Thought Links

I’ve recently had the pleasure of consulting for an Ad Agency on some healthcare initiatives. The photo above is a snippet of an ad for a healthcare group that will be part of a Rodeo Magazine.

I’ve always thought of myself as a creative person, and this opportunity has been giving me the chance to use that creativity in an amazing way. I’ve always loved advertising, and anyone who has known me, knows that at times I’m a walking pitch man. However, I only pitch things that I love. It’s so much easier to do. When you love a product or service, you look forward to sharing the joy of that product or service with others. You want them to be just as happy with it. When you hate a product, you may even go to great lengths to let everyone know about the experience.

This got me thinking about how we associate love and hate to brands.
Global advertising is 600 Billion business. The average city dweller receives over 5000 Advertising messages per day. Each year the average child sees 20,000+ TV commercials. In America, the average adult sees about 80 minutes of ads each day via Internet, tv and mobile.

So we spend roughly 1.5 hrs seeing things, and roughly 1.5 hours thinking about things. Things we buy, things we use, things we need, things we want. That’s 3 hours of our day. A lot of our time. When we think about these things from a top down approach, what brands do we associate with these them?

When I think of search, I find myself using the word “Google” instead. When I think of healthy groceries, I think of Whole Foods. When I think of tacos, it’s Taco Bell. Globally, billion dollar brands will command those thoughts.

However, for the average business, we need to focus this task on a local level. So let’s consider what brands you think of on that smaller scale. When I think of great burgers in my town, I’ll think of Shake Shack, or ROK BRGR down the block. Rarely do I think of McDonald’s or Burger King.

To truly market well to your consumers, we need to link what the consumer thinks to your brands. How do we accomplish that? Simple… it’s by Experiences.

Experiences matter most. They linger and they get shared. Bad experiences get shared more frequently than good ones. But when good ones get shared, they create action. Since Good experiences or references are hard to come by, when one is requested, an action is almost always set off.

I need a great burger… Check out ROK BRGR… internet/map search… Burger quest complete.

What good companies do, is convert these experiences into marketing opportunities…. Thus forever linking a great experience about a product or service to a brand. A Thought-Link!

A “Thought-Link”… how I’ve come to define it is: Associating a “feeling” with a person, product, or service.

So what are these feelings?
Well they are Nostalgia, Emotional Experiences, Traumatic Situations, Love, Pain, Sympathy, Anger, Fear, Loss, and a few triggered by the senses.

I’ve smelled colognes that have brought me back 10 or 20 years in time. The smell instantly reminds me of the people, places, and mental thought processes I had in that time period. So profound is the experience that I keep a bottle of Tommy Hilfiger in the reserves. That cologne from the 90’s has been associated with too many great memories.

The same can be said about a favorite song. I’ll hear an old favorite, and I’ll think of the car I drove at the time, the road I was on, and sometimes the friends I was headed to see. Nostalgia is powerful, and can easily be triggered by the senses, linking you back to things.

My mom has been in a few minor fender benders, and 2 major accidents that she’s been fortunate to be able to walk away from. All of these occurred while she drove a Volvo. If you say the words: “best car,” “safest vehicle,” “safety,” “accident,” “seat-belt,” she will immediately link them with the brand Volvo. Her Thought-Link was built around traumatic experiences. She will never drive any other car because of those experiences… which subsequently built Brand Loyalty and Brand Evangelism for Volvo.

A fun task was working on the Tag line and Logo design for All Uniform Wear. A 25+ year old company with 23 Locations and an online store that sells Uniforms to many industries. Currently their Tag line is “Your One Stop Uniform Solution,” and “Fulfilling Uniform and Embroidery needs for over 25 years!” I came up with a simple, effective tagline. “Uniforms for All.” It states what they do, and for whom in 3 simple words. Uniforms for all industries, all sizes, and types of people from students to police. With the design team, we were able to make their logo legible, and modern. Now when people think of Uniforms, or their need for them, they’ll remember the easy slogan… “Uniforms for ALL,” and they’ll hopefully remember the service they received.



I also had the opportunity to assist on a real estate company’s project. The client sells $300,000 to $2 million homes. 50% of his customers are investors, the other 50% are local home-buyers. The branding line I came up with for their website and all their print collateral is: “The home you’ll love awaits!” I used imagery of couples in front of their brownstones or couples gazing at their new home purchase. The imagery and the copy evoke significant emotion.

For newly married couples, buying their first homes is an emotional experience. Even a larger family owning a home instead of renting will experience a similar feeling. These customers will evangelize the experience any time they can. When someone asks about the home, when someone compliments the home, or during their first house-warming, they will take the opportunity to share their story. That’s incredible free marketing. Whereas the investors would like to keep an amazing investment opportunity or a great agent a secret weapon. Marketing to those that share these experiences are important.

Leveraging these Thought-Links via experiences to your customers will help them relate better to your brand and to your products. Consumers are not foolish. They see right through brands that say one thing, and then do another. A positive experience with your brand will last in their minds forever.. Your brand advertisement may not. Make each experience count.

At the end of the day, Advertising & Marketing are there to do one thing. Create a sense of happiness for both those that have, and have not experienced a “product or service.” You need to lure & entice one side to give it a shot. To the other, simply justify that the experience was exactly as promised.

When you see a billboard about a Ferrari, the vast majority of us will dream about a better life, owning the car and living the lifestyle being portrayed in the advertisement. A few will relish in the fact that the billboard is their lifestyle, and they’ve achieved what the Billboard has promised. A billboard about a restaurant may lure a new set of diners in. At the same time it may let others know that they’re part of the “in-club” for having already tried the food at the restaurant.

I plan to explore more of what makes “Thought-Links” & Happiness matter.


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