Are you brave enough for these big ideas?

Are you brave enough for these big ideas?

MAY 20, 2019

Guerrilla Marketing was the brainchild of the late Jay Conrad Levinson, Chicago advertising legend, who published a book about it in 1984.  The concept is still going strong.  Dare I say, it’s still big.


Guerrilla  Marketing tactics use the idea of disruption, interruption and surprise in public places. They make people stop, look, laugh, gasp, perhaps interact and most likely talk about what they saw. The tactics get emotional responses. They create a buzz, sometimes even news. And they’re remembered. So is the product.


That’s a darn big bang for your buck. Which is why Guerrilla Marketing is often perfect for brave and innovative smaller businesses (with brave and innovative marketing partners) who may not have big dollars to make a big impression.  It works especially well if you have a localized business. Yes, it’s for major brands too, and you’ll see a few examples of them here.


I’ll stop using words to describe it and just let you see and react to a few terrific examples from around the world.  They didn’t need any explanation in the real world, so I don’t think they need it here. Go ahead…be brave and bold!

What Exactly is Marketing?

MARCH 29, 2019

Marketing can be such a nebulous word. It can mean so many different things to different people.

I think marketing means connecting with someone. Connecting with your current customers.  Connecting with potential customers. Even connecting with your employees.So, from my point of view, marketing means communicating with people in such a way that you create a connection.  You create a relatable bond.

You’ve communicated something meaningful, relevant, useful or beautiful to someone such that they want to know more.  Perhaps they feel there is a place for you (your product, your service) in their lives, their work, their homes, their businesses.

In order to communicate clearly, you must cut through the clutter. You must cut your message down to size. You must cut out crap. You must be authentic.  If you do this, you just might stand out in the crowd.

It’s so easy to get caught up in everything: details, facts and figures, competition, marketplace, customer feedback, goals, schedules, budgets, payroll. Everything has its place. The challenge is cutting through all of that to find the most relevant stuff as it relates to communicating and connecting meaningfully. It can be easy to miss something critical that’s right in front of you. That’s where the fresh eyes of a marketing and communications partner can help.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

Here’s one final thing to consider: while you’re communicating, take a look at how you are contributing to a better world. How are you giving back to the community? How are you improving the lives of others—customers and employees alike? Think about that. Because the more you contribute, the better the world will be, and the more it will come back to you in abundance.



The Perils of Micromanagement

The Perils of Micromanagement

FEBRUARY 15, 2019

There is so much out there on micromanagement, you know it’s rampant. You know it’s causing loads of problems. You know good people are desperate to get out from under it. Go somewhere else where they don’t have to deal with it. Where they can perform their best and they look forward to coming to work.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, here’s one of the better posts I read on the topic: An Open Letter to Micromanagers by Scott Berkun.

Interestingly, he uses the word “manager” a lot. Not once does he use the word “leader”. That’s because micromanaging is not only bad management, it is the antithesis of leadership.

So if you recognize any of this in yourself, pause, give it some thought, and maybe ask a couple people who work with you for some honest feedback. And I mean allow for honesty. You’ll only come out ahead and better off in the end. You and everyone in your organization.

Meanwhile, here are a couple more pithy comments about the subject:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

― Steve Jobs

“The “result” of micromanagement is perhaps tangible in the short run, but more often causes damage for the long term.”

― Pearl Zhu, Change Insight: Change as an Ongoing Capability to Fuel Digital Transformation

“Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum.”

― Miles Anthony Smith, Why Leadership Sucks™, Volume 2

“A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide and support and then sit back to cheer from the sidelines.”

— Simon Sinek

Copywriting Vs. Content Writing

Copywriting Vs. Content Writing


I started in advertising when the internet didn’t exist. Everything was print, outdoor, radio, television, or video. So in the world of marketing, writers were all copywriters. If the firm handled highly technical or medically-related products they may have also had technical writers.

The technical writers wrote the heavy duty informational/educational stuff and instructional manuals. Facts. Lots of words.

The copywriters wrote in a way that exuded the spirit of a brand. Moved people to take action. Think Don Draper and Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Feelings. Few words.

There’s a new kind of writer now, and that’s the content writer. So there’s quite a bit of discussion and confusion about the distinction between the content writer and the copywriter.

From my point of view, the content writer is more akin to the technical writer, albeit they’re writing in a much broader array of media, to much broader audiences. But still, the goal of content writing is to educate and inform…and oftentimes entertain. The intent is to, over time, build trust, create interaction—possibly a relationship—with the reader, so as to move them to eventually connect with a company or acquire/recommend a product, or share the content in social media.

Content writing also has a goal of positively impacting search engine optimization (SEO). The writing needs to pay attention to key words. It is content that needs to market well on the internet.

Copywriting is meant for branding, grabbing attention, engaging, heightening an experience, creating curiosity. Making sure the reader gets why your brand matters, in such a way that they’re motivated to act. Now.

Basically, it comes down to telling vs selling. Optimally, the end result of both is to move people toward a product, company or service; but that’s the immediate goal of copywriting (selling) vs the long-term goal of content writing (telling).

As writer Bob Bly says “If you have a bullet in your text that says, ‘Eating apples reduces your risk of cancer,” that is content: you are giving the reader the information. If you write ‘Delicious fruit can reduce your risk of cancer.’ that is copy, designed to arouse curiosity and get the reader to order your book. Content tells, copy sells.”

A really talented writer can do both, but usually a writer is more skilled or talented at one vs the other. Most commonly (but of course not always) a copywriter can do content-writing, but content-writers have a tough time doing copywriting. It’s usually easier to write more words than get an idea down to a pithy handful of words.

In fact, content writing is often not even being done by a writer—it can be anyone who’s putting out a blog, white paper, instructional or educational article, news release, etc. Whereas copywriting is generally the person’s profession, one for which they’ve been schooled and trained. Obviously, the best content writer has good writing skills.

You really can’t have just one or the other. They both play a critical role in your marketing.

The Case of the Amazing Shrinking Media

The Case of the Amazing Shrinking Media

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

In advertising bigger isn’t always better.

In the past when we essentially had only TV, Radio, Billboards, Magazine Ads, and Direct Mail as our media options, bigger WAS usually better: full 60-second TV commercials, 60-second radio spots, giant billboards, full spread ads (or better yet multi-page inserts), and dimensional mailings.

Not any more.  With the proliferation of devices and media--especially the internet and social media--the marketing options are endless.  There’s been a paradigm shift in scale, scope, and size especially. Size is down to minuscule proportions.

Look at FB ads: a single image and a handful of words.  Website column ads: smaller than the palm of your hand. Google ads: the fewest of persuasive words. App banner ads smaller than your pinky: teeny tiny image and a couple words.

This shift presents a whopping communication challenge:  the smaller the space the more critical the words and the image.  Everything has to count.  No wastage. No fluff.  If you think saying something important in the most minimum of words is easy, think again.  Let alone finding a graphic that’s actually going to break through and grab someone’s attention…in a nanosecond.

My son is a digital marketing guru.  He has a degree in Creative Writing…specifically poetry.  I know what you’re thinking.  “What kind of job can you get with a poetry degree?” Well…he majored in it specifically because he knew he was going into advertising.  And probably be doing digital marketing. So he wanted to hone his skill at saying the most with the least words.  In a creatively unique way.  Pithy so to speak.

Case in point: I was on a walk with my neighbor who has an iWatch.  He was looking at Facebook on it—which meant he was looking at stamp-sized ads.  If you watch Black Mirror, you know we’ll probably have ads delivered via chips in our eyeglasses, in our contacts, heck straight into our heads for that matter.

The paradigm shift even applies to experiential marketing.  Here’s a non-pithy example: a friend of mine is a clothing stylist who does fashion presentations—live, in person—imagine clothes, women, trying on outfits, chaos.  A client came in to work with her in her home and said, “My girlfriend in London loves my clothes and wants to see these. So I’m going to FaceTime her and you can show her the clothes!” So essentially she did a fashion show on FaceTime via a small iPhone screen, while the woman watched and commented on an equally small iPhone screen from the other end, all the way across “the Pond”. Unexpected. Impromptu. Improvised. But easy, fun and not to mention profitable.

So basically, we’ve got to be open to ANYTHING, because EVERYTHING is changing and there will be constant new communication options available to us.  A constant need to learn and adapt.

It all really comes down to the words.  The images.  And the idea.  In the age of small the value of a big idea will never go away.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Idea is a Good One

3 Ways to Tell if Your Idea is a Good One

AUGUST 27, 2018

Allow me to give this some context. This is about how to tell if your communication idea is a good one. I mean the communication concept behind a marketing campaign. Not an idea for a new business. Not an idea for an article. Not an idea for what to do next in your life. Those are for another blog.

This is specifically about when you’re racking your brains for that central IDEA that’s going to make the marketing program or ad campaign you’re creating really pop. It could also be the idea for the core branding. Just what is it that really makes this thing special? That will make it stand out…be memorable…be lasting.

I’ve found over the years that three things seem to occur when the right idea emerges:

| Your heart sings. I mean you get excited. You get happy. You feel really good about this idea—something about it just feels right. You feel like maybe you’ve never seen it before, not quite like this. You believe in it…in your gut.

| Which then might make others feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe the newness and “differentness” of it is disruptive. That’s a good thing— you want to stand out don’t you? But it can make some people uneasy. Speaking of “gut”…Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink” tells the story of the infamous Aeron Chair by Herman Miller. Arguably one of the most successful products ever by them…definitely the most aesthetically pleasing, most intensely engineered ergonomic chairs ever. And the most comfortable, desired office chair of all time. Unfortunately it was so revolutionary that it performed poorly in research. I mean viewers despised it! Because participants weren’t really being honest about how they truly felt; they were unconsciously expressing their prejudice against something too radically different (the “locked room” concept). It was nicknamed “the Chair of Death”. But the designers and engineers believed in it, continued to research it (with only modest improvement) and it was finally launched. And oh boy, talk about a marketing idea as innovative as the chair: they “placed” it in TV and movie sets with design firms. Designers, architects and artists noticed it (classic early adopters of the “new and different”). They wanted it. Sales started slow, but the chair performed: when people sat in it for hours they loved it… and talked about it. The rest is history.

Well, that was just a bit of a departure... but you get the idea about a good idea being uncomfortable.

| The third thing that always happens when you find a good idea is that it has “legs”. That means the idea seems to grow. To give birth to other executions of the idea or related spinoff ideas. In other words, it somehow just keeps generating more ways to express itself. Clever ways bubble up to execute it in different media to different audiences. A story develops easily around it. For some reason you can really play with it. Another way to say it is that the idea both suggests a story and moves the story forward.

A good idea just makes everything you do more fun and interesting. It’s truly what “makes the world go ‘round”. That’s all there is to it.

“Creative” Is Such an Interesting Word

“Creative” Is Such an... Interesting... Word

July 13, 2018



I’m a creative person, who’s been working with other creatives, creating creative for over three decades. Sounds a tad crazy, but it’s a good example of how many ways the word “creative” is used. Take a look at these examples:

“Have you met with the creatives yet to see how the work is going?”

“That’s not your best creative is it really?”

“How’s the creative coming?”

“The team’s not finished with the creative.”

“Who’s going to present the creative today at the meeting?”

“She’s the Creative Director.”

“Pull all the creatives together in an hour to review their creative.”

“He’s a creative genius.”

“We have no creative yet!!”

That last one is so scary. Do you know how hard it is to face the empty page? The one that’s waiting for those brilliant words. Or the unexpected image? Let alone the concept…the IDEA. Where is it? When will it emerge?

What I can tell you from personal experience is that sitting in front of that blank page (ok screen maybe), staring at it, is one of the best ways for it NOT to happen. In fact the best way to freeze your mind.

Although I do know some really talented writers who just say “start putting thoughts and words down. Don’t try to write.” But you know what, those writers did a lot of research and reading and thinking before they sat down to just “put a few thoughts and words down.”

That’s pretty hard to do with images though—you can’t just “put a few images on paper”. You have to look around, walk around, listen, absorb, notice, observe everything around you…all the time. TV, movies, theatre, dance, art, music, sports, nature, animals, people, magazines, books, machines…the places from which inspiration arise are endless.

That’s why you hear about those companies with crazy fun areas for creatives to “play”. Because sometimes the best way to unlock is by exposing it to something completely different. Literally distract it! Get those other brain waves going. It’s why lots of ideas happen when you’re driving or cycling or running or whatever: the left brain is involved, which leaves the right brain (the free-thinking “creative” side) free to produce, to create connections and release what’s in there. Magic!

Hence, the creative’s mind is pretty much never at rest. Always trying to come up with the idea, the nugget that will prompt a few words or some graphics, or some graphic way of presenting words. Some wonderful marriage of words and graphics.

You never know when it will come. Or even if.

Take this article. I fussed and fumed about what to write in my next blog. I mean, what’s with that?! After nearly 40 years of being a “creative”, I couldn’t think of a topic?? Good grief that’s pitiful. But actually such a perfect example of what it’s like.

How Strategy and Ideas Happen: It Ain't Easy

How Strategy and Ideas Happen: It Ain't Easy

The Generative Process

MAY 18, 2018



I’ve been in the idea-generating business for about 40 years now.  By idea generating, I mean coming up with ideas for marketing strategies and the creative execution of those strategies.  You know…product positioning, promise, personality, brand image, core message…that sort of stuff. It can be the stuff of nightmares and torture for us marketing and communications folks.  And yet it’s the stuff that drives us.  Over and over again.

(Hmmm, why is that?)

After all of these years, I’ve come to realize there’s essentially the same pattern that occurs time after time.  Think of it as the stages of progress…and the emotions that invariably accompany each stage.

Here are what I perceive to be the seven basic stages of the generative process and their prevailing emotions:

1 | Preparation/Excitement:

this is when we’re just getting started. We’ve been given initial information by the client and we’re excited about getting the project and the opportunity to tackle it.

2 | Exploration/Anticipation:

this is when we immerse ourselves into getting to know and understand everything we can about the company, product, market, competitors, and customers.

3 | Intellection/Anxiety:

this is when reality thoroughly sinks in and the panic starts. Because we don’t have any answers yet.  We need to make sense of everything we’ve learned.  We need to figure out the best way to market this product so that it’s differentiated from the competition, so it can be as successful as possible.

4 | Incubation/Frustration: (sometimes stage 3 and 4 are interchangeable or happening simultaneously. All I can say is that it’s all uncomfortable--for us and the client)

This is when ideas are emerging and we’re trying to figure out if they make sense. What’s better or worse? Will this work or not? Who are we going to take our message to and how? Key themes are bubbling to the surface. Strategy gets developed here as everything we’ve learned starts to coalesce.

5 | Inspiration/Elation:

This is the “eureka” stage. We’ve honed the strategy and the key verbal and visual creative concepts begin to blossom.

6 | Execution/Relief:

Those blessed creative inspirations now flow into tactical translations, and the campaign is created and delivered to the public.

7 | Success/Celebration:

This and the prior two stages explain why it is we go through all of this over and over. The emotional ride we experience in going from nothing to something wonderful is decidedly exhilarating…each and every time it happens. Especially if we’re uncertain at the beginning. Because we never really are certain.  And that’s truly scary. 

So clients, have mercy on your marketing and communications people!  We promise to empathize with the fear, anxiety and frustration you too are experiencing.


Things We Hear About Marketing

Things We Hear About Marketing


I’ve been working with small to mid-sized, privately-owned businesses for over 20 years. Over and over, this is what I hear the owners say: “Why do I need marketing?” and “I can’t afford marketing.”

Believe me, I can empathize with that, because I was a small-business owner for 10 years and I know how tight money can be. You have to keep careful control of your expenditures and invest wisely…put your money where it’s going to do the most good. Investing in product, people, rent and facilities tend to be top of the list, right?

Indeed, nearly every business owner I’ve ever worked with has all of those in their budget and in their business plan; but very few have allocated monies toward marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them include $25,000-$100,000 in buildout expenses, yet provide nothing for marketing. Or the same in inventory…yet nothing for marketing.

This is so short-sighted. Ultimately costly. And sad. Because it’s one of the contributing factors to the 80% failure rate in small businesses.

Why spend so much precious money yet not invest in a way to get the word out about your business? Do you think “If I build it they will come?” Sorry, wishful thinking.

I think most people say “Why do I need it?” and “I can’t afford it” because marketing is simply out of their wheelhouse—out of their area of expertise and comfort. They’ve started a business because they’re good at something. But the single greatest mistaken belief (see “The E-Myth”) is that being really good at what you do or create is enough. It simply isn’t. You need to determine what you’re NOT good at…and get the help from professionals who ARE good at it.

Enter marketing.

What’s wonderful about the world today is that there are so many ways to market, which also makes it confusing and dizzying. You need the help of a professional to wade through all of those options to determine what media is going to be best for you, let alone the message that will be most relevant and persuasive.

Marketing is about understanding your market, your competition, how your business/product fits within that environment, and what makes it different or better. It’s about discovering why someone would spend money on your service or product vs someone else’s, and how they’re going to find out about you, let alone find you. It’s about figuring out who you should be marketing to, and where. It’s about how to make the most of the investment you’ve made in your business, let alone your marketing budget. It’s a lot to figure out.

The other thing I often see is that the owner is myopic about their business. In other words, they have mistaken, naive or undeveloped perceptions of just who and what they are.

A marketing expert represents fresh, unbiased eyes--the value of which simply cannot be overestimated. We’ll see things you don’t. I promise you. We’ll see opportunities you may not, problems, issues and challenges you may not. We’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t or couldn’t have. Or we’ll be able to help you execute the ideas you do have.

The other thing I hear is: “I can do it myself” (be honest, are you saying this now?).

To that, refer back to the previous paragraphs and really truly ask yourself if that’s true. Because the best path to failure is to start with a bad impression or one that is simply “less than” who you are. To hiccup your way into the market. It’s impossible, or at least incredibly expensive, to undo a negative image you can inadvertently create.

I leave you with this final food for thought: the things people say about you and your product/business will make or break you. So get professional help with marketing. Put it in your budget. Ask yourself what the cost of failure will be. Ask yourself what a new client is worth. Then please say “Ok, I’ll reach out for marketing.”

The Power of Video

The Power of Video

Be honest, how many times do you click on that little arrow when you see a video on a website, Facebook, in an email or an online news article?

If you’re consistent with current trends, you’re doing it quite a bit (and likely more and more every year). And it really doesn’t matter whether you’re on your desktop, laptop or smart device. Indeed, the preponderance of evidence is pretty darn conclusive that if you’re not adding video content to your website or social media, you’re behind the times and missing out on the huge benefits of video content.

Take a look at some of the startling statistics:

But remember this critical caveat:

64% of consumers are more likely to have a negative perception of a product or company that publishes a poor quality video. So make it a good video! That means: content that is relevant and interesting to your customer, executed in a level of quality to match your company’s brand image. Please do not do a video just to do a video! Get some professional guidance. And of course, we’d be happy to provide that professional guidance.