Sexist, Creepy and Just Plain Wrong

Do the new “marionette” Direct TV commercials give you the heebie jeebies?

There are currently three to be uncomfortably confused by – Wife meeting an unaware guest (really? you don’t mention your wife is a puppet?), Son flying from a ceiling fan(are wires a dominant gene?) and, the most disturbing of all, Wife disrobing and attempting an awkward sexual dance.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with all that’s just wrong with this campaign.

As this is positioned as reality, (otherwise that stunned friend would accept those wires as truly “not weird”), there are some disturbing unanswered questions. Where did this guy find this woman? Where do these wires go? Who is controlling them?

Frankly, the conclusion drawn is that Husband is a modern Frankenstein who concocted his very own … ahem… “companion” animated to his requirements and then proceeded to procreate a son, also to his manipulative specifications.

Husband is a creep, through and through.

That pathetic, sexist and creepy seduction in the “Am I Pretty?” ad takes the women’s movement back by about 60 years. The overall implication of this campaign, that women are puppets, – kinda sweet, kinda stupid, kinda willing to swallow whatever baloney Husband spews and keep coming back for more – is exactly the stereotype women have been fighting for decades. And now it’s made absolutely real; this woman is really and truly a puppet! And an ideal one, as she serves and services unquestioningly.

On a more tangental note – How does she get that robe off when there are wires running through it?

Husband’s conversation with Son reminds me of the novel “Room.” How did they reproduce this kid? How (again) stupid is this kid? Does he have any life outside of the house? No one has ever pointed out his wires are unusual? WHO IS CONTROLLING THESE WIRES? 

Is that really the first time he got caught in the ceiling fan?

And the worst wrongness of all – I had to look up the offering company because the massive amount of weirdness stuck in my brain and not the actual brand.

Remember – if your audience remembers your “singing monkeys” but doesn’t remember YOU, you’ve just wasted your money.

A “dreamy” folding mailer helps Lincoln-Way students’ dreams come true.

CLICK HERE for a quick video about Lincoln-Way’s custom mailer with built-in return envelope. 

Have you purchased your ticket? Our job with the Lincoln-Way Foundation for Educational Excellence is to design materials that will get this fundraiser and mega-raffle noticed!

Using a bright green and lively purple, we feature a mix of images of actual students and stock photography to convey the importance – and benefit – of buying a raffle ticket.

Marketing materials include four direct mailers, two of which are surprising simple (they look pretty tricky) folding pieces which include return envelopes, buckslips, posters and of course the tickets themselves which come with $100 worth of local coupons (your money for the ticket back right there!)

Printing and mailing schedules are optimized with our vendor partners, so costs are kept as low as possible.

Get your chance to win $100,000 before July 27th to be eligible for an Early Bird Drawing! You’ll be helping our region’s students and getting 12 very nice coupons! Click here or call 815-462-2999.

Are you going to the Party?

Orland Hills Annual
Party In the Park.
It’s Always A Blast – to Design!

Who doesn’t love a warm summer weekend filled with music, food, refreshments and community? We sure do – and we love designing the marketing materials too!

This year, our Party In The Park theme was inspired by stage lights and the good ol’ red, white and blue of the upcoming Fourth. Originally, this photo was just blue, but with the magic of photo retouching, we added some dramatic red beams as well to really emphasize the connection to Old Glory.

You’ll see this brochure all over the Southland and far beyond, and you’ll see that billboard blinking on 159th Street near 92nd Avenue.

The inside of the brochure, mailed to thousands of addresses (yes, we help with that too!), is very cleanly laid out, so there’s no confusion as to when Bad Medicine or American English take the stage. There are also community exhibitions like local dance schools and martial arts that proud grandparents wouldn’t want to miss. The font is fun, kinda funky, but still very readable. After all, if you can’t figure out when and where the Party is, you can’t get there!

We also design and produce the Recreational Program book, with a cover inspired by but not exactly like the Party In The Park brochure. That way, everyone is in the Party mood all season long (and we maintain that developed brand).

Are you planning on attending Party in The Park? It’s Friday June 27th through Sunday June 29th at Kelly Park in Orland Hills, just east of 92nd Avenue on 167th Street!

Do you need marketing materials for an upcoming event, a new product or service? We can help! Just reply to this email or call 708-614-9766.

Kohls thinks it’s 1950.

Kohls campaign is extremely out of touch.

I’m not sure what decade Kohl’s is living in, but it isn’t even in this century.

Walking into Kohl’s on Friday evening, I noticed a huge pink striped elephant in the window with a headline telling me that we need to start talking about the elephant in the room. The elephant? Breast cancer.

Are they nuts? Do they think their audience is nuts?

No one that I know is ashamed to talk about breast cancer. Friends, family and acquaintances have helpfully, freely and honestly shared their diagnosis, treatment and recovery, reaching out for comfort and for support.

Breast cancer is no elephant in the public forum either. Over 1,000 charities fundraise – very publicly – exclusively for breast cancer.  Hundreds of thousands walk each year for breast cancer. In October, breast cancer is practically the only thing seen or heard in advertising; everything is awash in pink. There are pink ribbons, pink socks, pink makeup containers, pink pants, pink Barbies, pink nail polish, pink toasters and mixers, pink toilet paper, pink breath mints and candies, pink athletic shoes, pink NFL gear including football cleats, pink soups, pink candles, pink purses, pink slippers, pink pens, pink yogurt, and, gawd help us – even pink KFC chicken buckets.

Breast cancer is simply not an elephant in the room. Breast cancer is not shameful, embarrassing or even uncomfortable to discuss, either privately or publicly. In truth, the campaign made me angry that Kohls is trying to increase their sales with a campaign that is very clearly manipulative, incredibly disrespectful and patently untrue.

Kohls, if you want a breast cancer fundraising partnership, have at it. But not with a campaign that plays up a ridiculously outdated, ignorant fear that an illness – any kind of illness – is something to be ashamed of.

A thoughtful media kit for a thoughtful company.

Brian Thompson of Black & Essington is thoughtful. He’s thoughtful in his career moves, in his educational moves and in his business. This thoughtfulness is what makes him so very good at what he does; advising other businesses about their strategies, their procedures and practices, and their best next steps.

Brian needed a media kit but realized that most of his prospective clients and referral partners are investigating him digitally first – and almost exclusively. But that shouldn’t mean a basic, plain, boring document – how thoughtful is that?

Tweaking his copy just a bit and encouraging a slightly more forceful sell, we designed a lovely 9-page media kit inspired by his website that details what Black & Essington does, how Brian does it and how he can help small to mid-size business grow in a positive, controllable manner. The imagery in the piece reflects his connection with Chicagoland and his workshop and seminar work and includes testimonials of satisfied clients. Visitors to his website can download the piece to view, to email or to print.

Today, rather than extensive, beautifully designed packages that are snail-mailed, media kits tend to be digital pdfs. Instantly downloadable, these kits are faster, easier and less expensive. However, they should still be beautifully – and thoughtfully – designed.

When your small to mid-size business needs help – with sales, with strategies or with management techniques, call Brian Thompson at Black & Essington at 815-557-1734 or email by clicking here.

Pathetic. Absolutely Pathetic.

Apparently, David’s Bridal is marketing very heavily to Bridezillas.

You know, those women obsessed with a wedding and not a marriage. Those women who’ve been on the prowl for a groom and not a husband. Those women who want to get married to satisfy their own goals, not to create a real partnership. THOSE women.

This new commercial is enough to turn the stomach of any viewer who has thought that this new bride culture has gotten completely out of hand, over-the-top and just plain ridiculous. It encourages women on the edge of silliness to fully indulge, because that man standing at the altar will just go right along with it anyway. David’s Bridal said so!

As a mother, I shudder when I see this commercial. I certainly don’t want my daughter to think that a wedding is all about the bride. I want her to understand that a wedding is just a celebration of the start of your marriage, your partnership, your walk through life, hand-in-hand with another person who understands your very soul.

And if some woman were to treat my son like he was “just a cog in this big machine,” I’d be the one that jumped to my feet when the officiant asked if anyone had an objection to the union. 

Stop. Because I’m Crying Again.

Sniff, sniff, snuffle.

Oh my goodness.

What a twist, what a change of heart, what a positive message after all! I truly hope that you were able to experience this commercial, a true-meaning-of-Christmas gift from Apple.

A teenager, seemingly glued to his phone, seemingly bored out of his mind by this family Christmas gathering, is in fact creating a most marvelous gift to celebrate the love he gets and gives, but, at this awkward age, just can’t express (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it – are you?).

My 20-year-old daughter, infinitely better at snark than sentiment, stops everything to watch this commercial. She sits in a veil of tears and exclaims, “Look how he really loves his family! It’s so beautiful!” Her friends, a lovely, lively but logical bunch, also stop and watch and sigh and cry. My husband murmurs, “Well, isn’t that nice?” My whole family room is awash in happy tears when this commercial airs.

Apple has hit the goldmine of marketing here. They have bonded the product with the audience, they have shown its benefits and they have made you want an iPhone, so you can make such an incredible gift yourself. There are only smiles here, only positive associations, only warm, happy feelings, an affirmation that Apple can make your life better.

With all this embedded in our psyches, I’m thinking Apple will have a very happy new year.

Hoping YOU have a very happy new year too!

Please. Make It Stop.

Gawd help us.

 

If you’ve watched any television this holiday season, you’ve been subjected to this commercial, or some version of it. And odds are, you’ve cringed.

Social media is atwitter (get it?) with “I’ll never buy a Honda” and “Honda, these are the most annoying commercials ever” and “I was thinking about buying a Honda but that commercial killed it for me. Toyota, here I come” — all because of Michael Bolton. Turns out he doesn’t necessarily appeal to Honda’s chief purchasing demographic.

The smart marketers at Honda know that. I’m sure they meant this whole campaign ironically – they meant it to be aggravating and maddening and over-the-top and downright annoying. They are delighted at the outpouring of exasperation and displeasure.

Because everyone is talking about these commercials. Everyone is deriding Honda’s decision to use Annoying Man for its Songperson this holiday season. At my annual holiday gathering with girlfriends, “Honda” was mentioned over and over and over as women clutched at their hair and wished laryngitis upon Michael Bolton. Facebook is covered with nasty memes. As horrible and dreadful and awful as this Honda commercial is, it put Honda in the shining spotlight this Christmas.

But it is horrible and dreadful and awful and there is absolutely no solid reason for that. Advertising that is memorable, creates a buzz and makes people talk shouldn’t be uber annoying. That truly defeats the purpose.

A positive message, something that makes people feel good about the product and its benefits is always always always a better choice. Those good feelings create a happy bond with the audience and positivity just lasts longer, meaning the happy audience turns into a happy customer, which is exactly what truly good marketing is supposed to do.

Who’s In Love With Your Brand?

Ovaltine and IBM

A few months ago, I was in the grocery store, considering which hot chocolate flavoring to purchase. Usually, I’m a Hersey’s syrup kind of gal, but for some reason, I was in the coffee and tea aisle, with Nestle’s Quik in one hand and Ovaltine in the other, reading the labels for sugar, sodium and fat contents.

A woman in her late 50’s was trying to pass and I murmured “excuse me” and stepped toward the shelf. She saw what I was holding and said, “Oh, buy the Ovaltine.” I smiled at her in return. Encouraged, she said dreamily, “Ovaltine means so much to me. When I was little, I had terrible trouble sleeping because I was ill for a long time. Every night, my mom would make me a hot mug of Ovaltine and read to me until I fell asleep. Ovaltine makes me think of my mom and the way she helped me.” Her face was far-away, lost in nostalgia, thinking of long-ago bedtime stories, a mug of hot chocolate to soothe an ailing child, and most of all, her mother’s beautiful, patient expression of love. For her, that’s what Ovaltine is all about.

Well, of course I bought the Ovaltine.

Later that week, someone mentioned IBM, saying something about “Big Blue” and how that might just be the most internationally-recognized, powerful brand on the planet.

And that’s when it struck me full force, like a bag of quarters in the kisser; while brands have a carefully constructed and communicated message managed by their internal and external partners, for many people, that message has nothing to do with their own perception of the organization.

Because, you see, to me, IBM is not about computers. IBM is about my dad, who worked for that company his entire professional life.

Hearing “IBM” makes my nose instantly remember that Bud-Rollins aroma of WD-40, dry cleaning fluid and newspaper ink. I can really, truly smell it. I can see his felt hat appearing in the alley at the end of his walk home from the train, I can feel the wool of his suit as he gathered me for a hug. IBM is the heavy briefcase filled with tools, middle of the night departures when a machine went down and Christmas parties at the Museum of Science and Industry.

And the really crazy thing? When I called my brother and asked him what he thinks of when someone says “IBM”, he replied “Dad and that IBM smell, you know what I mean?” Yes, Rich, I know exactly what you mean. Our brand of IBM is all about love too.

So what does this all mean to you? It means, to certain individuals, your brand has nothing to do with your carefully constructed message. No matter how much you promote outstanding customer service, unless it really is, 100% of the time, there will be someone out there whose personal experience brands you as having horrible service. Your brand is influenced by your messages, but it is determined by your audience.

That’s why thinking and acting in terms of the brand, for absolutely every single person in your organization, is vitally important – 100% of the time.

 

Do you prefer Ovaltine or Hersey’s? The twentieth person to let me know gets a lifetime supply of their favorite!*

(Yep – that’s my dad in the photo above, Harold “Bud” Rollins, Senior Customer Engineer with a mad comb-over installing a 2470 terminal)

*Not really. But I will send you one bottle or can!

We Know Direct Mail Like Arborist Knows Ash From A Hole In The Ground

Ed Ritzema was really bummed about the lack of response in his direct mail efforts. He spent alot of money, mailed to alot of people and just didn’t see the return on his investment. He is passionate about saving ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), now gaining ground faster and faster in the south and southwest suburbs. “People need to understand that I can save that heritage tree in their yard. The injections are cheaper and you get to KEEP YOUR TREE.”

 

Having lost two of my trees to this voracious invader before we could take steps to save them and feeling that pain, I couldn’t understand why people weren’t responding to his offering.

Then he showed me the card he was mailing.

OUCH.

The card was a hot mess of everything that Ed, a certified arborist, could possibly provide – including lawn care! Everything was just about the same size. There were multiple promotions and discounts offered. Recipients were completely confused about what this company did, why they should call and how 4 Seasons could help.

But the biggest barrier? Most people don’t know types of trees are planted on their lot!

So we created a mailer that zeroed in with laser-focus on Ed’s biggest mission – saving those white and green ash trees. The call to action is simple – Ed will identify every tree in your yard for free, no strings attached. There is information about the Ash Borer’s size, hole shape and symptoms, but the overriding push is that you can’t save a tree if you don’t even know what it is.

With Ed’s assistance with identifying about 10,000 homes in neighborhoods known to have EAB, we mailed even more cheaply than EveryDoorDirect by using postal route discounts. (Our mailing house ROCKS).

Ed’s phone started ringing and he’s now meeting new customers and saving their trees! Even better? Even if responders don’t have an ash tree, Ed has personally introduced himself, he’s now their expert resource. That homeowner now has a trusted arborist, one they can turn to for pruning, for emergency services – even for lawn care.

Interested in direct mail or other forms of response-driven advertising but oh so wary? Give us a call at 708-614-9766 or send us an email. We can help.

I personally recommend Ed because he’s worked on my trees.  I think of him as an Ent because he is indeed a Keeper of the Trees, deep in his heart. If you suspect you have the EAB, or just want to get to know your trees a little better, call Ed Ritzema at 708-371-5439 for a free tree identification!