Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What's Your Commercial?

Back in my younger days (translated: a long time ago when the earth was green) when I worked evenings and weekends in a recording studio writing "lyrics" and "slogans" for jingles, I was fortunate to learn from some of the best in the market.

One of the best features of a great slogan &/or jingle was, and still is: BRIEF.

In fact, the shorter the better.

When working with multi-media - audio/visual - you have a slight advantage. Combining visual with a short, memorable and catchy phrase can stick in people's minds far longer.

Here's a fun example VISA used for the 2008 Olympics. Note the brevity in words:

But when working strictly with words, I think the shortest slogan (ever) used only ONE word, repeated THREE times.

Can you guess which word it was, and which car company used it?

I'll tell you in a second.

First, here are a few great, short, snappy slogans that either sum up their products in as few words as possible or that they've managed to marry well to their brand to paint a picture in your mind -- without using the actual brand name in the slogan. See if you recognize the product brands for each:

- Reach out and touch someone
- Plop, plop; fizz, fizz; oh what a relief it is.
- How do you spell relief?
- Finger lickin' good.
- M'm M'm Good
- Snap, Crackle, Pop
- They're G-r-reat!
- Let your fingers do the walking.
- The beer that made Milwaukee famous.
- The King of beers.
- Don't leave home without it
- The Greatest Show on Earth
- Good to the last drop
- Put a Tiger in Your Tank
- Oh what a feeling
- A little dab'll do ya

(Above, in order... AT&T, Alcaceltzer, Rolaids, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Campbell's Condensed Soup, Rice Krispies, Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes, Yellow Pages, Schlitz Beer, Budweiser Beer, American Express Card, Barnum & Bailey Circus, Maxwell House Coffee, Esso, Toyota, Brylcreem.)

Next, here are a few great, short, snappy slogans that use the actual brand name:

- You're in good hands with Allstate (Allstate Insurance)
- Doesn't your dog deserve ALPO? (Alpo Dog Food)
- Bayer works wonders (Bayer Aspirin)
- Flick your Bic (Bic Lighters)
- Burger King - the home of the Whopper (Burger King)
- Raid kills bugs dead (Raid Insecticide/Repellent)
- Come to Marlboro Country (Marlboro Cigarettes)
- Yahoo! Mountain Dew (Mountain Dew Soda)
- Tetley make tea-bags make tea (Tetley's tea)
- If it's got to be clean, it's got to be Tide (Tide Laundry Powder Soap)
- You're not fully clean until you're Zestfully clean (Zest Soap)
- Built Ford Tough (Ford Trucks)
- See the USA in a Chevrolet (Chevrolet)
- Cooks who know trust Crisco (Crisco Vegetable Shortening)

To state the obvious, the slogans above either describe their product (such as for Raid) or convey an emotion the advertisers want you to associate with their product (such as "trust" for Crisco).

Here is a fun exercise.

Describe your product, or an emotion you want people to associate with your product, in one paragraph. Then melt that paragraph down to a single sentence. Then melt it down even further to a short handful of words.

Fun, right?

Now, for the shortest slogan (ever) that used only ONE word, repeated THREE times, which was also a musical jingle...

"Zoom. Zoom. Zoom."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kindle Upgrades to Kindle2 the Year WWW Turns 20 and There is a Connection

Last Friday, March 13, 2009, the World Wide Web turned 20... not the Internet, but the World Wide Web.

Twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee authored "Information Management: A Proposal" which is described, in his own words, as follows:
This document was an attempt to persuade CERN management that a global hypertext system was in CERN's interests. Note that the only name I had for it at this time was "Mesh" -- I decided on "World Wide Web" when writing the code in 1990. [Link to Original Proposal by Tim Berners-Lee]
When you take a look at how far we've come, and how fast, it truly is one of the most breathtaking leaps forward that mankind has ever taken, agreed?

The hypertext mark-up language (HTML code) was young when I entered the online environment back in 1995... still near it's first basic version (HTML 2.0). Most of what I learned about HTML was self-taught by taking an excellent online tutorial course put on the World Wide Web by a student with Case Western University.

The free tutorial for HTML 2.0 is still available here.

It's a wonderful, step-by-step tutorial complete with Q & A "self-testing" interactive questionnaires at the end of each section to make sure you understand the content before moving on.

In all my years online, the above tutorial is the ONE THING that changed my life the most!

On the above site, you'll note that the HTML/XHTML and CCS (Cascading Style Sheets) in use today are different than the original HTML 2.0 ...but believe it or not, I still go back to basic HTML 2.0 when creating some sales pages, email templates and more for clients.

HTML 2.0 is clean, easily read by all browsers and fast-loading.

When you see so many adding little things like BOLD and COLOR and EMPHASIS to their web interactions (like in forums and elsewhere that HTML is accepted), having an understanding of the basics can go a long way to creating the look you want to achieve.

My Power Tip Today

I bring this up today, because of the Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation).

You see, raw HTML files are converted into Kindle format... BUT certain CCS and modern HTML/DHTML/XHTML files cannot always be converted/don't always work for the Kindle. Yes, you can also convert pdf documents into Kindle format but they don't always turn out perfectly.

Don't underestimate the popularity of the Kindle.

Most people who have tried it - ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT - both for it's quick portability of e-books, magazines, news, blogs and more - and also for it's convenience of being able to quickly download Kindle books via the Internet from the Kindle Store.

The Kindle utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint's 3G high-speed data network for FREE downloads from the Internet if you are within range. (They have a coverage map available through the Kindle 2 product page.)

If you've been considering creating/offering ebooks (or reports, or news, or more) online, you might want to consider offering a Kindle format in addition to other portable formats. It could turn out to be very profitable for your online venture!

And with that said, it might be helpful to know a bit about the original HTML that got us to where we are today.

Hope this helps! Stay tuned for more Power Tips coming soon...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Do You Twitter?

UPDATE: I posted my article regarding Twitter in the wee hours of the morning, not realizing that today, using Twitter would be taking an historical step. Check out this article: "John McCain to be "Twitterviewed": First interview conducted over Twitter" ---- needless to say, I followed both McCain and ABC's George Stephanopoulos as they went through the Interview, live, via Twitter. It was interesting to see Twitter applied in this way.

. . . . . . . . back to original post . . . . . . . . .

I've been experimenting with Twitter these past few weeks.

When I first signed up, I didn't "get" it. I couldn't help thinking to myself, "What's the big fuss all about?"

I mean, really... ?

You see, I started out online back in the days when ICQ was all the rage and IM was just starting to make moves to overtake it in popularity. Six computers, three moves and ten years later and I've long since lost my appetite (and login info) to both.

So I was over there, dabbling with Twitter, trying to figure out just what the heck it was that everyone thought was so cool about it.

And then one of the newsletters that I've been subscribed to mentioned they were on Twitter... and they included their Twitter link in the Newsletter.

That's when I discovered the "follow" function.

I thought, "Okay. This might be kind of cool. Get all the headlines before they even become headlines. I'll give it a shot."

So I clicked the little "follow" tab and that's when I noticed the "followers" section. Running my mouse over the followers following the newsletter in question I came across a few names I recognized.

I picked a few to check out their tweets -- and next thing you know -- I'm now following about a dozen.

Still, not completely convinced this would be something I could ever "get into" online, I left it at that for a few days, moving onto more interesting things. It was after those few days that another newsletter I was subscribed to handed me their twitter addy.

I clicked through, hit the little "follow" thingy... and believe it or not, that was the first time I actually saw the "home" link.

Clicking it, I certainly didn't expect to see the bunch of tweets waiting for me -- headlines I'd missed, links to some truly great online content, news, blogs. And I was stunned to find that I now had 5 people "following" me.

Following me? Imagine that.

Heck, I only had one tweet out there. (I believe it said something like "just checking this out")

Still, I wasn't entirely impressed with the "tweet" thing. (That was back on Sept/08)

Then February rolled around and one current event had me wanting to plug into a movement that was taking shape. I wanted to stay in front of what was happening, get the news before it became news, because I had a feeling it was shaping up into something pretty big (and of fair importance) here in this country.

So I found the twitterers that I needed to follow, the ones I knew would be "plugged in" to what was going on.

And sure enough, in just two days, I gathered all the information I needed on the subject... more than enough to write the article a client had requested. (Yes, I still do a bit of ghostwriting on the side.)

Same situation popped up in March, so I hopped over to Twitter and was amazed at how many people were now following me.

I'm still not sure why because I'm definitely not a very active tweeter.

But I may change that in the months ahead...

Maybe if I had a cell phone or other mobile device, I would have seen the value in this free service and respected it far more right off the bat. Thus far, it has proven to be a terrific resource for me.

So, here is My Power Tip on this.

If you're really looking to get "plugged in" on a subject or topic that you need to get a feel for what is going on before it makes headline news, a free twitter account can be an excellent asset to include with your other research tools.

It might take you awhile to find the best twitterers to follow to get the input you need ...but it's well worth it, IMHO.

And, like some on Twitter, it can also turn into a powerful way for you to get your own message out.

Check it out, then "follow" me on Twitter.

See you there...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stand Up and Be Counted America

It's a weekend...

I tend to be a bit more contemplative on weekends. It's also the time I use to catch up on reading emails and newsletters from the previous week so I can start the week ahead with a clean slate.

In the process of plowing through my inbox, I came across a link to one of my favorite online copywriting sources... and an article they posted on their blog which spurred me to leave the longest response I've ever given on a blog site.

It was in response to an article posted by Daniel Levis, entitled:

A Simple Recipe for Success
(Warning to Bleeding Hearts: Don’t Read This)

Before I copy my response to his article here, please let me state for the record -- in business, I am most certainly not described a "bleeding heart"

Nine years in Accounting (my first career) taught me the value of financial planning and analysis, the importance of cash flow projections and money management, and the simple steps any company can deploy for healthy, sustainable growth.

Thirteen years in Purchasing (my second career) taught me how to dig for the truth, find creative solutions to any problem, negotiate with both external and internal decision makers to always create a win-win-win situation, streamline supply chains to be the best that they can be... and oh so very much more.

And part time, on the side, throughout both careers I ran my own talent agency off and on for more than 17 years working with basement bands, start-ups, (my hobby career) that taught me so much about politics, media, promotions, communication skills, and -- well, the list is far too long to mention here.

Many perceived me as being tough as nails, but always fair and just in all transactions.

That's why, maybe, Daniel's article struck a nerve.

I felt he was neither being fair nor just to North Americans, painting them all with a shade of paint that was not fully deserved.

You can read his article here.

And, so you don't have to read through the many, many comments posted, here is what I wrote -- word for word...

Start copy.

Curious question for you, Daniel. How much “tweaking” do you have to do on the materials you have written for you by offshore sources?

I only ask because one of my clients insists on using a design company from “over there” and I have one heckuva time trying to tell them (the design company) and/or show them what changes need to be made on templates, etc. Even when I take actual screen shots and make changes to them so they can SEE what I’m talking about, it still takes several proofs before finally getting to the finished product.

I’ve been hoping and praying for over six years that this particular client will choose an English speaking source — preferably an American or Canadian source that doesn’t bloat the source code as much as most of those “offshore” professionals seem to do.

But then, most of them use off the shelf software for jobs and don’t even care enough to streamline the code.

Sometimes my client even uses that company to write the full content, then send it back to me for review and tweaking. I liken it to scraping sauce off spaghetti… it can get that messy.

You must have gotten very lucky to be able to find so many sources both fluent in English and who understand the “pulse” of North America.

I once listed a small contract on ELance and received the lowest — and best bid IMHO — from freelancers right here in the good old USA. What a relief that was! No communication breakdowns at all and the job went through under budget and under deadline.

We live in interesting times.

We are privileged to be eyewitnesses to a very important time in our planet’s history. I’m not talking about politics, the environment, nor the economy… I’m referring to the period of flux that mankind has been steadily marching towards for the past several decades.

Some unfortunate decisions have been made here in the USA this year.

Things are going to get tough… really tough.

It’s too late to turn back. We’ve already been hurtled forward on this crazy rollercoaster for what will surely be the most tumultuous ride of our lives.

Unlike what you infer by your post however, I believe the majority of North Americans (both in Canada and in the USA) are incredibly resourceful. I believe that they have many untapped strengths and talents… and I look forward to seeing them prove to the world how very strong, resilient and passionate they can be.

Admittedly, there are plenty of bad elements that have been allowed to take root and fester within…

But the heart and soul of North America (I include Canada in this as well), the part not reflected in the flyby media of today, still beats at the core of our nations.

Determination, persistence, resilience… it all still exists here at home. Compassion, integrity, faith… still ring true within many hearts across our great lands. Imagination, creativity and the unquenchable thirst for knowledge, truth and justice still beat in the hearts of many.

This might not be the land of the truly free that our forefathers wanted… but I dare say, this is still the land of the bravest in the world!

End copy.

And finally, the Power Tip I'm sharing in this post.

If you are not already signed on to Clayton Makepeace's "Total Package" newsletter (it's FREE) ...do it now. Some of the absolute BEST examples of advertising, promotion and copywriting come from this wonderful resource.

That's it for now.

See you tomorrow!

Blowing the Dust Off

Finally, as of April 23, 2009, I shall be officially semi-retired.

After 10 years of working full time from home as a copywriter/ghostwriter for so many small to medium sized businesses (and an occasional inventor or two) I'm finally doing what I've always wanted to do... write for myself.

But there is a catch.

You see, I've fallen into a habit. I'm hooked. I simply can't help writing for small business, nor would I want to.

So here is the dilemna.

Do I just drop it? ...quit cold turkey?

Nope. Can't be done. Nor would I want to walk away...

Instead, through this blog and a related website, I will be sharing some of the best tips and techniques for helping other businesses fully utilize the Internet and harness its true power to:
- boost profits
- save time
- cut expenses
- increase exposure
- drive online traffic
- capture leads
- power up conversions
- motivate website visitors
- encourage feedback and interaction...
and the list goes on.

You'll never know what little tip I'll be dropping here next.

It could be about a cool tool for affiliate marketing. It might be an mlm booster. Maybe even a self-publishing tip.

Maybe you'll like what you read.

Maybe you won't.

But I thank you for stopping by and look forward to sharing some of the many insights I've gained over the last decade working exclusively through the Internet.