WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO EMAIL SUBJECT LINES?
1) QuickBooks Tips & Tricks!
2) It's official! We're rewarding you with Unlimited Digital Access for 39 cents a week
The difference is this: one is disingenuous BS, and the other is spam.
The spam subject line is straightforward and honest. It's offering tips on using QuickBooks.
The disingenuous BS comes from a major national newspaper.
They're pretending that making you pay for their service is a "reward."
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, STOP PRETENDING YOUR OFFERS ARE GOLD!
This is an ongoing problem in advertising.
(Do you sense a screed coming on?)
In radio, you see it all the time from small, local advertisers who think their cheesy enticements are somehow the magic carrot that will have listeners flocking to their business.
When I was working with local advertisers, and a client would come to us with an "offer" like "come spend thousands of dollars and we'll enter you into a raffle for a cheap item you don't really care about," the conversation would often go like this:
"Would this offer make you want to go into someone else's business?"
"Then why should it make anyone else want to go into your business?"
IN EMAIL, CHEESEBALL OFFERS ARE AN EPIDEMIC
Even major national advertisers are acting like their disingenuous come-ons are the Emerald City of enticing value.
I've had to unsubscribe from the emails for a major national office supply retailer.
They routinely would send me offers loaded with ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!
And a quick search of the internet would prove that the "deep discounts" being advertised were no better than anyone else's retail pricing for the identical product.
It became insulting and has left me with a sour taste for the brand.
I now find them suspicious and less than honorable.
THIS IS A PROBLEM
When it begins to feel like there just isn't a whole lot of difference between "reputable" advertisers and spammers, it's bad enough.
It's worse when it feels like the spammers are somehow more honorable when it comes to the honesty of their sales message.
They're constantly selling me benefits.
They're never selling me discounts.
They're certainly never selling me fee-based access to something as a "reward."
It's hard to believe that it's possible to even say this.
WHY ARE SPAMMERS THE ONES WHO LOOK LIKE THEY'RE TAKING THE HIGH ROAD?
Why are legitimate, national advertisers looking like spammers?
Who's in charge of all this?
Where is the Division Of No BS Advertising when you need it?
Is it possible that someone of a certain age at the top is saying, "Let's put the kids in charge. They understand all this digital stuff better than we do."
If so, they certainly don't understand the human psyche when it comes to persuasion, that's for sure.
This screed brought to you by unlimited digital access to Hot Shots, the enormously expensive weekly screed about million-dollar profit secrets for small-business owners. Available free, as usual.
WHAT'S UNDER YOUR WALLET?
This is dangerous territory.
Especially for early on a Tuesday morning.
From coast to coast, there will be faithful readers of the weekly screed performing unintentional spit takes, spraying morning coffee across their computer screens.
Be sure to have a tissue handy.
The Small-Business Brand Of The Week Award goes to...
Genitals Or Not?
YES, YOU READ IT HERE FIRST
There is a business called Genitals or Not?
They offer a highly specialized service.
They work with you to determine whether your company's logo looks unintentionally like genitalia.
And they're unabashed about what they do.
"We'll take a look at your genitals so your customers don't have to."
Your relentless scribe is not making this up.
This is actual news.
WHY ON EARTH?
A couple of reasons.
For one, it seems unintentional genitals is an actual problem.
The website serves up vivid examples of real-world logos suffering from, um, exposure.
And not just small, unknown brands. Big ones, too.
For instance, who designed that Trump-Pence logo?
Moreover, who let it go public?
Additionally, the Airbnb logo is problematic. It's very...how do we say this...feminine.
Even Amazon is not immune to such a stumble.
(And you thought that big swooping line was a smile...)
SOMETIMES, YOU JUST NEED A THIRD-PARTY EYE
Otherwise, "The results of this unforeseen graphic content can make your brand into a laughingstock or, even worse, irrevocably ruin your business."
That's the first reason for the existence of Genitals Or Not?
There's also second reason, though it isn't stated explicitly. We are making an inference.
When you have a small advertising agency, it can help to get noticed.
And sophomoric, frat-boy humor can be one way to make the world pay attention.
It also seems to have worked.
GENITALS OR NOT IS GETTING COVERAGE
From Adweek in the US to Dagens Media in Sweden, the ad industry is chattering about Genitals Or Not?
And for anyone who visits the website and remotely interested in whatever lunatic put this thing up, there's a link to Josh Mishell's Fermentable Sugar.
Mr. Mishell is a creative director who comes from the brewing industry, hence the name.
In an overly simplistic explanation, fermentable sugars are what help yeast produce alcohol.
And alcohol content of a beverage is measured in specific gravity.
Higher gravity brews have more alcohol and are more potent.
Hence, Fermentable Sugar's tagline: "High-Gravity Design & Marketing Solutions."
SO, WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS?
Is your relentless scribe recommending that you spend $25 with Genitals Or Not? to determine if your logo is inadvertently exposing your brand to ridicule?
You're too smart for that.
(Too smart to have such a logo, that is. But maybe you'd like to submit your logo anyway. Frankly, I'm curious to see what 25 bucks gets a client of Genitals Or Not?)
The reason we're talking about this is for the object lesson in how a small brand can get huge coverage.
It's not the size of the brand. As it were.
Here's an ad agency in Denver that has half as many desks as Slow Burn Marketing.
AND THEY'RE GETTING COVERAGE IN NATIONAL INDUSTRY MEDIA
Going back to last week's mention of earned media credits, Krylon picked up millions of dollars-worth of media coverage with a miniscule budget.
Arguably, Fermentable Sugar is going to blow Krylon out of the water in terms of dollars spent to media earned.
By using smart, targeted creative that draws people in.
The advertising industry is noticing Mr. Mishell for his skills at creating evocative, engaging material.
AND GUESS WHO CAN BRING THAT MAN A LOT OF BUSINESS?
That's right: the people who are noticing him.
He can certainly work directly with his own clients.
But small ad agencies are often hired by bigger ad agencies as subcontractors.
And those contracts can be very lucrative.
Is that Mr. Mishell's goal?
If it is, he's made himself magnetic.
AND CIRCLING BACK AROUND...
What's your magnetic promotion?
It doesn't need to be sophomoric humor about unintentional genitalia.
But it should still get a rise out of your core customer.
Could your brand do something equally simple that makes your prospect sit up, take notice and want to play?
This all goes back to the notion that your relentless scribe pounds with a stick, to wit: branding is not about spending money.
BRANDING IS ABOUT THINKING
It's about understanding the person to whom you're talking, and how to make that person feel one way about what you do.
Again, last week we talked about the Krylon campaign for The World's Longest Yard Sale.
We pointed out how that effort, national though it was, was eminently scalable.
There is absolutely no reason why a small brand with some creative and strategic thought couldn't do something equally engaging and effective.
Today, we have a project that can't possibly be scaled down.
IT'S ALREADY SCALED AS SMALL AS IT'S GOING TO GET
It's a simple website with a running gag about bad marketing.
And still, it's international news.
Literally, it's one guy in Denver.
And his work is getting press coverage across the country and across the Atlantic.
Will it bring him new business?
Dunno. We have no crystal balls.
But we do admire it, puerile though it may be.
And, again, it serves as a high-profile example of how a small, focused brand can command global attention.
PROFITING ON WHAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT? AMAZING!
Yes, we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are harpies.
We harp on the idea of making people care.
They should care about your brand.
They should care about what you're saying in your marketing.
They should care about anything your brand puts out in the world--or you shouldn't put it out there.
It should all make them feel one way about your business.
And the reality is: most of your competitors are putting it out there. Badly. It's apathy inducing. Can you trump them?
Here's a shiny, glossy, make-it-yours example of how a national brand has done something entirely scalable for a small-business brand like yours.
DO YOU CARE ABOUT SPRAY PAINT?
Who really cares about spray paint besides the people who make it?
Spray paint is a necessary evil that most people use badly.
Spray paint is about a patchy, irregular, rock-hard finish of drips and sags and orange peel and wrinkles.
Or, spray paint is about delinquents defacing property not their own.
(Hey, you kids! Get off of my lawn!)
Suddenly, I care a bit more.
AdWeek magazine runs a competition for "Media Plan Of The Year."
Yes, that sounds about as exciting as "Stale Bread Of The Day."
Until you actually start looking at the media plans, especially the really low-budget media plans.
As AdWeek says, "These Media Plans Represent Creativity at Its Finest, Regardless of Budget."
And as a champion in the under $500,000 campaign, there is oh so much good stuff to be learned from Deutsch's media plan for Krylon spray paint.
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE YARD SALE HIJACK CAMPAIGN?
Over the summer, you may have seen one or two of their goofy little TV commercials.
Each vignette shows a family going to a yard sale.
They buy one man's junk for dirt cheap.
Then, they transform it into treasure using Krylon spray paint.
And they sell it back to the same man for a huge profit.
It's simple, cute, fun, and features some nice performances.
"BUT I CAN'T AFFORD A TV CAMPAIGN!"
No, you can't.
But wait, there's more.
This campaign was merely the tip of a public-relations and social-media iceberg.
This TV campaign was the tee-up to Krylon's sponsorship of The World's Longest Yard Sale.
If you're unfamiliar, the Highway 127 Corridor Sale is a huge, expansive outdoor second-hand sale along U.S. Route 127. Stretching 690 miles from Michigan to Alabama, it runs for four days, beginning the first Thursday in August.
And last year, Krylon was there.
At this point, maybe it's a good idea if we let Deutsch do some of the talking about Krylon.
FROM THE DEUTSCH CASE-STUDY VIDEO...
Spray paint companies all talk about
the same thing. Protection from rust.
Protection from rain. Protection from
whatever. But Krylon, the leading spray
paint company, wanted to talk about
something people actually care about.
So we showed how the old items you
already owned could be worth more
with a simple coat of paint.
WOW! "SOMETHING PEOPLE ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT"
Yes, we're pointing it out again and putting it in bold italics:
make people care.
Do that. Or else just don't put it out there.
As for the Krylon TV spots, I have no idea where they aired. But to come in under $500,000 and still have a budget to execute the rest of this, they had to be flying low and fast.
Maybe they were buying remaindered air time. (You can do that too. It's cheap.) Anyway, back to the case study...
After the TV aired, we hit the road,
bought 690 miles of worthless items,
renovated them using Krylon, and sold
them in real time as the first brand ever
to use Pinterest's new buyable-pin feature.
This idea was perfectly suited for Pinterest,
the fourth largest social network and the
most-used medium for DIY projects.
"WAIT--SOCIAL MEDIA? I CAN AFFORD SOCIAL MEDIA!"
You probably already use it now.
Are you using it strategically?
Let's see: Krylon unleashes a sensational campaign for DIY'ers, and they post about it in not the biggest social media outlet, but the one most used for DIY projects.
Do something sensational.
Make your core customer care.
Go find your core customer who cares.
THEN, SHOW HER MORE OF WHAT SHE CARES ABOUT...
How's that for strategic? The case-study video continues...
From old lamps to wagons and furniture,
the old items were painted, photographed
and sold for at least double, giving all the
money to charity. We used Twitter to spread
the campaign from the road, giving fans over
100 ideas how to make their own unwanted
belongings beautiful again, with before & afters,
animated GIFs and how-to videos.
WAIT. FIRST PINTEREST? THEN TWITTER? I USE TWITTER!
Yes, you probably do use Twitter.
And maybe you use Pinterest, too.
Maybe even Facebook. (Krylon was there, too, connecting with people and talking about their DIY projects.)
And if you don't already use social media, you can. If you understand it, social media cheap and easy. Like me. (OK, that part's a lie. I'm admittedly expensive and difficult.)
Finally, here's the balance of the copy from the Deutsch case study...
Even the idea itself proved our concept
of paying next to nothing and turning a
huge profit. With a relatively small budget,
we gained $2.7 million worth of earned
media, and increased our daily visits to
Pinterest by 400%. The world's longest
yard sale. The first-ever Pinterest yard
sale. And millions of people who now
see spray paint in a new and useful way.
Wow. Krylon and Deutsch turned less than 500,000 bucks into almost $3-million worth of earned media. That's a whole lot of eyeballs trained on spray paint and DIY.
LET'S SEE, WHAT WAS THAT TAGLINE AGAIN?
Krylon. Make It Yours.
What's the media?
TV, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook. YouTube, and tons of PR.
All of that is easily within the reach of the small-business owner. We've shown it here repeatedly.
There's also a Krylon-Yard-Sale branded microsite--another effort equally within reach of the small-business owner. (There's one client for whom we've built subject-focused microsites at a rate of about one a week. It can be done quite inexpensively.)
Something else that helped Krylon: they did the how-to videos with Amy Devers.
"WHO THE HECK IS AMY DEVERS AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?"
You are obviously not a fan of DIY TV shows.
Because if you were, there'd be no question.
Instead, you'd be jumping up and down, giddy and clapping.
Granted, maybe you can't afford celebrity talent.
But in your business niche, couldn't you become the celebrity talent?
Because hey, someone as un-telegenic and brash and un-schooled and technically inept as Gary Vaynerchuk became a multi-million-dollar video sensation.
If that loud, brassy Soviet-immigrant kid can do it, someone as handsome and charismatic as you should have no problem.
THIS YARD SALE IS AN OBJECT LESSON IN WHAT IS POSSIBLE WITH LIMITED BUDGET
Let's face it: Krylon spent peanuts on this.
They're a subsidiary of Sherwin-Williams, which has annual revenue of over $10 billion.
Less than 1/20,000 of Sherwin-Williams' annual revenue was spent on this campaign.
If your annual revenue is one million, the relative budget is about 50 bucks.
And no, that isn't really a viable budget.
And you probably can't afford to hire Deutsch to develop your campaign.
But you have all of the same tools at your disposal.
And you can easily hire people to help you execute a project scaled down to reach your market.
THERE'S A SUBSCRIBER TO THIS SCREED WHO HAS A BIRD-FEEDER COMPANY
She's been discussed here previously regarding her impeccable customer service.
What if she decided to launch a video and social-media effort to "Feed One-Million Birds This Winter"?
She could do videos about how to attract birds (and feature her products).
She could invite customer participation (like bird-feeder prizes for bird photos and videos).
She could use social media (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) to engage her customer with photos, videos and blog posts.
How do you keep track of a million birds?
I have no idea.
But think about the potential.
How much could that possibly cost her?
AND HOW MUCH WOULD HER CORE CUSTOMER CARE?
She'd be talking about something her core customer cares about.
And her core customer would be engaged.
And her core customer would share.
Pictures and video of birds?
A professional bird-feeder woman talking about the joy of feeding birds?
Do you love birds?
Do you love having bird feeders?
What's not to love about this campaign?
AND IT DIDN'T TAKE ME DAYS TO THINK THIS UP, NO SIRREE BOB
I just pulled this out of my ear, right this moment, while talking to you.
Obviously, the concept needs development and finessing.
But let's face it: such a campaign would be cheap.
I'd wager that she could do this for just a couple of thousand bucks, including production and the social media buy.
All because she'd "talk about something people actually care about."
And when you get right down to it, that's the core take away from Krylon.
When you talk about something people care about, they're engaged.
But to make them care, you don't need to be a national brand.
You don't need to spend huge amounts of money.
You merely need to reach out and matter.
You need to talk about what people actually care about.
DO YOU OWN A BUSINESS WITH YOUR HUSBAND/WIFE/PARTNER/SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
If so, you are brave and lucky individual.
Lucky because you get to run a business with the most important person in your life.
Brave because there's a good chance your relationship will be destroyed when it augers into the dirt like a drunk in squirrel suit hurling himself off a cliff in the Swiss alps.
Did you know that 57% of all couplepreneur businesses end in business failure AND divorce?
Did you also know that your faithful scribe just pulled that statistic out of thin air?
YES, THAT STATISTIC IS A LIE
As far as you know.
But it brings up an important question: how the hell do entrepreneurial couples make it work?
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I are constantly asking ourselves that question even as we run a business together.
From our lofty writers' perch here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress, we peer down into the world of entrepreneurial couples across the land and wonder, "Does anyone have louder, more vehement, knock-down, drag-out arguments about comma placement than we do?"
Professional writers in business together. You certainly can't say that we don't care about our product.
CALL US THE BILL & MELINDA GATES OF SMALL-BUSINESS BRANDING
No, we're not multi-billionaires.
Nor is either one of us a propeller-head overlord intent on ruling the world through domination of zeroes and ones.
But like the Gateses, we are a married (ahem) "power" couple who've joined forces to make the world a better place--but through small-business branding.
And as Mrs. Gates says about her partnership with Mr. Gates, "We have a collaborative relationship, but we don't spend every minute together."
Of course, Honey and I probably spend more time together than they do, engaging in various kinds of lunacy that Bill and Melinda might eschew. It's hard to imagine the fearless leaders of the Gates Foundation training for wilderness endurance races together.
CAN YOU SAY, "BRING ME THE EPSOM SALTS, DEAR"?
Anyway, there is a point to all this.
Not that both working and playing together is somehow the be-all and end-all of professional perfection.
Though, there is something to be said for being able to do all this with your best friend on earth.
However, if you do own a business with your significant other--or you know a couple who does so--you know that such an undertaking is a glorious minefield.
You think everything's going along swimmingly and then--KABLOOM! Professional and personal body parts everywhere.
HOW DO BILL & MELINDA GATES DO IT?
Or Brangelina? (Apparently Angelina directed Brad in By The Sea and they found it really difficult. But they survived and are stronger for it.)
Or Beyoncé and Jay-Z? (In the wake of rumors about marital trouble on their On The Run tour, they renewed their vows and released a new album. They survived and are stronger for it.)
Or any of the thousands of other non-power couples who run little businesses all across this great nation of ours and survive the daily BS and are stronger for it?
How do they keep the ship afloat despite doing one of the most insanely inadvisable things in business: sleeping with the boss.
Especially when you're not sure who the boss really is?
(You might think that I'm the boss in this business, since Honey routinely calls me, "Mr. Parker." You would be entirely wrong.)
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A CRACK COUPLE IN BUSINESS TOGETHER?
This is the question that The Fabulous Honey Parker and your relentless scribe have been asking.
And knowing how to have a violent throwdown about comma placement is definitely not the answer. Or even part of it. (Though it certainly makes for a good story over cocktails.)
We've learned by doing.
But there has to be a better way.
This is why your relentless scribe now poses this question: what would you like to know about working with your husband/wife/significant other?
Are you in such a business/relationship now?
Would you like to be?
IF YOU'RE NOT OR YOU DON'T, DO YOU JUST STAND ON THE SIDELINES?
Are you watching the couples who are doing it and just shaking your head?
Do you think they are insane?
Do you envy them?
Do you wish they had better comma placement skills?
What is the single burning question on your mind about couplepreneurism?
Send it our way, because The Fabulous Honey Parker and I are grappling with this challenge right now, this very minute.
AND THE RESULTS ARE GOING TO BE A WHOLE LOT OF FUN
Yesterday, September 5, Labor Day 2016, we officially launched a project called CoupleCo.
Tagline: It's business...and it's personal.
CoupleCo is an entrepreneur's resource for married couples or significant others who have started a business together.
And right now, we need to know what a couple (like you if that is you) in business together needs and would like to see.
And since you know that we here at the Fortress have a very hard time not enjoying what we do, there will be laughs. Frequently there is entertainment.
Even if you're not in business with your life partner but have flirted with the idea--or think we're all just crazy--talk to us.
If you know someone who fits the bill, share this missive with him/her/them.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.