Boosting Your Brand With Thought Leadership.

suM-250Being a thought leader in your industry is critical to supporting and expanding your brand. The strongest brands are those owned and managed by thought leaders. That’s because thought leaders understand that there are key building blocks enabling their position.

Thought leadership building blocks:

  • Design & engineering (product/service, process, store, graphics, interactive)
  • Marketing & sales (multichannel media, sales methodology)
  • Service (phone, online, social media, mail, in-person)
  • Operations (raw materials, manufacturing, warehousing, delivery)
  • Ethics (your brand’s moral compass including aspects such as fair trade, labor practices, environmental responsibility and community support)
  • Empowerment (employees, vendors, partners, customers)


The strength of the Thought Leadership Circle is only as good as its weakest link.

A solid network of thought leadership building blocks enables trust in the reputation of your brand. Imagine a perfect circle made of building blocks surrounding your customers. As the thought leader in your category, you must continually excel at all of the above to prove your leadership worthiness. Any misstep impacts your position and ultimately, your brand’s integrity.

In this article, we’ll review the design component of thought leadership.

Using Design As A Thought Leadership Building Block.

Looking the part of the thought leader ensures your customer pays even closer attention to what you say and do. For example, let’s look at IKEA, arguably THE thought leader in the modernist home furnishing market.

IKEA spent the past 50 years building its reputation as THE expert in affordable modern design for the home. Going way beyond just designing modern products, IKEA modernized the process of buying home products and designed stores that include everything for the home. They managed to instill a global and modern design sense in every aspect of their business, thus building the ultimate modern brand. IKEA is the thought leader of modernist home furnishings. It is the go-to expert if you want affordable, cool, modern stuff for your crib with that special IKEA shopping experience.

But, and you knew there was a ‘but,’ right?

Very recently, IKEA enlisted in a rebranding project and as a result, changed its corporate typefaces from their customized versions of Futura and Century Schoolbook (a.k.a. IKEA Sans and IKEA Serif) to Verdana. The objective was to unify the company’s online and print typefaces to save costs on global implementation. While a respectable goal, this brand maneuver is resulting in a huge outpouring of criticism in the blogosphere, Twitterverse, newsfeeds and online forums, ultimately questioning their future position as thought leader for modern home furnishings.

Why Is This Even an Issue?

On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. But what IKEA failed to take into consideration is that the typography component of design is a method by which we express the brand’s voice, and a significant portion of their customer base is design-centered. Most of the commentary critical of this change focuses on the future:

What does this mean for IKEA’s position as modernist thought leader?
Who will they turn to for leadership in affordable furnishings for their homes?
Who do they trust?

To better understand why this venture is risky, let’s first review a little background info on the three typefaces and their applications:

  • Futura is a modernist typeface designed during the Bauhaus years and uses the perky geometric forms of that day. Because of it’s geometric and modern design, Futura is often used for both display and body text applications. IKEA Sans is a slightly customized version of Futura designed by Robin Nicholas.
  • Century Schoolbook is a serif typeface based on research that showed young readers more easily identify letterforms that used contrasting weights. It also has a larger x-height and slightly increased tracking to further improve readability at smaller sizes, making it perfect for body text where it enhances communication. This feature is so critical that the Supreme Court of the US requires briefs to be typeset in Century.
  • Verdana, designed by Matthew Carter in 1994 for Microsoft, served a very specific application: on-screen use in websites. Verdana includes features that make it more legible on backlit monitors including: larger x-height, added tracking and enhanced pair kerning. It is the extra tracking and padding that make Verdana inferior for print use. As a display headline, all that padding and special kerning requires adjustment downward to increase readability. Thus, using Verdana in print actually makes more work for the print designer.

Typeface usage falls within two traditional categories and one new one: display, body and screen typefaces. Display fits larger needs such as headlines in ads and text on outdoor billboards. Body faces are appropriate for smaller text such as paragraphs and captions. Screen faces are exactly that, faces that increase readability on computer monitors or overhead projectors.

Yeah, Yeah—Get to the Point.

Most consumers don’t purposefully think about the exact ingredients that go into the products they buy or the brands they love. They don’t think about the thickness of steel on the body of a Mercedes or the method by which Mercedes applied the paint. They just know that it’s the color they want, it looks good and they trust that the engine won’t fail them. But if the paint job were flawed, you can bet they’d notice it immediately, and the integrity of the Mercedes brand is then open to debate. This is a great example of the invisibility of good design and engineering.

Likewise, Futura reflects the modern IKEA product ‘design equals function’ aesthetic and reinforces their modernist thought leadership position even though consumers don’t directly think about it each time they open the IKEA catalog. Century Schoolbook reinforces that modernism while increasing readability in body text and again, consumers don’t directly think about just how easy it is to read the tiny type in the catalog. It all just works and looks good.

Verdana is arguably the best sans-serif typeface for use on websites, its specific design purpose, but it has no basis in print. Typeface selection, along with color, imagery and other seemingly aesthetic design choices, directly affects functionality and has the power to affect our emotional connection to a brand, thereby playing a key role in maintaining the thought leadership position of a company.

While functionality is obviously measurable, the emotional connections are harder to attribute to design. This is why corporations, even IKEA, so often overlook them.

So, is IKEA thinking ahead of the curve or are they driving blind?

“Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners.”
Bruce Nussbaum
Editor, BusinessWeek’s innovation and design coverage

Very few corporations understand that good design plays a key role in building a thought leadership position. For example, companies like Apple, Target and Trader Joe’s all use design as a method of creating and retaining their respective leadership positions. Companies that pigeonhole design as marketing department fluff are not taking full advantage of their thought leadership tools.

IKEA became the thought leader in modern home furnishings by integrating design as a key brand-building component. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

By Julia Moran Martz

Are You Creating the Right Recession Impression?

hawkerDawg-250Maybe it’s time to give yourself and your team a little pep talk. Get your facts straight. Know what you’re talking about. Create a results-oriented plan that will improve sales today and better position your company for tomorrow. You can do it. What’s more, you need to do it.

Going “dark” to your customers is exactly what your savvy competitors hope you will do. They recognize that there are opportunities in today’s economy. Just as importantly, they are thinking about the mid-term and long-term gains they can achieve—at your expense—by being more aggressive now.

Accountants Can Put You Out of Business.

Cutting marketing to the bone might satisfy the accounting department, but some financial people (and operations, too) often question whether marketing really sells products. A down economy is just an excuse to do what they’d like to do all of the time. It’s up to you to demonstrate that crippling marketing is a bad decision.

I’m always reminded of the story where William Wrigley is riding on a train and one of his colleagues asks him why, with a dominant market share, did he continue to promote his chewing gum so aggressively. “How fast do you think this train is going?” Wrigley asked. “I would say about 90-miles an hour,” the colleague responded. “Well then,” said Wrigley, “do you suggest we unhitch the engine?”

That’s an easier position in good times than bad, you might argue. But there is not one shred of evidence that cutting marketing during a downturn will help your organization. Consider these recession research studies:

  • Yankelovich/Harris
    Execs agree that seeing a company in a down market makes them feel more positive about the company and keeps them top-of-mind when making purchase decisions.
  • McGraw-Research Laboratory of Advertising Performance
    Study of 600 BtoB marketers found that those who maintained or increased advertising during a recession averaged sales growth of 275% over the preceding five years.
  • American Business Press
    Study revealed sales and profits could be maintained and increased in recession years and in the years following by those who maintain an aggressive posture while others become non-participants.
  • Harvard Business Review
    Report of 200 companies found that sales increases came from companies that advertised the most during the recessionary year.

Is It Too Late?

No, but depending upon your situation, you may need to regain the confidence of executive management. And you will almost definitely need to be creative with your budget and reallocate money to areas that will generate the most measurable results. You should focus on:

  • Adding Value. The last thing you want to do is engage in discount battles—especially with your top brands. Price cuts not only hurt current profitability, but they also can be difficult to escape later. A low price tends to become the expected price. Demonstrate instead that you identify with your customer’s challenges and build on values such as durability, security, ease-of-use and timesavings.
  • Selling More to Existing Customers. Returns are so much better and less expensive than prospecting. Increasing your share of customer through more frequent and/or larger purchases can do wonders for your bottom line.
  • Improving Data Mining. Whether you are selling to existing customers or prospecting, nothing will increase results more that instituting database marketing best practices. Get your data out of departmental silos and into a centralized database that offers a single view of each customer. Then you can begin adding sophistication through data appending, predictive modeling and many other techniques often overlooked or underutilized by even large companies.
  • Adding Marketing Automation. You can streamline your marketing program and improve results through marketing automation systems. Good ones will not only help you efficiently manage and execute campaigns, but will also provide the valuable reporting you need. With a recent CMO study indicating that 20 percent of executive-level marketers don’t track their marketing returns at all, there is plenty of room for improvement.
  • Integrating Multiple Channels. Anyone who is paying attention knows that the best returns come from campaigns that skillfully integrate multiple channels. Just make sure you commit your limited funds to the right channels. Consider what Gregg Ambach of Analytic Partners said in an article that appeared in the July 2009 issue of Deliver magazine: “(Digital) is incredibly efficient, because the cost per thousand is low. But it’s just not moving a lot of volume yet.” So be careful about being penny wise and pound foolish when allocating recession marketing dollars.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop cost-effective, multi-channel marketing campaigns—from strategy through execution—that deliver measurable results. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Creating the Right Internal & External Recession Impressions.


The impressions you make can have a lasting effect on your career as well as the success of your marketing campaigns. Make a poor internal impression and you may never have the resources to succeed at the external part. Here’s a list of things you can do to make the best internal and external impressions.


  • Speak with true knowledge about your customers and markets.
  • Demonstrate your ability to capitalize on customer data.
  • Know your competitors intimately—strengths, vulnerabilities, etc.
  • Cut programs that don’t work—show no favoritism beyond positive results.
  • Reallocate money to the best performing channels.
  • Be able to cost justify more expensive channels that perform.
  • Make a solid case for automation and other investments that improve efficiencies.
  • Set and communicate short-, mid- and long-term goals—there will be a tomorrow.
  • Make your plans flexible—think best and worst case scenarios.
  • Collaborate with the team (accounting & operations people, too)—you’re all in this together.
  • Show a willingness to learn and adapt.
  • Communicate your program successes.


  • Show your customers that you identify with their situation.
  • Be less promotional and more personal.
  • Communicate how your products or services provide added value that will help them.
  • Make customers feel comfortable, safe and secure about their buying decisions.
  • Avoid price-cutting—it’s a losing strategy.
  • Combine data mining with personalization techniques to customize offers.
  • Pay attention to customer communication preferences—now is not the time to give anyone a reason to tune you out.
  • Integrate channels that make sense for your customers and your message.
  • Execute messages appropriately for each channel—integrated marketing isn’t one-size-fits all.
  • Make sure your print materials are environmentally responsible—people still care.
  • Invite customers to engage with you in more ways.
  • Get more mileage from your campaigns by incorporating pass-along and other techniques that get your customers working for you.

ChalksignInk. Digits. Chalk? Thumbs up to the owners of Limestone Coffee & Tea (Batavia, IL) for their chalk promotion during the community’s recent Windmill Fest. Located in a high-traffic area, the retailer posted a chalk-written sidewalk promotion for a free coffee or tea with any drink purchase if you bring a friend. And an entry-way promotion offered 10% off any frozen drink during the festival. The promotion is fun, nostalgic and very cost-effective.

By Larry Bauer

Using Creativity and Street Smarts to Survive a Recession.


Everyone’s hurting right now and while you’re thinking you need to cut back on sales training, marketing and R&D, your biggest, baddest competitors have likely already done just that. Which means you have a unique opportunity to enter a new market or expand your existing share while the big boys aren’t looking. This is exactly what companies like Clif Bar, Method Products, Inc. and The Wine Group are doing.

Be Frugal In Your Design Decisions.

A great example of frugal design innovation is the development of Recession Wines by The Wine Group last year. They took advantage of recessionary wine purchasing trends (you know, the one where consumers drink more and cheaper wine at home than out and about with their friends) and created a low-price competitor to Two-Buck Chuck by saving money via packaging design. Using cheaper synthetic corks and a lighter bottle saved enough money per unit to allow offering a price under $5. This is a great example of using design frugality to achieve the lower price without skimping on the quality of the actual product.

And thanks to the up front legwork achieved by Two-Buck Chuck, consumers know that cheap wine doesn’t have to taste like floor cleaner. So new brands like Recession Wines don’t have to spend money changing consumer attitudes, they can instead focus on developing a great product and getting it to market.

Be Creative And Limber.

Limber up and be ready to try new things or take on the category gorillas like Method Products, Inc. did during the dotcom bust.

In 2001, after the massive dotcom failures, investors were afraid and ready for anything that wasn’t founded on questionable technologies. Using a friendlier logo, a more humanist approach overall, better design and easier, faster to read text allowed Method to take on the likes of P&G and SC Johnson. Method’s more casual and honest approach also tied directly into the green product trends consumers were starting to buy. These creative approaches, combined with truly green products, allowed Method to a get there faster and connect more quickly and firmly with consumers. Most importantly, it allowed them to compete more affordably during a recession when the 800-pound gorillas were asleep.

Seek Opportunities To Steal.

Most of your competitors will be scaling back their marketing programs to cut costs. They’ll even be laying off the people that watch out for companies like yours. This is your chance to steal more of the spotlight, and it will cost less to do so during a recession. Ad rates can be more favorably negotiated. Ditto with vendor costs. And don’t forget, any customers you snag during this difficult time will still be your friends when the market recovers.

This is exactly what happened when Clif Bars entered the market in 1992 and challenged Powerbar, the industry front-runner. Powerbar owned the market; there was no serious competitor. But with a recession in play, the field leveled and Clif Bar stole the ball.

Taking more care to research the market and spending more time in R&D allowed Clif Bar to create a much better tasting product and enter through bike shops rather than grocery outlets. Couple this with vendors so desperate for a sale they’d risk doing business with a start-up, and Clif Bar was in business.

Don’t Wait For An Invitation.

Experts think the recession is starting to wane, which means you don’t have much time left. So stop wasting paper and pixels on fluff, and focus on more human-to-human, conversational tones. Adjust both your visual and verbal messages to your customers. Their needs have shifted and so too should your messages. Ensure you’re meeting consumers’ design needs whether it’s larger type for boomers or less costly production materials for the newly unemployed.

Think beyond traditional media by considering social media tools to more directly connect to your target market. During a recession, many consumers are at home, in front of their computers, communicating through social networking tools. You should be there, too.

And certainly don’t skimp on communicating superior quality during a recession. Especially with high-ticket items that consumers will be married to for years to come. This is a time when they’re going to be especially critical of cheaper durable goods that could be a waste of their hard-earned dollars.

And above all, innovate as if your life depended on it, because in a recession, your company’s life does. Now go out there and get scrappy, dang it!

By Julia Moran Martz

Does Print Advertising Still Work?


Don’t get me wrong. I use web-based media everyday. Some of it I enjoy. Some of it I find highly useful in both my business and personal life. I also advise my customers to use it as part of their media plan, and several of them are printers. So this is not a rant against non-traditional media by any means.

At the same time, many companies seem to be over compensating in their move toward electronic media. Granted it has some nice features like being relatively inexpensive, very fast and easily tracked. Everyone loves to walk into their supervisor’s office and point to clickthroughs, landing page downloads and all the other neat things you learn from an online campaign.

But keep in mind that a Parks Associates study reported by MarketingProfs found that 21 percent of Americans had never visited a website, sent an email or used a search engine. And if you are an international company, more than 40 percent of the populations of highly developed countries like France, Belgium and Austria never use the Internet. Even with high connectivity rates in nations like Japan and Taiwan, the numbers escalate to an incredible 85 percent in Asia.

Using Online Media Exclusively Can Shortchange Results

Online media is not necessarily a “be all, end all” solution for reasons that go beyond connectivity? Even among people who do use the Internet, print may actually perform better than online alternatives for certain objectives? Well, let’s ease into this for those who are diehard online media advocates.

First of all, there is a recent Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) study indicating that the combination of print magazine advertising with online advertising at the publisher’s website is the best performing media blend available. This supports a number of previous studies showing that marketing campaigns having the greatest impact on the purchasing decision use a synergistic media combination.

Data Support Print

In fact, data indicate that throughout the purchase funnel, magazines are the most consistent performers versus other media studied. Across an aggregate of 20 studies, magazines produced a positive result in more stages of the purchase funnel, and in more ad campaigns, than TV or online. Check out these findings.

Aggregate Trends Across the Purchase Funnel

Total Brand Awareness Brand Familiarity Brand Imagery Purchase Intent
Magazines 78% 93% 82% 80%
TV 69% 69% 68% 57%
Online 56% 67% 57% 26%
Percentage of 20 Studies in Which Overall Purchase Metrics Were Positively Influenced by Medium
Source: Magazine Publishers of America study conducted by Marketing Evolution

Particularly noteworthy was that across the five advertising categories studied, magazines ranked first in influencing purchase intent in all but electronics where it came in a close second to television.

Purchase Intent Lift by Category

Magazines Television Online
Automotive +5% +3% +2%
Entertainment +6% +1% +4%
Electronics +3% +4% 0%
General +4% +1% +1%
Pharmaceuticals +3% +2% 0%
Source: Magazine Publishers of America study conducted by Marketing Evolution

Key findings from the research confirm that:

  • For brand familiarity and purchase intent, magazines generate a superior cost per impact (CPI) than either TV or online.
  • For brand awareness TV leads in cost efficiency, and the efficiency of magazines is a close second to that of TV.
  • Magazines most consistently generated a favorable ROI throughout the purchase funnel, followed by TV.
  • While each category that Marketing Evolution examined (auto, entertainment, electronics, and pharmaceuticals) showed a unique profile, the overall pattern held across the individual categories.

What This Means to You

Unless you’ve completely put blinders on to anything but online media, this should trigger a call to action. If you believe in the value of a media mix and have a true commitment to maximizing ROI, then it’s time to take a hard look at your plan. Chances are you’ll find print advertising under-represented, to say nothing of under-appreciated. The potential ROI gains you’ll receive from adding print advertising are very likely greater than any you’ll receive from repeating ads in other media.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop a winning media strategy as well as create winning ad campaigns from concept through creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Print Advertising.

honeyMooners-250You’d think we’d know a lot about print advertising at this point. It’s not exactly a new medium after all. But there seems to be a strong tendency to make the same mistakes over and over, and then wonder why the campaign didn’t work. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help make your print ads more successful.


  • Clarify your audience—knowing whom you’re trying to reach is the ultra-crucial first step.
  • Hire a professional to develop a media plan—wrong publications, wrong timing, wrong frequency, wrong mix can easily doom the best ad campaign.
  • Decide what you’re selling before creating an ad.
  • Sell benefits, not features in a product or service ad—focus on the top two or three.
  • Show your product or service in action—incorporate people.
  • Consider premium positions to increase readership and recall.
  • Learn from other advertising campaigns—including your competitors.
  • Write killer headlines that speak to benefits—five times more people read a headline than body copy.
  • Communicate the brand and a positive message.
  • Incorporate high-impact visuals and easy-to-read typefaces.
  • Remember that you are not the buyer—what matters is whether your campaign works, not whether you like it.
  • Include URLs to drive website traffic—a study shows the biggest lifts in women’s service (198%), home (203%), and travel (286%) categories vs. ads with no URL.
  • Track and test, track and test—improve tracking with coupons, new VOIP services, special pricing, landing pages, subscriber surveys, tip-ins, etc.


  • Underestimate the power of frequency—it’s a critical campaign success factor.
  • Forget to include a strong direct response component to generate leads.
  • Fail to hook readers quickly—the average reader glances at a print ad for two seconds with 1.5 devoted to the visual.
  • Sacrifice brand visibility for “creativity”—ideally integrate the brand with the visual.
  • Choose visuals that generate negative, unintended associations.
  • Make people work hard to connect your visuals with your product and brand.
  • Wander from your key points.
  • Load your ad with meaningless platitudes—“we provide quality service,” etc.
  • Forget that a direct response ad needs more copy to explain a product or service.
  • Choose an inappropriate format for your message—consider spreads, inserts and advertorials if you need more space.
  • Neglect to advance the reader to the next step.
  • Limit your advertising to just print or any other single medium—it’s very much a multi-channel world.

By Larry Bauer

Creating a Print Ad That Works.

workinJoe-200Regardless of whose ad dogma you subscribe to, your goal is singular: cause a positive action. That’s it. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well, in practice, causing a positive action in a print ad is trickier than you’d think.

There are three key tools for creating a great ad or campaign that causes a positive action. These are all of equal weight. Without all three, your ad’s success is in jeopardy.

  • Great concept.
  • On-target message.
  • Flawless execution.

Assuming you’re working with a great team to create a great concept and on-target message, the only thing you have left to worry about is flawless execution.

Great Concept

Your task is to be the exception. Buck the trends. Surprise and delight. Shock and awe—you get the drill. This is where you DON’T want to just keep up with the Joneses.

Anyone can put their product logo, photo and description in a box and call it an ad. But creating an ad that has true stopping power, snagging the reader in the 1.5 seconds they glance at the visual, is incredibly more difficult. Remember, a concept is an instance. Not too heavy, it’s quick and reels in the reader.


(click image to enlarge) I like the contrast of the above two examples for different reasons: Harley uses an insanely long headline whereas Valspar uses only a demure tagline near the chip. They are both perfectly suited to their vastly different markets.

On-target Message

Understanding your target audience and their specific desires is critical to determining the best message for your ad. A great visual will certainly stop them, but you’ve got to follow through with a compelling message. The message is the half-second remaining in the scan time readers will devote to your ad.

In order of importance, your message should be stated by the headline and supported by body text. Today’s consumers will never get to the body text much less your call-to-action unless your main message is a real grabber.

And remember, if your best effort results in hollow platitudes like great customer satisfaction, full ranges of solutions or some other drivel used by the masses, don’t bother. Consumers are more savy than you think and are much more critical than ever before. Most ads sound the same to them and they view you as an interruption to the article they’re reading.

Here are a few examples of what NOT to do from real-life ads (yawn yawn, blah blah blah):

Message Product Why it doesn’t work
Technology with an edge. kitchen knives Technology doesn’t cut my tomatoes, a good knife does. Keep the message focused on the benefit.
Why is this considered the most advanced wiper system ever? You’ll see. windshield wiper blades They lost me after the ninth syllable. Remember, 1.5 seconds of scanning time is devoted to the visual. That leaves only a mere half-second for the message. Make it efficient.
Solatube Solution. tubular skylights If I see ‘solution’ used one more time, I think I may hurl. If I want a groovy round skylight, I don’t want a solution.
Batteries not included…or needed electromagnetic flashlight There’s a germ of an idea with real stopping power here but it seems to have gotten killed by committee.

Now for a refreshing break, here are a few examples of intriguing messages, again from real-life ads:

Message Product Why it works
If it doesn’t get dirt, grease or blood under your nails, it’s not a hobby. Gerber Legend ® Multi-Plier tool Great extreme close up of cracked fingertips and dirty nails with message squarely targeting the male demographic of The Family Handyman magazine. Finished off with a flawless tagline for the DIYer: Fend for yourself.
What’s your carfun footprint? Mini-Cooper Twist of words requiring a double take is a good way to stop readers.
Looks like someone used too much Miracle-Gro®. Dodge Ram pick ups Dead-on to the target market of home and handyman magazines. Coulda had a more powerful visual but this chart is about the message.
Regrets cost a lot more.

I coulda got a smart, sensible turdmobile.

Six bucks a day. Cheaper than your smokes, a six pack, a lap dance, a bar tab, another tattoo, a parking ticket, a gas station burrito, a lip ring, bail, cheap sunglasses, more black t-shirts.

Harley-Davidson Dead-on target. Harley completely gets their target market’s need to consider themselves bad asses.

The third message is the exception to the rule of keeping the message efficient. Remember, there are always exceptions.

Flawless Execution

The execution component is fraught with a seemingly infinite set of ad rules and guidelines touted by “experts” and based on studies. These rules exist because marketing experts are always in search of absolutes. Unfortunately, there are none. Advertising to humans is by nature not a science. Examples of things that are truly scientific would include our brain’s reaction to specific colors (which is also cultural), our eye’s ability to read tiny type and a myriad of other gray matter-related abilities.

  • Rule makers attempt to define the often indefinable to make it available to everyone.
  • Rule breakers understand the rules and also how to bend or break them to exceed the ad’s goals.

Let’s look at a couple of typical rules that rule makers like to espouse:

Reversed type in ads doesn’t produce great response. While studies certainly suggest that this is true, we don’t know what ads were used in the studies, we don’t know if their message was on target, we don’t know if their visual had stopping power or even if the designer selected an appropriate typeface at an appropriate size for reversing.

For example, expecting 7 point Bodoni Light Condensed reversed from a 4-color process background on a trade journal’s web press to be successful in an ad is just plain silly. It ain’t gonna happen. But using a typeface with a larger x-height, regular weight like Myriad Pro Regular is safer and much more readable.

Suffice it to say, if you don’t know what you’re doing typographically, this is likely a good rule to follow.

All ads should contain a photo of the product. History has shown that there is likely something to be said for this rule. Remember the Nissan Infiniti launch campaign back in the late 80’s? Designers loved it because it eliminated the car from the ads and was considered edgy/risky. However, keep in mind, this car was developed to compete with Lexus, and Infiniti sales continue to lag. Would the Infiniti have competed better with Lexus if the launch campaign included car photos? We’ll never know for sure.

Lessons Learned

Balancing the need to stop the reader, support the brand and be readable is tricky. If all ads followed all the rules, none would stand out from the pack. Remember, great advertising is about getting attention, stopping the reader, enticing and snaring.

If you’ve got a great ad with stopping power, it’s readable and the message is on target, then likely it will work regardless of what the rules say. But if you’re short on one of the three keys, nothing will save your ad and your budget could be wasted.

But, like any good student, learn the rules before you break them. Know and understand what you’re doing and why.

By Julia Moran Martz

Yes, Virginia, spam does affect the environment.

Well, now we finally know for certain, spam does have a carbon footprint and it’s incredibly large. Size 33B (B for billion kilowatt hours) to be precise. To view it differently:

  • That’s enough energy to power 2.4 million homes.
  • Each spam has a footprint of .3 grams of CO2.
  • The 62 trillion spams sent annually roughly equal driving around the planet 1.6 million times.

What’s more, spam filtering can reduce that figure by 75% which is the equivalent of eliminating 2.3 million cars.

The Carbon Footprint of Email Spam Report was commissioned by McAffee and you can download the paper here.

What does this mean for emarketers?

One more reason not to spam.

While seemingly easy, eliminating outgoing spam can actually be a challenge to implement. How do you know if your company is guilty of spamming? What is the definition of spam? And if you follow the letter of the law (US CAN-SPAM Act), why isn’t that enough? And even if you’re doing everything right, you’ve still got folks on your back wondering why you don’t just buy email lists from anyone on the Internet.

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • How do you know if your company is spamming? There are several clues you can look for:
    1. Do your email reports show large numbers of spam reporting?
    2. Are your email campaigns getting increasingly blocked by more and more servers?
    3. Did you buy an email list of people your company doesn’t know or have a relationship with?
    4. Do you just have a bad feeling in your gut?
  • What is the correct definition of spam? This is easy and yet somehow complex too:
    1. Spam is defined by the recipient, NOT the sender or the sender’s government. If the recipient thinks your email is spam, guess what? It is.
    2. Even so, many governments are attempting to define spam as well. And each government has their own variation on laws governing ‘unsolicited email’. The US law is one of the most lenient, allowing anyone to send email to anyone else so long as certain rules are followed. Those rules include showing a postal address and allowing a valid opt out option, among others. Read the US CAN-SPAM Act for more details, but realize that if your email list includes folks in, say, Australia, your rules are going to be much more strict.
    3. The third party to define spam are the corporations that make spam blocking software for ISPs. These folks have a tough job, creating spam-blocking parameters for use in any country. That’s one reason why they tend to be the most strict when it comes to determining what emails are spam. Their software looks for key features of emails that serve as triggers and get that email blocked at the ISP level. AND they’re always updating their parameters. For instance, it’s common knowledge now that including a lot of all caps or the word ‘FREE’ in your subject line will likely get you blocked. There are also more persnickety triggers like copious amounts of specific colors or images that are ‘too’ large. And of course, a plethora of coding triggers that we won’t go into here.
  • Why isn’t it enough to just follow the US CAN-SPAM Act?
    1. Easy, the United States government doesn’t make the spam blocking software that is used by ISPs around the world and the government is not reading your email to determine if it is spam. SO, the government really doesn’t have a roll to play in whether or not your email gets through and gets read. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow the laws of the country where your email recipients reside, US or not. Definitely follow the laws or you could be sued. Just realize that following the laws does not guarantee that your email will be successful.
    2. AND remember, the US CAN-SPAM Act is not transferable to other countries. Many countries now have their own laws and if you’re emailing to other countries, it’s your company’s responsibility to abide by these laws.
  • What to do about those folks breathing down your neck to get you to buy the biggest email list you can, hoping for that traditional 1% direct marketing return? This is tougher because these folks may be your boss, or your boss’s boss. They may not give a hoot about getting email permission from people on your list or following the laws of the country in which your recipients reside. This is your opportunity to shine by educating them before they force the company to make a big mistake. Get your ducks in a row and discuss the following:
    1. Review everything we’ve discussed above, and in as much depth as the bosses can handle. Most bosses just want the bottom line, so be prepared to state what that is and support it with facts when they protest.
    2. Remind them that despite what THEY think, if the recipient thinks their email is spam, it not only IS spam but that perception directly affects the value of their brand, which is likely reflected on the books.
    3. Remind them that building brand trust and loyalty are hard and being perceived as a spammer will undermine these activities.
    4. And one more thing, let’s go back to what started this discussion: the environment. If your company has a green plan, spamming negatively affects any efforts you make to lessen the carbon footprint and communicate any green initiatives in place. Creating a corporate Anti-Spam Policy can and should also be a segment of your Green Policy. This is also good for your brand.

The obvious lesson here is simple: be a good company and treat your customers with respect. Don’t abuse them, give them what they want, and IF they want you to email coupons to them monthly, do it. If they want you to update them on product upgrades via email, do it. If they don’t, respect their wishes.

Of course, if you’re the authentic manufacturer of a certain little blue pill, I wish you luck. You may never be able to use email marketing due to the spammers that came first.


Cracking The Tagline Nut.

traumanut-250The Great Recession presents an excellent opportunity to examine the relevance of your tagline. How you position yourself now and, equally importantly, as the economy improves has more significance than ever. Most marketing analysts believe that the unprecedented economic conditions are accelerating long-term marketplace changes.

So it’s a great time to think about your business, how it fits into the future and whether or not your tagline contributes to what you want customers to know about your company in the emerging marketplace. Is it dated, or does it express something that will resonate with the needs of your target audience?

What’s the Purpose of a Tagline, Anyway?

Conveying your company’s key brand message is the primary function of a tagline. If a customer or prospect gets nothing else from your messaging, you want them to remember the tagline message. But being memorable isn’t all that easy, and bad taglines from companies of all sizes litter the marketing landscape.

According to Mike Myatt, chief strategy officer of venture growth consultancy, N2Growth, “A tagline is the new media version of a company slogan. It can be a mantra, company statement or even a guiding principle that is used to create an interest in your company, product or service.”

Further, he points out that a tagline is not to be confused with a unique selling proposition, which is a value statement that communicates what sets your business, product or service apart from the competition. While a unique value proposition helps your company align strategy with positioning and execution, a tagline is a pure piece of marketing copy that sums up what you do or what you want the marketplace to know about your products or services.

“Perfect” Tagline Criteria

According to Timothy R V Foster, author of “How Ad Slogans Work” for and founder of Ad Slogans Unlimited, the ideal tagline fulfills several criteria in addition to being memorable:

  • Includes a key benefit (Holiday Inn: “Pleasing people the world over” versus Exxon: “We’re Exxon.”
  • Differentiates the brand (Timex: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.)
  • Recall the brand name. Techniques like rhyming can help (“See the USA in your Chevrolet.”). An alternative is to rhyme without mentioning the name (Paul Masson: “We will sell no wine before its time.”)
  • Impart positive feelings about the brand. Negativity rarely works in book titles, politics or advertising (Coca-cola: “Coke is it!” versus Lea & Perrins: “Steak sauce only a cow could hate.”).
  • Not be usable by a competitor. Some taglines could fit any organization (TRW: “A company called TRW.”). You could drop in any name and it works. Foster points out that he has nearly 30 companies in his database with the tagline, “Simply the best.”
  • Strategic. You might be able to convey your strategy through a tagline (DuPont: “Better things for better living through chemistry.).
  • Trendy. This is dangerous territory, though some companies are trying, for example, to create single-word taglines (Nissan: “Driven.”). But it’s a tough challenge. A trendy variation is to use three words or ultra-short phrases, which helps with complex messages (Monsanto: “Food. Health. Hope,” or the all-time category classic, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies: “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”).

Getting Started

Get your team together and don’t be intimidated. Start by brainstorming a long list. Don’t get hung up on word counts at the beginning. You can always whittle the words down later, but you don’t want to sacrifice potentially good messages too early. Then test your best ideas with internal and external colleagues, trusted customers and even some random reviewers. A wider range of participants in the critiquing process will help assure that your tagline has clarity.

Remember too, that you may need multiple taglines. While you’ll only want one, of course, as the overall positioning message, you may want taglines for your corporate newsletters, a customer education program and other marketing activities. In both of these instances, you would want to come up with an original name and a tagline that adds further clarity.

Want Expert Advice?

MondoVox Creative Group can help you develop winning taglines from concept through creative execution. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

You can connect with Julia Moran Martz on LinkedIn. Or follow her on Twitter.

By Larry Bauer

Tagline Do’s & Don’ts.

donut-250We love giving you the confidence that lets you sleep well at night. To avoid tossing and turning during your next tagline change, use this value tagline do’s and don’ts checklist.


  • Strive to be memorable in a positive way.
  • Collect and critique other companies’ taglines.
  • Keep it short—3-6 believable words are ideal.
  • Make the words match your core services.
  • Create a customer persona and write to that.
  • Be clear, not cryptic.
  • Choose clear over clever if you must make a choice.
  • Be as specific as possible about what you do, whom you serve, etc.—especially if you are a smaller company.
  • Be bold, provocative, engender trust, build confidence.
  • Test your tagline.


  • Be too generic.
  • Elicit a negative or sarcastic reaction—it must be believable.
  • State a benefit that might be questionable for your company (see above).
  • Use corporate-speak or jargon.
  • Merely describe what you do—“Serving all your printing needs,” etc.
  • Sound pompous.
  • Forget to summarize and sell—it’s a pure marketing message you’re creating.
  • Use overused words in your industry—“solutions” in the tech sector, etc.
  • Open with clichéd benefits—saves time, etc.
  • Argue with critics if they’re not getting the message—strongly consider reworking it.

Tagline and Jingle Inspiration Source. If you want to see taglines and jingles to stoke your creative fires, visit Tagline Guru. You’ll find long lists of each from some well-known companies in a wide range of sectors. It’s fun to see the different taglines that an individual company used over the years, which can provide ammunition to make the case that things change, and so should your tagline. There’s also a ranked list of the “100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948,” as well as the “30 Most Influential Jingles Since 1948.” See if you agree.

By Larry Bauer