Creating Content with Resonance and Humor…that Gets Results – with Shane Rickard and Kurt Horn
Shane Rickard is the Owner and Creative Director at Harmon Brothers – “the masterminds behind advertising campaigns for Squatty Potty, Purple Matress, FiberFix, ChatBooks, and more.” Shane is a Utah Valley University graduate, and have generated over 1.5 Billion views for their client’s ads. In just 6 years, Harmon Brothers has generated over $700 Million in sales under Rickard’s direction.
Kurt Horn is the Chief Revenue Officer at Harmon Brothers – “the masterminds behind advertising campaigns for Squatty Potty, Purple Matress, FiberFix, ChatBooks, and more.” Horn is a graduate from the University of Utah, and has served in leadership positions for nearly 20 years. Horn also founded the Zentrum Group, which provides CFO consulting services to business owners and entreprenuers.
“One thing we see over and over again, challenging our assumptions is a good thing. Not assuming we know the customer perfectly is a really good thing, because we’re constantly surprised when we question our own assumptions and go into testing and see what the response actually is.”
- You can’t just go with your gut – you need to test your marketing strategies.
- Marketing strategies need to be quantified qualitatively AND quantitively.
- The in depth steps of testing your messaging to ensure success.
- You can test your messaging with any budget!
We’re excited to be here and be a part of the Demand Gen Summit for part of this fireside discussion we’re going to have today. My name is Shane Rickard, I’m the CEO of Harmon Brothers.
My name is Kurt Horn. I’m the CRO of Harmon Brothers. We’re happy to be here today.
So what we’re going to talk about a little bit today- How to generate results with messaging that has resonance with customers, as well as humor, which is something at Harmon Brothers that we kind of have really leaned into as part of our business strategy, and for generating demand and generating results in terms of customer acquisition and sales. It’s kind of the backbone of our business.
So Shane, I’ve got a couple of questions that I’d like to ask you specifically. First one. What role does testing play in getting results?
Yeah, I think it’s a really big part of our process at Harmon Brothers in getting results, because we’ve seen over the last decade and a half of our experience as marketers inside the company is that if you go in with just your best assumption and like your gut, it’s not the best way of going forward with a marketing strategy.
The kind of approach at Harmon Brothers that we take is you kind of have to have a qualitative and quantitative approach to it where, yes, getting a lot of qualitative information from customers, from who you’re targeting is really important. As far as an input that helps you decide what you’re actually going to test. So we kind of take a two pronged approach at Harmon Brothers of both in the qualitative approach as well as a quantitative approach, and what I mean by that is we really try and get into the headspace of a consumer. We like to interview the consumer. We like to look at consumer reviews, or understanding their like their testimonials of what really makes them tick and what makes them really like a product or not like a product. And so, when we have all those inputs from a qualitative standpoint, we can then determine, okay, ‘here are kind of our core bunch of value props that are messages that we want to go out to the world with,’ but then allows us to set up a testing methodology with those that that sort of value proposition messages to then go and put it out in the marketplace, on Facebook or other, there’s other areas you can test it on. But like for testing to see the efficacy of those messages. And over the years, as we’ve kind of developed that methodology and that approach, we’ve seen like a massive differential in terms of performance, where if we would have just gone with our baseline gut assumption, we could have been way off. And sometimes we’re talking about like three times better performance than if it would have been like our gut reaction or what we would have assumed would have been like a good direction to go in just off of our gut.
For us, it’s like the smart, intuitive marketing side of it is important, but always testing your assumptions is massively important because of the performance differential you can see after the tests.
And what if you have a product or service that has multiple value propositions and thus maybe 20, 30, 40 different messages? Is the testing methodology the same?
Yeah, I mean, there’s a bunch of different ways to approach it. I think that when we’ve seen a product, for instance, like Lumi, which is all the actual deodorant that can be applied to any part of the body, it can be applied to underarms, it can be applied to feet, it can be applied to private parts. It’s wildly versatile, and the initial hero campaign that we did, we kind of spoke to all those different like applications of the product and uses of the product, which was really effective and did it did really well. In subsequent videos, what we did is we really honed in on a very specific use case for the product. Focusing on feet, focusing on stinky teenagers, or focusing on private parts, and what we saw is that when we really honed in on a very specific message and a very specific use case for that product, the private parts one absolutely exploded. And that was kind of a good example for us where like, you know, really honing in on a very specific application and message like produce tremendous results for them. Whereas if we kind of went for a shotgun approach on everything, it was good, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.
So can you describe how to run an effective test? Like like what? What are the principles to running an effective test? What can our viewers take home today that will allow them to start testing tomorrow? What different methodologies should they be using?
Yeah, I really think it comes back to that qualitative approach. First, of really understanding the customer and not making assumptions is like the first way we approach it. Because oftentimes, as marketers or people who are very close to products, we get really in the weeds in it. We get very, you know, especially like entrepreneurs or business owners who are very close to the product.
They’re thinking of it in such granular detail, and it’s easy to become detached from how a consumer perceives that given product or that service. So we try to wipe away all of our assumptions, first and foremost, to get a clean slate, and then really get into that like customer’s mindset as much as possible and give a lot of weight and credibility to what they say and how they say it and how they perceive the product’s value, because then if you get that right, you’ve got the baseline principles to then go test those out. Another thing that’s really important, too, that we love to do is we actually love to kind of understand the language that the customers use to describe their products because, you know, again, as marketers or people who are very close to the product, or are owners or founders, it’s very easy to think of it in terms of like how you think about it now that you’re you being really close to it.
But like customers have a totally different language and they have a very like non-formal way of talking about it. It’s more conversational and more like what I would say, how you just talk to a friend when they’re leaving reviews on Amazon. And so that’s like we try and take cues from their language when we’re building out messaging, testing, and infuse that personality, infuse the way the customers talk about the product to their friends, into the message tests themselves.
So it feels more or less like marketing, speak it more how people speak one to each other about a certain product.
Okay. So you’ve done this research, you understand your customer, you understand kind of the language they speak and the terms that they’re using, those positive terms that they’re using to talk about your product. So now you’ve got, you know, you’ve got several value propositions and you’ve got 20 or 30 messages around those value propositions. What is really the next step?
So now you’re ready to start creating content that you can put on to Facebook. So what’s that bridge between? I know what my customer is saying and I’ve got all of these messages, now what do I do? And you mentioned creating content that is very similar, but using different messages in that similar content. Can you expand on that a little?
You want to have control over all the variables and have the variable that’s the difference. The biggest difference be the message itself. Right. So when you’re talking about like visuals that you’re using, if you can use the same visual for like say it’s a static image and a title and tag tests, like you want that to be. The only thing that’s different is the messaging within that title or headline, and then that visual. If you can keep those as constant, then you don’t have another variable in there that can skew the test. Because we’ve seen if we try and, you know, pairing a different visual with a different message that has a huge impact on performance. And then you’ve you’ve kind of lost your North Star in terms of like what’s actually working and what’s actually moving the needle for your on the messaging front because you’ve got another variable that’s in the works. And that’s what’s a good methodology or good testing methodology principles, like if you’re actually trying to hone in on what’s moving needle have as few things change as possible.
And so then when you’re setting those up, if you do it as a true split test on Facebook and put an equal amount of spend on those, or on a different platform on Instagram, you can kind of see what type of engagement you have. We kind of see what your KPIs that you want to look at, whether it’s click through, engagement, add to carts, or whatever that is, your KPI that you’re looking for, you can kind of parse that on. Like this message really got people to click through and that’s what we want. This people really got to engage. We had way more comments on this post. It had this message in there. And you can kind of start to see what’s working for your customers and what’s really making them take action, whatever that action is.
Okay, so you’ve got your value propositions, you’ve got your messages. At this point, you are putting them into static content. So you can do this with content that you already have. You’re just changing up the messaging. This is really low production quality, right? Doesn’t need to be super high production quality to do this once you’re to that point, once you’ve got these out on Facebook.
Tell me how your analyzing those results as they come back in.
Yeah, you want to get the closest KPI to your final action as possible, like your final and desired outcome. Right. If it’s a purchase, you know you want that to be ‘add to carts’ is probably like your best bet to see like what’s actually people are doing. It’s not just a click through, it’s not just a post engagement. You want to get it as close as you can and that does require some amount of spend.
You can decide, depending on your price point of your product and how much testing budget you have, what KPI down that purchase path you want to like look into. As far as saying this is like the true indicator of how well it’s doing. Oftentimes like for us, a lot of our clients, conversion is the end goal. And so it’s either ‘add to cart’ or conversion depending on the price point because again, if it’s a higher price point item of like say a $2,000 smoker, you know, like a grill smoker, I guess going to take a lot more testing spend to get the conversion metrics to actually have statistical significance on it, but if it say something that’s like, you know, a $25 Squatty Potty and you actually can acquire customers at $15, like in your testing these messages on a static ad, you actually could get a lot closer to significance on something like an initiate checkout or, you know, an add to cart. Like, you know, that type of metric is a lot more achievable at a smaller scale.
So I would just say picking a metric that is close to the final action you want them to do and seeing what actually gets them as close as they can to that checkout process.
Yes. So now that you have your your message testing, you’ve got some confidence around that message testing. How do you determine what style of video to use with those specific messages? And can you maybe walk through a couple of different styles of of of video that the that the viewer could create on their own?
Yeah. I mean, there’s we kind of have like a whole arsenal of different types of videos that you kind of deploy for different messages or different executions. So let me give you an example of one like that we did for a company called Wise. It’s a really like inexpensive $20 smart camera. So one of the things we saw on the message testing that was really resonating with customers was how easy of a setup it was, because often with smart devices, it’s annoying and it’s hard to pair, and they just said it was so easy to set up. So we did a setup video, where all it was was almost like a phone. It was just going through the whole process of setting up a wise cam for the first time on your Wi-Fi network in under 60 seconds. And we had like a timer that was associated with it.
So you can literally see it being set up in real time. And then we showed like the actual live video feed, like after it was set up right then and there like start to finish, which is like again, it’s just like encapsulating that message. It resonated with people. What impressed to customers was how easy it was because that was a pain point that other products had had or people experience with other smart products is it was hard to pair, or it wasn’t working or you’d have to restart the set up several times, and it took a while to figure it out.
Another another example of a message that resonated really well in our tests early on that determined kind of video style we wanted to go with. It was for a company called Haven Lock, which is essentially a door lock that goes at the base of your door jamb that actually has like a wedge that props up that is, you know, so much stronger than a deadbolt.
The way that the device works, even with like a SWAT battering ram, you couldn’t tear down a door with one of these haven locks in front of it. And so, one of the things that like just resonated a lot with our customers is a message around peace of mind, of having the message of like this is something that is helps me sleep at night a little bit better knowing that like I have an extra layer of security behind a deadbolt because I know deadbolts can be kicked in, you know, fairly easily, on a standard door, and so what we did is we actually interviewed a couple of customers who had some scary experiences with like people trying to get into their house at that point in time. But they had a haven lock, and it thwarted kind of the people who are trying to get into their house and the people had actually given up and and taken off and actually broke into a neighbor’s house.
The message was that like, even though they had this scary event happen with the Haven Lock, it gave them peace of mind because they literally saw an example of how the Haven Lock stopped an intruder from getting into their house. And they know that if their kids are at home or or their spouse is at home and like, you know, they’re all like working, or they’re deployed, or whatever it may be, that they have a little extra peace of mind, that there’s extra protection for their family, and that is that resonated with customers and did really, really well in terms of like the actual message testing that we did, as well as the video executions for them. Myself and Johnny Vance, another creative director at Harmon Brothers, we went through and kind of developed an entire array of 15 different types of ads that we saw scouring across thousands of different ad accounts.
That had tremendous success on Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and kind of identified like 15 main types of ads that had a high level of efficacy of that were also simple because at Harvard we’re known for kind of our big, you know, high production value or throwing cars off of cliffs. You know, we’re doing all sorts of crazy stuff that are high concept ads, but we also recognize that there are a lot of people who are at different phase of their company’s lifecycle and they can’t afford a big campaign like that, but they need ads that are effective. And so Johnny and myself kind of identified those 15 different types of ad deconstruct them for you have a huge library of examples of like how to make those ads and put them together in a course of easy, easy way to start those ads right away, which is a great starting point for people who are wanting to rapidly iterate on simple videos that have effective sales strategies behind them.
And for the viewers of this video, if you would like access to that Harmon Brothers University “Easy As The Sale” course you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org and I can get you access to that.
Yeah so one of the things that I think we’ve seen have a lot a high level of impact on this getting the right messaging, and having the right resonance, and the right humor is that, you know, people when they’re being sold something, they automatically have a little bit of a guard up on them. And so if you’re talking to them in marketing jargon, or if you’re talking to them in a way that is not entertaining, there’s immediately a little bit of a ” OK guy, like see you later.” Like, “I don’t want to I want to be bothered by you hard selling me on something,” right? And so I think one of the things that we found a lot of success with is figuring out how to speak to them again, how a friend speaks to another friend. And also, with the added benefit of having humor integrated in there, it lowers those guards a little bit more.
It makes it feel more familiar, more friendly in terms of like one person talking to another, as well as just like I’m being entertained by this who doesn’t like to be entertained. And I think that that’s like something in both the copy that we write, both the messaging we put in our headlines, both like, you know, how we actually construct our videos, and how we cast our characters and how we how we craft that message that’s coming from the brand.
We always try and have that, like, strong resonance. Oh, they get me. They understand my life. They understand the problem I’m trying to solve, as well as like, these guys are just entertaining me right now, which builds a lot of like value on the brand side of like, we’re entertaining you while we’re also selling you.
So that’s why I think for for me it’s really important to nail those early messages upfront, and doing the due diligence and really understanding your customer and really understanding what motivates them. And this applies, I think, on every level of marketing, whether that’s from a direct to consumer product or whether that’s a B to B product. You have to understand your audience, understand how they think, understand what problems they’re trying to solve in a meaningful way and speak to those things, you know, speak to those problems in a genuine way that resonates with them, because if you miss that and you’re just like off in left field, just like talking marketing jargon or you’re like talking to where it’s like, “Yeah, that’s not my problem. You don’t get me.” You instantly lose credibility. You instantly lose any ability to sell the product. They might even like the product, but if you can’t tell them why they like the product in a way that resonates with them or at least entertains them, you lose that opportunity to sell that product to that individual.
So just to wrap up here, Shane, can you run through those steps again?
Yeah, again, to wrap up, the first step is to really understand who your consumer is. And again, you can get those things through scraping comments on videos, comments on social posts, customer reviews that are left on websites, that’s customer surveys. We also like to actually interview people within your loved group and ask them deeper probing questions. That’s the step number one, and then out of that information, you’re getting in from that like qualitative research, quantifying the frequency of like mentions or things that really like stood out to people that they see as valuable that the product brings to them and identifying kind of those top ten messages or value props that really resonate with them in a powerful way. And then after that, we, you know, the way we tested is we go to Facebook, we try to keep as many things as equal utilizing that language in messaging that we found to customers and putting it out in the marketplace, and seeing what resonates and what we’re what kind of response we get from the actual, like, marketplace at large, and then identifying those top messages that really, you know, had a way higher performance in terms of engagement, in terms of getting people down the path of purchase and then utilizing those messages to craft creative that speaks to those messages in a powerful way, that speaks to them in a way that really highlights those messages. And then going out and creating that content for them and running that content, knowing that you tested through it, you’ve got the right messaging, you’ve got the right resonance.
That really strikes a chord with people.
That’s great. Any final words for our viewers?
Yeah, I think I think for us, like just after doing this for a long time, like, you know, at Harmon Brother’s we’ve been at it for about a decade now. And one thing we see over and over again, challenging our assumptions is a good thing. Not assuming we know the customer perfectly is a really good thing because we’re constantly surprised when we question our own assumptions and go into testing and see what the response actually is.
We are always surprised by how much we learn from it and then also how much additional performance can be gained when those messages are fully vetted and tested in a way, in an effective way. Because you know, we see massive performance differential when it’s properly tested. So don’t be afraid of testing. Lean into testing. It’s your friend for sure. It takes some discipline, but it is a key piece to how we see the success of our clients and actually achieving that with more consistent results.
Thank you, Shane. Thanks to our viewers. If you have any questions, you’re welcome to reach out to me directly. kurt@ harmonbrothers.com and email@example.com as well. We’ve enjoyed being here, appreciate you guys.