Are You Looking in the Wrong Place For Digital Knowledge?

See the Internet for what it really is. As Malcolm Auld tells us, it's a pure Direct Marketing platform.
For knowledge about Direct Marketing and how to create more effective messaging, see the books below.

Some marketers seem to be better analysts than problem solvers.

They can sense difficulties in the marketplace but they’re not as cluey in dealing with them.

A case in point is optimizing brands in the Digital Age.

More than a few marketing people and traditional agencies have said they’re ‘steering into the unknown’.

Or they’re ‘feeling their way’ through it.

If that frames the situation, one wonders … how do you correct it? How do you advance?

For that, it’s always an idea turn to the experts.

One in particular is Malcolm Auld. His blog is and it’s well worth bookmarking.

Malcolm Auld defines the Internet as ‘a pure Direct Marketing platform’.

How right he is.

But this surprises many marketers and traditional agencies we know.

Their take is that Digital is futuristic, not something from the past.

Well, it’s true technology has changed, but people haven’t.

They continue to be human and they’re motivated by their emotions.

Equally, ‘response’ is what we value today as it leads to attitude changes and the moment someone acts or buys.

If that need for ‘response’ doesn’t define Direct Marketing, then what does?

So it stands to reason that a bit of knowledge about DM techniques can help.

Especially if it can take the guesswork out of creating content on the Web.

If you and your team value learning for gaining and renewing skills, there are plenty of books to give you a grounding in Direct Marketing.

It’s a grounding that benefits you with knowledge you can adapt for Digital communications.

Start with these five titles:

Common Sense Direct and Digital Marketing – Drayton Bird

 Tested Advertising Methods – John Caples 

 Scientific Advertising – Claude Hopkins

 How to Write a Good Advertisement – Victor Schwab

 The Robert Collier Letter Book – Robert Collier

Time spent with these books should give you a clearer idea of how to get results you can test and measure.

By helping you create more effective messaging it can lower your risk of investing dollars in marketing.

It can make it easier for you to compete.

And at a time when you want to be a more effective it can help you become one thing better than a marketer.

A Direct Marketer who can get people to respond.

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Slow Dynamite. Don’t Look Now But You’re Sitting on a Stick of It.

Tennessee Williams wrote 34 plays, Sweet Bird of Youth being one of them.
Tennessee Williams wrote 34 plays, Sweet Bird of Youth being one of them.

Slow dynamite is the way Tennessee Williams characterized the ravages of time.

It’s a gradual explosion that changes everything.

The expression comes from his play, Sweet Bird of Youth.

As slow dynamite applies to marketing, how are you coping? How are you dealing with changes over time?

It’s a fair question as many agree, change is the biggest challenge we face today.

That’s change in consumer attitudes and the way brands are seen.

It’s the way people view social media and the intrusions that have come with online messaging.

As to the last, we’re thinking of pre-rolls, page take-overs, pop-ups and ads that pursue you around the Web.

Pesky stuff.

Little wonder ad blocking is seen as a new form of self-defense.

There’s also change in technology, the marketplace and development of new products.

There’s change in the way your competitors operate.

More to that, change can extend to old companies that suddenly get re-energized or merge to become a threat to your sales efforts.

American Airlines, General Motors and now maybe Kodak fall into that category.

It includes overseas companies that come to America to take brand share as well as start-ups like Uber and Airbnb that emerge to change the economic landscape.

It’s all part of dynamite that doesn’t seem so slow these days. Moore’s Law is one reason why.

But for too many people — those in management, marketing and sales  — change is little more than an academic issue.

They talk about it; they put the idea of it on a pedestal.

But they live in the comfort of routine.

Could that be an inescapable human trait? That was a question a TED Talk speaker asked his audience recently.

One thing’s pretty clear, as security feels better than risk many people do things by habit.

It’s easy to slot in to convention and uniformity as you operate under the illusion you’re forging ahead.

Adding to that, the American writer Paul Auster has suggested:

Failure is measured by the

number of routines you have.

He could have a point there. Maybe he should expand on it in a TED Talk.

After all, when you give yourself over to habit you may miss the way consumer thinking and competitor efforts are changing.

The world can pass you by.

In that situation slow dynamite isn’t the worry.

It’s fast dynamite that’s the challenge.

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Just the Thing for Marketers. Poetry.

When he first came to America the name Dylan was mostly unknown. So Dylan Thomas coached the press on the pronunciation with the line, It's Dylan as in Penicillin.
When he first came to America the name Dylan was mostly unknown. So Dylan Thomas coached the press on the pronunciation with the line, It’s Dylan as in Penicillin.

When the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas came to the United States in 1953 he was met at the airport by the press.

They mobbed him and wanted to know if he’d written new poems.

He said yes he had some recent ones.

As he was swept out of the airport on a tide of photographers, blinding flash bulbs and badgering reporters he said he also had written some decent ones.

Then he turned to all assembled, stopped them in their tracks and gave them an effortless account of his writing:

‘I’ve written some recent ones,

some decent ones

and some recent decent ones’.

The press broke up laughing.

They were delighted with the answer. The impromptu performance surprised them.

Surprise value also serves marketers well when communicating with a target audience.

You could say it’s the most important thing about commercial messaging.

That and the fact that brands should always be presented anew.

Saying or showing something surprising, new and unexpected is what stops people and extends attention spans.

It makes it easier for a brand to compete.

Put another way, it helps you become a real problem for your competition.

Southwest Airlines has a handle on that.

Remember the line, ‘Ding. You are now free to move about the country’.

There’s bags of character in that. It’s both surprising and unexpected.

It’s the opposite of the ‘try-hard thing’ which gives it surprise value.

Of course, Southwest is still at it with funny flight attendant announcements and safety briefings that are near enough sidesplitting.

You’ve seen them. And no doubt you laughed.

Why bother to create work like this, why go the surprising route at all?

As Dylan Thomas would have told you, you have to give people something if you want them to remember you.

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Order Online, Get Your Delivery By Drone in 30 Minutes.

A problem for UFO hunters, an advantage for the rest of us. When Amazon starts delivering orders with drones.
Confusion for UFO hunters, but an advantage for the rest of us. When Amazon starts delivering orders with drones.

Here’s a story the author Joseph Heller told about writers and an unusual way to buy a book.

Years ago in Manhattan bookstores like Doubleday on Fifth Avenue novelists stole the show.

They set up their manual typewriters in the shop window and worked on their latest book.

Anyone happening by on the sidewalk could see an author typing away or gazing into space to figure out a twist in the plot.

As pages were written they were taped to the inside of the window for all to see.

Often crowds gathered in front of this goldfish bowl as it came with no small measure of curiosity.

If you went inside you could pre-order the book and it would be signed for you when published.

With Amazon there might be a way to revive the ‘unpublished pages promotion’, albeit in a slightly different way.

It could be a way for Amazon to introduce the drone delivery service they’re developing.

As you probably know it’s called Amazon Prime.

Order something online and you’ll be able to have it delivered within 30 minutes. Depending on where you live, of course.

If you happen to be a Maine lighthouse keeper you’ll have seagulls for company, not the Amazon Drone.

So how do you get a delivery?

They’re working on it. But we’ve heard you might be supplied with a large Amazon logo stamped on a plastic sheet.

Your role in the delivery process is to lay the logo out in your backyard or on your apartment rooftop.

Presumably that’s how the drone zeros in on you.

As you read this, a drones-only airspace is being proposed and Federal flight regulations are being hammered out.

Meanwhile, to promote the service, sample pages from an unpublished book could be drone-dropped to you 30 minutes after the author writes them.

Too bad we didn’t have this when JK Rowling was going full blast with Harry Potter.

A drone service might prompt you to order all that goes with a good book.

Reading glasses, a standard lamp, a bookshelf and a set of wine glasses.

Maybe even an easy chair, as a drone’s hauling capacity can be surprising.

In years to come you might be able to order a piano online and have it flown in.

After all, some military drones can manage a takeoff weight of three tons.

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon might tell you, that amounts to more than a few books.

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‘I’d Rather Set Fire To My Own Hair Than Read Boring Content.’ So Says Our Intern.

Content without a powerful headline is like handing someone a newspaper with the front page torn off ...
Content without a powerful headline is like handing someone a newspaper with the front page torn off and …

If you’re anything like people in our office, you’d rather set fire to your own hair than read boring ads, emails, and Websites.

They’re a chore.

You’d be right to say many are indifferent; they’re often just time-expired ideas, leaving you with the feeling you’re on a hopeless journey.

Why bother.

What’s worse is content without a strong headline. You’re left with a wodge of words that do little to stir curiosity.

Just hold this in your hands and try to get interested.
… expecting them to get interested .

Content without an intriguing headline is like handing someone a newspaper with the front page torn off and expecting them to get interested.

It’s not going to happen, is it?

If you’re writing a Tweet, a landing page or say, a social media post about a brand of raspberry jam, why not say something unexpected?

Something that’s not the usual bollocks.

Remember that old rule about not being allowed to watch TV on a school night?

That could well apply to buckling down after hours to learn how to write better headlines.

A place for marketers and agency people to start is The Copywriter’s Bible.

It shows you how 32 of the world’s best advertising writers write their copy.

It’s where you’ll find an escape from all that’s dull and inert.

It’s applicable to the Digital Age or any age as it’s about triggering human motivation.

Dare we say it, that includes sales.

Remember selling?

Here you’ll learn how to communicate with wit, charm and reasoned thinking.

An example is an ad that ran in the UK for The Solicitors’ Regional Directory.

On the face of it that sounds like a book that’s dead boring. A yawn.

The visual for the ad is three conservative looking men in suits carrying briefcases. Three straight arrows.

The headline is ‘Which one of these men do you think would be best at rape?’

It turns out that the men are all solicitors. One is better at bankruptcy, one at property and one at crime.

The Solicitors’ Regional Directory helps you choose the best legal representative for the job when you’re in dire need.

As when you or someone close to you has been raped.

Suddenly The Solicitors’ Regional Directory becomes valuable. Essential, really.

Of course, headlines and content should always be good enough to raise the value of a product.

They should add to its worth and help to polish the brand.

Anything less and your customers are left to do one thing.

Set fire to their own hair.

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A Quiz for You.

Questions, questions, questions. But those who have in-depth marketing knowledge from listening to their target audience are often immune to not knowing.
Questions, questions, questions. But those who have in-depth marketing knowledge from listening to their target audience are often immune to not knowing.

Start thinking in a Jeopardy sort way. But in reverse.

The answer is ‘What is Marketing?’

Now, what’s the question?

You’d be surprised at some of the responses at a recent seminar.

Some were War and Peace in length, only slightly abridged and minus a plot.

You need a sabbatical after enduring  a long-winded explanation like that.

Other answers were half-baked and tinpot ideas.

They were enough to put you in mind of a fifth grade teacher who writes ‘Must try harder’ on a  D-student’s report card.

One bright spark stood up proudly and said ‘marketing is marketing your product across all channels including Facebook’.

Another said something like, ‘It’s the process whereby certain products are given prominence against a pre-determined budget and target audience activity with ROI in the forefront and …’

Had you been there, you would have had to sit tight as another 76 or so words followed. Some of the words had more than four syllables.

In our office, marketing is defined in four words.

‘Helping people choose you.’

Isn’t it that simple?

That straightforwardness should lead to  more organized minds, better focus and messaging that can extend attention spans.

More to ‘organized minds’, many now agree we all need  to avoid one disorganized thought about content today.

Too many marketers presume their target audience is attentive and interested. They’re chauvinists when it comes to their brands

But do people really give a fig about brands? They’re not  living  just to connect with products on Facebook, are they?

No way they are, says the intern who comes into our office two days a week.

You have to work hard to earn market attention.

To ensure people choose you takes focus. And skill.

The kind of skill that sees marketers and agency people open to lifelong learning and keen to listen to the target audience.

Surprisingly some marketers and agency staff aren’t great listeners.

Too many fall down in this area and operate with assumed knowledge and opinions.

Opinions … what are they in a constantly changing marketplace but iffy thinking without data.

With that said, let’s double back to the thought on ‘skill’.

If the answer is ‘What is skill?, what’s the question?

How about this?

The opposite of half-baked, tinpot ideas. And four-syllable words.

Share with us. Have you found books on marketing that give you the skills to compete in a more effective way? Scroll down and leave your comment. Thanks, Steve Ulin

‘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’?

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User-Written Reviews. Now You’ll Have To Start Listening to 12-Year-Olds.

When kids travel with their parents where can they go ice skating? Where can they find an old-fashioned soda shoppe? Where can they fly a kite? Where can they find kids’ meals that are yum?
When kids travel with their parents where can they go ice skating? Where can they find an old-fashioned soda shoppe? Where can they fly a kite? Where can they find kids’ meals that are yum?

TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor.

It wouldn’t be surprising if you logged on multiple times to arrange your travel plans.

As we all know, TripAdvisor is more than useful when it comes to reviews and Travelers’ Choice destinations.

If you’re an adult, that is.

If you’re a kid, forget it.

No kids write reviews on TravelAdvisor.

If you happen to be 12 you’re too young to register.

So while parents can look forward to reading about the thread count of sheets in a smart hotel, nobody is writing to warn kids about lumpy rollout cots.

Or those uninviting kids’ meals of warmed up chicken tenders.

Or the babysitter who is more focused on a visit by her boyfriend than her charges.

TripAdvisor won’t tell kids anything like that.

But if you were a kid you’d want to be in the know, wouldn’t you?

You’d want to know, is there’s an ice skating rink near your hotel?

How do you find the Sheep Meadow in Central Park to fly a kite?

Is there’s a doll museum nearby?

Is there a firehouse in the area that does tours for kids?

What can kids do in places like San Diego, Philadelphia or Nashville?

Until now there were no answers.

But was invented by a 12-year-old Australian girl called Bella Tipping.

You might say it’s like TripAdvisor but with a refreshing difference.

The reviews are written by kids for kids.

They make for great reading.

Bella Tipping says adults have a better travel experience than kids because their online reviews make hotels and airlines work for continuous improvement.

Right enough.

So Kidzcationz is bound to prompt improvements for kids to make family vacations better.

Meanwhile, Kidzcationz is an ambitious startup.

It might make Mark Zuckerberg wonder why he wasn’t doing something equally impressive at age 12.

Kidzcationz is niche thinking to be admired, whether it’s started by a 12-year-old or a few 21-year-olds.

More to that, a CEO client of ours wants to be advised the minute Bella Tipping turns 18.

He wants her to come work for him … ahem, Mark.

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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.

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Just What You Need in the 21st Century. 17th Century Thinking.

Isaac Newton, 1689, by Godfrey Kneller. It wasn’t until 1705 when Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. From then on he was Sir Isaac Newton.
Isaac Newton, 1689, by Godfrey Kneller. In 1705  Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. From then on it was Sir Isaac Newton.

You can’t beat Thursdays. Dinner with friends is on the calendar.

Chosen restaurants are usually in the back of beyond — somewhere in the Five Boroughs of New York City.

Join us and you might find yourself having Italian on Staten Island, seafood in Far Rockaway or Ethiopian on West 135th Street.

You won’t go begging for variety.

While we’re all good friends, our group still sets ground rules. Nobody talks about himself/herself.

The me-me-me-thing is out.

So the conversation is often more than passable.

Recently a quote from Sir Isaac Newton came up.

‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’

That dates from around 1689 or so, early in the Enlightenment.

To us the message is clear: ‘pay attention to those who know’.

As dinner friends we do just that.

We stand on each other shoulders, so we reckon we’re something like 42-feet tall when together.

Of course, you can stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to your communications.

You can learn from the giants of marketing and advertising.

That should encourage you to make your messaging less about your company and product and more about your target audience.

Bill Bernbach took that approach.

Those like Bernbach — Howard Gossage, David Ogilvy and John Caples — would probably say, you need to concentrate on your customers’ needs, wants and problems.

Why haven’t all marketers learned this? Where’s the enlightenment?

After all, your prospects’ perceptions outweigh a CMO’s opinion about his/her brand.

That opinion often equates to what people already know or believe. Will that quicken heartbeats? Not really.

You don’t have to be Isaac Newton to understand that the answer to marketing problems — both online and brick and mortar — lies in the way customers think.

They’re the ones who dip into their wallets for you.

So write accordingly.

Instead of beginning Web content or an email, with words like ‘We’, ‘I’, ‘Our’, ‘My’ or ‘Here at the XYZ Company’, put your customers first.

Ban the ‘me’ words.

Make your first word ‘You’, then craft your customer benefit message from there.

That way you’re on the shoulders of giants instead of struggling somewhere below.

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