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Enjoy the ride

Road Trips, Road Food and Road-Tested Insights

This blog covers a lot of territory, from insights for marketing and life to unique side trips and events. Along the way, you never know what you’ll find, such as the inside scoop about banana splits and turtle sundaes at nostalgic Rich & Creamy ice cream parlor – one of the Joliet’s many Blues Brothers photo opps.

In additions to food, facts and fun, follow mischievous Shelties on the Dog Blog, annual Elvis sightings in Springfield, Ill., or photogenic giants and Burma Shave signs. Get inspired by Abraham Lincoln and friends, too.

It’s all here, from Chicago to Springfield to St. Louis, along Illinois Route 66. This is where the Mother Road begins, winds its way through Illinois and heads west under the shadow of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Continue reading

Answers from the Peanut Gallery: Is it Advertising, PR or Something Else?

ferrisIMG_500wUnder the Marketing Big Top … When the Circus Comes to Town

“If you paint a sign saying ‘Circus coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s Advertising.

If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s Promotion.

If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s Publicity.

If you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s Public Relations.

If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s Sales.

–M. Booth and Associates, Inc.

Better-than-Gold Content

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All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 

Like the powerful One Ring™ in his epic trilogy, Tolkien had the Midas touch. And like the mythical King Midas, the elvenkings, hobbits, dwarves, lords, wizards and warriors of Middle-earth learned the hard way about real gold, fool’s gold and the importance of wielding gilded powers wisely. Some gold, however shiny, must be discarded into a volcanic crater and destroyed. (In editing circles, this fiery chasm is sometimes referred to as File 13.)

Refining Matters

Whether it’s great literature, an escapist novel, an iconic image or a momentous marketing campaign, storytelling – and merciless editing – contribute to better communications. Every good story shares timeless principles about what really appeals to and endures among humans, hobbits and other sentient creatures.

Whatever the medium, today’s storytellers must break through an increasingly Mordoresque forest of competing communications. Unlike Middle-earth, today’s mediascapes aren’t guarded by black gates, fierce orcs or goblins. But on-track navigation can be a formidable task nonetheless.

One does not simply walk into marketing Mordor.  

In such a context, it can be hard to see the forest for the talking trees or more ominous surprises along the way.

If you’re a fearless communicator in search of real-life, relationship-building partnerships and engaging content, it may be time to turn over a new leaf.

A Goal, a Message, a Map, a Compass and a Guide

This isn’t Middle-earth, but you’ll still need the marketing equivalent of backpack-basics like a map, a wizard-guide who knows the trail and contextual GPS to keep you on course. Perhaps most enchanting are the relationships and value you can forge along the way if you don’t fall under the spell of glittery, flash-in-the-pan shortcuts.

In an era where content – with caveats – is king, the real Midas touch is people, not magic. As in stories of old, the shared experiences and long-term relationships that make us human are still the things that most any audience can relate to: “Show me why I should care.”

All that Glitters Isn’t Gold

Defining good content: Creating quality, branded content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.- Content Marketing Association (CMA)

“All” is the operative word, but “engaging” is important, too. Whether your message is on an ancient scroll or a mobile app, blog post or video, knowing your brand, message, media and destination while maintaining cross-media consistency is key. As you create, be mindful of your brand and its unique personality and promises. Make sure that everyone on your team understands it and is following the same playbook.

Then, when it comes to executing your communications plan, enlist a good storyteller or professional wordsmith to work with a marketing- and media-savvy team. They’ll customize it, make it meaningful and ensure that it follows current best practices and matches the media of choice with compass-guided precision.

Better Adventures and Brighter Endings

Plan ahead and anticipate the inevitable obstacles and opportunities along the way. Allocate sufficient funding, time and resources to do the job well. The road from Riverdell to Mordor  requires a detailed map, and it’s not a day trip.

Achieving worthy goals can be better than gold in the end. … Just ask King Midas, friends of Gollum and a few older-and-wiser, wizard-guided hobbits and humans.

Top 10 Signs You Are Having a MacGyver Christmas

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After Santagate, you developed a more efficient Reindeer-Guided Package-Delivery System


This year, you told everyone that things would be different.

You’d check your to-do list more than twice. You’d have your shopping, mailing, household chores, repairs, errands and other preparations done ahead of time. You’d keep things simple so, for once, you could relax and enjoy the Christmas season with family and friends.

But before long, the hour was late. The dog (allegedly) ate your shopping list and some of your best gifts were back-ordered, unwrapped or unmailed.

Maybe your gingerbread house needed the last-minute paint job, shutters, a new door and sugar-frosted spackling for cracks that appeared in the foundation. Maybe you discovered that one of the gingerbread men in front of the gingerbread house was missing a leg. So it became necessary to create ginger-paramedics, a ginger stretcher and an ambulance with red-gumdrop lights and Oreo wheels.

In your search for a paper clip to fix a precariously dangling ornament, you may have forgotten a few other minor details – like reserving the turkey, replacing your SUV’s water pump, picking up family at the airport, or listening to the rest of some phone message about a gas leak, which you were sure was just a prank.

Continue reading

Are you smarter than a goldfish?

goldfish_cr1kFocusing on the basics, not the bait, still matters

As technology gets smarter our ability to focus has gone for a dive. The average human attention span is now shorter than that of a small orange aquatic vertebrate that swims in, rather than graduates from, a school.

Fish are notoriously flighty. Experts say that a goldfish has an attention span of about 9 seconds. At last count, the average human attention span was just 8 seconds – even shorter than that of a fish and down from its dubious 12-second average in 2000.

Fishing for Metrics

It’s no surprise that – in an era of constant connectivity – attention spans have approached bottom-feeder status.

Orthopedic doctors, chiropractors, optometrists, therapists and other specialists confirm that 24/7 information takes a toll. Experts report a spike in related complaints, ranging from carpel tunnel syndrome and neck pain to eyestrain and anxiety disorders.

By any metric – stiff necks or short attention spans – communicators and consumers alike need the triaged reminder that sometimes less really IS more. Continue reading

Content Is King if Relevance and Quality Reign

king house of cardsThe “content is king” message was first used in the 1974 edition of Magazine Editing and Production by Click and Baird. However, CBS-Viacom magnate Sumner Redstone and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were the ones who elevated it to “conventional wisdom” status.

At its core, the phrase reminds us that — regardless of the medium — there are no shortcuts or substitutes for content with staying-power.

In a digitized world, communicators must optimize content for search engines while making it adaptable across media platforms and devices. Even so, it’s still important to deliver something of relevance and value. Unlike hard-sell approaches of the past, the boundaries of information, entertainment and engagement have blurred. Brand messages are now more organically integrated.

Content marketing best practices continue to evolve. Conventional wisdom changes with the trends, the tech and the times, but fundamentals still matter. Brands that choose quantity over quality or abandon the plan to chase their 15 minutes of viral-video fame risk becoming a flash in the pan at best or, worse yet, the court jester.

Keep Your Eye on the Crown … as Defined by You

The average American makes about 70 conscious decisions a day, according to Columbia University research. Some put the average choices-per-day count as high as 35,000. By any metric, most consumers have decision fatigue. Faced with too much information and too many options, choice offers diminishing returns.

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Sell Your Home Faster: Small Details Make a Big Difference.

white_mailbox1kbOnce you’ve completed basic home-selling preparations – such as inspection, repairs and cleaning – you can add finishing touches to improve the odds of selling your home faster and for more money.

A little TLC and charm can go a long way toward improving your home’s value on the market. Step back and take a look at those extras that can tip the balance for buyers who may be deciding between your home and other similar homes.

Curb Appeal

Realtors often use the phrase “curb appeal” to describe a home’s appeal from the street to potential home buyers driving by. They may be active home buyers responding to an ad, those who saw the yard sign, or those who are considering the neighborhood.

Whatever their motive, home sellers want drive-by home buyers to be impressed enough to stop or come back later for a closer look. Curb appeal starts at the curb, but it doesn’t end there. Everything from the mailbox to the doorbell can send a strong “welcome home” message to buyers. Continue reading

Finding a Realtor to Help Buy or Sell Your Home

3realtors500w7 Tips for Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home is an important investment. Use this guide to find a Realtor with the background, expertise and style that’s “just right.”

Whether buying or selling your home, you can benefit from a good working relationship with a real estate pro. With the right guide, it can be a pleasant and profitable partnership, from the first handshake to the last signature.

Find a convenient condo, a cozy cottage, a meandering mansion or a family-friendly ranch. A good agent can streamline the search, negotiate the terms, save money and manage countless details. This is especially valuable in challenging markets or competitive bidding situations.

1. Know Their Niche

Areas of interest, specialization, price range and focus vary widely. Most real estate agents have a niche. For example, an agent who typically sells executive homes in a golf community may not be familiar with an avant-garde loft near the arts district. Another real estate agent may specialize in starter homes, while yet another may be better at navigating neighborhoods on quiet cul de sacs near A+ schools.

Whether buying or selling a house, find a real estate agent who knows the area and works within a similar range of desired housing styles, price range or neighborhoods.Another good indicator of expertise is membership in the National Association of Realtors. Look for the registered trademark Realtor® designation. This indicates adherence to a specified code of ethics, specialized education and training, and more. Continue reading

15 Smart Tips for Marketing and Life

Best practices change with the times, but certain eye-on-the-ball basics still matter.

Things like starting with a good product or service, communicating clearly, following through on promises and maintaining a reliable reputation will still give you an edge. They matter – regardless of the latest marketing trend.

The following quotes are reminders that fundamentals still count – in marketing, sports … or life. Continue reading