Category Archives: Marketing/Advertising/PR

Marketing, advertising and public relations

Punchless

Yesterday at a traffic light I stopped alongside a tractor trailer. I don’t recall the name of the company, but the tagline stayed with me:

Ahead of the curve in refrigerated logistics.

Ooh, a clichéd metaphor matched with an esoteric phrase. Is this the latest trend in brand marketing?

I’ve been thinking about taglines lately, wondering if my little company should have one. I’ve long felt that I don’t need a tagline for the sake of having a tagline. After a brief online search of commentary on the matter, it seems most experts agree. In fact, there are plenty of arguments against.

Once, after completing a project, I received a note from the client, complimenting my work and saying that what I produced made her “comfy.” My firm’s president jokingly suggested our tagline should be “Making clients comfy since 2002.”

It strikes me that the Dish network’s “Let’s watch TV” or Delta Airlines’ “We get you there” were ripped off by their marketing firms, which set the bar as low as it could possibly go. No imagination, and no particular reason to choose one company over another.

On the other hand, these oversimplified slogans might be superior to over-jargoned technical gobbledygook, which might fit on the side of a semi but not on a business card.

Quick – what’s your nomination for:

Most creative tagline?
Most ambiguous?
Funniest, without intending to be?

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Idolatry

I knew I loved Matt Lauer.

This morning on Today, following a preview of this year’s commercials appearing during the Super Bowl—one starring Matthew Broderick—it was revealed shamefully that Matt Lauer had never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Neither have I. It was also revealed that he had never seen Star Wars. Neither have I.

Okay, technically, I did see Star Wars. I was in the theater while it played in its opening week in 1977. But I hated it so much within the first few minutes that I closed my eyes and tried to sleep while the noise gave me a pounding headache that lasted through the weekend. My father, who had taken my brothers and me to see the movie, walked out in the first 15 minutes and spent the rest of the movie in the lobby of the theater.

Matt Lauer has always been my TV personality crush. His picture was posted on the Wall of Men in my office before I redecorated. My husband, God love him, gave me the Matt Lauer magazine cover for my little beefcake display.

I identify with Matt’s germophobia, I love how he both idolizes the greats he interviews and doesn’t let them evade the tough questions. I love the way he dresses. And I love how this TV personality has almost no personality. And now I love his taste in movies.

And I love that my husband helps indulge my little crush.

Come to think of it, I once took him to meet his TV news crush, Paula Zahn, when she hosted CBS This Morning. That’s a story for another day.

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Filed under Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, News

Seemingly stilted

Few would argue, in this technological age, that we often interact with one another more via electronic media than face to face, even voice to voice. We’ve talked about this here before.

Isn’t it interesting, when we communicate with someone over a prolonged period via only technology—without ever meeting or even speaking—how our impressions are shaped, based solely on e-mail or social media interaction? What happens, then, when we later come face to face with these same people? How do they match up to our expectations, and we to theirs?

I’m currently working on a writing project for a client (actually, a client’s client), with whom all interaction has been via e-mail. Until Friday, when I visited her work site.

Her name is Bea. I’d gotten to know Bea over the last month or so, passing ideas, comments and drafts back and forth. And, presumably, she has gotten to know me.

My mind had sketched a picture of Bea, based on the only Bea I’d ever known—Aunt Bea, from The Andy Griffith Show. I imagined Bea to be roly-poly, with a bouffant do, speaking in a shrill, quivering voice. (I suppose she could have been more of a Bea Arthur, but that Bea never sprung to mind until this moment.)

I arrived onsite Friday afternoon as a woman greeted me. She was about my age, with my length hair, maybe a little shorter, a little darker, same basic style. Dressed casually. Normal voice.

We shook hands, smiled, said things like, “It’s nice to finally to meet you in person.”

I could see that was puzzled by my appearance.

She commented, “For some reason I pictured you as being English, about 65, writing by candlelight,” as she made a writing gesture in the air. Pen-writing, not keyboard-writing. The gesture was as though her air pen had a quill on the end of it.

Wow. She had formed an impression of me, based on my writing, in my e-mail messages and in the copy I produced, and basically come up with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the content that elicited my stilted style. Or is it simply the way I write, admittedly more formally and politely when addressing a client’s client?

Now I ask you – those of you who don’t know me personally – based on what you read on this blog, how do you picture its writer? And no fair peeking at my Gravatar.

Go ahead, I can take it.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, Technology and Social Media

Penalty for possession

Long before the Word Nymph aired her first grievance, a friend had whispered a complaint into my sympathetic ear. She wondered what prompted those close to her, God-love-’em, to make the names of all restaurants and retailers possessive.

She observed that her mother, along with so many of our mothers’ generation, always adds an apostrophe + s to the name of just about every business in town.

Perhaps it’s because so many businesses used to be owned by individuals: Mario’s Pizza. Harry’s Bar. Bertha’s Mussels. (All right, not Bertha’s; that’s another story.)

Years ago, department store names, such as Woodward & Lothrop, The Hecht Company and R.H. Macy & Co. were shortened to such neighborly nicknames as Woodies, Hecht’s and Macy’s. The nicknames took hold, to no one’s objection. Eventually, these stores branded their possessives.

Now, however, businesses whose names were neither possessive to begin with nor shortened to nicknames are being made so by those who link every business to a person.

In this shopping season, let us be reminded to call our retailers by their correct names. It is Nordstrom, not Nordstrom’s. Lord & Taylor, not Lord & Taylor’s.

Far more egregious examples exist with regard to restaurants. It’s gone rampant. Let us not assume that every restaurant is named after a person. Restaurants take great care to give their establishments fitting and clever names, many of which don’t bear the moniker of the owner, founder or chef. Yet we can’t seem to help adding an apostrophe + s. Examples of these violations are too numerous to mention, many coming from within my own circle.

Maybe these complaints are nit-picky. Can we at least agree that, when the name of a business has a possessive built in, we should fight any urge to add an apostrophe + s?

Here’s an example. A Mexican restaurant near me is called Mi Rancho, Spanish for “My Ranch.” Is it not redundant to call it Mi Rancho’s? The same goes for any establishment beginning in Mon, Mes, Notre, Nuestro or any other possessive pronoun, as well as any beginning with Chez.

This also stands when the name of the restaurant is a noun; Panera, for example, meaning “Bakery.” In English, we would not say we are going to the bakery’s. Why, then, do we say we’re having lunch at Panera’s? Let’s not.

Sorry for the grumpies. I’ve suddenly become very hungry.

(But while we’re at it, it’s Williams-Sonoma, not Williams and Sonoma. Jones New York, not Jones of New York.)

When in doubt, take your cue from the sign:

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves

Part-timers disease

Now then.

More than two months ago, I announced here that I’d be letting out a little slack in the blog, to free up mental energy for a busy work season. I was buckling down to pressing obligations and, until those were tended to satisfactorily, there’d be no time for frivolous writing. Big mistake.

If you’re wondering how my September 23 resolutions turned out, I indeed completed the work, meeting all deadlines. To top that off, I pulled off the largest closet cleaning in 20 years.

Then, I erected more barriers. Believing I couldn’t clear my head enough to get my blogging groove back if obligations remained, I addressed, signed and stuffed 230 Christmas cards and finished 95 percent of my shopping. I even have most of my out-of-town packages ready to go in the mail.

But every time I sat down to tap out what used to be a free-flowing daily ditty, my skin itched. My teeth clenched.

Oh, sure, I’ve sneezed out a handful of posts this month, but they’re not my best work. And they’ve troubled me all the more for their awkward sparseness.

In an attempt to reverse my blog atrophy, I spent yesterday afternoon re-reading my blog posts of last November and December. I didn’t even recognize the writing.

This setback has proven the validity something my father once said. Over the last few years, people asked if he had considered shifting his writing and performance schedule into a lower gear. His answer was always that part time doesn’t work. The frenetic schedule kept him sharp and productive and able to maintain the rhythm. I see now that he was absolutely right.

(To give equal time, my mother suggested that, if I cleaned out my closets, things might flow more freely in other areas of my life. She too was right.)

Today is the first Monday of the season of Advent. Yesterday our priest encouraged us to take up renewed discipline—of the spiritual kind. I do intend to do that and, now that I’m ahead on many of my Christmas preparations, I might even have energy left to artificially resuscitate my inner Erma Bombeck, William Safire, Roseanne Roseannadanna, or whoever else I feel like being this season. Maybe even myself.

Did I really begin with “Now then?” That makes no sense.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Technology and Social Media

Stream of unconsciousness

It’s interesting where roads lead. Sometimes a little free association can take us down an amusing path to sparkling treasure.

For me, the starting point was ballroom dancing. As a freelancer, my flavor of the week can be just about anything; this time, it’s dancing. Often when I start a new writing project, I go to sleep with ideas swirling about, in hopes a few will collide and stir creative copy. Other times, it’s just dust.

While listening to the radio on Sunday, I sang along with Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” as I had a thousand times before. It’s a beautiful song. This time, though, I wondered what in the world it meant that “We skipped the light fandango.” I thought about it. Could the phrase be a variation on “trip the light fantastic?”

I always considered trip the light fantastic to be ritzy and glitzy, from another era. I’ve never found occasion to use it in conversation, and certainly never understood where it came from or what it even meant exactly. (For you younger readers, it means to dance nimbly or lightly in a pattern.)

On Monday I woke up mulling my latest writing challenge. Might there be a place for tripping the light fantastic? I looked it up to ensure I understood the meaning and origin of the expression. Good thing too because I learned that, not only did it come from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but “tripping the light fantastic” was sixties drug lingo.

I continued searching. And I found a most delightful poem by John Milton, L’Allegro, published in 1645. It’s 150 lines long; I’ll share just the first excerpt that popped up:

Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles
Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it, as you go,
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And, if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free …

Don’t you just love it?

Later in the poem, I found bonus words I’ll tuck away, should I ever be hired to write about beer:

To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequer’d shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a Sunshine Holyday
Till the live-long daylight fail,
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale.

So here’s to A Whiter Shade of Pale.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Music, Quotes, Reading, Theater

Dunce upon a mattress

Several readers have asked me to discuss the difference between lie and lay.

I hadn’t obliged until now, primarily because I thought it obvious. Also, the worst offenders either don’t read language blogs or don’t care enough to bother. But maybe there’s room in the middle for a refresher.

Raise your hand if you know the difference between lie and lay.

You’d think mattress marketeers would know.

There’s a mattress commercial running lately that encourages shoppers to come in and “lay down.” ARRRGGGHHH!

I recently saw mention of another manufacturer’s product, called the “Lay Down and Sleep.” ARRRGGGHHH!

One of the oldest mattress retailers is known for its jingle, which begins “Lay on it …”

 
ARRRGGGHHH!

Now, I know plenty of people who “lay down” when they’re tired, “lay on the beach” on a sunny day or “lay in bed” on Saturday mornings. As I type this, even spell check is cringing.

I hate to have to even say it, but it’s lie. When we recline, we lie down—usually on a mattress.

I admit, it gets confusing when the past tense comes into play:

Present tense = lie (She lies awake at night.)
Past tense = lay (She lay awake last night.)
Past participle = lain (She has lain awake since midnight.)

When do we use lay? When there’s an object involved. We lay something down. We lay down the law. We lay a book on the table. Now I lay me down to sleep (technically, it should be reflexive, I lay myself down to sleep, but that spoils the meter of the prayer).

The tenses of lay are as follows:

Present tense = lay (Every year I lay a wreath on the grave.)
Past tense = laid (She laid a mat at the front door.)
Past participle = laid also (The hen has laid an egg every morning this week.

Dear readers (you know who you are), did I explain this clearly, as you requested?

Dear offenders (you know who you are), would you consider making better word choices?

Dear mattress makers (you know who you are, though chances are you’re not reading this), are your marketing agencies asleep on the job?

Maybe instead of “Lay on it, play on it,” they could sing “Lie on it, cry on it,” Lie on it, sigh on it,” “die on it,” “get high on it,” “eat pie on it,” WHATEVER.

To be fair, as lie versus lay goes, there’s bad behavior beyond the bed business. Just listen to some of your favorite songs and you’ll find some doozies.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves