By Gerry Lantz

I know we’re all glad that spring may actually be here and it’s a little odd to talk about snowballs right now. However, “a rock in a snowball” is a phrase shared with me in a late night conversation with Bill Hamilton, Creative Director at Ogilvy New York while I worked there. (Sadly, Bill is now departed. He came to Ogilvy from Chiat-Day, a real bomb-thrower of an agency responsible for so much good work; it’s impossible to list all their great campaigns. Let’s just say his agency created the Macintosh “1984” campaign: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.” Now that’s a story!)

A Rock in a Snowball: More than a Metaphor

Bill and I were discussing consumer packaged goods advertising at the time and how to get clients to buy more challenging ad ideas. He said to me, “You’ve got to give them a rock in a snowball.” His metaphor was and is still apt. The “rock” represents the multiple “features and benefits” that marketers try to shoehorn into every brand “message” however it is delivered in whatever media. The “snowball” is the human story and brand values wrapped around the hard(er), more logical points a client wants to land with a customer. I have applied this metaphor to branding and communications strategies–and yes, even to down-and-dirty business value propositions.

There is No “Hard vs Soft”Sell; There’s Only Effective Selling

We all want to sell stuff (that’s how we make money); however, we ourselves, our products, or our services have to be perceived as the kind of functionally advantageous and human brands that customers want to buy. Brands must have both: an informational story (the rock) and the human relationship-oriented story (the snowball)–to tell the most persuasive selling story possible.

In the meantime, bring on summer and rising sales for marketers everywhere!