Category Archives: Creative Share: my weekly critique

I’m a practical soul, and while I enjoy the occasional philosophical discussion, what really interests me in my work is what works, and how to make something work better. The DMA calls on me to do critiques at their conferences and as a result I’ve discovered that this is something many other people want, too. My critiques are not mean-spirited, and they’re built for learning. You’ll even find praise and the occasional ‘I wish i’d done that, myself!’ It’s all part of our ongoing education to make us better at what we do!

All touchy-feely: tactile stimulation is a powerful tool for getting attention.

Sometimes we’re so busy thinking of what people will read, what images they’ll see, etc. that we forget some of the other senses and how they can be employed to get and keep attention with our marketing creative efforts.

So what else is there? — scratch ‘n’ sniff…? I don’t know about you, but I’ve rarely liked the scratch ‘n’ sniff. When it shows up in the mailbox it makes everything in the mailbox stink of the perfume they’re hawking with that approach. Heaven help us when they get really clever and make it a garlic smell thinking that this will seduce the recipient into getting their brand of frozen garlic bread… And the thing is, appreciation for scent is very personal.

For example, the Captain Morgan Rum scratch ‘n’ sniff I’ve attached here didn’t smell too bad… but that’s only because the smell of rum reminds me of those heady days on a trip to the Caribbean. This piece uses a scent which probably is in part manufactured but didn’t have to be altered much to make into a scratch ‘n’ sniff. And they’re tying the scent with taste, which is pretty clever.

Especially perfumes, vary widely in terms of perception, and most people either love it or hate it. With scent, that point of ‘too much’ happens much sooner than most people realize. I remember when Georgio was a big deal in the perfume world, and I did a lot of work in a Westwood office building, on an upper floor. I dreaded when some chi-chi Westwood babe would get on the elevator with me, and in mere seconds, my eyes would start watering and I’d gasp for breath. I learned in no time that if a Georgio-phile got on the elevator, I’d get off on the next floor to escape their perfume onslaught. peee-yeeeew! Why doesn’t a friend tell them they’re over the top?

I have always wondered what would be really a good use for scratch ‘n’ sniff … what could they do what would be appealing? Applie pie? Maybe chocolate? it’s hard to imagine them getting food scent so right that it would be truly appealing. I mean, they have to create the smell and then mix it with chemicals to get it to stick on the paper in teeny tiny globules that will snap open when the scratching starts. Years ago an hilarious, outspoken print saleswoman from George Rice Litho – Liz O’Keefe – told me that Playboy would sell a lot more issues if they had scratch ‘n’ sniff on their centerfolds. Banal! But, it still makes me laugh.

Where I was going with this was to bring up the OTHER sensory tool – the tactile. People who work in the web world who try to do something printed almost always miss out on how to use prospects’ fingertips to make something more appealing.

Take mail, for example: yes, you can use 7 point cover to print a postcard and have it ‘legal’ for mailing… but what you’re telling the recipient, via their fingertips, is that you’re cheap and unsatisfying because that’s how the stock (paper) feels. A nice oversized postcard deserves a good 100 lb. cover weight, just to give it the body it needs to make it through the mail and still feel good. Many catalogs find that they can cut back on the paper they are using, but only to a point. They take it too far, and response starts dropping and they think their catalog’s not working anymore. Actually they started sending their customers the message that they are not the same quality as they were before.

When you’re trying to get people to buy, essentially sight-unseen, there is a lot to be said for setting the stage nicely. if your budget can’t handle better paper (within reason) it’s time to look at your mailing list and get some good list hygiene, trim out all the dupes and other crap, and also trim out some of the non-responders. You can cut a mailing down to something that will really work and increase your ROI. Is that too much to shoot for?

And speaking of mail… there aren’t a lot of cool, tactile direct mail packages out there anymore. You can make them interesting through using a different type of, and weight, paper here and there throughout the package. You can do in-line embossing. check out what Habitat for Humanity did on this package… there’s a little metal thing that is spot-glued at the top of the letter. I cannot even remember what it’s for, some kind of token, but it got my attention.

You can also make it even sexier by developing some interesting folds. Hellooo? Does ANY designer out there realize that you can do more with paper than fold it in half or exact thirds??? I have been bored to tears with what the design community has been coming up with. I learned from a real master — Richard Potter — how much fun it is to fold paper in new ways, but still keep it press-and-bindery friendly. (He told me that many years ago, someone gave him an origami set as a gift, to poke fun at his love of folding paper in new and different ways.) When I hear that someone designed something that had to be hand folded – like, 100,000 of them — it makes me sick that the client said yes to that, and also that they didn’t know  to hire a designer with a brain attached to their wrist.

A colleague of mine ordered brochures from Pelican Print, who are very nice folks. But their 80 lb. text weight that they said they were using to print her brochures is either NOT really 80 lb., or it’s the cheesiest, cheapest 80 lb. imaginable. You expect a brochure on 80 lb. text to have some body, a nice feel – but hers are flimsy. Not a good place for the supplier to skimp… I’m not sure she’ll ever trust them to print her stuff again.

Meanwhile, as self-serving as this must appear, my new business cards finally came in from,  and they are simply awesome. And half of what makes them so great is how they feel. I spent a few extra bucks to have them die-cut with rounded corners, adding the the pleasure of touching and holding the cards. And I went ‘top dollar’ for the stock, with glossy on the front, and then a matte on the back so that people can use the back of the card to write notes (see the image attached: I will leave no surface ‘virgin’ if I can accomplish something by using it.)

Well, I am so tickled by these cards!! They feel like something out of a nice board game or a brand new deck of cards… and I can’t wait to start handing them out to prospective clients and colleagues. Especially since between April 1st, when we sold my firm, and now, I’ve been using those slightly cheesy micro-perfed desktop printed biz cards that are ‘make do’ but i can’t believe that anyone would actually think they are good enough to pass out except ‘in a pinch’.

Anyway, this is a call for those of you who still get mail, to be on the lookout for some junk mail that’s really interesting from a touch and feel standpoint. Then close your eyes, and move it around in your hands, feeling the textures and weight… the tactile choreography. Enjoy.

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What a guy! Guy Kawasaki, that is!

Over the years, I’ve spoken at more conferences than I can remember. Oft times, if there is a lot to do, or people to network with, I’ll completely miss out on seeing someone who I’ve heard is a terrific speaker. Guy Kawasaki is one of these speakers. I can’t tell you how often we were in the same place, speaking to the same group, but I missed out on seeing him.

That all changed last Friday, when I had the absolute pleasure of seeing him speak at the Boomer Summit in San Francisco.

Guy was promoting his new book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Action. And he had the whole room in the palm of his hand for the whole time he spoke.

On one hand, I can say that the subject alone — that is, tackling the tricky art of influence and persuasion, was enough to keep most of us intrigued.

But on the other hand, Guy himself is impossible to ignore. And I learned a lot about being an engaging speaker, too, just from watching him up there on the stage. Kawasaki gives you the feeling he’s unwrapping the world’s coolest gift, EVER…  just for you. Those of us who are tired of hearing direct marketing speakers drone on and on about database and list hygiene and even boring us to tears about marketing itself are simply… i can’t help but say it … enchanted by his “kid in a candy store” excitement about this business.

Never once did i get a feeling that we were being ‘sold’ a book… Guy is enormously funny and charming, candid, and smart without making the rest of the room seem dumb. Now, that’s a real talent – I mean, how many of us have gone to presentations where the speaker was so busy showing the rest of us how uninformed we were, that we just kind of disliked the guy at the end? Well, Guy Kawasaki is a fellow you just know would be your best friend, your favorite colleague, and the Godfather to your children!

If you ever have a chance to see him speak, don’t miss it. And meanwhile we can all get our hands on his latest book and enjoy how he helps us transition from simple engagement, and into moving our customers through enchantment. It will surely be a fun and exciting ride with Kawasaki at the wheel.

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Be helpful… and enjoy improved and expanded relationships

Recently I worked on a promotional mail piece for a longtime client of mine. It was an invitation to attend a luncheon at a conference. But instead of our doing it invitation style or even letter-style, we decided to try something different.

You see, this conference is in Baltimore. So there are lots of great seafood places, but it’s not a town many of the attendees would have ever been before. We decided to create an oversized postcard that had the invitation on the live copy and address side, and a guide to good restaurants within walking distance of the conference on the other. On the card, we recommended that they keep and use the card to help them find great eats while visiting… and of course they’re encouraged to stop by the trade show booth to get tickets for my client’s luncheon and presentation.

Now, this mailer didn’t cost any more than the invitations, and in fact, it was less expensive and less complicated. But we’re very excited about what we believe it will do to build new relationships for my client. Our idea is that providing a little bit of goodwill and service even before we’ve met them will lay the foundation for a new and fruitful relationship.

This is one thing my client and I share: we’re both  big believers in doing well by doing good. And helping a visitor new to a city by providing some dining ideas and profiles is just a little thing, but it’s more than most of the other conference mailers will provide them.

‘Pay it forward’ pays off

Take it a step further and think about how we are with our clients’ ecommerce and catalog customers. Many a website or catalog have the capability to “add value” on their pages, but because content is just such a pain in the neck for many of them to write, they don’t see developing added value content as worth the effort. But I can tell you from experience, it is well worth it, if the content you write is of interest to the customer.

An example of this is how my client from Action Bag, a B2B company, puts ideas for effective self-promotion into their catalog and website, and they even have well-trained service people who can discuss promotions with prospective customers.

And another example: my client, Eastwood, regularly includes value-added sidebars in their catalog. This continues their tradition of service, which they’ve provided in the form of blogs and chat rooms on their website, for many years. (Anyone who thinks that the tech industry has led the way in effective use of social media hasn’t seen what some of the least tech clients have been up to for many, many years!)

Who is your customer and why should they give a flying hoot about you? And what does this have to do with creative?

This leads to more questions … do you know who your customer is? What turns them on? What they really care about?

As we develop creative for our clients, we’re often shocked at how little our clients know about their customers. Demographics are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg… to do really insanely effective creative, we need to know what’s going on inside their heads. And we have to really nail it, and not try to pretend we know who they are. Make no mistake: your customer can tell if you really know them or not, and if you misstep even once, they’ll spot you as bogus and hightail it out of the relationship.

Adding quality content in websites and on printed pages is one of the best ways you can cement a customer relationship, particularly if it’s content that they can use to make their lives easier or more fulfilling in some way.

This means some work… psychographics are what feeds great added-value and offer strategy and most databases don’t have that information. You’ve got to dig to get it, through your customer service department, through research and more. But it’s a great investment in future relationships! And it’s probably one of the most important keys to effective creative work.

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