If Your Brand Voice Guide is noth­ing but a word cloud of aspi­ra­tional adjec­tives, it’s a worth­less document.

Most style guides are useless.

And, no, I’m not talk­ing about visual style guides that spec­ify fonts and logos and CMYK codes for brand colors.

I’m talk­ing about style guides focused on Brand Voice — Copy Bibles, if you will. I’ve seen a few scores of them over the years, and 95% have been utterly worthless.


Because they mainly con­sist of Brand Voice descrip­tions along the lines of:

  • Wid­get Incorporated’s Brand Voice is mainly pro­fes­sional with a hint of humor.” Or
  • Our voice is human and quirky.” Or
  • ACME Corp is always respect­ful and hon­est in their communications.”

In other words, these doc­u­ments are often noth­ing but an adjec­tive word cloud put into guide­line format.

There are no hard and fast rules (or even rules of thumb) in these so-called guide­lines.  Nor are there any prac­ti­cal direc­tions around how the brand’s “human­ity” (or what­ever) will be com­mu­ni­cated in a com­mer­cial, e-mail, or Web page.

And, no, gram­mar guide­lines don’t count. Cut­ting and past­ing var­i­ous bro­mides from The Ele­ments of Style into a Copy Bible won’t auto-magically pro­duce a rec­og­niz­able voice.

None of this stuff will let a pro­fes­sional copy­writer (let alone your aver­age employee) cre­ate copy that sounds “pro­fes­sional but quirky.”  Or that has any kind of dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­ity whatsoever.

The Road Runner’s Style Guide

Want to see a style guide done right? Here’s Chuck Jone’s style guide for The Road Run­ner Cartoons:


What’s great about this style guide?

  • Notice that these aren’t guide­lines; they’re freak­ing rules. Rules with words like “Never” and “Always” and “All” and “No.”
  • Notice also that these rules are all astound­ingly specfic.
  • Finally, and per­haps most impor­tantly, these rules are aimed at estab­lish­ing the inter­nal logic of the Road Runner’s world.

Inter­nal Logic, baby!

Because world build­ing is what real writ­ers worry about. And world build­ing is all about estab­lish­ing the inter­nal logic, the lim­i­ta­tions, and yes, the rules of a given world.

THIS is the stuff that cre­ates a dis­tinct voice and per­son­al­ity. This is the stuff that sep­a­rates Star Trek from Star Wars from Dune. Dif­fer­ent worlds, dif­fer­ent inter­nal logic, dif­fer­ent ideas about what the char­ac­ters can and can not do.

It’s why J.K. Rowl­ing spent 5 years estab­lish­ing the rules for Harry Pot­ter before ever pub­lish­ing the first book:

“The five years I spent on HP and the Philosopher’s Stone were spent con­struct­ing The Rules. I had to lay down all my para­me­ters. The most impor­tant thing to decide when you’re cre­at­ing a fan­tasy world is what the char­ac­ters CAN’T do…you can tell with The Simp­sons. It’s a work of genius. You can tell that they’ve struc­tured it in such a way that they’re never at a loss for what their char­ac­ters can and can’t do. That’s why they’re so believ­able — even though they’re lit­tle yel­low people.”

If your Brand Voice guide or Style Guide doesn’t fit this pro­file — if it doesn’t build a world with inter­nal logic and hard and fast rules — then you prob­a­bly need to get your­self a new style guide, if not a new ad con­sul­tant altogether.

P.S. Hat tip to Suzanne Pope’s Ad Teach­ings blog for the image of Chuck Jones’ Road Run­ner rules. 

P.P.S. After a bit more research, I found out that there were two more rules for The Road Runner:

Ira’s third video on sto­ry­telling is by far the most popular.

So much so that it has been fea­tured on numer­ous blogs and even been turned into an Kinetic Typog­ra­phy video. Take a look:

YouTube Preview Image

Basi­cally, Ira Glass is describ­ing the pos­i­tive side of the Dunning-Krueger effect.

The Dunning-Krueger effect basi­cally says that the per­cep­tive abil­i­ties, sen­si­tiv­ity, and aware­ness nec­es­sary to know that you suck at some­thing, are the same per­cep­tive abil­i­ties, sen­si­tiv­ity and aware­ness nec­es­sary to (even­tu­ally) become skilled at that very thing.

So if you have good taste — the afore­men­tioned per­cep­tion, sen­si­tiv­ity and aware­ness — then you have the poten­tial to become good, or even great, but you’re stuck mak­ing stuff that you know kind of sucks until your craft skills catch up with your taste and ambition.

Believe it or not, that’s the pos­i­tive side of the Dunning-Krueger effect. The neg­a­tive side is that the totally incom­pe­tent lack the abil­ity to sense their own incom­pe­tence. They suck like a hoover, but think they’re great.

But the pos­i­tive side is only pos­i­tive if:

  1. You retain your ambi­tion to be great and don’t set­tle for becom­ing a hack, and
  2. You work through that awful feel­ing of know­ing you are con­sis­tently cre­at­ing stuff that’s “not that great,” as Ira puts it.

And while this might have very self-evident rel­e­vance for cre­atives and crafts­peo­ple of all kinds, includ­ing copy­writ­ers and adver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion­als, this video’s rel­e­vance to adver­tis­ers and busi­ness own­ers might not be so evident.

So I’m going to give you my spin on it…

From an adver­tis­ers per­spec­tive, I think this video speaks to:

  • Lin­ear, no-threshold thinking,
  • Min­i­mum Effec­tive Dose, and
  • Cumu­la­tive Effect

Lin­ear, No-Threshold Thinking

Lin­ear, no-threshold think­ing assumes that a func­tion is pre­dictably scal­able. That if you do twice as much, or half as much, you’ll get dou­ble or half of the result.

But more often than not, there are thresh­olds and inflec­tion points, and dimin­ish­ing returns which make lin­ear, no-threshold think­ing dan­ger­ously mis­guided. If you buy a ticket halfway to Europe, you don’t end up with a half a Euro­pean vaca­tion; you just end up stranded at sea. 80% of the parts of an engine don’t get you 80% of the horsepower.

And to bor­row an exam­ple from my part­ner, Roy H. Williams, if…

Reli­able data tells us exactly how many motor­cy­cle rid­ers have died try­ing to nav­i­gate an S-curve at 100 miles per hour. The straight­for­ward logic of tra­di­tional account­ing, with its lin­ear, no-threshold think­ing, pre­dicts one-tenth as many deaths at 10 miles per hour.

But we know this is ridicu­lous. The num­ber of rid­ers that die at 10 or 20 miles per hour is likely to be zero. There is a thresh­old speed at which the curve becomes dan­ger­ous. Any extrap­o­la­tion that crosses that thresh­old is cer­tain to be inaccurate.”

These kinds of thresh­olds are inevitable when deal­ing with human response. Espe­cially when it comes to adver­tis­ing. There is a thresh­old of inter­est, rel­e­vance, and impact for ads: the thresh­old which moves an ad from back­ground noise into con­scious aware­ness. If any ad fails to reach that thresh­old, it becomes essen­tially invis­i­ble, and would require nigh-unto-infinite rep­e­ti­tion to get results.

And assum­ing that you have given your ad writer some­thing worth say­ing, then the fac­tors which deter­mine whether your ad crosses that thresh­old are what Ira Glass might call the taste, ambi­tion, and hon­esty of your ad writer.


If your ad writer is a hack — if he accepts adspeak, hype, and adver­tis­ing cliches, or tries to bluff with fluff on the pro­duc­tion side — then your ads are never likely to cross the thresh­old of impact. And no mat­ter how much fre­quency you load into your ad sched­ule, your ads won’t move the nee­dle on sales.

If your ad writer aspires to be great and has a mod­icum of tal­ent and craft skills, then your ads will likely cross the impact thresh­old. As Leo Bur­nett said, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a hand­ful of mud either.”

And of course, it’s not only a mat­ter of impact­ful vs. not impact­ful. It’s also a mat­ter of how impact­ful. The more impact your ad car­ries, the less rep­e­ti­tion is required. LBJ’s “Daisy” ad is a clas­sic exam­ple of an ad so pow­er­ful, it only required one air­ing to make an impact (pun intended):

YouTube Preview Image

And, this is where tal­ent and craft really take over from taste and ambi­tion. The more skilled and tal­ented your ad writer, the more impact he (or she) can bake into your ads.

Min­i­mum Effec­tive Dose

What do you think will hap­pen to your head­eache if you take 20 mg of Ibuprofin?

Noth­ing, right? Because while Ibuprofin can be a god­send for get­ting rid of headaches, the min­i­mum effec­tive dose is 200mg, with most adults tak­ing 400mg or more.

If you take sig­nif­i­cantly less than 200mg, you’ll recieve no benefit.

Sim­larly, If you go the gym for a day or even a week and com­plain that it didn’t work, you sim­ply didn’t meet the require­ments of the min­i­mum effec­tive dose. You’ll see some ben­e­fits at the end of a month, but plan on 90 days for real changes that oth­ers will com­ment on.

And it’s no coin­ci­dence that Stephen King com­pares writ­ing to weightlift­ing. Want to be a pro­fes­sional writer? Bet­ter be pre­pared to put the time in every day becom­ing a “stronger” writer. Just like Ira Glass says about doing great cre­ative work.

The same thing applies to Advertising.

Most mass-media brand­ing cam­paigns require enough fre­quency and duration—enough of a min­i­mum effec­tive dose—to really work their magic. You might get lucky and see some results in 90 or 180 days, but plan on a full year or longer at a high enough fre­quency of ads to get a min­i­mum effec­tive dose.

And just like with work­ing out (or, in Ira’s case, with doing great cre­ative), there’s a cer­tain level of frus­tra­tion and chick­en­ing out you just have to work through. Be pre­pared for this chick­en­ing out period, and take Ira’s advice: fight your way through it.

Cumu­la­tive Effect

Cumu­la­tive Effect is the other side of the coin from Min­i­mum Effec­tive Dose. Assum­ing your ad passes the thresh­old for rel­e­vance and impact, and that you’ve sched­uled enough fre­quency to give the audi­ence a min­i­mum effec­tive dose, the per­sua­sive power of your ad will build over time.

You might just be start­ing to see results at the end of a year, but those results will accu­mu­late and build. You’re not start­ing over each year, you’re stand­ing on the per­sua­sive results you gained from the year before.

For Ira Glass, the cumu­la­tive effect of doing a lot of ambi­tious work and work­ing through your frus­tra­tion period is to break­through into the abil­ity to speak in your real, authen­tic voice, and to do inter­est­ing and spe­cial cre­ative work that matters.

For adver­tis­ers, the cumu­la­tive effect of your adver­tis­ing is cer­tainly about increas­ing your mar­ket share and mov­ing the nee­dle on sales. But it’s also about find­ing your adver­tis­ing voice and hit­ting peak stride in your ads and campaigns.

Most TV shows, and espe­cially most come­dies, get bet­ter after a sea­son or two. The Simp­sons first sea­son wasn’t as good as what was to come. It took a sea­son or two to really hit its stride. Same thing with Sein­feild. And most adver­tis­ing cam­paigns are like that. The results build with time, but so does the authen­tic­ity of the voice and the impact of indi­vid­ual ads.

And that folks, is what I took away from Ira’s third video on sto­ry­telling. If you saw some­thing else in the video, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



by Jeff

137929257Those 4 words are the most opened e-mail sub­ject line most peo­ple have ever tested: “You are not alone.”

And while that’s a nice Cliff Claven-esque CRO tip to throw out, it’s ask­ing WHY that’s such a pow­er­ful sub­ject line that’ll get you somewhere.

Here’s why:


Or if that’s not quite explicit enough, per­haps this will be:

YouTube Preview Image

Because if your ads aren’t doing any of those things, they’re prob­a­bly not doing much of any­thing else, either.

Selfies suck. They're even worse as advertising.

Self­ies suck. They’re even worse as advertising.

What are the two biggest mis­takes in advertising?

Depends on who you ask.

My part­ner, Roy Williams, has a list of The 12 Most Com­mon Mis­takes in Adver­tis­ing that’s awfully hard to argue with. But they’re the most com­mon mis­takes, not “biggest.” Plus, they are 12 of them.

For me, the biggest mis­take is cre­at­ing great adver­tis­ing for a lousy prod­uct. By putting the adver­tiser out of busi­ness that mis­take will have the biggest neg­a­tive repurcussions.

Once you take that off the table, though, then I’d list:

  1. Not say­ing any­thing that’s worth say­ing (let alone adver­tis­ing), and
  2. Bor­ing your audi­ence with ignor­able and for­getable ads

Ira Glass’s Two Biggest Mis­takes in Advertising

But if you ask Ira Glass, he’d tell you the two biggest mis­takes are:

  1. Using an inau­then­tic, over-hyped “voice” or pre­sen­ta­tion style, and
  2. Keep­ing the focus on your­self instead of the customer

Don’t believe me? Check him out:

YouTube Preview Image

In other words, respect your audience.

Respect them by talk­ing to them like a friend,  one sit­ting right next to you at the bar. And respect them by keep­ing the focus of the ad on them and what mat­ters to them, rather than on yourself.

Use Real Peo­ple Lan­guage. Talk Like a Friend

Here’s how all-time copy­writ­ing leg­end Bob Lev­ensen says to do it:

“Start off with ‘Dear Char­lie,’ then say ‘this is what I want to tell you about. Make believe that the per­son you’re talk­ing to is a per­fectly intel­li­gent friend who knows less about the prod­uct than you do. Then, when you’ve fin­ished writ­ing the copy, just cross out ‘Dear Char­lie’.“

This is the same guy who told us that most intel­li­gent peo­ple ignore adver­tis­ing because most adver­tis­ing ignores intel­li­gent peo­ple. And he was right.

So skip the hype, the pre-amble, the hemmin’-‘n-hawin’, and just say the thing.

Instead of wast­ing your cre­ativ­ity on witty, charm­ing, and clever lan­guage, save it for fig­ur­ing out how to be believ­able and cred­i­ble and to best sub­stan­ti­ate or dra­ma­tize your major claim.

Ditch Your We-We: Keep Your Focus on the Customer

Most adver­tis­ers try to stay cred­i­ble by focus­ing on why they’re bet­ter than the com­pe­ti­tion. Not a bad thing to do.

Unfor­tu­nately, they for­get to tie those dif­fer­en­tia­tors back to ben­e­fits that the cus­tomer will actu­ally care about. Instead they just thump their chests and make We-We claims:

  • We’re the best at this,
  • We’re num­ber one at that,
  • We’ve been in busi­ness since 1893.

We this, we that, and they we-we-we all the way home, and all over them­selves in their ad copy.

Everyone’s Favorite Radio Station

Ditch the we-we and take up the you-you. Make the cus­tomer the hero and the focus of the ad. Remem­ber your copy­writ­ing basics: always answer “What’s In It For Me?” for your customers.

WIIFM: everybody’s favorite radio sta­tio, play­ing 24–7 in their heads.

The good news is that ditch­ing the we-we, switch­ing to you-you, and answer­ing WIIFM makes it a lot eas­ier to talk to your audi­ence in a human voice.

And get­ting back to my list of mis­takes, it’ll also ensure you have some­thing worth say­ing, and keep you from bor­ing your audi­ence. Way to go, Ira. Thanks for your won­der­ful, won­der­ful radio show, and all the great sto­ry­telling (and adver­tis­ing) advice.

Now all you have to do is make sure your prod­uct lives up to its advertising ; )

P.S. Yes, I skipped Part III. I’ll cir­cle back to that later this week or early next week. Trust me, that les­son will work best com­ing last. 



by Jeff


Where’s the Beef?

Imag­ine you’ve been hired to cre­ate a PSA for the local police. Too many peo­ple are speed­ing in res­i­den­tial areas, and the police want a PSA-style radio ad designed to get peo­ple to slow down.

What kind of ad do you create?

If you’re like most adver­tis­ers, you DON’T dig for the facts and the insights and the logic. You won’t research the issue, and that means it’ll be tough to put real sub­stance behind your messaging.

Instead, you jump right to brain­storm­ing ways to dra­ma­tize  your safety mes­sage: How can we cre­ate the most shock­ing, dra­mat­i­cally pow­er­ful ad, built around a “Don’t speed or lit­tle johny will get hit by a car” premise.

And because you skipped that essen­tial first step of dig­ging for sub­stance, you’ll never get the chance to cre­ate some­thing as awe­some as this:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you hit me at 40 mph there’s around an 80% chance I’ll die. Hit me at 30 and there’s around an 80% chance I’ll live.”

You wouldn’t cre­ate that because you (likely) didn’t stop to ask: why is the speed limit set at that speed to begin with?

In order to say some­thing pow­er­fully, you must start by hav­ing some­thing pow­er­ful to say.

And that means you have to spend as much time look­ing for the “stuff” of your ads (or radio drama) as you do writ­ing or pro­duc­ing them. Which is exactly what Ira Glass says in Part II of his video series on storytelling:

YouTube Preview Image

The amount of time find­ing the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to pro­duce the story. And that as some­one who wants to do cre­ative work, you actu­ally have to set aside just as much time for the look­ing for stories…

…I think that, like, not enough gets said about the impor­tance of aban­don­ing crap.” — Ira Glass

I con­cur with Ira on this.

Stop choos­ing to work the heart with “emo­tional” ads and great pro­duc­tion when what’s required is for you to dig harder for the right insight, fact, prod­uct dif­fer­en­tia­tor, or ben­e­fit that’s actu­ally worth adver­tis­ing in the first place.

The key is to start with what Leo Bur­nett called the “inher­ent drama” of the prod­uct or ser­vice itself. THEN you can add in all that great writ­ing and production.

When you don’t start with the inher­ent drama of the prod­uct itself, you get some­thing like this:

YouTube Preview Image

No one believed those ads because no one drinks milk as a high-performance sports drink. The adver­tiser was try­ing to stick a false drama onto the prod­uct and the approach flopped.

Com­pare that to the “Got Milk” cam­paign. It started from the truth about — the inher­ent drama of — milk, as in when, and under what con­di­tions, do real peo­ple actu­ally crave milk and only milk? When eat­ing a peanut but­ter sand­which, or eat­ing rich cook­ies. That’s when noth­ing but a cold glass of milk will do. An inher­ent drama that led to ads like this:

YouTube Preview Image

What about you? Are you set­ting aside as much time search­ing for great sub­stance as you do for writ­ing and pro­duc­ing your ads?

Or are you still try­ing to bluff with fluff?

P.S. I’d like to pro­vide proper attri­bu­tion and credit for the radio ad, but… I can’t seem to remem­ber or re-find wher­ever it came from. My apolo­gies to the ad group that cre­ated that PSA

2015-02-01_1414Ira Glass has advice on advertising?

Well… not specif­i­cally, but he did do an amaz­ing four part series on sto­ry­telling, and I thought I’d trans­late his advice to adver­tis­ing, start­ing with the first video in the series.

The first video cov­ers Ira’s two basic build­ing blocks of sto­ry­telling: the anec­dote and the moment of reflec­tion. And in adver­tis­ing terms, I think these are roughly anal­o­gous to Rel­e­vance and Cred­i­bil­ity. But stick­ing with sto­ry­telling for a moment:

  • The anec­dote is the nar­ra­tive that presents action in real-time, pulls peo­ple into the “world” of the story, builds sus­pense, and gen­er­ates inter­est, and
  • The moment of reflec­tion is the part that helps raise ques­tions and frames the mean­ing of the story

You can see Ira explain­ing these two build­ing blocks here:

YouTube Preview Image

Anec­dote = Meaty Fac­toid or Real­ity Hook = Credibility

In adver­tis­ing speak, the nar­ra­tive is often some inter­est­ing fac­toid or prod­uct fea­ture that can then be tied to a ben­e­fit, need, or desire.

  • “Our prod­uct uses a bet­ter grade of X, so it [pro­vides this benefit].”
  • Or, “We spend twice as long doing Y as the other guys, and that means you get [this benefit]
  • The coakroach you see in the morn­ing is the strag­gler behind hun­dreds of oth­ers that were in your home last night.

Or it’s a real­ity hook that’s tied to an imme­di­ate moment of need:

  • You hit your garage door opener and hear this [sound effect of Garage Door spring break­ing], leav­ing your car trapped in your own Garage. Now what?
  • That roach you saw scur­ry­ing away when you opened your pantry…

In the case of the fac­toid, the Anec­dote is pro­vid­ing cred­i­bil­ity and, with the asso­ci­ated ben­e­fit, some degree of relevance.

In the case of the drama­ti­za­tion, it’s 100% rel­e­vance, framed in terms of a recall cue. As in, when this event hap­pens to you, remem­ber [our brand promise]

Moment of Reflec­tion = Raise Ques­tions, Frame Mean­ing of Ad Campaign


Plant­ing a flag on occu­pied ter­ri­tory involves a fight

Brand­ing and posi­tion­ing (almost) always involve theft and warfare.

The mean­ing of your brand and the “posi­tion” you want in the minds of con­sumers is usu­al­lly already occu­pied, or at least con­tested, by another brand. Some­body else owns, or is try­ing to own, what you want because there are only a few posi­tions worth own­ing. If you want to plant your flag on that piece of men­tal real estate, you’ve got to remove their flag first. Either steal the land out from under them or fight for it: theft and warfare.


That bunny HAD to keep going and going if it wanted to take “long last­ing” away from Duracell.

Take reg­u­lar old bat­ter­ies: the only three qual­i­ties peo­ple care about are:

  1. long-lasting,
  2. reli­able, and
  3. cheap*.

And of those three, the only two suit­able for brand­ing are “long-lasting” and “reli­able.” That’s why Ener­gizer spent gazil­lions of dol­lars on that bunny that just kept going and going and going… until it had stolen “long-lasting” out from under Dura­cell. They could have owned some other attribute with far less effort and expense, but it wouldn’t have been worth owning.

So now Ener­gizer owns “long-lasting” and Dura­cell has switched to adver­tis­ing reli­a­bil­ity, sim­ply because it was the only thing left to take that was still worth owning.

The point to all of this is that it’s almost never enough to posi­tion your brand; you have to de-position (aka unseat) your com­pe­ti­tion as well.**

And that positioning-de-positining dance is what the moment of reflec­tion is all about.

When you men­tion the fact that your brand does X (and the other brands don’t), you get to frame the mean­ing of that fact:

We do X because we’re com­mit­ted to deliv­er­ing, [this ben­e­fit]—which means that the other guy sim­ply doesn’t care.

Now the tag end of that state­ment doesn’t always have to be explic­itly stated. In fact, it’s often bet­ter to have the audi­ence draw that con­clu­sion them­selves. Some­times, though, it helps to openly call out the com­pe­ti­tion and rhetor­i­cally punch them in the face. But regard­less of which way you accom­plish it, that bit of de-positioning should be part of your ad.

For exam­ple:

When your garage door breaks, call us, because we’re [the only ser­vice cen­ter in this area that is] open 24–7 and have fully stocked trucks capa­ble of fix­ing your door on the first visit, even at night and on week­ends. We’re here when you need us, not just when it’s con­ve­nient. [Unlike the other jerks that are only open dur­ing busi­ness hours]

But that’s just for one ad. When you start talk­ing brand­ing and posi­tion­ing, you’re really talk­ing about campaigns.

Chances are, if you do X because you’re com­mit­ted to Y, then X isn’t the only thing you do.

In fact, you’re prob­a­bly doing an entire alpha­bet full of things dif­fer­ently or bet­ter than the other guy. Actions that point back to the val­ues that drive your com­pany. And a good ad cam­paign will frame all those fac­toids to con­sis­tently estab­lish and sup­port the posi­tion you wish to claim in the mind of the customer.

So each ad, you raise a fac­toid (or an Anec­dote in Ira Glass terms) and you frame it in terms of this value, or brand posi­tion (through a moment of reflection).

And your ads should do all of this while rais­ing ques­tions about why your com­pe­ti­tion doesn’t do these things and whether or not they really care about the cus­tomer at all. Posi­tion your­self; de-position your competitors.

Where Most Adver­tis­ers Go Wrong

Most adver­tis­ers go wrong in three places:

1) They pro­vide no facts, real­ity hooks, or dra­ma­tized moments of need. There is noth­ing to estab­lish cred­i­bil­ity or rel­e­vance. They have no anec­dote or story, so they come off as bor­ing, irrel­e­vant, and/or unbe­liev­able. In the words of Roy H. Williams, the ad is all cheese and no meat. What most adver­tis­ers want to skip to is the fram­ing part, the moment of reflec­tion, where they just openly state what they believe and stand for, and so it comes off as so much solip­sis­tic blah-blah-blah.

2) They try to cram all the facts into a sin­gle ad, rather than string­ing them out into a cam­paign. When you just list the facts, they lose their dra­matic impact, and you’re back to blah-blah-blah land.

3) They state a fea­ture or function—what should be an anec­do­tatl buld­ing block—but don’t con­tex­tu­al­ize or dra­ma­tize it. There’s no inter­est or dra­matic force in the fact they give the audi­ence, so it doesn’t trans­late into rel­e­vance or even all that much cred­i­bil­ity, either.

4) They attempt to posi­tion them­selves, with­out depo­si­tion the brand that already holds that posi­tion in the minds of cus­tomers. If you claim a qual­ity or posi­tion that another brand already owns, you’re really just pay­ing to adver­tise them—unless you depo­si­tion them in order to repo­si­tion yourself.

And that’s Part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 later this week.

* Yes, eco-friendly or green is another qual­ity peo­ple might care about for bat­ter­ies, but then you’re into the land of recharge­ables rather than reg­u­lar old alka­line bat­ter­ies. Dif­fer­ent market.

** Some­times you are lucky enough to have no mean­ing­ful com­pe­ti­tion in your cateogry, allow­ing you to sim­ply claim what you want for a brand posi­tion. And that’s a very good thing. Take advan­tage of it! Also, I’m aware that “depo­si­tion” is a legal term, which is why I’m hyphen­at­ing the word so as to mean un-position. Thanks for indulging me in this : )

 P.S. I’m usu­ally wary of talk­ing about mar­ket­ing or adver­tis­ing in terms of war, sim­ply because the anal­ogy doesn’t hold: in war you can attack the enemy directly, in mar­ket­ing you usally can’t; all you can do is per­suade the cus­tomer. Wal­mart didn’t kill Kmart, we did when we stopped shop­ping at Kmart and started shop­ping at Wal­mart instead. But the anal­ogy is use­ful when describ­ing a zero-sum com­pe­ti­tion. There is only so much mar­ket share, cus­tomer dol­lars, and brand posi­tions avail­able. Either you get them, or the com­pe­ti­tion does. Just keep in mind that the only way to beat the com­pe­ti­tion is to win the customer.