Are you real?

April 21, 2009

95913036 How many times have you listened to a radio commercial and started laughing out loud because “no one talks like that!?”  

We all have a certain style in how we talk and write. As individuals. As a society. As an age group. As an income bracket. As a profession. Getting the idea?

One of the aspects of social media that I love is that it is making authenticity and being real something that people value and recognize.  Advertising in that "false, no one talks that way" style is finally on its way out.

We know authentic works.  We know it attracts the people you want to talk to.  We know that it's honest.

When you want to talk to your customers, take the time to study them first. See how they communicate. 

  • Do they speak and write formally?
  • In their industry jargon?
  • Do they use short, choppy sentence or long, complicated ones?
  • Do they use simple, common words or very precise and less common ones?
  • Fast? Slow?
  • A lot? A little?

We’re all bombarded with messages every day. The messages that break through the noise are the messages that are in our native voice. We don’t want to have to work hard to be communicated to or with. So, we are naturally drawn to those messages that sound and feel most like us.

Am I advocating that you change your native voice to match theirs?  Nope.  I am suggesting that if you talk/write in your native voice, it will attract those customers who talk that way too.  Those are your best customers.  Those are the ones who "fit" and who are most likely going to around for a long time.

But…I am suggesting that you be very honest with yourself and check your marketing materials.  Do they actually sound like you?  Like your best customers?  Or do they sound like you just swallowed a thesaurus and a guide for marketing speak?

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Juicy words stimulate the senses and the urge to buy

December 29, 2008

57088469 I have to credit my daughter's 2nd grade teacher Bonnie Brockberg (many moons ago) with the phrase "juicy words."  She was teaching the class about adjectives and that's how she described them.

I've stolen the phrase and used it ever since.

Juicy words.  Succulent words.  Words that add both a flavor and a sound (or smell, or vivid visual) to your copy. You know what I'm talking about.  Ad copy or a letter that you have to read out loud to someone.  It's almost musical.

That kind of copy writing is mesmerizing.  It captures our imagination.  It's memorable.  It generates buzz.  It should be the kind of writing you work your tail off to create.

There was quite a lively discussion in the comments of my recent post about words to avoid in 2009.  One of points made was that most people are lazy writers.  They use the same common words that everyone else uses and they wonder why no one listens.

I want you to promise to seek out juicy words.  Weave them into your communications.  Don't be heavy-handed about it.  It's a delicate art.  A hint of juicy is plenty.  How do you start?

Read masters of the juicy words:  The J. Peterman catalog and blog are lyrical, entertaining and incredibly juicy.

Find tools that will help you get juicy:  The Visual Thesaurus is my trusty writing sidekick.  When I'm searching my brain for just the right word, it offers me many to choose from.

Get some juice on you: Jump in and squeeze!  It's going to be sticky but there's no other way.  You have to just practice.  Give it a shot in the comments box if you want.  We'll support your efforts!

Want to earn your audience's attention?  Want to get them reading your words aloud?   Then, take the pledge.  Come on, raise your right hand and repeat after me:

"I promise to be a practicing juicy word wizard.  I'll avoid words that are dull, mundane or ordinary in any way and replace them with language that stimulates the senses and the sales."

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10 words to avoid in 2009

December 22, 2008

36726310 Good friend to the Marketing Minute, Susan Gunelius (author of Harry Potter, the story of a global business phenomenon) has a great article on Entrepreneuer's website.  In the article, Susan reminds us that the normally jaded and wary consumer is even more so after the economic struggles of 2008.

I think her list will surprise you.  It includes works that traditionally have been touted as buying trigger words.  It also includes some copywriting 101 tips that have been passed down for ages.  Let's see what you think.

Here are 5 of Susan's 10 words to avoid in your 2009 marketing efforts.  These are the ones that intrigued me the most and I wondered what you thought.


Ads that include messages about a free product or service promotions can work well during an economic downturn, but consumers need to see the products perform well. E-mail spam filters are tough on messages that include "free" in the subject line. While it might be tempting to use a subject line that says, "Open now to get your free widget," that's an e-mail spam filter red flag that will send your message to most recipients' spam boxes. When the economy is tough, you can't risk having your e-mails not make it to the intended recipients. Replace "free" with "complimentary" or "gratis" to sneak by spam filters without compromising the effectiveness of your message.


Few people believe in guarantees these days. Unless you can prove your guarantee is real, use the valuable real estate space in your ad for a more effective message that consumers are likely to believe and act on.


If you want to waste space in your ads, include "really" in your copy. This word does nothing to help your messages. Instead, it slows consumers down, and they are not likely to wait around for the complete message. Don't risk losing them by loading your copy with useless filler words. Make sure every word in your copy is there for a reason.


Does  a message sound more compelling with "very" in it? Is "When you need very fresh flowers, call ABC Florist," more effective than "When you need fresh flowers, call ABC Florist"? If you answered, yes, reread the last paragraph.


You're not helping anyone when you offer "opportunities" in your copy. Consumers don't want opportunities. They want to feel confident handing over their hard-earned money. They want to know they'll get the results they want and need, not the opportunity to perhaps get those results. Don't let them wonder what they'll get when they pull out their wallets. Tell them.

To see the other five words and read Susan's thoughts on them, check out the article.  But before you go…what do you think?  Is free now a tainted word?  Should we stop offering guarantees?

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The more important your message, the less you should say

December 8, 2008

10018943 My daughter will be 16 next summer.  Which means she sends a lot of text messages.  It also means I send a lot of text messages.  When in Rome…

One truth I have discovered is that even in that abbreviated medium, it’s easy to be long-winded. 

For every sentence I text, her retention and response gets shorter.  The briefer I am, the more attention she pays and the more importance she seems to assign to my message.

If I really want an answer to a specific question or really want her to hear me about something, I use a single sentence.  Then, I get her full attention.

Boy, is there a marketing lesson in that.

The more copy you use to deliver your messages…the less important they seem.  The more messages you shove into a single ad, blog post or brochure — the more likely your big message will be lost in the blur.

When it really matters….say less.

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Are you choosing your words carefully?

October 13, 2008

"I once used the word "obsolete" in a headline, only to discover that 43% of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline I used the word "ineffable," only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself."

The brilliant David Ogilvy had that to say about his own copywriting. When was the last time you looked at your copy (brochures, website, sales sheets, radio scripts etc.) from your customer’s perspective?

Are you sure you’re speaking in their language?

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Are you expecting too much from your marketing?

August 25, 2008

19186685 Did you read the paper today?  Or watch TV?  Spend any time on Facebook or some other website?  Did you see an ad for something you wanted?  Or read an article about a service provider you’d been considering?

Did you leap up from your chair, rush to the car and go immediately to that store or business to make a purchase?

I doubt it.  That’s not the way advertising works.  It’s not instantaneous.  It is also not a one time shot.  If you’re thinking of running an ad (any ad) just once and expecting people to show up — guess again. 

If you’re not in it for the long haul, you probably shouldn’t do it at all.  Remember the analogy –you don’t plant a seed and dig it up when there’s no plant the next day.  Your marketing works the same way.

As a general rule, marketing takes time, repetition and patience.  Sure, there are exceptions, but they’re rare.

So how do you speed up the process? 

  • You recognize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint
  • You educate your potential consumer on how/why they need what you have to offer
  • You deliver those key messages in multiple ways, ideally through more than one media
  • You offer incentives to reward a quicker buying decision
  • You repeat

Sean D’Souza created a very funny but illuminating example of this marketing truth over at CopyBlogger.

What’s your best technique for creating urgency?


The back story for the most brilliant outdoor campaign ever

August 21, 2008

Angel_8 Many of you, in the comments section and via e-mail, have been asking about the back story of this campaign.  Quite honestly — I didn’t know it.  I had stumbled upon the creative years ago and used it as an example of "go ahead, break the rules" kind of thinking.

But, all of that has changed.

A few weeks ago, I commented that one of my favorite things about blogging is that it allows me to meet some amazing people.  More proof coming up.

I published the post about the Garcia’s outdoor campaign in the morning and by mid-afternoon, I had an e-mail from Rich Spears who was on the original account team (he was the media director) for this campaign.  As the agency’s current Chief Marketing Officer, he generously gave me the entire back story and permission to share it with you.

So, here’s the scoop.

It’s 1990 and Garcia’s and the other area restaurants are in a panic.  A big, fancy, new waterfront club was opening that summer and they were expecting it was going to mean they’d all (the existing restaurants) take a big hit.

So Garcia’s came to Crowley Webb for some counsel and a solution.  Oh yeah, and they only had $20,000 to spend — creative concepting, design, production costs, media — the whole thing.

The William/Angel campaign was conceived and launched.

The plan was for everyone to believe that there truly was a William, Angel, Candi and Frankie.  The media were sworn to secrecy.  Reporters tried to get at the truth as the campaign was unfolding but no one cracked.

Beyond the billboard campaign, the agency also:

  • Had a small radio buy on one station.  Two spots per week.  Someone called in, as William, and did a live "commercial" that sounded like he was this desperate guy, trying to find his Angel.
  • Ran ads in the classified personal ads in the Buffalo News
  • Had a limo driver handing out "have you seen my Angel" fliers throughout downtown, near the Garcia’s location
  • Hired a plane to fly over a Buffalo Bison’s game (baseball), towing a banner with a message from William

All of this culminated right after billboard #8, where Angel agrees to meet William at Garcia’s.  To the delight of the packed house — A beautiful woman in red appeared, fended off the advances of just about every guy in town, waiting for William.

Just then, a limo pulled up (remember the guy passing out fliers?) and William stepped out from the limo and walked inside, scanning the crowd for his Angel.  Their eyes met, they talked, shared some champagne and then danced to "Lady in Red" before William whisked her away in his limo.

Rich said the crowd’s reaction was priceless.  And more than one boyfriend was chided for not being as romantic as William!

The following Monday, the final board was posted, with William professing that he was in heaven over the meeting.

The net result beyond the media exposure and buzz around town?  When the new waterfront club opened, every restaurant in town took a double digit drop in revenue.  Garcia’s business went up. They maintained that competitive advantage for some time and never felt the impact of the waterfront club.

So they exceeded their goals and their revenues grew.  Not to mention all the added value the campaign delivered.

Flash forward to today, some 18 years later — that entire area and all the restaurants in it, including the waterfront club are now gone, having given way to growth and re-purposing of that area.

I’d call that a success story and a half. 

An interesting side note.  When the campaign won best of show at the National Obie awards, it was the first winner ever to receive a perfect score from every judge.

A huge hat tip to the innovative team at Crowley Webb, the courageous owners of Garcia’s and the very fortunate citizens of Buffalo who had the fun of watching this all unfold.


The most brilliant outdoor campaign ever

August 18, 2008

The rules for outdoor advertising are very simple.

  • Never use more than 7 words
  • Always use an attention getting visual
  • Include the company logo
  • Leave the boards up for a minimum of 30 days to achieve frequency goals
  • Buy several locations to increase reach

The most brilliant outdoor campaign broke every one of these rules.  Every single one.  I use this campaign as an example in many of my presentations and wanted to share it with you too.

Let me tell you the story. 

This campaign broke in 1989 in Buffalo, New York.  There was (and still is – my mistake, I found it on the web’s yellow pages and assumed it was current) an Irish Pub called Garcia’s in downtown Buffalo that needed to drive not only name awareness but traffic.  Their agency, Crowley Webb, devised this campaign, which not only won them a National Obie (Oscars for outdoor boards) but made Garcia’s a household name in Buffalo.  The campaign also showed up in the New York Times, USA Today and naturally, all of Buffalo’s local media.

No ordinary billboard series, eh?

The agency bought a single board location (this I am recalling from memory so I may be wrong) and every Monday for 9 weeks….a new board went up.  This is story-telling at it’s best.  Enjoy the campaign and be sure to catch my questions at the end.










Can’t you see all of Buffalo being completely caught up in this story?  Can you imagine how many people showed up at Garcia’s on Fridays to see if Angel made an appearance.  I don’t know if the agency took it to that level (I wouldn’t be surprised) but I would have hired actors to play William, Angel, Candi and Frankie and put on a floor show.

What do you think of this campaign?  Notice the boards didn’t push the daily soup special or promise us the same cliches that all restaurants promise.  Instead, they invited us into a story.  A story where we could play a part.

How could you use this kind of a technique?  Or, where else have you seen this sort of creativity played out?

Update:  Here’s the back story to this campaign.  Now I’m even more impressed.


United’s new TV campaign. Effective or not so much?

August 11, 2008

The airlines are in trouble, people complaining about flying, yours truly gets stuck in an airport or has a flight get canceled every time he turns around, and the hassle factor has never been worse.

Oh yeah…they’re now charging us for just about everything.  I expect the pay toilets to be installed any day.

We all know the airlines are struggling.  So if you were the VP of Marketing for United, what kind of commercials would you ask your agency for?  What would be your key message?

Check out these two new United spots and tell us what you think.  This first one is called "Heart."  (If you’re reading this via e-mail or RSS — click on the headline to view the spots.)

This one is called "Two Worlds."

So….what’s your take on the ads, their intent and their effectiveness?

(To see the entire campaign…)