WORDSMITHING

Brand Responds to Social Media

upforwhateverAnheuser-Busch’s effort to engage social media got them in  hot water. Tapping into that legendary ability of alcohol to reduce inhibitions, Bud Light printed this on their labels:

the perfect beer for removing ‘no’
from your vocabulary for the night

No doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Part of the #UpForWhatever campaign, the slogan is one of 140 different messages that are followed by “The perfect beer for whatever happens.”

The twitterverse erupted in criticism, citing issues of consent and college rape, as well as drunk driving and other questionable behaviors that the tagline could be condoning.  Ere long, Anheuser Busch issued an official statement within hours of widely read Mashable post:

Bud Light Vice President Alexander Lambrecht delivered a statement to Mashable stating that “The Bud Light Up for Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In this spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”

However, no effort was made to remove existing bottles from circulation. The New York Times suggests they might become collectibles.

According to the Washington Post, former VP of communication Franzine Katz, who resigned in 2009 and sued the brewer for sex discrimination (she was paid far less than half of the male VPs), learned of the faux-pas from her 20 something daughter. Her reaction?

“Oh my God, are they kidding?”

The current communication head, also female, engaged in twitter bickering, calling the slogan “an honest mistake.”

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Why You Need a Good Writer

typingYou know your business. You can probably construct a decent sentence, too, if you got this far. But there are times when you need a professional writer.

We aren’t always the best promotors of ourselves, or even our products. We hold back where we should crow the loudest, or we display proudly the details that aren’t all that meaningful to the audience. It’s hard to remember, but you are not your target market.

Also, it’s very likely that the value of your time has risen to great heights as your business has grown. The cost of a copywriter will pale in comparison to the value of you, creating product and/or business in the way that’s made you successful.

Here are five situations when you need to hire a writer:

1. You’re just no good at it. Not everyone is a great word slinger. If writing isn’t for you, hire or partner with a really good writer to make sure that part of your business is getting the attention it needs.

2. You don’t have the bandwidth Writing is a time-consuming endeavor. there’s a limit to how many words we can consistently get onto the page or screen every day.

3. You need particular expertise You might need a subject expert, or a persuasive sales writer

4.  You’re too close to the topic. The reason it’s so hard to move from features to benefits is that it can be really tough to be objective about your own business.

5. The stakes are high.  If you’ve got a big launch or an important marketing campaign, you need to make sure your copy is making a great impression.

from Copyblogger

A writer who’s focus is on engaging the customer can see from a perspective you do not have. And the copywriter’s skill as a story-teller can bring intrigue, mystery, drama: the right kind of lively interest-engaging energy by virtue of that detachment.

Would you benefit from a writing pro on your current project?

Have you used freelance writers in your business? Tell us about your experience.

 

 

Soapbox Time: the Midwest

I was born in Michigan and now live among highly educated East Coast types, who refer to my homeland as ‘flyover country.’  As if that weren’t bad enough, when something happens in Minnesota, they may gesture vaguely north and west and say “out there in Mich-zouri, right?”

Enough with this verbal and geographic ignorance! I can hardly imagine Michigan and Missouri in the same sentence, they are such different places. The American Midwest is an awesome slice of territory, upon which we all depend for food, fuel, industry, and even culture (seriously. click the link).
Most of us are a little vague about what the Midwest is. Fortunately this post from Vox goes into glorious detail about my home region. The current Census definition is based on the area’s evolution from ‘Northwest territories’ to ‘North Central Division,’ which now includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Those pale pink states, plus Oklahoma and Kentucky do not qualify.

freighter

we even have our own ships

That is a serious chunk of real estate, smaller than Australia, but larger than Mexico. It’s function as the breadbasket is due to the lucky confluence of climate and excellent soils plowed down by the glaciers which also carved the Great Lakes.

The population is slightly larger than France. And if it were a country, it would have the 6th largest economy in the world, sandwiched between Russia and Brazil.

So, think about that next time you enjoy your corn (in the form of soda, beef, packaged food, gasoline, and so much more.)

Creativity as Dialog

According to the New York Times, we are watching the end of the lone genius. I’ll be the first to agree that the isolated creative is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Too many depictions of a tormented Vincent Van Gogh, a drunken and depressed Hemingway, even Newton as the singular discoverer, who was building on the work of others.

An article by Joshua Wolf Shenk in today’s NYT, The End of Genius, deftly unwraps the modern construct of our mythical loner. (Shenk writes more about the brilliance of creative pairs in the Atlantic, HERE.) The word originally meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth” – a Muse as it were. In our modernity we have apparently absorbed this creative god and ascribed its qualities to our individual selves.

 

Now the creative network is emerging as a more useful model of the process.  Certainly  the internet and virtual communication has enhanced our ability to collaborate in teams and groups. We have crowd-sourced encyclopedias, music written and produced by partners who have never met, and ease of collaboration via the media that gives us instant contact.

Of course, this is nothing new.  All creative work builds on what came before. But we are  thinking about this differently. We’re evolving the way we inhabit our creative identity.

So let’s talk about it:

  • Do you work with a creative partner?
  • Do you use technology to collaborate?
  • Does the media influence your creative product?

 

Great Advice from an 60’s Adman

George Lois “Great ideas can't be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

“Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

George Lois  is the guy who created the “I want my MTV” slogan and invented the concept of Lean Cuisine. Now  81, the  graphic designer/art director/copywriter may be best known for his 92 cover designs for Esquire magazine from 1962 to 1972, which have been exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art.

When asked about the hit TV series Mad Men, Lois dismisses it as a soap opera, and also notes that it missed the real story:

…ignoring the dynamics of the Creative Revolution that changed the world of communications forever…That dynamic period of counterculture in the 1960s found expression on Madison Avenue through a new creative generation—a rebellious coterie of art directors and copywriters who understood that visual and verbal expression were indivisible.

Lois is responsible for quite a few books over the years including The Art of Advertising and Sellebritythe most recent of which is  Damn Good Advice, which is nicely profiled in this article at Fast Company:

7 Pieces of “Damn Good” Creative Advice from ’60s Ad Man George Lois:

BREVITY ROCKS

“I want my MTV” became a generational battle cry after Lois, a pioneer in exploiting celebrity cachet, persuaded Mick Jagger to appear in a TV commercial delivering the line.

LISTEN

Lois says, “When people talk to you about their business and you listen hard, there’s a good chance they’ll say something and you go ‘Son of a bitch, that’s it!’ Then when you show your idea to the guy, he doesn’t even know he gave it to you.”

GO TO THE MUSEUM

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies, and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind.”

FIGHT ADVERSITY WITH CREATIVITY

Lois shot a TV commercial showing a toddler making photocopies. When the FCC objected that the ad misrepresented the machine’s ease of use, Lois shot a new commercial showing a chimpanzee making photocopies. He invited FCC staffers to attend the shoot.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE ZEITGEIST

When it comes to pulling concepts out of thin air, “It’s about understanding what the hell’s going on around you,” says Lois, who spends an hour each morning poring through the New York Times.

TRUST YOUR GUT

“Ad agencies do all kinds of market research that ask people what they think they want, and instead you should be creating things that you want.  Trust your own instincts, your own intellect, and your own sense of humor.”

WORD FIRST, VISUAL LATER

Lois believes in “writing the idea” rather than trawling randomly for visual inspiration.  “A big campaign can only be expressed in words that lend themselves to visual excitement.”

read entire article

Home, Home On the Line

(source unknown)

You can make a home on the Internet and be seen there, but you cannot arrive there. Home on the Internet can only be a point of departure.

I found this quote in a meandering essay on yearning at ribbonfarm.com, a blog by Venkat dedicated to ‘refactored perception.’ (Read more than you ever wanted to know about that here.) Venkat is a voracious reader, thinker and polymath, cross-pollinating the worlds of business, information science, literature and history.

What I found fascinating was his validation of the online world. He doesn’t dismiss it as a flickering, twittering distraction but sees it as a genuine realm of existence:

When you first explore the online world, with your feet firmly planted offline, it can seem ephemeral and insubstantial. But once you tentatively and gingerly plant your feet online, it is the offline world that starts to seem ephemeral and insubstantial. The world of offline-first people (or worse, offline-only) seems like a world of people living lives without real views.

Where there was once was a simpler form of media-blindness – folks who didn’t read the news, or visit the library, for instance, now there is a vast ocean of evolving media conversations to parse. AND participate in.

Because home is not the locus where you live your life, but the locus from which you make sense of it. Home is a place that supplies a stable perspective on the world and your place within itHome is a place from which you can properly experience a life with a view, without censorship, without having to make up narratives about the superiority of your little local world.

So amid this pulsing, flickering universe of conversations, we can behold the universe and find our threads within it. The universe of the imagination has become more of a shared realm. What we once accomplished through books, we can now pursue in tweets, posts, images, articles, ebooks, videos, comments, message boards, and the many clever means of sharing the internet offers us.

This may all sound a bit over the top, but fly with me for a moment here. We have the Library of Alexandria at our fingertips. A Facebook image I saw the other day put it this way:

If someone from the 1950s appeared today, what would be the hardest thing to explain?

“I possess, in my pocket, a device capable of accessing the entirety of man’s knowledge. I use it to take pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.”

If we value the life of the mind that we have built from our education, from our reading life, from the culture of readers, writers and thinkers who have come before us, why wouldn’t we want to explore, share, and contribute in these fields of knowledge?

We can all do some amazing work with the tools we have in hand, while we create the next wave of even more miraculous ones.