Skip to main content

Terry O’Reilly is a veteran marketer, award-winning radio personality, and compelling storyteller. Audiences worldwide have seen his ads for companies like Volkswagen, Goodyear Tires, and Tim Hortons. They have listened to his podcast, Under the Influence. They’ve read his books, The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture and This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence. Recently, Mujo CEO Adam Wilkins interviewed Terry, and asked him to share his insights about the ever-evolving digital marketing industry.

Terry O’Reilly and The Shish Kabob Theory

Over time, an increasing number of resources have become available to marketers. When Terry began his career in advertising more than 30 years ago, there was no social media, SEO, PPC, etc. Yet, as these marketing avenues have materialized, people have lost sight of the big picture or the shish kabob, as Terry calls it.

Visualize, for a moment, the chicken, the mushroom, green pepper, and so on. A single skewer holds them all. These ingredients are like the treats available to marketers, “you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., but it should all be held together by a skewer…everything should feel like it’s coming from the same place, and that’s the skewer. And I think amateurs make that mistake so often where they may be doing a lot of marketing, but everything feels like a one-off. There’s no connective tissue.”

Terry believes that great marketing requires an understanding of how all the pieces fit together to deliver a cohesive message. “If someone sees my tweet, if someone sees my Facebook page, if someone sees my business card, will it all feel like it’s coming from the same place? In other words, will it have the same colors at work, the same language, the same tonality, but standing on their own, they’re all interesting?” He cites companies like Apple and Nike that maintain their brand image across platforms.

This Time, With Feeling

A marketing message, while it must be cohesive, must also have emotional resonance. “I’m a big believer that the best marketing has a huge amount of emotion in it because … I think if people feel something, if they feel your marketing in their gut, if they have a visceral reaction to it, the chances of them acting on it, go way up. As opposed to seeing a piece of marketing, understanding it intellectually, and just filing it,” Terry stated. However, some products or services are easier to imbue with emotion than others.

For example, creating emotional resonance in a real estate ad isn’t difficult, when you consider that buying a home is an emotionally-charged purchase for most people. On the other hand, ensuring your audience gets the feels from a tire ad is much more challenging. However, Terry notes that ads like these from Michelin manage to accomplish exactly that.

When to Be a Rule-Breaker

The maxim, ‘you have to learn the rules before you can break them’, rings true when it comes to marketing. Advertising veterans have demonstrated time and time again how powerful rule-breaking can be. “I think the power of breaking rules is it surprises people. There’s an unexpected quality there that makes them take a second look or do a double take and I think that’s what’s so vitally important about rule-breaking.”

Terry described a time when he broke the golden rule of radio, ‘no dead air allowed’, and found success. “I did a commercial for organ donation, and I basically needed people to say to their family members out loud that ‘if anything happens to me, I want to be an organ donor’… So, what I did in a radio commercial was to say, ‘We need you to say it out loud to someone in your family, so if you’re sitting beside somebody right now in your family, right now say to them, I want to be an organ donor. We’ll wait a moment while you do that.’” That was when six seconds of silence went over the airwaves. Initially, stations refused to air the ad, but ultimately Terry’s persuasion and the ad’s impactful message won out.

Managing Your Personal Brand

While it’s important to reinforce positive brand images for companies, it’s equally important for marketers to manage their personal brand. One way to do this is to ensure that your online image is squeaky clean. It’s now a given that potential employers will Google the people they’re interviewing before they ever walk in the office door. Thus, that all-important first impression is made online.

Terry O’Reilly also had some valuable insights regarding cover letters and resumes, which all comes back to the shish kabob theory:

I do think a cover letter and resume is a marketing campaign because you’re trying to sell yourself in a very cluttered environment. So, if there’s a great job to be had and the company has made the job available, and they’re going to get in dozens, maybe hundreds of resumes, how do you stand out? It’s a marketing puzzle, right? So, my feeling is that there should be a shish kabob at work there. In other words, your cover letter should reflect you, your personality. Your resume should be very interesting, and well-designed, not a typical resume. A resume to me is about organization and design skills.

Where to Get More Terry O’Reilly

Terry O’Reilly has produced 296 radio programs. If you’d like to listen to episodes from the past season, go to Alternatively, you can search for ‘CBC Under the Influence’ on iTunes and access the full show archive.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu

Lead • Educate • Inspire

To lead, educate, and inspire educators and students, by empowering them with the most current, relevant, and engaging digital marketing content that can be experienced anytime, anywhere, on any device.

About Mujo

#602-1388 Homer St
Vancouver, BC V6B 6A7

T: +1.888.536.6856

WordPress Lightbox