Bob Bly Direct Response Copywriter Official Banner

Archive for June, 2007

Content vs. Branding

June 29th, 2007 by Bob Bly

My colleagues Michael Stelzner and David Scott Meerman are, like me, advocates of marketing with content.

But a recent article suggests that our approach is all wrong.

The author said that branding is more effective than ever today.

Reason: prospects are suffering from information overload. They don’t have time to process product information. And so they make purchase decisions based on brand reputation rather than product facts.

Well, hey, if that’s true, then prospects don’t want — or have time to read — more content, right?

So which should a marketer concentrate on?

Becoming a thought leader by publishing valuable content?

Or branding?


Category: General | 49 Comments »

Do Words Matter? Not at KFC, Apparently.

June 26th, 2007 by Bob Bly

The voice-over in a recent KFC commercial for their thighs and drumstick bucket says the chicken now contains “less” transfat.

Less than what? Less doesn’t mean anything unless you say what it has less fat than.

While we hear the voice-over, the words “0% transfat” appear on the screen.

Hey, that’s not less transfat. That’s NO transfat. Shouldn’t the script say “no transfat”?

This may seem a small nitpik, but words matter, especially when you consider the price KFC paid to create and run that spot.

Isn’t “zero transfat” the big health selling point here? “Less” communicates that it still has some transfat, just not as much as before.

But since we don’t know how much transfat KFC’s chicken had before (they don’t tell us), or how much they reduced transfat, the phrase “less transfat” is virtually meaningless.



Category: General | 69 Comments »

Do Puns Sell? (Or, “This Makes Me See Red”)

June 21st, 2007 by Bob Bly

The Economist recently sent me a promotion that flies in the face of conventional wisdom for what works in direct mail selling magazine subscriptions:

1. It’s a self-mailer.

2. The whole thing is white type on red paper stock.

3. Even though it’s an oversize mailer, it’s mainly blank space with just a headline and one short paragraph of copy.

4. It’s a pun. The headline says “Passionately Red” — and remember, the whole mailer is bright red.

Yet, I suspect it may be working, since I THINK I got this — or something close to it — once before from The Economist.

Anyone out there get the Economist’s “red” mailing and have any thoughts on whether and why it works?

Anyone out there associated with the Economist who can tell us the results on this piece?


Category: Direct Marketing, General | 39 Comments »

Everything That Rises Must Converge

June 14th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Blogs are the “in” thing today, with 8 million Americans adults saying they have started blogs

Newspapers, meanwhile, are in decline: only 23 percent of adults under 30 today read newspapers regularly.

To combat their sagging circulation, newspapers are now jumping on the blogging bandwagon.

According to an article in Circulation Management (6/07, p. 14), 75% of the nation’s 50 largest newspapers have a blog, with these blogs averaging 3 posts per week.

Is this a compelling case for convergence — all digital and offline media coming together in an integrated stream of news and information?

Or is it just a last desperate attempt by newspapers to stay relevant in the Internet age?


Category: General | 44 Comments »

Professionals vs. Amateurs

June 11th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Novelist Ian McEwan doesn’t like the fact that you can post your opinion of his books on

“I don’t have much time for the kind of site where readers do all the reviewing,” says McEwan in an interview with Time magazine (6/18/07, p. 6).

“Reviewing takes expertise, wisdom, and judgment,” he says. “I am not much fond of the notion that anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s.”

Which do YOU value most — a thoughtful review by a professional reviewer or writer in the New York Times Book Review, or reader reviews on

Do you think McEwan is right — that reviewing takes expertise and should be done only by professionals, and not by amateurs?

Do you — or don’t you — think that, as and other review sites seem to believe, anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s?


Category: General, Writing | 52 Comments »

The Limitations of Content and Conversation

June 6th, 2007 by Bob Bly

It’s trendy today to say that traditional marketing doesn’t work anymore.

The “new marketing” gurus tell us that, instead of “marketing speak” (traditional sales materials), we should use one of two things to do our selling.

One is giving away valuable free content.

The other is Web 2.0, social networking, forums, wikis, and other forms of “conversation.”

But … isn’t there some point where you have to leave the cozy world of publishing free content and chatting — and actually get down to some selling?

Don’t we have to — especially for products prospects want instead of need (e.g., nutritional supplements, investment newsletters) — tap into the prospect’s fears and desires — and get him to focus on our product as the solution?

Don’t we have to prove our product’s value … explain its benefits … demonstrate its superiority over competing offers … overcome objections … and close the order?

In other words, don’t we have to convince the consumer — with copy that sells — to buy what we are selling?

Or can we eliminate old-fashioned “sales copy” (e.g., direct mail, e-mail, and other forms of intrusion marketing) … and just educate prospects with free content — and then engage them in conversation — and get them to buy that way?

Or is marketing today really a combination of the “old” rules of marketing (ads, direct mail, trade shows, PR) and the “new” rules (content, conversation, RSS feeds, blogging)?

If it’s a combination, why do so many blogging evangelists and other social media advocates feel the need to build up what they offer by bashing conventional marketing? Why do they badmouth it in everything they write?


Category: General | 53 Comments »