Author Archive

The Honor of Marketing: Connecting real people to real value

October 19th, 2015 No comments

What comes to mind when you think about marketing?

Or better yet, what comes to mind for others when they think about marketing?

Can you remember the last time you told a non-marketer you were in marketing?

Maybe I am making it up in my head, but often, when I share with others that I am a marketer, I sense this almost apologetic cringe from them. At best, it seems that they are experiencing some sympathetic sorrow that I would be stuck in such a profession. At worse, they project some sort of evil motive in the remainder of our often shortened conversation. I have frequently danced around the term, even outright denying it at times.

However, the truth is marketing is one of the most honorable careers that one can undertake. I believe this wholeheartedly, and I am writing this post to once and for all declare my passion for this often reviled role.


The diagram that changed it all

I confess, it took me some time to see the honor of marketing, but the tipping point for me was a diagram by Michael Porter. It revealed the ultimate reason that marketing exists: perception. Contrary to popular belief, the true objective of marketing is not to trick someone into buying or doing something that they do not want, but rather to bridge the gap between the reality of actual value and its perception (as shown below).


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Direct vs. Indirect Creative: Which ad is better?

April 20th, 2015 No comments

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid ads. Not me. This may make me a complete marketing nerd, but I actually enjoy reading ads. I have for some time now. I love studying the different approaches of persuasive communication. I love attempting to uncover the underlying value propositions under each ad. I love just seeing how other marketers are attempting to communicate value to their potential customers.

Recently, I was on a Delta flight to San Diego, and I began to sift through the different ads in the Delta Sky Magazine. The first ad that caught my attention was an ad from Little Caesars. Now, I am no Little Caesars expert by any means, but its brand real estate in my brain up to that point was simply this: We do cheap pizza.

This ad was trying to combat that perception in a decently creative way.


Ad #1: The creative (indirect) type

The ad was mostly made up of white space (or perhaps orange space). The first positive thing about this ad was that it stood out from the other pages. It also had one bold image in the middle — an industrial mixer. A single line of ALL CAPS text centered beneath the mixer simply stated, “Saving the commercial mixer from becoming extinct.”


Now, there are very few elements to this ad. Its creative is simple and elegant. Its creative also takes an indirect communication approach. David Ogilvy (widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”) would be proud.

What are they trying to say by putting a big picture of a commercial mixer? What do you think the implied value proposition is? What is the message underneath the creative approach?

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Marketing Classics: Four principles from the book that changed David Ogilvy’s life

January 26th, 2015 2 comments

Have you ever read an advertising or marketing book more than once? How about more than twice?

David Ogilvy once insisted about a book,

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

What book was he referring to?

Marketer, meet Claude Hopkins, one of the original 1920s ad men who could masterfully blend both art and the rigor of science to marketing campaigns. He is known for many iconic ads of the past, including Pepsodent Toothpaste, which some credit with getting Americans in the habit of brushing their teeth.

Hopkins was studied and admired by both David Ogilvy (who most of us know) and Rosser Reeves (who many of us know as Don Draper).

Hopkins summarized his theory of advertising in a short, easy-to-digest, book called Scientific Advertising. This was Ogilvy’s go-to book. I remember the first time I read through it. What really struck me about it was its relevance to what we were discovering (or I guess is should say rediscovering) almost a century later here at

Now, I confess, I am only on my third round through this book, so I know I am not quite yet fit to work for Ogilvy, but I thought it would be fitting to share with you a few of Hopkins principles that seem relevant for us to remember nearly 100 years later.


PRINCIPLE #1: People are selfish

First, Hopkins warns the reader, “The people you address are selfish, as we all are They care nothing about you interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”

Much of the advertising in Hopkins day had turned inward and focused primarily on what the business wanted the customer to do — mainly buy a product or service. They had forgotten that before you can move someone to action, you have to help them understand what is in it for them.

It’s humorous sometimes how we can fall into the same trap today as advertisers. You can see it in something as simple as our call-to-action copy. We use phrases like, “Buy now,” “Add to Cart,” “Register” or, even worse, “Submit.”

All these display the symptom that Hopkins was getting at — we are too focused on what we want from the customer, rather than what the customer wants from us.

We run simple A/B experiments (like this series) all the time in which changing emphasis from something like “Buy Product X” to “Get Product X” has a significant impact on customer response.

And it does not simply come down to using a word like “get.” It’s about the mindset behind the word “get.” As Hopkins pointed out, people are interested in what they “get,” not what the business “gets.”

This is as true today as it was then, and the most effective marketers today know how to empathize with the customer.

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Hidden Friction: The 7 Silent Killers of Conversion

August 15th, 2011 25 comments

Friction is one of the greatest obstacles to your conversion process, and though most marketers currently have some idea of what Friction is, many are only seeing half the picture.

When asking marketers to identify the Friction associated with a conversion process, the response is often very confident. Usually, the number of form fields on a page will be pointed out first, the number of steps in a process next, and occasionally a third comment might focus on the length of the individual pages themselves. The overall consensus from marketers is that if you can eliminate these simple elements, then you can eliminate Friction.

However, our research suggests that most of the Friction in a conversion process goes undetected. Further, this “hidden” Friction often is the most lethal to conversion. So, in this post I wanted to lay out 7 of the most undetected ways that Friction might be threatening your conversion rates. I have dubbed these The 7 Silent Killers of Conversion.

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Live Experiment (Part 2): Real testing is messy

June 10th, 2011 3 comments

As discussed in my last blog post, we reviewed how the marketing force of 200 marketers at Optimization Summit was utilized to design the following test:


Control (click to zoom)                              Treatment (click to zoom)

You can read the experiment details, how we got 200 marketers to agree, and few insightful reader comments in Wednesday’s post. In this second post now, as promised, we will look at the results and what insights might be gained from them. Read more…

Live Experiment (Part 1): How many marketers does it take to optimize a webpage?

June 8th, 2011 9 comments

Last week I had the privilege of being in the world’s tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere, joined by over 200 other “nerdy” marketers, for what was the first-ever conference hosted by MECLABS on the topic of optimization and testing. Overall, it was a value-packed week.

But what I found most uniquely valuable about the Optimization Summit was a surprise live experiment in which the audience was asked to optimize and test a marketing campaign during the course of the conference. I had a backstage pass to what would become a thriller of an experiment, with many ups and downs, bends and turns. The only thing I could compare it to while in Atlanta was trying to hold two suitcases while free-standing on MARTA (which I successfully did by the way).

All in all, I learned a lot about testing in the process, and in the next two blog posts, I’d like to break out some of the key insights I walked away with. Read more…