Cut the BS: Movie Trailers are Too Long

I went to the movies last weekend to take in the whole experience. Expensive tickets and concessions. Annoying people talking during the movie. Fear of having to walk in front of people if I went to the bathroom. But you know what bugged me the most?

Those ridiculously long movie trailers.

I get that from a marketing standpoint the studios have an opportunity to reach their key target market—people who go to the movies—when that target market has no choice but to watch.

But, c’mon man. I timed the trailers.  Each one was around two and a half minutes. Total air time of all the previews was more than 20 minutes. Seriously? 20 minutes of scenes from soon to be released movies that played prior to the movie we came to see. And many previews show the money shot and spoil the ending or deliberately give the perception of another story line.

That’s taking advantage of the target audience. It’s BS Marketing and no better than telemarketers bugging us at all hours or direct mail pieces packing our mailbox.

Marketing other movies to us is part of the game and could be good business. But 20 minutes of previews leads to Movie Fatigue. We become agitated before the movie even starts. What could the studios do to reach a key target audience without taking advantage of the situation?

  • Simplify the message: Good story tellers make their point quickly. The preview should whet our appetite and leave us wanting more. Make them shorter.
  • Less is More: 20+ minutes of previews is absurd. Pick 5 or 6 trailers and move on to the movie we came to see. Trying to reach every target market by showing so many trailers is the equivalent of watching 10 minutes of TV commercials in a row.
  • What’s the Big Idea? Help us understand the main theme without giving it all away in the preview.

Going to the movies has been in decline for years because of other viewing and entertainment options. The studios need to make the experience better, not worse. Cut the BS by cutting the previews.

With Goodell Syndrome, It’s the Issue Not the Instance


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is on the hot seat again. This time it’s related to his handling of the DeflateGate controversy in which the New England Patriots improperly deflated footballs last season.

But with Goodell, it goes beyond any specific “Gate.” Whether it’s BountyGate, SpyGate, DeflateGate or a bunch of other StupidDecisionGates like his handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson abuse cases, the common thread is Goodell’s flawed decision making and lame communication.

I call it Goodell Syndrome—when an arrogant leader repeatedly fumbles both the big decision and communication of “the why” behind it.

Unfortunately, similar issues occur from top to bottom at many companies just without the media scrutiny. In a recent customer experience report, 82% said they left a company because of a poor customer experience. Another study asked respondents to describe their most recent buying experience and half said they had at least one problem.

When our service is lacking, what do we tell the customer? When we miss an internal deadline or fail to hit a goal, what do we say to our boss?

“We were crazy busy and things got pushed back a little bit.”

“He was a difficult customer. He was impatient and rude.”

“(INSERT SUPPOSED CRISIS) happened so I had to spend time fixing it.”

“(NAME) was working on that and I had to wait for her to finish it.”

“Our price was too high so we lost the sale.”

Sometimes legitimate roadblocks keep us from meeting deadlines or reaching our goals. However, bosses, peers and clients perceive the responses as excuses rather than reality.

Why the disconnect?

When we fall prey to the Goodell Syndrome, our focus was on the instance rather than the issue.

If internal and external customers are disappointed or you regularly miss deadlines, it doesn’t really matter what happened in the most recent instance. The issue is you don’t deliver what you promise.

You obviously need to fix ‘the instance’ as soon as possible. But, more importantly, you need to concentrate on the issue—the reason why the problem occurred.

  • Listen to the customer and provide value added service or a discount when something doesn’t go as well as expected.
  • Clearly define what went wrong from a process standpoint rather than just that specific instance.
  • Develop an action plan on how to prevent the issue from happening again.
  • Craft your message to explain what happened, why and how you are fixing it.
  • Systematically communicate your message to key target audiences again and again. Use a mix of vehicles because telling your story one time in one way isn’t enough.

The next time you are asked why something didn’t go as planned, don’t fall prey to the Goodell Syndrome. Take personal responsibility, focus on the issue not the instance and communicate a clear, transparent message to your key target audiences. 

TV isn’t Dead. But the TV? That’s Another Story


As a people-watching pop culture fan and life long student of marketing, I’m intrigued by the many death of TV and demise of traditional media stories that go something like this:  Old media titans like Hollywood, cable TV and broadcast networks will continue to lose the battle for viewers to new digital media like YouTube, Funny or Die and Netflix.

While it’s certainly true that our entertainment and media consumption habits evolve over time, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between TV and the TV. One is a medium and the other is a vehicle to watch that medium.

TV as a media outlet is not dying. We want more video when and where we want it. We still want to watch certain programs live, most notably sports. But the TV is no longer the center of our viewing experience as we use multiple screens—smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops— to consume our content.

Our desire to do what we want when we want, combined with our consumption of media on multiple devices led the market to change. Binge watching of shows on Netflix or HBO Go has become commonplace. The community experience of watching a show at the same time as friends and family has gone the way of reading the newspaper.

The advertising industry frets over these big changes the way they did when other “new” media threatened the status quo. TV would kill radio. Cable would beat broadcast TV. Satellite radio would crush “terrestrial” radio. Mobile viewing will mean the death of TV.

Yet the more things change, one constant remains. Story telling as the driver of communication.

We know a good story when we see or hear one. We’ll talk about it with friends, family, co-workers and even strangers.

The story is still king and creatively telling yours is your first priority. Finding the right solution to distribute that story—the medium—to your target markets is next.

What does this mean for you?

Invest in your story. What you think they want to hear might not hit the mark. Do Marketing Intel to learn what customers really think and then build your story. Focus on one big idea and make an emotional impact.

Adjust your marketing campaigns based on how prospects and customers consume stories. Right now that means incorporating multi-screen, texting, online video, online radio and podcasts into your marketing mix to reach potential customers earlier in their research as opposed to later in their decision phase.

It’s not so much about whether new media beats up on old media. It’s more about telling your story, embracing the changing mediums and engaging your target audiences.

For more on TV, streaming content, and marketing, check out…

Tropic Thunder’s 4 Steps to Messaging Authenticity

In the movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr. plays Kirk Lazurus, a 5-time Academy Award-winning method actor who’s had “pigmentation augmentation” surgery to darken his skin for his role as an African American. Downey never breaks character, leading a cast member to question his authenticity. Lazurus defends himself saying:

“I know who I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”

Have you ever been the dude playin’ the dude disguised as another dude when communicating? Whether it’s addressing your team, working with peers or updating your boss, are you seen as believable or insincere? Authentic or calculated?

The ability to communicate authentically is important to success as a leader, manager and team member. Authenticity inspires. Yet many presentations, meetings and discussions are perceived as self serving or promoting the status quo.

Sometimes it’s the words but more often than not it’s the delivery—our non verbal communication. When our spoken message and body language don’t match up, the audience follows the non verbal message every time.

How and why does this mismatch occur?

Some people say “I don’t want to look scripted so I’m going to wing it,” then their body language conveys discomfort and a lack of confidence. Others actually over prepare and come across as stilted, leaving the audience apathetic or uninspired.

Unfortunately, total spontaneity and traditional practice methods won’t produce authenticity. In both instances our nonverbal conversation makes more of an impact than our spoken words. Instead practice these 4 Steps to Authenticity:

  1. Convey your Big Idea in their terms.  Your audience will think “What’s in it for me?” so practice your answer.
  2. Craft stories that create connections. Keep their attention and thoughts on you by relating stories to them.
  3. Embrace your passion. Show them how deeply you feel about the subject. If you aren’t passionate about it, you can’t expect your audience to be.
  4. Listen and adjust. Practice how you will assess their body language. Think of how you’d adjust based on their responses both non verbal and verbal.

Preparation focused on them—your audience—leads to the authentic you.

Or as Kirk Lazurus said:

I don’t read the script. The script reads me.

5 Messaging Tips from ‘Entourage’

The ‘Entourage’ movie opened this week, taking the HBO comedy-drama television series from thirty minute show to full length film.

The story focuses on movie star Vincent Chase and his childhood friends from Queens, New York as they move through the highs and lows of Chase’s Hollywood career.

The series mixed music, sports and entertainment story lines together and showcased a long list of celebrity cameos. The movie follows the same path and in this era of binge watching could have passed for an entire season viewed in one setting.

Rather than review the movie, I want to focus on how ‘Entourage’ leverages the power of story telling and marketing to reach and influence audiences.

5 Messaging Tips from Entourage

1. Stir Emotions

You either love or hate ‘Entourage.’ Some criticize it as pointless, simple, chauvinistic. Others describe it as a story about friendship, family and remembering where you came from. Both groups were touched emotionally.

2. Make It Memorable

Whether it’s the guitar riff at the beginning of the theme song by Jane’s Addiction, creative product placement or the behind the scenes look at Hollywood, fans and haters both remember specific scenes, story lines and episodes.

3. Know Your Target

Series creator, producer and primary writer Doug Ellin built the story around and for guys. He developed main characters—Johnny Drama, E, Turtle, Vince, Ari— that his key target audience could relate to. Toss in creative story lines around supporting characters, cameos and the over the top Hollywood lifestyle to keep the target audience loyal.

4. Keep It Simple

The series didn’t veer from its main focus or big idea—friendship. The movie stayed true to the same concept. No surprises. No over reaching. No claims of artistic excellence. Still just a story about four guys who grew up together and remained friends.

5. Tell Stories

It all comes down to story telling. Whether you’re selling your company’s virtues, motivating your team or making a movie, your real story can resonate with your target audiences because it’s yours. It’s unique and authentic.

And don’t forget to pick a theme song.

Yah-Yuh. Yay-Yuh. Oh-Yeah.

Don’t Lie. But if You Do and Get Caught, Don’t Be Like Tom Brady

Photo courtesy of

Southwest Airlines should hire Tom Brady to do one of those “Gotta Get Away” commercials.

After Patriots management decided against appealing the NFL’s DeflateGate punishment, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald reported this week:

“[Coach Bill] Belichick never believed [Brady’s] story, from what I was told,” Borges said. “Because they all know. Why do you think all those retired quarterbacks, the Troy Aikmans of the world — Troy Aikman is about as nice a guy as I’ve ever met in football — nobody’s backed [Brady]. Nobody, not a single guy. Why do you think that is? Because they hate Brady? No. Because they’re not stupid. They know nothing’s done with those balls that the quarterback doesn’t want done.”

Just like Fox Sports cuts to Mike Pereira to interpret the NFL Rules, I’ll provide the breakdown from a PR perspective.

PR Rule #1: Tell the truth. This one is as easy to understand as offsides or illegal motion. Pick your favorite sports media gaffe that resulted from an athlete being less than truthful. Lance Armstrong. Manti Te’o. A-Rod. The list could go on. 

The media has been taught to  ‘get the story, get it first and get it right.’  When a sports star lies, someone will prove it and make the lie as big of a story as the original issue.

But let’s say you can’t help yourself and still tell a big lie? What then?

“I would never, you know, uh, you know, have someone do something that was outside the rules.”  Tom Brady, January 22, 2015 press conference.

PR Rule #2: When caught lying, apologize and tell the truth. Here’s what Brady should say:

“Right before the Super Bowl, I was asked a question about the air in the footballs from the AFC Championship Game.

I wasn’t completely truthful with my answer. I was worried about my team and the upcoming game but still should’ve been clearer.

I was asked by an equipment manager how I liked the footballs. I told him I liked them with a little less air. I shouldn’t have said that and take responsibility for it. I apologize to my teammates, Patriots management, the NFL and most importantly the fans.”

Brady and the Patriots legacies are tarnished. Continuing to lie won’t change that. Their only call is to learn from the mistake, be transparent and move on. And in the future play by both NFL and PR rules.

What’s the Big Idea?

From Get Where You Want To Go

Ever wonder why those car ads have so much stuff crammed into them that you can barely read the print?

Or wish that a salesperson would stop blabbering about all the features and benefits their product has to offer?

Worse yet, ever sit through a presentation that includes what seems like a hundred PowerPoint slides being read to you by the speaker?

We have all probably been there in some way, shape or form.

big ideaThe problem arises because the advertiser, salesper- son, and speaker all neglected to focus on one big idea.

Instead, they made it about them rather than us and gave us more information than we wanted or needed. It’s kind of like the casual acquaintance you run into who goes on and on about their kids when you ask how they are doing. All you really wanted was the quick thir- ty second update. Not a breakdown on school, sports, height, weight, friends, favorite food, and so on.

We’re bombarded with messages from the time we wake up until we crash at the end of a long day. We can’t afford to spend more time processing information unless we are sure we need it. We remember creative messages that are memorable and make an emotional impact. We relate to them and they are focused on one main idea.

Think about ads or slogans that you probably couldn’t forget if you wanted to…

Can You Hear Me Now?

Got Milk?

Choose Your Healthcare As If Your Life Depended On It.

Try to remember the last time a salesperson made just the right pitch…

Or you thoroughly enjoyed a presentation or speaker…

The presentation or pitch was focused on you and on one big idea that you still remember today.

The next time you are creating an ad, making a sales pitch, preparing for a presentation, or writing an email, improve your message by asking yourself:

What’s the Big Idea?

Tell Your Story: 8 Messaging Musts

An excerpt from Get Where You Want to Go

Here are 8 Messaging “Musts” to help tell your story:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 2.29.08 PM1. Drill Down–Focus on key target markets with the greatest potential.

2. Simplify Your Message—Commit to one big idea.

3. Make it Memorable—Touch emotions and capture people’s attention.

4. Focus on Less and More: Less talking, more listening. Less graphics and copy, more white space.

5. Admit Weaknesses–People usually know or figure them out anyway.

6. Make It About Them—Speak their language, in their terms.

Click Here to Read All 8 Messaging Musts 


Will Batman Save Your Messaging?


Six Tips From The Caped Crusader To Help Tell Your Story

Channel surfing one weekend morning, I came across an episode of The Batman TV series produced in the late 1960s.

The Riddler holds Robin hostage to trap Batman. While searching for Robin, Batman opens the trunk of the Batmobile to use the Mobile Crime Computer which connects to the Bat Cave’s main computer and provides the information to solve the riddle.

Holy Al Gore! Batman created the Internet!

The typical story begins with a villain committing a crime, such as stealing a fabulous gem or taking over Gotham City. Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara either press a button on the Bat Phone or use the Bat Signal to reach Batman. The scene then cuts to ‘stately Wayne Manor’ where Alfred the butler answers.

In this particular episode, Batman uses the Bat Gauge, the Emergency Bat-Turn Lever, the Bat Ray Projector and of course the multipurpose Bat Laser.

It all made me realize Batman is the Caped Crusader of Messaging. Taking a cue from the Riddler, answer these questions to tell your story more effectively:

What’s the Big Idea? Having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, Bruce Wayne swore revenge on criminals, an oath tempered with a sense of justice. The series revolves around this big idea.

Who’s your target? The show targets kids and parents with a Good vs. Evil theme and moral lessons like the importance of homework, using seat belts and drinking milk thrown in.

Their Why or Your What? The Bam! Boom! Kapow! during fights. Da na na na na na na na na na na Batman! The booming narrator’s voice. Sappy? Maybe. Memorable? For sure. Make your messaging about your customer’s “why” more than your “what” and “how.”

Less or More? The Riddler’s ?. The Joker’s smile. The Penguin’s umbrella and top hat. Crisp visual imagery conveying one idea helps tell the story.

Can you keep it simple? Everything is labeled in big, bold letters. Laughing Gas.The Universal Drug Antidote. Detect-A-Scope. Everyone knows what’s going on. The simpler, the better.

What’s Your Story? Each episode follows the same storytelling path. The teaser. The introduction of the villain. Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, Alfred. Robin’s phrases. Batman’s life lessons. The fight. The music. The villain gets the upper hand but loses in the end.

Cue that booming voice: Will you implement Batman’s messaging tips? Can you tell your story in a more memorable way?

Wise or Woeful Holiday Marketing?

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags

Interpreting Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced that total sales during the post-Thanksgiving weekend dropped 11 percent from last year.

Cyber Monday sales increased 8.7 percent, which pales in comparison to last year’s 18.7 percent increase from 2012.

So was the season’s first major shopping event a bust? Was marketing by major retailers off the mark? Actually, the opposite.

Big-time retailers ranging from Target, The Gap, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s adjusted to what customers wanted, with online discounts prior to Black Friday and extended Cyber Monday deals. Why?

The allure of post-Thanksgiving weekend has diminished somewhat and the retailers wisely adjusted to meet customer wants and needs.

You can and should do the same for your business. Here are four ways to achieve your holiday (and any time of the year) sales goals:

  1. Know Your Customers ─ Everyone thinks they know their customers. Peak performers in any industry admit that they need to continually learn more. Regardless of the size of your company and budget, you can and should do market research. It can be informal, in-house research or more in depth quantitative studies.
  2. Do Your Messaging Drill Down ─ Each of your target markets has their own unique wants and needs. You need to communicate to each market differently. Your core message remains the same but needs to be tweaked for each audience.
  3. Make It About Them ─ National retailers realized that while they (the stores) love Black Friday, their customers wanted the chance to buy online when and where they wanted to. The adjustment was made and the NRF projects overall sales this holiday season to be up 4.1 percent to $16.6 billion.
  4. Tell Them Again and Again ─ Once you’ve completed the first 3 steps, you need to tell each target audience their story again and again. Use any messaging means possible. Social, traditional, in person, online. Tell a clear, consistent, creative story until you are sure it resonates with each target audience.

The overall numbers are promising ─ and serve as another reminder that listening to customers can mean the difference between naughty or nice holiday sales.