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21 Signs You Need a Logo Redesign

A logo is one of the most important components of a brand. This graphic identity reflects how your business should be perceived by the rest of the world – your customers, clients, employees, investors, partners, and vendors.

Like a firm and friendly handshake in a personal introduction, a logo should leave a positive impression.

Like the foundation of a house, the logo needs to support and complement all of your advertising, marketing, and social media efforts for years to come. The memorability of a brand grows exponentially with the recall of a logo.

What Can a Logo Do for Your Business?

A logo instills trust. Whenever I see a good logo, I think, ‘Well, if they can put that much thought into their logo and their branding, they’re probably doing a lot of other things right with their business, too.’

A logo can exude strength, authority, confidence, personality and optimism.

A great logo can help turn a company into a status symbol. A great logo can help entrepreneurs or small businesses gain traction sooner. A great logo can help a product stand out on crowded shelves.

A mediocre one will make it harder to compete. And a bad one may actually repel business.

If you ignore the process of creating a good logo, the chances are high that potential consumers and clients will ignore your products or services. You haven’t given them a reason to stop and look.

So, it’s well worth the time and effort to explore how to make your logo stand out with the help of a professional graphic designer or art director. Someone who has the training to create unique brand identities as well as choose appropriate fonts and colors.

It used to be that logos were initially used for business cards and stationary. Now, there’s another essential purpose. “I won’t design a logo today without envisioning how it might look in a circle,” stated designer Phil Holmes, “ Because all logos will end up in social profiles framed by a circle.”

Companies of all sizes can make the mistake of not updating their logo over time. The set it and forget-it mentality is easy to do when there are seeming a million of logistics to take care of every year. It’s so easy to put updating a logo on the back burner.

21 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Logo.

1. It wasn’t created by a professional graphic designer or art director in the first place. Your company’s founders cut corners when it launched.

2. It’s a family-run business. It hasn’t been updated in well over a decade.

3. It doesn’t look good online – on a website or social profile.

4. It doesn’t work well because it’s too busy or ornate.

5. Its type isn’t legible. For example, a font with a fine script.

6. It’s way too big or small.

7. It isn’t aesthetically pleasing. It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, but many would like to see it change.

8. Its shape may be overused or cliche for your industry.

9. Its color is garish. Maybe it looks a little muddy when it’s printed. Maybe it’s not an appropriate color choice for your industry or target market.

10. It doesn’t stand out amongst your competitors. (Maybe your competitors’ logos don’t stand out either. That’s a big opportunity to level up with a better one.)

11. It doesn’t represent the company’s product or services.

12. It doesn’t represent the company’s personality.

13. It doesn’t complement the rest of the company’s marketing.

14. It’s not memorable.

15. It doesn’t fit the product niche. An unsophisticated logo design is not going to help sell a high-priced item or service.

16. It does not look good on packaging.

17. It is used discretely in very few places besides the location, business cards, and website. You won’t see it being used on the company’s uniforms, shirts, delivery trucks, communications, events, etc.

18. The details of it are marred and sort of bleed together or look blurry. (Kind of like the ink of an old tattoo.)

19. It is being used in incongruent sizes and colors by different departments in a company without any adherence to brand guidelines.

20. It was inherited after the company was bought out.

21. It hasn’t changed since there was a merger.

How Does the Logo Design Process Work?

I’ve gone through the logo design and redesign process multiple times with clients and for myself.

When I initially had a logo created for my writing business, I wanted something that showed I was both a visual and strategic thinker. I had taken a lot of creative advertising workshops and earned a marketing degree. Many copywriters have English degrees.

I had this idea of a pencil hitting a target like an arrow. My designer used bright yellow and red colors. At the time, most of my competitors had their information in type only. I often received compliments for having a logo and colorful business card.

Over the years, I think that first design went through three different iterations. The shape of the pencil changed. The thickness of the lines changed. It evolved as my needs changed from just a business card to direct mail and a website.

Then I decided to go in another direction altogether. The designer who helped me really wanted a logo that played off my first name “Amelia” to make it memorable like Amelia Earhart. At first I hesitated. I had seen a paper airplane design come up for other businesses like email apps. We kept exploring her idea and when the tagline “Words That Fly” popped up, it all just worked. I had a logo and a tagline that I loved. It took a few days of chipping away at it, feeling stuck, waiting for the inspiration, and then finally, no pun intended, landing on it.

Amelia Ostroff Copywriter LogosOften the need for a change occurs when business slows down in a recession, there’s the excitement of a new product launch, or there’s a change in staff – something that spurs deep reflection.

Whether the impetus is survival or a healthy growth mindset, the first step should be meeting with a professional graphic designer or art director, and discussing your company’s product or service offerings and plans for the future.

Together, you’ll want to perform an audit of all your existing marketing materials and any places where your logo appears. What’s working? How could it be improved or revamped? Could it be accentuated with a new tagline?

It would be super helpful to prepare for this meeting by conducting a competitive analysis of your direct competitors. Be sure to gather screen shots of all their logos. Tape them to the wall of your “war room” and discuss what you like and dislike about them. That way, your designer can see the shapes and color schemes to steer away from for your logo. And, you’ll spark his or her competitive juices to beat them.

Once the designer gets a feel for your business and puts together a proposal of how many unique designs to expect before refining the final selection as well as the color and black-and-white versions of that logo.

It’s a well though-out process that could take days or weeks, depending on everyone’s schedule and the agility of your team’s internal decision-making process. Picking the final logo is a big step that will have a lasting impact on your company.

Whenever I’ve observed it firsthand, it’s been exciting to watch. It’s like seeing a reality show makeover, except it’s for the business’s new look. It’s always rewarding to see how the changes in perception unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

My Top Super Bowl Commercials for 2022. (There’s a Tie.)

I look forward to watching the Super Bowl commercials as much as I do the game, if not more. This year’s viewing did not disappoint. There were a lot of creative, big budget commercials to keep me transfixed on TV between the plays. 

According to USA Today, there were a total of 64 Super Bowl ads. NBC did not disclose how many commercials actually aired, but confirmed the ads went for up to $7 million for each spot. Some of these ads only aired in certain markets.

After pouring through all of these Super Bowl commercials, here are my absolute top 10 favorites:

 

1. BIC EZ Reach – “Pass It”

The unexpected pairing of Snoop Dog and Martha Stewart playfully exchanging Mary Jane innuendos made this Bic EZ Reach lighter commercial a winner. This creative execution was clearly born out of market research that juxtaposed two of the company’s target markets: middle-aged women and stoners. Though this commercial received a lot of buzz the week before the game, it was not listed in the game-day results. Perhaps the company didn’t want to risk offending its audiences in states where marijuana isn’t legal.    

1. Sam Adams – “Your Cousin from Boston (Dynamics)” 

The Boston Beer commercial featured another smart duo, off-duty security members partying with Boston Dynamics’ robots. It had the feel of an SNL skit with heavy Boston accents. It playfully showed off Sam Adams’ beers while demonstrating “the smahtest” guys in the room were machines, entertaining and looking out for the security crew. This one didn’t play in every market. I may be biased, since I’m from Boston, but this is my top pick. 

2. Cutwater Spirits – “Here’s to the Lazy Ones”

This Cutwater Spirits spot rebelled against all those motivational, go-getter messages people are bombarded with every day. Instead, it celebrated the ingenuity of the lazy ones who find easier ways to get things done. “Because the ones who make the most of their time are ahead of their time.” That is, after all, their audience. People who buy pre-made cocktails from a can. 

3. Liquid Death – “Big Game Commercial with Kids Hydrating at a Party”

Liquid Death did an amazing job of garnering some brand awareness with this Super Bowl commercial. Edgy (sort of) headbanger music, gothic packaging, and a sinister-sounding name looked like the last thing that partying tweens and a pregnant mother should be consuming. Until we see  the last line, “Don’t be scared. It’s just water,” followed by #deathtoplastic.   

4. NFL Super Bowl LVI Commercial – “Bring Down the House”

This 2-minute spot from the NFL brought sibling rivalry and video game stars to life with legendary sportscasters describing the play-by-play. It’s an entertaining story arc that shows what can happen when Mom and Dad are away and imaginations run wild.

5. Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage – “Dream House with Anna Kendrick”

Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage nailed the challenges for today’s home buyers by turning them into Barbie’s nemeses – Better-Offer Betty, Cash-Offer Carl, House-Flipper Skipper. Anna Kendrick and a sweet cast of kids made for an entertaining spot that touched on home buyers’ pain points.

6. Verizon – “Goodbye Cable”

Kudos to Verizon for bringing back Jim Carrey as “The Cable Guy” to humorously act out his frustration of being replaced by a small wireless 5G box. The cinematic feel and dialogue between the Verizon customer explaining its features to “The Cable Guy” make this spot a joy to watch.

7. Budweiser – “A Clydesdale’s Journey”

Prepare for goosebumps, if you haven’t seen this Budweiser spot yet. Witness a horse get injured and, under the watchful eyes of a concerned dog and their owners, slowly recover. That last line, “In the home of the brave. Down never means out.” A pitch-perfect message as we pivot from these challenging times.  

8. Salesforce – “The New Frontier”

Despite seeing this spot about a hundred times during the Olympics, this is still one of my favorite spots. Here’s why.

9. Hologic – “First-Ever National Advertising Campaign with Mary J. Blige”

One of the most common reasons why women don’t get mammograms is because they think they’re too busy. Hologic dispelled this myth by showing how singer, songwriter and actress Mary J. Blige fits her annual mammogram in between shoots, recordings, and workouts. Guys aren’t the only ones watching football. This commercial is a great reminder for women to schedule their mammograms. Major props for the strong tagline “The Science of Sure,” too.  

10. Carvana – “Oversharing Mom”

Carvana showed how easy it is to buy their cars with this cheerful, oversharing mom. This ad provides a punchy pace with quick takes to her raving about the virtues of Carvana’s helpful representative “Susan” to a dozen different people. 

I wish I could give every writer, art director, creative director, casting director, producer, director, actor, video editor, and client who worked on these spots a high-five. I’m sure they went into overtime getting these spots done.

My Top Winter Olympics Commercials of 2022

I love, love, love watching the Olympic games. Not only for the curling (yes, I used to be a curler), but for the TV commercials. Watching these ads feels like the Super Bowl for two weeks straight.

I’ll stay up waaaay too late to watch. The other night I noticed how instantaneously the judges revealed their scores for figure skating and freestyle skiing. It made me wish I could be an advertising award show judge, so I could hand out a few well-deserved medals to these companies and ad agencies for their commercials.  So, let’s pretend I am.

The Winning Commercials:

2022 Chevy Silverado – Walter in Winter

 

 

Chevy Silverado was my favorite commercial for the Summer Olympics and I’m thrilled its agency did another version for the Winter Olympics. Who can get enough of Walter, the cat, in the Chevy Silverado commercials?

Such a creative twist on all those commercials that show tough guys with their dogs tagging along in trucks.

No one expects to see a cat riding along. In fact, the Wall Street Journal just published a fabulous piece about why it can be so challenging to take cats on road trips.

But this just adds to Walter’s almost mythical appeal as we’re entertained by his sheer bravado, while his owner acts playfully nonchalant about his feline companion as he boasts about the Chevy Silverado’s features and benefits.

Artistic merit: 10/10

Technical merit: 10/10

 

Jurassic World Dominion ­– NBC Sports

 

 

What better way to introduce Jurassic World Dominion than to show its larger-than-life dinosaurs with the U.S. Olympic athletes expected to dominate the world? It’s a spot that’s so engaging, I didn’t even notice it was two-minutes long until I looked it up on YouTube.

Each vignette shows these athletes alone in their element, training for the games when these ginormous dinosaurs show up. Shaun White, a three-time gold medalist, Mikaela Shiffrin, a three-time medalist, and Nathan Chen, a three-time world champion, never spoke a word in this spot.

The commercial opens with them demonstrating their incredible athleticism, training alone. Then it cuts to their faces, showing fear and genuine awe, as their training was rudely interrupted by the unexpected – a pack of dinosaurs.

The sound effects of the skates, board, and skis carving through the snow and ice and those beasts tromping through the snow accompanied by cinematic music carried the spot. I also enjoyed hearing the dinosaurs growling and trying to connect with the athletes.

Shaun White can jump high, but not as high as a Brachiosaurus. A point emphasized by him blowing on Shaun’s goggles. Mikaela Shiffrin is one of the fastest skiers on earth, but she can still get passed by Scorpios Rex and threatened by its protective momma. It seemed apropos for Nathan Chen was encircled by a squad of Cretaceous Raptors while he spun in circles.

The visual effects of the panoramic scenery, dinosaurs’ animations, and shadows cast over the athletes certainly gives us a taste what of what this future blockbuster film will offer this summer.

Artistic merit: 10/10

Technical merit: 10/10

 

Applebee’s – Here’s to the Regulars

 

It opens with the music to “Cheers” playing through the spot and the line “Every place depends on its Regulars. Meet some of ours.” What unfolds is Main Street, U.S.A. This commercial shows the goodness of people in such a beautiful and relatable way.

A man driving home from work, firefighters returning from a call, customers at a local hardware store, two women at a hair salon, a father and his two young sons helping an older veteran repair his window siding.

The lyrics to the song are especially poignant “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.” As it shows day-to-day work ethic of its heroes, the Regulars.

And it segues to how the Regulars celebrate their big and small life events by going out to Applebee’s. After a local girls’ softball game. After the Homecoming queen and king are announced at a football game. After the manufacturing workers walk away from a long shift all smiles as another group heads into their plant.

Later we see them at the Applebee’s bar as well as the older veteran seated at the table with a younger family, the hairstylist and her customer at the bar getting complimented on her hair by another couple.

It signs off with a note of appreciation, “Here’s to the Regulars. We wouldn’t be here without you.” It’s refreshing to see a company lead with a thank-you instead of a sell in such a genuine way.

Artistic merit: 10/10

Technical merit: 10/10

 

Xfinity/Comcast – Bringing Inspiration

This heartwarming Xfinity/Comcast commercial puts sportsmanship on the podium with vignettes of athletes from the Winter games offering kind words and positive gestures before, during, and after competition.

Cue the credits for David Ruffin for that soulful song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” It begins right out of the skiers’ starting gate with the lyrics, “Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand.”

We’re treated to 55 seconds of fist bumps, high fives, helping hands, and well-wishes paired with families riveted to their TVs witnessing it, and those kids emulating sportsman-like behavior as they compete with other kids in winter sports. Punctuated by the lyrics, “And the world will be a better place. And the world will be a better place for you and me.”

Xfinity/Comcast encourages more viewership by showing the “sportsmanship effect” of watching Olympic athletes.

Artistic merit: 10/10

Technical merit: 10/10

 

Salesforce ­– Because Earth is the New Frontier

 

I’ll be honest, when I first saw this one with Matthew McConaughey strutting his stuff in a space suit, I thought it was a tad pretentious and busy. Every time I watched it though, I noticed different things. There are so many layers and playful jabs to this commercial that, thankfully, I’m more entertained every time it comes on. Its visual effects and casting are spot on.

Matthew opens with a serious line, “Space. The final frontier.” And then he mocks it with disinterest, “Eh!” A snub, perhaps to Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson going to space in 2021, he pulls on a chord to lower his hot air balloon to some bustling metropolis. The juxtaposition was fun.

Back on the ground, we see a guy wearing a sweatshirt with “Trail Blazer” on it. He looks up at the balloon as if seeking answers from above. And there’s Matthew in his hot air balloon to answer, “It’s not time to escape. It’s time to engage.” Perhaps an underlying message about transitioning out of the pandemic as well as focusing on new opportunities in the now.

He continues to offer words of advice from aloft, “Time to plant more trees,” he says to a farmer. “It’s time to build more trust,” he says to a couple getting married. “It’s time to make more space for all of us,” he offers to a boardroom of executives in a skyscraper.

He continues, “While others look to the Metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and restore ours.” I like that line. I think it shows compassion to all the people who are tired of hearing about FANG companies getting the spotlight, artfully straddling the need to improve the economy and environment.

“Yes, it’s time to blaze our trail. Because the new frontier. It ain’t rocket science. It’s right here,” he says, exuding his charming confidence with a wry smile.

The spot ends with him strutting in an empty space with mountains in the backdrop that looks like the High Sierras.

The message is you can feel more relaxed and optimistic with Salesforce as a business tool. We didn’t learn as much about its products as we did about the company’s values – awareness of climate change, inclusion, equality, and transparency. With that in mind, it appears this was also an ad for its stock. Could it go to the moon next?

 

Wealthfront – Invest for the long term on your terms.

 

I love the way this commercial playfully shows that investments decisions aren’t as easy as ordering off a menu as we see several parties at a restaurant trying to make sense of their choices.

It begins with an angry father who has seen his investment drop 20% after acting a tip from his young wunderkind, Wall St. wannabe son.

Next a man donning a snake around his neck touting, “It’s snake-themed cryto. What don’t you get?” in a condescending manner. His partner admits, “Everything” while she takes a selfie of herself. Aren’t we all wary of snakes in the investment world?

Then it cuts to two young women, twinning in black turtlenecks, glued to their phones, and lusting at the possibility of investing in oil on Mars.

It ends with a down-to-earth couple who only have one thing on their mind – ordering French toast.

The casting of this commercial was superb. It included multiple generations to appeal to a broader audience. The wardrobe played a huge role in making this cast of characters entertaining to watch and juxtaposing the smart investors from the short-term investors.

These outlandish investment scenarios made for great satire after witnessing the volatility of meme and cryto stocks in the past year. Wealthfront makes a compelling case for the peace of mind that comes from investing in solid funds over the long run.

Artistic merit: 10/10

Technical merit: 10/10

 

All of these efforts were pure gold. Yes, they tied. It’s hard to pick a favorite commercial that’s airing during these Winter Olympic Games. There were so many elements that these companies and their ad agencies’ creative teams absolutely landed – the visual and sound effects, the supporting music and casting, the strategies, and the copy. Just like the athletes, they had to prepare these TV spots perfectly for the Olympics.

Sneaky Ways to Make Sure Your Content is Read.

You know you need to tell your company’s or client’s stories online. You know it’s optimal to optimize content for SEO with the right keywords and the perfect length. (Even if you swear that you just want copy that reads well.)

With all that focus on doing everything possible to write compelling content online, there might be one thing you overlooked.

Google and Bing are not the only sources that can give you good referrals. One of the best ways to gain more eyeballs and win the hearts and minds of new customers is with your current customers.

I was reminded of that when I opened up a carton of Vital Farms eggs. I was initially drawn to this company’s product because of its cool, colorfully illustrated type on a black label that caught my eye in the fridge at Whole Foods. Then I fell for their free-range eggs.

Content for Vital Times Issue 1
Vital Times Issue 1, the official newsletter for Vital Farms eggs.

 

So, I had to grin when I realized they raised the bar on their creativity a notch by including an issue of their Vital Times. A small 4”x 3” newsletter that instantly reaffirmed why I like this brand of eggs so much.

This company exudes personality.

Inside, they literally give you the birds’-eye perspective on what a great life their birds have on the farm. The first issue even offered tips on how we humans can beat the winter blues, why their birds are happier, a bird of the month, a mission statement, and a call-to-action for social sharing.

All of their most important marketing touch points were provided in a place too good to ignore – their own product. They didn’t have to pay for any media placement. Their message didn’t have to compete with up to 10,000 other marketing messages people receive in a day. And the printing costs were probably nominal for such a small size.

In one little slip, I received some helpful information, entertaining tidbits about their hens, hen cartoons, and more insight about why Vital Farms is so special, beyond their unique packaging.

There was something playful about the way this slip of paper was designed to look like a tiny newspaper that played off of the company name – Vital Farms.

Each tiny article certainly aligned well with what matters to me with timely topics such as sustainability, coping with Covid restrictions, and an opportunity to say “thank you” to their farmers and crew during these challenging times.

The headlines and subheads playfully worked in some egg puns, too.

I read their little bite-sized stories because they were delivered in such a way that I couldn’t miss them.

Vital Farms content only helped to reinforce my decision to keeping buying their eggs.

So, if you were take a page from their marketing playbook, what micro content could you create that’s too good to miss for your existing customers or anyone who visits your business?

Humanize Your Company with Content to Existing Customers

Show all the ways your company or clients can be caring, collaborative, efficient, evolving, empathic, flexible, gutsy, innovative, productive, and trustworthy.

Meet your existing customers where they’re at with compelling messages that bring your company to life.

Send an anecdote about a positive customer experience with a billing statement. Share stories of how you made a difference printed on a sales sheet, in a tent card on the counter, or framed on the wall.

Include lots of reassuring case studies that be can read in your waiting room.

Show employee profiles that demonstrate how they went the extra mile in your company’s lobby. Make reprints of articles when your company was covered by the media.

Share your stories through your partnering companies and affiliates. Show how your company made an impact by participating in a community or charitable event.

Blur the Lines of Content Marketing and Marketing.

Content is king. But it can easily morph into other forms of effective and authentic forms of traditional and experiential marketing.

Especially with well-crafted copy about how your products and services are created and transform peoples’ life and work.

Stories are an opportunity to leave consumers thinking…

• I want results like that when I buy ______.
• I didn’t know you could do that with _______.
• I had no idea they put so much effort into making ________.
• I want to feel/be that way when I use _______.

Dig deep. Talk to your team behind the scenes – the product developers, the customer service representatives, the engineers, and salespeople. Conduct focus groups or interview some customers. I bet every person has a story.

Make every purchase an opportunity to tell it. Add a card or pamphlet, so your product line is introduced with each product you sell. Add a slim brochure to your customer’s bag, box or even a receipt whenever they buy something. Send an invitation to try a new service or product.

By putting your stories in the hands of the people who actually buy your product or service, you’ll reassure and reaffirm their purchasing decision. Adapting your content is a powerful way to build momentum.

 

Truthiness in Advertising

“Truthiness” is one of my favorite words. It’s a term that originated in the 1800s. Yet it never gets old when I watch comedian Stephen Colbert use it as an evergreen theme in his monologues. It seems only apropos to discuss this term as I delve into the subject of truth in advertising.

Despite any misguided exuberance within an organization, companies have a duty not to fall into the realm of truthiness when marketing their products and services.

There is no gray area with the Federal Trade Commission with truth in advertising. It’s one thing to tout your unique selling points and it’s quite another to just make them up.

It crosses the line when you go from solving customers’ pain points to preying on them with empty promises. When it goes beyond showing the product, and instead misrepresents and exaggerates its actual size, ingredients, features, and benefits.

What is false advertising?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees consumer protection and enforces truth-in-advertising rules, ”Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

• Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
• Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims;
• Advertisements cannot be unfair.

Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, 900 telephone numbers, and products sold through mail order or telephone sales. And every state has consumer protection laws that govern ads running in that state.”

For the FTC, it’s pretty black and white. The proof is in the pudding or it should be in the pricing, delivery, and assembly charges, exclusions, limited-time promotions, endorsements, testimonials, ingredients, health, beauty, weight loss, and environmental benefits, and any other claims.

I’m actually kind of shocked and gobsmacked when I see these cases happen. How is it possible that no one within these boardrooms, product development teams, marketing departments, advertising agencies or even advertising mediums didn’t speak up and say, “We shouldn’t run it. It could hurt the company’s brand and bottom line.” There wasn’t one soul in the room brave enough or smart enough to state the obvious?

Stand-Out False Advertising Examples Worthy of a Stand-Up Monologue.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of truthiness.

Instances where consumers were so peeved they decided to sue. Enough was enough. They hired lawyers. They got justice for themselves and other consumers with class action lawsuits. They made companies change their verbiage, labeling, and tune.

The people have spoken. And these companies had to do some ‘splaining about all this complaining:

5-Hour Energy claimed their drink was more effective than coffee and doctors recommended it. A judge ruled that its claims were not backed by scientific evidence.

Luminosity, an app designed to challenge your brain, claimed it prevented Alzheimer’s Disease and promoted better studying for school. Lumos Labs also lacked the scientific evidence to back it up. In this instance, the company blamed the action taken and subsequent settlement on its marketing language, which had been discontinued.

New Balance said its toning TrueBalance and Rock & Tone lines of shoes had a “hidden beauty secret” that promised to burn 8% more calories by activating certain lower body muscles, yet offered no proof that they actually worked the glutes, hamstrings, or calf muscles more than other shoes. This company also omitted the potential risk of injury from balancing on them. A $2.3-million settlement was reached, which lead to class action refunds for all eligible buyers.

Hotels.com led consumers to believe a Los Angeles hotel was “near the beach.” I can just picture all those vacationers hoping they’d only need their flip-flops for a short stroll to dip their toes in the sand and water. Not so much. The beach was actually 10 miles away.*

Kellogg’s Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts ingredients contained more dried apples, dried pears and red food coloring than strawberries. This is a classic example of “angel dusting” where an expected quantity of a beneficial ingredient is woefully lacking. Since pears cost half as much as strawberries, this product provided less nutritional value and clearly more value to the company’s bottom line – until a woman sued the company for $5 million.

Hefty Recycling Bags were supposed to be “perfect for all your recycling needs.” In actuality, the bags are made with a low-density polyethylene plastic (LDPE #4) that many recycling facilities refuse to accept. Which means consumers’ dutifully recycled contents also get rejected, the lawsuit alleges. Hefty Recycling Bags are really just pretty trash bags. This class-action lawsuit also suggests that Hefty violated anti-greenwashing laws in California, too. Could hefty fines and penalties result?*

Red Bull still claims its energy drink “gives you wings.” (I actually really like this line.) But their slogan left the company susceptible to a lawsuit, not because the customer actually expected to suddenly don ornithological super powers. The plaintiff felt mislead when he realized a 250ml can offered less caffeine than a cup of coffee. The judge agreed. ‘“Such deceptive conduct and practices mean that [Red Bull’s] advertising and marketing is not just ‘puffery,’ but it instead deceptive and fraudulent and it therefore actionable,” the lawsuit stated.’

These are just a few false advertising examples of the litany of lawsuits and enforcement actions being taken right now by the Federal Trade Commission. There are simply too many companies to mention that are making claims that their products can prevent or treat Covid-19.

How to Ensure Truth in Advertising.

Whenever I’ve worked on any big accounts or highly regulated industries, such as automotive, finance, food, and healthcare, my work has always been subjected to legal review.

It’s always a good idea to seek counsel prior to incurring the expense of paying for product packaging, sales materials, advertising, video production, and media buys.

Account supervisors, marketing managers, copy supervisors, and proofreaders on the agency side and product managers, engineers, medical, and legal experts on the client side, should work together to make sure that the copy sells without making any overpromises.

Inserting phrases such as “may,” “might,” “could,” and “help” will certainly alleviate anything that may, might, or could lead to legal liability in many instances. Those phrases become the safe words a writer learns to instinctually include in copy to keep their clients or company out of trouble.

Yet, the onus of liability goes beyond just the copy. The photographs and packaging should resemble the product in real life.

As much as creatives can whine about their best ideas or headlines being killed, sometimes that’s a very good thing.

The FTC has the ability to impose civil and criminal penalties for false advertising. And when that happens, misleading marketing suddenly turns into bad PR that never goes away.

 

*Source: Truthinadvertsing.org.

Why Cops are Great Social Media Managers.

Do you ever wonder what makes a good social media manager? Take a look at some social media channels managed by police officers and I think you’ll find that many do an impressive job at being informative, helpful and, yes, entertaining.

Keep reading And you’ll see there’s a good reason why Lieutenant Tim Cotton’s content on the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page has gone viral with over 327,000 followers.

YouTube is full of heartwarming heroic stories of cops rescuing people and pets. You’ll see quite a few clips of them country line dancing for the “Get Up” Challenge.

On Instagram, the Los Angeles Police Department surprised a little boy who had been hit by a car with a motorized toy car and helmet for his birthday. The D.C. Police Department showed officers dressed up as superheroes, visiting young patients at the Children’s National Hospital.

From what I’ve observed on multiple social media Police accounts, the motto “To Protect and to serve” is their mission statement, too. It’s the backbone of every post.

I suspect if it doesn’t meet that litmus test, it doesn’t get posted. They have the discipline and good judgement not to stray.

How do they excel as social media managers?

They make you feel like you’re a part of their community.

I don’t live in Bangor, Maine (But my grandparents did.) Whenever I log on to the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page, I feel like I’m welcome there. Lieutenant Tim Cotton has developed such a following that this page attracts tourists, snowbirds, and new residents.

Social media is another form of community policing. — a strategy of developing relationships with members of their community. In business, we call it “marketing” or “social selling.”

They do it right.

Social media is meant to be a two-way form of communication. That’s what separates it from publishing.

When I look at the comments’ section of these police departments’ Facebook pages, I always see a response or acknowledgement of each individual’s comments.

Good social media managers make sure no feels ignored if they took the time to engage.

They instill trust.

People turn to social media for all kinds of reasons. I think their mainly looking for connection and an emotional cookie. They see enough heated debates online and in the news. Now, more than ever, they need a safe place to land. They need to see that someone has their back.

When police officers see disparaging posts or disagreements, they de-escalate them diplomatically and quickly.

I’ve noticed that these social media managers in blue exude trust. They provide regular, thoughtful engagement, so people will return.

They are authentic.

After watching more than a few cop shows over the years, we may all have some pre-conceived notions of what police officers are like and what they do.

It’s nice to see what they’re really like on social media — friendly, amiable, and professional. Some of them are gems.

The Bangor Maine Police Department regularly signs off with “As always, we urge you to keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone and be kind to one another. Sincerely, part-time page administrator, TC.”

I can’t read that without smiling.

How can you reach your followers in such a genuine way?

They vary their content.

Social media gives police officers a platform to communicate with the public more frequently — not just when it’s an emergency.

They give heads ups. They give high-fives. They give back. They give you a glimpse of what’s happening — at the station and in your community.

How do they vary their content? By acknowledging their fellow officers, new hires, and promotions. By warning people about recent scams, road work and closures for special events. By sharing information and camera footage of crimes they’re trying to solve. By offering gratitude for others’ kind gestures of pot luck meals and pizza deliveries during the pandemic. By chipping in to buy a new bike for the kid they rescued and sent to the hospital the previous week.

Or by showing you what it’s like to ride along with them on their beat. In my town, that may mean catching a dash cam live-streaming a gorgeous pink sunset from the beach. It’s pretty awesome.

Good social media provides a never-ending pipeline of posts that show how an organization shines from the inside out.

They’re good story tellers.

Some crimes never get covered in the news. And the summaries in the crime log of your local paper doesn’t delve into much detail.

But when you have an officer recount the details of said events with all the facts that are fit to post and a wry wit, that’s social media gold.

They show empathy as they describe the teachable moments of teenagers who didn’t show the best judgement on a Friday night, or boys who wandered off the trails too far from home.

They put people at ease, showing family members reunited after everyone’s cell phone lit up with silver alert when someone’s elderly mom or dad went missing.

And what could be more satisfying than reading about the porch package pirates getting caught? Or seeing a drunk driver get his sports car stuck in deep sand after doing some donuts on the beach in the middle of the night? Or the sauced sailor who beached his 35-foot boat in broad daylight?

Maybe it just goes with the job. Bartenders and hair stylists are good listeners. Personal trainers are good motivators. Cops can be great storytellers.

You can be a great storyteller.

They provide value.

Police officers use social media to serve their audience. They provide the kind of information that’s good to know — and what you urgently need to know.

Tips to prevent thefts. And, in the event of a serious emergency, they keep us up-to-date there, too.

Ten years ago, we had a mass shooting in my small town. I witnessed firsthand how quickly they responded and saw them put the shooter in handcuffs. The streets were blocked off to allow cruises to respond at warp speed, so it took a little longer to get home.

Everyone here wondered what caused multiple sirens to blare at full volume. Rumors spread through town like wildfire until the news reports confirmed what tragically happened.

If they had a Facebook page at that time, that would’ve been the first place I turned for accurate information from the source. I have since seen them shut down rumors that pop up periodically.

As a business or organization, can you think of any information that should come directly from you? What would you naturally tell your customers in person that you’re not including in your social media feeds? How could you lead by being helpful?

They are responsive.

Social media managers are often fulfilling the role of customer service.

With Facebook and Twitter, the police can quickly update their followers about what occurred or why an area should be avoided, so their 911 system or community phone line isn’t overwhelmed with inquiries.

They do a great job of answering the questions that’s on their community members’ minds.

Good social media managers answer questions about a company’s products or services within 24 hours.

They’re good PR.

We all know there are good cops and bad cops. Unfortunately, and tragically, the bad cops have been getting too much of the limelight lately. And that too can create bias.

Social media provides a more balanced perspective. It puts the spotlight back on all the great things officers do day in and day out to protect and connect with the people in their community.

I’m reassured when detectives track a serial criminal based on, wait for it, a parking ticket.

And I have to say, it’s kind of nice to watch some cops in uniform join a flash mob group of college students dancing to Uptown Funk on YouTube. Good people moving to the beat (on their beat) in their black work boots.

It lifts my spirits to see them take up a collection to buy a new bike for a 10-year-old kid they recently rescued on a mountain trail. Or to see them perform CPR on a kitten.

What’s happening at your company or organization that the world should know about? Give someone some kudos. It will be boost morale and your brand.

They communicate clearly.

This is one attribute that I’m sure comes from Police Academy training and years on the job. Police officers make their posts calm and clear, so there’s little chance their words might be misconstrued. They get to the point.

They are thoughtful with their words and judicious in the length of their posts.

So people can enjoy what they read and keep on scrolling, left with a positive impression of their local police. Mission (statement) accomplished.

Those are the nine traits I’ve found in good social media managers who just happen to be cops.

Inspiration to help you think of all the ways you can serve your own online community.

After all, good deeds should never go unnoticed.

Can We Just Change the Subject Line? 5 Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rates.

Email is like the micro-equivalent of an elevator pitch. Except instead of having 30 seconds to make a favorable impression on strangers, you only have about 3 seconds to persuade your subscribers to open it. 

The subject line is the linchpin that drives your email marketing, Low open rates are lost opportunities for creating sales, building customer relationships or getting more referrals. 

So, the subject line has to be good. Or your subscribers will view your email as “junk” (ouch) and nothing more than a speed bump to getting other things done.   

I often think of the resources and logistics that go into creating an email, determining the strategy, the copy points, the imagery, and the call-to-action. And then I wonder how much time and effort went into crafting the subject lines.   

By the time I look at those emails, it’s the end of the day. Thanks to Sanebox, I get a daily summary of all the email newsletters that have been diverted to my SaneNews folder, so I’m no longer distracted by them coming into my inbox at all hours. 

Even though I’ve pared down my email subscriptions, like a lot of people, I’m still on dozens of lists. 

I may be experiencing a late afternoon bonk when I take a glance at the long list of emails that have arrived and decide what’s worthy of my attention. 

What I open depends entirely on the quality of subject line. Did it pique my interest? Did it offer any tangible value?  Was it the least bit relatable or even entertaining? Was it truly newsworthy? If it checks any of these boxes, I’ll read it eventually. It’s the least I can do for my peers who worked so hard to put together a decent email.   

How to improve your email newsletter subject lines:

1.) Start by getting feedback on the emails you’ve already sent. 

Dive into the data to see what your open rates have been. How do they compare to others in your industry? You may view the average open rates by industry compiled by Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. It can be very motivating to be able to track your improvement and compete for better metrics. 

2.) Stop channeling late-night TV infomercials.

Certain phrases will automatically send your email to spam folders. In fact, there are hundreds of phrases that may result in your email being penalized. You can learn about them by reading this helpful post by AutoPilotHQ. You can also test your email in advance for any spam triggers with free tools such as Spam Check by Postmark or Send Forensics.

3.) Brainstorm several lines. 

Take the time to prioritize the subject line development. There are many helpful online tools available that will grade your subject line, before you ever hit “send.” For example, Email Subject Line Grader by Net Atlantic or SubjectLine.com. Play with a few variations to see how you can improve the performance of your next email’s open rate.

4.) Consider the length of the subject line. 

What is the email subject line character limit? Ideally, it should be between five to seven words, 50-65 characters to be precise. When you preview your subject line, does your line get cut off because it’s too long? Can you make a more compelling statement in fewer characters? Or do you have extra wiggle room to say something more persuasive? Another free tool, Email Subject Line Grader by Net Atlantic will give you immediate feedback on the subject line length as well as suggestions to improve it. 

5.) Bear in mind, the frequency of the emails you send. 

If you’re sending out multiple email newsletters weekly or monthly, you may be relying on the same keywords over and over again. Which may lead your readers to lose interest since they’ve grown to expect the same lead-ins and sales copy. You may find using different verbiage will not only keep your messaging fresh and enticing, but also lead to better open rates.  

By following these email subject lines best practices, you’ll be able to test rather than guess which lines will work better for you. 

Make the Holidays Less Ho-Hum and More Memorable with Experiential Marketing

The holidays are right around the corner. While many businesses focus on Black Friday offers, advertising, email campaigns and traditional holiday cards, I think experiential marketing is an ideal way to connect with your audience during this time of year. This is when so many people are looking for an escape from the ordinary and the perfect gifts for their loved ones. They are more open to soaking in everything sensory around them.  

What is experiential marketing?

It is creating a sensory experience that makes the audience feel more connected with your brand or product. Rather than focusing on the art of persuasion, it’s about making the consumer feel engaged, included, entertained or in awe. 

Which is why I love this holiday “Uber Karaoke” effort by Absolut. Not only does it encourage consumers to drink responsibly by opting for a designated driver – a delightful cabbie with a British accent, but it integrates something very trendy – carpool karaoke. The effect? 

Lucky for us, we get to see several clips of different customers cheerfully entering the back of the cab, surrounded by holiday lights, enthusiastically pony up to the microphone to sing Christmas carols. 

It’s also a wonderful example of unity to see so such a diverse audience, enjoying the same holiday experience. The lit-up tagline at the end says “Enjoy your journey home.” And it’s every bit as entertaining as late-night television. 

How does one measure experiential marketing and ROI? 

The video from last year has nearly 6,500 views. This is just one way to measure the effect of experiential marketing. 

You’ll be able to measure the effectiveness of your own experiential marketing efforts through Key Performance Indications (KPIs) such as shares, clicks, brand mentions, likes, active followers, and subscribers. The take away? If you can create a remarkable experience in person, people will surely talk about you online.    

Though there was never any mention of Absolut’s vodka here, this manufacturer of spirits sure did find a way to raise everyone’s holiday spirit.

How Copying Product Descriptions is Cheating Your E-commerce Business

When you have an e-commerce business to run, the logistics involved can be overwhelming. Lots to juggle when you have to anticipate what customers want, maintain an inventory of hundreds or thousands of products, hire and schedule staff, pack and ship orders in a timely manner, and keep your e-commerce website up-to-date.

It seems like a no-brainer to take advantage of using the product descriptions that the manufacturers provide you. With everything else you have going on, it probably didn’t occur to you that this could actually hurt your online business.

What’s wrong with using manufacturer product descriptions?

Let me show you what happens when you just cut-and-paste those manufacturer product descriptions onto your site. Here’s an example of a leading manufacturer’s bike shoe copy:

Next, I copied that exact description and pasted it into Google’s search box and here’s what came up:

Here’s what else I want you to know:

1. The manufacturer came out on top for their copy. Why? Google recognized that they were the original source of the copy because the manufacturer used a canonical tag, which tells search engines to index their copy first before any content that’s duplicated. Google rewards originality.

2. In the middle of the first page, you’ll spot a couple of outliers who did not use this manufacturer’s product description.

3. Then there were pages and pages of stores that came up with the exact same verbiage.

It pays for your e-commerce business to go rogue.

The next time you’re offered a new product description from a manufacturer, don’t treat it like a piece of inventory that you automatically stock on the shelf. Never, ever use it verbatim. Think of it as a piece of clay that you can shape into something better. You can. Look at everything else you’ve accomplished with your e-commerce business.

Now, take a glance at those product descriptions with a more discerning eye. All too often, manufacturers go with a “just the facts” approach to writing content. They list the features of a product and leave out the benefits, which would actually make the copy more compelling and persuasive.

10 ways to write better product descriptions that drive sales.

1. Look at the manufacturer’s copy and brainstorm what’s missing from it.
2. What do you or your staff love about the product?
3. Why did you decide to stock it?
4. What problem does it solve?
5. How would you sell it to different customers face-to-face?
6. How you could you infuse it with warmth and authenticity (without sounding like an informercial)?
7. Give it a thorough edit. Don’t just change a word or two. Google will see right through it.
8. Include the brand names and model numbers in brief titles and subheads for better search results.
9. Be verbose enough for Google to notice: aim for 150-250 words.
10. Be concise enough to keep consumers engaged.

Deep down inside, we all know copying is just wrong. In grade school, it meant a bad grade or a trip to the principal’s office. With an e-commerce business, it results in low search engine rankings, especially if you’re not mindful of all the other best practices of search engine optimization. I highly recommend taking a deeper dive into this subject by viewing Google Q&A on Duplicate Content. (Prepare to have quite a few “ah-ha” moments.)

If you just don’t have the bandwidth or the writing skills to take this on yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for help. It’s time to outsmart your competition by being an outlier.

10 Tasty Marketing Lessons Served Up by Food Trucks

The first food truck I ever saw didn’t have a lot of competition. In fact, it pretty much had a monopoly on the market. All it had to do was play “Pop Goes the Weasel” as it drove around the neighborhood at the dinner hour. And instantly this picky eater was scavenging Dad’s coat pockets for loose change and sneaking out the back door for her next sugar rush.

My how I’ve changed since then. And so has the food truck industry. Ever since Los Angeles-based Kogi, a purveyor of Korean-Mexican cuisine launched in 2008, the food truck industry’s growth has accelerated across the U.S. with 4,130 food trucks in close to 300 cities.1

I believe the Food Network’s “Food Truck Face Off” and “The Great Food Truck Race” inspired a lot of entrepreneurial chefs to venture out on their own without the cost-prohibitive capital and overhead required to start a typical restaurant.

Despite the reduced start-up costs, it wasn’t easy for them to gain acceptance. Food trucks had to conquer numerous barriers to entry and dispel the stereotype of being “roach coaches” parked outside construction sites.

They showed their culinary flair and overcame the doubters. And no matter what industry you are in, they offer some important lessons worth emulating.

Here are 10 food truck growth strategies to put on your own plate:

    1. Adapt to your environment. The food truck industry had to overcome local parking ordinance restrictions, preconceived notions about food safety, and competing restaurants lobbying against their presence. They had to work with the limitations of municipal codes and their community to ensure their tiny businesses on wheels had mileage. You may be facing an entirely different set of obstacles. But with perseverance and creativity, you can find your way around them.
    2. Be disruptive. How can you solve a problem and deliver it in a non-traditional format? Butcher Box sells grass-fed and organic meat online. ROMWOD.com provides daily online mobility classes. Hulu delivers our favorite old shows. Even if you already have an established business, perhaps there’s a way to increase your profits by marketing it in a different way. Gillette now offers OnDemand replacement blades to compete with newcomers Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.
    3. Be bold. Food truck branding is often as colorful, fresh and unique as the selections on their menus. It has us salivating before we even have a chance to taste the food. Good branding creates that sense of anticipation, long before the sale.
    4. Make the most of what you have. Food trucks don’t have big media budgets. But they sure do have big trailers that are on par with expensive outdoor billboards to showcase their name, logo, tag line, URL, social media platforms, and phone number.

      It fascinates me how many businesses fail to wrap their vehicle or fleet with professionally designed graphics and messaging to extend their brand.

      I recently met a State Farm Insurance agent, Alex Mora, at my local state park. You couldn’t miss his vehicle. How has it worked for him? “It’s paid for itself more than ten times over,” Alex reported, “And with every new customer, I typically get three or four referrals.”

      It also gives his business extra visibility when he parks there. His prospective customers take him more seriously because he’s already demonstrated his penchant for details. Good branding magnifies your professionalism.

    1. Be trustworthy. Food trucks use social media to alert everyone where they’ll be each day. They show up. That’s how they grow their following and reputation. How and in what ways can you show up? It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just do what you say you’re going to do. In this modern age, the old-fashioned virtues of punctuality and reliability are key contributors to a growth strategy.

      Of course, the world will forgive the occasional breakdown if you should falter. Last year, one of my favorite online stores missed the mark on an order. It was a few days late. I received a nice e-mail apology, admitting they were deluged by their sale. They handled it well. I’m still a customer.

    1. Find your niche. My favorite food truck of all time? Cousins Maine Lobster. These young cousins figured out that there was a huge market of New England transplants in Southern California and other warm climates. As a New Englander, I can attest to the fact that we are as obsessed with lobster rolls as our beloved Red Sox. Since Cousins Maine Lobster first appeared on Shark Tank, it has expanded into eight other cities with 18 food trucks.2  Your business may not be this narrowly defined, but could you be overlooking the real sweet spot for your product or service?
    2. Show your passion for the product. No matter what these food trucks serve – mac n’ cheese, Cuban sandwiches, French crepes, you name it – they are obviously, whole-heartedly all in. You can clearly see the pride in their product. Especially when it’s so humbly served on paper plates.
    3. Be transparent. People look into food truck order windows and they instantly see an enthusiastic culinary crew prepping their meal. How can you give your customers a glimpse of the people behind your product? Demonstrate how they go the extra mile through social media. Make customers feel more connected with your company through a series of blog posts that tell your story and build your authority.
    4. Encourage word of mouth. At the point of sale, remind your customers to help spread the word about your business. Ask them to post about it on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat and Yelp. According to Yahoo! Small Business, “50% of shoppers have made a purchase based on a recommendation through a social media network.”3 And the more active you are on these platforms, the more likely your business will be mentioned in their conversations.Food trucks count on social media to announce where they will be on a daily basis. Their livelihood depends on it. In this new age of social media, it’s reached the point where every business does.
    1. Keep your wheels moving. Since most municipal laws prevent food trucks from parking in the same place for more than two hours a day, they must find new markets for their cuisine on a daily basis. Now, you’ll find food trucks at apartment complexes, colleges, corporations, events, or retailers. They book their calendars well in advance by continuously finding new places to serve on a repeat basis. Have you kept your business parked in the same place for a little too long? Imagine where you could go to form new business relationships, change your momentum and flourish.

    Why do I love food trucks so much? It’s not just their tasty meals. I can see behind each one, there’s a gutsy, David-and-Goliath approach to marketing and sales that serves as inspiration for the rest of us.

    1. Medium: “America Loves Food Trucks”
    2. Shark Tank: Cousins Maine Lobster Update
    3. Yahoo.com: “15 Social Media Statistics Every Business Needs to Know”