Archive for September, 2011

From a Literature Buff

DATE: September 29th, 2011

I just returned from a client trip to Alberta. The trip made it possible to spend 7 1/2 hours in close proximity courtesy of West Jet. Driving from Calgary to Edmonton sandwiched us in a little rental for another 4ish hours. While we admired the lovely Alberta autumn, we also spent considerable time talking about the challenges of developing a focused marketing campaign.

The discussion reminded me of many chats I had with undergraduate literature students who were baffled by the concept of a thesis statement.For those of you who slept through first year English, an academic essay is a simple configuration of thesis, argument, conclusion (forgive me, Dr. Jon — I know you have sweated over this). A marketing piece follows the exact plan.

Before you even touch the keys of your computer, iPad or generic tablet, you must be able to articulate a 17 word thesis statement — in marketing we call it the offer. The offer is what you want people to do. It’s not the program, the product or the organizational mandate. It is a clear and concise articulation of exactly what your customer or donor is to respond to. If you are producing a direct marketing piece, the wisdom is: write the response device first. You can’t write an effective response device without understanding the offer (“Yes, I want to support your cause” does not qualify as an effective response device.)

The second phase of your marketing piece is wrapped up in the why…. why does your customer or donor want to respond? This is tricky — remember, it’s not why YOU want them to respond, it’s why they want to. You have to use your understanding of your offer and get into the minds of the customer/donors and understand what arguments would convince them to say “Yes!”

All of us do this at some time. I am excellent at positioning with my husband all the time (OK, I’m in marketing and he’s a musician — it’s hardly fair)…. while I completely understand my NEED for a selection of fashionable footwear for every season, he needs a little more persuasion to see the benefit to him. Stand in the shoes (no pun intended) of your customer or donor. Look at the world from their perspective. Then convince them.

Finally, you need to wrap it up. The final push for sales requires a precise offer and specific action. People will do what you tell them. I realize that in our sophisticated and intellectually astute environment, we often feel that the specific offer is pedantic and patronizing. But look at your piece from the perspective of your customer/donor. Your know what you want them to do (buy or give). But is it clear to them?

A client came to us complaining of decreased results. They had done donor surveys and the overwhelming evidence pointed to a very loyal and contended donor base. Yet, the revenue was dropping annually. After studying the material, we quickly figured the glitch in the system. The new fund raising material was positioned as information and updates. When we pushed the donors for more information, they said: “We love what you’re doing — and you’re so good at it. But Organization X really needs our money.” The marketing team had stripped the offer right out of the material…. the donors responded as expected. They loved the information and went in search of another organization who really needed their gifts.


So dig out your texts from Essay Writing 101: The thesis is king (offer!).  The argument convinces the audience (not the board or lawyers). The conclusion is the final opportunity to convince your audience — it comes full circle and marries the argument with the thesis, confirming your offer.

The Post-Modern Supporter

DATE: September 20th, 2011

There is much speculation about the possibility to gain and retain loyalty from today’s donors. Today’s donors react against the past modern era and live in a culture we call “post-modernism.” Post modern donors exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. While moderns rejected the past, post moderns are open to the past when set in context. They are sophisticated enough to understand that all things are born out of their history. Unlike the moderns, they do not buy in to the mystery of elitism, but rather the playfulness of the popular.
  2. Post-modern culture is cynical about institution for institution sake.
  3. Demographics tend to get blurred. Traditional demographics like geography, age, profession and income are no longer a reliable prediction of opinion.
  4. This generation believes that the world revolves around them. They are unapologetically self-centred.
  5. Internet, television, books and other media distribute vast amounts of easily accessed information.
  6. Change is good. Most people will have from 3 to 6 careers in their life time. They will move to new areas of their cities, their nation and globally. They are not afraid to re-invent and re-create themselves.

What does this mean for fundraisers?

  1. Reject false elitism and celebrate your history. President’s clubs and “membership” is less appealing to this generation. They respond well to “meaningful” elitism and like to be on the cusp of a new ideas or new movements.
  2. They gravitate to successful organizations. They want to come alongside a success story, not a struggling or falsely pompous organization.
  3. They are highly motivated by a cause they believe in. They want to be inspired and respond poorly to joining for philanthropic good.
  4. All communication with them must centre on them. Reject the organizational “we” for “you” and “I”.
  5. They will test your information for the truth. They have a broader understanding of overall issues than past supporters. They also may have more misinformation than past supporters.
  6. Controlled and logical change makes sense to them. They are willing to increase monthly payments if it makes sense. They are willing to pay by the month from their bank or credit card because it makes sense to them.

Can we expect loyalty from our supporters?

There is no doubt that we can expect loyalty from our supporters. We have an opportunity to inspire and motivate people across the world to make our cause theirs.

Erotic Capital

DATE: September 16th, 2011

An interesting topic to perk up a cool, fall Friday afternoon.

An intriguing idea in marketing. How well are we, as marketers, using our erotic capital. According to studies, men are far ahead of women in capitalizing their erotic assets.

You see, Dr. Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics, argues that women are underusing their own erotic capital. In the advertising world, this is a hot topic. One agency in TO suggested that each one of their staff members have their teeth whitened to enhance their overall marketing power. As a creative director, I know the importance of looking the part (in most creative circles, that’s all about black… )

As I listened to the conversation on the Current, I wondered if our gut reaction to the topic limits our marketing power. Of course women (or men, for that matter) don’t reach boardrooms on sexual prowess (and, yes, I did consciously choose to omit the use of table). Of course women, to reach corporate heights need to develop their skill, intellect and corporate expertise. Of course, it’s not about sex.

Susan G. Cole, feminist, activist and columnist in NOW TO, was quick to jump into the dialogue and state that this study brought us back to the 50’s when women and smooth mashed potatoes were synonymous (OK, the reference to mashed potatoes is mine). It fascinated me that, in our enlightened sexual state, that we would quickly pick out the feminine physical assets. Especially when Dove has worked to hard to convince us that all women are beautiful (well, when under the masterful hands of a make up artist and skill photoshop artist).

Hakim lists erotic capital as: facial beauty, fit body, social charm, active socially, dressing for the occasion and sexual competence (not required for the work place).  What the interview couldn’t get was that Hakim stressed that charm and dress where the most important for the work place. The empirical evidence clearly indicates that charming, well-dressed men and women had higher positions, made more money and were more likely to be included in networking groups.

How could a marketer be surprised?

We know through years of experience, that brands that have charm, are well positioned and dressed for the audience do better. We know that charm (the power to convince) is the key to the pitch. We understand that dressing for the occasion is critical.

We also know that it’s not about sex. Sexual innuendos and allusions are easy — they are the girls at car shoes and boys at fashion shows. They are the oiled skin of body builders and cleavage at clubs.  Charm is much more sophisticated, building on the inner personality of the product. Charm really is the essence of Dove . Charming sophistication is what makes Meryl Streep and Judy Dench continue to hold centre stage.

But, when I did a little research on You Tube, my whole argument for charm and sophistication was blown apart. Nissan’s We Make Them ad has just over 4,000 hits. Nissan’s Pathfinder commercial has just over 10 million . You tell me whether we are attracted to sheer sexuality or charming sophistication.