Do these people actually READ their copy before they run it? And how does it get into print? What do you think?
Posted by Drayton Bird at 19:38
Posted by Drayton Bird at 08:25
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:05
When you get to my age, unless you're one of the Army of the Smug (you know, those who stride along the street looking pleased with themselves) you start to wonder whether you've done much good with your life.
Well, at least one member of the Bird tribe has done a lot more good than me. He is John Bird, who founded The Big Issue, a magazine sold by street people as a better alternative to begging. A wonderful idea that has spread around the world. I envy him.
I buy the magazine, but not as often as I should. This is partly - believe it or not - because of the layout. For the first few years most of the mag was set in sans serif type with a lot of it reversed out. A deadly combination - proven to be almost impossible to read and comprehend.* More recently the type has usually been serif (far easier to read) but still with a lot of reversing out.
Design is a tricky thing, and most young designers are utterly unaware of what makes for easy reading. Nor are they aware of the observation of the great typographer Stanley Morison, who designed the Times face: "Any disposition of type that comes between the reader and meaning is wrong."
But they have just had a redesign. Whether this makes things better I don't know as I haven't bought it yet. However, since Dennis publishing are responsible I imagine it should be an improvement.
There is an excellent article, full of good sense, by Lucy Headley about the need to change - http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/blogs/lucy-handley/why-the-big-issue-brand-needs-a-rethink/3030458.article. Below the article is some good sense from a former vendor, too. I think John Bird's brilliant idea has never been marketed as well as it could be, and you can see why from the article and the comment.
That being said I just had a small fit when I saw an ad in The Week (a Dennis mag I read diligently) announcing the redesign.
The headline was "NO MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WERE HARMED DURING THE MAKING OF THIS MAGAZINE." Oh dear, oh dear. That really is sad. Go to the back of the class.
There was a short cliché-strewn block of copy, starting with "All new magazine. Same old values." The whole ad reads like it was written by the caretaker at Dennis Publishing in about twenty minutes after a couple of pints.
There was the predictable wanky slogan: Journalism worth paying for. Why do so many fools think slogans are so important?
But there is also one rather clumsy sentence: "Your Big Issue seller has paid half the cover price of each magazine". Without clear explanation the significance of that is not that easily grasped. I'll lay money that even most of those who buy the mag are only vaguely aware of how it operates. More to the point, what about prospects?
That sentence, easily missed because nobody is going to read the copy after such a poor opening, sums up the very essence of John Bird's idea. The sellers do pay for the mag and sell it. The idea of those in distress helping themselves has enormous appeal. Who can decry it? Moreover The Week has God knows how many readers, and I wager they are disproportionately likely to be charitable.
That ad is a disgrace. Amateurs should never be let loose on something that affects so many lives.
What an opportunity missed to do some decent advertising that tugged at the heartstrings and opened the wallets of all those people!
And now I come full circle. It may not be like heart surgery, but time spent telling people how to create stuff that gets people to do something is well worthwhile.
*If you want to know what makes for design that works, I shall be talking about it in Spain during my copy weekend. Or you can read pages 311-18 of that excellent doorstop, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, written by a less worthy member of the Birds than John.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:11
As you may have noticed, I take perverse pleasure in reading the emails sent by the sundry charlatans who inhabit cyberspace.
A great many start with questions like the first at the top, and answer them with an easy solution and an appealing offer.
These solutions often have these things in common:
a) You won't have to work hard to become whatever it is - an instant guru, an acclaimed author, a sought-after public speaker, a brilliant copywriter, or whatever your brain tells you is clearly impossible, but you would like to believe is not.
b) The money will be incredibly good and you won't have to wait too long for it to arrive.
c) It is all achievable because this guy did it. Here is the touching tale of how he climbed from trailer park to mansion in months - and how you can too. Sometimes there is more than one guy, and maybe the guy is a lady.
d) You don't believe me? Come and watch this free webinar/interview/whatever.
e) Wow! My webinar/interview/whatever was "awesome". I was blown away. Far more people attended than I expected. Many enjoyed orgasms of pleasure. But I'm worried that you missed it, so here's another chance. But it won't be around for long, because I'm taking it down, so act now
If you don't recognise all these signs of a scam, there's another pretty good one.
It is when you get variations of the same message from lots of people, most of whom make money not by running a business but by selling off vacant lots in Promiseland to gullible mooncalves.
But you know all this, I hope, and my reason for writing was because of a poll on Linked-in about another reason you may be struggling. It asked business people if red tape was stifling their business. 83% said it was.
I have no idea what could be going through the heads of the remainder, but to give you a clue about the impact of regulation Italy, once the fastest growing economy in Europe, slumped into decline the minute it started applying European laws, especially on employment.
The same has happened and will happen as long as wildly different European countries are gripped by the manifold straitjackets imposed by bureaucrats in Brussels who have neither knowledge of nor interest in how or whether people make a living, and who answer to a parliament full of thieving rogues.
The U.K. is infested with hordes of busybodies prying into everyone's business. It also has the most complex tax rules in the world - so complex that an entire department is devoted to tax simplification. Really.
This is even though the tax authorities have arranged things so that businesses - and quite a few individuals - are legally forced to do nearly all the work.
Despite other people doing their jobs for them, so incompetent are the tax people that they are years behind.
One respondent to the Linked-in poll said, "The state should be holding your hand not beating you with a stick."
I disagree violently. If there is one thing besides red tape that kills initiative, it is expecting the state to hold your hand.
If the state were holding your hand when crossing the road, you would be run over. I do not want or expect the state to hold my hand. I just want it to get out of the way.
Reagan's joke about the most dangerous words in the world applies: "I'm from the government, I'm here to help you."
But I guess it's marginally better than "I'm a guru, I'm here to rip you off."
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:12
If you receive my regular emails, you will soon receive news of my planned Copy weekend in Spain, but first let's see how your brain is working with this little test.
Forget for a moment all the guff you get sent about social media, brand-building and SEO, and concentrate on something worthwhile and meaningful at the end of your long week.
The picture you see was sent me by one of the towering intellectual powerhouses of marketing, my old friend and colleague Daz Valladares.
I have always seen Daz as a kind of mentor, and he certainly knows more about buying media than anyone I know.
But like all good marketers he is a keen and profound student of human nature. He instantly spots insights that go far beyond the ordinary, and this mould-breaking study of pictorial impact shows such a series of inisghts.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 17:10
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:28
Business gurus are fond of saying, "Work smarter - not harder."
But I don't know ... I think there is something to be said for hard work.
Assuming you and I work equally smart, I'd think whichever one of us worked the hardest would come out ahead. Hard work is good for what ails you.
When your business or job isn't going the way you want it to, buckle down and redouble your efforts. You'll be more productive, and at least some of your extra efforts will be rewarded - and hard work will have saved the day.
Goethe wrote, "Whoever strenuously endeavors, him we can rescue". Combine hard work with persistence - never giving up - and the odds of you getting the result you want increase geometrically.
Ironically, a lot of people who work hard like to pretend that they don't. A famous Internet marketer, in promoting his programs, boasts about how you can make a six figure income in Internet marketing with hardly any work. But I happen to know that this guy works at least 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - and often late into the night.
A famous copywriter is pictured lounging in his pool in a magazine profile of him. Yet he seems to be continually at his PC banging out successful ad after successful ad for his clients.
Most things that are worth having or achieving require hard work. If they were easy, everyone would have them.
Hard work alone does not guarantee success. You also have to work smart, of course. But if you are not willing to put your nose to the grindstone, your chances of failure are large indeed.
Business or career floundering? Not where you want it to be? Work twice as hard. You may get twice the results.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 16:30
You probably take a rest from the tyranny of the internet on Saturdays, but as a helpless motor-mouth I often find something to talk to thin air about.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 08:21
Posted by Drayton Bird at 13:47
I'm sorry, but it is not enough to have messages that sell. You need to know what makes them sell, otherwise
you’re never in true control of your marketing.
A friend whose agency suffers from having me as chairman told me a story this morning that makes the point.
One of my clients has just done the "can you give us the artwork for the ad you did so we can stick it on our system" trick, then informed me he will be giving it to the media agency to do the artwork so he can save money.
This is the guy who we did an ad for previously that tripled the response rates compared to the free ads created by the same media agency and turned £350k of media spend into £1.5m of sales.
This seems a bit short-sighted, to say the least. If they didn't have a decent ad to start with no one would be making any money.”
This sad tale reminded me of a client who did the same dirty on me 30-odd years ago – also in a recession. You won’t be surprised that he found his natural calling and now runs a bank.
Anyhow, I tried to console my friend.
The client and his media agency clearly don’t know what makes ads work otherwise their ads would have been doing OK before. So eventually one of two things (maybe both) will happen.
1. The client and/or the agency will start getting bored with the ad and try to “improve” it. Almost invariably in doing so they will miss out something essential or add something unwise
2. The winning ad will run out of steam eventually and they won’t know how to create another.
However, I think this kind of thing will be on the increase in the next year or five, which is all the more reason to know what works, what doesn’t and why - whether you're the client or the agency. Otherwise when things go wrong you have no idea what to do.
That is why in my Commonsense Marketing programme I analyse work and tell you what makes it tick. I usually talk about stuff I wrote myself, because, as Shakespeare put it, “I can but speak of that which I do know".
But I also interview people who have succeeded and get them to explain what worked for them (and what didn’t). They are the only ones who can tell you.
One or two people who subscribed to the previous Commonsense have asked me if this is different. Well, as you will see if you go here, it is mostly new material.
But there is a very good reason for looking at old material again. You forget most of what you read or see almost immediately. That is why at the start of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” you are asked to read each chapter twice, make notes and underline things that interest you.
And it's why I still pick up Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising and find things I'd forgotten ...and I've been reading it for over 43 years.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 18:21
I have noticed lately a slight change in marketing bullshit.
For quite a few years marketers have been passionate. Passionate about all manner of stuff, it seems, except the thing normal people associate with passion, which from memory I seem to recall quite fondly is sex.
An amazing number are passionate about food, which may explain why there are so many wobbling blobs of adiposity taking up more than their share of airplane seats and decorating public places.
But is passion being replaced by inspiration? Sainsbury's want me to be inspired to cook. English Heritage has an entire campaign just called Inspired! (Note the exclamation mark: very creative, must have cost a few sleepless nights to some up with that).
The Olympics (of which I am heartily sick months in advance) have a campaign called Inspire, sadly bereft of any creative punctuation. This campaign "enables non-commercial organisations across the UK to link their events and projects to the London 2012 Games in an official scope"
What the hell do they mean "in an official scope"? Why can't these fools write in English, or at least hire someone who can?
Anyhow, the other day I noticed that the Harley Street Clinic has a big sign outside saying "Inspired to Care". I imagine this is because some oily consultant told them they needed some "marketing", then conned them into thinking that means plastering their building with fatuous drivel.
I lived on Harley Street for seven years, and I only remember one thing about what inspired the people there, which was told me by an distinguished lawyer. "I never knew a doctor who wasn't more interested in money than in medicine". Not long afterwards a doctor made the same remark about lawyers, so one doesn't know what to think.
I don't mind people wanting money, but I wish they wouldn't come out with all this patronising crap. If they were just inspired to care they'd be working in the NHS. They probably like doing what they do, feel it's worthwhile and do it well but like to get paid tons and tons of cash in exchange.
Me too, which reminds me: I really must urge you to have a free preview of my newly improved and tarted up Commonsense Marketing programme.
I have been inspired to launch this as an alternative to the amazing deluge of lies I get every day from sundry sharks. It runs every month for a year and starts with - among other things - something I have never done before. It's a step-by-step analysis of the briefing method I use.
I urge you - passionately - to go and see a simple little site that tells you all about it, at http://draytonbirdcommonsense.com/bespoke/preview1.html
Why not go there now? You can give the whole thing a go for a month without paying a bean and see what you think.
What can you lose? It won't get you to No 1 on Google, or get you $3,000 an hour without being able to sign your own name, but quite a few people have become surprisingly successful after taking my advice.
Some have made millions, so they say. Why not you?
Posted by Drayton Bird at 20:37
Posted by Drayton Bird at 09:30