Sustainably Yours, Tim King. Marketing Writer | Communications Specialist

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Nailed it: Grist: 5 most absurd Super Bowl commercials | Grist

These clever folks saw through the smoke and mirrors of the Consumer Bowl ads. These 60 second diversions were (somewhat) entertaining…just like Lipstick on a Pig should be. Remember, our purchasing decisions help decide our fate. Choose appropriately.

Marc Ecko: Give Customers What They Don’t Know They Want |

” You need to be able to both satisfy and surprise your buyers.”

via Marc Ecko: Give Customers What They Don’t Know They Want |

Ecko throws out a few pearls of wisdom here – in a very no bullsh/t way – but it’s nothing really new or revolutionary. That in itself is kind of refreshing and perhaps “revolutionary” for this day and age.

Basically, it’s about adapting your message and product delivery according to the current channels of communication...but what you say and what you do remains the same.

Do the things that make customers want to do business with you. 

He reinforces my belief that you can learn just as much (if not more) by first studying the Masters of Communication, Sales and Marketing, such as:

Theodore Levitt

Jay Levinson

~ Zig Ziglar

~ Steve Jobs

Who did I miss ? Who inspires you to cut through the clutter and focus ONLY on delivering to customers “insanely great” products, service and value ? Let me know.

~ Seth Godin

~ Mark Twain (yes, Mark Twain!)


"Known to Everyone - Liked by All" ~ Is there any better goal for your brand?

“Known to Everyone – Liked by All” ~ Is there any better goal for your brand?



Duvet or Not Duvet? Eh? Just say Quilt.

I’ve always said that the ability to ‘do’ marketing well is both a skill and an art. It’s a delicate balance.

To be effective, marketers must communicate features and benefits in a way that is accurate and truthful but also emotional and exciting enough to attract attention and influence behavior.

When opposing (selling vs. telling) messages are communicated in precisely the right balance.

When opposing (selling vs. telling) messages are communicated in precisely the right balance.

When it’s done correctly, this is what I call marketing nirvana – the right message gets in front of the right person in the right way at the right time. A perfect match.

More often however, these contradictory communication goals will morph into materials and messages that actually accomplish neither one. We’ve all seen ad material too boring to read, too sensational to be believed, or worse too confusing to understand.

Recently, I spent the night in a well known, middle of the road type hotel chain and noticed this curious Post-It (R) note on my bed’s headboard. At first, I was intrigued/impressed to believe that the cleaning staff had left me a personal note welcoming me to rest in their comfy clean room.

Almost immediately though, that thought disappeared after peeling off the note and confirming that in fact the message had been pre-printed on the sheet of paper…and not hand written as I was lead to believe.

"Great! Ummm...What's a duvet? "

“Great! Ummm…What’s a duvet? “

Of course, I never really expected it to be a hand written note anyway. But, taking a closer look at the piece also brought up another intriguing question, “So what the heck IS a ‘doo-vet’ cover and  why were they so proud that theirs’ were clean anyway?”

Had I been unknowingly exposed to dangerously dirty duvets in the past at other hotel rooms? I honestly had no idea how to answer my own question.

Soon after this realization, flashes of Bill Cosby’s classic “Noah” sketch came to mind.

In the sketch, the booming voice of God calls out to Noah and instructs him (in feature-rich, important sounding, glorious language) that he wants Noah to go out and collect all the wood he can find and then build an “Ark”. God rattles on and on about what the Ark is for, how big it should be and who should be brought to it, etc. leaving no detail unmentioned.

Noah, patiently listens and when God finally pauses to hear Noah’s response to the mammoth task he has just put before him, Noah disbelievingly says “Riiiiiight…What’s an Ark?”

The same thing can be said about this piece of marketing. The hotel was SO concerned about appearing to be clever, personable and reassuring that they went the extra mile to make sure my duvet cover was clean…they probably never took the time to think “Does the average person actually know what a duvet is?”

For one, I sure didn’t.

But I have absolutely no doubt that everyone in the room at the time this was created definitely knew what one was. I’m also sure that hotel industry veterans know all about duvets and have conducted all sorts of research to find out that guests overwhelmingly like their duvets to be clean.

I wonder though if they were to gather 100 random people off the street and bring them into the hotel room and ask them to “go over and stand next to the duvet” if more than a few would likely walk over to a picture on the wall, the small table in the corner of the room…or maybe even one of those funny European style toilets that the water actually shoots up? 

In other words, does the specific feature / benefit that you are spending so much time, effort and money to create really mean anything at all to your customers ?

Effective marketing communicates what matters to customers – not what matters to the people creating the marketing or what companies think customers should think matters.

The only thing that matters to customers should be the only thing that matters to you…and don’t use a 25 cent word when a nickel word will do.

So, what do you think matters to your customers? Now THAT is the question.

For those who are still curious…. via

du·vet [doo-vey]
Def: a usually down-filled quilt, often with a removable cover; comforter.

American Efficiency ? A Fool’s Errand.

The cold, hard truth is that any program, product or service that’s tied exclusively to the idea of ‘efficiency’ is destined to fail – at least here in the United States. Here’s why:

In the land of plenty, where generations of people have searched for – and some have found – the American Dream, the concept of efficiency is viewed as the polar opposite of what everyone really wants: MORE MORE MORE.

After all, Americans suffered through shortages during the Great Depression and sacrificed comfort and convenience to help support the War Effort…and no one is going to tell US we can’t buy what we want, as much as want, whenever we want.

“Dammit, We’re Americans. We Won! WE deserve it all !”

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Since Henry Ford rolled the first Model T off the assembly line, American’s have understood efficiency to mean accomplishing the same task by using less of something; less time, less effort, less material and eventually, less people.

After all, what’s more efficient than a machine that runs 24/7 with little need for rest and requiring minimal maintenance?

Don’t get me wrong, Americans do crave the benefits of all this increased efficiency. Lower manufacturing and production costs generally mean lower prices for the consumer. Ironically, however, Americans tend to use these lower prices to actually buy more – not less – of whatever it is we want.

Yes, increased efficiency has helped improve the availability of many goods and services by making them more affordable for more people. Americans just don’t necessarily want to hear about all of the sacrifices that were made in order to reduce these costs…all in the name of efficiency.

Yet we all understand (on some level) that some sacrifices HAD to have been made in order for a hot, fast food hamburger meal to cost less than a Sunday newspaper or for it to actually cost less to replace an LED flashlight with a new one rather than buying replacement batteries for it.

How DO they do it?

How DO they do it?

Yes, for Americans, efficiency has always meant sacrifice – hidden or otherwise. Here’s another example.

No one would argue that a Quaker-styled, flat back chair is efficient, right? Simply made and uncomfortable, its purpose is singular and painfully clear – it prevents you from falling on the floor when you try to sit down.

In this way, the chair itself is meaningless.

It could just as well be a stool, a box, a rock or a stump. Right?

The chair does not matter. The chair is not important. Yet, the chair is efficient. But on its own, efficiency is not something that Americans value. If we did, would the super comfy LA-Z-BOY recliner ever have been invented?

Americans equate efficiency with cold. To us, efficiency means being forced to do without something. Efficiency means that a few may prosper while many will suffer. Efficiency takes away an individual’s personal choice.

Efficiency is a punishment. Efficiency is surrender. Efficiency is Un-American.

Now, tell me again how purchasing your energy efficient program, gizmo or technology with my hard earned money is something that I actually want to do? Sounds about as appealing is a “BOGO Root Canal” special.

As marketers, we must move beyond terms such as efficiency in how we describe the benefits of our products.

The plain truth is that Americans do not want to be efficient. What we want is more. Always have, always will.

Typical American Daily Commuter

Typical American Daily Commuter

So, as marketers, that’s what we need to communicate – more not less.

Our marketing messages cannot continue to be focused simply with efficiency as its most compelling feature and “use less oil” as its primary benefit. On its own, oil really has no value. Think about it. People with 2,000 gallons of oil in their tanks are not twice as happy as those with only 1,000, right?

The most effective marketing messages are those that focus on explaining to the consumer how the purchase will benefit them in some way by adding something to their lives, not by reducing something.

The average American will not be motivated by simply being told that they will use less oil or reduce greenhouse gases, carbon emissions or whatever. Instead, they will be motivated by being told that they will more money in their bank accounts – allowing them to buy warmer clothes, better food etc.

It’s not about reducing consumption, it’s about experiencing MORE.

My Prius isn’t great because I use less gas…it’s great because I can drive from here to New York City on a single tank of gas. (Self Talk: Ha! I can drive more miles than anyone else. Yeah me. I’m winning!)

I continue to keep the words my grandfather once told me in mind when working to come up with words and phrases that actually mean something to a customer.

He said, “There isn’t a person on this earth that needs a 1/4” drill bit. What they need is a ¼” hole.”

The challenge for today’s eco-marketer is that we are all shouting about how durable, clean or efficient our drill bits are while oftentimes mistaking (or ignoring) our customers real needs – more money in their pockets, more oxygen in their air and more hope for the future.

Seen examples of eco/green advertising done right? Tell me about it.

Top Brands by State – Famous or Infamous ?

The Corporate States of America: A Map That Shows Each State’s Most Famous Brand | Adweek.

I would certainly argue that it’s more important to be “good” than famous. In my book, gaining “celebrity” status is useless if you can’t do anything good as a result of it. That said, I am proud of the efforts that some of these “famous” brands have taken over the years to think more mindfully and sustainably about their impact on our world.

Most notably for me is LL Bean represented my current home state of Maine along with other Northeast companies such as Ben & Jerry’s (Vermont) and Timberland (New Hampshire).

Sure, other big names like Apple, Harley-Davidson and NIKE are also important companies to some. But smile for smile, I’d put my money on the pure joy of eating a scoop of Chunky Monkey , hiking in the Maine woods with my LL Bean gear  in a trusty pair of long lasting, well made,  Timberland boots any day!

Then again, where would the world be today without Hooters ?

Think of all those poor women out of work, wandering the streets of Florida…searching for someone to appreciate their tremendous assets.

God Bless America.

(Would love to see someone take on the challenge of trying to tie the worst companies to each state.) Has it ever been done? If so, let me know…

Damn, they did it again. Ahoy !! Pirates on Aisle 8 !

Man, it really bugs me when I go into my local supermarket and find that the product that I’ve bought for years has now suddenly disappeared…only to be replaced with a store-brand (private label) product.

After all, how many different inferior products have I invested in over the years before finding one that I like ?  All that time, money and effort that I’ve spent – never mind what the manufacturers have spent to develop and market it – more and more I am finding these products fall victims to their own success.

Just this week it happened when I went to buy a specific multi vitamin that is made by One-A-Day. The specific vitamin is called Essential and it is small, easy to swallow and has never given me any of the side effects I’ve experienced with other larger Complete, For Men, Extra Energy, etc. flavors that have popped up over the years.

Essentially, they are all the same, right ?

Essentially, they are all the same, right ?


So I saunter up to the pharmacy counter and look to grab a new bottle – and its nowhere to be found. I spend more time looking up and down the shelves. Maybe they moved it ? My eyes focus and refocus on the sea of colors clogging the shelf. Dozens of multivitamins to be sure, but no sign of the one I want. “It’s like having 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.”

Finally, I stoop down to take a closer look at where the One-A-Day Essentials are usually stocked. And lo and behold, there’s a benign store brand bottle sitting in its place – branded Healthy Accents ™. The bottle then goes on to openly taunt the manufacturer it has supplanted on the shelf by not only ripping off its name: “one daily essential(r)” but then blatantly using them to reassure customers that it’s OK: “Compared to Ingredients in One-A-Day(r) Essentials.”

Could you imagine the same thing happening in other pirated industries where knock offs are actually illegal ??

Now Introducing Red Wagon LEGGOS (r) building blocks for kids. “Made from plastic comparable to LEGO (r).” Don’t you think that a swarm of LEGO Lawyers (real people, not lawyers made out of LEGOS) would swarm down on the Red Wagon folks faster than you could say Ninjago !

Lego Battles: Ninjago

Lego Battles: Ninjago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why I can’t figure out how these stores are able to get away with it? Are there different laws for consumable goods?

Now, the stores will tell us that they do these things to deliver a better “value” to its customers. Hogwash!! That argument only holds water if you still provide (and promote) both branded and private label products side by side.

Instead, these businesses  just seem to cherry-pick their top selling skus, send them to a lab to copy and then turn out a “similar” product with a much lower price – and a much higher profit margin for the store ! I’ve seen this in every section of the store. From the deli to the cereal aisle, frozen foods to health and beauty.

Maybe I’m just paranoid. I don’t want some Big Brother Supermarket Buyer deciding what’s best for me…this is still America, isn’t it. If I want to spend more for a Hershey Bar, then dammit I want to spend more on a Hershey Bar, and not a Hershee Bar**Made with similar ingredients found in Hershey Bars.

While I will agree that there are just too many choices of just about everything in a typical supermarket, the solution isn’t to reduce choices by simply replacing top sellers with more profitable knock offs just because you can. Here’s a little secret – every time you pull a switcheroo on a product I am loyal too and replace it with something you think is a “better value” for me, I think a little less of your store.

For all the good will you work for by promoting Buy Local produce and reusable shopping bags, a little bit of your true “commitment”  to customers is chipped away.

This is not communist Russia or Orwell’s 1984. Give us back the freedom to overspend if we must…reward the hard men and women of companies that have developed these products in the first place. If I Want My MTV … don’t offer me VH1 because it cost less and its all just music anyway. It’s not. It’s Milli Vanilli and we’re not going to take it any more !

What do you think ? Are supermarkets Sovereign Nations when it comes to brand rights ?

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