What can we learn from Olympic athletes that will make our business better?

Watching the US women’s Olympic gymnastics team win big this week (very big), I was mesmerized not just by their talent, which was jaw-dropping awesome, but their focus, their team work, and their camaraderie. They didn’t just win the gold; they won it by a point spread not seen in years. I was impressed by their intense focus, coupled with a confidence in the face of not just their own, but the world’s, expectations. In their eyes and body language it was clear to me that they knew they would never falter.

“We’re going in as the best team in the world,” Olympian Aly Raisman said. “So we should carry ourselves that way.”

You really can’t help but be inspired by these perfect athletes and all they did to become that way. I start thinking that there are things we could all learn from them to make us stronger and help build our business as we compete for our own kind of gold.

TheUPSStore.com lists six business lessons we can learn from the Olympians:

  1. Take smart risks
  2. Set realistic goals
  3. Have the right mindset
  4. Never stay down
  5. Embrace competition
  6. Keep your reputation in mind

To this wise listicle, I’d like to add my three observations that I think are applicable to the advertising and marketing worlds, and probably to all businesses:

  • Intense internal focus.
    Olympic athletes have an intense focus. That focus is based on what they know they are capable of and the sense of purpose they have. It’s a primal focus, so deep they don’t notice the others around them. The gymnasts make a connection with the audience in a perfunctory way, and then go right into their routines and performances with pure determination. This is important.  In business, we need to be able to connect with our goals and engage our capabilities and talents to achieve those goals. Yet, unlike the Olympians, we have to make an empathetic connection with the audience. Making eye contact, reading body language, and making sure our clients/audiences understand our communication are our Olympian tasks.
  • Practice.
    Implicit in getting to the Olympics is a lifetime of intense self-critical practice. Inherent in each failure, each missed landing, each botched approach to the vault, is the opportunity to improve. When we go after new business and don’t win, we often think of it as a loss and let it go, when in reality it’s an opportunity to improve, a chance to get better at our game. When we have an opportunity to pitch we need to see it as not only a test of whether or not we win it, but also a test of our ability to reach farther. Practicing helps us win new business, but it also hones our skills for our existing business.
  • Teamwork.
    In this weeks 4X100 relay, Brazil had the lead after the first turn, then the lead shifted to France. But when the now legendary Michael Phelps jumped in the water, he carried the US team to victory with each stroke of his almost avian arms. This is the epitome of teamwork. When we operate as a team, it’s vital that each member of the team recognize when a team member is struggling, and jump in to help that member and the rest of the team succeed. Olympic athletes exhibit a tremendous respect and exhilaration for their teammates and appreciation of their competitors. Clearly, that is part of being a success. In our own businesses we have to cultivate teamwork and remind ourselves that none of us are as good alone as we are as a team. Practicing with the team, acknowledging each strength and weakness of the team members is an important part of our victories.

With the UPS listicle and my three here, the Olympians can teach us much. I would venture that there are probably hundreds of things we can learn from these perfect competitors. They have achieved a level of “personal best” that few of us will. But, like them, we can dream, then learn, then practice, then focus, then activate the team to help move our businesses across the finish line and win our own version of the gold medal.

And after all, isn’t that why we’re in this?


Women Empowerment

The New and Improved Way of Talking to Your Customer

A new movement in advertising has literally changed our feelings about ads. These really aren’t ads in the traditional sense, but filmed studies and demonstrations of the social, cultural, and psychological mindset of consumers regarding issues the brand had previously ignored but very much inform their customer’s emotional purchase decisions.

These communications don’t sell, not overtly, but are part of the holistic effort moneyed brands have courageously included in their marketing mix. Legacy brands like Dove, or Pantene can no longer revitalize their sales via NEW and IMPROVED. Creating newer products is costly and a crap shoot. These new communication efforts help us understand ourselves. They make the brand the customer’s trusted advisor, friend, and confident in real, authentic ways.Rosie the RiveterIT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

The prevailing definition of brand is not as a slogan or an ad, but an enduring relationship with the consumer. But when you judge that relationship on the bar chart of ROI, it’s clear that it’s mostly a one-way relationship: Sales.

The brands that engaged in these new communications read the world. They know that a positively self-aware customer is an empowered customer. And they positioned themselves at the center of that empowerment. They realized that their ROI could be influenced by their ROH-Return on Humanity. Smart? I say brilliant.

Instead of saying, “Buy this, you’ll feel better” they showed why you don’t you already feel good. They demonstrated that your lack of self-esteem in some areas might not be about you, but caused by the culture you live in. And they empower you to know how and what to change in that flawed consumerist culture.

These empowering ads connect on a deeper level and speak to a human truth.  They create “actionable empowerment” that instills a sense of confidence that takes you beyond your limitations. All this from a soap company, or a sneaker manufacturer.

Longer form communications from Dove, Pantene or like Nike’s “Throw Like a Girl” reveal our innermost vulnerabilities. By providing a mirror into our subconscious selves, they give us the information to deal with these vulnerabilities. This is pure MANNA from corporate heaven.

DOVE 1.0

But it takes guts. As a PhD in social psychology, a USC professor of marketing, agency owner and a strident feminist, I was taken aback at the reactions I got from my students when presenting the launch ads from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign of 2007.

This was the first campaign to celebrate the many shapes of women’s bodies: tall, average, plus size (a designation that should be relegated to the scrap heap of micro-aggressive words) over-weight, all races and hairstyles. They weren’t perfect beauties. They were our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, real people. It was an inclusive campaign, eye-catching in that it wasn’t pushing perfectly shaped or suspiciously anorexic models that are the cultural definition of beauty that 95% of the culture can’t live up to. Or should want to.


And guess what? They hated them. They didn’t want to look at real people. They didn’t want to see plus-size models proudly posing in their underwear. They didn’t want to see…themselves. But here is where Dove’s efforts and wisdom must be applauded: they knew this. And they did it anyway. They decided that it was more important to have this conversation than not. They knew the issues of self-esteem visited on little girls who will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model, with or without angel wings. They said, “Look, we’ve been selling soap for years. Let’s do something more important. Lets clean up the culture that makes girls anorexic, or overeaters, insecure, who never feel worthy. Let’s have that conversation and let’s be at the center of it.”

What my students were reacting to was the SHOCK OF THE NEW. But to change behavior, to change cultural paradigms, you have to be willing to shock, to move people past their comfort zone, to open up a fold in the brain that makes them amenable to new facts, observations, that creates a new awareness, and that gives them the tools of empowerment AND changes behavior.

So the next time you see a coupon for Dove, it doesn’t just represent cents off on a bar of soap, it reminds you that you are worthy. Nice.

The opportunity to create a better culture exists. Will corporate America pave the way, or continue to pander to the flaws? Do we have the courage of the Doves?

Dove Image Logo

Clients need empathy too.


You might think that as a psychologist running an advertising agency, when I speak of empathy, I mean empathy for the target audience – the consumer of our advertising. In this instance, I am actually talking about empathy for our clients.

Recently, I had lunch with a former client who paid us one of the highest compliments. He said that as he reflects on his career, he’s identified the strongest account people he has ever worked with, and that one of our people – Ilene Prince, SVP & Director of Client Services – is at the top of that list. When I asked him why, he said, “Because she understood my job and my pressures.” In other words, and as usual, she was seriously empathetic.

That means paying attention to his deadlines, his budget, the pressures on him, the number of emails he receives, the fact that he was in meetings all day, et cetera, et cetera.

As good account people, we build in a cushion and develop an understanding of the character, psychology and stresses on our clients. This level of empathy means that we are able to serve them in better ways and get the best results possible as part of our partnership.

This is especially important today when the “empathy gap” has been cited as a growing epidemic in college graduates. According to Sarah Rothbard, Editor and Associate Publisher at Zócalo Public Square, “Researchers have found a forty percent decline in empathy in college students over the past thirty years, with the majority of the change taking place in the past ten years.”

With technology as the catalyst behind the aforementioned epidemic, it’s important to understand why empathy is so crucial. When you’re empathetic towards your clients by understanding the pressures they face and what they value, you’re able to build campaigns, schedules, and budgets that truly reflect their needs.

Everybody knows that great creative comes from great partnerships, and partnerships don’t develop from just a one-time collaboration when cultivating ideas or brainstorming strategies. Partnerships take years to build. That’s why we’ve had most of our clients for nearly a decade. For example, if you have a client who always needs to get their boss to approve work and they’re very difficult to pin down, then a good account manager will anticipate this and build in extra time to allow flexibility. In this scenario, if a last-minute change comes in, instead of panicking, you simply say to the client, “Let’s make this happen!”

In this day of constant changes, fast feedback and flat organizations, it’s even more important that we be seriously empathetic with our clients’ positions and their needs. Sometimes this means reading the signs, and instead of being told what to do watching the behavior of the client and acting accordingly. For example, if someone may take over a day to respond to an email or can’t find the email at all, rather than complain, we all accept this and are empathetic. We recognize the pressures our clients are under and we do what we can to make their job easier.

Account people really are the orchestra conductors and need to be in tune with all facets of the team, inside and outside the agency. And, just like a conductor, if the tempo is off it is hard to get everyone on the same page to ensure your absolute best performance.

Suit vs. Sneakers: Mommy guilt in a CEO’s eyes.

Full-time job, full-time guilt? A must-read for working moms. 

As a working mother with three grown girls who are now mothers themselves, I still guilt myself over the fact that I only took 3-4 months off for each child after they were born. I still ask myself, “Was it wrong that I worked full-time?”

Frankly, one never gets over the guilt and it comes from both sides: personal and professional. If I took time to be with my children, that was time away from work. If I spent more time at work, that was time away from my children. Enter guilt.

When my girls were in their mid-twenties, I finally summoned up the courage to ask them if my self-guilt was deserved. Graciously, they said they didn’t mind my hours and only missed the regular school pick-ups some of the time. However, now they’re mothers themselves and I see how they act with their own children. I see their behavior rather than hear their words. One daughter is a stay-at-home mom while the other two work with schedules that allow them to stay home at least one day a week. I see them struggling with the balance and the guilt…just as I had.

Today, the whole concept of childcare being detrimental to a child’s development and stability is a strongly held position. In fact, you can hear the guilt factories churning as, according to Pew Research Center, 41 percent of adults say the increase in working mothers is bad for society, while just 22 percent say it’s good.

However, recent research reports indicate there may be some good results as a consequence of working mothers. A working paper from the Harvard Business School suggests that, compared to the daughters of stay at home moms, the daughters of working moms:

  • Complete more years of education
  • Are more likely to be employed later in life
  • Hold higher positions
  • Earn more money

And, it seems the sons of working moms are benefitting too. They reportedly are willing to spend more time caring for family members and doing household chores.

Based on this study, working mothers can have long lasting positive effects on their children, and that being employed, having a professional position, and navigating the world of commerce is teaching children well.

According to Kathleen McGinn, author of the study, “What I take away is that employed mothers create an environment in which their children’s attitudes on what’s appropriate for girls to do and what’s appropriate for boys to do is affected.”

In my own experience, I realized my practice of sharing my day and the issues I was dealing with seemed to have rubbed off on my daughters. Today, as successful working moms, my daughters share with me their managing issues and their concerns about communicating at work. It seems my sharing wasn’t just venting and, in hindsight, I even remember solutions coming from them.

“When you go to work,” McGinn said, “you’re helping your children understand that there’re lots of opportunities for them.”

I know when I asked my grown daughters what they thought about me working full time when they were growing up, they immediately spoke about seeing me as a happy, fulfilled person. And, after it’s all said and done, that’s my wish for them. But, that doesn’t mean the guilt goes away. In fact, it’s part of life. I’m convinced it will never go away, but maybe that’s not all bad.

“Guilt stems, after all, from a feeling of obligation,” Gaby Hinsliff of The Guardian opined. “A sense that there was something you should have done but didn’t, and it’s this sense that basically makes us social animals. Guilt helps us keep numerous complex relationships going, by prodding us to observe the correct mutual obligations for each – indeed you could argue it’s essential to a full and interesting life, since it helps us keep track of what’s owed when, and to whom.”

As I think about the choices I made and the guilt I felt and continue to feel (now it’s about spending enough time with my grandchildren and being there to help my hard-working daughters and sons-in-law), I contemplate how lucky I am to have had choices. And, I realize that choosing to work full-time didn’t mean that I wasn’t a full-time mother. Being fully present, listening and sharing are what makes moments with my daughters so special. Guilt comes with the territory, and that’s fine with me.

How applied positive psychology makes a difference in marketing.

Consider an example of going to the dentist: One dentist tells you that your oral health is in poor condition and you must take action right away in order to delay the tooth decay. Inside, you feel worried and frightened. The negative emotions urge you to deny the doctor’s orders or schedule surgery.

Another dentist tells you that your oral health is steadily improving and you can enhance the progress by adding floss to your daily routine in addition to brushing three times a day. Inside, you feel relieved and inspired. The positive emotions encourage you to do as the doctor suggests: incorporate a new action into your health regime that can foster a beautiful smile.

In essence, dentists can berate a patient for poor dental hygiene or dentists can remind a patient of the best ways to foster improved oral health. The communication choice is theirs, but the difference in each marketing strategy can be the difference between patients who fear going to the dentist and patients who genuinely enjoy learning how to improve their smile!

Psychology has traditionally tried to improve one’s mentality from below normal to normal levels. Positive psychology prompts the discovery of what is good and how normal levels can be enhanced to astounding new levels of greatness, accomplishment, success, and happiness.

Marketing has the potential to prompt its viewer towards a mission: perhaps it’s a moment that changes our mind or a minute when an advertisement catches our attention. Exceptional marketing strategy, paired with compelling psychological research, enables Fraser Communications’ seven beliefs of a uniquely successful advertising agency to be client-centric, trend blazers, mind readers, story tellers, and results-driven.

Marketing that matters: social media meets strategy.

Social media can enhance our sociability, our choices, our decisions, our beliefs, and our purchases. When prepared properly, social media can make a dramatic impression on a wide array of audiences. Three segments develop the core of our clients’ social media marketing strategy: lead generation, brand awareness, and engagement management.

  1. LEAD GENERATION: Think about lead generation as the online commercial that leads customers to make reservations at a new restaurant. It gets people “to the door” and ready to purchase. Lead generation ignites an inquiry to buy, to use, to understand, and to enjoy. Technically speaking, lead generation is the creation of consumer interest into business items, services, products, series, specials, and more. Lead generation is imperative because it serves as the catalyst for an invested consumer.
  1. BRAND AWARENESS: Think about brand awareness as the way consumers select a party venue based on reviews. It gets people “to know value and to investigate a new opportunity”; brand awareness can inspire a quick purchase, prompt an inquiry, or reinforce long-standing customer commitment. Specifically, brand awareness is the primary goal of advertising. Brand awareness notes recognition of a particular product and prompts inquiry from potential customers, often expressed in a percentage statistic of the item’s target market.
  1. ENGAGEMENT MANAGEMENT: Think about engagement management as the interactions that perpetuate consumer commitment and prompt someone to rate a company online. It supports an entire organization’s processes in order to improve systems company-wide so that the best experiences prompt future business. Generally, engagement management is a broad net that includes client relations, quality assurance, prompt service, and project leadership. At its core, engagement management is an approach that begins with sales and ends with satisfaction.

Each segment of social media strategy is an important component of our successful approach. With all three of the concepts listed above, an effective and high impact social media campaign can: reach new customers, connect with varied audiences, increase marketing success, and transform business. Fraser Communications creates marketing that matters by growing brands daily.

Featured image from Seismic.

How to increase your professional detachment to ensure success.

At least twice a week I go to a yoga class and find myself not only detaching from my daily stresses, but also detaching from the world around me.

“Breathe deeply,” my yoga teacher says. “Your practice includes mind, body and a higher awareness of yourself. Be willing to detach.”

This calm and collected state provides a moment of clarity. I’m detached from the gravity of my ego; I’m in a trance-like daydream where I can soar over issues that have been plaguing me throughout my workweek.

It’s important to be able to shift into the 30,000-foot perspective at work. From that vantage point you are not in the moment but observing it. You are more objective. You can see the dynamics of the group, and where ideas are either succeeding or hitting a wall.

Get outside yourself. Waste Management used a system called DriveCam to collect footage for review with poor drivers. Providing at outside the driver objective tool for drivers to understand their behaviors resulted in a 30 percent reduction in collisions.

By setting aside our ego and opening ourselves up to another opinion we are able to take notes of a misstep made or a something overlooked and, through critical thinking, determine an appropriate solution.

Do you possess a willingness to surrender control? An athlete must relinquish control of many facets of the game to his teammates.  The coach is disengaged from the emotions on the field, and can see the dynamics of the whole game.

It’s called Professional Detachment: the separation of emotions from the task at hand.

“Your ego slips away,” said pediatrician Smita Malhotra. “You feel such a deep connection to others that their joys are your joys and their sorrows are your own. You move away from a sense of competition to one of co-operation.”

By detaching yourself from a project and opening it up to outside criticism and ideas you are more able to devise game winning strategies.

“Professional detachment is caring enough about your job that you will focus on the only things that you can control, your attitude and your work,” said Bob Turner, Digital and Social Media Marketing Consultant at Social Flair.

So, how can you detach professionally? Here are three suggestions:


Many CEOs credit yoga to helping them run their company more efficiently.

“Ultimately yoga has encouraged me to build a corporate environment that is less constricting and more community,” said Stanton Kawer, CEO and chairman of Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide. “Perhaps the most salient lesson I’ve learned is that there are no scorecards to define success. In the yoga studio there are no winners or losers. No umpires. No victory measured against the loss of another. In yoga success emanates from within and is defined by self-mastery.”

Even NFL teams such as the Seattle Seahawks have added mandatory yoga and optional meditation to their workout routines.

“Meditation is as important as lifting weights,” offensive tackle Russell Okung said.

“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special,” Russell Wilson Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks said. “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”


One way to practice professional detachment is with your peers. Ask a trusted friend to criticize your project over coffee. Be in the moment and take note of your feelings when you hear negative comments. Understand that these feelings will get in the way of big solutions. Don’t disagree with your friend. They are only telling you how others see you. Use this to better understand your dynamic in the group.


Don’t feel comfortable going to a friend? Through online forums such as LinkedIn or one-on-one emails you can ask for advice on your project. If your projects are confidential, use an old project. Be aware that virtual interactions are often harsher than in the real world, however, that might work well for developing your professional detachment skills. When someone gives you criticism, listen to your inner dialogue and practice responding in a professionally detached manner. Ask yourself, am I being objective? Am I at 30,000 feet?

Ultimately with practice from yoga, online forums, email or trusted friends you will be able to remove the limits emotions place on your work to create something even better. After all, two brains are better than one. Allow yourself to detach from ego and work collaboratively to grow your company.

Marketing to women in the digital age: why women shouldn’t be ignored.

For the past 15 years, Fraser Communications has been running campaigns targeted towards women across the United States. Today, women have a lot more buying power and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. In the marketing world, knowing how to engage with women and understanding them as a niche market is extremely important.

One of the keys to successful marketing towards women is to focus on the relationship instead of the transaction. Women are in charge of 83 percent of consumer spending, which is larger than the entire economy of Japan. Over the next decade, women will control 2/3 of U.S. consumer wealth. They hold 89 percent of U.S. bank accounts and more than half of the country’s personal wealth. It’s safe to say that women are worth the marketing effort.

So, how do you reach them? By establishing a trusting relationship. If you’re able to do this, they’ll spend more with you and they’ll have a connection with your business that extends beyond the transaction. Research shows that women will pay up to 28 percent more for a product if she likes and trusts the sales person. Making sure that the women you do business with feel respectfully treated and appreciated as an individual, you greatly increase your chances of getting a good deal and gaining a loyal customer.