Blog Consolidation

I’ve consolidated these posts on my other blog: http://marcomedy.wordpress.com.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you visit me over at Marcomedy.

Jonathan

If it’s improved, it aint new

I dislike the term New & Improved and I’m calling for it to be exiled from the common marketing vocabulary.

There are two main reasons:

1. The logical tangle. It seems to me that a thing cannot be both new AND improved. It has to be one or the other. If something is new then it simply cannot also be improved as nothing existed previously that could be improved upon. Equally, saying something is improved implies that something inferior previously existed and as a result it cannot be new.

2. It doesnt tell me anything. The phrase tells me only that the thing is New & (or) Improved. . And in fact, this really doesn’t tell me anything that might substantially influence my interest in doing whatever I’m supposed to with this product. If it’s new, what need is it filling? Why does it exist? If it’s improved, what was wrong with the previous model? How is it improved?  Take me on a journey. Help me recognize how this thing will impact my life.

I’ll conceed  a case could be made for exceptions that are both new and improved. Is the video ipod a new ipod or just an improved version of the old-fashioned audio-only ipod as it is still the same essential product (a portable digital media device produced by Apple)? What about a product with a set of features some of which are new and some of which are older ones that have been improved? Valid questions perhaps.

I can see why the phrase has hung around. "Newness" is a sought-after attribute. You have contributed something to the ecosystem and offered options or solutions where none existed. "Improvement" is a worthy and noble pursuit in both personal and commercial settings. It suggests innovation and a customer-centric focus (we are improving it so you can get more out of it, dear customer…). These are important and even necessary attributes and, if valid, worth highlighting.

But they cannot excuse lazy copywriting. Using New & Improved is a thin cover for a lack of imagination, insight and information. It doesn’t stimulate interest nor does it compel me to action. It is marcom white noise and is still used far too frequently.

Today I make the commitment never to use the phrase "new & improved" again (except cynically or in jest). I urge you do the same.

Updated: In the interests of being helpful and not just blustery, I like the "Re-" words for achieving the same thing as "new & improved". Reinvented, revitalized, reinvigorated and the like offer the same short and punchy tone that’s suitable for headlines, taglines and packaging. They also suggest the novelty and innovation that new & improved wants to convey.

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Persuade vs Convince

Terry Fallis, he of ThornleyFallis & a podcaster and author of some repute, has a regular segment on the InsidePR podcast called Inside Proper English. There’s substance beyond the clever title as Terry takes a weekly look at words & phrases that are commonly misused with the goal of making us better communicators.

Insider Proper English from this week looks at the difference between convince & persuade. Terry points out that, contrary to common belief & use, there is a subtle and important distinction between the two.

We are convinced by evidence or arguments made to the intellect

We are persuaded by appeals made to the will, moral sense or emotions.

I’d also add a further subtle distinction that we are convinced to think something; persuaded to think & do something.

The implication of this for marketing is significant. I couldn’t care less if you were convinced that my widget is better than my competitors widgets if I haven’t also persuaded you to do something about it – buy it, support it, donate to it, tell your friends about it.

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Do Fatter Asses Lead to Bigger Slogans?

One of my guilty pleasure online destinations is the British-based Sun Newspaper (and it’s not for the Page 3 girl). I find the entertainment gossip amusing, the football (soccer) news occasionally informative and the headline & copy writing a real treat..

Today, I can across this story that reported on London Olympic facility designers making seats bigger because, well, spectator’s seats are bigger. That is, people are getting fatter and the stadium seating needs to be more spacious to accommodate them.

To quote:

OLYMPICS chiefs have ordered super-sized seats for London’s 2012 Games — because fans are getting FATTER.

All 20,000 chairs at the capital’s gleaming new Aquatic Centre will be 4cm wider and 5cm deeper than originally planned.

Organisers agreed to the changes after talks with stadium designers, who warned normal-sized seats would be unable to cope with a bulkier UK population by 2012.

It would be my personal hope that people interested in attending sporting events would themselves be participants in physical activities and fitness of some sort. But perhaps that is naive and not a particularly well-supported position if you’ve been to an NFL football game (where, at least, pant seams are well-supported).

So…my challenge is to consider how this will be marketed. After all, the honest truth (Built Ford tough???) will hardly endear fans to the games organizers. Setting aside that there is now more space on the seats for corporate advertisers to flog their wares, I’ve jotted down potential slogans/pitches:

- Olympic-sized seats for Olympic-sized spirit

- Where the only thing spilling over the side is water

- London 2012: The Biggest Games Ever

- Free Deep-fried Mars bar with every seat purchase

And so on….These are off the top of my head. Thoughtful suggestions welcome as well…

P.S. Obesity is a serious issue and this is not a good sign for us all.

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Brain hurt – too much thinking outside of box

Seth Godin has started a Squidoo lens on the Encyclopedia of Business Cliches. There’s a top 10 that has morphed into a Top 83 (and counting) and that  will change as votes are cast in favour of one or another & other cliches are added. The current top 3 are: Best Practices, Synergy & Thinking outside the box.

The main thrust is that these terms, though (arguably) once useful, have been discredited through over-use and by functioning as a shield agaisnt actually saying something useful, insightful or relevant.

Cliches are more than just linguistic shortcuts, they’re typically also intellectual & creative shortcuts. It’s easy to fall back on one of these vacuous expressions, deferring responsibility for saying something meaningful or least forcing the reader (listener, etc..) to interpret for themselves. In fact, its probably better that these cliches are used so often. It allows the consumer/interpreter to come to their own conclusions.

I’m sure if business rhetoric all of a sudden became honest, transparent, insightful and useful, we wouldnt have a clue what was going on & what was expected of us. At least now, when some someone says "lets think outside the box" we know they don’t have clue what they want and are expecting us to come with the answer that will save their skin.

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The Apologetic Blogger or I Know What I’m Not Doing This Summer

I’ve noticed a trend among certain blogs I read – the post apologizing for a lack of activity. Never one to want to be left out….here’s mine.

It’s summer. There’s vacations. Great events in the city. Opportunities to escape the city to cottage country. Golf. Etc. Etc. Etc. Seeing as I’m not making money of this blog, I feel no obligation to satisfy any stakeholders  or other regulatory bodies. I would hope that those who do read this are out enjoying the summer rather than waiting patiently for my latest post.

This is my summer hiatus as I work on next season’s scripts, develop the promotional strategy, enter pre-production, record episodes that will kick off the fall with a bang. I may test the waters with some pilots of things I’m hoping to develop later.

True, I’m not a major network and the always-on internet means you can find me even if I’m not broadcasting new episodes. Infrequent posting doesn’t make for good conversations. I’m well aware of that, but sometimes its good to just listen and take it what’s going on around you.

I’ll get back in the groove, but for now I’m going to enjoy the sun & heat. Cuz there’ll be plenty of time to spend in front of the computer during the winter. We’ll soon return to regularly scheduled programming.

PS. I’ve cross-posted this on my Marcomedy blog b/c it allows me to use another tv phrase…a simulcast.

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You Have To Tell Me Something To Sell Me Anything

Colin McKay over at Canuckflack continues meeting the high expectations we all have for his blogging output. This post, Marketing Tagline for Morons, puts an example of useless and confusing marketing rhetoric under the microscope and finds substance severely lacking.

Cribbed from Colin’s post:

“If electromagnetic waves can penetrate walls, imagine what they can do to your skin”

- spotted at a Clarins makeup counter at Macy’s

Umm – the same thing they do to walls – nothing?

What really got me about this was I had put my friends through a rant on the very same subject over the weekend. We were playing poker & using a set of corporate-sponsored cards. The cards were emblazoned with the company’s slogan: Delivering Sustainable Value.

That’s it. Oh, there was a logo & website URL as well. I naturally don’t remember what the URL is and have only a vague recollection of the company name. I’d imagine that recall (or lack thereof) is pretty common. The thing that stood out for me was the tagline. That may even have been what was intended.

The problem? The tagline is totally meaningless. How do they deliver value? Who judges it to be sustainable? Who is this valuable to or how does one determine its value? I can’t answer any of those questions…and if I can’t you haven’t told me anything. You’ve just assaulted me with utter drivel.

Bad Marketer. Bad.

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