“Click to Skip this Blog Post” – why disruptive “in-experience” advertising hurts more than helps

We’ve all been there…

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make”
– William Bernbach, founder, DDB Advertising Agency (for you Mad Men fans, Sterling Cooper’s main competitor)

If this is true, Mr. Bernbach, then why is it that every 3rd video I click on YouTube forces me to watch an advertisement? Why is it that, as I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see a video for a VISA card I have no intention of acquiring? How about when I click a link on espn.com, instead of the article, I get an autoplay advertisement for the latest iteration of “Paranormal Activity”?

The answer is unfortunate for those of us who appreciate high-impact, creative marketing:
In-experience advertising in it’s current state is broken. In fact, it is counterintuitive. Advertisers have failed us – instead of coming up with creative ways to capture our attention and inspire action, they have chosen to force us to consume their messaging, at the expense of our time and more importantly, our trust.

Ultimately, the goal of any advertiser is to inspire action – their ads should motivate consumers to read about, talk about, and ideally buy, their product or service. Advertisers continue to stretch their imagination when trying to structure the timing and location of their messaging for the highest possible impact. As an example, this is precisely why SuperBowl ads come at a premium. Presumably, consumers are tuning in with the intention of being sold to. It’s why the “ad inserts” in your local paper contain 3x the content during “Black Friday” week. It’s a no brainer – consumers are in their most impressionable state of mind during these times, so naturally, advertisers are there to pounce. Consumers say “sell to me during these times” and advertisers respond in kind.

However, in recent years, we have changed the way we consume information, which has resulted in a very challenging position for advertisers. The pace of this change is accelerating at an amazing rate. Consumers are spending less time in front of their TV’s, and more time on their iPads. Less time reading Home & Garden, and more time reading their customized Home & Garden page on Flipboard. Content is instantly accessible from a variety of sources, and those sources are growing every day, making it increasingly challenging for companies to ensure their advertising dollars are being maximized.

So what’s a Marketing team to do? As with any other form of industry disruption…the answer is to panic. To bombard us in our most “vulnerable” state. The in-experience advertisement is a modern day version of the 7PM “do you want to sign up for the Washington Times?” phone call that comes right as you sit down to dinner with your family.  We’re better than this, folks.

If you wish to increase the effectiveness of your marketing/advertising spend, the first thing you should do is determine how and when you will reach your target audience during a time they are most receptive to your messaging. Take a tip from one of the best “experience” companies in the world – we were brainstorming this week around this very topic, and the theme for our direction centers around one statement:

“Our outreach should be immersive – not intrusive”

The next time you think about disrupting a user or customers’ experience to force them to listen to your pitch, ask yourself one question. “If I was the user, and all I wanted to do was access this content and <company x> was blocking me from doing so instantly…would I be more or less likely to utilize their service or buy their product?”

Consumers trust us to not waste their time or money – who wants to create or enhance their relationship with a brand that devalues either one of those assets regularly? The least lucrative of all demographics – no one.

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership, Technology | Leave a comment

The iPhone 5 is the latest example of “The Apple Effect” – how do they do it?!?

New product launches are like walking on thin ice. Same goes for service providers and retailers entering new markets. You can never truly predict how the market will react. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world supported by all the statistics money can buy, and still come up short. You could gather a lineup of Obama, Michael Phelps, Justin Bieber, RG3 (!), and Oprah jumping up and down on trampolines with big signs saying “greatest product in the world”, and still people may not be so quick to engage.

Enter the iPhone 5. Apple continues to be a marquee brand that other organizations aspire to be like. Regardless of industry, people look at what Apple has accomplished in terms of Customer Loyalty and constantly ask – how can we generate that same loyalty and enthusiasm within our industry?

Check out this video – can you imagine someone walking into a Volkswagen dealership and having the same reaction to a “new car”…that it turns out they already own?

Jimmy Kimmel: What Happens when we “Introduce” the iPhone 5 to the public – with an iPhone 4s?

While Apple detractors can use this as proof that Apple products aren’t all that great and it’s all about the “mystique” associated with the product, savvy marketers watch a video like this, their jaw sinks, head shaking, asking “wow how do they do it?”

Apple has a different approach than most organizations, one focused on what should be, not what can be. Jobs’ team is famous for running through boundaries when others are frozen by them. Let’s break it down by talking about the Apple experience in the context of Who, How, and Why.


Let’s focus on their 2 most high impact organizations – Design/Development and Marketing.

Apple does not develop their products based on what people WANT. They develop them based on what people don’t know they want…yet. Here is a great quote from Jobs that summarizes:

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”

– Steve Jobs

People are inspired by innovation & change…and ultimately, that’s what any strategic marketer wants to do to grow their customer base and take market share – motivate their promoters to keep buying and promoting while activating the need to change amongst their competitors’ customers.

As great as their design team is, Marketingis where Apple really shines – some may say it’s easy when you’ve got great products, but the main thing Apple does better than everyone else? They believe in the Customer EXPERIENCE, not Customer SERVICE. What makes the people in that video so inclined to trust their emotions over their actual physical senses, when they are holding this iPhone 5 imposter? Apple has set the expectation that their brand is associated with innovation, improvement, and agility…regardless of if it actually is.

How? Apple does a better job of communicating with the consumer than nearly anyone else, in any industry. Whether it’s communicating with you via an interactive digital experience (App Store updates, iOS updates, iTunes, etc), or via an in-person experience (retail stores, call center, etc), they focus on 2 things – adding value, and measuring your experience while doing so. Just like a puppy who jumps when they hear the treat jar lid spring open, consumers jump when they are alerted to a pending Apple Experience…and they want in.

Why? Confidence. Consumers are confident that every Apple experience will meet their expectations, or exceed them. Apple builds confidence amongst consumers by constantly delivering on their promises. When they don’t – they want to hear about it. Heck, when they do, they want to hear about it. I have never seen an organization so dedicated to their engagements with consumers – if Apple could ask you every day “give me one word that describes Apple” (shout-out to BrandTags) and track that sentiment, taking into account all of the external variables (seasons/weather, market share, spend, product releases, etc) to measure the reasoning behind customers’ feedback they would. Apple has a level of respect for consumer sentiment that is unmatched in any industry. This allows them to align their delivery to their customers’ expectations, and ultimately drive consumer confidence and loyalty through the roof.

So to recap – how does Apple create a culture of loyalty so strong that anticipation, emotion, and promotion takes precedence over features and functions? Thank goodness for simplicity and flowcharts.

Disruption–>Innovation–>Commitment–>Engagement–>Experience–>Confidence–>Loyalty–>Revenue–>Profitability–>Shareholder Value–>SUCCESS

Simply put by Jobs himself:

“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply”

Nice job Apple. Like my man Aziz Ansari said, “that’s how it’s done son!”

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Mission” – get it right and stick to it

Mission statements have come a long way. Remember back to your first exposure to business plans and the concept of entrepreneurship – “what does your company stand for?” The mission statement was this cold, mechanical message about delivering “value” and “the best products for ____ in the world.”

Over time, these statements often became another channel for marketing, leveraging “the mission statement” to attract consumers. Unfortunately the quality of their artificial content conveyed that intent.

Today, consumers have more access to data than ever, and we can now qualitatively evaluate the validity of these mission statements. Ultimately, organizations are losing credibility by claiming to deliver an experience that they simply aren’t backing up. We as consumers have the power to hold these organizations accountable for the experience they claim to deliver, and when they don’t….well, we feel cheated and in turn defect to the competition, or even worse become detractors.

Social media has exponentially multiplied the impact of that sentiment. When a company promises to deliver something and fails, that failure can, in seconds, be exposed to over 2.2 BILLION people worldwide with internet access.

Alternatively, when a company has a well defined mission statement that they clearly back up, it can drive customer loyalty and turn passive promoters into walking referrals. Take Philz Coffee, my favorite spot to grab a 6AM coffee & blog sessh in Palo Ato:


Hey, they are playing Billy Idol right now while we’re having a great early morning conversation about the best single on Green Day’s “Nimrod” (Clearly Haushinka, by the way) Doesn’t get much more random, and that’s exactly how I like it. My day is off to a great start, thanks to the great culture of positivity here.

When you think about it – a mission statement should not be some long sentence filled with 12 letter words and complicated cliches. The purpose of a mission statement is for an organization to identify what they want to be, communicate that desire to employees so they uphold the intended values of the company, and communicate that to consumers so they know what to expect from their experience. “Expectations” – the most dangerous word in any B2C OR B2B transaction – for the provider, choose your words carefully; for the buyer, you have every right to demand authenticity and alignment to the expectations that were set up front.

Take a look at some of your favorite brands’ mission statements – are they upholding their end of the bargain, or have they lost their way?

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t talk back!”

Remember when you used to hear that as a child…all…the…time. Well I did. That and “because I said so, I am the parent, you are the child, you need to do what I say!”

For our entire formally educated lives, we are rewarded for falling in line, following the rules….not being insubordinate. If you couldn’t already tell, I am a BIG fan of insubordination. Not the kind of obstinate, purposeless, stubbornly defiant insubordination that creates conflict. The productive kind. The kind that fires you up and motivates you to change something that is unnecessarily broken. If something can be improved…why shouldn’t it? Because someone says something is just the way it is…well why?

I am reading a terrific book entitled Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan and pals, which essentially breaks down how tribes, or groups of like minded people, determine the fabric of a company’s culture. Logan goes into great detail on how these tribes are created and how we as members of tribes in various stages, can inspire others to become leaders and help fundamentally improve or progress the culture of an organization.

One of the most interesting paragraphs in the book takes a look at how, throughout our lives, we are taught to stay in a box. School bus is here, get on. Bell rings, class starts. Bell rings, class is out. Your 10page essay on the cultural impact of “the Joy Luck Club” is due Thursday. 1000 words or less. Arial font only, and staple in the upper right hand corner please. WHY? Because I said so.

For many people, this doesn’t change when you enter the workforce. “that’s the way it’s always been done, it’s just the process ” – have you heard that one before?

Well Mr. Lumbergh, frankly, your process sucks as much as your giant honeycomb tie. OK, you’re right, let’s try that with a little less emotion. Yesterday’s interview with Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, offered a much more accurate and appropriate definition of this apparently destructive “insubordination” we have been taught not only to avoid, but to prevent others from embracing:

“I have very little regard for regulations that make no sense. The fundamental trait of an entrepreneur is questioning the status quo”

(credit Bay Area News Group)

Wong is one of the youngest people to ever win venture backing when he was just 19 years old. Imagine how many times this guy must have been told he was nuts…at 19 he was asking for millions of other peoples’ dollars. This is a guy who graduated college at 18. His whole existence is the epitome of going against the grain.

Much to the chagrin of my own parents, I have often said that if we are blessed enough to have children one day, the best day of my life will be the first day I lay down the boundaries and my child looks up at me and asks me simply “why?”  I know you experienced parents out there are literally choking on your blueberry scones laughing so hard. Is it so crazy?

The chase for improvement is what fuels me. Every day I look around, as a consumer, as a son, as a husband, as a friend….how can we improve?

The answer exists somewhere out there, and if you don’t talk back….well how is the world going to embrace your great idea?

Categories: Leadership, Life, Technology | 1 Comment

So, THIS is how to be a “killer employee?”

Many of us, despite our immense individuality, share common traits – one similarity I have identified is the constant desire to improve our own efficiency. It’s as if we have this supreme confidence in ourselves, yet we often feel dissatisfied with our ability to prioritize and attack each day, so we constantly seek improvements to our daily ritual. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with this at all. After all, Bob Dylan said so:

To that end, a friend I have a great deal of respect for sent me this article recently:

12 Tasks that Killer Employees Always Finish Before Noon

All really good recommendations – don’t be a slave to email, exercise daily, find a routine, etc etc. You’ve read articles like this before, and chances are they have probably helped you find what you’re looking for in an incremental “wow that did help” type of way.

However as I read the article I was just waiting for the light bulb to go off….and it never did.

Why not?

The premise of the article is to address the readers’ need to improve productivity and be “the killer employee” that we all expect from ourselves. So the writer takes a task-focused approach to doing so in the hopes that the reader can pick a few that really resonate and engage. OK, love the concept…but aren’t we missing some fundamentals here? Do a page search for these words:






You get more zero’s than Zuckerberg’s last Fidelity statement. Listen, I got a very early start to my career, but at the end of the day I’m 29 years old, and I am not ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen it all out there. In fact I am thankful every day that there are so many experiences I have yet to enjoy and endure in life, my eyes and ears are always open. I am extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by amazing, well traveled, experienced, talented people all my life, and I try to lean on their wisdom to improve my own outlook and approach.

It is their wisdom that leads me to constantly question my own path towards being this so-called “killer employee.” One very popular quote comes to mind, and frankly it has nothing to do with email or meeting invites or the snooze button on your Surge clock radio (shout-out to the 90’s!). By the way, yes I am quoting Ghandi, I know, one foot on the soapbox, deal with it:

Firstly, what aspects of the world  around you bring you happiness? For example, what “change” do I want to see in the world? I want to see people helping one another, not because it’s right or wrong, but because they want to. I want to see people  being true to themselves. I want to see people communicate more based on emotion, and feeling, and what their heart tells them. I want to see people being genuinely happy for each others’ success and accomplishments. That all brings me happiness in my personal life.  Which brings me to an approach I try to embrace every single day in order to bring a natural sense of order, peace, organization, instinct, and success to every interaction:

Start your day off by making someone else’s a great one

Text your partner, your parents, your sibling, your kids, whoever, that you love them. Send a note to a colleague and their manager expressing your gratitude or admiration. Bring in your neighbors’ trash cans from the curb. Tell the lady behind the counter at your coffee shop that you really like her hair. Call a friend to let them know how much  they mean to you. If you’re getting great service from someone, let the company know. Do that odd-job around the house that you know your significant other hates to do…send them a text with a picture of the job well done. Give those kids selling lemonade on the corner a $5 donation to celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit. 10 seconds of your time can mean the world to someone else. Think back to your own experiences and the impact that someone else’s “Random Act of Kindness” had on you.

Now, what if your efficiency and level of success has nothing to do with your email, your schedule, your priorities, or other inward-focused aspects of your general day to day approach? Rather, simply by making someone else’s morning, you end up operating through a 100% crystal clear lens that day. You know exactly what to do and when, and how to do it. What if you can have a profound impact on your own productivity….by improving someone else’s?

Try it, and let us know. Everyone has a different approach – what works for you?

Categories: Leadership, Life | Leave a comment

Welcome to the NFL, Robert Griffin III – what can you teach us?

It takes a lot for someone to admit this publicly given the pain and suffering we have endured for years….but I am a diehard, go hard or go home Redskins fan. I know every single word to Hail to the Redskins….yes, there is more to the song than “Hail to the Redskins, Hail Victory!”. I am quiet on offense, and am straining every inch of my vocal chords on defense. My teeth clench and my left eye twitches just a bit when I see that blue star. So naturally, I have been eagerly anticipating this day….the day we get to see Robert Griffin III suit up and face a real, live, NFL defense.

Being a Redskins fan, I have learned not to get my hopes up, so this post isn’t about how great this player is going to be…he hasn’t proven a thing yet, and we all need to keep that in perspective. However, he has shown a tremendous ability to lead, inspiring fans and his teammates with his poise and preparation.

As a professional who aspires to get the most out of myself, my colleagues, and my clients every day, I am really enjoying studying how “BobGriff” leads his team, but also how he interacts with the media, taking note of some really thoughtful and inspiring statements. Let’s take a look:

Q: “Are you going to be nervous leading up to your first game?”

Griffin: “I think I’ll be more anxious than nervous. When you’re anxious, you can’t wait to go succeed

I thought back to some of my more “anxious” moments in my career, comparing that feeling to being nervous. Nerves are a blessing – your body telling you that something isn’t right…most likely you are not prepared, you’re missing something. We’ve all been in a situation where we were unprepared…it feels horrible. Conversely, remember that feeling you get when you have prepared for something so thoroughly that you are just ready to hit it head on and will run over anything in your way? The difference between being nervous…and being anxious.

Q: Are you worried about your offensive line blocking for you with so many starters hurt?

Griffin: If you think you have a banged up offensive line or a bad offensive line then as a Quarterback, you’ll play scared. One thing I don’t want those guys to think is that I don’t trust them — I definitely trust my offensive line, whoever is out there with us.

We all know it – confidence is key. Not just YOUR confidence, but that of your teammates. Griffin takes this opportunity to make a public statement that he trusts each and every guy on the field with him…whether they are a starter, a pro bowl player, or a rookie, they are in it together. He could have said “no, next man up will do the job, we miss those guys but we’ll be OK” but frankly that’s not good enough. He needs whoever is out there to perform their absolute best, he is setting the expectation that they will, and he is making them feel comfortable and confident in their own abilities to succeed. What a great reminder of the importance of inspiring confidence in each other as individuals and as a team.

Q: Are you worried about any routes you aren’t comfortable with?

A: “There are always those routes as a quarterback that you have. There are routes that I feel good with and there’s routes I don’t feel good about. It’s just my job to echo that to Coach and to continue working on the ones I don’t feel so good about, so that when it comes down to it we can pull anything out of our bag of tricks and go for it.” 

We tend to forget this, especially when things are going well, but this is a great reminder about being honest with yourself regarding your gaps and where you can improve, as well as surrounding yourself with people you trust to help you continue growing as a person, as a friend, a teammate, a father, a brother, etc. The anatomy of a Salesperson consists of many unique qualities, one of them being an immense fear/discomfort with regards to those who you are close with (clients, management, etc) being disappointed in you. As anyone who has sat on a sales forecast call knows, a great leader often tests their people on their willingness to find gaps in their approach, and their natural ability to know when it’s time to ask for advice from others on how to improve. The only thing more inspiring than a confident person is when that confident person asks for help, gets it, and reaps the rewards.

Enough RG3 love for the day…well, until kickoff that is. Stay healthy Griff, good luck, we’re rooting for you!!

Categories: Leadership, Sports | Leave a comment

Bill McDermott…on Tim Tebow?

Bill McDermott on…Tim Tebow? SAP’s CEO on what his peers can learn from the Jets QB

Fascinating read for a couple reasons:

1) Classic McDermott – all about authenticity. I have never met a more inspiring, authentic, naturally enthusiastic leader in my career than Bill. Here is a great quote, right off the bat, where he immediately disrupts common thought and introduces the  basis for his whole approach as a leader:

“In business, people tell you to fit in, but it’s far better to be yourself, be different and contribute whatever unique talents you have. Most CEOs and executives have a “secret sauce”that makes them successful. It’s critical to stay true to who you are.”

2) One of the reasons I always enjoyed hearing Bill speak – he consistently conveys an undying passion for winning, and never under-emphasizes the importance of customer success in that equation. His entire organization and leadership team embraces the fact that in order to achieve their goals, they need to ensure their customers are not just satisfied, but enthusiastic promoters of their brand.

“In business you are your record. Do you inspire people, are your customers loyal, do partners trust you and your word, do you give back to society? For a company, culture is the foundation, and a culture focused on long-term sustainable winning is unbeatable”

Kudos to you Bill, your character and vision continues to make an impact on folks around the world.

Categories: Customer Experience, Leadership | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.