Marketing is all about moments

I’m an advertising copywriter. I also teach advertising copywriting. For 40 years I have been working diligently at both crafts. So what lessons have I learned after four decades of creating marketing messages for elusive consumers?

In the ideal world, our marketing message will reach the targeted consumer at the exact moment when they have a problem or a need to fulfill. That’s in the ideal world. Good luck finding it.

Smart marketers live in the real, not the ideal. Consumers have lives to live, things to do, people to see, work to perform. I haven’t met a consumer yet who sits around waiting for any ad, video, commercial, brochure, email or post I send out. Never happens.

A copywriter has to adopt a “made you look” approach to developing messages. Now we could make every message come across as a traffic accident where one has to slow down and take a peek. But do you want your brand to be associated with tragedy, bloodshed and dismemberment?

So what should we be striving to create? Think of the moment when the consumer realizes they have a problem and wish there was a solution to it. A paper towel company is doing an excellent job of this right now with their “Nooooooo” campaign.

If there’s no one specific “ah-hah” moment to build a message around, how about making the consumer aware that they have a problem in the first place. For example, how do you know your home is not just clean but clean enough? According to Apartment Therapy there are nine signs that your home is clean enough.

  1. Shoes are removed and not worn in the house.
  2. You clean as you go, especially when cooking.
  3. You make your bed.
  4. You put things away.
  5. You have a good duster and you use it.
  6. You have a cleaning schedule and you follow it.
  7. You use anti-bacterial cleaning spray.
  8. You have a paper shredder.
  9. You know where to put things when they arrive.

Let’s say you want to talk to people who are clean-conscious. You could sell a shoe tray they can place by the front door. You can offer a grease remover that makes it easy to clean when cooking. You can offer a booklet on making a bed properly that’s sponsored by a bedding company

A good copywriter can transform cleaning tedium into a “good job done” moment just by understanding who they are talking to, the problem being solved, and the benefit being offered.

All it takes is the right moment to dramatize.

Think about it for a moment.

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Today’s lesson

This morning I went down to the beach to do start my day whenever I can in the summer and do some surf fishing. I call it “fishing” but it’s more like going through the motions. On occasion I’ll catch a fish. It’s really more of a peaceful way to start my day.

While I was surf fishing, a group of surfers were also practicing their own style of futility, trying to ride waves that weren’t very big and weren’t coming all the way in to the shore line. But they also looked like they were having fun in the early morning hours.

After an hour or so of casting out and reeling in, bathers started to arrive and go into the ocean. Rather than risk hooking a tourist, I packed up my rod and reel and headed off the beach to the parking lot.

Passing a group of surfers who were taking a break on the beach, I heard one of them ask another, “Why aren’t you on the water? Wait are you waiting for?”

What struck me was the use of the phrase “on the water.” Ships and boats float on the water. But people normally sink. I assume the surfboard is what allows the surfer to be “on” the water rather than under it.

So that means…

Surfers are “on” the water.

Swimmers are “in” the water.

Divers are “under” the water.

And the fish that keep eluding me? Guess they “own” the water.

True story.

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For heaven’s sake…be useful!

Recently I asked the students in my multi-channel copywriting classes to describe the websites, blogs and social media pages they visited the most and why they were frequent visitors.

The areas visited most frequenty covered fashion, beauty, entertainment, food, travel and cosmetics. Considering the demographics of the classes this wasn’t a surprise. What did strike me was “why” they checked into these sites and posts on a regular basis.

Every student described that they went there for information they could use in their everyday lives. Whether it was for a movie or restaurant review, a special deal for a piece of apparel, or a much-needed laugh, all of the descriptions verified what I have always felt is needed for long-lasting success in the cluttered and cacophonous digital world.

That feature is being USEFUL. Anyone can attract a reader or viewer by being bold or audacious. But if you want that consumer to keep returning to your digital world you have to give the visitor something they can actually use and benefit from once they leave you.

Are you going to solve their problem? If you can’t solve their problem, can you relieve their problem-induced anxiety? Are you going to take the morose out of a mundane day? Are you going to hand over a piece of news or information that the visitor can use?

Too often we fall prey to the outrageous but after seeing what is supposed to shock or enrage us we are left feeling empty and unsatisfied.

If you have an online presence and you want to be visited on a reqular basis, do yourself and your visitors a favor — be useful. That doesn’t mean you have to be boring or pedantic. Sure, use humor or a light-hearted touch to get your point across. But be useful.

By being the go-to source you not only gain viewers or readers, you are also building a marketing relaitonship that will pay off for everyone involved in the long run.

Hope that was useful.

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Why can’t a pol be more like a human?

Recently I watched the classic movie, “My Fair Lady.” In case you aren’t familiar with it, the movie is based on the play “Pygmalion”, written by George Bernard Shaw, who based his play on the work of the Roman poet, Ovid.

The plot revolves around a professor of linguistics, Professor Higgins, and his efforts to transform a street flower seller named Eliza Doolittle into a paragon of sophistication who could easily fit into the highest levels of English society. There is more to the tale of course but this isn’t a movie review.

Since “My Fair Lady” is basically a musical, there is a song that would never get past today’s social critics but it made me laugh anyway. The song is titled, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” and it’s very funny, at least from this man’s point of view. Meant as sarcasm the song points out how blind men can be about themselves and our array of pompous faults.

Since the song is a comparative view, it made me think about the divided society we all have to live in and navigate through today. I began to wonder why can’t our politicans be more like real human beings instead of spouters of their party line regardless of what party they belong to?

If a politican’s job is to make “policy” shouldn’t they be developing and standing by ideas and approaches that benefit all citizens (humans) instead of catering to one segment or another?

When a pol says with an earnest look on his/her face, “I know how you feel” I immediately laugh. Do you really? Have we had the same life experiences?

No! You don’t know how I feel and please don’t claim that you do. If you want to make me feel better then develop policies that benefit everyone and not just one particular group. If a rising tide raises all boats. as the old saying goes, then a human-benefiting pol should do everything possible to make that tide rise higher than ever.

Does that mean everyone should have a yacht? Of course not. But everyone should at least have a boat, or at the bare minimum a life jacket, and not be left to drown.

Am I being an idealist or at the very least a wishful optimist? Is it money, power, ego, greed?

Why, why, why can’t a pol be more like a human?

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Here’s why, “In Emails and Texts I don’t trust”

From November till the first of the year my email inbox and text folder was swamped by scammers, hackers, cons, crooks and thieves.

I had never been so deluged with n’er do wells trying to get ahold of my money.

For seven consecutive days I received an email from someone calling themselves a bank telling me that my account was being pillaged by maruaders.

I called the bank in question, which is the bank I have dealt with for years, to find out whether or not I was suddenly broke. The Customer Service representative was courteous and helpful and after checking out my account activity reassured me that all was OK. My money was still safe.

Whew! When I asked the representative what was going on with all the emails that were supposedly being sent by the bank, the rep told me that many of the bank’s clients had called and complained about the same thing. For some reason it wasn’t very comforting knowing that I wasn’t the only one being invaded.

When I asked the rep what to do the response was basically, “Don’t open any emails you suspect. It could lead to unleashing all sorts of digital creatures on your bank records.”

Jeez. Then the rep said, “Same thing with texts. Don’t open up any if you are unsure where they came from. Your phone could be put in jeopardy.”

Terrifiic. Since no one actually answers their phones anymore when you call, we are at the mercy of emails and texts to communicate. Take those away and what are we left with? Back to two tin cans and a piece of twine between them?

Now every time I open up my email I automatically delete any email whose source I don’t recognize or have the slightest suspicion about who at the other end sent it. The same goes for texts.

So if you’re trying to get in touch with me, or attempting to market a product or service I could actually use and you’re using email or text as marketing media all I can say is, “Good luck.”

If you want to talk to me just give me a call or try the good old magazine or TV commercial approach. You might be a great business or company but if I don’t know your name I’ll never get to see your message.

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What’s in a name…everything!

I was going to treat myself to a new razor since it is a new year. (Yes, I’m easy to please.) I went to my local drugstore and saw a display for Dollar Shave Club. I had heard their advertising on the radio. Saw a TV ad or two. Noticed display ads as I browsed through the web. But I never actually bought one because there was no immediate need to be fulfilled. My old Gillette scraped my whiskers just fine thank you very much.

But the Dollar Shave Club caught my interest because of the name. Since razors are a commodity item, at least in my mind, I’m not ready to spend much on a functional tool. Just check out the price of razors and razor blades. Makes me want to grow a beard.

So the Dollar Shave Club concept appealed to me — until I checked out the sale price. It’s back to my old trusty Gillette razor. The Dollar Shave costs $7. What’s in a name? At the point of sale, a great deal.

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Best Coaching Advice Ever

locker

This morning I went to my local gym where I watched the start of a 6-10 year old kids’ basketball game. The boys and girls were in matching uniforms, playing on a true hardwood floor basketball court, and bouncing with energy.

Before the opening buzzer the coach gathered the kids around her.  The young players stared at her expectantly.  What advice was she going to give them?

Kneeling in front of her team the coach looked them each in the eye and said, “Don’t forget: Run….Dribble….Pass….Hit the Open Man….Rebound….and most important, don’t throw up on the court!”

Can’t beat that advice.

True story.

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Technology — True Story

Technology — True Story.

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Mr. Softee and the Surfing Dog

You can forget Ben & Jerry’s. Move over Haagen Dazs. Sorry Breyers. I love Mr. Softee ice cream. Whenever I hear the Mr. Softee jingle playing I run out into the street like a 6 year old to flag down the Mr. Softee truck. Yes, yes, yes, I love Mr. Softee.

But I’m never around when the truck comes through my area. Once in a while I’ll hear, “ta dah duh da da-da duh-duh-duh da-da” but not very often.

A summer without Mr. Softee isn’t a complete summer. This past July and August I was able to have a Mr. Softee sundae just once. Once!!! As Labor Day approached I started thinking about how dreary a winter it would be without a Mr. Softee moment to think about and warm me up.

On the Sunday before Labor Day I drove into my local gas station to fill up my car. As I drove in what did I see at one of the gas pumps but, yes you guessed it, the Mr. Softee truck. The driver was filling up his tank and I was able to pull into the pump right next to his truck.

Did I ask if I could get a Mr. Softee sundae? Of course. The driver finished filling up and pulled his truck over to the parking area to make my wonderful, delicious, scrumptious, yummy caramel sundae! And that was just the start of my day at 9am. Yes, yes, I had a sundae for breakfast.

After Mr. Softee it was down to the beach. Get ready for moment #2.

Walking on the beach I noticed a group of ladies walking their dogs. One of the dogs was a short-haired black Labrador that was having a heckuva time running along the shore.

I took a moment to stand at the edge of the water and stare out over the ocean. Suddenly I felt something cold and damp on the back of my knee. Turning, I saw the Lab sniffing my leg up and down. I gave him a pat on the head, and a rub under his chin.

His tail wagged and even his slobber grinned. Suddenly he darted into the ocean. At the moment the waves were fairly high and I was afraid he might get caught in a rip tide and pulled out. Foolish me.

The Lab went in till the water was up to his chin. Then he turned and faced me on the beach. He treaded water and stayed in one place. I thought he couldn’t get himself out of the water. What he was doing was waiting. Just waiting for the right wave.

Then the right wave came up. It picked him up and thrust him forward. At that moment he pushed all four paws out in spread eagle position and body-surfed right up on to the beach. He then ran over to me, wagged his tail and jumped back into the water and did it again.

Tread water. Catch wave. Body-surf in. Amazing.

Mr. Softee and the Surfing Dog, and all in one day.

Think about it for a moment.

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Events or Moments?

I used to think that life revolved around events. Births, deaths, weddings, jobs, raises, victories, tragedies, etc. Events are important and memorable. They show growth, change and experience.

But are events really that effective in shaping one’s life? A few recent interactions have led me to think differently.

What I have come to appreciate is the impact of moments. What makes moments so special is that they are almost always unexpected. By jumping into life you never know what will happen.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

I love to go surfcasting. For the non-fishing people out there, surfcasting is fishing from the beach. You tie a lure onto a fishing line, cast it out into the ocean, and see what bites. Two weeks ago I was walking on the beach when I found a fishing lure that had been washed up onto the shoreline. The lure had probably broken off from a line cast from a fishing boat. The lure was covered with grit, sand, and even barnacles so it had been out in the ocean for a while. It was missing hooks and was in pretty bad shape. But it was still a good fishing lure and could work to snag bunker and attract striped bass and bluefish.

So I took the lure home and cleaned it up, removing all the gunk from it. I attached new hooks to it and a new leader line. A day or so later I took the lure down to the beach to try it out. Carefully I tied it to my main fishing line. I then stepped into the surf, took a deep breath and cast the lure as far as I could.

And wouldn’t you know it. My line broke and I stood there watching the lure sail off and plunk into the sea. Ugh. Luckily I had other lures with me but for the next hour I kept thinking of what the found lure might have actually caught.

Was this a thought-changing moment? Nope. That happened the next week. I was surfcasting again, early in the morning, with only seagulls keeping me company. I stood knee-high in the surf, enjoying the beat of the waves, the blue of the early morning sky, and the sense of peace and calm.

Suddenly I heard, “Hello, hello!” Turning around I saw a stranger walking towards me. But not just any stranger. Remember that this was a beach. The man coming in my direction had a long beard, wearing a turban, a long-sleeved shirt and full-length dress slacks. The only way you could tell he was on a beach was that he was bare-footed.

“Who the heck is this guy?”, I said to myself. As he got closer to me I saw that he was holding something in his hand. “Great”, I thought. A guy in a turban is going to try to rob me on a beach. What did he think he was going to get? A fishing pole!

When he was a few feet from me he held up his hand and said, “I found this on the beach. Would you like it?” You guessed it. He was holding up a spiffy, new, shiny fishing lure. Not the one I lost but an even better one.

I said, “Thanks a lot. That’s a really good lure.” I then introduced myself. “I’m Neil. Nice to meet you.” He replied, “I’m Goron and it’s nice to meet you.” We then wished each other a good day and before he left I stuck out my hand, he took it in both of his, and said, “God bless you.”

I’ll let you think about it for a moment.

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Today’s lesson

This morning I went down to the beach to start my day whenever I can in the summer and do some surf fishing. I call it “fishing” but it’s more like going through the motions. On occasion I’ll catch a fish. It’s really more of a peaceful way to start my day.

While I was surf fishing, a group of surfers were also practicing their own style of futility, trying to ride waves that weren’t very big and weren’t coming all the way in to the shore line. But they also looked like they were having fun in the early morning hours.

After an hour or so of casting out and reeling in, bathers started to arrive and go into the ocean. Rather than risk hooking a tourist, I packed up my rod and reel and headed off the beach to the parking lot.

Passing a group of surfers who were taking a break on the beach, I heard one of them ask another, “Why aren’t you on the water? Wait are you waiting for?”

What struck me was the use of the phrase “on the water.” Ships and boats float on the water. But people normally sink. I assume the surfboard is what allows the surfer to be “on” the water rather than under it.

So that means…

Surfers are “on” the water.

Swimmers are “in” the water.

Divers are “under” the water.

And the fish that keep eluding me? Guess they “own” the water.

True story.

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Bad breath is back!!!

Mouthwash companies are probably cheering. Breath mint brands are most likely delirious. The Mask Mandate in New York is over!

Thanks to wearing masks for the past two years we have been able to live without enduring other people’s bad breath. No standing too close to someone on the bus or subway and smelling the garlic pizza they had for lunch. No stepping into an elevator and breathing in the beer fumes from your co-worker who drank his lunch. No turning to talk to someone face to face only to be blasted back by their oral aroma.

If you thought the Covid restrictions were bad and wearing a mask was some form of government conspiracy to control your mind, just wait until you get a whiff of grandpa’s dentures when you lean in to give him a smack on the lips.

Get ready for the new crop of mouthwash commercials, breath mint social media posts, toothpaste blog posts, and incense/scented candles videos on YouTube.

Not having to wear masks is liberating. No denying it. But the real freedom is going to be how the free market brands all capitalize on this new found show-your-face-again liberation.

If you were a business or brand how would you jump on this bandwagon.

I’m happy not to be wearing a mask any more. But now I have to go out and buy mouthwash.

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Are you a “boiler”?

I think I’ve been an advertising copywriter too long. Is 40 years a long time? It seems that every time I see a video commercial, log into a website, listen to a podcast, even engage in a conversation, I’m getting impatient and begging the marketer to just make clear what they are trying to say. “Just boil down the message to the essentials!”, I scream.

Recently I saw a T-shirt that had a saying I love. Printed on the chest was, “And your point is?”
Boy did that resonate with me. I know we live in a short-attention span society and we’re bombarded with messages day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. The amount of marketing doesn’t bother or boggle me. It’s wading through the cute, clever, obtuse messages that test my nerves

Important information or details I’m fine with digging into and taking the time to understand. But a message about shampoo or chips or beer? Just give me a good reason why I should spend my money to buy the product and what it will to improve my life. Is that asking too much? If the reason is good enough I’ll spend the money and give you my patronage.

When Covid showed up and I was doing all of my creative and teaching work remotely, I decided to put my impatience where my mouth was. So I wrote a textbook about copywriting and how to write marketing messages that achieve a solid business result.

No, I’m not writing this to sell a textbook. I’m writing this to make the point that if a message can’t be said in 30 seconds (the length of the traditonal TV commercial) then it’s not worth saying. Your audience will wander away, mentally or even physically, to a subject that interests them.

A good boiler should know not to try to stuff 6 lbs. of baloney into the 5 lb. bag. Condense, revise, edit, revise, compress, revise and eventually you’ll have a point that will stick into your target when it’s finally launched on the media of your choice.

Sorry if this took too long to explain. I might have to go to my point sharpener.

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How today’s marketers live in a DIY world

A recent survey by Webs revealed some very interesting facts about what is going on with today’s small businesses and their makreting efforts. As a marketing professional, professor of advertising and a copywriter, I was struck by these statistics:

63% of small business owners use digital products as part, or all, of their marketing strategy, most combining digital and print.

61% use, or plan to use, a website, online store, or mobile website.

59% of those with a website created it with DIY tools.

80% of website owners are their own webmasters.

88% of those with social profiles list Facebook as a top social media channel for marketing their businesses, followed by LinkedIn (39%), Twitter (31%), Google+ (22%), Pinterest (20%), and YouTube (17%).

65% of those with Facebook business profiles use or are considering using Facebook advertising.

63% agree the top motivator for getting a website is to generate new customer leads. Showcasing products and services is second (44%) and providing basic company information third (42%).

The top three reasons Facebook users reported for creating a business page were customer acquisition (62%), building a network of followers (50%), and increasing brand awareness (45%).

The statistics that stood out for me was the 59% of businesses created their own websites and 80% maintain their websites themselves.

If you’re a consultant whose clients are small businesses you have to be able to justify why paying you to do what they can do themselves will generate better results for these very budget-conscious businesses.

The DIY tools available today on the popular social media platforms are funcational and relatively easy to use. They must be if someone like myself can put together their own blog and website.

As a consultant in this DIY world we have to ask ourselves what can we do to improve a business’s performance and justify the check they might write for us.

Track record counts. How did your efforts bring new customers to a business? What did you do to increase followers and increase brand awareness that ultimately led to a transaction?

You can talk about winning awards. You can boast about being a “breakthrough thinker” and being someone who has their fingers on the pulse of the market?

But put yourself in the shoes of the business owner. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable engaging a marketing consultant, and trusting them with your business details, who has produced real results?

I know I would — and do. Keep this in mind for your next presentation. Sizzle is attractive. But the steak is what will bring you to the client’s table.e

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