When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

When I started my career in advertising, the toolkit for promoting a business was fairly standard:  television ads, radio spots, outdoor, point of sale, collateral, events, press releases.  The bigger the company, the bigger the tool chest, the bigger the agency, the bigger the budget.  The tools themselves didn’t change all that much until the concept of “guerrilla” marketing came along in the mid-80s.  Guerrilla marketing could be loosely defined as promotional tactics that take more time, energy and imagination than money and get lots of attention.  It seemed so slick at the time, mostly because it took Madison Avenue out of the equation and put the power in the hands of anyone creative enough to come up with a great idea.  Now, it’s all guerrilla marketing. The advent of non-traditional advertising coincided with the rise of personal computing.  This isn’t a chicken-or-egg thing; one just helped the other out.  The power shifted from mainframe programmers to the marketing assistant with desktop publishing in the blink of an eye.  Technology created new tools and changed the game.  Much of the creative process was demystified and advertisers began to control their own destinies in new ways.  Now, my Blackberry probably has more memory than my first business computer, and it will take me wherever I want to go.  Entire campaigns are created in the palm of a hand.  With the right idea, a one-person shop can be global in an instant. Some of the control that technology handed to advertisers has been turned over to the consumer.  Establishing a brand and selling a product is now a partnership between the seller and the buyer, and the buyer has a lot of influence on the message.  No more one-way communication, no hiding behind image consultants and PR firms.  Every customer with a keyboard can affect your brand in ways you can’t control.  Love it or hate it, blogs, social media, websites and email marketing give your potential customers the ability to participate with you. What’s in your marketing toolkit?  Are you overlooking anything?  Time for some new tools?  Please...

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Who's watching you? Facebook Places, that's who.

Who's watching you? Facebook Places, that's who.

Today Facebook launches its new Places application, similar to Foursquare and other location-based marketing applications.  Why should you care?  If you have a retail business, Facebook Places could be a traffic-builder for you.  Facebook has over a half billion users now, and they are obviously a sharing bunch.  If you’re just a highly social person and want to let your friends know where you are and have them join you, Facebook Places joins other applications like Gowalla and MyTown for checking in with each other.  Given Facebook’s performance to date, it will likely drive the competition into the dust. There’s a downside to so much sharing.  If you are dodging that soon-to-be formerly significant other, you may not want your movements broadcast.  Or, if the parents are tech-savvy and are paying for your med school, maybe they shouldn’t see all the bars you’re hitting before the big exam.  You can turn off your Facebook friends’ ability to tag you wherever they see you.  The potential for mischief is great; be smart. Read more about Facebook places and let us know what you...

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The second-most important thing about your writing.

The second-most important thing about your writing.

Whether you’re writing a blog, email newsletter, Facebook post or newspaper article, crafting a killer headline is, of course, the most important thing you can do to gain a reader’s attention.  After that, the first line–and in some cases, the first couple of words–of any text is critically important. When Dodie Smith starts I Capture the Castle with, “I write this sitting in the sink,” who isn’t intrigued enough to read on?  “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold,” begins Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and you know you’re in for a weird, wild ride.  One of my favorite children’s books, Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, has a funny hook:  “I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.” In email marketing, your Subject line is your headline and will determine whether readers will get as far as your opening words.  Once there, grab ’em with something that appeals to their sense of humor, or emotions, or self-image.  “You’re smarter than you know” makes them want to know what makes you think that.  “100 dogs and cats will be put to death today” is harsh, but even an unpleasant truth can move people to act. Twitter, of course, doesn’t give you much writing real estate.  Even Facebook, which allows a blog-like amount of copy in its Notes feature, demands a punchy start. Wherever you are writing, get right to it:  put as much feeling and fact into every word, right up front. Was this post helpful?  Are you looking harder at the first few words you...

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10 ways to write killer headlines.

10 ways to write killer headlines.

The only purpose of a headline is to draw the reader into your story.  Do your headlines do that?  Here are some sure-fire techniques to make you an effective headline writer. Write short. A headline is like a billboard, and your reader is speeding past it.  The fewer words, the better. Make numbered lists. “10 Things You Need to Know About Social Security” promises an easy read, even about a complicated subject. Tell us how-to. People like to know their reading time will be well-spent, as in “How to Cut Your Tax Bill in Half.” Appeal to desires. “Lose Weight with No Exercise” has been working forever. Ask questions. “Are You Ready to Retire?” will engage the person who has been thinking about that very thing. Be cryptic. Tell a parent “What Your Teenager Isn’t Telling You” and that parent won’t be able to pass up the information. Provoke a little. “Why Your Religion is Wrong” will irk almost everybody, and they’ll probably read on. Impart information. “September Newsletter” doesn’t give a clue as to what there is to read or why anyone should read it. Be emotional. Everyone can relate to “Losing a Best Friend Hurts.” Draw a picture. “The Perfect Beach” is something we can all imagine. Above all, know your audience.  Headlines that excite mechanical engineers may not appeal to stay-at-home moms.  Understand the reader’s life, hopes, desires, and fears.  Make a promise with your headline, make it punchy, and keep the...

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More creative recycling.

Another selection of inventive ways to turn potential refuse into useful, beautiful, or just plain weird creations.  Links below the gallery. Cassette tape skull | Rug chair | Button bowl | Plastiki | Pencil cup | Paper vase | Motherboard frames | Rubber chair | Plastic planter | Collectible garbage | Dung beetle | Vodka...

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