Monday, April 30, 2012

The curious marketing of online dating.

       I'm still pondering "Love, Lies, and What They Learned" in The New York Times. The article was about online dating. When I give an advertising assignment to my students to promote a dating site, all of a sudden they're stumped. Maybe I'm hitting too close to home.

       The Times piece discussed how social scientists are studying the sites to learn about attraction, trust, and deception.

        Dr. Gerald A. Mendelsohn of University of California/Berkeley is quoted as saying there's very little data on dating. But the major online dating sites had 593 million visits last October alone, so yes, it's a big deal. According to a Stanford study, 21% of heterosexual couples and 61% of same-sex couples met online.

         Here are some of the things that have been learned. About 81% of people misrepresent their height, weight, or age. On the good side, most of the lies are small, because they may meet in person. Women said they were 8.5 pounds thinner. Men, two pounds, but they lied more about their height. People fibbed less about their age, but women's photos were on average a year and a half old. Men's, six months.

         Getting down to the nitty gritty, women want men who are tall and wealthy, and slightly overweight. Men prefer women who are slightly underweight.

         So if you were the marketing director of or, what would your ads promise? Is honesty the best policy? I personally think so.

         That's the challenge. Another example of where psychology and sociology come into play, and where you want to do a lot of thinking and some research before you write the commercials. Are you marketing dating, or something deeper and more consequential?

         And how good are you at Photoshop?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Calling the shots? Use the mobile phone.

          Barbara Hagen, the former head of marketing at Target, was speaking at the Mobile Marketing Forum 2011: "We were all familiar with mobile and how good it was to drive in-store traffic. When I think about my target market at Target, they always have their smart phones with them."

          Ms. Hagen said the company had a quarter of a million consumer engagements when it ran a circular on cellphones during the back to school season. "Our challenge was to find and test innovative ways to reach more core customers with promotions and deals," she said.  

          Different customers were served different ads. Some dads got ads for Xbox, some moms got ads for diapers. And the average person was swiping 5.3 times!

         That shouldn't be a surprise. We know we're becoming more and more dependent on our cellphones because, in a way, they're making us more independent. We're not tied to our computers, don't have to worry about being near a land line at a certain time, can get all the information about our next destination while we're enroute, and find out what's offered at a store without going through the door. We can contact out-of-town friends when we have a few moments on the bus.

         That's what makes the mobile phone potentially the best sales promotion medium ever, and the offer can be surgically targeted. The Target promotion got an 18.8% response. Direct mailers consider 3% very good.

         Poor newspapers. Now it has another competitor with superpower capabilities. Their advertising will probably keep taking a nosedive. 

        For us in marketing, it's thrilling to have another way our brand-building efforts can be enhanced.

        Everyone seems to need instant gratification these days, and intensely desires relationships, so mobile marketing will grow and blossom. 

        Want proof? Leave your cellphone at home tomorrow.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Traveling light on the rapid transit.

       While others are reading the baseball scores, or a J. B. Priestly mystery they downloaded, or patiently staring at the ceiling, I'm on BART writing a blog. I write one every morning, because I promised myself I'd write one every day for a year, and I'm rounding third base.

        Today I'm sitting next to a young woman who's studying a chemistry book. I can see she's looking at diagrams of dietary lipids. And I'm wondering if my marketing and advertising students are on other trains and buses, as intent on mastering a chapter in our textbook.

        While some students love case histories and data, others are convinced marketing is a game of wits. Who's sharper, more clever, more up to date on hipster trends and pop culture. I think I've gone through both phases.

         In college social science courses, I was more into "big picture" theories and analyses, rather than data.  I loved learning about social strata in small towns and why some men want the biggest Christmas trees.

         In my first years in advertising I became the secret scholar, casual and jovial and even lazy during working hours, but reading research reports and advertising books at night. Ad Age, biographies, textbooks and award annuals, whenever I could find them. I strained to read the copy in the tiny ads reproduced in the art annuals, and for times I couldn't, I had a small drugstore magnifying glass.

         As a beginning writer I loved when art directors came up with visuals before I had written anything. That way, I had the challenge of writing headlines to go with them. I quickly broke myself of the habit of repeating the message of the picture, and instead, writing a headline that furthered the message.

         My early bosses wouldn't look at my copy unless I had a visual to go with it. A "writer's rough". They said headlines can't be evaluated alone. A good lesson.

        Learning advertising and marketing doesn't require as much memorizing and formulae as  my seat-mate's organic chemistry. In fact, all the old formulae are being thrown out. No crazy cramming, and fewer all-nighters.

         While the woman next to me on BART is taking copious notes about fatty acids, I'm very happy I chose a field where you meet nice people and the most you ever have to dissect is a competitor's strategy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How to read an ad.

          Nobody looks at an ad or commercial as closely as the people who create it. That's a fact of life.

          We writers fiddle over every word. We worry about every comma. We hate semicolons and love dashes but despise ellipses. We worry that parenthetic statements won't be taken seriously and know the difference between "who" and "what". We get agitated when an apostrophe occurs in the "1990s".

           Art directors fret over different things. When everything looks fine to the writer the art director looks troubled. She notices an eye not completely open, a shoe turned the wrong way, and too much cobalt blue in the logo.

           It's amazing an ad ever gets to the publication. TV is even more intensely scrutinized. Groups of grown people in a dark room can't decide whether a scene should be a skosh shorter or a tad longer. Too many cuts, too slow a dissolve, too retro a wipe.

           And that's after internal meetings, client meetings, pre-pro meetings, budget meetings, lunch meetings and private meetings in the kitchen over Oreos and M&Ms.

           Then weeks later we're lucky if the customer in her living room even looks at the ad or sits still long enough to see our commercial.

            I'm not saying we spend too much time on our ads --- we have to. That's our art, our work, our craft. But I am saying that I'm not sure we spend enough time on the important things. An ad that's going to get a person's attention when he's just found out his kid needs braces. Something that's going to change a woman's mind when she's been buying the same household supplies her mother always used.

            Do we spend more time kerning the type than we spend kerning the idea? Do we let mythology (people don't read copy) overtake human nature (we'll read anything that can help us, and by the way nothing stopped us from reading the Harry Potter books because they were archetypally compelling).

           Let's look at our ads while they're still on scraps of note paper. Selfishly, like a customer might.
"What's in it for me?" "Does it peak my curiosity?"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Turning the pages on advertising media.

           Lest you think the recession is still pounding on the advertising business, let me report some good news. Zenith Optimedia, owned by the Publicis advertising agency holding company, predicts that U.S. ad spending will increase 3.6% this year, to $159.6 billion.

           That's a lot of commercials, and a lot of jobs. Unfortunately, it's less magazine ads. Magazine ad pages fell 8.2% in the first quarter of this year. Automotive and food advertisers have cut back, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. The big losers include Martha Stewart Living, Men's Fitness, and O, the Oprah magazine. A lot of the ad money for magazines has shifted to digital media.

           Cable and network television are doing just fine. Business was up in the first quarter. CBS chief Les Moonves said that his company was seeing strong demand from pharmaceutical and auto companies.

           The upshot? Advertising is growing at a healthy clip.  Money is shifting to television and online --- and people are watching more television programs online. In other words, convergence continues.

            Advertisers are still in love with digital because of the low cost, and the possibility of personalizing their messages. Companies that are doing it right are seeing results. At the same time, Advertising Age reports that some 31% of all social media ads go unseen by anybody.

            I'm not sure it's different than when any new medium becomes available. In the early days of television, some shows were so popular that the New York Water Department invented a TV rating system of their own, the "flush rate". Whenever commercials came on, people ran to the bathroom.

           My advice to anyone in advertising? Go with the flow. Learn everything. Find new ways to be creative online as well as on television. And with less ads in magazines, your chance of standing out in print is even better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The winding career path home.

          When I was interviewed by my student Miranda, she said it was for her class in creative non-fiction. The answers I gave her were precisely that.

            Miranda started by asking about my career path in advertising. I told her that I skipped around so much, I didn't need a resume, I needed a map. Interned in Detroit, went to Chicago, back to Detroit, moved to Ohio,  then back to Chicago for two more jobs before I moved to Ann Arbor for my own agency, for which I started an office in San Francisco. Quite a waste of energy, actually.

            My friend Dennis, who now teaches advertising at the University of Kentucky, says he envies my sense of adventure. I think it was more like falling in love every time I got a valentine, in the form of a job offer.  Not such a good policy. I probably would've ended up at the same place by staying at my first job.

            Miranda now knows I have met some crazy people and some great ones. And some crazy great ones. She asked me if my first jobs were like "Mad Men". In reference to how women were regarded at work, I said, yes. Sort of like possessions. That's why every time an executive left, his secretary was likely to go with him. The only women execs were in the creative department. They were the ones with the hats.

            In reference to drinking, not so much. I did have an agency president who threw a cocktail party in the main conference room every day at 4:30. In social relationships, as in most everything else, we were an hour behind New York. I had so much to learn about advertising, I was oblivious to most of the goings-on, but I do know that every once in awhile a vice-president would leave "to pursue other opportunities." In other words, he got caught having an affair.

            I hope I told Miranda the two most important things in advertising: one is to learn to yawn with your mouth closed (very important in meetings). The second is to learn to read upside down, a lifesaver when you're presenting ads to a client.

             I didn't tell her about the writer who got so angry that he threw the potted plants in the lobby down the elevator shaft. Or the endless potential for rejection, because your idea is your baby. I didn't want to scare her.

            In the end, it's all worth it. Advertising is a truly enjoyable way to make a living. And it needs all the fresh thinking it can get!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sure, but will they believe you?

         According to Pete Blackshaw, credibility in today's marketing environment is the product of six core drivers:

                                     1. Trust
                                     2. Authenticity
                                     3. Transparency
                                     4. Listening
                                     5. Responsiveness
                                     6. Affirmation

         They're discussed in his book, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000."

         Blackshaw quotes Forrester Research, which found that customers trust other customers far more than they trust companies or brands. That's why it's great when Land's End and L.L.Bean guarantee every product, and why social media are so useful.

         Authenticity is when a company is "perceived to be real and sincere, consistent and genuine". Peet's Coffee has grown because it's perceived as less corporate than Starbuck's. Peet's tests the beans itself, and makes its roasters make a 10-year employment commitment.

         Transparency means people can easily get the facts about the company. Nike, McDonald's, and  Coca-Cola make it easy to get data. They're open about their businesses.

         Listening to customers has always been a big part of sales, and the social media make it easy for a company to learn how customers feel. Home Depot learned some lessons when it got too "corporate". The best information is when the company isn't in control --- on Facebook pages, independent blogs and sites.

         Once you hear your customers, you have to respond. You have to demonstrate you'll go the distance to make things right. A change, a new policy, whatever is required should be made public. That's what Jamba Juice did when accused of using milk in its non-dairy smoothies.

         Affirmation means if a company says or does something, the story is the same wherever the consumer looks. If not, credibility is shot.

         The upshot? After years of telling people what's good about a product, we now have to go further and give a customer a reason to believe us. And actions speak louder than words.

         Of course, that's one of the basic principles of advertising. Maybe we should go back to it before it's too late.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Texting your personality away.

         "The little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are."

         That's a quote from M.I.T. psychologist Sherry Turkle, in The New York Times. She says we have now become used to the idea of being a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

         We go to a meeting but only pay attention to what interests us. In our social lives we are moving from conversations to connections. According to Professor Turkle, we are "comforted by being in touch with a lot of people --- carefully kept at bay".

          She points out that texting and emailing and posting let us present ourselves the way we want to be, carefully edited and retouched. Contrast this with face-to-face conversation, which unfolds and reveals slowly, and teaches patience, among other things.

          We want faster answers so we simplify the questions. In conversations, we move closer together. In  social media, we move further apart. We don't learn how to converse even with ourselves. We rarely say anything self-reflective.

          Who would you rather talk to about dating --- your father or a computer program? Your computer promises so-called listeners, no eye contact. And because 300 of your friends are listening, you don't reveal your true feelings.

          As marketers and advertising people interested in media, we have to be aware of the consequences of what we use and do. Professor Turkle again: "We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely."

          Can we in marketing, in a small way, help revive conversation? Isn't advertising at its best really a conversation between someone with something to sell, and a person who has a reasonable interest in buying it?

          If we're selling things to increasingly lonely people, what will that mean? What can we do? Maybe we should figure out what it takes to really be a friend.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Looking in on Mad Men.

         I decided to watch another back episode of "Mad Men". It wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be. No craziness of the kind I remember. But then again, they weren't one of the good agencies.

         As the executives poured out of the elevator, one of them mentioned "David Ogilvy's new book". It was called "Confessions of an Advertising Man". (Leo Burnett's book had been called "Communications of an Advertising Man", but David always had to be more provocative.)

         "Confessions" had jump-started my career when it came out. I had recently accepted a job in Detroit, and bought the book at Doubleday's as soon as I read about it in Advertising Age. 

          The book itself was a study in branding. The design was beautiful. You knew you were holding something valuable in your hands. The typeface was perfectly chosen to say quality. The paper stock doubled down on the same thing. The paper cover  unfolded to reveal a large selection of the agency's ads. 

          At the time I was taking the bus from my home in Huntington Woods to my office in the General Motors Building. It took about 35 minutes, and I poured over every word about David Ogilvy's training as a chef in Paris, his work for Gallup Research in New York, and his idea to partner with his cousin in London to start an advertising agency on Madison Avenue. Ogilvy, Benson and Mather (now simply Ogilvy) became known for its researched-based work, and later for its very visible campaigns for Schweppes, Rolls Royce, and Hathaway shirts.

         The main thing I got out of Ogilvy's book was a deep sense of professionalism. Advertising is not hucksterism. It has an economic reason for being. Like any other profession, it could be done well or poorly, and here in black and white is what the world of advertising is like if you do it well.

          "Confessions of an Advertising Man" has been reissued in paperback. It's one of what I consider the three great texts of contemporary advertising, along with Burnett's book and the beautiful "Bill Bernbach's Book", written by Bob Levinson.

          Read all three and you're bound to be a better ad person than Don Draper.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are you simple enough for advertising?

         The first rule of advertising is K.I.S.S. --- keep it simple, stupid. I'm guessing that half the time in the advertising business is spent by people trying to complicate things.

         If your product is a car that runs on water instead of gasoline, for example, that's all you really have to say. "The car that runs on water."

         There will always be someone who tries to be cute ("The car that drinks only H2O"). Or technical ("The car with the Aquafire engine that sucks energy out of water"). Or hyper ("An automotive first for the 21st Century! Leave it to Columbia Motors to bring you the newest thing in engines since combustion!")

         When all you have to say is "The car that runs on water".

         Mies Van Der Rohe said "Less is more". Strunk and White, in their little book "The Elements of Style", put it more bluntly: "adjectives bleed nouns".

         Would you really tell a friend about a car that drinks only H2O? Not if you like him. The best advertising should be like you're talking to a friend, whom you happen to like. Your friends aren't dumb.

          Maybe some advertising people don't think they're earning their pay if they just blurt out the truth. They go through their whole careers doing ads that sound like ads, instead of sounding like they've got something to tell you that you'll be pleased with.

          Flo, on the other hand, keeps everything simple. She explains the advantages of Progressive car insurance in a charming way, in terms you can understand. And you love her for it.

          Allstate takes a more dramatic approach with "Mayhem".  But Mayhem doesn't pull his punches. He demonstrates exactly the destruction you need to be prepared for.

         Sounds like it's time to go back to basics. What you say is more important than how you say it. The visual is to attract attention, tghe headline is to get your interest. One benefit per ad.

        And yes, you can win awards being simple. Think of "Got milk?" The commercials that don't win awards are the ones making everything complicated.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Office with hot and cold running ads.

         Which came first, the cool new offices or the creativity of the staff?

          I was looking at the video "Art and Copy" for the eleventh time the other day, and the first things my students comment on are the workspaces at Chiat/Day in Los Angeles and Weiden and Kennedy in Portland.

          At Weiden, the Nike agency, they have built a "nest" for meetings. They also have a real totem pole and the employees have designed a wall with 100,000 clear push-pins that spell out "Fail Hard". Chiat/Day, the ad agency for Apple, is open and airy, and even has a place to practice your jump shots.

         They're both very impressive and, of course,  those two agencies consistently do some of the best work in the ad business. What's the connection? I'm not certain there is any.

         In the '60s, the so-called "Golden Age of Advertising", the agency that changed everything was Doyle Dane Bernbach. They're the agency that gave birth to the campaigns for Volkswagen, Avis, Cracker Jack, and Alka Seltzer. They also developed many of the top creative people in advertising. (They were the agency that Mad Men are worried about.)

        Doyle Dane was located in New York at 20 West 43rd Street, across from the Public Library, a very modest older building. So modest that the security system consisted of guard dogs that would be let loose on each floor at 6 p.m. The creative people couldn't work late at the office even if they wanted to. (Not that they would have. That wasn't the Doyle Dane culture.)

        Maybe I can conclude that the setting does have an effect on creative people. But it doesn't always have to be a fantastically beautiful setting. Maybe getting out before the guard dogs and going home for a good night's sleep had something to do with it.

       Doyle Dane Bernbach did eventually move to Madison Avenue in a gleaming new building. I can't say that their work improved, though. It never reached the heights it did at 20 West 43rd.

       Other things are more important than a fresh office. Such as a fresh mind. And good clients and colleagues. Maybe today I'll go to the simple public library and redecorate my brain.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another ultimate vodka.

         I just ran across an ad for a relatively new vodka, Ultimat. It's from Poland, imported by Patron Spirits.  The ad showed a bottle of Ultimat, and this copy:

         "You work for the best accounting firm in the city. With the most expensive office furniture. Which you've been sleeping on for the past six weeks. Find balance. Find Ultimat."

         Now can you please explain this ad to me --- in our mutual interest in education?

         No doubt accountants are busy this time of year, it being tax time and all. But are they really driven to drink? How does a vodka from Poland help a big-city accountant find balance, or peace of mind, for that matter? Is that really what we want, a hard-drinking C.P.A. giving us tax advice?

         Besides, I've never heard anyone belly-up to a bar and say, "Barkeep, I'll have that Polish vodka all those accountants like." Not even economists (those other guys who love numbers) have that kind of pull.

         Perhaps Ultimat will become a big success. It is from Patron, which is probably what the ad should be all about. And maybe all those top-notch accountants will find a way for us ordinary folks to write off the stuff. To me, though, it's just another example of some out-of-touch ad people trying to show off how "with it" they are.

         I suggest these ad people get off their Herman Miller chairs and get into real life. Talk to bartenders, talk to people at liquor stores. They're far more likely to have some insights than accountants.

        The big trend in alcohol sales these days isn't white goods, the gins and vodkas. It's in the return to brown goods, whiskies and blends. Maybe consumers are also looking for something more down to earth.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Atlanta Braves on the couch.

          Would you like an example of why marketers should be students of psychology?

          The Atlanta Braves, the National League Baseball team, has won 14 division titles since 1991. The New York Times says that's unprecedented. The Braves have played in five World Series in that time.  And yet, they've suffered a 31% drop in attendance.

           One would obviously expect attendance to remain high for a team doing well, so what's going on? Those who have studied the situation say that Braves fans have grown complacent. The games have become boring --- just win, win, win.

           We in marketing can learn a lot from that. Are we offering something fresh and new? In the product or in the experience? If not, are we at least presenting it in a way that's fresh and new? People like "new", whether they're early adopters or not.

            Sure, there are people who buy a new Chevy every three years on automatic pilot, but by then the cars are usually different enough to merit the decision. In a lot of towns, the only dealer around is the Chevy dealer, and maybe Ford.

           One car company whose line has become a bit tired is Toyota, and the c.e.o. in Japan recognizes the problem. He has told his staff to pay more attention to the American market, and do something fresh.

           One time-honored brand that seems to know what to do is Chanel. Chanel No. 5 has been around unchanged since Coco created it, and it's still the best-selling perfume in the world. Every year, Chanel has a new advertising campaign for No. 5, and knocks its customers' socks off. Each new commercial is so well done it's a hit on YouTube, for extra viewership at no cost.

           At the same time, every new commercial they do is a story consistent with Chanel's carefully guarded branding, the archetypical story of the strong, smart, independent woman. New actors, alluring new tale, same branding.

           There are lots of things the Braves' marketing people can do.  Special events, charity games, prizes, special days for veterans, kids, women, the disabled. Stage shows after the games, fireworks, and so on. And if they do those, think of something else.

           Another example of psychology in marketing. We're indebted to you, Dr. Freud.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Small agencies would be better if they were big.

          One week after I had quit my job at Foote, Cone, and Belding in Chicago and became a partner in a small Ann Arbor agency, I found out it wouldn't be as easy as it seemed.

          One of our clients was a maker of backpacks and duffel bags, and I wandered into a pre-production meeting for the photoshoot. The scene in the ad was three people with these backpacks sitting on the football field at the University of Michigan Stadium. Our agency account executive, Rich, was speaking to the amateur models, recruited from our staff: "So we've got to run onto the field at half-time Saturday, take the picture, and run off before they catch us."

           I couldn't believe what I was hearing. No permissions, no nothing. I told Dick, one of my partners, who said, "Let them do it. We're a small agency." Here in this pretty, bucolic Midwestern college town, I first got high blood pressure. I was certain I'd hear it on the news at 11 on Saturday night: "Six ad people arrested for trespassing on football field." I didn't, but it took me a while to calm down.

           One morning I got to work early, around 7:30. The phone was ringing off the hook. The caller introduced himself as the president of another of our clients, the University Microfilms division of Xerox, the people who record all Ph.D. theses in the United States. He was calling me because his assistant wasn't in yet, and he had to send a fax to New York. "I don't know how. Can you help?" he asked. I walked him through it, relieved that I hadn't let the client down before I even met him.

           Another client was Compuware, who made software for mainframe computers. I went to meeting after meeting and had no idea what they were talking about. Then came time to write an ad, which I did. It was a two-page spread with this as a headline: "What we do is a mystery. But our product is a best-seller." The ad pulled more responses than any one had before. The client thought I was a technical genius.

          A few months after I got to Ann Arbor, it became obvious that I was brought in because my partners wanted to quit. One had just inherited a small fortune and wanted to go home to Georgia, and the other had always dreamed of opening a restaurant in Key West.

          We recruited an art director, Mel Medrich, who owned a small agency in Ann Arbor, to work with me. He had been doing collateral material for Hatteras Yachts in High Point, N. C., and three weeks after he came aboard, Hatteras asked him to make a presentation for their $2-million ad account, too.We chartered a plane, made our presentation, and flew back with a prestigious large new client.

          That was my post-graduate work in Ann Arbor.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I can get it for you retail.

         The business of retailing is looking up --- and down.

         Prada's big sales boosts are coming from Asia. Profit is up 72% and their big shoppers even in Europe are Asian tourists.

          H & M reports that their first quarter grew 4.6%. They're the world's number two fashion chain and their strategy is to absorb higher costs instead of passing them on in higher prices. H & M sales in the U.S. are doing great, up 30%. Their plans are to open 275 new stores worldwide this year.

          Best Buy, on the other hand, isn't doing so well, and will be making big changes because of changes in consumer habits. Many shoppers have been going to Best Buy to compare products and prices, then going online to a competitor such as Amazon to make the purchase. Best Buy will be closing 50 of its stores and experimenting with smaller, mobile-phone focused stores.

         Sears is in the news, too, trying to sell Land's End, which it purchased a few years ago. Land's End sales are flat.

         What does this mean for manufacturers? For one thing, low-priced store brands are winning. Because of these economic times, more people have been experimenting with store brands, and deciding peas are peas. Stores are now bringing on more "premium priced" private labels, to compete with national brands. Fine apparel retailers, such as Saks, have been doing the same thing, and it's working for them.

           On the other hand, many products (such as television sets) are almost commodities these days. No big differences in brands, features, minor differences in prices.

           What does all this say for a career in retailing? It's an exciting time of change and adventurous directions. In fashion, the future looks great if you're open to new ideas, new ways of selling. Keep your eye on Uniqlo. They're doing great in New York, will be opening a San Francisco store in the fall, and will offer online shopping as well. What they will do to Gap is the big question.

            Read all you can, keep up on the business news. And take your eyes off the cash register and focus on the customer.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beauty is only skin deep. Please pass the lotion.

          A beautiful woman asked me why all the ads use beautiful women. This woman is a psychologist, so I guess it was a question that came directly from her subconscious.

          It was ironic because yesterday my marketing class discussed the Dove campaign --- what they called "the campaign for real beauty". It was the anti-cosmetic ad campaign Dove had been running to ostensibly promote women's self-esteem. The company told women that Dove believes women are beautiful just the way they are, with perhaps a few dollops of Dove firming cream.

          While L'Oreal was saying "You're worth it", Dove seemed to be saying "Don't spend it". The Dove campaign got a lot of publicity, showing good-looking women of every age and body type. (One of my students was quick to point out that Dove doesn't make cosmetics, so they had nothing to lose by knocking them.)

           There are questions about how well the campaign worked. Sales were up at first, and then off. Apparently women do want to look more beautiful, even as they age, despite what Dove says. Some women flatly concluded, "Dove doesn't work".

            I don't think advertising can work if it's too far ahead of its customers. People have been painting and decorating themselves since prehistoric times. It's a long time to be age-defying, as Revlon calls it. Women want to look beautiful and I want them to, too.

           Which brings me around to the original question. I believe that we find beautiful people appealing. We want to look at them and be like them. We want to emulate them. And advertising and fashion magazine spreads are one way we get information and guidance on how to do so.

           I'm not saying it's right, or making any other moral judgement. I'm discussing feelings, and I think they're human universals. We in marketing are paid to make and sell stuff and good looking models and spokespeople are among the ways to do it.

           Times are always changing and advertising will change with them. It will have to; ads can never be effective if customers are beyond them. Cosmetics are changing, too, becoming more natural, organic, less obvious, more fun.

           In the end, how we want to look is how advertising will look. And we'll say, "Isn't she beautiful!"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Specialist or generalist?

         The new Advertising Age Profiles of Marketers makes it clear that the day of "one ad agency" is over. Most large marketers employed several agencies, and Chevrolet added a whole new twist.

         Today marketers seem to want specialists, one agency for the national advertising, one for the retail, another for media buying and another for promotions. Companies that have multiple brands often have multiple groups like these, one for each brand. I suppose marketers feel they get a range of thinking that way, along with specialized counsel.

        Perhaps they'd be better off with some deeper thinking, and the advice of generalists who are not beholden to one particular type of solution to problems. These trends run hot and cold. For a while agencies wanted to be psychologists, and probe the unconscious of consumers. Not too long ago agencies believed in the integration of advertising and public relations, and bought every p.r. firm within their grasp.

        Last month, Chevrolet went a step beyond. They got two agencies to get together to start a new agency in Detroit owned by both of them to serve Chevy around the world. It's called Commonwealth, named after the coffee shop in a Detroit suburb where the deal was put together.

        Everyone in advertising presumably knows how to make ads, just as everyone in a direct response agency knows how to do a mailer or send a price-off email. That's not where ad agencies can do their clients the most good.

        The real help agencies can give is deeper insights into the market --- a more empathic understanding of what people really want and can use. And then translate those insights into fresh ways of presenting them to the customer. Really knowing how to break through the clutter and sell things.

         That's why I believe marketers can use the help of more generalists. Professionals who can see the bigger picture and deal with it all, building the brand with ideas that matter.

          I hope you'll be a generalist.  There are only a few of us left.


Friday, April 13, 2012

What's the big idea?

          In advertising and marketing, the idea is what pays the big bucks. A lot of people can write ads and marketing plans, or at least what look like ads and marketing plans. But few can come up with a real idea.

          First, let me tell you what an idea is not. An idea is not word play. It's not a cute, catchy jingle such as "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener", even though a lot f kids sang that song. It's not an empty slogan that can be used for everything from soup to shampoo, such as "I'm lovin' it." 

          Those aren't ideas, they're advertisingese, like Mr. Whipple chastising people for squeezing toilet paper.

          Product descriptions aren't ideas, either. "Finger-lickin' good" describes KFC chicken, but that's it. Bounty paper towels claim to be the "better picker-upper". Not an idea here, either.

          Big ideas are quite different. They're mind-changers. They make you think of products and companies in ways you never did before.

           McDonald's was introduced on television with the idea that "You deserve a break today". A different way of looking at fast food. As a treat you owe yourself, rather than convenience. An idea that's bigger than the product. Like Apple's "Think different".

           Another example is Nike's "Just do it". Again, bigger than the product and all about determination, competition, and personal accomplishment. If Nike had simply summed up its shoes with a tagline such as "the shoes the pros use" they never would have become such a mythic part of sports culture.

           Big ideas make you dig deeper and think broader. Kraft's heartwarming "Bringing good food and families together" went way beyond cheese. Few advertising ideas are bigger than "When you care enough to send the very best" for Hallmark. Tell the truth --- don't you sometimes flip a greeting card over to check the brand name?

            How do you go about thinking up big ideas? Just refuse to settle for little ones. A little idea would be for JC Penney to introduce a new logo and say "Take a new look at Penney's". A big one is what they did: cut prices 40% and introduce small boutiques in the stores.

            Ready to knock one out of the park? Don't think about products. Think about people. As Leo Burnett, the Chicago ad honcho, used to say, "When you reach for the stars you may not get one, but you won't end up with a handful of dirt, either."


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ambition, like love, is blind.

         Sunday's New York Times included this quote from "The Secret Lives of Salvador Dali": "At the age of six, I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."

          Is ambition a key factor in getting ahead? It depends on what you want to get ahead to.

          When I was starting out in advertising in Chicago, a new copywriter by the name of Earl joined us from the Leo Burnett agency. He asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be a good copywriter. He said he wanted to be a creative director. That changed everything for me. For the first time as a professional, I worried that I wasn't aiming high enough.

           I eventually became a creative director myself, thanks to that little nudge from Earl. I've been wanting to be a copywriter again ever since.

           There's a lot to be said for lack of ambition, if it means keeping your mind off the race and into simply perfecting your craft. Jerry Della Femina, in his book on advertising in the '60s, says advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. He was a copywriter at the time.

           Where else can you make a good living playing all day with words and pictures and music, making little stick-figure drawings and reading research?

            And you don't even need a computer! A pencil and a sheet of paper (or a pen and a napkin) will do just fine.

            I've written Chevrolet commercials on a plane from the Midwest to L.A., and a 20-million-dollar General Motors corporate campaign on a milk train to Toronto. Both were more fun for me to do than soduku or crossword puzzles.

            The whole thing comes down to attitude rather than ambition. Do you really want to spend thirty years becoming a $900,000 executive? That's fine if it's what you want, and you're willing to give what it takes. But a writer has to write. An artist has to do her art. Anything else, and that wee small voice inside gets cranky.

            Tim Cook, the new c.e.o. of Apple, was paid $378 million in 2011, including Apple stock, according to the Times. That's about the price of 757,515 iPads.

            If I were him I'd take the money and run, and get a job teaching students how to do things they love.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Honesty in advertising. Honestly.

          People are always telling me that advertising manipulates them into buying things they don't want. They go on to talk about dishonesty in advertising --- how McDonald's hamburgers look better on TV, for example. Better than they'd ever be in a restaurant.

           I tell them I know for a fact that things in commercials aren't fabricated to be better than they are. They're simply shown at their very best. To go a step beyond would not only be dishonest; it would be illegal.

          One day a few years ago I was working on a commercial at a large production studio in Los Angeles. As I left, I noticed a young production assistant at a table, surrounded by boxes of corn flakes and cereal bowls. I asked her what she was doing. She showed me her tweezer, and said she was looking for "beauty flakes". She was plucking out the best-looking unbroken corn flakes and putting them in bowls for the shoot the next day.

           Was that dishonest? I don't think so. Broken corn flakes taste as good as unbroken ones, and nobody buys them for their looks. She was just making them look good on television.

            There was a day when food stylists shellacked cooked turkeys to make them glisten in photographs, but that's not legal any more. Food stylists still want them to glisten, so the home economists use a food recipe to do the job. Nothing fake. You can do the same.

            We all know food products on TV will look their best. Toys will look fun to play with. Should the toy makers tell you that their newest sensation takes an hour to assemble?  On the box, perhaps, but not in the commercial. But we shouldn't show or even imply that it just takes a jiffy. Buyers do have some responsibility here.

            Where is the line? There are laws and regulations about deceptive advertising, with strict punishments,  but it shouldn't come to that. We know right from wrong. I've never knowingly done a deceptive ad, and I've never been asked to. And I can't manipulate anybody into doing anything. All I can do is provide insights and information, and try to show products at their very best.

             That's what advertising people do. And they're proud of it.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Should we meet at Fifth and Pacific?

      You probably know Liz Clairborn changed its name. After selling its namesake brand and the Monet brand  to JC Penney, and its Dana Buchman brand to Kohl's, it's going to concentrate on its other brands, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, and Lucky Brand.

       Here's how c.e.o. William L. McComb put it: "While it's difficult to replace an iconic name like Liz Claiborne, we believe the Fifth and Pacific Companies telegraphs where we are today --- taking inspiration from New York and California, while describing our reach and potential."

       From a business point of view, unloading three hard-wrought brands makes sense. So does concentrating on three brands with an upbeat future. But the name Fifth and Pacific? From a marketing perspective, it's a C-.

       In the first place, you probably won't remember the name by dinnertime. There's precedent for saying that. Gap had introduced a women's store to compete with Chico's and called it Fourth and Towne. Nobody could remember that, either.

      Next, it says nothing about the company or its mission or its position in the marketplace. It doesn't say fashion, it doesn't say contemporary, it doesn't say smart. In fact, it sounds like a company that ships fruit from South America.

      A name is a very precious thing. It has to be nurtured and lubricated and worked in like a first-baseman's mitt. It has to be inspiring, and make employees, suppliers, and customers proud. It's the frosting on every kind of cake the kitchen turns out, and something people think about when they're hungry for ideas. A name is the brand.

       There may have been a lot of politics involved in the decision. Maybe the chairman of the board wanted to call it Lucky Juicy Kate, and the biggest stockholder wanted to call the new company Couture Lucky Spade. So they cancelled each other out and the treasurer named it after a famous street and the deep blue sea. I don't know and it doesn't matter.

        All I know is that I think Tim Gunn is still Creative Director there and I don't want him to forget where to go to work on Monday mornings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Who's to blame for bad advertising?

         When you see a bad ad, who deserves the credit? Is the client, the company that runs it, to blame? That's not fair. Sure, it's their money, but they're the experts on their own business. They know how to make soup, or cars, or deodorant, but they hire ad agencies to do the ads.

          Should we blame the ad agency? They were hired to do ads, not bad ads. But of course, they had to do something the client would approve. Of course, they never had to present a bad ad to the client; that was the agency's decision.

          Maybe we should blame the reader. She's the one the ad is talking to. Perhaps the agency thinks she likes bad ads. Of course, that's absurd. She hates bad ads more than we do. She won't even pay attention to them.

           I know! We'll blame the magazine or TV network that accepts the ad.  They should certainly know better. How dare they insult their subscribers. Don't they respect us?

           No, being the type of person who's ready to feel guilty about everything, I accept the blame. If we writers and art directors created a bad ad, it's our fault.  We risk upsetting everybody. We should never, ever, execute a bad piece of advertising. It should new leave our computers, never be presented to our bosses, never shown to a client.

            If we execute a bad ad, we should be sued for malpractice, and drummed out of the creative department.

            Don't misunderstand. We all make mistakes. I okayed a woman's promotion for an oil company with the headline "Women's Lube". I also got nasty letters from the Bible Belt because I okayed an ad that showed Adam, the first person, with a navel.

            But if I know an ad is bad, and don't fix it or withdraw it, it's my fault. I degraded my profession and I didn't have to.There's always a good way to solve a problem.

             Of course if we only did good ads, we'd be rich and famous and who wants that?  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The expected is the last thing to expect.

         The Gap reported recently that sales are up about 8%. The mild winter was responsible for early buying of spring apparel for many stores, and a big shift for Gap. Sales had been off 5% for the year, except outside North America, where sales were up 11%.

           It seems everyone wants to look like Americans except Americans.  Why is that? Why do we get tired of being ourselves?

           It's interesting where we draw the line. Men will wear British suits but don't wear French berets very oftena. Bicyclists want to look like Italian racers. Women want to look like they're walking on the Champs Elysees, but wear Keds till they get to the office.

            Add bifurcation to the mix and it really gets complicated. Middle-income people are buying some things at Walmart to save for the things they're really passionate about, for which the Keds come off and the Louboutins go on.

            Maybe that's the information we should post on "Dresses very conservatively until you get down to the red soles." It's important. What if a guy who's passionate about his Calvin Klein "Obsession" meets a woman who's strictly Noxema? Can this be a lasting relationship, olfactory-wise?

           This kind of thing will have its effect on advertising, too. I can see the shoe ad now: "For the woman who's Kmart down to the ankles, and Neiman-Marcus the rest of the way."

           Yesterday in an advertising class I showed the ad campaign that introduced Tommy Hilfiger to the world. Unlike many people's preconceived notions about fashion ads, there wasn't a photograph or artwork in it. Just copy. Words, written by art director George Lois. It created such a stir, it built Hilfiger into a major brand overnight.

         I guess what I'm saying is that fashion can be complicated and unpredictable because we human beings are.

Nice plan, but...

         JC Penney's new pricing policy sounds terrific: 40% off every day. Then why Penney's is already warning people that it may not work?

         The new c.e.o. Ron Johnson is the one who killed the previous strategy of three sales a week and replaced it with this one. They've already got Ellen DeGeneres promoting the no-coupons, no-sales "square deal" plan on television. JCP even has a new square logo.

         The Penney's annual report is much more conservative. The new pricing policy "could result in a prolonged decline in sales", it noted.

         On the website "Time Moneyland", Brad Tuttle speculates that "Maybe shoppers don't want 'fair and square' prices after all." Maybe shoppers enjoy the fun and games of shopping for the best price. The thrill of the hunt, the joy of winning, even the agony of defeat.

         There are reports that some Penney's shoppers already miss the coupons. Others aren't sure when they're getting the best price. Or even a decent price.

          Seems like there's a lot of psychology going on. Sale prices help us rationalize the purchase: "I would never buy this if it were at the regular price!" One expert says the new Penney's plan "underestimates what a sport discount hunting is."

         The Harvard Business Review says, "Quite simply, JC Penney lacks the differentiation to make this pricing strategy successful...When selling an undifferentiated product, the only lever to generate sales is discounts. Even worse, if competitors drop prices on comparable products, Penney's hands are tied --- it's a sitting duck that can't respond."

         In basic marketing terms, setting the price is the only place that allows the company to make money. Everything else costs money.

         In his last incarnation, as Apple's head of stores, Johnson gave us the Genius Bar. Apple products are, for the most part, unique. Penney's biggest problem is that most of their products aren't.

         If this plan works, he's the genius.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Are you as smart as you look?

            Here's a quote from Sidney Katz, on "The Importance of Being Beautiful":

            "If you're a good-looking male over six-feet tall, don't worry about succeeding at your career." He went on to discuss a survey revealing  that men who were 6-foot-2 or taller earned 12 percent more than men under six feet.

            "We send out three (female) prospects to be interviewed and it's almost always the most glamorous one that's hired." says Edith Geddes of the Personnel Center in Toronto. It's called the "halo effect". If you look like Angelina or Brad, you're more generous, trustworthy, sociable, modest, sensitive and interesting.

            This kind of thing shows up everywhere. A friend of mine, Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California in Berkeley, studied male and female flight attendants. Passengers treated them quite differently. Passengers felt more at ease asking for things from female flight attendants, expected more services, and felt more free to criticize them.

             Lena Nordholm presented 289 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with photos of eight attractive and unattractive women. They were asked what kind of patients the eight would be. The good-looking women were judged more cooperative, better motivated, and more likely to improve.

             It seems Leo Tolstoy knew that would happen. "It's amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness," he wrote.

            Also check the Greek and Roman exhibits at your art museum. Were the ancient gods and goddesses beautiful or homely?

            So now it's up to you. As a marketing person, are you going to go with human nature, or against it?

            Gloria Steinem, where are you when we need you?


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dancing on the head of a pin.

         I used to worry a lot about the details. Is this the right word to describe a product's advantages? Does the copy need a better phrase, a catchier opening?

         That was back when I thought an advertising copywriter's job was words. I fussed over them, even in the days when that often meant typing everything over again. I used to drive the copy department secretaries crazy. Every time they'd finish typing a "manuscript copy" for me, I'd read it over one more time and find a way to say it better.

          I usually kept on "improving" to the very last minute. The minute before the meeting with the client. It often had unexpected repercussions.

         One day we were presenting a whole new campaign to General Motors. The idea was that GM's proving grounds were more important for automotive quality than the competitor's racing exploits. Every ad and commercial would have this long tagline: "General Motors cars are proved all-around. All-around the clock, all-around the calendar, all-around the country, all-around the car."

          As usual, I kept making changes. The meeting was at 1:30. At noon I gave my typist, Mary Margaret, the final revisions and told her I'd be back to pick everything up at 1 o'clock.

          When I returned, nothing had been re-typed. "I couldn't do it", Mary Margaret explained. "The hyphen key fell off my typewriter."

          That was one kind of problem from sweating the details. Another was that it kept me focusing on the trees instead of the forest. It kept me focusing on the words, instead of the ideas.

          I came to realize that you can have a beautifully worded dumb ad. I learned that what is said is always more important than how it is said. And my work started getting better and better results.

          Please don't get me wrong. Details are important. Language is important. "We just made the Atlantic Ocean 20% smaller" is much better than "Our new jets go faster".  But ideas are crucial. "Just do it" as opposed to "Our new athletic shoes now have better stitching".

         That's why advertising is harder than it looks. And watching good advertising is easy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Contrarians in marketing.

         To succeed in advertising, you have to be at least a little contrary. You have to be tough enough on yourself to refuse the simple, easy answers everyone else thinks is just fine, and push yourself to deal with the tough ones.

          In my first days as an advertising copywriter, I relied on my wits to get the job done. No matter what the assignment, a pun here, a little wordplay there, a couple of product features,  and maybe a smart-ass headline and I was through.

          For trade ads, my friend Ashley and I even developed a formula for the copy, and it seemed to do the job every time.

          Then I got a new supervisor. At first I thought he was going to be a human red pencil, but he was just the opposite. He told me to read Emerson, whom he said had some very good arguments. And Locke, for clarity and rational development. And the New York Times Week in Review, to keep up with our culture.

          Over the next few months, my copy changed. In content and style. It became more thoughtful, more interesting, more helpful. Even small things became more interesting, like how to tell the difference in real Italian salad dressings, and why some hot cereal makers tossed out the most nutritious part of the wheat.

          Once I realized I wasn't going to be the darling of American industry by playing with words, I got better at thinking about ideas. I learned how to get at what Leo Burnett, the head of the big Chicago agency, called the "inherent drama" in a product. And in a customer's life.

          Marketers of all kinds should probably be a little contrarian, as well. Are we perfecting products in ways people won't care about? Is the fashion industry selling something different than what their customers think they are buying? Why won't we know "the next big thing" until after it comes out? What does Forever 21 know that Neiman-Marcus doesn't?

          Go the opposite way of your competitors. Zig while everyone else is zagging.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The first days of a Mad Man.

         Yesterday was the first day of the new quarter at the college where I teach, and I'm not fond of first days. They're sort of a strange combination of the known and the unknown, which I find a little alienating. I don't like changes.

         As I recall, though, my first day as an intern at an ad agency wasn't this way at all. It was at Campbell-Ewald in Detroit, Chevrolet's agency. I had arrived from Chicago the night before and showed up at 8:30 a.m. on the 4th floor of the General Motors Building, waiting for the other seven of us to arrive. We were all from the University of Michigan, to intern at the same time. Four wanted to be art directors, two wanted to become account executives, and two of us wanted to become ad writers. It was like summer school for over-achievers.

        I felt quite at home from the start. The marble in the lobby and the walnut along the corridors were somehow comforting. I don't know why. At home we had neither a lobby nor corridors.

        Every morning I got to work around 7:45 and went down to the basement "arcade", to the coffee shop for breakfast. Around 8, the Chairman of the Board of the agency, Ted Little, stopped in there, too, for his oatmeal, and about the tenth day I introduced myself. His picture was on the cover of Time magazine that week, along with other ad biggies, and I wanted to tell my friends I knew him.

        The Copy Director at the agency was Don David, and he taught me some important stuff that summer. He taught me you get ahead by taking a chance.  "It's easy enough to get the pancake off the ceiling," he said. "The tough part is getting it up there in the first place." He told me to read the New Yorker from cover to cover every week, which I did for years. It's consistently the best expository writing in the U.S.

         Don also told me to always look at the first paragraph of any copy I wrote. Pointed out that it tends to repeat the headline in some way, and isn't needed.

         Dick Candor was the agency copywriter I gravitated to those months. I practically lived in his little walnut office. He had been a cartoonist before this job and he still thought like a cartoonist. He taught me about doing commercials taking place in improbable situations, and the value of a humorous conflict between the visual and the headline.

        My first assignment was to create a huge outdoor poster at Tiger Stadium for a large, conservative bank, I had the idea of a baseball player sent to the showers, with the headline, "Save for a rainy day". Dick did the cartoon, and the bank loved it.

         The difficult first day was when I had to return to school in Ann Arbor. Couldn't wait to graduate and go to work at an ad agency.  Which I did, and took my summer at Campbell-Ewald with me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who's funnier --- women or men?

          According to research by Dr. Laura Mickes of the University of California, San Diego, both men and women believe men are funnier. Much funnier. These were the results of a blind test, in which the sex of the joke teller was hidden. Nobody can explain the results.

          At first, the researchers speculated it was the "peacock effect", something to attract the opposite sex. In other words, seduction with a punch line.

          Going further, they researched which sex was better at creating humor. Again, both men and women chose men. Mostly, men picked other men. Goodbye, peacock. Maybe men are just bigger show-offs.

          Humor has had an especially welcome place in advertising since "the Golden Days" in the '60s and early '70s. Those were the days of the Alka-Seltzer commercials about the bride who makes a heart-shaped meatloaf for the first dinner at home. The guy who's up all night moaning, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing". The pean to all kinds of midsections with the line, "No matter what shape your stomach is in".

          They were also the days of Benson and Hedges cigarettes, and the disadvantages of a longer cigarette. And the commercial where a silly man tries to swipe some Cracker Jacks from a very smart kid.

          Today, of course, every other commercial is trying, usually unsuccessfully, to make us laugh. There are some serious reasons for this.

          First, humor is a very good way to engage us. We love being entertained, and above all, we like to laugh. If an advertisement isn't engaging, all is lost. Second, a laugh is a lovely way to reward people for paying attention to our commercial messages. It's only fair. We show up, uninvited and unannounced, to their TVs or their computers. Leave them laughing and they might be grateful and not sore. And third,  if the story is told properly, when you remember the joke, you'll remember the product and its advantages.

          Of course, nothing can backfire faster than a bad joke, an off-color joke, or a joke told too often.

          Which is why I'd better not ask how Dr Mickes hid the sex of those joke tellers.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A blog in a world of bloggy thinking.

         I've read a report that says all kinds of people around the world read this blog. I'm assuming it's all kinds; the report just said people around the world.

         Like the shoemaker's children with holes in their shoes, I've done nothing to promote this blog except tell my students and friends to check it out.

         The readership includes 29 people in Norway, 31 in Russia, and the rest in North America. I have no idea why Russians are reading this blog, inasmuch as I never read any from Russia. But I would like to.

         I've received emails asking what it's like to write a blog every day. Truth is, now I can't stop. I told myself when I started in June that I'd do it for a year. Now it's an obsession. I hope you'll stick with me.

         Some of the best-known writers  now do blogs but they're not necessarily the best blogs. They're blogging on their reputations, something I can't count on. Other writers have made names for themselves with their blogs but then it often seems like they no longer have time to think.

         Every once in a while there's an article in a business magazine that tells you how to blog your way to success. They also say a blog can help you get ahead within your own company. I've told few people within our organization that I blog.

         There are also people who seem envious of me writing a blog because they make a point of telling me they don't have time to read it. But I know they do because they slip up now and then and mention something I've written.

           I don't read blogs regularly, either. There are quite a few good ones. The rest seem to be on a slippery slope to oblivion, talking about things few people are interested in.

           All in all, blogs are a good idea for anyone in marketing to tackle. They help you clarify your thoughts and solidify your discernment of things. If you're tired of reading, write! The more you write the better you get and the less intimidating it becomes. And who knows, maybe it will become an obsession and you'll write your own blog every day.