The most valuable skill I have.

Do you know what makes you special? In business disciplines like marketing, branding and sales, the key to success is knowing what sets you apart from everyone else. As a marketing strategist I am constantly analyzing my clients to discover and capitalize on their specialness. #SpecialPurpose #IsntThatSpecial.

Turning the Camera Around

Once you train yourself to find the special, unique and rare things in others, you naturally analyze yourself the same way. Many times I have considered what makes me special.  And not to brag, but there are a few things that set me apart.

  1. My feet are among the flattest on Earth. I quite literally have no arches. This was first pointed out to me by my childhood friend Danny Boyle, and confirmed scientifically at a Fleet Feet store during a scan that listed my arches as Not Applicable.
  2. I have no reflexes in my knees. You know how doctors tap patients on the front of the knee and the patient then naturally kicks their leg forward? That doesn’t happen to me, despite the fact that some clinicians have worked up quite a lather trying to get a reaction out of my patellar region.
  3. I was born without two adult teeth. On my upper jaw, my 5th teeth from the center on both sides showed up as baby teeth, with no mature adult teeth behind them. Today I am rocking 2 full-sized implants that more than make up for what mother nature didn’t give me.

However, none of these 3 points offer much of a competitive advantage. Thankfully my 4th and final uniqueness does.

4.      I make friends as fast as anyone on Earth.

For a long time I didn’t know I was unique in this way. But I love meeting new people. So I waste no time converting strangers into lifelong friends.

I am fascinated by people, their stories, experiences, skills and quirks. I love human connections. I love discovering common ground. And I love to learn what you know that I don’t. I devour people the way others devour books.

I am also blessed with a good memory that retains what I have learned about the people I meet. Pro Tip: Friends seem to like it when you remember things about them. Retaining people knowledge also enables me to connect dots and recognize shared connections of people places and things. And ulitmately make more friends.

The Value

In business and in life, my ability to make friends quickly has been my most valuable asset. It helps me develop quick rapport, which ensures that I never feel alone. When I first launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I quickly recognized that I had done the most important work of entrepreneurship 20 to 30 years before launching my business. Because your personal network is critical to connecting the dots necessary to discovering and capitalizing on entrepreneurial opportunities.

Key Takeaway

Friends are the most valuable resources on Earth. Grab as many as you can as quickly as you can. They make everything on the planet better. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new connections. I do it almost every day. Our friends provide the pathways to the most enjoyable experiences of our lives. They are gateways to opportunities. They provide our personal safety nets. And at the end of our days, our friends and family will be the only things we accumulated in our time on Earth that we will want to carry with us wherever we go next.

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What in the world does The Weaponry do?

What’s in a name? When I was launching my new advertising agency in 2016, I needed to come up with a name. But I didn’t want to do what other agencies do. I didn’t want a collection of last names that sounds like a law firm, (Welcome to Nonebrecht, Somebrecht & Albrecht…). I didn’t want random letters like SOS, PMS or IBS. In short, I didn’t want a boredinary name. What I wanted was a name that no one would forget.

Whoomp, there it is!

When I first wrote down the name The Weaponry, it might as well have been written in giant, flashing neon letters. Because it jumped off the screen at me. I instantly knew I had found the right name.

Like the boy named Sue, our name has been one of our great assets. People tell me every week how much they like the name. It’s intriguing. It sounds aggressive and provocative. And I am constantly asked about The Weaponry’s origin and meaning. In other words, it’s a great conversation starter (except maybe that conversation it started with the Immigration officer in India at 2am).

What’s behind the name.

When people ask me what the name means I usually answer with the follow statement:

‘Well, right behind the desk in my office is a giant sign that says, The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.’

Like the answer to a good riddle, that line always converts skeptics, doubters and critics, into enlightened insiders.

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But wait, there’s more!

However, there is another reason we are called The Weaponry. I absolutely love the definition of the word:

Weaponry (noun): all the weapons, collectively.

All The Weapons

When I set our to create my perfect agency, I wanted to offer our clients ALL the weapons, collectively. For two reasons. First, it would make life easier for our clients to be able to get all of the services they need from one resource. Having one agency translates to less time looking for agencies, less time managing agencies and no time coordinating agencies.

The second reason I wanted to offer all of the weapons is that I believe that if you have the ability to skillfully use each weapon, you will always use the right weapon for the situation. Whereas specialist, or sliver agencies, who only know how to operate a couple of weapons, will use what they have, regardless of what the situation or strategy dictate.

So, what kind of work do you do?

People always ask me what kind of work The Weaponry does. I say, ‘Whatever our clients need.’ Which I realize sounds kind of lame, and kind of smart-assy. But it is the truth. To illustrate the breadth of work we do at The Weaponry, here is a list of the things we are creating this week:

  • billboards
  • radio commercials
  • print ads
  • television commercials
  • mobile ads
  • social content
  • website design
  • package design
  • videos
  • credit card design
  • logo design
  • business card design
  • taglines
  • blog posts
  • podcasts
  • manifestos
  • media plans
  • media buys
  • photo shoot planning
  • brand style guides
  • Powerpoint template design
  • pre-roll video
  • SEO
  • website development
  • trade show booth design
  • and some fun promotional buttons

Key Takeaway

At The Weaponry we are living into the vision. We have created a valuable and flexible resource for our clients. Our broad range of opportunities have created a stimulating  environment for our Weapons. And thanks to our provocative name, we have great t-shirts, stickers and business cards that always get people thinking, and talking. Which is exactly what advertising is supposed to do.

Why you should think more like a crack dealer.

I have never done any drugs and I never plan to. When I was a kid Nancy Reagan told me to just say no to drugs. And I listened. Then Whitney Houston told me that crack is whack. But I’m not sure she was even listening to herself. Although I don’t blame her. There are a lot of people who can’t seem to get enough crack. In fact, saying that something ‘is like crack’ is the ultimate customer experience compliment.

Getting Customers Hooked.

If you have a great product or service that you think people will love, think like a crack dealer. The crack dealer does not try to sell potential customers on the various product benefits of crack. They do not share testimonials, or research findings. Or charts and graphs. They don’t print up brochures highlighting the various features of their products, or images of happy users.

The crack dealer knows they have a hit (pun intended). So they give away the crack for free. Then they let the crack experience sell itself. And customers come running back for more. That is, until they come shuffling back for more, shaking like a Parkinson’s Disease victim.

Sample As Sales Tool

Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have found that when we give our strategic thinking, our creative ideas and our enthusiasm away for free, the recipient very often comes back for more. I want our initial free meetings to feel like test drives of a real engagement. This approach has been a key driver of our growth and success. In fact I wrote about it here in Give it away, Give it away now!

Key Takeaway

If you want to start selling a product or service that you know is great, or you have a great offering that you are not selling enough of, try acting like a crack dealer. Give your crack away for free. Let your ideal customers experience your crack first hand. Let them feel what they are missing. Get them addicted to your crack over a short time period, or in a small quantity. Then capitalize on the addiction over the long-term. But never lower the quality of the product or service.

If the free sample doesn’t get customers hooked, your crack needs work. In which case you should keep refining and improving your crack until it is fully addictive. Focus on the lifetime value of a new customer, and the free samples will feel like a tiny price to pay for future sales.

*Don’t ever really do crack. Or sell crack. Don’t step on a crack. Don’t break your Mama’s back. And don’t show your crack. Not even if you are a plumber.

How to determine the best advertisers in the Super Bowl.

Did you see Super Bowl LII? What a show! The game is always hyped as the greatest television event of the year. It certainly lived up to that billing again this year.

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My fellow Wisconsin Badger Corey Clement scored big. He even started a Conga line in the end zone.

The Game

The game itself was amazing. There were so many Super Bowl records set that I think the game set a Super Bowl record for setting Super Bowl records. There were over 1000 yards of total offense. There were two pass attempts to quarterbacks playing wide receiver. And there was an exciting Hail Mary pass into the end zone as the clock expired. The only thing that would have made the game better for me would have been a Patriots victory. But as a huge Pats fan, I have two Super Bowl miracle wins in the last few years to console me.

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JT told the crowd in Minneapolis, ‘I once went fishing on Lake Minnetonka and caught a walleye this big!’

Halftime Entertainment

After getting off to a slow start Justin Timberlake’s halftime show made a nice comeback and finished strong. The momentum turned during JT’s tribute to Prince. His performance of Mirror was spectacular. Although I worried that one of the hundreds of kids running around the stage holding mirrors would drop one and bring seven more years of bad luck to the hometown Vikings.

 

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My cravings for M&Ms decreased dramatically when I saw this commercial.

The Commercials

Then there were the ads. As an advertising professional I love Super Bowl spots. At a price of over $5 million for 30 seconds, commercials during the Super Bowl are too expensive to get wrong. So most of the spots that run during the big game do what good commercials should do. They entertain us. They make us laugh. They surprise us. They wow us. They make us think differently about the products, services or brands they promote.

The Super Bowl ads are so good that people actually want to see them. They are part of the appeal and entertainment of the entire event. Sometimes they are they best part of the program. Especially when Up With People are the halftime entertainment. Or when the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Buffalo Bills.

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This Peter Dinklage spot for Doritos Blaze made me want to breathe fire as if I were the Father of Dragons.

The Best Advertisers 

So who won the battle of the advertisers? This is a question that gets asked every year. It will be a topic of conversation around the proverbial water cooler all week. Marketing types will weigh in with their professional opinions. And there will be polls that try to determine a winner. However, we will never know the real answer.

Here’s Why.

You don’t succeed in advertising by winning a popularity poll. You win by setting a marketing objective, and then nailing it. Advertising can help increase awareness, brand affinity and purchase intent. All of these dimensions are measurable. But not by a poll that asks viewers to pick their favorite commercial.

Your opinion of the marketing only matters if you are part of the audience the advertiser is trying to reach. I thought the beer commercials were funny. But I don’t drink alcohol. I also liked the Tide commercials, a lot. But I don’t make any of the decisions about which laundry potions my family uses.

 

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I liked this guy. But I still don’t like the taste of alcohol. 

Key Takeaway

Super Bowl commercials are not simply meant to entertain you. They are strategically developed marketing weapons. The only way to evaluate their success or failure is to measure the impact they have on their target audience. Anything else is just playing Monday morning quarterback.

 

 

The best thing about our new stickers is hidden on the back.

There are some business secrets they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Like the fact that every great business needs a great sticker. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now has a great sticker. It comes from Sticker Robot.  Which I think is where The Jetsons and R2-D2 get their sticker supplies.

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Sticker Robot makes the best silkscreened stickers in the business. But if you want some for your business you should order them the same day you establish your legal business entity. Because they take a loooong time to produce. We ordered ours back in November.  They finally arrived on January 16th.

A video on how Sticker Robot make their world-famous stickers.

The Modern Branding Iron.

The whole concept of branding originated from ranchers who branded their livestock with a hot iron to identify their little dogies. Today I find very few people who will let me sear them with a red-hot iron. So we use these 2.5 inch X 2.5 inch vinyl stickers instead. I have already placed one on my computer, my Yeti tumbler, my car and all three of my children.

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We ordered 1000 stickers and got 500 free.
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I’ll tumbler for you.

Check out that backside… (It’s stickerlicious!)

But what I really love about them is their backside. Sticker Robot allows you to print a message or design on the back of the sticker. So we added some of our philosophy. And some of our philosophy about our philosophy. And we added a call to confusion. Which is like a call to action, if the action actually leads to more confusion, like our website does. Visit theweaponry.com to see what I mean.

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I love sharing our philosophy on the back of our sticker. Don’t overlook the little opportunities to share your brand message in unexpected places.

Then we also added a note about the importance of proofreading.  See the *note below? I’ll wait while you review.

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Did you find the typo? Did you look carefully?

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The Typo

If you didn’t find the typo it is probably because there is no typo. We just thought it was a funny addition. And perhaps it would increase engagement. Who reads the back of a sticker two or three times?  Well, if it’s a sticker from The Weaponry, and you feel challenged, maybe you will. Then, maybe you walk away with a story about how you spent 60 seconds looking for a typo that wasn’t really there.

This sticker sums up The Weaponry pretty well.

  1. We believe in the power of a consistent brand look.
  2. Red reflects our enthusiasm.
  3. We believe the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.
  4. We believe that business is war.
  5. We believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
  6. And we believe in finding fun ways to increase engagement.

Your takeaway.

If you would like a sticker just ask (I now carry them with me everywhere). Or leave a request in the comment section below. You can also stop by The Weaponry to pick one up (1661 N. Water Street In Milwaukee). If you are looking for a job, an internship, a chance to network or just a good excuse to come for a grand tour of The Weaponry’s World Headquarters, a sticker request is a good in. And we have a sticker with your name on it. Well, actually our name is on it. That was just a figure or speech.

*If you would like to stick around to learn more about The Weaponry and my entrepreneurial journey please subscribe to this blog. You may even find some real typos.

 

Why there has never been a better time to wear white.

Welcome to After Labor Day! This, unfortunately, is the darkest time of the year. Because now we are supposed to put away our white clothing until Memorial Day. Or until Diddy invites us to a party. Whichever comes first. I have known about this rule since I was old enough to make my own fashion faux pas. But I didn’t understand the rule, until now.

After long minutes of research (hey, it’s the information age) I discovered the Labor-Day-White-Thing was basically a mean girl rule established by a small gaggle of old money biddies in the late 1800s. They decided that they would use the imaginary rule to identify and ostracize new money ladies who didn’t know the insider rules, and wore white on the wrong days. Yet over time everyone adopted this standard.

How lame is that?  

This isn’t a rule. It’s a joke. Or at best a standard we follow without reason. With this knowledge, how do you pick out your clothes tomorrow?

There are two ways to view these widely followed, but non-rule-rules.

  1. We can adhere to them, just like everyone in-the-know.
  2. We can see them as the gifts they are. And use them to help us stand out from the masses.

When I was in college I had a track teammate named Alex Mautz. Alex liked wearing shorts so much he decided not to pack them away after Labor Day, or Halloween or Thanksgiving. In fact, Alex wore shorts every day for an entire year. Which is no big deal if you live in Florida. Or Ecuador. But we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. Where I experienced -26 Fahrenheit without windchill. Alex turned heads everywhere he went. Not only was he memorable, he provided total strangers with an instant conversation starter from November through April.

One of the most important things we do at The Perfect Agency Project is find ways to help people and organization stand out from the crowd. That’s how you build a memorable brand. And if you want to be noticed, cultural and category norms are a gift.

White wedding dresses don’t stand out. Red ones do. I have seen thousands of diamond engagement rings that all blend together. But my sister Heather’s stands out. Because it’s an emerald ring. Chick-fil-a is one of my favorite restaurants. But unlike most restaurants, it isn’t open on Sundays.  Yet Chick-fil-a is the first restaurant I think of every Sunday (can I get an Amen?).

If you, your brand or business want more attention, find a convention and start doing the unconventional. There are opportunities all around you. If you would like help finding your white clothes after Labor Day let me know. We could grab some caramels and talk.

3 things every business can learn from Super Bowl commercials.

The greatest sporting event in America is this Sunday. Maybe the greatest sporting event in the world. I know there are arguments that the FIFA World Cup is bigger than our football game. And that the Olympics have more flames, more luge and more cowbell. But neither of those is the Super Bowl. Our Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of all Super Bowls. Which I admit is a super dumb thing to say.

In 2015 more than 114 million Americans tuned in to the big game. And for good reason. Actually there are three good reasons to tune into this spectacle. First, for the football. The game is usually exciting. And this year we again have two great teams and a compelling matchup featuring Peyton “Old Man” Manning vs Cam “New Kid” Newton. (see what I did there?)

Second, the Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon. It’s what everyone in the office will be talking about around the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine on Monday morning. If your office still has a water cooler the talk probably won’t be about the Super Bowl. It will be about why you still don’t have a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

And the third reason to watch is the commercials. The Super Bowl commercials are a fascinating study. Because we look forward to the commercials as much as we look forward to the game itself. Even though the commercials slow down the game and make the whole night last longer than a Wagner opera. But why?

The magic of the Super Bowl is that for at least one night a year we all recognize that the commercials themselves add value to our lives. They are entertaining. And on Sunday night, we as a nation will be in the mood to be entertained. The commercials are usually humorous. Some are big funny. Some are small funny. Some are produced like mini-blockbusters packed with action and drama. Some are touching and cute, usually with an animal tugging at your heartstrings. Which is particularly impressive when you consider that most cardiologists can’t even find your heartstrings.

As a whole the commercials are interesting and engaging. But even the lesser spots enable us to play commercial critic. And as we learned from American Idol, a few train wrecks amongst the stars makes for oddly enjoyable TV.

As you prepare for Super Sunday here are three things every business can learn from the Super Bowl commercials.

Meet people where they are.  As a business you need to put the audience you want to reach first. Understand their wants and needs. Understand their habits and how you can fit into them. If people want to party, like they do during the Super Bowl, party with them. If they want serious information to solve a serious problem, get serious with them. But don’t cross streams. Trust me on this one.

Offer a consistently enjoyable experience. A major reason we look forward to the Super Bowl commercials is that we enjoyed them last year. And the year before. And like Pavlov’s dogs, when we hear talk of the Super Bowl, we start salivating for Doritos, Budweiser and Coca-Cola commercials. So deliver a great experience every time. Because when you do, whether you’re a carpet cleaner, a dentist, a software company or a mortician, your customers will look forward to interacting with you again. Wait, scratch mortician.

Make great things.  Americans love greatness. We have a deep appreciation for things like a well crafted Super Bowl commercial, or say, a well written blog post. Great things get elevated in our culture.  Yeti coolers, iPhones and American Giant sweatshirts are all great products from great companies that generate a lot of love. In turn they help build great brands that command love, respect and a premium price. So focus your business efforts on making things great. And the profits will follow.

I hope you enjoy the game. I hope you enjoy the commercials.  And I hope you enjoy the conversations about the game and the commercials on Monday. But most of all I hope that by this time next year your business is competing in the Super Bowl of your industry. And that you have a long line of customers lining up outside your door.  Unless, of course, you’re a mortician.