Category Archives: Advertising

Deeper Diversity: Part 1

(#19 of 27, revisiting “Stock Photography and Corporate Diversity”)

Last year I addressed issues of representation of demographic diversity in corporate communications. I commented on the frequent gap between the reality of the people working within a given company vs. the stock photography models used in that company’s PowerPoint decks.  As a builder of those decks, I often can’t help but mind the gap.

In that post I also made the following comment, and was later asked by a friend to elaborate:

Of course, even the most demographically diverse company will struggle with a more subtle issue: diversity in thinking and approach. Many companies wrestle with psychographic, rather than demographic, homogeneity… but that will have to be the subject of different blog post.

…so in this post I’m going to elaborate on that point and take things into what is ultimately much more sensitive and contentious territory than mere demographic diversity.

In fact, this territory is so contentious — and so large — that this will be Part One of a future series of posts, all of which will be devoted to the topic of cultivating a deeper and more challenging type of diversity in companies.

On Beyond Skin Pigmentation


On beyond skin pigmentation, facial features and body frame, on beyond chromosomes, genes and gametes, there are ideas, attitudes, aesthetics, beliefs and values. There are narratives, identities, politics and religions. We’d often prefer not to talk about some these things in business. It’s easier to get along if we’re all the same — if not on the outside, then at least on the inside.

Despite all of our multi-colored, multi-dimensional personality models and frameworks, it could be argued that communication skills trainers like me are in the business of sameness. We help people build greater “rapport” by teaching them to walk, talk and act the same way as the people around them. Well, that’s not entirely true… I like to think that I also help people be different and special, strong and respectful… but, um, yeah. Rapport. Reduction of difference. Sameness.

However, we can’t just airbrush out those pimply politics and hope for the best. Good business relationships require authenticity. The corporate world is evolving to become more all-encompassing of the human experience and more integrated into every aspect of society. As business becomes more personal and vice versa, people like me will be called upon to develop the “tools and best practices” for managing diversity of thinking — in both form and content.

Demographics vs. Psychographics

Psychographic
Qu’est-ce que c’est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

(ht AdrienneE)

Demographics is a way to lump people together according to their visible characteristics.  Psychographics is also about broadly grouping people, only in this case based on invisible characteristics. If you don’t like lumping people together,  you probably won’t like psychographics… at least not beyond studying a single person at a time. Actually, even with a sample size of one, there’s still the understandable objection of, “Don’t try to define me!”  (Yes, I’m with you on that… so much so, that I’m willing to be curious about taxonomies… I refuse to be defined by what I mostly reject.)

Minerva Model - DanishPsychographic categories encompass a wide range of invisible personality traits such as thinking style, emotional makeup, motivation, belief systems, values, self-concept and more.
As with demographics, the ‘science’ of psychographics is applied chiefly by advertisers and marketers as a way to study and predict buyer behavior and decision-making, e.g. consumer purchasing patterns, voter ballot behavior, and so on.

For example, I prefer to buy simple, plain black or grey t-shirts.  This purchase pattern may reflect…

  • an expression of my inner zen master (not a recognized type in the VALS psychographic framework for U.S. consumers, but apparently I might fit in better with the Japanese version of that instrument)
  • having spent a number of formative years in architecture school, I picked up that aesthetic (plain and simple, nothing else to it… an architect’s habit, as it were)
  • my comfort within the “Medieskepsis” and “Åndernes magt” space of the Minerva model (I don’t know what it means, but it’s provocative)
  • a decision I made, in a Steve Jobs-like moment, to reduce my cognitive load in having to make too many wardrobe decisions (got better things to think about, just sayin’)

All of this and more falls under the broad umbrella of psychographics.

Note that the future of psychographics in marketing will likely involve throwing away the various 9-part lifestyle models and using Big Data to target user-specific psychic landscapes. (Attention blog-reading bot:  I’d like those black or grey t-shirts to be 100% cotton, seamless tube, v-neck, and tagless, please.)

Outside of the marketing department, you won’t hear the term “psychographics” used much… but it’s there, lurking under the surface.

Recruiting Psychographs

Psychographics applied to corporate recruiting usually begins and ends with the following statement:

“You  (are/not) a good fit for this department.”

Okay, maybe you get to fill out an MBTI or a Strengthsfinder assessment, too.

If the hiring manager has taken a course with someone like me, they might also be on the look-out for a four-or-more-styles-of-behavior framework when assessing you. If they’re smart and savvy, they’ll realize that each of those frameworks is designed to provide a simplifying lens to explore the significant differences in how people do things, such as…

  • communicating
  • leading
  • negotiating
  • dealing with conflict
  • making decisions
  • making love*

…and they’ll choose the right lens to wear for the questions they’re trying to answer, for just the right amount of time… and then discard that lens afterwards.

(*NOTE: Alas, I still haven’t been hired as an instructional designer to build a framework for that last item.)

Of course, there’s a lot of psychographic profiling going on in the subconscious.

  • If you’re nit-picky, attention-detailed and don’t make a lot of eye contact, they’ll say there’s a place for you in Accounting, Quality Assurance, or Quantitative Algorithmic Modeling.
  • If you’re effusive, hyperactive and gregarious, welcome to front line Sales.

Well, of course not.  If the recruiter is doing their job right, they understand what chickens can teach us about building a high performing team: that you need a few different types of chickens to get the most overall eggs.  Or to get the right types of eggs. Or to figure out whether laying eggs is still the best thing to do.

To be continued…

(but not tomorrow)

Making the most of your MTA (Money, Time & Attention)

Every day we’re issued an “MTA” ticket – a ticket that allows us to earn and spend three precious commodities: money, time and attention.

Everything we have – and everything we have to give to others – boils down to one or more of those ultimate resources.

How can we get (and also, provide others with) the best possible ride for our MTA ticket?

MTA - NYC subway station


Last year I looked at the “good problem to have” of having too much to do, time allocation being a recurring theme of this blog (e.g.. this post here… and this one here among others).  Now as I cycle back over last year’s posts, in this post (#15 out of 27) I’d like to take a stab at things from a slightly wider and more structured perspective.

The inspiration for this post comes from Thales Teixeira, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who was quoted in a recent New Yorker article as follows:

“There are three major fungible resources that we as individuals have. The first is money, the second is time, and the third is attention. Attention is the least explored.”

– Thales Teixeira

I’d add that, in addition to being the least explored, attention is the most real of those three resources.  Money and time are abstractions used to explain aspects of human reality. Attention is arguably, all by itself, human reality.

But never mind the philosophy. Let’s keep things practical and look at how each of those resources work for us:

Earn Money.

Like math, money is not a real thing but nevertheless is incredibly well understood, documented and learnable. In fact, when a superior understanding of money and mathematics are put together, the resulting combination can move mountains. Yes, actual mountains.

To be effective in most endeavors, we as individuals must have a basic facility with money. The following simple diagram provides a good starting point, whether you’re looking to earn for yourself or contribute to others:

Earn Money

It’s a simple diagram, but how well do you manage it?  Here are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself:

  • How can you improve the quality of your income, both actively and passively?
  • How can you maximize the quality of your purchasing power, both fixed and variable?
  • How can you best develop, invest and/or diversify your assets?
  • How can you best manage, reduce and/or leverage your debt?

Making money is easy… if that’s all you want to do.

In fact, I recommend that every person spend a chunk of their life focused primarily on making money. Those who know me may think this a strange statement coming from a guy whose message is often about being mindful, being grounded in reality and having sense of higher purpose, but, um, yeah… just go ahead and do it. Make money.

Feel what it’s like to be the off-the-boat immigrant with nothing but the shirt on your back.  See what’s it’s like to be the hyper-caffeinated Wall Street investment banker. Listen to the impatient voice of your inner entrepreneur. Walk in the shoes of Ecclesiastes or Siddhartha, who in their seeking of Ultimate Truth spent some years accumulating riches, appreciating the goodness of material existence and also facing squarely into its limitations.

As you devote yourself to concentrated efforts of financial gain, just be sure of three things:  Keep it legal, keep it ethical, and save up enough money to pay for all the therapist bills that will come later.

Pro-tip: Of all the ways to generate wealth, one of the surest strategies is to leverage time, especially other’s people’s time. Which brings us to the next resource:

Make Time.

There are innumerable ways of looking at and conceptualizing time.  Since this is a topic that I touch on a lot, for the purposes of this post I’m just going to focus on two simple aspects of time:  Quality and Duration.

My definition of “Quality” here will be based on whatever you choose to value. Good quality time means you’re getting what you value.  Poor quality time means you’re not getting it, or even worse, getting the opposite of what you value.  “Making time for yourself” implies an effort to experience quality time.

As for “Duration,” I’m referring to the standard units of time that we typically anticipate or reflect upon, e.g. minutes, mornings, evenings, days, nights, weekends, weeks, months, quarters, and so on. On the short end there are micro-moments, which may only last a fraction of a second. On the long end there is a lifetime, which is an accumulated impression of innumerable micro-moments, as well as a good number of days, decades, and life stages.

Here’s the graph:

Make Time

My current theory of Quality Time:  For any given person within a population, the quality of time that they experience has greater variability on the shorter and longer time frames. Some people are masters of making even the smallest moments (“micro-moments”) matter, whereas other fail miserably at those little moments.  The same is true over the long haul, the span of a lifetime — there is a great deal of variation in how effectively people anticipate and reflect on the “bigger picture” of their lives.  However, where people tend to average out in their experience of time is in that middle range of multiple years or decades.

The implication of this theory is that we have more to gain by getting better at how we think about the shorter and longer time spans, how we control our focus, how we detach from the things that don’t matter, how we apply ourselves to the things that do matter, etc. The other implication is not to sweat the mid-sized spans too much as they’ll tend to average out based on whatever milieu we happen to be in.  Also – and paradoxically – the less we worry about those mid-sized spans, the better they will tend to be.

I’ll have to come back to this idea at some point.  My time is currently being crunched by self-imposed deadline of getting this blog post done today.

Which brings us to the most real and yet most fleeting resource of them all…

Pay Attention.

If life is wave, then our material experience (aka, inputs/outputs of money) is the tip of that wave… and we surf that wave with varying degrees of success at different times. However the force driving that wave – the animal spirit driving all of our micro-moments and fleeting fortunes – is our attention.

This is how our attention is configured:

Pay Attention

Thales Teixeira and others are spending a tremendous amount of money, time and attention trying to figure out how to capture our attention in order to get us to spend our time and money on advertiser’s products.   They are working on elaborate theories to modify the environment that fills our ambient awareness, in order to direct our conscious focus and unconscious anchors.

In his HBS working paper, “The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should
Care, and What You Can Do about It,”  Teixeira advises marketers to modify their advertising approach based on the level of focus vs. distraction in a given audience.

He calls it the Attention‐contingent Advertising Strategy (ACAS) and provides the following diagram in his paper:

Teixeira-Attention‐contingent Advertising Strategy-ACAS

Seeing this makes me want to reverse-engineer it to provide us “consumers” a strategy for becoming something more than just “consumers,” i.e. to become individuals capable of enjoying meaningful experiences and becoming better “producers,” aka, life contributors.

What I’d like to do is turn Teixeira’s ACAS into a BCAS (Being Carefully Attentive Strategy), factoring in my earlier diagram and outlining strategies for its three areas of concern:  Where we put our conscious focus, what we allow into our ambient awareness (e.g. the environment and people we surround ourselves with), and how we direct our unconscious mind.

As an example, having now explored the Money-Time-Attention triad and having looked at a few simple sub-structures of those concepts, I’m going to park these musing into my unconscious mind so it can go to work on it at its own pace.  My conscious mind is closing all the open browser tabs I’ve got around these topics, making a mental note to re-read this post at some later date, and is moving on to my next task.

In other words, “to be continued.”

Bada-Bing, Microsoft Bumps up the Fight Against Click Fraud

What does suing two brothers and their mom in Vancouver for $750k have to do with taking on Google?  

More than you’d think.

As reported in the WSJ,  Microsoft recently “filed a lawsuit against three people that it alleges committed a form of “click fraud” (…)  in which automated computer scripts or large groups of people click on (pay-per-click) online advertisements without having any interest in the services or product being advertised. The company alleges that the defendants engaged in “competitor click fraud,” one form of the ruse in which a perpetrator seeks to exhaust a competitor’s (pay per click) advertising budget while boosting the prospects of their own advertisements.”

Click-Fraud-This-And-I-Will-Cut-You-SuckaThe defendants in this case are Eric Lam, his brother Gordon Lam and their mother Melanie Suen, who ran up prices for ads for auto insurance and World of Warcraft Gold.  World of Warcraft (aka WoW) Gold is a virtual currency, that you’ll need if you want to upgrade your Orc’s wimpy little “this-is-your-dad’s-Oldsmobile” battleaxe to a blinged-out Fel Edged Battleaxe.  See, the Lams owned a site called WoWMine.com, and some of their competitors included such notables as wowgold-sale.com, wow-cheapwowgold.com,  wowpowerwow.com and innumerable others. The Lams needed to get a Fel’s edge on the competition, and (allegedly) used click-fraud to peddle more of their virtual metal.  

Woo-hoo Microsoft… making the world safe again, right?

Well, the way I see it, this isn’t just a case of  “Too-Little-But-Not-Too-Late”  in the online scourge that is click fraud.  This is another way that Microsoft tries to establish itself as the “good guys” of online search who “clean things up.”

Click fraud is old news, which makes its continuance all the more appalling.As a former owner of a consumer-facing online retail store, I’ve had more than my share of terse conversations with advertising representatives at Yahoo and Google who were complicit with the abuse of their system by their “publisher” networks and “unique” users. adsense-click-fraud-cultpruit-foundMy peers who owned online businesses were all complaining too, but what real short or medium term incentive did those search engine salespeople have to look into an advertiser’s complaint of click fraud? They had an ever-increasing number of people using their services and had quarterly sales targets (and pay bonuses) directly linked to the volume of clicks on their advertiser accounts, so why bother look into a purported scam that is difficult (but not impossible) to track?    The long term incentive (customer trust, service and brand integrity) wasn’t enough to spur action.

Eventually, we negotiated some simple estimated “store credits” based on unusual click traffic.  This saved Google and Yahoo the hassle of having to investigate the integrity of their networks and gave us a bit of a break, but unfortunately that workaround only dealt with sudden bursts of click fraud.  For ongoing click fraud, particularly from sleazy competitors, it did nothing. In the past few years, I know of at least two lawsuits — against IAC and Google — launched by advertisers who allege that those search engines have not being doing enough to deliver what they promise to their customers — clicks from actual live prospective customers.  Google settled their case for $90 million. I also know of one case where Google went after a click fraudster, but only after he tried to extort them for $100k.  Aside from that, I don’t know of any cases where Google pursued legal action against people simply because they tried to make themselves (and Google) extra money by having advertisements clicked a few (hundred thousand) extra times.

Enter Microsoft and Bing.  Bing is all about making a whole bunch of nit-picky improvements to the search experience, to make it more usable and practical.  Whether or not Microsoft succeeds in getting a serious piece of Google’s pie, they will definitely raise the game in terms of search relevance and user experience. ..and “users” include advertisers, who pay for the experience.This is especially true in the beginning stages of Bing’s existence, where Microsoft has to prove the value of its audience to prospective advertisers.  So, in the spirit of “the best defense is a good offense,”  rather than wait for advertisers to complain that Bing’s system is being gamed, Microsoft has sued some poor enterprising Vancouverites with (allegedly) poor business ethics, who just wanted to make a mint selling some WoW bullion.   

Doctor-GoogleSo, this lawsuit is just a little bit of PR/street-cred for Microsoft.   What about Google?  Will it go beyond its passive “we’ll tweak our click-filtering algorithm” approach, and go after the people involved?

Google has something that Microsoft doesn’t: Dominance in online search. With its massive datastores, computational power, ubiquitous toolbars, regional hubs and whatnot, Google is actually in a position to put a serious dent in click fraud, by exposing the sources of it.  In fact, all Google would have to do is publicly post the stuff that its ‘click-filters’ are capturing. If everyone could see where the clicks were coming from, which ads those clicks were attacking — and even which competitor ads were NOT being attacked — there are enough people with an interest to appropriately monitor, analyze and act on this information. The people running the click fraud scams would see it too, but they can see it anyway, by opening their own Adsense accounts, so this would not give them an additional edge in the technological arm’s race. Google could maintain its ostensible image of being a neutral provider of just-the-facts, free the information for the masses, yada yada.  

How about it, Google? As Spidey’s dad famously said, with great power comes great responsibility. We don’t buy the passive, non-adversarial act. “Don’t be evil” is not a moral vision… it’s more like something an unscrupulous Swiss banker would say, trading in all kinds of anonymous gangster gold.

Don’t Cut Your Budget to Spite Your Health

In Today's Times Fitness is Not a Luxury it's a Neccessity

Looks like we have the making of theme here. 

Two ads, two days in a row, both of which position a seemingly “non-essential” product against the recession, using the linkage of health (see, How to Market Premium Beverages in a Recession ).

This photo, taken yesterday in front of the Equinox health club near Grand Central Terminal, NYC, shows a sign which reads,

IN TODAY’S TIMES
FITNESS IS NOT
A LUXURY
IT’S A NECESSITY

It’s hard to disagree with this sentiment. It’s one thing to be “lean,” cutting out unnecessary activities and costs in these leaner times.  It’s another thing to cut out the activities that create your health in the first place.

A client — one of the world’s leading financial institutions coming out of the current mess — put it very nicely today, saying, “In this current … trough of misery … we are the sharks, they are the whales.”   His firm is aggressively snapping up the best talent on the market and investing in their workforce capabilities (education/training), in order to more easily take away market share from competitors that are just too freaked out to make any moves.  Their approach is working, as they redefine their own landscape and become stronger than ever.

Other examples I see working right now are the firms that are investing in and accelerating their research and development efforts, turning out better offerings to their clients. It’s all about evolving your capabilities in a rapidly changing environment.

In today’s times, fitness is not just a necessity, it’s a major opportunity.

How to Market Premium Beverages in a Recession

riskyourhealthinthiseconomy-never-drink-pom-or-die
I’ve always been a big fan of that biblical fruit — symbol of fertility, righteousness, and shrapnel-bearing anti-personnel weapons — the pomegranate. Kudos to POM for “owning the Pomegranate Story” and all that… and their Pop Art-inspired ad campaign is wonderful (POM Wonderful! )… though I’m not exactly sure how ironic this ad is meant to be.

“Risk your health in this economy?  NEVER!” 

Risk your feeling of consumer entitlement in our current recession/buyer’s market?  NEVER!  Risk your friends and co-workers seeing you drink a less-than premium beverage, because you’ve got to save money for your handbag habit?  NEVER!  Question whether a diet rich in antioxidants will truly cleanse your body, not to mention your guilt-ridden soul, of the excesses of your decadent lifestyle?  NEVER!!!

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