Tag Archives: Cause Marketing

Ideas We Think Are Important

And which deserve further research

Originally posted January 26, 2012

What is a life worth? All each of us can do for the betterment of the world is largely constrained by our funds. Warren Buffett, God bless him, is one of the least constrained in this way, and has heard the clarion call to give 99% of his fortunes to the benefit of mankind; he is destined to do a world of good.

For most of us, all we can do is all we can do. We have to continue to strive to do as much good as we can, and not be attached to the outcome.

Some people have good ideas that cannot be heard because they are ahead of their time. Stendahl, the father of the modern novel, died unrecognized and his books only became popular classics a century later. There are many such examples.

The Human Effectiveness Institute was set up to carry on my work in perpetuity, knowing that in my own lifetime my results could be limited. Without funds to carry out more extensive research into the brain, Quantum Mechanical interactions with consciousness, controlled experiments with new forms of education and so on, I don’t know if any of my ideas are right. All I know is that I will continue to try to find out as best I can, because I see promise of wide benefit if any of these ideas are right.

Jung was the first modern scientist to postulate that the intuition is a true function of consciousness capable of deriving accurate solutions to complex challenges. In our own time many scientists are studying the capabilities of the right cortex in pursuit of knowing more about the intuition. I expect in time we will discover that the intuition is a true set of algorithms and heuristic equations able to predict correct answers even though the left-cortex intellect is not able to explain step by logical step why that answer is correct.

In short, the reason I bet my life on my ideas is that they are the product of intuition. These ideas feel to me as nearing the direction of truth, even though they may turn out to be slightly to the right or left of being exactly correct. I can choose to be safe and not share these ideas, or to risk loss of face by sharing them. Given the potential to reduce suffering, it’s a person’s duty to put aside personal risk and contribute whatever ideas could be helpful to society.

Here are six ideas I expect will turn out to have some beneficial effects in the centuries ahead. We recommend whatever funds can be allocated to test these ideas further as a prudent investment in the future of humanity.

  1. The Theory of the Conscious Universe*. Hypothesis: the spark of selfness in each of us is actually a dub of the single consciousness that exists. Quantum mechanics would be the appropriate testbed for experiments searching for interaction effects between consciousness and matter/energy. This would be a starting point leading to experiments that expand our sphere of scientific knowledge into what used to be called metaphysics. Once given proof that we are all truly One, the implications for war, terrorism, violence, hatred, crime, fear of death, and other negative phenomena would be profound. The diffusion of such proof from intellectual circles down to the level of affecting the emotion-driven behavior of the common person in the age of Acceleritis™ would be the next challenge after finding such proof.
  2. The Theory of Holosentience. Hypothesis: latest evolution of the human brain is still in the field debugging stage, with the left cortex and limbic system driving behavior in an unbalanced fashion relative to under-developed patterns of use in the right cortex and prefrontal cortex. This lack of integration in whole-brain utilization has propagated the formerly backward violent culture into a technologically advanced violent culture. The inventiveness springing from the new brain parts, even used in an unbalanced manner, has caused an acceleration in question-producing stimuli falling upon the average human consciousness per day, which we call Acceleritis™. This has proceeded through three phases involving the invention of written (“seeable”) language, tools/weapons, and media. Brain research and controlled experiments in new educational interventions are the directional recommendations for research proving the efficacy of specific psychotechnological applications to increase human effectiveness, thus improving creative decision making to solve world level challenges. Such educational interventions would include forms of meditation, including what we call psychotechnology — the applied use of meditation continuously throughout life.
  3. Democracy enabled by Social Media. Hypothesis: the new media have finally reached a stage in which true participatory democracy is possible. All that is required is to launch and fine-tune the specific applications. Mining/crowdsourcing the solution ideas of the entire population so that the everyone can discuss these ideas intelligently and “vote” on them through Digital and all other media, could turn out to be the highest use of these media we have invented. Moderated commentary is essential in order to filter out the rancor that characterizes current political discourse, and to keep the process pointed at constructive solutions rather than blame.
  4. Individualized Education to Realize the Potential of all Human Beings. Hypothesis: the most valuable resource is the talent latent in human beings. If society were reorganized to practice true education, we would all benefit from far greater creative output. By true education what I mean is education that is true to the original meaning of the word, which is derived from two Latin roots, educare and educere, meaning “to draw out” something that is in there already. Our education system operates on the opposite basis of pounding stuff in that is not already in the child. The proposed new form of education would utilize batteries of tests to identify the innate talents and interests of a child. On the basis of these interests and talents the child would be helped to design his or her own work/study program from kindergarten on (with a modicum of the basics). In the old Russian and Chinese programs the testing was there to find out the child’s talents, but the child’s preferences were not considered. This created the opposite of utopia, i.e. dystopia. As George Burns said, chewing his cigar, “Do what you love to do. You’re going to be doing it all your life. You’d better love it.” Organizations would take part and begin to identify and sponsor children from their earliest contact with the new education system. If America were to institute individualized education, other nations would once again look up to us and understand our role as practical idealists striving to lead the world into a higher destiny. Combining this with true democracy through our media would put America back on the course set for it by the founders.
  5. A New Money System. Hypothesis: a smooth transition to a more optimal monetary system could eliminate world poverty without negative side effects. There is more than one possible money system. Our present money system just grew like Topsy. It was not designed based on consideration of all alternatives, or by controlled experimentation, optimization, or any systematic means. While modern banking can be traced back to medieval and early Renaissance Italy, the first records of banking activity date back to around 2000 BCE in Assyria and Babylonia, where the merchants of the ancient world made loans to farmers and traders that carried goods between cities. Banking transactions probably predate the invention of money, in that deposits initially consisted of grain and later other goods including cattle, agricultural implements, and eventually precious metals such as gold, which were stored in temples and palaces to deter thieves.** From money as symbols for cattle, to the Templars, to Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes, the random walk of events led to the present monetary system. Naturally those with the power of violent control would steer any emerging system in their own favor, whether it was the currency of exchange, organized religion, statehood, or any other system. Some of the violence perpetuated by the imbalances in brain use described above would sublimate into passive aggression through the exploitation of the masses by the rich and powerful. Imbalances in brain usage have led to imbalances in individual opportunity. Revolutions have occurred to rectify the situation, always resulting in the new leadership re-creating similar imbalances afterward, because the fundamental imbalances at the brain level had not changed. Communism was one flailing attempt at a new money system that was spectacularly wrong. This does not mean that a new money system as a concept is automatically going to be wrong. Our best economic thinkers could probably design credible alternatives and baby steps that could cautiously test these designs. Robert A. Heinlein in For Us, The Living depicts a future in which the Social Credit ideas of economist C.H. Douglas have become the norm. In this system, the government prints money not backed by gold (as is the case in America today) and extends this money to all citizens like an allowance. This differs from Communism in the freedom given to the individual as to how to spend or invest the allowance, and how to spend or invest one’s time. Alberta (Canada) started to test these ideas during the Great Depression until shut down by the courts. Nobody knows how well the idea would have worked if it had not been shut down. Today’s economists presumably could come up with even better ideas than those of a century ago. Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty describes a path to eliminating extreme poverty by 2025 without any fundamental change in the money system, and all 191 UN member states in 2002 agreed to this plan, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Extreme poverty is the tip of the poverty iceberg and it is possible by opening our minds to even more creative possibilities for the money system, all poverty and fear of poverty can be banished in this century.
  6. Cause-Centralized Marketing. Hypothesis: advertisers can increase sales and profitability by doing good works and publicizing these good works in miniprograms in place of some of their TV commercials. Cause marketing — a form of corporate public relations hinged on good corporate citizenship, doing good works/philanthropy — is today about a $1 billion annual phenomenon. This is about a tenth of one percent of the total spent worldwide each year on marketing/advertising/PR. A very small allocation and yet there is evidence that the return on investment from cause marketing and related forms of marketing such as true sponsorship is far greater than the ROI of average marketing/advertising/PR. The Cone agency in Boston has done surveys for years proving that the majority of the public will change brands to favor brands who are corporate good guys. My own work on true sponsorship (underwriting good content on TV/Digital media) shows 7X the average persuasion scores as compared to 30-second TV commercials, along with higher ROI. People are more affected by substantive actions by advertisers to improve the lives of human beings, than by claims of superior cleaning power etc. So why such a low allocation for cause marketing? The main reason is reach. Marketers know that cause marketing and true sponsorship have high impact but low reach. The obvious solution then would be to create a form of cause marketing that has high reach: replace some of the advertiser’s TV commercials with equal length units showcasing the individual human stories of people who have benefited from the advertiser’s support of good causes. This would provide high reach, high impact, and social good. A truly win/win solution. True sponsorship can also be emulated in commercial length units by means of miniprograms that touch people’s hearts, tagged with the brand’s name at the end. Changing the advertising can do more to uplift the entire culture than can be imagined. Advertising in a way is like the chatter that goes on in our minds — a form of background radiation that conditions our perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Why not channel it for the good of all — especially since the evidence points to that being the highest ROI solution anyway?

If any of these ideas makes sense to you, and if you would like to help me move it forward using a few minutes a week of your time or whatever you can manage, please let me know. I feel there is latent promise in these ideas and each needs a lot more work to bear fruit.

Best to all,


*The Theory of the Conscious Universe was the working title of my book, “You Are the Universe: Imagine That”, released in 2014.

**See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_banking for more background on the subject.

Follow my regular media blog contribution, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers. Read my latest post.

Gratitude Reach Units (GRUs)

“Quality Of Life (QOL) advertising/promotion… advertising/promotion designed to trigger a feeling of appreciation or gratitude as the audience realizes that the advertiser has made a positive contribution to the quality of life, either in the advertisement/promotion itself, or in a separate event that the advertising/promotion recounts.” —Media Science Newsletter, June, 1979

Since 1979, there has been an upsurge in the use of Cause Marketing to the point of overload, as pointed out in the June 1, 2010 AdAge blog by Mike Swenson, CEO of Barkley, whose Cause agency clients include H&R Block, Lee Jeans, and the March of Dimes. Mike comments that when Cause is done right, the emotional partnership with the audience is achieved, but this emotional connection is missed when Cause is just another incentive to buy a product right away. He more broadly observes that Cause is in danger of being moved into the promotions department where its practitioners will have no in-depth appreciation for how it works or what it is meant to be, hence they will eliminate its effectiveness both for social good and for profits.

The only way for gratitude marketing to work is for it to be motivated by social good as much as by company good. The reason is that the public is so cynical and suspicious, they will root out insincerity even if it is artfully concealed. As if a great law of karma were at work: gratitude can only be an effective strategy if it is done with real intent for social benefit. Therefore the selling must be side-stepped, if not left out entirely.

Have these ideas ever been empirically tested, that a gratitude strategy can work if the  advertising does not try to sell, and merely provides a gift of some kind to its audience? There are 28 cases summarized in an ARF paper I co-authored in 2006, reporting that Internet sponsorships can generate extremely high persuasion scores and ROIs when there is no selling at all, and when the content is something that the audience can reasonably be expected to perceive as an unexpected gift.

Such as what? What kinds of communication content have been proven to generate these high metrics? Objective product information that is not entirely positive (gift of honesty), yet is utilitarian and not-overworn; information of interest to specific target audiences (e.g. Volvo sponsors Yahoo coverage of The NY Auto Show — Volvo paid so buyers could see Volvo competitors too — again gift of honesty, this time also showing confidence in one’s product); and educational content (e.g. how to be a great digital photographer). These are the dominant three content types across those studies.

Not included in that ARF paper but learned elsewhere we also know now that gratitude strategy can work with true sponsorship (“true”=no selling) of:

  • content that is hard to come by (e.g. jazz),
  • a report of some act of good corporate citizenship (Cause),
  • content that is inspiring and/or educational, and so on — the possibilities are endless, depending on the interests and lifestyles of the people in the target audience.

The idea of Gratitude Reach Units (GRUs) — which I had referred to as “QOL spots” in the 70s — resurfaced in my work for Internet publishers using the gratitude strategy. These publishers were achieving high CPMs and renewal rates with their advertiser clients, because marketing mix modeling and persuasion scores were so high. However, their Internet work for these advertisers remained a very small part of the total marketing pie for these same advertisers, because a gratitude-producing site on the Internet has very low reach. Yet the right sorts of people come to the site, the very ones that the brand is most interested in reaching, and they leave with an increased trust and liking for the sponsoring brand — because the brand did not ruin the moment by selling.

The Internet publishers were happy with Next Century Media's work in gratitude effect. But they wanted to find a way to become more important to their advertiser clients, and to somehow release their powerful gratitude method on a larger audience.

Hence the idea of Gratitude Reach Units — use some of a brand’s 30-second TV spots as GRUs, miniprograms with zero brand-sell, just with well-produced useful and/or inspiring content. Reports of humanitarian work in some cases; 9-year-old girls who sing opera as if trained for decades; true stories of everyday unsung heroes who go on every day nonetheless — whatever it might be. Again, the content is endless.

Not in a low-reach (“pull”) Internet site, but a 30- second (“push”) TV spot where high reach can be achieved.

For most brands’ targets, the content will mirror the kinds of content that ANA’s Family Friendly advertiser effort — led by folks like Barbara Bacce-Mirque — has been seeking and putting on the air for many years. In GRU form it will only be 30- (actually anywhere in the range of 20-120) second form rather than 60 minutes.

For a smaller number of brands aimed at younger people, GRUs may need to be edgier.

This is a testable concept. A brand can take a small percentage of the inventory it has already been allocated in an upfront buy — say 3% of the brand’s inventory — and use it for GRUs. Marketing mix and singlesource (and holdout geo areas) can be used to accurately measure the ROI impact of GRUs. If it lifts ROI, further testing can then optimize the percentage that should be GRU. It will undoubtedly differ by brands — more GRUs being desirable where the brand itself is perceived by most buyers to be at parity without significant advantages, fewer GRUs where the brand has a compelling and evident competitive edge.

Affinity/liking for the brand, respect, trust, appreciation, gratitude, “the brand is my friend”, experiential connections with the brand, inspiration — these will be the main diagnostic metrics to be used in creating and pre-testing program content for GRU sponsored miniprograms to run in commercial inventory. Neuromarketing measures should go beyond arousal and approach/avoidance, attempting to find a detectable signature for the gratitude effect. Frontal lobes, and smile/frown muscle electromyography, are two of my hunches, in the search for gratitude detection. Obviously the better we can pre-test and improve GRUs the more effective they will be in terms of financial ROI.

Who knows how great the ROI might turn out to be in terms of social good?

Best to all,


A-GRPs: Affinity Gross Rating Points

What if we found out that affinity was the most powerful communications effect translating into incremental sales dollars, even more powerful than reason-why or viewer-reward?

Let me back up a second and define what I’m talking about.

Affinity” is liking the brand. An ad that creates affinity — the feeling that “the brand is my friend” — is one type of communication. It works particularly well with true sponsorship (no hard sell ads), when the brand brings content that the viewer loves and is grateful to the brand for bringing. This can also be done in 30” and 60” form as in the great work of copywriter Nick Pisacane and Art Director Al Amato.

Reason-why” is when an ad appeals to reason and perhaps using demonstration, proves that the brand is superior to its competitors. Grey used to be noted for its work in this area. Bill Bernbach nailed this approach in the original breakaway Volkswagen ads.

Viewer-reward” (so named by great copywriter John Bergin) is when a commercial is fun to watch and produces liking for the commercial (maybe not so much for the brand). Phil Dusenberry was also famous for funny commercials that you could enjoy over and over. Pepsi was one brand that became identified with this style of commercial because of Phil and then Ted Sann, so that crossover to Affinity (true liking for the brand) was also occurring some of the time with these Pepsi ads.

These are three of the ways (creative strategies) — maybe not all the ways — that an ad can affect persuasion and sales.

Now that I’ve defined these terms, back to the point. What if Affinity — an ad’s creation of liking for the brand, the brand is my friend — turned out to be the most powerful driver of sales made by advertising today?

What evidence do we have for that hypothesis?

  • My work on True Sponsorship, which was published in the ARF Journal (see recent postings which also quote that 2006 paper).
  • The steady growth in Cause marketing. Brand Affinity is the cognitive/emotive channel through which Cause works. It is already over a billion dollars a year in the U.S. and very few papers have revealed how big an impact Cause has on sales. Cone Agency (won Strategic Agency of Year award in 2008) is exemplary in the work they do in Cause marketing and in building brand trust.
  • Brand distrust is the main factor working against all advertising, regardless of the creative strategy employed. I have been writing about the constant rise in brand distrust for, well, decades. This distrust is part of a greater distrust for government, everything and everybody, which has been growing for over 50 years — the era of conspiracy theory — and shows no signs of ending but rather keeps becoming more prevalent in our lives.  Since Brand Affinity is the opposite of Brand Distrust, this is one strong reason to form the hypothesis I am proposing.
  • Jim Spaeth, when running ARF not so long ago, pulled the industry together in a massive validation of all copy testing. The results surprised everyone including Jim and me, in finding that liking is right up there with persuasion as a factor in the success of commercials. In that case liking the commercial was the main point but was probably confabulated with some brand liking as well. (Note that the famous Piel’s ads which were widely liked had zero effect on sales; this was part of what led the industry to discount “liking” as having any importance in commercial testing — until Jim’s massive study just a few years ago.)
  • Joel Tucciarone reports the results of a study that found involvement to be more powerful than satisfaction in predicting brand loyalty. One of the key metrics within the Involvement score was high numbers on the semantic differential scale called “The Brand Is My Friend”.
  • Herb Krugman found that people made connections to brands, sometimes based on what they were experiencing during the time they took up with the brand; the number of such brand connections was found to be predictive of brand loyalty.
  • At ESOMAR a few years ago, then-P&G (today Medialinkllc) thought-leader and innovator Bernhard Glock said that P&G is interested not just in reaching consumers, but in touching their hearts.

Some people who like the commercial will also like the brand for having done it. More and more we have to learn how to increase this crossover. We also have to do studies to learn more about it.

On the Internet now, Facebook and many others are asking users to click on items they like, and are reporting how many people have already clicked that they liked it. This is a pool of information that can provide insights into Affinity and what makes it tick — and how and when it effects sales increases. Colligent  is doing the leading work in this area, measuring what 145,000,000 people say publicly they like in terms of over 37,000 brands, TV programs, etc. Colligent’s Chairman John Bess came out of P&G where he was a leader in the automation of a key research area; Sree Nagarajan is the computer genius who invented the cutting edge technique.

I for one see biometrics as a very promising area in general, and one which can shed important light into Affinity. Those insights will help enable us all to create ads and media vehicles for those ads (or true sponsorships without ads) and even branded entertainment apps which better create Brand Affinity.

Today, out of 100 people, about 4 are persuaded by the average ad, according to published ARS norms on persuasion. Of these 4 persuasion occasions, perhaps Brand Affinity caused 1 (or fewer), Reason-why perhaps caused 1, Commercial liking (viewer reward) caused 1, and maybe the 4th one was caused by sheer low-involvement reminder effect, priming the viewer to respond when cued by the package on the shelf.

The hypothesis espoused herein suggests that if we make commercials/environments creating more Brand Affinity, we can raise the average from 4 to 6, with half coming from the Brand Affinity strategy. This would not raise cost but would increase advertising effectiveness +50%.

Instead of promulgating empty impressions, the impressions would be payloaded with packets of Brand Affinity Persuasion — if we found that this moves the needle upward on sales.

We could add a Liking button on TV — something the ITV leaders such as Canoe and Brightline could implement.

We could even begin to count impressions this way. If we find that a commercial creates Brand Affinity in say 10% of those who see it, we can express that as A-GRPS or A-TRPs (Target Rating Points) by reducing the GRP or TRP by a factor of 10%. This would only make sense if we found that Brand Affinity translates almost directly into incremental sales creation — which hasn’t been established yet.

It looks like a promising direction for research to go in.

Best to all,