The Advertising Apprentice

January 25, 2011

“The Secret of All Persuasion…

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 10:30 AM
Tags: , , ,

…Is to induce the person to persuade himself.”

– Stuart Ewen, Professor – Hunter College

There you go, I just shared the biggest insight revealed in the hour and a half PBS Frontline documentary The Persuaders. If the consumer takes action without first being prompted by your ad, then you’ve succeeded. However getting to that point is a very tedious process that sees a lot of failure. Why? Because simply put it’s not easy coming up with a brand or a campaign that will induce people to persuade themselves. Countless people have tirelessly researched ways to convince people to buy more, with no luck. The Persuaders introduce us to several brands, ideas, and people that have tried to come up with ways to achieve the ultimate secret of persuasion.

Before I get any further into today’s entry, I want to give a shout-out to Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant whose hit show, The Age of Persuasion, recently began its fifth season on CBC Radio One. Starting this year anyone who isn’t able to tune-in on Saturday mornings at 11:30 or Thursday afternoons at 2:30, will be able to download podcasts of season five through iTunes. Now you can listen to The Age of Persuasion while you workout, commute to work, or as you tune-out your boss! (Please note, the producers of the show will not be held responsible for anyone fired for tuning out their boss!)

The Persuaders is a PBS Frontline documentary that was released in 2004. It was written and narrated by Douglas Rushkoff. The same mind that brought us another PBS Frontline doc, and the subject of the last Advertising Apprentice entry, The Merchants of Cool. The Persuaders looks at the different ways marketers are trying to stand-out of the vicious circle of clutter, in order to get their message heard.

Outside the profound insight highlighted above, there are three other people/ideas from The Persuaders that I’d like to discuss:

  1. Song Airlines
  2. Lovemarks and Kevin Roberts
  3. Dr. Clotaire Rapaille and Market Research

Song Airlines

Song Airlines launched in 2003. It was a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, and was meant to serve as a low-cost carrier to compete with Jet Blue. Delta was taking a big risk with this endeavour as Song began operations at the worst possible time for the airline industry, post 9/11. Its flight was short-lived and a little over three years after it began, Delta ceased Song’s operations and the fleet became integrated with the rest of Delta’s fleet.

The reason I’m discussing Song Airlines isn’t to talk about a small blip on the American airline industry radar, but rather because of the following quote from the man in charge of Song’s marketing:

This is a business, this isn’t an art form. We must ensure that it’s communication that drives commerce not just makes people feel good.” – Tim Mapes Marketing Director, Delta Airlines

What I love about this quote is that it shows the client’s take on advertising, “We must ensure that it’s communication that drives commerce…” If their campaign happens to win a CLIO or a Cannes Lions, that’s great, but first and foremost the priority is to increase sales. And of course, at the time when Song was about to launch, it was essential for their advertising to have a positive impact on sales.

As I mentioned the airline didn’t last too long, perhaps with the help of Lovemarks, they’d still be around.

Lovemarks and Kevin Roberts

A lovemark is “A brand that has created loyalty beyond reason. That’s infused with mystery sensuality and intimacy. And that you recognize immediately has having some kind of iconic place in your heart.” – Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide


Lovemarks is turning any product into an object of devotion. It’s the movement from brands to the experiences (of our five senses).

The creation of Lovemarks was Saatchi & Saatchi’s way of differentiating themselves from their competitors. An interesting paradox when you consider that advertising (copywriting) traditionalists when conceptualizing an ad for a client try to hone in on the product or service’s unique selling preposition.

The introduction of Lovemarks was also a way for the agency to revive itself following the loss of a major client ($185 million in billings from Johnson & Johnson, including the Tylenol account which Saatchi & Saatchi had held for 28 years.).

I see Lovemarks as being simple brand-loyalty. The goal is to create a strong connection with the customer, get them to the point where they don’t consciously have to think about making the purchase; it’s an automatic. But where the concept of Lovemarks is different from brand-loyalty is that whereas brand-loyalty is a process that can take some time, Lovemarks attempts to create that loyalty beyond reason in a short amount of time.

You can read more about Lovemarks here and here.

The jury is still out on whether Lovemarks is here to stay but perhaps with the market research services of Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, the concept would have been better developed.

Dr. Clotaire Rapaille and Market Research

Good marketing research works. It means that marketers understand the real need of the customers. Sometimes unspoken. And they deliver. Give me what I want.” – Dr. Clotaire Rapaille

This quote shows that in order to successfully reach your customers you must understand what they want. When you see some brands clearly missing the mark in reaching their audience, you wonder if they really knew whom it was they were supposed to be targeting.

After viewing the segment on Dr. Rapaille and doing some research on him, I think he would’ve been well respected by the late great Phil Dusenberry who emphasized the importance of research in his book One Great Insight Is Worth a Thousand Good Ideas. He wrote, “The first thing you do in dealing with any business problem is research. You collect data so you can understand the problem, or at least approach it more knowingly. Before you can deliver a message to customers that incites them to buy more…”

(Research was the first principle of Dusenberry’s RAISE model, “Good research demands brilliant analysis which inspires blazing insights that lead to groundbreaking strategies and award-winning executions.”)

In addition to being a marketing research guru, a label given to Dr. Rapaille, by Douglas Rushkoff, the doctor must have done some research when choosing his career-path. His research at the start of the twenty-first century, focus groups were a favourite tool of his, focused on the hunt for the luxury code. Rapaille believes that consumers are drive by unconscious needs and impulses. We hunt on the basis of primal urges, which is part of his theory on the reptilian brain. This type of specialized research helped his bottom-line as clients from the insurance, automobile, and fragrances industries have together paid Rapaille several hundred thousand dollars for the luxury code in the hopes it will provide them with a competitive advantage no matter what they’re selling.

A further example that business is good for Dr. Rapaille, is his fees:

“$225,000 for a study like the one on paper products; $25,000 for a 45-minute lecture; $125,000 for a group session (for companies like P&G and IBM) on an issue such as America-bashing in Europe.” (The preceding text is courtesy of Forbes.)

There was a fourth person/quote from The Persuaders that I found noteworthy. “It doesn’t matter what you want to tell the public. It’s about what they want to hear.” – Frank Luntz

As it seems that a Canadian federal election is right around the corner, I’ll save my thoughts on this quote for an upcoming entry on political advertising. Also watch for an entry in the near future on the British Columbia based anti-consumerist magazine, Adbusters.

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