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Archive for April, 2017

Cut the small talk.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Do these phrases sound familiar? …

“Good morning.”

“How are you?”

“Good, how are you?” 

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Can you believe all of this rain we’ve been having?”

“It looks like it’s going to snow.”

…It’s likely that you’ve already used some variation of these phrases 50+ times today – when you arrived at the office, when you bumped into someone at the water cooler or restroom, when you sent an email, when you left the office, when you ran into someone at the grocery store, and everywhere in between.

If we were to add up all of the time spent verbally and electronically participating in meaningless small talk so far this year, how much time do you think has been wasted? Of course, it’s nice and enjoyable to communicate with the people around us, but why do we automatically default to futile chitchat? What if we all skipped the small talk dance and made an effort to connect with each other by sharing insightful, meaningful information? How much more could we accomplish? How would our relationships evolve and grow?

Picture this instead…

“Good morning, how are you?”  

“I’m actually really great, my daughter took her first steps last night!”

“Oh! You have a daughter? I have a one-year-old daughter too. We should do a play date sometime!”

…Much more engaging and fruitful than talking about the rain, don’t you think?

Or how about this water cooler conversation…

“How are you today?”

“I’m actually really struggling to pull those numbers together for the meeting.”

“Last month I had the same issue, but I figured out a workaround that saves a ton of time; want me to drop by your desk and show you?”

When we’re in the comfort of our own home with family and close friends, we rarely engage in small talk; likely because we’re already very comfortable with those people and we’re busy getting down to the business of running a household and maintaining those relationships. But what if we took that method of the communication out into the world? We would all likely form more meaningful relationships that matter.

A cautionary tale for brands selling social justice.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

It’s a divisive time in America. There are many emotionally charged social and political issues that are constantly being discussed and debated. As demonstrated by Pepsi’s recent protest ad and almost every 2017 Super Bowl commercial, it can be tempting for brands to jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation and benefit with sales – but should they?

Using a social movement to sell potato chips or soda often is seen as an insincere move by marketers. It tends to trivialize issues that are highly meaningful to people. Saturday Night Live hilariously exemplifies and exaggerates this “absurdity of causes as commerce” in a Cheetos ad-pitch comedy sketch. The comedians or ‘Cheetos ad executives’ discuss potential advertising spots centered on current social issues like immigration and transgender issues. They also poke fun at how disconnected these executives are from the issues they’re discussing. When the executives are questioned about using transgender issues just to sell Cheetos one of them exclaims, “We care about that issue because there is a guy in our office whose son is transgendered!” Then she turns to her colleague and questions, “Or wait, is he trans or adopted?” to which the colleague replies, “Uh, he’s adopted.” She then says, “That’s right, because we don’t know anyone trans, and THAT is the problem.”

And that fake Cheetos executive is exactly right; a lack of understanding and connection to audiences is precisely the problem. Often these brands are not only using important social issues to sell products, but the higher-ups creating the ads are totally out of touch with the issues and target audience. This was clearly the case in the absurdly offensive Pepsi ad, where a can of soda delivered by model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner cheerfully ends a protest that’s reminiscent of recent Black Lives Matter protests. If only the marginalized people of America thought to bring a can of Pepsi to their protest; then all of their issues would be solved and the protest would have turned into a happy moment of unity and cheering – please

Social issues can represent an opportunity to really connect with a target audience if marketers are smart about how they do it… Clearly, Pepsi (and their ad agency) didn’t check in with anyone who was actually at any of those protests before airing the ad and it’s unlikely that there was a diverse team of any kind making these creative decisions. The lesson is simple and should be basic knowledge for any advertising, marketing or PR professional – know your audience.