tongue fu


What’s one of the breakout TV shows this season?

“Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

Learn from this title. Look at the lead lines in your blog postings, articles, chapters, and Web pages.

Do they start off by simply describing what you have to say or sell?

Why not rephrase those introductory remarks into questions that elicit answers? You’ll be setting up two-way communication instead of a one-way sermon.

Look at the difference between “Don’t Sabotage Yourself” and “Are You Sabotaging Yourself?” One is an order. Do you know anyone who likes to be ordered around? The other Socratically causes people to stop, reflect, and respond.

Next time you write marketing material, ask yourself, “How can I open with a question so I’m capturing interest instead of making a statement?”

Why is that so important? Statements sit on the page. Questions engage.

Yes, the year-end holidays are over, however there is still a marketing lesson to be learned from them. Two clever movie ads I saw riffed on traditional Christmas songs to come up with smile-inducing taglines.

The first trumpeted the release of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” DVD with WRECK THE HALLS. The second prominently featured a sheep along with the pig and spider from “Charlotte’s Web” with the caption FLEECE NAVIDAD.

Then there was the romance novel featured in the store window of a major bookstore. It featured a Fabio look-alike stretched out on a fur rug in front of a Yule log fire. The title? “The Knight Before Christmas.”

Valentine’s Day is only a month away. Could you tie in your blog post, article, or marketing slogan to a popular love song that is frequently mentioned along with that holiday? It could make your idea or offering more topical so it captures attention from the media and your customers.

Just comb your descriptive copy and pull out key words that explain what your program/product is or does. Those are your “core”words. Then, visit www.freelyrics.com and enter those words into the search engine. Up will come dozens of song titles with “your” phrases. Now, let the word play begin to see if you can come up with a catchy ad or promotion campaign that gets your priority project noticed and remembered.

What do Ted Leonsis, Crackberry, and Little MissMatched all have in common?

They’re all been inducted into the 2006 POP! Hall of Fame – which honors individuals and entities that have captured the public’s interest because of their originality. Previous winners have included Freakonomics, Java Jacket, Daddle, and Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

I believe the best way to corner a niche is to create a niche. And the best way to create a niche is to coin a one-of-a-kind approach.

These people and products are examples of how anyone and anything can break out if you pleasantly surprise people with something they haven’t seen and heard before.

1.Treadmill Dance. The band OK GO catapulted from obscurity into the spotlight with their innovative dance routine on, you guessed it – treadmills. After 56 takes and much bumping and bruising, the “Treadmill Dance” was born, creating a word-of-“mouse” phenomenon which, through the distribution power of YouTube has been viewed by over 100 million people.

2. Ted’s Takes. This Vice Chair of AOL has decided to pro-actively control his public image rather than passively leaving it to chance. By blogging daily, he’s posted snippets of his celebrity-filled life and strategically linked to other high-profile entrepreneurs such as Mark Cuban. The result? He now receives up to 15,000 visits a day and his “take” on life shows up first when he’s Googled. As a bonus, he says, “I have moral authority and credibility with employees and people in the industry that I’m not just talking about Web 2.0, I’m living it.”

3. Little MissMatched. Capitalizing instead of complaining about the “lost sock phenomenon” by selling funky mismatched socks, gloves and mittens in has catapulted this online retailer into a multimillion dollar company. Their slogan? “Nothing matches but anything goes.”

4. POPera. Pop + Opera = SALES! Combining popular tunes – ala Josh Groban and II Divo – to make a how that is sure to make it big. As soon as you create a never-before-seen word, you don’t just have a clever title, tagline or brand, you have the beginnings of a business empire.

5. MasterCard – “You’re on my fantasy team.” Why did Colts quarterback Peyton Manning earn $11.5 million in endorsement income this year? Partially because of his ad-libs for Master Card in which the commercial director simply asked him to repeat what he frequently hears from fans. Speak in your target market’s language and they’ll identify with you.

6. Heinz. Yes, even packaging can POP! How many times have you pounded a ketchup bottle against your palm trying to get that thick tomato paste out? In what has to be the “Duh!” moment of the decade, someone at Heinz had the bright idea to redesign the bottle and turn it upside down so it sits on its cap. Voila. Problem solved.

7. Metronatural®. This trademarked Half & Half Word captures and communicates the dual draw of Seattle – it’s a thriving metropolis surrounded by majestic natural beauty. Thanks to POP! fan David Zinger for alerting me to another catchy city slogan “Keep it Querque” for . . . what else but Albuquerque?

8. Spot the Tot. 500 children a year are run over in their own driveway by people who inadvertently back up over them. A movement launched to prevent these tragic deaths is called “Spot the Tot” — a classic example of how “Cliff-Noting” your campaign into a clear, concise message increases the likelihood people will remember and follow its important advice.

9. Crackberry. This clever “Alphabetized Word” alludes to the addictive qualities of Blackberry (just ask the hundreds of thousands suffering from “Blackberry Thumb“). You don’t have to be a creative genius to come up with a new word. Write down 10 words that describe your pet project. Now, run them through the ABC’s, changing the sound of the first syllable to match the corresponding letter. Want another example (and a close runner-up in this category?) What do you call a cubicle with a view . . .that’s right, viewbicle.

10. No Child Left Inside. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, (a clever play on the words Attention-Deficit Disorder) pioneered a back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors and developed the perfect name that “plays off” the No Child Left Behind legislation. Just as a jazz pianist riffs off common chords to create new music, POP! artists riff off common slogans to create new variations.

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