Monday, March 30, 2009

Fun With Analogies!

I love analogies. They are so basic that they are sometimes overlooked.

When I have absolutely zero understanding of something, the best way to explain is to place it into something I already know about. You'll notice my blog posts riddled with analogies. You'll also notice I love reading blog posts with analogies.

Here is my favorite recent analogy: The internet is like a town. Web pages are like little stores, clubs, and sometimes people. Would you go into a store if the lighting was wrong or you couldn't find anything or the salesperson wasn't helpful? I try to make sure all these real-life features are taken care of in the virtual world. Smart, easy-to-navigate web page design and copy that is informative and fun are the keys to a professional-looking store. I could keep going with this analogy, but I'll let you do the rest if you care to do so.

Analogies are to concepts what translation is to language. I don't know how to speak your language, put it into mine! I like to understand, so help me to understand.

Please take this last moment to reflect on the previous paragraph where I made an analogy out of analogy. I was quite pleased.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Downfall Of Specialization

It was said to me, "The more you learn, the more you earn." But who has time to learn anything outside of their area of specialization? Every subject now has a endless library of books, blogs, and websites dedicated to it. With all the information available, it seems impossible to know everything about a given subject. There was a time when having your hands in a little bit of everything was revered. Now everybody's gotta be an expert. This, I think, is a mistake.

Ben Franklin wore many hats and look at the impact he had on advancing American culture. He was an inventor, publisher, statesman, landlord, writer, and more. Franklin was able to come up with ideas because he knew how systems interacted and affected each other. If he only knew how a printing press worked and refused to truly investigate anything else, there is no way we would have the libraries or the communications tools that we have today.

This post isn't about Ben Franklin. Rather, it is encouragement to all of us to be like him and explore different roads that have absolutely nothing to do with our "area of expertise."

Copywriters need to have naturally interested minds or else they won't want to write about the subject they've been paid to write about. It will be boring and without passion. I believe my job is to be a passionate learner and then a passionate conveyor of subjects. Like when you hear a song you fall in love with on the radio. You buy the artist's cd, memorize all the lyrics, and insist on playing it for your friends in the car.

I am a writer, but I am more than that. I play guitar. I read lots of books about branding and social media and fiction. Science and metaphysics are fascinating to me. In my opinion, "How It's Made" is one of the best shows on television. I wish I could list to you all of my interests, but there are simply too many.

Here's a great way to start becoming fascinated by the world again and this is something I myself do. A repairman comes to fix your hot water heater. Ask him if he will show you and tell you about what he is doing as he's doing it. He will probably be surprised and honored that you're interested in his work. People love to be teachers. Let them teach you.

5 Reasons Why Every Writer Needs To Be On Twitter

I went to a PR function for young PR professionals. PR pros have to be good writers/communicators of information. One of the panel speakers mentioned Twitter and out of a couple hundred young and hip professionals, none of them seemed to have any idea about it. They have five hundred friends on Facebook, but no Twitter account. This is a mistake.

What has happened for me:

1) Increased access to other like-minded copywriters and marketers across America.

2) A step ahead of most of my fellow writers who could care less about the innovations happening in their industry.

3) Practicing sharing knowledge, rather than hoarding it and being cutthroat. So many people are paranoid about this economy that they're forgetting about that whole relationship-building thing.

4) It is just so cool to have people follow you, give you feedback, and pass along your little posts.

5) Blog promotion and blog discovery! I have found some incredible and informative blogs from Tweets.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oh, Twitter, When Will People Stop Being Too Good For You?

So I go to this advertising event and a guy - an “expert on internet marketing” - from a major media consulting firm does not Twitter.

I asked him a few questions about Twitter. Again, he is supposed to be an expert on how to make companies money by using methods such as Twitter. He answered the questions intelligently and in a friendly manner. Great! Then I asked, "So, are you on Twitter?" I assumed the answer would be yes and was going to follow up with a follow on Twitter. Instead he said no and, caught off guard, I said, "Why not!?"

"Oh, I'm just not that exciting a person to follow."

Huh? This statement said two things and neither of them what he literally said. It said to me: a) I am too cool to be on Twitter and b) I am going to make fun of you for being on Twitter.

You may be thinking, "Philly Wordsmith, you're being a little sensitive, dontcha think?"


If you're an expert in social media, get the hell involved in social media. If you're so excited about these innovations and your job, then start experimenting and stop judging.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Method For Getting to a Product's Soul

I've devised a new system of getting to the heart and soul of a product. I'm going to call it, "The Then-What System."

An example will work best to explain.

Let's say as a brand new product, Axe Body Spray comes to a marketer. Axe says, "hey, we've got this body spray that makes dudes smell good. Please make dudes buy it." Well, every marketer knows you've got to hit the emotional sweet spot of a product. Sure, it'll make you smell good, but so what? The potential buyer needs to know why this product is going to change his life.

Here's where The Then-What System comes in. It works in two ways: the customer with the product and the customer without it.

Customer with product: gets Axe Body Spray. Then what? Sprays it on. Then what? Smells good. Then what? Doesn't smell. Then what? Won't turn people off with odor. Then what? Won't turn girls off with stinkiness! (Now we're onto something) Then What? More chances with girls! Then what? Get laid!

Customer without product: doesn't get Axe Body Spray. Then what? Well, then I'll stay the same, which is sometimes stinky. Then what? If I'm sometimes stinky, that will gross people out. Then what? People won't want to be around me. Then what? I'll be alone. Then what? I'll be a loser. Then what? I'll die alone.

Seems dramatic, doesn't it? But it's the truth. Advertisers and marketers need to know what the potential consumer is thinking. Of course, you're not going to make a commercial of someone lying on his death bed because he didn't get Axe. Or could you? Point is, you could stop at any answer to the Then-What and play on that aspect of the product.

This system helps the marketer get into the head of the potential customer therefore making it much easier and effective sell. It's a thought organizer for my brain, for sure. The Then-What questions are especially great for the less sexy or unfamiliar product line and also company services. We're harnessing buyer motives with this system. I use it every time.

I know it works for me so maybe it will help you, too. Let me know how it works for you!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cool Guerilla Marketing Idea

Attention Moleskine Notebooks and/or competitors: this Philadelphia Copywriter has an idea. A BIG idea.

Place: Every park in every major city across the US. Also, college campuses.

People: Poets and writers.

Time: Springtime between 11:30am and 6pm.

Happening: Poets and writers are hired and given Company's notebooks and a homemade-looking sign that says, "Poems By Request. Free."

Photos are taken. Short poems are requested by passers-by.

Tagline: "Moleskine. Spreading the word."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why People Hate Your Company ...

...and therefore won't buy from you.

There is a deep mistrust in the American public consciousness at the moment. AIG, come on. Bonuses. Really? We want to trust our financial institutions and big companies. We want to know it's safe to eat a hamburger. Companies, you used to be able to get away with this lying. There are simply too many watchdog groups and forums for customer feedback. Companies are learning that the rules have changed. The American public has enormous access to information now and they are on to you.

Copy in company imaging has to be more than stats, figures, and numbers. It has to put a human face on otherwise untrustworthy companies. By becoming accessible, companies will save themselves from bankruptcy. Find marketing people who understand this need for trustworthiness.

It is more important than ever to have a great website. People cannot interact with a TV commercial. One practical and immediate solution is to respond and open yourself to feedback and criticism. The truth is always immediately uncomfortable, but it always promotes growth to bigger and better things.

Imagine if your company marketed the CEO's self-imposed pay/raise freeze so that employees would not have to be fired. Hundreds of jobs were saved because you denied yourself a 3 million dollar bonus. I don't need to do much here to convince you that sales and public awareness would absolutely skyrocket.

Click here for the NY Times article on Saturn's "We're Still Here" campaign. A great example of "putting a human face" on the public perception of an awful corporate regime.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

5 Tips on How to Thrive in a Bad Economy

This copywriter has absolutely no authority on the subject, but seems to be doing well. Here's what I'm doing:

1) Take advantage of all the special programs that the local and federal governments are offering. The Philadelphia Business Journal just did an article about free college courses for laid off workers.

2) Stop reading articles and watching news programs that tell you about how f*cked we all are. You'll just be feeding into the fear and paranoia that is contributing to MOST of the economic problem and the fear will paralyze you.

3) Volunteer somewhere. Anywhere. Teach a homeless person or underprivileged kid your trade. Doing this has made me feel so good and hopeful that if the Ramen noodles are just around the corner, so be it!

4) Read some books. Get on the front lines of your industry. Or start a project in a whole new industry. Learning new things builds passion and if you're passionate people will respond. I love being around people who are inspired because it's contagious. The root of "inspire" is "in spirit." It's like having a cheerleader follow you everywhere you go.

5) Better yet, write some books. I'm writing a novel about a Mexican immigrant. It is keeping the creative juices flowing and my interest in the beautiful and intriguing world around me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Frank's Red Hot Radio

Have you heard the new Frank's Red Hot radio spots?

You know, the one where the old lady says, "I put that sh*t on everything." It's genius. They bleep out the curse word just enough so that you know for a fact she is saying "shit."

This spot is risky, bold and it's got everybody talking. They're not talking about hot sauce, of course, they're talking about the old lady and how funny the commercial is. You have a successful ad when average people are talking about it. I found myself saying to a friend of mine: "Have you heard the new Frank's Red Hot ad? The one where the old lady says, 'I put that shit on everything.' Well, I love it because the old lady swears AND because it's true. I really do put it on everything."

An already loyal customer spreading the word to someone who may not be. Encouraging them to try it. The call to action happens out of the customer's mouth. "You ever have Frank's hot sauce? Oh, you gotta try it."

Oh, and if your Grandma trusts it, you should too. After all, isn't she the ultimate chef?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Eco-Friendly Copywriter

This Philadelphia Copywriter is excited to attend the Go Green Expo this weekend at the Convention Center.

There are some fantastic speakers lined up. I can't walk around Philadelphia without being deafened by all the construction noise so I am especially excited about the "Building Green" talks. I'd really like to see some trees on top of buildings and such.

Also, the "Why Going Local Matters in the Going Green Movement" talks are particularly of interest to me because in an earlier blog post I emphasize the importance of a local Copywriter. I hadn't even considered the environmentally-friendly aspect of hiring local Freelancers.

Hope to see you there, fellow Earth lovers!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Touching You(r Heart) Innappropriately

I learned how to play with language in poetry class. Before that class, it was all grammar and essays. Where's the fun in rules? Luckily, writing poetry taught me that rules, once learned, should be broken. Be warned: break those rules at your own risk and only in order to produce a desired effect or result.
So what the eff does poetry have to do with copywriting? Copywriting plays with language to produce a desired effect in a reader/potential customer. The desired effect is usually to buy the company's product. But what is the immediate reaction that happens before the buying? There is an emotional response: desire.
Poetry or a song can make you long for a lover. Copy makes you long for a lipstick or a Sprite.
Let your copy touch hearts.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Art of Good Web Copy

There are 3 necessities of a successful Literary Webfomercial.

A book called "Cashing In With Content" says: "People don't want TV commercials on the web - they want information." Essentially, the quote says that when someone "googles" a topic, they want information about that topic. Information seeking is a simple, but profound truth for a web copywriter. And so the art of the "Literary Webfomercial" is born.

I am a strong believer in creating engaging text no matter what you are writing. Not every product lends itself to humor or narrative, but most do. The ones that don't can still have strong, excited language that draws a reader in. What is it about the regular TV infomercial that draws in the unsuspecting insomniac? Three reasons: a) the person is extremely excited about the product and b) the person gives you situational information on the product and c) they talk to the viewer as if they were literally in the same room.

Artful web copy combines these three elements, but only has written language to express them. The copywriter must have a background expertise in the functions of language in order to full develop all three elements of a "Literary Webfomercial."