Wanna Play With The Big Boys?

Just saw the listing of the 100 largest global marketers in the Dec 7 issue of Advertising Age. It shows the 2014 worldwide media spend ranked from 1 to 100. Wow, it’s a little mind boggling what companies are having to spend to build their brands around the world.

Would you be surprised to know that Procter & Gamble tops the list with a whopping $10.1 billion in media spending? Yes, billion. They are out spending the #2 company by nearly $3 billion. The top 10 include several car and food companies. By the time you get down to Apple at #30, the spending has dropped to $1.39 billion. It’s a very interesting list to peruse. All 100 companies combined bought $131 billion in media in 2014. Holy agency commission, Batman.

I find this interesting because it puts things into perspective and shows the depth of pockets that are needed to gain consumer awareness in this day and age.

So when you’re deciding what and how much of your market you want to dominate, be sure you know what it might take to make that happen.

Is This Great or What?

Saw this and it made me smile. It's an album cover for a jazz group called Down To The Bone. How creative. I love the way they kept the look that the original designer of the NY subway signs, Massimo Vignelli, intended - big fan of Helvetica. I highly recommend the documentary about Massimo and his wife called Design Is One. Shout out to Scott Panciera for turning me on to it.

What Is It About Good Marketing?

What makes marketing good? As marketers, we’ve all asked that question. As consumers, we don’t usually think of marketing that way. It’s sort of like Computer-Generated Images in movies. If you can tell it’s CGI, or if the fact that it’s CGI distracts you from the story, then the movie-maker has failed since you should not really “see” CGI. It should blend in with the story seamlessly.

Such is the nature of good marketing. If you think you’re being marketed to, up go your shields and you’re immediately put off. But good marketing is stealthy and plays to our emotions in ways that appeal to us and tell us something about the product in an entertaining or engaging way.

Here are 5 examples of what I’m talking about – great ads that get the point across in a unique way that don't feel like we’re being marketed to.

This is fun stuff.

Good Ads

Top Advertisers

Advertising Age has just released their list of top advertisers in the U.S. for 2014 and the figures are astounding, considering we're talking billions of dollars for many of them. You have to get down to #39 before the amount spent drops under a billion - which happens to be the U.S. Government, who spent $979.5 million (a 19% increase over 2013).

U.S. Top 6 Ad Spenders 2014

So where do some of the other companies fall, who are almost equally famous as the top 6?

Other U.S. Top Ad Spenders 2014

What I find interesting are the budgets involved. When I was at Motorola, I had a $5 million ad budget and thought I was hot stuff. But the companies mentioned above spend more than that on their coffee every year.

As a marketer, I find this data helps to put things into perspective when a client says "I want to dominate the market" and in the same breath tell you their marketing budget is $5,000. Good luck with that.

The Joy of Copywriting

One of the principle reasons I enjoy marketing so much is my love for copywriting. I simply love to write. Now, I may not be a grammar expert, but I can find my way from one end of a sentence to the other – most of the time. If I find myself in a grammatical corner, I turn to a couple of guides that have served me well.

One is a book by Patricia O’Conner called Woe Is I. The other is The Associated Press Stylebook. Both are good for things like…using Calif. as the abbreviation for California, not the familiar postal code CA.; and using lower case for a person’s title when it comes after their name, like Bob Johnson, president of ABC Company. When you’re writing copy for something where accuracy is critical, like a press release, things like this are extremely important. For copy in ads or other marketing collateral, you have a little more wiggle room.

As you can tell, my style is more “conversational” which means I write like I am speaking to the person. I try to avoid using big words since they don’t sound natural, but I do like to use humor whenever the mood strikes.

The challenge for copywriters is to say what you need to say in the fewest words possible. Whether it’s 140 words or 140 characters, learning how to be brief and understood at the same time can be difficult. It’s like the old story of Mark Twain who wrote a 4-page letter to someone and ended it with “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

This blog, for example, should have been shorter, but I didn’t have enough time.


Had some alone time this weekend that gave me the opportunity to catch up on my reading. One of my fav’s is Advertising Age. An article in the recent issue by Ken Wheaton, managing editor, was really singing my song. He was giving high praise to a TV ad by American Standard showing a gray-haired lady talking about a toilet. If you haven’t seen it, check it out – very creative.

Here’s the part that spoke to me…“Ad-Tech is a wonderful thing, and can help marketers get the most out of their money. But beware of getting lured into the Marketing Tech Can Do It All Bubble. Ad-Tech won’t ever solve the marketer’s primary problem: getting through to people. It might put a marketer next to people, but you still need something creative or engaging to make the connection.”

That pretty much says it all. Thanks Ken.

Tell It - Don't Sell It

With today’s consumer so inundated with marketing messages, smart marketers realize they have to approach their buyers from a different perspective. You can no longer stay in “sell” mode, where you are always pushing the features and benefits of your products.

The average consumer is so tired of being “sold.” They know a sales pitch when they see one and will often totally avoid your message once they sniff the scent of your sales pitch. Consumers don’t want to be sold. They want to learn something they didn’t know. This is why you are seeing so many messages that start with “Top 10…” or “The 3 Most Important…”. These types of messages have better results because people think they are going to learn something.

So stop selling and start telling. Tell your audience something they will find interesting, entertaining, informative, thought provoking, controversial, funny, or just plain ridiculous. The more you give people these things, the more top of mind you will be. And isn’t that what you want anyway?

Now go tell something.

3 PowerPoint Tips For Better Presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint…almost all of us have given a PowerPoint slide presentation at one time or another. It’s become the mainstay of presenters everywhere. Or maybe your preference is like mine – Keynote. Whichever your choice, I’ve seen so many examples of slide disasters and so few examples of great slide decks that it seems there is a general lack of slide expertise.

So, to do my part to help put an end to death by PowerPoint, here are my 3 key slide tips based on the acronym N-I-H.

1) Speak from your NOTES, not your slides

If you don’t know your presentation by heart, DO NOT put your presentation on your slides. Nobody in your audience wants to read your presentation. I’ve seen slide after slide where the presenter puts full sentences on their slides, and then just reads that to the audience. If you do that, why even show up?

But if you do choose to actually present your information, then BE the presentation. Don’t make your slides the presentation. Look at a few of the presentations on TED. They rarely even use slides and if they do, they are very simple and only serve to amplify what the speaker just said.

So…tell your audience what you want them to know using your notes. Use your slide to amplify a specific point. For example, instead of reading the slide on the left, use something like the slide on the right to drive home the key message.

2) Use good IMAGES

First, delete all your bookmarks of clip art sites and never ever ever use PowerPoint clip art. They look cheesy at best and are very unprofessional. You should always use photography wherever possible. And when you do, try and make the photograph as large as possible, like the one on the right here.


Rather than present every last detail of your subject, use a handout to give your audience a more in-depth presentation of your topic. But always wait until the end of your presentation to provide the handout. Otherwise, you will hear a lot of paper rustling as you give your talk.

I could go on, but the blog dogs are nipping at my heels.

Now go forth and use NIH to simplify your slides.

Being Creative

I remember many years ago being in awe of creative people who could come up with cool ideas and designs. It never entered my mind to try it myself, until much later. Now, many years hence, I have concluded that creativity is a state of mind. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s something you develop.

What I’ve learned is that creativity is directly linked to confidence. If you tell yourself you aren’t creative, you will not be creative. If you tell yourself you are, you will be. Of course, confidence isn’t easily achieved, and many factors can affect your level of confidence – your home life, your happiness, your colleagues, your friends, etc.  But confidence is key to being creative. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

What creativity also requires is work. You have to work at it. You have to sit down and think and try out a lot of ideas, and think some more. Some of your ideas will be ugly, but out of many ugly ideas comes one that will make you say “that’s it!”

And what’s funny is, when you embrace your creativity, it almost acts like a virus – growing and growing and not letting go. I find myself “being creative” pretty much all the time now. I wake up in the morning and something will just pop in my head. I drive down the street and notice a sign or a color or hear a phrase. Ideas come from many directions if you’re open to letting them in.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m the most creative person out there (who is?). I am still in awe of many creative people, some of whom I am proud to call my friend. What I am saying is that I am living proof that anyone can be creative – even you.

Just be.

It's An ADD World

One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is figuring out how to get someone’s attention, especially in a world where just about everyone has Attention Deficit Disorder – okay, maybe not the clinical ADD variety, but it certainly seems that way.

Whether it’s a headline in a pay-per-click ad, a subject line in an email, the first paragraph of a press release, a TV spot, or an outdoor ad on the highway, smart marketers know they have about 3 to 5 seconds to get the viewer’s attention, or that person is moving on.

In the 2.4 seconds it took you to read the headline of this blog (yes, I timed it), you considered a lot of factors. Should I read further? You may have glanced at the image in the blog to fuel your decision process. Of course, external factors play a role as well. Are you strapped for time (who isn’t?). Is a project screaming for your attention? Is your stomach screaming for food?

Our amazing brains process those factors and a hundred others in a microsecond. And, of course, many of us make things even worse by multi-tasking – texting while driving, reading our emails while shaving, listening to a radio while reading, etc.

Of course, your manager doesn’t have any sympathy for your situation and is probably operating under the assumption that recipients of the company’s marketing messages are hanging on every word, anticipating with baited breath the next exciting syllable. Maybe that explains the endless wordsmything and the discussions over whether they should use “that word” or the “other word.”

Those first few seconds…that’s the key. If you don’t make it past there, it doesn’t matter what comes next.

The Secret of Marketing - Shhhh!

I’m about to reveal the secret of great marketing. I may lose my official membership card and decoder ring to the Federation of Marketers, but here goes…

Great marketing is all about RELEVANCE.

There, I said it. Boy, it feels good to finally get that secret off my chest. Seriously, after seeing so many irrelevant marketing campaigns come across my screen, it sometimes seems like Relevance really is a secret.

I will acknowledge that just about every marketer knows the importance of relevance. The fact is, however, most marketers don’t focus on it nearly enough.

Why is Relevance so important? Whether it’s email or direct mail, the list you use is responsible for roughly 75% of the success of your campaign.

If you send the most creative marketing campaign in the history of man, with the most attractive offer in the history of man, to a group of people who have no interest in what you’re talking about, your campaign will be the most expensive failure in the history of man.

On the other hand, you can send a mediocre piece of creative with a mediocre message to a highly targeted audience and it’s going to do pretty well.

Now imagine a highly creative campaign, with a great offer, sent to a highly targeted and interested audience. Why…your results graph will poke a hole in the top of your monitor.

So, stop sending discount coupons for steaks to vegans, children’s diaper offers to empty nesters, and retirement club specials to millennials. Know your audience. Whether it’s demographics, geographics, functional titles, activity interests, etc., be sure to match your audience with your message.

Next time, I’ll reveal the secret marketing handshake.

Marketing Is Like Playing The Guitar

I was playing my guitar today (that’s my 40-year old Ovation Legend in the photo) and it occurred to me how similar marketing is to playing the guitar. That’s right, I’m pretty much thinking about marketing all the time. It’s a curse.

Too many marketers focus on one aspect of marketing, like playing a single note on a guitar. See where I’m going? They focus on social media, thinking that will bring them success. Or they focus on SEO and their website, or just a single big ad. You can certainly play music with single notes, but the end result is going to be rather shallow, incomplete, and frankly, won’t rank high on the charts.

Great marketing is a symphony of notes, full of chords and multiple notes playing simultaneously. Just like the guitar, you need to include everything when you want your marketing to be successful.

When your digital marketing is working in conjunction with your direct marketing; when your online ads are working in conjunction with your print ads; when your social media is in harmony with your website…it’s a beautiful thing.

So pick up all of your marketing instruments and let’s make some great music.

Simple Always Works Best

Consumers are so busy searching, filtering, and digesting information every day, attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. This is why it is imperative for marketers to keep messages simple. Consumers just don’t have time to absorb multiple messages, or try and figure out what it is you are trying to tell them. If there is doubt or confusion, they are moving on – faster than you can say average session duration.


Too often, emails, web pages, social media, ads, you name it, are crammed full of varied messages. Often, this is at the “request” of the marketer’s boss who doesn’t like to see white space go unused. But when the space has no space left, where is the consumer supposed to look first? How will the consumer “get” your message in 3 to 5 seconds?

Keep it simple, keep it fast, and you will keep your audience.

Don't Be Afraid To Stand Out

How do you effectively communicate your message? Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, we all face the same challenge:

This is the most difficult obstacle marketers face, but the most important one to overcome. Because no matter how great your message is, if you don’t first get that person’s attention, your message will not be communicated. If they don’t read the email, notice your TV ad, listen to your radio spot, look at your billboard, then you have wasted your money.

Why is it so difficult to get someone’s attention? Because the person you are trying to reach is bombarded by thousands of messages every day - literally. This modern phenomenon has forced all of us to erect barriers to stop as many messages as possible from reaching us – spam filters, delete buttons, DVRs, trash cans, “do-not-mail” lists, “do-not-call” lists, personal assistants, and on and on.

So what do you have to do? Stand out. You have to be different. You have to show people something they haven’t seen before.

I’ve had the pleasure of helping companies stand out in a variety of ways – from large personalized posters that imitate famous newspapers and magazines, to bottles of wine with custom labels, fortune cookies with custom messages inside, books with custom wraps, ninja outfits in a box, custom pre-paid Visa cards, and full-size skis with the recipient’s name printed on the face.

Does this type of thing get a person’s attention? You bet it does. And that’s exactly what you have to do. Stop following the pack and try something different.

Positioning - The Most Ignored Aspect of Marketing

What is positioning? It’s what your market thinks of your company. It goes beyond product and includes intangibles like what you deliver versus what you promise, trust, customer relationships, reputation, and emotions. It’s usually the first thing that comes to mind when your company name is mentioned. It might be your product that people think of, but often it’s something relating to that person’s most recent interaction with your company – their most recent image.

This is why you and everyone else in your company need a clear understanding of exactly how your company wants to be positioned. If you want to be the WOW company, then you had better WOW your customers at every opportunity – not just once in awhile. If you want people to think of you as having the most knowledgeable people in the industry, then you need to demonstrate that at every opportunity.

Positioning requires strategy, communication, alignment, time, consistency, repetition and repetition. When your customers “get it” then you will have succeeded.

Your Brand Voice

Does your brand have a voice? I’m talking about the audio of an actual talking person. There are many opportunities for you to communicate a consistent, recognizable voice. Too often, companies use someone in their company who they think has a pleasant sound. But only a professional knows how and when to emphasize the right words, how to put a “smile” in their sound, and how to incorporate the proper cadence.

If you don’t have a big budget (who does?) and can’t hire George Clooney, there are some good solutions available. I recommend Voice123.com. They have a ton of great voice talent that you can hire for very little cash. You can write the script and send to them, or they can take care of everything for you, including the background music.

Whether it’s for your website, a video, a telephone menu tree or just a plain welcome somewhere, use a professional.

Do You Really Know Your Brand?

Managers are so busy with their day-to-day activities they rarely, if at all, take the time to step back and look at their brand from a fresh perspective. To do so, however, can be quite revealing, and is certainly worth devoting the time and resources for a thorough, objective brand analysis.

Do you deliver on your brand promise? Are you relentless at trying to maximize your customer’s experience of your products and services? Do you routinely ask your customers what they think of your brand? What do you do with the answers?

In addition to the core promise of your brand, there are many intangibles that need to be addressed and adjusted as time goes on if your brand is to stay relevant:

  1. Who uses your brand? – the type of person
  2. How is your brand used? – the situations
  3. What is your brand personality? – funny, strong, competent, exciting
  4. What emotions does your brand elicit? – fun, caring, friendly, romantic
  5. What market conditions affect your brand? – airfare, gas, food, taxes

The better you know your brand, the more successful you will be at communicating your brand, which will add to your top line revenue and make you more successful.

Excerpts: Harvard Business Review, The Brand Report Card, Kevin Lane Keller

The Dollars & Sense of Great Brands

According to Martin Lindstrom in his book Brand Sense, “83% of all commercial communication appeals only to one sense – our eyes. That leaves a paltry 17% to cater to the other four senses. This is extraordinary given that 75% of our day-to-day emotions are influenced by what we smell, and the fact that there’s a 65% chance of a mood change when exposed to a positive sound.”

If he’s right, that means brands that appeal to multiple senses have a better chance of standing out than those that don’t.

Think about a new car – you see it (the design), touch it (the seats, the steering wheel, the controls), hear it (the sound of the engine, the closing of the doors), and even smell it (love that new car smell). This brings a lot of senses to bear on your decision. The only sense left out is taste. I suppose someday the car companies will figure out a way for us to taste our cars (strawberry paint?).

Most brick-and-mortar retailers utilize music that appeals to their demographic, along with smells and textures designed to enhance your shopping experience. Apple stands out in this group for their amazing retail stores. When you’re there, you know you’re part of something special.

Apple Retail Store

One study at a wine store discovered that French music caused an increase in French wine sales, while German music caused an increase in German wine sales.

Then there’s cereal. The sound of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, introduced in 1928, became such an icon, they came out with the characters Snap, Crackle and Pop in 1933 and they’re still popular more than 80 years later. The Rolling Stones even recorded a song for their TV ad in 1963.

We all respond to what our senses bring to us. For brand marketers, this opens up many powerful opportunities that go beyond what our target audience sees with their eyes.

Think of ways in which your brand can utilize multiple senses.