A Case for Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen Super Bowl Ad

It hadn’t happened in over two months – but there we were, together. No plans, no work, no commitments to attend a function. My wife and I both work, have two kids ages 11 and 6, and were home for the weekend. Super Bowl weekend – and nowhere to be. I remember commenting earlier that day how really nice it was to just be together and enjoy each other’s company.

The game had started, and we were all munching on our favorite snacks commenting on the funny commercials. The kids are old enough now that their comments are starting to be more meaningful (or in the six-year old’s case, more entertaining), and we had just fallen apart laughing when this ad began:

You could have heard a pin drop. “Whoa,” I softly said to my wife. “quite the buzz kill, huh?” She mumbled yes. As someone who has looked at Super Bowl ads from a marketing perspective, I thought that the decision to run such an ad was a terrible idea. The tone was all wrong: somber, depressing instead of the humorous or uplifting approach that typically dominates the evening. It’s effective, but the timing was all wrong.

I couldn’t have been the only one who felt depressed – and a quick survey of my social media feed confirmed that guess. Indeed, even Nationwide’s YouTube channel hosting this ad found more than a few of the Big Game audience agreed:

  • “I can’t believe that Nationwide would show such a depressing commercial during the Super Bowl (which generally has funny commercials). Thumbs down.”
  • “Awful commercial! That was horrible!!!What was the purpose? You’re an insurance company!!!”
  • “Horrible commercial…to sell your company on the death of children is unspeakable. There are better avenues to educate parents on keeping their children safe. I will never purchase your insurance.”
  • “Sorry but how the hell is Nationwide really going to do that? I am betting you lost business on that one – fire your advertising team.”


Let’s think about it … should they fire they’re marketing team?

First – who were they trying to reach?

My wife and I are the perfect target market or this ad, parents of small children, and we know many other parents who were watching the game last night too. In fact according to research on last year’s Super Bowl, approximately 44% of the viewers are females, roughly a 10% increase from a normal game. With viewership increasing over the year previously, one could guess that the ratings would increase yet again for this years match up between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. So, while the ad is decidedly different in tone, Nationwide had to feel relatively confident that they would reach their intended audience. I’d say they reached the intended audience.IMG_2109

Secondly – was the ad memorable?

No doubt it was! It hit my Facebook feed and was discussed for an hour, same with Twitter.

Thirdly – was this the right call, given the somber tone and almost immediate “buzz kill” nature of the ad?

Again – thinking about it a little more objectively, I would have to say yes. A visit to their website, http://www.makesafehappen.com confirms this thought with some even more sobering statistics.

Finally – will it work?

I think that depends on how Nationwide reacts, and what they do next. There is an opportunity here, but they must be very deliberate with the next step. If their intentions are true, this could be a great campaign, and a great move for the company as a whole – they could demonstrate through their actions that Nationwide is truly on our side.

In an age of cynicism and money-grabs, an age of let’s get the contract, let’s get the sale – I choose to believe that this ad was an aggressive, yet socially responsible first missive into educating parents. Perhaps they really want to show parents what they can do to make their homes safe, to help protect families and prevent the unthinkable from happening.

You can call me naïve. In return, I’ll refer you to my blog title.


The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge

As today marks the official tipping point of the half-way point for 2014, I would like to cast my vote for the business buzz-word of the year thus far:mindfulness


It has been everywhere. Whether we are talking about corporate wellness plans, or the highly effective habits top CEOs and business leaders, mindfulness has been mentioned, discussed, debated and analyzed more times than I can ever remember. It’s gotten so big, the New York Times has decided it’s time to analyze the backlash to mindfulness. (Leave it to the media to create a monster, and then destroy it all within a year!)

The Times story aside, perhaps it’s time for the rank and file – and me – to take notice. More importantly, I feel like it’s time for me to make a change.



I’m not going to lie – the last 4 weeks have been pretty difficult. Each week … each day … each hour, it has felt like a new obstacle would be discovered, and at times the dread and despair of having to overcome it would feel insurmountable.

I have come to realize that I am the type of individual that suppresses many thoughts, words, actions and feelings. I learned early in my professional career that if I sit on something for 24-hours (or more if need be), I am usually able to come up with a pretty damn good solution and action plan to overcome any obstacle. More so, I am able to keep my own emotions in check, and have  a rationale conversation with often times irrational people.

Recently though, this has proven much more difficult. I am having a much harder time finding a solution, finding the positive in the negative. This is particularly troubling, because my personality is that of a fun, and out-going individual; but as the obstacles mount, I have turned inward more and more.

The obstacles that have sprung forth in this past month seem to be coming from every angle, some within the professional work I inhabit, and others in my personal life. Now it’s important that some of the obstacles are – when looked at by themselves – minor. However it has been the frequency and sheer number that has suddenly increased of late…it’s isn’t just one problem … it’s 999 problems of  varying size and difficulty.

As a leader (which I’d like to think I am), the stress is written all over my face, and rarely does that inspire confidence in your colleagues or your team.  More importantly, my wife and kids are seeing the difference in my personality of late too.

So, it is indeed time for a change.


Mindfulness and LeadershipLast year, I had watched with amusement and then great admiration of one of my colleagues go through a 30-day sobriety challenge. The results and self-analysis that it accompanied, was truly remarkable, As I am not a drinker – at least not like in my college days – I believe a 30 day challenge might be the ticket here, and I will be using the blog as my accountability tool.

Beginning today, July 1st, I will start my day with 30 minutes of meditation. I am not the hippy-dippy type, but if it’s good enough for some of the top CEOs and business leaders today, it’s worth a shot. More importantly, if the results mean I am more productive at work, and less stressed for my family at home, then break out the Tye-dye and Grateful Dead.

To assist in my efforts, I found a great app to use to help me out – called Calm – and it’s a free download too.  So – make sure you pester me here, on Twitter and Google+ to see how I’m doing. I will provide an extremely brief post weekly to share some updates and observations.

Even better – who will join me?



AR Marketing Moves Closer to Reality

Back in 2002, when the futuristic thriller Minority Report was about to hit the theaters, there was a particular clip that made the rounds during the build up to its release. If memory serves, it had many folks talking, asking the question is this the feature of marketing?



It’s been just 12 years since it’s release, and for those of you who are not aware, there is marketing out there now that reflects what you see in the clip from the film. It’s called Augmented Reality Marketing. Now, I’m pretty sure most people have a handle on marketing. However, let’s see a show of hands for those who know what Augmented Reality is? No? OK – according to Wikipedia, here’s the definition:


A live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.



It is an interesting cperfecting  naivety AR Marketingoncept for sure, and it will become more common (Google Glass, anyone?). But it has been slow to catch on. After all, it has been pegged as the next big thing since December of 2009. But it may very well have arrived in recent months.


In this recent article, the author outlines several steps that organizations would need to successfully run an AR Campaign. She even references  several other studies that demonstrate a consistent ROI. It seems that more and more big brands (Kraft, Pepsi) have jumped on board, and the data should continue to pour in supporting its use. The bigger question that now presents are these:

  • What are the more practical means a small business could use AR to its own advantage?
  • Is this technology so that a small business can afford to employ this cutting edge technology?

Stay tuned…

The Emotional Leader: A Catch-22

Like most people, I love the scenes in well-scripted movies or television shows where there is a stirring speech. A monologue that inspires characters and audiences alike is the quintessential moment in my mind – the thing that for those of us with delusions of importance, we (OK, I) hope to one day have happen.



A rallying cry to the troops, the team, or co-workers to rise above an obstacle to new heights of success.

That ‘s the rosy picture. It also a rare occurrence – almost mythical.

After all – let’s just be very honest here. There are only a few heavy-duty leaders in business today that have such power. Richard Branson and Howard Schultz come to mind. I can think of a few local leaders here in San Diego who have equal cache amongst their teams.

However, emotional leaders inevitably walk a very fine line. Leading with emotion first can rally the  troops, or wear them out – all depending upon which emotions are dominant. Daniel Goleman, author of FOCUS: The hidden driver of excellence, wrote an excellent piece last week, in what to me resonated as wake-up call to leaders and managers: Be Mindful of the Emotions You Leave Behind.

One of the big takeaways: the emotions of a leader has a huge impact on her team’s performance. If the leader is in a good mood, positively reinforcing her team and their efforts – the team is  much more efficient studies find, and more likely to achieve their goal. However, if leader tries to use negativity, or their bad mood to motivate her team, it backfires. His team is not nearly as proficient, and will usually rush through a project jMC900387127ust to please their leader in the hopes to assuage his mood.

In my career, this has happened more  times than I’d like or care to admit.

Now – let me be clear: I do believe there is room for emotions at the workplace. We are human, and to pretend that we can control our emotions all the time is just silly. That said – leaders and managers by and large must be aware how their moods can affect their teams (staff, peers, and/or supervisors). As Goleman points out, it has very real effects on a team. And if you are one that has a tendency of not even hiding  your emotions, that take steps to recognize and limit the effects it may have on your team.

A well-timed lunch away from the office, brisk walk for an afternoon cup of coffee, or an early departure for the day can do wonders for not only the team but for the  leader as well. And if your emotions are so strong that you can not control them, then any advice I could offer would only fall on deaf ears.

And deaf ears are likely what an overly emotional office manager or leader will find if those rants  become all too common.

Live Your Life In Quotes


Earlier this week, I found myself at a roundtable with about eight small business owners. The conversation circled back to defining success. One of the business owners saidLeadership while making a point that he finds it easier to stay focused when he lives his life in quotes.

The irony of such a statement is that I should have remembered the Zig Ziglar quote he mentioned, but it was his statement that stuck with me: “I’m sorry, but I like to live my life in quotes.”

It would have been interesting to have gone around the room, and  ask each business owner which quotes inspired them? And which quotes defined how they wanted their business to be remembered? That would have been a lively, and probably inspiring conversation – alas, an opportunity lost.

Or not?

I go back and forth as to what quote I would want to be defined by, how I would want my business defined. Perhaps something from the classics (Tennyson’s Ulysses: “…to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”); perhaps ripping from Dead Poets Society, like Apple did this year:



At the end of the day, the quote that has resonated with me over the last several years is one from Major Dick Winters, he of Band of Brothers fame.


In American History magazine in 2004, Winters said,


“If you can, find that peace within yourself, that peace and quiet and confidence that you can pass on to others, so that they know that you are honest and you are fair and will help them, no matter what, when the chips are down.”


Whether it be colleagues or clients, I would like to think that I people feel I am honest and fair, and will help them no matter what. At least, this is the goal.

So – I put forth to you, the proverbial social media readers and fellow-bloggers: if you have to choose a quote that epitomized you and your business or profession – what quote would you choose and why?

I am looking forward to seeing the responses.

Two Words Small Business Owners Hate to Hear

If you ever want to really, REALLY get under the skin of a small business owner – wait formarketing mix them to ask you for marketing advice, and then give them the answer they hate to hear:

It depends.

To illustrate, let me tell you a brief story:

I was running a quick errand during lunch a few weeks back, and was at the mall to get a new case for my phone. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman running the kiosk from which I was buying the case. He saw my work ID, identifying me and my position.

“You are a marketing guy, eh?”

“I am,” I replied.

“Can I ask you a few questions?”

I said yes of course, and he launched into his story. He and his wife were running an interior design business, and he was hoping I could answer a few marketing questions. No problem, I said, what do you got?

“What should I do?”

“What are you doing,” I replied.

Well, we’re talking to someone now to be honest, and she has several ideas for us, particularly around SEO, Google and Facebook ads, and social media. But I don’t know, she doesn’t have any proof or guarantee that it will work.”

“To be  honest, sir,” I said, “if she gave you any guarantee, then I would tell you to go with someone else.”

“So,” he stated again, “what should I do.”

“Honestly, sir, really it just depends.”

“Arrrgh! … you marketing people say that all the time. I’m just looking for one answer, just one thing that will be right for me, for my business. You can’t tell me that!???”

To me, this represents a conversation that I have had numerous times. And the reaction I get from uttering just two words is always one of part anger, part frustration, and part incredulous.  Never-mind that it is the correct, and ethically sound answer. Nope – the small business owner is already frustrated with you. But that’s OK.  In looking at my new friend the Interior Designer/Kiosk Operator, it was clear to me that marketing was just as strange to him as color palettes and feng shui is to me.

Not only am I convinced that this was the right answer for him, I am convinced that this is the right answer for every small business owner. As a whole, small business owners must understand themselves, their customers, their goals and their business first before even thinking about the proper marketing mix. And apparently, I’m in good company.

Last week, Ad Age commented on Facebook’s plan to increase ad sales exponentially by targeting small business owners. But first, for this plan to work, small business owners must understand branding. With so many priorities to address in the day-to-day, this is a major point:

Before focusing on advertising, Facebook’s first objective should be to help small businesses understand the importance of branding, and give them the tools to identify, develop and leverage the unique brand attributes that make their goods and services distinct from their competition. Key questions must be answered if small businesses hope to craft optimal advertising strategies that meet their broad objectives and reinforce their image with customers. For example:

  • What does our business stand for?
  • What’s our niche?
  • What’s our brand promise?
  • Who are our customers?
  • What makes us different and better than our competitors?
  • What’s the emotional connection we want our customers to associate with our brand?


Small business owners have too much on their plate to take on yet another major project. Thankfully, this is why I have a career. And understanding the answers to the questions above is just the start of that process. Even if you have a full understanding of your brand, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the answer to what type of marketing you would need. Each business is unique, as are its goals, its niche, and its customers.

So you see, to determine which marketing to use, well…really…

It depends.