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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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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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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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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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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Disconnected thoughts on marketing

I’m sitting in my garage office on a September summer Saturday that is beyond good. The garage door is open. There is no internet access in my garage, so I am totally disconnected. The sun and breeze are as drifting as my thoughts. It’s one of those days…oh, a butterfly just fluttered in, took a quick glide around, and fluttered out. She has more important things to do than watch my putter-think.

OK, let me concentrate.

I was reading a fascinating book the other day. The title is “The Brain Dead Megaphone” by George Saunders.  Mr. Saunders teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University and Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. 

Mr. Saunders made a comment on consumerism that triggered a thought in my, sometimes dead, brain. He wrote, “A human being is someone who joyfully goes in pursuit of things, brings them home, then immediately starts planning how to get more. A human being is someone who wishes to improve his lot.”

A certain segment of society and philosophy spends a lot of time condemning consumer consumption. Today’s consumer is branded as wasteful, voracious, avarice-laden creatures. With natural resources seemingly shrinking, climate change reshaping our world with every new season, and a constant daily barrage of marketing messages urging the consumer to buy and use more, the criticism seems correct.

However, Mr. Saunder’s observation caused to me to stop and re-think my position. What if the desire to “improve” one’s lot in life is not propelled by media and marketing manipulation but is as natural as the butterfly that just fluttered back into my garage, took a 2nd look around and didn’t find anything more interesting than before, and glided back out?

What if your desire to have the latest tech device, fashion item, food dish, isn’t simply greed on your part to have the latest and greatest? What if your desire is just natural and part of your DNA I suppose.

Thinking about it a bit more I thought of bees.  Not because I like bees particularly although I have nothing against them.  It’s the time of year when bees are all over the place propagating, gathering the last bits of flower power, or whatever the heck they do when the fall season is close.

A bee does a marvelous job of building a hive.  Complex yet simple in its construction, the worker bees work constantly to build a structure that any architect would be proud of but does the bee ever think of improving the hive in some way?  They’ve been building the same style hive for millions of years. You’d think one of them would say, “Why are we busting our butts building this hive when it’s going to be our tomb once the cold weather shows up?  Hey, why don’t we build an insulated hive so we can all be around next spring when the flowers bloom again?  What do you think?  Any you bees have any ideas?”

No. The bee just keeps building the same old hive. Dies when winter shows up. Then the new bee crop go about building the same style hive. You would think one of them would watch a few episodes of HGTV and maybe put together an open-concept hive.

The bee isn’t concerned with improving its lot.  The whale, our biggest mammal relative, doesn’t swim all over the world looking for the perfect fishing spot and then stay there. Whales are constantly swimming up and down coastlines and across oceans, season after season, year after year, in search of the same old krill. Personally, I don’t get a thrill from krill but I’m not a whale.

Our animal and insect neighbors aren’t obsessed with making things better. They are content with the way things are.  Of course, we assume they are content because they can’t communicate with us.

But we humans, oh boy do we have a problem.  This urge, craving, passion to always be making things better is our blessing and our curse.

It’s a blessing because without it I wouldn’t be able to sit here in my garage office “disconnected” from the internet, which was created as a more efficient means of communication. (Where the internet has led us is the topic for another posting.)

Our improve-now gene is also our biggest curse. It leads to a constant and aching feeling of dissatisfaction.  Philosophers and theologians urge humans to “accept things the way they are” but not only is it tough it’s also, sorry all you Acceptance Prayer people, unnatural.

It’s not in the human make-up to simply sit back, put our feet up, and just let life happen. That is not what humans are about from what I have observed and experienced both personally and professionally.

For example, I know how to drive a car. I’ve been doing it for 50 years.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t drive it better. I also know how to fish.  Been doing that for 50 years. But a new rod and reel means I can do the act of fishing better. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to catch more fish but it’s going to make the entire process easier.

As a marketer and copywriter, I know how to present a product or service, inform the targeted market segment about it, and compel them to act on the message.  I’ve been doing that for 40 years. Media changes. Consumer attitudes change. Preferences shift. But the one thing that has remained constant in all the time I have been writing marketing messages is this:  The consumer always asks, “How is this product or service going to improve my lot in life?”

Communicate the benefit clearly and creatively and the consumer will transact with you.  If the marketing message doesn’t make it 100% clear how the item marketed is going to improve the consumer’s life in some way, then it will fail.  Period.

The fact is the consumer needs, and wants, to improve their life. That urge is as natural to us as breathing and gives the smart marketer a tremendous advantage.

That’s how to connect to consumers and turn them into loyal customers. There’s a lot of corporate breast-beating and horn-blowing going on in the marketing world right now. Forget you. Connect with the consumer, make their lives better with your product, and you will win.

Wait the butterfly jump flew back and brought two friends with her.  I’m going to join them in the garden and improve my lot right now.

Thank you for reading.

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Don’t kid around with commando marketing

How many marketers venture out into the competitive battlefield unarmed? Positioning, marketing strategy and target market segmentation are typically the first items added to the marketer’s arsenal. (Yes, there will be military metaphors so don’t get uneasy.)

Yet the most powerful weapon a marketer can wield is often ignored or given too little attention. We’re talking about the tagline — or slogan, theme, catchphrase if you prefer.

What is the one thing that consumers recall about a brand or specific product long after they have been exposed to the marketing? Let’s think. “Just do it” has been doing it for close to 50 years. “Diamonds are forever” seems like it’s been around forever, if you think of nearly a century as forever. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been driving sales for almost half a century. “If you see something, say something” is a relative youngster with a mere two decades of exposure.

The tagline is the foundation on which the brand and product rests and the marketing lives. Think of a house with a weak foundation. First big wind and crash!

Launching a marketing campaign without a clear, creative and potent tagline is like going “commando” into a snow storm. All it takes is one blast of cold air to make you regret your decision and freeze your &$#@ off!

A tagline lives long after the advertising is seen, heard or read. A tagline that works is one that delivers on a T-shirt, bumper sticker, envelope, website heading, guerilla marketing, virtually anywhere you want to get your message across.

What happens if you don’t have a strong tagline?

The other day I went to the gym in my town. The gym is contained in a large fitness center where they also conduct a day camp for 6 to 12 year old children in the summer. I was in the men’s locker room getting ready for my workout. At the same time a group of 6-7 year old boys were getting finished dressing after swimming in the center’s pool. The camp counselors were urging them to get moving so they could go and play dodgeball. Clothes were flying all over the place in between the kids playing tag, trading punches and raising a general ruckus.

I noticed one of the boys becoming visibly upset. He was standing in the middle of the locker room patting himself down with his hands, all the while with a look of despair growing on his face.

Suddenly he he let out a wail. “I forgot my underwear!”

In other words, he discovered he was going “commando” into the rough and tumble dodgeball arena — not to mention having to face his mom when he went home.

Advertising is not only a serious business. It’s also expensive and competitive. Remember the importance of the tagline. if you want to be a marketing and advertising commander and not just another forgotten commando.

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