by Jeff

Paul Wolfe was kind enough to nominate me for this “contest” and, in an effort not to let him down, I’ve produced the following rin response to the 7 questions / categories of links:

Your most beautiful post
While I hesitate to call any of my posts beautiful (as none of the prose qualifies), there have been one or two posts on beautiful and heartfelt subjects, and this interview with Steven Pressfield is one of them:
And just in case an “interview post” is considered cheating, I’ll throw this one in as well:
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of

Your most beautiful post

2011-04-28_1725While I hesitate to call any of my posts beautiful (as none of the prose qualifies), there have been one or two posts on beautiful and heartfelt subjects, and this interview with Steven Pressfield is one of them And just in case an “interview post” is considered cheating, I’ll throw this one in as well:

Your most popular post

2010-02-09_2309-203x300In looking back through Google Analytics, the front-runner for page views was this pre-release review of Dan and Chip Heath’s highly anticipated book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

But I tend to suspect that the front-runner position of that post has a lot more to do with the popularity of the Heath Bros’ (deservedly) best-selling book, and a lot less to do with any particular blogging excellence on my part. Luckily for me, my close-second most popular post was also my most controversial…

Your most controversial post

2011-11-10_1105I had no idea this post on the Website for Best Made Axe would be as controversial as it was, but I stand by my initial premise: if you’re going to declare yourself the “best made” it’s only natural to expect to find substantiation of that claim on your Website. When that evidence isn’t found on the site, it causes doubt in the mind of the consumer.

Fortunately for Best Made Co, they do so many other things right with their marketing, that the lack of substance on the Website hardly matters.  And I think it is to their great credit that both the head of Best Made Co.’s Facebook fan page and one of the founders of the company came to comment on the post.

Also, for what it’s worth, my intent with the post was always to help other small-scale producers understand an important aspect of persuasive websites, and not to slam Best Made Co. Anyway, it’s still good reading, IMHO:

Your most helpful post

Inception-Poster2-202x300This is a tough one because all of my posts are aimed at being helpful. But I think that this post managed to tie together a bunch of really worthwhile insights in an interesting and fun package centered around the blockbuster flick, Inception:

A post whose success surprised you

2010-01-25_1148-192x300This particular post was fairly personal and off-topic for me, so I was surprised to find out that it resonated with as many readers as it did.  Of course, after a moment’s reflection, it wasn’t surprising at all, since the core essay featured in the post has been consistently popular ever since it was first penned by Keith Bell.  Check it out, you’ll probably like it too:

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

on-a-mission-from-godI think most web and direct response copywriters have been so ingrained with the “reason-why” advertising mantra that we sometimes don’t know quite what to do when we’re either short on demonstrable points of difference or benefits, or legally prohibited from proclaiming them in our advertising. This post represents at least one tried and true solution to that problem, but it got precious little attention. I think you’ll like it:

The post that you are most proud of

moneyboothI’m proud to have written a handful of guest posts for Copyblogger, and especially proud of how well this one turned out. It was a very solid post to begin with and Sonia Simone did a brilliant job editing it while Brian Clark did his usual amazing job at creating a must-read headline:

And that’s it. Thanks for reading and a special thanks to Paul for nominating me to participate in this contest in the first place 🙂

Ever wonder what happened to Avis’s “We’re No. 2” campaign?

I always assumed Avis foolishly dropped it out of boredom. Some brand manager wanted to put his “mark” on things and foolishly killed the goose that was laying golden eggs. But that’s not nearly as interesting as what really happened…

See, a few years after Avis and Doyle Dane Bernbach launched their legendary campaign, Hertz (aka No. 1) got nervous about how quickly Avis was gobbling up their market share.  So Hertz got  wise and hired the other legendary creative agency of the day: Ally & Gargano.

And here’s the counter-campaign that Carl Ally created for Hertz:


Hertz basically took that “No. 2” position and rammed it right up Avis’s arse, detailing point by point what customers give up when they rent cars from the smaller company: locations, car selection, guaranteed performance, customer support infrastructure, etc.  And you gotta love that ending line: “No. 2 says he tries harder.  Than who?”

That counter-campaign went for the throat.  And the results show that it worked:

2011-11-03_2028 To the right you’ll see a snapshot from a leaf of a new book on Ally & Gargano.  You can find a digital version of the entire page here. But the important points to note are:

1) “After only 90 days from the start [of the campaign], Avis abandoned their extremely successful campaign and quickly created advertising with no references to Hertz, Trying Harder, or being Number 2.”

2) From the launch of the campaign at the tail-end of 1966, Avis’s market share flat-lined and Hertz maintained their position as the leader in the industry (which wouldn’t have happened had the earlier trends continued on for another 2 years).

And that’s what happened to the famed “We’re Number 2” advertising campaign.

So what are the lessons to take away from this?

First, I think Avis wimped out on this one. If they were vulnerable on their branding, it was because they weren’t factually living up to their “We Try Harder” claim. But even then, they could have re-vamped their customer experience and fought back rather than voluntarily surrendering the one campaign that was actually working for them.

Before the Avis campaign was launched in 1963, Bill Bernbach insisted that Avis revamp their fleet and actually improve the customer experience so that he had a “better reality” to advertise. If Avis was really serious about keeping the campaign — and they should have been — why didn’t they make another revamp and show exactly how they “tried harder” than Hertz

Second, you simply can’t afford to ignore great advertising. If a competitor has launched an immensely successful ad campaign that resonates with the public and that’s driving increased market share, you must respond. And the only way to do that is with great advertising of your own.

Third, counter branding works both ways. Ries and Trout famously advised challenger brands to “find the weakness in your competitor’s strength” and that’s exactly what Avis did with their “No. 2” campaign. But “Marketing is often a battle for legitimacy.  The first brand that captures that concept is often able to portray it’s competitors as illegitimate pretenders.”* And that’s how Hertz countered Avis’s counter branding — by recasting Avis as an illegitimate pretenders to the “customer service” throne.

At least, those are my takeaways.  I’d be thrilled to read yours in the comments…

* Quote taken from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Yesterday I was researching/browsing interesting and inventive print ads on the internet and came across this one:

25.creative-adsIf you can’t make out the print, it says “Extremely Fast Interent” right next to the brand name and logo of what I can only assume to be some kind of ISP.

Clever, right? But will it drive sales?

Probably not. And there’s two reasons for this:

1) No Call to Action

2) No supporting facts

Now, the call-to-action part is obvious to anyone with any direct response copywriting experience whatsoever. How do I find out more about this “extremely fast internet”? How can I tell if it’s offered where I live? In other words, how can I buy the darn thing, you’re supposedly offering for sale?

If you want people to respond (usually by buying) it helps if you give them clear, easy directions on how to do so. Sort of a no-brainer, that one is. But at the risk of drawing the ire of the DM crowd, I have to say that…

If I’m Interested Enough, I’ll Find My Own Path to Buying

While I don’t want to diminish the importance of the CTA, I really think that the absence of substantiating facts in this ad is, if anything, more harmful to its effectiveness than the lack of any sort of Call to Action.  If you get me interested enough in what you’re selling, I’ll figure out my next action on my own.  Google is great for that; I can just search “OI3 Netvision” and see what comes up — IF, and only if, I’m interested enough.

But I’ll never be interested enough if you just show me the clever visual analogy and think you’ve made your point. My natural instinct in this situation (really, anyone’s natural instinct) is to assume parity. You say you’re fast, but you’re probably no faster than my regular internet provider. Clever ad, but it’s still an ad, meaning its messaging is assumed to be self-serving bullshit until proven otherwise.

Factual Romance

And then there’s “Factual Romance.” Factual Romance is the term J. Peterman came up with to describe his philosophy towards product selection and merchandising, as used in this semi-famous quote:

“People want things that are hard to find. Things that have a romance, but a factual romance, about them.” – J. Peterman

And what I believe the man meant by this was romance bolstered by some hard truth or fact that prevented the logical mind of the buyer from dismissing the romance as so much self-serving BS.  J. Peterman can romance the Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella as the “King of Umbrellas” because it is, in fact, the umbrella of kings — the company actually has a Royal Warrant to provide umbrellas to the Royal Family.

Likewise, it’s fine to romance the speed of Netvision’s internet connection, but you’ve got to provide a bit of fact to go with it.  How much faster is it than regular DSL or the average cable modem?  What does that mean in terms of downloading a movie or talking over a VOIP connection?

Imagine that ad with a big, bold, white font on the back of the computer screen proclaiming “2X Faster than DSK.  Download High Definition movies in 3 minutes or less.” Wouldn’t that make for a more effective ad? Even without the CTA, it would at least get me interested enough to research the company/claims, and maybe, just maybe, stick in the back of my mind, should I ever become disenchanted with my current ISP.

Want an example of how to do this right? Check out this old Union Carbide commercial for their high-tech insulation:

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, they’ve got the drama of the baby chicken. What a great product demo. But they also provide lots of cool facts. Some stated plainly as facts, such as “it’s 25 to 100 times better than [any other insulation] we’ve had before.”  And some are stated in terms of concrete, almost dramatic examples: “One inch of super insulation wrapped around a railroad tank car can keep liquid helium at 420 degrees below zero all the way from New York to Los Angeles.”

The drama keeps you riveted to the screen in anticipation, and the facts let you know that it’s not BS. You leave convinced. And that’s what it takes for your ads, too — regardless of whether you’re using print, radio, TV, or Web-based advertising.

Or, as my business partner, Roy Williams puts it:

  • “Details and specifics add credibility. Names! Dates! Problems! Solutions! Any thing less is an unsub­stantiated claim and will be summarily dismissed by the customer.”
  • “Always sat isfy the left brain when you can. It holds veto power when the right brain wants to do some thing that is obviously dangerous or foolish. No, I’m not saying that logic trumps emotion. I’m saying only that lazy writers too often try to work the heart because it’s easier. They’re unwill ing to do the research and hard work required to sat isfy the mind.”