Author Archives: Melanie Stern

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About Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

Why Guilt Is Good for Marketing and Building Emotional Response

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Why Guilt Is Good for Marketing and Building Emotional Response

Marketing strategists know the importance of hitting consumers right where it hurts. Depending on the product or service, the creative pitch and delivery should tap into an emotion. Anger, joy, dread, anticipation, doubt, fear, confidence, guilt, or shame, emotion is what drives people to relate to a given advertising message. And it’s this relatability that will hold their interest, allow them to process the message and hopefully, engage response.

We Are Glutton for Punishment

It turns out that guilt is more than a quick go-to, and I might add desperate, tactic used by parents in getting their kids to do what they’re asking. The art of persuasion in marketing is used by creative gurus to make the audience believe that they will feel some sense of guilt if they miss the advertising opportunity presented. Moreover, if the viewers give the guilt-ridden message attention, there must be a moment that resonates with them and further accentuates the guilt already in place. Here’s an example.

The Blame Game

In a society that shudders at the thought of being accountable for anything, no one likes to be reminded of a faux pas, mistake, indiscretion or a flat out epic failure. When it happens, many quickly jump at the chance to point the proverbial finger on someone or something else as being the source of the snafu. Yes, there’s a lot of finger pointing going on—just look at our politics and how the media portrays these cat-and-mouse antics that denigrate personal and business brand.

But blame seemingly raises the eyebrows of consumers getting them to stop, watch, and share the information. In fact, this isn’t counterculture anymore but the natural process of social media channels in action. Decades earlier, when it was good business practice to admit to a problem and fix it or put out a retraction correcting the misinformation, there is no such content animal in existence today. In fact, we thrive on marketing mistakes and often devise them on purpose. Remember, bad press is still – good press.

Part public service announcement, part big pharma-to-physician-to-consumer play, this TV spot hits parents and their teenagers hard by pitting them against one another through the sharing of vital health information, and laying some heavy blame. The advertiser, Merck, provides new knowledge to its audience while simultaneously shaming them for not knowing the info beforehand. Compelling as it is, this shame and indirect blame reinforces the importance of the message, leaving the audience guilty unless they act on the message… or forever be held accountable by their children. A cheap shot? Manipulation at its highest level? Absolutely. Is it effective? Just ask any parent that’s seen it on television because if they remember then it worked, right?

The Fault of Our Own

There are certain subjects that get people and their panties rolled up too tight: children, aging parents, fitness, education, personal space, and health to name a few. But when it comes to diet and weight loss, it reigns supreme on hitting people’s buttons on the woulda-shoulda-coulda rant. Though it may not always be expressed, many Americans would own the notion that they do need to lose, at least, five pounds. But oh the list of reasons why it isn’t happening. I could get rich quick if I could cite them all.

Not only is our guilt, laziness, and frustration about diet and weight loss a popular topic of conversation, it sets consumers up for the continual cycle of triumph and defeat. It’s what weight loss program developers and fat-free product manufacturers hope for and make a hefty profit on. Nonetheless, people are like sheep. And advertisers and their clients love sheep.

Dangers of Guilt in Advertising

You’ve probably run across individuals in your life who appear to thrive on misery. It must be a ‘thing’ considering the programming across media outlets echoes the sentiment. However, there is a flip side or two to this type of story. America likes a good amount of sap with their misery. It’s our way of coming out ahead, rooting for the underdog and winning, or holding on to hope, faith, and that it matters and makes a difference. This Fiber One commercial blends the bad and the good, well.

When we use guilt in marketing, it’s important to remember who the target audience is and how they are likely to respond.

Consider adding the following to your guilt-ridden messaging:

  • Happy ending
  • Humor
  • Solution-based final thought or call-to-action
  • Non-profit or charitable mention

Other than the misery-seekers and negative Nancys you may know, guilt is not usually something we like to share. Typically, we keep our guilt hidden or quickly deflect it with a good shot of blame sent elsewhere. But if you have to use guilt to give your marketing campaign the attention it deserves, make sure to give the audience a way out of feeling bad, by offering something that feels good.

Shame and Guilt, the Double Whammy

As risky as it can be, there are inherent benefits to using guilt in your marketing as it is representative of some of the twisted aspects of our interpersonal relationships. Think of a best friend, partner, or spouse. In the best of circumstances, you have gained a level of trust where you feel ‘safe’ in sharing exactly how you feel.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just about the compliments, thoughtfulness, praises and other displays of appreciation. It also includes those moments that really put you in disbelief, shock, and awe. And it is in these moments that we may not feel empathy or sympathy, but are compelled to remind the other person of their idiocy. Yeah, reality bites.

Alka-Seltzer found the sweet spot in this human condition and nailed it on their award-winning campaign from decades ago. Some may say that the copywriter and creative director were way ahead of their time. Although, I’m thinking that indigestion is timeless.

Watch What You Say and the Way You Say It

When did having ‘no filter’ be more acceptable than common courtesy? This positioning trait can be effective in advertising. But before you lead with content that emotionally shakes consumers without giving them any positive recourse when it’s over, ask yourself and your marketing team this: How would it make you feel? Do they enjoy eating a crow sandwich topped with guilt-flavored jelly? Does it shame them into making a change? And if they simply start sobbing, blame it on the writers. It’s always our fault.

Ask Us to Review How Your Brand Speaks to Your Clients

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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How Negativity Impacts Business Relationships and Ruins Marketing Campaigns

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How Negativity Impacts Business Relationships and Ruins Marketing Campaigns

Life circumstances have a way of setting the tone for who we are and how we perceive the world around us. While most of us may try to leave our personal world outside of the workplace, it’s obvious that to err on the side of ‘fail’ in that would be prudent. But why? Has negativity gone wild? Moreover, is it an accepted norm instead of a character flaw formerly sought to overcome? When negativity impacts business relationships, do we have the mental and emotional chops to strategically maneuver it in our favor?

Perhaps it depends on whether you see a glass half empty, half full, or ample with opportunity…

If Nothing Is Off the Table, Be Careful About How You Set It

Remember the days when you were a mere toddler or seven years old when your mind was full of wonder. The most difficult concept to learn (just ask your parents) was the term and acceptance of the word “No”. (I know a few adults that still have trouble with this.)

Is it because we are naturally hardwired for “Yes” or positive thought? Well if so, something happened between birth and the here and now. The good vibes have seemingly taken a back seat in our mainstream and it’s adversely affecting what we expect of ourselves, others, and corporate cultures.

Fear Breeds Fear and Discontent

Some say happiness is a choice. You wake up each morning and can decide how you perceive the day. Sure, a positive outlook is great, until the day comes at you like a runaway freight train. If you have the mental agility to step out of its way or embrace it head on, one could call you a survivalist. Notwithstanding that, over time, the freight train of pessimism will impact your business dealings, future relationships and potential for referrals.

If you encapsulate the bad sentiments that seem to supercharge human reaction and implement them into product or service marketing strategies, as many companies do, it will garner you more attention. But what kind of attention? And would you know what to do with it?

Where Negativity Breeds, Brand Reputation Follows

Where Negativity Breeds, Brand Reputation FollowsLet’s get back to you, this morning, when you decided to wake up on the right side of the bed. (Even if you didn’t, pretend you did.) If you’re a W-2 employee, you’re making your way to your job site. If you’re a 1099 contractor, you’re either heading to a client meeting, about to enter into a conference call, or nursing a cup of coffee just the way you like it from the comfort of your living room sofa, wearing your favorite sweats.

No matter how you show up at work, ask yourself this question as it relates to negativity: Are you part of the problem or the solution? Then again, if negativity is part of the productivity that oils the corporate machine, your adaptability to this mantra may be a source of job security. If you do it well, how effective are you at turning the negativity off at home? Something to think about.

After a brief personal assessment, if you’re finding that pessimism is more prevalent than not in your life, how many people does it touch? And how many do they touch?

Adulting can be damaging to your wellbeing. If only we can revert the clock and be that cantankerous child who cannot accept the word “No’.

Unfortunately, we crave the word “No” and all its direct and indirect monikers because that’s what feeds our interests and conversations, on- and offline. Did social media content force the hand of human disgruntlements or is it the other way around? The cause and effect of negativity gets lost in the blur of rage, shared.

Company Culture or Counterculture Is Like an Hourglass

Company CultureThe spine-tingling phrase of “being a company fit” continues to create a stir in employees and job candidates. When you’re in the company, it doesn’t take long before you can distinguish between the culture they want to emulate and the reality of what is. But employee or client dissatisfaction can quickly alter company culture into something best kept hidden, though seldom remains under wraps.

Company culture used to be created and illustrated from the top down, from C-level execs, to managers and their reports.  Naysayers to traditional work culture were once thought of as a subculture and limited to a small grouping of employees and contractors.

But now, because of social media, dissatisfaction can generate and ooze from the bottom up. If this goes unchecked, it quickly casts a wide net across social platforms affecting internal relations, client interface and trust, marketing reach, and perceived value overall.  But by shaking things around, you can get right side up again—unless negativity feels good.

If You Dish It Out, Better Be Ready to Take It

The standard fare for any business marketing endeavor will include a mention of one’s product or service features and benefits. For many companies, that approach isn’t good enough. Sometimes, advertising campaigns need to step outside of a brand positioning’s comfort zone and do the unthinkable. For many, this means resorting to tactics that take the pressure of a lackluster product and focus on all that’s wrong with their competitors.

This can be done in fun using humor or through mere innuendo, common across the decades of fast food, beer, and soda wars: Coke vs. Pepsi, and Bud Light vs. Miller Lite and Coors Lite, to name a couple.

Negative ad campaigns can be effective, as long as the business and the brand is well established and is likable.  However, companies do utilize negativity in their marketing strategy when drawing attention, any attention, is the reigning goal. This can be formulated as an internal or external strategy, though keeping things in balance can be challenging.

How to Put Good in the Bad

If you’re daring and need a good kick in the butt-of-marketing, adding a little content sneer, on-air mention, or balls out assault on your competitors. A little guerilla marketing, some bad taste, and who knows you could be the talk of the virtual town.

Mud-slinging? You betcha!

I recall working at a peer-revered terrestrial FM radio station here in the Phoenix metro area some years ago. We were part of a larger broadcasting company that had but four stations here in town: three rock radio formats on FM, and one sports radio channel on AM. Within the rock radio stations, there was music programming cross over between two out of three stations, such as:

Classic Rock > Album Rock > Hard Rock/Alternative

As you can see from the above programming flow, the album rock station shared some of their audience with either of the other stations, though seldom did listeners CUME of add TSL from classic rock to hard rock. This put the pressure on the album rock station to perform. And yes, that’s where I worked as an on-air talent, writer, and producer.

You might think that management thought it wise to market the stations collectively, position each as part of a “powerhouse of rock ‘n roll”. But that was not to be the case and here’s why. It was all about the advertising revenue (isn’t it always). The broadcast company would make more money if they kept the stations segmented, and, competing against one another from the inside out.

Marketing dollars were shifted each quarter, from one station to another. On-air talent blasted their peers at the other stations, live on their shows, without abandon. These negative jabs spilled over into audience sentiments, raising radio wars across the airwaves. Advertisers took advantage of the emotional fire and spent more money at multiple stations.

Here’s what was achieved:

  • Greater employee station loyalty
  • Greater internal work ethic
  • Low employee turnaround
  • Increase in listener retention
  • Stronger brand identity
  • Stronger brand awareness
  • Increase market reach
  • Increase in CUME and TSL (from station to station)

I wouldn’t recommend this approach today as I’m not sure it would turn out well with the added traction that social media provides. Because what you say and how you say it lives on forever in the virtual space.

Are Social Smut Campaigns the Best You Can Do?

Business Social Status

Statistics show that the increased rate of mental illness diagnoses and suicides today are correlated to social media presence and how we, as humans, gage its importance. As long as we, professional marketers, know where our audiences live, why not up our ante on how to approach them and leave the emotional slash and burn behind?

Until we can move past the divisive attitudes of winning vs. nothing-else-matters, negativity will continue to have rightful place in society—but at a cost. Even with all that we know about the impact of scorn and skepticism within media messaging, it remains a single key differentiator in how political elections are won.

Keeping a Lid on Sour Grapes

There’s an age-old saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Maybe we need to revisit that. As content media experts, we need to take ownership of our messaging because it affects our audiences. That’s our job, right? With all this power, perhaps putting some fresh eyes on irresponsible negative spins may help change the emotional and behavioral tide that is hurting our communities. And it starts from within.

Businesses Keep It Real on Social Networks

One of the most proactive practices you can put in to your business and its marketing is to make sure you have dedicated team members who do nothing more than monitor, manage, and respond to your social channels.

It’s a quick, reliable way to get an idea of how your customers and the public perceive your culture, your brand, and your products. In addition, active social engagements in real time allow you the opportunity to persuade opinion towards the positive, nurture the followers you do have, and build new relationships.

Are you ready to get an honest opinion about your own business culture? Does your mission take a misstep when it comes to your internal people? Do you walk your talk?

Send out a survey to your employees and make sure it’s set up for anonymous responses. There’s no reason to worry that the answers won’t be honest. Remember, people want to share their voice and be heard.

And if you’ve already decided that this will result in a bad turnout, perhaps you should get your negativity in check.

Need a Second Opinion? We Can Audit Your Social Channels and Help Identify the Risks

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Top 5 Marketing Trends to Add to Your 2019 Growth Strategy

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Top 5 Marketing Trends to Add to Your 2019 Growth Strategy

It’s hard to teach an old dog, new tricks. And for the seasoned marketing professional, dusting off last year’s creative and SEO must-haves isn’t easy – especially if you’ve experienced success with your current strategies. But laziness isn’t the true mantra of a media agency with any clout. So make room for the latest and greatest tidbits of online marketing services for 2019 to help bolster your business marketing efforts into the next plateau. Here’s our fistful of knowledge.

How Compelling Is Your Story?

This is, perhaps, the most exciting part of where brand marketing is headed in 2019. We’re back to all that’s golden in advertising and marketing — it’s about ideation. Remember that? Creative gurus and strategists are ideas people at heart and this year, we get to lead with that. So set up your conference room with the right amount of snacks and design a think tank made up of your best and brightest and let the light bulbs of creativity shine.

Truth Be Told

Drama fuels viral marketing. And unfortunately, drama also fuels what people find newsworthy. But it goes beyond that. We all know too well how media outlets don’t really put out news stories anymore and have been replaced with opinion segments impersonating what should be raw and real.

While we may never get back to news in the truest sense of the word (and industry) the essence of story will take center stage more than ever, with a twist.

Consumers crave what they can’t or don’t have and in that, we all want to feel validated in our concerns, heard by others, seen by many, and have the ability to touch and elicit change on a global scale. To accomplish this, online marketing needs to bridge the gap between consistency and change while simultaneously providing a seamless, personalized, sensory experience.

No Such Thing as a Sensory Overload

Brand Messaging

With the advent and overuse of mobile and stationery screens, consumers may not be getting real or truthful experiences (i.e. filters, reality TV that isn’t reality, etc.) but they want to believe that they are. It’s the need to create a more palatable reality than what’s in front of us, similar to why many people get sucked into drug and alcohol use.

The more humans feel, the more they mask the feeling.

If you have a team of SEO marketing experts, you know that content marketing is strengthened by the right link building services. On the face of it, you are helping stories cast a wider net, hopefully within a niche. Here’s what you need to keep in mind going forward.

Top 5 Marketing Trends for 2019 Growth Strategy

What you do to your brand and your business this year will undoubtedly carry over into subsequent years. In fact, I cannot say this strongly enough. Unless your products or services only have an audience abroad and don’t touch U.S. consumers, the upcoming elections will bear down on social media presence.

While your business may not have anything to do with the American Presidency, social media will dictate that it does, with or without your consent. (Facebook and the Russian interference…)

The best way to try and keep your social marketing nose clean is to abide by these 5 marketing trends.

  1. Personalization

    Every aspect of marketing output needs a deeper imprint on personalization. From AI to brick-and-mortar experiences, emotional connection and digital intuitiveness need to meet consumers where they are, and in the moment.

  1. Sound Advice

    Alexa isn’t the only game in town. As people grow more accustomed to hands-free communication, our reliance on voice-activated technologies and messaging will play a bigger role in 2019. When you are orchestrating marketing campaigns, make sure to define and redefine your audiences. Incorporating audio-based marcom might give you an edge compared to your competitors.

  1. The Human Touch

    Rethink how you’re building relationships. I guarantee you that your audience is and will remain highly critical (and tell you so) if your messaging isn’t on point and genuine. In plain English: Don’t sell them, embrace emotional connection instead.

    You do this by integrating customer stories with your brand story. Heck, do an entire campaign on their stories as defining who you are. In reality, your customers are your best brand ambassadors so highlight them. Where they lead, others will follow.

    Tell these collective stories where they are most sought after and in the medium that people prefer: video, video, video. Vlog instead of blog. YouTube to create relevance. Dare to share moments that aren’t staged, forced or coerced. Have the courage to be real. The brands that have the balls to take off their veil, extoll their truth, and take the heat will get the attention. Isn’t that what this is all about?

  1. Cross-Channels

    People consume as much as they can in any given moment. Your marketing campaigns will get more viewer bang for the buck if you strategically place your messaging across the platforms that your target audience uses most. But don’t assume you know their media habits. Get the help from media buy and social experts before you spend your ad dollars incorrectly.

  1. Positivity

    Let’s get back to the upcoming Presidential election. The media hype is starting. The speculation has already taken root. Now, it’s only a matter of time before the negative tongue lashing begins. If we look back at the last political campaigns (all parties) no one can really claim owning the congeniality award.

    What we can say is that those social marketing impressions made politicians, and the people they hope to govern, look foolish, graceless, and irresponsible. Did anyone really win anything worth winning? Is there a positive endgame to anger and animosity amongst us?

    No doubt that there will be many unsavory, repeat performances. Though we may be well-intended, chances are that the deafening negativity could drown out the more virtuous messages and justified public outcries. And in this noise will live a dire need for peace, stability, and an underlying truth that must rise to the surface.

But we’re just marketers, right?

Don’t Squander Your Marketing Power

Consumers are like sponges. What you dish out, they will take, eat, spit out and share. Your 2019 growth strategy for marketing must be cognizant of this and maximize its advantages at every angle.

Minimizing your effect on your brand, your consumers, and potential followers is likened to negating your responsibility as a communications professional.

There is much to do in online marketing to take what’s wrong and make it right. Join us in resetting our industry standards. Help us evolve to a better place in time.

Be Part of the Marketing Evolution

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

More Posts

Follow Me:

Why Agency and Client Business Marketing Expectations Disconnect

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Why Agency and Client Business Marketing Expectations Disconnect

Imagine yourself sitting at a negotiating table. You could be the business owner looking for the best way to market your company products or services to a captive audience. You might be the marketing executive, hoping to secure a new client. But no matter which side of the table you find yourself, there is an unspoken, yet crucial, aspect to forging this relationship. Hidden between the lines in even the best drafted agreement is the business marketing expectations that reside within each party. And seldom do the twain meet. Here’s why.

Not Everyone Speaks the Same Marketing Language

You may know your business, but it doesn’t mean you know marketing. On the flip side, marketing agencies know the nuances behind great copy and show-stopping design (or they should) but don’t count on them being experts at the differences between lug nuts. But if you manufacture lug nuts to a variety of industries, for example, how do you know which creative agency can help you effectively share the information, reestablish your brand, and build a following all about lug nuts? You don’t, initially.

Lug Nuts Don’t Help If They Don’t Fit

Allow me to expand on this makeshift scenario. You are the lug nut company. We Are Ego is the marketing agency looking to pitch and land lug nuts as a client. Here’s how a typical meeting might go down, whether you’re working at getting the account or desperately trying to keep it.

The We Are Ego agency believes they know everything about marketing. Its owners will tell you that as a fact. As such, they pitch you and pontificate in detail about how their knowledge and experience supersedes what you know about lug nuts. If they’re any good at their pitch, they’ll have you believing that. And if they’re just as talented at convincing your customers that you are the lug nut kings of the industry, this relationship will be golden.

But where there’s ego, there’s noise.

Your client’s customers won’t focus on the noise. Sure, they might be intrigued by the ad or promotion delivery. They could be intrigued by the marketing message or can’t get enough of the latest product offering. But the bottom line to the lug nut customer is… the lug nut.

Dialing this back a bit further, advertising agencies of the past reveled in their ability to spin their audiences through solid creative. Today, it takes a back seat to the most important aspect of marketing: The people who will consume your product or service. People are primary. Period…

…now back at the negotiating table. You’ve got two different kinds of people. How can you make them fit into each other’s square hole?

The Digital Debacle

If the lug nut company has a CTO, then you can banter beautifully about the analytics of social channels and the scalability of your preferred web design template and how it will lessen the cost and down-time in production, if they switch to your platform. Unfortunately, for the lug nut management representatives at the table representing sales, operations, manufacturing, legal, and logistics, all you’ve done is throw a slew of terminology at them that might as well be Greek. Because it is.

You haven’t impressed them. The lug nut team now feels out of step, out of touch, and belittled. How can they gage your value when they have no idea what you said? And so much for building trust. Good job We Are Ego. Great way to pitch a prospect (sarcasm overload here).

Technology and digital means of communication have allowed us to touch more people faster, but with much less efficacy. It has desensitized our ability to connect on the human level, which is where you truly need to be to reach people and make a positive, lasting impression. Isn’t that what marketing is all about? This goes for client interface too.

How did we get so lost in this data driven society?

Some People Read But Nobody Listens

Agency and Client Business Marketing This is a story of the chicken and the egg. The internet has reset the bar on how many media impressions a person can take per second and, with that, the attention level needed to take it all in. The result is that people cannot nor care not to truly digest what’s being thrown at them.

In addition, now that we (consumers) are expected to process more information at a quicker rate, we have less time to spend on each marketing message. This is a challenge for the marketing agency. Getting your creative to craft messaging that grabs the attention of the reader/viewer is the key to bringing a lug nut brand to market and growing it from there.

Unfortunately, people don’t read. And when it comes to marketing agency-to-client business agreements… these people don’t read either.

Where Egos Talk, Pigs Fly

Then there’s the art of listening. What? Exactly. People are generally more worried about what they are going to say than concern themselves with whatever it is that you just said. Right. This brings new meaning to the term circular conversation. People talk but the communication doesn’t have a purpose and seldom goes anywhere. Isn’t that productive?

We’re still at that negotiating table. While this meeting may just be an initial client pitch for their business, negotiations between a marketing agency and a client are always taking place – every time they communicate.

Swallow that truth, and you might change your communications best practices.

Marketing Agency and Client-Side Etiquette

  • Say what you mean
  • Mean what you say
  • Document it

The above points may require some extra work on both agency and client but it will save countless hours of frustration and heightened emotions along the way. And it will save your relationship, instead of having to salvage it.

If you’re the agency, perhaps you prefer boasting about your creative portfolio, stellar accounts, and trophy wall full of awards. Gloating doesn’t make pigs or clients fly. But some agencies try. They try.

Revisit Conversations, Often

Think back on the last conversation you had with your marketing agency or member of your internal marketing team. You have a recollection about a web-based initiative, the deliverables needed and the associated deadlines. There was scope creep involved but the deadlines stayed the same.

Unfortunately, that was just the part of that prior conversation that you chose to remember. The marketing guru emphatically remembers that the deadlines got pushed, because of scope creep.

People tend to remember what they want to remember especially when it serves them best. However, had there been additional conversations about the shift in scope, the misunderstanding would be caught and addressed earlier, without the agency/client standoff.

Right, Wrong and Fair

My father once told me, “Business is like life. No one ever said it was going to be fair.” The ins and outs of the marketing agency and client relationship parallel that statement. There will be times in your partnership (that’s what it should be) where volatility will rise and patience will falter. It’s okay to have differing viewpoints on what will work in marketing and what won’t. The essence of your shared dynamic is in realizing you want to achieve the same goals. How you get there may be the source of contention, which isn’t bad.

Opposing marketing ideologies keeps the agency and the client on their professional toes, acquiescing into learning new things, and staying competitive. And in that – everyone wins.

Establish the Preferred Method of Chatter

Have you heard about the 5 Languages of Love? I wouldn’t bestow those onto your business relations; however, there are languages of communication. Depending on many factors, every person will have their own preferred method for communication.

  • Text
  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Video call
  • Face-to-face

Whether the reasoning behind the preference is convenience, audio or visual sensitivity, as well as a combination of both, make sure to ask what the best form of communication is per agency and client representatives.

Restate the Obvious

Be it a phone conversation, text message, video conference or email correspondence, send a follow up communication and reiterate the major points covered in the communication. State your understanding of the takeaways from it, as well as the next steps needed. Then ask the other party to confirm your understanding or provide counterpoints that differ, in writing.

This will serve both sides well in the event of scope creep, memory loss or momentary lapses of reason during an overview of marketing budget, performance metrics or creative campaign presentation.

Nothing Can Replace a Face-to-Face

Most of us have been guilty of sending an email to the wrong person and hitting “Reply All” instead of “Forward” or “Reply”. What about your ill-thought response to a client or agency message? When you perceive it the wrong way and blew an incident way out of proportion.

Digital communication snafus happen. Often.

Derail the damage done by adding a monthly face-to-face with your client. If a client isn’t local, work in a trip to their office at least once a quarter or have them come to you. It’s the best way to get a comprehensive understanding of who they are, if they’re confident in your abilities, and whether they truly like you. Does that even matter?

Yaaass. People prefer to work with people they like. If a client has found two different marketing agencies with similar reputations and solid performance benchmarks, agency personality and likeability are the tipping point to securing the account.

Your Contract Is Your Friend

It may not be fun to enter into a business agreement between agency and client with a litigious mindset, but it’s worth its weight in preventing hassle down the road.

A well-crafted contract is your friend. A solid agreement provides the foundational support needed when missteps happen over the course of the marketing agency/client association.

But don’t think that the marketing service contract is all about numbers. Of course the budget, monthly retainer, KPIs and ROI is important. But what blurs the numbers and the mechanisms to achieve them are expectations that get glossed over from one side to the other.

Can you avoid assumptions borne from expectations? More than you might think.

Add specific provisions into the contract:

  • Cost for changes to deliverables
  • Cost for scope creep (production and timelines)
  • Call out preferred communications to be used

In addition to the above, revisit the contract (internally) every 90 days. You’ll know if you (agency or client) are in accord with the terms and conditions and can make adjustments before the other side calls you out on it. If you feel that a modification should be made to the contract, consider drafting an Addendum and scheduling a face to face to discuss the matter.

Here’s what can happen if you don’t.

The Agency Is the Last to Know

You’ve never been asked to meet with the business owner. But you received a call out-of-the-blue and now find yourself doing the two-hour road trip late on a Friday morning to get there. But you’re prepared. You’ve got the latest monthly reports ready to be presented showing the steady increase in site visits, social engagements, and followers. With any luck, you should be receiving the final edit to the latest video production creative has completed and know it will “Wow” them.

But something happened between contract and expectations that was never discussed.

You enter the conference room and find 10 angry-looking executives who scowl at your very presence. Instead of presenting numbers, representative of the fruits of your labor, you receive a lashing of untruths relayed in expletives. The core accusations?

  • Inconsistent communication
  • Skewing performance numbers
  • Missed deadlines

Justifiable? Not according to the contract. Unfortunately, the contract can be perceived in multiple ways. (Isn’t that how attorneys secure ongoing employment?)

This client/agency encounter didn’t end well, though it could have.

If the Relationship Can’t Be Saved, No Need for Sour Grapes

Never burn a bridge in business. It’s short-sighted, like cutting off your nose to spite your face and almost as painful.

Regardless of how you believe the other party wronged you, this is all temporary. And if you’ve served your client well, let them go gracefully. Time will show truth. They may come back at some point in the future when they see the value of your business and what you brought to the table.

Should that happen, follow the guidelines in this blog. But before you e-sign on the dotted line, come to a place where agency/client expectations meet and egos are left at the door.

Real Communication Brings Real Results, Faster. Ask Us How

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Why Cannabis Design Without Showing Flower Gives Marijuana Business an Edge

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Why Cannabis Design Without Showing Flower Gives Marijuana Business an Edge

On the face of this notion, you might think that I’m ashamed of marijuana use as a whole. You could believe that there’s an insinuation here, that cannabis-related businesses should act as though they’ve got something to hide.

According to the federal government, they do. Facebook, Google and Amazon might concur with that sentiment as well because as long as cannabis product and service offerings don’t play by their rules (when they choose to enforce them), these businesses don’t or won’t exist. Then again, marijuana industry sales certainly don’t dictate that. In fact, there’s a lot to celebrate: It’s a billion dollar industry. But the same challenges that stand in the marketing and public positioning of these businesses also exist in cannabis design. It could be one of the factors for success and failure. Here’s why.

Marijuana Advertising and Cannabis Design Must Overcome Stigma in 3 Seconds

There is a three-second rule. No, not the one that applies to food dropped on the floor that’s still fit for consumption; that’s actually a five-second rule. I’m talking about three seconds. It may not sound like a lifetime. It is in radio. But there’s no visual element in that media channel – just the power of the mind. However, three seconds on a print piece, billboard or web display will represent a lifetime of brand perception to the viewer, whether the impression is on target or totally off the mark.

Many existing dispensary shops and ancillary weed-based businesses use the obvious indicator of the product, the marijuana leaf. But according to a recent U.S. Patent and Trademark Office report, 44 percent of logos in this industry had some form of the plant included. Isn’t the cannabis industry much bigger than that?

Think of it this way. If you had a company that manufactured a coffee drink flavored with butter (some people drink coffee as such), how impactful would coffee beans or a stick of butter be to the logo? Pretty meh, right? And it wouldn’t pass the three second test. That is, if a consumer even needed the entire three seconds before passing it over and looking for “Next”…

The Right Look and Feel of Cannabis Branding Makes Consumers Want to Touch It

Strong branding and alluring cannabis design are one in the same. Brand colors and placement, typeface, size and tone all play a significant role in how a consumer perceives who you are, what you do and how you do it. This is inclusive of marijuana enterprises as well. It boils down to creating the experience that a person wants to visit and revisit.

Positive Logo Brand Experience

More than likely, the first customer experience happens on a website. Unless it’s a landing page, the home page is the starting point. From there, people will then venture into the brick and mortar of the company, the dispensary, for example. But what then?

The Journey of the Marijuana Brand Experience

Let’s say you’re driving home from work on a Friday evening and although you’ve put the work week behind, you’re still carrying the stress of the job (as many of us do). While you’re approaching a stop light as dusk begins its descent, something catches the corner of your eye. There, at the top right corner of it.

There’s a billboard, extolling the virtues of a marijuana dispensary located just around the corner. You’re a card-carrying member of the cannabis community so you follow the sign to check it out. You’re thinking that, more than likely, they’ll have something to help ease the tension from your neck and back. And they’re just two miles from home. Timing is everything. But here’s what I haven’t told you yet: the company’s name, Kind Meds. Emotionally approachable? Heck yeah!

One more anecdote before we move on … If your web brand doesn’t align with your on-site experience, you’ve created a consumer disconnect. For businesses that rely on marijuana marketing to increase brand awareness, engage new customers and build brand loyalty, it’s everything.

Let’s take this up a notch.

Tomorrow’s Marijuana Advocates Might Be Today’s Adversaries

What if the person in that car heading home from work wasn’t a marijuana advocate? In fact, what if he/she is one of the millions in the United States who still support the Schedule I drug classification? Even with the recent news that the DEA moved some marijuana formulations into Schedule V, making this the first time it provided a sliver of government-backed legitimacy to its use, it isn’t widely known to the general public.

Even with the anti-cannabis tide changing, leaning more towards acceptance, how could a brand convince a person, dead-set against the product, to give it a moment (three seconds) of consideration?

The Don’ts of Cannabis Design and Branding

If you’re trying to get the attention of consumers who are on the fence about cannabis use, reminding them about past stigmas and conflicting legal regulations (state-to-state and federal) won’t do your brand any favors.

Instead, make sure your cannabis design and overall brand sell an experience or a lifestyle. There are effective ways to execute this, as there’s no reason to state the obvious by using a marijuana leaf. It’s boring, dated and represents lackluster creativity. Besides, you cannot “sell” product through cannabis advertising any way.

What you can do is create cannabis design that excites the senses and exudes a direct representation of the company and the corresponding audience(s) you’re wanting to attract.

It’s All About the Packaging

Recent stories and concerns across the country are forcing necessary changes in the way cannabis products are packaged. Some states are instituting new guidelines in marijuana products that not only minimize the allure of edibles to children, but make it more difficult to open the products (child-resistant and child-proof).

Brand Persuasion in a Name

Meanwhile, let’s get back to the potential new cannabis lover, yet to try the product. Normally, a billboard that had a hint of marijuana theme to it would never get a second chance. But there’s something about the name Kind Meds. It’s warm, inviting and supportive. What if the entire brand experience echoed the same description?

This is powerful brand positioning. It creates, through suggestion and statement, what the dispensary stands for and what they deliver to the consumer. No matter how the cannabis industry evolves (or stands still at some point), the term kind will always relay positivity and something to be shared. Perfect for social media campaigns.

Brand Differentiators Are Essential to Shine Beyond Competitors

Just like any other industry, cannabis businesses must use design and marketing to create memorable impressions on their customers and prospects. In today’s retail culture, it isn’t just enough to throw up a sign, open your doors and expect the sales traffic to flow.

Consumers want to do their research. They want to find verifiable sources that speak to the benefits of what you have to offer. And when they finally decide to come face to face in store, the research and testimonials have to match up to their experience. If it happens, they’ll buy that product and cannabis swag you have on the shelves, share their experience and be your brand ambassador. Then hit repeat.

How Do You Put Cannabis in Front of People? We Do This, Well.

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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When Drug Rehab Marketing and Sales Fail: Why Tracking Keeps Them Aligned

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Drug Rehab Fail: Got Tracking

There’s an all too common phenomenon in companies across America that lives in marketing departments. In fact, it’s the last place we’d think would have this problem, but it’s not just evident; it’s a cesspool of inefficiency rooted in a lack of communication. Really? In the marketing department comprised of so-called experts in the field of communication? Yes.

And it’s no different with drug rehab marketing and sales. In actuality, this conundrum makes the addiction treatment business more challenging. We thought we’d provide some relief by sharing why tracking your efforts keeps your business better aligned.

Visual Cues Show Evidence of Addiction Treatment Marketing Mismatches

Let’s start with a simple illustration to represent ad marketing misalignment. First, hold up your right and left hands in front of you. The left hand represents your sales; your right hand represents marketing strategy and execution. Now, instead of your hands facing each other, they look in opposite directions. How can they work together when they are having separate conversations?

In order for sales and marketing to work cohesively, they must be agile and fluid, yet able to shake hands. If you haven’t taken a look at what your website is ranking for on a monthly basis, it holds the key in what you’re hitting and what you’re missing in client retention and prospect reach. It starts with a plan.

Not two plans — a single plan that encompasses sales and marketing in a way that champions both modalities and sets up a success matrix that is only achievable if they work together. Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

Sales and Marketing – Getting Past the Egos

Since the advent of advertising, sales was the evil stepchild of creative that spun into marketing as well. According to sales, marketing doesn’t know their head from their … well, you know what I mean. It could be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious fatal flaw to most companies. In truth, sales needs marketing to help them reach a large audience. In turn, marketing needs sales to better understand their customers, their industry and the need that brings them all together. Sales and marketing are best utilized as a collective funnel, not segmented silos that never touch.

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, research helps build a case for this business model: “When sales and marketing get on the same page, companies see, on average, a 67 percent improvement in closing sales and a 36 percent increase in customer retention.”

When you lead with your product or service, it creates a shared goal between sales and marketing that is much easier to accept and deliver on.

Organize Your Goals by Monitoring Inbounds and Outbounds

You could be spending more money than your competition, but if you’re not doing anything to track it, you’re throwing money and time down the drain. And unless you’ve just won the billion-dollar lottery, your drug rehab probably isn’t looking for a business loss to offset gains.

If you’ve got any broad scope marketing plan in place (and if you’re a new addiction treatment facility or service, pay attention) watch where your admits are coming from. Inbound marketing, which includes web content, social media and search engine optimization (SEO), is useful in getting your company brand and associated stories out into the world. Just because it’s award-winning creative doesn’t mean it’s getting results.

Make sure you have a person within your organization or external agency keeping a watchful eye on the responsiveness and overall engagement of each. See how often specific webpages, blogs, videos and other social content are viewed. From there, you’ll know what’s getting the most interest and where you need to make adjustments.

Outbound marketing is a different animal and not for the thin-skinned. It’s found in:

  • Event marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio and TV spots
  • Press releases
  • Billboards
  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • The use of swag

To put it simply, outbound marketing casts the widest net of reach to consumers or B2B, with less desirable results because there is less of a niche to the audience.

Make sure to take an accounting of what inbound and outbound efforts rein in as far as ROI, and then alter the percentages where needed to get the desired results.

Lead Generation Results Are Multi-Layered, with Value in Each

Difference between Hot, Medium, and Cold Leads

Everyone wants the hot leads, the ones that respond to exactly what you have to offer and are ready to convert, now. Striking while the iron is hot is great for sales, though many forget the value of warm and even cold leads, especially in the addiction treatment and recovery space. Here’s why:

  • Often, it takes a prospect multiple media impressions before they go “hot.”
  • Cold leads may provide touchpoints for outbound marketing:
    • Wider net of outreach.
    • Most people know someone with a drug or alcohol problem.
    • Can help build referral base.

With any lead generation program, be sure to segment your leads and respond in the best manner possible to generate the most appeal for hot, warm and cold leads.

Web Chat Delivers in an Instant

To enhance the ability to capture leads as soon as they come to your website, consider using a web chat service. With it, you never miss an opportunity to engage with a prospect because the system does it for you.

The benefits to web chat are numerous and include:

  • Immediate engagement
  • Segments leads (hot, warm, cold)
  • HIPAA-compliant marketing tool
  • Secure and password protected
  • Delivers each lead to your email, mobile device or both
  • Increases leads, on average, from 35% to 40%

Understanding your cost per lead (per method used) may rule out some of what you’re already doing to bring in prospects and conversions. If your beds aren’t full, maybe it’s time to be open to suggestions.

Tracking Drug Rehab Sales and Marketing Is Only as Good as the Analysis

No one’s expecting you to be a solid expert on Google Analytics and other pertinent SEO integration. Whether you decide to take on those skills yourself or hire an expert who eats, drinks and sleeps that business, what these numbers tell you should dictate what you do in marketing and how sales should support the initiatives.

Results Are Learning Tools that Need to Be Applied for Growth

If your best idea received a cool reception from your lead gen campaigns or social media, dive deep into the numbers and responsiveness (or lack of) to look for silver lining. It’s always there even if the numbers aren’t. Perhaps your messaging was great but the timing was off. Whatever you do, don’t table it into the forever furnace. Archive it, as you could repurpose some or all of it in the future.

Revisit Addiction Treatment Marketing Spends Often

Consumers are fickle. Challenging as that is, it also provides an easy ability to reset a wrong and make it right.

Through reporting and client surveys, as well as ongoing interaction with your staff, you can reconfigure where your marketing dollars are better spent and devise a mix that reaches:

  1. Untreated clients/new prospects
  2. Family or friends of No. 1 above
  3. Alumni of your program/service
    • Success stories/testimonials
    • Former clients who have relapsed

Formulate an annual addiction treatment marketing budget and keep some dollars available for golden opportunities that may come about throughout the year, such as an industry co-sponsorship (special event or nonprofit organization), public relations opportunities and more. We recommend a multi-channel or cross-channel marketing approach.

Social Media Needs an Active Voice

Working Together to reach your goals
The whole point of social media is to create an active forum for people to receive information, develop a personal voice (applies to businesses, too) and share them on an ongoing basis. It’s all about engagement with your followers and enticing more people to join your group and become something greater than themselves. It’s what we all want.

Now, let’s dial this in to drug rehab sales and marketing. Social media is all about stories. In fact, Facebook recently added another engagement tool to their platform and called it “The Story.” Twitter may be removing its “like” button in the hopes that its users engage through more commentary instead of a feeble click of an icon.

Salespeople are full of stories and often use them to engage prospects, which ultimately lead to conversions. It’s how sales connects with their clients. Marketing creates stories to connect with prospects, existing clients and their referrals. If only sales and marketing could be on the same page with their stories….

They can.

Bring More Admits by Pulling Drug Rehab Marketing and Sales Together

Explore Organic Marketing Solutions

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Is Cannabis Marketing Out from the Shadows and into Mainstream Legitimacy?

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Cannabis Marketing Going Legit - Eminent SEO
Marijuana. Legit. Are these two words separate entities or do they belong in a singular phrase? Wishful thinking or the reality in the not-so-far future? Depends on which side of the fence you sit on. But for   those who work within the cannabis industry, it’s legitimate and many advocates and customers can attest to it.

Just by looking at this specific business sector on its own merit, the numbers and associated forecasts for growth not only support a serious consideration but stands to be the next, big, missed opportunity (if you haven’t jumped in with both feet yet). So, whether you’re a grower, wholesaler, distributor, retailer or anyone with an ancillary product, how do you differentiate yourself from competitors? It’s all in the cannabis marketing you do and the way you do it.

Facebook Changed the Dos and Don’ts of Marijuana Marketing, Again

Legal Cannabis Recreational Sales 2021 ArcView Group - Eminent SEOJust when we thought it wasn’t safe to swim with the sharks of Facebook, they actually stepped up to the plate of public outcry and accountability. After listening to their users – and most notably their former platform users – who were up in arms about the recent shadow ban on cannabis marketing, they copped to it.

Before Facebook made changes that support the industry, it prohibited user access to:

  • Marijuana advocacy group pages
  • Cannabis-related events (public and private sectors)
  • Licensed caregiver info for medical marijuana patients
  • Dispensary searches for CBD products
  • Information about new laws or regulations
  • Meetings, conferences and other educational series from cannabis-related associations

While Facebook has theoretically opened its doors to the cannabis community, at least for the time being, individuals, groups and businesses will need to be Facebook compliant in order to come out from the shadow bans effectively and be visible to the community.

The following are the new Facebook guidelines that enable medical marijuana advertising, dispensary marketing and others in the industry to maintain a viral presence:

  • Requires specific Facebook verification for users and pages.
    • Blue Verification Symbol – applies to brands, media and public figures
    • Grey Verification Checkmark – applies to individuals and businesses
  • Verifications allow for ranking/presence in search results.
  • Without verification, individuals, business entities, etc. will be blocked.

So now that you know what the new playing field is for Facebook, where do you go from here for advertising your thoughts, resources and the marketing information that’s pertinent to marijuana-related business?

Agility and Collaboration in Digital Ad Agency and Cannabis Client Partnerships

Digital Ad Agency and Cannabis Client Collaboration - ESEOYou know what you know; now, admit what you don’t know. In marijuana business outreach, there isn’t much room for faking it. Let me illustrate.

Not everyone is comfortable with recreational marijuana – some prefer the use of alcohol. On another parallel, many consumers prefer pharmaceutical drugs compared to CBD oils and other products for relief of health-related symptoms.

But for those who truly don’t understand the obvious faux pas in the advertising copy italicized above or subtle nuances in design for cannabis marketing, you would never know I just stated something that compromised the business. If you know cannabis marketing, you understand. If you don’t, I just made a medical claim about CBD oils. That’s a no-no.

If you are the owner of a dispensary, distribution channel or retail store searching for ways to increase your visibility in the marketplace, knowing the legal limits of your advertising and public relations content is immeasurable.

However, as a digital ad agency with expertise in cannabis marketing, our clients don’t have to know everything. We don’t expect them to. But what we do need from our marijuana-based clientele is a level of collaboration that is transparent and agile. It has to be, because it isn’t just that you’re competing with other dispensaries, other growers, or other advocacy groups, for example; you’re competing against what you can’t see – the black market of the trade.

Much of what is needed to effectively promote within the marijuana mainstream is founded in the same tenets recommended for the advertising agency/client partnership as a whole: It’s all about a relationship of fluidity and collaboration. It might entail more ego-headbutting … but the results are astounding and support building long-term, successful relationships.

Subject Matter Experts Are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Not all weed-related businesses are owned by people who partake in the product. Many don’t even possess the basic knowledge about what’s entailed in the various business verticals within the industry, but they do know numbers and when an investment shakes out as a lucrative endeavor. They might even know marketing. They could have the background in traditional marketing that provides a deep-rooted know-how of the importance in brand story, the need to promote local, the use of trade publications, online communities, and boosting community outreach.

If a marketing company or advertising agency tells you that they know cannabis marketing but don’t have the clients to prove it, don’t just walk away; run!

Marketing Marijuana Is Like Alcohol Branding, Seriously?

This Marijuana Buds For You - Eminent SEOTo pull from a well-known, popular tagline, “This Bud’s for you,” from Anheuser-Busch, imagine using it to promote a specific retail shop that has an exclusive strain of marijuana.

Let’s take it further: This particular product has been known to promote better sleep, though there is no U.S. scientific proof, merely the feedback from those within the cannabis industry who have used it.

Let’s say you’ve got a friend of a friend whose brother-in-law is in this amazing alternative-gone-country band, and the members commit to creating a jingle for this-bud’s-for-you. You can use it in your videos, email campaigns, website and radio campaigns, and maybe even television. I mean, why not? They did it for alcohol, right?

Yeah. So … NOT.

Legal-Ease, No Such Animal in Cannabis Marketing

Cannabis remains prohibitive on the U.S. federal law level. Although alcohol manufacturing, distribution and sales went through its drama decades ago with prohibition, etc., they came out of it and legalized it. Marijuana isn’t there yet … but the industry is changing seemingly on a monthly basis. And because it’s evolving that fast, businesses need to align themselves with marketing agencies that are knowledgeable.

We can also look at this sideways. Marijuana, as a business, is already more legit by the sheer fact that it has a pharmaceutical component to it. Research continues worldwide in uncovering the benefits to patients with various health issues that experience a reduction in symptoms or enhanced well-being due to cannabis use. Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors can never tout that. But we still can’t claim it via marketing efforts either.

Without trademark protections available from the government, competitors within the industry can exercise bad ethical practices without a lot of backlash. In a way, those committed to the cannabis industry are virtual pioneers, navigating through unforgiving mainstream methodologies and advertising pathways yet to be discovered, let alone accepted.

Brand Identity Is Everything

Once you’ve got a handle on the legal and ethical best practices, it’s easier to be able to focus on the creative aspects of branding for cannabis marketing. One major consideration should be made for consumer persona or your audience. Especially in ad campaigns and social strategies that are trying to tug at non-marijuana enthusiasts, your prospects. You have to compete for their interest and convince them to step away from traditional mindsets and explore something new.

In a recent interview with Entrepreneur.com, Cassandra Farrington, Co-Founder and CEO of Marijuana Business Daily, defined the challenge as such, “Mainstream society … they don’t want to feel edgy, they want to feel like it’s as normal as having a glass of wine.” Yes, in the short term, it’s a tall order.

Some use celebrity endorsements to boost brand credibility and awareness, which can carry a lot of weight, but for those not wavered by star status, product quality will always reign supreme in brand loyalty. And celebrity popularity can change with a tweet or two. Though product quality can only be shared through word of mouth, and strategically placed trade communications.

Getting in Front of Your Back Story

Marijuana Plant Grows In Dirt - Eminent SEOKnowing your audience helps you generate your strategy but it also helps you define the overall tone of your campaigns: the language, cadence, look and feel of the copy and design.

If you want to reach baby boomers that are open to alternatives for pain management, what you say and how you say it should be congruent to them and what they care about. Again, you cannot make product claims, per se, but you can exude a lifestyle in your marketing.

If your audience is made up of Generation Z or millennials (especially for recreational use product offerings) create more of a buzz about your brand by providing a compelling story (or back story) about your business. This story could be something unique about the owner, the company mission or vision, or the employees.

What really resonates with the younger audience (over 21 years old only; have to remain compliant) is any story that speaks to sustainability. If you can espouse to lowering the environmental footprint related to the growing, packaging and distribution of the cannabis, that’s the kind of marketing tale that will go a long way.

Check out these 10 cannabis advertising and marketing strategies and see if your current program meets the criteria.

Pick a Niche and Then Be the Source of the Source

While cannabis companies cannot push product like traditional CPG marketing, industry advocacy is the best position to start with to set up for success. Over time and a solid, organic, digital marketing strategy, brand identity, market reach, customer retention and consistent referral business will come. Focus on being “the source of the source” within your market – part advocate/part teacher. Be the quintessential resource and, if possible, pick a specific niche and lead with that.

COO Joe Hodas of General Cannabis, an investment firm, and formerly a high-level Dixie Brands marketing exec, believes that “the increased growth of the overall market will allow niche products to proliferate and thrive.”

Is your cannabis marketing buzzworthy to consumers and referring businesses? We can help.

See How We Help Cannabis Businesses

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Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Why Your Business’s Marketing Budget Needs to Increase This Year

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Increase Your Marketing Budget Needs - Eminent SEO
Whether your fiscal year begins in January or July, what you allot for marketing budget has much to do about what you believe you’re supposed to spend. And this belief could be founded on formulas or equations that have been passed on by business owners or prior leadership within your organization. Who knows? It could be from something you found after searching online (like that ever happens).

The following insights are my effort to help you discern between industry folklore and the reality of your marketing budget needs – to reassess this year, and to plan to make next year more pennywise instead of pound foolish.

The Life Cycle of Marketing Budget Creation

The very term budget, when spoken, heard and visualized, immediately invokes numbers and, for some, nausea, especially after a lackluster sales performing year. Before you ever get to working those numbers that will set up many marketing decisions to come, you need to take some vital steps to ensure that the budget will truly have a fair shake in supporting your endeavors. And these steps have little to do with dollars.

Keys to Successful Marketing Budgets Life Cycle - Eminent SEO

Take a Good, Hard Look at Who You Really Are

As you’ve probably already guessed, there is no steadfast rule on just how much of your overall business budget should be dedicated to marketing efforts. Because every business vertical is different, so too are the marketing needs of each enterprise, eventually effecting the spend necessary to get the desired goals achieved.

If you are a consumer-based company with a product or service as your calling card, the marketing budget will undoubtedly be costlier and more general-public-facing than if your company catered to B2B markets.

Marketing Budget Mistake #1: Not truly understanding your own brand.

If you haven’t taken the time to establish your company brand, there’s a trickle down of miscommunication that ensues. This will assuredly result in missing the mark on your audience, sales and client acquisition and retention.

Now Remember What Your Clients Really Look Like

Company owners, marketing directors (no matter how good you are) and creative geniuses often carry a level of delusion about whom their product or service attracts. In our minds, we glamorize who we are and, in turn, who our audience is.

There’s nothing like that swift kick in the butt during a public appearance, conference or trade show that wakes us up into, “Oh…so you’re our customers…” This resets brand messaging and affects marketing spends.

Marketing Budget Mistake #2: Having no clue about your customer base.

Once your business accurately connects with your product or service audience, then your marketing messaging can speak to their needs through your brand to nurture long-term relationships, referral business and conversions on both fronts.

Where to spend your marketing budget is, in large part, founded on the places most likely to capture your audience. Now’s the time to switch hats (no, not to a black hat), to take off that corporate hat and be your customer.

If You Were Your Client, How Would They Find You?

Before you start adding line items to your marketing budget for what remains this year and planning for the next-year spend, consider the human behaviors of your customers. Think about their physical attributes, emotional needs, mental acumen and anguish, even their insecurities. Because somewhere in all of that is the place(s) where you will identify strategic pinpoints in their days to hit them with who you are and why they can’t live without you. This is the sweet spot.

Cross-Channel Marketing Maximizes Your Budget Spend

As long as you’re spending money to get more business, set up your marketing in a way that boosts each campaign through heightened reach and stronger impressions. You can achieve this when you use multiple marketing channels that cross-promote one another.

Marketing Budget Mistake #3: Deploying one-off initiatives.

Need an example? If you are spending money on pay-per-click campaigns, be sure to include hyperlinks within the campaign landing page that keep visitors on your website, possibly leading to a product or service page, or even to a blog post.

For more traditional marketing, if you’re advertising on a radio station (yes, companies still do that), make sure you get value adds through a presence on the radio station’s website or have your radio spot mention a promo code for a special deal – but one that only applies if the customer goes to your website or calls and mentions the promo code.

It isn’t just about capturing your audience: You have to tell them what to do and where to go. Your business leads your customers, but they must feel as though they are in control. Sounds like a personal relationship, doesn’t it? Yeah…it is.

Once You’ve Found Them, Spend Your Money on Keeping Them

In sales, it’s all about keeping the conversation going. “No” is just no today; it could be a “yes” tomorrow. This is the premise regarding social media engagement. Foster the relationship. Talk about things that matter to you and your audience. Give them something to think about, talk about and share to get others talking about it. Be informative, yet entertaining. If you do social right, your followers do the work for you.

Marketing Budget Mistake #4: Relying on social paid boosts alone.

Annual Marketing Budget Toward Online Initiatives Statistic - Eminent SEOMany companies scramble to increase their followers, likes, views or shares by paying to boost Facebook, Instagram or Twitter posts. Until your social presence gets a solid footing, the practice of boosting may be a necessary evil. But don’t count on it as a long-term strategy.

Working a social platform well is all about building your profile and followers organically. Like every other marketing program, it’s a long game usually played for 90 days to 18 months before seeing real, consistent results. You can’t just put your big toe in it. Jump in wholeheartedly and get your hair wet!

What to include in your market budget going forward:

  • Social videos
  • Search engine optimized content
  • Online chat programming
  • Blog outreach (backlinks, linking to other sites, guest bloggers)
  • Email drip campaigns (enough touchpoints and upsells without being annoying)
  • Direct response marketing (extremely targeted campaigns)
  • Public relations (it’s free!)

Best Practices After the Marketing Budget Needs Are Set in Stone

Keep a certain amount of marketing dollars fluid. Meaning…give your business some cush. Without having some extra funds available to use at your discretion, your business may miss golden opportunities that you couldn’t have planned for, but nonetheless have presented themselves out of left field.

In addition, many companies experience the fourth-quarter panic, where any remaining funds from a current year’s marketing budget must be spent or they lose it. This phenomenon is common in the VAR (value-added reseller) market. Therefore, the best way to avoid this panic is to keep on top of your marketing month to month.

Reassess marketing initiatives every 30-60-90 days to ensure there are no gaps in the life cycle of your marketing budget (noted earlier in this article). By staying tuned into your plan while it’s in action, it allows for a nimbleness that enhances marketing scalability. This strategy also empowers creative agility when needed, allowing you to keep your budget running lean while having room for unexpected marketing opportunities that will undoubtedly arise throughout the year. They always do.

Recommended Market Budget Spend

The following figures reflect how you should allocate your marketing dollars, based on industry trends and consumer behavior forecasts:

  • Online marketing – 45% of your overall marketing budget, broken down into:
    • Search engine marketing – 47%
    • Social media – 25%
    • Online video – 11%
    • Other online channels – 17%

Budgeting for online marketing is on the increase while traditional media advertising spends continue to drop year after year. According to eMarketer, “TV ad spending is 35.08 percent of total media … total digital ad spending is 38.4 percent of total media.”

These figures are for 2017 and represent how consumer behavior has shifted, and continues to shift, toward online screen usage (mobile platforms).

Stay Open to Sharing Costs

One aspect of your marketing budget that you may overlook in the planning stages is in shared sponsorships or co-op dollar spends. This is when your business can partner with another company and share the marketing opportunity.

The cost to participate in these programs is decreased as the expense is shared, and when done right, the benefits far outweigh the dollars spent. Moreover, the relationship between you and the business(es) in cooperative marketing efforts provides a seamless exchange between audiences.

Co-op marketing advantages include:

  • Your business engages your current customers.
  • Your business engages new prospects.
  • The business increases its market reach.
  • Increased market reach occurs at reduced cost.

Can’t See the Fund Forests from the Trees

Sometimes, we can put emotion and ego into our business and the decisions we make about the business. It’s hard not to. Your business is your baby. However, one of the most difficult, yet loving things you can do for your business is to let go of it.

Refer your online marketing strategy to a third party who can review your company goals, marketing budget spend and short- and long-term missions to devise a solid plan that will make the most out of your marketing dollars without shedding a tear.

Here’s Where Sales and Marketing Collide and Thrive

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Why Adding a Web Chat Feature to Your Website Gives You a Market Advantage

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Adding A Web Chat Feature To Your Website - Eminent SEO
As a business owner, you take pride in the products or services you provide to others. If you are a strategic marketer representing a business, part of your action plan includes positioning your client in a manner that maximizes their visibility and entices a specific audience to ultimately convert a sale. It isn’t as easy as it used to be. Here’s why.

Over the last decade, the sales cycle got so…much…longer. Conversely, though, human behavior dictates instant gratification. How could one possibly merge the two effectively? By adding a chat feature to your website, you’ll get in front of interested parties faster, increasing conversion rates by 30 percent or more.

Patience Has Lost Its Virtue

Customers Abandon Online Purchase Statistic Forrester Report - Eminent SEOThe adage “good things come to those who wait” was created long before internet technology came about. True, many savvy would-be buyers take their time before making a purchase decision, but the process has drastically changed from when Baby Boomers were young. (Ugh!)

Now, Gen X and Y dominate the eCommerce playing field, with Generation Z moving up quickly. To these three consumer targets, patience was never looked at as a virtue, but a complete waste of time.

The sales cycle has become lengthy; just ask any salesperson in the tech, automotive, real estate or retail fields – to name a few. Before people could pull up Google and search for answers, they would have to rely on physically entering a brick-and-mortar store and trusting the knowledge of the on-site sales staff.

Today, consumers intermittently search online for months, gathering information, comparing products, pricing and associated reviews. While some will continue online through the end of the sales cycle and purchase via a shopping cart, others take the time to go to the physical business to get a feel for the product or service, its people and culture before buying. And even then, they often go back to the virtual store to make the purchase.

How to Turn Today’s Searchers into Immediate Buyers

Let’s turn the focus on you for a moment. After all, you’re a part of the same buying pool as everyone else. You’re reading this blog online; we all live in the virtual space, more than many of us are aware of or would like to admit. As such, we put an incredible amount of emphasis on not only what we find online, but also on what others say about their life experiences offline.

Simply open Facebook or Twitter and there’s a variety of rant available to read. There are also the ever-popular puppy or foodie posts all magnified through the ability to reply, comment or chat. So why not capture customers in the manner they’ve already grown accustomed to?

Chat It Up

Introducing web chat for business. Think of it as a robust layer to online presence that gets you in front of customers and prospects faster than anything else. You already know the benefits of individualized customer service when a customer comes to meet you face to face: It gives you the opportunity to be of service and to sell with the advantage of ongoing engagement.

Web chat provides the same opportunity – by allowing you to meet consumers where they are the moment they are on your website. Any business without web chat defines “you snooze, you lose.”

Strike When the Iron Is Hot

The advantages of having web chat mirror the same principles as the three-second rule in advertising: As a business owner, you have about three seconds (if you’re lucky) to get the attention of your audience – whether it be through an old school print ad, radio or television commercial, pay-per-click channel, etc. Why? Because people have zero attention span. And the attraction of the next great swipe and scroll makes it easy to lose your audience to your competition.

The beauty in adding live web chat to your website is that it provides a vehicle for consumer engagement, bringing a true and unique user experience at the precise moment you have their attention. Moreover, people tend to make purchases when there is an emotional connection between themselves and a product or service.

Sample Sites that Use Web Chat to Increase Sales

Car Dealers

Chapman BMW Chandler Homepage Live Chat Button - ESEO

Retailers

Zappos Homepage Live Chat Menu Feature - ESEO

Food & Beverage

Winedotcom Homepage Live Chat PopUp - ESEOAn unexpected web chat pop-up might not be well received in every instance, but the conversion rates it brings are well worth the annoyance it sometimes invites. But, as you can see in the three examples above, there are various levels of discretion when it comes to offering a chat option on a website.

It’s up to your business (and the tool you choose) if you want the chat to pop up automatically or if you want the user to make the first contact. It will probably take some tinkering (A/B testing, perhaps) to figure out what speaks to your visitors the most.

Brand Recognition Lasts Longer with a Personal Experience

Imagine you’re looking for a pair of jeans. Yes, the search can be a conundrum, and more so when attempting to find the right fit from a website. What are the chances of having to return whatever you purchased? Pretty good, I’d say.

But if you have a web chat available at the time a shopper is looking at a specific item, before they click on a size, the user could ask how the sizes typically run or how much “give” there is to the fabric, for example. Now that buyer has been given accurate information, there is more comfort and trust in the product, and potentially an increase in product purchases and return visits to the site.

One more thing: Every good online experience will be shared with friends or family and followers. It’s amazing what a single, positive consumer transaction can do to build brand awareness, market reach and sales volume. And it can start with a chat.

Consider the Right Time and Space When Adding a Web Chat Feature

Most smart device users don’t need to wait to search for information until they are in front of their desktop or laptop. They seek and find what they need to online the moment the idea strikes them – via cellphone or tablet.

When considering a web chat platform, make sure to include design elements to maximize the user experience for smart devices. This means don’t let the chat pop-up take up too much valuable real estate on the screen. If the pop-up overwhelms the rest of your website content, then you’ve blown any goodwill with the user.

People Think They Know What They Want Until You Tell Them

Not all shopping involves purchasing. There is an art to shopping; some people thrive on it while others avoid it like the plague. Shopping is almost like a romance.

There’s an element of mystery, and when you finally make the decision in wanting to have it (product not people), you pay for it. The frustration is in the decision-making phase.

The Power of Indirect Persuasion

What might be appealing to the eye often differs to its reality, especially in product presentations that exist on the web. Deceptive? Perhaps. But it’s also about how humans perceive them.

We have expectations irrespective of what is real and how we want it to be. Marketers know this phenomenon well, as they’ve witnessed it during focus groups – in rooms filled with people who give their opinions and responses about a product based on what they’ve seen or experienced during the testing session.

What researchers have discovered about human behavior is that what we intellectually say to describe how we feel about something may differ from how our brain and bodies react. It’s called neuromarketing.

People are comfortable with what they already know. But what they don’t know is a web chat manager’s dream and a gateway to nurturing new customers and upselling more product.

Web Chat Is Just One Piece of the Larger Lead-Nurturing Puzzle

See How We Generate Leads

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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Examples of Neuromarketing Done Well to Help Inspire Your Marketing Strategy

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Examples Of Neuromarketing Marketing Strategy - Eminent SEO
There’s an intuitiveness to digital marketing that if your campaigns aren’t geared toward each platform uniquely, your advertising and social spends may miss your proposed target audience. Why?

Whether we, as consumers, like it or not, Facebook, Google and other social channels and search engines respond to our behaviors online. It’s the way we receive direct and indirect promotional messaging based on our interests.

Yes, “big brother” is watching our every move. But, there’s another way that marketers can learn about consumer interests and it has everything to do with how we think, feel and react – subconsciously. If you’re thinking, “This sounds complicated,” it is – yet, it isn’t.

The term is called neuromarketing. In short, neuromarketing is based on the head games we play with ourselves, unknowingly.

NEUROMARKETING = 1 PART BRAIN + 1 PART EMOTION + 1 PART RESPONSIVENESS

Chances are you’ve already seen examples of neuromarketing in your day-to-day but weren’t aware of it. That’s the beauty of it – when neuromarketing is executed correctly.

Playing off the way humans react to stimuli (products/services messaging), neuromarketing provides mechanisms to measure:

  • What we respond to,
  • When we respond,
  • Why we respond, and
  • How to tailor branding and sales initiatives to increase conversion rates.

I’ve found some great examples of successful neuromarketing campaigns to share, but before that, let’s dive a little deeper into the way market researchers use technology in neuroscience to get a better understanding of what drives human behavior in the sales funnel.

The Before and After of Neuromarketing

One of the more challenging aspects of predicting how your target audience is going to react to your brand or promotional messaging is that you can’t predict it. People are fickle. Emotional. Transient. Impulsive.

There is no magic trick or special sauce (except for McDonald’s’) that will draw prospects and existing customers to your business. However, neuromarketing can test the waters, so to speak, and provide a consensus of what to expect.

Focus Groups Represent Consciousness

Many marketing agencies will set up focus groups to gauge consumer interest and opinions before a hard launch of a new product or update to a brand. What neuromarketers can do to enhance a focus group session is to bring the science of the subconscious to meet head on with consciousness. This is where it gets interesting – in fact, humorous.

How Often Do We Mean What We Say and Say What We Mean?

Ask your friend if they like Sriracha sauce and you’ll get a roll of the eyes with a screeching, “Well duh, who doesn’t?” Then you ask if she wants to head to Burger King for a Sriracha-infused fish sandwich and the response is, “GROSS!”

Maybe she doesn’t like fish? Perhaps she has an aversion to anything Burger King. But she said she liked Sriracha sauce.

This is part of the challenge in neuromarketing: the many variables of human nature that make what we say not always an accurate assessment of what we mean or how we feel.

The Nitty Gritty of Neuromarketing

Neuroscience Human Responses Consumer Behavior Neuromarketing Quote - ESEOResearchers will monitor how a person sees an online ad, for example, by using an fMRI scan that will provide details of brain activity. In addition, this is a great way to A/B test a promotional message for a marketing campaign.

The “A” ad might show the same copy with a different design or image than the “B” ad. The viewers’ brain activity can give an indication of their subconscious response to each.

EEG images are also used to show how a person emotionally responds to a product or service, depicted on the web, print or broadcast. For online-specific campaigns, neuromarketers track where a person’s eyes move about a webpage, usually going to the most prominent areas of the ad first.

Once noted, marketers can then use the information when choosing color palates for their brand. This also indicates where the primary messages should be placed (layout-wise) for maximum traction, increasing the click-through rate.

There are numerous ways that neuromarketing has come to light and can assist in the go-to-market, prelaunch process. Now, let’s put some sizzle to the science.

Neuromarketing Puts the Snap, Crackle and Pop Back in your Advertising

Perhaps the golden ticket in an advertiser’s ability to successfully tap into the mind of a consumer is by making the experience memorable. The most powerful part of the prior sentence is the word experience.

If you can create an experience for the user, it will be more memorable, will evoke emotion, decrease bounce rates, increase time spent viewing, build more relationships and convert more sales – even if you’ve only got their attention for three to five seconds. How?

  • Poke their curiosity.
  • Challenge their intellect.
  • Ask their participation.
  • Reach their comfort zone.

Not every marketing campaign will hit all four goals noted in this list, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering how neuromarketing can go to work for your business.

5 Examples of Neuromarketing by Household Brands

Neuromarketing invokes the subconscious, allowing advertisers to sway behavior based on emotion without thought…stirring the deeper recesses of our brains. Through neuromarketing, marketers hope to engage our internal chemistry, and that may not come with specific reasoning, but more from responsiveness based on memory or deep-rooted cognition from another time that provides appeal in the present moment.

Apple

While many businesses will pull out all the stops to try to win your attention and, ultimately, loyalty, some companies have a distinct brand presence – so much so, that there is no other brand like them. Their brand is their calling card. Apple defines this strength.

Neuromarketing in this instance showcases the power of simplicity because Apple’s positioning is always about its singularity. In a sea of competitors, Apple is always at the forefront of the industry wave.

When introducing the iPhone, Apple used imagination and how consumers feel separate yet connected by their mobile device, allowing them to enter and exist in their own world – just by turning them on. Apple pokes at the viewer’s curiosity.

Trivago

The online travel booking company Trivago uses the anchoring or comparison approach in its market positioning. Trivago’s brand ambassador presents a specific destination and then lists options for hotels and other accommodations that the consumer may not readily find if they use another booking company.

Through a no-nonsense, sometimes whimsical portrayal, the spokesman here is trying to make the consumer feel silly for using anything other than Trivago. This campaign indirectly challenges the intellect.

M&M’s

Other examples of neuromarketing focus on the brain’s reward center, the same area of the mind that responds to all things pleasurable: sugar, alcohol, drugs and sex. Yes, these are substances that have addictions associated with them. But there’s a reason for that.

Human beings respond to people, places and things that excite the senses, sending messages to the brain that spur desire, anticipation, expectation and reward. Once experienced, the body will then respond in the same way to sight, sound, scent and touch that relates to the first experience. M&M’s draws from this aspect of neuromarketing.

For the last several years, milk chocolate and peanut M&M’s have been depicted as human-size products. Oh, what would it be like to have a 66-inch M&M to nosh on? Fantastic!

Lay’s

This next neuromarketing example is my favorite of 2018 so far: the Lay’s Potato Chip “Operation Smile” bags campaign. I think this one is brilliant! A product packaging rebrand that brings experiential marketing to a multi-layered level. Each potato chip flavor has its own redesign, with the very top of the bag portraying a different smile. After all, smiling is contagious.

The consumer can then take the bag, hold the top of it in front of their own mouth and convey a smile. Just the act of doing it makes the consumer smile, laugh and invite them to share it with their friends or family.

In addition, because each flavor has its own design, consumers may want to buy more than one flavor to experience all the smiles. And when the chips are gone, they will be hard pressed to find another potato chip brand experience to equal what Lay’s offers. Remember, you can’t eat just one.

Clever Turns of Phrases

For targeted audiences by age or geographic area, a marketer might want to tease their memory by tugging at something familiar but with a twist. Known as hippocampus headlines, these clever phrases of copy often use an American adage and change just a word or two near the end.

This draws the audience to what they know, holds their attention and then keeps them considering the message because of the shift. I don’t know of a campaign that uses the following phrase, but it would be ideal for a water-flavoring product:

You can lead a horse to water but you CAN make him drink.

Now You Need a Neuromarketing Marketing Strategy to Understand How Your Customer Ticks

See Our 4-Step Inbound Marketing Approach

Avatar for Melanie Stern

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

More Posts

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