Tag Archives: advertising

Beating Marketing FOMO

May 15, 2018 by

I may not be Nostradamus, Jeane Dixon, or even Miss Cleo (and thank goodness, considering they’ve all ceased to be), but I’m fairly confident when I predict that your marketing efforts are seriously behind both the times and the eight ball, and that your company is but one Twitter fail away from extinction. 

How do I know this? Simple: You have no chatbot. Seriously, my good marketing manager, what are you thinking? You need a chatbot. And, come to think of it, an Alexa strategy. And a Google Home strategy. Also, influencers. Gotta have ’em. Never mind that your firm’s main line of business is industrial fasteners. At least you have a chief advocacy officer. What? No? Why do I even bother?

If the above feels a touch extreme, chances are you’re reading this on a Monday morning and have yet to slip back into the cacophonous deluge of marketing tips, tricks, and death notices (TV’s been dead for 16 years, don’t’chaknow) that fill your feeds to the brim. If you pay attention to even a fraction of it, you’re likely second-guessing every marketing decision you make.

And how could you not? This is a fast-paced world full of exponential change that you can’t possibly understand if you’re not taking the deep dive into big data. Right?

Of course not. 

The marketing fear of missing out (FOMO) is real. It also understandable, and beatable. All the things I mentioned above are tools that numerous brands have used successfully (according their own reporting, which may be suspect). But the key word in that sentence is “tools.” Nearly everything you see being touted as the latest, greatest, holy grailiest of advertising excellence is merely another tactic.

And that’s where your years of experience should kick in, helping you to determine which of the new (and existing) tools fit your brand’s needs best. Should you learn about them? Certainly, even though it sometimes seems impossible to keep up. Should you try some out? Absolutely; setting aside a bit of your budget—marketing or otherwise—for experimentation is always a good idea. But do you have to scrap everything and rush pell-mell into the next big thing in order to stay alive? No, a thousand retweets no.

The tidal wave of new-and-questionably-improved ad tools will probably never ebb. But remember this: Anyone insisting that you embrace their prescribed tool is selling a book about it, runs an agency that specializes in it, doesn’t know how to use other marketing tactics well, or all of the above. 

So stay interesting. Create boldly. Speak strategically. Act honestly. Sure, you may miss out on synergizing the newest adtech, but you won’t miss out on the most important thing—having a brand people actually like.

This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer who can make all your dreams come true at jasonfox.net.

Reflections On Reflecting

November 22, 2017 by

In the last edition of The Brand Brief, I was a bit blunt in my dismissal of what I termed “overly earnest advertising.” The type of advertising that is ultra-sincere yet utterly devoid of brand personality. In closing, I opined that “advertising, if it has any hope of achieving long-term effectiveness, must reflect the personality of the brand as it sells.” Someone actually had the audacity to ask me just what in tarnation that statement means. Since that someone happens to be my editor, I feel inclined to answer.

One would think that in the wide, wacky world of advertising, finding an example of such work would not be difficult. And one would be correct. However, it is not quite as easy as flipping on the TV and refraining from hitting FF on the DVR. Because it turns out that advertising that truly reflects the personality of the brand is not so common.

Let’s take the consumer insurance industry. We happen to be living in the golden age of insurance advertising. Yes, it may only be 10K plated, but we’ve come a long way from the fear-based, we’re-all-gonna-get-in-car-wrecks-while-our-homes-burn advertising I recall from my youth. In general, the move to better advertising began with Geico. Some of their campaigns rank among my all-time favorites. But if I do business with Geico, do I expect their agents, or adjusters, or claims officers to reflect the personality of a cave man? No. A gecko? Well, maybe a little. Or just the campaign’s tone in general? Not so much. Similarly, Allstate’s “Mayhem” work is outstanding. But I’m not convinced the bulk of the company can pull off Dean Winters’ rakish charm. Perhaps that’s why they keep the more melodious Dennis Haysbert around for voice-over work.

I think both Geico and Allstate have benefited greatly by these campaigns. And I’d give the wisdom teeth I just had surgically removed to work on them. But we’re talking degrees of success here. And I think the current effort by Farmers Insurance beats the competition. Their campaign features famed character actor J. K. Simmons as the living embodiment of the brand. He’s equal parts knowledgeable, folksy, and supportive. He is never condescending. And, of course, the spots are entertaining. I can also picture them belonging to the same group, having the same motives, and demonstrating the same values as Simmons. The ads give me a sense that I might actually get a good company instead of just good marketing. And that is a combination that actually wins in the marketplace.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer. He can be found at jasonfox.net and adsavior.com.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Mike Hagel

November 9, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Mike Hagel landed at Chicago O’Hare Airport back in 1970, he didn’t know what to expect.

“Get out and start life,” his mother Betty told her sons.

So Mike, then 20 years old, walked out into the Windy City with the gray Samsonite suitcases his mother had given him as a graduation gift, his art portfolio, and a dream.

“The YMCA,” Mike told the cab driver.

“North or South?” he asked.

“South,” Mike replied.

The cabby dropped him in a rough neighborhood. Every 15 minutes his room shook from the L train roaring past. That first night, there were two shootings with police officers showing up late into the night.

But this young man from the small Nebraska town of Columbus remained undeterred. The next day, he moved into a dingy apartment complex.

“I felt like I should have had a shotgun,” his brother Tom says. “It was such a tiny place I could almost reach out the window and touch the other building.”

It was freezing, so Mike slept with his clothes on and saw icy puffs of his own breath in the mornings. During the day, he hunted for illustrator jobs.

“I wasn’t going to accept no,” Mike says.

Mike had known what he wanted to do since his fresh- man year of high school. His brother, Tom, remembers Mike’s cartoon sketches were as “good as any in the newspaper and he was just this little kid.”

His art teacher at Columbus High encouraged Mike to further hone his craft. He spent countless hours creating, designing, and imagining projects under the basement stairs at his workbench. A block of wood transformed into an automobile with a quality paint job. And it earned him some scholarship money from General Motors.

Despite his love of cars, Mike was still drawn to the realistic Norman Rockwell ads. He attended the Colorado Institute of Art, taking classes during the summer to finish in two years. After Tom and his other brother Chuck returned from Vietnam, Mike knew it was time to draw his own history.

After about a week of searching, Mike landed an apprentice job for $50 a week with a graphic arts firm, Feldkamp-Malloy.

“I was just so pumped to get into the business,” Mike recalls. “It’s a very tough industry to get into for a young person.”

Accompanied by some smooth jazz and a cigarette, Mike would work late into the night. His bosses were akin to those in the show Mad Men, complete with liquid lunches.

Mike rarely bombed a job. His tenacity and creativity earned him a spot as staff illustrator for the board plus a pay increase of $100. By 1973, he was making $12,000 a year and thought he had the “world by the tail.”

He was soon landing bigger clients, such as Kellogg’s and Miller, and went on to work 47 years in the business (spending 24 years at ad agencies on Michigan Avenue in Chicago).

Now with a studio in Omaha, Mike points toward a lampshade purchased at an antique store. Mike told the owner he painted the Miller High Life Lady on the Moon, but she never believed him. He bought his own art for about $50.

He’s grown accustomed to seeing his work appear unexpectedly, for example: one of his portraits of lawyer Clarence Darrow on an episode of L.A. Law. His works have also been featured in the Strategic Air and Space Museum and the Pentagon. He is represented locally by the gallery Regency Parkway Art.

Mike works as an adjunct professor at Metropolitan Community College, where he teaches graphic design.

“Everyone can learn to draw if they have the desire to learn,” he believes. “The talent comes from the desire to learn.”

Mike calls himself an old dinosaur who still draws and paints without the assistance of CGI or computer tools commonly used today.

But Tom, a retired law professor from the University of Dayton School of Law, says Mike is uncommonly talented.

The younger Hagel brother is widely known for his aviation paintings, some of which hang in the Pentagon. His favorite is of a World War II battle titled Simpson Harbor. Mike knew the man who led the mission, and he calls Lieutenant General John Henebry “the finest man I ever knew.”

The painting depicts B-25 bombers in action over the blue waters of the South Pacific, attacking Japanese warships. Billows of smoke drift in blue skies and explosions are the backdrop. Henebry seems to fly out of the chillingly accurate portrayal, guns a-blazin’. He proudly shows off the signatures at the bottom of the painting, from the men who fought in the battle. Kathy, his wife of 10 years, calls his process “intense” and “inspired.” Mike did extensive research, read mission reports, and conducted interviews to ensure everything about the day was historically relevant right down to the altitude, atmosphere, and time of day.

Mike donated Simpson Harbor to the Air Force in 1990. It wasn’t his first artwork donation. In fact, he donated nearly a dozen aviation-themed paintings to the Air Force between 1977 and 1993.

Simpson Harbor used to hang in the office of Gen. Colin Powell at the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense James Mattis liked the painting so much that it now hangs in his office. And it hung outside the office when Chuck, the eldest Hagel brother, held the defense secretary position from 2013 to 2015. Mike jokes he was in the Pentagon years before Chuck.

Mike has spent years drawing caricatures of his brother Chuck, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, who finally asked for an official portrait.

Mike started the process by taking 76 photos from different angles and poses. From there, he drew a number of color and pencil sketches. Chuck picked the final one he liked the best.

“It’s extremely accurate and realistic,” Chuck says. “I’m a big fan.”

Mike noticed other portraits of former secretaries had something of their service incorporated in the background. Chuck thought what set his apart was the Combat Infantry Badge in the left-hand corner of the portrait.

The Department of Defense unveiled the portrait at the Pentagon in May 2017.

“It will be something around long after I’m gone, which is a nice feeling,” Mike says.

It was the first official portrait of a secretary not paid for by the United States government. Mike and Chuck worked out a price.

“Two cases of PBR [Pabst Blue Ribbon] and 12 frozen DiGiorno’s pizzas,” Mike says, joking.

Mike, 68, isn’t resting on his laurels. In his free time, he likes collecting motorcycles, drinking beer, and shooting pool. Or spending time with his wife and three grown children. As a commercial artist, he was given a problem to solve, but now he uses his imagination. He starts with a blank canvas, a cup of coffee, then heads down to his studio in the mornings.

The studio showcases a melting pot of styles. A huge life-like Henry Fonda from the Grapes of Wrath sits in the center of the room, while an abstract Highway 20 Revisited is reminiscent of an impressionist painting with cool blues, dark greens, and bright yellow and oranges streaking next to a hot red highway.

Mike reclines in his paint-spattered leather chair, having traded corporate business attire for the comfort of jeans and a polo shirt. Next to him is a combination of realistic and abstract works: a cow with long horns and a surreal background. Mike has been playing with mixing new mediums.

“Tom, Chuck, and I—all three of us—have left a mark that we were here,” Mike says. “I can’t ask for more than that.”

Visit regencyparkwayart.com for the Omaha gallery representing Mike Hagel.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Importance of Being Less Earnest

August 24, 2017 by

Stop me if you’ve seen this one:

Open on a shallow depth-of-field shot of a business owner, dentist, or HVAC repair technician. They begin: At AAA Acme Services, we know your schedule is busy. Cut to a montage of concerned customers nodding as AAAAS “team members“ show them clipboards and point at mechanical looking things and/or computer screens. “That’s why we put your needs first. Because we care. About you.“ Cut to smiling customers shaking hands with AAAAS “team members.“ Cut to shot of a youth receiving a sucker or “AAAAS Junior Team Member” cap. “At AAA Acme Services, we’re just neighbors helping neighbors by being neighborly because that’s what neighbors do.“ End on logo with tagline “Our best service is serving you.”

The question is not whether you’ve recently seen a commercial constructed like the above, but how many you’ve seen since waking up today. Like a fool, I exercise at an unholy hour of the morning (looking this average takes effort, folks) and often find myself watching the local news while working out. Over any given 30-minute stretch, I am liable to see five or six prime examples of what I call “overly earnest advertising.“ Always sincere. Always well-intentioned. Always making me yearn for the traffic report, even though I work from home.

To be fair, some of these spots are very well-produced. Many of the real people in them seem genuinely, well, real. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that well-made wallpaper is still wallpaper. And given its cost of entry on even a local scale, advertising cannot afford to
be wallpaper.

I know why these spots exist. They’re relatively cheap to produce and require little in the way of pesky “creative services fees.“ Businesses want to be seen as relatable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Worthy attributes all companies should aspire to embody. But there’s a difference between illustrating said character traits and merely telling people you possess them. To tell people you possess these traits in a manner that has long since lost the ability to attract ears and eyeballs just sets these businesses up for low levels of success. (Why not failure? Because just about any advertising is better than no advertising.)

It just is not enough for advertising to be sincere. Regardless of how honest you are, you are still someone trying to get someone else’s money. As such, consumers’ defenses are always at WOPR-induced levels. Want to be seen as likable? Make a likable ad. Want to be seen as trustworthy? Show people they can trust you with their time by not wasting even 30 seconds of it with a bad ad. It matters. Advertising, if it has any hope of achieving long-term effectiveness, must reflect the personality of the brand as it sells. It cannot merely promise a good experience, it must itself be a good experience. Because a good experience is a memorable experience. People only hire or buy from companies they remember.

I promise. Sincerely.

This column was published in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer. He can be found at jasonfox.net and adsavior.com.

Design Needs Language Needs Design

May 20, 2017 by

In 2009, filmmaker Doug Pray released Art & Copy, a feature-length documentary that, according to IMDb, aimed to reveal “the work and wisdom of some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time.” Having watched the film on multiple occasions over the years (it pops up periodically on Netflix), I can endorse that description. Even if the names Lee Clow, George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, or Hal Riney (to cite a few) mean nothing to you, their stories of turning insights into ideas and ideas into brand- and pop-culture-defining work should be required viewing for anyone involved in marketing. But of all the interesting nuggets one can glean from this movie, one of the most important is hiding in plain sight in the title. I’m speaking, naturally, of the ampersand.

The phrase “art & copy” is not unique to this film’s title. It’s been applied to the two main components of the creative side of advertising for decades: the art (what you see) and the copy (what you read or hear). It also refers to the duos charged with creating all of those hopefully persuasive messages—the teams of copywriters and art directors that first became standard operating procedure at Doyle, Dane, Bernbach in the 1960s. The importance of the ampersand lies in its brief, blunt affirmation that it takes both design and language to create an effective ad. It is not “art or copy,” “art over copy,” or “art instead of copy.”

In a piece of work’s final form, the split between art & copy is, of course, rarely 50-50. That’s natural. Some campaigns rely more on clever wordplay or provocative statements, while others let the design and art direction carry more weight. In the industry at large, the fondness for one over the other tends to be cyclical. Some decades see a renaissance of the written word, only to be followed by a resurgence of the visual.

We find ourselves in an image-driven era. Partly due to the cycle described above, and partly due to the rise of mobile platforms and their associated apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever has taken the lead in livestreaming. Which is all well and good up to a point. As long as we don’t forget that ampersand. Enticing visuals without narrative—whether in literal copy/dialogue or in a piece’s underlying narrative structure—tend to lack weight. Their impact is alluring for the moment, but their message is forgotten the moment someone swipes “next,” turns the page, or clicks “skip ad.”

We live in a world where good design is all around us, and great design isn’t difficult to find. Not just in marketing, but also in products, publishing, architecture, and even food. (There’s still plenty of hideous design, by the way, so let us not grow complacent in fighting the proliferation of mediocrity.) But how much of that design is just proverbial lipstick on a pig instead of an indication of substance? Once your eye moves beyond the well-composed, shallow-depth-of-field shot to the accompanying text, is the message enhanced, the brand uplifted, and your curiosity piqued? Or do you wonder why it incongruently sounds like a Buzzfeed listicle only less clever? If so, it’s because the design is either dancing alone, or with an oaf of a partner.

It is not enough to merely look good. Because as soon as you, as a brand, open your pretty mouth, you will sound dumb, boring, or indistinguishable from the herd—akin to saying, “just do something” instead of “just do it.” Nor is it enough to merely sound smart (well, aside from radio), as few want to pay initial attention to the visually cluttered or cliché. No. It takes both design & language—rooted in truth, expressed in interesting, relevant ways—to create advertising worthy of its purpose.

No ifs. No buts. Yet always with an &.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer. He can be found at jasonfox.net and adsavior.com.

This column was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

The Golden Rule of Marketing

December 20, 2016 by

There is no shortage of bad marketing to lampoon, nor is just a small amount of it targeted at women. When writing this column, I worried that some readers (not you, of course) might take my attempted satire seriously—seeing it at best as a middle-aged white guy mansplaining the finer points of selling to the gender that is not his own; or, at worst, a guide worth following. Besides, if I can’t end with the literary equivalent of Slim Pickens riding off into the nuclear sunset atop an H-bomb, what’s the point?

Nonetheless, as the Brand Brief is geared—however dubiously—towards offering helpful advice for my fellow marketers, I will attempt to shed some light on advertising to women. All I ask is that you please read the entire piece before tweeting me a stink eye GIF or Willy Wonka meme. Thank you.

The foundation of any successful advertising campaign, to women or otherwise, is what I call the Golden Rule of Marketing. I call it that because it’s a wholesale appropriation of the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 and formerly taught in kindergarten before the New Math confused society’s collective moral compass or something. In this case, the Golden Rule of Marketing is defined as “market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”

The beauty of this purloined proverb is that, when followed, one avoids committing any number of marketing sins. Do you want to be shouted at? Then don’t shout at the consumer. Do you want to watch a boring ad? Then don’t create boring ads. Do you want more spam? Then go forth and spam not.

Applied to the specific task of marketing to women, the Golden Rule of Marketing actually keeps it more generalized, forcing you, the marketer, to consider your audience not as a collective group sporting double-X chromosomes, but as individual human beings. Like, I assume, you are. Treat women like the people they are and not the bottomless pool of profits you hope them to be.

Of course, we see painful violations of this spread throughout the advertising landscape. Often, this involves a headline that sounds like it came from Oprah’s third cousin thrice removed. And unless you really are The Oprah, calling someone “girlfriend” while marketing wrinkle-free business attire just doesn’t ring true. In fact, it signals that your brand isn’t strong enough to have a real personality of its own and, instead, is content to glom onto an individual’s or subgroup’s cultural cachet in hopes that it rubs off on your company in a lucrative way. Which it won’t.

Having written for companies whose target customers were either mainly women (Walmart) or almost exclusively women (Beauty Brands), I can guarantee you that no one ever gets upset at or tunes out from messages that are smart, interesting, and focused on solving a problem or fulfilling a desire. It’s the awkward, tone-deaf sucking up that does you in.

Today, we live in an increasingly fractious and fractured society. One in which, from a marketing perspective, it is easy to assume every sub-niche of an already divvied-up demographic demands a certain level of magic “ingratiation” dust to be successful. But while we should always strive to know our customers and relate to them on their own terms, we would be wise to always think of them as people first and purchasers 143rd.

Do that, and your marketing to women or men or millennials or boomers or Oprah groupies has a much, much better chance of being golden.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Singing a Happy Tune

November 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jingle writers have done their job if they create an earworm—a song so catchy it sticks in your head and won’t leave. “When I tell people I work at Controlled Comfort, they immediately start singing the jingle,” says Alan Hove, who, along with co-owners Leo Costanzo and Anne Taylor, purchased Controlled Comfort in 2004. “It’s the best form of advertising we could ever hope for.”

Most people in the Omaha metro area are familiar with that animated female voice belting out, “Controlled Comfort–Keep it Under Controooooool!” Many locals probably would not guess the company’s logo (an angel), but could at least hum a few bars of the jingle. Whether a catchy tune is annoying or enjoyable is a matter of opinion, but once that musical worm has worked its way into your psyche, you are forced to remember the product, which is exactly what advertisers hope for.

When companies change ownership, one major decision is whether or not to maintain the same brand image, and the current owners of Controlled Comfort knew they wanted things to stay pretty much the same when they took ownership.

“We love our jingle!” says Taylor. “When we purchased the company, we knew we wanted to maintain the image and keep the logo and jingle. We couldn’t ask for a better form of advertising.”

Research shows that music increases recall, and simple melodies with simple lyrics stick with a consumer not only for the short term, but often the long-term. Remember, “I Wish I Were an Oscar Meyer Weiner?” Even if it has been years since you have actually heard it, chances are you can still sing the entire song. Controlled Comfort’s brand may not be as huge as Oscar Meyer’s, but their jingle has stood the test of time, being sung on local radio and TV for nearly 20 years with no end in sight.

Taylor recounts how, in the mid-1990s, local musician Johnny Ray Gomez produced the jingle for a radio spot.

“The previous owners purchased a year of radio advertising and it came with a jingle,” Taylor says.

At the time they had no idea they did not retain exclusive rights to the melody.

“I just recently heard the song while I was traveling in western Nebraska. It was quite a shock!” she adds with a laugh.

Branding is all about creating an image of a business that will stick in a customer’s mind. Though most businesses rely on visual advertising to create their brand, jingles can be an additional way to increase awareness and create staying power. People often remember a catchy tune. Throw the company name and their phone number in the jingle lyrics, and customers may not even need to look up the contact information.

“If I forget the phone number, I just sing the jingle,” says one local customer.

Though original jingles declined in recent years as more large companies turn to popular songs for their advertising, a few local companies still spend at least some marketing dollars on jingles. Whether you think it annoying or catchy, a jingle may be your best advertising investment.


Sell Softly and Carry a Big Brand

December 9, 2014 by

In that specific world where only closers get coffee and WKRP’s Herb Tarlek is spoken of in reverent tones despite being 30 years past his pop culture sell-by date, there exists a special something known as “The Ask.”

It most often occurs after a salesperson has given their spiel, answered questions, deflected objections and has still managed to keep either the proverbial or literal door from being slammed in his or her face. They ask for the sale. They ask what can be done to get you into that car today. Or that new wireless plan. Or even if you want fries with that. Done correctly, “The Ask” can push a potential customer over the edge. Done poorly, it can do the same thing—just not in a good way.

As advertising is at best one-and-a-half Kevin Bacon acquaintances away from sales, “The Ask” has become a staple of everything from TV spots to direct mail postcards to lettering on the side of plumbers’ vans. Only it goes by a different name, one you probably already know—“the call to action.” “Act now, supplies are limited.” “Julie your Time Life operator is standing by to take your order.” “Call or click to like us on Facebook.” “Follow us on Twitter.”

Here’s the thing. In most cases, the “Call to Action” is superfluous, a waste of space, unnecessary and, wait for it, redundant. Why? Thanks for asking. Because the call to action isn’t just contained within the ad, it is the ad. People know what ads are. People know why brands advertise. No one is ever confused by the motivation behind an ad. People understand what you want them to do after they’ve seen your ad. You want them to buy your stuff.

But is it really so wrong to go for “The Ask?” What harm can it do? Well, as with most things in advertising, it depends. If your brand voice would generally be considered of the Crazy Eddie variety—loud, obnoxious, in-your-face, and stuffed to the margins with as many hucksterish clichés as possible—then a sweet, gradient-filled starburst imploring people to “CALL NOW! TUESDAY IS TOO LATE!” makes perverse sense. If you’d rather keep your brand on the path to glory, it does not.

Because your brand should be the strong call to action.

Think about it. If the totality of your brand—the products or services it offers, the way it treats customers, the personality it has adopted, the experience it delivers from start to finish—isn’t enough to suffice as the foundation of an interesting piece of marketing, do you honestly believe a cry of desperation is going to get them moving in your direction? It is enough (and difficult enough) to entertain and inform without adding instructions to the mix that will duly be ignored. “The Ask” weakens. It distracts. It diminishes your brand. “But what if people haven’t heard of my company?” Then your advertising must be compelling enough to inspire them to seek more information. Not merely ask them to join your Google+ circle.

“But what if what I’m selling is a limited-time offer?” By all means, tell people there’s an expiration date on your supply of seasonal, eggnog-flavored beef jerky. That knowledge, combined with your target’s existing impressions of your brand and their rather eclectic taste in reconstituted meat snacks, acts as the call to action. Telling them to “Swing by the Jerky Joint today!” does not.

“So I shouldn’t include my phone number or website address?” Of course you should. But it’s when you tell people what to do with that information that you start rubbing them the wrong way (Again, people know what to do with a phone number. If someone can’t operate their phone, they probably can’t use your product).

So sell softly and carry a big brand. After all, any ad can have a call to action. But a great ad for a great brand is a call to arms.

Jason Fox is the Executive Creative Director at Webster, and the chin behind


Digital Immigrant, Meet Demand Generation

May 25, 2013 by

Chances are you are a “digital immigrant,” one who was not born bathed in bits, who played video games as a toddler or learned keyboarding in third grade. This means you have a steeper learning curve than “digital natives”—those for whom all this social media stuff isn’t stuff at all. It’s just part of everyday life…how they live, work, play, access information, and make decisions.

Indeed, there is a whole generation of digital natives, who command where, when, and how they find information. They are in control, and that is why they are called the “demand generation.” They compose our customers, our prospects, our employees, our constituents, and our advocates. A key to understanding social media is understanding how to reach, and more importantly, engage with the demand generation.

Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge that the sales process is no longer linear. The internet has jumped squarely in between you and your customer and interrupted what used to be a good opportunity for you to control the conversation. Now consumers visit blogs to get information and recommendations on what to buy. The average consumer uses more than 10 sources to make a buying decision today, and 70 percent of Americans look at product reviews. What was once linear may be turned upside-down, twisted sideways, and backwards. Consumers may see a product in the store, but then go out into cyberspace to investigate it, only to go back into the store to buy.
  • Content is king. As a writer by trade—and a digital immigrant—knowing this makes me very happy. It also makes me work hard to relate to my target audience with personal, direct, relevant conversations that matter to them. Customers who engage with brands online spend 20-40 percent more on that brand’s products/services. Know your target. Understand their perspective. Quench their thirst for the knowledge they seek. A long time ago, author and speaker Bert Decker impressed me with his edict, “You’ve got to be believed to be heard.” Break through that frontal cortex, and your message just may get through.
  • You do have to be everywhere—and on-the-go. This seems the antithesis to target marketing, but what it means is you can’t think that because you have your website and a Facebook page, you’re good to go. Chances are your target customers aren’t sitting still. It’s likely—not statistically shown—that 78 percent of consumers shop across multiple channels. This means the internet—your site if your SEO is up to date, social media, Twitter, Vine, blogs, e-mail deliveries from you/your competitors, and their phones. And here’s the deal with phones: 31 percent of consumers research products on their phones before buying in-store while 40 percent research products from their phones before buying online. Is your site mobile optimized/responsive so that it feeds the information to fit the user’s screen?

The good news about all this—for those willing to keep swimming in the deep end—is that there is demand, a marketer’s dream. We can meet that demand with products people need and want—and by getting in and staying in the conversation with relevance, content, personalization, and engagement.

Special thanks for inspiration and sourcing for this article from Bob Thacker, former CMO of OfficeMax.

Garage Sales

March 25, 2013 by

Spring cleaning is a yearly tradition for most households, and while we all have shopped our fair share of garage sales, a lot of people don’t know how to host one. Here are a few tips and tricks for having your own:

  • Advertising is key. Make large, sturdy signs with arrows pointing the way to your sale.
  • Use the newspaper or Craigslist to reach the masses about your sale but also keep in mind sites like garagesalefinder.com, where people can search garage sales by zip code or city.
  • Price items in advance with readable, easy-to-remove stickers. For example, blue painter’s tape won’t take off finish or leave sticky remnants behind.
  • Organize items by category (clothing, housewares, etc.). For clothing, hang and organize by size and gender.
  • Sell clean items only.
  • Hold your garage sale on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • If your garage sale happens on a warm weekend, keep a cooler of soda and water nearby to sell to shoppers for $.25. Encouraging kids to run a lemonade stand is also a great idea.
  • Get more change than you think you’ll need. Many shoppers get paid on Friday and will usually have bigger bills.
  • If you don’t have a lockable safe for your garage sale change, have someone always watching the money or keep it on you in an apron.

After the success of your garage sale, the house will be clean. And with the extra cash, hosting a cookout or throwing a party will be a great reward!