Category Archives for "Feature Articles"

2 Pitching to VC’s… Gone in 60 seconds

It didn’t take long to get through the wildcard round at the Bend Venture Conference on Friday. Each presenter had exactly 60 seconds to win a chance to do a 10-minute presentation later in the day. The ultimate prize: $110,000 cash.

Nothing tests an entrepreneur like a one-minute limit, and conference co-founder Karen Fast was right there, enforcing the 60-second rule with her wind-up kitchen timer. Low tech, but highly effective.

It was fun to watch, especially from a marketing communications standpoint. Presenters had to hone their elevator pitches to a short little spiel, and they had no PowerPoint to use as a crutch. Clearly, some were out of their element. A couple blew it completely. And everyone was seriously challenged.

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2 Judge Not. (And make better marketing decisions.)

By John Furgurson

Marketing is a very judgmental business.

Marketing directors are constantly judging the results of their efforts. Sometimes objectively, sometimes not.

Ad agencies and design firms judge each other in a constant battle of “my work’s cooler than your work.” They also subject themselves to judging in award shows, where a few peers get to judge the work of hundreds of competitors on an entirely subjective basis.

When it comes to television advertising, everyone’s a critic. TV viewers sit around and judge the advertising they see, based on entertainment value alone. If it’s entertaining enough, they might talk about it over the water cooler. If not, they vote with the remote.

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6 Positioning — It’s not what you SAY. It’s what they THINK.

By John Furgurson

In the 1970’s Al Ries and Jack Trout popularized the concept of positioning. Since then, they’ve written dozens of books between them and have made a fortune on the speaking circuit.

Still, you could have a roomful of MBA’s and no two would agree on what positioning really means. Many people can’t even decide if the word is an active verb or a proper noun.

Most people think of positioning as a simple step ladder. The cheapest, lowest-end products are “positioned” at the bottom of the ladder, and the best, most expensive products are on the top shelf, if you will.

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9 How stock photos can hurt your brand image

Please, not another image of your “friendly, courteous staff.”

How many times have you heard that cliché on a local radio ad… “our friendly, courteous staff is here to help with all your _______ needs, blah, blah, blah.” Chances are, you changed the channel before they could finish the sentence.

Crummy stock photos have the same effect on people. How many times have you seen this image on a corporate website?

It’s the classic, customer service visual cliché, and it’s just as bad for business as the blather you hear on weekend radio commercials.

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Bare breasts mean business at Starbucks.

Notice anything different at your local Starbucks lately? I sure have. The familiar green and white logo on the cups is missing. It’s a travesty to brand-conscious graphic designers everywhere.

At first glance I thought maybe it was just a corporate cost-cutting measure — the result of tremendous Wall Street pressure to improve performance. But once I looked a little closer, I noticed something even more revealing:

Starbuck has bared her breasts! The mermaid that’s been the Starbucks icon from day one, has gone back to her topless, hippy roots.

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1 How to survive when the economy tanks.

There’s a lot of economic doom and gloom in the news these days; Unless you’re living in a cave somewhere, you’ve heard about the housing market, the unemployment rate and the rising price of groceries and gas.

For many business owners, it’s frightening. The fortune-teller economists are predicting even more “belt tightening” as the year goes on, and if you let it, all the crummy forecasts might scare you into doing something totally rash. Like nothing at all.

It’s pretty common, actually. When the leading economic indicators start heading south, many business owners go into immediate survival mode. Stop, drop and roll! Duck and cover!

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Is it car sickness, or just nauseating radio ads?

Kids get car sick. Cleaning vomit from the back seat is part of every parent’s on-going indoctrination process. But when adults start getting woozy every time they run a quick errand, you have to wonder about the cause. Is it car sickness or the constant barrage of bad radio advertising that makes you want to throw up?

Thankfully, the automotive engineers have devised a cure. With the new steering-wheel mounted audio controls, drivers can now change the channel, quite literally, without lifting a finger. So the instant a bad commercial comes on, they’re outta there. Before the gag reflex forces them to the side of road.

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1 Getting to the Point in PowerPoint Presentations

Every year at the Mac Expo, Steve Jobs used to unveil some fantastic new, game-changing technology from Apple. His presentations were always outstanding, both for the content and for entertainment value.

macbook_air_introFor instance, when he introduced the MacBook air back in 2009, he didn’t just talk about the specs of the new product, he demonstrated its thinness by pulling their tiny new laptop out of a 9×12 manilla envelope.

It wasn’t just passion and natural charisma that made Jobs an effective communicator. It was his ability to convey ideas in simple, concise ways. He used honest demonstrations. Stories. Theater. And yes, some Hollywood special effects. Not Powerpoint.

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2 Advertising… Learning from a minivan campaign.

Another ride down that twisting, mountain road of pathetic clichés.

I don’t know what it is about automotive advertsing. No other category is so rich in promise, yet so pathetically void of inspiring insight and unique execution.

Here’s a good example: Introductory ads for the 2008 Dodge Caravan and the Honda Odyssey. But first, a quick glimpse of how they got here…

The original minivan.

Chrysler single-handedly created the minivan market when the Caravan and Voyager debuted in 1984. Sales skyrocketed and imitators sprang up only after Chrysler had firmly established itself as the segment leader. After years of dominance, Chrysler’s newly redone vans are fighting for their lives against the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey and a host of crossover vehicles.

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