You are irrational

(We all are) I just wrote about the book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely over on LinkedIn (here is my review). I loved how Ariely led into the book with his own personal story having been badly hurt and disfigured as a young man. I’m a sucker for good storytelling.

I’ve been a fan of the importance of emotions in decisions making for some time and Ariely lays out some pretty clear arguments for why this is more important than ever. Especially for those of us in business, in particular for marketers.

Don’t waste my time

Disclaimer: This post involves fast cars and the drinking of beer.

Here’s the scenario; you are at a dinner party, you meet a new person, maybe you are introduced, maybe you introduce yourself. Either way the experience is one of discovery, “What can I say that will interest this person and get me permission to continue the conversation?” Even if you don’t think this, your amazing and ancient brain is doing it on auto pilot for you.

As marketers we have an opportunity to infuse our message with storytelling, and I mean real stories. Ones with heroes, villains, inciting incidents, conflict overcoming of adversity and dealing with change. When we do this we open the door to a journey, one where our customer will want to join us for the experience.

“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Here are two examples of content I recently created designed to help break the ice at that proverbial dinner party and connect you with something that could be of value to you. The videos below are designed so that you should find the content innately interesting. You may want to learn more about the story. And if you are in my target audience you will certainly want to do so. And if I earn your permission further still I then connect you to find out more about what we can do for you so that you can have an experience like the one that got your attention in the first place.

That being said I have two questions for you, and some FUN content.

#1 – Q: Do you like either cars, high-tech, or auto-sports?

A: Then watch this featuring Lotus F1 Team

150 Days (Preview, 60 secs)

150 Days (Trailer, 30 secs)

Full Nano-Documentary:

#2 – Are you interested in Craft Beer (or foods), or businesses that care not just about money but positively impacting the environment and the world we live in?

Q: Then watch this featuring New Belgium Brewing

Love in a bottle (Preview, 60 secs)

Love in a bottle (Trailer, 30 secs)

Full Nano-Documentary:

So, what do you think?

Was your time waste with this? With the videos? How do you approach content marketing and the customer experience when it comes to your content?


When I consider existing customers or prospects and the services, and apps we provide I have one key thing in mind “why should they care?”. There are many potential paths in actions you take but having this singular question held front and center is critical.

When serving up content we have to consider the whole experience of the customer. From never even knowing about our apps and services to being a RAVING fan.

In many ways I like to think of existing customers as prospects, that we should work hard to keep them engaged and interested. When someone at a [potential] customer company is already a fan you have trust, you can go to certain conversations more quickly than with a person with whom you haven’t yet built that trust. However there is always a place to invest more in a relationship, to reinforce that trust, to keep the romance alive.

Marketing Speak vs. Storytelling

If you are trying to communicate a complex topic how do you do it? Do you do it well?

Many of us in marketing easily get into orbit around planet “Marketing Speak”. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it is a sort of linguistic-one-up-manship, or an arms race of sounding like we know what we are talking about. Then there is our obsession with “over branding” things. Other times it seems like it is just well meaning, intelligent people hustling as they go, speaking as they think. The irony is we all end up sounding the same. Before long our respective companies are all revolutionary, segment leaders and give you solutions for your productivity and delivering results. One of the aims of marketing is not to sound like everyone else. Remember when everything was iSomething ala iPod?

I was inspired to blog about this after finding this rather interesting compilation of marketing speak. Some that ‘pop’ in particular for me when I encounter them are words/phrases like; productivity, empowered, solution, innovation, smart, flexible, next generation, revolutionary, best practice, robust, visionary, user friendly, breakthrough, transformative, ROI, Time-To-Value, TCO, ecosystem, best of breed, out of the box, feature rich, disruptive, customer-centric, sea-change, tables takes, silo, synergistic, solution driven, low hanging fruit, cutting edge, mission critical. I mean you kind of need to be trained to understand some of those. Time-to-Value?

What a killer crutch they make! And it’s good to challenge yourself not to fall into that trap. We often use them as a sort of placeholder, or cheat sheets to what we really mean. Think about it for a minute. You have 20, 50, 100 wicked smart, experienced marketers from a variety of industries and backgrounds that all find themselves at <insert company name here>. Working on a product launch, a rebranding, a marketing promotion… you name it. The ideas are flowing, debates are raging, budgets are being allocated. In this environment it would seem natural to use placeholders so you could quickly move on to the next part of the conversation, to make your point. The problem is that whatever you do inside your company inevitably gets out of your company. The language you use will take on a life of it’s own and we really don’t want our customers to have to get training to understand us.

Thankfully there is an alterative. Take any one of those words or concepts and ask yourself what you really mean by it. Revolutionary? What is new, why is it cool, how will it make someone’s life better than before? Then talk about that, it could be with a real customer. It could be fiction if you don’t have a specific example. Go deep on the company, the people that make it tick. Tell their story. Consider concepts like; work, build, ship, help, change, solve, problems, fixed, love, happy, purpose, meaning, feared, approached, considered, daily grind, hopes, aspirations, achievements, hurdles overcome. Explore the tension, the motivation, the pressures, the feeling of success.

Suddenly your ‘revolutionary product’ is being talked about by Billy P. from FOO Industries who was about ready to quit. For years he struggled to get his product change requests in on time because he relied on so many people to make it happen. Six of these people were in time zones where at least one of them would be asleep at any given time a question needed answering. One guy in particular, Frank always seemed irritated by the delays and let Billy and Billy’s manager know about it. It took four weeks at best to get the product change requests completed, a curve ball such as one of their suppliers running out of a component could easily extend that. It’s no surprise now that Billy P. sleeps better at night now. Why? It takes him two weeks, tops. He’s able to plan his work around clear information from his suppliers so he doesn’t do work on the products that will be impacted by late components. Those six people can now work on the project virtually at the same time. Frank and Billy have even become friends. It turns out they have a shared love for Bowling which Billy P. is finally getting to spend time doing again, which he hadn’t really done regularly in almost ten years. There are also murmurs in the team that the improvements he’s driven look like they might lead to a promotion. Billy P. has started smiling again. And it was YOUR product that helped?

Revolutionary? Sounds like it. Increased productivity? You bet! The thing is if you just laid one of those words on your audience it could mean many things, or nothing. Your intent could be lost, people could lose interest as it sounds like everything else. The biggest crime of all is that few people will even ‘get’ what it is you are trying to communicate.

Now, I just made up Billy’s story, on the fly. There isn’t even a product I had in mind. So just imagine what you can do with your products and customers. I tell it to helps illustrate that any of those words can have a great story behind them. What do you think? How have you tackled this subject? Do you have techniques or approaches to avoid slipping into marketing speak? I’d love to hear from you.