Leave now if easily shocked or politically correct. Otherwise, please leave your comments.

Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

If you want to succeed faster, get my 51 helpful marketing ideas. You'll get a steady stream of them. People love them - maybe because they're free.

Just signup using the form on the right.

Make Your Marketing – Not Your Prospects – Do The Work

Do you have too much to read? Memos, reports, letters, e-mails, leaflets, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, direct mail? And are they breeding like wire coat hangers?

Well, in a survey some years ago, US business leaders were asked what change they would most like to see in business. They didn’t talk about accounting or strategy. The majority pleaded: “Teach people to write better.”

They just had too much written garbage to plough through. We all do. If you read most stuff put out nowadays it is appalling. Badly written, dull – and often downright incomprehensible.

Yet bad writing is not necessary if you can just count.

This was discovered by Rudolph Flesch, an American, who spent years in the 1940’s researching what makes for easy reading. As a result he formulated some very easy rules.

The simplest is, make your sentences short. The easiest sentence to take in is only eight words long. A sensible average is 16 words. Any sentence of more than 32 words is hard to take in.

That’s because most people tend to forget what happened at the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to the end. You must make it easy for people.

And the same applies to paragraphs. Vary them, but keep them short, containing only one or two thoughts – especially the first one. A long opening paragraph is daunting.

And happily Microsoft Word has a tool partly based on Flesch which will help you. Just go to Tools/Option/Spelling & Grammar/Show readability statistics. If you use that option it automatically tells you how readable your stuff is.

Oh – and whatever you do, ignore their grammar suggestions – they’re 100% useless.

But that’s another story.

...

Would You Say That To Someone You Know?

Now before I go any further, this hardly qualifies as a big idea, as it is just a mistake so damned obvious that I hope you don’t make it.

There are only two reasons I have the nerve to put it forward.

The first is that I see it made every day by people who ought to know better – like the world’s second biggest bank, for instance, slap bang in the middle of Europe’s most successful shopping street.

The second is that, although seemingly a small thing, it damages something much larger and more important which I shall come to in a moment.

Here is an example of what I mean.

Recently, a new branch of HSBC opened in London. While the premises were being refurbished, the sign outside read: “Coming soon… Another exciting HSBC branch opening here.”

So, tell me, dear reader, do YOU find your bank exciting? Do you see it as the ideal party venue? Will you be waiting nervously outside the new branch just before it opens, wanting to be the first to rush in and use one of the free pens?

Or do you, like most normal people, regard the opening of a new bank as slightly less interesting than a wet day in the cemetery?

My point is that the idea of a new bank being exciting is downright absurd. And that this word – and a number of others, like fabulous and fantastic – is used on an astounding number of inappropriate occasions by people who can’t be bothered to think of something more appropriate.

One reason is that very few writers nowadays have a rich vocabulary, but it’s too late to do much about that. What matters is to understand what words like this do – or fail to do.

It is true that a little exaggeration is no bad thing in copy – but you can only stretch the truth so far.

If your new bank does have something special about it say so. If it hasn’t, shut up.

You may ask why this matters.

I know I have quoted Fairfax Cone elsewhere, but I make no excuse for doing so again. When he saw bad copy he would ask the culprit: “Would you say that to someone you know?”

If you wouldn’t, don’t foist it on the general public.

This is because by doing so abuses an essential element in the relationship between you and your prospect or customer.

That element is called trust. And by coincidence, it is the lack of this between banks which has had such a disastrous effect on all of us.

But that’s another story.

7 Money Making Facts Most Marketers Don’t Know

Amazing, but true: most marketers go about things in a way guaranteed to get them less sales.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t if you want to get more replies, sales, leads – whatever.

1. Do what a salesperson would do

Your message in print or via e-mail is just a substitute for personal, face-to-face selling. If you could afford to send a persuasive human being to every prospect, you would. Nothing is more powerful.

So your messages should do what salespeople do.

This means, among other things:

Do a complete selling job. Tell the full story; all the reasons to reply, not just some. As a famous expert said over 60 years ago, “Would a salesman give you one reason to buy today, then come back and give you another tomorrow? That would be crazy.”

So do the opposite of what most people do, which is run copy as short as they can. Long copy almost always beats short

Never give up. Keep chasing people. Years ago McGraw-Hill learned it takes an average of six calls for a salesman to make a sale.

2. Emotion beats logic – even for “unemotional” products

People may justify their decisions logically, but they make them on emotion because they are all human beings. So focus on the things that drive people crazy or that they dream of, not the rational arguments.

One subject people think of as “logical” is finance. It’s boring, they imagine. So how come people kill for money – every day, all over the world?

Others think of business products as dull. So how come people at work often feel frustrated and are rude about colleagues? Because feelings come into all situations. You just have to find them and make use of them.

The best messages start with emotion and use logic to explain and convince. A good example is a famous old headline: “Last week, was I scared … My boss almost fired me.”

3. Dig deeper

Too often people know what they offer so well that they either assume the prospects knows what they are talking about, or they are themselves too bored to look.

Time and again we find revealing and powerful arguments are being ignored. In one case a client didn’t even know about the powerful testimonials his customers were giving. They were not in the marketing department, but in customer service. We found them by digging around and built a strong sales story on them.

4. Think as a buyer, not a seller. Look for the ultimate benefit

People spend a lot of time looking for unique selling propositions – quite rightly. But then they fail to translate them into unique buying propositions.

For instance, one client has the largest team of financial researchers in the country. Very impressive. But that’s not the benefit to the customer. The research means the clients will be better informed and thus able to make better investment decisions. That’s a benefit.

But it isn’t the ultimate benefit. The ultimate benefit is that the client will make more money and retire rich.

5. Compared to what?

Most messages focus on why the product or service is good – or even better.

But better than what?

Few think about what is going through the customers’ minds. They are thinking, “What can you do for me that no-one else can do?” Or, “What do you do better then anyone else?”

Unless you do answer these questions, you are failing to do a complete selling job. You are missing sales.

6. What’s the reason why?

Over 150 years ago a man called John E Powers made a fortune as a copywriter – when hardly anyone even knew what a copywriter was.

He did it by introducing “reason-why” copy.

Boasting about how wonderful you are, or explaining that you offer a better deal is meaningless unless people believe you.

So, if you offer lower prices, explain how and why you do it; if you are offering the chance to win something, tell people why you do it (to get more leads for less money).

7. Think less, act more

The bigger firms get the more they have meetings. A meeting is no substitute for action – “Search the parks in all the cities; you’ll find no statues to committees”.

One year I saw two clients on the same day in the same city. One spent six months having meetings about the copy.

The other got on with it and had a record month 6 months later. The sooner you act, the sooner you find out what works and what doesn’t.

Who To Read If You Want To Write Better Advertising

My first recommendation for good writers to read to broaden your horizons and your writing ability are:

Jane Austen

Evelyn Waugh

P G Wodehouse

F Scott Fitzgerald

Elmore Leonard

There are more writers than these, but all five were great prose stylists who will teach you a lot. When it comes to books on marketing and business, here’s my recommended reading list (Please forgive the inclusion of my own books, but people keep telling me how useful they are):

E-mail Marketing Made Easy, Malcolm Auld

Secrets of Successful Direct Mail, Richard V Benson

Commonsense Direct Marketing, DraytonBird

How to Write a Sales Letters That Sell, DraytonBird

Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples

Eicoff on Broadcast Direct Marketing, Al Eicoff

Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins

Profitable Direct Marketing, Jim Kobs

Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy

Maxi Marketing, Stan Rapp and Tom Collins

The Great Brain Robbery, Murray Raphel

How to Advertise, Ken Roman and Jane Maas

Writing that Works, Ken Roman and Joel Raphelson

How to write a good advertisement, Victor Schwab

Successful Direct Marketing Methods, Bob Stone

The Solid Gold Mailbox, Walter Weintz

The End of Marketing as We Know It, Sergio Zyman

FIRMS SQUANDER MILLIONS ON PR EVERY DAY. BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO IF YOU FOLLOW THIS ADVICE

Here are some names you recognise.

Kim Kardashian, Enzio Ferrari, Ben and Jerry, Manolo Blahnick and Anita Roddick…

None of these names built their brands using advertising. They did it with PR. For my money – or yours – nothing can beat it.

Don’t believe me?

When the Miller Brewing Company measured their marketing, they found that every additional $1 spent on TV advertising brought a return of $1.06, while PR delivered $8.

Now there’s a new book called The PR Masterclass by Alex Singleton. Hard to believe, but it’s the first how-to PR guide from a former staff journalist on a national newspaper – in Britain, at least.

Maybe that’s one reason it’s the top PR book on Amazon UK as I write.

I was keen to read it – especially as my own youthful disasters include eight months spent running the PR unit of a Manchester ad agency.

Nobody told me what to do. I would have given my eye-teeth for this book then. I’m amazed I lasted that long.

But it’s no surprise that I failed. Up to 95% of press releases are ignored by the media. In 180 pages Alex – a journalist for 20 years – explains why and reveals how you can join the happy 5%.

His advice matches what I’ve found to be true of PR in the years since my time in Manchester.

Here’s one typical cock-up.

Citigroup issued a press release that tried to disguise job losses as a positive story about restructuring the company.

The result? The media went big on the layoffs. The headline in Forbes: “The Citigroup Bloodbath: New CEO Cuts 11,000 Jobs”.

The lesson? Don’t try to hide bad news; journalists aren’t stupid – they will find the real news and focus on that.

Other common mistakes include:

1. Writing short press releases when longer ones usually work better. (Sound familiar?)

2. Not having any real news in your press releases or pitches, so journalists have no reason to run them.

3. Emailing at the wrong time or too often.

4. Spamming constantly with irrelevant guff.

5. Not tailoring your release to the publications you send them to.

6. Not bothering to find out what publications want to publish.

7. Relying on inaccurate, ineffective contact lists instead of building your own.

8. Not building personal relationships with journalists.

9. Using too much jargon. (Does that sound familiar too?)

10. Relying on paid-for newswire services – a complete waste of money.

Alex explains why these are all wrong, and tells you how to do better – including how to build your own contact list using email, social media and the good old telephone.

He also explains:

1. Why you must measure the impact of your PR – and how.

2. How to structure press releases for maximum impact.

3. How to write like a journalist – guaranteed to improve your response.

4. The best times to contact journalists.

5. Why sending fewer, more targeted pitches and press releases almost always works better.

6. The best way to get product reviews.

7. How to re-use freely available public data to get coverage.

8. How to commission opinion polls in a way that’s sure to get picked up.

9. A once-popular, now little-used technique that can make your PR irresistible to journalists and the people you want to reach.

10. How to position yourself as an expert and have journalists call you – plus the best way to field those calls once you get them.

11. How to get interviewed as an expert on TV (Alex has appeared on several shows himself) and how to prepare for it.

Nor do these lessons just apply to big firms.

Alex tells how one small tea company got extensive TV coverage – and more sales – with a single PR stunt.

Before you ask: no, Alex is not a client of mine, nor am I being paid. I wish I were.

He did interview me once and came to one of my events, though. God knows what he learned, but I bet you will learn from this.

Please read this carefully before you even think of attending any meeting

51 years ago, as far as I can make out, I became Copy Chief of a London Ad Agency.

Many things have changed since then.

Now my title would be something fatuous like Chief Executive Creative Officer.

And the efforts of a procession of free-spending politicians mean my £2,200 annual salary – which funded countless alcoholic lunches, frolics and failed attempts at extra-marital fornication – wouldn’t last me a fortnight.

But one thing hasn’t changed. Even though we only had 80 staff I was always being asked to attend meetings. I attribute much of the little success I have since had to the fact that I quickly learned the importance of turning them down

My technique, which I pass on at no charge, was to say I was very busy but if anyone wanted my opinion on the subject I would write it. I think this beats what Scott Adams suggests below, but you can do some split-run tests if you like and see which wins.

“Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons” — Scott Adams

Years later when I was responsible for the American Express account an otherwise sane and competent senior executive called a meeting to discuss the privileges of membership.

There were quite a few of these, and we had discovered that few American Express Card holders knew what they all were. So the idea was to sit around a table in London and decide which to keep and which to jettison.

People flew in from as far away as Hong Kong for the meeting. I couldn’t wriggle out of going as they were paying so I spent most of the time trying to calculate how much this get-together cost.

It must have been astronomical. It was also pointless.

Such a meeting is no way to arrive at decisions. As Sir Francis Bacon pointed out 400 years ago in his essay “On Despatch”, if you want things done give the job to as few people as possible, and only have a “conference or debate” after they have come up with their proposals.

I was reminded of all this when one of my partners was asked to attend a meeting without being paid about a project not yet funded – and even when someone does cough up the lolly cannot begin until the spring.

If you can’t always follow Scott Adams’ excellent advice here is a ready-made agenda. It is provided at no charge by my friend Ryan Wallman from the fair city of Melbourne … outside whose Royal Yacht Club I was once attacked by an enraged Chihuahua, ruining a sexy pair of trousers I had just had made in Bangkok.

That is another story, but the agenda Ryan has “crafted” (a popular word among the semi-literate) is about brands. It should benefit the countless legions who like to talk endless ill-informed drivel on that subject,.

Do not despair, though. This is a multi-purpose agenda and can quickly be adapted to any topic favoured by the witless such as Social Media, Content Marketing, Thought Leadership, Native Advertising and for that matter Does Jesus Want Me For A Sunbeam?

Agenda – Brand planning workshop*

Time Topic
9.00 Unnecessary introductions
9.15 Presentation of biased market research results
10.00 AWKWARD MORNING TEA
10.30 Some bollocks about emotional laddering
11.00 Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again
12.00 LUNCH (OPPORTUNITY TO IGNORE EACH OTHER WHILE STARING AT SCREENS)
1.00 Hypothetical game based on an inappropriate military metaphor
2.00 Three hours discussing the tagline ‘Progress is our passion’(more time available if needed)
5.00 Agreement on next steps that will never happen because everybody will be too busy planning next year’s workshop

Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again

*Subject to change depending on the number of irrelevant digressions by the guy from head office who loves the sound of his own voice.

I hope this has encouraged you to avoid as many meetings as possible, but lest you waver here are the wise words of Dave Barry:

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” 

“Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons” — Scott Adams

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” ― Dave Barry

I look back fondly to the day when I became Copy Chief of a London Ad Agency.

It was 51 years ago as far as I can make out.

Many things have changed since. Nowadays I would be called something utterly absurd like Chief Executive Creative Officer.

And thanks to the efforts of a procession of free-spending politicians my annual salary of £2,200 – which funded countless alcoholic lunches, frolics and failed attempts at extra-marital fornication – wouldn’t last me a fortnight.

But one thing hasn’t changed since then. Even though we only had 80 staff I was always being asked to attend meetings. I attribute much of the little success I have since had to the fact that I quickly learned the importance of turning them down.

My technique, which I pass on at no charge, was to say I was very busy but if anyone wanted my opinion on the subject I would write it. I think this is better than the one Scott Adams suggests, but you can do some split-run tests if you like and see which wins.

I was reminded of all this when one of my colleagues was asked to attend a meeting without being paid about a project which is not yet funded and even when someone does cough up cannot begin until the spring.

For those forced to attend these things, here is a ready-made agenda provided at no charge by my friend Ryan Wallman from the fair city of Melbourne … outside whose Royal Yacht Club I was once attacked by an enraged Chihuahua, ruining a sexy pair of trousers I had just had made in Bangkok.

That is a different story, but for the benefit of the countless legions who like to talk endless ill-informed horse-shit about them, the agenda Ryan has “crafted” (a popular word among the semi-literate) is about brands.

Do not despair, though. This is a multi-purpose agenda and can quickly be adapted  to a range of topics favoured by the witless such as Social Media, Content Marketing, Thought Leadership, Native Advertising and Was Jesus Gay or Just Transgendered?

Agenda – Brand planning workshop*

Time Topic
9.00 Unnecessary introductions
9.15 Presentation of biased market research results
10.00 AWKWARD MORNING TEA
10.30 Some bollocks about emotional laddering
11.00 Breakout groups: Meaningless diagrams on butcher’s paper that nobody will ever look at again
12.00 LUNCH (OPPORTUNITY TO IGNORE EACH OTHER WHILE STARING AT SCREENS)
1.00 Hypothetical game based on an inappropriate military metaphor
2.00 Three hours discussing the tagline ‘Progress is our passion’                          (more time available if needed)
5.00 Agreement on next steps that will never happen because everybody will be too busy planning next year’s workshop

*Subject to change depending on the number of irrelevant digressions by the guy from head office who loves the sound of his own voice.

 

 

 

“Sainsbury’s Christmas ad is a dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece” – The Guardian

“This above all: to thine own self be true” – Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet. Unless what you say is true to what you are, you’re onto a loser.

Over 50-odd years in this business I have noticed two recurrent maladies.

That’s not true: I’ve noticed a great many more. But after seeing the new Christmas TV ads from John Lewis and Sainsbury’s these occur to me.

  1. Copying other people’s advertising
  2. Talking about what you’d like to be – but are not.

For years John Lewis have run fine advertising – especially at Christmas. So brilliant that the lady who puts up with me said today “John Lewis owns Christmas”.

If you want to see what I mean, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iccscUFY860

If you’re interested in what makes great marketing, don’t just watch the ad. Invest a couple of minutes seeing how Monty’s little story has been followed though in every possible way.

Relevant products. A display in their biggest store. An app. Mabel – Monty’s mate. A link to a children’s charity. These are professionals at work.

What about the Sainsbury’s ad? It’s here https://www.youtube.com/user/Sainsburys.

To me it absolutely seems like an attempt to do with John Lewis have done so well, so often.

But even despite a good choice of charity link, it fails.

The Guardian calls it a masterpiece. I disagree. This is bloody conflict sanitised. The Guardian also said: “In making the first world war beautiful to flog groceries the film-makers have disrespected the millions who suffered in the trenches.”

As one cinema viewer commented, “When the “Sainsbury’s” logo appeared at the end fifty-odd people let out a collective “for fuck’s sake!”

Apart from anything else, does anyone associate Sainsbury’s in particular with Christmas? Aren’t they just another store flogging stuff?

To do this sort of thing well you need relevance and a delicate touch, which John Lewis have managed to apply year after year but Sainsbury’s haven’t.

I know things that make John Lewis stand out. They don’t play piped music in their stores. Their staff are partners. They’re “never knowingly undersold”.

What are Sainsbury’s? They’re just the big store down the road that runs ghastly messages ending “Live better for less”. The ones who can’t train the people on the fish counter to clean fish – and never got back to me when I said so.

First, improve what you do. Then worry about how to communicate it. Not the other way round.

 

Tawdry half-truths from Virgin. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it

“You’ve been specially selected for this exclusive offer (not available to the general public)” Is this tosh good for your brand?

“Don’t miss out” it says in a little red flash on the big envelope from Virgin media that pops through our letter box.

I don’t worry too much that I might “miss out” (a phrase high on the list of cliches deployed by second rate copywriters). That’s because they send me the same envelope at regular intervals

So it must work, otherwise they wouldn’t keep sending it out. But for how long? And how well?

Do you or or I really think I’ve been “specially selected”? Do you or I really believe this offer is “not available to the general public”? Are we not both damn sure that if any member of the general public asked for this deal they would be greeted with a resounding “yes”?

I believe such guff steadily but surely eats away at your brand’s credibility, because it demonstrates no clear point of difference. In the end people just go for what seems to be the best deal.

As my favourite client, Victor Ross of The Reader’s Digest, once observed, “Loyalty is what is left when you take the incentives away” – one reason why loyalty programmes are a zero-sum game – a race to the bottom.

If you look at all the various Virgin businesses, only one – the airline – runs human, sometimes witty messages that reflect what the name stood for originally. The rest rely on the name and common visual elements.

And oddly enough it is the only Virgin business that is really different to its competitors. I hope their merger with Delta doesn’t drag them down to the dreary depths of all the American airlines.

 

Why research so often fails: sound advice from beyond the grave

Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett

What people say they think or will do often has no bearing on what actually happens

As you may be aware, dear reader, nearly all new product launches fail. Last time I looked it was over 80%.

My first employer in London, the late, great Leo Burnett, explained why:“The public does not know what it wants… there is no sure way of finding out until the idea is exposed under normal conditions of sale.  If people could tell you in advance what they want, there would never have been a wheel, a lever, much less an automobile, an airplane or a TV set.” 

I was reminded of this when I saw today a list of 10 marketing tactics Americans say they “despise”.

The culprits  are:

1 – Direct mail that looks like it has a bill, fake check, or is otherwise official-looking

2 – Pop-up ads on web sites.

3 – Ads for nutritional supplements with exaggerated claims.

4 – Videos you have to sit through before reaching web content.

5 – Products advertised as “made in America” that are not.

6 – Free offers with strings attached.

7 – TV ads louder than the program.

8 – Ads targeted based on purchases, demographics, or behavior.

9 – Product placement in movies and TV.

10 – Billboards.

Well, I can tell you that of those 10, numbers 1,2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 generally work if they are carried out competently.

I don’t know about number 7. But as for number 5, many lagers are successfully sold here as being French, American, Australian or for that matter Indian yet are made in the U.K.

The only way you know people will do something is to get them to act, as the following true story suggests.

My friend Brian Thomas once worked for a mail order company which sold cheap gifts to a pretty unsophisticated clientele. Each year they  ran Hall Tests.

They would get customers into a hall and get them to choose which proposed products for the new catalogue they liked best.

After the customers left they would throw away all the forms they had filled in, but leave the products on display and wait for the cleaning ladies to come in.

They knew the products that would be winners were the ones those ladies stole most.

If you want to know what a lifetime of studying human behaviour has taught me – and how it may teach you to do better marketing, check out AskDrayton.