Mundane to Memorable
A scale to help you evaluate marketing plans, campaigns, and strategies.
I started my career designing retail displays for big brands such as Cadbury, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers. My only design objective was for my clients display to pop out of the store environment.
Getting noticed was the name of the game. That is what my clients paid for, not only my design time but paying retailers for the promotional space. If the displays didn’t get noticed, then it was all a waste.
Brand marketing is also a game of getting noticed. People are bombarded with 4,000 to 10,000 marketing messages from brands every day. Can your brand’s message stand out?
The Noteworthy Scale is a scale that I use to evaluate all sorts of marketing ideas to assess if they stand out:
You can look at something from the perspective of a target customer, and ask: “is this piece of marketing irrelevant, mundane, memorable, remarkable, or (in the best case) shareable?”
You can score marketing plans, campaigns, and strategies. You can use it to help judge copywriting, graphic design, web design, and advertising. You can even use it to make product decisions, as well.
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When to use The Noteworthy Scale
Use the scale to make better marketing messages and product decisions.
Ideally, you and your team have come up with several creative options for your brand’s marketing initiative. You can score each option; give the option a place on the scale. Is this concept irrelevant, mundane, memorable, remarkable, or sharable?
The scale is there to make better decisions on any message that is competing for attention.
It can also help you make product decisions that can make your offering stand out. Jeff Bezos requires Amazon executives to write future press releases of a product, feature or initiative before development to make sure they are setting their sights high enough, so the product is noteworthy when it launches.
Products and marketing campaigns that are noteworthy and above will have better:
- Return on investment
- Bounce rate
- Cost per lead
- Conversion rate
- Net Promoter Score
Scoring ideas with The Noteworthy Scale is great to do in a group setting. Some people will find ideas more interesting than others, and the discussion between those two camps often leads to customer insights. Concepts that everyone agrees are interesting are the ones you want to pursue.
You can use the scale to evaluate:
- Ad copy
- Press releases
- Promotional offers
- Product features
- Product design
- Graphic design
- Industrial design
- User Experience (UX)
- Film making
… and many other forms of creative.
The Noteworthy Scale In Detail
Giving you the language and standards to choose marketing creative that will benefit your brand.
The Noteworthy Scale is a set of language and a framework to score potential directions and make decisions that will grow a brand.
I often use the scoring of golf as a metaphor when working with the scale, from double-bogey to birdie.
For the people who do not play golf, every golf hole has a number of strokes the golfer should need to get the ball into a hole. This number is called par. A golfer is doing well if he gets the ball in the cup at par or below. A birdie is one stroke below par, and an eagle is two strokes below par. A golfer is playing poorly if he needs more strokes than par. A bogey is one more, and a double-bogey is two more.
It is applicable to The Noteworthy Scale because there is a standard, or a par score, we should be shooting for or to be better than. That standard is memorable marketing.
Any marketing that is not memorable, like irrelevant or mundane messages, will hurt our brand. Putting out unmemorable marketing is like taking extra strokes hurts our golf game.
If a brand’s marketing is known to be dull and useless, then it gets a reputation for it, and nobody listens. It further limits the already contained ability for marketers to communicate with customers.
Remarkable marketing will advance a brand and is something to build on in the future, like a birdie in a golf game can lead to a win in a tournament. Sharable marketing is a real stroke of genius, like an eagle in golf. It is rare, but can get things moving for a brand.
- Irrelevant (Double Bogey) A message that is actively ignored by prospective customers.
- Mundane (Bogey) A message that is easily missed by prospective customers.
- Memorable (Par) A message that is acknowledged and remembered for future use by prospective customers.
- Remarkable (Birdie) A message that is strong enough to call out to friends and family in the moment.
- Sharable (Eagle) Message that is so interesting that people save it and share it with friends and family both in-person and online.
An irrelevant marketing message is one that does not apply to the target customer.
A customer’s brain will actively filter out the message. “In one ear and out the other,” as we say here in Canada.
A person should filter out such a message because it has no impact on them or their lives. If the message does affect something they value, then there is no point in acknowledging it. If we took in every irrelevant message, our brains would explode.
Something that is irrelevant to one person might be sharable to another. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. This is why it is so essential for your brand to have a target market of people with shared values.
For some examples:
- I immediately took notice when Adobe announced the new features of Photoshop, but most people don’t care.
- An audiophile, someone who values premium stereo equipment, is excited to hear that Tidal streams 16bit, 44.1kHz FLAC files, but that is meaningless to other people.
- Many people are excited when Disney announces a new Marvel movie, but others never want to see another superhero movie again.
Irrelevant messages are a double bogey because they are so far out of the interest of your brand’s target market that they do damage to the brand itself.
A mundane marketing message could be useful but does not set itself above the noise.
Many messages may be useful to us, but we end up ignoring them because it is just not presented in an interesting way. There are many, many brands vying for a piece of our attention, and a mundane message does not stand out.
Mundane messages are the noise our brains anticipate and ignore. As we are going through our day, our minds are on the lookout for noteworthy stimulus. A stimulus is notable if it affects our behavior, impacts something we value, or is just unusual. Our brain doesn’t highlight that the sky is blue because that is expected, but show us an amber-red sunset lighting up the clouds, and we will take note.
Marketing messages like “buy one, get one half off” or “now available with 20% more storage” are the usual, boring crap shoppers have come to expect. They get filtered out. They think: “call me when you have something interesting to say.”
Seth Godin says in his book, The Purple Cow: “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
Your brand needs to consistently be above this level with it’s communications to customers. It’s worse than just being ignored.
The more mundane messaged you push through, the more your brand gets a reputation of not being noteworthy, and the harder it gets to communicate anything at all. You have a minimal bandwidth to communicate with customers, to begin with, and that bandwidth constricts every time you force through a mundane message.
Mundane messages are a bogey because they are close to landing, but set back your brand and waste an opportunity to advance.
A memorable marketing message is noteworthy. People will remember it and may act on it in the future.
Now we are talking! If you can craft a message so that it is emotionally stimulating or beneficial for a customer, then they will hear it. They make a mental note, and it will affect their purchasing behavior in the future.
The content of the message could be enough to make it noteworthy. It could be immediately actionable or advantageous to the listener.
For example, someone who is looking for a 55″ TV and sees one half off for Black Friday. Or a parent of two preschoolers who hears that the Kia Sorento is the midsized SUV with the highest safety rating from the NHTSA.
Normal massages can be presented uniquely to make them memorable: something that is sufficiently different, funny, exciting, or emotional. This could be the graphic design or filmmaking of an advertisement. Or it could be that it comes from an influencer who has followers who value everything they have to say.
Advertising firms make their money by raising mundane messaged to memorable by presenting them in a way that makes them unforgettable. Many of our favorite advertisements say nothing about the product and is all about the presentation.
Memorable is par for the course; anything your brand says should be interesting enough to be memorable.
A remarkable marketing message is one that would make someone want to mention it to a person around them.
Imagine you are walking down the walkway of a mall with your best friend, and they see something that makes them exclaim: “Hey, look at that! We should go check that out.”
What did they see that would make them say that?
It is safe to assume that it is something that is some combination of unique, exciting, and relevant. It stands out and demands attention. ‘ “Remarkable” is the standard we should be aiming with all our brand’s most critical communications.
Not only are they useful enough for the person who sees them, but they also feel they need to share their excitement. Marketing messages like these get amplified and have the potential to go a little viral.
Usually, this is something that hits the bullseye of relevancy for a customer and is presented interestingly. For example, an appealing YouTube ad for the new iPhone to someone who has just run out their contract with their carrier. Or a McDonald’s sad on a roadside billboard featuring a promotional version of the Mighty Angus to someone hungry after a long commute.
A remarkable message is a birdie. It is a clear win for the brand. It is a feather in the cap of the brand and will make people pay more attention to every subsequent message from the brand. Just like a golfer who scores a birdie on the course, it gets us one step closer to victory.
The ultimate goal: a marketing message that someone would feel compelled to share with friends and family.
Brands are born when marketing goes viral. From the 1984 ad for Apple to the Old Spice ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign, sharable pieces of marketing break into success or mark a new era for a brand.
Something is a sharable marketing message when someone could find it so compelling that they want to share it with friends and family. A piece of marketing that someone notices and is so entrancing that they need to spread the word so others can get something out of it too.
It could be your co-worker who can’t stop telling you about the new feature in the latest build of Google’s Android, to the person who retweets the trailer to the latest Avengers movie. The message is compelling, and it is presented with some intrigue and style.
Sharable marketing has a reach beyond what was expect; more people are exposed to a brand’s message at no extra cost to the company.
The chatter and implicit endorsement of all of the people sharing also raise the status of the brand in people’s minds. People are more likely to take note of the brand and its messages in the future.
So sharable marketing build both brand awareness (how many people know about the brand) and brand depth (how much people care about the brand.) These are the two components of brand equity, so the value of the brand grows exponentially.
Nowadays, we think of sharing messages on social media: retweeting or sharing. But offline word of mouth is as essential as ever. While the volume of offline vs. online talk about brands is roughly the same, Americans value recommendations from friends and family 40% more when they are delivered in person.
Sharable marketing comes about when there is a compelling and relevant message that is presented in a unique way, and those two things are aligned. When the message and the presentation are cohesive, sparks fly.
Let’s take the 1984 Superbowl ad by Apple as an example. The message was clear and compelling: Apple has a new product, the Macintosh, is going to break your preconceptions about computers. The ad was a scene from George Orwell’s book, 1984, in a dark, cinematic style that looked like it could be a scene from the movies Blade Runner or Dune, which were popular at the time.
But the alignment between the message and presentation was what made the 1984 ad easy to talk about. The Macintosh announcement was about breaking through the dull and oppressive computer market, and the scene from 1984 was a dramatic breaking an oppressor’s grip.
The idea is that the totalitarian government in the ad represents IBM, and the protagonist woman who throws the hammer symbolizes Apple.
In the early 80s, early adopters of computers felt constrained by IBM’s monopoly, so the idea of Apple offering freedom from the dull, business-oriented computing offered by IBM was compelling, even cathartic.
Interestingly, sharable marketing can lift the sales of products the brand offers beyond what is being marketing. In other words, if the marketing of Product A goes viral, then Product B and C can see a sales life.
For example, Chevrolet took the internet by storm and made headlines by announcing that the Corvette would be mid-engined for the first time, a departure from being front-engined for its almost 70 year history. The new drivetrain layout makes the Corvette look sleek and stylish, like a Ferrari, and aligns with the Corvette’s brand of being a serious sports car for the everyman.
While most of the people talking about the Corvette announcement will never buy a Corvette, they might think about purchasing a Chevrolet vehicle like the Silverado or Volt.
A shareable message is metaphorically an eagle in golf. Both are quite rare; it takes someone who is extraordinarily great at their craft and given a great opportunity. An eagle or a marketing message that is shareable is a clear win; it is such a good score that it is a step toward taking home the prize at a tournament.
Examples of Noteworthy Marketing
DC Shoe’s Unique Ads and Epic Stunts
When BMB analyzed the rise of DC Shoes, and their success was attributable to two things. The first was their innovative use of cushioning plastics from running shoes to flat bottom sneakers for skateboarding. The second is getting incredible reach with a small marketing budget by planning noteworthy stunts that people would talk about.
Ken Block and Damon Way, the founders of DC Shoes, were well aware of how expensive it was to purchase ads in magazines for skateboarders, their target market. They know they needed to make something noteworthy to make the most of the opportunity.
“But the first thing that really started us off in Droors (the original name of DC Shoes) was just coming up with really fun and unique, kind of twisted ideas,” Ken Block mentioned on the Tim Ferriss podcast. “And Rob Dyrdek, who is now a fairly big MTV star – he was one of our skateboarders back then. One of our first ads that really stood out in the magazines was literally just – I poured blue paint over his head, and he was smoking a cigarette. And we just had these really obscure photos of just his head with blue paint being poured over it.”
Ken understood that an ad with a picture of Rob Dyrdek skateboarding was not going to stand out in a magazine full of pictures of pro skateboarders. But a picture of Rob getting blue paint poured on him was unique; the image was strikingly different, and the readers took notice. And the concept was still relevant to skateboarders because Rob Dyrdek was an easily recognizable skateboard pro.
DC Shoes also extended their marketing reach by planning noteworthy stunts that would get covered by the trade press and talked about in the community.
One of the first athletes DC signed was Danny Way, brother of the founder. He had a talent and bravery for performing world record-breaking stunts.
“One of the biggest things that we ever did was build a giant ramp – what’s called the mega ramp – for Danny Way to do basically giant skateboarding tricks that had never been done at this scale,” Ken Block mentioned in the same podcast. “[…] And that had really made us, and him, stand out in a way that really. […] But all initiated from Danny thinking in an innovative and different way, and then us funding it and creating a video part all around this. And that was just the type of stuff that we did to set DC far apart from all of our competition.”
Not to take anything away from Danny, but there was not a lot of risk involved in the stunts. Ken Block, Danny Way, and the team planned the tricks down to the smallest of detail and reduced the risk of the stunt to as low as possible. They accounted for physics, equipment breakages, worst-case scenarios, etc. This is something Ken Block took forward to the Gymkhana series of viral videos later in life.
The DC Shoes brand was built on raising their marketing to the levels of remarkable and share-able. They recognized that the only way to build a brand with limited resources was to multiply their reach through great marketing creative and good ideas.
Dollar Shave Club’s ads.
Founder of Dollar Shave Club, Michael Dubin, was taking comedy classes at Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB), a place known for supply comedians to Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central.
Dubin had a family friend who needed to sell 250,000 razors he had acquired from Asia. Dubin, like many men, was fed up with how the classic razor brands (Gillette, Schick, BIC, etc.) were selling their razors. He decided to give it a go, and help his friend sell the glut of blades with a different business model: subscriptions.
The whole business plan hinged at acquiring subscribers very inexpensively. Dubin had to use great creative to multiply their reach; thankfully, this was in an era where YouTube videos could go viral on other social media platforms. Since then, social media platforms have stopped this by refusing to send users off-site.
The combination of the unique business opportunity and Dubin’s comedic sensibility became the, now famous, “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” video.
The unique and noteworthy creative gained Dollar Shave Club more than just new subscribers. A rough cut of the ad convinced Michael Jones, a MySpace executive, to sign on as Dubin’s partner.
The message of the ad was relevant to many men who were unhappy with the state of the razor industry. But the magic happened when it was presented in a funny and stylized way that fit the millennial male’s sensibilities.
The content and the presentation aligned as well because the ad was dramatically different than anything you would find from the other razor brands at the time. The Dollar Shave Club guys were different from the other guys, as shown by both what they were saying and how they were saying it.
Conclusion. Strive for shareable, but never settle for anything less than memorable.
Use The Noteworthy Scale as a way for you and your team to talk about standards for your brand’s marketing.
Not all marketing messages can be at the level of share-able. Not every marketing message needs to be at that level. There is a certain amount of “catching lightning in a bottle” that happens when a piece of marketing goes viral. It is not always repeatable. Hopefully, The Noteworthy Scale helps you recognize an idea that could be sharable when you see it.
But you, as a brand manager, needs to set the standard that nothing is going to be less than memorable. It should be unacceptable to have anything irrelevant to your target market or so mundane that it is passed over. You need to go back to the drawing board and come up with the idea that meets or exceeds that standard.
If you aspire to build a brand, you will never meet your goal with mum-drum marketing. Be bold. Be exciting. Be relevant. Shoot for the stars.