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


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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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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Now this is scary…ooooh!

Last night on my on-demand menu I was stopped dead in my binge-watching. I saw that one of my all-time favorite movies was playing on Turner Movie Classics.

It has all the elements of cinematic brilliance — isolated scientists, UFOs, propeller airplanes, wonderfully scary music, a UFO and an 8-foot monster that combines vegetarianism with vampirism.

What can I say? Watch it on your TV, phone, computer or tablet. Be sure to pay attention for the most memorable line in the movie…”Watch the skies! Watch the skies!”

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Sometimes you need a shot of subway

Since Covid I haven’t been getting enough subway. I’ve only been able to come into New York City a couple of days a week so my time is cut down considerably walking down the stairs to the transportation I like.

Shocked? I enjoy the subway. No, I don’t like the dirt, the noise, the delays, the quasi-acrobats swinging on the subway poles and the furry visitors you see scurrying on the tracks.

So what in heaven’s name could I possibly like about a transportation system that can take me almost anywhere in New York City for only a couple of dollars?

The folks who join me on the ever-changing show that tells a new tale with every stop and in every borough. Every time I walk onto a subway I come across a new group of happy, sad, exhausted, fearful, anxious, bored, rushed faces.

On the subway each journey is an experience and when I don’t get to swipe my MetroCard through the entryway at least once a week, I feel a little bit less New York-ish.

Example. A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to go to Lincoln Center for a ballet recital. The performance ended at 10pm which meant fewer subway trains because of the late hour.

Standing on the subway platform I looked at the Arrivals clock and saw I had 20 minutes to wait until the next train. Even though I was tired after a long day, I decided to take advantage of the time and walk the length of the platform just to check things out. Since the platform is two city blocks long, I had a fair amount of area to cover and observe.

Within 10 minutes I saw a man practicing his dance moves, a woman dozing on a bench alongside another woman arguing on the phone with her boyfriend/husband/partner (I’m trying to be correct here, folks), a well-dressed man looking for a hand-out, a disturbed person talking to the ceiling, a happy couple and I knew they were happy because they were actually holding hands, and finally at least a dozen people staring down the subway track looking for those two bright train headlights that would mean “Finally, the train is coming.”

Did I look down the track as well? Of course. Did I get anxious waiting for the train? Not with all of my interesting fellow passengers around me. Every one of them told me a different story and they never had to speak to me directly to get their point across.

When the train arrived and I finished my 15 minute trip downtown, I left the subway with a smile and it wasn’t because the ride was over. The NYC Subway System had lifted my spirits again.

All it takes for me is a quick shot of subway.

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Dear advertisers, you are what you post

A recent study revealed that over 70% of the Millennium generation “wants to be famous online”.

Not surprising of course. Has there ever been a group of young people between 16 and 24 years old who didn’t want to be famous in some way?

The question that isn’t asked is, “Famous for what?”

For marketers looking to attract today’s group of young consumers, gathering online followers is very often the measurement of success. The more followers a product or brand gains, the more they can charge for advertising space on their content page. Sounds just like tv, radio, print, and all other forms of media. The more eyeballs attracted the more can be charged for paid advertising.

For years, this simple formula has been used to develop media plans. But there has been a change that should disturb advertisers and any brand.

An article in the Wall Street Journal noted how Facebook has revised their guidelines to rankings of posts. Facebook found that the more extreme the posts the higher up in responses received. The sober and thoughtful postings and responses ranked lower and were not seen.

Advertisers who were just looking for eyeballs didn’t realize that their brands were now being seen in relation to social media posts that were not just extreme but downright false, inflammatory and sometimes even dangerous.

Facebook has now revised their policy to try to correct this situation. If a post is considered extreme then it can be rejected and never seen. We can get into a discussion about First Amendment rights but this is about business.

Does a brand or product want to be associated with extremism in any form? Don’t extreme views have the effect of washing over and staining the brand or product that is advertising in its presence?

When you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas? And unless you are a pet care product, I doubt any brand wants to be associated with loathsome creatures.


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