Posts Tagged ‘strategic advertising’

Freelance Writer Files: Does Color Matter?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints on March 31st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

When you’re designing an ad, brochure or collateral, color matters. A lot.

What’s the most eye-catching, exciting color? The same one you see in bullfight scenes: RED! Red is hot, like blood, and it gets your blood racing (at least a little) when you see it in a printed piece or on a billboard or TV screen.

RED!

RED!

Other colors are nice, but you’re not after NICE, you’re after getting attention. Remember AIDA? Attention, desire, interest, action? If you don’t get that first “A,” you’ve lost the game before you’ve even started.

As a general rule, don’t use any colors you’re likely to find in a typical bathroom: muted pastels or beige. Unless it’s as a background color for your exciting headline.

So yes, color matters. So you use red for your headline. Is it large enough to be read easily? And most important of all, is it a “grabber?” Floating around in an ocean of other headlines, does it stand out to a member of your target audience? Does it present a clear benefit proposition? Or at least, does it grab attention, so someone will read the benefit proposition in your exciting subhead?

That pops!

That pops!

Now, if you’re looking for the ultimate in readability, use the combo that Western Union discovered tops them all: black letters on a yellow background. It may not be the ultimate in sophisticated design, but depending on the product or service you’re hawking, it might be just right. Like on a billboard, where drivers have very little time to absorb your message.

Ever drive past a billboard with type so tiny that you nearly run off the road trying to read it? This is the result of the graphic designer looking at his or her design only on a computer monitor. Gee, it looks readable there. But what about 50 feet in the air, hundreds of yards from the road? Designers should try reducing the design to a size the driver might see it.

Ignoring any of the proven rules for effectiveness will cause you to throw money on advertising or promotional materials that simply don’t work.

If you don’t feel confident that you can do all the right things on your own, by all means, hire a communications professional, as well as a good graphic designer, to create your advertising and promotional materials. It will be money well spent.

Freelance Writer Files: 7 Quick Tips for Brochures that Work

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints on March 21st, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Here are a few simple things you can do with your next brochure that will make it stand out and get results.

business woman_z1. The cover should feature a picture of a person.
People are attracted to pictures of faces. The person could be a company president, a customer, or an expert of some kind. Someone whose comments are featured inside the brochure.

2. Include “knock-outs” on the cover.
Those are one- or two-line highlights of the content inside. You know how those “People” magazine knock-outs grab you. Use them on business brochures. Make them interesting!

3. On the front inside cover, summarize the key points in the brochure. That way, it’s quick and easy for the reader to go directly to the specific content he or she is interested in.

4. Include a call to action on every page: Call this toll-free number, learn more at this Web address, whatever you need the reader to do.

5. Use a Q&A format to engage the reader. It breaks up the content into manageable chunks and makes it easy to read.

6. On the back cover, make sure to have a contact name and return address displayed prominently.

7. Keep in mind always that you need to make people stop, be drawn to your brochure (especially if you’re at a trade show), and be encouraged to read what’s inside. Study magazines at the grocery store and see what colors, designs, type fonts and other devices they use to stand out and draw you in. Some are kind of gaudy, but you can borrow a few of their tricks without looking unprofessional.

7.a. Okay, I said 7 points, but this one is important. Make sure every aspect of your brochure is relevant. Don’t stick in a picture of your plant as seen from a helicopter (a popular one, for some reason). It has nothing to do with the product that’s made in that plant. So you have a big building. What does that mean to ME, your potential customer? Likewise, unless your audience is made up of gearheads, don’t stick in photos of machines you use to make things. It’s the things you’re selling, not the machines.

Whew. Well, those are my 7 (+1) tips for making effective brochures. If you have others, please let me know.

Freelance Writer Files: What’s a USP? And do I need one?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2014 by liz – Be the first to comment

Do you need a USP?

Do you need a USP?

If you’re selling a product or service, the answer is YES!

Below, link to a presentation I gave recently that walks you through developing your USP and getting it out there to the right people, in the right media, using the right voice.

What the heck is a USP? And do I need one?

The first step in the process is — what else? — First Questions. I have a sheet of questions I’ll be glad to send you. Just ask!

Freelance Writer Files: Do You Speak Animal?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2nd, 2013 by liz – 1 Comment

You probably do speak “animal,” only you’re not aware of it. As a freelance copywriter, I’m always on the lookout for different ways to say things. The other day, I said someone was “happy as a clam.” That led me to wondering, “Are clams really happy?” Only a clam knows, and he’s not telling. But it spurred me to think of all the ways we incorporate animals into our language. How many of these animal-related expressions do you use? Can you think of other, newer ones?

• Sick as a dog
• Barking orders (as a Sergeant in the Army)
• Crowing (about accomplishments)
• Old bat
• Old goat
• Raven hair

Me? I didn't say a word!

Me? I didn’t say a word!

• Quiet as a mouse
• Mousy brown
• Chicken (scared)
• Flown the coop
• Bull****
• Strong as a bull
• Sly as a fox
• Foxy
• Hungry enough to eat a horse
• Gentle as a lamb
• Fat as a pig
• Proud as a peacock
• Hungry as a bear
• Catty (Meow!)
• Cowed
• Crooked as a dog’s hind leg (my grandfather’s expression)
• Low as a snake
• Parroting
I'm not gonna say THAT!

No comment.


• Dogging it
• Wolf (skirt-chaser)
• Wolf down
• Maverick
• Slug (couch potato)
• Slow as a snail/snail’s pace
• Tortoise and hare
• The ants and the grasshopper (familiar fable)
• Rat (one who betrays someone else)
• Ratty (messy)
• Cat’s paw (operative)
• Ass/jackass (fool)
• Stubborn as a mule
• Sing like a bird (either a good singer or a stool pigeon — hey, there’s another one!)
• Chirp (happy way to speak)
• Drink like a fish
• Something’s fishy
• Big as a whale
• Memory of an elephant
• Slippery as an eel
• Graceful as a gazelle
• Monkeyshines
• Monkeying around
• As much fun as a barrel full of monkeys (Not sure that would be fun)BarrelOfMonkeys
• Gorilla (Big, mean guy)
• Sting like a bee (Part of Ali’s chant)
• Busy as a bee
• Social butterfly

Got any more?

Freelance Writer Files: What is Beauty?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Helpful Hints, Other Stuff on March 21st, 2013 by liz – Be the first to comment

“There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
-Francis Bacon

That’s a tweet I posted this morning. It’s a strange one that I didn’t quite “grok” right away. But when I thought of a project that required screening beautiful women for work as a principal in a TV commercial, I got it.

Picasso woman

Picasso woman

Casting for a TV commercial usually begins with looking at lots and lots of photo “head shots” of models and actors. Out of those, you choose the ones you think have potential to fit your need, and if they’re local, you invite them in, so you can see them in person. Heck, they might be photoshopped to look beautiful. You’d want to know that before hiring them.

We selected three or four women to come in for personal interviews, all of whom were beautiful in their pictures. But in person, what a surprise! Were these the same women we’d selected?

One model’s face actually looked a bit misshapen. The two sides didn’t match. Another one’s nose seemed a size too large for her face. The third looked just plain homely.

These models didn’t come in without makeup, looking as if they had just fallen out of bed. They were made up to look as pretty as they could — in person. And they certainly didn’t look like candidates for Miss America. But soon, I was to learn something valuable.

The eye of the beholder...

The eye of the beholder…

When we did video auditions with our candidates, these women revealed their true beauty. In a magical way, it is true that the camera loves some faces. These rather ordinary-looking (or even peculiar-looking) women became lovely and engaging, even fascinating, in the eye of the camera.

So I understand what Bacon meant in that quote. Now I try to look at every person through the eye of a transforming camera. You’d be amazed how much more beautiful they all look!

Freelance Writer Files: Doing Direct Mail? Don’t Get Fancy, Get Relevant.

Posted in Advertising Related, Helpful Hints, writing well on April 18th, 2012 by liz – Be the first to comment

Direct mail is one of those things people either hate or simply dislike. Why is that? Because most people get tons of direct mail that doesn’t offer anything they want. It simply isn’t relevant to them. Or maybe it is, but it takes the recipient too long to find out how. Either way, it’s headed for the landfill.

People decide within two or three seconds whether a piece of mail goes on the “opening” or “trash” pile, and then move on with their lives.

As an ad agency copywriter, I did mostly advertising, meaning ads, brochures, radio and TV spots. Advertising is a different animal from direct mail, I’ve learned, as I’ve had more opportunities to write direct. In advertising, you’re usually doing (a) awareness advertising, (b) image advertising, or (c) offer advertising, sometimes including a coupon. Of the three, (c) is most similar to direct mail. The offer-coupon ad wants you to do something, and it gives you both an incentive to do it and a time limit (Coupon expiration date).

The reason it’s called “direct” mail is that it comes directly to a prospect’s mailbox. Anyone writing for direct mail should keep in mind another reason: it has to communicate in a direct way in order to avoid the trashcan. And there is an art and science to doing it well.

That’s why most direct mail includes a “teaser” on the envelope, which is meant to get you to open it. Here are three teasers from direct mail pieces I plucked out of my trash at random:

• ATTENTION: TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED
Your Input and Signature Needed
REGISTERED DOCUMENT #XXXX-XX-XXXX

• Your 2012 XXXX Membership Card Is Enclosed
Urgent Response Requested

• SECOND REQUEST (in red)
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL NOTICE
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED

These are certainly urgent requests for action. But only the first one piques my interest, and only because it’s requesting my “input,” and I’m always happy to share my opinions. And gee whiz, it had a “Registered Document number” on it. Sure looks official and all. Sadly, it doesn’t offer me anything I really want, so into the trash it goes.

At the moment, I’m doing a direct mail campaign for a client. To maximize his budget, the mailings need to be relevant to his target audience. The letters will present them with an offer they can’t refuse—if they’re in the market for what he’s selling, and if the prospects’ dissatisfaction with other providers is as high as we think it is, they will be.

But I won’t simply say, “When you choose XYZ Company, you’ll get (unique benefit).” I will go beyond that and build my message around this idea:

“When you choose XYZ Company, you will get (something they really aren’t getting now and want badly: all the service they’re paying for). Our service tracking system calculates exactly how much service you are getting from our company every week. And if you don’t get every bit of service you are paying for, that week is FREE!”

There is an additional incentive to do it: When the prospect responds within a certain time limit, either by calling or by sending in an enclosed postage-paid card, and sets up an appointment, s/he will get a free demo of the service, and s/he will be able to see measurable results! I can’t reveal how (client confidentiality), but it is a doable offer.

There is no risk and no obligation involved. There is everything to gain. Why wouldn’t the prospect respond?

• First, we’re offering something the target audience is VERY interested in (getting the most for their budget, because most companies don’t give them all the service they pay for).
• Second, we’re doing something else no one else in the market is doing: backing it up with a measurable guarantee of performance.
• Third, we’re offering a FREE demo, which gives a representative a foot in the door.
• Fourth, we’re giving them a sense of urgency about responding, since the offer expires in a couple of weeks.

In addition, the letter and the postcard will have a code number that will let us track results. A 1% to 3% response rate is standard, but if the list is honed to include only the best prospects, it could be higher.

Finally, we won’t leave it there. We’ll send prospects two more direct mail letters, each one highlighting a real pain the prospect has that my client can relieve. After that, any prospects who haven’t responded yet will receive three brochures at staged intervals detailing the same three surefire (if we’ve found out they work in DM) pain-relief scenarios.

So the net of it is this: If you’re the creative putting together a direct mail campaign, don’t kill yourself trying to think up a fancy, possibly creative-award-winning headline and tricky copy for your direct mail letter. Keep it simple (not that it’s easy). Put your head together with your client’s and come up with a solid offer of something the prospect needs and wants, something relevant to his or her needs. Then state it simply and compellingly. And finally, plot out your campaign and keep with it. That’s all there is to it. Now, go and get relevant!

POSTSCRIPT:
A day or two after the first mailing of 50 letters, my client received a call and made an appointment, the first of many, we hope. Second letter is going out early next week. Common wisdom says a 1% to 2% response rate is good for direct mail. In this case, just one new customer could easily pay for the marketing effort! Successful campaigns don’t cost, they pay.

Freelance Writer Files: Apparently, I have cancer.

Posted in Helpful Hints, Other Stuff on February 8th, 2012 by liz – 3 Comments

Just on my nose, a little patch that some prescription cream is eating away.

For a year or two (three?), this little patch on the side of my nose had been flaking and peeling. When I went to a dermatologist for a mole check (required annually for people like me, with “that European skin”), I pointed it out, thinking she would give me some kind of cream to clear up what I thought probably was some kind of dermatitis. Nothing to fret about.

The magic cream

The dermatologist did give me a prescription for cream to put on it, but not to clear it up. This cream (Fluorouracil, in case you’re interested) has the ability to eat up cancer cells. I read the instructions and warnings, which is always frightening, and decided not to use it. I didn’t fully understand it. I thought it was supposed to identify cancer cells so you could have them surgically removed. And I really didn’t want to think about it. Besides, it was probably nothing, I thought. No need for such extreme measures. Then my other doctor explained it to me.

This cream is an *alternative* to surgery. It eats up the cells, and voila! no more cancer. He said it’s “pretty cool” that when it works, you can actually see the outline of the cancer under the skin. “Pretty cool?” Yech.

So anyway, I started putting a thin layer of it on the flaky patch twice a day, and before long, it turned an angry red. Then a thin scab appeared over it. I don’t know how long I’m supposed to keep applying the stuff. When I see the derm in a couple of weeks, I’ll find out.

Future skin cancer patient.The idea that I have skin cancer is unsettling, to say the least. Just the “C” word is troubling. Now that it’s become a reality with me, I remember a couple of bad burns when I was a child from spending too much time at the pool. That can up the odds you’ll have cancer at some point. But who ever heard of sunblock back then? Girls were lying by the pool for hours, applying baby oil and mercurochrome to get that fabulous-looking bronze. BTW, did you know mercurochrome is a poison? Yep. I recently read a book on poisons. OK, so my reading tastes are weird.

I have several kinds of sunblock, including in my facial moisturizer (though it’s only SP15, which is practically useless, they say). The overexposure I had long ago still will make itself known, it seems. But it’s good to use sunblock now, so exposure doesn’t cause any more troubling moles or flaky spots.

If you have “that European skin” (That is, if your forbears came from France, Germany and Czechoslovakia, as mine did), go for a mole check every year or two, whether you think you need it or not. And if you see a mole or a flaky place that looks funny, get to the derm sooner. It’s better to know, as difficult as it is.

God, the terrors of aging.

Freelance Writer Files: New Recommendation from a Longtime Friend and Colleague

Posted in Advertising Related, Other Stuff on July 29th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

“Liz Craig is wicked smart and a wizard with words. Do your brand a favor and hire her.”
— Joleen K David on Jul 28, 2011

When I moved to Omaha in 1985, I worked as an Associate Creative Director for 19 hellish months at Bozell & Jacobs. I won’t go into detail, but let me say I was not the only creative there who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous GM who crumbled and ate writers and art directors for breakfast like Frosted Mini-Wheats. Nearly everyone in the creative department was taking Xanax, seeing shrinks, or nurturing ulcers.

So it was a sweet relief to be let go during a mass layoff. My art director partner and I rolled our stuff out to the parking lot in a mail cart, and we laughed and laughed and laughed at our great good fortune to have been set free from whatever ring of Dante’s Inferno we’d been inhabiting.

I took the next couple of months off enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas, and glory be! in January, I got hired at a local ad agency called Smith Kaplan Allen & Reynolds, aka SKAR. My colleague and head of the writers was the kind of woman some women might hate because they’re jealous. A delightfully smart, funny, gorgeous woman named Joleen. I respected her in every way—for her brains, for her client savvy, for her superb strategic thinking and writing, and most of all, for her wacky sense of humor.

These days, we keep in touch via email, and I’ve been back a couple of times to see her and the agency. As the daughter of Wayne Smith, the Smith in Smith Kaplan, now she’s heading up the agency. Under her guidance, the place has been transformed from what was a rather dowdy cubicle city to a cool, sleek, inviting haven for some of the best creatives in the Midwest. Joleen is a natural leader/innovator, and she follows the David Ogilvy philosophy of trying to hire people who are smarter than she is. Which is nearly impossible. But she finds good people and draws the very best out of them.

So thanks, Joleen, for the great recommendation, so many years since I ended my 10-year stint at SKAR., Sometimes I wish I’d stayed, but Kansas City lured me back home, and 15 years and three agencies later, here I am, happily freelancing and recalling the good people and good times at SKAR.

Joleen, I hope you continue to have fun, make money, and always remember me. I’ll remember you, I promise.

Freelance Writer Files: Working on a Chain Gang

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Motivation on July 8th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

If you’re an independent creative working from home, do you ever feel like a latter-day Jacob Marley, your clanking chains making you the prisoner of your computer? Or like chain-gang member Woody Allen in “Take the Money and Run?” (If you like to laugh, please check it out.) Or have you broken your bonds, like escapee Paul Muni in “I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang?”

I'm free!

The reason I feel compelled to sit at my desk all day is that most jobs come to me via email, and some must be done post-haste. So when I have to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, I feel as if I’m playing hooky, and I high-tail it back home as soon as I can to check my email.

To feel a captive in one’s own office is not good. There’s a whole wide world out there waiting to be explored! So how can I get out there more?

First idea was to get a smartphone, so I could tell when email came in, and whether I needed to tend to it right away. FAIL! Got a paygo plan that offered a free Samsung phone. Now I know why the phone was free! It stinks. Oh, yes, you can check email, but it takes flippin’ (as dear Sarah P. would say) forever. And the batteries hold power like a sieve holds water.

This phone stinks.

Okay, I know some people who have ditched their landlines and gotten iPhones or other smartphones that let them do everything but clip their toenails with them, but am I ready for that? I have both cell phone and landline, the equivalent of wearing suspenders with a belt. But someone pointed out to me that if you only have a cell phone, when the power to the cell tower goes out, you have no phone. HELP! No phone at all?

Right now isn’t the best time to think about going out on the town, or in the town, actually. I’m preparing to move a certain amount of my stuff from my 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment nearby. Right-sizing my lifestyle. Problem is, I’ve inherited a lot of stuff (beautiful dishes, linens, etc.) from two generations before me, that I never use. Like my mother before me, I have kept them in storage in the basement because they’re “too nice to use.” Now, there’s a silly idea. As long as I keep them, I’m chained to this stuff, too.

I’ve got some lovely pieces of Royal Ruby glassware on Craigslist, and today I’m listing my mother’s milk glass. All of that stuff is beautiful, but I have to think of the 3′ X 4″ storage cage at my new apartment, and exactly how much will go into it. Not much, that’s how much. And my son in Shanghai doesn’t give a chopstick for any of it. Not to mention, it would cost more than the national debt to send it to him.

All this Royal Ruby glass for sale!

In an attempt to downsize, I took five U-matic cassettes containing all of the TV commercials I’ve ever written and produced to a fellow nearby who is transferring them to DVD, so I won’t have to lug these obsolete plastic boxes of tape around forever. I also gave a 16mm film my dad had made back in the 50s for Purina to a friend in communication studies, and someday, he says he’ll transfer that to DVD. So I’m at least shrinking my media load.

Remember George Carlin’s terrific riff on “stuff?” It’s all true. And moving stuff is very trying. Moving while trying to get some work done is doubly trying. Oh, AND trying to organize a big garage sale (though you get more for your stuff at an “estate sale,” I’ve heard). Never have I done a garage sale, and this will be a pretty big one. Anybody have folding tables I could borrow?

Anyhow, when I am finally ensconced in the new apartment, I dearly hope I will not feel chained to my desk and stuff. As I recall from living in an apartment before, I tended to go out more. Say, tree leaves are still green, aren’t they?

Freelance Writer Files: Does a title make a difference?

Posted in Advertising Related, freelance business, Other Stuff, social media marketing, writing well on June 13th, 2011 by liz – Be the first to comment

For the past 10 years, I’ve been calling myself a freelance writer. But recently, a friend who is cognizant of the kind of counseling I give my clients, suggested that “writer” is a bit limiting.

There's the whole thinking part, which "Writer" doesn't address.


It’s true that I can write, and am, in fact, “a writer.” “Senior Writer” is the title by which I’ve been known in the ad agency world. But, as anyone who has worked at an agency, or as a freelancer, can tell you, there’s more to the job of writing than pulling out a computer and banging out some random letters. There’s the whole “thinking” part, for instance, which the title, “Writer,” doesn’t address.

By way of explaining this to a foreign client who was unfamiliar with the process and wondered what I had been billing him for, since he hadn’t seen his campaign yet, I drew a picture of an iceberg (I do have some artistic skills, but anyone can draw a triangle.). I drew the waterline close to the tip.

What you see is not all you get.

Then I explained that all the background info gathering, analyzing, thinking, strategizing, getting bids, estimating, budgeting and planning were in the part below the waterline. You can’t see them. The part you finally see, the finished project, is the very tip of the iceberg. You have to pay for all of that, just as you have to pay for an architect’s plans before you build your house.

My client’s question brought to mind the image of a dad-to-be looking at his third-trimester-pregnant wife and saying, “You’ve been saying for months that you’re going to have a baby. I don’t see any baby. So what gives?”

But getting back to services I offer clients: beyond simply writing, I do project management.

Business owners are busy. Really busy.

Harried business owners don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to manage graphic designers, webmasters, HTML experts, and others involved in a Web or other project. So if they turn the project over to me, let me communicate and negotiate with the other suppliers, then report to them, they save a lot of time, which equates to money. Not to mention that they avoid the anguish of trying to get business, do business, AND manage a marketing or advertising project.

Managing a project in print or Web or video for a client is child’s play, compared with my duties as an ad agency writer/producer. In that capacity, I was in charge of every aspect of a production, from keeping the client happy (Number One, always) to producing estimates to riding herd on the production company, casting talent, directing same, selecting wardrobe set designs, keeping costs in line, and overseeing anything else that would affect the final product.

Would he have been as famous?

So, since I help clients as a consultant, thinker, planner, strategist and project manager, what do I call myself? Would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet? Or would another name make me smell sweeter? If I give up “writer” and go for the more accurate “independent marketing and advertising consultant,” will people actually know what I can do? Hmm. I changed it on LinkedIn. Let’s see what happens.