My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior

The customer—the center of it all.

Welcome to our first company blog.

The headline is really what this blog and most of my professional life’s been all about. From my  first days as a cub copywriter just breaking into the business to today running an agency with a primary focus around creating behavior change,  customer think and probing what makes people tick.  Everything we do is about getting someone to do something. And while the tools, tactics and audience nuances have changed dramatically during that time—the essential core of this business has not. As our founder Walt Roberts put it: “The sole purpose of commercial communications is the deliberate production of change.”

Don’t just talk to customers—listen to them.

It still comes down to having a deep understanding of what makes a person tick—both emotionally and rationally—and how to connect effectively with that inside persona to get them to act, buy, change, behave, believe. We call it CustomerThink.  When I started—I really didn’t have a clue.  I was a HS English teacher who loved to write. I made the decision to change careers and try to make a living by writing. I wrote a few stories, got an article published in a couple of trade magazines for $25 bucks per article! Even got a guest article in the NJ section of the venerable NY Times.  I was ready for Madison Avenue for sure.

So I quit my teaching job and started to look for work in NYC as an advertising copywriter in the height of the late 70s recession. Confident my credentials and writing skills would land me one of those lucrative ad agency jobs in a few days. Eight months later and after about 120 interviews, phone hang-ups, portfolio reviews, drop-offs, copy tests, and flat out turn-downs—I finally landed a plum job. Working as a copywriter after I offered my services for free. My proposition: “Hey, if I don’t work out, I really won’t  cost you anything.” The job was working for a then-legendary creative director named Ben Colarossi. He was at a shop called FSR/Creamer-Colarossi at the time and had launched famous campaigns for Timex, San Giorgio Spaghetti and Hormel. And Ben gave me my first opportunity to apply what we call CustomerThink at our shop.

I really knew nothing.  I thought a clever headline, a pun, a joke, something I found witty or cool would somehow move an audience to act. It didn’t. I learned early on that you’ve got to go out and talk to real customers to truly understand them or sell them anything.

How do you talk to a customer?

My first “job” was to get this first job. Ben’s challenge by my eventual boss was like a present-day reality show: “Hey kid, I’ve got a presentation to Caloric in 48 hours—my train leaves Penn Station at 7:45 AM on Friday. We’re pitching them for a new kitchen range/oven that combines traditional electric cooking with some cool new technology called a built-in microwave. Here’s some product literature. If you have any ideas—meet me in Penn Station—if I like them, I’ll show them. And if I sell something,  I’ll give you a couple of hundred bucks.”

I was an account planner and didn’t even know it.

Off I ran. First stop was to visit as many appliance stores as I could find to talk to the salesman about how people buy oven ranges. What do they say when they come in looking for a range? Is anyone asking for this thing called a microwave? Who makes the real decision—the man or the woman?  Next I was visiting with and calling all my mom’s and sisters’ friends to talk about their ovens, range tops. What would they like to see different? Improved? Do they know what a microwave can do? Does saving time mean a lot to them? And on and on.

Then came  the all-nighter when I cranked writing ads, sample TV ideas, radio spots, point-of-purchase materials all introducing the new Caloric ME Range. The new microwave and electronic cooking system that’s all about “me.”  Each ad focused on how the new combo range saved the female head of household time getting meals and snacks prepared for her hungry family. Yes, very 70s focused by today’s standards—but it rang true for the demo of the day.

I never got my 100 bucks—but Ben came back from his trip and gave me something even better –my first  job. He even threw in a raise. I wouldn’t have to work for free but he’d pay my commuting costs and keep me on for three months.  By the end of that I’d either be a copywriter or unemployed. Ben had a wonderful collection of “Colarossi-isms” as I’d call  them—one was about there are no jr. copywriters—“you either are a copywriter or you aren’t—the customer doesn’t know or care whether you’re a jr. or a senior writer. They just know whether it’s real and true.”

I worked for Ben at three different  NYC agencies over the years. Would love to hear from you about the first time you really understood and connected with  a real customer.

How can we help you make change?

3 Responses to My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior
  1. You have mentioned very interesting points! ps nice website.

    • Bill

      Thanks and welcome– stop back when you can

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior

The customer—the center of it all.

Welcome to our first company blog.

The headline is really what this blog and most of my professional life’s been all about. From my  first days as a cub copywriter just breaking into the business to today running an agency with a primary focus around creating behavior change,  customer think and probing what makes people tick.  Everything we do is about getting someone to do something. And while the tools, tactics and audience nuances have changed dramatically during that time—the essential core of this business has not. As our founder Walt Roberts put it: “The sole purpose of commercial communications is the deliberate production of change.”

Don’t just talk to customers—listen to them.

It still comes down to having a deep understanding of what makes a person tick—both emotionally and rationally—and how to connect effectively with that inside persona to get them to act, buy, change, behave, believe. We call it CustomerThink.  When I started—I really didn’t have a clue.  I was a HS English teacher who loved to write. I made the decision to change careers and try to make a living by writing. I wrote a few stories, got an article published in a couple of trade magazines for $25 bucks per article! Even got a guest article in the NJ section of the venerable NY Times.  I was ready for Madison Avenue for sure.

So I quit my teaching job and started to look for work in NYC as an advertising copywriter in the height of the late 70s recession. Confident my credentials and writing skills would land me one of those lucrative ad agency jobs in a few days. Eight months later and after about 120 interviews, phone hang-ups, portfolio reviews, drop-offs, copy tests, and flat out turn-downs—I finally landed a plum job. Working as a copywriter after I offered my services for free. My proposition: “Hey, if I don’t work out, I really won’t  cost you anything.” The job was working for a then-legendary creative director named Ben Colarossi. He was at a shop called FSR/Creamer-Colarossi at the time and had launched famous campaigns for Timex, San Giorgio Spaghetti and Hormel. And Ben gave me my first opportunity to apply what we call CustomerThink at our shop.

I really knew nothing.  I thought a clever headline, a pun, a joke, something I found witty or cool would somehow move an audience to act. It didn’t. I learned early on that you’ve got to go out and talk to real customers to truly understand them or sell them anything.

How do you talk to a customer?

My first “job” was to get this first job. Ben’s challenge by my eventual boss was like a present-day reality show: “Hey kid, I’ve got a presentation to Caloric in 48 hours—my train leaves Penn Station at 7:45 AM on Friday. We’re pitching them for a new kitchen range/oven that combines traditional electric cooking with some cool new technology called a built-in microwave. Here’s some product literature. If you have any ideas—meet me in Penn Station—if I like them, I’ll show them. And if I sell something,  I’ll give you a couple of hundred bucks.”

I was an account planner and didn’t even know it.

Off I ran. First stop was to visit as many appliance stores as I could find to talk to the salesman about how people buy oven ranges. What do they say when they come in looking for a range? Is anyone asking for this thing called a microwave? Who makes the real decision—the man or the woman?  Next I was visiting with and calling all my mom’s and sisters’ friends to talk about their ovens, range tops. What would they like to see different? Improved? Do they know what a microwave can do? Does saving time mean a lot to them? And on and on.

Then came  the all-nighter when I cranked writing ads, sample TV ideas, radio spots, point-of-purchase materials all introducing the new Caloric ME Range. The new microwave and electronic cooking system that’s all about “me.”  Each ad focused on how the new combo range saved the female head of household time getting meals and snacks prepared for her hungry family. Yes, very 70s focused by today’s standards—but it rang true for the demo of the day.

I never got my 100 bucks—but Ben came back from his trip and gave me something even better –my first  job. He even threw in a raise. I wouldn’t have to work for free but he’d pay my commuting costs and keep me on for three months.  By the end of that I’d either be a copywriter or unemployed. Ben had a wonderful collection of “Colarossi-isms” as I’d call  them—one was about there are no jr. copywriters—“you either are a copywriter or you aren’t—the customer doesn’t know or care whether you’re a jr. or a senior writer. They just know whether it’s real and true.”

I worked for Ben at three different  NYC agencies over the years. Would love to hear from you about the first time you really understood and connected with  a real customer.

How can we help you make change?

3 Responses to My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior
  1. You have mentioned very interesting points! ps nice website.

    • Bill

      Thanks and welcome– stop back when you can

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior

The customer—the center of it all.

Welcome to our first company blog.

The headline is really what this blog and most of my professional life’s been all about. From my  first days as a cub copywriter just breaking into the business to today running an agency with a primary focus around creating behavior change,  customer think and probing what makes people tick.  Everything we do is about getting someone to do something. And while the tools, tactics and audience nuances have changed dramatically during that time—the essential core of this business has not. As our founder Walt Roberts put it: “The sole purpose of commercial communications is the deliberate production of change.”

Don’t just talk to customers—listen to them.

It still comes down to having a deep understanding of what makes a person tick—both emotionally and rationally—and how to connect effectively with that inside persona to get them to act, buy, change, behave, believe. We call it CustomerThink.  When I started—I really didn’t have a clue.  I was a HS English teacher who loved to write. I made the decision to change careers and try to make a living by writing. I wrote a few stories, got an article published in a couple of trade magazines for $25 bucks per article! Even got a guest article in the NJ section of the venerable NY Times.  I was ready for Madison Avenue for sure.

So I quit my teaching job and started to look for work in NYC as an advertising copywriter in the height of the late 70s recession. Confident my credentials and writing skills would land me one of those lucrative ad agency jobs in a few days. Eight months later and after about 120 interviews, phone hang-ups, portfolio reviews, drop-offs, copy tests, and flat out turn-downs—I finally landed a plum job. Working as a copywriter after I offered my services for free. My proposition: “Hey, if I don’t work out, I really won’t  cost you anything.” The job was working for a then-legendary creative director named Ben Colarossi. He was at a shop called FSR/Creamer-Colarossi at the time and had launched famous campaigns for Timex, San Giorgio Spaghetti and Hormel. And Ben gave me my first opportunity to apply what we call CustomerThink at our shop.

I really knew nothing.  I thought a clever headline, a pun, a joke, something I found witty or cool would somehow move an audience to act. It didn’t. I learned early on that you’ve got to go out and talk to real customers to truly understand them or sell them anything.

How do you talk to a customer?

My first “job” was to get this first job. Ben’s challenge by my eventual boss was like a present-day reality show: “Hey kid, I’ve got a presentation to Caloric in 48 hours—my train leaves Penn Station at 7:45 AM on Friday. We’re pitching them for a new kitchen range/oven that combines traditional electric cooking with some cool new technology called a built-in microwave. Here’s some product literature. If you have any ideas—meet me in Penn Station—if I like them, I’ll show them. And if I sell something,  I’ll give you a couple of hundred bucks.”

I was an account planner and didn’t even know it.

Off I ran. First stop was to visit as many appliance stores as I could find to talk to the salesman about how people buy oven ranges. What do they say when they come in looking for a range? Is anyone asking for this thing called a microwave? Who makes the real decision—the man or the woman?  Next I was visiting with and calling all my mom’s and sisters’ friends to talk about their ovens, range tops. What would they like to see different? Improved? Do they know what a microwave can do? Does saving time mean a lot to them? And on and on.

Then came  the all-nighter when I cranked writing ads, sample TV ideas, radio spots, point-of-purchase materials all introducing the new Caloric ME Range. The new microwave and electronic cooking system that’s all about “me.”  Each ad focused on how the new combo range saved the female head of household time getting meals and snacks prepared for her hungry family. Yes, very 70s focused by today’s standards—but it rang true for the demo of the day.

I never got my 100 bucks—but Ben came back from his trip and gave me something even better –my first  job. He even threw in a raise. I wouldn’t have to work for free but he’d pay my commuting costs and keep me on for three months.  By the end of that I’d either be a copywriter or unemployed. Ben had a wonderful collection of “Colarossi-isms” as I’d call  them—one was about there are no jr. copywriters—“you either are a copywriter or you aren’t—the customer doesn’t know or care whether you’re a jr. or a senior writer. They just know whether it’s real and true.”

I worked for Ben at three different  NYC agencies over the years. Would love to hear from you about the first time you really understood and connected with  a real customer.

How can we help you make change?

3 Responses to My first lesson in CustomerThink: getting people to change behavior
  1. You have mentioned very interesting points! ps nice website.

    • Bill

      Thanks and welcome– stop back when you can

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *