Target Target Target

Would you speak to a client like how you speak to your spouse? Or would you try to find a drinking buddy at an AA meeting?

It used to be ‘Location Location Location’. Not anymore. Even if you are located in the world’s busiest street, you’re screwed if you don’t know who you are selling to.

Even if you are selling online, a network where you can tap into millions of potential customers, knowing exactly who you want to sell to is imperative.

Target Practice
Please aim before you shoot, your message has a shorter reach than you think.

You don’t shoot without taking aim. You don’t engage without studying your opponent. You can’t – no matter how many times people say it – sell ice to an Eskimo.

Targeting is the first order of business in any marketing communications plan.  But sadly, it is grossly overlooked with ancient mass advertising techniques still employed in today’s niche-filled world.

The act of mass advertising is a concept of reaching the maximum number of people, and then hoping for a miracle. It’s like a fisherman who casts his net in waters filled with piranhas only to end up with a huge net to mend.

We all live in our own world these days. Each with our own interests, dislikes, philosophies and preferences.

Even your best friend – who you enjoy many mutual interests with – is a different person. Just compare your Facebook timeline with that of your best friend, you’ll be surprised how you became best friends in the first place.

Targeting sets the tone, especially with copy. It also provides insights and context while ensuring your sales message has a higher chance of being well-received.

What’s more? Targeted advertising campaigns are often a whole lot cheaper, easily managed and often very measurable.

Sell to all, or sell to the select few who could be waiting with their wallets open? So please aim before you shoot.

Popularity is Overrated

Many brands make the mistake of trying to be popular. They set out to appeal to everyone, but please no one.

Branding is not a popularity contest, but about finding people who will fall in love with your brand. Yes, there is a difference.

Mr. Mark
This was probably his screensaver when he was coding FB...

Being popular may put you on the map, but do people actually like you? For instance, Microsoft is a hugely popular brand but I am certain it’s the most cursed brand in the world as well – thanks to stupid-friggin-Windows!

What if a brand yearns to be unpopular? It means the brand takes a unique stand, which most people may hate, but can cultivate a devoted following from whoever’s left. Take UMobile for instance – probably the most unpopular of all the telcos – but they have 2 million registered customers.

Look at it this way, even the most popular brand in the world cannot claim their popularity extends to everyone. Like Astro apparently is Malaysia’s Brand of the Year, which would indicate a high degree of popularity. Obviously they didn’t ask for my opinion.

In a world where little niches appear every single day, there is no way a brand can appeal to everyone, making mass advertising strategies severely flawed.

There’s a saying in showbiz that aptly summarizes taking an unpopular stance:

“When 50% of the people loves you,
and the other 50% hates you; you know you’ve arrived

So it’s okay to be an unpopular brand, because there will still be a bunch of people who think you are absolutely awesome.

And before you think I’m some kind of branding genius, read Erika Napoletano’s The Power of Un-Popular for more insights. But I can still whip up decent brand strategies you know?

The Copywriter You Want is Perhaps Just 5 Steps Away

This could be your first time looking for a freelance copywriter; or you may have been burnt before by hiring a copywriter not-so-suited to your needs.

Either way, I want to help – or at least try to help.

We copywriters are a varied, colourful bunch. So who to choose?

In this often insane, not-a-moment-to-waste business world; getting things done swiftly and accurately right from the get-go is crucial. The same is true, even when it comes to copywriting.

There are many types of freelance copywriters out there – often with differing specializations – whom are available for hire. But you’ll never know if the copywriter you just hired will hit the ground running or crash and burn at the next lamppost.

But there are steps you can take to filter out ‘the unsuitables’ and help improve your chances of landing a freelance copywriter who will be in-sync with your business aims and aspirations.

And most importantly get the job done.

Let’s not waste another moment then – here are 5 steps you can take to help ensure you hire the right freelance copywriter.

Brand or Friend?

I have been having many late nights over the last few weeks. Thanks to a dear friend that makes his appearance from abroad every year or so.

And this friend of mine wields a strange form of magic. Whenever he is around, he is able to round up the troops. I mean he is the only person who can gather all the friends and acquaintances that I don’t normally hang out with these days.

True Friend
Don't wanna spoil this image with a caption, it says it all!

He is the head of the clan of sorts; the guy that everyone wants to chill with – I call him ‘the chief’.

Needless to say, we all have a great time whenever the chief is around. To an outsider, it may seem like we all hang out together all the time.

But as soon as he flies back, I probably would not meet any of the clan members – except for a couple perhaps – until the next time the chief returns.

The camaraderie that we rediscovered will suddenly vanish.

You know what this proves? It seems we humans need something or someone we can all relate with – in this case a true friend – before we devote our Attention, Time and Effort.

And in advertising and marketing communications; we try to get people to devote their:

Attention to notice our product
Time for us to build relationships, and
Effort to actually buy our product

So maybe brands should endeavor to behave more like good friends to consumers rather than faceless, profit-driven entities.

Think about your favourite brand; is it reliable, offers comfort and makes you feel good? That brand is in fact your friend.

And to the chief, I bid you farewell and wish you the best till the next time. Now I need to repay some sleep debt…. Cheers!

Marketing the Manchester United Way

If you don’t know already, then yes, I am a fan of the greatest football club in the world – Manchester United.

While some will argue about the ‘greatest’ statement, this post is not about glorifying my beloved team, but more about what it takes to be a winning marketer.

ManUnited Crest
May your marketing be as successful as Manchester United (bro, thanks again for the jersey!)

But still, there is this little fact about Man United being the most successful English football club. And they didn’t get there just by playing awesome football. There are other elements at play, based on my humble opinion:

1. Leadership
Manchester United’s most successful period have been under Sir Alex Ferguson. He is a manager, mentor, tactician, dictator and most of a believer. The person leading any marketing effort must not only be good at what he does, but also believe in the product or service.

2. Persistence
The ‘never say die’ attitude that is legendary of Manchester United players have brought them back from many lost causes. When you think your marketing efforts aren’t working, you got to persevere. Employ different tactics, ask the right questions and take some risks.

3. Patience
In this hurry-burry world of instant success and overnight miracles, it seems there is no time for patience. Alex Ferguson was appointed manager in 1986 and will take 4 seasons to win his first trophy, the FA Cup. And another 3 seasons more to end a 26-year league title drought. Don’t expect your marketing efforts to bring you instant results. Time is your ally; monitor, enhance and tweak constantly.

4. Perfection is an Illusion
Man United have played a total of 4,318 leagues games as at 11 March 2012. Of that they have won 2,061, drawn 1034 and lost 1223. That’s not even a 50% winning rate, and yet they have a record 19 league championships. Don’t strive to get everything perfect on your marketing plan, but fine-tune along the way to achieve success.

5. Money Isn’t Everything
In 2006, after losing the league to Chelsea for 2 consecutive years, United only spent 16 million pounds to bring in Michael Carrick. Chelsea by contrast spent over 60 million pounds and will go on to lose the league to Man United for the next 3 seasons. Having a big budget is great, but spending it on nonsense is not.

Go Online, or Go Under

More than 12 million Facebook users. National broadband penetration is over 80%. Almost 17 million total internet users. And how much are Malaysian businesses spending on online advertising?

A measly 1% of their total advertising budget.

A report released recently by Google and McKinsey & Co shows that Malaysian businesses hardly see internet advertising viable. In fact, Malaysia is placed at the bottom 10% of the 57 countries surveyed.

Cars on Key
You can reap unexpected rewards advertising online... kacching!

Look, I’m no advertising genius. But doesn’t this seem like a severe case of head-in-the-sand ignorance?

Just 10% of Malaysia’s Facebook population is still more than the total daily readership of The Star, which is at about 1.06 million.

But that’s not all. We Malaysians spend more time on the internet than on watching television or listening to the radio combined.

If you ask me, I think we spend more time online than even talking to our spouse, family and friends combined.

If anyone out there thinks online advertising is crap – it can be annoying if improperly executed though – here are 5 good reasons why you should take your next campaign online:

  1. Costs a fraction of TV, Print or even Radio ads
  2. You can measure results and effectiveness almost immediately
  3. Internet allows for almost pin-point targeting, bases on niche interests
  4. Those in their 20s and 30s are active internet users; a consumer goldmine!
  5. Almost 40% of purchase decisions are made on the net; making online presence critical

In times of dwindling marketing budgets and an ever-evolving consumer landscape, please feel free to double or even triple your online marketing efforts this year.

If you still want to spend RM40,000 or upwards on a one-time-only print ad (I’ve got some tips for that too) instead of a highly-targeted, response-oriented online campaign; then go right ahead.

How Much?

It’s a dilemma every freelancer faces; how much to charge?

Too high and you might not get the job. Too low and you’re spoiling the market. Somewhere in between and you’re competing with every other freelancer out there.

Money Sign
Will work for dough, not the bread kind ok?

As for myself, the way people perceive me is slight problem.  Since I write as a pastime and dish out free advertising and marketing advise in the process; people expect me to charge next to nothing – sometimes none at all!

There is a difference between just ‘writing’ and ‘knowing what to write’. After 13 years of being a copywriter – now almost 14 years – it’s safe to say that I have a pretty good idea about consumer motivations, how to compel action/purchase and essentially get the message across.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning and there are way better copywriters out there than myself. But I do have my strong points, so I think a little recognition is in order.

Here’s an excerpt from a classic marketing book Selling the Invincible by Harry Beckwith that makes my point so damn eloquently:

A man was suffering a persistent problem with his house. The floor squeaked. No matter what he tried, nothing worked.

Finally, he called a carpenter who friends said was a true craftsman.

The craftsman walked into the room and heard the squeak. He sat down with his toolbox, pulled out a hammer and nail, and pounded the nail into the floor with three blows.

The squeak was gone forever.

The carpenter pulled out an invoice slip, on which he wrote the total for $45. Above the total were two line items:

  • Hammering, $2
  • Knowing where to hammer, $43

So, you know… as I said… the thing is. Ahhh never mind… I rest my case.

Words Used In Ads and What They Actually Mean Pt. 2

Here’s a reprise of something I’ve written previously because I think it’s ripe for an update. The new words are from 6 to 10.

Advertising is the war. Copy is the weapon. Words are the ammunition.

Although copywriters are equipped with an arsenal of words to use as he or she pleases, there are quite a number that are ever-popular in ads. These are usually everyday words, mindless superlatives and hard sell calls-to-acts.

I must add that I have been a chronic repeat offender myself. But then again, not all the words you see or hear in an ad are from the writers; if you know what I mean.

Ad words are sometimes just empty promises...

Here are my personal top ad words and what they actually mean, in no particular order:

1. Exclusive
If you think you’re going to get special, preferential or any form of private privileges, you’re wrong. The word exclusive is added to make things look more desirable than they actually are. I mean, if you really want to be exclusive, would you advertise in a website that gets like 1 million hits a day?

2. Enjoy
This one’s an evergreen favourite and probably the all-time, most used ad word. “Enjoy the experience. Enjoy the offer. Enjoy the freedom. Enjoy the splendour”… I could like go on forever. It’s a word used to get you thinking about enjoying yourself, hopefully with the product somewhere in the picture.

3. Free
This word is a dirty little fellow. One rule of thumb to keep in mind when you see this word is that there’s never such a thing as a free lunch. Nothing is free, period! The cost of whatever is “free” has already been added to the amount you are going to pay. So unless the ad is referring to air, be wary.

4. Amazing
This is probably the easiest superlative to use for a writer, simply because anything can be amazing. This post could be amazing, or maybe your internet connection or that client who’s an amazing pain in the ass. See? Something amazing need not be advertised if it truly is.

5. Hurry
Hurry! Offer ends XX Month 2010. So you are supposed to call, click or visit to purchase this exclusively enjoyable and amazing product that comes with a free gift before a particular date. Hurry means they aren’t selling enough as it is or think you are a sucker to fall for such a cheap trick.

And the new ones…

6. Like
I am certain you know where I’m going with this… Facebook lah of course! For such an obscure word – after centuries of being overshadowed by the word ‘Love’ – Like has attained sudden super-stardom. But what does it mean? Sadly, nothing.

7. You
When an ad says “You”, it actually means you. But do not be deceived by this cunning flattery, as the science of advertising reveals that the use of this word is to make sentences more personal. The ad is supposed to be written for you… only you; and not young adults aged 21 to 28 with moderate disposable income living in urban areas.

8. Quality
This one’s a classic. But if you see this word in an ad, it means the writer knows jack-shit about the product. Because if he knew something about the product, he wouldn’t use a generic term like “quality”. Different people have different standards to which they measure quality, and that means quality can’t be quantified.

9. New
New and improved. All-new. New taste. New formula. New pack… you get the idea? The reason this word is often used is because we are all suckers for new things. Who doesn’t like a new ride or a crisp, new shirt or the smell of a new book.

10. Discover
Aren’t we all seeking for something. To discover places, thrills, experiences, friendship, enjoyment and satisfaction. We writers use this word to implant curiosity and hopefully compel action. But sadly, the kind of discovery we want you to make involves pulling out your wallet.

New Year, Same Old…

(as the saying goes) …Shit.

So, after all the partying, hangovers, reminiscing and resolutions; we are greeted by the daily grind.

In advertising, that means more last minute rush jobs, late nights, over-the-weekend special bonuses and new business pitches. No one said it was going to be easy, but I think we addies somehow enjoy the pain.

Here’s to another year of adver-chaos, no matter where you are. But for us in Boleh-land, don’t worry, CNY is just round the corner. You just got to love Malaysia sometimes!

Possibly what you can expect all over again this year, thanks to Advergirl:

It starts
Suddenly, on a late Friday afternoon..
But, but... it's the weekend?
All hands, heads, legs on deck!
Who's paying the pizza guy?
And they really believed that shit?
And they actually bought it; really?

Wasted effort, or strong initiative?

Whoa… What a Year!

This was the year that I took the biggest risk of my entire life – quitting my job. And dare I say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made?

The answer to that question a little bit later.

In the past 6 months, I’ve gone from determined to take on the world to the depths of self doubt. Becoming a self-employed copywriter after 13 years in the rat race was awesomely liberating yet most unsettling.

Copywriter Search Google
Am I really Top 4 for the keyword 'Copywriter'? Google sure knows how to flatter sometimes...

If just one year ago, someone told me I will go the final half of 2011 without a monthly paycheck, I’d probably ask him to go easy on the bubbly.

But it’s strange how the dots connect. How lady luck finally gives you a peek. How you’re inspired to do the unthinkable. How you realise all the things you missed in life. How you can actually enjoy a Monday morning. And how fast you forget about that monthly paycheck.

Yes, I am aware that it’s only been 6 short months. But I have to admit that it has not been bad. In fact, the world has been kind to me. Kinda eerie if you think about it actually.

So I think a huge thank you is in order. To my clients, colleagues, friends, family and readers of my ramblings – thank you for making my 2011 an eventful and unforgettable year.

I’ll leave you guys with this year’s Google Zeitgeist’s Year-in-Review video:

Oh yes, the answer to the question. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. Just know this, in case the world does come to an end in 2012, I’ll go with no regrets.

Happy New Year guys… cheers!