Clarity First Newsletter, October 6, 2017

Clarity First
A notebook about how we work and learn and love and live

I write this letter from Santa Fe, where my wife and I are visiting friends. Today we hiked to the Hamilton Mesa, near Pecos. From there, the only things we could see for hundreds of miles were blue sky, green Ponderosa Pines, yellow Aspens, and the snow-capped mountains that hold it all. It’s striking how quiet the monkey chatter gets in the presence of such majestic beauty. It’s really good to get outside.

“The essence of any great brief starts with the customer, and the essence of any awful brief starts with the business.”

Trust in government, business, media and NGOs has declined substantially since 2012, per Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer. The drop-off has been even more pronounced between 2016 and 2017. Last week, while gathered in New York for Advertising Week, brand marketers grappled with the blowback. A number of panels touched on the subject of trust and what marketers can do to earn it, keep it and make it grow.
Article: What Brands Are Doing to Win Back Trust in a Post-Truth World

There is a big difference between selling your cost versus selling your value.

You want to build a brand, not a cheap commodity. Companies that sell on cost comparison end up losing in the end. The secret is to understand your value, those things that a price tag can not measure. It’s not about racing to the bottom along with everyone else. It’s about understanding what you’re really selling, and being able to effectively communicate that value in a way that puts your cost into perspective.
Article: If a Customer Says Your Product or Service Is Too Expensive, This Is What You Should Say

A story is a gift, not a donor-acquisition strategy. 

Self-image is deeply influenced by how we frame events in our past. Unfortunately, nonprofits, who need to prove the value, relevancy and effectiveness of their work, too often rely on a simplified narrative that avoids the complexity of difficult, sometimes unsolvable issues in favor of a heroic journey that leads to proof of success. As these types of narratives have proliferated, nonprofit storytelling has become homogenized, with organizations making use of similar plotlines, structures, and conventions in order to express impact. But there is a clear alternative. “If we tell stories that emphasize only desolation, then we become weaker. Alternatively, we can tell our stories in ways that makes us stronger.” This process is based on deep reflection, and it allows organizations to see their own storyline, discover inspiring themes, address negative assumptions, and rewrite deeply held scripts. Fans of the Clarity Discovery Process won’t be surprised that the author of this article suggests that such insight and perspective is best gained by coming together to listen to each other.
Article: Who Brands Your Nonprofit? Who Tells Its Story and How?

Thinking is hard.

Thinking is hard, so we use cognitive biases in order to save our brains time and energy. Too often though, these short cuts lead away from a standard of rationality and good judgment. So, it helps to understand why they exist, how they’re useful, and the trade-offs, (and resulting mental errors), that they introduce. By considering the problem they’re trying to solve, they become a lot easier to understand.
Article: Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet

What if we saw tribalism as a natural malfunction of any cognitive system?

Two guys develop a game based on a story about two individuals that can choose to cooperate or to cheat. They watch a lot of people play. It makes them wonder: what if tribalism is neither a universal truth or unavoidable sin, but something to be overcome?
Article: Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?

You know what’s dead? Bad email marketing.

Believe it or not, email marketing is very alive and very well. That’s because, assuming you treat your audience with respect and deliver true value to them, it works.
Article: Research Backs Email Marketing as The Biggest, Baddest Medium on the Block

Helping IKEA fix its website conversion problems

Despite their incredible online reach, (more than 1.6 billion people visited their website in 2015), IKEA has a conversion problem. The company’s online and mobile platforms have a poor track record of converting younger consumers, and the reason isn’t a lack of brand appeal or pricing. It is a clunky, out-of-date user experience. Designer/developer, Michael Abehsera, has some ideas about how to make the brand’s website work as well as its stores.
Article: Taking IKEA Out of Its Box and Redesigning It for 1.6B Users 


This week Tom Petty died. This loss feels particularly acute now. For more than 40 years he has been an ever flowing spring of American optimism. His simple and accessible pop helped us to take refuge from a “world gone mad” with rock and roll, clean, ringing and chiming rock and roll. So, in a time when many of us feel that the world has gone even more mad, we need his reassurance more than ever. Memories help. Start here: You Wreck Me. Recorded live in the studio with the Heartbreakers behind him and with Rick Rubin at the board, this song swings with the good energy of a band that knows itself inside and out. Thank you for the comfort, Tom. We miss you already.

Image of the week

Pittsburgh is a commuter city with marginal public transportation, so most people have to drive to parking lots from surrounding suburbs. Most of these lots are overseen by a lone attendant. In the isolation of these attendants photographer Tom M. Johnson saw an opportunity to, “show an aspect of daily life in the city, so steeped in the habits that people have forgotten what makes it interesting”. He calls the resulting series Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Clarity, the consultancy that helps mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for transformation. Learn more.

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