Wednesday, August 27

Is The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Really A Win?

When marketers think about outcomes, it's hard to argue with numbers. The ALS Association has earned $88.5 million in donations (and counting) this year versus $2.5 million during the same period of time last year.

The nonprofit organization bumped up other numbers too. According to the only national nonprofit organization fighting Lou Gehrig's Disease, they've added 1.9 million in new donors. The reason this new donor count is important is it demonstrates that many of the people taking the ice bucket challenge are donating too. And even if they don't donate, it doesn't matter.

The truncated rules of the ice bucket challenge are pretty simple. If you accept the ice bucket challenge, then you donate $10 and nominate three more people versus donating $100 outright. Your decision has to be made in 24 hours. All nomination videos are shared on social networks.

In sum, this is a viral campaign built on a pyramid scheme that resurrects the campy but famous Faberge Organics tagline "and she told two friends ... and she told two friends" (plus one). So even if someone doesn't donate or refuses, there is a good chance someone else will accept and donate.

There is nothing wrong with that. So why all the pushback? 

As the ALS Association campaign continues to succeed exponentially, the ice bucket challenge has picked up its fair share of detractors. Most of the pushback revolves around seven complaints.

1. Whether or not these donations will cut into other charities.
2. Whether or not it is a giant waste of water and resources.
3. Whether or not animal testing is justified to benefit humans.
4. Whether or not clinical trials justify stem cell research.
5. Whether or not it reinforces sacktivism, which hurts activism.
6. Whether or not this cause is more important than another.
7. Whether or not the challenge has worn out its welcome.

All seven have varied degrees of merit, depending on personal perspective. But other people don't think so, with a few people coming out against those who are against the challenge. So mostly, ice bucket challenge haters beware. Or maybe not. Participation is always best with your eyes wide open.

Matt Damon, for example, tried to demonstrate this by using toilet water instead of drinking water. Doing so created an opportunity to promote clean drinking water in addition to the ALS Association. For other ethical or moral dilemmas, of course, there is no middle ground. Respect that, if nothing else.

Even with some people opting out and other people tired of the challenge, the campaign has reached a tipping point. Two days ago, the ice bucket challenge had only raised $70.2 million. Yesterday, it raised $79.7 million. The numbers suggest the campaign is holding steady at around $9 million a day.

So with all things considered, is the ALS ice bucket challenge a win?

Social media, and social networks in particular, has created a weird obsession with labeling something a win or fail. The ice bucket challenge isn't really either, even if it is a windfall.

On one hand, the organization has clearly raised a record that will likely stand for a long time. It also gained signification attention (and some awareness, which is different), more than it has in a long time. It's also likely that the organization will retain a percentage of those first time donors next year.

On the other hand, the vast majority of donors will not likely donate again. It's also unlikely (but not impossible) that this will become a sustainable action (or non-action as some people like to claim). It might even result in pullback next year, with people saying they did that last year. They did it and they're done, with some people still not sure why they participated in the challenge.

In short, the campaign wasn't brilliant as much as it was the right one at the right time. And as marketers, the real challenge will not be in celebrating the windfall, but in developing a bridge campaign that can transform flash-in-the-pan attention into educational awareness and sustainable action. If the ALS Association can do that, then this campaign (regardless of money raised) is a win.

Otherwise, it can best be described as a happy accident, one that other organizations ought to be wary about trying to duplicate (unless they are prepared to take a shot in the dark). But more than that, the real tell is what happens next. The ALS Association has a tremendous opportunity to create an endowment that will sustain a higher level of research for years to come (unless it believes it is close enough to a cure to push it across the finish line) and nurture support beyond the confines of this lucky long shot (while weathering the strain that comes with it).

Sure, everyone can expect more complaints about the challenge. Some are symptoms of success. Some open up dialogue for other social needs. And some provide a suitable level of transparency because there is nothing worse than someone who regrets their donation because they didn't know this or that. None of these complaints, however, will diminish what the organization has accomplished in terms of fundraising.

So maybe the question that needs to be asked isn't whether the campaign won or lost but whether the campaign achieved its mission to become the most trusted source of information for Lou Gehrig's Disease while demonstrating compassion. And beyond that, like every marketer ought to know, the best question to ask is not whether this is a win but what could the ALS Association have done better, what can it do better next time, and what its obligation is to all those people who supported it.

Wednesday, August 20

How To Stand Out In The Content Marketing Crowd

Maybe it is because marketers have turned more than one quarter of their budgets over to content marketing and as many as 62 percent of all companies outsource content creation, but it seems to be true. More people consider themselves writers today than any other time in history. Someone has to produce the 27 million new pieces of content that are shared each day. It might as well be writers.

Sure, some of them might be designers or public relations professionals or photographers or business owners first, but writing tends to be treated as a verb more than a noun. In fact, even those writers who do embrace it as a noun mostly do so with trepidation. I can't count the number of times that I've heard writers sum themselves up by saying "Oh, I'm just a writer" as if such a thing exists.

I don't really think so. No matter what people call themselves, there are people who write and then there are writers. And no, the distinction isn't only tied to proficiency. It's also tied to sense of purpose.

People who write see the task at hand as something that needs to get done. Writers see it as an opportunity to express an idea and hone their craft. A few don't even have a choice. They must write.

But this post isn't about that minority as much as another. There are some people who write who want to become writers. The only problem for them is that they don't look in the right places. They will never learn how to write a compelling blog post by reading blog posts about writing blog posts. You have to look beyond the medium of content creation to find anything worthwhile. Learn from great writers.

Five thoughts about writing from great writers and what they mean.

1. "If you want to be the writer that you confront 30 years later without shame, then learn to ignore your readers." — Harlan Ellison

Ellison knows that his readers are terrific people and mean well enough. But he also knows that once your readers start to know what they like from you, they will demand it over and over again. If you simply deliver what they think they want, then you will look back and discover you've written the same book a dozen times over or, in the case of content creation, the same post.

People often ask why some of the best content creators come and go. It's very much what Ellison said. If you want to be successful, you'll  have to surrender to writing the same thing over and over. Few people can stomach it, which is why some of the best writers drift over time.

2. "For me, the criterion [of being a great writer] is that the author has created a total world in which his people move credibly." — James Michener

When Michener said it, he referenced works like Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and Huck Finn by Mark Twain. But then he went on to define it as being able to give your writing its own little cosmos. Doing so gives your writing the sense that it really exists in the real world and gives people the opportunity to accept it.

When content creators talk about doing the same thing in an article or post, they often refer to authenticity. There are bloggers who do it especially well. When you read their work, you almost immediately know it is them because they've lace little bits of themselves into the writing.

3. "My advice to writers who want to write columns is to learn to think, learn about history, learn about economics, learn subjects." — Ellen Goodman 

Goodman went on to describe that journalists writing columns (and we can add bloggers and content creators to her list today) can divide much of what they write into two kinds of stories. There are stories that tell you want happened and stories that tell you what it means. So in order to transcend the experience, you have to know your subject, you have to have a view, and you have to care.

Most content today seems to be written much like Goodman describes. Some writers do something or respond to what other people have done and then write about it. Some writers look for something deeper than the surface observations and add significant depth to the content or perhaps add innovation and clarity to the another field. A few overlap.

4. "There is a terrible tendency in this country to consume art and culture, to try to package it in the same way that all our other familiar products are packaged, and that can be terribly distorting to the work, to the art and culture." — Jay McInerney 

The more a writer allows himself to become processed by the machine, the more their work suffers for it. McInerney warns writers away from becoming too distracted by publicity or critics or anyone. The only thing that really counts, he says, is the writing — the ability to convey a thought, idea, or tangible experience to someone else in such a way that it matters to them.

This is true among commercial writers too. While copywriters, public relations professionals, and even modern journalists are pressured to produce content within the tight confines of what the client or agency expects, what might produce an outcome, or what generates traffic, it's always best to push all that aside while writing the draft. All those other mandatories — packaging that ranges from word counts to headline structures — can wait until later.

5. "If you get too predictable and too symmetrical, you lull your readers into — not a literal sleep — but you put their brain to sleep." — Tom Robbins

According to Robbins, the primary purpose of imagery is never to entertain but to awaken the reader to his or her own sense of wonder. If you become too predictable, the rhythm of the language will eventually languish and lose its angelic  intensity. When that happens, the words begin to lose their emotional impact even if the readers continue to read. You have to find a way to wake them up and engage them.

This is the primary reason you'll see marketers and even some others proclaim their preference for shorter and shorter works. The problem is almost never the length. It's almost always in the rhythm and in the beat. You have to change it up. Wake them up.

Do you really think SEO alone will make one piece of content beat 27 million others?

The writing tips above were pulled, in part, from On Being A Writer, a book that was gifted to me very early in my career. It's out of print now, but readily available as an after-market purchase. I don't know if I would call it the best book on writing there ever was, but it does compile 31 interviews with great writers and poets. Their advice is timeless, even if the book is almost history.

The point of it, I suppose, it that if someone who writes really wants to become a writer, then it's more than worthwhile to look beyond the task and more toward the craft. Learn to be a writer by considering the insights of people like Ellison, Michener, Goodman, McInerney, and Robbins. They all say similar things for a reason. There is an art to the craft that transcends all those other nifty tidbits. And you will find them almost anywhere link bait doesn't exist. Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, August 13

When Everything Is Direct Response, Nothing Is Worth Measuring

Ivan Pavlov
Direct response has always been popular among marketers. The allure of it is simple and straightforward. An organization sends out, let's say, 1,000 direct mail letters with an offer and 10 percent of those who receive the offer respond. That is your response rate. That is your return on investment.

I intentionally used the direct mail letter as an example because direct response used to be associated with mail. The truth is, of course, that it has included call to action ads and television commercials, coupons, telemarketing, broadcast faxing, email marketing, and a host of online tactics that range from pop-up ads to paid placement on search engines.

The only reason direct mail remains associated with this niche marketing tactic is because that is where it started, with Aaron Montgomery Ward producing the first mail-order catalog in 1872. This won't always be the case. Direct marketers are more likely to call the field data-driven marketing.

It's still very popular too. In 2012, the Direct Marketing Association estimated $156 billion was spent on direct marketing under its new moniker data-driven marketing. I've read elsewhere that data-driven marketing accounts for as much as 8 percent of the GDP in the United States. That's a ton.

So what's wrong with that? Nothing really, except for the growing number of marketers that are attempting to apply direct response rates to every bit of communication. It doesn't work that way.

People who only measure the immediate suck the results out of their long term. 

If we were talking about fitness, I might liken direct response marketers to people who step on the scale every morning to check their weight. If the scale reads minus one pound, they feel successful. If the scale reads plus one pound, they feel defeated.

Ask someone trying to lose weight and they might even confess that anytime they gain a pound, they are compelled to inventory everything they did and ate the day before as if they could pinpoint its origin. Was it because they cut their cardio short for five minutes? Was it the turkey on their salad at lunch? Was it the half-glass of 2 percent milk they drank at dinner?

Pavlov's Dog
No wonder people who diet are so easily defeated. They are constantly measuring the wrong thing, thanks in part to this odd obsession with weight in most anti-obesity campaigns. But it's a mistake because body composition (not weight) is the cornerstone of a successful fitness program. And to successfully change your body composition, you need process goals as well as performance goals.

Marketing, advertising, and public relations work much in the same way. The total composition of your strategic communication plan has a greater long-term impact than any single piece or part. So while you can measure the direct response of almost anything, one pound either way means nothing.

Where is direct response measurement starting to infringe on effective communication? 

Public Relations. More and more firms are allowing themselves to measure the number of pickups, total impressions, and advertising rate value delivered by each news release. But doing so creates an erroneous impression that some releases or pitches are good and others bad. The truth is, however, that relationships with the media cannot be measured by whether or not a reporter picks up a story. Provided the pitches and releases are grounded in having news value, even if you think they are ignored, they could eventually prompt a reporter to call out of the blue looking for an expert source.

Advertising. Every now and again, I share the story of an attorney who was convinced that the bulk of his marketing budget should be invested in the phone book yellow pages. When asked why, he was perplexed that it wasn't obvious. They spend more money where they get the most response. But that wasn't true. The attorney only received his greatest response from the phone book because that is where he invested the most marketing dollars. A better composition, not more money, eventually delivered a better response.

Social Media. Social media specialists and search engine optimization experts alike are often quick to judge the quality of content — whether it's a video, blog post, or tweet — by any number of direct response measures such as likes, shares, or incoming keyword traffic. While these measures are always good to look at, they also skew the story toward the first impression and not the final outcome or total user experience. Marketers need to remember that reputation is built by the total body of work.

Journalism. More than ever before in the history of media, journalism has become a populist medium. Reporters are less likely to cover stories that the public may find interesting and much more likely to cover stories that the public already finds interesting, which is grounded in direct response. The recent death of one particular actor and comedian may even be the tipping point. I don't recall someone's death ever being exploited as much as this one. But the media won't let up because the response rate is encouraging the exploitation.

There are dozens of examples. It's why Mat Honan can produce a wacky reality simply by liking everything on Facebook. It's why the greedy coin algorithm will usually fail. It's why author-photographer Geoff Livingston couldn't reconcile how the algorithms see art. And it's precisely why most people quit exercising when they don't see their weight change (as muscle replaces fat).

So while direct response will always be worthwhile (especially when it is enhanced by creativity, timing, and proper targeting), it doesn't mean direct response measurements and other algorithms can be applied to everything. If they were then Vincent van Gogh would have been lost to history and the person you're mostly likely to marry is simply quantified by a successive run of good dates.

So don't be fooled. Good marketing only looks simple because it is complicated. Sure, direct response has its place (much like weight) but only if your process goals and performance goals are designed to deliver the right strategic communication composition. And that's the truth, "like" it or not.

Wednesday, August 6

Does Social Media Crap Deserve Its Defenders?

It didn't take long at all. Within 15 minutes after the Ad Contrarian posted Why Your Social Strategy Sucks, there was a buzz of affirmation and then dissention. Some people felt he hit the nail on the head. Others thought he was unfair, cynical, and very discouraging. "At least people try," they said.

His contention was — much like television commercials, movies, books, songs, and paintings — about 93 percent of all social media sucks. But unlike all other mediums, people aren't satisfied when the crap they create on social media doesn't go anywhere. They just promote it and push it harder.

It's hard to argue with him. Take a look at Facebook. It made $2.36 billion in ad revenue last quarter.

Do you really think marketers spent $2.36 billion in three months to promote content that was wildly creative and instinctively compelling? Trust me. They spend it on the content nobody wants to see.

"Producing crap is better than being silent," one person wrote. "At least you have a chance."

The entire topic is perplexing to me. Does social media crap deserve to be defended? I'm not so sure.

If we can no longer identify crap for what it is, then we truly have surrendered to the notion that advertising, communication, design, marketing, and social media have become such a banal commodity that anybody can do it. And if that is true, then none of our experience, education, expertise, and talent adds value. Everybody deserves a certificate of participation. At least they tried.

No wonder some pros are discontent. In a world where everyone is a storytellerstorytelling ceases to have any identifiable meaning beyond the mundane. We can all rehash our day at the dinner table.

So let's not be delusional. Not every life event is created equal. Not all publicity is good publicity. Not all criticism is cynicism. Sometimes the very best thing that anybody can ever do for you is tell you when your content is not working so you can stop misappropriating time, wasting money, and (perhaps) damaging your brand. And if more professionals had the courage to call out questionable ideas, then maybe fewer marketing budgets would be wasted and more companies would succeed.

Producing crap is not better than being silent. Because while crap might give you a chance to be noticed, it also robs you of any chance to make your best first impression. And therein lies the difference between "trying" something out online and executing part of a strategic plan.

While either method can produce crap, one is informed enough to see it for what it is and take action to fix it. The other merely tries to convince people otherwise. When they do, we all lose. Just like saturated fat, the public can easily develop an appetite for it and then our clients will order more too.

Wednesday, July 30

What's In A Game? Maybe All The Creativity We've Lost.

Last week, one of my friends shared an article that appeared in The New Yorker and it made me smile. I've known him for almost two decades but never knew he felt nostalgia for a fantasy game that peaked in popularity during the 1980s.

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is like that. It's almost akin to being or having been a member of a secret society that doesn't share its membership roster with members. Enough people played to transform this basement-made role-playing game into a multi-million dollar empire, but proportionately few ever talk about it. And even when some do talk, they couch their connection.

"I used to play until I started driving and discovered girls" is a common quip from those who still suffer from an almost inexplicable discomfort in having played it. Few games carry such a stigma.

Today, D&D still feels a bit saddled with its unfair share of stereotypes. Aside from being labeled as a flagship game for geekdom, there remains this lingering association with past religious objections and accusations that the game could cause psychological disorders. None of it was really true, but the outcry earned enthusiasts a sideways glance as being somewhat "weird" anyway.

When combined with several business disputes and trademark battles, the tabletop game was relegated to a niche gaming experience while its brand became a commercial success from extensive licensing agreements that included collectables, card games, novels, films, television series, computer games, online role playing games, and pop culture references. The outcome cut both ways. While the commercialization made the brand accessible, none of it captured the heart of the tabletop game.

At its heart, D&D is a game of imagination. The rules are just a framework.

Wizards of the Coast, which is currently launching the fifth incarnation of D&D, has taken to describing the game as collaborative storytelling. It's a fair description, given that every group of people who play have vastly different experiences. Some people like to play it like a board game with a finite timeframe. Others play it like an epic adventure without end.

The difference between the two play styles (and everything between) is dictated only by the limits of imagination — specifically, the imagination of a narrator (a.k.a. Dungeon Master) and the players (a.k.a. Player Characters). To help them, everyone follows a framework built upon descriptions, definitions, and computations (e.g., a sword with magical properties, provides +5 chance to hit something).

Proponents of the game have always highlighted this framework as the most redeeming part of the game because reading, writing, and arithmetic are at the core of it all. In fact, some would say that if creator E. Gary Gygax and his partner Dave Arneson deserve to be remembered for anything, it was in developing a game that encouraged kids to become immersed in all three areas, while picking up smatterings of science, history and literature alongside those core skill sets.

D&D also provided an effective venue to discover new hobbies and practice a host of other competencies. The game is loaded with problem-solving exercises, social dilemmas, leadership opportunities, conflict resolutions, team-building challenges, and ethical lessons. It reinforces the concept that individuals can strive for success if they are willing to work hard and take risks, but not alone. The best groups (or "parties" as they are called) consist of a mix of races and professions.

More importantly, Dungeons & Dragons nurtures creativity and imagination. It relies on the ability of the people playing to imagine an encounter, spontaneously embellish or add to that encounter, and then communicate their contribution so that other players can incorporate it into their version of the experience. And it relies on imagination, sometimes with an assist from prewritten game modules, to create those encounters. So why is that important?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” — Albert Einstein

It might not be a coincidence that the decline in U.S. education coincides with its decline in creativity and imagination. Since the 1990s, children in the U.S. have been subjected to more standardization in the classroom and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, it comes in the form of convergent education structures (standardized instruction measured by the ability to provide one correct answer). Outside of the classroom, it comes in the form of convergent play (video games built on someone else's imagination or movie characters that children use to reenact television shows and movies).

The irony? Despite an increased need for creativity and imagination (leadership traits) in a workforce plagued by average worker syndrome, children are generally discouraged from creative thinking (the ability to think in novel and unique ways to create new solutions) and divergent thinking (the ability to think up several answers to the same question). People might deny it, but evidence bears it out.

Specifically, children who ask too many questions, embellish reality in their drawings, resist conformity, seek independence, display self-expression, dislike rote recital, or seek out solitary playtime — all of which are traits of highly creative minds — are more likely to be discouraged or even reprimanded (if not diagnosed as ADHD) than their peers. Even outside the classroom, most parents prefer their children to obey authority, achieve popularity, and seek social affirmation.

Consider Dungeons & Dragons a solid barometer for the times. Most parents won't pay any attention to a Dungeons & Dragons video game (or especially explicit video games like Grand Theft Auto), but seeing a 20-sided die, some graph paper, and a sketch of an umber hulk could prompt them to validate their concerns. What's the difference? Nothing, except whose imagination drives the story — a game developer/movie producer/etc. or the child who has to employ reading, writing and math to make it work.

Personally, I was very fortunate to have kept my now vintage Dungeons & Dragons materials. On occasion, my family has even dug out the well-worn manuals, dungeon modules, and an alternative timeline that I had superimposed on The World Of Greyhawk created by Gary Gygax. And while those occasions don't happen often enough, it's still fun to know that I've introduced them to a world shaped by dozens of friends, their characters, the descendants of their characters, and a smattering of embellishments such as "overmen" from a series written by Lawrence Watt-Evens or a ranger society based loosely on Arboria from Flash Gordon (but without the science).

If nothing else, doing so reminds me to balance the experiences my children have while growing up. Yes, I think it is important to strive for educational excellence and encourage participation in activities such as sports and social engagement. But I also think it is equally important to nurture their imaginations whenever possible. The world needs more individual creativity.

If Dungeons & Dragons can help them open their minds even a little bit, then I'm all for it. I wish more people would be for it too. And if a game with a fantasy setting akin to Lord Of The Rings doesn't hold any appeal? Then consider the setting. Tabletop role-playing settings include everything from the Old West to outer space. Or, if nothing else, look for other games or activities (like drawing) to keep their imaginations alive and creativity sharp.

That is the point. The world could use a little more imagination and creativity. If the contributions aren't coming from you, then perhaps you can inspire someone else to never give it up. To me, the greatest gift you can give anyone is the empowerment to never say "I used to do this [creative thing] .... until I got old [and boring]."

Wednesday, July 23

There Is No Such Thing As An Easy A/B Lunch

"It is perhaps an all-too-human frailty to suppose that a favorable wind will blow forever." — Richard Bode

In the context of his book, First You Have To Row A Little Boat, Bode was writing about how almost impossible it is to imagine what it might be like to be caught in a dead calm while there is a breeze blowing hard against your sail or in your face or on your back. It's almost impossible to imagine it because our brains are mostly predisposed to see the most fleeting moments as infinitely constant.

When things are good, we think the honeymoon will never end. When things are bad, we readily embrace the pain as permanent. Never mind that most of us have lived long enough to know that the evidence doesn't bear either infinity out. We're generally inclined to indulge ourselves in deception.

Social media is not a science. It only feels like one.

Sure, some applications of social media seem to fall under the banner of science. Marketers are indeed in the business of observation and experimentation. They do attempt to study the structure of online communities and the behavior of people on a one to one, one to some, and one to many scale.

Some applications even attempt to apply scientific method to the mix, with A/B testing among the most prominent manifestations. There is only one problem with it. While A/B testing sometimes leads to a product development or marketing breakthrough, the operative word is sometimes.

The wind doesn't always blow in a favorable direction and sometimes it doesn't blow at all. Never mind that more and more data scientists are attempting to decipher public manipulation, but they frequently fail to appreciate that data has the propensity to manipulate its handlers too.

The biggest problem today, it seems, is that many data scientists have studied statistics but relatively few are practiced at applying scientific method in the physical or natural world (or psychological and sociological worlds for that matter). If they were, they might better appreciate the incongruity of choice — six studies of which were recently shared in an Econsultancy article by Ben Davis.

While some studies are stronger than others, a fair encapsulation of the research concludes that the choices offered, number of choices offered, order of the choices offered, and order of emotional triggers all influence A/B testing. Or, in other words, if A/B both suck, you prove nothing at all.

If you ask people whether they like big keys or little keys on a cellular phone, no one innovates touch screen technology. If you ask people which cola they like better during an A/B experiment, someone will eventually rediscover the recipe for New Coke. If you always listen to prescreen tests, every movie will have a happy ending.

But those examples are only the most straightforward research failures. Some hiccups are caused by the most subtle changes. The order information is presented (shoes before or/after a new dress). The timing of an interruption (when most people are online or when they are more receptive to share). The influence of the last destination they visited (did they leave feeling elated or aggravated).

There is no such thing as an easy lunch in marketing.

There are plenty of people who will tell you otherwise, but it's simply not true. Marketing is not a science, even if marketers love to sell science. It can be an asset but only if you think and think deep.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of working on franchise collateral for Capriotti's Sandwich Shop. I can't really speak to what they are doing now in terms of marketing, but I still love their sandwiches.

The challenge they had and probably still do, had a lot to do with psychology. Specifically, one of the questions that needed to be asked was how could they become part of the lunchtime decision-making process? The answer isn't as easy as you think.

When most people make decisions about what to have for lunch at the office the first A/B choice they create is fast food or sit down. The primary influencer at this stage is time, but it quickly turns toward taste. If fast food wins the consensus, then most people will run down the big brand list (McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc.) and make a decision based on preferences, experiences, and proximity.

Interestingly enough, KFC only gets a shot if someone says they don't want a burger. And other alternatives, like Subway, are added to the mix if someone insists on no fast food (a position thanks mostly to their Eat Fresh campaign). So where does Capriotti's fit?

A/B testing convinced some people that it fits everywhere because they consistently win on taste, but it really wasn't true. Sure, it won with loyalists, catering, or as a wild card but not where it needed to. To capture the average lunchtime customer, it comes down to the first round choice. Fast food or sit down? This sandwich shop is neither.

My solution was a bit different from the marketing firm that had contracted me onto their team. While they wanted to push award-winning sandwiches, I wanted to reframe the front end choice that there is lunch or Capriotti's, thereby pre-empting the fast food or sit down decision-making process.

But we didn't then and no one has since. So despite being voted the greatest sandwich in America, it's still niche and not mainstream no matter how many A/B tests they run. Why? As I said. There is no such thing as an easy lunch. Just because the winds of research keep blowing your organization in different directions doesn't mean it will always be there or push you to the destination you want. Someone has to aim for it.
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template