-maintenance over status-advancement. It was also shown that the more politically conservative a person is, the more they valued not only status-maintenance, but luxury status-maintenance.

Scientifically, the studies did not seek to measure a contrasting behavior by liberals or their specific preferences. It was noted that liberals favored status advancement, but that was not a specific goal.

Selling luxury cars to conservatives.

Luxury Automotive Purchases by Conservatives

The participants in one study were sent a survey 3-4 months after the purchase of their vehicle and asked to self-identify their political affiliation. Vehicles were categorized as luxury or non-luxury. A total of 21,999 observations were made. According to the data, affluent conservatives are 35% more likely to purchase luxury vehicles than affluent liberals. The luxury car is a status symbol. It communicates their stature to the wider world.

Marketing Impact: Such data should influence campaign elements including image choice, copywriting, and media selection. Elements such as high-brow patriotism (Colin Powell, not Larry the Cable Guy), affluence, and support for the military and law enforcement will work well. It is important to note that law-and-order support should be evidenced through actions as well as words. If you intend to claim you support first responders, have a partnership with local police or fire departments in your community. If you want to say you support the military, volunteer time for welcome returning soldiers or financially sponsoring a local VFW. You are more likely to permanently lose business if your words are not backed by actions.

Conservative Marketing = Conservative Sales?

The important message here is the difference between status-maintenance and status-advancement. American political conservatives aren’t buying luxury products because they are conservative. Every decision is an emotional one. The ownership (or perceived ownership) of a luxury product helps a conservative feel as though they are maintaining status in their network.

“You earned it” is more effective than “You will earn it”.

“The trip your friends wish they could take” is more effective than “the trip you’ve always wanted to take”.

Simple draping a flag over something or getting an endorsement from Tomi Lahren isn’t the key to your success. If you know your prospect is politically conservative, tailor your message to meet their expectations and respect their beliefs.


Humanizing the Inhuman

Here’s your word of the day: anthropomorphism. It means “the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.” Have fun casually dropping that six syllable word into daily conversation; but you might find it easier than you expect. Why? Because millions of Americans are having daily conversations with inanimate objects. Even more interesting is that we are humanizing the inhuman products with genders, voices, and names. Their genders are female, their voices are soft, and their names are Alexa, Home, and Siri. But what do these assistants embedded in a smart speaker tell us about customer behavior?

Picking Gender Isn’t Just for Parents

It should come as no surprise that we humans like to socialize. We’re generally social creatures, even from birth. We like to look at each other, hear each other, and on occasion, speak to each other. So when we bring something into our home, we want to be as comfortable with it as possible.

Ever caught a friend, family member, or even yourself referring to a smart speaker as “her” or “she”? It is a fascinating observation the first time it happens. “Wow. I just called a speaker ‘she’.” You gave an appliance the same gender as your daughter or mother.

Isn’t that strange?

Not historically. Men, especially, have assigned the female gender to many of the things they love most: cars, ships, planes, countries, guns, oceans, and much more.

Now combine centuries of tradition with modern smart speakers. According to the “Smart Audio Report” conducted by NPR and Edison Research, people love their smart speakers:

  • 65% of smart speaker owners would not want to go back to their lives before getting one
  • Some participants joked that Alexa was a ‘girlfriend’ or ‘granddaughter’
  • 57% of owners have made a purchase through one

This is the root of our anthropomorphism of smart speakers and the artificial intelligence inside them. The designers of these systems are very intentional. Research repeatedly shows that men and women prefer female voices when receiving “customer service”. If women appeal to women, and women appeal to men, it is logical to craft a smart speaker as female. It is the gender and personality we trust most. Amazon, Google, and Apple want you to really like their device! For the record, there are some exceptions in preference for highly technical products (vehicles, computers) or services (medicine, accounting), but generally we prefer a woman’s voice. Maybe Freud was right and everything is about our mothers.

There is a fun video by “rusty78609” in which he asks an Amazon Echo and Google Home if they are male or female. Their answers are crafty.

The Value of Personality

Gender is one thing, but machines can be boring regardless of their voice.
So why did Amazon spend money on jokes? Sarcasm? An attitude?

Amazon’s Alexa & Echo did not come into existence cheaply. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars went into their development. From AI programming and internet connectivity to product design and voice selection, every minute of work was expensive.

Adding a personality to the AI voice was actually a smart yet simple choice: “enjoyability”. With a personality, the assistant known as Alexa (or Siri or Google) becomes more:

  • relatable
  • fun
  • warm
  • human

Since some people are referring to their smart speaker as a “girlfriend” or “granddaughter”, that sort of affinity would never occur if it was just a machine. The famous HAL 9000 had an AI personality (even if it was creepy and eventually murderous). It helps with human morale. Furbies were a hugely popular child’s toy that had the ability to speak. The voice and personality help us view objects as something with which we can connect on an emotional level.

Anthropomorphism Without a Voice

Although the smart speakers of today have voices and personalities, companies have done excellent jobs of applying human characteristics to non-human objects to achieve connections with their audience.

Remember “Clippy”? Formally known as the Microsoft Office Assistant, Clippy is now more than 20 years old and was an amazing example of how a company wanted to humanize something so that people felt comfortable working with it. Learning how to use Microsoft Office was daunting, so Clippy was there to help and make it more interesting (and easy).

In the early 2010s, Nathan Greenberg was the Director of Marketing for Moss Bros. Auto Group. At the time, they represented twelve different manufacturers with nine dealerships in three cities.

He and the owner discussed a new reason for customers to choose Moss Bros. over the competition. The idea of a “Lifetime Oil & Filter Change” program was chosen. Nathan was tasked with developing the outline of the program. But he wanted to ensure Mr. Moss’ vision came to life. So he worked with his in-house agency team and developed “Olly the Oil Drop”: a personified drop of clean oil that customers could connect with. He would teach them about the importance of regular maintenance, educate kids on environmental stewardship, and make customers feel more comfortable about dealership service.

Two years after the program launched -with Olly at the front of all marketing- 10-25% of customers said it was the #1 reason they purchased from Moss Bros. Of course, the free oil changes helped, but the response to happy, friendly Olly from dealership employees and the public was resoundingly positive. And he never spoke a word.

Humanity Improves the Bottom Line

Every purchase ever made has been based on emotion. The quantity and intensity may vary, but ultimately a human being has to “like” one choice over another. Product A or Product B, this vendor or no vendor at all, the blue dress or the gold dress…it all came down to choice.

If you can influence their choice by turning your company or product into something relatable, you are more likely to be the preferred choice. This enables you to earn more marketshare, increase sales, and drive up revenue. This is true for B2C and B2B companies because every transaction is H2H: human-to-human.

Keep the human element in mind as you develop your logo, create a company mascot, or design your product packaging. Giving it warm eyes and a gleaming smile might be the tipping point between a four-star and a five-star review or earning repeat business.