Raise Turkeys, Not Awareness

Are you paying attention? A whole lot of people don’t seem to think so. Much of the non-profit marketing profession appears hell-bent on raising your awareness — of cancer, child abuse, dental hygiene, the scourge of erectile dysfunction, and the like. They evidently believe that you cruise blindly through life, like the undead, without noticing the salient features of the world around you.

I don’t mean to belittle a devastating disease, but I’m guessing you’ve heard of cancer. You probably know an important detail, like, it’s bad for you. You might even wear sunscreen and eat broccoli in an effort to ward it off. Awareness.

(I am making many assumptions about you even though I don’t know who you are. Based on the AMA members I have met, you are a graduate of Lake Wobegon High School: savvy and intellectual, shockingly attractive, courageous and warm-hearted. If you are not an AMA member, hurry and join so you can share these characteristics.)

Visit the website of many non-profits and you’ll see “raising awareness” as part of their mission, as if you didn’t notice the gentleman in full winter regalia pushing a cart with his worldly belongings along the Crosstown on a summer afternoon.

No one needs some anonymous radio dork imploring them to care more about lung disease, irradiated food, boating while intoxicated or the plight of the endangered chuckwalla. We’re either sufficiently aware or not bothering the chuckwalla in any way ourselves.

Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla

Of course, much of this is the result of the common misconception that anyone can do PR and marketing, which require no particular expertise, like hanging a picture, or swallowing. Non-profit staff without any marketing expertise substitute “raising awareness” for real, measurable objectives because, well, they haven’t had their awareness raised.

If these benighted marketers want to devote the full measure of their talent to useful pursuits, may I suggest the following awareness raisers:

  • Mindlessly placing yourself in the way. Subcategories: Standing in the doorway at parties. Stopping at the top of a hill on ski slopes. Walking four-across on the King Street sidewalk. Walking in the bike lane (or biking in the walk lane) on the Cooper River Bridge.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Sub-categories: Advocating for a simpler, fairer tax code that maintains your favorite deductions. Hating steroid users unless they help your team. Demanding that Congress do something while voting against members willing to compromise. Complaining about the cost of heart bypass surgery required after a lifetime of eating Twinkies and melting into chairs.
  • Smoking while in a public pool. The tar and nicotine have apparently ravaged your cerebral cortex beyond repair. For your safety, you need to be removed from the pool permanently.
  • Waiting to drive across four lanes of traffic rather than merging into the right lane and working your way across. If you can’t see how you’re holding up everyone behind you, then you’ve been smoking in the pool.
  • “The F-word,” “the N-word,” “the L-word.” If you want us to know the word you have in mind, say it. If you’re afraid to say it, skip the juvenile reference to it. P.S. There are several words that start with “S.” I can think of four or five myself.
  • Using a phone while operating a mass of metal at a velocity well-past sufficient to cause death. If you’re going to text, dial, surf, converse with Siri or otherwise concentrate your limited brain power on your phone and not on your driving, please make sure your fatal accident is of the one-car variety.

I look forward to seeing what those sharp marketing minds can devise to combat… hey! Get out of the way!

–barry waldman

I Value Our Relationship. Send Money.

As marketers, we like to think we have “relationships” with names in our databases. We use the most exalted term to describe them: customers. But do they think of themselves that way? Often, the answer is no, but it doesn’t seem to affect company behavior.

The problem is a subset of the larger issue of PR and marketing: people going native. I like to remind myself daily that the non-profit for which I work is but a walnut in the batter of our donors’ lives. Our staff will say something that starts with, “People think we…” when most people don’t think about us at all. Even most loyal donors who love the organization’s mission, and contribute an amount of money that would shiver your timbers, are only obliquely aware of anything we’re doing.

And if you sell flavored, carbonated sugar water; or aggravating software; or diapers; your customers care even less about you. You might use condoms twice a day but that doesn’t mean you don’t hate them and the company that makes your soaring personal life possible.

Case in point: I have a credit card through The Nature Conservancy. If you asked my wife or me, we would say it’s our Nature Conservancy card. We don’t know or care what bank issues the card and we certainly don’t consider ourselves their customers. (Not to put too fine a point on it: We hardly use the card.)

This bank, whose marketing department “values our relationship,” in the same way that I value my relationship with the center fielder for my favorite baseball team, sends us regular emails and old fashioned mail. At least I assume they send us emails; I unsubscribed so fast the electrons didn’t have time to dry.

I couldn’t tell you what’s in the envelopes they mail to us. I open them only so that I can remove the recyclable contents and mitigate the damage they’ve done to the planet.

Except I’ve started to notice that they are mailing me blank checks in the vain hope that I’m stupid enough to accept their “free” money offers, the offers that come with interest rates that would make Rico “The Shirt Collar” Spenzino* envious.

*Any resemblance between the fictional character Rico “The Shirt Collar” Spenzino and a couple of guys from my New York City neighborhood is purely purposeful. The views here do not represent the views of the Charleston AMA, the national AMA or even the AMA that’s filled with doctors. Also, my family no longer lives in the old neighborhood, Vinny, so don’t bother.

If the bank is intent on profiting from the prying apart of fools from their money, that’s their business. What rankles me is that they are printing blank checks with my name on them, putting them in an open box at the Post Office – a nearly bankrupt subsidiary of the always-efficient Federal Government – and hoping they will be delivered to me and no one else after they pass through the hands of a dozen highly-motivated federal employees.

Blank checks. With my name on them. What could go wrong with that?

What did that marketing department discussion sound like? Wasn’t there anyone in the room who noticed that they were setting themselves up for big piles of thievery?

So now a question for the bank from one of their customers. What happens when a postal employee handling the envelope, or a neighbor who reaches into the wrong mailbox, or a random person on the street who also values my relationship with the bank, gets his paws on the blank checks and cashes a couple of them? There’s no court in America that would expect me to be responsible for mail I never received.

Which is why I’m looking forward to the day that some vagabond (or blog reader) intercepts a packet of checks (did I mention that they’re blank?) and enjoys a lovely weekend in a tropical paradise like Atlantic City. I look forward to learning how much the marketing department values its relationship with me then.

–barry waldman

Reading This Blog Will Save You Time!

From everything I’ve read, Abe Lincoln was an upstanding and sagacious man. He emancipated the slaves, held the union together and knew what sagacious means. That sagacity lead him to proclaim that one might be able to “fool all of the people some of the time.”

I commend to your consideration certain advertising campaigns that are so pungently false, so transparently the opposite of the truth, and evidently so strikingly effective that they boggle the mind, or at least the mind of the few of us paying attention to their mendacity. You might call this the “M&Ms® Effect.”

For those under the age of – well – three, M&Ms® claim to “melt in your mouth, not in your hands.” This is not only the exact opposite of the truth about this particular candy, it’s a problem unique to M&Ms. Unless you’re an anti-choclatarian you know what I mean. The whole issue with M&Ms is that you have to engage with them strategically or else you’ll have a green, blue and red palm that you’ll desperately want to lick but will instead have to wash, in the case of persons with Y chromosomes, eventually.

To enjoy these candy-coated chocolate morsels, which might be among the rare artifacts (pizza, baseball, the platypus, sweet tea, The Onion, Scarlett Johansson) that prove God’s existence, you have to employ one of the following tactics:
· pour them directly from the package into your gullet
· pour them so lightly into your hand that they barely make epidermal contact, then quickly whip them into your mouth
· pour them onto a napkin or plate and pluck them in a single motion one-at-a-time with your thumb and forefinger into your mouth

All of which reminds us that the advertising campaign feels as if it was specifically designed to remind you how irritating this particular candy is to handle, particularly when it’s above 70 degrees, which only occurs every day for nine months of the year in the Lowcountry.

How the “melts in your mouth” campaign ever made it past the spitballing phase back at the ad agency, much less into the American vernacular, harkens to the aforementioned boggling of minds. Of course, it’s not alone.

There’s an ad out there for a national cable company – or a satellite TV service, whatever – suggesting that use of their product will bring the family together, increase the kids’ knowledge and get everyone out of the house more. How they make this leap of logic, with a half-twist in the piked position, is far less interesting than how they manage to sell cable/satellite subscriptions with a claim so transparently false. One could hardly charge them with deceptive advertising: it would take endless TV-watching to rot the brain cells sufficient to believe their claims.

Similar but not exactly the same is the epidemic of “erectile dysfunction” ads out there. As you are no doubt aware by now, impotence used to be considered a natural result of men aging, like forgetting what you were going to say and, and, uh . . . anyway, there was no condition called “E.D.” until Pfizer accidentally discovered a treatment for it – while experimenting with a remedy for heart conditions. A cure can’t be marketed and sold without a disease, and so they have invented one, convincing millions of men they aren’t getting older, they just have a condition that can be fixed with a pill. And we’re buying it! I mean some people are but I don’t know who.

And of course tobacco companies used their monetary might for decades to convince us that sucking on poison sticks was cool and sexy, even though it led to yellow teeth, bad breath, inelastic skin and early death. That actually did involve outright lying, which is another story, but the point is that plenty of people who had to know better somewhere in their cerebral cortex nonetheless bought the product and transformed themselves into addicts.

It does make me wonder if my employer should stop wasting all its efforts to market strategically and just bamboozle everyone out of their money. The more you donate, the more you’ll have!

–barry waldman

New member Spotlight: Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

 

Name: Kristin Smith

Company:  Motivated Marketing

Title: Director of Media/Marketing

LinkedIn, Facebook 
kristincwelch@gmail.com

 

Motivated Marketing is a full service ad agency based in North Charleston.  My role, since joining the company 3 years ago, has been to develop the Media Department, establish policy/procedure/best practices, and manage key accounts.

How are you hoping to grow your business/career
in the coming year?  

I am always seeking opportunities for professional growth and expanding my knowledge base.  In 2014, I plan to put more of a focus on our digital media arm to better develop that side of our business.  I am also increasingly interested in agency operations management. I have had the distinct pleasure of helping to develop the structure and process of day-to-day activity in my current role and I hope to continue to lead our agency through new process that inspires growth in 2014.

If you could connect with one marketer (local or
otherwise) who would it be and why?

There are so many influential marketers, it would be hard to pick just one to meet. Given the opportunity, I would throw a small dinner party and invite Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mary Meeker, Nisha Chittal, David Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett. It would be so interesting to see how the founders of the modern ad world would feel about the evolving media landscape of today.

Do you have a favorite marketing website, blog, guru?

I read most of the typical trades. Mashable is always a good go-to for bite-size content on a lunch break, though.

How has Charleston AMA helped you succeed (or how will it help you succeed) in your business/career?

As a new member, I look forward to making more great contacts and I also hope to take part in the mentorship program as that develops.

 

Happy Anniversary to the Outhouse: A Laugh-Out-Loud Marketing Primer

When I was a kid, “a long time ago” might have been five years. It was half a lifetime ago by my standards. When my local baseball team, playing in its eighth season, won the World Series, it felt as if they had gone forever without being good. (Technically, that was true; I’m only three years older than the team is.)

Today, my time horizon is somewhat longer, and lengthening. So it snuck up on me that we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of a textbook case of marketing – the Outhouse Springs water campaign. And it’s providing that textbook with a comedy section.

outhouse  Outhouse Springs was the brainchild of Jeff Taylor, Dale Lanford and the team at Cognetix Marketing in West Ashley. They had
been hired by Adams Outdoor Advertising to demonstrate the power of billboard advertising. So they created the concept of
Outhouse Springs and plastered it on boards around town.

But a hoax is just goofing around unless you sell it, and sell it they did. The Cognetix marketing machinery produced a fully
integrated campaign, with a website, news releases, product launch – the whole nine yards, fully branded with an outhouse and the
slogan, Truly Tasteless Water.

So driving down the road, you could see billboards announcing the following:

“People love us – but they won’t shake our hands!”

“Originally in cans [image of outhouse], now in bottles! [image of product]”

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-[picture of bottle]

“It’s #1, not #2!”

Oh yes they did.

The buzz was incredible. Surveys showed that virtually everyone in the Charleston metro had seen and remembered the billboards.  People were talking about it across the country. Nationally syndicated writers and radio commentators mentioned it. Many wanted to know how they could buy the product.

Of course, there was no product. That Cognetix teamed up with Appalachian Springs to sell Outhouse Springs water for a couple of months at Piggly Wiggly, with proceeds going to save the historic Morris Island Lighthouse is merely a nice footnote. (it was the second-leading selling water for a couple of weeks.)

I don’t know if Adams ever quite leveraged their infamy the way they had hoped, but I know I had some fun conversations with the Cognetix team about their inspired campaign. I even suggested, post facto, another billboard.

“No one makes water like we do!”

Even then, their creative jets were burning rocket fuel. Turns out there were two great ideas that went down the drain:

[Picture of dog lapping at toilet] “Your best friend’s been drinking us for years!”

And my all-time favorite:

“Made in America, but tastes like European!”

Happy anniversary, Cognetix. Thanks for making us all pee our pants.

– barry waldman

New Member Spotlight: Sheree Ciappa

Name: Sheree Ciappa

 Company: Blackbaud

 Title: Senior Manager, Product Communications

Website, LinkedIn, Facebook

 

Serving the nonprofit and education sectors for 30 years, Blackbaud (NASDAQ: BLKB) combines technology and expertise to help organizations achieve their missions. As senior manager of product communications, I am responsible for generating all marketing materials that inform our customers of the latest changes and updates to their existing products as well as informing the market when new products are launched into the market to help them better achieve their missions.

 

How are you hoping to grow your business/career in the coming year? As we continue to move toward becoming an entirely SaaS organization, I will be communicating the new products that fit that criteria as well as continuing to help customer understand the features and benefits that are constantly being improved and added to our existing software.

 

If you could connect with one marketer (local or otherwise) who would it be and why?

A guy named Keith Chambers of The Chambers Group in Los Angeles, California is one of my favorite marketing rock stars. He has written a book called “Pull: Marketing Secrets the Fortune 100 Use”. His innovative approaches/techniques used to find the extraordinary in any branding and marketing challenge are some of the most intriguing and innovative models in the marketing industry today.

Do you have a favorite marketing website, blog, guru?

I love MarketingProfs and MarketingProfsUniversity. The content they send and webinars they offer are always on topic and very useful.

 

How has Charleston AMA helped you succeed (or how will it help you succeed) in your business/career?

The speakers at the monthly luncheons always contribute something new to incorporate into my marketing box of tools regardless of the topic. I leave with at least one new idea or provocative thought that I can utilize in making my output more effective, engaging and exciting.

Our George Washington

Shortly after this fine young cannibal introduced a third child to the Lowcountry,  she showed up as a guest at our March confab. As she sat inconspicuously at a table of no particular note, few would have guessed that a superhero was in their midst.

Fortunately, our official AMA paparazzo, Andy Hagedon, pounced upon this rare sighting and provided us with photographic evidence of her appearance.

She’s Laura Angermeier, and she’s about as inaptly named as Barenaked Ladies. Sweetmeier, perhaps. Lovelymeier. Warmmeier. Never Angermeier.

The three beings Laura birthed are called Andrew, Katie and the Charleston American Marketing Association. A freshly-minted college graduate working as a third-string marketing assistant at an enterprise approaching oblivion, Laura nonetheless spearheaded the creation of our humble organization. She simply noticed there was no AMA . . . so she started one.

Laura is our George Washington, but with real teeth.

At the outset, perhaps a dozen people would gather for an AMA lunchtime seminar. But Laura’s warmth and persistence, and the support of an equally dedicated team of volunteers, propelled the group to dramatic growth. Today we stand as the first new chapter anywhere in the country in 14 years, recipient of several national awards and queen of the local professional communication landscape with more than 100 members.

Having pointed Charleston AMA in the right direction, Laura slinked off to motherhood and freelancing without the credit she richly deserves. May this hosanna get buried in a sea of gratitude for a young woman who saw a need and filled it, to our collective benefit, without recompense or due recognition.

Thank you, Laura. Come on back.

 

barry waldman

I’m A Marketing Pro and I Approved This Message

x
(Attention: Luddite Alert)

Man, that was painful. If you have a land line, your phone was hijacked by GOP presidential candidates for two weeks before South Carolina’s primary. By my count, the phone rang approximately 637 thousand times an hour, and only 422 of those calls was my mother-in-law.

Almost all of the calls were pre-recorded and went something like this: “Hello, this is Mitt Romney and … CLICK!!”

I mean, really, how would I know what they sounded like? My wife and I broke land speed records racing to turn off the answering machine.

The first few days, before we realized we were being invaded by uncivil discourse, we actually listened to the messages. They said:

Hello, this is Republican icon Robert Taft. If I weren’t dead, I’d be voting for Rick Santorum because, well, I can’t think of anything positive to say about him, but that Newt Gingrich has revealed his epidermis in public and openly engages in social intercourse with women who are not his wife. And Mitt Romney admits to being a homo sapien and his wife has acknowledged being attracted to thespians.  So remember, vote Rick Santorum, because he’s not those other guys.

Two weeks as a phone hostage set the two of us to wondering — does this stuff really work? Hanging up on that drivel was a service to the candidates, whom we don’t necessarily hate only because we didn’t hear them excoriate each other.  Does irritating the electorate uninterrupted for a fortnight really convince them to vote for you? (And make no mistake, this isn’t a partisan problem; we’d expect the same from Democrats if they had a primary.)

Consider the marketing implications for ordinary products and services!

I’m thinking about the top, say, 5,000 advertising campaigns in history and I can remember just one that annoyed the buying public into submission. It was Tide’s “Ring Around the Collar” campaign, which suggested that women nationwide were spousally-challenged by failing to adequately clean the dirt and sweat from their husbands’ shirt collars. The remedy was obvious: women by the millions joined the workforce and told their husbands to wash their own damn shirts.

Beyond that, I don’t see a real-world corollary to what the candidates perpetrated on us and have now taken on the road to other states.  Do all their experienced and well-compensated campaign managers truly believe that interrupting voters’ dinner hours with phone spam is effective marketing? They must, or they wouldn’t do it, right?

Imagine if every time you logged on to the Internet, a pop-up ad for Budweiser appeared regardless of your settings.  Wouldn’t the irritation factor eventually reduce Budweiser sales? It would certainly disincline me towards their brand of suds.

So if denigration doesn’t sell toothpaste or cars or tax preparation services, but it does sell candidates, what does that say about us? Is electoral politics the marketing of distrust, hatred and fear? Does annoying people work harmonically with those emotions? Say it ain’t so.

Just in case it is, I want to be on the cutting edge. So I’ve devised a negative campaign to boost revenues for my employer, Trident United Way. It’s a plan whereby computers would call 50 houses at a time with the following pre-recorded message:

Hello, this is Darius Rucker. Are you considering a donation to the Red Cross? Why would you contribute to an admittedly Communist organization? Has the Salvation Army requested your support? Ask yourself, when have they ever fired a shot in defense of America? Instead, contribute your hard-earned dollars to your local United Way. Why, our great nation and this venerable organization even share a first name, just like General Petreaus and General Motors, two mom-and-apple-pie Americans if there ever were any.  So remember, why bail out the Lowcountry Food Bank when it was banks that caused this economic cataclysm. Invest instead in good old United Way.
 

I’m Barry Waldman and I approved this message.

Adventures In Resume Reading

 

References Available Upon Request.

Have dumber words ever been written? I see this on resumes all the time. I think, “no shoeshine, Sherlock.” If your references aren’t available, neither is the job.

(I don’t actually think “shoeshine,” but this is a family website.)

If you’re looking for the painfully obvious on your resume, why not, “will show up for work if hired”?

Many of the objectives I see on resumes are similarly over-ripe. I’ve seen some that say, essentially, “seeking a job with your company.” You dedicated space at the top of your resume for that? If I’m too dense to figure that out when you send your application, you don’t want to work with me.

Here’s another resume rip-snorter:  prosaic jobs coached up on paper to sound like brain surgery. Applications for internships from college students with no professional experience are the most fun. A student who worked as a waiter killed thousands of electrons with this entry:

Liaisoned with kitchen staff to maximize customer experience.
Interfaced with diners to expedite meal delivery and eliminate errors.
Coordinated multiple orders simultaneously.

And so on like that, Adobe emailed and demanded that I return Acrobat. I wanted to tell the applicant her resume would only work were I a moron, but of course, I never called her.

Nor have I called the “functional resume” fundamentalists who list their skills (Word Perfect, great!) ad nauseum, but neglect to mention where they’ve actually worked and when. I agree that accomplishments are more important than experience, but nouns can be validated more easily than adjectives and verbs.

I’ve always thought  a good rule of thumb on resume construction is: try not to look like a dolt. No phony objectives, no transparent hyperbole, no empty proclamations.

Facts are good, though. I like facts.

barry waldman

Going Out On A … Limb

What do you get when you combine a six-foot three-inch membership chair with a longtime Skirt! rep? You may find out in a coming issue.

I don’t know if most of the men who appear in Skirt! lobby the magazine for the right to pose in women’s wear, but Ted deLoach did. Without the least evocation of irony, he campaigned Jenny Dennis at a recent AMA event. (That’s Ted on the right.)

And it’s clear that he’s already contemplated his ensemble for the blessed event, which I am prohibited by FCC law and the revocation of my man card from detailing. Let’s just say it’s a saucy selection that will require just the right shoes.

If the sight of Ted’s legs in full color at 600 dpi shivers your timbers, consider instead the power of AMA networking. A stray word to the right person during a Charleston Crab House happy hour can lead to permanent personal infamy, not to mention dozens of canceled subscriptions. (Does Skirt! even have subscriptions? Well heck, let’s not let facts get in our way here.) Imagine what a well-placed conversation might yield.

So if you pick up a Skirt! in the next few months and find your eyes have fused to the inside of your eyelids, don’t say you weren’t warned. There’s no gams test for the American Marketing Association.

 

barry waldman