What Can Marketers Learn From The Best Heist Movies? A Lot…

Admittedly, I’m a movie buff and one of my favorite genera’s are heist movies. I’m also a big fan of well-executed marketing campaigns. Based on my real-world experience as a modern marketer, I have a few parallels to draw between heist films and creating marketing strategies that work.

The heist film…focuses on the planning, execution, and aftermath of a theft. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history.  Wikipedia.org – “what is a heist movie”

Why am I telling you this? It’s not that I want you to become a thief of your customer’s money. But if you want to build a great brand, you will want to consider that you have to (figuratively) steal their hearts and minds.

Think about your favorite heist movie and why you like it. For me, it’s stories like Ocean’s Eleven, Inception, The Italian Job, The Inside Man and The Usual Suspects. Using this list of great heist films as my inspiration, here are the five things marketers can learn from the best heist movies.

1. Plan all the way through to the end

Plan everything. Even if your team or co-workers only see the high level points of your strategy, open up a bottle of red wine one quiet evening and plaaaaaaan. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Plan for failure too. What are some of the things that could go wrong with the campaign? Doing so can minimize setbacks along the way.

Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (2010)

Eames: You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling. [Pulls out a grenade launcher]

Thinking through how you actually deliver a service to your customers is key. From their search needing a product or service to you fulfilling that need. I like to think about it in the sense of a treasure map. Marketer’s should make it stupid easy for people to find the treasure (i.e. your product). Savvy? Ok, sorry for the Pirates of the Caribbean reference but, planning really involves thinking through the content that’s relevant to the search your users are doing and creating content servicing that need.

2. Everyone has their own unique strengths

Combine them. That’s right, you heard me, combine them. As a marketer, it’s in your best interest to nurture a team leveraging the unique qualities of each person.  This is how you build productive teams. There’s no real process for operating a great team, the secret is letting each individual do what they do well. That’s how you win together.

Ocean's 11 (2001)

Turk Malloy: [intentionally arguing to each other extend the time needed for their balloons to block the security camera’s view] Watch it, bud. Virgil Malloy: Who you calling bud, pal? Turk Malloy: Who you calling pal, friend? Virgil Malloy: Who you calling friend, jackass? Turk Malloy: Don’t call me a jackass. Virgil Malloy: I just did call you a jackass.

3. Look out for one another

Teams are like family; they stick together and have each other’s backs. The lesson here for marketers is that brands that really care and demonstrate they understand their customers will win and retain their customer base much better than the typical “kthanksby” for your purchase experience.

Inside Man (2006)

Keith Frazier: Oh, please, do not say proposals… my girlfriend… she wants a proposal from me. Dalton Russell: You think you’re too young to get married? Keith Frazier: No, I’m not too young… too broke. Maybe I should rob a bank. Dalton Russell: Do you love each other? Keith Frazier: Yeah, yeah, we do. Dalton Russell: Then money shouldn’t really matter. Keith Frazier: Thank you, bank robber!

4. Ringleaders adapt to stay in control of the progression of events

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan (see the above section on planning for failure). And that’s OK. But the reason why we like Dominick Cobb or Danny Ocean is because they seem in control.

As marketers, we know it’s not possible to remain completely in control of the outcome with such a fragmented landscape. We have to contend with things like show-rooming where people try things in store then buy online, or worse yet they snag a discounted Groupon-type engagement with your product or service. Again, that’s why planning comes in handy. Stay in touch with the customer-facing teams, like sales and customer support, so that you can use all of the data input you have to build a story line of what’s happening. Where are your customers buying and how can you (the authentic brand) be there instead to earn the sale?

Inception (2010)

5. The masterminds always gets what they want

Don’t you just want to be that person too!? I mean, how is it that they always get what they want? Because it’s by design.

For modern marketers, this means finding your true customers and continuing to bring value to them. You can also pay it forward; doing the unexpected is…well unexpected. It can even be delightful.

But it’s all by design.

Inception (2010) directed by Christopher Nolen

The Usual Suspects (1995) - Kevin Spacey. Directed by Bryan Singer


Are Enterprise SEO’s a Dying Breed?

Imagine you’re a physician. You’re traveling home on a flight back from a week-long conference where you had to renew your certification. You met many new and old connections and came away knowing your industry is alive and well.  The plane loudly hums along through the air while you review your session notes. Then you begin to hear some commotion from the other passengers a few rows behind you.

One voice. “Can we get her some water?”

Another voice. “She’s having trouble breathing…”

The flight attendant call button sounds in the cabin “ding!” You remain seated. Ears pricked up but waiting.

Your eyes are just returning to your notes when the pilot comes over the loud speaker, “Sorry for the disturbance folks. If there is a doctor on board, please make yourself known to a flight attendant.”

Out of commitment to your field, you are obligated to get involved. Out of personal passion, you have chosen this field. Either way, you are required to help and try to restore that human being back to health. And because of this, people listen to you.

I often feel like I’m a doctor making as many helpful recommendations as I can when it comes to corporate SEO initiatives. But there are so many different parties involved; it can be hard to meet everyone’s needs equally – time involved, level of effort, impact on improving organic traffic, all while staying on top of industry fluctuations. For such improvements to make an impact site-wide, it takes a village.

My parents are both in the medical field. When I was young, I was actually dissuaded from becoming a doctor. But I still have this inherent desire to help and to fix things.

When I hear digital challenges like “why did organic traffic drop on this date,” or “why are these pages not converting” I like the investigation. I thrive on it.  I look at the symptoms the website or a page is exhibiting and I try to gauge that against what I know of Google’s standard for user experience and content that’s relevant to the intent behind the search query.

But I have to be careful not to go too deep down the rabbit hole on what factors might be the cause of the issue. Today, the algorithms are working in real time and we can never be fully confident in the knowledge that a single factor is the cause.

Which is why, we as SEO’s make recommendations to the best of our knowledge, we test and we watch. If the patient (website) improves, we know we addressed the right aspect of the problem. This is why SEO is a long term game. There are no shortcuts to quality. It’s an investment in the right things making sure you empower other teams to help you along the way.

“There is a new breed of SEO manager who is politically savvy and gifted at collaborating with and mobilizing non-SEO teams. If SEO-integration isn’t on your roadmap, you’d better hope it’s not on your competitors’ maps either–otherwise they’ll have gold, and you won’t.”  The Executive SEO Playbook, by Jessica Bowman

Why do doctors never give up? Because they care. And it might also have something to do with taking a Hippocratic Oath 😉

How can enterprise-level SEO’s be as effective? My prescription is the following:

  1. Have more productive SEO-based conversations with stakeholders.
  2. Make SEO easy to implement and actionable for each team.
  3. Foster connections with other trusted, in-house SEO’s and seek their advice regularly.
  4. Read Jessica’s book!


How I’m learning to get over my fear of failure

holly miller athlete.jpg

Let me give you steps of a completely different kind because there is no checklist to getting over your fears; there are no shortcuts here. For what it’s worth, I’m learning it has more to do with leveraging a balance of mental and physical strength. Getting into a routine that helps you build physical strength and mobility is undoubtedly going to do wonders for your confidence, body, health etc. But in addition to that, there’s the “health” and strength of your mind – specifically your thoughts.

The mental work will be largely based on personal preference, but here are some good places, I’ve found, to start:
1.  “Practice Focus” Episode 5 – Living with Courage podcast.
2. “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life” by Susan David, PhD.

It’s normal (evolutionary, even) for us to feel fear. But what holds us back is the fact that we can cling to fear and accept it as reality. For weightlifting, it can be a thought like, “the weight that’s on the bar is heavy. I can’t do it.”

Now, I’m not going to step up to attempt a lift on a loaded bar of weight I’ve never lifted before because that’s not a good idea; you need to be training and building up to the weight (listen to the podcast). But, there is a way to create a new mental pathway that can help in your practice. It comes from “distancing [yourself] from both the physical effects of [your] fear–the cortisol surge, the accelerated heart rate, and the hyperventilation–and from any self-doubting narratives that might have already hooked [you]…” Learning to acknowledge yet distance yourself from your emotions and connecting with why you actually want to do something is how you learn to go forward in spite of the fears that are holding you back.

It may not be okay right then and there. But it will be okay.

You can lift the weights. You can engage in the difficult conversations with your significant other. You can speak up in a company meeting. You can do these things with your fear and the internal self doubt and still go forward.

It’s not about being fearless but having the courage to go forward with both your fears and your values on board because it’s intrinsically important to you.

Speculations on ‘Spectre’: Bond Girls Should Bring It Too

I recently saw the latest Bond installment, ‘Spectre’…and I’m a bit conflicted on how I feel about the move–especially the ending. (Fair warning for those who have yet to see it, this post is both a movie spoiler and a bit of a rant on how this Bond girl should have been portrayed).  I feel like there were conflicting thematic endings. One where we acknowledge the fact that the M16 agent program is better off using humans (not high tech machines) who are better equipped at calculating and weighing the factors of whether to kill or not to kill. The other where Bond goes against his character in favor of what looks like personal pursuits.

I felt Bond was not being true to the Bond character in the final moments of the film when he’s standing over the villain, Oberhauser, who taunts, “finish it.” And he doesn’t do it. He doesn’t finish off the villain (seriously!? that’s a top action movie rule: always finish the job). Unless there’s a squeal. Then you let the bad guy live.

So James Bond doesn’t finish the job. Instead Bond says “I’m all out of bullets. And…” glancing at the beautiful blonde nearby, “I’ve got better things to do.” It doesn’t make sense! Was his decision more to do with the humanistic aspect of being an assassin and choosing not to kill or the fact that Bond now had legitimate romantic aspirations? I found myself thinking this is maddening and uncharacteristic.

I suppose too that since this was the last installment of this particular Bond franchise, the writer/director would be looking to essentially package things up for the audience. While I agree having Bond shoot Oberhauser in the head would be pretty brutal (even for this film), sometimes, the good guys have to do bad things to make the bad guys pay (seriously, that scene with the small drill had me on the edge of my seat!).  If it were up to me, I would have ended the movie this way:

Finish it.

Have it your way. (shoots him)
(But we keep the camera on Bond, see him fire and hear a loud BANG)

James, you didn’t have to kill him…

Yes, I did. Because now I’m all out of bullets and I have better things to do.

I’m all for Bond choosing the girl over the gun, but I didn’t like how the writing made it seem like he was choosing between being who he is and who he wants to be.   His love interest Madeleine Swann even walks away from him at one point saying she can’t be with him because, “…it’s who you are.” Clearly, Swann recognizes he’s not the type of man for her because maybe his lifestyle as an assassin is not something she wants to become involved in (good job, sweetheart!).

When she walked away I thought, “OK, good. She respects him enough to walk away so that he can get on with being a bad ass assassin.”  But I fond myself frustrated minutes later after the climactic scene where Bond saves her, that they end up together.  She didn’t stick to her standard and neither did he–especially tossing his gun into the river.

What?! He tosses his gun away just like that and strides over to take her in his arms?

I don’t feel Bond should have gone against his character in order to be with the woman he (supposedly now) loves.  (His only real choice out of all the Bond girls before should have been taking care not to end up with a crazy one). In my opinion, if this Bond girl were really right for James, she would appreciate him for the cunning (and handsome) assassin that he is and support him in being that.

Which is why I wish this Bond girl had more to offer.  This leading lady is apparently a psychologist working at a private medical clinic in the Austrian Alps (with an amazing office that has an incredible view). Ironically, Swann is the daughter of an assassin (Bond’s old nemesis Mr White) which means she gets him in a way most women do not.  But the chemistry only spiked after the action sequences and Swann didn’t fit the bill for the type of “partner in crime” that would actually compliment someone like Bond.  Her psychology prowess never actually lent itself to the story line, she was afraid to handle a gun (yet she knew her way around one), and she got stuck with random one-liners like “what shall we do now?” followed by a smash cut to Bond and Swann making out.

I just wish her character had been written as more complimentary to that of James Bond. Thankfully, though, she nailed it bringing her own sense of swagger in the gowns she appeared in.

Spectre movie review

LOVER Lace Dress in new James Bond film ‘Spectre’ seen on bond girl Lea Seydoux

Once I have an extra $600.00 I’ll be sure to pick up this little number on eBay.

In spite of the ending, ‘Spectre’ is still a great ride and everything you’d expect from a flashy Bond film. Maybe Bond girls aren’t meant to be bad-asses like James Bond himself. I suppose I’ll just have to wait for a heroine when the Hunger Games Mockingjay part 2 is due out later this month.

More on the film’s gadgets, guns and gowns highlighted in this Bloomberg Business article.

The Inversion Point is Coming – Is Your Mobile Site Ready To Handle Business?

As Joe DeMike, Principal Marketing Consultant at Google explained at IMPACT14 this September, there is an inversion point that’s coming with regard to mobile devices.  Simply put, there will come a point in the very near future where traffic from mobile devices to your company website will overtake that of traffic from desktop (and we’re talking organic traffic). Companies need to be ready and they need to be able to provide a seamless, frictionless experience on the customer path to purchase.

Case in point, I used two types of car services to get me to and from the airport while traveling to the Impact14 conference in Las Vegas this year. I booked an Uber from my office to the airport and I took a cab from LAX back to my office.

Here’s the key difference in my choice of words which, I’ll explain, simultaneously illustrates the difference between companies that are optimizing for mobile experiences versus those that are not: I booked the Uber—implying preference in my transportation arrangements whereas I had to “take” a cab from the airport because Uber drivers are no longer allowed to pick up from the airport…Lame.

Read on and see which seamless and frictionless experience you would prefer:

The Uber

  • Exiting my office building, I open the Uber app and use the pinpoint location to alert a nearby driver I would like to be picked up.
  • Moments later, I get a text message saying my driver is en route and the expected wait time is less than 5 minutes.
  • The driver pleasantly greeted me. He offered me bottled water and gum upon getting settled inside his clean, well-kept vehicle.
  • The driver used the company-provided smartphone to input my desired location.
  • We chatted back and forth during the entire ride to the airport.
  • Since my payment details are on file with Uber, there was no swiping of my credit card or fishing through my purse for cash—even tip is factored into the Uber rides.
  • In short, I arrived at my destination and left the car feeling happy and knowing that I would use Uber’s services again.

The Cab

  • Exited baggage claim at LAX and climbed into the cab giving the driver the exact office address for my destination. He did nothing with the information except nod, start the meter and shift the car into drive.
  • We spend the next minute debating the state of traffic conditions on the freeway versus side streets. When it becomes apparent to me that the cab driver does not know which route is faster, I pull out my smart phone. A quick look on sigalert.com ends the discussion; we will take the freeway (where is his smartphone?).
  • No conversation.
  • I advise the cab driver to exit the freeway and proceed to Pico to make a quick left and then right using back roads to the office (seriously, where is his smart phone?). He is flustered saying “but you said it was on Olympic?…” I say, “this method takes the back roads, it’s OK.”
  • The cab pulls up outside the office. This being the part where we exchange money for his service, I tell the cab driver I will be paying with a credit card and would like a receipt. His reaction is one of visible displeasure that I don’t have cash to give him.
  • I swipe my card into the machine and tip him 20% (since I’m such an inconvenience). The machine doesn’t work and I have to repeat the process again (seriously?!). Finally, receipt in hand, I silently vow not to take a cab again unless I absolutely have to.

These two experiences are night and day and, to a large degree, illuminate the disparity between companies that have optimized their websites to handle mobile engagement and transactions versus those that have yet to. A snippet from DeMike’s presentation, “mobile users will notice and be delighted by the small things you do for them to enhance their experience.” Some of the unique user needs (Read: mobile optimization principles) included:

  • Optimize your entire site for mobile
  • Don’t make users pinch-to-zoom
  • Make product images expandable
  • Tell users which screen orientation works best (if applicable)
  • Keep your user in a single browser window
  • Be clear why you need a user’s location

As it stands, there is a big disparity between the companies that are ahead of the game and those still thinking of getting on board the mobile bandwagon. The time for thinking has past. It’s time for action. I agree, the inversion point will happen and when it does, upon finishing an experience with a brand on a mobile device, marketers will want their customers feeling happy and knowing they’ll use the brand’s services again.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few snapshots of what this years presenters had to say on mobile.  The IMPACT14 conference is an annual event hosted by the Internet Marketing Association.

Joe DeMike's technical check list

mobile commerce

build best in class experience

Cross device compatability

build app that enhances site

Please visit the event photo gallery for more photos of the event.

Dear Domestic Marketing Team at 20th Century Fox,

Dear Domestic Marketing Team at 20th Century Fox,

I happen to think your campaign of your recent release, “Date Night” is a classic case of movie marketing miscommunication.  I happened to be in NY a month ago in Times Square and saw much of the outdoor space filled with “Date Night” creative like the one below (nice job on the media buy).

Date Night movie poster

Date Night movie poster

But, I wrote the film off because this particular image didn’t intrigue or inform me enough about the film’s plot.  I figured I’d seen Steve Carell in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” so this one might be similar.  And Tina Fay?  What’s she doing not impersonating Sarah Palin? “Whatever,” I thought.

A few weeks later I was watching a rental from Netflix, and the teaser trailer for “Date Night” played and I was so confused—wasn’t that the name of the film I’d seen in NY? The trailer actually looked like something I’d spend money on to see.

My point is, I’m in a committed romantic relationship with a decent stipend I’d be willing to spend on entertainment and evenings out; so why did I not rally my boyfriend or other couples to go see “Date Night”? Here’s why:

May we suggest….more relevant creative?

  1. All fonts should be created equal

italicized font in Date Night trailer

You could have really piqued my interest had the type face on the outdoor poster matched the font style used in the trailer.  This copy looks waaay more interesting and action-packed.   And look at the color treatment; gold and black—I’m getting excited.

2. Let the visual reflect the plot

(From IMDB) Plot: In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple’s attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous.

Wow! Really? That sounds interesting. But I don’t get that from your poster with the frazzled couple on a gray backdrop.  Here’s a thought, what if the outdoor ads utilized rotating planks and had one version of the couple all ready for their date on one side—flip the panels—and they’re snazzy threads are singed and explosions can be seen behind them. You’d think, “what happened on that date?! I must find out!”

Case in point, someone got through to the creative department when the DVD cover was being made.  Even Germany managed to convey that something went awry on this date!

Date Night DVD cover with explosions in background

Date Night DVD released in Germany

3. To be or not to be—is not a tag-line.

Follow me on this one; an ordinary couple finds themselves in an out-of-the-ordinary scenario. How can we condense this down, make it punchy AND tell everyone when to go see it?

One ordinary couple. One little white lie.
(ok…good attempt…but not punchy enough)

Hit The Town. 4.9.2010.
(umm yeah….why am I hitting the town again?)

On April 9th One Night Can Change Your Life.
(now this has potential; its got a date, and  the ambiguity makes me wonder about the twist. I’m hooked…why is that not on the poster again?)

Why didn’t you go with the latter choice, 20th Century Fox?  You may have. But I never saw it, especially upon my initial brush with the creative in Times Square.  I’ll probably rent this film, because I’m genuinely interested, but you lost me for opening day and any chance of a double date to see this movie… I think we all went to see Iron Man 2 instead.

Domestic Total for “Date Night” as of May 24, 2010: $91,014,887 (IMBD.com)