Every day, acknowledge that something unexpected is coming your way.

By holding a belief that everything is marketing: moving a perception from point A to B to C, I drive folks crazy.

Crisis communication … it’s marketing.

How you respond to emails: marketing.

Your social and digital footprint – what do you think I am going to write?

M A R K E T I N G.

As marketers, something is coming in about five minutes that could knock your day for a loop. Because, in the art and science of communication, perceptions, conversations, and business conditions change constantly.

To keep your head. To be your best. To help the most. To solve the problem – that is our goal.

We cannot panic. We cannot complain. We adjust.

We define the current problem, learn, and think for as long we have, and develop a plan of action. Then, we act.

Sometimes, that means scrapping or pausing or redoing a plan we made yesterday.

Accept it.

Frustration for some, an opportunity to learn for a marketer.

“ta eph’hemin, ta ouk eph’hemin”

Let’s ask him…

Epictetus – Stoic

“What is up to us, what is not up to us.”

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything.

2,000 years ago, Epictetus first penned this thought. When I am thinking about the communication and marketing problems I am asked to solve each day, this idea helps me.

I can choose to complain about the things I have absolutely no control over: trolls, misinformation, fragmented media, media that has been stripped of it’s resources, those that don’t take time to read, research, and understand complex topics.

Or, I can act.

And, I can take my best swing at solving the defined problem we have uncovered.

How can I use technology? How can I use research? How can I test, then replicate?

Who can I ask for advice and guidance? Have I solved this before in another industry? Has someone else? What mistakes have I made in the past that I can avoid? How can I measure my progress?

What do I truly have control over? And, what is the highest and best use of each of those resources?

This is so easy to write. Terribly complex to execute.

But, it is where we need to start each time.

Define the problem.

Asses your situation.

Prepare and Plan.


Control what you can.

Let go of what you cannot.


You cannot put this back together

This is media. This is also what your marketing plan should look like.

The media is shattered. We cannot put it back together.

It’s fragmented, broken, comes in all shapes and sizes, and someone keeps stepping on the pieces and making them smaller and smaller each and every day.

New algorithms. Smaller bites. Smaller bits. Links to links.

As marketers – it’s the obstacle we face. We better learn from it.

My work has shown me to be effective, our plans need to be as broken, fragmented, and shattered as the media we are using to reach our prospects.

The smallest common denominator.

Bits. Pieces. Bites.

Reach, Frequency, and Trust.

Reach me where I read. Reach me where I sit.

The more nuance to your offering, the more fragmented our marketing plans must be.

Go break something. Drive results with fragmented marketing plans.

Trust me. Fingers Crossed. Learn.

This month, I stuck to the “Readers are Leaders” mentality and dove into these two books by author Ryan Holiday.

The contrast between these books is unreal.

Both challenged me to think in ways I had not before. I highly recommend them both.

The media manipulation he outlines in “Trust me..” should terrify you.

We just lived through it.

The Stoic mindset he conveys in the other should lift you up. It did me.

Both have become on my “will read, multiple times” list.

They were the gift I needed.

The problem with 800 words

Most blogs are about 800 words. What’s the problem with that?

No clarity. Marginalization. Distrust. Bullying. Ambiguity.

Well, if the topic is complex, it takes a heck of a lot of talent and time to explain the complexities of science, economics, public health, and how democracy works in 800 words (the average length of a blog post).

Look at me, writing on all four topics with only 105.

And, the only thing we learned together is that I may have planted in your head the idea that we all need to read, research, and think more before reacting.

Pause. Think. Learn. Slow this nonsense down.

CAUTION: Reading this will erase your memory and make your friends hate you.

Poignant observation by a good friend of mine today: “we need a new message.”

We were talking “Mask Wearing.” Man, he is smart.

C’mon, man! This isn’t Quantum Physics: Mask, Hygiene, Distance, Caring, Patience.

People are dying for goodness sakes.

Then he said, “we don’t consider warnings on cigarette packs. People still smoke.”

He nailed it.

We need a different feedback loop. Like Claude Hopkins created with Pepsodent Toothpaste in the early 1900s. Hopkins was a copywriting genius.

“Run your tongue across your teeth,” read the advertisement. “You’ll feel a film – that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay. Pepsodent (like all toothpaste) removes that film.”

BOOM! People dramatically changed their behavior.

They felt the film. They purchased and then used Pepsodent, a product that created a ‘tingle’ when used (the tingle has no medicinal value by the way). Dental Hygine practices changed dramatically.

Before Pepsodent and this national ad campaign, only 7 percent of Americans used toothpaste daily.

After the ad campaign went nationwide? 65%.

Um, sixty-five friggn’ percent!

That message. That feedback loop: feel film, brush with Pepsodent, feel the tingle.

It changed behavior. Because, people felt it.

Dental hygiene improved dramatically across the entire country.

The film – gone.

The tingle after brushing – minty fresh.

Intrinsic, selfish reinforcement – yeppers!

Repeat. Twice a day, every day! Compliance central!

Here’s the problem: wearing a mask – there’s no selfish, individual feedback loop.

Unfortunately, the altruistic message of caring for, protecting, and giving a darn about our friends and neighbors doesn’t make our mouth tingle.

If it did, I bet compliance would be through the roof.

Until we create the breakthrough message, please #MaskUP, wash your hands, and keep your distance.

We marketing folks are trying to come up with the warning label that gets you to cover your nose at the grocery store. “It highlights your beautiful eyes…”

You know, the message that breaks through the selfish, non-caring act of recklessly spreading this thing.

Until then – give a darn. Wear your mask. Stay home. Stay apart. Save someone’s life.

And, brush twice a day with your toothpaste of choice. Please.

I’ll see your tendency to marginalize and raise you a failure.

When you operate in the margins, you will get quick wins.


But, at what price?

Time and time again, it seems like those are quick, unsustainable wins.

Heck yeah! We beat them.

But, look out, here comes that swinging pendulum of marketing doom!

Right back at you. And, to me, it seems it puts you in a death spiral.

Every day, if you choose to live and fight in those margins, you gotta get up, pick that battle, and live in the world of negativity.

Trash talk. One-up-person-ship. Puffery and Balderdash. Spin doctor land.

Tough going over there.

Or, take a step back on that bell curve. Maybe to 13.6% land. One standard deviation away from average. To me, it seems that is where sustainable results can be delivered over time.

Look where you can define the problem. Sit there. Work the art and science of marketing to communicate clearer. Increase reach, frequency, and trust.

Deliver the results and the reason why.

And, work for products that truly care and make a difference.

Be like a plodding elephant. Day after day, plowing, plodding, step by step.

Because, quick wins also deliver quick losses.

If you can’t fit your idea on a Post-it note, it’s probably not a very big idea.

This is the post where I flip through the current book I am reading (sporadically, for the second time) and write a quick note on a point the author made.

It is hard work to distill ideas down to their essence.

Cut through clutter.

If we had more time, we’d write shorter emails, releases, and letters. (borrowed)

Here is what was on the Post-it note on page 151:

“PetSmart – the only thing dogs and cats agree on.”

Discuss…. the ads write themselves.

Source: Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This – Sullivan and Boches

A dose of Reality is always good

I’ve read the book Reality in Advertising more times than I can count.

A professor I had at West Virginia University worked at Ted Bates.

His name was Mel.

Mel moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, late in his career.

He became a mentor for many of us in my class.

And, he gave me the best gift: he sent me and my classmate on a hunt for this gem.

Mel reinforced and shaped how we thought (and think) about communicating ideas.

At the time, I had no idea how much he shared with us would guide my thinking.

Even today.

I think of Mel every time I pick up this book. His critiques. His challenges. His candor.

Fragmented media has made it more difficult than ever to reach people.

The algorithms behind the platforms isolate people with more of what they already know.

The content we create – without following the premise above – has the potential to be a waste.

A waste of energy.

A waste of money.

A waste of resources.

Most importantly, a waste of time – for the writer and the reader.

I am writing this to remind myself of the value of research, focusing on results and USPs.

Also, to recommend this book if you can get your hands on a copy. You can’t have mine.

No puffery.

Usage Pull.


Fast, Fast, Fast relief.


And, pumice.

As we all turn to what’s next. I am really glad Mel sent us on our way to find that book.