Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scott the Nametag Guy says "your marketing sucks"

Scott Ginsberg, that guy with the perpetual nametag, posted a great list yesterday: "46 Marketing Mistakes Your Company Is (Probably) Making." Some great advice, and it all boils down to this:

If you stopped advertising, would ANYBODY even notice?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hmmmm..suddenly, I'm kind of a huge Twitter fan

You may have read some posts where I've said I don't quite get Twitter. Well, earlier this month, Copyblogger challenged its readers to compose a story using exactly 140 characters, the maximum length of a Twitter post. Not up to 140 characters, mind you--exactly 140 characters. Given my attention span, the chance to write a micronovel immediately grabbed my attention. And when I saw the great prizes Copyblogger was offering, I was more than willing to put my Twitter skepticism aside.

The result, based on a true story, was this:

Tony was a snitch, so I wasn’t surprised when his torso turned up in the river. What did surprise me, though, was where they found his head.
Well, today Copyblogger announced the winners, and lo and behold, my entry took second place out of 400+ submissions. After reading some of the other winners, I feel very fortunate to have been selected. There are some incredibly talented microwriters out there--and reading their stuff doesn't take that long, another bonus for the easily distracted!

So thanks, Copyblogger, sponsors, judges, and everyone else involved in the contest. You might
just make a Twit out of me yet!

Rachael Ray's scarf isn't the only threat to our freedom

Now that Michelle Malkin has saved us from the clear and present danger of Rachael Ray's Unamerican scarf, what's next on her advertising blacklist? Here are a few terrorism-bustin' possibilities:

He's big and red--just like Communism! And he has an equally unhealthy influence over kids. Kool-Aid must be stopped.

Is that a Fruit Roll-Up in your Lucky Charms, or a
flag? Sure, Mali's on our side now, but Iran was once on our side, too!

You know where camels live? The desert.
You know who else lives in the desert?

If Apple makes Big Brother seem like the enemy, then people will start thinking for themselves--then
who knows what scarves we'll be subjected to! "Thinking different" is obviously dangerous.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

They should call this feature "Facebook" proves once again that they're great at both asking members to pay for stuff available for free everywhere else and offering "new" features that have been around elsewhere since 2002.

This is just nuts--DOnuts, that is

In 2008, it seems really, really stupid that the paranoia over communism forced the Cincinnati Reds to temporarily become the "Redlegs." And in 2058, this is going to seem equally as stupid.

Godin's got you covered

Seth Godin's offering you a chance to get your photo on "a teeny tiny little section" of the cover of his next book, through Saturday. There are worse ways to use up your 15 minutes of fame--like this, for example.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AdPulp on our web conservations

In this post, AdPulp does a nice job of breaking down some of the differences between monologue-driven communication, like e-mail and blogs, versus dialogue-driven communication, like IM and Twitter:

People want to engage by creating stories with others, as they would in real life. When one tells a story in real life, other people add to it in real time (which can be annoying to the storyteller). Twitter mirrors this, whereas a blog is more traditional in its storytelling structure. On a blog a writer offers something, then comments come in, but it's not a conversation just like email is not a conversation. IM and Twitter are conversations; thus, the excitement around them.
This may help explain why IM is gaining preference over e-mail. And while I still don't entirely understand the Twitter phenomenon, the analogy to a conservation seems apt.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Productivity tips for every hour of the day

Although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, it's easy to procrastinate about productivity. Being more productive sounds great in theory, but it also sounds like a lot of work. The problem is, like a lot of things, people tend to try to do everything at once and end up burning out shortly after they start. And that leads to a downward spiral of less productivity, less satisfaction, and less free time.

There is, however, a better way. Instead of taking on the overwhelming task of trying to
simultaneously incorporate all the productivity advice you've heard, take it one hour at a time. Look for ways to make the most out of every part of your day, and you just may end up with more hours left over to do the things you really want to do. Here's an example of how to make small changes in your productivity every hour of every day.

6 a.m. Start your day with some exercise. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run, or hit the gym. If you want to work out, doing it first thing in the morning is the best way to make sure that it gets done. And it kicks things off with a great energy boost that makes your first hours more productive.

7 a.m. Eat something. When you're running late, you may be tempted to skip breakfast. However, taking 15 minutes to eat something substantial instead of losing energy or snacking all morning will save you time and make you more likely to get things done right up until lunch.

8 a.m.
Plan your day. Take a few minutes to update your to-do list, glance at your calendar, and plan how you'll spend your time. This is the single most important step in making your day as productive as possible.

9 a.m. Check your e-mail, then go offline. Delete any messages you can. Respond to anything that will take less then 5 minutes to answer. Add anything else to your to-do list. And after that's done, set your e-mail to "offline" before you check it again. Otherwise, you risk spending your whole day volleying e-mails back and forth. Repeat this step no more than once every hour, unless you're waiting for an urgent message.

10 a.m.
Do the hardest thing on your to-do list. What's nagging you? What's the one task you're dreading? Chances are it's preventing you from focusing on other work. Get it out of the way. There's a very good chance that it's not as bad as you think it is, and worrying about it certainly isn't going to make it any better.

11 a.m.
Make one trip around the office. Instead of getting up every time you need to deliver something, retrieve something, get a drink, or visit a co-worker, save as many steps as you can by holding deliverables in an out basket. Then, when you have to do something that just can't wait, get a few other things done while you're up and around. Short of going to the bathroom, it's rare that you absolutely have to leave your desk for any one thing. A lot of times, however, we do so because we're avoiding work--like that thing you should have taken care of at 10 a.m.

12 noon.
Go out to lunch--and walk, if possible. Yes, there are days when going out to lunch is impossible. But whenever you can, get out, get some air, and take a walk if you can. Give your eyes, your back, and your brain a rest, and you'll come back feeling re-energized and ready for the afternoon.

1 p.m.
When you have a meeting, set limits. Start every meeting with these two statements to keep everyone focused:

  • We're going to conclude in 60 minutes (or however long you need)
  • We're here to talk about (subject) and decide (outcome)
Be strict about the purpose, start time and end time, or you'll waste time. And have one person take notes and e-mail them to everyone.

2 p.m.
Sometimes, you have to pick up the phone. E-mail always seems more efficient than other forms of communication, and it often is. But "easier" does not always equal "more efficient." Remember, there are times when you just have to pick up the phone:
  • When a client/customer prefers to communicate over the phone
  • When the e-mail you're about to send will only lead to more questions
  • When you're trying to schedule a meeting with one person not using the same calendar software as you
  • When what you're planning to say is critical, controversial, or risks being misunderstood
And by all means, when you're on the phone, don't send/read e-mails. You won't be giving either the phone call or the e-mail message the attention it deserves.

3 p.m. If someone comes to your office, give him your full attention, or ask him to come back. If someone visits you in your office, he either:
  • Thinks what he has to say is important or complex enough to warrant a face-to-face conversation, or
  • Is just trying to avoid work
The first person deserves your full attention, which means putting the phone and e-mail aside--literally, if possible--and looking him in the eye. The value of multitasking is overstated in most cases, and it certainly isn't as important a skill as active listening. As for the second person, tell him you'd love to talk, but you can't right now. Ask him if he's free for lunch tomorrow.

4 p.m.
Get ready for tomorrow--the office edition. What tasks do you need to set in motion, or what do you need to prepare for, in order to get ready for the next work day? Any meetings in the morning that you need to be ready for? Any files that you need to find? Take every action you can anticipate.

5 p.m.
Leave work on time. It's rare that there's something on your desk that absolutely can't wait until tomorrow. Your time is better spent getting a break from work and feeling like you've had time to yourself.

6 p.m.
Eat something healthy. You can't be productive if you don't feel good. There's no substitute for exercise and eating right.

7 p.m.
Relax. Do something fun. Turn off your brain. Play with your kids. Goof off. You don't have to be productive all the time.

8 p.m.
Get ready for tomorrow--the home edition. Anticipate everything you need from home for the next day. Set out the clothes you plan to wear, including your exercise clothes for the morning (which makes it a lot easier to get out the door). Get your work stuff ready to go. Shine your shoes if you have something big planned the next day. Do anything you can that you'd otherwise have to do in the morning.

9 p.m.
Read. Learning is one of the best ways to stay productive, and reading is still the best way to discover something new.

10 p.m. - 6 a.m.
Sleep*. Until we find a substitute for sleep, one of your greatest productivity tools is putting your head on the pillow, shutting your eyes, and doing nothing for eight hours.

What other recommendations do you have for staying productive every hour of every day?

*Have trouble getting to sleep? Check out these suggestions from Gretchen Rubin on The Huffington Post.

Photo: clix on stock.xchng

Monday, May 26, 2008

Altruistic all too infrequently: AdAge on "meaningful marketing"

During the past couple of days, has published a few great articles on what happens when marketers act responsibly. Granted, one of the reasons marketers behave is to get you to buy stuff. But still, it's a nice reminder that marketing doesn't have to be evil.

A few snippets...

In "Make Your Marketing Useful, Like Samsung and Charmin," Jonah Bloom gives some great examples of "useful marketing," like Samsung's airport charging stations, and challenges other companies to spend money on something other than advertising:

My suggestions: AT&T, for example, how about you spare a few million from the billion you spend shoving your bars in my face, and help the MTA fix its Subway intercoms? Or Citi, how about you take some of the hundred million a year you spend telling us how friendly you are to construct a wireless network for New York? (Hell, I can even see an adaptation of the umbrella in your logo as a wireless signal.) BP, you really want to convince us you're green, how about putting together a borrow-a-bike system in a few U.S. cities, like the ones in Paris, Berlin and Munich?
In "Top Advertisers Add Meaning to Marketing," Jack Neff profiles one agency that is looking to make its work more fulfilling:
Young marketers or agency executives don't take long to learn they've dedicated their lives to creating stuff people seek to avoid, and with increasing success. But Bridge, a digital unit of WPP Group's Wunderman in, of all places, Cincinnati, ancestral homeland of Procter & Gamble Co. and interruptive advertising as we know it, thinks it has a disarmingly simple answer: "Marketing with Meaning."


[A]s Mr. Woffington and Chief Marketing Strategist Bob Gilbreath see it, the idea is to make the marketing the cause, with intrinsic value to consumers so it pulls them in rather than be thrust upon them where they can least avoid it.

"Consumers hate advertising," Mr. Gilbreath wrote in a preamble for a WPP Digital-backed discussion group last year. "Meanwhile, consumers hate us -- the marketers and advertisers who invent new ways to spam them online and offline. The result: CMO and agency turnover is rising dramatically, and advertisers are ranked below lawyers in terms of public respect."


Bridge's alternative, according to Mr. Woffington: "How do you make sure your marketing is held up to the same standard the product is? ... P&G says their products improve people's lives. But how about the marketing? Does the marketing itself improve consumers' lives? ... That's a much higher standard than just selling more product."
And in "Yes, There Is an ROI for Doing Good," Neff argues that cause marketing can be profitable--and often is:
Though you might not always glean this by looking at the home pages of the consumer-products giants touting their latest philanthropic or earth-saving gestures, these are for-profit entities.

While the cynical outlook, repeated endlessly across the blogosphere, is that cause marketing is all about making money, perhaps the more mature, post-cynical outlook is, yes, of course it is, and, well, it should be.
As someone who's worked in marketing for more than a decade, I can tell you that it's not always easy to see the good in the work we do. Part of the problem is that the profession seems to attract a disproportionate number of people who put style before substance (not you, of course--you're a borderline saint, and just perfect just the way you are). A bigger problem is that the ultimate goal of marketing is to sell something, and since people can be greedy they often stop at nothing to try to get you to buy their stuff.

But maybe our struggling economy is forcing us to take a closer look at how we present products and services. Or maybe it's just a phase. Either way, when no one's buying much, being responsible at least allows you to feel good about yourself, even if you don't feel good about your bottom line.

Photo: Gadget Guy Dave M on Flickr

On the Jobs training

Back in January I posted about Carmine Gallo's BusinessWeek column, "Deliver a Presentation Like Steve Jobs." Now Gallo has repackaged his thoughts into a video, allowing you to see some examples of the man in the black turtleneck in action.

Hat tip: Six Minutes: A Public Speaking and Presentations Skills Blog

Lose 41 pounds--and still eat the foods you love!

Each year, you receive 41 pounds of junk mail--stuff that has no marketing value because it's not targeted at you and your needs. Do both yourself and the sender a favor, and follow the instructions in this Washington Post story about reducing the amount of stuff in your mailbox. Who knows? With all the time you save, you just might be able to get to the gym more often.

Photo: everaccess on stock.xchng

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Einstein on good writing

Found this Albert Einstein quote this weekend:

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
If you're looking for a definition of good writing, you could do a lot worse. And while both definitions say almost the same thing, Einstein's a slightly more credible source than the guy who wrote this.

Flashback: Silly Brandeis and their Smart Balance/Einstein hybrid campaign.

Bonus Einsteinery: Make your own Einstein chalkboard image.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

BBC story highlights web users' "impatience"

Great little story today from the BBC about the results of a study by "usability guru" Dr. Jakob Nielsen:

[P]eople are becoming much less patient when they go online.

Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.

Most ignore efforts to make them linger and are suspicious of promotions designed to hold their attention.
I've seen some recent research showing that the average website visit lasts only 60 seconds, with an average of 3 clicks per visit. I strongly believe the growth of broadband is part of the reason web users leave pages so quickly. In the dial-up days, the comparatively high degrees of difficulty and failure associated with accessing the Internet made us a little more methodical with time spent on the web. We were less likely to move around from site to site because we knew that would mean waiting for our connection to catch up, then waiting for content to load. Today, we treat our mouse like a remove control, rapidly moving from site to site at a whim (a big reason why both Internet Explorer and Firefox added tabs so that users could toggle between multiple sites during the same session).

For marketers, this presents significant challenges since users are far less likely to see and interact with web ads and promotions. The BBC story explains:
[W]hen people go online they know what they want and how to do it, he said.

This makes them very resistant to highlighted promotions or other editorial choices that try to distract them.

"Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so," said Dr Nielsen.

"People want sites to get to the point, they have very little patience," he said.

"I do not think sites appreciate that yet," he added. "They still feel that their site is interesting and special and people will be happy about what they are throwing at them."

Web users were also getting very frustrated with all the extras, such as widgets and applications, being added to sites to make them more friendly.

Such extras are only serving to make pages take longer to load, said Dr Nielsen.

All of this is very important to remember when building your website. Be sure to use tools like Google Analytics to see what pages on your site are generating traffic so you don't invest a lot of time and money on underperforming pages. In fact, those pages probably should be cut altogether. It's easy to fall in love with your content and put everything on your site, but be sure to make the most high priority information easy to find. And skip the gimmicks.

Photo: hberends on stock.xchng

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What a card

If you liked the great business card designs posted on and, you'll probably like these two posts from More great reminders that your business card doesn't have to be boring. Or the same size as everyone else's. Or opaque.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whopper freakout + The Folger's Switch + Windell Middlebrooks = ...

I thought Burger King's Whopper Freakout was a great idea. One of my favorite Chris Farley skits is the "unused camera take" of the "Columbian Decaf Coffee Crystals" commercial, a spoof of the old "Folger's Switch" spots. And I hate snooty, pretentious restaurants. So it's no surprise that I'd like the new Hardee's "Fake Restaurant" campaign.

Brandweek sums up the premise:

New TV spots from Medelsohn/Zien, Los Angeles, use a hidden camera at a fake high-end eatery, dubbed "Grade A Restaurant," where white coated chefs serve Hardee's Prime Rib Thickburgers and Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Burgers to unsuspecting consumers.

The dupes get wise when they notice Hardee's bags, called out by the emblazoned yellow star logo, being hauled in and out of the kitchen. In the big reveal, they're informed that they've been eating the fast feeder's fare all along.
Check out the entire campaign here.

The only thing that would make it better would be my favorite commercial actor of all-time, Windell Middlebrooks, ending the spots by saying "$11.50 for a hamburger. Y'all must be crazy."

Fort Wayne goes digital: billboard provides new option for advertisers

Last month, I posted about the outdoor advertising industry's increased investment in digital billboards. The technology has been in Indiana for some time, but to date it's been unavailable locally. Earlier this month, however, Fort Wayne's first digital billboard went up on State Road 14/Illinois Road, courtesy of Adams Outdoor Advertising.

The new board provides a new, interesting option for advertisers, but it's not for everyone. If you need to make frequent changes to your message (if you want to tout low prices on specific products, or if you want to feature time-sensitive events, for example), it's a good choice because you can change the creative frequently and easily. However, if you use outdoor for image/branding, it doesn't make as much sense since your message is only up for seconds at a time and since digital billboard space usually costs a lot more than traditional billboard/poster placement.

All I've seen on the board so far is self-promo for Adams, but I'm sure that will change soon. If you happen to be on 14 and you see any new messages pop up, send me an e-mail or add a comment with your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Godin on not-for-profit marketing

Seth Godin took part in a Q & A today on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website. If you work for an organization that depends upon donors or volunteers, or if you're a nonprofit with a limited marketing budget, it's well worth a read.

I'm currently working with a large nonprofit that is considering a major strategic change, moving from a "being all things to all people" model to a "doing one thing and doing it well" model. It's a big move, but I'm convinced that not making a change is the only risk. And Godin's response to the question below reinforced my belief in the urgent need for organizations of all kinds to differentiate themselves, or become wholly irrelevant:

Question from Ashley. Large social-service nonprofit: Our agency has 22 programs, serving newborns to the elderly and everyone in between. We have decided to focus our marketing efforts on the strongest three programs next year to ensure their continued strength and to help support the other programs. Good or bad decision?

Seth Godin: In the Dip, I talk about this, about being the best in the world at what you do. Your approach is brilliant. If you become the go to (the habitat for humanity of your space, the roomtoread of your space) then you win over and over again. If you are third best at ten things, you never win.

The last of my three-part series on branding appears in this month's Business People magazine. I'm also posting one of the columns each month on SBB. Click here for the first one, read number two below, and watch for the third one in June.

Branding by Example
What your company can learn from world-class brands

Last month, I began a three-part ProSpeak series by discussing what branding isn’t. This month, in part two, I’ll focus on a few world-class brands that demonstrate what branding is--and how it applies to your business. No matter what industry you’re in, or how big your company is, these brands offer great lessons that can help you cut through today’s crowded communication environment with a message that’s clear, differentiated, and focused on your best customers and prospects.

Let’s start with retail giant Target. Target has carved out a niche for itself by delivering on a very specific, easy-to-understand promise. Where Wal-Mart and other retailers simply offer low prices, Target takes things a step further by offering low price combined with high design.

Here’s just one example: let’s say you need to buy a trash can for your home. If you’re looking for the cheapest option you can find, you’ll likely think of Wal-Mart. And what you’ll get is a perfectly functional but otherwise nondescript trash can to put in the corner and never think of again. But let’s say you’re someone who values aesthetics as much as price. For a few dollars more, Target will offer you a trash can designed by Michael Graves. Chances are, you’ll invest the extra money to get something you perceive to be better.

Now not everyone will pick the Michael Graves trash can—but that’s what makes Target a world-class brand. Instead of focusing on “everyone,” they pursue a very specific audience. For Target, this means conceding the shopper whose only concern is price, and focusing on those who “Expect More,” as its tagline states. This approach guides everything that Target does, from its advertising to its store design. And because Target is consistent at every touch point, their message cuts through the clutter.

Although conceding customers seems counterintuitive, it’s integral to building a world class brand. Consider Apple, for example. In a world dominated by Microsoft’s operating systems and programs, it takes a lot of courage to concede everyone with a PC. But that’s exactly what has made Apple so successful. The company positioned itself as an alternative, making the Mac a niche choice for designers, educators, and others who like to “think different.”

Today, the Apple brand extends well beyond the Mac, but every one of their products is designed (literally and figuratively) consistent with the brand promise. The iPod, the iPhone, and iTunes, to name just a few, have helped Apple become the choice of the early adopter and the technophile. This also gives Apple a significant price advantage, since its products are anticipated long before they arrive in stores. For a technology company, that’s an invaluable strength—and it wouldn’t be possible without the overall power of Apple’s brand.

While it took Apple years to build its brand, another technology company —Google—gained world-class status in about the time it takes to click a mouse. Even though Google is less than ten years old, it ranked 20th in Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands 2007” report, ahead of such powerhouses as Pepsi (26), Nike (29), and Budweiser (30). How has Google succeeded so quickly? By articulating a brand promise that, while ambitious, is incredibly easy to understand: Google provides a gateway to and framework for all the information and tools you need to get answers and stay productive.

The true key to Google’s success, however, isn’t just its brand promise: it’s the company’s commitment to delivering on that promise. After having revolutionized search, Google continues to innovate, building on its reputation as the world’s information storehouse. Just when you think Google can’t get any more amazing, the company unveils a product like Google Earth or Google Analytics, and their reputation is reinforced and even enhanced. Google also isn’t shy about acquiring products and ideas consistent with its brand, further extending its position and further defying those who say world-class brands can’t be built overnight.

Now your company might not yet be in a position to grow as quickly as Google, or to innovate like Apple, or to be as ubiquitous as Target, but you can still learn quite a bit from them about what you should do when building your brand:

1. Specify. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Do one thing, and do it well

2. Differentiate. Be not only better than your competitors, but different, too.

3. Simplify. Covey your unique brand promise in a phrase that’s concise and easy to understand.

4. Repeat your story. Remind people over and over again how you’re different. Share your brand’s story in your advertising, public relations efforts, design, packaging, and at the point of customer interaction.

5. Deliver. It’s not enough to make a brand promise—you have to keep that promise, too. Nothing is more important to your brand than the customer experience.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the tenets of branding and have seen examples of what it takes to succeed, it’s time to put a plan into action. Next month, I’ll conclude this series by discussing the five steps to a successful brand launch. There are no shortcuts, but with some careful planning you’ll be own your way to building a world-class brand of your own.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Resume tips that get the job done

Lots of good resume writing advice in this post from Daily Writing Tips. A sample:

10. Do not include “no kidding” information

There are many people that like to include statements like “Available for interview” or “References available upon request.” If you are sending a resume to a company, it should be a given that you are available for an interview and that you will provide references if requested. Just avoid items that will make the employer think “no kidding!”

Also recommended: proofreading. So if you're tempted to follow Penelope Trunk's advice, don't.

Local PR agencies discuss crisis communication

Good story about crisis communication in today's Journal Gazette, with quotes from PR folks at Asher Agency, Boyden & Youngblutt, Brand Innovation Group, LaBov and Beyond, among others. The bottom line: the "go ugly early" rule is always your best bet.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The "ham butt problem": Erin McKean's words of wisdom about the dictionary

It probably won't surprise you to hear that a lecture by Erin McKean, editor in chief of the Oxford American Dictionary, is smart and informative. What may surprise you is that her "Redefining the Dictionary" talk is funnier than just about anything you'll watch this week.

Small world department: Erin McKean is the woman behind the
Semicolon Appreciation Society.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fill in the blanks

Struggling to determine what makes you or your business different? This graphic from Collective Wisdom gives you a succinct, easy way to get started. Just fill in the blanks, put it aside, and come back to it after a day or so. Can you back it up? Are you willing to do only that? And are you disciplined and patient enough to give it time to work? If so, then you've just found your niche.

Friday, May 16, 2008


You can admire the Typo Eradication Advancement League from afar. Or you can join the Semi-Colon Appreciation Society. They even have T-shirts.

Hat tip: BP

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.

That's the mantra of one of my co-workers, who develops estimates for print jobs. It's a quick way of saying, "you can't have everything, so what do you really want?" If you're looking for a way to get customers, co-workers, or even yourself focused on what's most important, you could do a lot worse than those five words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The mouse looks for lab rats

You know those nice, friendly people at Disney? Well, that whole nice, friendly thing is just a ploy to get you to let your guard down so they can poke at your brain! Or something like that, says today's International Herald Tribune:

A laboratory in Austin, Texas, to be founded by The Walt Disney Co. by the end of the year aims to...[test] the biometric reactions of a pool of up to 4,000 people to advertising that takes advantage of the latest technology.

In a controlled living room setting, scientists will measure heart rate and skin conductivity and track the gaze of participants who are exposed to new ad models over the Internet, mobile devices and TV screens.

The goal? To see whether new and interactive ads elicit a more visceral response so their networks, like ESPN and ABC, can charge more for them. If this sounds a little creepy, then wait until you hear what the guy who will run the lab has to say about it:
"TV is not a rational medium, it's an emotional medium," [Duane] Varan said. "We can get to a deeper layer of what's motivating people by seeing how they behave, observing them in experimental settings and seeing how their body reacts."
So, any volunteers? You may also get a chance to star in the new Disney movie, The Ludovico Technique!

Think of your ads as content, not ads

People don't avoid ads simply because they're ads. They avoid ads because they're not entertaining. Or because they're not targeted. Or because they're not informative. Or because they're just plain crappy. But give people something good to watch, and they just might stay tuned--even if what they're watching is a big ol' ad.

That's the thinking behind some new ads on MTV and elsewhere, as the New York Times reports:

[A] short chase movie called “Get Moe,” intended to look like an ersatz “Bourne Ultimatum,” is actually a series of 60-second commercials for Mountain Dew. A series of shorts called “Men of Action” thrusts the heroes into violent confrontations that somehow promote the virtues of KFC and Kay Jewelers. The stars of the CMT network’s top series “Trick My Truck” appear in a series of spots featuring tips on how to maintain your tricked-out truck, including the timely use of oil from Exxon.
The strategy is called "podbusting," and while not entirely new, it's on the rise as DVR services like TiVo become more popular:

Dario Spina, who handles the same job for MTV’s entertainment channels like Comedy Central and Spike, said of countering the digital video recorder, “That’s the idea here; we want to blur the lines between the commercial breaks and the entertainment content.”

[...] “Viewers keep watching right through the commercial,” Mr. Spina said, adding that “good commercial content is good content.”
Whether or not podbusting is a good fit for your brand, the last quote from Spina is worth remembering. People go to their screens--whether that's a TV, a PC monitor, or a cell phone--when they want good content targeted at their interests. Make an ad with that standard in mind, and you're more likely to reach your audience. Ignore that standard, and you risk wasting a lot of money.

Hat tip: AdPulp

Monday, May 12, 2008

EW survey reveals interesting TV-viewing trends

Today's includes the results of a study by Entertainment Weekly about TV viewing habits. The big news is that technology isn't having as big an effect as might be expected. For example:

Just 1% of people say they "most often" view TV by downloading or streaming shows...60% percent still watch their favorite shows live, while 14% watch their favorites later that week and another 9% watch later that day.
This doesn't necessarily mean, however, that they're hankering to see commercials. About two-thirds of those surveyed stated they preferred product placement to traditional ads. But before you go throwing all your ad dollars into product placement, keep in mind that only 3% said that it works.

Perhaps the most interesting finding, however, was what happens to all those recorded shows:
Fully 31% of people with digital video recorders say they watch "none" of the shows they record, the survey found. Maybe that's an echo of the Netflix effect, in which Netflix members clog up their queues with movies they think they should watch, like "Citizen Kane," instead of movies they actually would watch, like "Bad Boys 3." Maybe everyone is Tivo-ing "John Adams" while they actually gather around "American Gladiators."
My take is that all of this is another example of how we perceive that continuing to do something inconvenient is less inconvenient than changing our behavior--even when that change would provide significant benefits. Sites like, for example, provide many of the same advantages as live TV, but with significantly fewer interruptions. But because they're competing against decades of learned behavior, they're going to take a while to catch on.

Small screen, big change

What's the single biggest threat to the way we use the web today? Our cell phones and PDAs, which continue to steal screen time away from our laptops and desktops. There are several reasons for this--our increasing reliance on our cell phones, an increasing shift in preference from e-mail to instant messaging, our changing web-surfing habits--but the cumulative impact is a change in the way content is being packaged and delivered. That's the larger context behind a recent Business Week article about how the mobile web means less ad inventory on Google and elsewhere:

Google can fit about 10 ads on a standard computer screen. (If you look at Google search results on a PC monitor, paid ads are the listings at the very top and along the right.) But on your cell phone, if you type in a search query at you get only one or two paid ads in response.

Imagine the horror that would befall your business if a large slice of what you sell suddenly disappeared. A similar fate could befall companies that depend on online advertising, as small screens become the gateway to the Internet.
Even if you don't host ads, how well does your site translate to the mobile web environment? As more visitors to your site surf from their phones, it's worth thinking about.

altair on stock.xchng

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The best of Seth Godin, in one post

This Seth Godin post is perhaps the best single summary of his many good ideas about marketing.

Tag--you're it.

Most brands can be summed up in a word or two. And now, Brand Tags is capturing the specific words that a select group of brands call to mind. You can add your own thoughts on the words or short phrases you associate with certain brands, but it's even more interesting to see what others have said. A few examples:

  • The words most commonly associated with Starbucks? "Coffee" and "expensive"
  • Facebook? "Friends"
  • Wal-Mart? "Cheap"
  • FedEx? "Fast"
  • McDonald's? "Fat"
  • Ford? "Crap"
What word or phrase do you think people would use to describe you or your company?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Media are people, too

Media relations isn't always rocket science, despite a lot of PR people's best efforts to make it much more difficult than it really is. One example: things usually go better when you treat the media like you would want to be treated. Think that goes without saying? Well, someone forgot to tell the person behind this e-mail, cited on The Bad Pitch Blog:

Pretty tight deadline, you should give more notice next time. As my attached bio details, I could certainly speak to the issues. I'm free from 1:30 PM to 2 PM, PST, if that works.
I'll leave it to Bad Pitch to sum this one up:
Thanks for that window Mr. Busy. God complex. Table of one! Might we touch your robe so that we might be healed? What’s the moral of the story? Don’t be a jerk.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What's the most important thing in the e-mail messages you send?

Your e-mail address. If people don't know who you are, don't answer to you, or don't think of you as a source of information/work/ideas, then you're immediately lower priority.

O.K., so what's the second most important thing?
The subject line. Scott the Nametag Guy explains why:

Because that’s the only thing customers see. Because that’s the only thing customers have the time to read. Because that’s the only thing customers will use to decide whether or not to open it. Because that’s the only way you can immediately differentiate yourself in their inbox.
If your e-mail address or subject line doesn't give the reader a sense of urgency, your message may never get opened. So if you want to ensure that it does, read the rest of Scott's post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Improve your social (media) skills

If you're looking for a great overview of how marketing on the web is changing, look no further than the new white paper from Vancouver's smashLAB, "A Primer in Social Media." Although only eight pages long, it packs in several great examples of social media hits and misses, as well as some basic terminology and recommendations. It's a short read that's long on good information--and best of all, it's free.

$3 million

That's how much it will cost to run a 30-second national ad during the Super Bowl XLIII, according to today's Wall Street Journal:

While individual slots have sold at that level before, it's never been the starting point for negotiations for the dozens of 30-second ads sold for the game. It represents a price increase of more than 10%, roughly double the usual annual rise.
And remember, that doesn't include the cost to produce the spot.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The 13 year-old boy test

Want an objective opinion about the name you've chosen for your new product? Run it by a group of 13 year-old boys. If they start giggling--and that's not the response you want to elicit from everyone else--then go back to the drawing board.

I bet the marketers behind AcipHex wish they had done that.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stop the presses

Why do I think the News-Sentinel should consider going paperless, like Madison's Capital Times? Read the last paragraph of this. When circ drops by more than 8%, it's a sure sign that things aren't going to get any better, and that they might get even worse. It may be time to try something new.

Hat tip: a friend, and Yes, again.

Is this thing on?

You can have a great topic. You can design great PowerPoint slides. You can be a great speaker. But you can still sabotage your presentation if you don't know how to use a microphone.

Think using a mic is easy? Actually, it's more complicated than you might think--and you don't want to find that out when you're in front of an audience.
That's why I really like this advice from the Speak Schmeak blog: it's a great reminder of how to make sure the audience stays focused on your ideas, and not any random noises that get in the way.