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.

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.

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

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Enjoy the ride

Road Trips, Road Food and Road-Tested Marketing Insights

This blog covers a lot of territory, from practical marketing tips to just-for-fun side trips.

Whether you’re in the SEO fast lane or the R&R slow lane, you can chart your own course, read at your own pace and reach your own destination.

Along the way, you never know what you’ll find – from insights about marketing communications to the inside scoop about the best turtle sundae on Route 66.

Here, you can travel in real or virtual time. Follow the classic cars, the Lincoln trails, Route 66 Scenic Byways, or Interstate and Internet highways. Discover the Mother Road or other attractions in America’s heartland. Watch for mischievous Shelties on the Dog Blog, annual Elvis sightings in Springfield, Ill., or jolly giants and other kitschy roadside art and architecture. Learn about Abraham Lincoln and friends, too.

It’s all here, from Chicago to Springfield to St. Louis along Illinois Route 66, where the Mother Road begins and meanders before turning west under the shadow of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Continue reading