Archive for the 'Advertising' Category

Is Your Perfectionism Limiting Your Productivity?

It’s a strange marketing world we live in.

On the one hand, I see a lot of online marketing information that is clearly not well written or designed. I attribute that to the relentless need for new information and a lack of budget. When you see what many organizations want to pay for online copy, you know they are getting exactly what they paid for.

On the other hand, I’ve seen an equal amount of problems, especially on the print side, caused by an inability to pull the trigger on projects and approvals. Sometimes the projects never get off the ground because they seem so daunting (think identity brochures).

Other times, approvals go on forever with nothing ever seeming quite right. Countless images are reviewed with design and copy tweaks never ending. Pieces often lose some of their timeliness. But, by golly, they’re perfect when finally released.

So, What’s the Solution?

I think it’s a combination of tempering your personal instincts for perfection with the options new technologies provide. Start by getting a competent team together and trusting the members to do their best work within a reasonable time-frame – and stick to it. Don’t skimp on things like proofing, where errors reflect badly on you and your organization, but don’t be afraid to release a piece that may ultimately need more refinement.

The joy of digital technology is that you can make changes quickly and inexpensively. Even in print, it’s easy and affordable to use variable data digital presses to produce small quantities. Get your materials into the market and seek feedback. Or even release a few versions when appropriate.

Your sales force will appreciate having what will likely result in both more materials and better timeliness. And you’ll reap the benefits of greater marketing success along with a better story to tell.

For help getting your marketing program in high gear, contact me at 708-610-9914 or And put on some speed.

Are Marketing Plans Worth the Time to Create Them?

laptop with marketing display

Formal plan or back of an envelope. Which are you?

The short answer is yes, and that goes for companies of all sizes.

Small- and mid-sized companies are often the most challenged, with perhaps a few key employees (none of whom may have a true marketing background) tasked with the responsibility. In my consulting career, I’ve seen many firms with no formal plan, or, at best, a PowerPoint presentation outlining a few key goals along with some sketchy execution ideas.

Often the marketing plan (such as it is) suffers from a lack of constant scrutiny and direction. Over time, the company’s performance also begins to suffer as more aggressive competitors address the market’s changing conditions.

To assist, I created a marketing self-audit that provides basic guidelines to help you summarize your company’s marketing efforts and begin a more in-depth evaluation. A semi-annual review of your marketing plan and its creative execution will help keep your company a step ahead of the competition, which grows more aggressive and relentless each day.

Part one of the self-audit will begin with the core component of any marketing plan, positioning.

Auditing Your Positioning Strategy

  1. In a few concise sentences, describe your company’s market position.
  2. Name at least three important, competitive distinctions you have over your competitors. Reach beyond the traditional triangle of quality, service and price. Buyers hear these claims so often that they tend to ring hollow. And in all my years of consulting, I’ve never heard anyone say we have high prices, mediocre service and so-so quality.

Tip: One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from a CPA/management consultant who said, “If you really want to know how your client performs, buy something from them.” And it’s true. You might be surprised, shocked even, to see how your company performs in the quality, service, price triangle. Have a trusted “secret shopper” do this for you if you really want to know.

  1. Ask the members of your sales and customer team to give their answers to questions one and two. It’s an excellent check to see if everyone is synchronized on some basic positioning messages. There must be consistency in the communication coming from all customer-facing employees.
  2. Name your major competitors and ask these questions:
    1. Who is on the rise and who is declining?
    2. Has any competitor threatened your existing market share, stifled your growth or cut your profit margins over the last six months?
    3. Has any competitor launched a major new product or service within the last year?
    4. Have you run a Dun and Bradstreet report within the last year on each major competitor?
    5. Have you maintained a file on each that includes copies of any advertising, sales literature, etc., and compared it to your own?
  3. Have you surveyed your customers within the past year to see if you are satisfying their market needs? If you’ve conducted a survey, did your carefully analyze the results? Remember that their opinion of your market position and performance is the only one that counts.

Contact me if you’d like help creating a marketing plan that will truly guide your company now and into the future. I have decades of experience helping companies of all sizes in a variety of market sectors.

Next up: Inquiry Programs and Database Management

Does Your Content Moral Compass Always Point True North?

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“Your moral compass may guide you, but it won’t get you there.”

I was struck by a recent article (“A call for supermarkets to stop selling National Enquirer”), by Eric Zorn in the Perspective section of the Chicago Tribune.  The opening line asserts that it’s immoral for stores to sell the National Enquirer. And while Zorn feels this has been true for many years, he says “it’s especially true now that news events have shown the depths to which the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc., appear to have gone to distort, mangle and conceal the truth in pursuit of political goals.”

Now, the intention of this post isn’t to debate whether stores should sell the National Enquirer, but rather to spur thought about our content moral compasses. We’re people who write, design, produce, distribute and sell content. Has your moral compass ever made you refuse to be part of the process because you objected to the content? Has it ever made you think twice or feel uncomfortable?

Everyone Has Their Day of Decision

If you haven’t had to make that decision and you’re a younger professional, chances are you will. And the chances are even greater that it will involve decisions not only about the content, but also about money and your career.

Pressure on establishments that sell magazines with content some consider inappropriate is nothing new. Many have been pressured over pornography and even borderline material like the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. And there have been numerous debates about the content appropriateness in television and radio commercials as well as print. Yet there are many moral compass decisions that fly below the public radar but can impact you directly.

My Personal Moral Compass Decision Points

When I look back at my career in the graphic arts, I can think of two instances where I had to be part of the content decision process. The first was with a printer of a direct mail product called card packs. These are targeted, co-op vehicles that usually contain 40-50 direct mail postcards with advertising on one side and prepaid business reply mail on the back. Card packs still exist, though their heyday is long past.

Anyway, we had a customer that wanted to publish a card pack to the gay community. Card packs were a specialty item, and only a few companies produced them. And while it might sound like no big deal now, this occurred during the late 80s. Keep in mind also that most printing companies have policies on what types of content they won’t accept. Many, for example, have policies against printing pornography. That was true of my employer.

Our leadership team’s main moral compass concern was not that the card pack was going to the gay community, but rather what the content of the individual postcards might be. So, our decision was to agree to print and mail if the advertising content did not violate our policy of not printing pornography. There were times when we perceived some ads to be borderline, but we were always able to work through the issues. For the times, it was probably a pretty good solution and did not violate my moral compass.

Muddier Waters

A little trickier situation for me involved cigarette advertising. After the ban on radio and television advertising, the cigarette companies poured tons of money into print, outdoor and point-of-purchase advertising. The company I worked for had a small promotional agency customer that had a highly placed marketing contact at R.J. Reynolds Company, the second largest cigarette manufacturer.

Our client had access to a patented, plastic molding technology that could produce unique, three-dimensional point-of-sale materials. The agency owner wanted to partner with us for various reasons and the idea was to produce point-of-purchase materials with a sculpted replica of Joe Camel, the advertising mascot of Camel cigarettes.

Our team had some moral compass pangs about whether to participate. Although it was a legal product, we all knew the dangers of smoking and all had children we hoped wouldn’t smoke. We also knew Joe Camel tended to appeal to young people.

Our partner came through with the meeting and three of us went off to Winston-Salem, mock up in hand, to make the presentation. I was fortunate from a moral compass standpoint that the Camel marketing team ultimately chose another option. But I can’t deny giving in to both the prospects of big business and protecting my position. The lens of my moral compass got cloudy.

But moral compass decisions can be tough. Perhaps you’ve faced one? How did you respond?

Contact me if you’d like to create content that accomplishes your marketing goal without putting your moral compass in a spin.

Is Technology Paving the Way for More Print Marketing?


Digital technology could get in its own way, causing a print resurgence.

I’m going out on a limb and assert that digital technology will ultimately cause a resurgence of print marketing. There are two main reasons for what may seem like a crazy notion:

First, the sheer volume of digitally driven communications is crushing consumers. The spam call epidemic alone is taking a huge toll on mobile marketing. First Orion, a call protection company, conducted a study that predicts half of all mobile calls will be spam robocalls in 2019. The study analyzed data from 50 billion calls over 18 months. It found that spam phone calls increased from 3.7% of total calls in 2017 to 29.2% in 2018. It further forecasts that number will reach 44.6% by early 2019, and then continue rising until half of all calls are spam by the year’s end. (Source: Nicole Lyn Pesce, “Here’s why you’re getting so many spam phone calls,” Moneyish)

And while there are aggressive attempts to combat the problem ranging from call screening apps to an FCC-created Robo Strike Force, the technology enabling robo calls is cheap (a fraction of a penny per call), which makes the barrier entry low. The culprits are difficult to track and obviously find enough success to continue the practice despite substantial efforts to stop them.

And when you consider that many of these calls are not just unsolicited and unwanted, but also scams, you understand why mobile phone users are beginning to fear the sound of their ring tone. The crisis is making consumers more guarded about how they use their mobile phones and what messaging they’ll accept—nothing that bodes well for legitimate marketers.

So, why not do more email marketing?

Companies did, chalking up an 18% increase in 2017 for a total of more than 30 billion emails sent, according to a comprehensive study by Yes Lifestyle Marketing. One of the challenges reported, however, is that the share of new subscribers in marketers’ databases consistently declined throughout the year. New subscriptions fell to their lowest point in the fourth quarter, accounting for just 3.5 percent of marketers’ mailable audience.

Plus, the benchmark study showed that 20 percent of brands’ mailable audiences (people who opted-in to receive emails) hadn’t opened an email in more than a year. That represents a 22.5% year-over-year jump in inactive subscribers. (Source: Amy Gesenhue, “Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017,” Marketing Land)

In short, people aren’t exactly lining up to receive your newsletters and email promotions, either.

Second, technology and privacy laws are likely to give consumers more screening power. We currently can create great one-to-one email campaigns based on information we gather electronically at critical data points. But what if privacy laws or technology providers give consumers the ability to mask simple inbox behaviors such as opens and clicks?

“We can expect ever greater restrictions imposed on marketers,” says Andrew Bonar, Founder of deliverability consultancy Deliverability Ltd. “We can expect users to demand the right to opt-out of many tools and data points that marketers take for granted. Open tracking, device tracking, location tracking, click-through behavior and other data may all be subject to subscriber opt-ins and opt-outs.” (Source: Chad White, “These Are the Biggest Disruptors to the Future of Email Marketing,” Convince and Convert with Jay Baer)

Then there’s the whole issue of getting things smaller. With most emails now opened on mobile phones, you already need to make your message work on a 4” x 6” screen. Shorter copy. Fewer images.  Singe calls-to-action. Imagine if mobile phones are replaced by wearable technology such as the Apple Watch. How will you adjust your marketing messages?

I could easily go on, but I think you get the idea: digitally based marketing technologies could start to make print look like an even more attractive alternative.

Contact me if you’d like to explore how print might fit into your marketing strategy.


The Marketing Aftermath of Nike’s Controversial Ads


First, let me be clear that this article has nothing to do with the politics surrounding the controversial Nike ads involving football quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But since there were obvious marketing risks to running the campaign, I was curious about the results. And while the long-term effects are yet to be seen, here’s what I learned about the immediate aftermath:

  • Sales grew 31% from Sunday through Tuesday over the Labor Day weekend this year compared with the previous year, according to statistics reported by Edison Trends.
  • A survey indicated that 24% of American’s now view the brand negatively. That’s up from 7% before the campaign’s launch. Many Nike customers, as well as President Trump, blasted the decision on social media. Some even filmed themselves destroying Nike products and vowing to boycott the company.
  • Nike stock took a 3% hit immediately after the campaign, but then recouped their losses. Shares were up 31% year-to-date, and there will be an earnings report at the end of the month.
  • The online tumult surrounding the campaign translated into $43 million in free media that’s still growing, according to Apex Marketing Group. There were 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the 24 hours prior to the launch, as noted by  social media analysis firm Talkwalker. That represented an increase of 135 percent over the previous week.

Why Nike May Have Decided to Just Do It

Generally, most of us are doing whatever we can to attract new customers. Yet Nike clearly decided to put some of its business at risk. Why?

Some analysts believe Nike thought there was more to be gained by locking in brand loyalists and not worry about the less committed. According to branding specialist Pia Silva and many supporting marketing studies, it takes longer to win customers who don’t identify with your brand. What’s more, it takes more work to make them happy and their churn rate is higher.

On the other hand, customers devoted to your brand like (maybe love) your products and tend to buy more and are usually happy with their purchases. They become your brand ambassadors. Nike likely chose to further identify and focus on this group. In fairness, an irreverent, rebellious attitude has always been part of the company’s brand identity.

Time will tell if their decision works over the longer term.

Whether you’re trying to stir the pot or work across the aisle, contact me for help with your corporate messaging. I’m an experienced marketer who can help you with any challenge.

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