Friday, September 29, 2006

Instant Missionary

Yesterday morning, before the AMA Houston Tech SIG seminar, I was e-mailing my client about an upcoming project. She replied instantly, “I’m still in Colombia, at Monserrate, 10330 ft above sea level and gasping.”

I keyed in my message on the computer. She texted her reply from her Blackberry.

No road warrior will think this unusual these days. I didn’t think much about it myself – until about an hour-and-a-half later. One of the Tech SIG’s speakers, David Pulaski, opened up some new windows for me. Pulaski is the CEO of IMEinstein, a corporate name that’s just been adopted (and one of the more interesting brand identities I’ve noticed lately).

Part of his message yesterday morning is that companies should be using instant messaging – IM – far more than they already are.

He suggested that IM represents the next organized level of relationship marketing. Past marketing efforts represent Push: marketers and advertiser push their products, services and brands to their customers and prospect via traditional (and even non-traditional) methods. The present is represented by Search. Prospects search for vendors on the Internet.

The future, for Pulaski, is going to be composed of Presence-Based Communities in the form of desktop and mobile communications…not just to keep in touch, but to market and sell products and services by harnessing the mega-trend of the world’s largest instant messaging mechanisms. That means much more active and managed use of Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, Google Talk and other services to provide presence-based networking.

He urged us as marketers to find ways to add value to our prospects, in a way that includes us in his or her “community.” Well, I use this blog as a way to engage my community. But what if I’m in Colombia, 10,000 ft above sea level? I need more information. I need more toys.

The Tech SIG wanted to help us explore new technologies that present “marketers with unprecedented capabilities to reach their target audience in real-time, with messages tailored for that person and that moment. Instant messaging, cell phones, blogs and interactive websites enable us to engage our prospects in direct, person-to-person communications.”

Other speakers included Vui Le, President and CEO of Vuico, Inc.; and Jim Cahill and Deborah Franke of Emerson Process Management. All of them made dynamic presentations: Le about cellphone texting marketing opportunities and Cahill and Franke about corporate blogs. (You’ve read about Jim’s work with
www.EmersonProcessXperts in previous posts.)

Pulaski tied IM into the real-world demands of corporate organizations – the management, the control, the measurement. You can access his Top Reasons to Use IM in the Enterprise here.

I’d like to get Pulaski to speak for himself about corporate use of IM, so watch this space. “Instant Messenger” is already an AOL trademark. He’s really more like an Instant Missionary.

Thanks to Geoff Webb at and Roberto Brunel at for a great seminar. Graphic from Microsoft’s “10 tips for safer instant messaging,” here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pharma, RFID

No, no: it’s not a “rural free delivery” address. RFID means radio frequency identification. For pharma, it’s a critical topic.

I can show off these new ads thanks to Konsepti in Helsinki. The great Finnish agency created the concept for its client, UPM Raflatac. I wrote the headlines and copy. The ads are running now in their first US magazine, Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News.

Konsepti’s Timo Kivi brought me in on the project for the US market. What he told me:

RFID in the pharmaceutical industry is already a common issue. Opportunities and benefits are well known among very important top officers. Legislation is driving the development and there are numerous ongoing pilots. However the technology standard (UHF or HF) has not been defined yet.

The most important drivers behind RFID in pharma are patient safety, counterfeiting, retailer mandates (Wal-Mart) and finally FDA recommendations to implement RFID.

[But] Pharma differs from other RFID applications. In other retail applications pallet-level tagging is enough at the moment. In pharma item-level tagging is needed from the very beginning. That means bigger volumes.

Both pharmaceutical manufacturers and packagers get their questions answered in our campaign.

We generated alliterative headlines like “RFID Relief,” RFID Responsibility” and “RFID Reliability.” Then every ad’s copy stresses the reliability of UPM Raflatac technology – plus the company’s ability to solve problems from flexible packaging options to big, big volumes, like in the millions-of-units.

The main copy points and the tag line, “First to make it work,” are based on the fact that UPM Raflatac tags have been the most reliable ones in many research reports.

Each ad execution follows the UPM Raflatac corporate graphic standards: you can see how the standards play out here.

I said “our” campaign. It’s really UPM Raflatac’s, and Konsepti’s. I got the chance to make a contribution in (for me) a growing market: healthcare and medical...via the technology door. And internationally, to boot.

For pdfs of these ads, drop me a note. I’ll send them along to you so you can read all the words.

Konsepti Oy is a member of Dialogue International. Big-time thanks to Minna Liukkonen [Art Director], Satu Yliskylä [Account Executive] and Timo Kivi [Account Director].

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirate King

Arrr! I had to be reminded. Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

No proper Pirate I – but ‘twas saved by the mental acuity of a good woman. (Julie Stastny deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.)

Read all about it here, me hearties! Meantime, sing the words from a lyricist who never ever talked like a pirate, but I thought it would make a good celebratory gesture for you all. All together now!

Oh, better far to live and die

Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.

Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.

For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!

For I am a Pirate King!

W S Gilbert lyrics from Boise State University.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hispanic Assimilation

The study I referred to below is “Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California,” by Rueben G. Rumbaut, Douglas S Massey and Frank D. Bean. It has appeared in this month’s Population and Development Review and it’s available as a PDF download here, or go to the Princeton University site.

Its first sentence: “Empirical research generally supports the view that Latin Americans in the United States assimilate linguistically.”

Although it has just been released, this paper is already having a major impact on public policy discussions (as I mentioned). It’s not as though the study’s authors – academics all – are trying to play into some anti-immigration agenda. Browsing among their credentials and writings doesn’t place them on the right of the political spectrum, but rather more on the left, IMO.

Rumbaut, Massey and Bean portray shifting ground here, since the study would seem to indicate that the “American Melting Pot” gets every immigrant group sooner or later. It doesn’t have an immediate effect on marketing or advertising to first- or second-generation Hispanic-Americans…right now. It does support learnings from other sources, though, that Hispanic-American kids are more likely to be reached in English – again, IMO.

The study also suggests that when you choose to market to Hispanics in the US, you should choose your demographics carefully, the same way you’re supposed to do it for any other marketing effort.

What do you think?

Friday, September 15, 2006

El Grito

¡Mexicanos, viva México! Every year at midnight on September 15, Mexicans shout El Grito de Dolores.

This title is a pun in Spanish. Grito de Dolores can mean “The Shout from (the town of) Dolores” as well as “The Cry of Pain,” signifying the pain that the rule of Spain caused Mexico for three centuries.

Just before dawn on September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made a decision that revolutionized the course of Mexican history.

A Catholic priest in the village of Dolores, Hidalgo ordered the arrest of Dolores’s native Spaniards. Then he rang the church bell as he usually did to call the Indians to mass.

The message that Hidalgo gave to the Indians and mestizos called them to retaliate against the hated gachupines or native Spaniards “who had been exploiting the wealth of the Mexican people with the greatest injustice for three hundred years.” Hidalgo’s fervent Grito was a passionate, unplanned decision.

Although a movement toward Mexican independence was already in progress since Napoleon’s conquest of Spain, Hidalgo urged the exploited and embittered Mexicans to recover the lands that were stolen from their forefathers. He called these people to revolution – a radical change in the original, more gradual plot devised by the criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards).

Hidalgo and El Grito spurred a long, violent social earthquake, almost without precedent in New Spain or the Americas: the Mexican War of Independence – a truly popular movement led by four hundred armed parish priests.

¡Mexicanos, viva México!

El Grito has particular significance today. First, Mexico is still roiled after its recent, contested presidential election. “Leftist protests forced Mexican President Vicente Fox to abandon plans to lead a traditional ceremony in the capital on Friday, the eve of independence day, the Interior Minister said.

“Fox, targeted by leftists angry at what they say was fraud at July's presidential election, will instead hold the highly-symbolic cry of independence in the central town of Dolores Hidalgo, minister Carlos Abascal told reporters on Thursday.”

Second, there’s the report from Princeton University and UC Irvine on Wednesday: “A few generations after families move to the United States from Latin American countries, fluency in Spanish dies out and English becomes the dominant language, according to a new paper published by sociology professors from New Jersey and California.” (See post above, Saturday, September 16.)

The report has raised its own ruckus…but not if you believe that America is really a melting pot (instead of a tossed salad). Almost 200 years after Padre Hidalgo in Dolores, El Grito still has meaning, still has force – it’s becoming part of our own national fabric as well as Mexico’s.

History inevitably connects us all. Better study it so you know what really moves people.

¡Mexicanas y Mexicanos, viva México!

Sources: the outstanding Mexico: Biography of Power by Enrique Krauze; Wikipedia; Reuters; International Herald Tribune. Illustration from

Thursday, September 14, 2006

“Downsizing” Home

This is “Downsizing at the Call Center” by Howard Sherman, mixed media on canvas. Now it’s been added it to the Baron collection. At 60” x 50” it is the largest piece we’ve every acquired.

Howard has said, “In my recent artwork, I have surged between abstraction and representation. More specifically, I have integrated biting comedy, social criticism, and gestural expressiveness.”

You want to see gestural expressiveness? You should have watched me trying to get this painting back to West Houston from The McMurtrey Gallery.

A surprising number of vehicles have a 48”-wide diagonal opening – I measured Barbara’s Prius, the neighbors’ Ford Explorer and a colleague’s SUV. Howard’s painting is 2” wider (wildly expressive gestures here). I was finally able to borrow the same neighbors’ giant Chevy pick-‘em-up.

If there is one thing more ridiculous than watching me drive a stick-shift reinforced half-ton across town and back, it’s showing up at a high-toned art gallery. And then bringing out the huge, contoured bed sheet with the daffodil pattern to use as a dust cover for the painting on the way home.

Roni McMurtrey was perfectly ladylike about the whole thing (achieved by ignoring the sheet altogether). Pick-up truck, sheet and painting finally rattled home. One of these objects will be hung once I get some picture hooks, etc.

The neighbors from whom I borrowed the pick-up are extra nice - we’ve known them a long time - but I could see they were baffled by the painting. (I can almost hear Debbie telling Joe, “If you ever bring that kind of thing into our house..!”)

Nevertheless, it’s here and I’m getting the hooks today (and possibly a derrick to lift it onto the wall). Pleased to have another Sherman. I have been standing in front of it and making…expressive gestures. Drop by and make your own.

Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to the Houghtalings for “Rolling Thunder.”

Monday, September 11, 2006

Radio Mustang

“I think the primary function of radio is that people want company.” Elise Nordling said this. She is a well-known indie radio music director and DJ who spoke at this year’s SXSW in Austin.

She could’ve been talking about the Mustang Engineering radio commercials that have just finished running in the Houston area.

This radio campaign has just galloped across the finish line with great success. You know a radio campaign is a success when the client tells you how many people heard the spots and how it helped generate a huge turnout at the company’s career open house: almost 1,000 people showed up.

You read the start of this story last April when I blogged about “The Mustang Experience.” This post is about how Mustang and I took that experience to the air.

Putting Mustang on the radio took some twists and turns. Can you “visualize” radio? We initially visualized the radio campaign as pure recruitment commercials – every firm in the oil patch trying to hire exactly the right kind of people to keep up with the growing demand for services. Radio commercials offered Mustang a much broader reach for prospective hires.

Our creative discussions turned more and more to brand advertising: what makes Mustang Engineering a unique company. Listeners would hear the same people who appeared in the OTC video: we would splice one individual Mustanger’s key comments from the audio track with a booth announcer in every spot.

As the spots turned from recruiting to brand, the announcer (another Mustanger, Chad Supan) would ask questions that related more to Mustang Engineering as a company rather than just a place to come to work.

When we finished more than a dozen 30s and 60s for two different radio stations, our intentions had merged. The reasons Mustang is a remarkable “brand” are the same ones that make Mustang a remarkable employer.

To paraphrase Nordling, radio worked for Mustang because people wanted to hear about this company. Mustangers themselves gave listeners company.

Real Mustang people asked and answered questions about the company. We created time-critical Career Open House spots at the same time, announcing the date and location of the function. We ran the Open House versions on both KODA-FM and KILT-AM up through the day of the career fair.

The Career Open House was also supported by print ads in the Houston Chronicle prior to the event.

An outstanding turnout at the company’s first-ever Mustang Engineering Career Open House was our first measure of success. There were between 800-1000 people who stopped by to see what Mustang is all about. According to the managers, there were some unexpectedly high-quality individuals in attendance (“...with at least 830 of them being potential candidates”) and Mustang anticipates adding 40-50 people from the event alone.

Our second success metric was the positive feedback Mustangers got from people who said they heard the spots on the radio – over and over again.

Again, a lot of people helped make the 30-second and 60-second commercial campaign a succes: Chad Supan, Allison Miller, Brian Hadley, Tina Kutach, David Williams and Heather Broeder: The “voices” of Mustang in our campaign.

Mustang’s Dena Lee, Sharon Paul and Mark Payton have always been 110% supportive of the work needed to get the spots on the air.

Hats off to Jim Spurlock of Spur Texas, our rock-solid producer, switching easily between the booth announcer and audio clips and combining them into seamless commercials.

And extra thanks to our media reps – professionals who hardly ever get credit but deserve it for their patience and their guidance: Denise Partridge (KODA-FM) and Julie Stastny (KILT-AM Sports 610).

Radio Mustang has been a broadcast campaign with the heart of a winner. I’m glad I had a role to play in it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hispanic Direct

Coming late to the Hispanic market? The Selig Center for Economic Growth, at the University of Georgia, has just reported that in 2006 the purchasing power of the Hispanic market will match that of African-Americans. In 2007, Hispanics as a group will surpass all minorities.

At 12.4 percent, Latinos are the nation’s largest minority group, according to the US Census Bureau. It’s also the fastest-growing minority group, with economists predicting Latinos’ purchasing power will reach $1 trillion by 2008.

Jeff Humphreys, the Selig Center’s director, points out that Hispanics’ economic impact has risen from $212 billion when he started the assessments in 1990 and he expects it to be $1.2 trillion in another five years.

This “news” is not a surprise to marketing people who’ve been watching the growth of Hispanic-American communities and their buying power – even direct marketers. Despite the hindsighted nature of the Selig Center’s report, however, it’s causing some people to pose questions:

A broadcast producer and sports announcer in Omaha, Roy Coffman, recently asked, How is this going to change our Marketing and Advertising attitudes? Do we start paying a little more attention to Hispanic publications and broadcast media? Or do we simply continue down our familiar Yellow Brick Road?

We are seeing an ever-increasing number of Hispanic individuals moving into one section of the city. There they live, own their own businesses, shop in their own stores and their kids go to school, when they aren’t running back to Mexico to visit family members. Now how does the rest of the business community reach out to this demographic, or do we just sit back and watch? At least here in the Midwest this will be an ever-increasing question.

These questions have already been answered.

How and when? The facts have been staring most marketers in the face since at least the last census six years back. It’s not the “growing” Hispanic market that’s arresting – it’s already grown.

Marketers in Hispanic-Americans’ early, high-growth areas like California, Florida, New York, and Texas already know the right questions to ask, and have developed or adopted ways to reach these Hispanic markets, which are hardly monolithic.

Whether you come to it late or early, research has proven over and over again that Hispanics’ attitudes and feelings are currently based on different priorities than “mainstream” America – different cultural values that mean sales messages ought to be cast in different ways, in different voices. You have to think about communicating in someone else’s culture.

Meantime, is direct mail to Hispanics being overlooked?

I met Beatriz Mallory, CEO and chief strategist of New York agency HispanAmérica, when she spoke to an AMA group here in Houston last year. In Chief Marketer, she says, “I would say that the biggest misconception about the Hispanic market is that we don’t respond to direct marketing, that we don’t buy that way. But there’s plenty of evidence that we do. There’s client-based experience – [companies] like GE Consumer Finance have entire Hispanic marketing divisions set up to support [the] areas of their business [that] market direct to consumers.”

Today, in terms of direct mail or direct response marketing:
---The process of acculturation does influence Hispanic consumers’ perception of direct marketing. (Assimilation, however, is growing and that will affect the market’s future.)
---While most general market consumers dismiss direct marketing materials as “junk mail,” Hispanics (particularly recent immigrants) welcome it as a means of becoming a more informed consumer.
---Overall, Hispanic households are 3.5 times more likely to respond to a direct mail solicitation than non-Hispanic households.
---72% say they always read their mail, including direct marketing.
---60% of the direct mail sent to homes is in English.
---52% of the respondents speak only Spanish in their homes.

Companies like GE Consumer Finance, Kaiser Permanente and Reliant Energy have already been taking advantage of the statistics above and boosted their mailings to Hispanic households. So even if you can’t write in Spanish, you can aim for Hispanic markets. You need to have both an understanding of and practice in addressing Hispanic consumers’ wants and desires.

In the American here and now, direct mail to Hispanics is growing.

Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to Direct Marketing Network, Houston, for the Reliant Energy direct mailer. Concept by Charles Eldred and Richard Laurence Baron.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Dear Ed: You asked, “if you run across a web site(s) that you particularly like, or that you think works with the copy you’ve written send it on over.” I can offer the one but not necessarily the other – perhaps it’s a start.

Barbara has been buying a couple of products called “Simply Orange Juice” and “Simply Lemonade” lately, from a company called Simply Orange Juice located near Apopka, FL. These are excellent products. As I usually do, I checked out the company; sometimes it’s a good thing to invest in companies whose products or services you really like.

You’ve probably heard of the products; they’ve been around for about five years.

I went to the company’s website. Ed, this demonstrates the kind of simplicity and elegance that I think would have a strong impact on your own brand thinking. I have been talking about maintaining a lot of white space. Simply Orange Juice does this very thing – but with the color orange. Orange is the white space.

Unlike some of the recent site samples you and I have reviewed, it is deceptive in its sophistication…and as you might expect, there’s a great deal more to the story than this apparently simple look.

First, Simply Orange Juice sounds small, but it’s actually a part of Coca-Cola. A story in The New York Times tells us that Coca-Cola created this brand to compete with Pepsi’s Tropicana Premium Pure line. Originally, it was supposed to be distributed through the company’s Minute Maid channels – but I don’t find a mention of the brand on the Minute Maid website. There have been a lot of changes at Coca-Cola North America. Simply Orange Juice appears on the Coke corporate site.

Second, there’s an fine write-up about the case from The General Center for Internet Services in Canada. You should read it. The case history points to some very clear issues that Sharpe Partners in New York City, the creators of the Simply Orange website, derived from research and addressed in the site’s design.

Marlena Schwarz, director of client strategy at Sharpe Partners, is quoted this way: “It’s a great example of how a marketer can build a website that is brand-appropriate as well as consumer-appropriate without having to spend $1 million, or even close to that. Forrester Research recently did a study asking consumers what they look for on packaged goods websites and then looked at what the sites are actually providing, and there is a disconnect going on.”

Among other things, the Forrester research indicated that consumers DID NOT want games, activities and “lifestyle” information…they want facts, free samples and special offers.

By cutting back on clutter and focusing purely on the “freshness” and “simplicity” of the brand, Simply Orange’s website pulls off what I think is a tour de force. Not so many bells and whistles. Not so many constant updates, or fighting to get the website to the tops of search engines.

I Googled “orange juice.” Simply Orange Juice has to settle for #7 on the first Google search engine page (Tropicana is #1) – so Coca-Cola is obviously doing extensive work behind the scenes to keep Simply Orange Juice right up there.

No, I don’t think this exact design style will work with the copy I wrote (unless we transform quite a bit of it into downloadable pdfs). Your brand is a business-to-business play. But I think that being guided by Simply Orange’s…simplicity…is a very good thing. And it may serve perfectly for your next brand concept.

Hats off to Sharpe Partners and Simply Orange Juice Company for an outstanding website.