Friday, February 24, 2012

Feather of His Country

A Nebraska woman named Rebekah Speights is auctioning a Chicken McNugget that resembles George Washington, according to Yahoo! News.

Ah, capitalism at its finest.

In a letter to Benjamin Harrison, Washington wrote, "A people who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything."

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Opportunities are You Missing?

Blogger Joyce McKee, whose Let's Talk Trade Shows is one of my favorite reads, contributed the following post.  Thanks, Joyce!

It seems we are so caught up in our routines that there may be great opportunities presented to us, and we just do not see them. 

Last week I watched this video in amazement.  It is about the age-old topic, money does not grow on trees.

How often as a child did you hear that statement when you wanted something and your parents did not have the cash to buy it and used that as an excuse?   I know I was told that many a time.
The video is created and filmed in Chicago in the summer of 2010. 

The majority of the people walking by this tree with money on it never saw it!  They did not look up or around as they walked by the tree.  Would you have noticed the money on the tree?

Just for today, start the process of observing.  With a sense of expectation, what will you see or hear?  Where is that great opportunity lurking?  Do you need to pick up the phone and call someone?  Or send a letter, email or card to someone?  Should you invite someone to join you for lunch or dinner?
Opportunities, with money associated with them, are all around you. 

Are you ready to harvest them? 

I know I am.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ask Customers First

Today's novel idea: ask customers first.

The top managers of some top brands "have forgotten (or never knew) what every junior brand manager surely knows," write Carol Phillips and Judy Hopelain in Branding Strategy Insider.

Ask customers how they might feel about your decision before you announce it.

In recent months, Bank of America, Netflix and Hewlett-Packard have all reversed major decisions after suffering consumers' wrath.

"Senior leaders are acting like bulls in a china shop, awkwardly and prematurely broadcasting their strategic decisions in ways that destroy their company's (and their own) reputation and value," the authors say.

"What has happened to the instincts of corporate America? Have the leaders of these companies become so insular, so arrogant, or so detached from reality that they don't bother developing a customer-focused plan to communicate their decisions effectively?"

When e-research tools have made concept-testing as easy as spell-checking a memo, these folks have no excuse.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Banner Advertising Gone Wrong

The Marine Corps' commandant has decided he won't discipline the men who posed before a banner displaying the insignia of Hitler's Schutzstaffel.

The gyrenes' use of the heinous symbol was just a mistake.

"The Marines in the photo were ignorant of the connection of this symbol to the Holocaust and monumental atrocities associated with Nazi Germany," General James Amos announced in a written statement.

Spokesmarine Major Gabrielle Chapin told the Associated Press the boys thought the symbol stood for "Sniper Scouts." 

"I don't believe that the Marines involved would have ever used any type of symbol associated the Nazi Germany military criminal organization," she said.

Wisely, the Corp will use the incident as a "teachable moment."

It's a shame more teachable moments don't take place in fifth grade.

Novelist Gustave Flaubert once wrote, "Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

One of my all-time favorite songs is Elvis' rendition of Joe South's Walk a Mile in My Shoes.

That's good advice to anyone, but especially association marketers.

This week, Association Trends honored the best of association marketing in its 2011 "All Media Contest."

The 22 categories in the annual competition ranged from advertising kits to Websites.

"As in previous years," Trends reported, "judges found that content is king. Clear, crisp, rich, strong content catapulted some publications from unranked to gold."

The judges rejected content that was "dense," instead warming to writing and design that followed a "magazine-style format." 

They also fled from jargon-heavy copy, cluttered pages and "content that is simply straightforward" (in other words, dull).

Steven Cline, marketing and communications director for the Property Casualty Insurers of America took home more awards for his work than anyone else.

Cline cautioned association marketers above all to guard against subjectivity. 

"Look at whatever you are working on from your audience’s perspective. For a few moments, be a reader, not a communicator. Aspects that are crystal clear to you may be indecipherable to your audience."

Disclosure: I can't miss the opportunity to brag about my own Gold. A sales kit I wrote for Fixation Marketing client Food Marketing Institute took first place in its category in Association Trends' 2011 All Media Contest.  You can view the piece on my Website.

Friday, February 10, 2012

You Have to Meet People Where They Are

Sure, you're on the up-and-up.  You know what you're talking about.  You have a great solution.  You have the facts to prove it.

But customers are suspicious.

So, if you hope to convince them, you have to adjust for mistrust.

What's the first rule of adjusting?

DO NOT contradict customers' version of reality.

Instead, study the language they use to portray things and situations. 

Get a good sense of the "scene" they've painted in their heads.

Because, for better or worse, that scene is the world they inhabit. It's the only one they know.

Once you've mastered that scene, revise your message so it conforms faithfully.

And when you next speak, at all costs resist the temptation to challenge your customers' worldview.

Customers will dignify your effort to communicate with a moment of their attention only if your message meshes with their preconceived notions of who's sincere, honest and caring.

Wellness guru Roniece Weaver said it best: "You have to meet people where they are."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are You a Flake?

In his blog, Seth Godin asks, "How do they know you're not a flake?"

A "deluge of noise" in the market has made every prospect distrusting, Godin says.  So when you pitch an idea, the prospect automatically asks:
  • Who recommends this guy?
  • What will my boss think?
  • Where does he work?
  • When I visit his Website, is it flaky?
"Notice that all of these questions get asked before the idea is even analyzed," Godin writes.  That's because, "not all good ideas are pre-proven, sophisticated and from reliable sources."

In my view, there are four other questions a prospect asks during the first contact:
  • Does this guy speak my language?
  • Does he only use jargon and superlatives?
  • Does he like scare tactics?
  • Does he blather?
Word derivations say a lot. The English word trust comes from the German Trost, which means "comfort."

Do you make prospects comfortable?  

Or are you a flake?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pure Poetry

Nearly everyone's favorite TV commercial during the Super Bowl was Chrysler's, featuring a crusty Clint Eastwood promising "the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines.”

The lyrical copy for this spot was in part contributed by Matthew Dickman, as the Website Co.CREATE notes. 

Dickman is a respected poet whose work has appeared in The New Yorker.

With his Chrysler spot, Dickman joins an august band of litterateurs known to have supplemented their income by writing ads.

They include Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Heller, Don DeLillo, Salman Rushdie, Robert Bloch, Elmore Leonard and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Brick by Brick

Since early morning, a small crew of masons has been busy replacing an old concrete patio behind our home.  Soon we'll have a stately new brick one in its place.

Although I don't envy the guys one bit (the work is backbreaking and it's bitter cold out), I feel empathy with them.

While they're just outside my door stooping to remove concrete shards and stacking bricks in neat piles, I'm inside, hunched over my computer, stringing words together, then taking the strings apart; typing phrases, then deleting them; inserting punctuation marks, then replacing those same marks with different ones.

And I'm beat after whole a day at it.

Writing is hard for me, even though I've done a lot of it.  Composing sentences, paragraphs and whole pages feels a lot like laying a brick patio.

Ann Chenoweth and John Hayes are two social scientists who've studied writers.  They've discovered that writers compose sentences in a pattern: burst-pause-evaluate; burst-pause-evaluate; and so on. 

Inexperienced writers, they claim, produce short bursts; experienced writers, long ones.

Either way, it's slow, brutal work.

In my book, the Jack Kerouacs of the world—the writers who burst with the force of a firehoseare few and far between.

Sportswriter Red Smith was once asked if grinding out a daily newspaper column wasn’t difficult.

"Why, no," Smith answered, "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed."
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