Marketing Gets Noticed
First blogs. Now this.
By now, you've no doubt read or heard about the Cartoon
Network guerrilla marketing campaign that went a little
awry earlier this week in Boston. Two guys engineered
an initiative that included placing a number of unusual
light-up signs around the city.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Teresa F. Lindeman
wrote an excellent article that appears in today's edition:
Guerrilla marketing and "buzz" marketing has
become pretty trendy over the past few years, and for
good reason. With all the marketing messages we're exposed
to on a daily basis (some estimate it as high as 2,000),
there's a real need to break through the clutter and get
your message seen, heard and, hopefully, remebered and
The objective is to do something that grabs attention,
arouses curiosity and gets people talking about the product
Sometimes, it's done with great results. For example,
the now-classic promotional activity of a few years ago
in which agents, posing as tourists, approached people
at popular locations and asked them if they would take
a photo of them. Then, instead of handing the agreeable
fellow tourist a camera, they were given a cell phone
with picture-taking capabilities. This helped spread the
word about the new phones with built-in cameras.
Is it ethical to do this? That was a question I was asked
when I recently spoke to a graduate PR class at Point
My response was that in marketing and public relations,
it's NEVER, EVER ethical to lie or deceive. In our business,
honesty, integrity and credibility are absolutely crucial.
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That said, it's also necessary to grab the public's attention.
That's one of the fun, challenging parts of the job. Trying
to find ways to say and do things that will invite response.
Yesterday, I sat in a meeting and contributed suggestions
toward an initiative that employed a variety of tactics
that were nontraditional, to say the least. It's exhilirating
to come up with stuff that no one else is doing.
I work closely with my clients to help them find the relevant
points-of-differentiation (PODs) that enable them to stand
apart from their competitors. Or, if I'm fortunate enough
to be part of the product development process, I work
with the client to develop the PODs.
Grabbing the public's attention isn't always easy. You
have to be very creative to cut through the clutter in
the marketplace. And I suggest, and often do, some very
outside-the-box things on behalf of my clients to get
their messages across. Nothing illegal or deceptive, but
The Boston guys seem to have accomplished what they set
out to do. They grabbed attention. Their efforts were
noticed. They got tons of national media coverage.
For those of us who work in this industry, it's an interesting
case study that shows how far things have come since the
days of the man in the gray flannel suit.
2 , 2007 | Contact
of the Blogs
blogs work? Well, here's something interesting. Last year,
my friend, Pittsburgh radio personality John McIntire, asked
me to create a blog site for him. John is smart, funny and
outspoken. His daily
blog provides him with an opportunity to comment on current
events. He writes his thoughts and posts them for the world
to read every weekday morning.
A couple weeks ago, John blogged a story about a Pittsburgh
elected official who allegedly had a run-in with the law.
The buzz about his blog made its way to the local mainstream
media, and it became a news story for a few days.
Yesterday, another local elected official--a city council
member--launched his own blog. His first posting mainly criticizes
John's blog. The bottom line is that there's a special mayoral
election planned for May. Our former mayor, Bob O'Connor,
was well-liked and popular; however, he suffered an untimely
death from cancer last year, just a few months after taking
office. So, the former president of Pittsburgh City Council
and now, mayor, Luke Ravenstahl is running to keep his office.
His challenger is Bill Peduto, a city council member.
From a communications standpoint, it's interesting that blogs
are starting to have a higher profile in Pittsburgh--and are
now being covered by the mainstream media.
30 , 2007 | Contact
Speak Up in 2007
Don't know if you speak to audiences, but it's a great way
to share your expertise with companies, association memberships
and others, while getting your name out there.
You've probably heard that public speaking is many people's
number one fear. Having taught many classes on public speaking
and coached many a person in preparing for and delivering a
speech, I understand the trepidation many people have.
So, I've developed a brochure with some helpful hints. It's
free and it's here as a download.
Feel free to read it and, hopefully, get a few good ideas from
it. It's excerpted from an e-book I'm working on, and I'll post
when that will be available.
3 , 2007 | Contact
Back to Business...Almost
holiday rush is over, and it's almost time tojump start marketing
There was an interesting article last week in one of my
local newspapers. Teresa Linderman, who covers PR and advertising
for the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, wrote about how many in the media have been
inundated with public relations materials for the past few weeks.
Mostly, as you might guess, they're pitches that relate to Christmas
gifts and other holiday-related fare.
The numbers were huge, with lots of stuff for writers, editors,
producers, bookers and others to wade through, hopefully consider,
but--just as likely--discard.
On the other hand, if you have a great story to tell that's
NOT strongly connected to the holiday, why not wait until just
after the new year to pitch it? Once the New Year's Resolution
articles and features have been published and broadcast, media
professionals will be looking for stories to tell.
27, 2006 | Contact
A Legend's Passing
masterful direct mail letter sold $2 billion in Wall Street
Conroy died this past Tuesday at age 64. You may not know him
by name, but you may be familiar with his work--specifically,
one piece of work.
Conroy was a freelance copywriter who, in 1974, wrote one of
the most famous direct mail ad/letters of all time: Two
Young Men. This letter, which compared the parallel lives
of two young men, one of whom was a Wall Street Journal reader,
reportedly sold $2 billion (with a "B") in subscriptions
for the paper.
The letter was incredibly well written, contained the elements
of classic direct mail copywriting. It told a story that made
you want to continue reading, was used for many years and pulled
a huge response. For those of us who write marketing copy, that's
the best you can ask for with such a document.
You may recall a TV commercial based on the letter that aired
frequently a few years ago.
December 23, 2006 | Contact
I Need a Brochure...Or Do I?
people who own companies and businesses realize the need to
market their products and/or services. Then, they call a marketing
professional (like me) and say they need a brochure. Always,
when I meet with people, I ask them how they plan to distribute
the the brochure so I can get an idea of how it will be used.
Sometimes, we realize that there are either more effective ways
to reach their target audiences with the intended messages...or,
that other strategies and tactics should be considered in addition
to the brochure.
effectively, a number of points should be considered. Among
1. Define what you want to accomplish. Create awareness...grow
2. Identify your audiences.
3. Determine what makes your product or service different, distinctive
or unique. What will make potential customers want to take action
and do business with you?
4. Determine what the benefits are to your prospective customers
after they purchase what you have to offer.
5. Determine the best, most effective ways to reach your customers,
6. Figure out ways to motivate response and create a strong
call-to-action. Consider an incentive for response within a
7. Develop a strategy that focuses on meeting specific goals
8. NOW, develop your marketing materials. Make them look, feel
and read professionally.
9. Once you start putting your messages into the marketplace,
begin tracking what's bringing your strongest responses and
keep that information handy as you move forward.
10. Listen to your customers. Marketing ideally needs to be
an ongoing activity, and knowing what your customers want and
need will help you stay on the right track as you move forward.
November 10, 2006 | Contact
Building Book Buzz the Streetwise Way
Greco has the right idea.
I spotted the Pitttsburgh author, an old friend of mine, recently
at my local Starbucks. I was sitting at my usual table with
my laptop, working on a project, when Sal walked through the
It had been a while since I'd seen him, so I congratulated him
on the publication of his book, "Left For Dead," the
true story of a mobster-turned-minister. Sal mentioned that
he's been engaging in an interesting form of grassroots marketing
for the book. He carries copies of the book with him, and gives
one to people he encounters who, in his words, "look like
Inside the front cover of the book is a message from Sal to
recipients. He asks them to write their name and the date they
finish reading the book inside the back cover, then to pass
the copy of the book along to a friend. He's been doing this
for a while, so the book is slowly building buzz.
I'm reading the book now, so I have to thank Sal for the copy
he gave me. If you'd like to read the book, but don't run into
Sal anytime soon, it's available in bookstores and on Amazon.com.
November 3, 2006 | Contact
Your Way to Business Growth
grow your business, gain awareness and increase profits?
You might be amazed at how many companies started small and
grew into hugely successful enterprises. It doesn't have to
take months or years of research or complicated methodologies.
The fact is, you can start doing it today--if you have what
you believe is a truly great idea, make it mean something important
to your intended audiences, wrap it in a remarkable customer
experience, and take the time to build awareness for it.
Do this, and you can have the same kind of success as the countless
people you read about in the business papers and magazines day
after day, week after week.
The mavericks among us appreciate the results achieved by the
mavericks who have been dramatically successful.
Remember, someone had to be the first person to suggest a portable
phone that didn't have to be plugged in. Someone else had to
be the first person to think of installing a digital camera
into a telephone. And, someone had to be first to suggest that
you can download songs you like for a buck a piece, rather than
buying a CD with two songs you like and ten you might not.
Here are a few examples of efforts that resulted in successful
Back in the early of the World Wide Web (around the mid-90's),
when the public started learning how to use search engines,
most of them were presented on web pages full of information,
pictures and text. The problem was that most of us were accessing
the web on slow, dial-up connectionsÑso search engines with
all that stuff on the page, could take a while to load.
Then Google came along.
A start-up company started offerering a simple, uncluttered
search engine interface that not only loaded quickly, but searched
the web and provided results just as quickly. Today, they're
reported to be the most-used search engine.
There are, and have been people who took their ideas and turned
them into business success.
During the 1950's, a young commercial artist from Pittsburgh
was trying to get his career started in New York. Initially,
he supported himself by doing illustrations for books and magazines.
However, he was also part of a small group of artists who took
a different approach to fine art--they wanted to creat art that
reflected everyday life--comic strips and items from store shelves.
Because of his different approach, he became one of the founders
of the pop art movement. His approach was DIFFERENT, and made
art dealers and patrons alike go WOW.
Today, Andy Warhol's paintings command extremely high prices.
Several years ago, a young American was attending college in
London. While studying for a career in the hospitality industry,
he got a craving for something very simple, yet very American
and also very inaccessible--a hamburger. The problem was that
he couldn't find one in London. So he did what any fledgling
entrepreneur would do in that situation--he opened his own hamburger
restaurant. It was a small place, but it was DIFFERENT from
what people were used to, and it made people go WOW.
Within a few years, the Hard Rock Cafe had become a global institution.
Once upon a time, computers filled entire rooms. The idea of
a small, user-friendly on your desktop was just inconceivable.
When computers did appear on desktops, you had to know a special
language to make them work. Then, two young guys in Silicon
Valley came along. They spent countless hours in a garage trying
to build a better boxÑone that provided a user-friendly graphic
interface and was not only easy, but FUN to operate. The Macintosh
was DIFFERENT, and it made people, especially those in creative
fields, go WOW.
To this day, many creative professionals are dedicated Mac users,
and the company is now changing the way people listen to music.
Michael Dell, while still in high school, began buying computers,
adding features to make them work more efficiently, then selling
them. This formed the foundation for Dell Computers, which was
the first computer company to sell directly to the consumer.
taking an approach that was DIFFERENT, Dell made customers go
Gaston, president of Florida-based GSS, Inc., is a
good friend and client of mine. Hurricanes are a major problem
in the South, and Mark is an internationally recognized expert
in home, building and vehicle security. Not long ago, he launched
the first-ever do-it-yourself
home window protection kit--one that anyone can quickly
and easily apply and one that provides amazingly excellent protection
for a fraction of the cost of professional installation.
You might think that a product like that would have been on
the market forever--but it hasn't. Mark's was the first. It's
DIFFERENT that anything on the market. It is an ongoing great
experience for me to discuss the product with everyone from
building professionals to members of the media, and to hear
WOWs on a regular basis.
In each of these situations--and in countless others--what were
the common threads that led to the rest of the world going WOW?
After all, restaurants, computers and art had been around for
Creating a WOW requires a number of things, including the following:
An IDEA that's DIFFFERENT. And not just different, but
different in a way that means something to--or has clear value
for--your existing and potential customers. It's often not easy
to take the path less chosen; however, it's often the people
who do that who get noticed, buzzed about and are most successful.
The ability to LISTEN. Communication is a two-way street,
and sales professionals will tell you how crucial it is to listen
to your customers needs. The WOW part is when you give them
what they want, in a bigger and better way than they ever expected.
PASSION and ENTHUSIASM for your idea. Believe
in your idea and do what it takes to make it happen.
FOCUS on your GOAL. Knowing what you want and doing whatever
it takes to achieve it.
CONFIDENCE. Sure, there's risk in everything. But successful
businesspeople focus beyond the risk and on the potential rewards.
TAKING ACTION. Doing it. Making it happen.
November 1, 2006 | Contact
2006 by John Fries Communications, Pittsburgh, PA. All
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