Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Big Data and You - The Age of the Personal Brand

The Nefarious HAL 9000 - Illustration by Danny Kay

There's no longer any doubt. We've entered the Age of Big Data - or perhaps a better name might be "The Age of the Personal Brand."

The latest U.S. employment information shows a sea change among large companies towards redefining employees as freelancers and independent contractors. This all but forces the average job-seeker to devote time and effort to develop a personal "brand" in addition to (or even instead of) a well written resume.

Formerly the exclusive purview of large companies, development of a "brand" is now simply business as usual for millions of regular people. Social media, blogging and building a popular web presence have largely taken the place of traditional gravitas-building methods.
So much to do, so little time - Illustration by Danny Kay
Time previously spent trying to meet the "right" people - managers, HR folks, entrepreneurs - is now spent polishing one's LinkedIn profile or accumulating "likes", "views", "friends" and "connections."

Hey, I’m not immune. To date I’ve got over 1.4 million views of my work on Google+ and over 1600 connections on LinkedIn. My blog has thousands of views as well.
But what’s it all worth? Can I point to any work that was booked or money I’ve made from all the time spent in Cyberspace? It’s all about the image; all about the “brand.”
And just as basic branding philosophy calls for uniformity across all touch points, so to do I strive to create a uniform look and feel across all media. The old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” has really been pummeled and beaten into submission. Today, everyone and everything is judged by its “cover.” This is the face that’s shown to the world across social media.

That's not to say that you should only post professional items and have no other online life. Rather you should take care to not post items that cast you in a negative light.
HR departments routinely check out an applicant’s online presence as part of the qualification process, without regard to any actual relevance to the job.

Imagine, for a moment, the import of this.

In years past, interviewers had to rely on a resume and maybe some phone calls made to references. The primary yardstick was the candidate’s personal presentation.

Today, candidates are vetted in ways that are profoundly intrusive, with HR staff peeking into the nooks and crannies of people’s lives with little regard for privacy or even basic courtesy.

Of course job hunters themselves are partially to blame. Just because FaceBook and Tumblr and Twitter exist does not mean we have to put compromising posts on them. We should know by now that even private texts and emails are anything but private to someone determined to see them. People should use greater discretion (or maybe just basic good taste) before posting photos of them getting sick at a party, or showing off their tattoos and body piercings.

And more than that, we need to actively manage and curate those items that are posted.
In the Information Age, we need to be more careful than ever of what we reveal about ourselves. The instant, on-demand availability of every type of data has spoiled us. It’s become almost an assumed “right” to be able to find out almost anything about anyone, even (especially?) things they’d rather keep private.

Personal finances, pastimes and relationships are all considered legitimate targets. Ever in trouble with the law? Divorced? A few minutes in Google can reveal all.

And it’s the very titans of the Internet - executives of Yahoo, Google et al - who seek to portray themselves as championing the rights of the downtrodden - who are leading the greatest attack on personal privacy in history.

Every click in a web browser gives them more and more data on our hobbies, interests, finances and so much more.

And don't think it ends once you're hired. Recent articles in the news have detailed Amazon and Google, among others, who use extensive data collection on their employees to help improve productivity and efficiency.

It's like the old sci-fi stories. Living, breathing  employees are being transformed into numbers on a spreadsheet at an astonishing pace.

There was a story a while ago about researchers  who wanted to see how easy it was to find out enough information about the average person to fool him/her into thinking that the researchers were long lost pals.

They would go into a bar or restaurant and choose a "mark." Using photos taken on the spot with cellphone cameras, they used readily available facial recognition technology to identify the person through online posts. In minutes they could sift through the target's friends, family and history.

One of the researchers would then approach the target playing a long-lost friend, coworker or classmate.

The conversation would go something like this.
"Hey Bob! It's me, George! Don't you remember me? We were classmates in UCLA back in 2005. I still remember that party when our team won the big game in our junior year. Does your mom still make that amazing meatloaf?!"

In almost every instance, the casual use of personal data worked like magic. Even those few who were initially skeptical were soon enjoying the impromptu reunion.

In this case no real harm was done. They were researchers with benign goals. I believe they wound up revealing themselves to their targets and warned them of the dangers of posting too much personal information online. But it's easy to see how this capability could be used for nefarious purposes, e.g. to lure someone to a secluded place to rob them, or engage them in some other type of con.

The most startling part of this story was the incredible ease with which they pulled it off, all from readily available information. The days of the old "Mission Impossible" style preparation are gone. Now a scammer armed with only a web browser can find out all he needs to fleece you in mere moments.

I'm not advocating going "off the grid." What I am suggesting is that each person take control of his or her online identity. Try to be careful (or at least aware) when posting personal information. 

And while we're at it, maybe let's put in an effort to make sure that the parts of ourselves that we leave online show us at our very best. 

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a writer, designer and photographer with nearly 30 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2015 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Head to Heart Conversation

New Hope for Migraine Sufferers from a Most Unexpected Source

I've suffered from migraine headaches for over thirty years. They began when I was a teenager. At the time, I didn't know what a migraine was. I just knew that every couple of weeks I would wake up feeling out of sorts. That would lead into what's called an "aura" - a feeling of lightheartedness accompanied by bright spots in the eyes and usually followed shortly thereafter by pain - lots of pain. 
The only thing I could do was lie down in a dark room and try to sleep for a few hours until the worst of it subsided. 
I was perhaps 16 years old, and I knew nothing of neurologists and pain medications.
It was only several years later that I heard someone talking about symptoms like mine and was told that I likely had migraines. 
There followed nearly thirty years of struggling with this very challenging condition. 
I've tried maybe a dozen different medications including opiates and anti-depressants. 
I've tried adjusting my diet and I've tried going to a chiropractor.
Nothing ever offered more than a brief respite.

A Life Changing Event  

And then, on Monday, March 30, 2015, at approximately 11:30 in the evening, I had a stroke.
I was sitting in my living room in a recliner speaking with my eldest son (he’s 24) when I blacked out for a second and then lost the ability to use my right arm. It just slid away, across the book in my lap, and fell limp on the armrest. I felt some tingling, like it had fallen asleep, but otherwise nothing. I couldn’t feel my arm. I touched it with my left hand and it was like I was touching a foreign object. And I couldn’t move it.
This all happened in moments. My son was still talking. My answers stopped making sense. I realized I was no longer able to speak. I was completely aware of my surroundings and I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't make my mouth articulate the words. I suppose I should have been scared, but right at that moment I was more frustrated than anything else.
Since I do occasionally grunt monosyllables as answers, it took a couple of moments for my son to realize something was wrong. He asked if I was alright. I managed to shake my head “no.”
I forced out the word, “Call.” That was all I could say. I was trying to tell him to call for help but I could’t get the words out. Finally I got out the word, “Mommy.” And he quickly called my wife from the other room. (I say ‘finally’ because it seemed forever to me. But it took only seconds.) She immediately called the local volunteer ambulance service and they were there in minutes. All this time I was attempting, futilely, to speak and move my arm.
I got to South Nassau Hospital’s ER stroke unit by midnight. (30 minutes from the initial event.) It felt much longer to me. All my senses were out of whack including my feelings of time and hot and cold. When they brought me in it was like something out of the movies, with a team of doctors and nurses surrounding me as I was wheeled into the ER. Within minutes I was taken for a CT scan of my brain and then returned to the ER. A senior neurologist rushed in and gave a lightning quick briefing to me, my wife and our cousin (a nurse practitioner) who had come running when she’d heard what happened. The best treatment was a medication called tPA, which had a very narrow window of time and physical conditions in which it could be used. Fortunately I was considered a prime candidate. 
It was explained that tPA was the first, best treatment for my condition, and that if a blood clot or other similar blockage was causing my symptoms, the tPA would help break it up. 
"Draino" for the brain. 
The medical staff began prepping me, opening three separate IV lines. This, I was told, was because tPA's blood-thinning properties would make any such invasive procedures impossible for the next 24 hours. 
At 12:25AM, after a hasty (but coherent) consent and just 55 minutes from the onset of the event, they began infusing me with the medication.
I lay on the bed quietly, unable to speak and with a paralyzed arm. The neurologist had said I might see some improvement any time from hours to even months after receiving treatment, or possibly not at all. 
Oddly enough, I was not frightened. Perhaps it was because of the part of my brain that was injured - the parietal lobe - or maybe because of my faith. I felt calm and even confident that all would be well.  
It took an hour to complete the tPA infusion.
Roughly an hour later I began to regain some movement in my arm. And when the nurse asked my wife a question I was suddenly able to blurt out an understandable answer. 
I felt so incredibly relieved! I could speak - and move! I was going to recover!
But within a couple of minutes my hopes were dashed when my speech vanished once again. Intellectually I knew I shouldn't feel so badly, and that I needed to give it more time. But to lose something so precious twice in one night was very hard. 
And then a short while later, one of the nurses needed to check something and raised the top part of the bed to lift up my head and torso. I seemed to feel something change in my head, and my speech started to return once again. 
But when they lowered it back down I couldn't talk!
A few minutes later they raised it again and once again my speech started to improve. This time I asked them to leave the bed in that position!
Throughout this time I was also seeing improvement in my arm. 
By 3:30AM, or about four hours from my the onset of the stroke, I was able to speak in sentences and to hold things in my hand. 
The longest four hours of my life. 
Ultimately, with great kindness from the Almighty, I recovered with only minor lingering effects. 
I was hospitalized for about a week. They ran all kinds of tests trying to figure out why this had happened. Aside from needing to lose some weight I didn't match the profile of a typical stroke patient. I was only 48 years old. No history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol. In fact, my arteries were noticeably free of plaque, aside for some minor age appropriate amounts. 
But an Echocardiogram and a later TEE (Trans Esophageal Echocardiogram) showed a congenital problem in my heart. I had an Atrial Septal Defect, a hole between the left and right upper chambers of the heart. This allowed the "used up" blood on the right side to leak into the left side of the heart, normally reserved for clean, oxygen-rich blood. 
The doctors theorized that a tiny blood clot formed somewhere lower in the body and, instead of being filtered out through the lungs, jumped through the hole to the "clean" side and was pumped from the heart directly to the brain, causing a stroke. 
I was advised that closing this hole was the recommended way of preventing another stroke. I made an appointment to meet the doctors at New York Presbyterian Hospital's Cardiology Center. I was ultimately introduced to Dr. Robert Sommer, a veteran cardiologist. 
He laid out the process in great detail, explaining how they would use a catheter device to install a patch into the heart, a process that used to require open heart surgery but could now be done in under an hour. 

The Migraine Connection 

Then he mentioned something that stunned me. He said that I precisely fit the profile of patients they had been treating - stroke patients who are relatively young and have no outstanding risk factors, but who have a specific type of heart defect - and suffer from migraines. 
He said they're not yet certain precisely what the connection is. The theory is that small amounts of some toxin or waste product or other agent which is normally filtered out before the blood reaches the brain is bypassing the filtration process by way of the defect, causing brain to react with migraines. 

By repairing it, they can cut off the flow of the harmful material and thereby eliminate the symptoms. 
It sounded too good to be true. Then he added that 80% of their patients that had the procedure, and who had previously suffered from migraines, found that the migraines diminished or disappeared completely. 
This information, plus the knowledge that I would be helping prevent a future stroke, convinced me to go ahead with the procedure. 

On June 23, 2015, Dr. Sommer surgically repaired the defect in my heart. Using a device produced by Helex Co., he was able to place a patch inside the heart consisting of two discs, one on either side of the effected area. 

New Lease on Life 

Since then my head has felt completely different. I've had no migraines, and the 'almost headache' heaviness that I perpetually felt is gone for the first time that I can remember. 
Let me say that I would never have chosen to have a stroke in order to solve other health problems. However, that did ultimately lead to the discovery and treatment of my heart problem. 
Obviously not every migraine sufferer has a congenital heart defect. And so little is definitively known about migraines that much of what I was told was couched in terms like "we think" and "we believe."
But I can't ignore the results. 
I hope and pray that this is the beginning of many many healthy, happy migraine-free years to come. 

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a writer, designer and photographer with nearly 30 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2015 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 9, 2015

Violate This Marketing Rule at Your Own Risk

Quick. What is the one thing you must absolutely never ever do when you're trying to persuade people to part with their money?


I don't mean a regular sales pitch where you embellish the good and gloss over the bad. I mean bold, bad, in-your-face lying. 

Like a salesman telling a customer that the used car he’s looking at is in perfect condition and has never been in an accident. Or running an old fashioned “bait and switch” scam.

I usually don't click on web banner ads. But a while back I saw one that really piqued my interest. It offered info on five "healthy" foods to avoid if you want to lose weight. 

Pretty straightforward right? I mean, how could they possibly mess that up?

I knew that I would have to face some kind of sales pitch, but weight loss is something I'm interested in. I thought I would be able to take whatever they threw at me in order to get the promised information. 

Boy was I wrong. 

The first "healthy" food should have been a giveaway that I was in for a strange otherworldly experience. The huckster-du-jour tried to say that canned chicken noodle soup is considered healthy. I dunno. Maybe it is, by Jewish grandmothers.

Then he started talking about high fructose corn syrup. Huh? Everyone knows that's not healthy!

Ahh. It's used in healthy-ish products like energy bars and Special-K cereal. Now I get it. 

Anyway, the subject abruptly took a left turn even further into WonderLand as Doctor Somebody (who was quick to point out his credentials as a chiropractic "doctor" and certified whatever) proceeded to (repeatedly) talk about his clinic, his physique (with photos) and his unique discoveries and philosophies for weight loss. Apparently it all has something to do with female hunter gatherers in the 1950s and natural genetics and the liver. Or some combination of those things. It was all a little vague. 

But did you know that your liver is supposed to burn fat? And if you only buy some of this dude's magic cleansing potion, then your liver will start doing what it was meant to do. Operators are standing by!

But wait, there’s more. You can still eat what you like! Yes! His star pupil, who he shows before-and-after photos of, kept right on eating cream cheese ice cream while losing oodles of weight. 


Dr. Liver spends much of the piece railing against "those other guys" who get rich selling dubious weight loss products, only to offer one of his own. 

"Of course," he says, "but mine works!"

It's standard infomercial claptrap repackaged for the web. 

The difference is that, on the web, I think there's a much lower tolerance for this kind of snake oil sale. People are used to much more immediate stimulation and involvement. 

And they have little patience for unkept promises. If they clicked on a banner promising a reward (i.e. information) there's only a certain amount of time you can tease people and hold them off without providing it. 

In my opinion, this ad far, far exceeds that limit. 

Which reminds me - I never did learn what the other three "healthy" foods are that I should avoid. After a couple of minutes of watching this spiel I couldn't stand it anymore so I closed the browser window. 

Oh well. Now my liver will never become the "fat burning machine" of my dreams. 

Tips for Doc Liver:
• Don't insult people's intelligence. You need to do a much better job of separating yourself from the rest of "them." (I.e. those other greedy lying weight loss product guys)

• Don't promise a reward (info) and lead people down a primrose path that turns into a trip in a yellow submarine. You wanna' pitch your product? Fine. Don't lure me in with fake come-ons. Major turn-off. 

• You can't batter people into submission (i.e. a sale). Well I can't. Maybe you can. I'd be fascinated to know what kind of sales numbers your mind-numbing video is racking up. Maybe viewers are so confused and disoriented after they watch that they don't know what they're doing and they hit the "order" button in their stupor. 

In fact I'd think the whole thing was a gag except that, you know, it wasn't. 

And I'll never look at chicken noodle soup the same way again.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a writer, designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2015 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 2, 2015

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Success. Happiness. 

Everyone wants them. Everyone pursues them. But hardly anyone seems to find them. 

Part of the reason is simple human nature. In general, people don't stay satisfied with the status quo for too long. 

For many there's a constant search for achievement, recognition and financial reward. But that search is usually hamstrung by a constant far more pressing struggle for survival. 

We struggle with jobs, family and relationships all while pursuing dreams and aspirations which those closest to us don't always understand. 

And more then just not understanding, oftentimes they actively try to dissuade us. 

So many of us limp painfully along for years, anxiously waiting for our big break. Tomorrow will be the day when we'll be 'discovered.' When we'll finally be able to use our talents to their fullest for people who'll truly appreciate them, doing the things we love most. We hone and sharpen our skills and talents, scrambling from one low paying gig to the next, so we'll be ready for that great moment of opportunity when our talent is ultimately recognized and celebrated. 

Or as Thomas Edison put it, "Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation."

And then reality comes and hits you upside the head. There are a stack of unpaid bills and shut off notices, and maybe some nasty collection letters. Your spouse doesn't understand or appreciate your 'compulsion' to constantly buy stuff for your alleged work. I mean you're doing this to make money right? So why does it always have to cost so much?

And so, in the end, many will make the painful choice to let go of their dream and focus on "real life."

So where should we draw the line? Where does chasing one's dreams intersect reality?

Get Real, Man

To quote the Bard, "This above all; to thine own self be true." You have to be true to yourself. Sublimating and repressing your creativity is not a good thing. But quitting your day job to write poetry or compose music or start your own design business might not be the wisest life decision either, especially if others are depending on you for food, clothing and shelter. 

Many times our dreams and passions - the things that give life contour and texture and depth - have to give way to the reality of paying bills and keeping our families fed and clothed. 

How many stories are out there of business people who worked for years to achieve success? They almost universally tell of sleepless nights, poor decisions, lost opportunities and an overall very rocky road to that glorious destination. 

Been There Done That

Down to your last $500? $200? $20?

Or maybe you're just hugely overdrawn on your bank account. And maxed out on your credit cards. But there's a job - an honest to goodness money making project - that you just can't complete unless you have _______ (insert random hardware/software/art/photo gear). I feel your pain. I've lived your frustration. 
I once had my power shut off in the middle of editing a video for an award dinner. I had to ask (beg?) the client to cut a check to the utility company so I could finish the job. How's that for unprofessional!

And to add insult to injury, the client took money off my bill because he said the editing was sloppy. (...because of the last minute rush... brought on by the many hours without electricity...)

I really, really wish I could say that doing 'what I love' is a good enough substitute for having adequate food, clothing and shelter but alas, living the 'dream' of having my own business did not always live up to my expectations. 

A friend of mine told me how he once met one of his buddies from college. They reminisced for a bit and then went on to compare the paths their lives had taken. My friend told about his work in marketing and his struggle to make a living. 

His buddy, a successful businessman, expressed his surprise at this. "It's not that hard to make a good living," he insisted. He went on to tell how well he was doing in buying, selling, and managing real estate. "The trick is to invest your money in the right properties," he said. 

My friend, eager for a tip, longed to know his secrets. But one thing bothered him. "Wait a minute. How did you even get started? Where did you get the money to invest in the first place?"

"That was easy," answered his pal. "My grandmother loaned me $5,000,000!"

It's true that there are a lot of people who spend their entire lives chasing their dreams. They aspire to be successful actors or singers or authors or artists or entrepreneurs or any of a thousand different things. 

And most of them don't have a grandma who will spot them five million bucks to get them started. 

What Is Success?

Many would say that they measure success financially. That can be a tough standard to measure up to. 

If you go by the numbers, only a few percent of people in the USA will ever become "well to do," and far less than one percent will ever be truly affluent. 

And of course the tabloids are replete with people who either inherited or achieved wealth and are miserable anyway. And their entire lives seem to be public expressions of their misery, with one tawdry train wreck after another marking their failed attempts at serious personal relationships. 

For most of us, personal and/or professional achievement is usually a more realistic and attainable goal. It's also very often the road that leads to more substantial feelings of contentment, accomplishment and joy. 

So do you give up your hopes and dreams? For a lot of people that's almost more than they can bear. And it doesn't lead to a happy contented life. 

Think Journey, Not Destination

What I try to do, and what I advise others is this. Do what you have to in order to live. Take care of yourself and your family. A great man once told me that anything you do should be done well. So try and excel at your job, even if you don't like it.  
But don't forget your dream. Nurture it and live it as much as you can. 
If it's something that you can practice and actively work on - singing, dancing, martial arts, painting, music - then do it. 

Write a blog. And when you have enough material, make it into a book. The important thing is to keep your dream alive. It should be vital and relevant and meaningful. Then you'll see the vitality and relevance and meaning start to spread to other areas of your life. 

You won't have to face the thought of abandoning that part of yourself. In fact you'll be supporting it. You'll see the whole timbre and texture of your life grow richer and happier and more vibrant. 
I think this is what people mean when they tell you that doing what you love brings success. 
And you'll also be prepared, supremely prepared, just in case opportunity ever does come knocking.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a writer, designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2015 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Shortsighted Thinking

The company I work for has a leak. 

I don't mean in the political sense, but rather of the "call a plumber" variety. In the men's room there are numerous stalls. The largest, designed to allow wheelchair access, also has its own sink. Anyone fortunate enough to make use of it knows it's like having your own private executive washroom. 

Except it has a leak. 

The sink drips and occasionally gushes. The maintenance folks have remedied that by the strategic placement of a large ugly plastic bucket under the sink. Not such a big deal, really, except when it overflows and makes a mess. 

But it finally ranked high enough on Maintenance's "Things to Do" list that they decided to fix it. 

Now the "long-thinking" solution - one in which the only focus is solving the problem in the best and most efficient manner - is to call a real plumber. Which is precisely why two fellows from building maintenance spent an entire day removing the sink and the attached plumbing in an attempt to repair it. 

Needless to say the next day the sink was back in its old place, drip, ugly bucket and all. 
Weeks later it was still not fixed. I've seen companies and organizations waste tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars while "saving” money in this manner. 
I remember doing consulting for a large retailer and standing helplessly by while they spent well into six figures on a bargain basement (for their needs) phone system. "It's half the price of the name brands," I was told. "We'll just have to be a little more 'hands on.' "

Months - and hundreds of thousands of dollars - later they had a name brand system that actually worked the way they needed it to. 
I could go on and on with examples. 

Perhaps nowhere is this shortsighted penny pinching found more than in the world of advertising and marketing. I've seen successful businesses assign random staff members to slap advertising pieces together in Microsoft Publisher rather then pay a professional designer, writer or photographer, even though they were paying thousands to actually run the ads.

I once worked for an e-tailer that sold high-end watches. Upper management told me straight out that they had run tests and collected their own statistical data proving that products with superior photography sold in significantly larger quantities. But when I tried to help map out a long term solution to bring that level of quality to all their products I was told the cost was prohibitive. 

So I challenged them based on their own numbers. “But you said you see increased sales averaging X units with this higher level of presentation. Multiplied out over your whole product line, the actual cost of deploying it versus the potential profit is equal to maybe a rounding error off the total gain.”

It was water off a duck’s back. No effect whatsoever. The cost was too high because they said so, without regard for any potential gain.
In the end they hired a more expensive consultant who told them almost verbatim what I had already said. 
It seems that no matter how much data is assembled showing the real value of strategically planned and executed advertising and marketing some bosses still can’t get past the short term cost often to their own lasting detriment.

Don't Be That Guy/Gal

Shortsighted thinking is, well, shortsighted. It hardly ever benefits you even in the here and now, and definitely not later on. So do yourself and your company a favor and take the long view. Think about what will give the most long term value/profit/customer retention - and no they are not always mutually exclusive.

One final story. A friend of mine worked many years ago in a large electronics retail store with “price matching” policy. One time a customer came in with an ad for particular item and insisted they match it. My friend noticed that the competitor’s ad was actually for an older model of the item than his store carried. The customer was insistent. So he went to the store manager and asked what to do. To his surprise, rather then tell him to apologetically get rid of the customer, he said to give him the newer item at the cheaper price! When my friend pointed out that they were losing money on the sale, the manager replied, “No we’re not. This is the cheapest advertising I’ve ever done. Now he’ll go and tell all his friends to shop here!”

You can argue the merits of that particular decision, but you get the idea (I hope).

Good luck and happy selling. 

Danny Kay is a marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer, photographer and writer with over 25 years of experience. He’s worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.
He can be reached through his website,, or at

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Finding Your Message - Finding Your Messenger

Snack Food. Software. Consumer Electronics.
Whatever you’re selling, you want people to be buying. But what sets your product apart? Why should anyone choose your widget over all the others?
This problem has perplexed us since advertising began. The answers have been varied and, sometimes, humorous:
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. That’s why you should try brand X.”
“They Laughed When I Sat at the Piano, But When I Started to Play!”
“Plop plop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
“Things go better with Coke!”
“Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”’
These messages all have a couple of things in common. First, their selling messages have pretty much nothing to do with the actual products. And second, these messages were all fabulously successful.
But why? Exactly which things go better with Coke? Why listen to someone who’s not a doctor? How does someone’s being insecure and unpopular make for a good ad for piano lessons? And why not squeeze the Charmin?
Research has shown that people don’t necessarily need a very good reason to act in a particular way.  Remember the classic show “Get Smart?”
Remember Max telling the Chief one of his “brilliant” ideas only to have it ignored? And then Agent 99 would speak up with the identical idea, and the Chief would eagerly agree that it was a great idea?
Same message, different presentation. Different messenger.
What about your message? “Best Value.” “Make Your Desktop More Efficient.” “The Eyes Have It.”
It sounds clever and witty, and yet you can’t seem to generate the interest and excitement you think it deserves. Maybe you need a different messenger as well. Try taking your message and reframing it into something catchy (maybe kitchy?) that taps into people’s feelings as much as their thoughts.
Happy selling.

Danny Kay is a marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer, photographer and writer with over 25 years of experience. He’s worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.
He can be reached through his website,, or at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Marketing 101 - Sometimes You Just Need to 'Splain it to 'Em

You never know where you’ll learn an important marketing lesson, or see it in action.

I recently had the privilege of attending an official function at a military base in the Washington D.C. area. 

It was an event honoring my brother-in-law, a retiring army colonel, and he was presented with numerous certificates and awards. The gentleman running the event was himself a retired major-general. At one point the general spoke about the army's sense of community and its commitment to its people. He went into detail about the trouble and expense that are undertaken to produce the many specialized medals, and how important it is to reward outstanding conduct and achievement and give soldiers a feeling of community and of being appreciated. 

A great amount of effort and expense goes into producing medals like these.

He related a story of how there was once a push from some in congress to do away with these medals. "It's a waste of taxpayers’ money. It's fraud and pork and fat and we can't afford it!" The congressional bean counters called in the Joint Chiefs and grilled them mercilessly over this egregious waste of money.  

Congress always likes to keep its eyes on the "big picture..."

The Joint Chiefs came back with defeat in their eyes. "We tried, what else can we do?" They were sure that funding for these specially made medals was going to be cut. 

A lower ranking officer, a staff sergeant, asked if he could a try speaking before the congressional subcommittee.

With nothing to lose, the top brass agreed.  

So the staff sergeant gathered several enlisted men - highly decorated enlisted men - each with a case full of these "wasteful" medals, and had them join him in testifying before the congressmen. 

This time the reaction was very different. 

When the first soldier took the stand, one of the congressmen, his curiosity piqued, asked, "Son, where did you get all those medals?"

With boyish enthusiasm, the soldier jumped up and brought his showcase of medals up to where the committee was sitting. 

"Well, sir, I got this one from my platoon leader for being Best_____. That one was given to me by my company commander for Excellence in _____. This one is from my division commander for Service in _____ ."

The recitation continued in front of a rapt audience. One achievement after another. For all around excellence. For superior marksmanship. For valor. 

Each of the young enlisted made similar presentations. 

After thanking them for their service to the nation, the subcommittee dismissed them. A short time later, one of the top military brass received a call. 

After making some apologetic remark about it being an election year, the committee member said, "We get it, General. You've made your point. The funding for the medals won't be touched."

There are times when it’s not enough to talk about something with numbers and figures and statistics. Sometimes you just have to explain it to them. 

Having top brass trot out slick PowerPoint slides showing the effect on morale didn't help sell their message to congress.

Hearing generals and admirals talk about the importance of positive reinforcement and team spirit didn't help. 

But seeing dedicated young soldiers - people prepared to lay down their lives for this country - and how their eyes lit up when they talked of how they received those medals, and how it motivated and inspired them to accomplish even more - the sheer impact of their sincerity and enthusiasm finally brought the message home.

And that’s a lesson which is relevant no matter what the message, and no matter what you’re trying to sell.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

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