Posts Tagged ‘great copy’

Content Comix #7

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Content Comix #6

Wednesday, January 28th, 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: #4 Know Your Audience

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


You know that old chestnut about selling ice to Eskimos? Well, if you know they prefer cubes and all they have are blocks, you may get a sale.


It’s all about knowing your audience—both who they are as well as what are their needs and motivations.


Because you’re not selling to everyone. More specifically, you’re not telling everyone the same story.

Technology is a great example: When a company is going to spend millions—or tens of millions—on technology, there are going to be a few direct stakeholders and dozens of other influencers. And each one has a different agenda.


  • Users need to know how it’ll make their jobs easier
  • Managers (LOB) need to know how it solves a business problem
  • Senior managers or executives need to know that its cost will be amortized by efficiencies, or better, by revenues and profit
  • IT needs to know that it will seamlessly integrate with existing systems
  • Developers need to know that it’s stable and manageable
  • Procurement needs to know that it’s features and pricing are competitive

How’re you gonna solve all that with a single headline?

You’re not.

What you need to do is identify and segregate your target audience/s.


Who are your most influential customers? They aren’t always the decision maker or check writer. Sometimes they are behind the buying decision. Your primary audience are the ones who gather info and insist on purchase.


Sometimes the ones who surround a buying decision are as important as your primary audience because their opinion weighs heavily. They can be strong advocates. Secondary audiences can also include outside forces like senior executives, general and industry media, analysts, bloggers and the public.

These can be the kids who want Mom to buy Lucky Charms—Mom’s the buyer, but kids are the target. The non-shopping spouse who wants something. A department that needs new … whatever.

Or the CEO who really doesn’t understand technology but thinks those ads were really cool.


You have to learn about your audiences. You need to do research.

What is their relationship with your general business category, with you, your product or service, with the competition. You need to know.

You need to know what they think and feel. What they demand and tolerate. What they expect and how they’re willing to compromise.

If you’re selling food, you need to know how it’s purchased, prepared and eaten. If you’re selling toys, you need to know who wants them and who buys them. If you’re selling vast enterprise computer systems, you need to know as much detail as possible about their company, their current solutions, their needs and their demands.

Of course it’s different for a $1 impulse item or a multi-million dollar whatever.

But it’s all about the target. You have to know them.

An excellent example is the research Goodby, Silverstein & Partners did for the California Milk Advisory Board. They learned that buyers didn’t need to know about calcium or freshness or vitimin D. All they cared about was having some milk in the ‘fridge when they want it.

Get it: got milk?



Here’s a model I started using a very long time ago to help clients visualize the manifold nature of communications.

You can see how every purchase starts with need, migrates through awareness and understanding, then advocacy, acquiescence, then purchase.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re selling $1 gum or $5 million tiered storage. The only difference is the level or decision-making and the time it takes to make it.


Before you sell anything—before you communicate anything about your product or service—you need to know who you’re talking to, what their needs are. Then based on that, craft a content strategy that positions you relative to the needs or expectations of your audience.


#5: Know what you need to say.

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.

Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy: #10

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

#10: Great copy can break the rules.

Of course, what I mean is that if your work works … then who cares how you did it.

You do have to observe cultural norms and manners—that’s part of communicating effectively. I could do the coolest ad in some arcane code or Martian glyphs, but who’d get it?

Juvenile, sexual, shocking, disgusting and offensive ideas certainly break through, but do they support a value proposition? History proves not.

That’s the art and craft of what we do. Content needs to break through. And the best way is to leverage or play with cultural norms. Tweak our understanding of what’s what. Make us think a little differently.

Rather than pontificating about it all, here are examples that I’ve collected:

This one just surfaced yesterday [08/05/14]. Not so much about breaking rules, but about breaking the wall between advertising and spectacle. Watch here. For TNT by Duval Guillaume, Netherlands.


No headline necessary, it’s the best possible demonstration of their product. Nobody busted the glass and apparently 3M got lots of press. I couldn’t find the agency, so if you know, please leave a comment.


I think this pretty much captures the imagination of the AXE customer. By Lowe Mena, Dubai, UAE.


They don’t have to say “don’t drink and drive.” You think it yourself. For the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) by Publicis Johannesburg.


Normally I find sex-first ads sort of unimaginative in a lowest-common-denominator kind of way. But this ad shocked the living daylights out of the 90’s. It was called vulgar (that’s up to you) and child pornography (the model was not a child). But it did its job, got Calvin Klein a lot of attention and apparently sold a lot of underwear. By Calvin Klein in-house.


Any questions about the product? By Leo Burnett Belgium


So much more is implied than explained. We fill in the blanks. By local heroes Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.


I’m guessing this is exactly what the Wonderbra customer expects. By Publicis Conseil, France


I don’t like ads that use violent or hateful imagery, even if their message is noble. The World Wildlife Fund often uses shocking or revolting imagery. But in this case they make their point using subtlety and even sad humor. I couldn’t find the agency that did these. If you know, please leave a comment.


And of course there, this gem for Reebok which was actually banned in the U.S. Watch it here. By Goldberg Moser O’Neill.

And setting the bar impossibly high …

I’ve showcased some of these ads before, but they’re the ones I like creatively and were successful:

This program violated every rule of polite recruiting: overt poaching, acknowledging that Cisco was popular and hot, inviting people to solicit jobs from friends. It was the first program of it’s kind of drive traffic to a web page. And it was fabulously successful. People in companies throughout the country had the full-page print ad [We know where your friends are!] pinned to their cubes, because it was true. Their friends were all flocking to Cisco. It scared the heck out of recruiters from Cupertino to RTP. For TMP Worldwide, art directed and designed by Russell Miyaki, shot by David Papas.

This is from a series of ads for O’Connor Recovery Center. Of course, the rule of such institutional—and delicate—advertising is don’t point out the problem, just the solution. That’s why there’s so much depressing “light at the end of the tunnel” stuff. But we felt this was more honest. It was super-cheap to produce and helped book their alcohol, cocaine and prescription recovery programs for months.

I’ve shown this one before. Rather than the usual threats or scare tactics, we just remind women that they need a breast exam, so why not get one free. We thought a little charm would be much more convincing than some awful statistics or whatever.

Finally, for Cambridge Technology Partners, rather than pleading with people to check out jobs, we challenged them. Maybe you’re not good enough to work here, we implied, but why not find out. It peeled candidates out of their corner offices and plum technology positions to apply for jobs. For TMP Worldwide, art-directed and designed by Russell MiyakiScott Kim created all the puzzles.

So the point of all this, of this whole 10 rules thing is that marketing communications—advertising, blogging, posting, tweeting, pinning and every other new channel that arises—is about people.

It’s not about copy points or client strategy. It’s about getting through meaningfully.

My 10 rules are not rules at all. They’re reminders about communicating. Keeping things fresh and alive and focused.

And anyone, including myself, who tells you there are rules to follow or a way to do things is full of it. Ignore them. Ignore convention. Ignore the style guide.

Nobody cares what you have to say. Yet you as the communicator need them to hear you. You must remind them of an itch and tell them how to scratch it.

Messages that say “Do this” or “Do that” or “We have this or that” or “Compare our this to their that” is not advertising at all. It’s just posting information in a commercial setting.

Great copy does much more than that. It tells something important to someone. It makes them want to know more or take action. Sometimes without even asking.

An invitation is much more compelling than a command. It makes you want to take action.

And that, I believe, is what great copy should do.