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Virtual Reality and Subliminal Marketing

Virtual reality (VR) has become a reality, as nearly every tech company has created a product that features it, and it is now seen by many as mainstream. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive are just a few examples of household names that have launched us into the future of the immersive experience.

There is little doubt that VR has the potential to revolutionize the entire entertainment, tourism and even learning industries if audiences adopt the concept of strapping a device to their heads. At the same time, there will be those who feel instantly compelled to compare the technology to such fads as the first 3D television.

However, if the masses embrace VR as predicted, should we be concerned that this completely immersive experience could lead us once again down the dark road of sinister subliminal advertising?

Applied to VR equipment and other, similar technology, subliminal advertising has the increasing capability of wielding a much deeper impact on the unknowing user. given the vast, immersive characteristics of the VR environment. Consider one concept we’ve seen, where music apps and a smartwatch claim to play subliminal messages at a frequency overlaying music that cannot be detected by the ear, but only by the subconscious brain. This seemingly harmless idea could be incredibly valuable to savvy advertising agencies, as well as to candidates running for office.

Removing the everyday distractions of modern life and locking consumers away in an entirely immersive experience is every marketer’s dream — so before “plugging in,” we should all consider the potential implications of the use of this unregulated technology to manipulate us.

When we take a closer look at the advertising that surrounds us, it’s obvious that subliminal messages are real and powerful, as seen in one 2015 example created by a Brazilian advertising agency. The advertisers placed a billboard of people yawning at a busy metro station in Sao Paulo. This contagious billboardwas fitted with a motion sensor that automatically detected when commuters were passing by and then displayed a video of somebody yawning.

The campaign aimed to convince passers-by that they were tired by using infectious yawning. The billboard followed the yawning video with this message: “Did you yawn, too? Time for coffee!” If it is possible to convince busy commuters to buy coffee by broadcasting a subliminal message, can you imagine the power potentially wielded within an immersive virtual reality experience that is completely free from distraction?

The gathering of data from our online purchases already allows subtle messaging for influential purposes, so the adverts that pop up and the messages we receive are certainly no accident or coincidence. Everywhere we turn, we are unwittingly subjected to product placements in video games and movies, but we congratulate ourselves on being able to see the messages and resist their pull. However, would we be as resistant to such messages if they appeared while we were completely immersed in virtual reality?

There is an enormous responsibility for any advertising agency considering bringing any form of advertising or marketing to virtual reality. If the consumer experience is in any way tainted by the out-of-date and detested marketing messages from our past, consumers will fail even to adopt the medium.

The main problem is that the current method of advertising is broken, and billions of dollars are wasted on ads that are either not seen or deemed irrelevant to a consumer’s lifestyle. This change in customer behavior is ushering in a new era of marketing called “targeted display advertising” (TDA) that uses consumers’ own data to deliver personalized ads that resonate with them.

Organizations finally have a handle on big data, and they will be able to leverage our mobile devices to learn what we’re interested in even before we clearly know ourselves, based solely on our browsing histories.

As we drift between devices and screens, we have surrounded ourselves with wave of white noise that has become a frustrating obstacle for any advertiser striving to stand out amongst all the distractions. However, a headset that removes any form of outside interruption by pumping sound into a consumer’s ears and preventing his or her eyes from wandering could make subliminal messaging hard to avoid.

Before becoming paranoid about what’s to come, it is important to understand how this technology can also be used for the greater good, too.

Virtual reality can make a positive difference in our lives by opening up fantastic opportunities for learning, rehabilitation, teaching and tourism. But I would like to see more conversations and debates about how subliminal marketing messages should be used in that environment, to help solve any problems before they occur.

What are your thoughts on the immersive experience virtual reality delivers to audiences, and about the benefits and downsides of its being leveraged to deliver subliminal messaging?

Growth Personal Development

PR & Marketing Secrets for a Successful Book Launch

The 7 Absolute Musts to Boost Book Sales

Finally! You finished your book and it is ready to publish! You’ve spent months – possibly even years – perfecting this literary masterpiece and now that the hard work is over, it’s time to sit back and let the royalties roll in…

If only it were that simple.   

Whether you decided to self-publish or if you chose the traditional route, if you launch your book without a marketing plan, the truth is FAR fewer people will read it. With over 4000 books published each day in a growing crowd of competition, it takes careful planning and an action-oriented marketing strategy to get your book the attention it deserves. Even if your publishing company has its own marketing department, remember, no one will fight for your book as much as you will.

So now that the launch date is set (or almost set) what do you need to do?

Google provides an overwhelming list of book launch to-dos, but our team of book marketing experts whittled it down to the 7 ABSOLUTE MUSTS for a successful book launch. The following advice shows both self and traditionally published authors how to stand out from the crowd and get more eyes on their book.

1. Create a Launch & Marketing Plan:

Your launch plan is a blueprint to your entire book launch. It outlines what you need to do, when you need to do it, and the resources, people, and tools you will need to get it all done. A successful book launch begins with a marketing plan. (Luckily for you, the following list is everything you need for your marketing plan.)

2. Create a Media Kit:

When a journalist or reviewer asks about your book, you need to be prepared. The purpose of a media kit is to grab the attention of journalists and producers and make them want to write a review, article, or do an interview with you. The media kit should be a one-stop shop with all the information needed to get this done.  

The basic information you should include in your media kit is:

  • Contact Information: Your name, email address, phone number.


  • Book Facts: Website, release date, retail price, purchasing information.


  • Book Details & Author Info: Brief author bio, and a short book description or synopsis. (Remember, brevity is key. Your bio and the book synopsis should only be a few sentences each.)


  • Attention Grabbers: This is where you can get creative and really sell your book!  Why do people want to read it? Does it fill a void or respond to a current trend or need? Perhaps you want to include a bulleted list of interview talking points, or a few article headlines or pitch ideas. At the very least, include a few sentences describing the main reason to buy.


  • Reviews / Awards: What are people saying about your book? Has it won any awards or gotten positive feedback? The media should know! The review doesn’t have to come from a famous critic or top news outlet – but if you have one, that’s great! –  A positive Amazon or Facebook review works perfectly.


  • Images: One or two high resolution photos of the book cover and one author headshot.


  • Media Release/ Press Release: Almost all of the above items can be included in a media release or press release. A press release is formal in tone. It is written like a news story and includes information that is more factual than promotional. Even if you are not sending it out on the official wire (through a service like PRweb), there are specific style and formatting guidelines you should follow to ensure journalists can read your information quickly and easily. In contrast, Media releases are less formal and more visually appealing. They can be sent via email to media contacts and in our experience, these are the best way to get interviews and print placements.

There are a variety of different ways to organize the above information in a media kit.  Some authors make giant media kits filled with every document, pdf, and picture related to the book. Others include only the nitty gritty. We recommend organizing the information into 2 PDFs (one fact sheet and one media release) and several images.

3. Get your Social Media in Order:

You likely already have a personal profile on Facebook, but creating a public author page is also important. This tip might sound obvious, but because we see so many authors make this mistake, the case for public profiles had to be included in this list. So here it is:

In general, public pages have better tools for advertising and promotions and they have more capabilities and plug-ins which will give your fans (or anyone who views your page) a better experience. Pages give you the ability to add “call-to-action” or “buy-now” buttons, review pages, landing pages, and so much more. They provide in-depth statistics and insights into your fans’ behaviors so you can better target ads.

In addition to just looking more professional, Facebook pages are optimized so that people can find you more easily (and since many people today use Facebook like a search engine, this is important.)

4. Website and/or Sales Page:

You don’t need to be an internet wiz or spend a fortune hiring HTML coders, but a good landing page is crucial for book sales. Your website should include a compelling description of the book, photos, reviews, and information about you as the author. Above all, it should contain all purchasing information and links with a clear “call-to-action” to buy.

5. Get Book Reviews:

Reviews aren’t just important, they are vital. Reviews give books greater visibility and a greater chance of getting found by more readers. They provide social proof that your book is worth buying. Your reviews will go in your media kit, on Amazon, on your website, and more. You’ve probably received ringing endorsements from your friends and family – (and if you haven’t, or if you haven’t gotten them in writing, what are you waiting for?!)

Remember, the more people that read your book, the more reviews you will get. Send advanced copies of the book to everyone in your close network and ask them to review on Amazon, Facebook, or other social platforms. Even a positive feedback sent via email is great for your arsonal of endorsements.

Amazon and Facebook reviews are great. What’s even better? Reviews from trusted news sites or medias authorities. To get your book reviewed or featured by established media outlets, send advance copies of your book and media kit to book critics, bloggers, and review sites. If you don’t have access to a media list or database like Cision, you will have to do some Google research to find the right person to speak with. Also, be sure to include a personalized note explaining who you are and why you think they would be interested in your book.   

6. Get the Word Out – Media Attention:

Media attention is the best way to boost sales and get the word out about your book. Doing author interviews (radio, podcast, tv), writing a newspaper opinion piece, or getting quoted in a magazine will give you more credibility and social proof than anything else.

A compelling media pitch is key to landing these placements. Your pitch should outline why your story would be a great fit for their show (or magazine, news site, etc) and what their audience would gain from what you have to say. Remember, unless you are reaching out to the media with an explicit request for them to review the book, your pitch can’t sell the book too hard. (Pitches that are too promotional get sent to the sales department to buy ad space.)  Instead, your pitch should sell you and your message and they should be customized to fit to the outlet/contact that you’re pitching.

Once you have a killer pitch, make a media list of who to send it to (include outlets on both the local and national level.) Again, if you don’t have access to a media list or database like Cision you will have to do some Google research to find the right person to speak with (usually a journalist, editor or producer.)

7. Recruit a Launch Team:

When launching a book there is so much that needs to be done. The above list includes only the most important items and even this list is overwhelming! That’s why you need a launch team. Whether they are hired help or volunteers, your launch team will help you pull everything together (from soliciting reviews, booking interviews or media appearances, scheduling bookstore events, organizing the launch party, and promoting on social media…even just hearing you vent.) Recruit a few close friends and/or hire a professional to ensure things run smoothly and you make the most out of your big day.  Remember, behind every successful author is a great support team.

Have marketing questions?  Want to strategize? Need to vent?

Farrow Communications has got your back.

Call us at 866-949-6868 or click HERE to schedule a free strategy session.

Best Practices Marketing Personal Development Technology

Your Response to AI Is Actually a Personality Test

I am working with large companies on their use of Artificial Intelligence all the time, and it is possibly the most polarizing technology I have ever been involved with. Some people believe that AI will give us all a life of leisure, with machines doing more of the work so we don’t need to slave away for 40 hours a week. Others are spooked because they think that AI is coming for our jobs. What seems hard for each of those groups is that they are both essentially projecting the same thing–it’s just a question of whether they are optimistic or pessimistic personalities.

I see the same thing with my own clients–AI is equally polarizing, but this time it is around its effectiveness. Some are AI skeptics, talking about how the technology is over-hyped. Others believe it is magic, and will buy anything with those two magic letters. Both views are right–and wrong. AI just isn’t very simple.

Businesses should always be looking to improve their return on investment, which means choosing the simplest technique that solves the problem. Sometimes that’s AI, but often it’s something simpler, cheaper, and lower risk, so we should start there. Many folks are surprised when I say that, because they expect me to be pushing AI for everything, but I don’t see how that makes any sense. I spoke with a potential new client who was so taken aback that as we were leaving, they said to us, “Gee, we speak to a lot of vendors, but thanks for surprising us.”

If you are listening to vendors blathering on about that 5G blockchain kind of AI, it’s time to stop listening to buzzwords and start looking for competence. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. If your spidey sense starts to tingle every time they start talking about neural networks, listen to that inner voice. AI is no different from every other kind of approach out there. Used appropriately, it can be a huge benefit to your business. But you should be asking questions if your vendors wave their hands and can’t really explain why AI is needed and exactly why it works better. Don’t pay surge pricing for the flavor of the month.

Best Practices Economics Entrepreneurship Industries Marketing Personal Development Sales Technology

How Technology Changed the Billion-Dollar Ad Game

The advertising industry has had a long and successful history. It has been a very big business, especially for brands like Procter & Gamble, which topped AdAge.com’s list of the world’s five largest advertisers with $10.5 billion in advertising spending.

For decades, the personal care company kept its products front and center in the minds of consumers – on TV, in print and eventually online. The formula was simple: P&G would spend a huge amount on advertising and loyal customers would respond by buying its products.

That is no longer the case. Technology has changed the ad game for P&G – and not in a good way.

Brief Timeline of Advertising Game-Changers

So if your company is like P&G, what should you do? Start with a fresh look at how much technology and advertising have changed over the last 30 years.

As you look at this timeline, pay attention to how technology worked for – or against – advertisers throughout recent history. Then, use my Hard Trends Methodology to predict what’s next.

1990s – Hundreds of cable channels and the Internet launched, and advertisers jumped to buy space wherever their audiences would be.

Early 2000s – TiVo was one of the first disruptors to these seemingly endless advertising avenues. For the first time, consumers had power over when they got their content and began to skip the ads.

2001 – Next came iPods, which could play downloaded media while consumers were on the go.

2004 – Amazon.com launched as a virtual bookstore and began laying the groundwork for online retailers

2006 – Social media pioneer Facebook opened the News Feed, in which anybody – and any brand – could self-publish content. Facebook ads, for which advertisers once again had to “pay to play,” wouldn’t come until later.

2007 – Netflix went from DVD to streaming and never looked back. Consumers could now also choose what to watch, whenever they wanted to.

Also in 2007Smartphones came on the scene, allowing consumers to carry all types of media in their hands. The ad industry had to go mobile – often in addition to going traditional. Though it wasn’t easy to navigate at first, by 2015 mobile ad spending would top $28 billion.

2008 – Spotify started running on advertising dollars initially, but also offered premium, ad-free packages to consumers at nominal prices.

2009 – In the late 2000s, YouTube began allowing pre-roll ads; advertisers were once again able to recapture a very captive audience.

2012 – Facebook purchased Instagram. It would be five years before the $1 billion gamble would pay off, but in the meantime, real people became the faces of brands. The newest media-buying currency was the influence of the crafty, hip or carpool moms who had become spokespeople.

2015 – Amazon.com hit a milestone as it accounted for at least half of all e-commerce growth. Many experts attributed sales success to the debut of the company’s one-click ordering.

2018 and beyondNot only is data-driven advertising becoming more popular, it’s expected in today’s “show me you know me” consumer culture.

If you use my Hard Trends Methodology to look ahead to the future of advertising, you’ll be able to anticipate that the next decade will move even faster. Even more devices are likely to be developed, and they will ultimately be connected to each other as an integral part of our lives.

Now is the time to learn to anticipate the next wave of technology. Start with my book, The Anticipatory Organization, which is fittingly available with one-click ordering on Amazon.com right now.

Entrepreneurship Management Marketing Personal Development

The Sudden Death of Products and Services

Texas Sunset

Your customer has spoken: products and services are dead.

Consumed by new marketing strategies, all products and services have been replaced.

The next next thing in marketing and branding?


Marketing and Branding with Chris WestfallCalling something a product or service just doesn’t make any sense in the new economy. The description is out of date. Those words don’t apply to today’s consumers or companies.

Marketing professionals and sales people need to understand:
Products and services are dead.

Every leader has to understand: every company, everywhere, is selling experiences.


Think about it: The things that we buy and consume, either as individuals or as a corporate entity, are not products. These things are not services.

We buy, acquire, endure and enjoy experiences.

Related: Four Ways to Overcome Your Blind Spot on Entrepreneur.com

Today, commerce trades on the experience you have, and the experience you provide.

Consider these experiential products:

  • A vacation in Hawai’i
  • Purchasing a new Porsche Panamera
  • Transitioning your organization to SAP CRM
  • Changing vendors for your outsourced call center

Which of these are products, and which are services? Answer: None, and all. The old words don’t work anymore; we need to choose new ones if we want to tell a story that’s authentic and complete. And all customers – all consumers – crave authenticity.

Marketing Products and Services in a VaccuumYou see, no product exists in a vaccuum.

Even a vaccuum cleaner.

No service stands alone without products. These things are really events, or experiences, made up of a series of products, services and interactions.

And so many things are outside the scope of either products or services. For example: what if you donate to a non-profit? What about that last iPhone app, or a new piece of software – what is it exactly, product or service?

What we want, what we pay for and what we get can all be summed up in one way: experiences.

Today’s customer (whether a corporation or a person, and by the way they are NOT the same) wants an experience. Perhaps an experience that is fantastic (like visiting the most beautiful place on the planet, Hawai’i) or excruciating (transitioning to SAP CRM, for example, because your CFO chose the low-bidder on the job).

Even a traditional product purchase, like buying a new car, requires a series of events that create an experience that circumvents the “product” (whatever the hell that is, anyway). For example, when you buy a car, unless you have $108,433.00 cash (that’s a nice car! welcome to the C-Suite), you are going to need financing.

Maybe you will lease the vehicle. Maybe you will talk to the finance manager, or the sales manager, about your options. You go through a series of events and choices; this is all part of the experience of ownership. The most traditional “product” in America (the automobile) gives you an experience. The experience of the purchase, the experience of the service, and the experience of the brand. How does your car make you feel about yourself? Are you comfortable, and do you feel powerful behind the wheel? Those feelings are as real as the tires and the spark plugs – a very real experience, indeed.

Marketing Matters

“Product” and “service” are incomplete definitions. Consider the experience you want to have, as a consumer or a corporation. And, if you want to reach new customers in new ways, think long and hard about the total customer experience. Services and products alone just aren’t cutting it anymore.


Bullet Proof Branding by Chris WestfallMore Information and Additional Resources: 

Check out Bullet Proof Branding.  Find out how Cisco, Cargill, the Huffington Post and other organizations are creating impact in the digital age.

With a foreword by Ted Rubin, this book takes a look at how the conversation is changing for companies and individuals, in the age of social media.

About the Author: Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, including BulletProof Branding. His latest book is called Leadership Language, coming from Wiley in the fall of 2018. A business coach to entrepreneurial leaders on four continents, Chris Westfall has reshaped brands around the globe – creating multi-million dollar results in the process. His clients have appeared on Shark Tank, Dragons’ Den in Canada and Shark Tank – Australia. Find out more on his website and follow him on twitter.

Photo credits: Texas Sunset by the author. Girl with laptop and vacuum cleaner: creative commons via flickr.

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