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I have a number of branding and marketing memes floating around the web. I’ve built a business upon them.  One of my new favorites is “Redistributing marketing wealth through branding.” (Google it. It will set the hook even deeper.) 

If you think about what makes a good meme, it’s clearly memorability. And memorability is enhanced by a couple of things. Is it easy to say? Is it easy to remember? Does is borrow from another well-entrenched saying? But if it’s too close to another phrase, a Google search may be diverted to the original, so be careful.

Key words are so 8 years ago.  But we still voraciously invest in them. I still do.  All the blog platforms require it.  My most powerful meme is the company name itself: What’s The Idea? (That’s another good trick.) I publish it every day in my keywords as “Whats The Idea,” sans apostrophe and question mark, and as “Whatstheidea” – my URL.  Kinda own it now.

This Meme Trick is something you are not likely to learn in a content marketing book.  It’s best learned by actually doing it. By creating.  By posting. Not pasting. Google “posters versus pasters.”


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SEO, SEM and Stem Cells.

stem cells

In my Pollyanna-ish view of healthcare I look forward to the day when we can “slap some stem cells” on a diseased area and healthy tissue will grow anew. Friends are used to hearing me say slap some stem cells on it. It’s a personal meme. Well, with all props and deference to Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines, I’m afraid many marketers view search marketing similarly. Got a marketing problem? Slap some SEO on it.

SEO and SEM are the most amazing marketing tools of the 21st century.  I know a billion dollar company that sells thousands of SKUs of products to businesses (e.g., paper towels, chairs, etc.) that happily mails Google a $30 million check each year for paid search. This was a company that back in the day probably spent $750,000 in advertising. Google says thanks. Good algo!

I love SEO and SEM, don’t get me wrong. It is stem cells for marketing…to a degree. But it shouldn’t be used as a crutch. Companies still need to get the product right. Same with delivery, pricing and brand. I’m seeing too many mid-size companies hiring 30 year old search jockeys at the expense of marketing quarterbacks and it is having a disastrous effect.

Slap some SEO on it. It’s a quick fix. Not!




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There isn’t any. There is very little art in keyword infested content. Writers who pepper their digital work with keywords so the algo can find it, aren’t writing they are data processing. Recruiters will tell you to make sure you have a list of keyword skills in your resume so the algo, at first pass (Who can read 200 resumes?) finds you.  Similarly, web developers and SEO jockeys want lots of keywords on the homepage and primary layers to make sure your site rises to the top on Google. And content marketing writers, as grammatically correct as they are, know they’re being paid by the search not the word. So, where’s the art? Where’s the poetry? Where is that heart-felt, emotive story? In many cases it’s not even copy anymore, it’s search palaver.

Great writing, persuasive writing is an art. Look at all the best columnists, bloggers and vloggers — they didn’t rise to the top because of keywords. Their content was the marketing. What’s next, musical notes the tones of which are searchable? I loves me some G minor.



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SEOMOZ has some nice blogging going on about the state of the art of SEO. The guys and ladies over there are really ankle deep in understanding the algo in all its permutations.  In fact, they brought to my attention that Google Real Time Search has been shut down until it integrates with the new Google+. A little weird.

I like SEOMOZ people because like scientists they  hypothesize and test. It’s good to know there are some real white hat SEOers out there.  As I was reading a long and over-my-head post, it got to thinking about the different between traffic (n., people lingering) and traffic (vb., as in drug traffic, moving product). The two definitions are linked, no doubt; you can’t move product unless you have people paying attention. But good marketing and good SEO people know that “nothing really happens in marketing until somebody buys something.”

An SEO practitioner who gets your URL into the top 2 or 3 positions for a targeted search phrase, has done a marvelous day’s work. Building traffic (n.). Many stop there, believing their work to be done. And many dashboard operators feel the same way. But SEO professionals who pass on knowledge and science and a predictive notion of what will transact and maintain business?  Those people are trafficking (vb.)

If interviewing an SEO company for hire and all they talk about is getting you to the top of the Google search queue, keep on searching. SEOMOZ seems to get it. Peace!

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Ashton Kutcher is quoted in the paper today about one of his venture capital investments. “Turning social trust into commerce” was the word string that caught my eye.  To me this is the essence of social computing for marketers. And, so you know,  the social web is not just about commerce and marketing.  Sometimes social is just social.  But we all have to eat and we all have to buy, so finding trusted sources of influence is a key.

I met with an SEO marketing person yesterday about my blog.  It’s not really high on any organic search list.  Before the meeting I Googled “brand planning” and was at the top of page 5.  He wanted me to pay him a thousand a month but could do something for $500.  I needed to have more calls to action, more free offer boxes, more this, more that, meta flah flah flah.  He was right, but also wrong. Too much flah, flah, flah and I begin got lose that trust mantle Ashton talks about.  “But how many inquiries are you getting a day?” said he.  Not many. But that’s okay for now.  My approach trust building is not through the algorithm.  Not though black hat search or white hat search (Call too action: If you want to know what white hat search is, leave a comment or email me). I tend the garden every day.

For me — and I’m in a funny business — I sell by not over-selling and then making it easy to contact me.  I think this is good advice for everyone on the web…with or without a commercial enterprise.  That’s why Ashton has over 6M followers. He’s easy to contact. Ish. Peace!

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As much as things change, they also stay the same. Two cases in point:  I worked with a SEO executive who makes a nice living promising companies he can get them into the top 10 in organic search no matter what the company size or standing.  All it takes, says he, is time, smarts and money.  When I asked how he builds his business, his said through referrals.  “I do good job for one customer and s/he refers me to a friend.”  The response I expected was “through search.”

Case two.  Allstate Insurance (pronounced  IN-surance by my southern in-laws) is undertaking a brilliant cause campaign called Save11. The program is meant to reduce the number of daily teen automobile accident deaths – currently numbering 11.  The program has started on Facebook, though you won’t find Allstate’s name anywhere on the profile page. I learned about the program on the radio.  The program kick off with Blackout week, May 20-27, and Save11 is asking everyone to black out their profile picture to bring awareness to the cause. They are in the awareness building part of the program and to build traction need mass media to spread the word. Old skool.

(Aside:  Is anyone beside themselves that Haley was voted off last night?)

TV viewership s building again, more web IPOs are a comin’, and maybe even the Mets will make a run.  I make a living on what’s new and what’s next, but there are some age old axioms that continue to prove themselves and marketing blocking and tackling are still things in which we must invest. Peace Bibi.

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In a TED video I watched yesterday on the state of education, Sir Ken Robinson mentioned something pretty profound. He said most people are often “good at something they don’t really like doing.”  His point being, that mom-ism, “If you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  His broader point was students today are broadcast to, not engaged, and that’s why education is in such a sorry state.

Broadcast Selling.

I was mowing the lawn last night and thinking about this as it relates to advertising and marketing.  With media exploding into more and more, always-on devices (ding-a-ling, Good Will on the phone), and those devices containing advertising, the bombardment of selling is growing exponentially.  Moreover, that selling is being done by more craft-less people, creating the advertising equivalent of fast food — poorly constructed and not good for you. (Ads by SEO kids, videos by moms.) 

How to sell.

As a young ‘un in the ad business I drafted an article for Adweek that suggested people read ads to be: educated, entertained or to see something they’ve never seen before.  I think this still applies. We are so inundated with selling messages today we shut down.  Ingest too many antibiotics and you become immune.  Hear the word “quality” too many times and you become similarly immune. 

Our Job

Our job as marketers is not to say the same things with new messaging devices, it’s to educate, entertain and present the artful unseen. (In the 70’s my dad Fred Poppe used to call this “engagement.”)  Engagement starts with getting someone to let down their message defenses. My ramble.  My peace!  Happy 4th.

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Let’s face it, it’s been a crazy tough economy for everyone.  Especially marketers and those in advertising related businesses. Were it not for internet search and social media (ways to keep moving at reduced costs) things would have been even worse.

When money is tight people fall into two distinct categories: optimists and pessimists. The whole pessimism thing is easy to diagnose and figure out.  It is an alterable condition cured by the passage of time.  The optimism thing is harder to understand. And in business it’s less prevalent.  Is it tied to a special neural gene?  One thing that goes hand-in-hand with optimism in my view is the ability to view things not just in the here and now but with a historic perspective. Time passes.  There is a now, a future and a past. Optimists tend to see them all.

New York University

New York University is an example of an institution surrounding itself with optimism. NYU has grand plans to grow the school’s footprint, stature and academic standing over the next 20 years.  They will succeed because of optimism and planning.  Do you think the day after healthcare passes and a huge part of the populace is angry is a good time to talk about this huge investment – probably not.  That’s optimism.

When you meet marketers and corporate leaders you can often tell immediately which camp they fall into. And trust me it’s always best to do business with optimists. Not those of the “head in the clouds” variety but realists who are builders and forward lookers.  Brands, businesses, organizations and departments need good leadership. Optimism and a positive view forward are cornerstones. Steve Jobs?  Optimist.  Peace it up!

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