Monthly Archives: February 2008

Simplicity is Key to Effective Communication

made-to-stick.jpg The expressions “Keep it simple, stupid!” and “Less is more” pinpoint the importance of simplicity. A powerful idea must be simple. Why clutter your audience with excessive information that fogs up your message?

Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick” outlines six principles of sticky ideas, and simplicity tops the list. According to the Heath brothers, simple messages are core and compact. A sticky idea is profound and stripped down to its critical essence. Chip and Heath argue that easy words are better than hard words, sentences are better than paragraphs, and two bullet points are better than five. Relentless prioritization is key.

By genuinely knowing your audiences and your objectives, you can create simple message that stick. Peter A. Eschbach, senior vice president of Porter Novelli, wrote a blog post highlighting the importance of keeping your message simple and profound. He asks, “Are your employees all PhD’s? Then stop communicating as if they were.” Eschbach argues that although lengthy sentences laced with high-sounding words may be impressive in some boardrooms, they will probably end up being misunderstood, ignored, or in the trash if used in communications to your employees. If messages are wordy and complex, there is a good chance they are ineffective.

Eliminate dense jargon and get to the core of your message. Simplicity does not equal uninteresting. It equals effective communication.

Image courtesy of



Talk About a Marketing Ploy

Photo courtesy of Mark Lives in Ikea


Mark Malkoff, a comedian and filmmaker, needed to find a new place to live for a week in early January, because his apartment was being fumigated. Although most people in his situation would decide to crash at a friend’s place or fork out a few extra bucks for a hotel, Mark chose an unlikely place to reside: Ikea.

Why would Ikea agree to let Mark live in its Paramus, New Jersey store? Well, lets just say Ikea knows a good marketing maneuver when they see one. The Swedish furniture giant received a hefty amount of positive exposure from an unpaid spokesperson.

According to this Washington Post article, “Ikea was dubious at first, but once they got to know Malkoff — realized what squeaky, G-rated videos he made and what a good, unpaid spokesman he’d be — they opened the doors and made a little placard reading “Mark’s Apartment” to go outside his living space.”

Mark documented his every move at Ikea for a week, and videos were posted daily on his Web site “Mark Lives in Ikea” that captured his adventures. His Web site has received over a million hits since January 7, and his videos are also featured on YouTube. Visitors flocked to the New Jersey store to meet the man living at Ikea, and the media jumped on Mark’s story.

Sometimes the best marketing tricks are ones outsiders devise. In case you are interested, here is the first episode of Mark’s adventures at Ikea.

Don’t Ignore the Importance of Transparency

People are savvy, skeptical, and can sniff out lies quickly. If you’re not transparent, people will call you on it. And when they do, you will look worse than if you just said what was true to begin with.

Apparently researchers at UCLA forgot about the importance of being open with the public. According to a Los Anghide_and_seek1.jpgeles Times article, they recently accepted $6 million from tobacco giant Philip Morris to pay for a study on teenage nicotine addition. However, the school was mum about where its funds came from, and Philip Morris’ role in the study has drawn heavy criticism from anti-tobacco activists. Could the research help Philip Morris design a more addictive cigarette rather than help people stop smoking? While some argue that the study may discover new ways to help people quit smoking, others are skeptical about the intentions of the research and argue that the project is being conducted in secrecy.

“It’s stunning in this day and age that a university would do secret research for the tobacco industry on the brains of children,” said Matt Meyers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. “It raises fundamental questions about the integrity, honesty and openness of research anywhere at the University of California.”

UCLA researches should have openly discussed Philip Morris’ role in their study. Their confidentiality sends out a red flag to the public, and gives people a reason to believe they are hiding something worth uncovering.

The moral of the story: be transparent, so you don’t get caught playing a game of hide-and-seek with the public. More often than not, the public will find you. And when they do, they will expose what they found to the world.

Barack Obama: The Busiest Social Networking Bee


This is the first presidential race where social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace will impact what users see and know about a candidate. While remaining presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee have all jumped on the social media bandwagon, nobody seems to understand the power of social media better than Barack Obama.

Obama was the first presidential candidate to capitalize on the strength of Facebook; the first to have a profile on Eons, the MySpace for baby boomers; and one of the first candidates to have a profile on LinkedIn, a site for professional networkers. Obama also ventured onto and, popular social networking sites in the black and Latino communities. In addition, Obama has joined the conversation on and

Obama has 583,956 supporters on his Facebook group, 286,233 MySpace friends, 6,661 followers on his Twitter account, and 12,036,832 views on his personal YouTube page. These numbers are far greater than his rival Hillary Clinton, who has 119,653 Facebook supporters, 183,492 friends on MySpace, and 1,351,685 views on her YouTube page.

Not only do these social networking sites let Obama and other candidates keep users up to date on their campaigns through pictures and videos, but they also allow candidates to gauge the pulse of their audience and know where to steer their campaigns. These sites allow candidates to appear more human by giving viewers insight into their hobbies, outside interests, and passions.

Barack Obama has reached out to more social networking communities than any other presidential candidate. Therefore, there may be a case to be made connecting his online expertise to his strength among younger voters.



Happy Heart Day! Want to Win a Stay in a Chocolate Hotel Room?

Godiva and The Bryant Park Hotel in New York are teaming up to create a chocolate hotel room, available to one couple for an Ultimate Chocolate Fantasy weekend in May. Highlights of the Chocolate Fantasy weekend include a private chocolate tasting, fine dining, and a chocolate spa treatment.

m_30mw_d7_chocolate_013.jpg Anyone is eligible to win the chocolate room if they purchase the winning box of Godiva chocolates. Sound familiar? If not, think Wonka Bars and a golden ticket.

A demo chocolate room, which will be re-created in May, was set up in an East Village building on January 29. The room’s furniture, artwork, fixtures, and walls were made of or covered entirely in chocolate. Hanging in the “living room” was a painting built entirely of multicolored chocolate pieces inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss.” Ali Larter, star of TV’s “Heroes,” is the celebrity face hired by the Belgian chocolate company for its annual contest.

Whether you are a chocolate lover or not, you have to appreciate the artistry involved in Godiva’s Valentine’s Day promotion. It’s creative, fun and fresh. It’s Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory meets New York City, minus the Oompa-Loompas and Violet Beauregarde, of course. I fear that if I won the package, I’d end the weekend with a stomachache and half of a wall. Regardless, a hat tip goes out to Godiva for a creative holiday marketing campaign.

Photo courtesy of Richard Drew

The Voices of Change

leadership2.jpgLes Potter recently commented on my blog post about the “sleaze factor” in Super Bowl advertisements. He made a point that my generation’s role in PR may just be to help bring about enlightened change in marketing. It’s hard for me to think of a more gratifying way to use my degree. But are Millennials, the generation born between 1982 and 2000, up to the challenge of bringing about positive change in the world?

Based on daily interactions with my peers, I think Millennials are ready and willing to have a profound impact on society. According to Robert DeBard, “Millennials show a more positive attitude toward the coming challenges in the world, and their ideas of rewards will focus on meaningful work.” Millennials are active in their communities, involved in extracurricular activities that promote leadership, and think in terms of the greater good.

Students are optimistic about the future and are eager to pave the way to a better society. Just look at the current presidential race. Has a presidential election ever captivated young voters the way this one has? Young people are flocking to the polls in record numbers to voice their opinions and move the country in a new direction. We’re practically shouting for change.

I sense change is in the air with the arrival of the Millennials into the workforce. Our confidence, goal-oriented approach to life, and desire for fulfilling work will lead us to success. We have the tools to leave footprints deeper than any generation before us. But will we be the generation that brings about progressive change, not only in marketing and advertising, but in other facets of society? Well, I think we’re up for the challenge. I know I am.

Photo courtesy of

Does Sex Really Sell?

USA Today’s Ad Meter tracks the immediate responses of a panel of viewers to advertisements during the Super Bowl and ranks them best to worst. This year Budweiser’s “Dog Trains a Clydesdale,” FedEx’s “Pigeon Carriers Can’t Compete With Fed Ex,” and Bridgestone’s “Critters Scream Before a Near Miss” were the top three fan favorites.

What is surprising about these three Super Bowl ads? Well, none of them featured stereotypical bikini-clad women enticing men to buy beer or used sex to sell their products. Instead, Budweiser, FedEx and Bridgestone’s advertisements featured animals as their stars to tug at the heart strings and tickle the funny bone of viewers. In the Budweiser ad, a Dalmatian becomes a personal trainer to a dejected draft horse eager to make the team pulling the famous Budweiser beer wagon. The Dalmatian trains Hank the Clydesdale to the tune of the Rocky theme.

While many companies, such as Victoria Secret, still chose the “sex sells” route, Super Bowl fans responded more positively to the ones that did not. Therefore, can companies turn down the “sleaze factor” and still have successful advertising campaigns? Maybe society is tired of pushing the sex appeal envelope.