Sunday, 29 September 2013

Create magic, be magic

'Va pensiero, sull'ali dorati'. 

Verdi: 'Go, thought, on wings of gold'.

Wrapped into a tale about the hebrew captivity in Babylon, the audience knew exactly what thought was at stake here: the unification of Italy. 

And so an opera lay at the basis of an uprising. Because of the message? No, that message was everywhere. If the Internet had existed at that time, this same message would have been found in millions of 'competing pages'. 

Because of its compelling, motivating, emotional, heart-felt, honest packaging

If you listen to the Slave Chorus you too might feel the urgent need to start a revolution somewhere. 

Let it be your own revolution. 

The realization that the era of fooling around with cheap website templates, stock photography, copy-pasting, 'free SEO tips' is ending - and it's time to break through the clutter. 

The Internet is saturated with clutter. It's being clicked on and abandoned. Only some 15% of all active websites attract the traffic and business: for they are the eagle Verdi. 

They have spread their wings of gold and have everyone wanting to fly with them. 

Sure, it's a fact of life that there can only be so many super talents. 

Life is a pyramid scheme. 

Few of us are a Mozart, but we can aim at being a Salieri: that free-lancer, company or aspirational brand that is locally seen as THE authority to turn to. 

If you want to stand out over all competition, stand out. 

It's a conversation I am always having with my clients. Stop trying to be like that video store that also sells dog food and photocopies. 

Be something, and don't be satisfied until you have given the very, very, very best of you. 

It's not 'Facebooking' that will get you anywhere. It's doing that unlike anyone else. 

Only then you will get the audience to rise to their feet. 
Click with you. 
Click on the contact button. 
And convert into a customer. 


What does Herbalife actually sell?

In the previous blog I told about the Herbalife Distributor Digestion.

Their almost religious zeal, their group mentality... "Gosh, why do they behave like a sect"?!!

Here is why: because they are.
It's the main reason why HL works.
If you think that the product is a shake with proteins, think again.

 HL sells 2 things and 2 things only:  

1. A social circle.  Their product is achieving that one pillar of happiness that stands out over all others: to belong to a tribe. 

2. Motivation. All it takes to slim or get healthy is self-motivation, right?  Any other far cheaper product can have the same results, right? And guess what: most people do not have self-motivation. They give up after a week. They only see results when being motivated and helped by others. 

If your parameter for any product or brand is: but does it work?
Then, yes, this is a great product.

Let's get this straight: not because of the actual product. I'm not a scientist nor nutrition specialist and wouldn't be able to say the first thing about that.

I am more one to ask: how does it work? 

It works, and very successfully so, because of its Brand and marketing strategy.

Every detail in their training packages and strategy tips is aimed at just that: people yearn to be part of and play a role in a tribe. It makes them happier and more energetic.

Especially if they land in the more typical circle of HL distributors: forever motivating each other, dragging the other to the gym or go for running, exchanging recipes...

The quintessential Herbalife distributor is an outgoing, sporty, positive person who loves to help people, drag them out of their loneliness, or is bubbly and flashy as a light up disco ball - any which way, is bringing company, fun and energy into lives that could need some.

Of course 'it' works! 

(I don't know about you, but personally I lose kilos just by looking at my own sponsor). 

'Overpriced', 'a pyramid'... obsolete arguments when something proves to work.  Anyone wanting to loose weight or loving to be slim again will be happy to pay for it. Especially when he or she will not be alone, sitting there with a plastic bottle with some powder in it. At such moments, zeal is very welcome. Energy from others would be awesome. These things are priceless. 

And, oh, by the way: if you believe that something works, chances are that it will.

Belief is everything. (Think placebos, think of the relation between countries with a strong sense of religion and less illnesses. Big Pharma only booms in 'godless places'). 

The human creature needs something to believe in. 

There's nothing 'new age' about that. If you have the strong desire to be slim, you will be slim, just as if you have a strong desire to be a successful business owner or a successful athlete, you will be one. 

If you believe in that sleeping pill it will work. If you believe that staring at geometry will evaporate your stress, it will. 

Herbalife is a brand that generates belief. 
Ergo: a top brand. 


Saturday, 28 September 2013

About Herbalife Bashing

If you are a Herbalife Distributor you might know all about it.

You have a 'love-to-hate' product. 

That late in life and finally you know how to spell 'pyramid'. You used to hear that word once in a decade only. 

Or 'genetically modified food', 'scam', 'overpriced', and basically all sins of Israel.

If you see someone foaming at the mouth, there's a pretty good chance he's either had a speeding ticket or the topic was Herbalife.

Pick your battles!

One can wonder. That's a nice occupation, to wonder. People should wonder more. I for one always find it so peaceful, if I walk in a street where everyone is wondering.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I was wondering about a beautiful brand with an apple-inspired logo. Lowest points for environmental care. Highest points for slavery in Asian factories. Foam at the mouth, someone? 

I was wondering. About consumer electronics responsible for Africa becoming one big hole. Big Tobacco responsible for a large chunk of the death rate, Big Weapons for another, and Fast Food brands taking care of the rest. Every time you take the decision to sit on a plastic chair you contribute to the importance of oil and thus the chaos in the Middle East. 

Foaming, anyone? 

Blogger leaves me a tiny bit too little space to go into the 50 armed conflicts ongoing at this very moment, but you catch my drift.

"Pick your battles". I like that saying. Very wisely, it doesn't give you any chance to opt for a battle or not. Your only option is to pick some.

Wisely, because as human organism we are wired for fight. We've been programming that on our hard disc for quite a bit of time, 2 million years, give or take, so we can't just all of a sudden delete that.

Where was I?

O, yes. 'Herbalife bashing'. 

Being a Herbalife Distributor myself, I can completely understand that. For the biggest strength of the network marketing model is also its greatest flaw: the intrusion in the personal atmosphere.

Now I'm going to ramble a bit... for those who really want to get to the bottom of it.

Network Marketing is so successful for the same reason as Facebook Advertising: recommendations of friends carry more weight. It's the conversion technique 'par excellence'.
If you need a photocopier and you happen to have a good friend who works at Xerox, chances are that you end up with a Xerox photocopier. On one hand you need a hotel in Malaga, and on the other hand you have a friend who raves about a hotel there: a no-brainer. One and one is two.
But if you are at a party or having fun on Facebook, chances are that neither of your friends are raving about Xerox or trying to sell you a hotel reservation.
Sure, if your friend is a free-lancer and has to be workforce, sales department and marketing department in one, he or she will push the limits a tad more.
But there's still no comparison to the zeal and enthusiasm of the Herbalife distributor. Again very good points for the HL Brand - most companies can only dream of such an enthused sales force - and again something that can be very irritating to others.
It is something any network marketer has to be careful with: the exploitation of personal relations. That's a difficult exercise.
One can be so enthused about a book one has read, over and over again, that one cannot stop talking about it. There are people who love a singer so much they wear the T-shirt, post the songs on a daily basis, fill their house and every party with the music. Having a passion for something is great. As a network marketer though there's an economic interest.
It's a fine line. When are you just being a friend being enthused about something, a friend who wants to help others, when do you get in the situation that friends want to help you by buying things you sell, and when are you a friend who wants to become successful by means of friendship exploitation?
It's my belief that the intrusion in the personal atmosphere, and the uncertainty about your status (friend or prospect?) is the motor behind all irritation.
Friends say: "It's a pyramid scheme"!
You show a little movie saying that every company is a pyramid.
Friends say: "I wonder who created that movie"!
They do not say: "I wonder who created the movies attacking HL". They do not say: "I wonder what the source is of the harsh HL reviews".  
No. It's HL who is the villain.
Anything that is said about the products, can be said about all other products too.
Just how many people are there who rave about Apple?  Only very few will point out the immense damage that is done to earth, stability and social fairness. In this situation it's pretty much like the old-fashioned question: "If you had to chance to be rich, knowing that someone in China would die... would you still go for it"?
That's a non-question. Our actions give the answer for us. In this whole machinery we are grains of sand who simply have no other option, bar walking naked and starving ourselves to death.
The point is that this is hidden, we do not have to know or think about it: it's not intruding in our personal life. 
Herbalife is.
And that's the button that generates all criticism.
People feel to be 'under attack', and battle.
I completely understand them and love them for it.

Where was I? 
I think I need my shake now. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

About Marketing Never Never Land

For sure you would got to sit down in a corner to say: "Dada. Dadada".

If your marketing advisor knocked at the door of your office and said: "I've got a great idea for you"!

You jump out of your chair and say: "Tell me". For, honestly, the company can use some great ideas.

"Well, " he says, "we must have ten million people making publicity for us!"

Back to chair. Huge disappointment. Another nuts marketing advisor. "We can't pay for three people doing that". 

"No, no," hushes the marketing genius, "we will ask them to pay us".

Do you know that look?  When you suspect that someone has crossed over to the other side?  You give him that look and say: "So let me get this straight. You want 10 million  people to make publicity for us. And you want them to pay us for that honour".

"That's it"! says the marketing genius, his face glowing as a... as a... as something that is glowing very much. 

"And for sure they do that half-time. And to the right target market".

"Indeed"! says the genius, jubilating, because it's so nice to be understood.

At this point you are ready to wave him goodbye to Never Never Land. 

For sure such a conversation must have taken place, somewhere, some century ago, because today: 

Can things get any more comfortable for a Brand? 

People pay you to make publicity for you, so you get richer, and do so to the right target market, further unlocking conversion potential, for the special honour of making publicity for you, so you need a house as the one of Scrooge McDuck.  

That is the power of having a very good Brand. 

What's the next step?  That we gladly pay every time for the privilege to utter the name of that Brand?

Can things get any better than this? 

Of course they can.

While you and me struggle with optimizing our Facebook strategies, the larger company is already preparing for 2016, the big brand for 2020 and the multinational lives in 2035.

In Marketing it's all about being the first or the best, preferably both.

Just a few ideas...

Google Glasses instantly showing you the situation of the nearest Cola Vending Machine when you say: 'I'm thirst...'.

Neuro-scanning satellites detecting what you think and adapting the publicity on billboards to your personal needs. 

(It goes without saying: not what you think you think, but what you are actually thinking. Marketing never cared much for that thin rational layer). 

Scanning your habits and eye-movement and predicting the next time you might start thinking of a purchase and guiding you on that path? 

Yes, I would most probably hate marketing or brands, if I didn't love the topic so much that I dedicate my life to it. 

I combines everything that fascinates me, from psychology to anthropology, from technology to craftmanship. It's art, Judo and shadow boxing alike.


Order your Bernardus T-shirt here: 

Coming soon! BERNARDUS T-shirts! 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

About Just-Do-It

So I was in Marbella and saw a tourist who was not so much obese, but most probably aiming at the Olympic golden medal for Obesity.
He had problems moving forward. And there it was, on his T-shirt:

One can wonder why Nike makes T-shirts in size XXXXXL.

Isn't that a bit... counter-productive? A tad... going against the image they would like to transmit?

I could not help but marvel at this man. Self-deprecating humor, the wish to make people smile or blissful ignorance, whatever his reasons, they were loveable.

There he was, the least unlikely person on earth to be found walking along the beach side at 7 AM. 

And doing just that all the same.

My mind started the attempt to organise a thought.

Could it be that this man, obese as he was, might have been even heavier before he started these walks?  And what convinced him to start?

Could it be that he decided to forget all worries, all obstacles, all fear for reactions, and said: "Over the shoulder with all that, let's just do it"?

It is my belief that Nike has driven more people towards sports or living a more active life, than all sports teachers combined. 

(Unfortunately, the marketing of Mac Donalds is equally strong).

Admittedly, when studying marketing Nike is my all time favourite 'hero', so forgive me if I become over-enthused in the rest of this blog!

The brilliance of 'Just do it'.

At this very moment, there are millions of people standing in a sports store.

Looking, browsing, comparing, pondering, calculating and hesitating.

OK, they would love those yellow shoes like the athletes of the last Olympics, but they've just got 82 Euro and perhaps, for that money, they could buy something else for just 50, or buy two pairs of shoes for that budget, and to they really need those shoes, and will they really go running or playing tennis or subscribe to the gym, and when would they do that and... and... and

Oh, what the heck...

In hindsight it's little miracle that this tagline has increased the market share of Nike so much.
For here, Nike is motivator and helping hand alike. Decisions are difficult and take up so much energy and there's so much choice... we love it if a decision is taken for us.

A sports brand as philanthropist and life coach?

Is it really their aim to make people healthier? Do they really want to help people with advice and decisions at difficult moments?

The answer could be difficult to grasp: of course they do!

If they did not care, they would not be where they are now.

If they did not care for your comfort while running, not care to give you long term satisfaction and the knowledge that those 82€ were really well spent, they would be nowhere.

Where would Google be if they did not invest millions in offering you a totally free search engine? Free gmail? Free maps?

First and foremost any great Brand offers you something that really improves your life, and does so for free.

Sure, let's skip the debate which - or whether there even are - Brands that would do this 'out of the goodness of their heart'. This is a market place. Helping you is only the first step towards the earnings.

The second part of the answer is: of course they don't!

The grey cells that are responsible for Nike's great tagline, really understood what makes people tick.

Someone has actually sat there, on a bench in an immense sports store, focussing on the question: "how, of the overwhelming choice of shoes that people have here, will they consider ours?  What would me help to make my decision here and now"?

"How can we help people to make their decision process easier, and that this decision will be in our favour"?

How to help them with the overload, and reduce it to 2 options only?

Nike's tagline even helps you with this decision.

If you excuse me now, I'll go and hyperventilate with dignity.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

About Brainwashing

All professional marketing is brainwashing.

Do you think it laughable that Coca-Cola is said to have spent 5 million dollars to come up with this tagline?

"What!?  5 million dollar for business advisors, brand specialists, marketing psychologists, market researchers, designers... and this is all they can come up with"?? 

Think Coca-Cola

What Coca-Cola is doing here, is to make you link the word 'drink' with their name. Done massively, with repeat messages from billboards to the plastic chairs and umbrellas all around you, and you are inextricably stuck with a message in your subconscious mind.

The words 'drink' and 'Coca-Cola' are forever linked. 

Someone asks "what do you drink"?  
And you, Pavlovian, say: "Coca-Cola".

How many times hasn't it happened to you? 

You are at a reception or in a bar, talking with someone, the waiter interrupts you and asks "do you want a drink"? 

Now there are thousands of possible answers. "No," is one of them. In Belgium alone there are hundreds of beers. You might say "a Gueuze" or might even go for: "Can I have some La Casera Cola with lemon and a hunch of strawberry"? 

Chances are you won't. In the order of things, your energy level or time management do not want you to dedicate more than 5 seconds to a decision like this one. 

So there you go: a Coca-Cola, a Heineken, a Cruz-Campo. 

How superb for any brand to achieve this. To be chosen over tens of thousands of others. 

Whereas all tests forever prove that people actually prefer the taste of Pepsi. Only when bottled and branded, it's Coca-Cola that is chosen more often. 

Is that Machiavellian?

Is it art? Is it clever? Is it great? Is it psychology, sociology, anthropology? It's all of this (and the reason why I as web designer surround myself by Brands, I cannot see that as something superficial but right as a study in any human domain). 

We humans are forever trying to improve ourselves, in all professions, sciences, inventions, technology, entertainment, singing, dancing... you name it. 

And so do professionals in marketing. For to say that theirs is a highly competitive world is an understatement. To say that we humans are being bombarded with messages and triggers is an insipid remark. 

We are under attack 24/24. Massively. In Marketing world it's always Shock and Awe.

Marketing departments are forever pushed to take things to a next level. And a next one. And a next one. They just have to find ways to get through the clutter and pierce through that forever hardening shield around you. 

Hence the repeat message, everywhere, all the time:

Link the word 'drink' with our Brand.

Make a drink that tastes like metal and makes your teeth rot, be associated with happiness.

Whatever you think of it, such is the world and it will become sucher and sucher. 

If a marketing department are not already busy with neuro-psychology, you might not make it into the next decade.

Marketing departments the world over are already long busy with ways to detect what you think. Not what you say you think, or what you think you think, or what you are absolutely convinced that you are thinking - but what is actually going on in your limbic or reptilian brain.

What a world?  What to think of this?  What can we do about it? 


Thursday, 19 September 2013

About Online Success

It were the brothers Dan and Chip Heath who conducted the most extensive research on Success so far.
For longer than a decade they investigated: what is it that make that ideas stick?
Even during all that time, they could only investigate a few hundred ideas, which, in a world of 7 billion people, might not seem very relevant.
However, direct marketing specialists who can send out tens of thousands emails a day, or websites that can actually monitor the behaviour of hundreds of thousands... more or less come to the same conclusion as the brothers.
And me myself, in my small corner of Internet marketing, can only agree. Just as the writer of that marketing success 'Flipnosis' can.
What a small business needs to achieve success is:

A simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional story.
Or S.U.C.C.E.S: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story.
Every single company or brand drops a few balls in its marketing plan. Some drop lots of them, are neither credible nor concrete nor unexpected. Or have no story to tell (and try to get through to the human brain if you don’t have a story!).
Personally my marketing is almost only story, all emotion, and all unexpectedness. Yes, I should work on being Concrete as well as Credible.
And so we all have something to work on – acutely.
If you need help with that… you know where to find me.
In that simple, unexpected and emotional fairy-tale village in Spain, working on being concrete.
OR: in that concrete Brussels which increases my credibility.  
Where, day after day, I notice that the 2 C’s in Success work best. Take out one of the 6 ingredients to success and it will start to stammer. Forget credibility though and it will not even start.
(Hence the importance of professional web design, original quality photography, etc).

Example of enhancing credibility: proof that I'm in Brussels 

'Don't crack under pressure'... for sure thinking about some very difficult key word here).


Monday, 9 September 2013

About On-Site SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. 

It is the combination of all techniques that make a website more 'Search Engine Friendly'. 

For the more the Search Engines like your website, the higher they will make it rank... and the more website visitors it will get. 

OFF-Site SEO stands for all tactics you apply outside of the website: for example managing a Facebook business page, Tweeting, posting articles, Blogging...

ON-Site SEO is what you do in the website itself. 

The first can come with quite a lot of work load, which is also perpetual: you will always have to update your Social Networks, post articles in your blog on a daily or weekly basis, etc. 

Consequently: ON-site SEO is very attractive: it can be a one time process.  

If done well, that one time process can result in months or even years of very good rankings that get you free traffic day after day. 

If you know the costs of paid advertising (such as Google AdWords), than you know just how appealing very good On-Site SEO can be. 

As with every online marketing technique, the quality and relevance are key. 

It is all good and well to stuff your website with key words such as 'hotels Brussels', 'hotels in Brussels'... if you are only ONE hotel, this will not help on the way to more or better rankings. It will actually hurt your rankings, just as any tactic to trick the search engines. 

Also it can be tempting to go for 'black hat methods', methods that are not approved of by the Search Engines because they are seen as unethical, tricking their spiders - but imagine you are caught and your website is penalized in the search engines? You will loose all your free traffic: and thus ruin everything you have ever wanted to achieve. 

Ergo: the first question you will have to ask any SEO specialist, is whether he used ethical techniques only. 

There are dozens and dozens of those techniques, not to say hundreds - it is believed that Google used 200 algorithms to decide which page should rank higher than the other. 

Most of those algorithms are not disclosed to the public, for that would open the door to many a webmaster trying to trick Google... which means that it would not be the most relevant or best web pages ranking highest, but only those that apply most SEO tactics. 

No SEO Advisor or Specialist can ever promise you anything. For the simple reason that far too much is out of his control. 

In that respect, he is like a surgeon, or a solicitor. Your solicitor cannot promise that you will win the lawsuit. The surgeon cannot promise that the operation will be a success. Just as your national soccer theme cannot guarantee they will win the World Cup. All you can do is to optimize your chances by hiring the most reliable professional. 

Consequently, if a SEO specialist ever provides you with guarantees... run. If he really knew how Google works, he would not live in your country, but own it. 

For a very good knowledge of On-Site SEO would mean an endless and massive stream of website customers, free marketing unlike any other. 

Which brings us back to the popularity of On-Site SEO: it truly is the marketing technique par excellence, for companies with low budgets but high expectations. 

And a will to deliver quality.