Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jingles that jangle, jingles that sing

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the August 26, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger

“If you’ve got something to say,” David Ogilvy once advised, “then say it. If not, sing it.”

Okay, so the great advertising guru wasn’t what you’d call a “fan” of the jingle, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their place. As we noted last week, jingles have been a staple form of marketing since Wheaties’ first aired theirs in 1929.

Still, Ogilvy’s got a point. “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form,” he said, “but as a medium of information.” If you consider your marketing strategy to be a means of providing prospects with pertinent information about your product, then song is definitely not the way to go. On the other hand, once you’ve provided the information, there’s nothing wrong with a little mnemonic to help them remember, and music is one of the best mnemonics in existence. At the age of five I could spell “encyclopedia” (albeit the American spelling) thanks to the Jiminy Cricket song, and who didn’t learn their alphabet to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”? Even dance steps can be imparted through the use of a catchy tune, such as “The Hokey Pokey” (which also taught us that “that’s what it’s all about”).

But while jingles are widely used on radio and TV, they’re still a relative rarity when it comes to the Web — and even more of a rarity in the virtual world.

There’s really little reason for this neglect. With faster connections, more powerful computers, and an increasing use of the Internet for watching everything from television shows to YouTube videos of professors having a meltdown over cell phones, sound has become an integral part of the Web experience.

For the Second Life merchant I would make two recommendations. First, combine your store or product with a web site. Although residents generally search for merchandise in world, there is increasing web traffic having to do with virtual worlds in general, and Second Life in particular, and a web site gives you the opportunity to fulfill Ogilvy’s prime directive of giving the prospect information. Second, create or buy a jingle and use it judiciously both in world and on the web site.

The last thing you want is to overburden visitors with a repetitious, annoying jingle. (Well, okay, the last thing you want is for Earth to be struck by a killer asteroid, but that’s a different matter.) One way to avoid this (the annoying jingle, not the killer asteroid) is to insert it into your music stream at regular intervals matching those of television or radio commercials.

Another way is to use a jingle that isn’t so annoying it makes your visitors want to see Earth struck by a killer asteroid.

If you have a band, or know someone with a band, you can experiment with creating your own jingle. Be very cautious, however. It’s one thing to ask a buddy to whip up a short tune for you; it’s another thing to tell him you’re not using it because it sucks worse than the last season of Happy Days.

Another option is to actually pay for it. Admittedly, there are sites out there which will provide jingles for free. One of them, The Jingle Generator, is an automated program in which famed ‘70s record producer, Tommy Silk, puts together a jingle you can download on the spot. Tommy Silk, of course, was responsible for innumerable gold records, and when I say “innumerable” I mean that literally, since there’s no way to actually count to zero. A fictional character, Tommy’s jingles are all identical except for the lyrics which change according to the type of business you select. The site itself is really nothing more than a promotion for Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting programs.

On a more serious note, however, a growing number of services are ready and willing to create web jingles for reasonable prices. Internet-jingles is dedicated to “adding sound to sound websites,” Web Jingles promises “Your sound, their senses,” and Premiere Jingle Service promotes jingles “Because Nobody Hums a Newspaper Ad.”

One of the more notable among these is Sound Strokes Studios (“Talent worth knowing”) which has been in the jingle-writing business for 20 years, the last ten of which have included web jingles. With clients like IBM and Apple, they’re unquestionably major players in the field. The husband and wife team of Cory and Andrew Paganini is uniquely suited to putting the right words to the right music since Cory’s father is a newspaper man while Andrew is a direct descendant of violin virtuoso Paganini.

“I always start with a strong slogan,” says Cory Paganini, who writes the lyrics which Andrew then puts to music. For one of their clients, Canadian Free Stuff, she used the tagline, “No need to travel.” Set to a light Latin beat, the message that you can get free stuff while sitting at home in front of your computer is pleasantly, and memorably conveyed.

Regardless of whether you create it yourself or hire a professional, a good jingle will help keep your product or service in the minds of your customers. But don’t cheat. “Some of the people on radio stations have used our jingles and cut them short, putting in their own call letters,” said Cory.

That’s just not nice.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reach: "The Miracle"

Another instalment of "Reach," a window into the JMT advertising agency.

Click on the image to see it full size.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ears, worms and marketing

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the August 19, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger.

Scrambled egg,
Sitting on the plate, you’re there to stay,
I know you won’t get up and run away,
Oh, how I love my scrambled egg.

I had a plan. It’s shot now, of course, but I actually had a plan. After broaching the subject of taglines last week I was going to look more closely at communicating with the customer. And then Phoenix Psaltery had to go and write about scrambled eggs in his music column.

Of course, he wasn’t writing about scrambled eggs as such; he was writing about the method Paul McCartney had used when composing “Yesterday,” which consisted of singing the phrase “scrambled egg” in his head as he wrote the tune. While Lennon and McCartney later decided to go a different direction with the lyrics, Phoenix decided to try his hand at creating something closer to the original, resulting in the verse at the top of this column. I suppose you could say it’s a Psaltery and McCartney composition. (Sorry, Phoenix, but it just doesn’t have the same ring as Lennon and McCartney.)

Anyhow, the point is that the tune Yesterday, accompanied by the words “scrambled egg,” has been running through my mind for a couple of weeks now.

There’s actually a name for this phenomenon. The Germans call it ohrwurm, which translates as “ear worm.” Most often it’s a tune, but it can also be a phrase or even a single word. Whatever its nature, the ear worm lodges itself into our consciousness and refuses to let go.

For advertisers, of course, this can be a godsend. A catchy tune combined with words which either directly or indirectly refer to the product can stick in listeners’ minds and carry the message continuously for weeks, months, or even decades. Sometimes it can continue to work long after the product is past its prime. I’ve not seen a Brylcream commercial for at least 30 years, but hearing Jessica Simpson say “just a little dab” while shilling for ProActive acne cream can bring to mind their jingle: “Brylcream, a little dab’ll do ya.” And while cigarette commercials are a thing of the past, I often hear, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should,” when people in a restaurant praise their food.

General Mills is given credit for creating the first modern advertising jingle with: “Have you tried Wheaties?/They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.” And although that came out in 1929, it was still popular enough in the late ‘50s that the tune comes back to me as soon as I read the words.

Back in 1929 General Mills was on the verge of dropping their Wheaties brand due to poor sales. With only 53,000 cases being sold a year, it seemed like a lost cause. However, when they discovered that more than half those cases were being sold in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the same area they were running a local radio campaign featuring their new Wheaties jingle, they decided to take the jingle nation-wide with the result that Wheaties became one of the most popular cereals in the country.

Sometimes a jingle can even make its way into the popular music scene

While stuck at the Shannon airport in Ireland in 1971 during a three-day fog delay, William Backer, vice chairman of Backer Spielvogel Bates, found himself inspired by the way the passengers on his flight “gradually shed their ethnic and national prejudices” as they grew into a little community. “Here were all these people from different places talking over cups of coffee and Cokes.” The result was the Coca Cola song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” which made it onto the pop music charts.

But while effective, jingles have become a thing of the past. Any poll about the top ten jingles invariably shows that 80% - 90% are from 20 years ago, or more. ‘‘The 15-second commercial makes it harder and harder to make a musical statement that is more than a sung slogan,’’ Backer lamented back in 1989. And as recently as 2005, Eric Korte of Saatchi & Saatchi told the Boston Globe that “the jingle is dead.”

In its place, advertisers have been mining existing songs to plug their products. Debbie Harry’s “One Way or Another” accompanies a woman cleaning her floor with a Swiffer; Springsteen’s “Like a Rock” propels Chevy trucks across the screen; and a Jeep driver, accompanied by several woodland creatures, belts out “Rock Me Gently” as he tools down the road.

So why do I bring this up in a column on marketing in virtual worlds?

It all happened when I dropped in to visit my mother. She’s just turned 80 and is an active resident in Second Life. (Her avatar name is lillian Morpork — the last name taken from the Disk World Series, of which she’s a huge fan.) I was showing her a few tips and tricks and noticed that she had her speakers on. It struck me that if an 80-year-old woman is surfing the net with speakers on, surely almost everyone else is too.

And that means that every time they visit your store, they’re listening to whatever music you have streaming on the parcel.

So why not make it work for you? Obviously you don’t want to blast customers with a continuous jingle loop, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t intersperse your regular music with a commercial or two.

Like taglines, however, jingles can be tricky. The trick is to create something that is catchy yet directly related to your product.

Which is exactly what we’ll look at in next week’s column.

And until then, I’ll leave you with this little ditty which I hope will stick in Phoenix’s mind as thoroughly as his stuck in mine.

My bologna has a first name,
It’s O - S - C - A - R,
My bologna has a second name,
It’s M - A - Y - E - R,
Ooh, I love to eat it every day,
And if you ask me why I’ll say,
‘Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B - O - L - O - G - N - A


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reach: "The Pitch

This is just an experiment I'm working on with the Bitstrips application. It's a series called "Reach," dealing with the ups and downs of the almost-typical advertising agency JMT. I don't know if the humour is going to be too "inside," so to speak, but I guess we'll see.

Click on the graphic below to see it full size.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You too can be a Fluke

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the August 12, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger.

Born in 1921, Bobby Fluke passed away on Saturday, July 26, at the age of 87.

Of course, the likelihood you’ve heard of Bobby Fluke is about as remote as Michael Jackson’s chances of becoming Obama’s running mate, but he plays an important role in this week’s discussion (Fluke, not Jackson).

When Bobby inherited the trucking business started by his father in 1920, he made a few small but significant changes to assure its success. One of these was the imposition of three simple business rules: (1) don’t carry steel or auto parts, (2) don’t accept hauls of more than 300 miles, and (3) remember to thank your customers every day. “Bobby taught me those rules in the 1980s,” said Ron Foxcroft, who bought out the business in 1983. “When you think about it, the people who are struggling in this industry today are the people who move steel, auto parts, and go long distances.”

The other thing Bobby wanted to do was to come up with a catchy tag line for the business.

Shira Linden, a writer for Marketing Newz (and no relation to Linden Lab), defines tag lines like this: “A tagline consists of a few short words that communicate to your target market what your company does and how you’re different from competitors. A good tagline should position your brand in your audience’s mind and sum up its essence or benefit in a way that your audience can relate to. A great tagline uses memorable phrasing and creates a personality.”

But when the name of your company is “Fluke,” what are you going to do?

What Bobby did was pure genius, resulting in a tag line known and loved by most of the population in south central Ontario.

Tag lines are one of the most effective ways to drive recognition of your product or service. “Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” “Just do it.” “The quicker picker-upper.” “You deserve a break today.” For most people, these phrases are essentially synonymous with the brands they serve: M&Ms, Nike, Bounty, and McDonald’s.

Despite their simplicity, and in many cases their seeming inevitability, good tag lines generally take considerable work. Rhonda, of the Rhonda Report, offers four rules for making a tag line work.

1. Make it short and easy to remember.

2. Make sure it conveys something special about you.

3. Use it to convey something special you want your customers to remember or feel.

4. Use it repeatedly and prominently.

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes is to create a tag line so abstract it could apply to almost anything. These generally consist of a string of words separated by periods: a technique many companies obviously believe imparts gravitas, but in reality merely results in a string of words separated by periods. Because they don’t actually say anything, such “tag lines” are confusing, pointless, and generic. Even worse, the same words keep getting used over and over — much like the indecipherable jargon that appears in mission statements issued by organizations from steel conglomerates to charities.

Just take a look at these beauts. “Create. Organize. Share. Connect.” “Experience. Share. Connect.” “Connect. Share. Live.” “Create. Share. Connect.” Believe it or not, each of these is a tag line for a separate company. What do the companies do? Who knows? Who cares? They could apply to anything from closet organizers to data processors. (One of my favorite exceptions to this rule is Behr Paint’s tag line: “Good. Better. Behr.”)

But even if you come up with a cohesive statement, that doesn’t mean the tag line is necessarily going to work for you. It must also connect in some essential way to your product or service. Although “The quicker picker-upper” could apply as easily to a vacuum cleaner as a paper towel, it definitely has something to do with cleaning. Likewise, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” is pretty well restricted to sweets of some sort.

McDonald’s recent (well, relatively recent) change from “You deserve a break today” to “I’m lovin’ it” manages to work, but mostly because McDonald’s is a well-known brand and poured millions of dollars into pushing the new tag line. As a classic, however, “I’m lovin’ it” fails, and used by a smaller, lesser-known company, would likely have faded into obscurity leaving behind little more than a footnote on marketing blunders.

Another common mistake is using the tag line to make over-blown claims. Budweiser’s “King of beers” works because they didn’t use it until they had captured over 50% of the beer market, at which point “King of beers” was nothing more than a simple truth. But with a few similar exceptions, anything that smacks of hyperbole is going to be rejected by the consumer. You don’t claim “best,” “greatest,” “unsurpassed,” or “pre-eminent” unless you have some solid proof to back it up.

With so many ways to go wrong, it seems like a miracle that anyone ever actually succeeds in creating an effective, memorable tag line — and yet it can be done.

Don’t hurry the process. Brainstorm, preferably with as many people as possible. Write down key ideas, then find creative ways of communicating them. And once you have a good tag line, stick to it. The whole point is to make it inseparable from your brand in the consumer’s mind. If you keep switching tag lines every couple of months none will be effective. This doesn’t mean you can’t create separate ones for specific campaigns, but your core-brand tag line should be virtually inviolate.

Bobby Fluke knew these rules instinctively. He wanted people to remember his name and to associate it with punctuality. With no training in marketing, and saddled with the name Fluke, he came up with one of the best tag lines in trucking history.

“If it’s on time, it’s a Fluke.”

Go ahead. I dare you to forget that one.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Value added -- without the tax

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the August 5, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger

Last week we looked at one of the fundamental rules of marketing: don’t promote the product, promote what the product can do for the customer.

This week we’re going to carry that a bit further by looking at what value can be added to the product. When WordPerfect was the big word processor it offered its users a mega-featured package which could be used for everything from writing a letter to sophisticated desk top publishing. But what the company was perhaps best known for was their superior customer support. With a 24-hour number staffed by amazingly knowledgeable experts willing to stay on the phone for as long as was needed (or call back if required), the WordPerfect help line was a legendary piece of value-added marketing.

The more customers think you’re doing for them, the more loyal they’re going to be, and the more vocal they’ll be in recommending you to their friends.

Too many producers make the mistake of assuming that the public harbors a deep fascination in their business. Even when a potential customer is in the market for something that you sell, they’re not necessarily interested in the product itself; they’re interested in resolving a particular issue in their lives. The product is a means to an end. “Don’t make the mistake of believing that the consumer has a natural interest in your product or service,” advise the authors of How to Advertise. “Most strategies [of advertising] focus too much on the product, too little on the consumer. Instead of parading product attribute, talk about consumer benefits.”

But we’ve already covered much of that. The good marketer takes it a step further. Along with promoting the consumer benefits of the product, they also promote the consumer benefits of the company itself. As WordPerfect showed, great customer service can be invaluable in building and maintaining a large, loyal customer base.

In Second Life, the Virtual Kennel Club has put this into practice with lucrative results.

First of all, they truly understand what they’re selling. Although an outsider would say they’re selling dogs, VKC knows that what they’re really selling is far less tangible: companionship.

The VKC experience starts at the point of purchase. There are no “boxed” dogs with pictures on the front to show what they look like and a few rezzed examples so you can see how they move. Instead the customer arrives at a dog farm where the various breeds roam free. There the buyer has the chance to actually interact with the animals and make an informed choice. Once the choice is made, the customer buys that particular dog. He can take him into inventory, or simply walk off with the dog following, but there is no copy of that dog left behind. (Once a dog has been bought, another of that breed rezzes a few minutes later at another location on the farm.)

So right off the bat, there is a perceived connection between an individual dog and its new owner. The entire transaction is made as personal as possible.

But the added values don’t stop there. Knowing full well that Second Life residents are often faced with mysterious malfunctions of scripted objects and inventory items that sometimes softly and silently vanish away, the VKC has “veterinarians” standing by to help. If your dog disappears you merely go to one of the scripted vets, say the name of your dog and he’ll rez beside you complete with all the tricks and behaviors he’s learned under your care. If there’s a problem the scripted vet can’t help with, there’s always the VKC group whose members seem dedicated to helping out fellow dog owners.

“But wait,” as the old commercials used to say, “there’s more.” The VKC also holds regular training classes and competitions where owners can come to watch, learn, and show off the often complex tricks they’ve taught their dogs.

Simply put, the VKC has built their product into a brand. And a very successful brand in terms of in-world companies. When we talk about branding, this is essentially what we’re talking about: associating the product in the consumer’s mind with the value-added features.

Building a community is one of the best ways of adding value to a product. Harley Davidson owners haven’t just bought a motorcycle, they’ve bought a membership to a world-wide club. Linux users form a large family with shared interests and goals. VKC dog owners consult with each other on how to get their dog to sit in the car so they can go for drives.

Adding value like this takes work, but in many ways it’s an easier and cheaper way of marketing than simple advertisements. And while not every product lends itself to being the centre of a community, there is always a way to help add value.

You sell: fashion. You offer: a small studio where customers can take pictures of themselves wearing your clothes against a backdrop of exotic locales. If your products are of a particular style, such as Egyptian or steam punk, the backdrops can reflect this.

You sell: business equipment for in-world enterprise. You offer: free or cheap conference rooms which customers can use for meetings and presentations.

You sell: gifts and greeting cards: You offer: an automated procedure which will send customers a reminder for their friends and lovers’ rez days, birthdays, anniversaries and so on.

No matter what you sell, adding value to it will help you sell it. And selling it, all the experts agree, is the key to making money.


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