Archive for April, 2007

Should Advertising Claims be Bold or Modest?

April 23rd, 2007 by Bob Bly

The school of thought that says advertising claims should be bold agreed with Samuel Johnson, who said “Promise, big promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”

But there’s an opposing school of thought that believes advertising claims should be more modest, because then, they will be more credible.

For instance, I am writing a book to explain basic chemistry concepts to high school students and parents who want to be able to help them with their homework.

Possible titles include:

A. How to make sure your child passes chemistry.
B. Make sure you child doesn’t fail chemistry!
C. Help your child get an A in chemistry.

“C” is the biggest and most positive claim. So you think it’d be best.

But at least one teacher pointed out to me: “These kids aren’t looking for an A. They are close to failing now, and if they get a C or B they will be thrilled. ”

So which title is better — A, B, or C?

Or can you help me write an even better title?

And which school of copywriting do you belong to — big promise or small but more believable claims?

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Category: General | 31 Comments »

Why I Want to Hunt Down BB Like a Dog

April 20th, 2007 by Bob Bly

BB, an old ad agency veteran whom I always liked and respected, resurfaced in my life via e-mail … but not in a pleasant way.

He starts off nicely enough, asking if I remember him and giving me a nice compliment about my being a smart guy.

But then, he says: “But I get annoyed at the get-rich-quick schemes you lend your name to on the Internet” — referring to my endorsement of Matt Feury’s upcoming seminar on e-mail copywriting.

“It is really beyond the pale. There most be a more appropriate way to earn a commission. Jeez…”

Here’s just a partial list of my problems with BB’e e-mail:

First, Matt Feury is the real deal. The guy spends 15 minutes typing out a personal e-mail, broadcasts it to his list with a mouse click, and makes about $10,000 a day.

He is not a “hustle.” He knows how to make money online, and more important, can teach us how to do so.

Second, BB’s e-mail implies that all Internet marketing is sleazy.

Hey, BB, you were a Madison Avenue ad guy. Who are you to talk about sleazy?

Third, BB also implies that I am a low-life by selling information online.

Is there something inherently wrong or low-class about marketing information online?

Tell that to the New York Times … the Wall Street Journal … Harvard Business School Publishing … Better Homes & Gardens … and thousands of other publishers, small and large, who make great profits selling useful content their buyers love online!

What perhaps is more of a hustle, BB, is trying to convince sucker clients that pouring millions into big print and TV ad campaigns, that can’t be measured and win awards for creativity but not sales, is a smart way to invest one’s money.

You’ve been doing that for years — after all, you’re a smart guy too.

Right, old friend?

But I’m really not angry at BB. Just his ignorance and misconceptions, which so many people share.

If I saw him again, the first beer would be on me — with a warm handshake and a smile….

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Category: General, Online Marketing | 8 Comments »

The Trouble With Blogging

April 19th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Two things blogging evangelists tell me make blogs a superior communicatino medium:

1. Unfiltered content — straight from the writer to the reader … no pesky editor, proofreader, or fact checker.

2. Instant communication — have a thought, make it available online to millions in seconds.

But do we really need information in the blink of an eye … especially at the expense of accuracy?

With blogging, that happens all the time.

Example: when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was slow to rise after a recent hearing, a blogger instantly noted Ginsburg’s seeming frailty on her blog — giving rise to rumors that the judge was will and would soon retire.

Had the blogger, an ABC legal reporter, bothered to ask Ginsburg about the incident before reporting it, should would have discovered the truth: the judge’s shoe had slipped off under the table, and she couldn’t find it!

An article in The Week (4/27/07, p. 14) observes that speed of the Internet is forcing people “to make important decisions without any time to think and reflect.”

Result: a flood of false assumptions and rash words “now flashes around the world in a nanosecond.”

How about you, dear reader?

Do you want your news, facts, and analysis fast — or do you want it good?

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Category: Blogging, General | 17 Comments »

The Surest Way to Wealth

April 18th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Which of the following is most likely to make you rich?

1. What you know.
2. Who you know.
3. How hard you work.

In Russia, they believe it’s #2.

A recent poll showed that 45% of Russians think “having influential connections” is the key to becoming wealthy.

Only 32% picked “hard work.”

How would you have voted? And why?

P.S. Among Russians over 60, “stealing” was the top-rated path to wealth.

Source: The Week, 4/27/07, p. 9.

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Category: General | 12 Comments »

Are You Like Me?

April 16th, 2007 by Bob Bly

One of the easiest — and most effective — copywriting techniques for bonding with the reader is to show that you are like him.

For instance, you can simply begin the letter: “Are you like me?” And then list the things you believe you have in common.

Another method: have the person signing the letter be in the same group as the person reading the letter, e.g., when writing to doctors, have an M.D. sign the letter.

Why does this work?

Because people like, feel comfortable with, and respond to people who are like them.

Conversely, they don’t like, and want to avoid dealing with, people they think are fundamentally different.

You know this to be true.

Convervative hate liberals … poor people hate rich people … the elderly dislike the young … and vice versa.

Proof: according to a CBS New Poll cited in The Week (4/27/07, p. 19), 43% of Americans ages 18 to 44 are rooting for Barry Bonds to break Hank Aaron’s career home run record this season.

But of adults 45 or older, only 27% want Bonds to succeed. These older fans are rooting for the older guy precisely because they too are the “older guy.”

By the way, racial prejudice, the latest example of which is the ethnic slur that got Imus fired, is just another example of this notion of preferring one’s own to others — albeit, taken to an unpleasant, even sick, extreme.

Is there any other way to see it?

Have you ever had success in marketing doing anything but empathizing with the prospect — and showing that you understand him, are on his side, and are even like him?

I’ve seen it done. But it’s pretty rare.

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Category: General | 8 Comments »

Bob Bly’s Dirty Little Secret

April 12th, 2007 by Bob Bly

My dirty little secret — at least as far as business is concerned — is that I’ve never had a business plan.

Not for my copywriting, book writing, corporate training, or Internet marketing business.

There. I’ve confessed. May God have mercy on my soul….

Most how-to books on small business prattle endlessly about the importance of writing a business plan.

Most marketing consultants I talk with tell me they charge clients thousands of bucks to write “marketing plans” for them.

At the end of the day, a lot of their clients have formal, well written, impressive business plans — with lots of graphs in the appendix designed using PowerPoint — in slick GBC style binders.

Only problem is, they have no new leads … no new customers … no new sales … and no new business.

I think the whole idea of “write a business plan” is, frankly, overrated.

Your time and money would be better spent actually selling … rather than blathering in a plan document on ways you THINK you should sell.

Do you find yourself nodding in agreement with me that the whole “hire me to write your business/marketing plan” is, in many respects, a con game? Perhaps the last refuge of the “those who can do, those who can’t write about it” school of marketing poseurs?

Or are you seeing red, and thinking that, at long last, you know why Bly is such a miserable failure: because he is a fool who doesn’t believe in, or write, business plans.

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Category: General | 33 Comments »

Free Speech in Advertising?

April 10th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Gail Tomas, a 65-year-old opera singer, saved her life through advertising.

According to an article in The Week (4/13/07, p. 16), Ms. Tomas ran a “kidney needed” notice on an organ donor Web site.

Paul Wagner, a 40-year-old businessman, responded — giving Gail one of his kidneys and saving her life.

Now, Dr. Douglas Hanto, a transplant surgeon, thinks advertising for a donor online should be made illegal.

His argument: people who get organs through online advertising are jumping the line on the national organ donor list.

The article notes that of the 70,000 people needing a kidney transplant in the United States, half will die waiting, because organs are in short supply.

Do you think advertising for a kidney … or a heart … or a child to adopt … or any other important essential should be banned?

Or if you needed these things, would you conduct an aggressive marketing campaign to secure what you require — either for you or a loved one?

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Category: Advertising, General | 109 Comments »

4 Secrets of Achieving Outrageous Success

April 9th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Why are some people so much more successful than others?

After thinking about this on and off for almost 3 decades, I’ve reached the conclusion that 4 factors are responsible for success:

1. Hard work — “work smarter, not harder,” is largely B.S. Yes, you have to work smart. But most of the really successful people I know have a puritan work ethic, despite the claims of some of them to the contrary.

2. Persistence — the only way to ensure permanent failure is to give up. Successful people never give up.

3. “Smarts” — successful people are either highly intelligent or have some aptitude that helps them in achieving their goals.

4. Luck — some people are just luckier than others. They are fortunate to be born with an aptitude (#3 above) that makes money in today’s society. Or they benefit from timing: market factors align favorably with their ventures and goals.

I am debating adding a fifth factor to my list above: ambition.

Financial talk show host Bill Bresnan began a lecture once by asking the audience: “Why are you not rich? Because you don’t want to be rich.”

People who achieve success — fame, wealth, building a company, launching a product, inventing — do so because doing so is important to them.

The difference between a humble successful person and an egotistical one?

The humble achiever acknowledges the role #4 played in his success, and the egotistical one does not.

Do you think my 4 (5) factors above adequately explain why some people are so much more successful than others?

Or am I missing an important factor required to achieve success?

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Category: General | 26 Comments »