In NASCAR auto racing, there’s a lot of talk about luck. Yet, when I ran a NASCAR sponsorship program, I prohibited use of the word “luck” in any communications about the program.


Because other than in gaming, customers don’t want to imagine their brand experience involving chance.

So do everyone in your organization a favor and follow the same approach: ban use of the word “luck.”

Banning “luck” forces its removal from conversations about performance and the reasons your business results are strong or weak. With “luck” banned, it can no longer be used to explain or excuse your results.

What do you do instead?

Think strategically, plan innovatively, and perform extraordinarily with “luck” removed from the equation! – Mike Brown

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HBO ran a program on preparations by four-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and his team for racing in the 2010 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

At the first 2010 team meeting, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus called the team’s attention to the bare walls in the meeting room. He highlighted the absence of all the awards and pictures celebrating the team’s fourth NASCAR championship in 2009. Knaus let the team know it is on the hook to perform at a level in 2010 to allow them to fill the walls once again with racing successes.

Maybe a move like that is easier when you’ve won 4 NASCAR championships in a row! But it’s a great reminder for any of us:

  • Don’t rest on your laurels. Instead, get motivated for the successes that lie ahead of you.

So when you look around your office, what do you see? Are you stuck in past wins, or do you have motivators for the greatness that’s yet to come?Mike Brown

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As we’ve mentioned previously, during Super Bowl XLIV as part of #BZBowl, Brainzooming Strategic Contributor Barrett Sydnor focused on rating Super Bowl ads based on the memorability criteria highlighted in the book, “Made to Stick.” Here’s Barrett’s assessment:

“I loved that ad with the little kids, you know, the one for . . ., Well I can’t remember who it’s for, but I loved it.”

We’ve all said those same words more or less. Most critiques of Super Bowl ads operate on that level. The ad someone “liked” or thought was the funniest is declared the best Super Bowl ad.

But that isn’t why advertisers buy Super Bowl time. They want to sell stuff, lots of stuff. To accomplish that, the message must be memorable. As Chip and Dan Heath write, it must be “Made to Stick.” So in generating ratings for the Brainzooming Super Bowl XLIV ad analysis, I was more systematic in assessing the best and worst Super Bowl ads using the six strategic characteristics Made to Stick says make for memorable messages.

Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion, Story

From kickoff to final whistle there were 31 breaks containing 67 national commercials and at least one very memorable promo. I watched each ad only once—as it ran—and made my judgments as to whether each met the six criteria (yes/no only, no shades of gray here) in as close to real time as possible. I haven’t looked at any best and worst list other than Mike’s.

Most Memorable Ads

  • Based on the Made to Stick criteria, I rated Doritos “Keep Your Hands Off My Momma” as the most memorable Super Bowl ad. It hit on all six cylinders.
  • The runner-up is Google for Paris. I thought it hit on five of six. (Mike and I disagree here.  Actually the next best ad was for The Late Show with Dave, Oprah, and Jay–but I think advertising is like therapy, it doesn’t count if you don’t pay.)
  • Tied for Third: Snickers, Coca-Cola (Simpson’s characters), and Teleflora. All had four of six and all were well done tactics with clear strategies.

Least Memorable Ads

  • The least memorable Super Bowl ad was Diamond Foods. The totally overproduced and under-communicating ad for Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret met none of the “Made to Stick” criteria.
  • The next least memorable ad was Vizio. It did meet one criterion (Unexpected), but the rest of it was so bad it drops to the penultimate place on merit.
  • Third worst went to the Go Daddy spots collectively. They met no criteria and made you feel bad for everyone involved.

A full listing of all the ads with their Made to Stick criteria ratings and my pithy comments can be downloaded at the end of the post.


Using the same criteria, someone else might reach a different conclusion about most and least memorable, i.e. your mileage may very.  But we should be able to agree that memorable communication counts for something in marketing.

Right now, we’re applying these principles for an event strategy project, designing an innovative positioning and strategy to create greater memorability and impact for attendees. What we’ve found at Brainzooming is beyond applying the “Made to Stick” criteria after the fact, the big opportunity is to innovatively use them in developing communications creative strategy. – Barrett Sydnor

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Amid cost-cutting pressures, you may be exploring self-service approaches more aggressively.

Beyond addressing how to help customers be successful in a self-service environment, it’s important to design the experience to legitimately enhance customer benefits.

Here are 26 potential benefits a self-service environment could provide. Your self-service approach might:

  • Cost less
  • Allow a customer to pay right away & save
  • Feature a reward/loyalty program
  • Minimize/eliminate the embarrassment of doing something wrong
  • Allow customers to do things in secret/privacy
  • Eliminate the need to deal with people & personalities
  • Provide greater convenience
  • Offer safety and security
  • Permit pre-planning
  • Be more fun
  • Provide a great customer experience
  • Allow immediate service, avoiding lines and saving time
  • Seem new and innovative
  • Provide something out of the norm
  • Be more dependable
  • Offer more service choices
  • Allow greater control
  • Allow a customer to choose a preferred personal service level
  • Be set up exactly the way a customer wants it
  • Be easier because it’s always a consistent process
  • Be simpler
  • Provide 24/7 availability
  • Be used while multitasking
  • Offer more information
  • Be more accurate (or allow a customer to double check the accuracy)
  • Permit a customer to get everything done they need in one stop

See how you can deliver some of these benefits for customers as you make them do more. – Mike Brown

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Sunday night’s Super Bowl provided an incredible opportunity: getting a cool group of brand-savvy marketers from around the country together on Twitter to tweet about the best Super Bowl XLIV ads. As opposed to larger hashtag groups, the #BZBowl group was more intimate (with nearly 70 participants and no spammers). We had a lot of great IRL and online Brainzooming friends (both new and previous ones) navigating a few Twitter overloads and sharing more than 900 perspectives on Super Bowl ads throughout the game.

Update-wise, our recaps will unfold over the next few days. Barrett Sydnor is preparing a recap based on the SUCCESS formula spelled out in the book “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. It will be interesting to see how this assessment compares to the popular opinion and buzz-oriented evaluations.

For me, the best Super Bowl ad was only 15 seconds, took just 30 minutes to shoot days before the game, and didn’t cost the advertiser anything to air (in fact, the biggest cost was likely the private jets to get its stars to the shoot). Yes, the David Letterman promo co-starring Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno was the standout ad in this year’s Super Bowl.

When you think through the “Made to Stick” criteria, the promo fully used 5 of the 6 proposed keys to memorability. It was:

  • Simple (little dialogue, one set, no computer graphics)
  • Unexpected (who’d have thought you’d get Leno and Letterman on the same set after the past month)
  • Credible (if Jay and Oprah will hang with Dave, why wouldn’t you?)
  • Emotional (with little dialogue, it was still one of the funniest ads as David Letterman imitated Jay Leno to his face)
  • Story-based (who doesn’t know the backstory so as to quickly put the setting into context)

The only key it didn’t use was Concrete, and that’s only because it didn’t scream, “Watch the Late Show!”

Just goes to show that a creative idea, some strategic risk taking (on multiple fronts), and implementing the SUCCESS formula can more than compensate for huge production budgets when it comes to memorability.

A few other quick impressions:

  • Certain “creative” (or maybe not so creative) themes emerged among ads (underwear, little people, surprise tackling, classical music). Many were easy to spot because of odd CBS scheduling which placed similar commercials back-to-back during certain breaks.
  • Super Bowl Advertisers (or their agencies) aren’t getting that traditional and social media should work together for maximum effectiveness. Pepsi went all social and suffered from no call-outs in the game. Few Super Bowl TV ads included social media angles (only Vizio had really blatant social media overtones), with the exception of a few, “go to the website to see more” mentions (Focus on the Family , GoDaddy, Doritos, HomeAway).
  • The Doritos open competition for ads seemed to work well for the brand, with some relatively strong creative in what many online felt was a lackluster Super Bowl advertising year.
  • For all the pre-game handwringing, the Focus on the Family ad was much ado about nothing. The ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother was very weak, irrespective of how you feel about the intended message.
  • The much-anticipated Google ad was interesting and distracting at the same time. It demanded attention to follow the integrated, text-based storyline in one pass (I admit it – it took me two viewings due to a poor attention span). The popular view is the Google ad signals its fear of Bing. My game time tweet was that in my previous job, I’d always tried to sell our e-commerce team on simplicity in web design. The rationale was that Amazon and Google didn’t have to invest dollars to get people to understand how to use them. So…did Google really need to run the ad?
  • Coca-Cola went for little vignettes, including one built entirely around the Simpsons. These ads felt like they were solidly facing the past. Saw a mix of reviews on these – USA Today had Sleepwalker at number 5, but the Simpsons spot at number 30 among all Super Bowl ads.
  • There was nearly universal disdain, at least among the #BZBowl crew, for GoDaddy. My personal opinion is that Danica Patrick’s willingness to be in these BS ads signals how really bad the motorsports sponsorship market is. I feel sorry for very few athletes, but these ads continually put her into situations she should not have to be associated with.

As I write this very early Monday morning (after a post-game visit to the emergency vet with a sick cat), USA Today is reporting (by a really obnoxious guy BTW) the top ads as ones from early in the game:

  • Betty White (and Abe Vigoda) playing football for Snickers
  • The Doritos ad where the dog put its collar on its owner
  • The Bud Light ad with the house made out of full Bud Light cans

My sense from the chat on #BZBowl would be agreement with Snickers, but support for other Doritos ads as among the best. Forbes.com lists one of the E*Trade baby ads as number 1. I was less sold on the babies this year, but the campaign did yield a great new term, “Milkaholic.” Its other top 3 were Doritos (dog collar) and Denny’s (which should have come up with a special football promo name for its expensively-touted Grand Slam Breakfast).

As I mentioned, we’ll be updating our Brainzooming Super Bowl Analysis the next several days, sharing a strategic and innovation perspective on the Super Bowl marketing efforts. Mike Brown

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The #BZBowl - Sponsored by Brainzooming

Do you spend more time thinking about Marketing than Manning?

More interested in Bud than Bowl?

Think the Super Bowl is really a bunch of cool ads interrupted by guys in padding hitting each other?

Then you’re in the right place for live and post-game analysis of Super Bowl XLIV  ads and social media from a group of seasoned marketing, branding, and social media observers.

How can you participate?

  • Check below for a live feed of all the tweets using our #BZBowl hashtag.
  • Log on to Twitter and tweet your observations about the ads. Just be sure to include #BZBowl in your tweet so it shows up below. For even broader visibility for your tweet, also include #SuperBowlAds in your tweet so those following that hashtag will see what you’re saying on #BZBowl.
  • During and after the game, we’ll provide updated commentary, ratings of ads using the SUCCESS criteria from “Made to Stick,” and videos of the best and worst Super Bowl advertisements. You can grab your own expected ad list and score sheet below.

Thanks for playing! To see a list of expected Tweeters and links to other resources, you can visit our main #BZBowl page too.

And if you’re a first time visitor to Brainzooming, learn more about what we do to catalyze innovative success!

View more presentations from Mike Brown.

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Okay, first, this has to be said: the Business Communicators Summit sponsored by the Kansas City IABC was INCREDIBLE!

While I leave many conferences feeling like, “Oh crap, I’m so far behind and won’t ever figure out the cool things other people are doing,” nothing could be further from the truth after yesterday’s conference.

Leaving Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre at day’s end after hearing Steve Crescenzo, Chris Brogan, and other great presenters, my brain was zooming with pages of ideas including some breakthrough ones which only seem to emerge during a highly-creative day removed from the regular routine.

Rather than writing presentation summaries, here’s a sampling of innovation instigators from throughout the day.

  • If you’re in B2B, continually watch the consumer world for ideas to co-opt. People make every B2B buying decision. Appeal to what motivates people as individuals, not as businesses. And people care about people, so put actual people with genuine stories in communications.
  • Great refresh of the tired old “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” quote from Steve Crescenzo: “Proceed until apprehended.”
  • If you’ve got customers who are spending time on social networks, then there’s got to be a customer service dimension to whatever your company’s considering in social media.
  • A pivotal mashup idea from the mouths of Steve Crescenzo and Chris Brogan: Communicators need to be talent scouts. That implies looking for people inside the company who are passionate and ooze the brand. These are your communicators in social media channels, regardless of what department they live and work in. Time-saving tip: when you start your talent hunt, begin in customer service.
  • Deliver people an artifact as quickly as you can, even if it’s a rough version of a concept. People unfamiliar with new concepts will say “no” until they’re presented with something tangible. That means you start big ideas before you get permission, and share tangible stuff before you get perfection.
  • Customers don’t give a crap about the mechanics of what you do. They’re interested in recommendations, and most importantly, the results. Go there first and fast!
  • Just like “-ista,” adding “-ati” to the end of a word makes it sound like a bigger, cool deal.
  • Great presentations are example and story-based. Are you (and by “Are you, I mean “Am I”) taking dramatic steps to make sure your presentations reflect that? Now I’m completely rethinking a blogging presentation scheduled for next Thursday.

This is simply a smattering of ideas triggered by the innovative content on social media and broader communication strategy.

If you attended the BCS (and there were a few Brainzooming readers I talked with), please share what big revelations you had in the comments section.

If you weren’t in Kansas City or were and didn’t make it to the Business Communications Summit (go ahead and kick yourself – no need to wait for permission from me), check out the live tweet stream, while it’s still available. Or as another cheat, here’s a link to notes from Chris Brogan’s presentation the day before.

Thank you KC IABC. What a day! So glad I attended. – Mike Brown

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