Would you use “&” or “and” in company names?

I write for some clients that specialize in branding. Occasionally, that means I get to weigh in on decisions about a new company name, or even the titles assigned to departments and department staff.

Today, a classic question came up. Should we use “&” or “and” between two words.

Not surprisingly, the designer favoured the “&” but the client favoured “and” so who’s right?Read More »


Very unique USPs: marketing brain food

Now that I’m back freelancing – LOVE IT! – I’m reading constantly again. Thought I’d make a habit of posting some of the food for thought I find.

Think Traffic: 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web

What I like about the examples chosen for this post is that they are not only great examples of USPs but they are also (for the most part) well articulated brands. They know what makes them unique and it shows up in their use of language, colour, design – love the oddball chocolate company.

The effective email tease

There is an old marketing adage, originally written in a New York Herald Tribune column in 1956, that goes, “doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.”

Advertising mediums have changed dramatically since then, but advertising precepts and concepts have not. No matter what, we still have to find our audience, and we still have to find a way to not only sit in the spotlight, but get the audience to look when we wink.Read More »

What is a campaign? And how do you get people to join you?

What do you think of when you hear the word campaign?

Political? Social justice? Fund raising? Military? Marketing? Save the whales? Sales?
All of the above?

campaign |kam’pān|

a series of operations intended to achieve a particular objective, confined to a particular area, for a specified amount of time and involving a specified form of engagement.

campaign |kam’pān|

to work in an organized and active way toward a goalRead More »

What About White Papers?

If you are curious about white papers you will want to read this blog post by Vertical Response (after you’ve read this one of course;)

I like VR’s post because it answers the all important question, “What the heck is a white paper?”

From Wikipedia: A white paper is an authoritative report. White papers are used to educate customers, collect leads for a company or help people make decisions.

and then the VR post goes on to provide tips for what to include, and suggest ways to promote a white paper once you’ve got one.

But something that might not come across clearly is that you actually need to approach this from the other direction.

Instead of writing a white paper and then thinking about how you are going to use it and promote it, first think about your PR and marketing objectives, decide if or how a white paper will meet those objectives, who the white paper is for, what you want them to do/think after reading it, how you are going to get the white paper in front of them, and then figure out what content needs to go in the paper.

There are a lot of good PR and marketing objectives that can be supported by creating a white paper (or hiring someone like me to write one up for you). Here are a few:

  1. Demonstrate that you are an expert in your field
  2. Demonstrate that you care about your clients, prospects and colleagues by giving them a  document that is valuable to them and makes it easy for them to understand and use your service
  3. List build – a white paper that attracts the interest of your target market can be used as an enticement to subscribe to e-newsletters and other forms of permission marketing
  4. Prospecting – a white paper can be a powerful CPC (Pay Per Click advertising) draw. Google ads that drive people to your white paper can help you build site traffic and permission marketing lists. But keep in mind that people who want information are different from people who want to buy and there are different reasons that companies choose to speak to both markets.
  5. Sales support – a white paper can become non-salesie common ground between your sales staff (or you) and your clients/potential clients. It provides an opportunity to discuss industry best practices and that conversation can feel more like a beneficial exchange of ideas than a hard sell. (And while you are having that conversation you can further demonstrate that you are an expert in your field and that you care…)

So check out Vertical Response’s blog post about white papers, keep in mind they offer a service that makes it pretty easy to link a white paper to your e-newsletter sign up process, and if you are interested, contact me to discuss developing a white paper (tool kit, tips sheet, or industry report) that supports your PR and marketing objectives.

What makes you relevant?

I worry about coaches and service providers who are continuously positioning themselves/ their ideas/ their companies with statements like, “Given these difficult times…” or “Recession-proof…” or “In today’s market…”

What does that do? It demonstrates that you have read the papers – fine – but if you do too much of that kind of positioning, it can crazy glue you/your idea/your business to the thing that you are telling people makes you relevant – in this case the “downturn”.

Call me kooky, but I don’t see that as a long-term success strategy.

In contrast, consider how Curves has chosen to shape their relevance. They know that it is in their best interest for clients to look at their membership as a long term, life-improving, feel-good choice, rather than a quick fix to a temporary weight-loss problem. They know that their target market is uncomfortable, or even unhappy with their bodies today. Fine, but Curves wants clients to love them now and to keep right on loving them, even when they reach their weight loss goals.

So, instead of attaching their relevance to a potentially temporary weight problem that could ultimately make Curves irrelevant, they position themselves for the long term with messages about women loving their bodies – that vision will never be irrelevant. Then, they reinforce their relevance to their target market by demonstrating their popularity (stores opening everywhere, 4 million members world wide). And by making a program that’s only 30 minutes, they’ve created an opportunity to reinforce that their service is specifically relevant for women with busy lives (all of us). You will notice that all the things Curves relies on to make them relevant show up at the very core of what they do.

You will also notice that they are not running ads that jump on the downturn band wagon, “Lost your job? Lose weight too!” It sounds absurd but the point is that any company could try to use the economy to make itself relevant, but no matter how you spin it, grasping for relevance really doesn’t look very good.

Now, I hope this post isn’t going to confuse people who have heard me challenge them to try to relate what they are saying (in articles and presentations) to something that’s going on in the world. (E.g. refer to a news item, a popular figure, or a current event.)

I want to be clear.  There is a critical difference between using topical real world examples to illustrate concepts or to help people relate to you, and hammering people with empty statements like “In difficult times like these…”, which say little more than, “Look I know what’s going on and I’m telling you I’m relevant!”

Do you have any ideas about relevance that you want to contribute? Any questions you are pondering?  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about questions of relevance in the past couple of weeks and I haven’t come up with any hard and fast truths. But you will find a few other posts on the topic because questions of relevance are relevant to me. What about you?