The power of words is especially important in all human cultures and must be thoroughly understood for effective advertising. Regardless of which language is spoken by which people, we are in awe of the impact word choice can have. “The pen is mightier than the sword,” according to English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. All of existence began with “the Word” according the Old Testament, which also begins with the Word. The Persian poet Rumi once said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” The First Amendment to the United States Constitution deals entirely with the protection and importance of self-expression. So what impact does the power of words have on your marketing efforts and the perception of your brand?
In today’s fast-paced, digitally-obsessed world it can be easy to forget the complexity and fundamental nature of language. Marketers are constantly hearing from social media platforms, designers, and ad agency executives that visual cues matter most. Video reigns supreme on social. People love to capture a moment in a photo for a succinct communication of its impact. But have you ever stopped to think about the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The importance is the relationship. The picture is defined in terms of words – not the other way around. No one ever said “one thousand words are worth a selfie”. Words are the foundation of our understanding. They are the foundation of our communication.
All advertising is a means of communication. Marketers use every media available to communicate a message, story, and emotion to their intended audience. People receive and process each attempt into words. A deaf person learns to communicate with visual words. A blind person learns to communicate with tactile words. It is our words that matter in advertising so that we can achieve the desired result.
As mentioned before, the power of marketing can and should elicit an emotion. The emotion could be the joy of saving money or the nostalgia of the past or anything in between. Every purchase decision ever made is rooted in an emotion. Now take a look at the following two words and the difference their meaning may have:
Both could be used as a call-to-action in an advertisement. “Discover the new Porsche 911 today” or “Learn about the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class today”. The difference lies is the imagery evoked by the words. “Discover” offers a connotation of adventure, exploration, and excitement. “Learn” delivers recollections of classrooms, tutors, and textbooks. Both words imply the acquisition of knowledge, but in very different ways.
One important tactic for marketing success is to understand that context matters. If the audience is comprised of engineers, programmers, or other professionals with a technical skill set, the word “learn” may be the best choice. “Discover” would serve a better purpose if the audience is young skydivers looking to purchase apparel. Knowing the psychology of an audience is vital to effective word choice.
Professor Gerald Zaltman is a Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, and author of Marketing Metaphoria. He has spent years teaching the customer mind to his students and using metaphors to better interact with those customers. There is an understanding among qualitative market researchers about how people process and associate images and experiences through the power of words. That is the goal of successful marketing.
Metaphors have been famously used in advertising jingles for decades. Chevrolet was “Like a rock”. State Farm is “Like a good neighbor”. Such phrases conjure easily understood imagery. The power of words can actually produce a chemical reaction in the brain. If powerful words are used to trigger an emotional reaction they can prompt the release of dopamine. That dopamine enhances the brain’s ability to remember. A good call-to-action is a memorable one. The audience should be directed to embark on a single action after receiving the stimulation of the advertisement. Effective branding includes recall rate and top-of-mind awareness. For the audience to remember the advertiser and what they were asked to do, they need an emotional stimulant.
According to a 1959 study by J.A. Easterbrook, high levels of emotional arousal result in narrowing of attention and stronger commitment of that experience to memory. Today’s consumer is more easily distracted than ever. They require greater stimuli to capture their attention. The average American transient attention span is 8.5 seconds. A goldfish has 8.0 seconds. Their attention must be captured and then acted upon.
Now for the cheat sheet. Here are 10 words that you can use in your marketing campaigns.
The 10th word on this list is the most powerful of them all. It changes the intent and interpretation of the statement. Most importantly, it personalizes everything within it.
“You” forms a connection with an individual. It encourages them to place themselves along the path you want them to follow. In radio, it is a key component of the “theater of the mind”. Humanizing a product, service, or even a result can make a substantial difference in ad recall, action, and revenue. By including the word “you” in marketing, the audience immediately thinks of what the product or service does for and with them. A separation from the group and focus on the individual. This is a shining example of the power of words.
Technology and data are being combined to create the most personalized and customized marketing in history. Marketers have the ability to know their customers on a very personal level. As this capability advances, marketers must be ever more aware of the power of words and the language used in each media.
As you depart this blog, remember:
At Arkside, our winning knowledge is free because we love you and offer guaranteed access to unique wisdom now and in the future so you can increase your real ROI at every opportunity.
Growing up, did you have a special teddy bear or stuffed animal? I remember one of my first stuffed animals was a teddy bear gifted to me from my mom. It was the perfect size, sat up on its own, and was covered with the softest brown fur. Now more than 20 years later, I still have that bear. She survived trips back and forth to college, moving, and even getting a dog who has an affinity for stuffed creatures. Her fur isn’t nearly as soft anymore, her eyes have become dull, there’s a chip in her nose, and while she doesn’t adorn my bed anymore she sits on my dresser as a reminder of my childhood and as a bit of a security blanket as I move through my adult life. While my bear wasn’t a Build-A-Bear, I felt that little bit of magic that Build-A-Bear aims to bring into this world on the day that I got her.
Build-A-Bear Workshop was founded in 1997 by Maxine Clark. In case you aren’t familiar with Build-A-Bear, it is a teddy-bear themed retail experience where children (and adults) can pick out their own stuffed animal, watch it be stuffed, put a “heart” in it, and dress it in various outfits. Just the stuffed animal alone can range anywhere from $6 for a 5 inch mini stuffed animal to $75 for a 36 inch jumbo stuffed friend. Now you might be starting to see why the Pay Your Age promotion was so popular.
Build-A-Bear created their Pay Your Age promotion to draw awareness to their Count Your Candles offer. The Count Your Candles offer allows children 14 and under to pay their age for the special Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month. The Pay Your Age Promotion was an expansion of this program for one day only. This promotion allowed a child to pay their age for almost any furry friend in the store. Prices ranged from $1, for expectant mothers and children 1 and under, to $29, for the kid at heart. As long as someone 18 and older in the party was a member of the Build-A-Bear Bonus Club, the deal would apply to any member of the party who wanted to partake in the special. Have 2 kids and still have your eye on a special bear for yourself? You’d pay their ages plus $29 for your bear. Pretty exciting for a bear that could easily exceed $50.
This is where things started to go south. Build-A-Bear claims they underestimated the amount of interest the promotion was going to get, but if social media was any prediction of the way things were going to go, Build-A-Bear should have sensed trouble coming and made a backup plan. One of Build-A-Bear’s original Facebook Posts announcing the Pay Your Age promotion received about 111K comments, 191K Shares, and 37K Reactions. One of the original Tweets announcing the promotion was not nearly as impressive but above average for Build-A-Bear, with 486 comments, 1.5K Retweets, and 3.9K Likes. For a company who normally gets under 50 Likes on a Tweet and under 1,000 Reactions on a Facebook posts, this kind of attention should have started setting off alarm bells.
If social media wasn’t enough of a prediction, Build-A-Bear could have turned to Black Friday and Nutella Riots in France to give them an idea of just how excited people get for a good deal. As the Marketing Director at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Gemma Butler, said, “This was an ill thought-out and unprofessional promotional execution, one that not only risks their own brand reputation, but has the potential to bring the wider marketing sector into disrepute.”
Everyone wants a Build-A-Bear
On the afternoon of July 11th, just a few short hours before the Pay Your Age Madness began, Build-A-Bear may have started to see the error of their ways. They issued statements on both Facebook and Twitter stating:
“Thank you for the unprecedented response over the last 24 hours to our Pay Your Age Day event! As a result, we want to let you know that we are anticipating the potential of long lines and wait times. We will make every effort to help as many Guests as possible participate in this first-time event”…”We sincerely appreciate the incredible interest and heartfelt excitement and want to thank everyone in advance for your patience.
Keep in mind, our new Count Your Candles program is available to Bonus Club members all year long and allows children under 14 to pay their age for our special Birthday Treat Bear during the month of their birthday.”
However, this still didn’t seem to warn them that the lines would be chaotic. Build-A-Bear had to close lines for their Pay Your Age Day Event at 8 AM Pacific, before many stores on the West Coast had even opened for the day. This quickly started the wave of disappointment and tears that would continue throughout the day. By mid-morning people were beginning to be turned away. While some were offered $15 off vouchers others were given nothing.
Yesterday afternoon, Build-A-Bear finally uncovered their eyes, issued a public relations statement regarding their failed promotion, and tried to make things right. They issued the following statement across social media and on their website.
ST. LOUIS – July 12, 2018 – Build-A-Bear Workshop’s Pay Your Age Day event generated an overwhelming response, resulting in long lines, extensive waits and disappointed Guests. We feel it is important to share that, based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event. We understand that many Guests were turned away as, due to safety concerns created by the crowds, authorities in certain locations closed Build-A-Bear stores and, in other locations, we were forced to limit the line. Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our Guests for the Pay Your Age Day event.
In response, we distributed vouchers to Guests, who were present in lines, to be redeemed for a future purchase. We are now making vouchers available to our Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account by midnight on July 15, 2018. Vouchers related to this event will be honored through August 31, 2018.
It is our sincere desire for all of our Guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible. Therefore, we strongly encourage Guests to consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience in this matter.
Build-A-Bear Workshop takes seriously the privilege of providing our valued Guests with an opportunity to make a furry friend. It is with that spirit that we created our Pay Your Age Day event and the new, year-long Count Your Candles birthday program, where kids 14 and under can “pay their age” for our new Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month.
Thank you for your passion and continued support.
While their statement was well written it was greatly lacking. Everyone was able to predict that the reaction to the Pay Your Age promotion was going to be overwhelming. One did not need to have marketing or retail experience to know that a discount of this magnitude would encourage insane crowds, fighting, and general chaos. If the average human could predict this kind of chaos, why couldn’t Build-A-Bear?
Build-A-Bear did issue a coupon just like they said they would. The coupon is only valid for Bonus Club members, does offer $15 off certain furry friends, and is good July 13th through August 31st. However, there is a major problem. The disclaimer says, “Limit one coupon per Bonus Club membership account. Limit one coupon per transaction.” That’s a major change from the Pay Your Age Event. Remember our family, the one with 2 kids and the adult wanting a bear of their own. Well, bad news for them- only one of their little angels will be getting the $15 OFF their Furry-Friend. While the parent, could simply use 3 different email address so all members of their family could use the coupon, that’s 3 different Build-A-Bear Bonus Club accounts and a lot of juggling. The discount also doesn’t come close to the discount that could have been obtained during the Pay Your Age Day event.
The day after the failed Pay Your Age Event, the CEO of Build-A-Bear, Sharon Price John, apologized on the Today show. While John does apologize for the failed event and admits they wanted to “increase accessibility for kids to make their own Furry Friend and take it home.” Numerous times during the interview, John claims “There was no way for us to have estimated the kind of impact, those kind of crowds. It far surpassed anything we ever could’ve known.”
That’s a problem. This situation was easy to predict. It was easy to predict that chaos was going to come from discounts this steep. It was easy to see that Build-A-Bear was not going to be able to meet the demands of this event. While everyone else was able to see this coming, Build-A-Bear was seemingly unable to put two and two together and make the connection. Whatever the reason, their ignorance to audience response to their Pay You Age Event is inexcusable.
While John’s apology does seem heartfelt, it’s not enough to make up for their naïve lack of knowledge and the way they handled this chaos. They took what they claim is “the most fun you’ll ever make” and turned it into a disastrous event that as one little boy in New York said “was not worth it!”
While the Pay Your Age Day event did have the possibility to make Build-A-Bear more accessible to children and families of all walks of life, the attention that a discount of this magnitude receives is always intense. Build-A-Bear could have done a number of things differently. Some ways they could have changed their event to make it a success are:
Build-A-Bear could have also done their research to see that this event was going to be chaotic. Almost anyone who has ever been out in public would have been able to predict the chaos from an event like this.
Build-A-Bear has made their den and now they need to sleep in it. They need to understand that what they did was wrong and ignorance is not a good enough excuse. Internally, they need to reexamine their teams and processes to make sure any event the attempt to host in the future is properly thought out and the crowd size is correctly estimated. Externally, Build-A-Bear needs to but the magic back in the Teddy Bear experience. They disappointed a lot of families and a single $15 off coupon will not suffice in restoring that level of trust.
Dealing with the large social media entities and giants of the online world can be a lot like the famous Office Space TPS reports scene. In the scene, Peter Gibbons is talked to about his TPS reports by two people, a phone call, and even his friends have heard that he has been having “problems” with his TPS reports. He simply forgot about the new cover sheet policy. With each new person who talks to him about the TPS reports, they promise to send him a copy of the memo. Everyone he encounters, with the exception of his friends, doesn’t care that he has already spoken to someone else regarding the policy and the TPS reports, but knows that it is their duty to discuss the policy with him and everyone is required to live by the policies set forth by management. This is an example of corporate policy without common sense.
This is the case when trying to get help from some of the giants of the online world, if you can even manage to get help. Recently, we encountered a technical problem setting up a LinkedIn Company Page for a client. In this case, another company in Canada had long ago setup a Page using the same name as our client. The Canadian company has since shut it’s doors. Not even their website existed anymore. We discovered this and brought it to LinkedIn for assistance in creating the Page for our client. LinkedIn refuses to allow us to move forward because the company names are too similar, even though the Canadian company no longer exists. They will not remove the other company’s Page. We have gone back and forth with LinkedIn over the issue but they refuse to deviate from their procedures by using common sense.
In a different area, Google can also be frustrating. It is now extremely difficult to get any assistance from Google, but this hasn’t always been the case. Google used to have a great feature where we could live chat with tech support if necessary. They have recently eliminated this feature for many of their services, so now phone or email are the main methods of getting assistance. A phone call sounds convenient, right? It would be if the operators spoke understandable English. When operators are difficult to understand or they are constrained by following certain problem resolution procedures without applying any common sense, the solution remains out of rech.
This over-reliance on procedure can also slow down things that should be easy and prompt. Want to take advantage of Google’s holiday hour feature? Submit your hours and wait three days for approval and publishing. Want to remove a couple pictures from Bing Places for Business (previously known as Bing Local)? Make your changes and wait up to 14 days. Any time you want to make a simple change to your Google or Bing listing for your business there is a waiting period. Now thankfully Google’s isn’t as long as Bing’s, but in the world of fast moving data, any waiting period is inhibiting marketers and business owners from successfully promoting their business. Now, I’m not one to praise Yelp, but this is something they have done right. If you want to make a change to your Yelp listing, like inputting your holiday hours, those changes take effect immediately: no waiting period, no hoops to jump through. Just a simple click of a button. While there should be some changes that need to go through Google and Bing for verification, not all changes should which is why certain policies should be changed.
We all have Google My Business accounts to manage our Google listings and the Bing equivalent for those listings. We stewards of our brands control the dashboard; we know what is going on with our brands better than anyone else and would give our non-dominant arm to make sure that nothing happens to mar our brand’s reputation. At the end of the day that is what matters and how dare Google and Bing take that control away from us and decide if our holiday hours or a simple removal of a photo is good enough for our brand. That is up to us to decide.
Policies and procedures are great to have. They help determine a path to take in certain situations. However, policies and procedures are not things that determine the fate of every outcome. There are some instances that need to go against policies and procedures and involve common sense. The examples described above illustrate when common sense should be applied to existing policies. Customer service agents on the front lines of support need to be empowered to use common sense when appropriate. Policies and procedures have a time and a place but that time and place should not impact the marketing capabilities of those trying to do right by their brand. A corporate policy without common sense benefits no one.
Is it worth marketing an anniversary? As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.“
We, the awesome Arkside Marketing team, are celebrating our five year anniversary in 2015. Each anniversary of your company’s beginning represents the end of a chapter and the simultaneous start of another. But that is a generalized observation with arguable meaning. Of strategic importance is the marketing value of that anniversary and how it can be used with employees, vendors, investors, customers, and potential customers.
Let’s jump into a couple you may not have considered:
1 year – Your first year in business. You made it!
5 years – Most businesses fail in their first five years. If you’re still around, its time celebrate.
Always commemorate the traditional increments of 10 (10, 20, 30, etc.) and half-10 (15, 25, 35, etc.) anniversaries.
Also consider numbers that are relevant to your particular industry or company:
These milestones give you an opportunity to reconnect with your customers using a completely non-sales touch point. You are suddenly empowered with a new way to stay top-of-mind, offer a unique incentives, and provide an experience unmatched by your competition. (Assuming they aren’t celebrating an anniversary at the same time).
The key is to share your excitement with your customers. Tell your story. Your employees may be your best source of material, especially if they have been around for multiple milestones or even from Day 1. Share trivia and experiences from the company’s history: how did the company begin? What was the last milestone like? How has your city or cities changed over time? Do you offer new products or services?
Here are ways for getting customers excited about an anniversary:
These are just a few ideas to help cultivate ideas for your particular situation. Your customers will enjoy knowing about your success, longevity, and whatever may be in store for them. Most importantly, each of these steps humanize a business. The management, the staff, and the brand as a whole become more “relateable”. In other words: great marketing. Few things can help a company grow like a positive relationship with a customer. They turn into referrals. Those referrals will be around for the next anniversary and so will your business.
I decided to write this because the new storm surrounding legendary comedian and family icon Bill Cosby has stunned me. I watched The Cosby Show, Cosby, loved the book “Fatherhood”, and saw his standup comedy specials. When I started ProActiveDads in 2008, he was a role model for what we fought for when it came to dads in the media. Now, the accusations are coming in waves with woman after woman dating back 45 years. As all of this unfolds and I see Cosby’s reaction (or lack thereof), I continue to think that Bill Cosby is making PR mistakes.
Before this post continues, I want to make it clear that I am not second-guessing the PR people employed by Bill Cosby. From what I have seen and heard over the years, they are some of the most successful people in the business and have been for decades. But they are not the only people involved. A-list celebrities are surrounded by a variety of advisors including public relations specialists, lawyers, agents, studios, costars, friends, family, and many others. All of them have opinions. Most of them offer advice. Some are paid for their advice. That advice doesn’t always agree with another party or the celebrity. Ultimately, the celebrity needs to choose their own action.
This is where I believe Bill Cosby is faltering. He is facing an expensive, damaging, and career-ending barrage of accusations. Could the lawyers really be the best helpers when they advise total silence? Every interview has been a “no comment”. Even when the AP tried to play “gotcha” with their recent interview release, he still said nothing.
I find myself more and more in the camp of spectators who believe that this many accusers can’t all be making this up. It is already public knowledge that Bill Cosby has cheated on his wife Camille. Also shocking is the fact that I haven’t seen or heard any reports of his Cosby Show cast members coming to his defense. Most of them were female. Where are they? Thus far, only Raven-Symone has said she was never a victim. But where are Lisa Bonet, Tempestt Bledsoe, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Sabrina Le Beauf…all of whom knew and worked with Bill Cosby when they were young? Where is his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad? To have so many accusers and so few supporters is surprising for a man so well respected. And each of them is now suffering financially because The Cosby Show reruns have been pulled from TV Land.
The women making accusations are not just unknowns who may be seeking a pay day. They are an assortment of women from all walks of life with a similar story: Cosby allegedly drugged (or tried to drug) them, then took advantage of them physically and/or sexually. Some have tried to sue him, others have come out now for the first time and say they aren’t seeking a dime.
Agents and PR experts are usually the ones advising clients to “get in front of the controversy”. Make strong denials, be bold, circle the wagons with friends and family, etc. Lawyers usually advise absolute silence because anything said can be used against their client in a trial. These accusations have been around for more than four decades and will not be going away any time soon. They seem to be the “nail in the coffin”, as Carla Ferrigno said, to his career.
Were Bill Cosby my client, I would certainly be advising more than “no comment”.
If he is guilty, he needs to admit it. Get counseling, stay with your wife, go to rehab, do jail time if necessary, and work to help victims. Take a page from Lance Armstrong – lying makes it worse. If he is innocent, he should proclaim it all day, every day. The truth shall set you free.
So many accusers.
So few defenders.
So much silence.
I don’t see any way for this to end well. Cosby’s career is destroyed. His wife and children (who many know about his true behavior) are forced to endure this. His former co-stars are forced to endure this.
He needs to speak. Now.
What do you think? Can his career be saved? Is he right to stay silent? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This post reflects the opinions of Nathan Greenberg and may not represent the official position or opinions of Arkside Marketing, Inc., its employees, clients, vendors, or partners.
Businesses large and small can encounter difficulties when integrating social media into their traditional advertising strategy. The opportunities to reach an audience are more diverse with social media due to the variety of sites, not to mention the methods they use to connect users together. The following tips will help you integrate social media with your traditional media such as print, radio, and television.
The same person responsible for your current traditional marketing should also be responsible for social media. They don’t have to do the work, but they should be accountable. You need someone to coordinate the brand, message, and schedule between all of your media properties. This will help maintain cohesion in your marketing.
Show your customers that you are the same company on social media that you are in traditional media. For example, place the Facebook logo in your magazine ad with a call-to-action such as “Like Us On Facebook for Exclusive Coupons!”. Social and traditional media should be used to assist each other. Share your TV commercial on Twitter and other social media the same day it hits the airwaves. Make sure it is loaded on your website or YouTube channel so you can track interactions. Let people know what TV channels they can find it on. We brought a new level of cross pollination to our client, Precision Instrumentation, by including their YouTube channel on all of their product packaging. The channel offers a collection of how-to and self-help videos so their clients don’t have to call a support line for small, quick fixes.
Make sure to incorporate whatever features are appropriate: a “Like” or “+1” button, Facebook or Twitter feed, Share buttons, etc. Integrating social media into your website can give you four direct benefits. First, some social media elements such as Like or +1 buttons give you a search engine optimization (SEO) enhancement. Second, it can add dynamic content that keeps your website visitor updated on the latest news from your company or about your product without having to read a blog or press release. Third, your website visitors now have a direct and convenient link to your social media and can connect with you organically (thereby growing your contact potential in the future). Finally, with a Like, +1, or other Share button, you are enabling and encouraging your visitors to share your content with their friends and family. This is equivalent to handing them a bullhorn and providing a script about how amazing you are.
You may use a newsletter or “email blast” to communicate with your customer database on a regular basis. (If not, please contact us NOW so we can help you get started on this vital marketing component!) But whatever you use to stay in touch, make sure to promote your new social media channels. Tell them to Like you on Facebook, Follow you on Twitter, Follow you on Instagram, Circle you on Google+, or whatever it may be they need to do on a particular social media channel. “If you build it, they will come” only works for strip clubs and open bank vaults. You not only have to tell people where to find you, but what to do when they get there. Make it easy by integrating social media.
Social media is an important opportunity to reach new customers, stay connected with current customers, and showcase yourself. It also allows public promotion and discourse so that your customers can help sell your product or service. Integrating social media correctly with your traditional media will bring new growth to your bottom line with minimal investment. Truly great potential for ROI!
If you would like to schedule a consultation or ask a question about social media integration, please call or email us today. We always promise a response within 24 hours.