Cure for ADRD (Attention Deficit Relational Disorder) announced!

Impactiviti Pharmaceuticals today announced the approval of Relativiti (aprillinate oneicus), a unique therapy for treating Attention Deficit Relational Disorder (ADRD).

ADRD is a syndrome that affects approximately 96% of all males, and is characterized by a lack of listening skills, a disinterest in spousal conversation, and an obsession with sports and beer at the expense of participating in interactive male-female relationships. The 4% not so afflicted are generally comatose at any given time.

“It’s a miracle!” proclaimed Sallie Mae Keelover, whose husband was a self-described poster child for ADRD. “He used to come home from work, sit in front of ESPN Sportscenter, and grunt unintelligible syllables in response to anything I said. I could have married a houseplant if I’d wanted that kind of response to my loving attention. Now, all I have to do is slip a few grams of Relativiti into his drink, and within minutes, he is gazing deeply into my eyes and asking about my day – he even empathizes when I tell him about the latest gossip from my girlfriends.”

Relativiti (pron. Ree-late-iv-i-tee) works by temporarily transforming testosterone to a new “hybrid hormone” called Testrogen, which enables the subject to maintain critical elements of his masculinity, while also experiencing more classic female relationship traits. As an added bonus, there is also a short-term memory loss while under the influence of Relativiti, so that subjects are not aware of the temporary shift into relational mode, thereby preserving their fragile sense of impervious manhood.

In Phase III clinical trials, 99.5% of spousal units reported immense satisfaction with the results of using Relativiti, while 0.0% of the test subjects were aware of what the heck was going on. Several spousal units dropped out due to Traumatic Stress Disorder or heart attack after seeing the drug’s effects, but these risks were deemed acceptable in light of the encouraging results produced. The Fooz and Drug Association (FDA), after a few grams of Relativiti were slipped into their drinking water during deliberations, sympathized with the plight of women everywhere and fast-tracked the drug through an unheard-of 6-hour approval process (clinical note: Relativiti has a half-life of ~7 hours). Side effects were mild and transient, including drinking ultra-light beer, reading People magazine, and having difficulty deciding which power tie to wear to work. These effects generally disappeared after activities such as firing up a loud chainsaw.

Impactiviti Pharmaceuticals has been barraged with requests for Relativiti ever since word of the approval leaked out via the newly established FDA Gossip-line blog. An emotional Steve Woodpuffin, President of Impactiviti Pharma, held a news conference during which he expressed his profound feelings for the half of the world which continually wrestles with the ravages of ADRD.

“It’s been difficult, all these years, seeing women suffer with men who, due to inbred Hormonal Imbalance Syndrome (HIS), could or would not communicate effectively. After seeing the soulful look in the eyes of our initial test subjects – their genuine interest in a non-directed conversation, their affectionate expressions of care, their readiness to drop all for the sake of helping with the dishes – we knew we were well on the way to solving one of the world’s ‘Big Ones.’ The fact that we’ll make boatloads of cash in the process has also not been lost on me,” stated Woodpuffin.

Relativiti will be available, by prescription only (or OTC, or on street corners) in three strengths – Big, Mega, and Ultra-Strength. It should be noted that use of Ultra-Strength, typically administered for truck drivers and Sumo wrestlers, may cause brief episodes of uncontrollable weeping. A new formulation, for men with sensitive skin, is also in the works.

For those spousal units who truly need to administer Relativiti “on the sly,” a special fast-dissolving powdered formulation is available for sprinkling into food or drink.

For more information, please see our pharma website at www.impactiviti.com. Or our branding website at www.stickyfigure.com. Oh, you’re already there. Well, happy first of April!

Brand Impactiviti now StickyFigure

For quite some time, I’ve been contemplating a name change for this blog, and this division of my business. It turns out that I need to create more of a separation between my pharma consulting division (Impactiviti), and my brand consulting work. So, welcome to StickyFigure!

Why that name? Simple – my goal is to figure out ways to make messages that stick. I was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s chapter in Freakonomics about “sticky” communications, and the subsequent book by Dan and Chip Heath entitled Made to Stick. These books pointed me more clearly in the direction that I was made for – communications that stick!

As Heard on The Street

This week, I was surprised to receive a phone call from a mainstream reporter (TheStreet.com), asking for my opinions on small business branding.

I guess I had a lot of pent-up ideas, because I found myself, quite uncharacteristically, letting loose a stream of thoughts and words.

Here’s the article on TheStreet.com website.

Impactiviti now on Small Business Branding blog

I have recently been asked to be a contributor to the Small Business Branding (SBB) blog. This blog features posts from a group of writers who are devoted to the art and science of branding and marketing, with a particular focus on smaller business.

Here is my first post. I look forward to fruitful collaboration with SBB and its growing audience!

Brand Memories

I was sitting at my desk today, riffling through old memory banks to try to identify brands from other eons of my life (childhood, teenage years, college, young adult) – something has to be very special and memorable to endure the decades.

Then, going to pick up some wine for tonight’s dinner, I saw a name that I hadn’t seen for many years. French Rabbit.

Back when my bride and I were relative newlyweds living in Nashville, and just discovering the pleasures of wine, there was a brand we bought frequently (both red and white) called French Rabbit. Why? Well, it was cheap. And reasonably drinkable, at that young stage in our pilgrimage.

Now they come in this funky new “tetra” packaging. It was still cheap, so for old time’s sake, I picked up a bottle box thingie of Merlot.

It’s red, it’s liquid, and it’s inoffensive. Would I buy it again? Nah – but I still enjoyed connecting with a brand from the past. Even if it was one of the earliest to do the “cute animal” thing for a label!

Treating workers like adults? What a concept!

From the San Jose Mercury News:

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When it comes to vacation, Netflix has a simple policy: take as much as you’d like. Just make sure your work is done.

Employees at the online movie retailer often leave for three, four, even five weeks at a time and never clock in or out. Vacation limits and face-time requirements, says Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, are “a relic of the industrial age.”

“The worst thing is for a manager to come in and tell me: `Let’s give Susie a huge raise because she’s always in the office.’ What do I care? I want managers to come to me and say: `Let’s give a really big raise to Sally because she’s getting a lot done’ – not because she’s chained to her desk.”

Across America, executives are searching for ways to keep experienced Baby Boomers at their companies and attract younger workers, many of whom are used to controlling which songs they listen to and where they get their news.

Netflix’s time off rules – or lack thereof – are part of a broad culture of employee autonomy instilled in the company when Hastings founded it a decade ago. The executives trust staffers to make their own decisions on everything – from whether to bring their dog to the office to how much of their salary they want in cash and how much in stock options. Workers are treated, as Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord likes to say, as adults.

“We want our employees to have great freedom – freedom to be brilliant or freedom to make mistakes,” Hastings said.

That might sound like executive blather, but to hear employees tell it, on the way to almost $1 billion in sales last year, Netflix has made good on its promises to workers…(read the whole article).

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Best Buy has implemented a similar structure. I hope this “virus” spreads. Actually measuring by results, instead of punch cards…I can hardly think of a better way to attract and keep the best people, and get optimal output!

No Wimpy Wines, part deux

After my recent post on Ravenswood Winery’s marketing approach, I exchanged a few messages with Becky Carroll, who recently wrote up her (very positive) experience with Ravenswood on her blog, Customers Rock!

A not-so-regular marketing campaign

The Wall Street Journal’s Marketing section this morning has a very interesting article about P&G’s new marketing approach for Metamucil, the fiber supplement typically marketed for “regularity.”

Now, they want to tap into the endless well of vanity/health/beauty dollars by re-positioning it as a product whereby you can “Beautify Your Inside.”

From the article:

Nowhere do the ads mention “regularity” or “constipation,” as the old ones did. Instead, a voiceover coos that Metamucil does more than “cleanse your body,” and explains it is useful in reducing cholesterol and fighting heart disease. “Just add Metamucil to your already diva-conscious diet, and your insides will be haute, haute, haute,” say the print ads that will start this spring, featuring a young, slim model with the caption, “Drop-dead gorgeous guts.”

“When you feel healthy on the inside, it really does affect how you project yourself on the outside, and how you really look,” says David Corr, executive creative director for Publicis Groupe, the agency that created the Metamucil ads. “Sure you want to put on a nice dress, but why wouldn’t you want to tone your insides, too?”

I have three things to say about this morning’s marketing read:

1. P&G’s approach is brilliant. I predict that it will succeed. People will grasp at anything to try to feel both beautiful and healthy, so why not some intestinal mascara?

2. The WSJ did a great job of tantalizing to the article by putting an enticing picture up on the masthead, with a lead-in to the article entitled, “Why P&G sees Beauty in a Laxative.” Great blurb – somebody there has been digesting the book Made to Stick.

3. This whole thing about inner beauty via fiber intake is a crock, of course. It also leads to some imaginatively funny alternative taglines, most of which I cannot write in this blog.

Well, I’d better stop here – time to shower, shave, down some castor oil, and face the world!

Giving Citi some credit

It’s easy to pick on the foibles of various companies when they do something wrong. But it’s always nice to point out when a company does something right.

I recently got a Citibank credit card. I had a minor issue to clear up, so I called the toll-free number shown on the card. From there, FOUR things went right:

1. Almost immediately on the automated phone system, the option was given to reach a human being. Having just yesterday been through touch-tone purgatory with my ISP, this was a refreshing change.

2. A person picked up right away. On a Saturday morning. Nice.

3. As I explained the situation, she instantly understood the issue and said she’d take care of it. No fuss, no muss. Nice job, Yvonne.

4. Then, when I mentioned one slight anomaly on the website when I logged in, she said she’d have the web person take care of it right away.

How to build customer appreciation and loyalty? Here’s a good 4-part starting point!

New DVD – it’s in the cards

One of my sons just came home with the new James Bond DVD (Casino Royale). Ah, but this was no ordinary DVD packaging. This oversized box contained, not only the 2-disc movie edition, but also 2 decks of cards (with Casino Royale “branding”) plus one high-quality poker chip.

I’ve always been a fan of “enduring” give-aways – swag that you can’t bring yourself to throw away because it is perceived to be too valuable, too useful, too unique, or too attractive. Pens – too much competition. Labeled candies – barely any shelf life. But these playing cards won’t be easy to toss out. My Impactiviti tile coasters – too nice to toss. I also find it very difficult to toss pads of writing paper – I still have some from conferences years back.

If you’re going to give out a goodie, make it something hard to part with – be sure it passes the “toss test”!

A keen grasp of the obvious

I saw this pathetic example of empty verbal calories in the WSJ today. Read the following sentence and make a mental score, on a scale of 1-100, of the brainpower expended to generate this stellar insight:

“We see consumers as the most important part of the fashion food chain because they are the ones who are ultimately buying the product,” says (I’ll leave out the name and company to spare the embarrassment).

Golly gee whiz – you mean the actual BUYER is the crucial link here? Why, oh why didn’t I pursue that MBA so I’d have been instructed in these finer points!?!

And by the way, am I the only one in the world that actually despises the term “consumer“? I find the term to be demeaning, depersonalizing, and ultimately unhelpful. Problem is, I have yet to come up with a different term that somehow also incorporates the ideas of intelligent decision-making and well as usage. Customer, client, user, purchaser – all of them have flaws and limits as a general term, though they are not as offensive as consumer. Anyone else have ideas for a “consumer replacement”?

Chuck talks

Great billboard put up by Charles Schwab, as we approach tax season. Very simple, very effective:

IRA. Or IRS.

What else needs to be said?! Punchy and compelling message, with 8 letters. Fabulous.

Are your ideas Made to Stick?

This will be the best business book I’ll read all year. I know that already.  And if you need to communicate with other people (who doesn’t?), it may be one of your top picks also.

Made to Stick has the telling subtitle, Why some ideas survive and others die. The main thesis is this: there are ways to package your ideas that allow them to stick in the minds of your audience. Building on a key concept (“stickiness”) from Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book, The Tipping Point, authors Chip and Dan Heath uncover the anatomy of ideas that embed themselves into the minds and hearts of people.

 The book is clearly written, very approachable, and filled with memorable examples that, of course, exemplify the main intent of the book. The principles outlined are nothing earth-shatteringly new, but they are presented in such a way as to provide a practical call to arms for more skillful and creative expression.

According to the authors, communication that sticks needs to maximize simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional connection, and the use of stories. When you think of some of the world’s best communicators, you see the fingerprints of these practices all over their preserved productions.

This is a passion of mine – distilling down to the core idea and expressing it well, whether in writing, public speaking, teaching, or any other format. I see this skill as the key success factor in creating good branding – but I think the principle applies equally to training, copywriting, and even parenting. I recommend this book highly to anyone who seeks to communicate more effectively.

No Wimpy Wines!

It’s hard to distinguish yourself as a winery. Apart from the wine elite who closely follow ratings and tastings and such, how you stand out among the masses who view a bewildering array of wine bottles on the shelf? How many people just give up and buy a red with an interesting label, because it was…a red with an interesting label?

Now, I buy a variety of different wines, and I do read ratings. If I had an unlimited budget, I fear how extravagant this habit could become (not that I would mind dealing with the temptation, don’t you know!). But I admit to a soft spot in my heart for Ravenswood Winery. Not only because they make some really nice reds (especially Zinfandels), but because they actually hit on a great branding approach.

Ravenswood’s tagline is No Wimpy Wines! Simple, memorable, and a bit sassy. While the elitist might consider this approach just a tad plebian, for the vast majority of wine buyers who are looking for a good quality, hearty wine, this is great branding. It makes Ravenswood stand out, and the phrases taps into something “aspirational” – after all, who wants ANYthing wimpy? Finally, it passes the T-shirt test (yes, I have one with the crossed-out Wimpy Wines on the back – it regularly accompanies me to the gym, silently promoting heart-healthy Ravenswood reds while I do my cardiovascular workout!)

Of course, it helps that the wine is good. And, since my brother-in-law lives not far from Ravenswood’s Sonoma vineyard, I had a chance to visit a while back, and their winery experience is memorable and enjoyable. By the way, they have one of the biggest, tastiest BBQ sauces you’ll ever want to try (Ragin’ Raven) – if you can manage to find it.

Does that mean that I ignore the lots of other wine choices available? Hardly. But it does mean that Ravenswood has accomplished what good marketing and branding is supposed to achieve – loyalty. Repeat business. Positive buzz. And a willingness to promote them, simply because they do it right.

Impactiviti scale:

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Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

Managing a P.R. disaster

JetBlue hit some serious turbulence with its recent stranded passenger fiasco. But the company that created so much good will and word-of-mouth success learned the best two words to use when you’ve stumbled – I’m sorry.

Something Seth Godin also rightly emphasizes. See post here. And, in a related but broader theme, taking responsibility isn’t a bad practice either.

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