Posts Tagged ‘copy’

Content Comix #7

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Content Comix #5

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Content Comix #4

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Content Comix #3

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Content Comix #1

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Don’t Eff-up Your Content Strategy: #3 Know What You Want to Accomplish

Friday, October 17th, 2014


Every message—every post, blog, banner, print ad, email, billboard, TV commercial and video, bumper sticker and coffee mug—should be in place to accomplish something.


You need to decide in advance what you want to accomplish, or you won’t accomplish anything.


Of course you’re trying to sell more. But that isn’t a content strategy it’s a business goal.

So ask yourself:

  • What are the barriers to trial or purchase?
  • Where are opportunities?
  • Are there misperceptions in the market?
  • What do we need to say to prospects, customers and influencers?

On the strategy worksheet I share with clients, we call this: Problems communications must solve.


Here are some typical reasons for communicating:

  • Increase brand awareness and equity—this can include vision and position statements, sustainability and corporate responsibility messages
  • Clarify, focus or re-position your company
  • Introduce or support an existing product or service
  • Overcome misunderstanding of how your product or service works
  • Drive inquiry, trial and sales
  • Gain market share


NOT: Customers don’t understand what we do.

BUT: Help customers and prospects see our value to them.


IBM—the international powerhouse, the “nobody gets fired for choosing IBM” company, the inventors of significant technology and (at the time) #1 PC company—used to arrive on campus with pizza and free laptops and nobody showed up.

They couldn’t sell a computer. And couldn’t get students to consider working there.

Research showed everyone thought IBM was stale, conservative and unimaginative—with technology to match. Students were terrified of leaving the wide-open spaces of campus, then getting stuck in a navy suit and left in a cube to rot.

But in fact, the IBM workplace was actually exciting and challenging. And their laptops were fast, well-constructed and affordable.

So the problem communications must solve was: Re-brand IBM the company, its products and careers on-campus to excite young consumers and job candidates.


Our solution—which I’ve discussed in this blog—was the Nth Degree campaign. The premise was that no matter who you are or what you want to do, IBM has the vision, momentum and resources to take it to the Nth degree. To take yourself to the Nth degree.

Teasers set it up:

Posters, (online and physical) banners, and numerous non-media tools introduced the program:

Print ads told the stories of university hires who went on to great achievement:

I’m willing to bet this is the only ad by a Fortune 50 high-tech company that starts with “Yo! Bonjour!”

This program included every conceivable element: a dynamic interactive presentation and loads of presentation support materials, sales brochures and job folders, collateral for recruiters, posters for bookstores and department offices, key chains, Frisbees, t-shirts, hackysacks, glow-in-the-dark stickers … and gobs of pizza.

And as a result IBM computer sales in bookstores went up 300% to LY and they achieved 130% to their recruiting goal. This program was the only variable.

The whole program was designed for TMP Worldwide by Dennis Mancini and art directed by Robert Gray.


You have to know and clearly identify what you want your content program to accomplish. Doesn’t matter if it’s the most general brand awareness or very specific product promotion. But you must be able to focus and direct your media, creative and editorial into a single, clear direction.


#4: Know your audience.

Don’t Eff-up Your Content Strategy: #2 Know Your Product

Friday, October 10th, 2014


While your company position trumps your product position it’s not by much.


You have to know your product.

There are certainly aspirational aspects to product positioning. But not fantasy. Product positioning is not what you wish you did or made. It may not even be what you actually do or make.

It’s about HOW it fulfills your customers’ needs.

Does it save time? Help them make money? Fill a technical requirement? Make them feel warm and fuzzy? Or slick and classy?

Does it update old products, services or systems? How does it compare to competitive products or services?


I’ve been in countless meetings with insiders making broad assertions about the nature of their product. OH:

“The engineers say it’s …”

“We are trying to make it …”

“It’s supposed to …”

“We’d like it to …”



And that’s not always easy. You don’t always choose your customers, or how you’re perceived in the market. But if you have customers, it’s best to support their perceptions—or at least understand them—rather than ignore them.

Unless of course they perceive that your product sucks. But that’s another conversation.

All that requires research. You have to seek out your customers find out what they think and how they feel. How do they use it? What do their friends think?

You have to ask.


We—well I, really—got kicked off an account for presenting research-based market and customer data to a VP who was convinced she knew better and didn’t want to hear anything to the contrary.

“That’s not who we are,” she cried in response. “We’re …”

Life lesson: When a VP asserts even gross misunderstanding it’s kind of a bad move to point it out in front of all her lieutenants.


If it ain’t the best, maybe it’s the least expensive. If not the most long-lasting, maybe it’s the most satisfying. If not the most advanced, maybe it’s easiest to use.

That’s what your customers are already buying. By recognizing and leveraging that knowledge, you can attract new customers.

And if you learn there are negative perceptions you can address them by focusing on the positive.


TiVo generated a lot of awareness, based on positioning their product to two important audiences.

Consumers: This series of post cards focused on content, based on research that shouted, “customers just want to see their favorite sports and shows!” Both prospects and existing customers responded so well to this, which spiked purchase and use.

Networks: This DM package to network executives was based on our discovery (not a huge leap) that the networks are terrified of losing viewers. We suggested the best way to engage audiences is through TiVo. It featured a bunch of fun little stickers that allowed recipients to mix-n-match facial features. That was the “last chance to control their audience.” Pretty cool.

Both packages were art directed and designed by the ever-brilliant Russell Miyaki.


If you don’t choose and manage how your products are positioned, the market—worse, your competition—will do it for you.


#3: Know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Don’t Eff-up Your Content Strategy: #1 Know Yourself

Monday, September 29th, 2014


There’s one single most-important piece of information you must communicate. No matter the media. No matter the audience. It has to come through implicitly and explicitly.

That’s your market position.

And it has to shine through every single headline, every word of copy.


It’s about who you are in the market: what needs you fill, what services you provide and what that means to your prospects and whoever may influence them. It guides your company on how to communicate everything from the brand to the product, and how to address both general and specific audiences.

Note this is not about the product, it’s about the company—although sometimes the two merge.


That comes later. A tagline is a more-creative use of language based on your position. It helps articulate it, but it is not a position unilaterally.

According to The Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies:

The positioning statement is the core message you want to deliver in every medium and everything you do.

You can turn your positioning statement into a marketing message in the future. If you need some inspiration, read through these positioning statements:

Wharton Business School: The only business school that trains managers who are global, cross-functional, good leaders, and leveraged by technology

BMW: We make the world’s best-designed vehicles

Southwest Airlines: The short-haul, no-frills, and low-priced airline

Avis: Being the second-ranked vehicle rental agency drives us to deliver better deals and service

Miller Lite: The only beer with superior taste and low caloric content


How you position yourself depends on what you do, but also where you are in your company history or product cycle. Then, to some degree, where you want to be.

A newly-formed company gets to choose who they are (or want to be) in the market based on their products, goals and aspirations. The 100 year-old juggernaut corporation has to recognize their current position and communicate that with integrity.

It can be aspirational. But it must be honest.

It starts by knowing who you are unilaterally and within your market, what you provide and why it’s unique, how it serves your customer and why they should care.


If your position is “We’re the company that’s easy to work with” all your communications have to support it. Ads have to be easy to get. Social media easy to read. Instruction manuals easy to get through.

Want to be easy, be easy. Want to be sophisticated, be that.

Of course, you can course-correct. But not on a daily basis.


Want to be #1? You have to earn it.


Last week, we looked at Oracle OpenWorld, a technology trade show that attracts 50,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, including plenty of partners and competitors.

So positioning the event is more than just focusing on Oracle. Can’t just be about sales or networking. Or about technology at large. Or about a particular user type.

It has to be a place where the net benefit of attending is something that you take back and apply to you own situation, whatever that situation might be:

Oracle OpenWorld is the place where you learn to get greater business value out of your IT.

And you can see how that translated to one (of many) headlines.

Here are a couple more from my files:

Positioning: Working at IBM means you have access to the resources and opportunity for you to fulfill your vision and potential.

Positioning: CAPS leases shipping containers that are high tech, sustainable and reusable.

Positioning: Cambridge Technology Partners hires only the most intellectually capable people.

Positioning: Powersim turns vast amounts of data into meaningful information.

Positioning: TiVo lets you watch what you want, when you want to. (An example of when the company and product position are the same.)


#2: Know your product.

Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

1. Great copy is always about the reader and never, ever about you.

To all my advertising friends, I know this is preaching to the choir. And I doubt you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve repeated this idea to a roomful of people who have never thought that way.

The toughest sell are engineers, for whom the best message is absolutely direct: Our Widget is 25% Faster Than Their Widget. I’ve had success turning that around a little, like: Work 25% Faster with Our Widget. Yeah, it’s a benefit rather than a feature. But it wastes an opportunity to create and refine the company voice. It doesn’t show vision. It lacks humanity.

And frankly, sometimes that’s OK.

I once got called on the carpet by The Ad Contrarian who stumbled across some highly technical demand generation copy I wrote. In a post called “Triumph Of The Anti-Language” he snarked, “All I can say is, if you’ve never virtualized your enterprise application environment, dude it’s awesome.”

To the IT guys who read that email, it was. The event sold out.

But AC called it “bullshit … jargon and obfuscation.” And that’s where I got to call him out. Because it wasn’t BS. It was highly technical and specific.  I wrote back: “… it may lack charm and humanity. But that’s not what we’re selling.”

But I’m here to say you can tell a highly-specific story and still have some charm. It can still be about the reader. Here’s a fun example of an ad that ran in air show event guides. Mostly, sponsorship ads say, “Proud Sponsor of …” But I got this through:

Oracle air show ad

It is possible to be highly relevant to the reader even when the subject matter isn't.

Just to explain the obvious, nobody at any air show has their mind on software, even for a second. It’s a little gag and they’re in on it. So in fact we got their minds onto software without them even knowing. The copy reads:

Try and get your mind off software for a second.

We know when you see him up there, pushing 10 Gs and challenging the limits of physics—and sanity—you can’t help but think, “I bet it’s Oracle’s Complex Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul software that keeps him up there.”

And you’d be right.

But for now, let’s just watch something amazing.

We flatter the reader—even share a moment. Put Oracle at the air show in a relevant way and teach folks a little about what the company does.

I love ads that do that. Love copy that does that. It’s all about the reader, while working hard on behalf of the client.