The Power of a Handshake

I took a Marketing class in High School. In one of the first classes, we went through how to shake hands.

Fairly simple.

My teacher – who was a woman – went around the room shaking everyone’s hands. Then, she broke down what had happened.

As we all shook her hand, many gave her a soft grip. Particularly the men. Pretty much instinctively.

What she explained, was that by not giving her a firm handshake, you are not putting her on equal ground.

This was burned in my mind. Always have a firm handshake.

Not as a power move to get the upper hand. A handshake that says, I see you, I hear you, I respect you, and with no judgement, I am glad to meet you.

This is one of the many things I admire about my grandfather.

His handshake.

No matter who you were, he gave you the best handshake.

It was firm.

He looked you in the eye and made sure you knew that you mattered. Then, he would proceed to have a conversation with you.

The conversation would flow like you were best friends. You could sense he genuinely wanted to talk to you, because he genuinely did.

Never an ounce of judgement came from him. As far as he was concerned, you were equals. And if you asked for help, having just met him, he would give it if he could.

No questions asked.

His handshake always reflected this. It never wavered.

I’m not sure I have met anyone else like that.

The world needs more people like my grandfather. But, that’s a tough ask.

At least, let’s not underestimate the power of a handshake.

Three chords and the truth

Johnny Cash released Folsom Prison Blues in 1955.

It wasn’t until many years later that he managed to actually land himself in prison, if only for a night.

While Cash sang about and played in prisons, having never been, he was speaking a truth.

At the time, not entirely his own truth, but his audiences.

He was a master at it. Wearing black as a symbol for the neglected. He was the man in black.

It was his trade mark.

It’s what he sang.

He sang a truth about an audience. And, they loved him for it.

I love him for it.

The same holds true for our marketing.

Understanding our audience. Telling a story that’s their truth.

We buy stories, so tell a great story.

All you need is three chords and the truth.

When should you worry about your competitors?

If you’re not too familiar with New Coke, it’s because it was a colossal failure.

Coke began worrying about their competitors.

So much so, they changed their iconic product to be like the competition.

A reformulation of their soda to taste more like Pepsi-Cola.

It lasted 3 months.

And, to relaunch their original formula, it went through a rebrand and was introduced as “Coca-Cola Classic”.

In short, don’t be like New Coke.

Stop worrying about your competitors.

Too often, I’m in a meeting and someone asks “what is XYZ competitor doing?”

Typically, we’re talking about top of the funnel marketing activities.

This is the wrong time to be concerned about a competitor.

Sure, we want to have a pulse on the competition.

But, there is a time and a place for this.

It’s at the end of the funnel.

If we think about an attribution model, concern about competitors would be last-click attribution.

It’s when our audience begins to evaluate their last options directly before making a purchase.

It’s when we have battle cards. Competitive analysis landing pages.

Only then should you heavily discuss the competition.

Anything before that, we should be telling our own story. One that resonates with our audience.

Not trying to be like the competition.

Let’s avoid becoming New Coke.

In defense of predictable routines

Over the 2019 holiday’s I took a trip to Coronado.

Saw the famous hotel, did a bike ride around the island. All in all, it was a nice visit.

Except, for one incident.


I went downtown to have breakfast one morning – to a restaurant who shall remain nameless, because the food was pretty good.

Since it was holiday, I was expecting to have breakfast around 11 am. Brunch if you will.

Sat down outside. It was warm, sunny, this was the perfect environment for a great breakfast.

Asked for the breakfast menu.

Then, was politely informed that breakfast ends at 10 am.


You serve a sit-down breakfast and end it at 10 am!?

What are people supposed to eat between 10 am and noon!?

I was confused. Appalled. Flabbergasted. And many other things.

I was forced to have a club sandwich and truffle fries. While delicious, it’s not appropriate at 11 am.

For me, breakfast comes first. Before any other meal.

It’s a morning routine and it provides me comfort. Even if the island of Coronado is actively working against me.

Routine can be as simple as eating breakfast first. Or, as complex as a traditional work schedule. Like the old school “9-5”, that so many have an aversion to.

In the millennial work world – and I am a millennial – there’s an aversion to being “9-5”. Or, I shouldn’t have to work 40 hours a week.

You might hear things like, if I get the job done, I should be able to do it where I want, when I want, and for however long I want.

While I don’t disagree with this, per se, I don’t think we should abandon a predictable routine.

What the old style of working does, if we think of “9-5” as the old style, is provides a stable routine.

It ensures you are putting in the time, even if you don’t feel 100% that day. It forces you to show up, and showing up is a huge part of the battle.

It holds you accountable. There is an expectation you will be there when you say you’re going to be there. Even if that expectation is just with yourself.

All of these things are beneficial to doing good work. Even the strongest opponents of the office based 9-5, like Tim Ferriss, advocate for a routine. It’s why he tries to understand the morning routines of highly effective people.

Anecdotally, I can say routines like this are nice. A stable routine allows me to be more creative.

Particularly now, while COIVD-19 is doing its best to destroy all our routines. It’s more important than ever to keep at least a small piece of our routine.

Like the solace I get in eating breakfast first. Before everything else. That’s the routine I like.

It’s comfortable, predictable, and I can go about my day putting my mental headspace towards problems and pursuits that I find more interesting.

Whether it’s between the hours of 9-5 or not.

Giving your audience a reason

If you have a reason to do something, it’s more likely you’ll actually do it.

Pretty obvious. So obvious, you might not even continue reading.

As it turns out, this isn’t particularly obvious to most marketers.

But, it was obvious to one.

Lester Wunderman.

Who wanted to test a theory.

The theory was, if I give my audience a reason to watch my T.V. ads, they will hear my message and purchase my product.

In a high stake’s competition, Wunderman bet the Columbia account against McCann. Test this theory, if it works, Wunderman gets the account. If it doesn’t, McCann gets the account.

Winner takes all.

This is all taking place at the height of Mad Men era advertising. Needless to say, McCann is the frontrunner in this competition.

What happened next is the Gold Box campaign.

Wunderman placed a Gold Box in his magazine advertisements requesting the reader to look for his T.V. commercial.

Giving the target audience a reason to look for the advertisement.

It was a roaring success.

He beat McCann in every test market.

It was an “omni-channel” campaign where he used one channel to give the audience a reason to engage with him on another channel.

In our next campaign, how can we be more like Wunderman and offer our audience a reason to look for us?

A thank you to Malcolm Gladwell and the Tipping Point for providing this example.