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People like to help.  Ask any mother-in-law.  People also like to be helped, but there is social stigma about being helped too much. Ask a teenager or the under privileged. But helping and being helped are the two most important motivators in marketing. Selling is not helping. Helping is helping.

If a brand planner doing my job from a wheelchair, is it likely I’d be more effective at getting consumers to open up? Yep. It’s human nature. If I was a brand planner suffering from depression, would I have the same chance at getting someone to open up? Not unless I looked particularly sad.  

Overt selling is overtaking helping in marketing and consumers are shutting down.  Why do you think students writing papers can get through on the phone to executives, but researchers can’t? We are a helpful people. Why, in a recent study on homeless in NY (I think ideated by Droga5), did moms and dads walk right by family members on the street dressed as homeless? People want to help but are inured to the scale of the problem.

So as you think about your brand planning rigor for your day, think about helping – bidirectional helping. Not selling. Create an environment where consumers can really hear you and then you can begin the steps to a sale. Peace.


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The minute I saw my first piece of Banksy’s graffiti art I knew it was art. Art is very personal.  I have used many Banksy pieces as Twitter backgrounds. (Much obliged, sir. Sir?)

Many talk about the art of marketing, brand planning and advertising. But today l prefer to talk about the in.  Art has a very meaningful place in marketing.  Like the beautiful, style-happy person you pass on the street and can’t keep your eyes off, an artful photo, turn of phrase, or video edit captures the viewer’s imagination. And once the imagination is captured and the senses are a tingle – the door to the heat and mind are open.

What the marketer does with that open door is the critical next step.  Sell too hard and the consumer loses the warmies. Sell without context and the viewer is confused. Opt not to sell at all and you become the disaffected artist in the SOHO gallery who cares not.

citibank climber

What the marketer does with that open door depends on the art itself and  the brand plan. It’s complicated.  When Citibank, in its lovely “cliff climber” TV spot, shares that amazing climbing sequence and the poetic card purchases that enabled the climb — “And what girl wouldn’t want new shoes?,” there is mad connection.  The art is visual. It’s athletic. Unseen. That’s art in marketing. Not of marketing. Peace!

(The Citibank spot is by Publicis, I believe.)

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The word “branding” means many things to many people.  To an art director it means design.  To a writer it means tag- or campaign-line. A media person sees it as threshold weights of eyes and ears. A web designer sees branding in terms of wireframes.  Digital agencies view it as the part of their portfolio that doesn’t need to be judged on click throughs.

Selling, on the other hand, is a verb and it has only one meaning.  Moving merch.  Or services.

No matter who is using or misusing the word branding, it’s important they know it means selling. Not exposure. Sadly, many feel getting the name out there is enough. When a communication is all claim and no proof it’s nothing more than “we’re here” advertising.  “We’re here” advertising simply acknowledges the category and where to buy. “If you have lung cancer, our hospital provides hope.”

Branding is about organizing proof beneath a claim.  That’s why creative briefs have a line called “reason to believe.”  If there is no reason to believe – following an organized, road-mapped, discrete plan – there is no branding. There are simply tactics.  Tactic may be the fun in the business but the revenue and earnings are in brand management. Peace!

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Advertising generics in this case does not mean store brands or value brands, it refers to the selling words we use in advertising and sales.  Quality. Service. Tailored to your needs. Savings.  You’ve heard these words a million times in selling. They are the flah, flah, flah of selling.  Key words, if you will, that tell consumers you have no real message. Today, if you are selling quality, you are not selling.

If you want to study selling go out and do some cold calling. Or telemarketing. (No don’t. You may find your way to my door.)  Advertising is a little like cold calling.  But at least many who create ads understand the notion of engagement, product benefit, value demonstration and simplicity. 

The best advertising and cold selling does not use generics.  It uses meaningful selling ploys —  to be figured out on a case by case basis. It’s an art.

In sales the pop technique for the past 10 years has been “solution selling.” Don’t sell the features – ask, listen, find the pain points and create the perception that your product can heal.  Solutions selling has spawned a generation of listeners.  “Hi, I know you are very busy but tell me about your company.”  Nuh, uh.  No thanks.  Busy. Buh bue. 

Stay away from generics. Don’t sell education, sell Princeton. Don’t sell medicine, sell your branded scrip. Listen to yourself selling, experience your ads.  If you wouldn’t buy from you who would? Peace!

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Oglivy is running a contest in search of the world’s best salesperson.  The contest has its own YouTube channel and with lot of kids graduating in few weeks it is likely to generate lots of entries.  The winner gets a 3-month stint at Ogilvy One.

David Ogilvy started his illustrious career by selling vacuums door-to-door.  He once said, and I paraphrase, “Our business is infected by people who have never sold a thing in their lives.”  His point being, until you look a consumer in the eye while trying to convince them to part with their money, you haven’t practiced the craft.  Copywriters, art directors, coders need to leave the building in other words.


As a kid growing up on Long Island, I would never eat a hard shell clam.  Buried in the mud, looming like viscera on the shell, briny and showing an otherworldly rainbow of colors, clams weren’t happening here. Not until uncle Carl came in from the West coast, that was.  The rapture with which Uncle Carl slathering these babies onto his tongue, the giggles of enjoyment, the satisfaction in his eyes were not normally reserved for food.  His smile, conquest-like, following the downing of his hard shelled bounty were for me life changing. I was a convert within minutes. And I’ve never looked back.


What does it take to “turn” someone from a hater to a fan? Salesmanship. That’s People, Place and Thing.  The People are believable spokespeople — an expert or someone really trusted.  Place has to do with context. Corona sells better on the beach. And Thing, the Thing is the tangible reason to believe. The Thing isn’t someone “telling you to buy” it’s the unique good the product offers when purchased or used.  In uncle Carl’s case the Thing was his palpable rapture.  Get all three right and you are selling.  Otherwise, you are just broadcasting. Peace!

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