Articles Posted in Good Marketing

Humor and marketing have a tricky relationship. Many marketers use humor in ways that actually undercut their objectives – people remember the joke but forget the company or the product. Here is an example that caught my interest and which I thought did a nice job of making an impersonal situation feel a bit more genuine.

The breakfast bar in most hotels is a spread of slightly stale bagels, over processed cereal, and a mound of melon chunks. Personally I’m not aware of anyone who actually likes this experience for anything but the perceived savings of a “free” breakfast.

At the Fairfield Inn they have found a way to have a little fun with this routine – but one that produces a subtle chuckle and a feeling that “hey, there are real people behind this.”

In this second of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James is an educational consultant, sales executive, and trained applied mythologist.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 of 2: The Tactical Use of Story to Sell

In this first of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James has the coolest job title I think I’ve ever seen – Applied Mythologist. We worked together at Pearson several years ago, he speaks about Education Publishing from direct experience on the front lines of selling and authoring.

Part 1 of 2: The Strategic Use of Story to Sell

By James Mayfield Smith

1059We are collectively discovering the value of social media tools like Twitter. As we do this we wander blind alleys and make surprising discoveries. Forthwith a peeve and a rave about micro-blogging.

Peeve – People who tweet that they are about to do something. So what? How about you tweet after you have done it and have something interesting to say. “I’m off to the mall” Fascinating – yawn.

Rave – Genuine kudos handed out freely. Yesterday a friend (@perludus) had to return a pair of shoes. He tweeted “Three cheers for @Footwise! Returned my shoes that wore through the sole in 2 months w/no questions asked!” Positive energy put into the system always comes back to you. It also makes others feel positive about the world. All that in 140 characters – cool.

Great marketing infuses a brand promise into everything a company does. It isn’t about the slogan – it is making the promise come alive for your customers in every small detail.


In honor of a Thanksgiving traipse down the tryptophan trail enjoy the images below from the Heart Attack Grill. They make a very simple promise and then drive it into every single thing the company does with quality and humor. They are also unabashedly politically incorrect.

They have done something remark-able – people will talk about it. TV news has covered it, blogs have been covering it, and radio is in on the act.

In education – where at least 50% of everyone’s sales come from referrals – this ability to be remark-able is essential. Yet we are saddled again and again with conservative copycat sample brochures and catalogs that could have been printed 15 or 20 years ago. What are you doing to make your products, services, and company remark-able?

I’m not suggesting that you mock 50 years of public health announcements – but just look at how they made a big promise and then delivered on it.

I don’t think this translates directly into the education publishing market – institutional sales have to be politically correct as anyone who has tangled with the California Legal and Social Compliance guidelines can attest to. The reason I’m highlighting it is that it is a stark example of driving the brand promise into the operations – taking messaging beyond empty slogans that no one believes or pays attention to.

First the menu:


When you are done get wheeled out to your car by a “nurse”


Follow below the fold for more hilarity.

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Death_By_PowerpointPowerpoint slides are “glance media” just like billboards. Today’s post by Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen is an excellent synopsis of how billboards can inform slide design.

His post builds on Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology where she sets the standard for glance media – “Ask yourself whether your message can be processed effectively within three seconds.”

In a marginally related segue I’ve been reading Daniel Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness”. Today’s best insight:

KidArt_Metamorphosis_150.jpgSundance/Newbridge deserves kudos for their catalog cover contest. It embodies some of the elements of the Web 2.0 aesthetic in a traditional marketing vehicle and shows that you don’t have to reinvent the world to harness the power of user generated content.

I found this because the Austin American Statesman reported the winner in this morning’s paper (sorry no link on their site). If you think that won’t do much for them from a marketing standpoint you would be correct. Yes, it was very cool to see local 6th Grade Nicolette T. win for her work Metamorphosis and I hope local educators will think warmly of Sundance this fall.

But, the real impact is that over 400 other kids submitted entries and their schools were all paying attention to this. Those kids had fun (we assume), enaged their creative faculties, and got their competitive juices going. Sundance got some great ideas from their most important constituency, the kids who learn from their materials. Everyone gets to look at a cool cover for the next 6 months. It was a win all around.

BlackboardNECC071.jpgBlackboard’s booth at NECC in Atlanta was one of the best examples I’ve seen recently of Socratic Marketing. They asked teachers to write a brief paragraph on how they intended to use a free trial of the product in their classrooms. Then they took a polaroid of them and pasted several hundred of them all over the booth. In an inversion of current trends they created a real version of a virtual community. It was fun and interesting to browse the cards and it made a strong visual statement.

Blackboard started a real dialog and also provided the foundation for a series of ongoing conversations. Shana Glenzer, Sr. K-12 Marketing Manager at Blackboard, told me that they were getting ideas for uses of the product that they hadn’t thought of, like connecting pregnant teens to classroom resources. They also intend to use the ideas in conversations with senior administrators at districts – “6 of your teachers visited with us and here are some of the ideas they had…”

Blackboard120072.jpgIt was arresting in its simplicity and represented a validation of the products in the words of end users. It also showed that great marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot.