The Zen of Marketing

 Sometimes we become an obstacle to our own success. The trick is to get out of your own way to allow great things to flow. For marketing messages, this means the flow of ideas… of creativity… of uniquely effective wording. When crafting better marketing, what we think we know (our assumptions) ends up limiting us from potential brilliance.

Over the weekend, I picked the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” by Shunryu Suzuki. My friend Monica Day recommended it to me a couple of months ago. She once told me that I should approach each project with a “Beginner’s Mind,” a fresh outlook. Ignore your past impressions, stereotypes, experiences and prejudices. See the thing as it truly is – as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Once I did this, amazing things began to flow, to the delight of my clients!

When you consider your marketing, you may find that your approach has evolved from the campaign before it, and the campaign before that. But when you examine your message as it is today… without regard to its history… is it as strong a message as it could be?

Taking a “Beginner’s Mind” approach helps you see things in a fresh light when evaluating a fresh marketing approach. When working with your creative team, remind them of the “knowns,” but don’t limit them.

Encourage them to have a Beginner’s Mind as they work on your campaign. Only then do you see things as your customers do. Only then can you invite the flow of fresh creativity you deserve to help your business grow.


Making the Grade with your Online Content

  Every night after work, my cute husband and I relax together on the couch and catch up on the news of the day. When we first married, our faces were often lit by candlelight. But today, it’s by laptop – each of us tapping away on our computers, our faces bathed in the cool glow of our screens. 

Now more than ever, people are on their computers, doing their “homework.” Before they buy, before they meet, before they call. The Internet gives us the opportunity to really check things out in advance, before we develop a relationship with the person, brand or business. Your online presence gives an impression – good or bad.

Be sure you use it to your best advantage.

Making the most of the trend of online research means offering more information for your customers than you may have in the past. Consider what information they need when making a buying decision, then give it to them. Tell them about what you do, your industry, your history, what makes you unique. Start a blog to share insider tips and advice to help them. Focus more on what they want to know… and less about what you want them to hear. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

People don’t buy a drill because they want to own another power tool. People buy a drill because they want to make a hole. Remember that.

The words you choose need to reflect the fact that you “get it.” Show that you’re the best choice for them.

As people do their homework online, make sure you’re the one who gets an A.

Challenge: “Green” Luxury Vehicle Shirt Slogans

Earlier today, someone on the forum needed some tagline help: “I am looking at developing a range of t-shirts for a client of mine that must incorporate a ‘green’ message. I am looking for 5-6 messages and design ideas to print on to the front of t-shirts made from organic cotton.
– luxury automotive manufacturer
– young, fun and classy
– taglines can’t be tacky or obvious
– taglines could possibly relate to the persons choice in choosing a ‘green’ or more environmentally friendly vehicle/or lifestyle”

While green may be the new black, here are some of the ideas I came up with for him. It was a fun thing to wrap my brain around, so I wanted to share. And if you see them on a tee-shirt soon, you’ll know where they came from!

“Compromise Nothing”
“Spoiled… not oiled”
“Purrs like a kitten…”
“Responsibly Fabulous”
(and my favorite) “Don’t be crude.”


George Carlin’s Art for Words

  In the early ’80s when I was in high school, I had two strange hobbies. One was memorizing song lyrics. The other was memorizing comedy. Comedy movies, yes… and stand-up comedy, absolutely! As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the impact of the perfect phrase, the right wording that provokes a response.

One of my very favorite stand-up routines ever caught on film was George Carlin’s “Live from Carnegie Hall.” Cerebral… side-splitting… brilliant.

More than 20 years later, in what was probably one of his last interviews, George Carlin shares his take on his craft. Be it comedy or marketing – it’s all about artfully crafting the right words to trigger the reaction you’re looking for. For comedy writing, Carlin was a master.

Here’s an excerpt from that interview. You can read more at

“This is my art. This is what I do. You wouldn’t ask Pablo Casals … let me tell you about Pablo Casals, … the famous cellist. He was considered the virtuoso of the cello, certainly the greatest cellist in the 20th century. He was in his 90s… and doing an occasional — an occasional — recital, but he rehearsed three hours a day, regardless.

Someone said to him, “You know, Pablo, you’re in your 90s now. You’re a past master. Everyone knows you’re an accomplished cellist. Everyone knows you’re a virtuoso. Why do you still practice three hours a day?” He said, “Well, I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

That says it all about artists. You’re never finished. There’s always somewhere to go. There’s always deeper to dig. Artists are never satisfied. There’s always a vague dissatisfaction going on that they haven’t really said it yet, they haven’t really found it yet. I realize I’m just an entertainer, but when you write your own stuff then you’re dabbling in art — because writing is an art — and you’re composing and creating from nothing, from just your impressions. I do this because I love it. I’ll probably do it for a long, long time.”

A long time, but unfortunately not long enough. Thank you, Mr. Carlin. Goodbye.

Death of the fluffy tagline

I witnessed some “interesting” advice on taglines the other day. Last Saturday, I attended a leadership training for a volunteer organization. One of the handouts included an article about crafting your personal tagline, written by a woman who probably could use some tagline help herself. 

According to the article, she says:
My tagline for my counseling and coaching practice is this: “The permissionary – a visionary realist to help you discover and manifest your dreams.”

Maybe it’s me, but when I read that, I only see her as a phony-bologna constultant who’s full of beans. That’s probably not the look she was going for.

Can a visionary be a realist? (although I like the play on words by itself) Is permissionary a real word, and do I need to look it up? (I did… and it’s obscure.)

C’mon here! Let’s get real.

Perhaps a better approach is to take your “full of beans” tagline and dissect it to get at the heart of what you want people to know about your business – in language that makes sense to them. Save the fluff for your mission statement.

This sample tagline uses lofty vanilla concepts, and it’s a bit too long to be memorable. It’s time to boil it down to what’s essential… simplify it… and then say it.

Off the top of my head, I’d rather see something like:
“Dream… Plan… Do.”
“Your Dreams… with a Deadline.” 
“Get There, Faster.”
“Visionary Realists”
“Giving Focus to Your Life’s Vision.”
“Your Destiny by Design”

Okay, that’s enough for now. I could do this all day. (In fact… I DO do this all day at Slogan Studio.) 

So what do you think? What tagline would you suggest to our wordy consultant friend? Which one do you like best and why? And as I come up with more, I’ll post them in the comments.

If it ain’t broke…

I’ve never been a fan of change for change sake.

There’s a trend for national brands to revert to the taglines of their past – to the classics that have already been etched in the minds of consumers for generations. My favorite is Burger King’s “Have It Your Way.”

Changing back to the classics can be a good thing:

  • It makes them appear “eternal” which ads confidence in the brand.
  • It attracts the boomers who fondly remember them, and the younger generations who see them as “retro-fresh.”
  • With the uncertainty of 2008 – the election, the economy, housing, gas prices, etc. – a reminder of “better times” in the past can be reassuring. People want to buy a piece of past peace.
  • Sometimes the taglines are simply hard to beat!

In a recent blog post that discusses this trend, “Brand Names and Taglines: Think Before You Change”,  Diane Prang at Namewire offers some great tips for all businesses considering a tagline change.

  1. Make it relevant—for today, tomorrow and well into the future. Think BMW, “the ultimate driving machine.”
  2. Take creating a tagline seriously—your tagline is an opportunity to emotionally bond with the consumer.
  3. Test the water—ask existing employees and customers before fully implementing it.
  4. Keep it short—7 words is the most you get if you expect a consumer to log it in their short term memory, but 3 or 4 words is much better.
  5. Make it unique—try putting your competitors name in with your tagline, if it works, it’s no good.
  6. Finally, don’t think that your tagline says it all—support it with quality products and a sound marketing strategy.

There are dozens of good reasons to change your tagline, but do so with thoughtful consideration. 

So, when is it a good time to change your tagline? Short answer is: when that change would better your sales. Times of change are most common: New logo… new product… new market focus… new customer base… new service… new goals….  Or simply when your marketing message just doesn’t work anymore.

Change is good.  But if it ain’t broke…


The truth about taglines

A slogan sells. A tagline tells.

Taglines share your story. In a few well-crafted words, your tagline should explain what you do, how you do it, and/or why your audience should want what you offer. And if it’s really good, it stirs an emotion deep within that persuades your audience – in a good way.

The tagline works in tandem with your logo to “brand” or tattoo your business into the minds of your market. I guess they don’t call it “branding” for nothing! Think cattle. The cool thing is that your tagline can change as your marketing changes. In fact, some marketing resources, like Anita Campbell’s, recommend changing your tagline as an easy way to strengthen your marketing. In fact, you can even have different taglines for different audiences. As your business focus evolves, so should your message.

When crafting a fresh tagline, my best advice is to be clear about: 1) who you are, 2) what you want people to remember about whatever it is you do, and 3) why they should use you. Get a cold drink and a yellow pad. Sit for a minute and answer these three questions. Make a list. Jot it down. The core of your message may be right there, on the page.

Now, you may not be able to find the right words to effectively communicate the concepts you just came up with. But knowing what you want to say – the gist of it – is half the battle. You can then pass your ideas to a professional wordsmith, like those at Slogan Studio. In no time, those ideas will be crafted into a tagline or slogan that truly resonates with your client base – one that helps grow your business.  

Taking an honest, authentic approach in your taglines is always best. It’s quickly becoming the standard approach in today’s marketing messages. People are becoming cynical. “Puffing” just doesn’t work. People see through it and move on to someone else.

Be true to your brand. Be clear in your tagline.