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February 23, 2016





Good afternoon, my name is James, and this is the box that used to confine me. You might be wondering why I still carry it around with me. Well, although I didn’t realize it then, as you can see, my box is quite small. This is where my story begins.

Earlier in my career, it was not at all uncommon for me to be drawn into risk assessment and creative brainstorming meetings. After a while I begin to notice that about midway through each of the meetings, someone would invariably say, “This is really important, and nothing we are coming up with is helping. We’ve got to start thinking out of the box to find a solution.”

Although I actively participated at least as much as everyone else, and usually came up with some pretty great ideas, this whole out-of-the-box thing began to weigh on me. What did it really mean? I started thinking, “How can I begin thinking outside of the box if I don’t even know what my box is?” That was it! I needed to study my box.

So, after carefully thinking it through, I realized “my box” was really just a metaphor that meant something like, “How I have been programed over time to consider, process and respond in the same way to the same stimuli.” That is, I have restricted the dimensions of my analytical and creative processes to a narrow furrow that stretches out before me in a straight line, or as some might call it, a rut.

I must apologize, though, as it seems I have inadvertently mixed my metaphors. We were speaking of boxes, not furrows. So, in returning, I think we can say that my box is really a box, with fixed dimensions, and there I was, comfortably sitting within it. We can also confirm that it has a lid. Everyone agrees that it is possible to poke your head out to look for solutions that cannot be found inside your box.

As I noted earlier, my box was pretty small. That was not a problem, though, as I was nice and comfy within it. Once I learned that I could peer out of it when necessary, I settled back and carried on as usual. That is, until my little box began to shrink.

In looking back, I now realize that every time I poked my head up to look for out-of-the-box solutions, it was not the box that shrank, it was me growing a little larger. This continued for some time, until I was finally so cramped that I concluded I could no longer stay in this box. I needed to build another one, a larger one.

I began construction, and of course, I used the materials from my little box to get started. This is when it happened. I found myself standing outside of the box looking down at it. I noticed it was made mostly of very sound, sturdy materials. Of course, there were weak points, especially where the sides fit together. But that is not really what struck me.

Where did we come up with the idea that we are all confined in our little boxes, or that these boxes serve us quite well until something really important confronted us? As I stood there, I thought, these so-called boxes were not designed to confine us; neither are they the fixed dimensions that really define us. They are constructed of ideas, truths, aspirations and experiences that over time, we have put to the test. They are substantial and sound, and the principles that we draw from them have aided us greatly as we have made our way down the path to growth and the process of maturation.

Is it not, then the metaphor that creates the conflict? Who wants to live tucked inside a box, even if it does have a lid? That sounds more like an end-of-life place to repose. What if we reconsider the concept of the box as really being that set of personal presuppositions (personal beliefs that I have come to accept as foundational) that can, but do not have to restrict my thoughts, vision, and imagination? Ah, yes, now we are getting somewhere.

There is nothing wrong with adopting personal presuppositions. They are the natural, healthy byproduct of living, learning and growing. Only when they are left to harden and encrust around us as barnacles do they become constricting. Rather, they are designed to form a living pathway to inspire aspirations of deeper understanding, and fresh, imaginative and creative applications of that understanding.

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So, here I am, standing beside my little box. It is a reminder to me that the path before me is overflowing with opportunities for growth. My understanding is being stretched beyond its limits daily, and my dreams and aspirations ride along a path that is refreshed daily.

Oh, yes, and now when I am prodded with that oft repeated line, “We’ve got to start thinking out of the box to find a solution”, I respond, “There is no box.”


building community

February 17, 2016





“If you build it, they might come. Those that do, might continue to come, but only if they like what you built. However, if you invite them to build it with you, some will come, then others, and others because they are sure to like what you are building together.”  -jb


super powers

February 3, 2016


“I am a discerning customer who considers most advertising to be misleading.

I am not a brand enthusiast, and only tolerate marketing when I deem it necessary to research products and services I am reviewing for purchase. I have no emotional connection with any specific manufacturers or branded providers. I resent being referred to as a consumer, and I resist all efforts to corral me into any form of herd conditioning. I am a skeptic.”

Somewhere, hidden deep inside each of us is this person, independent, intelligent, self-sufficient, self-confident, self-directed, self-absorbed, and untouchable. I want these core traits to be my shield against all who would attempt to manipulate me. I don’t really consciously desire to become that person, but when I see them display these super powers on screen or on the pages of my favorite novels, I somehow feel empowered, if only for the moment.

But are they really super powers? Well, no, they’re not. They are more learned defense mechanisms that we instinctively develop along our winding path. But, defense from what? We are put together in such a way that our decisions must be the result of the interaction of our mind, emotions, conscience, and will. That is, I must deliberate on the pertinent information presented, consider how I feel about it, have a sense of whether I’m comfortable with it, and then finally make a decision regarding it.

Any attempt to short-circuit this natural process is sensed as manipulation and a personal violation. My initial reaction is to reject such efforts. Although I am open to be led through my decision-making process, I am personally offended by attempts to manipulate me. Truth be told, however, I cannot begin to count the times I have succumbed to these manipulative tactics.

Therein lies the primary cause of our over-developed defense tactics. We either become highly suspect of any suggestion of being led along, or desensitized to even hearing the piper’s flute. Regardless, we lose a lot in the process. How so? In our reaction to these slips of judgment we are allowing our power of discernment to become hardened into disgruntled disbelief, and our preferences to become closed to only those tastes and experiences that we have already tried and proven. Our wills end up being routed, not by external manipulation, but by fear of its possibility.

Advertising and marketing, at their best is the presentation of a universe of options to be discovered, tried, and proven. Inherent in that presentation is a path that is designed to guide you into exercising your judgment as well as spark your imagination. The advertiser’s goal is to sell you on their offering, not trick you into falling for it.

You are confronted with these presentations a thousand times a day. Why not put to task some of your real super powers by paying closer attention to a few of the more popular advertising campaigns. Exercise your power of discernment to see if you can unpack how they are put together. How is basic information about their offering woven into the overall narrative? How and at what point is your emotional bias drawn in?

Can you discern a logical path that is leading you to make a decision regarding how you feel about the offering? Once you recognize it, do you feel that it was manipulative, or was it through engagement with your natural process of decision-making?

Effective advertising is designed to work with you by providing what you need to feel good about the decisions you make. The more you exercise critical discernment, the more you will be prepared to interact both with the message and the offer. You will also be far less likely to become disgruntled and closed to any hint of inspiration that may be found in the message. Pay attention, or as they say, “Pay the Piper.”

how to be heard in a crowded space

January 18, 2016

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You had this amazing idea of how to turn your passion into a viable business.

This is what you have dreamed of for as long as you can remember. You and your two equally passionate partners have been working night and day for close to a year preparing for your launch. It’s time to turn that passion into a marketing strategy. Where do you begin?

Consider what you have to say that’s worth hearing

  • That is, you must have an actual message to share before you begin to engage the public. The message is to provide information and create value perception centered in your core identity, your brand. The information you share tells a story that helps the public to understand who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Your story is much more than information, it is brought to life by the passion that first gave birth to your dream, and continues to energize you. You believe that message because it is real and true and what you are building with your own hands.
  • You either have something that is worth hearing, or you don’t have a dream, a story, or even a real identity. Your message taps into that true story and speaks directly to real

Consider your target audience

  • Your audience is composed of the universe of those who are most likely to resonate with your message. They are actually potential customers, however at this initial stage, it is more conducive to consider them an audience. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of simply targeting sales rather than building a core response base. It is also too easy simply to start hawking your goods, rather than sharing your message.
  • You will be targeting a core audience, which can simply be identified as having an established history of, or predisposition towards engaging with brands offering similar products and services as yours. If you truly know and understand the brand you are building, it won’t be difficult to identify and qualify your target audience.
  • When you connect with this audience, your initial goal is to involve them in your story, so that they catch a sight of your vision, integrity and passion. That is your value proposition, and it is what will build your business.

Those who are already listening to you should be spoken to directly

  • You already have a core following, or you wouldn’t have gotten this far. Hopefully, you have been sharing your story as your dream was taking shape, and you’ve seen that following grow with you. This is your core audience, and actually your most valuable resource. They already love your vision and want your brand to become successful. They will share your message because they know you live that message. They have already experienced your integrity and passion, and openly support its veracity.
  • You must always speak directly and personally to your core support. That core group will continue to grow as long as you demonstrate your support and honest appreciation of them.

Those closest to you are more likely to hear you than those at a distance

  • Locality should always be your highest priority when sharing your message. If your target audience has to travel 25 minutes to test your offerings, there is far less likelihood that you will draw many from that group. Although you may pull and retain some as periodic destination shoppers, your core support will be local.
  • This does not mean that you should neglect casting your net more widely. You should just be wise in how you allocate your advertising dollars.

Those who have the most in common with those who are listening should be spoken to in the same manner

  • Once you have proven and established your core, you are in a much better position to understand the most likely audience that really connects with what you have to offer. These “look-a-likes” may at this point be spoken to directly and personally in the same manner as your core audience. The only difference is that their message will have an invitational offer.

Those most likely to listen are more easily persuaded if addressed in a manner in which they are accustomed

  • This has to do as much with the style and tone of the messaging as it does the mix of media used to broadcast that message. There are those who prefer email or text, while others want printed direct mail, television, radio or newspaper. And, be sure to make social media one of your highest priorities. There is no medium you have available that can rival this close, personal connection to keep your message fresh and inviting. Once you know their preferences, be careful to manage your lists.

It is never about how loudly you speak

  • This again, has to do with the style and tone, but even more, with the frequency of your messaging.

Your messaging should be tailored to your audience, yet always consistent

  • Considering your audience’s demographics and psychographics should help you diversify the presentation of your message, however this diversity should never overshadow the consistency of your branding. Once you allow your brand’s consistency to suffer by your attempts to chase diversity in your advertising, your real message will be lost.
  • Always remember what gave rise to your dream and the passion that drove you forward, and the integrity that sustains you. That is your real message and your future. Lose track of those things, and you might as well just start hawking your goods to whomever you can grab.

Results are feedback to be used to fine-tune your message, target and goal

  • Analyze the results, don’t immortalize them. In the long term, each campaign brings you closer to understanding how better to move forward. In the short term, it is too easy to categorize results as wins or losses, and then move on to the next attempt. It is worth the extra time, effort and cost to analyze fully the results. That is, if you are open to learn and adjust your course as you move forward.

Consider what you have to say that’s worth hearing…

  • This is where you started, and this is where you have to return. You can never stray far from center without diluting your brand. Know who you are, be who you are, and unleash that energy in your message.


the advertised brand: emotion and response (continued)

January 6, 2016









We have been discussing the importance of understanding the relationship between value, emotion, and response as it relates to marketing and promotional advertising. Our marketing efforts become the foundation that presents the value of the brand.

For these efforts to have a favorable acceptance, an equally favorable emotional connection must be established. This opens the opportunity to present the factual claims of my service and product offerings through promotional advertising.

Although behavioral science is rich with heavy discussion on the topic, the basic process can be illustrated fairly simply. Please pardon the blatant abuse of alliteration in the following.


My day is in gear. From the moment the alarm presents the first interruption of my day, I am moving. Even at rest, my mind is constantly engaged, processing. There is always more than I can possibly take in, yet the stream of sights, sounds, smells, faces, and voices continue its torrent around me.

Yes, I’m used to this. At some early point in my life, this became normal. I became too involved to notice I was too involved. Just try to get my attention. I dare you! If you happen to succeed, it better be good, because if it’s not, the only impression you’ll be making is a negative one. Just know this, I remember negative impressions long after the details have faded.

All advertising at its most fundamental level is designed to be an interruption. No one appreciates being interrupted. This pair of statements appear to present a classic conundrum, but not necessarily so. Consider this example, your spouse is flustered in trying to focus on four competing concerns. The effort has already caused his or her mind to shut down, and now there is just a flurry of frustrated energy being wasted. What to do?

You move in closer, reach an understanding arm around your loved one, and say, “Let me help, we can make this work.” Through the purposeful effort of opening an emotional connection, your interruption has a much better chance of acceptance, than simply blurting out some factual guidance on how to deal with the frustration.

Promotional advertising that ignores the fact that it is basically an unwelcome interruption is missing a great opportunity. We all need interruptions throughout the day to help us refocus and make timely value judgments. The point is how we interrupt, and the value that interruption presents.


That is, purposely make a favorable impression upon the feelings. This is marketing’s role in taking the organization’s story and purpose (brand) and associating it in ever evolving ways that speak directly to the public’s emotional intelligence. The intended result is a personal connection, allowing the advertised message to be more favorably received.


That is, educate the public of the factual claims, benefits, and superior nature of the product or service. This is the advertiser’s role in building upon the brand’s personal message, offering a rational claim that is designed to elicit a reasonable response.


This is where the deal is sealed. Marketing and advertising work together with a simple goal in sight, influence a decision. Regardless of the size of the transaction, the decision to make a purchase is a personal act. The customer needs both to feel good about the decision, as well as have the intellectual satisfaction that it involved a rational choice based on the information reviewed.

Marketing leverages the organization’s branding to influence the emotion’s role in the customer’s response. Advertising, then builds upon that influence by providing essential factual info to add the tangible substance necessary to lead to a rational response.

Returning for a moment to the advertised message example used in a previous post, we can clearly see this process illustrated.

“You can make a straight cut with any saw. What it comes down to is this: Which brand do you trust? When safety, job performance and reliability are considered, there are very few real choices. You already know which one you choose.”

The emotional connection the customer had with the brand was the deciding factor when comparison-shopping for a saw. When rationally comparing the features and claims of the competition, the customer’s previously influenced bias led to a quick decision. It was worth the extra $5 for the personal satisfaction that the best choice was made.

the advertised brand: emotion and response

January 5, 2016







We previously considered the ability of the advertised brand to create an association between value, emotion, and response. Our primary focus was regarding the need for the advertised message to be squarely and consistently positioned upon the brand’s identity. It is the brand that establishes the value proposition, which is then naturally associated with the claims of the promotional advertising.

We now go on to consider the emotional influence upon brand association and our responses. There is no denying that emotions exert a powerful sway upon our decision making process. These effects include several factors, all of which are active at some level as we go about our day.

Even on our dullest of days, we have a very perceptive sense of what is going on around us. Although this sense usually doesn’t include a conscious recognition of the details, we are being influenced. Consider the positive effect the bright, cheery barista’s greeting has upon you. There is a lift that you can feel. It is more than the latte you are anticipating.

Then there is the influence the crowd around you exerts, which is often much more powerful than that of an individual encounter. For example, let’s return to the coffee shop. You have walked in, and before you have time to notice the long line, the barista looks up and personally welcomes you. You smile back, and then notice the line. You decide to join the crowd.

As you are inching ever so slowly forward, you begin to hear the grouches around you complaining about how long it is taking just to get a lousy cup of coffee. You think to yourself, these people are really rude. Although you don’t yet realize it, you have already lost that smile you had. Pretty soon, the guy at the register will have lost more than his smile. You had been thinking about enjoying a scone at the table, but now it’s only about getting your latte and out the door.

We both feed upon and fuel others at an emotional level. This is true whether considering how our emotional state present at the time skews our immediate responses, or the ongoing bias, which the emotion imprinted, affects future responses.

Considering the power that emotions exert upon our everyday interactions, it should be clear that their influence upon how we react to advertising is of utmost importance. It behooves us to have a clear understanding of the process involved. Obviously, both marketing and advertising are built upon the belief that it requires more than just the facts to influence a positive response.