Dan Wieden: Creativity Builds Brands

In the recent documentary, “Art & Copy,” giants of the advertising biz tell you how they think, how some of the all-time great campaigns came about, and more. One of the giants is Dan Wieden, co-founder of creative shop Wieden & Kennedy, Nike’s “Just Do It” agency. This clip is not from the film, it’s from an older version of the agency’s website.

Are you still “advertising” instead of “connecting” in a social media marketing world?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the advent of social media marketing means advertising should be thrown out the window. For one thing, it’s unclear how to measure results of SMM. For another, it takes a lot of time to do it well, and time is money.

Advertising will always have a place in supporting sales and marketing efforts. But the social media model of relationship-building has caused advertisers to change their tune. Now many are saying “What can I do to help you as an individual?” instead of “Hey, everybody, buy this stuff.”

Shifting my ad-agency-trained mind from “shouting from the rooftops” (ad-think) to “engaging in relationships” with prospects (social media consciousness) has proven to be vastly harder than I thought it would be. Maybe others have found it so, too.

But we reinventors really shouldn’t feel blind-sided by the change. There were foreshadowings of the SMM “relationship” mindset ages before SMM was invented.

Think small.

Think small.

• VW: Think Small, Build Big Loyalty Groups
Look at the VW “Think Small” campaign. It created a humble, lovable personality for the Beetle that began to engage potential customers in a relationship. Beetle owners in the 60s were united in their non-conformity (ironically), and their fierce devotion to the little car. The ability to repair your own Bug became a mark of distinction among Classicists. (See “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”) VW owners became a fan club of a sort. Today, they’d have a LinkedIn group and a Meetup.

• The Forced-March Approach to Advertising
But VW was the exception. For the most part, advertising in the olden days was marching the prospect briskly from Awareness to Interest to Desire to Action. The AIDA approach was so direct and simple. And Rosser Reeves’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP) formula told you exactly how to do it.

• The World Isn’t Flat, It’s Fragmented
Only set formulas don’t work in today’s increasingly segmented world. They worked better when the whole country’s population watched just three TV networks, and product choices were more limited. Today, there are dozens and dozens of different cable TV networks, products and activities for people to choose from. If you shout from the wrong rooftop, you’ll miss them entirely. So how do you reach the right people with the most effective messages? By market segmentation.

• Market Segmentation: From Age Brackets to Touchy-Feely Groups
Until a decade ago, market segmentation was simply using age brackets (18-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-65, 65+) to predict people’s interests. Today, the population is more diverse, so psychographics (lifestyle segmentation) defines groups in a more touchy-feely way. The Belongers, the Achievers and the Emulators/Wanna-Bes require different psychological advertising approaches. It’s “The Me Generation” all over again. Only now, every generation is all about Me.

• Enter Social Media Marketing
That being the case, it was inevitable that social media marketing would be invented. You had the Web, and you had a fragmented, diverse audience, but now you had ways of telling who your best prospects were by which websites they visited. Great. Only these prospects were an impatient and finicky bunch. If you tried to “shout from the rooftops” about your product, they’d simply leave the room (abandon your website or quit following your tweets.)

How to attract and keep people interested in your website or SMM messages? For websites, “Make it sticky” was the watchword 10 years ago. Tailor website content to the interests of your best prospects and keep them coming back by changing it frequently. That way, you would always be top-of-mind when it came time for your prospects to buy. If that time ever came.

• Then, Enter Monetized Websites
But building relationships that way took a long time to pay off, so monetized websites evolved. Now, many sites are just some text surrounded by ads, which website owners hope the audience will click on and let him/her collect a few cents per click. And thus evolved “crappy content writing” to feed the gaping maw of the Web, and many companies like Demand Studios and Examiner.com, who make billions paying writers paltry amounts to crank out SEO-optimized filler between the ads.

• Crappy Writing Won’t Cut It Long-Term
But this fad is bound to fizzle. First, it’s hard to get halfway-decent content in mass quantities. Cheap writers have to write quickly, and quality hardly matters. All the site owners care about is getting you there to click on the ads. But if the content is irrelevant to the readers’ needs or poorly written, they’re gone in a flash, and your pay-per-click scheme is foiled. Second, the Web is boiling with these kinds of sites. What makes people want to engage with you, and not someone else, by following your site or blog?

• Back to Building Relationships
You get them to establish relationships with your company and with each other by joining your e-mail list, having an RSS feed of your content, posting profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and *connecting.* You provide truly useful content, preferably well-written and… well, engaging. And by the way, whenever possible, you try to network in person. Offer to help people out, even if it’s just to recommend a chiropractor or dog-sitter. People remember people who provide help, whether it’s professional or personal.

• Feel Like You’re Caught in a Web? You Are. Make the Most of It.
The term “Web” now means a complex network of relationships between sellers and buyers, between friends and business associates, and among members of special-interest groups (like tattoo artists), and so on. Relationships are vital to expanding a marketer’s reach.

• Give ‘Em What They Want (Not Just What You Want to Sell)
Marketers need to offer content their prospects want and need, not just “push the merch.” It’s tricky. It takes time, effort and an understanding of which SMM tools will work for specific products or services. Not every company needs a website, blog, newsletter and Facebook page. Advertisers who understand the complexities of marketing on the Web will figure out each client’s unique needs and configure an andvertising and SMM plan that fits them, not simply throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

For more about this, read this article. Here’s a quote:

“… advertising agencies have never cared about serving the customer. They care about making the sale. Advertising is most often used to drive customers to purchase, not care for them after the fact.”

Interesting subject, and one that’s sure to be around for a long time to come.

The worst Nigerian con email ever. Target: Scam victims!

The Earth has tilted on its axis, or the universe has folded in on itself. What else could explain the newest twist in Nigerian email scams? It’s diabolical. It’s stupid. It’s brilliant. All at the same time. Read the following email message, which I received today from (oh my God) “Rev. Ubong Idong.”




REF/PAYMENTS CODE: CF& S/02354 $300,000 USD.

This is to bring to your notice that we are delegated from the UNITED NATIONS in Central Bank to pay 150 victims of scam $300,000 USD (Three Hundred Thousand Dollars) each. You are listed and approved for this payment as one of the scammed victims to be paid this amount, get back to this office as soon as possible for the immediate payments of your $300,000 USD compensations funds.

You are to contact our Global service director immediately on his direct telephone number below and foward the following informations to him:

Name: Rev. Ubong Williams Idong
Position: Director Global Service/ Remittance
Email: xxx@xxx.xxx
Tel: +xxx-xxx-xxxx

Call me immediately after going through this mail.

You are advice to forward your contact details to me immediately to enable us proceed and pay your compensation fund to you.

Yours Faithfully,
Rev. Ubong Idong


One thing that should tip off potential victims is the fact that, even though the addressee supposedly is one of a select few who have been approved to receive Three Hundred Thousand Dollars (!) as a “compensations fund,” the letter writer apparently doesn’t even know the person’s name, age and gender. That’s the stupid part.

Here’s both the diabolical part and the brilliant part:

Say you are a recipient of this email. You’re just smart enough to realize a mistake has been made, because YOU’RE not actually a scam victim (yet). But through an amazing stroke of luck, you’ve gotten on a list of people who are going to receive $300K. You think, “Hey, I’m NOT a scam victim, but this guy doesn’t know it. So I’m going to fool him and get that $300K to buy a real nice RV.” And you respond.

A stupid, diabological and brilliant con. A perfect trap for greedy idiots.

Whenever you get a questionable email, whether it’s outlining some weird conspiracy theory or a Nigerian con, check it out with Snopes.com. They’ve got the goods on every false tale and scam going on the Internet. And some have been going for years.

When I get a bad one, if the recipients’ names are all in the “to” box (a no-no if you want to protect your friends from spammers), I reply “to all” and ask them not to forward it and to tell everyone they may already have forwarded it to that it’s bogus.

Cleaning up the World Wide Web, one square millimeter at a time…

For your further enjoyment, here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune about the evolution of Nigerian scams. An excerpt:

Gone are the days when Nigerians duped victims solely with the tale of an orphaned prince’s quest to reclaim his inheritance. The scheme has morphed into a family of scams that now include romance cons like the one Shyrock [a woman duped out of $10,000; read the story] fell for, along with rental scams and even puppy sale scams.

Ergonomic devices now available for Mac

Having done a lot of typing for years, I am keenly aware of the vital importance of proper ergonomics at my computer desk. With an ergonomic keyboard, a fully adjustable keyboard tray, and the chair, the tray and the keyboard at the right height, tilt, and so on, I’m good for hours of comfortable typing. Just have to remember to stretch now and then.

Ergonomic devices have long been available for PCs (Boo hisss), and now there are some for Macs, too. They’re costlier than regular keyboards, but when you consider the benefits, they’re worth it.

If you’re not sure if your workstation is ergo-friendly, read this. Note especially the importance of a negative-tilt keyboard.

I have no idea why most keyboards come with little legs on the back side that you can extend so the keyboard tilts up at the back. That’s exactly the WRONG way. With the keyboard tilted up, your wrists are continuously bent, which causes pain. Someday, keyboard manufacturers will realize they those little legs belong on the front. In the meantime, if you value your wrists, keep the little suckers retracted.

A good chair is vital, too. I found a fairly inexpensive one that can be adjusted to support my lower back, but most of the cheap ones are concave just where they should be convex.

Kinda funny: I had a friend whose company bought her a $5,000 ergonomic executive chair. She took it when she left the company (It was okay with her company; you’ll see why.) So she offered to let me try it. In retrospect, I imagine she was trying to get rid of it.

She and her husband brought it over, and it was so huge they could barely get it through my front door. And so heavy it took all three of us short people to wrangle it into my home office. I tried it out and soon could tell it was an ergonomic joke. So, to their chagrin, my friends had to manhandle the monstrosity back out to the car. Oh, and did I mention it was ugly?

If you want to keep on writing and typing without pain, insist on good ergonomics, whether at home or in an office. Office managers usually won’t buy new keyboards, chairs or adjustable keyboard trays for you. But go ahead and buy your own. After all, it’s your body that’s at stake. What you spend creating an ergonomic setup will keep you from spending a lot more on chiropractors, orthopedists and pain pills.

Everything should be adjusted to support good ergonomics.

Everything should be adjusted to support good ergonomics.

Write for 1¢ a word? Are you nuts?

Recently, I’ve joined a group of experienced professional writers from all over the country who are mad as hell about the devaluation of their work because of low-balling “writers” (a.k.a. “word whores”) who will work for 1¢ a word.

Write for a penny a word? Are you insane?

Write for a penny a word? Are you insane?

There always will be “price buyers.” Any client who gives a writing project to the lowest bidder is probably not a client you want. If your relationship starts out on a money-grubbing basis, it’s probably going to stay that way throughout the project. First, there will be unanticipated changes in direction, then there will be innumerable rewrites (all supposed to be covered by your initial bid, which is why I prefer to estimate, not bid). A contract may help. Or not.

Advice to myself and other freelance writers:

Price buyers are out there, but so are decent, honest clients who value your work and will pay accordingly. Seek them out.

Something I read the other day rang true: if something is easy for you to do, you don’t value it very highly. When a writer underestimates the value of his or her skills and talents, s/he may feel a pang of guilt about getting paid for doing something s/he loves to do and probably has been doing since s/he could hold a pencil in his or her chubby little fist. If you feel guilty about getting a reasonable amount of money for your work, get over it.

Remember, few people can dress an idea in just the right word-clothing the way you do. So you deserve to get PAID for your art, craft, skill and talent. And if you went to college or university to learn about how to do it, remember those student loans you paid off, or are still paying off. Get the money.

The blogosphere is a gaping maw that demands to be fed with words. Like a coal furnace in a ship’s engine room, it must have fuel shoveled into it continually to keep it “hot.” The blog-fuel is the “articles” these speed-typing drones crank. Their work is not, shall we say, of the highest quality. But quality is not a concern for most owners of monetized blogs. The writing is just the obligatory filling between pay-per-click advertisements.

Cheap writing is a great deal for Demand Studios, Examiner.com and countless other businesses that are making billions by crushing writers’ pay scales. Do you resent this? I do. But it’s the writers’ fault. The blog owners put their rates out there, and the writers self-select by saying, “Yes, I’m very, very cheap. Cheaper than anybody. I’ll write for 1¢ per word. This other guy is cheaper? Okay, I’ll write for 1/2¢ a word!”

Writers need to eat and have roofs over their heads. And they need money to pay outrageous individual health insurance premiums. One very good, very famous writer is mad as hell about writers (especially himself) getting cheated out of their due: Harlan Ellison. The following YouTube clip is from a documentary I saw on IFC. Watch it whenever you need to be bucked up in your quest for decent pay. To the barricades!

Throwing away money on “cool”

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

My goal in my early years in advertising was to build a portfolio, win creative awards, and make more money. Today, my goal is to do work that helps my clients, and thereby, to make a good, honest living. I would call that going where there is no path, and I hope, leaving a trail for younger creatives to follow.

I always felt there was something narcissistic about winning creative awards, but it seemed the best way to get ahead. At least, that’s what the CDs told us. After awhile, I began to question the whole value system around creative award shows.

In a sense, creative awards shows are a scam. Agencies think awards enhance their reputation, and thus, their chances of winning new clients (And in the past, surveys of clients bore this out; they would hire agencies based on creative. But how many listened to creative advice thereafter? Not many.)

So agencies or individuals pay major fees to enter their work in local, national or international creative shows. Then, a judge (or, if you’re lucky, at least one art director and one writer), suffering jet lag and recovering from a late night being entertained by the show personnel, scans hundreds of entries in dozens of categories. Anything that leaps out because of color, outrageousness or size catches the judge’s or judges’ eye. And it generally wins.

I’m not saying good creative work doesn’t win awards. Often, it does. But other than the Effies, which are awarded for creating positive results for clients, measured by actual numbers, I don’t know what those awards mean.

I do not speak these words as an embittered creative who has been spurned by awards shows. About 15 years ago, I stopped listing my awards on a sheet of paper when the type size had to be shrunk to 7-point to fit. Later, I realized that good work means work that brings the client business. Revelation!

At some stage in a creative career, you feel secure enough to stop building a “killer book” and start doing what’s right for the client. Younger creatives can’t be blamed for doing outrageous creative, any more than puppies can be blamed for teething on bedroom slippers. It’s what they’re bound to do. I only wish these creative puppies paid attention to who they’re talking to, what that audience really needs to hear, and in what voice.

Does he really know what your company needs to say?

Does he really know what your company needs to say?

Once I saw a magazine ad produced by a famed, “cool” Kansas City agency in Ingram’s Magazine. The product or service (can’t remember what) was obviously meant to appeal to upper-level corporate executives. The style of the full-page ad was arresting: the copy was done in red 9-point type on a black background. And the visual was unclear, since for some reason, it was obscured by thin red scribbles over it.

Now, think of the age of most upper-level CEOs. Not Silicon Valley types, but Kansas City types. Most are over the age of 40 or even 50. They’re presbyopic; they can’t easily read 9-point red type on a black background. And they don’t have time to decipher an obscure message conveyed in a graphic style more suited to a punk band flyer than to Ingram’s.

I wonder, how did this ad do with its target audience? I’m willing to bet it failed miserably. How the heck could the target audience read it? But because many clients and agencies don’t bother to build in a response mechanism or any way to track results from their advertising, do they even know? Did the agency just take the money, do whatever they wanted to do, and let it fly?

This ad was published a number of years ago. Maybe back then, companies had money to burn and didn’t give a rat’s posterior about results. “Image advertising” was hot. Or sometimes, even these days, company advertising managers want to work with a “cool” agency so the stardust will rub off on them. They like telling friends at the Club that they’re doing an ad with such-and-such “cool” agency. It’s a sign of your coolness, like letting it drop that you and Brad and Angelina lounged around your backyard pool last weekend sipping Mojitos.

Now, every company is cutting expenses to the bone, and generally, advertising is the first “frill” that gets cut. Wrong move. If you quit competing for “room in the box,” the customer’s memory banks, the other guy wins. No one should quit advertising unless they are in danger of having their lights and phone cut off. I hope, though, that this new frugality may prevent companies from throwing away money they can’t afford on ads that don’t pay them back.

“Cool” advertising, whose style and language are aimed at the wrong audience, isn’t cool at all. ‘Cause it just won’t pay the bills.

How to take your in-person networking to the next level

Are you networking effectively? Five tips for how to take your networking skills to the next level.

In this article, Social Media Coach Taylor Ellwood suggests one startling question to ask fellow networkers: “What do you need?” It might be a chiropractor, a mover, a plumber, or answers to tax questions. You can put people together with the help they need. That’s how you create relationships, rather than just files of business cards.

Imagine: affordable health insurance for freelancers

I can imagine jumping for joy if this comes to pass. Of course, I appreciate the reduction in cost my catastrophic health insurance policy gives me, but the premium is high as an elephant’s eye and growing 5% higher per year.
Here’s something I just received from the Freelancers Union, based in New York:

President Obama is talking about freelancers! In Wednesday’s speech before the joint Congress on Wednesday, he outlined his vision of a national system of health care and insurance that would benefit all Americans. He said:

“These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer.”

But we could still get lost in the fray. Tell your congressional leaders to support health reform that works for freelancers.

What would that reform look like?

Hey, I wouldn’t care if it looked as ugly as sin. If it could bring my premiums down from the stratosphere, I’d plant big, wet kisses all over it.

Visit our new National Health Reform page to read about the facets of the national debate that are most relevant to freelancers’ livelihoods, and find out where we stand on the issues. As we all continue to engage in the national conversation, this can be a useful point of reference.

“Build on what works, and fix what doesn’t.” Obama said it, and we agree. Please take action by telling your congressional leaders to support reform that won’t leave out freelancers.

Sara Horowitz
Executive Director

P.S. We’ll be able to continue this conversation in the future. Freelancers Union is planning a series of webinars related to your (and our nation’s) health insurance—look for more information in your inbox.

To get more info emailed to you, sign up for the Freelancers Union (if you’re a freelancer, of course). It’s free.

NOTE: If you decide to take action, copy their email and send it to your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators. Find their email addresses here. You can only send it from the website if you live in New York.