Friday, July 25, 2008

See you next week

SBB is taking a break until Aug. 3. Feel free to do the same.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A question

And I ask this for a specific, marketing-related reason (although it has nothing to do with food): would you rather go to a restaurant that:

  • Has a huge menu (so big you can hardly get through the whole thing) that stays the same every time you visit, or
  • Has a one-page menu that changes every time you visit?
Assuming the quality is consistent, which would you choose? And why? Answer in the comments or e-mail me your thoughts. I'll 'splain later.

Photo: JonCaves on Flickr

Monday, July 21, 2008

How the BMV can help you stay productive. (Yes, THAT BMV.)

A few weeks ago, I was planning my first BMV visit in a few years and I was not looking forward to it. At all. Then I stumbled across this on the BMV website.

That's right: you can make an appointment with the BMV. So I did. And it works--very well, in fact.

I made an appointment for 8:30, and when I walked in they called my name, escorted me to the first available desk, and I was done in about 10 minutes. Not only was I satisfied, but I became a BMV evangelist, e-mailing all my co-workers and telling everyone I know about this great service.

What surprised me even more, though, is that--according to a story in today's News-Sentinel--my experience isn't all that unique:

The average wait time at the state’s 140 branches has declined from 28 minutes in 2006 to less than nine minutes now. And through thousands of surveys of BMV customers, about 97 percent so far this year have rated their experience at a BMV branch as either excellent, above average or satisfactory.

BMV officials say that’s partly due to new options, including appointments available at many branches, enhanced online services and 176 non-branch locations where some services are offered.
Not only does this save everyone time at the BMV, but it cuts down on time complaining about the BMV, worrying about going to the BMV, and avoiding the BMV. It's not quite to the point where you actually lose time by not going to the BMV, but it's close. (OK, maybe that's a stretch. But the appointment thing really is pretty cool.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The two questions every webmaster should ask

I'm working on web usability studies for two clients right now, and here's what I've learned: it all comes down to asking two questions about every page on your site:

  • What one thing do you want the visitor to do on this page?
  • How do you facilitate that action in as few steps as possible?

Maybe you want them to make a purchase. Maybe fill out a form. Maybe send you an e-mail. Whatever it is, everything else on the page should be designed to encourage that action.

Why only one action? Well, consider these stats from usability guru Jakob Nielsen: when visiting a new site, users spend an average of only 30 seconds on the homepage and less than 2 minutes on the entire site before leaving. For sites they return to, their stay isn’t much longer—just 4 minutes on average. That means you need to give people the chance to get on, get done, and move on. The easier you make that, the more likely it is that they'll return.

Differentiation: It's a funny thing

Whether you're talking about your company's brand or your personal brand, it's all about doing one thing, and doing it well. Just listen to this conversation between Don Rickles and Chris Rock in this month's GQ:

Rickles: Chris has a style, and God bless him, it's great. And I have a style that I picked up. When I was a young man, I was the guy with the insult. It was always in my personality. I always did what I did and never made plans otherwise.

Rock: That's like saying, "Why didn't Pete Rose hit more home runs?" Listen, he figures out what works for him. Basically, whatever gets your mother a house, you do that thing.
What's your thing? How well do you stick to it?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sears to tweens: "We're cool!" Tweens to Sears: "No, you're not."

Another example of a retailer trying to fight perceptions instead of focusing on its wheelhouse: reports that struggling Sears is courting tweens with a bunch of online junk:

The traditional retailer known for its print catalog is taking a decidedly untraditional approach to back-to-school marketing, blanketing the online world by partnering with just about every youth-focused social, virtual and entertainment network out there -- all in hot pursuit of 8- to 14-year-olds that don't exactly see Sears as fashion forward.

"Our belief is that, particularly for this tween market, there's a little bit of undiscovered opportunity within Sears," said Richard Gerstein, Sears' chief marketing officer. "Part of what ... Sears needs to do is build credibility with this tween market. There are a lot of people out there that have that credibility, so we've partnered with them to help us do that."
Two things about this approach:

1. You can't co-opt someone else's credibility in an area where you have none of your own. You can't steal someone else's story. And you can't fool people into thinking you're something you're not--especially the most marketing-savvy generation ever.

2. If you're a 100-year old company and you call your business a "well-kept secret " or an "undiscovered opportunity" among a particular customer base, turn out the lights. If they haven't found you after 100 years, you're probably lost for good.

So what should Sears do instead? I don't know for sure, but it begins with conceding some of the audience and admitting that being uncool is still better than being out of business.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BlueTie banking on "featuretisements"

Can your calendar or your e-mail predict what products and services you're thinking of buying? thinks so--and the company believes it can do so more effectively than Gmail.

BlueTie's product is called the "featuretisement," and a story in this week's Forbes details company founder David Koretz's plans for growth:

"[F]eaturetisements," match an event someone types into his calendar or e-mail (such as a trip to Chicago) with, say, a possibly useful ad detailing flights that day.


So far [Koretz] has 26 brands, including Orbitz, ftd, Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Amazon, advertising to clusters of his 3 million e-mail customers. BlueTie gets paid only if someone books a ticket or buys flowers. Koretz says 2% are doing just that, while the average rate for merely clicking through on the Web is 0.5%.

He has spent the past few months trying to sell BlueTie's featuretisement technology to Facebook, Microsoft and MySpace...


He thought of featuretisements one night after a meeting with managers of Google's Gmail service, which was already placing targeted ads alongside messages. "They told me not to go into application advertising, because they were going to own the space. I was frustrated and spent six hours brainstorming with a colleague," he says. The two realized that Gmail is often on the wrong end of a communication. "If I send you a message about my Kilimanjaro climb, you'll see ads for treks in Africa. But you never signaled you had any interest in going there. That got us thinking about what people do signal."

One thing's certain: Koretz understand the pitfalls of advertising on social networks, so his plan is to develop interactive solutions, not just passive ads:
Koretz and others say social network members want to share messages and photos with their friends, not click on ads. A few of the scenarios he has talked up to Facebook and MySpace: a click-to-print capability (via a service like Kodak's) for all those photos, an option to buy movie tickets based on an instant message exchange and gift-buying buttons that flash alongside birthday notifications. Says Koretz: "You have to see intent, and then not annoy the hell out of people."
I don't know if BlueTie's idea will fly. But Koretz's last quote--"You have to see intent, and then not annoy the hell out of people"--is the best description I've seen in while of what it takes to be a successful 21st-century marketer. Whether you're advertising on TV, in the paper, or on the web, keep those words in mind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Slate on the "weird science of stock photography"

Back in June I posted about some of the perils of stock photography. The bottom line is that today more than ever, audiences demand authenticity in communication, and it's hard to be authentic when you're using a photo that wasn't shot for a specific purpose. This is especially true in ads, where the audience is super sensitive to inauthenticity because they have so many other choices about how the use their eyeballs and ears.

But there's another risk in using stock photos: someone else may use the same shot--over and over again, in fact. Yesterday, ran a great story about stock photography, and it included an example of duplicate use by competing interests:

A few years ago, a model/actress living in Portland did a one-day photo shoot on the campus of Reed College. She frolicked around the grounds and inside a classroom, wearing a purplish hat she'd borrowed from the wardrobe coordinator. The photos taken that day have subsequently appeared in ads for both Gateway and Dell; on the Web sites for a Canadian media planning company, a British science museum, the BBC, Microsoft Finland, Greyhound bus lines, etc.; and on the covers of countless books.

If a stock photo is good and inexpensive, you can be certain that someone else is probably already using it. Want to ensure that your photos are yours and yours alone? Buy the rights. Or hire a photographer.

Neoti Broadcast Network installs screens at TRF

Last week, Justin at Media Musings and the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly ran stories about the Neoti Broadcast Network's presence at this year's Three Rivers Festival. Here's what GFWBW had to say:

Neoti will be installing six screens in the Event Pavilion, with a number of other screens throughout the festival. The screens will feature a special thanks to title sponsors, area business advertising, a listing of events happening around the screen locations as well as a live weather forecast.
I was at the Three Rivers Festival Friday night to watch The Best Karaoke Singer Ever (you know who you are), and I saw one of the screens. There's a lot competing for your attention at TRF, but the location of the one I saw--above the beer line--was good.

I see this is just another example of a trend I discussed back in December: video, wherever you are, all the time. If you go to the Festival and you see the screens, let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A sign of things to come

It's hard to compete for attention in Times Square. If you're going to put up a sign, then, it needs to be big. Really big.

At 25 stories high, and wrapping three sides of One Times Square, a new sign commissioned by Walgreen's will be, in fact, the biggest digital sign in the world. According to a story and video on today's, it consists of "23 synchronized digital screens," more than twice the number of its next-largest neighbor.

No word on when the sign will make its debut, but something tells me that it won't go unnoticed.

Screen capture from video

Remember this the next time you send someone a link

Jessica Kizorek does a nice job of breaking down our motivations for sharing information in this Online Video Insider article:

Why do people share video?

They do so because it reinforces and strengthens the bond between the sender and the recipient. When someone shares a YouTube video with his or her friend, there is a subliminal communication taking place: "You would like this because I know you and I'm in touch with who you are as a human being, and I want to provide you with something you'd be interested in."

In the business world, a viewer may send someone a video clip to educate or inform a potential client. He or she is effectively saying to that person, "We are on the same page. We should do business because you can count on me and I'm listening to what you need. You can trust me -- I know what's going on."

When a video clip is received well, it immediately strengthens the relationship. If the video is not relevant or inappropriate, it weakens the bond right there and then. The deterioration of rapport may be conscious or unconscious. Either way, the sender becomes either a resource or a waste of time.

Think, therefore, before you hit send. What's your motivation for sharing the link? Are you certain it will position you as a resource?

Kurt Vonnegut on writing well

Hoosier native Kurt Vonnegut's "How to Write With Style" is a must-read for anyone who wants to get better at putting words on paper. And why would you want to do that? Well, take it from Vonnegut himself:

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you're writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead --- or, worse, they will stop reading you.
There's more where that came from.

McDonald's Egg-cellent Chi-town billboard

Most billboards ideas aren't all they're cracked up to be. Well, you sure can't say that about the one McDonald's hatched last week near Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Arab Aquarius has the details:

The giant egg billboard starts cracking and opening up in the wee hours of morning. By breakfast time, the egg has already hatched, and you can see "Fresh Eggs Daily" written on the egg's yolk.

The egg stays open from 6:00AM till 10:30AM, to indicate the availability of fresh eggs during that time. Once the breakfast time is finished, the egg billboard shuts and stays closed as a whole egg till the next morning.
This is a classic example of the "reveal," where a message is hidden or incomplete for a time, creating curiosity and interest before the mystery is solved. Reveals have been so overdone that most are anticlimactic, but you can't say that about this one.

Hat tip: SBB reader and Chicago resident Julianne...thanks for sending it along!
Photo: The Arab Aquarius

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bad grammar can kill your love life

Chalk another one up for us grammar nerds. Listen to what "Loss for Words" has to say in the "Ask Amy" column in today's Journal Gazette:

Dear Amy: I am dating a very, very nice man. We get along fabulously and have for the past year. There's just one problem--his language skills...

For example, he consistently uses the wrong verb tenses in speech and incorrect words such as "hisself" instead of "himself."


I'm in my early 30s and reluctant to reject a good, kind man because of this seemingly small thing, but it is an increasing concern for me...
So watch those verb tenses, ye single folk. Poor language skills are a total turnoff.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to reach sports fans beyond the stadium

With the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium just weeks away, advertisers are eagerly awaiting the chance to reach Colts fans in the team's new home. According to a recent post on Sports Marketing 2.0, though, online might be a better place to spend ad dollars targeted at sports fans:

There are 7.5 million Colts favorite team fans online and over 20% spend 20+ hours online each week!


[W]hen you consider that 68.7% of the US Population are NFL fans, and only 32 cities have NFL teams, it makes you realize that targeting stadiums and regions around stadiums fall way short of reaching the majority of NFL TEAM fans.

The upshot of all this is that team Web sites are the only way to reach MOST of the favorite team fan bases, yet most sponsors are totally focused on the stadium and the region around it.
While I agree with Pat's premise, I think in-stadium advertising has additional benefits when it can be seen on TV. Dasher boards, scoreboard signage, and other ads can give your brand some air time during the game, when fans eyes are focused on the screen. In-stadium advertising can be expensive, though, so just make sure you're buying as a marketer, not as a fan.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More great stuff from digs up another round of great ad ideas in this post. Another reminder that advertising that's fun, daring, and a little different works a lot better than the same ol' same ol'.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The single best way to improve your media relations skills

If you want better relationships with reporters and editors, listen to what Adweek’s Brian Morrissey had to say in this interview with The Bad Pitch Blog:

Recognize that media organizations are shrinking while PR is growing. The ratio of PR people to reporters is probably like 75:1....

What it means for PR people is your job is harder. The best PR people I know simply connect me with people that can help me. They know what I cover, what I don’t and how their clients do and do not fit. That means a lot more work before the email and the call. It also means knowing when to get out of the way.

The goal is to be viewed as a resource, not a PR person. And the first step is knowing the difference between those two designations.

Build trust by saying "I don't know"

Saying "I don't know is hard." Everyone wants to have all the answers, and no one wants to look dumb. But you can't know it all, and it's much, much smarter to admit that you don't. Why? When you say "I don't know," you build credibility. Being willing to admit what you don't know implies that when you do have an answer, you're confident that you know what you're talking about. It also builds trust, because the person you're speaking with knows it's O.K. to say "I don't know," too.

Of course, you can do better than "I don't know." You can say "I don't know, but I'll find out." Or "I don't know, but I know someone who does." Or "I don't know, and that's outside my area of expertise." But sometimes a simple "I don't know" is enough. You don't have to solve every problem.

The key is authentically saying "I don't know" often enough, but not too often. Say it too infrequently, and you'll be known as a know it all. Say it too much, and you'll be known for not knowing anything.

So how often should you say "I don't know"? The honest answer is, I don't know. You're going to have to figure that one out on your own.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two great presentations from The Secret Diary of a Bonafide Marketing Genius

How do you become a bonafide marketing genius? You create great, irreverent, comprehensive presentations like “What the F**K is Social Media?”

And what else do bonafide marketing geniuses do? Every now and then, they share great, irreverent, comprehensive presentations from other marketing geniuses, like Paul Isakson's "What's Next in Marketing & Advertising?"

Hat tip: PR Squared

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two great reminders of what works

What's the best way to market your product? First, have a product that's worth talking about. So sayeth Pixar's John Lasseter in the Los Angeles Times...:

"Quality is the best business plan of all."
And Sir Richard Branson in this month's GQ, speaking about the key to getting consumers to go green:
“It’s up to business to come up with the inventions that enable people to still enjoy a good lifestyle. I’m just finishing converting Necker Island, an island I own in the Caribbean. It’ll be 100 percent carbon-neutral. The cost of putting in windmills will be paid back in four and a half years. And after that, we’ll have free fuel going forward for the next fifty years. Going green shouldn’t cost you.”
Creating a product that markets itself is difficult, of course, but it's still easier than putting out a crappy product and trying to fool people into thinking it's great.

Hat tip: Lou Harry's A&E on (yes, again)

Side Project

I've started a second blog called "Play One More For My Radio Sweetheart," where I'll focus on another one my favorite things--great music. Well, at least what I consider great music. One song a day, with a little commentary. Stop by and stay, if you like what you hear--but don't forget to come back here, too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What not to say in your voicemail greeting

Another thing about voicemail: if your greeting says "your call is important to me," change it. Now. The message you may wish to send is that you'll give careful attention to every message you receive. What the caller thinks, however, is that if everyone's call is important to you, no one's call is important to you.

Insipried by the the great book by Laura Penny, Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Broadcast TV audience median age hits the big 5-0

There's a reason Andy Rooney is still on TV.

A recent study cited by puts the average age of a "live broadcast" TV viewer at 50--higher than ever before. One reason, the story says, is that younger audiences are gravitating toward other media:

"The median ages of the broadcast networks keep rising, as traditional television is no longer necessarily the first screen for the younger set," [says the study's author Steve] Sternberg...
Rooney's CBS is the grayest of the lot, but the other major networks aren't exactly spring chickens:
For the just-completed 2007-08 TV season, CBS was oldest in live viewing with a median age of 54. ABC clocked in at 50, followed by NBC (49), [and] Fox (44).
What does this mean for advertisers? First and foremost, of course, pay attention to the specific demographics for individual shows. Also, if TV is part of your media plan, and you're targeting a younger audience, cable deserves a much closer look.

Hat tip: Lou Harry's A & E on

TechCrunch says "VoiceMail is dead"; SBB says "maybe not"

The influential blog TechCrunch declared today that voice mail is "dead." The reason? Well, there are several, but it boils down to this:

- No one likes leaving messages and even fewer people like receiving them

- Voicemail is "outside of our typical workflow" (i.e. it requires a seperate "inbox" and isn't integrated with our computers)

- Reading an e-mail or text message is faster than listening to a voice mail

- If the point of a phone call is immediacy--as compared to e-mail, which is asynchronous--then leaving a voicemail becomes somewhat pointless

Now I'd be among the first to celebrate the desmise of the telephone. I screen calls at home, at work, and on my cell phone, and I pick up only when it's a client, a co-worker or someone whose call I'm expecting. If it were up to me, every conversation would happen over e-mail or IM, or face-to-face
. Not everyone, however, is so opposed to the phone, and e-mail has problems of its own. That means rumors of voicemail's death are greatly exaggerated.

However, if the celebratory tone in the comments to the TechCrunch post tell us anything, it's this: there's a lot of room for improvement with the messages we leave. People don't seem opposed to voicemail, itself, that is--but they are opposed to bad voicemail messages.

So how do you make your voicemail messages better, and more likely to elicit a response? Start with a few simple rules:

- If you're calling someone you know, all he needs is your name, a very, very brief reason you're calling (enough to have anything he needs in front of him when he calls back), and the best place to reach you.

- If you're calling someone you don't know, you have about 10 seconds (maybe less) to convince the recipient that they should listen to your message. Tell them the one most compelling reason they should care, leave contact information, and be done.

- Say your phone number s l o w l y. It will help to read it off a business card so you go through it a little more methodically.

- Offer your e-mail address instead if your subject can be discussed over e-mail. That way the recipient has a choice, and may be more likely to respond.

- Don't give too many details about your availability. Instead, include the one best day and time to return your call. No one can process "I'll be in the office Monday after 2, Tuesday between 3 and 5, all day Wed., and from 8 - 10 and 1:30 - 5 on Friday." "Please call me Wednesday--I'll be in the office all day" works just as well.

- Consider whether your message would be better as e-mail. It may be that you can't encapsulate what you need to say in writing. Or maybe you know there will be follow-up questions that you can answer right away. But if you're only calling because it's more convenient for you, think about whether that's truly the best way to communicate.

Remember, it's all about getting the person on the other end to respond. Say exactly what the recipient needs to know, and nothing more, and you might just get a call back. Say too much, or give the wrong information, however, and you might just help prove TechCrunch right.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fame is just a text away

Your chance to hang with the man with the pants.

Bonus coverage: Rumors of Jared's death are greatly exaggerated.

Full disclosure: Yes, Subway is a client of my employer. But that doesn't mean being in a TV commercial wouldn't be cool.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Onion Skewers Product Placement

Let's hope that product placement never gets as bad as this parody from The Onion News Network. It's enough to make you miss the good old days of advertising.

Hat tip: AdPulp

Extra! Extra!: Yes, there are some people out there who don't realize that The Onion is satire.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The verdict on these Schroder Joseph and Associates' ads? Pretty good.

In February I posted about the killjoyness that is most law firm advertising. There's a strain of thinking that says since the law is a serious business, firms must promote themselves in only the most staid way possible, and anything that couldn't be created by Ross Fishman's Automatic Ad Generator falls outside the lines of good taste.

Well, the women at Schroder Joseph & Associates have a better idea: why not create ads that differentiate their firm, get noticed, and invite the audience to have a little fun? The all-female firm put together an ad campaign that does all of those things by turning some common stereotypes on their head. The Buffalo News explains:

“Ever Argue with a Woman?” reads the headline of one of the ads for Schroder Joseph & Associates LLP. “Labor Pains? Talk to us. (We’re women . . . We get it),” states another
Of course, some of the stuffier shirts at the American Bar Association website have gotten their wing tips all winged out over the whole thing. More from the Buffalo News:

The main criticisms of the ads, which play up the firm’s feminine strengths, is that they perpetuate sexual stereotyping.

“Great, next they’ll sell us on female surgeons because they sew better,” reads a post on

A comment on the ABA Web site said the ads open the door to male lawyers touting masculine virtues and suggests some not-so-politically-correct tag lines.

“Men Work Harder and Don’t Take Time Off For Childbirth” or “How Many Women Play Pro Football . . . Women Are Weak,” are two of the proposed male-centric ads.

(Obviously, the genius who came up with those probably wouldn't know a good headline if it hit him in the bow tie.)

Another unique twist to the story is that the ads not were the brainchild of in-house marketing staff or an ad agency; the idea came from Jennifer Dowdell of Business First, a Buffalo-area business weekly:
“This wasn’t about ‘we’re women, hear us roar,’ ” Dowdell said. “But they are an all-women firm, which makes them unique.”
Like it or not, ABA scolds, if you're not unique, you're invisible. And if you're going to create safe, boring ads, you may as well not run them at all.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Simple. Awesome.

You know what's going to happen when people see this new campaign for National Aquarium in Baltimore? They're going to want to go to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Great stuff from GKV. To see more from the campaign, visit