Fri, July 25 2008

The benefit exchange: Make it value-able!

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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We can’t easily change what our audiences believe, but by plugging into their existing mind-set we unleash great power behind our benefit exchangen—and our message.

The values of our audience may have nothing to do with our cause, but we can still use them. Consider the messages we see every day and the values they represent. Ads for women’s running shoes are all about strength and empowerment. They practically scream, “I am woman!” Pharmaceutical ads during the nightly news show how certain drugs help seniors attain what they want: a happy and independent life. During a televised basketball game, an ad for men’s deodorant shows a woman ripping a man’s clothes off in an elevator. No need for interpretation there. Each of these ads reflects a value the target users of the products care about, think about, and deeply desire. And each is fairly far removed from the product in question. Is self-actualization related to running shoes? Does arthritis medication buy happiness? Are deodorants the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sexual desire? Probably not, but the associations work because the values in question are close to each audience’s heart.

A famous, frequently cited example of the value-based principle at work in social advertising is the successful Don’t Mess with Texas campaign. The phrase has become so famous that many people outside Texas don’t even realize that this is not a state slogan but rather a long-running marketing effort to get people to stop littering. The young Texan men who were the target of the campaign didn’t care about littering, but they did care about their macho image, and no one doubted the fierce pride they had for their home state. By tapping into these powerful feelings with the Don’t Mess with Texas concept, which didn’t have a thing to do with trash, the ad agency that created the campaign (GSD&M) drastically reduced roadside litter.

Remember: Make your message about what your audience’s values, not your own, if you want people to listen.

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Fri, July 25 2008

The benefit exchange: Make it personal!

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Continuing with Benefit Exchange week, keep in mind, you need to make yours personal.

Our audience members need to believe from our message that the reward we’re offering for taking action will make life better for them as individuals. The private sector understands the importance of making rewards personal. They don’t sell you a car by explaining the way the engine is built; they tell you the car is reliable, safe, or fast, depending on who you are and your personal priorities. They take the attributes of their product and translate them into personally desirable benefits.

That translation is easy to make for most products. It’s harder for good causes.

While I was living in Ukraine, the government tax authority launched a campaign to motivate taxpayers to stay honest and continue paying their taxes. The tax authority developed several ads. One was a cartoon illustration of a bee in front of a hive with a slogan celebrating the fruits of a collective contribution to the government. Another was a photograph of a new well and water pump; city residents could fill containers with fresh water from the well. An accompanying slogan thanked taxpayers for making the well and other city improvements possible. In one of my trainings, I placed the ads side by side and asked a roomful of Ukrainians which was more effective given the tax authority’s marketing goals. Not surprisingly, they were unanimous in their judgment that access to fresh water was far more personally relevant, and therefore motivating, than a role in building a metaphorical hive.

This example seems obvious, yet in our communication we often focus more on hives than on wells. We talk about saving the earth, ending poverty, or creating a great society. Every day, we have to remind ourselves that the hive is what we’re building; the well is what our audience needs to see.

At the end of the day, the personal connection, not the grand concept, grabs our attention.

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Mon, July 21 2008

Benefit exchange week - immediate rewards

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Times are tough.  How do you get people’s attention right now?  How do you get them to act?

The answer, of course, is the benefit exchange.  That’s marketing jargon for what you need to offer to get someone to act.  It is how you get someone to want to pay the price for what you’re selling, whether you’re selling membership, the act of making a donation, or a change in a behavior.  It provides a reward in exchange for action.  It answers the question, “What’s in it for me?”

This week, I’m going to post on how to craft a great benefit exchange, pulling some content from my chapter on the topic in Robin Hood Marketing.  Why?  Because I’m seeing too few compelling benefit exchanges in nonprofit marketing these days.

The first attribute of a great benefit exchange is IMMEDIACY.  What will people get right away in exchange for doing what you ask, whether you want them to give money, volunteer or quit smoking?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

When I was a journalist in Cambodia in the mid-1990s, I interviewed young people for a story on HIV and AIDS.  Teen boys and young men in the Southeast Asian country rarely used condoms despite one of the fastest growing epidemics of HIV and AIDS in the region.  When I asked them why, young men told me they knew which girlfriends or prostitutes had HIV by the temperature of their skin.  The prostitutes I met in shed-like brothels said they felt powerless to insist on condoms, and anyway, many believed douching with toothpaste would kill HIV.  These misconceptions were clearly a challenge for organizations battling HIV and AIDS, but the real problem became clear when I spoke to a teen boy in Phnom Penh.  He was wearing a red checked sarong and sucking on a hand-rolled cigarette when I approached him, and he regarded me with withering skepticism when I asked him about AIDS.  “Why would I care about something that might kill me in ten years?” he asked.  “I will die from something else before then.”  In a country plagued by landmines, poor water, infectious disease and (at the time) a guerrilla army, he may have been right.  A cultural and religious sense of fatalism only reinforced the view.  Where was the sense of immediacy?

Across town, in a pagoda surrounded by banana trees, people sick with AIDS had a different sense of immediacy.  A monk clad in saffron robes was mixing a medicinal drink made of bark chips and served in old Sprite bottles.  The monk said the elixir cured AIDS, and ill people from throughout the country traveled to Phnom Penh for the drink and his blessing.  I spent an afternoon watching him receive visitors on a straw mat in the temple, and some of them spoke with me.  In our conversations, it became clear what they wanted.  They were there because they needed hope, and the monk had that reward ready for them in a green plastic bottle. 

Since a sense of immediacy is essential to a good reward, we have to create it if we don’t have it.  It doesn’t work to tell a fatalistic young man in Cambodia that using a condom will prevent a disease far down the road.  The nonprofit PSI brought a sense of immediacy to condom use in Cambodia by putting a desirable brand – the alluringly English-named Number One Condom - in the hands of people right at one moment they might use the product - in a brothel.  The audience wasn’t told to think of a deadly disease while seeking physical gratification (which surely would have led them to dismiss thoughts of the disease), but rather asked to do use an appealing product that provided an instant boost to the ego. 

Some good causes deal with the immediacy challenge with a gift like a t-shirt, hat or wristband.  These offerings provide the person that donated money or took some action with an instant benefit, for example, recognition.  Or the cause might offer rewards before the audience takes action.  Have you ever received address labels in the mail from a good cause?  They create a sense of obligation in the recipient, and so you probably felt some pressure to send money.  Other options?  Show how someone can save a life RIGHT NOW.  Demonstrate they can feel good by making a difference THIS SECOND.  And above all, make it incredibly EASY to act, so people will believe they will get the benefit exchange pronto.

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Thu, July 17 2008

Great tag lines - do you have one?

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Taglines are tough.  They challenge us to sum up the essence of all we do in a few words that are pithy, profound and pack a punch. 

My blogging frolleague Nancy, also known as president of Nancy Schwartz & Company, has a big announcement about those tough little beasts:  She’s found the BEST nonprofit taglines of 2008. We’re happy to see Network for Good friend LandChoices as a big winner.  (I voted for them!)

Nancy says the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards program came about when so many powerful taglines were submitted to a survey she did on nonprofit taglines. More than 1,000 taglines were submitted.  Survey findings, the entire list of submitted taglines and details on finalists and award winners will be featured in a report to be published in September.  Stay tuned for the report - I’ve seen a sneak preview, and it’s packed with great pointers on vastly improving your tagline.  I’ll blog it as soon as it’s off the presses.

Without further ado, here are the winners in each category along with comments on what makes them great:

Arts & Culture:  Where Actors Find Their Space —NYC Theatre Spaces
This clearinghouse for NYC rehearsal and performance spaces uses a double entendre to go beyond a description of its services and highlight the value of its work.

Civic Benefit: Stand Up for a Child —CASA of Southwest Missouri
CASA’s tagline provokes anger, compassion and a desire to help, in just five words.

Education: Stay Close…Go Far. —East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
This simple yet distinctive tagline from East Stroudsburg cuts through the clutter. Its straightforward character mirrors that of the school.

Environment & Animals: Helping Preserve the Places You Cherish —LandChoices
LandChoices’ tagline thoroughly communicates the value of its work while evoking one’s most precious memories of walks in the woods, wildflower meadows and childhood camping trips. There’s a real emotional connection here.

Grantmaking: Make the most of your giving. —The Greater Cincinnati Foundation
This clear tagline articulates the value of the foundation for donors considering an alternative way to give.

Health & Sciences: Improving Life, One Breath at a Time —American Lung Association
This unexpected focus on the breath—a core element of life—gets attention, and understanding.

Human Services: When You Can’t Do It Alone —Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Sarasota–Manatee, Inc.
This tagline tells the story succinctly and powerfully: It’s all about getting help when life becomes overwhelming. It makes a strong emotional connection.

International, Foreign Affairs & National Security: Whatever it takes to save a child —U.S. Fund for UNICEF
UNICEF engages hearts and minds with its passionate focus on helping children. Who could turn down a request for a donation?

Jobs & Workforce Development: All Building Starts With a Foundation —Building Future Builders
Voters enjoyed the word play here: It adds depth of understanding without being glib.

Religion & Spiritual Development: Grounded in tradition…Open to the Spirit —Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS)
MTS conveys the two equally important halves of its values and curriculum in a way that makes you think about the connection.


The Art of Active Aging —EngAGE
EngAGE surprises with the imagery of active aging and the use of the term “art” to describe the way it does its work.

Because facts matter. —Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP)
This tagline introduces the nature of OCPP’s impact in Oregon and entices the reader or listener to find out more. Its value proposition—the truth—is particularly compelling at a time when facts are frequently disregarded in public debate.

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Tue, July 15 2008

15 Secrets to Great Subject Lines

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Katya’s note:  The name of a white paper recently caught my eye - it promised 15 rules to good email subject lines.  My marketing colleague Rebecca Ruby here at Network for Good was interested too—and lucky for us, she read it and summarizes it here for us.  Thanks Rebecca!

By Rebecca Ruby, marketing maven at Network for Good

Lyris HQ has a great a white paper “Email Subject Lines: 15 Rules to Write Them Right,” which highlights the make-or-break importance of subject lines.  It’s well worth taking a few moments to go through their registration and obtain your own copy, but here my favorite highlights:

Test! Test subject lines. Write them early (not at the last minute). Test again, measure results, and use those analytics to drive future content.
Structure and content are both important. You need to be cognizant of where the key info goes, as well as how strong your call-to-action is.
Subject lines play into trust-building. The subject line can include a branding element or another device to tie to the “from” address. A quick way to kill that positive messaging? Stretching the truth about what’s inside the message.

Here’s a breakdown of their entire list:

1. Read the newspaper. Newspaper headlines highlight a story’s most important fact in a limited space—which is coincidentally exactly what marketing email subject lines should do.

2. There is no sure-fire formula. Subject lines are non-recyclable and not necessarily the same when sending different types of campaigns.

3. Test, test, test. According to rule 2, there’s not a surefire winner, so be sure to allow time for testing.

4. Support the “from” line. The “from” tells recipients who sent the message, and the subject line sells that recipient on whether to open it. You don’t need to repeat your company name in the subject, but do consider some subject-line branding (ex: the name of the newsletter).

5. List key info first. Put the key information in the first 50 characters. Not sure where the subject line will be cut off? Send it to yourself to test and check!

6. Open rates don’t always measure subject-line success. Your end goal is not necessarily high open rate, but to have subscribers take a specific action. Focus on those results instead of open-rate numbers.

7. Personalize. Personalize subject lines based on your recipients’ content preferences and/or interests, and then be sure to make it easy for readers to find and update this information upon receiving your message.

8. Urgency drives action. Set deadlines for action, and consider using a series: “Only five days left until–!” followed up later in the week with, “Just 24 hours left until–”

9. Watch those spam filters. Run your copy through a content checker to identify spam-like words, phrases and construction. A couple of big no-no’s: all capital letters and excessive use of exclamation points.

10. “Free” is not evil. As a follow-up to number 9, avoid putting the word “free” first, but you needn’t leave it out entirely.

11. Lead, but don’t mislead. Subject lines are not the place to overpromise. Be truthful about whatever the text claims to avoid distrust.

12. Write and test early and often. Flip your thinking: Craft and test your subject line prior to composing the rest of your message. (Remember rule 3?)

13. Review subject-line performance over your last several campaigns or newsletters. Not only will this type of data-mining shed light on your subject-line successes (highest conversation rates, click-through rate, etc.), it will drive future content strategies.

14. Continue the conversation. Sending campaigns more frequently than once per month or quarter helps create a back-and-forth with readers, and also allows for content follow-up if something from a previous campaign has news.

15. Can you pass the must-open/must-read test? Must-read means this: If a subscriber doesn’t open the email, they will feel like they are out of the loop and may have missed an offer they will regret not taking advantage of. Also, be sure to check out whether your message is going to the bulk-folder (see rule 9).


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