Tagged: viral marketing

Angling for a story

Angling for a Story: Making Old Ideas New

Cynics say that the best ideas have been plucked to death. To me, originality is constant and ongoing because human society always in a state of constant regeneration.

You find that there are dozens of quotes that observe how history repeats itself. Most take the harsh view that humanity cannot or will not change course (usually something simple) to alter a predictable outcome (usually something gloomy). A few philosophers (Carlos Castaneda for one) have suggested that if you open your mind and learn from history, you can change what may seem like a predictable outcome. Therefore, if originality seems wanting, we must to look closer to find new ideas.

That’s how it goes in writing: there’s always a new story in an old one. For instance, there’s nothing interesting about “dog bites man,” but the world wants to know when there’s something new about the dog we didn’t know before – it has only three legs, it was a big dog, a small dog, a dog that jumped from a 2nd story window to attack the man – or that the man bit the dog. You may say this is “spinning” a story, but I believe that “angling” is a better word because it describes a method.

The easiest demonstration for “angling” might be found in the ancient art of “plank-making.” Yep. Lumber.

A master plank cutter studies a log of prime lumber carefully before he cuts it into planks. He studies the grain and other features to predict how it will produce certain characteristics in final product. He may cut into knots or grain to make interesting patterns. He may include rot or burns for a splash of color. He may cut into straight grain to produce strong and rigid planks.

In my master marcom toolkit, “angling” is a discovery process that may be deployed for content development, messaging, and social media. You can apply it to any story or narrative. Change the angle of attack by adding a feature, a benefit, a concept, a human interest. With a new angle, you can set a new theme or reset opinions. New angles may help expand the artistic or emotional effect of the story. Seemingly negative points are often transformed because a new angle emphasizes a positive result. Normal and average situations evaporate because a  new angle produces a previously ignored or overlooked value.

Here’s an anecdote about literal angles from a retired PR practitioner who was once an account manager for Ruder Finn:

At the close of World War II, RCA Records announced that it was releasing an “unbreakable” phonograph record. Until that time, records had been made of clay and were very fragile. The new RCA record was made of vinyl, which was far more durable. To prove the invulnerability of the new record, a publicity executive conjured up a stunt to drop both types of platters from the top of the RCA building in downtown New York. The date was set and the press and public showed up in droves to see the platter splatter.

At the designated time, the president of RCA dropped the old clay record by its edge and it zipped straight down to the street and disintegrated on contact. Then came the new super-platter. He dropped it in the same way as its predecessor and, to everybody’s surprise, it too shattered like an old dinner plate. Facing public impalement or worse, the panicked publicity executive asked the stunned president to drop another vinyl record, “…but as you would if you were going to set it on a record player.” The change in aerodynamics caused the record to drift down to the waiting crowd, where it bounced off the pavement intact.

As you work for your angles, carefully survey where they may lead – look for the angles within angles. Dig up possible conflicts and beware of side-effects like unintentional contrasts that may cause problems later.

Remember to calibrate your words carefully. In the case of our intrepid publicity executive, a 90-degree change in his angle was enough to change the perspective of his story. He saved his neck and ended up with a great public demonstration. Things are not so easy for the rest of us, but his last-minute realization is worth remembering.

Here’s another way to look at angling. A good marcom pro never forgets the essential facts related to a product, service or event. So what do you do? Put them in bullet points in the middle of the paragraph? No. You fold them into personal, situational, and demonstrative narratives – more angles within angles.

With a personal angle, the facts have a  human touch (think ‘testimonial’ or ‘human interest’); a situational angle can involve an anecdote or two. Demonstrative angles are, for the most part, the weakest tool because they often fall on a list of features and benefits – which is okay, as long as the demonstration itself optimizes reader interest, not simply so that you can boast about a feature you think is cool or interesting.

That’s all for now.

About: Ray Wyman, Jr is a freelance public relations professional. Visit LinkedIN or Raywyman.com for more information.

Review: Good Guerrilla Marketing Basics – Geometry and Kinetics

“I don’t get how dressing up in a gorilla suit will help me sell this product.” – Anonymous Quote

BOOK_guerrilla-marketingLong before there were webpages and social media, there was Jay Conrad Levinson and his book Guerrilla Marketing. Introduced in 1984, the title itself was quickly adopted by marketing professionals. It registers as a noun in marcom jargon that describes nearly any off-the-beaten-path marketing tactic. New vehicles have given Levinson’s original theme greater scope, but nothing has really changed the core inspiration that all marketing is a matter of geometry and kinetics.

The term guerrilla marketing adopts the concept of irregular warfare used by smaller forces to gain advantage over a larger, and probably better equipped forces: small arms and surprise tactics like ambushing, infiltration and sabotage. That’s where the geometry comes in – probing for openings to your target audience, disrupting the playing field with a style of advertising that relies on unconventional strategies. Instead of a carefully sculpted ad schedule adorned with clever slogans, look for opportunities where you can shoehorn your message where it may have highest impact.

Levinson points the way to kinetics (i.e., potential movement) with the type of high energy surprise that makes a lasting impression on your target audience. Guerrilla tactics engages people on a more personal and memorable level than display ads and other ‘one-way’ communication. That’s why his toolkit includes methodologies like ambient marketing, word-of-mouth, buzz marketing, undercover marketing and viral marketing - all to achieve that high-energy encounter that produces conversion (e.g., transactions).

When Michael Wollner and I were working in the hospitality and lodging industry, we came across “touchpoint marketing” – a research model that focuses study on the minutia of the customer experience for opinion-forming behaviors; from branding all the way to direct contact with the customer. For instance, while researching guest behavior for a hotel chain, we found that people are more likely to form lasting impressions and opinions about the entire chain  based on the first two minutes at one location. We later found that the same can be said for all businesses. Within this geometry, we can triangulate audience attention by predicting the points that draws the most attention and produce positive kinetics from everyone we touch.

Levinson equips us with a cartload of other guerrilla ‘weapons’ and tactics to go with them. My best advice however is to use your creativity and a dab of common sense. He also believes that small organizations and entrepreneurs are probably better able to undertake his guerrilla tactics because they are usually closer to their customers and considerably more agile. That might have been true in the 80s when he wrote his book, but I don’t believe that to be the case now.

Any organization – no matter how large or small your company - can execute activities that generate high energy audience engagement and locking power with the target audience.

In order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the customer. It must build trust and support the customer’s needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits.

Among Levinson’s top guerrilla principles, I believe these SIX are the most relevant today:

1) Aim for more referrals and more transactions from existing customers – word-of-mouth is the best single greatest benefit of guerrilla marketing.

2) Establish a single strategy (e.g., increase unique page views, increase inquiries) and apply a combination of marketing methods in a single campaign; launch several campaigns (big and small).

3) Current technology is a tool, not the means to build your business. Learn all you can and utilize them to fulfill the goals in your strategy.

4) Aim small messages at individuals or small target markets; the smaller the better.

5) Message for the “opt-in” – not always to get the sale. Get the individual to accept you as a source of entertainment and information.

6) Go deep and long. Apply the concept of effective frequency and stick to your brand and messaging for long term effect.

Unfortunately, just about any non-traditional process has become “guerrilla.” As a result, many activities that people call ‘guerrilla’ are decidedly NOT guerrilla. More often than not, managers misuse the term to describe ways of doing things on the cheap. This is probably the largest distortion of the concept and why many would-be guerrillas fail.

Guerrilla marketing can be less expensive alternative to big dollar campaigns – but it is not a way to do cheap marketing. You still need great design and content that drives audience engagement; you still need to deploy imagination in places where other people have overlooked; you still need to be tasteful and mindful of your target audience. Which brings me to the 7th guerrilla principle that I added:

If you want penetration, the message must be relevant. If you want engagement with your audience, the message must be original. If you want referrals and transactions, the message must have impact.

So you want to slap stickers on a wall? Fine. But what if your sticker blends into a wallpaper of stickers from all the other so-called guerrillas who have come before you? Like the warfare tactic that spawned the idea, the action itself must be more than exhibition; it must carry a specific message, a call-to-action that triggers a reaction.

Good hunting!

About: Ray Wyman, Jr is a freelance public relations professional. Visit LinkedIN or Raywyman.com for more information.