Laughter – “Earworm” marketing?

I was on the subway in New York City a couple weeks ago, and came upon the above ad.

It took me a minute to understand the joke, but one thing that really stuck with me was how much this joke stuck with me.

While talking about topics connected to sexual performance can often be taboo, Roman—the company responsible for the ad—cleverly turns that taboo into a punchline. Far from something kept secret and hidden from view, they managed to make the uncomfortable funny.

This ad encompasses the fundamental elements of comedy—tragedy and timing. Timing in the sense of happening upon it when you enter the train, and tragedy in the sense of erectile dysfunction being such an uncomfortable topic. I can attest to the fact that I thought for days following about that ad, which is a true show of success.

As a copywriter, I can’t stress how much I admire this ad, and many others that incorporate comedy into the messaging. Whether or not I need the services being offered, an advertisement has stepped out of the realm of selling something to making a statement, and a hilarious one at that.

In all, comedy in advertising is starting to make a major impact. As copywriters find new ways to engage audiences, comedy is increasingly becoming a more popular approach. Much like content marketing, comedic messaging is an incredibly effective way of making your brand linger in the minds of your customers, potential and otherwise.

Do you know any other advertisements that made you laugh? Contact me and let me know about them!

Unlock Small Business Marketing

Being a small business offers you the freedom and pride of making your own way. But, finding effective and affordable marketing solutions is difficult for businesses of smaller scale as the options are usually expensive, time-consuming, and will ultimately detract from the time spent actually running your business.

This is where I want to help. With my wide experience in marketing, journalism, and more, I can offer everything from sales letters and email marketing, to social media and content marketing solutions—all from one place, and done completely with you.

As your marketing partner, you rest assured that my skill-set is always developing to the changing tides on all fronts— so you don’t have to.

Are you a small business looking for a great marketing strategist to partner with? Let’s talk.

The Lowdown on Content Marketing

You’ve heard it before. The marketing landscape is so saturated with messaging that peaking through the deluge is next to impossible.

Small businesses—especially ones with major brand competitors—are at even more of a loss. Why shop at your locally-owned shoe store when there’s most likely a mall, or a DSW right down the street?

This question often makes marketing feel like throwing money at the wall, with the only true distinction between you and the major brands being, quite simply, that you’re local.

Yet, let’s add up some elements here. Millennials are quickly becoming the largest share of the consumer marketplace. For their entire lives millennials have been assaulted by brands selling products, images, and ideas that oftentimes don’t connect truly to their lives.

There’s tons of great reading that shows the millennial generation wants a deeper experience than just being told there’s a discount. Millennials are also attracted to integrity and causes.

This is where content marketing comes in. Here’s my definition of the term, though it varies slightly depending on who you ask:

Content marketing is a tactic used by companies to sell a piece of media as much as their product or service, with the goal of associating your product or service with that media.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, content marketing comes in many forms, such as the written word (blog posts), video, audio (podcasts) and more. But, it is an indirect form of marketing.

Take the local shoe store example. A well written and SEO-enhanced piece on “The Top Five Winter Hiking Boots in 2017” will give the reader some content they are interested in. Yet, with a well-placed call-to-action that leads them to that shoe store’s website, this business owner will be seeing more customers visiting their website not through a direct sale, but because your store becomes associated with the subject.

The inner dialog of the potential customer will probably go like this:

Oh look! An interesting article! Mostly interesting because I’m in the market for new winter hiking boots.

*Reads Article*

Ahh! Some of these look great! But where can I find something for me? What’s that? A link to a website that presumably sells winter hiking boots? Why not check it out!

Your business is not promoted by some flat ad that many millennials have seen all their life – that lead is drawn by interest specifically in a subject you are a provider for. Then, they are drawn to your site or store as a qualified potential customer.

The great part about content marketing is that it’s shareable, most obviously on social media. Many times, millennials (as evidenced in the link above) focus their purchasing habits on those of people like them, either friends or peers.

Now the thing is that effective content marketing is a skill that can take years to craft. It takes about as much time being an effective content marketer as it does being an effective writer, which for many is a lifelong undertaking.

This is why using the right professional writer can mean the difference between sticking out and drowning in the sea of advertising you’ve been fighting this whole time.

It’s new, it’s developing, and it’s effective. Small businesses need to find a way to tell their story, because increasingly that is what is truly important for millennials and beyond.

Content marketing is about staying relevant, creating impact, and ultimately generating more qualified and convinced shoppers. In a world increasingly flooded with mindless bargain ads and snappy television commercials, content marketing is proving itself a must-have in any business-owner’s marketing strategy.

Success: The “Path”, freedom, and a red Miata

Ever since embarking on this freelance journey, I’ve started to see creeping into my social media ads for making hundreds of thousands of dollars freelancing.

These are always touting some “secret” that a certain person found after laboring through the doldrums of freelance work, and that you should be only fortunate enough to take advantage of their knowledge.

All of which comes at some sort of price.

After engaging a few of these ads during the beginning weeks of my journey, I decided instead to truly go it alone and go find my own work, in my own way. I’ve come to some sort of truth I think actually works.

That truth is this—nothing actually works.

That’s right. It’s not about finding a secret method, or looking where someone else has before. It’s really about finding your own way, and working smart, not hard.

Websites like Upwork tout access to thousands of clients, but you have to remember that you are also in direct competition with the entire world, a point made by another part-time freelance friend.

After realizing that nearly everybody who has a “secret” to success in this business is probably doing several things, including but not limited to:

  1. Putting your email on a list to sell it
  2. Making you pay for their “secrets”
  3. Entering into some kind of agreement where you work for them with little to no compensation for yourself (read “pyramid scheme”)

….the frustration in searching made me remember why I decided to start freelancing full-time in the first place: I wanted to be my own boss.

When you sign up for these services, you’re giving power back to an employer. If freedom is what you want, it’s essentially given up when you take help from these “gatekeepers” (many of which aren’t actually gatekeepers at all).

So here’s my thought: stay away from these people who apparently have “secrets”, and do these things instead:

  1. Put in the work
  2. Promote your own portfolio
  3. Reach out to clients directly
  4. Connect with actual agencies, not temp agencies (I’m looking at you, Creative Circle and others)

It’s about going out and getting your own work. Otherwise, you’re just an employee minus the rights you forfeit as a contractor. Don’t delude yourself into thinking there’s any “path” that is already built for you.

In the end, I have full confidence that I will realize the fruits of my labors when I find out what works, and what doesn’t.

This reminds me of a lesson my auto shop teacher gave to my 15-year-old self as I was polishing his 1980’s red Miata:

Work Smart, Not Hard

Greek Yogurt and the case for content

Big brand personality is an interesting beast.

Today I read an article on AdWeek about Chobani’s “unavoidable” brand transformation. In short, the company has completely redesigned their packaging and are launching a rebranding campaign to establish themselves as more of a wellness company than simply a yogurt producer.

The reason? Brands like Dannon, Yoplait, and others have become imitators.

The goal? To stand out. 

After reading the article a couple times, an issue popped into my mind – what happens if the rebranding is successful? Chobani has now potentially set themselves up for a recurring cycle of reconceptualization, where every few years or so they must overhaul their appearance, presentation, and ultimately their purpose.

Now, it’s easy to say that a company that can react to change is healthy and successful. But, now the lid, so to speak, might be open for more expensive “catch-up” efforts in the future, for the express reason of “staying ahead.”

It’s almost as if innovation and change has become a new utility for Chobani. Not only do they sell Greek yogurt and a concept of wellness – they now need to ensure they stand out constantly, which could add some heavy lifting to their ad team in the future.

While working for Overseas Adventure Travel, the company was undergoing its own overhaul to be less “transactional”, meaning they wanted to move away from being just a place to buy tours, and morph into a kind of “travel resource” that also happens to sell trips. Part of what I worked on was content meant to “inspire” as opposed to “sell” trips.

All this was in an effort to keep up with the changing travel industry, and often the company found itself at odds with balancing between the “transactional” and “relationship” approach. 

Staples is a case where rebranding became an expensive and, ultimately, unsuccessful venture, and one I can speak to with experience. As a regular retail clerk in and around 2003-2008, the company went from being a simple office supply company to one that offered a whole suite of “business solutions”, which meant placing increasing demands on staff for skills sometimes outside their initial job descriptions.

Another case in point – the newspaper company Gatehouse Media (for which I reported for the Lexington Minuteman) was moving to a “digital-first” model. This turned into cutting staff, loading responsibilities onto reporters (which made them essentially editors without the title), and focusing more heavily on what readers wanted to see. I can clearly remember being told not to attend Selectman meetings, and to write more fluff pieces, all for the sake of innovation.

It’s evident that innovation, rebranding, and repositioning are everywhere in our marketplace.  With Chobani, it’s not just about buying Greek yogurt – it’s about buying into an entire concept encompassing wellness, health, and nutrition. When you purchase a pair of Nikes, it’s not just shoes – it’s an ethereal idea of going “beyond limitations”.

Yet buying into an idea is not new. “Just Do It” debuted in the 90’s, and products have long been associated with seemingly arbitrary concepts for decades. Narrative is increasingly becoming an important part of a product’s nature, whether it’s your craft beer, artisanal pizza, or your free range eggs.

All this ties into a bit of wisdom I think needs to be expressed here. Author and award-winning marketer Simon Sinek once said:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

Along with making this my email signature for the time being, in talking with clients I’ve worked with discovering what makes their business different from others. It’s not the what, but the why.

When you’re thinking about why someone should choose your product or service over another, it’s increasingly important to consider how to sell the why along with the what. Without it, you’re doomed to be lost in the crowd. And, with the crowd growing more and more over time, this could be fatal.

Thankfully, Chobani likely has the ad department and budget to accomplish its rebranding while still remaining financially stable, but for small businesses this kind of overhaul is not an option. So, how can a small business craft its own image without the major budget of a Greek yogurt giant?

Content.

That’s right. With all the resources available to small businesses to create a web presence, or be on social media, it’s incredibly easy to develop a brand on a budget. As content delivery systems, the pieces of the digital marketing ecosystem need great content, whether it’s video, word, or photo.

Enter the “pragmatic creative”.

As companies need to create their own arbitrary niches in their respective markets, it’s not necessarily about what you sell, but how you sell it. Creative minds are needed more than ever to distinguish the difference between two identical Greek yogurts, as well as between two chiropractic offices that require the same licensing.

Take two tomatoes. Both are the exact same shape, size, color, and ripeness, but you can only take one. Assuming they are the same price, how can you go about making a choice? A couple of factors come to mind:

  • Where they came from
  • Who grew them
  • What is the impact of buying one over the other?

One could be from a farm that donates profits, or grown by reformed convicts looking for a chance to reintegrate into society. One could be local, while the other is trucked from thousands of miles away. One could be from an old couple’s farm on the outskirts of town, while the other is a major factory farm on a tract of land the size of Rhode Island.

Either way, it’s really not about the tomato, is it? Assuming those things are valuable to the buyer (which I can project is the case with the burgeoning millennial generation, and won’t be changing soon), then it’s the why and how that trumps (sorry) the what. 

 

 

The Lowdown on Social

Social media for many is a source of entertainment. Yet, with its ever-increasing grasp on our society, businesses have taken to the keyboard in record numbers.

The phenomenon is well documented. Facebook has over 2 billion users as of this post, while Instagram is nearing 1 billion and Twitter has over 300 million (source: Statista).

But what do these numbers mean for small businesses? Well, that’s a good question:

  • Users discover small businesses via Facebook and Instagram more often
  • Small businesses can reach thousands of people in their geographic area – or millions nationally
  • Social media is a passive advertising technique – this means people will most likely see your message just by scrolling—much like newspapers, meaning many more impressions and chances to be noticed

With statistics and insights like these, being a small business with no social media presence is, in essence, throwing money away.

The value of social media marketing is interesting. For instance, the use of hashtags (you know, those things that used to be called “pound signs”) connects you directly to an audience looking into that specific subject. Here’s an example:

Today, I checked on Instagram for a few hashtags. At the time of posting, the hashtag “#tuesday” had 12,353,927 posts, which means that hashtag has reached that many people.

The hashtag “#design” has 111,332,040 posts. If you were a kitchen design company, using that hashtag could connect you to millions of people. 

These numbers are albeit theoretical. You can’t assume you’ll reach over 111 million people by using the “#design” hashtag, but you can bet that using that tag will make your post part of an extremely large and long-running conversation.

And that’s what business marketing is about these days, isn’t it? When two people are having a conversation, and they say, “Oh yeah, Joe does great photo framing!”, you can bet that Joe made a name and reputation for himself, which could lead to his next referral.

Coupled with the fact that virtually every social media platform allows for some kind of contact mechanism between customer and business, this could mean big dollars with the right campaign.

It’s helpful to think about social media in the context of highways. As you whiz by the signs on the side of the road, some will catch your eye. Most often, those are ones that are repeated messages, or ones that are placed well, such as on long stretches with no exits advertising restaurants or gas stations.

Social media marketing is like those repeated signs on the highway. They are meant to stick into the mind of a user to elicit a desired action.

And today, almost everyone is using social media to market their products or services. From myself with my writing business, to people who sell art and crafts, or services like construction and plumbing. So, if you find yourself engaging in virtually any kind of business, social media is an inexpensive and effective way of building your brand and increasing your ability to be on the minds of potential customers. 

The only question is this: do you have the skills to effectively use social media for marketing? If not, finding the right professional is essential. 

So what is the lowdown? If your small business is not on social, you’re missing out. 

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