5 things I hate about TV commercials (#4)

#4: Weak connections between the hook and the pitch

This one is a little more specialized and can be easy to miss. But once you notice it, it will drive you crazy because it happens so frequently.

Most TV commercials contain a hook, a pitch, and a close. The hook is the introductory sentence or two meant to capture your attention (and keep you from going to the fridge). The pitch is the main part of the commercial. The close finishes it off memorably.

Good commercials tie the hook, the pitch, and the close all together. Bad commercials (like the one you’re about to see) tie just the hook and close together and leave the pitch on its own.

The hook (-0:30 to -0:27) goes like this: “My son lives on a boat, how original”.The pitch (-0:26 to -0:08) discusses how the detergent gets rid of grease.The close (-0:07 to -0:00) completes the story with a “boat sweet boat” joke.

Now here’s the part I hate: the connection between the hook and the pitch is the word “original”, and has nothing to do with the boat (which is the true substance of the hook). After the mother says “original” in reference to her son’s choice of home, the father picks up the word and uses it to describe dinner. Then that carries the viewer into the pitch by implying the daughter-in-law’s meatloaf might be difficult to clean if it weren’t for the detergent. The hook is referenced again only at the close.This is poor commercial writing at its finest because there is no relationship between the hook and the pitch. The hook is “tacked on” as if it was written as an afterthought… as if a bunch of marketers were sitting around a room looking at a decent pitch and saying to themselves, “It’s 4pm Friday. If we write a quick hook we can get out of here and beat rush hour traffic!”

Here’s how you know the hook is tacked on: The choice of home can be swapped out for anything as long as the word “original” is still there. The son and daughter-in-law can live in a tent, on the moon, or in a biodome at the center of the earth, and the advertisers could still pull off the weak connection because the word “original” is more important than the rest of the hook. In fact, the advertisers could have written a commercial about a mutant child ushering in an alien invasion and it would still work. (The mother might say, “My son has 8 arms and 3 eyes, and here come the martians… How original”). As long as the father picks up the “original” keyword in his sentence, the commercial can barrel forward in its story, completely ignoring the tacked-on hook.A better way to write any kind of advertising that tells a story like this is to tie the hook more closely to the pitch.

Dish detergent commercials that do this well don’t try to be clever with boat-dwelling children, but rather talk about the loads of greasy dishes left over from dinner. Laundry detergent uses a similar technique: The hook is a sloppy husband or child spilling something on their nice clothes, the pitch is the detergent getting it clean, and the close is the happy family once again. Yes, it’s a standard formula but it is so much more cohesive (and therefore, effective) than the story of the guy on the boat.

(On a side note, the father is REALLY concerned about the grease… and doesn’t he remind you of the millionaire on Gilligan’s Island?)

5 things I hate about TV commercials (#5)

#5: Fake Science

If you’ve ever seen commercials for haircare or skincare products, dish detergent, medicine, or paper towels, you’ve seen this quasi-scientific demonstration. It works like this: While the narrator is describing the superior function of the product, you get to see a visual of the scenario but it is meant to look scientific.

For example, paper towel is shown on a split screen, soaking up liquid more effectively than the “leading brand”. And over-the-counter medicine is usually seen at work in a human-shaped silhouette, sending green or blue liquid to ease a throbbing orange light. Hair product and dish detergent commercials follow a similar pattern.

In this example below, I have no idea what the language is but the pseudo-science proves my point.


It doesn’t bother me that advertises use science in their marketing; that can be very compelling. What does bother me is when advertisers use fake science or snappy graphics to pass for science.

Beloved SWOT analysis – Revised

The Business Diamond Framework™ (along with the 3i Methodology™) is a guide that helps practitioners know which tools to use, and when. The SWOT analysis is one of dozens of tools used in the Business Diamond Framework™.

Normally a single SWOT analysis might be applied to the entire business (or business unit). But with the Framework, a SWOT analysis is used slightly differently:

  • During the Insight stage, the SWOT analysis should be applied to each of the Function Diamonds (Leadership, Support, Value-Add, and To-Market).
  • Then, during the Innovation stage, the SWOT analysis is applied to each of the Function Diamonds again.

At first glance, this looks like a lot of work — four times as much! — but what practitioners end up with is a focused use of the tool; rather than asking “what are our business’ strengths?”, they end up asking far more focused questions: “what are the strengths of our leadership?” (or “what are the strengths of our support structure?” etc.). Practitioners may end up with a few more points in each of the SWOT sections (although not as many as you might first assume), and those data points will be far more effective than the broad (and perhaps more biased) observations from a general SWOT application.

Notes

  • I’ve found in practice that you end up creating a lot of content for the Strengths and Weaknesses portion of a SWOT during the Insight stage and a lot of content for the Opportunities and Threats portion of a SWOT during the Innovation stage.
  • A good starting place for more details about SWOT analysis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis.

  • You’re probably already familiar with the basic SWOT analysis, but some interesting data-visualization work has been done in SWOT analysis landscapes which you can start reading about here.
  • I have a theory that there is a Wiki for everything. Check out WikiSWOT.

Energy industry articles

aaronhoos_client_albertaoilAlberta Oil Magazine delivers news, analysis, and insight for Canada’s energy sector. I’ve had the privilege of writing a number of articles for them, on a variety of topics over the years.

The articles covered three main topics:

  • Analysis and forecast of OPEC’s pricing
  • Advertorials for oilfield companies
  • History of the oil industry

Notes

I wrote an article for them, in a 2005 issue, about OPEC was exploring the likelihood that oil would reach $50/barrel that year. Haha, $50/barrel oil seems almost laughable now.

InFocus: The Leadership Diamond

The Business Diamond Framework™ is made up of 4 “Function Diamonds” — the Leadership Diamond, the Support Diamond, the Value-Add Diamond, and the To-Market Diamond. In these “InFocus” blogs, I’ll choose an aspect of the Framework and talk about it in greater detail.

Today’s blog — the Leadership Diamond. Leadership is a broad category. In many businesses it represents some of the following factors:Executives and upper management, the values, vision, mission, and goals of the company, the driving force of stakeholders (and, more frequently, security holders).

Those are probably the ones you considered when you first encountered this Function Diamond. But there are others: There’s the attitude and the underlying flavor of the company. And this can be a powerful force, but also an invisible one. I think back to some of the places I worked when I was just entering the workforce. We had leadership from upper management, we had stated visions and values and missions, and the stakeholders (most frequently my direct reports and customers) provided some of the guidance that we might label leadership here. But when no one was looking, that’s when the real leadership appeared: The joker who magnetized the employees with his or her charisma; the attitudes of employees against upper management and customers; the real feelings and opinions about pay, benefits, and about the products or services we were selling.This is a leadership issue, believe it or not. Like an iceberg, this is unseen force can sink the ship.

So, how can the stated leadership overcome the unstated leadership?

Modeling values is huge and not done enough in many cases. (We’re seeing that right now in the economy where executives of struggling companies are laying people or crying doom but getting bonuses).

Unfortunately, modeling is not enough because there is a world apart between the upper management and the rest of the business.

Communicate. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger and upper management would do well to communicate with employees. Obviously, if things are rough, executives need to watch what they say and how they say it. But there are other opportunities to communicate and employees want to hear from their bosses… they just don’t want to hear the company rhetoric. Today’s leadership should be telling their organizations: “Here’s how we plan on keeping the company successful through the recession, and, more importantly, here’s how we plan to help you…”

Get back into the trenches. Without a doubt, everyone is a busy in their jobs, company leadership included. But a boss that comes down from his or her ivory tower from time to time and makes sales calls or deals with an upset client will truly model a company’s values in a way that a memo or a poster of company values could not. Yes, it might be an entire afternoon, but it would be an investment. And they would get the added benefit of seeing the day-to-day pressures that their employees face, which may have changed since they walked the floor in those lower positions.

Revisit the training. This is a problem area I see in businesses all the time. The training, which is supposed to be a step-by-step instruction of the best practices according to leadership, is often based on the best case scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s only when the worst case situations “hit the fan” that the true attitudes of the business (that invisible leadership quotient) comes out. I have yet to see employee training that talks about when ALL the lines are ringing and there’s a line-up of customers that stretches out the door. Sit down with upper management and tear apart the training. You will keep some of it, but you’ll have to revise it to include the worst-case scenario stuff.

Make sure managers have the pulse of their subordinates. They shouldn’t just create quarterly targets and know their department’s numbers, they need to know their people. They need to build professional and respectful relationships with their staff. They need to model and communicate. I’m not talking about creating a “one-big-happy-family” mentality; I’m talking about understanding who in the department is a strength and who is a liability.

Good leadership, in my opinion, is about selling to your employees the idea that they can receive job security and a paycheck by putting in 7.5 quality hours each day. (Well, that’s a start, but it needs to grow from there).

Managers: read Gitomer‘s The Sales Bible and think of your employees as your prospects. And, here’s a good link on management from Harvard Business Publishing you should read.