I sat down and considered whether we should use Armstrong as a spokesperson. Eventually, I came up with a rational, sensible list of reasons why Armstrong wouldn't work. One, he'd been used in other ad campaigns, so he might not be clearly identified with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Testimonials have been done a lot-the company is going to want something more unexpected. Besides, I thought, what if Armstrong loses the next Tour de France? And anyway, the focus is too narrow. Bristol-Myers Squibb isn't just a cancer-drug company, they make baby formula and Exedrin and a ton of other miracle drugs. So instead we came up with a much more generic corporate campaign. To my embarrassment, we lost the account to the other agency. And guess what their campaign featured? Lance Armstrong, who was alive because of the drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb, bouncing his beautiful baby son. The spot brought tears to everybody's eyes-especially mine, as I mourned the lost account. Thinking over my mistake, I felt like an idiot. I knew in my gut that everybody loves a story with a happy ending, even if they've heard it again and again. But instead of trusting my instincts, I had focused on all the rational reasons why we should do something else. And it was a big mistake. Stop Listening
Sometimes we're so focused on what someone says that we forget to read the other person's nuances and gestures. As Barbara and Allan Pease put it in their book Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, "in face-to-face communications, nonverbal signals account for 60 to 80 percent of the impact of the message, while vocal sounds make up 20 to 30 percent. The other 7 to 10 percent is words." If an employer asks a staff member if she's happy that day, and she replies "Yes," it's that much easier to ignore the body signals that shout out how miserable she's feeling. Language can conceal and obfuscate as well as clarify and elaborate. Frequently, in business, language asks us to take the answers we hear at face value, when often the real communication isn't one that has been put into words at all.