Sustainably Yours, Tim King. Marketing Writer | Communications Specialist

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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.

‘Your ad here?’ Marketers turn to tattoos. Via PRDaily

Tattoos are deeply personal, powerful and permanent. Just like the relationship with your customers, right ?

No? Read on…

Not only are tattoos an outward sign of belief in a certain idea (person, place or thing) they also mark a specific time and place that reminds somebody of what they were feeling at that moment…allowing them to go back there in their mind whenever they see the tat. Make your brand a feeling that people want to experience over and over again.

If this is the extreme in ‘brand allegiance’ then there are certainly steps along this path that could still help drive your business.

First step: On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is getting a tattoo of your brand) how strongly do you think the next prospect/customer you come in contact with feels about your brand ?

‘Your ad here?’ Marketers turn to tattoos | Articles | Home.

Below five (5) ??  Your Mission : Create an emotional experience that people will remember…and want to come back to.

But let’s be careful out their folks. Forehead tattoos are ALWAYS a bad idea. Always.

....are ALWAYS a bad idea. No matter how much they pay you.

….are ALWAYS a bad idea. No matter how much they pay you.


How do you show customers the love ? How do they share it back to you ?


Steps in Creating a Marketing Plan

Some clear, basic steps here for putting together a plan to drive business to your door. No, even when you build it…there’s no guarantee they will come.

The important thing to remember about marketing is that you need to keep doing it and refining your tactics and messages as your business and market evolves. Even if you are on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you are standing still.

Steps in Creating a Marketing Plan.

 A standalone marketing plan focuses on the target audience and the promotional strategies.”


Twin Rivers Paper – New Website Content Now Online

Proud to say that the content that I put together for Twin Rivers Paper is finally updated and live online today. They don’t make every paper…but they do make the paper that all of us come in contact with everyday.

Read about what they make here:

Specialty Paper Products – Packaging, Publishing, Label.

If you like what I did here, contact me about refreshing the content on your website.


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