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Archive for September, 2006

Are Books Fading Fast — Or Already Obsolete?

September 29th, 2006 by Bob Bly

Yesterday, I heard on the radio that former NJ governor Jim McGreevy’s tell-all book about sex and corruption during his administration sold 15,000 copies in its first week, enabling it to hit the NY Times best-seller list.

What saddens me is not that my former governor is making money based partly on the lousy job he did running my state while in office.

It’s that selling only 15,000 copies of a book makes it a best-seller!

If a pop diva’s new CD sold only 15,000 copies in the first week, Entertainment Tonight would be doing a story on the short life of her career.

If a movie sold only 15,000 tickets in its first week, the lead actor would be entering the Ben Affleck stage of his career.

Frightening, really, how much greater the consumption of electronic media is compared with books — once considered the primary source of knowledge and learning in this country.


Category: General | 132 Comments »

Why Branding Doesn’t Work in B2B

September 26th, 2006 by Bob Bly

My colleague Gordon Graham, a B2B copywriter specializing in marketing software to IT professionals, is not a fan of traditional Madison Avenue branding. He says:

“Certainly ‘branding’ has SOME value in terms of positioning and making any company look like a together, prosperous firm. But real, solid branding has to be earned, not just claimed.

“Example: IBM invented the mainframe category, they threw more resources at it than anyone else for decades, and they delivered. So they earned that position as king of the mountain, the risk-free purchase for IT. So they walked the walk and they talked the talk. And they invested in engineering and sales and support, not in fancy jingles or glossy brochures.

“Today I think B2B companies waste millions of dollars on useless exercises like TV advertising, glossy brochures, insanely expensive logo development, fussing over corporate colors, and packaging — all the busywork that marketing departments and agencies do, that could easily be cancelled — or severely curtailed — with no business repercussions at all. I’ve seen them, I’ve been there.

“That’s why I despair of software executives falling into the clutches of fast-talking agency types who want to ‘re-brand’ and ‘re-position’ and ‘re-strategize’ based on nothing more than their own personal aesthetic intuition, using the same tactics they used for their last client who sold chewing gum.”

What say you, my B2B readers? Is all that glossy marketing puff a waste of time and money when selling to techies? Or is Gordon forgetting that B2B prospets are PEOPLE first — and therefore, influenced by the branding communications he criticizes?


Category: General | 46 Comments »

Do You Sell Things You Don’t Believe In?

September 21st, 2006 by Bob Bly

RS, a professional ghostwriter, writes:

“I’ve run into a situation. I got a feeler for a non-fiction book about aliens living in America underground — under Salt Lake City.

I don’t for a moment believe there are extraterrestrials on Earth. I’ve set the standard for myself that I won’t write things I consider to be immoral, but what about things I don’t necessarily believe in myself but the author does?

“If he can meet my price (and I doubt he can) should I write it? If the research he shows me doesn’t convince me, can I ethically ghost it? Would you?”

Troops, what advice do you have for RS?


Category: General | 42 Comments »

Is This the End of Branding?

September 18th, 2006 by Bob Bly

According to a survey by Third Deep Marketing, the two biggest challenges U.S. marketers say they are facing are (1) knowing that there’s a payback for marketing dollars spent and (2) generating profitable lead flow for sales.

I submit that direct response meets both of these challenges — and branding contributes not at all to the first and marginally to the second.

So is branding obsolete? Or does it still have enormous value — and if so, what is its contribution to marketing results?


Category: General | 48 Comments »

What Makes for Good Writing

September 12th, 2006 by Bob Bly

E.B. White and others have suggested that specifics — facts — good information — are the keys to good writing.

But that was pre-Internet, when good information was difficult to find.

The writer’s job would be to ferret out information the reader didn’t have access to — and then organize and present it in a clear and entertaining fashion.

But today, thanks to the Internet, everyone theoretically has instant access to the same set of facts and information — and the supply is massive.

More and more authors today are writing thinner books, and huge reference books are a vanishing breed.

In their place, are short, quick-reading books focusing and explaining a single important idea.

So, is the hallmark of good writing good ideas … good information … or both?

If both, which one is more important — the factual content or the exploration of a new idea?


Category: General, Writing | 46 Comments »

News from the Department of Redundancy Department

September 4th, 2006 by Bob Bly

The other day I heard a radio commercial that began: “If you have a car you no longer need or have little use for….”

Would you, like me, delete the phrase “or have little use for” as being unnecessary and redundant?

Along the same lines, grammarians point out that the popular copywriting phrase “free gift” is redundant, because all gifts are by definition free … and these grammarians urge copywriters to just write “gift.”

Do you agree with them? Or will you stick with “free gift” in your promotions? Why? (I’d ask “Or why not?” but grammarians insist that the “why not” option is implied when you ask “why.”)


Category: General, Writing | 87 Comments »