Nurdles in action
See that little toothpaste swirl? Industry insiders call it a nurdle. GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Aquafresh, claim to have invented the “highly distinctive” design better than 20 years ago. But Colgate-Palmolive has a nurdle on packaging for their own toothpaste products, such as Total, picture above. Glaxo has threatened a lawsuit. According to Glaxo, Colgate is up to no less than trying to “trade off the commercial magnetism” of Glaxo’s Aquafresh brand. The fiends.
Trademark suits can be fun. Reminds me of the time Coke sued Pepsi, back when when Pepsi called itself “Pepsi-Cola” and their logo was set in script font. Coke’s contention? That if you turned the then-Pepsi logo upside down and squinted, it looked like it could be the Coke logo.
New article in Deliver magazine by Steve Cuno
If you and I were playing a friendly game of word association and I happened to toss out brand enthusiast
, I bet direct marketer
wouldn’t be the first thing you’d toss back. “Brand, shmand,” many a direct marketer is wont to say. “Does it sell or not?”
Point taken, but let’s not throw out the brand with the bathwater. A strong brand makes any direct marketer’s job easier. But also keep in mind what branding isn’t. (Continue reading by clicking here now)
The doorbell rings. There stands a young man with a fistful of flyers.
I don’t mind salespeople. After all, I make my living selling, and by helping my clients sell. Of course, we tend to call it marketing because, well, it sounds more highfalutin. But, I readily admit, selling it is.
I greet the young man and cheerfully ask, “What’s for sale?”
Unfortunately, he weasels. “I’m not selling anything,” he says. “I just want to clean your carpet for free with a Kirby vacuum.”
I say, “I assume your hope is that I will like how the Kirby performs and then buy one.”
The young says yes, that’s so.
“Ah,” I say, still cheerful, “you are selling Kirbys.”
No, insists the young man. He isn’t selling anything. Why? Because he isn’t going to “force” anything on me. He just wants to clean my carpet with a Kirby and let me decide for myself if I want one.
Hmm. This sure looks, walks and quacks like selling. But the kid at my door insists that that’s not what it is.
There is nothing dishonorable about selling. Assuming, that is, you do it honorably. This fellow could own up to his occupation and proceed with his pitch, uninterrupted. But by playing with words, he is blowing his chance. And in this case, just as marketing is highfalutin for selling, playing with words is highfalutin for weaseling, which is highfalutin for lying.
It may not be the young man’s fault. Possibly the Kirby people taught him that approach. If so, shame on them.
When I make a sales call, I open with candor. I often say something like, “Brace yourself, this is a sales call.” Or, “I’m one of those sales people, but I hope you’ll hear me out, because I have something I think will interest you.” Guess what. It serves me well. It always works better than trying to pretend I’m not selling. (The first time my boss — back when I had one — heard my “brace yourself” approach, he about had a cow. Then he saw how readily and repeatedly the opener ingratiated me to people who were tired of shooing away weasels. His labor pains ceased.)
I fondly recall the copier salesman who never had any trouble getting in to see us. “It’s Matthew,” he always opened, “copier salesman from hell.”
If you ever phone me or show up at my door and I ask you what’s for sale, give me a straight answer. I may not buy, but I’ll hear you out. Try to convince me you’re not selling when we both know that selling is exactly what you’re up to, and I will probably tell you, as I did this young man, that I don’t do business with people who obscure the truth. Which is highfalutin for, “You’re a liar. Away with you.”
I recently stumbled upon research that reveals an interesting human quirk. It seems that when one person disparages another, most listeners attribute the alleged bad qualities to the person doing the disparaging, and not to the person being disparaged.
The RESPONSE Agency has a business relationship with a fellow who is perfectly professional, except: whenever he calls on us, he takes a moment to disparage his former-partner-now-competitor. For all I know, his observations are accurate. Yet in bringing them up, he only makes himself look small. Which is a shame, since I personally happen to know that he is anything but.
Not that I am a shining example of restraint. Having been betrayed and screwed by the best of them — people no one would imagine capable of dishonesty — I too have been guilty of saying too much too often. In the act, I have come across as unprofessional, and the whining proved counterproductive.
There are times to speak up, and times to rein in the old tongue. I don’t know about you, but I’m still working on knowing which time is which.
Some ideas don’t deserve to be killed
I freely admit that I would have aborted Abba, Snuggie and Pet Rock before any one of them had a detectable heartbeat. And that, in both cases, I would have been wrong.On the other hand, some ideas really do deserve an early death sentence
I still look back with gratitude at the time a magazine publisher saved me from myself. She said, “I will run this ad as-is if you insist, but have you thought about...” Actually, no, I hadn’t thought about. I took a moment to do so and realized she was right. Good thing. The ad would have been a disaster. There you have an example of someone who was right to a bit of idea-killing.
We creative people don’t like admitting that. When we gather at advertising association luncheons to whine, we characterize as myopic every boss or client who doesn’t instantly embrace every concept we put forth. The underlying assumptions are that: (1) all of our ideas are great; and (2) anyone who doesn’t agree is a fuddyduddy. Neither assumption is de facto reliable.
So it is with a word of caution that I share a list of 100 idea killers by Michael Iva, president and creative director of Qually & Company. A few of them sound like common sense to me. “Let’s wait till we see the numbers” might have saved Old Spice from wasting money on further installments of the popular but impotent “I’m on a horse” campaign. “It’s politically incorrect” might have saved Sony from introducing its white Playstation with billboards showing a white woman angrily grasping a black woman by the jaw. “Be realistic” might have saved Hillary Clinton from looking foolish attacking Barack Obama for a self-portrait-as-president he’d drawn in second grade.
Nor am I fond of the sermon Iva delivers after his list, wherein once or twice he at least appears to champion the above-referenced underlying assumptions.Notwithstanding, most of the items on Iva’s list are dead-on examples of irresponsible idea-killing.
So, with my thanks for your having indulged my caveats, go ahead and click here for a look at Iva’s list
. How many times have you beat your head against the wall of irresponsible idea killers like many of those he lists? How many times have you wielded such idea killers yourself against someone else’s ideas? Equally important: how many times have you railed against the few responsible
Perhaps nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee, but nobody but nobody doesn’t adore the Old Spice spots starring Mustafa. They are watched, Googled, virally shared, enjoyed and critically acclaimed.
Yet, according to MSNBC, Mustafa has only succeeded in selling the commercials, not the product. Amid the campaign’s runaway popularity, sales of Red Zone After Hours Body Wash have fallen 7 percent. (Did you even know the product in question was Red Zone After Hours Body Wash?)
Awareness ain’t sales. Web hits ain’t sales. Popular commercials ain’t sales. Buzz ain’t sales. If you count such things as successes while sales remain flat or ebb, I envy you. Clearly you have money to burn. Thank for spending it on entertaining us all.
—Steve Cuno *UPDATE: Perhaps I blogged too soon. See Mike Denison’s comment.
Upon a friend’s foolhardy request for my thoughts on his website, I observed that his use of reverse type — white type on a dark background — was hard to read. Reverse type cuts readership by almost half. He agreed to change it, adding that he’d used reverse type because he thought it would be “fun and artsy.”
No argument there. Reverse type is visually stunning. There are lots of other stunning things designers have been known to do with type as well: shape it, swirl it, turn it upside down, rotate it, mirror-image it and more. Just one problem. All of these shenanigans make the copy hard to read.
Readers don’t start out terribly interested in what you have to say. If you make it hard for them to find out, most won’t bother. So on the assumption that you have written good copy that is there for a reason, making it hard to read would seem counterproductive.
Do not fall for the oft-raised defense that doing unique things with type draws attention to it. Maybe it does. But if no one can read it, to what avail? Nor should you fall for the notion that hard-to-read type presents a challenge to which readers will rise. That is utter nonsense.
Put your copy where eyes expect to find it, and they will. If you want eyes to go to the next step — that is, actually read it — use black or very dark type on a white or very light background. Choose a high-legibility font with serifs, which is easier to read than sans serif type. While you’re at it, keep your paragraphs short.
Use of reverse and sans serif type is sometimes allowed for brief headlines and subheads. Otherwise, stick with these rules and you will increase readership. By the way, when you increase readership of your advertising, guess what happens to your sales.
Steve Cuno’s newest article in Deliver magazine:
Ethan knew how to propose. On a trip to the Serengeti, his back to a spectacular sunset, he knelt before Jessica, produced a lovely ring and begged for her hand. So it was that one of my shop’s best employees returned from her vacation engaged.
Of course, Ethan could have skipped the whole Serengeti sunset thing and simply sent Jessica a card that said, “Because we appreciate your being a valued significant other …”
If that fails to offend your inner incurable romantic, you may have a promising career with a company that mistakes sending mail to “valued customers like you” for loyalty marketing. For the rest of you, here are some tips... (Click here to continue reading)
Remember those delightful, whimsical Pepsi commercials of the 1990s? We had Michael J Fox braving dangers to procure a Pepsi for a hottie in the apartment next door, alien spacecraft taste-testing one sample each from a Coke and a Pepsi vending machine prior to absconding with the entire Pepsi machine, and more.
I am pleased to say that that Pepsi has returned. In a new commercial, the driver of a Pepsi truck and the driver of a Coke truck agree to sample one another's product. And then the Coke driver refuses to return the Pepsi. But to add a modern twist: the Pepsi driver appears to capture the whole thing on his smartphone.
I’m at work on a new book and I would appreciate your help. The book’s objective is to arm consumers against dishonest marketing practices, and at the same time debunk alleged harmful practices that don’t exist, or that do but have no effect.
Want to help? Please share examples of:
• Common tricks you’re aware of that marketers and advertisers use, and how you know about them.
• Specific advertised claims that can be disproved.
• Specific advertised claims that cannot be or have not been proved.
• Specific advertised claims that can neither be proved nor disproved.
• Specific examples of advertised claims and how they have hurt people.
• Examples of advertising that is helpful.
• Marketers that are good citizens.
• Examples of marketers doing the honorable thing.
• Abuses you’ve endured from salespeople, whether in the store, at your door, over the phone, what-have-you.
You can add your thoughts here by clicking on COMMENTS above, or click here to send me an email
What’s in it for you? Er, um, well, how about your name in the acknowledgments … and the inner satisfaction of knowing you’re helping expose nefarious practices?
Thanks in advance. —Steve Cuno