Why give a shit?


Today anyone can download a bit of free software and use a wide selection of image editing tools to create credible looking communications; be it an ad, a post-card or a package design. Better yet digital print shops will print respectable looking copies of your work on a wide variety of substrates for a pittance.

But a lot of the stuff I see today – in papers, online, and in stores misses the mark for one reason. Bad copy. This is just one example.

Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way.

Maybe X% of the people don’t care that there are spelling mistakes in the copy.

And maybe X% of the people don’t see them because they’re just learning English or French.

And maybe X% don’t see them because, while they speak either English or French fluently, they haven’t written more than a few sentences themselves since they graduated high-school.

As you pursue your "fast + cheap" marketing mandate, please consider this: about 40% of all Canadians have some higher education degree. These people need to be able to read + write well to do well in their chosen white-collar professions. They represent the people with the highest personal, house-hold and disposable incomes. They are the ones who shop for quality items rather than cheap ones. They can afford to be loyal to your brand and refer the brand to their friends + families. These people are your brand ambassadors and your opinion leaders. This is the group who, like me, will associate poor marketing + advertising with poor product quality + service. To these 40% the good copy matters.

When you don’t give a shit, a large percentage of those who can afford to be loyal to your product and buy your product (frequently) walk away. To them you’re not a brand anymore, you're just a product that will be bought as long as the price is right.

Small things, like giving a shit about copy, can lead to big, long lasting, sustainable advantages.  



Honesty leads to integrity + more business

Frequently the strategic + design recommendations I make worry those I support because they fear that my approach will prompt the client to fire their agency.

I tell them not to worry, to work through my strategic and creative thinking slowly and carefully with the client. I ask them to “help them see what I see. They’ll agree with me and thank you for your efforts.”

It’s not an easy sell – but it’s the right sell.

The other day I got this note from one of my clients who was presenting my thinking to her client:

“We presented your findings this week. Knowing the client, we left in a lot of your "frank" notes. They loved it and appreciated the direct nature of your review and feedback. The client actually said "I love Frank!" They are now considering having us do a complete overhaul of XXXXXXXXXXXX, which I am currently putting together the proposal for.” 

It’s been my experience over the last 40 years that professional + objective honesty contributes to a strong professional relationship foundation that enables the agency and the client to collaborate and do far better work. And when you help build their business you build yours as well.



The millennial vs. the baby boomer

A  self-important college freshman attending a football game took it upon himself to explain to a Baby Boomer sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation.

“You grew up in a different world - actually an almost primitive one,” the student said, loud enough for many other baby boomers sitting nearby to hear.

“Today people are much more advanced than people your age. We grew up with television, jet planes, space travel, men walking on the moon and the Internet. We have cell phones, nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers, automated manufacturing, amazing technologies . . . and” pausing to take another drink of beer. The senior took advantage of the break in the student's litany and said, “You're right, son. We didn't have all those things when we were young + growing up. So we invented them you arrogant little prick! What are YOU doing for your and the next generation?”

And the crowd went wild . . . 





I just saw this copy on a Dyson display case and I really like it for a number of reasons.

  • It echoes the brand’s strategy – to do things differently than the competition.
  • It helps reinforce the brand’s positioning and sales strategy at the retail level (among those) who probably will never be exposed to the high level Mission, Vision and Values of the Dyson brand.
  • The short, well written, provocative copy encourages you to stop + think.

I’m posting this little gem because it’s a rare retail example of a clean, simple and practical (communication) alignment between what the brand claims to be, its market positioning, and its retail voice. 



Careless, expensive mistakes – Part II

Not a week later I got a letter from Mr. Shane Little, Sales Representative with Andrew Ipekian, Broker | Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty, Brokerage. Eight short sentences long, the letter featured one major error that anyone reading the letter, with a bit of care, would catch.

I sent Shane a note as well.

He tried calling me and then dropped by - acting like the mistake was nothing for me to worry about.

I tried explaining to Shane that I wasn’t worried at all. I was actually trying to be helpful. Instead of saying thanks, or you’re right, I’m wrong, Shane soldiered on and tried all of the sales objection tactics he knew, or had been taught.

But none of his training had prepared him for me and my simple argument, which reminded Shane (and Yuriy) that (careless) mistakes come with consequences. In this case a sales commission loss of about $45,000.