Palm Pre TV: What th’–?

palm-pre-hands-on2Haven’t you always wanted to be surrounded by hundreds of orange-clad dancers making YOU the center of an elaborate dance routine? If so, you’ll love the new Palm Pre spot. It is all about YOU, or rather, a strange woman apparently meant to stand in for you, effortlessly controlling her world by using her brand-new Palm Pre. And for no apparent reason, being danced around by a whole bunch of people in orange outfits.

In the introductory TV spot, an otherworldly girl
alienwoman wanders over to a big rock in the middle of a green field, then climbs atop it to fiddle with her Pre. Instantly, a human mandala of hundreds of dancers in orange Japanese outfits encircle the girl and begin doing a large-scale routine. Hey, are these the “Thriller”-dancing Phillipine prisoners? Or maybe monks with AFTRA cards?

From far overhead, then, we see the swirling dancers creating various symmetrical formations around the girl on her rock, ala Busby Berkeley, only without the sexy legs. Finally, we return to ground level to see the girl, Pre and big rock, the dancers gone. The girl’s voiceover talks about all the lives of … what the heck is she talking about? as she pushes different images across the screen of the Pre. I gather it’s something about “flow.”

A grandiose production number like this would look right at home in “The Last Emperor,” but for the introduction of a dumbed-down iPhone?

Then there’s the principal talent. I don’t know what she’s supposed to be. Pale, nearly featureless, wearing a sliplike garment of no-color, her golden hair pinned up on the back of her head in a shape resembling The Visible Man’s intestines.

I would love to have been in the room when this concept was presented. Then maybe I’d understand it. I sure don’t get it from watching the commercial.

Now there’s another Palm Pre commercial featuring the same woman. No dancers, just the woman, the digestive tract hairdo, the face of the Pre, and the greenscape background. Did she just say, “reincarnation??” Oh, I get it. We all have various connections, wear various hats, have different organizations and all. And the Pre can help us keep track of them. But that message could apply to the iPhone as well as the Pre. Advertising 101 says you have to have a meaningful point of difference from your competitor. Not just weird commercials. And these certainly qualify as weird.

When Networking Becomes Not-Working

Some networkers unthinkingly turn off the very people they hope to impress and do business with. Here are three examples…
Networking is huge. I’m doing it, you’re probably doing it, lots of talented people are doing it — to make contact with people who might have jobs or projects for them.

Networking, if done properly, can provide you with some great contacts. But it also can backfire if done thoughtlessly. I hope you won’t be guilty of any of the following networking faux pas I’ve encountered.

• Case #1: You know me, Joe. Don’t you?

A man I’ll call “Joe” greeted me and welcomed me to a recent networking event. We chatted for a minute and exchanged cards. I remember Joe because he was the first person I saw there. But apparently, he didn’t remember me. A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from him containing some text about his company which was evidently cut and pasted from a printed piece (It referred to some coupon “below” which didn’t exist in the e-mail). Talk about careless.

Also, Joe didn’t bother to add a personal salutation. In fact, there was no salutation at all. No “Hi, Liz. Good to meet you the other night. Thought you might be interested in this. Take care, Joe.” Joe probably sends out the same e-mail to everyone he meets, and he can’t be bothered with niceties like addressing recipients by their names. Oh, yes, and there was a PDF of a printed brochure attached. Think I’m going to take time to download and read it, after being treated like a nobody?

Moral: When following up with people you meet at a networking event, at least be polite enough to personalize your e-mail. You now know the person a little, so don’t treat them like strangers and expect them to become customers or clients.

Case #2: Spam-a-Lot

A Meetup group I signed up for a couple of weeks ago hasn’t met yet. But last week, I received an e-mail from a member of the group asking if I wouldn’t like to host a sex toys party in my home. Mind you, this person has never met me, yet she feels fine about urging me to let her come into my home and demonstrate God knows what kinds of sexual devices. That won’t happen.

I e-mailed her back, informing her how rude it was to send a total stranger a marketing message and asked if she had spammed all the members of the Meetup. I have received no reply, no surprise. My conclusion: She joined the Meetup only to get to more prospects. Bad Netiquette!

Moral: Don’t use people. Don’t spam people. Be nice, get to know them, and If you’re joining a primarily social group, just be yourself and enjoy the companionship. Eventually, your business will come up, and once people know you, they’ll be more receptive to hearing about it.

Case #3 – The Handshake of Death

One way to kill a relationship before it gets started is to give someone a bad handshake. One that’s limp and clammy. Or one that makes you wonder if you’ll come out of it with all of your finger bones intact.

I met a woman last night at a networking event. I will never forget “Lou Ann,” because if I see her again, I’m going to avoid her like a rattlesnake. A handshake is meant as a gesture of friendship, but Lou Ann’s is an instrument of torture. When she gave me her Handshake of Death, I nearly cried, “Help!” After I started breathing again, I commented on the pain-producing power of her handshake. She didn’t apologize. Instead, she explained that she’d been practicing a firmer handshake because someone had told her she needed to. Firm is one thing. A vise-grip is another.

Moral: If you’re not sure how your handshake is, practice it on a few friends. See if they recoil in disgust from a “dead-handed” shake or howl in pain from your Hulk-like grip. If they do neither, you’re probably okay.

If you’ve encountered any networking boo-boos, please let me know. And if you’re a friend of someone who commits them, please let them know. You’ll be doing them a big favor.

Have you ever made a presentation that made the client mad?

angry-faceRemember “Assume makes an ass of you and me?” When sellers and buyers — of advertising or anything else — have different assumptions going into a relationship, disaster may follow. Here’s how to avoid it.

Have you ever been in this nightmarish situation?

You worked your brain to a nubbin coming up with a creative approach you were sure would work like gangbusters for the client. You presented your concept to the client with verve and enthusiasm, anticipating high-fives and praise. Then, at some point during the presentation, you noticed an expression, not of delight, but of tight-lipped anger, on your client’s face. You stumbled and stuttered through the rest of your presentation feeling like a child who is about to be banished to “the naughty step.”

When you finally sputtered to a halt, the client was angry, your concept was dead, and the dank odor of failure hung heavily in the air. Before the presentation began, you and the client were friends and comrades talking and laughing about sports or movies. Now your relationship was on the rocks. Wow. How did the situation get so bad so fast?

Quite simply, the client was expecting one thing, and you gave them something different. Your client was happily anticipating pistachio ice cream with a cherry on top, and instead, you brought garlic mashed potatoes. S/he just suffered mental whiplash, and now s/he is hurt and angry, feeling like the victim of a bait-and-switch scheme.

• “Assuming” really does make an ass of you and me.
Your client’s assumptions and yours going into the project were clearly at odds. And as it turns out, you’re the ass.

• In case you’re wondering
Yes, I have been the ass before. This article is about what I’ve learned, not what I’ve always done.

• The rules of effective advertising are so basic that we think everybody knows them.
We think if we follow those rules, the client will recognize how rational and effective our concepts are. Wrong. Many clients need education about what constitutes effective advertising, and it’s to your advantage, and theirs, to provide it, diplomatically. You’re sure, of course, that they already know all of this, but you’re just going over it to make sure everybody’s on the same page.

• Clients have ideas
During your initial discussion about a project, the client may offer some ideas about what their advertising should be like. Sometimes, those ideas are good. Often, they’re not. Your best approach is to listen respectfully and acknowledge their ideas. Maybe you even take notes and summarize what they said to show you were listening. Then, once the client feels “heard,” you can artfully turn the conversation slightly and begin to explain your operating premises. Like the goals you try to reach, and your creative approach to getting more business for your client. You need for the client to start nodding in agreement. If you can get that nod upfront, you can avoid a lot of trouble later.

Here are a few instances where you may need to do some client education:

• If your client wants to do “we”-based advertising
You must explain that effective advertising is not about what their company can do, but what it can do to help its customers meet their challenges. See my post, “Do You ‘We’ On Potential Customers?”

• If your client wants to focus on machinery
That gleaming, expensive XŒ985/OT machine they just bought is really neat and machiney-looking, but how does it help solve customers’ problems? Tell that story and forget the picture. Or use an arty close-up of some part inset in the copy. Or maybe a wallet-sized photo the client can show to envious colleagues at trade shows.

• If the client hired you just to execute their creative ideas
You may need to tactfully inform them how much more you can do than just regurgitate their ideas into print or Web vehicles. However, if you find that a wrist or a typist is really all they want, you have a choice. You can turn down the project. Or you can play the game and cash the check.

• If you educate, inform, cooperate, and produce good work, and your client still isn’t happy
Well, some people are just naturally unhappy. Maybe it has very little to do with you. Take heart and know that there are some clients out there who will appreciate all that you have to offer, and that with diligence and good referrals, you will find them.

Do You “We” On Potential Customers?

Ever been on a blind date with someone who chatters incessantly about himself or herself, never bothering to ask a question about YOU? As the unrelenting drone of “blah-blah-blah-me-me-me” anesthetizes your brain, you plot to escape out the bathroom window. You wonder if your date would notice.

It’s amazing, but some advertisers act like that boorish blind date, using advertising communications that “we” on their prospects. In other words, they unintentionally turn off potential customers by focusing exclusively on themselves. For example:

“Here at Acme Corporation, Inc., the Midwest’s largest widget manufacturing company, we produce 3.2 million widgets daily, and we ship them to more than 2,300 major customers across the nation with our fleet of 250 tractor-trailers.

“We have won more than 40 “Widgie”® awards from the Widget Association of America (WAA) for excellent safety records in our state-of-the-art production facility.”

As a potential widget customer, all I hear is “we-we-we.” What about “me-me-me?”

I’ll do business with a company that offers me ways to solve a problem, save money, or find a better way to get something done — not a company that just crows about how great they are. I’m thinking of buying widgets from Apogee Corporation. Their brochure says:

“You have a problem: leaky dolyflappers. We have the solution: Apogee customized widgets.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could eliminate the safety hazard of dolyflapper leaks on your plant floor and the time and labor costs of cleaning them up? Now you can, with Apogee customized widgets.

“Customers told us their number one headache is leaking dolyflappers. Those leaks occur because most widgets are manufactured to such wide tolerances that they can’t possibly prevent leaks in every application. But Apogee widgets can, because they are custom-manufactured to your dolyflapper specifications. . . .”

As a potential customer, I think, “Hey. Leaking dolyflappers IS my biggest headache! These folks really know my business! I’m calling Apogee!”

To reach new customers, communicate using less “we” and more “you.” Be interested in learning about potential customers’ challenges. Develop a dialogue with them, as you would with a fascinating blind date. Find a way to meet their challenges, and tell them about it in a compelling way. Now, that could be the start of something big!