Donald Miller’s “How to Become a Communication Ninja”

These are notes summarizing the presentation “How to Become a Communication Ninja” by Donald Miller. The most important points are bolded.

Good copy?
  • Make your communication “crystal clear” and customers will listen.
  • Most companies waste an enormous amount of marketing collateral on things like drive-by billboards.
  • You open an e-mail and think “this doesn’t make me want to buy anything”.
  • A brand can make the most beautiful website but thats not why people buy things.
  • People buy things because they heard or read words that make them want to buy things, the designer has no idea about sales copy.
  • Don’t leave retail presence to designers.
  • People only buy products after they read the words that make them want to buy (example: scrolling down to amazon reviews).
  • People do not buy the best products, they buy the ones that are communicated the clearest and that they understand the fastest.
  • We are in a race to get people to understand why they need our product
  • The customer needs to know about your product and why they need it.
  • The first thing the human brain is trying to do is to “thrive and survive”, “keep you alive”.
  • Maslow: once food is taken care of you start thinking about relationships.
  • People are looking for “teams” that will support them emotionally, spiritually, socially.
  • Why do you go get someone coffee? So that “when barbarians come over the hill” you’ll be in it together.
  • If what you’re communicating isn’t directly connected to making your customers survive and thrive they are not going to pay attention.
  • People are “scanning the environment for data” hoping to gain security and other fundamental needs.
  • The second thing the brain is trying to do is “conserve calories” as just thinking is very tiring.
  • When the brain has to process a ton of data it shuts off at the point where there is no bearing on survival.
  • If you say “it’s complicated” you are preemptively warning that what you are going to say is a waste of energy.
  • It sounds silly but this is the way humans work: “barbarians” are coming.
  • We want to communicate about things that help our customers survive and thrive. People buy the products and services they can understand the fastest.
  • Every time you share a piece of information about your product or service you should imagine handing your audience an eight pound bowling ball.
  • If you hand someone a “fourth” bowling ball after poor communication your audience will drop all the bowling balls.
  • You are competing with “bacon wrapped dates” (example of a networking/business event).
  • “If you confuse, you lose”
  • “The curse of knowledge”: people make buying decisions at a very simple level of knowledge, past a certain point they are “cursed” with knowledge.
  • There are two keys: are you addressing the need of the audience to “survive and thrive” and is the message clear and simple (ie. “have you avoided the curse of knowledge?“).

A Shopping Mall’s Live Drive-Thru Zoom Play (media and marketing case study)

This shopping mall staged an interactive drive-thru play on Zoom, the perfect pandemic era promotional event. It’s a cool media and marketing vignette.

Drive-Thru Murder Mystery on Zoom

“Since the health department allowed drive-ins, OTC created a Zoom ‘Dinner and a Murder’ event. Taking the basic drive-in concept up a notch, its duo of Janet Jerde (director) and Paige Jeschke (marketing manager) collaborated with The Murder Mystery Company of Michigan to develop a script and hired a dozen actors from across the country to perform the whodunit live online, with the intrigue coming to center viewers on-site on a 41-foot screen erected in the parking lot. That’s just part of the hair-raising story.

Guests who had pre-purchased their tickets could roll up to the center and park in front of the screen, order food and drinks from tenants restaurants, and then ease back into their seats, watch the action unfold, and try to solve the murder like investigators on a stakeout. According to OTC’s team, it communicated with the actors via Zoom while those present really got into the event’s theme and actively participated when prompted by honking their horns, flashing their car lights, using their blinkers, and texting the team who they thought had murdered the ‘movie’ victim, millionaire Sal Fie (get it?). The supporting tech gave the guests the impression that they were interacting with the actors directly, even though the OTC team was the intermediary-the performers could actually call out specific cars, incorporate team names that were texted in, and ‘see’ drivers react when they thought one of the suspects wasn’t telling the truth. “

Media, status anxiety and advertising (history)

“The burgeoning of the mass media from the late nineteenth century helped to raise expectations even higher. At his newspaper’s launch in 1896, Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of Britain’s Daily Mail candidly characterised his ideal reader as a man in the street ‘worth one hundred pounds per annum’ who could be enticed to dream of being ‘tomorrow’s thousand pound man.’ In America, meanwhile, the Ladies’ Home Journal (first published in 1883), Cosmopolitan (1886), Munsey’s (1889) and Vogue (1892) brought an expensive life within the imaginative reach of all. Readers of fin de si├Ęcle American Vogue, for example, were told who had been aboard Nourmahal, John Jacob Astor’s yacht, after the America’s Cup race, what the most fashionable young ladies were wearing at boarding school, who threw the best parties in Newport and Southampton and what to serve with caviar at dinner (potato and sour cream).

The opportunity to study the lives of people of higher status and forge a connection with them was also increased by the development of radio, film and television. By the 1930s, Americans were collectively spending some 150 million hours per week at the cinema and almost a billion hours listening to the radio. In 1946, 0.02 percent of American households owned television sets; by 2000, the figure stood at 98 percent.

The new media created longings not only through their content but also through the advertisements they imposed on their audiences. From its amateurish beginnings in the United States in the 1830s, advertising had by the end of the nineteenth century grown into a business worth $500 million a year. In 1900, a giant Coca-Cola sign was erected on one side of Niagara Falls, while an advert for Mennen’s Toilet Powder was suspended over the gorge.”