News Flash: You’re Obsolete

I don’t mean to alarm you, but your world is evaporating.

Horse And Buggy | Covered Wagons, Stagecoaches, Buggys | Pinterest

It doesn’t really matter what world is your world, it’s going the way of the gas station attendant. Whether your world is rotary wall phones and dumbwaiters or smart watches and Hulu, you’re toast.

Consider this:

  • The largest taxi cab company in San Francisco has filed for bankruptcy, totaled by Uber and Lyft. The company was paying the city millions of dollars for medallions – the right to roam the streets looking for passengers – while the ride-hailing apps operate for free. Expect the wheels to come off cab companies across the nation – unless they embrace their own ride-hailing app pronto.
  • Are you a cutting-edge music-streamer? Ha, you are such a dinosaur! If the music industry was an apple in the 1990s, it’s a platypus today. Streaming is king this week, but records, cassettes, eight-tracks, CDs and mp3s have all enjoyed a heyday during Holly Fisher’s lifetime (about 30 years).
  • Every time you see a “don’t text and drive” ad, you are peering into the past. Driverless cars are being rolled out not just by GM and Ford but by Google, Cisco and a host of unknown companies, one of which will soon be as ubiquitous as Microsoft. The regulatory infrastructure to allow auto-autos is being cobbled together as you read this.
  • Facebook owns the world, but my college students left it for their moms to play on. They’re on Instagram, Snapchat and Vine, which didn’t exist last Tuesday. If you can’t keep up with that, don’t worry; today’s middle schoolers are almost certain to communicate via some other social medium or some other medium altogether.
  • ESPN is confronting its own extinction. Yes, the hegemonic lord of all sports, which has tunneled into your life via cable bundles, is quaking in its Nikes because consumers are leaving cable and streaming their content through Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. But don’t worry, the days of their business models are numbered too. Think virtual reality.
  • You finally comfortable with a computer? Way to go, Horace Greeley, you’re ahead of the curve – for 1998. Mark Zuckerberg wrote his IPO letter on a phone. Say goodbye to your PC.
  • Say sayonara to the word digital. The world is digital so the word is irrelevant. Talking about digital media, digital music, digital television and the like will be as redundant as these phrases: sports bar, cell phone, cable-ready TV and motor vehicle.

And that’s just a starter kit for all that’s changing. During the time you spent reading this, something dear to you became obsolete. Goodbye phone book! Tata, business card! Toodaloo, high school yearbook. Ciao, credit card!

Sadly for all, this blog lives on…


Why A Purple Goldfish Is More Useful Than Moving Your Cheese


There are enough books on marketing and management to nearly fill Donald Trump’s ego. with barely enough room for Ted Cruz’s heart, Hillary Clinton’s integrity and Bernie Sanders’ knowledge of market economics.

Some folks gobble up these books and adopt their mantras. Others, like me, read them now and then and smile at their interesting insights and apt metaphors, but recognize how feeble is their ultimate contribution to the general business knowledge base.

That’s because many of the most popular books on marketing and management predict or describe the past, expound on one nifty insight, or reveal a series of abstractions camouflaged as a blueprint for success.

Mostly what they leave behind, in my opinion, are snappy descriptions and acronyms — big hairy audacious goals, moving our cheese and directing the elephant.

Consider this: in his seminal book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters revealed the secrets of 43 of America’s most successful companies. In the 10 years following publication, those 43 companies underperformed the market. Peters was documenting the past.

The Heath Brothers lay out a prescription for the future in Switch. It’s an intriguing formula if you can convert the abstractions to practice and execute it. Good luck with that.

That’s not to say that management and marketing books can’t impart valuable lessons. Indeed, most of them do or they wouldn’t get published. And many of them inspire readers to improve their performance, mostly be reminding them of what they already knew intuitively.

It’s just that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” In fact, one recent best-selling marketing book’s big insight is the uselessness of all the previous insights. It’s called “Ignore Everyone.”

stanphelpsheadshotWhich is why much of the audience was captivated by the last AMA presenter, Stan Phelps of 9″ Marketing. Phelps laid out a specific blueprint for marketing success and found examples of companies that are delivering. Not Fortune 500 companies whose achievements are already codified but firms of all sizes (1001 of them!) whose success we can re-examine in 10 years and determine if Stan was on to something.

So what is that something? Okay it’s not exactly the epiphany of relativity. It’s about customer experience being the new marketing. It’s about how focusing on delighting your current customers is far more profitable than recruiting new ones. It’s about giving that little something extra.

And it came with specifics — a hotel chain that leaves pet goldfish in guest rooms and an online shoe company that delivers overnight.

It’s not revolutionary, I know. But it’s also not really debatable. Each of us can examine our own work — even our work within an organization — and critique our performance against this standard. It made me recommit, at least for the afternoon, to going the extra mile for my clients.

And if you like apt metaphors and catchy acronyms, he had those too. So rah for that. And he’s written books. So rah for them. You can buy them if you want. Or you can come to the next AMA event. I have a feeling Stan Phelps will be back.


Spark! Awards Jump the Shark

In olden days – say, 10 years ago – the Advertising Federation held dominion over the landscape for creatives and marketing types in the Lowcountry. Their annual awards, the Addies, were highly-coveted and fiercely contested, and the grand event celebrating the winners and finalists was thick with brilliance. Winning an Addie meant that your organization shone like 100 creative suns, also known as Gil Shuler Design.

The Ad Fed faded over time and even the Addies have disappeared Spark Perdue Fishers Hagedon Oswalt Buddinlike reasonable presidential options. For the past decade, the Charleston American Marketing Association has reigned supreme among folks in the communications arts, but frankly, our awards have always lagged. Past awards ceremonies have suffered from being over-priced and thinly-attended, with a paucity of entries and confusing awards announcements. (Spoiler alert: Good guys win in the end.)

Yeah, It Was That Bad
As a long-time member, I contributed nothing to its improvement. Indeed, for several years it was the one AMA event I regularly skipped, despite being twice named a finalist for an award. One year the multi-million-dollar SEO juggernaut Levelwing won several awards, including Marketer of the Year for founder Steve Parker. No one from the company was present to witness their victories, much less accept the awards.

The Spark! Awards turned the corner last year under the leadership of Holly Fisher. With a handful of lessons tucked into their belts, organizers began hitting the mark. The competition improved and attendance spiked. Then this year, on the evening of March 10, 2016, the Charleston AMA’s Spark! Awards jumped the shark.

“A Competition I Can’t Win”
In part because nominations were free to members and in part because the entry machine is so well-oiled, the number of submissions this year doubled. With finalists announced in advance, attendees — lubricated by an open bar — filled the balloon-bedecked room at Harborside East on Patriot’s Point. They enjoyed an hour of food and networking, followed by the comedic stylings of the Little Black Book’s Jennifer Dyer Buddin. (Note to event planners: if you want light-touch humor that keeps things moving, book this woman for your next event.)

As AMA president Andrew Barton noted, “I wanted to create an awards competition that I could no longer win.” Mission accomplished.

Marketer of the Year: A Study in Grace
The Marketer of the Year in 2016 was one of the lions of the Charleston marketing communications world, Peter Wertimer of Chernoff Newman. The waning of the large, local ad agency has left us without much species knowledge of the icons of the industry, names like Rawle and Bosworth and Davis and Murdy. And Wertimer.

Spark PeterRecounting the many accomplishments and contributions of this wonderful man could take hours, so let me instead summarize his acceptance speech, utterly extemporaneous and dripping with graciousness.

First, he credited his team for the award, and named even those absent from the ceremonies. Then he asked everyone in the room to contribute at least some small portion of their time and talents to the public good, saying “we need you.” He injected some self-effacing humor, wryly noting that he wasn’t humbled by the recognition at all, but in fact feeling a little proud. And he closed by congratulating the AMA for a lovely and well-organized event. Before three minutes had elapsed, he heeded the advice of Franklin Roosevelt: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Wait ‘Til Next Year!
The success of the event got a lot of people thinking about a day (to be determined) next March when we reconvene for a Spark! Awards firmly established as the imprimatur of achievement in local communications arts. The committee that organized this year’s event is already strategizing over improvements they can make – no longer major advances but merely tweaks.

I’m not one of those thinkin’ people, but I can’t wait. Let’s see what ol’ Gil Shuler has to offer then.





Photos by Foxworthy Studios

Which Work Style Is Yours?

I’m working these days with a graphic designer. I don’t need to say their name because that’s not important, though I should mention that if you need graphic design and you happen to know of anyone whose name rhymes with chandrew smarton, you should hire them immediately because holy moly are they talented.

This anonymous person who generously serves as the president of an organization that sounds like Charleston Blamerican Darketing Missociation has a particular method of completing his or her – I won’t say which pronoun is appropriate and neither will their wife or old football coach – work.

Their Work Style: Pants On Fire
This unnamed person will accept an assignment to create, for example, the visuals for an explainer video, hypothetically like this random one that I found on the Interwebs. They will have one month to complete this assignment. So they will spend 29 days, six hours and 45 minutes (at least in April, June, September and November; less in February and one more day in other months) contemplating the infinite options available to them. Only when the alarm bells commence their ringing, the sirens rise into full howl and the wolf is scratching manically at the door does this talented individual begin his or her all-night vigil, complete with hair-pulling and self-recrimination.

But so what? At the end of a month they have produced spectacular graphic design that is strategic and tailored to the particular customer. It’s not your problem that they seem to have less hair every time you see them.

My Work Style: Obsessive Compulsive
Here’s how I work: like a puppy. Give me a writing assignment at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and tell me it’s due by the end of the week. By 9:30 I’ll have made all my calls and a day later I’ll have the story written. I’ll wait a day to send it – still two full days early — so the customer doesn’t start assuming it’s easy.

I am not bragging. I’m pretty sure this is mental illness. My ADHD has ADHD. Putting off jobs – even those that can wait – agitates my cerebral peduncles and ties my jejunum in knots. The clammy palms, the sweating and the distracted thoughts confuse my wife: though these are the signs of an affair it doesn’t seem possible that her husband could seduce any sentient female.

Besides, there are a couple of downsides. One is that I have the patience of an alarm clock. Are you done yet? How about now? Now? Now?

The other is that in my zeal, small details may sometimes get lost. Details like: typos that transform “hello” into “hell” and make people mad as hello.

Adventures In Collaboration
Working together is where the adventure begins. We’ll leave a meeting and my partner will arrive at their office with my email of completed work awaiting. This causes them psychic pain. Then I’ll wait around for a week wondering whether they’ve joined the Peace Corps.

I’d love to tell you that it’s a problem that we have solved. In fact, it’s not a problem at all. What I’ve learned from this partnership is that work styles aren’t really relevant; the quality of the work is. And here’s the good news: we inspire each other. Our work styles amaze each other, and so does our work. We accommodate each other and get things done.

It’s a bit like the marriage – except without the clammy palms.


The Worst System in the World

Disclaimer: The following diatribe is likely of no interest to you. Nothing unusual there. What is unusual is that it should be. While it concerns a subject that directly affects only those 43.7% of Charleston AMA members* who pay for their own health insurance, the rest of you are indirectly, though very significantly, affected by what follows, but you’re probably blind to the connection.


Many members of this august organization are sole proprietors who must secure their own health insurance. Even with new regulations, that can lead to sticker shock when the bill equals the GDP of a small African nation.

The reason for this is that America’s health care system is a Rube Goldberg contraption more complex and demoralizing than the rules of courtship, where the paying customer is rarely the person receiving the service. We abuse our bodies and then consume more care than we need, or is even wise, with dim regard for its cost, driving up the price of service faster than inflation every year since the Boer War.

fit-as-a-fiddle-CTry calling a health care provider and asking how much some procedure will cost. Not only won’t they answer, the question will baffle them. It’s absolutely no wonder that we have the most expensive and over-used health care system on the planet and yet suffer from health conditions hitherto unknown to humankind. We have conflated health insurance with health care, and health care with good health. Eat real food in moderate amounts and break a sweat now and then – there’s your best health plan. (I don’t mean to belittle anyone with a real, unpreventable condition or disease. I’m just noting that the conditions “couch potato” and ‘fast-food consumer” are highly preventable.)

It’s no coincidence that the cost of Lasik surgery has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years while the quality and speed have increased. Why? Because it’s not covered by health insurance, which means customers paying their own way shop for the best price and quality and have forced the providers of that service to compete on those terms.

At the risk of venturing into partisan political territory, this is the reason I’m no great fan of the Affordable Care Act. The problem is not that it distorts the current health care system, as most opponents bemoan, but just the reverse — it’s more of that same appalling system, the worst possible one you could devise. And it’s likely to have as little impact on ever-skyrocketing health care costs as anything else short of scrapping this disastrous system.

A Much Better Idea

Health care would be less expensive, more responsive to customers, higher quality, more focused on prevention, fairer and more cutting-edge if we could ditch the current maze and replace it with a lightly-regulated free-market system disconnected from employment. (I recognize that we would still have to accommodate people without assets, but it’s not as if they are being well-served now.) Under such a system, sole proprietors like you could still insure themselves – against the unexpected and calamitous, the way you buy life insurance, car insurance and homeowners insurance.

The free market is that wondrous creation on the order of the baseball glove, the Oreo and Ronii Bartles. Through all of its inter-locking mechanisms, consumers like you, me and the mayor of Buford, Wyoming (population: one) are empowered to make purchasing decisions that are the best for us. It’s time we applied our best economic device to our most important purchase.





*very specific number a total figment of my imagination. It might be more like 9%, what do I know?

In Praise of Marketing Annuities

Most everyone understands financial annuities. The Webster Dictionary defines an annuity (noun) as a fixed amount of money that is paid to someone each year.

I think one of the most undervalued and underrated assets in marketing is the MARKETING ANNUITY. These are the campaigns that last for a long time and become part of the fabric of our culture. Here are a few examples of marketing annuities:

  • ESPN College Football GAME DAY Built by The Home Depot.
    • For 13 years, The Home Depot has been the title sponsor of the popular college football Saturday morning preview show on ESPN. Home Depot enjoys both on-air (TV, radio, digital, social) and on-site branding (signage, set construction, orange branded hard hats, hospitality and VIP seating).
    • Recent surveys have shown Home Depot to be the #1 sponsor in all of college football as recognized and selected by college football fans. In fact, ALL Home Depot does is this show entitlement along with the entitlement of the SEC on CBS games broadcasts.
  • The Coca-Cola Holiday POLAR BEARS
    • Annually, the Coca-Cola Company will include advertising, POS and promotions using their popular Polar Bears. Each year, people look to see how Coke will utilize the bears in their holiday marketing campaign.
  • BMW “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
    • In spite of a variety of agency turnovers and creative changes, BMW has kept the same brand tagline since it was created by Ammirati & Puris back in 1974.
    • The tagline speaks to the performance of the car and the fun of driving the car.
  • The Hallmark Hall of Fame
    • Hallmark Cards of Kansas City annually produces 4-6 made-for-TV movies, brought to with limited commercial interruptions, just before key holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day), when a significant number of greeting cards are purchased. These family friendly feel good movies have won numerous Emmys and other awards over the years.

These marketing annuities continue to build real value each and every year.

So, why don’t more companies create and keep these types of annuity programs? One word — EGO. It’s so hard for the next marketing, brand or advertising leader to accept that the work of the previous person was meaningful. Instead of building upon the previous equities of a campaign, sponsorship or promotion, the new guy (or gal) decides they have to do something entirely different in order to be noticed.

Now, I‘m all in favor of “if it’s not broken, then break it” philosophy, but not at the expense of eliminating annuities that continue to bring value to the brand and its customers and consumers. I suggest we look to “improve upon” rather than eliminate these annuities.

In fact, we all should be looking to create new marketing annuities that will last for years for our clients and our brands. So, check your ego at the door and let’s get to work.

-Rick Jones, CEO of FishBait Marketing 

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

You know that feeling when you’re sitting at a seminar and the world-class expert whom you’ve come to see is recounting the right and wrong way to go about something and it feels as if they’re laser-focused on your dirty little secrets and talking right to you? And they are saying, right to you, the following:

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

They’re preternaturally nice about it, so it doesn’t quite sound like “Wrong, you dumb pile of rat droppings!” but it sure feels that way. You know that feeling?

You know the feeling of sliding slowly down your chair as the speaker recounts, with pungent clarity and heartfelt earnestness, how utterly off-track, you, dumb pile of rat droppings, have been in this endeavor? How, by the end of the presentation, you are looking up at the speaker from a horizontal position with your head resting on the chair in the hopes that no one in the audience notices you’re there in all your glorious wrongheadedness?

Yeah, that feeling.Shauna

Well, I know it. It’s how I felt at the December AMA luncheon, where speaker Shauna MacKenzie, a Certified Image Consultant and founder of Best Kept Self and the Studio for Image Professionals, outlined the do’s and don’ts of self-branding.

I have the same list as Shauna in my fledgling business. The problem is my list is don’ts and do’s. Shauna persuasively argued — (actually, Shauna doesn’t argue. Shauna is way too nice and way too expert to argue. Shauna explains, backed by so much evidence, that she is undoubtedly right. On top of that she’s lovely and sweet and a polished speaker and God, I hate Shauna.) – Shauna argued as if peering into my soul, or at least into my website, that everything I was doing was wrong. Wrong with a capital R.

(Spoiler alert: happy ending!)

So I took notes like a brown-nosing freshman co-ed in Professor Hunky’s history class. And I promptly went home and tore up my website, dragging it from epic suckitude to garden variety mediocrity. I have more Shauna MacKenzie-inspired changes to make, like adding testimonials and publishing content to bolster my expertise.

And you’re about to see one more little Shauna-ism – my real signature at the bottom of this post.

So thanks Shauna, for making me temporarily miserable. And thanks, Charleston AMA, for bringing in a great speaker for our December luncheon, not the first or even third great speaker we’ve enjoyed in 2015, but one particularly suited to the needs of business owners like me.

You can be sure I’ll be at subsequent luncheons to make sure I don’t miss the next Shauna.


Read This Blog: Be The First On Your Block!

Dear Andrew,

I’m writing personally to you because I know you, among the planet’s eight billion human residents, read my blog andrewposts. Evidently you have a lot of time on your hands. And poor judgment. (That’s Andrew’s grinning mug beside these words. I’m hoping to increase my readership among the ladies…)

(Hi Bryan! You’re the other person who reads my blog!)

And hello to you, stray accessory person who may have stumbled onto my post mistakenly thinking it was one of Erin’s erudite and informative submissions on writing, and have, by some miracle, or an oversight on your part, continued reading.

This is the thing about organizational blogs. They are like social media posts: we think they are a necessary part of life but no one actually pays attention to them. We are, for all intents and purposes, using a global medium to talk to ourselves. Hey look, we got seven likes! Thanks mom and dad!

Ad Agency Blogs — thhhhppp!
I sometimes peruse the blogs of ad agencies, non-profits and others somehow related to my work. Here’s what I notice: outside of their staffs, and occasionally their families, I’m the only other person reading them. You can see by the comments and shares, or lack thereof, that the same six people have read the past year’s installments. And these are the blogs posted by the communication experts.

Many people who work like I do, as consultants, freelancers and sole proprietors, feel the need to promote themselves with a blog. They send it off to everyone on their email list. This helps increase the pool of people who will instantly delete the email.

And yet, we continue to pour resources into this endeavor with the express purpose of fooling the search engine algorithms. We are literally writing for bots. Which is painful to consider because writing a blog is not easy. For one thing, you have to have something to say. That eliminates most of America, including, obviously, me.

Then you have to take the time to write. I’m a writer, so for me this is like brushing my teeth: I can do it several times a week without much trouble.

For other people, this is a Herculean accomplishment that requires planning, focus, dedication and four “5-Hour Energy” drinks. They dread the process of blog writing but know they have to roll one out every single month or else millions of people who currently don’t care will think that the organization or individual has nothing to say.

(Ever the innovator, I use my blog posts to prove that point.)

If You Can Name Your Readers, Stop!
I have for months asked Charleston AMA for the analytics on my blog. They either change the subject – look, a squirrel! – or passive-aggressively promise to do so very soon, certainly by the next time Comet Kahoutek passes through our planet’s orbit.

They are not mean; indeed I believe they are being merciful. Or perhaps practical, assuming they want me to continue posting. They know that if Google reports the number of people reading my posts as: Andrew and Bryan and occasionally some lost soul who quit about halfway through, that I might stop bothering.

So I did an experiment. I slipped into my July 30 post something incendiary. Something designed to provoke howls of protest from outraged personages. It was small and subtle: you had to read the whole post to see it.

Do you know the word “bupkis”? (Spell check doesn’t.) That was the response. Either this blog has a massive following of culturally insensitive people or the echoes of my word bomb were clanging around an empty vessel.

So I occasionally counsel clients to forget about a blog and limit their time on social media. They’re not worth the time and effort because, frankly, no one cares what your printing company/business consulting firm/wounded vet organization has to say. If you really feel the need to blog, reduce it to its essence and post it on Twitter.

And spend the time saved brushing your teeth.

Thanks for reading, my beloved chapter president. And Bryan, if you’re still here.

Your pal,
barry waldman

Charleston AMA Wins Finance Excellence Award

We did it! Our chapter was awarded a 2014-15 Finance Excellence Award. The award was a result of the Chapter Excellence Awards (CEA) document we submit each September. The Chapter Excellence Awards program was established in 1974 to recognize and reward outstanding achievements in leadership, finance, membership, programming, and communications among AMA professional chapters.

Our board worked hard all year to keep track of the chapter’s activities, goals, membership statistics and various other metrics to submit for judging to the AMA headquarters. Congratulations to our chapter leaders and our many members and volunteers who make the Charleston AMA Chapter so outstanding!

The 5 C’s of Effective Copy

Untitled designToday I’m going to talk about the 5 C’s of effective copy. Yes, I know that there are usually only 4 C’s – carat, cut, clarity and color – but that’s for diamonds, and here we’re talking about something even more important: words.

By “effective” copy, I don’t mean clever or cutesy or impressive. I mean copy that persuades and gets prospects and customers picking up the phone. Because that’s what you ultimately want, right? So here goes!

1. Customer-oriented. You’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customer. You have something to sell, something to give, something to explain. Whatever it is, you need to write about it with your customer in mind. Think about the information the customer needs to make a decision about whether your product or service is right for them. Paint the picture of how life will change for the better after doing business with you. Explain how you’re solving a problem. In short, speak to their needs.

2. Clear. I mentioned above that effective copy doesn’t mean clever copy. Clever is the enemy of clear, and it can lead to confusion. And they say a confused mind doesn’t buy. Don’t fill your writing with so many puns and turns of phrase that you muddy up your message. Prospects reading your copy should quickly understand who you are, what you’re selling and why they should buy. Will you win any Clios? No, but you might win some customers, and that’s more important.

3. Concise. Don’t use more words than you need.

4. Conversational. Here’s the simplest trick ever for writing in a conversational tone: think about what you want to write, and then say it aloud. And write that down. Done! This will stop you from writing overly long sentences filled with jargon and $2 words. The truth is, the “business letter” style of writing you probably learned as a kid in English class doesn’t have a solid place in marketing anymore. These days, you can be both conversational and Professional with a capital P at the same time. So don’t be afraid to write as if you’re speaking to a friend.

5. Call-to-action. Okay, this one is a noun, so it doesn’t fit with the rest of the C’s, which is a bummer for me, since I like consistency (another C!). But it’s so crucial to effective copy that I included it anyway. What is your call to action? That is, what do you want people reading your copy – whether on a billboard or in brochure or – to do next? Tell them! “Call this number today.” “Check out this website.” “Click here.” “Buy now.” These are all calls to action. They’re absurdly simple – but effective.

– Erin Danly

Get in touch! Whether you need help with your marketing copy or want a little advice, I’d love to hear from you. You can write me at