The Fun Theory: How to Change Behavior

November 30, 2009

How do you change people’s behavior? Corporate America usually relies on some form of compensation system which basically uses a reward/punishment method that tries to coerce people into doing what the company wants. You have to fill out forms, get approvals, and meet goals otherwise there’s no pay raise or bonus. In other cases you try to get website visitors to navigate a certain path by placing links in strategically important places or enticing them with an offer. Books and theories exist on how to get people to perform their best or to change the way they behave (“Bringing Out The Best In People” comes to mind) but rarely we see those in action.

Volkswagen launched what became quickly a viral campaign with emails being forwarded, youtube videos with over 1 million hits and comments from all corners of the web. They call it The Fun Theory ( and the goal is simple: using fun to change people’s behavior for the better. The videos on their website (embedded below) are some great examples of what they mean.

How are you changing your customers and your prospects behavior? Can you make something fun that will entertain and educate them? And how about your staff or your company’s employees? Some food for thought.



Get Hired in Marketing

April 6, 2009

Want a marketing job? Then you have to first understand the rules of the game.

I was recently hiring a marketing coordinator for my company and once again it became obvious to me that most candidates do a poor job at interviewing. So here’s my contribution, albeit a small one, to those of you who are looking for new jobs.

Before you go out on an interview,  you need to understand how hiring works. Then you can craft a great resume, prepare to ace the interview, and come up as a top candidate for the job.  Keep in mind the following factors and you’ll be a step ahead of other candidates.

Risk is the most important factor:

The whole hiring process has one goal, and that is to reduce the risk of hiring a bad candidate. Companies spend a lot of time and money when they need to hire someone and spend even more when they make a wrong hiring decision. So every step is designed to reduce the risk the company and the hiring manager face. Knowing this will give you tremendous advantage, as most people are concerned with making sure they look good (either on their resumes or during the interview) and not with what the company needs. Is basic marketing (you can only sell if you know what the customer wants), but very few people stop to think about it.

As you are asked questions during the interview, managers are not looking for a right answer, they are looking for clues that will tell them whether you are high or low risk. So you need to make sure that when you are answering questions during an interview, your answers are focused on lowering that perceived risk.

Example: for a question like “do you have experience with trade shows?” (which is not necessarily a very good question to begin with, but let’s leave it like this for now) you could answer:  “yes, I have experience with trade shows and have handled many throughout my career”. The problem with this answer is that is very limited. OK, you have experience, but how much? What else have you dealt with in a trade show environment that can tell me that I will be able to trust you with my events? If you leave the hiring manager wondering whether you have all the experience he needs from someone in the position they are hiring for, then you haven’t done a good job at lowering the risk level.

A better answer is: “not only I have experience with trade shows, but I’ve been involved in multiple types of shows, from small user groups that only required a tabletop display up to big conventions where we used our 20×20 booth. In the last show [name] that I managed I had to negotiate with the show organizer, involve the transportation company, and come up with some creative ways   to get our stand up on time, which gave me a much better understanding of how trade shows work”. Aha! This not only answers what was asked, but goes a step beyond and touches upon the real reason for the question in the first place, giving detailed insight as to the type of experience and situations the candidate faced, significantly lowering the risk of hiring someone inexperienced. The Hiring Game

Every line on your resume, every answer you give during an interview, and every contact you have with the company needs to be focused on lowering the perceived risk. The little things you do will add up in the end and make you stand out.

You only need to be 2% better:

 You don’t need to be a superstar. If you’re 2% better than the next candidate, you’re already ahead. How do you do that? By keeping in mind the ‘risk’ factor and tailoring all your answers to help the hiring manager lower the risk you represent. Since most candidates think about answering the question and just the question, they don’t realize that there’s more to it. The question about trade shows above, for example. What is the risk the company faces? Well, if events are a big part of their marketing budget, then they need someone they can count on to manage that side of the business. If the position you are interviewing for will have that responsibility, then you shouldn’t just answer “yes, I’ve dealt with trade shows in the past” because that really doesn’t tell me anything. Go beyond the simple question and expand your answer (but briefly, of course) to get extra points.

Results are more important than ever

The typical advice of headhunters is to make sure you add accomplishments to each job description. Now more than ever you have to ensure your resume is results-oriented, and that during the interview your answers touch upon results you achieved. Check out a recent post on Marketing Today website about it.

It’s not over when the interview is over

After the interview you’re not off the hook. Another person is now sitting on that same chair, trying to do his best, just like you did. How do you keep yourself ahead? By continuously showing that you’re the best candidate. Send written thank you notes to EVERYONE that you dealt with. From the receptionist to the hiring manager. And hand write the thank you notes, don’t email them. Why? Because most people don’t do it. You’ll be seen as more professional and will stand out. You should also be checking for industry related news and is a good idea to email the hiring manager a link to an interesting article or press release that might be relevant to the company, this shows you’re up to date on the industry and is really interested. Some of these simple gestures go a long way towards helping you land the job.

Effective Marketer Principle 8: Say “We” rather than “I”

February 6, 2009

“Think and say we” is Drucker’s advice. There are two good lessons here, one being that you should earn the trust of your team and you can only do that if they see that you are not going to go at it alone without giving them any consideration. It is also a good reminder of the great art of delegation, which is getting work done through others.

The marketing manager that thinks in terms of “we” will get more accomplished because he will be:

  • Sharing with the team the vision and direction of the company and of the department
  • Sharing with the team the marketing plan for the year and the goals for each campaign
  • Asking the team for feedback, ideas, and criticism
  • Giving feedback to the team on what they are doing right and what needs to be improved – Sharing with the company the successes the team as a whole has achieved
  • Trusting the team to make the right choices at difficult moments and allowing them to make mistakes along the way
  • Giving each team member additional responsibilities so they can learn and grow as professionals
  • Taking on more responsibilities and important projects now that he can share with the team the burden of ensuring successThink We Rather than I

A final, bonus if you will, lesson from Peter Drucker’s insightful article is about the art of listening. He says “listen first, speak last”. Good listeners will be better at understanding what needs to get done and will be more effective. So if you are ready to becoming an effective marketer, master these 8 principles (see previous posts for the other seven principles) and you will be one step ahead of the competition.

The road to effectiveness is not an easy one, but is definitely a rewarding journey.

Effective Marketer Principle 6: Focus on opportunities rather than problems

January 18, 2009


Have you ever run a marketing campaign that didn’t present any problems, hiccups, or unforeseen obstacles? Unless you are extremely lucky (or have been kept out of the loop on what was happening with the campaign) odds are you have had your share of, let’s say, interesting events. How you approach such ‘events’ has a profound impact not only on the outcome of the said campaign but also on how your team and other professionals perceive you.

The whole subject of having a positive attitude, of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty, is a big subject and not what I intend to cover right now. My suggestion if you want to get some interesting tidbits on the impact of having a positive attitude in your life (both professionally and personally) is to read “The Little Gold Book of Yes!”, by Jeffrey Gitomer (see link in my ‘books’ page). But let’s not digress. Peter Drucker talks about the principle of focusing on opportunities rather than problems as another good way of achieving results.

Problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produce results.” So if it happens that you encounter a problem as you execute your plans, instead of simply trying to fix it, think of what king of opportunity it brings. You probably heard of countless stories of how a company faced a crisis situation and was able to turn it around and come out even better than before (remember the Tylenol scandal? Johnson came out victorious after a well planned management of the crisis that could have cost the company dearly). So your job is to spot these opportunities and make the most out of them. Focus on Opportunities

Effective marketers are aware that focusing on opportunities rather than problems will yield better results. Next time you run into a glitch in your marketing plan, think how you can turn it into an advantage.

Effective Marketer Principle 4: Take Responsibility for Decisions

January 13, 2009

The fourth principle can be summarized in one word: ACT!project plan

Marketing managers can sometimes get caught up on the creation of the plan, discussing with the team everything that will be done, the campaigns, the nice webinars, the new collateral, and the press releases but forget the important part of the marketing plan, actually the important part of any successful plan: The Three W’s (Who will do What by When)?

Until there’s a clear “owner”, a task won’t get done. Is the old saying that if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. Drucker advises us to use the following when determining the responsibility for each task laid out in the plan:

  • The name of the person responsible for the task
  • The deadline (when does it need to get done?)
  • The names of the people who will be affected by it, especially if approvals are needed (think for example about whether the CEO, the CMO, or another high level executive needs to review and approve your ad campaign before it goes out the door. Make sure to add this person as part of your plan and also to allocate the appropriate time it will take for this person to review and approve – or not – the deliverable)
  • The names of people who will have to be informed by the decision (after you create a new piece of marketing collateral do you announce it to the sales team? Do you have to put out a press release after you revamp your whole website? Think of the communication activities that may result of completing a task)

A key part of taking responsibility and assigning people responsible for each task is to make them accountable. Metrics should be in place to ensure performance is measured – something that becomes critical if the task at hand may impact the overall results of a marketing campaign. If, for example, an activity within your plan is to send out an email blast to selected customers inviting them to attend a webinar, you not only need to ensure you are tracking the results of the email campaign (open rates, click trough rates, bounce rates, etc.) but you should also look into whether the sending of the email itself was done correctly. How? Look back and verify whether the deadlines for creating the email and scheduling/sending it out were met. Why the results were so good or bad? Results from the email might point to improvements needed for the copy, the overall design, or even the landing page used. It is important to know beforehand how you are going to measure success for each activity and also understanding the implications of not meeting the goals (maybe the email needs to be reworked and sent again to drive additional registrations).

Drucker’s wisdom also tells us about delegation and the need for de-centralizing decision making. We all have way too much on our plates to be concerned with every little detail of our marketing plans, after all that’s why we have people in our teams that (hopefully) can help us with some of the tasks. Be it an intern, a marketing coordinator, an assistant or additional marketing professionals, we need to learn that we can rely on each member of the team to carry out his or her task successfully and to make decisions along the way without having to get your approval every step of the way.

The path to becoming an effective marketer involves learning how to “let go” of having to make all decisions. You hired quality people, you should trust your team and you should coach them on how to become better at what they do so that they can one day take over your job and you can rise up the ladder as well! Make each person responsible and accountable but also give them the freedom to decide the best course of action in certain situations. That’s the only way you will be able to accomplish everything you set out to do in your plan. Quoting directly from Peter Drucker “Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level. It needs to be taught explicitly to everyone in organizations that are based on knowledge.” (from “What makes an effective executive”, Harvard Business Review, June 2004)

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