Where are the good writers? And editors?

May 29, 2014

Much to my disappointment, writing that is error-free, typo-free and grammatical seems to be a thing of the past. TV commercials, radio commercials, and printed materials abound with errors. It makes me crazy and it makes me sad. It also makes me wonder who’s in charge. All I can do is shake my head, after I turn off the painfully sad commercials with people who don’t speak properly. I’ll never buy their products, but obviously I’m not the intended audience so they don’t care. :-(


Junked Up Web Pages or Not?

March 31, 2014

Are web sites becoming more succinct and less busy? Is web design trending away from cramming everything possible onto the home page? I can only hope that this nod towards simplicity I’ve noticed is indeed a trend and not just a coincidence.

When I built my first web site over a decade ago, things were simpler. At least the sites were simpler. We had a few pages, some graphics and some image maps. I convinced my boss we needed a web site by telling him it was like a 24-hour brochure.

Web sites are still 24-hour brochures, but as web technology advanced, many of these advancements landed on company home pages, oftentimes creating an incomprehensible mess. Countless businesses insisted (and continue to insist) upon using all the latest developments. I contend this does their business a disservice by distracting and frustrating potential customers. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blog posts on this a few years ago – See Junked Up Web Pages - Stop Screaming at Us.

Admittedly, some businesses offer myriad products and services, and a web site can and should showcase that. Some organizations are so complex and nuanced, their sites become very deep. Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not. For the past 4 or 5 years, sites have become longer, broader and more confusing. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t find their contact information.”? Terrible, especially from a marketing perspective.

Crazy, busy web sites will always exist, but I have noticed more basic sites in the last year or so. Is this because so many people are building their own? Perhaps, but then again maybe the new web technology has become so mainstream that everyone no longer feels the need to use it ALL.

I hope so.


Advertising 101

February 26, 2014

Remember the Super Bowl commercial that featured a puppy making friends with a horse? It was one of my favorites. What about the one where the ‘80s characters were ransacking a store? I enjoyed that one as well. But just because I remember those ads doesn’t mean they were successful.

The puppy commercial was an advertisement for… hmmm… I don’t remember. The ‘80s characters’ commercial was an advertisement for Radio Shack. I contend the more successful commercial is the one where you retain the name of the advertiser. Of course I haven’t been to a Radio Shack since that commercial, but it illustrated to me that they know the market and they recognize how they’re perceived. I’m more likely to visit a Radio Shack now because they showed they’re current.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from years past is the one featuring the magic fridge. It’s a Bud or Bud Light commercial. A more current ad features a camel walking around an office asking people what day it is. The answer: hump day. I laugh every time I see it. And I know it’s a commercial for Geico. Just now I asked a friend if he knew what the hump day camel commercial is for – he knew immediately it was Geico.

Another recent commercial shows a puppy growing up with a family, getting in and out of a car at different stages of his life. But I have no idea who the advertiser is or what they’re promoting – maybe it’s for dog food? Or for a car?

Obviously this is not a scientific study. I don’t have the ratings or numbers to back up my opinion. But after many years as a professional communicator, I find it interesting that so many advertisements fail to follow the basic tenet – it’s not a good ad if you don’t know who or what it’s promoting. This is true for all forms of promotion, whether you’re talking about brochures, flyers, web sites or advertisements.

Billboard advertising confounds me often times. Drivers only have a few seconds to glance at a billboard as they’re driving by, so why do some companies fill all the space on the sign with copy or pictures that no one could possibly take in all at once. Less is more. A catchy phrase is more likely to capture your attention, just like a clever headline.

Try a test with your friends next time you’re driving past billboards or watching TV. See how they respond to the ads, and then once the commercial is over or you’ve driven past the billboard, ask them who or what was advertised?

Each day we are bombarded with more and more information and advertising, but how much of it stands out or really captures your attention? Think about that the next time you’re putting together an ad. Make sure your company, product or service doesn’t get lost in the story or the cute characters. You want people to remember more than a cute dog or a funny saying. You want people to remember the cute dog and the advertiser. You want people to remember the funny saying and the advertiser. And you want people to buy the product or service. But that’s a post for another day…


Tech Terms are Prevalent but Still Misunderstood

January 27, 2014

Every company and every industry has its own ubiquitous acronyms and terms, some of which cross over into other arenas. Information technology is one of the few industries that seeps or creeps into most, if not all, organizations regardless of industry, as well as into our personal lives. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a user manual for my colleagues, explaining new technology. Chapters included:

“What is the world wide web?”

“What is e-mail?”

“How to use e-mail.”

Of course at that time we all had analog mobile phones, which seemingly weighed about 5 pounds.

In the last five years or so, social media has become pervasive. During that time period, I spent countless hours defining social media, explaining its uses, and simplifying its purpose for both colleagues and friends. Texting (in the personal arena) and Twitter (in the personal and business arenas) have been the most confounding across the board. For example:

“What is texting? And why are all the kids using it?”

“I don’t get Twitter. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t like Twitter because I don’t want to be limited in how many words I can use.” (This one always makes me laugh. Most people would be surprised at how much you can convey using only a few words.)

Three or four years ago, I entered the world of SEO and SEM. At that time, these terms were fairly common, especially SEO, but only amongst the techies. The use of either of those terms outside of technology circles would prompt confused looks and raised eyebrows. No one else knew those acronyms stood for Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, or even if they did hear or know the full terms, they weren’t the least bit interested.

Now, SEO and SEM are the new keywords; their mention becoming more and more prevalent in business marketing conversations. Business owners and executives know that these processes, if implemented correctly, can help grow their company. However, the use of SEO and SEM is much more complex than simply using keywords, counting views or click-throughs, or looking at your search engine ranking. Yes, all these elements are important to measure, but the latter two are merely basic indicators as to whether additional analysis, testing, and marketing is necessary.

In talking recently with marketing executives at a large national corporation about this topic, I was confused as to why we seemed to be in disagreement. Finally it dawned on me that they were talking basic SEO, as outlined above, while I was assuming they were well beyond that and I was talking about conversion rates and competitors. This illustrates that while these terms may be going mainstream, there still exists much confusion and misinformation.

I’m tracking this with enthusiasm to see where the trend takes us. As a professional communicator with a lifelong love of technology, I can’t wait to see what’s next.


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