Category Archives: Blog

‘We’re Passionate About What We Do, Blah Blah Blah. ’

Lions in Botswana’s swampy Okavango Delta have learned to swim to pursue their prey. Imagine it, lions as part of marine life.
Lions in Botswana’s swampy Okavango Delta have learned to swim to pursue their prey. Imagine it, lions as part of marine life.

‘We’re Passionate about what we do’

How many times have you heard that self-serving guff?

Website content is often like a broken record with that claim.

You’re expected to take it at face value and be impressed.

Fat chance as the ‘passionate’ statement seems to be dotted all across the Internet.

With over-use, it sounds like the symptom of a mental breakdown from those too lazy think of anything better than talking about themselves.

It makes you wonder … wouldn’t it be more profitable to crow less and talk more about why customers should do business with you.

How about addressing the what’s-in-it-for-me question?

Here’s a travel site that does just that,

We’re betting those who run the site are every bit as passionate, innovative and committed as anyone else.

Probably more so.

But you won’t see that vague and inadequate word, passionate, in their branding.

Adventure is their reason for being; they elaborate brilliantly on it to stop you and lengthen your attention span.

They’re promoting global journeys of discovery for families.

Small World Travel is where you go to arrange expeditions with your kids to 7 continents.

To frozen oceans, volcanic archipelagos, lost cities and places like say, Botswana.

There you can do things like live in the bush and experience something of a lion’s eye view of the world.

At times you’d have to call that an underwater world.

Because lions in Botswana’s swampy Okavango Delta have learned to swim to pursue their prey.

Imagine it, lions as part of marine life.

Some bright spark said the best advertising is an example of the product experience.

That’s what you get with Small World Travel.

The prospect of adventure is expressed as a story that’s original, charming, perceptive and multi-layered.

You get the whole box and dice so you read and read.

It convinces you that you couldn’t do better by going elsewhere.

You’re the one who becomes passionate.

Passionate about heading off to places like Botswana, Egypt, India, Thailand, Australia and Antarctica.

Isn’t that better than the soppy and weak ‘We’re passionate about what we do’?

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:







Bosses Who are !#%*!

Churchill knew, it well. Rhe mark of a great leader is the ability to succeed in adversity.
Churchill knew it well. The mark of a great leader is the ability to succeed in adversity.

Iffy thinking. A bad temper. A shortsighted view of the branding process.

That’s a boss we heard about from a business friend of ours.

Our friend is a marketer with more than a few accomplishments to his name. Lead generation is second nature to him.

But he’s had it with his job. Fed up with the boss.

Still, to be fair, ‘iffy thinking’ describes his boss on a bad day.

Normally he’s okay when things are going smoothly.

Of course, that applies to most everyone, doesn’t it? Who isn’t even-keeled when everything is going to plan?

The thing is, this boss has no abilities when things are going wrong.

He doesn’t function on a bumpy road. When projects go sideways good sense goes with it.

In the thick of difficulties his chief skill is to lay the blame elsewhere.

Who needs a fair weather leader like that?

Opposite to that you have Winston Churchill’s undercover operatives in the dark days of WWII.

With a brief to ‘Set Europe Ablaze’, Churchill sought those who could succeed behind enemy lines in impossible situations.

He needed leaders who could turn the tide on peril.

Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d value for your company?

Isn’t the capacity to function in a crisis the mark of a true leader?

With Churchill in mind, you might want to look at a business management book by two ex-Navy SEALS.

The SEALS are nothing if not cool-headed and capable when it comes to the crunch. They flourish in perilous situations.

You could say they’re past masters of leadership and turnarounds.

Normally for books on business leadership you’d turn to those like Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, Jim Collins, and Warren Bennis.

But the book, Extreme Ownership. How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, stopped us.

It’s an engaging read by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

You get a picture of the SEALS in combat. Then in each chapter military leadership skills are directly related to business applications.

In that way the book takes a different approach to getting you involved and getting you to think.

It concentrates your thought process on direction, teamwork, solidarity, smarter decision making, management and achievement.

Equally, it’s an education for the times when your efforts don’t go to plan. When everything goes awry and the way forward is unclear.

Our friend with the iffy thinking boss was impressed with the book.

Here’s betting Winston Churchill would have been as well.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:



Industry Best Practices. You Can Do Better Than That, Right?

Honda commercials. They're the opposite of uncharismatic and grey.
Honda commercials. They’re the opposite of uncharismatic and gray.

We’ve been watching TED Talks over lunch the last few days or so.

Riveting stuff is how you can describe them. An education in every way.

Still, there was one thing that raised a question or two.

The subject of industry best practices.

We heard they’re a yardstick for success. They lead to better key performance indicators.

There’s truth in that, of course, they can help when it comes to your next quarterly earnings report.

But is it going far enough?

Don’t best practices make you like other companies when you adopt the same approaches and milestones?

Isn’t there a bit of a problem being equal to but not better than your competitors?

So … wouldn’t it be an idea to meet best practices standards then move ahead from there?

After all, your competitors are probably doing all you’re doing to succeed in the marketplace.

You can bet that includes everything from Logistics to HR to Training and Product Development.

But why conform to the kind of creative work your competitors run? Why follow the accepted approaches of your product category?

With originality you can stand apart.

Your physical resources and technology can be copied but the right kind of creative work can’t be.

Further to that, maybe you’ve seen the  Honda spot called ‘Paper’.

It doesn’t follow anyone else’s lead to present a line of products that includes business jets, motorbikes, cars, racing cars and lawnmowers.

It’s stunning work and could be the subject of a TED Talk in itself.

If only for the fact it neatly showcases everything the company makes without the usual inert thinking you get in a product line commercial.

Quite the opposite, it’s easy to watch again and again.

A 20-something in our office added to that by saying, ‘I bet it’ll sell its ass off’.

‘Paper’ qualifies as best practices as far as other Honda spots are concerned.

It adds to the high standard of Honda commercials like ‘Cog’, ‘Hands’ and the Ayrton Senna ‘Racing’ film.

It also goes well beyond the typical level of creative best practices.

And for that reason it will probably sell its ass off.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:






Got an Idea That’s Half Good? Keep Working on It Until It’s Damn Good.

A half-good idea can always be bettered, right?
A half-good idea can always be bettered, right?

More than a few companies don’t go far enough with their marketing and advertising thinking.

They often run with half-good ideas … ideas that have just enough power to reach the mediocre level.

They let their brands down.

Of course, nobody wants that.

So why not go further with your thinking.

Why not question old certainties about your customers and marketplace to discover a fresh understanding.

Why not find new creative approaches to differentiate your brand.

Why not boost conversion rates for email campaigns and Website content with smarter, more arresting ideas.

Why not rid yourself of the drag of conformity.

Why not work closer with your ad agency to be more effective against your competition.

Of course, it takes hard work to achieve all this. It takes an unrelenting effort.

The ‘unrelenting’ thing reminds us of John Lennon.

He was unrelenting in becoming a guitarist.

As a kid he played constantly … a fact that didn’t sit so well with the auntie who raised him, Aunt Mimi.

She wanted him to do something else with his life. Her idea was that he should become something.

It’s apocryphal, we know, but his auntie was said to be like a broken record on the subject.

On and on she went about practicing guitar.

As you probably know, John Lennon was a bit of a card.

So when the Beatles became a success he had a large gold plaque made for his auntie.

In engraved, bold letters it sent Aunt Mimi’s broken record words back to her:

‘You’ll Never Get Anywhere

Playing That Guitar.’

You might want to keep that in mind next time you’re working on a project and begin to grow tired of thinking.

It can help you push on.

Because as John Lennon’s auntie came to realize, it’s worth it to keep plugging away.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:




When is a Kiss Not Really a Kiss?

Thanks to photographer, Ang Sherpa, here's a Breast Cancer Awareness image that breaks new ground.
Thanks to photographer, Ang Sherpa, here’s a Breast Cancer Awareness image that breaks new ground.

You’ve probably seen it before. No doubt you’ve heard it.

The sound of ‘mwah’ as two women kiss the air next to each other’s cheek.

It’s not really a kiss, is it?

It saves the make-up, right enough, but it’s going through the motions. It’s not exactly authentic.

Too many advertising efforts are a bit like that.

They’re more-or-less asking to be ignored because they’re not going the full distance.

They’re not talking to you or anyone else.

They put a marketer’s point of view out there and hope people will be impressed.

Fat chance.

As you’ve probably heard in marketing seminars, work like that is one-way communication.

It’s the opposite of an original imagination.

Why would marketers approve it?

Some might say they are being ‘safe’.

Others think they just don’t get it.

But that’s not Estée Lauder.

Their ‘We’re Stronger Together’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign doesn’t hold back on emotion.

It gets you on intimate terms with your feelings.

It’s new in the way it stresses action as well as awareness.

It showcases a genuineness about life, eating better, exercising, participating in healthful walks, sharing personal stories and supporting one another.

Authenticity is key.

For more on authenticity there’s ‘Hear Our Stories. Share Yours’.

As this Estée Lauder video will tell you, ‘An honest exchange unfolds’.

It’s an honesty we all need for our work.

Because it goes further than just ‘mwah’.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:

Yawn-worthy. It Often Describes Work Done In a Mad Rush.

The original title of this book didn't have the appeal of The Great Gatsby.
The original title of this book didn’t have the appeal of the   Gatsby title.

You know the book Catch-22, don’t you?

It’s still selling after all these years. It was published in 1961.

Before it was Catch-22 it was Catch-18.

That was the title. Clunky, isn’t it? Awkward.

But with reconsideration and more time, Joseph Heller went for the alliterative title we all know today.

Catch-22 sounds better. Good thing Heller wasn’t rushed and had time to make an improvement.

The same is true of another book you know. It also happens to work with alliteration.

The Great Gatsby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald originally titled it Trimalchio at West Egg.

You have to go back to Rome in the First Century AD to understand the Trimalchio reference.

He was an ostentatious fictional character. One who achieved power and wealth in a work  by Petronius called Satyricon.

With a bit of reconsideration and time, the Gatsby title won out.

Thank goodness Fitzgerald didn’t rush Trimalchio into print, never mind the West Egg location as part of the title.

Reconsideration and time can help ad agencies turn out better work as well.

The Volkswagen ‘Lemon’ ad doesn’t look like it was a rush job.

Read it and we think you’ll agree it doesn’t feel like it was done in a burning hurry.

Each thought and sentence feels considered, skillfully so.

It’s the opposite of ads stalled by an indifferent strategy or an unimaginative execution.

The first line of copy, ‘This Volkswagen missed the boat’, was the original headline.

So said the great copywriter, David Abbot. He worked for Doyle Dane Bernbach at one time.

To get to the ‘Lemon’ headline you have to take a bit of extra time. Time thinking, fiddling, tweaking, and worrying.

Worry is a good thing when you’re creating something special. It gets you to look further for solutions.

Here, a measure of  credit should go to the VW brand manager.

Because we’re pretty sure of one thing.

That individual didn’t say, ‘get it to me by first thing tomorrow’.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:



Who Should Be Thanked in An Ad Agency? Who Should Be Blamed?

 Thank youWho in your ad agency is doing a good job for you?

Who’s muffing it?

For marketers, the answers may come with the following three questions

You don’t want agency creatives to completely agree with you, do you?

You don’t need planners to match your thought process exactly, right?

You don’t require account directors to come up with precisely the same strategies that drive your actions, correct?

If agency people think differently than you do that can be good. Thank them.

Because they can help you guard against decline.

They can help you see your brand as all it can be.

They can help you cope with the disruption that regularly accompanies change.

They’re a weather eye against new developments in the marketplace.

They’re a safeguard against sticking with of old assumptions.

As contrarians they could be trying to save you from hitting the rocks.

To move your brand ahead and be better able to compete, informed pushback can help by challenging all you know. Or think you know.

After all, always seeing eye-to-eye with your agency people can lead to complacency.

The best agencies can help you avoid that by always aiming higher.

They can make you more self-critical and effective.

They can help you question old certainties and  strategies that have reached their use by date.

The best agencies can erase drabness in your communications. They can help you sidestep inert ideas and dullness in your messaging.

After all, they’re in the boredom alleviation business.

With a bit of well-judged audacity, like the Crazy Ones for Apple and Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty, they can help you stand out.

Agency people who are milquetoast and merely order-takers may not be the best choice for you.

Flip them the bird.

Because if you rely on yes men and women your competitors could get ahead and flip you the bird.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:







A Car That Inspires You To Write Better Content.

For greater performance other cars have a ‘sport mode’. But a Tesla Model S Dual Motor has an ‘Insane Mode’.
For added performance other cars have a ‘sport mode’. But a Tesla Model S Dual Motor offers you an ‘Insane Mode’.

Your Websites, emails, blogs, videos …

Are they packed with appeal and value?

Are they attracting customers from your competitors?

Are they resulting in more conversions?

Because without the kind of content that stops people, lengthens attention spans and creates the moment someone buys, your messaging is like a shirt with no buttons.

Nothing much comes together for you.

Actually Bill Bernbach said it best.

‘If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.’

So for attention-getting content, take a lesson from an unusual messaging source.

The touchscreen monitor of a new car … the Tesla Model S Dual Motor.

The Tesla may be electric but few other cars have the knack of alleviating boredom so thoroughly.

The ‘drive selector’, alone, is the opposite of monotony.

On the touchscreen you’ll see the normal ‘drive mode’ which makes for a quick car. Fast only begins to describe an all-wheel drive experience with two motors, one over each axle.

But instead of the usual ‘sport mode’ of other marques, you can shift to ‘Insane Mode’.

That’s how Tesla brands it.

Click this link for a demo:

You’ll want to note, ‘Insane Mode’ isn’t an exaggeration; Tesla isn’t riding on the street of dreams.

The Model S Dual Motor is faster than a Ferrari.

It beats many super cars in a telling way … the way Four of a Kind shades a Full House in poker.

But that’s not the whole story.

Because if you can resist wolf whistling the car for a moment, things get even faster.

Tesla is ahead of events. They’re planning to add even more oomph with a software upgrade.

It will accelerate you from ‘Insane Mode’ to what they call ‘Ludicrous Mode’.

The language here may be a bit over the top but it’s accurate.

We’re talking about the kind of speeds that might be more appropriately measured with a G-Force indicator than a speedometer.

It’s not enough to say Tesla has engineered a novel car.

They seem to have unlearned most of what everyone has said a car should be to create an electric car beyond expectation.

You get the feeling Tesla doesn’t look to anyone for how to think and proceed.

They follow their own approach to see cars as all they can be.

Even the language of the drive selector, with Inane Mode, is in line with that.

It’s messaging that intrigues first timers who slide behind the wheel.

How about your messaging, your content … is it working in the same way for your brand?

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:


Assumed Knowledge. Good Luck Trying To Succeed With That.

JD Salinger. His book, The Catcher in the Rye, was rejected at first. To date more than 65 million copies have been sold. The book continues to be a money-spinner with 250,000 sales every year.
JD Salinger. His book The Catcher in the Rye was rejected at first. Hard to believe.
Because to date more than 65 million copies have been sold. The book continues to be a money-spinner with 250,000 copies sold every year.

In 1950 a publisher called Eugene Reynal assumed nobody would read The Catcher in the Rye.

There’s an assumption for you.

He hated the book and refused it for publication as it was unlike anything else in print at the time.

He said it had to be rewritten with major changes to be more like the kind of books that were selling.

The character of Holden Caulfield needed to be completely re-done as well.

As we said … there’s an assumption for you.

Chances are you read The Catcher in the Rye and loved it.

If so, you’re among the 65 million people who bought the book.

65 Million books … how’s that for a money-spinner?

The fact is The Catcher in the Rye is still selling … 250,000 copies a year.

So much for Eugene Reynal.

But you may come across people like him in marketing and advertising.

We heard about one from an intern in a product company.

The ad agency came in after two unsuccessful tries to sell a new campaign.

Unhappily, it wasn’t a case of third time lucky.

A senior marketer rejected the campaign aimed at Millennials as it was like nothing he had ever seen before.

Even though it was on-brief there was no precedent for it.

Precedent was all important.

Equally, in a roundabout way the marketer said he ‘assumed’ the solution was going to be something else.

As you might have guessed, the intern thought differently.

His take was more along the lines of not-so-fast-on-the-rejection-thing’.

He realized originality made the brand stand out. It added appeal and a freshness.

Precedent didn’t come into it.

But nobody asked for his opinion.

Too bad.

Assumed knowledge killed off a strong idea.

Let’s hope it didn’t also kill off an intern’s desire to go into advertising.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:





If You’re a Skilled Marketer, Why Talk Gibberish To Prove It?

Jargon like 'matrix enterprise schemas' ... even Athenians would say 'it's all Greek to me'.
Jargon like ‘matrix enterprise schemas’ … even Athenians would say ‘it’s all Greek to me’.

We’re memorizing a list of unusual words to use when we’re stuck as Scrabble players.

Yeuk, yirth, ensky and huhly are among them.

They’re bound to rack up the score and upset competitors.

We’re heartless that way. Our cruelty knows no limits.

Ensky means ‘to exalt’, the rest are anybody’s guess.

To us Scrabble and high school vocabulary tests are the only places for unnecessarily complicated words.

Certainly they don’t belong in business if you want people to understand you.

These days you get a stunning amount of rubbish with expressions like matrix enterprise schemas, incubate granular methodologies and mesh frictionless technologies.

Who knows what they mean. It’s all Greek to us.

Who cares, other than those wannabes who use over-complicated words to feel superior to everyone else.

Why don’t they get a life.

After all, isn’t the importance of a marketer based on differentiating the brand?

Isn’t it reliant on imaginative planning?

Isn’t it about selling more product and gaining a bigger market share?

Most smart business people know one thing.

When it comes to success Δεν έχει τίποτε να κάνει με ρίχνοντας ορολογία.

Which is Greek for ‘it has nothing to do with spouting jargon’.

Share with us. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn: