Why did polls shift on same-sex marriage? Unifed, powerful branding
What made public opinion shift on the marriage debate? Strong branding – or the lack of branding – can change conversations rapidly.
Two frequently repeated words (powerful branding terms) changed public opinion on the definition of marriage debate: equality and intolerant.
In modern branding, the one or two words that come to mind when an issue, product or candidate are thought of become your “brand.’’ You can also think of it as "the take away message,'' the first thoughts that come to mind when people think about your brand.
Same-sex marriage backers focused on making “equality’’ their one-word branding message throughout the first quarter of 2013 and made gains in opinion polls.
What’s a branding message? Say "McDonald’s" and people think “fast food” (McDonald’s “owns’’ fast food with sales eclipsing their next four closest rivals). Say Starbucks and people think “pricey coffee.’’
Backers of gay marriage, similarly, focused on “equality’’ as their brand by making an “equals sign” go viral.
Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan, lead the nation in participating in the equal sign push, with 6 percent of all Washtenaw County Facebook users changing their profile pictures to the equals sign during the court debate.
People saw friends’ faces changing to the equals sign and wondered what was up. Conversations changed.
Defenders of traditional marriage had no comparable, unified branding message and the fragmentation of messages was evident when even natural allies began saying same-sex marriage advocates had already seemingly won the debate.
As two marriage cases went to the U.S. Supreme Court in March, the same-sex marriage side had at least 2 million defenders nationwide change their Facebook and Twitter profile pages to an “equals’’ signs as surrogates in interviews all used the word “equality’’ repeatedly in interviews.
Same-sex marriage opponents who raised any arguments critical of same-sex relationships, meanwhile, were quickly labeled “intolerant.’’ Religious or moral arguments were similarly dismissed as intolerant or not relevant to a secular policy debate, limiting and confusing defenders of traditional marriage.
The changed conversation crystallized when Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly declared same sex-marriage backers offered a “compelling argument’’ while “the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.’’
O’Reilly’s summation was reminiscent of Feb. 27, 1968, the night Lyndon Johnson famously saw CBS anchor Walter Cronkite do a critical editorial on Vietnam and told aides, “If I’ve lost Walter, I’ve lost Middle America.’’ A month later, Johnson announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh also cited the power of branding and messaging: “This issue is lost. I don't care what the Supreme Court does, this is now inevitable — and it’s inevitable because we lost the language on this.”
While Webster’s still defines marriage as “the formal union between a man and a woman, media coverage and other public conversations focused on “traditional marriage’’ vs. “gay marriage.’’ Limbaugh said allowing same sex marriage advocates and the media to divide and alter the meaning of a term that had been unchanged for thousands of years invited defeat.
Most arguments critical of same-sex communities immediately generated negative media coverage, with public figures being labeled intolerant or anti-gay, further quieting or fragmenting the defenders of current law, who acknowledged they needed to change their messaging.
Defenders of traditional marriage have yet to agree on a unified branding message but have been trying out several potential branding words, including: children, family and religious liberty
Back at the U.S. Supreme Court, most of the arguments for maintaining current legal definitions of marriage centered on children and precedent. A big banner carried outside the courthouse said simply: “Every child deserves a mother and a father.’’
For centuries, governments as well as Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus have encouraged marriage with legal as well as tax privileges and other rewards because the institution encourages pro-growth policies, procreation and the formation of families with a married mother and father.
Many of the justices questions related to those policies as well as the relative “newness’’ of same sex marriage as an institution whose long-term impacts have yet to be seen. If two men or two women can marry, justices asked, what about one man and two women or a brother and sister or parent and child or two friends seeking to share greater tax, legal and health benefits?
Defenders of maintaining the traditional definition of marriage also began talking about religious liberty. Denmark, which legalized same sex-marriage in 1989, last year required most churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. How long would it take for current religious policies to be challenged as "hate speech" or discriminatory if laws changed, they asked?
Still others said the debate calls into question all 21st century definitions of relationships: Dan Calabrese argues the very definition of "single" has been changing in common usage with Americans avoiding the term “single’’ by seeking to equate long-term dating with marriage.
Brian Dickerson similarly argues the redefinition of marriage began more than 20 years ago when single American women began marrying after their baby was born, rather than before.
Conservative think tanks are getting more thoughtful, with policy papers asking "What is marriage?'' as the debate escalates over the definition. They have yet to agree on one key branding or take away message.
Serwach is Managing Director of Organik Consulting: a Michigan Digital Marketing & Communications firm. Grand Rapids | Ann Arbor | Traverse City. Content marketing grows ROI, Reputation, Relationships. Change Conversations.
Names, stories and first impression matter. When Pope Francis was introduced to the world, his first decision (what to call himself) spoke volumes about Francis’ Papacy and the future of the Catholic Church.
Every organizational brand and every personal brand is shaped by basic decisions like names, narratives and first impressions.
Just as every confirmed Catholic picks a saint name after someone they wish to emulate, every Pope chooses a Papal name of someone he wishes to emulate as Pope.
Ten ways Pope Francis’ brief introduction framed the way the media, the world and history will view his Papacy:
1. Reformer. Pope Francis chose the name of one of the church’s most popular and humblest saints, a venerated reformer who heard the voice of God telling him "Rebuild my church'' and founded a new order seeking to get back to basics.
2. Breaking with tradition. Pope Francis is the first Pope in more than 1,000 years who didn’t name himself after a previous Pope, the first Jesuit, the first from Latin America and the Americas (as well as the first who lost a lung). But the name itself, the first Pope named Francis, was striking.
Pope John Paul I in 1978 named himself after his two predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Paul VI. The last Pope to pick a Papal name not used by an earlier Pope? Pope Lando from 913-14. That’s exactly 1,110 years since a Pope picked a namesake who wasn’t a Pope.
3. A bridge between Rome and the Americas. The church has been called a living organism rather than a 2,000-year-old organization. For centuries, Italians have dominated the Vatican. A big question was whether a new Pope would be able to move past church scandals and reform the Roman Curia. Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas but he is the son of Italian immigrants and his namesake, St. Francis, is a patron saint of Italy.
4. Element of surprise. Pope Francis wasn’t on any of the betting lists of front running or leading candidates so the choice itself captured public attention. Pope Francis is the first non-European Pope since Pope St. Gregory III (a Syrian) died in 741 A.D.
5. Paused and took it all in. Instead of immediately speaking, Pope Francis silently and humbly looked over the balcony for a few minutes, waving and looking at the crowd before saying a word. That added to the impression that this was a humble man focused on others.
6. Started with a quip. Just as Pope John Paul II (the first non-Italian Pope since the 15th century) quipped about the crowd needing to help him with his Italian, Pope Francis quipped about the Cardinals needing to go to the ends of the earth to select him.
7. Asked for prayers. Before offering the Papal Blessing, Pope Francis bent over and asked the crowd to bless him so he could meet their expectations.
8. The highest "rank" a Catholic can reach isn't Pope - it's to become a Saint. Secular coverage focuses on politics or leadership actions but Cardinals must have two-thirds agreement when electing a Pope, a leader who will have total power over them for the rest of his life. In electing a successor to St. Peter, they try to focus on the man they believe is most holy. A humble 76-year-old man of few words helped instill those holy expectations and perceptions in his first appearance as Pope.
9. Stories of humble compassion. As he spoke, news media reported that he was the Cardinal known to ride the bus, cook his own meals and wash the feet of AIDS victims.
10. Seagull symbolism. Just as St. Francis was known for his ability to talk with animals, particularly birds, many took note of the humble sea gull who appeared near the chimney releasing the smoke to announce the election of Pope Francis.
Serwach is Managing Director of Organik Consulting: a Michigan Digital Marketing & Communications firm. Grand Rapids | Ann Arbor | Traverse City. Content marketing grows ROI, Reputation, Relationships. Change Conversations.
“The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” - Brian Sutton-Smith.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw.
Are you spending your working hours doing relevant things that matter? Are you innovating? Do your colleagues and customers agree? Are you looking to improve the way you do business?
Organik helps clients answer those kinds of questions regularly but we've also helped answer those questions for ourselves by "playing around" via the Corporate Recess program developed by our friends at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum.
In Corporate Recess, participants get a bag full of basic office supplies and are reintroduced to play and imagination, challenging each other to think of something fun and different to do.
Jack Woller, GRCM director of operations, explains that if you give someone a toy truck, they'll think of it as a truck but people can imagine a household object like a spoon, kitchen whisk or a staple puller is anything from a microphone to an alligator. Once adults start inviting their inner child back, innovation and creativity and fun soon follow.
Organik began working with GRCM late last November to help change conversations about play. They began getting new attention and partnered with business and educators to put on a successful March symposium and gala focused on the play theme. For January 2013, their paid attendance climbed 36 percent over January 2012.
What does play have to do with your business? Just ask Marcie Brogan, who pioneered advocating play and fun in the work place starting in the 1980s at her advertising agency, Brogan & Partners.
"I love my employees - I would do anything for them but I also have a business reason for doing that: our profits are double the industry standard," Brogan said. "Creativity is what we sell - a fun work place keeps people around longer. Fun keeps our clients around too."
Exactly 100 years years ago, in 1913, a new innovation perfected in Detroit forever changed the way many Americans work and think of work. Today, also in Michigan, GRCM and its partners are national leaders in reviving some of the basic "tinkering" and free play skills that make work fun and rewarding.
For its first first decade in business, Ford Motor Co. workers, like peer auto and carriage builders, were craftsmen who worked on every aspect of making a car, even after orders started in coming in rapidly for the Model T, introduced in 1908.
By 1913, demand was so high that Ford introduced something the craftsmen working for Ford hated: the assembly line. Suddenly, instead of each worker working on a whole car workers would do one single task over and over .. And over. Workers started quitting in droves.
So Henry Ford responded to the mass exodus of workers in 1914, by cutting the work day to eight hours and doubling wages to $5 per day. The higher salaries kept workers from leaving but as Thomas Crumm writes in "What is Good for General Motors: Solving America's Industrial Conundrum," that solution created a whole new set of problems that would emerge in subsequent decades.
Thirty four years after the advent of the assembly line, auto workers began unionizing and demanding higher wages and more benefits as compensation for the drudgery of assembly line work. Wages and benefit costs soared and auto makers moved some operations overseas to try to keep costs down. Crumm notes that GM found its best quality came from operations where locals had a strong culture of tinkering with cars.
Costs continued to escalate and by 2009, GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy while Ford retrenched. To this day, a third of U.S. employees report experiencing chronic stress connected to work, with a new survey showing women now report higher levels of work stress than men.
So a growing number of organizations are looking for ways to tear down walls, to get people engaged and innovating. Play is the first step toward innovation.
The play movement also feeds the Strengthsfinder and personal branding movements we advocate with employees as well as the organizations we advise: figure out what you alone are best at and the success and profits - and fun - will follow.
Serwach is Managing Director of Organik Consulting: a Michigan Digital Marketing & Communications firm. Grand Rapids | Ann Arbor | Traverse City. Content marketing grows ROI, Reputation, Relationships. Change Conversations.
GRAND RAPIDS - West Michigan is a leader in the national movement to reignite play.
"My wife and I are donating $1,000 to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum because we believe you're a national leader," said Darell Hammond, founder of Kaboom, a nationally-known nonprofit focused on saving play in communities.
Why play matters: NASA has found engineers and scientists who are good at "tinkering" or playing are the best innovators who can develop the best technological solutions - skills that start with play, Hammond said. Michigan-based manufacturers like General Motors have similarly found some of their highest quality plants are based in regions where workers have a history of tinkering.
"Where will we find the next Steve Jobs?" Hammond asks, noting young people spend a growing number of hours looking at screens rather than playing with real objects around them.
Free play among over-scheduled kids is down 25 percent, notes GRCM Executive Director Robert Dean, while obesity, anxiety and depression among young people are all up.
Hammond, who explored the topic in the book "Kaboom: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play," was the keynote speaker at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum's March 1 Symposium on Play as well as GRCM's March 2 Gala focused on Celebrating the Way We Play. The symposium drew more than 100 and another 250 attended the gala marking GRCM's 15th anniversary.
While West Michigan is doing more than other regions to revive play, Hammond notes that overall national numbers have declined with 52 percent of students nationwide not getting a recess while only 20 percent are within walking distance of a playground.
GRCM is taking the movement to revive play to Michigan's workforce, arranging "Corporate Recess," programs where workers from Grand Rapids to Detroit have been learning how to reignite their play skills.
Research shows the average child laughs more than 100 times a day while the average adult laughs only 15-20 times per day.
GRCM is also keeping the conversation going to build the play movement, using social and digital media to ask questions like "What can you do with a spoon?'' to show how Michiganders can use inexpensively and easily use everyday items to boost their play and creativity levels. GRCM's spoon video recently topped more than 2,000 views.
"GRCM is a relentless advocate of the benefits of play - not only for the critical thinking, behavioral, and interpersonal skills it gives developing children, but for what it can do for all of us,'' Dean said. "Play has an important role in business innovation, and in teams working effectively together."
Learn more at: www.grcm.org
The Grand Rapids Children's Museum, West Michigan's leading champion of the value of play, celebrates the joy of childhood and learning.
What if your business had an unlisted phone number? When I worked for the state, we were stunned to discover more than half of Michigan businesses lacked a basic web site.
Sadly, many companies who do have web sites and/or a social media presence often think of those tools as a static, “online brochure,’’ where they get someone to post some promotional material then leave it unchanged for weeks, months or years.
Organik is working to change all that, helping Michigan businesses realize that digital marketing and communications are really “the new telephone,’’ two way-communications tools better connecting them with customers.
You wouldn’t pick only one staffer and say “you are the telephone person. No one but you is authorized to answer the phone.’’ Instead, you’d want several people trained to answer phone calls at all hours, making sure calls are answered quickly.
If your main receptionist or call center leader takes a break, you want to be sure there is always someone else available to answer calls, right?
Yet, many businesses have just one person doing all their social media or web work and that sense of urgency connected to the telephone (a 19th century invention) is missing even as voice minute usage declines. Meanwhile, the growing 21st century versions of the telephone, tools that are often parts of smart phones like texting, social media, search, email and video, get far less attention.
Organik last month partnered with Constant Contact to start changing all that, hosting seminars in Grand Rapids and Lansing to help business people sharpen their social media skills. We had full houses for both events.
A similar seminar will be held in Traverse City March 14 at the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Rick Snyder and our friends at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. frequently stress the value of “economic gardening,’’ building on what we have as a state. That contrasts with the old “hunter-gatherer’’ model of economic development where governments fight over attracting new businesses with economic incentives.
One of the best things we did during my time at MEDC was to partner with Google for its "Get your Business Online'' program where within days we were able to fill 500 seats with metro Detroit and Grand Rapids business people looking for help launching web sites and a host of online tools.
Unfortunately, many government officials and economic developers believe most businesses are most concerned with "access to capital" (grants, loans, etc.) because the types of business people approaching government officials seem most interested in getting money from government.
A 2013 Rasmussen poll found most Americans no longer trust businesses that do most of their business with governent perhaps because it seems like both sides are trying to take advantage of each other.
In reality, the vast majority of businesses and nonprofit organizations are far more interested in access to opportunity: finding new customers, new markets, new clients, new talent, new ideas and innovations, sales leads and people they can do business with. All of those opportunities start with better connecting with more people.
At Organik, we similarly focus on taking an organization’s strengths and building on them, taking them to a higher level. A simple yet vital step: putting at least as much focus on your 21st century growing telephones as you do on the one Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876.
Want to have an impact long after you’re gone? My friend and father-in-law Dick Pelkey showed us 10 ways to live on beyond death:
1. One of the greatest inheritances you can leave your children is to write on your photos - tell them who these people are and why special memories matter.
Otherwise, when you die and they go through your personal effects, they'll stare at old photos like a man with amnesia, wondering who most of the people were and what the meaning of the shots are.
My father-in-law labeled his photos and files in such a way that I feel like he's telling us new stories every time we look at something he left behind.
When we find one of these various messages he left behind, it teaches us something new about him and his story.
For example, the back of one mystery photo reads: "This was a girl I met in Houston, Texas when I was in the Navy. I met her at an ice rink. She came up and took hold of my hand which I will never forget…’’
2. Find the beauty around you and be thankful every day. One of his old photos describes his wife as “the most beautiful girl I ever met.’’ But I also remember him laying in a hospital bed when he was deathly ill. saying “Look at that orange. Isn’t it beautiful?’’
Every day we find ways to argue whether things are good or bad, true or false, right or wrong but one thing we rarely dispute is when someone says “That’s BEAUTIFUL.’’ He looked for the beauty in every day life.
We once got him an All American Cheeseburger from Bagger Dave’s in Brighton and he went on and on about how it was the “best burger I’ve ever had.’’
His appreciation made others feel honored by that kind of gratitude.
His gratitude made simple moments memorable. His friend Rod was telling me the other day how much he and his wife loved having Dick for dinner and how much he loved her potato salad.
3. Remember who you are. Allen Hunt tells a moving story about visiting his grandfather's death bed, how his grandfather said "I have something very important to tell you. I want you to get out a piece of paper and write this down: Always remember who you are.'' The kids in that room never threw those pieces of paper away.
That advice struck me as vital because it's so important to families, organizations and individuals.
Dick Pelkey always knew exactly who he was. Remembering who you are is essential to developing your character.
And everything Dick Pelkey did seemed to fit into his character. And yes, he was a very unique character.
Mary, a girl he met at Brighton High, remembers seeing him for the first time and thinking “He looks like a little boy.’’
His sister Dorothy said, as the youngest of six children, he was spoiled like a little prince, that no on could ever tell him “no.”
His friend Randy remembers him as “a man’s man - one of the guys who built this country.’’
His granddaughters Jeni and Katie knew him as “Tractor Grandpa.’’
He was all of that. And more.
“The happiest day of my life was July 13, 1946,’’ he told us one evening a few months ago.
That was the day he was discharged from the Navy, the day he headed back home, one day before his 20th birthday.
He’d survived World War II and couldn’t wait to get back home. He remembers his emotions were so strong that he sat down and cried in the middle of a huge train station.
He was rarely afraid to share his feelings -- all kinds of feelings -- but he also listened very closely, which is why friends were coming to visit, right up to the last days of his life.
4. Come bearing gifts. Bank tellers cried when they heard the news, remembering how he brought them candy.
After leaving the hospital, he’d go back with gifts for the nurses. He was always giving something to someone. It’s the little gestures that people remember.
5. Look for the humor. Dick Pelkey was always looking for ways to make people laugh. If you ever rang his door bell, you know what I mean (my wife won’t let me elaborate on that one publicly but it was funny).
Six years ago, he found a big slab of flat rock, planted it in a nice spot in the Tiger Lilies near our garage and chiseled “DAD’’ into it. Yes, it's a big tombstone.
He thought this was hilarious. And when the rest of us freaked out, he laughed even more.
He also painted twin pumpkins with goofy faces, naming them Joe and Deb.
6. Go outside. Dick was one of six kids in a tiny 900 square foot 19th century farm house he called home from age 7 until he died Monday at age 86.
But he spent as much time outside as he could: the land and the woods were his playground.
And unless a football game was on, he always preferred to be outside doing something, ripping out stumps (and often our Invisible Fence) with his tractor, mowing lawns, chopping wood, plowing snow, moving sand, making something new. It energized and enlivened him.
7. If you fall, keep getting right back up - and remember doctors and other authorities don't have the final word. Only God does.
Back in World War II, doctors told him how terrible his kidneys were, that he’d wind up on dialysis. He never did.
In 2005, doctors found cancer on his liver so I assumed he was a goner: until they said it “went away.’’
Last spring, doctors told him, he’d need to be on oxygen the rest of his life – then they said “no, he didn’t need oxygen anymore.’’
In early summer, doctors said he’d never be able to have salt again – or pizza.
Last August, the best doctors at U-M said they couldn’t help him, to get Hospice. So he started smoking again, started eating salt again, basically doing what he felt like doing – and he got better yet again.
When doctors told him again in February they couldn’t help him and sent him home with Hospice care, he listened closely... But then he started plotting a way ``to build up my strength again so I can get better.’’ He willed himself back to life again and again and found a way to sit up every day of his life.
8. Those older people who seem to have settled into retired, routine lives have often have had more adventures than you've ever dreamed of.
Just sit down and ask them to share some of their stories - and ask lots of questions.
There's a reason Tom Brokaw dubbed the generation that won World War II "America's Greatest Generation." Many of Dick Pelkey’s stories are just as good or better than most of the movies I’ve seen.
9. Treat your friends like family and your family like friends. One of Dick’s old wallets includes photos you’d expect to find: his girls, his son, special loved ones.
But it also includes pictures of his friends, guys he mentored. His photo piles are filled with close friends like the Smails, the Haynors - many people. One of his last visitors was Mike, a close friend and regular visitor since they met in 1942.
His dear friend Ron also pointed out that he was a Pied Piper for pretty much every dog in the neighborhood. He’d drive his tractor and they followed.
10. Leave bread crumbs marking your trail that will lead you back home. He spent much of his life going outside and building things: he worked on the Mackinac Bridge, he helped build the Interstates.
He also built little bridges and big ponds and new hillsides around the place we call home.
His niece Lori and neighbors remember him driving his red 1950 Farm It All tractor through the snow to plow them out.
Or he was busy working with his dad, or his four brothers or friends turning what once was a muddy trench into the road to his home.
But the most important bridges he worked on were the relationships that tied him to so many people for life and beyond. The final day of his life is a great example.
His daughter Debbie knew the end was near and slept in his favorite La Z Boy recliner Sunday night while he slept on the couch.
At 6 a.m., Monday morning her alarm went off and she quickly shut it off, checked on Dad, saw he was breathing peacefully, gave him a little kiss then went to the kitchen for a moment.
When Debbie came back, her Dad had stopped breathing. He never wanted to cause anyone any trouble or be a burden. His soul had softly slipped away.
Calls and texts began to family and friends. Long before the undertakers arrived, his small house was filled with family and friends sharing stories, saying their own goodbyes to him one on one and looking at his photo collection, crying and laughing, sharing stories of the great man.
His daughter in law Lucy marveled at how amazing the sunrise looked that morning as she drove to see him one last time.
His son Dorn was smiling remembering the way his dad asked if he was afraid of spiders before making him crawl under the house, assuring him he wouldn't be afraid of spiders after they were all over him.
His daughter Sandy in Colorado has been sharing memories of making mud pies under the big tree, playing in Ore Creek and golden amber homemade honey with the comb in it fresh from their hives.
Dad always kept his curtains closed so his living room was always dark except for the flames from his old gas burning stove.
But on that final morning, we couldn’t help but notice a big beam of sunshine poking through the curtains and shining right down on his face.
The bridges Dick Pelkey built will live on for decades: the bridges he built between the people he knew through his life will remain as long as we remember.
Did you notice the most popular, most shared/talked about 2013 Super Bowl commercial that attracted the most social media buzz was essentially a really well-done YouTube video? In fact, it was a complete remake (with far better photos) of this 2011 YouTube video.
For the third year in a row, Chrysler earned more kudos and changed more conversations with a single two minute Super Bowl ad than any other company did with any other ad. In Super Bowl 2011, Chrysler changed conversastions with an homage to Detroit featuring Detroiters like Eminem and the Select of God Choir, in 2012 Chrysler changed conversations with Clint Eastwood's "It's halftime in America" pep talk to Americans.
But in 2013, Chrysler changed conversations yet again with a 2-minute ad that was literally a reboot of a popular YouTube video that showed a simple photo slide show accompanying part of a1978 Paul Harvey speech paying honor to the American farmer.
My friend and former colleague, Detroit Free Press business writer Brent Snavely, asked why Chrysler's Paul Harvey ad was so much more popular than its 2013 homage to the troops ad featuring Oprah Winfrey. A few explanations:
- First, the 2011 Eminem ad, the 2012 Clint Eastwood and the 2013 Paul Harvey ad were each two minutes, like a strong YouTube short form video.
- Each featured great,almost poetic, inspiring writing (content marketing moves audiences because both search engines and readers demand the very best content).
- Each seemed more like an inspirational speech about something most Americans care about or can relate to rather than a straight-out advertising pitch. We firmly believe people put up a defensive wall when they know they're getting a sales pitch but that they lower those defenses when they're part of a good, productive conversation. The ad with Oprah, while also two minutes, seemed to be more of an ad, asking viewers to do something (donate money) and was not quite in the same category as the other three, which were less about selling and more about creating a change conversastion, connecting with a bigger group of people in ways they could relate.
- Each moved people emotionally and featured a strong, easy to understand call to action.
- The newest 2013 Super Bowl ad was most like a great YouTube videot: it showed simple (but very high quality) photos accompanying Paul Harveys speech but it also evoked nostalgia and made the video a tribute all hard-woking Americans (not just farmers or pickup owners) by dedicating the ad to "the farmer in all of us." The Oprah ad focused on a smaller group: troops now serving.
- Good Super Bowl ads, like good YouTube videos, are popular because we like to share them with our friends on social media. They go viral and change conversations. Some numbers: the Emminem ad has had 15 million YouTube views since Super Bowl 2011, the Clint Eastwood ad has had 15.9 million views since 2012, the Paul Harvey ad has had 7.5 million since Super Bowl 2013 and Oprah's ad had 2 million since Super Bowl 2013.
-Typical Super Bowl ads, in contrast, feature gimmicks, gags and animals and have a far less-longer shelf life.
Why are short form videos the future of marketing? For one thing, unlike most commercials, people choose to watch short form videos, typically at the urging of their friends. They are something we choose to watch rather than something we endure. This is why we firmly believe advertising is like the wind trying (usually unsucessfully) to get you to remove your coat while PR is like the sun, warming you until you choose to take off your coat.
My 25-year-old son Ed shows how even a very traditional, established business, with little history of developing videos can enter the YouTube world with little to no investment (my son shot his video with a smart phone) as long as the content idea and the story are solid.
Ed did his own parody of the No. 1 viral video of 2012, Gangnam Style. Ed's video went viral as well and more importantly, people came to his dealership asking for Ed by name, citing his video as the reason they came to that particular dealership. How did he keep the numbers growing?
When Chevy announced a new slogan in January (Find New Roads) Ed incorporated it in his video to attract people searching for that new slogan on YouTube. When the Super Bowl arrived, he referenced the Super Bowl in his video,, further boosting traffic by attracting people searching for Super Bowl ads.
Again, good Super Bowl ads, like good YouTube videos, are conversation changers, stories we choose to watch and share.
Super Bowl Sunday 2010 marked the airing of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s 1st TV ad, starting him on the road to being elect governor in November 2010. Yet, three years later, we still know many state workers who mispronounce his last name (many still say "Schneider'' when it's actually "Snyder").
Why? Because Snyder’s true brand identity, the way he is known to every Michigander, is “the Nerd’’ (a powerful Michigan brand casting him as a smart businessman rather than a politician). Perhaps not coincidentally, potential 2014 Democratic rivals started bowing out last month. The power of that single Super Bowl ad very quickly and easily cast his opponents as "career politicians,'' summed up former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's entire eight years as "happy talk'' and cast himself as "one tough nerd.'' The labels stuck.
Another Republican, Pete Hoekstra, tried to recapture the Super Bowl magic by starting his 2012 Senate campaign with hia own Super Bowl ad. The ad drew national attention for all the wrong reasons: it featured an Asian actress pretending to be someone in China "thanking Debbie Spend It Now'' (incumbent Debbie Stabenow) for sending so many jobs to China. The ad immediately backfired and even the actress in the ad publicly apologized for being a part of it. Hoekstra's campaign was never the same and Stabenow won in a landslide.
The essential element of any YouTube video - or any Super Bowl ad - is best summed up by the credo of our friends at McCann Erickson: "Truth told well.''
If it's true, if it's real and if it's done very well. it will go viral. If it's not true or wasn't done really well, why would anyone want to share it with anyone else?
My 22-year-old daughter Jenny and I were sharing lunch when she observed: "These kids today actually have iPads. When I was a kid, the best thing we had was a Nintendo Gameboy.''
I smiled and said: "Honey, when I was a kid, we played with spoons. My grandma gave me a spoon and told me to go play in the dirt on the side of her house.''
My daughter thought I was joking. But I explained how Grandma said I could use that spoon to dig my way to China, how I dug with a spoon and had a fantastic time using my imagination. Just playing.
Fast forward several months to a meeting with our friends at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, who are leading a regional effort to champion the value of play. Numerous studies show free play boosts creativity, imagination, social skills, productivity and a host of other valuable gifts.
Unfortunately, the number of hours of free play has dropped drastically in recent years: more kids play video games instead of going outside and more hours of organized team sports and adult supervised "play dates'' have also sent free play hours down as childhood obesity has risen.
When I was in grad school at the University of Michigan, Professor Larry Rowley showed us an incredible Atlantic article asking "Is Google Making us stupid?" The ability to find everything we want to know by simple search, it noted was robbing us of a lot of learning skills. A huge tool that counters the downside of the Internt and feeds learning: free play. Yet recess periods are being cut at many schools.
Darell Hammond, the founder of Kaboom, the national nonprofit that builds playgrounds nationwide, asks "If we don't let our kids play, who will be the next Steve Jobs?" Hammond is part of the movement for boosting free play and will keynote the Grand Rapids' Children's Museum's Symposium on Play March 1. Businesses, education leaders and other community leaders are becoming part of the effort to boost interest in free play.
The museum is also spurring play among adults with its Corporate Recess program to teach teams the value of free play toward spurring innovation, creativity and team building in the work place.
How Change Conversations move the needle: the Grand Rapids Children's Museum's fantastic idea (becoming the state's leading champion of play) reminded me of my earlier "spoon discussion." The two ideas melded into something new with a pro-play campaign that now asks questions like "What can you do with a spoon?"
The takeaway: if you can come up with imaginative things to do with a simple every day item like a spoon, just think what other innovative ideas you or your workers could develop, invent or create.
Or as your mom or grandma might have said: "OK, OK. Now just go outside and play.''
Social media, search and smart phones have turned media channels into a roaring rapids of content (news, images, information, conversation, marketing messages, etc).
Going with that flow, following the rushing rapids of content one evening, helped explain the fall of sitcoms and network TV.
Here is how one answer can lead to another - and how they can all connect and offer bigger lessons - in our 21st century Tag Economy:
- Friend's influence friends. My friend and former colleague Matt Roush posted a fascinating status about a recent film. He explained he voted for it for the Screen Actors Guild Awards because his union, which represents broadcasters, had merged with SAG - so one of Michigan's best journalists now votes on Hollywood acting awards.
- Friends of a friend... Matt's connection to the SAG awards made me wonder when they were on (we watch the Oscars but I'd never seen the SAG awards). That curiosity made me Google SAG the next evening where Google showed an early story saying Tommy Lee Jones had won for his role in "Lincoln.''
- Curiosity. I then Googled "SAG awards, network, airtime'' and found it on TNT. The cable network re-ran the show immediately afterward so I wound up seeing the whole show.
- Engaged. I noticed SAG kept giving awards to people in popular sitcoms I don't watch: Modern Family, 3rd Rock, The Office. Alec Baldwin, winning his award for the eighth year in a row, mentioned his show was ending a long run and I realized I'd never watched it except for seeing part of it on an airplane. Why had I never watched it? Why do modern sitcoms turn me away? I started to wonder if I was getting old and out of touch for no longer watching sitcoms (I watched them all the time as a kid).
- Connected by common views. SAG gave Dick Van Dyke a Lifetime Achievement Award, reflecting on his great career, and wondering how old he is now, I Googled him (he's 87). My search found a fascinating story about Van Dyke saying why he never watches sitcoms any more.
"I think the big change is that 10 minutes of every 30 are commercials," Van Dyke told Reuters. "We had 28 minutes to tell our story. Today they get 20 minutes. It's just a one-line joke and a canned laughter, and a one-line joke and a canned laughter. I won't say it's bad, it's just that I have trouble understanding it.
"It seems to me that relationships are what's missing. I think back to 'All in the Family,' when you knew what those relationships were and the comedy that came out of that. Today it's just one line after another, and they seem to try to cover too much in the way of story in a short time. Then I think they signal when they're trying to be funny, and the minute I catch someone trying to be funny, then I won't laugh."
Van Dyke's explanation of the fall of sitcoms made perfect sense and offers lessons for all who care about good stories and the power of strong content (including media, content marketing and everyone who posts anything on the web or social media).
As a result, Van Dyke said he mostly watches movies, one hour dramas and the like. Network ratings shrink every year. Commercial-free networks like HBO and PBS are increasingly praised for their programming content (Downton Abbey, HBO movies like Game Change, etc., which won SAG awards, shows).
Compare the original Dallas series (1978-1991) with today's Dallas series (2012-present) and the differences are clear: today's programming is much faster paced, more develops more quickly because our attention spans are shorter. And the amount of space between commercials is shorter too.
The takeaway: too many commercials helped kill sitcoms and hurt the old Big Three networks that air them. We can use DVR or DVD machines to bypass TV ads but the main problem is the remaining content (the actual shows) are now shorter as a result of those ads.
So people are either turning to longer, more meaningful programming (one or two hour shows) or short, snappy content (we now spend 22 HOURS a month watching short form videos on YouTube - time taken away from TV and other things ways we used to spend our time). Sitcoms are stuck in the middle of between the preferred short and longer choices.
Lesson: if you want to boost the number of people looking at you and our organization: your web site, social media pages or yes, TV networks, make sure your content is strong. Give people a reason to pay attention to what you have to say and they will.
The first truly "connected car" on display at NAIS in Detroit: James Bonds' 1964 Aston Martin DB5.
Tag Economy conversations: two people ask each other what they’re most concerned about at work and together they figure ways to help each other improve on what they’re both best at.
In centuries past, you grew your economy by getting close to a railroad, a road or Interstate or what Al Gore used to call “the Information Superhighway.” Today, it’s all that more. Consider this week’s Michigan news, all related to connectedness growing the economy:
- Wi fi in your car? More than 5,000 journalists were at the North American International Auto Show this week learning about the vehicles of tomorrow. By 2016, we learned there will be 90 million “connected cars’’ on the road. So we’ll all have a virtual concierge/personal assistant in our car telling us where to go. Our friends at Online Tech and Comcast and many others are helping make all that work.
- Billions for improving roads? In Lansing, the State of the State focused on spending $10 billion over the next decade to improve roads, create 12,000 jobs and save lives. Otherwise, the Governor said the repair costs alone could be $25 billion.
- Rural Sophistication: connecting rural counties to everywhere. The Stream (Where Talent Flows) has come up with an innovative way to give people “Rural Sophistication,’’ a combination of 21st century Creative Class work environment in a rural county known for hunting, fishing, woods, river and great beef sticks and smoked fish.
The Stream is based in rural Newaygo County, where many Internet connections can still be painfully slow and where about half the population endures long work commutes to nearby Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Options like the Stream can save energy, burn less gas and ease the strain on our crumbling, often overcrowded roads.
Examples of how such remote centers work: a Texan, who works for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, really wanted to spend his summer fishing in Newaygo so he did his work, including video conferences from the Stream and spent the rest of his time enjoying Michigan. Companies and small businesses can arrange for workers to work remotely either occasionally, once a week or regularly.
Suddenly, long weekend trips to the wilderness can stretch over two weeks because this new economy allows all of us to have our own personalized roads connecting the people and places we care about so we can get away from it all and still be connected.
Serwach is Organik’s managing director. Organik is a Michigan-based marketing and strategic communications firm developing and executing strategies to change conversations. Some of those tools include engagement campaigns, social media, advocacy, digital marketing, video, engagement sites, ads, media relations, marketing events and public relations. Learn more at