Thursday, July 8, 2010


We've moved.... you can catch up with noshoes.... at Barefoot Creative

Friday, May 7, 2010

Storytelling Wins

When I was in university and had to memorize hundreds of thousands of biological terms (I was in premed before I saw the marketing light), I used a very simple memory device... tell a story with the facts. By creating a story -- wildly unrelated to the facts I was memorizing -- I was able to contain about 95% of my test material. Great strategy for my grade point average.
My daughter, pulling-your-hair frustrated with math, went to her older brother to understand long division. He, being much older and wiser, patiently told her a story about Mr. Denominator and Mrs. Numerator. From a frustrated fifth grader, she completed a degree in nursing where math plays a big part in her training!
So why are marketers still reeling off a list of benefit statements?
When we first met Royal Homes, an innovative, module home builder, their advertising was focused on the technical advantages of modular building. While there are many interesting advantages of modular building, especially in a Canadian climate, the lack of "story" behind the information made their messaging unmemorable. We were able to move their message to a story. The audience began to understand the Royal Homes difference because they could relate to the story.
Storytelling is essential for non-profit organizations. Benefit statements and program descriptions do not inspire, stories do. We all respond to stories -- that's why television dramas and movies capture hours of attention each week. That's why Harlequin is so successful.
Skilled storytellers are more than skilled writers. They have an inherent gift for understanding the story within information. They have an aptitude for understanding the "why" rather than just the who and how.
Invest in a skilled storytelling.... communicate with impact!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Simply Savvy

Savvy marketers understand that the foundations of marketing are critical in preparing an effective communication strategy.
For many this simple list is, well, simple. It's important that we don't lose sight of the very basic elements of marketing.
1. Know who you are talking to. The audience! Understand what they are reading (if they are reading); what they buy; what they like to do in their spare time; what are their values. Resist the thought that "everyone" is your audience. You may have several audience segments, but no one, not even Coke, captures the attention of everyone.
2. Develop all of your messaging for your unique audience or audiences -- no matter what your president or board thinks. Defend your communication by understanding your audience so well that you are able to support your communication strategies.
3. Integrate. I know, you have heard that so many times it's almost tedious. But strong integration means that you clearly understand your overall messaging. Your web site, social media activities, print and space, outdoor media, phone protocols -- everything is integrated. Your overall communication plan is driven by a central message and goal -- all of the silos are brought into that plan.
4. Measure. Build success ratios and evaluative tools into your plan. State the results you anticipate, track the activities and evaluate success by those measurements. Push away from getting trapped in internal politics or processes.
5. Your "brand" is not a logo... or an icon... or a palette of colours -- although all of those contribute to the personality. Your brand is the promise that you make to your audience. If you do not have a clearly identified brand promise you will find it very difficult to build a strong and vital brand. Put less emphasis on the graphics and much more emphasis on the promise. All communication activities need to be assessed within that promise.
6. Understand the technologies your audience uses and how they use them. This is critical. People have been astounded and deflated at their interaction with new technologies. Facebook is the perfect medium for some businesses -- not so much for others. Search Engine Marketing can be an incredibly effective draw to your web site -- or have little or no effect. Twitter, while I personally love it, is new and not yet proven.
7. Build partnerships that work. Use an agency or service provider that's a partner. Help them understand the full scope of your work. Insist they take responsibility to deliver results and open the door for them to do so. When results overachieve the goal celebrate and evaluate. When results underachieve the goal, be honest and evaluate the communication strategies. Learn from the failures and the successes.
8. Understand that there are many organizations just like you are... this is very difficult to do. But to understand your unique brand and differentiation, you must understand that your competition has similar products, services and promises.
9. Respond to fluctuations in the market, adapting your budget. This is difficult. No one -- not even Nike has an unlimited budget. Smart communicators evaluate their budget on the goals. When cutting costs, we need to ruthlessly cut activities that do not perform, placing our investment capital in areas that will increase our growth.
10. Don't tell, sell. So simplistic! Every piece of communication should be driven by your goal. There is a trend, especially in the non-profit sector to educate expect a response. That is naive, at best. Simply telling the story, without a clear opportunity to respond -- the "what you can do" line -- rarely brings results. Make Poverty History had huge impact if we consider the number of people who wore the band. But no more money has gone into fighting poverty from the government level -- in fact, many countries in the recent economic downturn have focused their investment on other issues. People have responded with their voice, but not with their pocketbook (remember, they weren't asked to).
Now go back up the list. How are you performing?
Build a strong and savvy marketing team. You will get results.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Let the games begin...

I had a client a few years ago that told me when he arrived at work every day, the first thing he did (after he started his computer), was stretch his hands in front of him, clasp his hands and say: “Let the game begin.”
Jane McGonigal, director of research at the Institute of the Future, believes that gaming is the platform for world change.... as a marketer with 50% of my work focused on the non-profit market, that’s interesting to me.
This week boys, girls, young men and women, old men and women will spend 3 billion hours playing online games. The average child spends 21 hours a week playing video games – that’s about the same time as they spend in school.
She suggests that gaming is a place where we can set the bar to perform at our own level, making an environment where we are rewarded for our performance, where markers of performance are raised as we become more proficient at our game. In the game we are the best version of ourselves.
But, for the most part, we don't believe we are good at life. The realities of life make us frustrated and depressed. So we play games.
Games also provide a social environment where we collaborate for success, playing together for the higher good – so to speak. World of Warcraft is just one example. Millions of people come into the alternative reality and when they come there are hundreds of other characters that are willing to trust you straight away. You are challenged with a mission that’s matched with your skill level. You are inspired to collaborate and cooperate to increase your level of achievement. Ultimately you get immersed in an alternative world in which you can succeed in ways that you can’t in your real life.
Studies also show that games increase our optimism. We like people better after we play a game with them. We learn trust them. Games build bonds.
She calls gaming “Blissful productivity.” Urgent optimism... extreme self motivation – to act immediately to tackle an opportunity and the opportunity to win.
McGonigal has designed several change motivated games. The most recent is EVOKE – a hub of gamers who attack a new mission each week, working together to solve world problems. At midnight every Wednesday night EVOKE sends out a new mission and the participants work together to find solutions to the problem.
McGonigal's research inspired ideas that are still spinning in my own mind.
Barefoot worked with MEDA to create a microfinance site that is built on some of the principles of gaming. The foundational idea of the site is to engage participants, not to develop a passive giving structure that simply requires financial participation. At MEDATrust, donors are able to engage more deeply, getting involved in the issues.
I think MEDATrust is at the cusp of interesting site development. But it is only a very small step towards donor engagement. There are several challenges that need to be overcome:
1. Investment dollars in development. Direct mail is easy. For every dollar I put out in cultivating my house list I will receive from $4 to $20. In acquiring more donors, I am able to set target dollars to mark my success. Boards understand those numbers.
2. Understanding the mass. Mafia Wars on Facebook earns more than $100 million annually because people spend bits of money to increase their digital economy in order to beat their friends. iTunes changes the way music is purchased. For just $0.99 I can buy the song I like. It’s so much cheaper than $20 for the album. But studies show that we actually spend more on music because it’s so easy to spend $0.99. Non-profits are still hanging on to the major donors, resisting investment into the mass to build a stronger, more stable donor platform.
3. Access to resource and the time it takes to make it relevant. We have not yet come to the place where web development has been forced to be intelligent. We are still using digital platforms to dump all of the information we have – because we can. We are coming to the end of that era. Successful web sites will position the organization for growth in engaging, donor centric ways. It will not be an unlimited and inert brochure.
Barefoot is building for the future, working to understand the generation that believes games are the essence of reality.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How dead is Direct Mail

For the past 15 years I have heard the strained whispers of: Direct Mail is positioned for a mighty down turn -- it will be dead in 5 years.
That begs the question: how disruptive is digital to other methods of marketing? One organization just dropped their direct mail strategy because it didn't work anymore...the marketing group determined that no one responds to direct mail today. They walked away from a $6 million revenue source. Another organization still uses the courier font from the 60's, believing that the font increases response. That idea may have had validity in the early days of direct response, but it's really not as effective in today's marketplace. Two extremes.
Every day I hear the whispers dreading the day direct mail dies.
But it continues to live.
I wonder if we are not a little naive in our understanding of marketing.
Perhaps our penchant to "scientifically" segment donors has challenged our marketing minds. Too often we assume that people only respond to one level of marketing. Yet we move with fluidity between our computers our TV's and our favourite magazines. Our intrigue and love of new media drives much of this.
Social media is, without a question, a strong influence in many people. But, with the exception of a few industries, social media has not been the revenue stream most people hoped it would be. The web, while certainly growing, is still often fed through traditional channels. Print, TV, radio, word of mouth nudges us towards the web site. We can stir the pot a bit by SEM, SEO, web banners and social media -- but growing revenue still requires an intelligent mix of media.
Digital is one of the most challenging marketing tools. First of all, it requires rich content. For the first time you can show off your entire product line, corporate vision and staff in one place. While amazing and often effective, it requires a new determination to maintain brand integrity. Secondly, it requires an organizational focus on purpose. The web can, and often does, become a dumping ground of information that is left without active positioning. Thirdly, in many organization the web is developed by multiple stakeholders. Too that sends mixed messages. Finally, the web requires a constant flow of new information. Today's digital savvy web users are not content with week old information. If you want your site well used, invest in content.
The web, while it does not require printing or placement, is not free. The cost of the web is the human resource -- the mind that makes it an amazing source of information, sales and revenue.
Direct mail is far from dead.... but it does require a smart marketing mix and creative approach.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Meet Lindsey and Brian

Sylvia Plath wrote: "I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket."
Personally I love change... it's a time of new beginnings, new ideas, new opportunities. Barefoot Creative lives with change -- mostly due to new babies and maternity leaves. Ordinary things that often spin off to change many things.
We are very pleased to introduce Lindsey Spencer and Brian Cotie. Lindsey is joining our team as an account manager. She is well equipped to give clients a great experience at Barefoot! Brian is a writer and brings a lot of interesting perspectives to our writing team.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tut! Tut! Tiger....

OK.... it's a pretty big challenge.
Nike has paid Tiger Woods a lot of money to stay in the game. But when the big boys of the game slap his fingers in public Nike gets antsy. Can the great one fall?
Well he fell -- what's happening now is spin.
But the spin took a very interesting angle as Woods stepped onto the green this week. The Masters are big. Woods coming back, wife in tow, is bigger. Even people who don't follow golf have followed the story.
The advertising agency approached it somewhat head on. But they made a mistake.
The ad -- you can watch it on Anything Hollywood, unless they pulled it off. (When I went straight to You Tube it told me that it was taken off by the person who put it on.)
37% of viewers were skeptical and saw the ad for what it was: an ad. But 44% were simply confused. Will they buy Nike? I'm pretty sure they will. Will question Nike's campaign tactics? I think so.
What did you learn?
Maybe putting a sulky adult Tiger Woods on air for 30 seconds and listening to his father lecture him was not the most astute approach.
Our lesson.
Managing spokespersons who go astray is very hard. You're really caught between a contract and a hard place.