Engagement

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 When Eddie Vedder sings “Daughter,” which according to the movie Pearl Jam 20 started out as a song called Brother, he sings the headline of this post about a girl at a breakfast table. To Pearl Jam fans, this song makes the world spin. If a guy, the song has meaning. If a woman, even more meaning. The lyrics speak to us in many, many ways. Personally. On behalf of a friend. On behalf of a neighborhood.  This is Pearl Jam at its best.

Reading The New York Times this morning I encountered 4 “young girl” ads in the first few pages. They were silhouetted in white or surrounded by big retail type and pictured beneath headlines telling other girls and non-girls about products and services. “Experience the finest education on 3 continents.” Stuff like that.  If I had a dollar for every girl ad without a narrative, I’d e a much less busy man. When Pearl Jam plays Daughter in concert 85% of the audience knows 95% of the words. And they sing.

When marketers, tiny ad agencies, and in-house communications departments put a girl in the ad, she is no one’s daughter. There are no violins.  She isn’t alone, listless, sitting at a breakfast table in an otherwise empty room.  She’s not even selling shit.  No wonder every other new TV show is about zombies.  Can we fix this please? Hee hee. Peace!

 

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There are a lot of smart people out their explaining how to make your marketing better.  How to make more sales, more clicks, more inquiries?  Thanks to the web and the algorithm whole new cottage industries have grown up around the more-more.  The speaking circuit, conferences and webinars are growing like a dookie thanks to the new tools.  But they are only tools.

My shtick is all about finding your brand idea and organizing it with the right planks so that when you pick your tools the job is easier.  “Here’s a canvas, now paint a picture.”  Or, “Here’s a canvas, now paint a fall landscape.”

There are some wonderful tenets of marketing that are not very often preached or practiced but, when followed, have a powerful impact on efficacy.  (And we overlook them because we’re trying to find the message in the dark, sans brand plan.)  Here are a couple of those tenets:

Surprise and Delight. Humans love to be surprised. And they love to be delighted.  But often, marketers are so tired and beat down they just default to selling — even if nobody’s buying.  Whenever you create something for a customer or prospect ask yourself “Is this surprising?” Or is it the same old, new color. Ask “Will this put a smile on someone’s face”?  And probe its toothsomeness.

Be Artful. I read today about Ben Wilson, a U.K. artist who paints pictures on discarded blobs of gum.  He brings his brushes and color palette and bellies up to the sidewalk and creates art. As Keith Haring did before him, Mr. Wilson creates wonderment and art for the people. The man and his work are beloved. If you want your marketing to outwork your competitors, it must possess artfulness. Find a strategy, then worry about the really important stuff.  Do it in didge, traditional, PR or whatever.  Stop poopin’ it out.  Peace.

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My father, Fred C. Poppe, built a business on engagement.  It was a word he used back in the 70s and it meant the same thing it does today — but back then he was talking about ads that were engaging. He parlayed this word (his word) into articles in Ad Age, then a few books and finally into a well-respected agency brand Poppe Tyson.  Engagement was my pops’ thing.

 

Engagement today, thanks to the web and digital marketing, goes way beyond ads and includes brands, communities of buyers and brand experiences. I’m a fan of engagement — so long as there is some selling taking place.

Readers know I write a lot about Yahoo!.  Yahoo! was like my first pretty babysitter…she taught me new things and opened my eyes to the possibilities.  These days I engage with Yahoo only during fantasy football season where, BTW, they’re doing a fine job of pursuing a content strategy. Elsewhere? I’m not finding Yahoo particularly relevant.

 

Here’s an engagement measure. Let’s call it word usage. If you could Google all the words you use over the course of a day, week, or month and quantify them, how many times would you say the word Yahoo? Engagement starts with awareness, moves to meaning, relevance, utility, usage and purchase. People aren’t talking about Yahoo any more. And if they are, it’s about money making or money losing. Yahoo has a content strategy but it’s not serious. Someone at Yahoo will write me and tell me it’s the #4 most trafficked website and makes hundreds of millions in ad revenue per quarter and they would be correct. But Yahoo is no longer the pretty or handsome babysitter – it’s more like the friend of your grandmother who babysits for a week and cooks cabbage for dinner. Yahoo is no longer engaging. And it needs to be. Peace!

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