Applied Neuro-linguistic Programming

A while ago I really wanted a Junior Designer [JD] that I really liked working with to lead our next big client presentation, but the JD himself, and the agency’s Sr. Manager thought that JD wasn't up to the task because the client was a "seasoned marketing pro". The Sr. Manager's lack of faith in our JD and my coaching skills really pissed me off - especially because the Sr. Manager is not big on training. So I said "fuck-it" and pulled out my secret weapon: Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP].

In about two hours I defined the client's core business challenge, re-framed the situation from a marketing and advertising situation, and then asked JD to step into the intellectual void with me sothat we could co-explore how we could turn the client's business challenge into a presentation win for JD, a business win for the agency and a sales increase for the client in a few elegant business moves.

We solved the problem, came up with a few viable solutions and dropped the challenge and the creative solutions into a nice presentation deck. I asked JD to take the presentation deck home and practice, practice practice. Especially the night before. Well, while I had never dealt with this "seasoned marketing pro" before, the meeting went really well - much to the surprise of the client, the agency's Sr. Manager, and the JD. After the meeting I told the Junior to write me a short note on what worked, why and how he could turn what he learned today into his own formula for ongoing success. This is an anonymous summary of his note to me. I’m very proud of this kid because he’s seen the light. With proper preparation, planning, practice (and support from others) you can go far.


the client loved + bought our work because:

  • We planned and delivered a well orchestrated business meeting,
  • we ensured that we had a solid understanding of the role that advertising and marketing play in the company's sales funnel,
  • we ensured that our creative brief was brief, clear and on the mark,
  • because our creative brief was on the mark, the client expectations were clearly understood by the client and the agency,
  • the brain-storming, preparation and practice that Frank and I did before the meeting contributed to a great sale - for me, the agency and the client,
  • all of our design options were practical business-builders and aesthetic improvements over their current communications,
  • preparation for the client meeting was important; taking time to consider how to structure the introduction took the pressure off of having to come up with something clever to say on the fly. I also had time to practice how to deliver my opening comments and present the various design options,
  • because Frank sat me right across from the client, I could read the clients face which lit up and she immediately become engaged when I thanked her for coming to our office,
  • I think it also helped that we outlined what we were going to present and addressed the concerns we felt the client might have,
  • I think it helped that I told the client that a creative team with a wide range of experiences had worked together to deliver today's creative options; not just me,
  • I stopped and asked if she had any questions throughout the meeting - not just at the end. This is a simple, but great way, to pause and collect your own thoughts too,
  • for me, the introduction is normally the hardest part, but because I had practiced "breaking the ice" and then taking control of the meeting, I was more relax. So by the time I got to the design options I was relaxed and enjoyed presenting and discussing the pros and cons of each option.

This whole process has been a great learning experience for me. 

Thanks for all your help Frank.






116 Seconds

Because most people will spend no more time than that on your site, here’s what you can do to make every second count.

  • Add basic contact information to your home page. Don’t make me “look” for you or make me fill out a form. I haven’t used forms for years and the spam is minimal.
  • Keep your site content relevant and fresh: it’s a showcase not an archive.
  • Review your site’s traffic patterns to find out which pages are most popular and make sure that your most popular pages tell your visitors:             
    1. who you are, what you do and what your competitive advantage is,
    2. why your brand is a better choice than the competition’s, and
    3. how they can start a relationship with you.

Consider this website behavior profile based on my review of more than 50 websites:

  • About 25-50% of visitors arrived at the wrong place because they are not even close to your trading zone. They leave a few seconds after they arrive.
  • Of those who looked around, about ½ view a 2nd page.
    • So that’s about 25-37% of the initial “total page views”.
  • 25-50% are repeat visits.
    • So on new visits you’re down to about 13-25% of “total page views”.
  • About 50% of those visitors look at a 3rd page on your site.
    • So less than 10% of all visitors that viewed three pages.
  • Importantly only a small number of sites “held” readers interest for more than two minutes, and moved the retained audience to the “contact page” - typically the 5th or 6th page. Even then less than 10% of those who landed on the home page made it this far into the top sites.
  • While most sites I reviewed had more than ten pages and some had over 50, most pages simply are not viewed. "Out of sight, out of mind" seems to apply to web-sites as well.


While organic search scores can be improved with blogging, on line advertising, cross links, online PR, newsletters and social media (to help increase the marketing funnel diameter), “content” is still king.

If your content isn’t worth their time, they won’t stay.




The man who sold hotdogs

I once knew a man who sold hotdogs. He had inherited the recipe from his parents, made each one by had and used to sell them on a busy street corner for 25¢ each. At the end of the day he took his earning home, paid his bills and reinvested the balance in his business.

Because people loved the man and his hotdogs, sales grew quickly. One day the man had saved up enough to build the restaurant of his dreams. It was located at the same corner where he sold his first hotdog 20 years ago. Now the man could sell his wonderful hotdogs all day, and all night long. To ensure he could sell all the hotdogs he produced, he advertised.


All the time. 

And people came from miles around to buy his hotdogs.

On the day the man’s oldest son left for college, the man who sold hotdogs stood in front of his beautiful restaurant and cried.

  • He cried because he was happy.
  • He cried because he was thankful for the hotdog recipe that his parent’s had given him; it had enabled his family to prosper.
  • He cried because he was grateful for the long line-up of people that the advertising brought to his restaurant every day.

One spring morning six years later, the old man’s son returned from college, looked around, then sat his father down. He explained to his father that there was a war on, that people were not spending money the way they used to, and that the recession, which was projected to follow, promised hard times for almost everyone. His son told him to stop wasting his hard-earned money on advertising.

No more TV, newspaper, radio or outdoor billboard ads.

And no more big search lights on the roof all night long. O.K. Dad?

All that shit has to stop right now.

The old man thought; “My Son must be right. He just came back from college where he studied business, marketing and economics for six years. What do I know? I’m just an old man that loves to sell hotdogs.”

That night the big rooftop searchlight was turned off for the first time in 20 years. 

The next day all of the advertising contracts were cancelled.

And the next week sales fell for the first time in 30 years.

Each night when the man who sold hotdogs went to bed he thanked God for his many, many blessings;  especially for the safe return of his son and his amazing business foresight.




Intergenerational brand management



The Harry Rosen brand is over sixty years old now. Because it served my father’s generation so well it now serves my generation as well as two younger generations of customers as well. Harry Rosen has rightfully earned gobs of valuable brand equity in the Toronto area with their reputation for superior apparel and service. This is a smart little brand that has its shit together.

But now this.

A really dumb banner above their entrance that really says: "we're under new, stupid and inexperienced (brand and ad agency) management".

While the message is all wrong I bet the price was perfect.

HINT: when you’re working with intergenerational brands, you need to review the brand's design and copy across all relevant generations – as though you're working with different languages. In this case what may be considered profound to a younger generation is bullshit to an older one.



To bring or not to bring bling . . .

My dog Charlie could be a real prima donna at times. Charlie was pretty happy with the stuff we found along the way, but he wasn't immune to bling. There was a guy in one of the parks we used to go to. He liked to buy his Setter the cheap + chearful squeeky balls, boomerangs and other toys that are available at the local dollar stores. When Charlie saw them he dropped what he had and chased after the Setter's blingy toy-de-jour. Worst of all - whe he finally got it, Charlie would chew it up on no time while the Setter and his owner looked on in disgust or frustration.

I'll let you decide if there's a lesson here.

My take-away is this: display your bling at your peril because you might just loose it - which is O.K. as long as you're not too attached to it.

One of my Gurus taught me that it's O.K. to desire the good things in life so long as you don't covet them and become attached to them.

Kind of like now: those who sweat the losses in the stock market are worse off than those who embrace the rise and fall of the market and enjoy, rather than worry about, the ride.