Last Friday, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America.

That first sentence either made you smile…or it made you spit. Either way, it’s okay. The purpose of this post isn’t to judge you, regardless of who you voted for. 

There are a few theories about how, with no political experience, Trump came to be President:

  • The Democratic Party insists that the Russians are to blame. 
  • Both liberals and conservatives have cited rising distrust of Hillary Clinton, based on the results of the FBI investigation into her use of non-secure, private server for federal business while she was Secretary of State, as well as Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.
  • Conservatives say it’s because Trump hit the right nerve with the working man—that the government status quo of the past 35 years has enriched itself while neglecting the people it was intended to serve.

I thought that this last point was closest to the truth but it’s still not quite 100 percent. I think there’s an even bigger reason for Trump’s win, which I only fully realized after hearing his inauguration speech this afternoon.

What I feel is largely responsible for Trump’s success was the consistency of his message: from June 16, 2015, when he announced his run, right up through his inauguration, it has been (Do I even need to say it?) “Make American Great Again.”

Now before you start rolling your eyes and condemning me as being “just another simple-minded copywriter” consider a few questions:

·      Why do people choose to shop at Wal-Mart?

·      Why would some people rather have an iPhone?

·      Who do you call for next-day package delivery?

People shop at Wal-Mart because it’s cheaper. For 19 years, the company’s slogan was “Always low prices.” In 2007, they changed it to “Save money. Live better.” They’ve been repeating those messages in every ad for nearly 30 years. So who do you think of when you need to save money?

People line up early for the new iPhone and pay considerably more for it than most Android phones cost because Apple emphasizes innovation and design in all of their marketing: “Think different,” “The only thing that’s changed is everything,” etc. A large group of people strongly identify with those values.

FedEx is the name that jumps off of most peoples’ lips when you mention next-day delivery. It has everything to do with the messages they’ve repeated for decades: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” “The world on time,” and “Relax, it’s FedEx.”

It’s a truism in marketing (first identified by Bob Berg, in his book Endless Referrals) that “People will do business with those people they know, like, and trust.”

And it must occur in that order, starting with “know.”

The way a business gets the public to “know” them is by repeating its message often.

Even if you don’t shop at Wal-Mart, don’t use FedEx and don’t own the iPhone, you’ve seen or heard their message so often, that you know what each of them stands for. You know what they value. 

When you come to know someone, it opens the door for you to like them. Just that little bit of familiarity that you’ve built up by hearing their message regularly gives you a degree of affinity for them.

This is how a company builds a strong brand. It’s also how one candidate built a strong brand.

Trump’s success is due in large part to his marketing: “Make America Great Again” was everywhere. It’s on his website. In his emails. On hats. t-shirts, bumper stickers, and coffee mugs. He stated it every time he spoke in public.

By constant repetition of his message, Trump built a strong brand for himself. People came to know him.

On the other hand, while his main opponent had far more experience in politics, she lacked a message. She lacked repetition. If Hillary Clinton had any brand at all, it was the one the media created with its constant repetition of messages about her involvement in numerous scandals.

Or maybe it was the Russians….

-  -  -

Every business has a message, though not all of them have discovered what their message is.

Your company’s message should express your core value and what differentiates you from your competition (these are often one and the same), in a way that benefits your customers. That’s your brand.

“Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers,” said businesswoman Elizabeth Arden (of make-up fame). So, once you’ve isolated your message, repeat it as often as possible in all of your marketing efforts.

If you need some help working out your brand messaging, I can help you with that. Call 323-646-2469 or email me steve (at) @stevewagnercopy (dot) com 

By now, you’ve probably heard about Meryl Streep’s speech at this past weekend’s Golden Globe awards.

On stage to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Streep gave a five-plus minute acceptance speech in which she positioned Hollywood against President-elect Donald Trump (and all she feels he stands for) without ever stating his name.

This post isn’t about whether I agree or disagree with her views. Because I’m a copywriter and I deal with marketing matters, this message is about what she did right in terms of marketing. (Okay, literally speaking, she was not promoting a product or service but she was promoting a certain viewpoint.)

So here it is:

1.    She communicated. First and foremost, you’ve got to put your message out there. I know of plenty of businesses that don’t market. They put an ad in the Yellow Pages and hope for the best…while they starve. The businesses and people who succeed don’t necessarily succeed because they are the best at what they do; it’s because they market consistently and effectively. They continue to communicate.

2.    She directed her message to the correct audience. You can have the highest quality ice cubes in the world but you will go out of business if you market them in Siberia. Wrong audience. Try Miami. The Hollywood movie industry is acknowledged to be largely Liberal and anti-Trump. The Golden Globes audience was mostly actors and other industry people. The perfect audience and an easy “sale” for Streep.

3.    Her speech was logically structured. Some have called it a rant but Streep’s speech was well thought-out and well paced. She started out with a reference to a comment made earlier by actor Hugh Laurie, then wove a speech which upheld the nobility of the acting profession and characterized Trump as its enemy. Streep gets bonus points for the latter because in direct marketing, you strengthen your offer when you identify your audience's enemy (and then position your product as the thing that vanquishes that enemy). A quick example of this is investment marketers, who characterize the economy or inflation as the enemy.

4.    She used emotion. Streep’s speech was dramatic. It was authentic. Before you can sell anything to anyone, you’ve got to elicit an emotion from them. Volvo did it by tapping into peoples’ insecurity and need for safety. Rolex does it by appealing to their audience’s desire for status and a feeling of power. Insurance companies use fear. Certain fashion brands use sex. 

Some of the people in the Globes audience seemed to appreciate Streep’s message while others didn’t show much enthusiasm. But in the world of direct marketing, you never get a 100 percent response. Ten percent is acceptable. Twenty-five percent is killing it. She seemed to be getting about a 40 percent response. Not too shabby.

So, whether or not you agree with her politics, from a direct marketing standpoint, she did a lot of things right. 

If you need some help doing things right with your own direct marketing efforts, I can help. Call me at 323-646-2469 or email me at steve (at) stevewagnercopy (dot) com.

Thanks for reading.

I got the strangest Christmas card this year. 

It was from my landlord. 

The envelope was correctly addressed and it arrived on December 24th. 

Inside was a pleasant, traditional Christmas card showing a painting of an outdoor scene of a cabin in the snow. Smoke curled from the chimney. An orangey glow in the front window told of comfort and relief from the cold. 

I opened it and read the message: “Have a Merry Christmas,” it said, in plain type. 

My landlord hadn’t written anything. He hadn’t even signed it.  

As I dropped in into the recycling bin, I wondered why he’d bothered to even mail it.  

What’s this got to do with you and your marketing? 

You, You, You…

My landlord evidently had very little (or maybe no) interest in delivering a genuine holiday greeting to me. He seems to have only been trying to fulfill a holiday-time obligation as quickly and effortlessly as possible. 

It was unmistakably all about him—his time and his convenience. A Christmas card should be sent for the other person (or should at least give that impression).

And it’s not different with a marketing message.

Now, I am not implying that you would ever be as indifferent as my landlord was, but sometimes, as business owners or marketers, we may send out marketing communications—emails, sales letters, etc.—that, in one way or another, are about us and our products or services. When we do that, it creates various effects:

  • The recipient thinks “spam” or “junk mail.” 
  • They throw it away/delete it without reading all of it.
  • They feel disregarded.
  • They resent having their time wasted.

If what I am saying seems confusing, I understand. Obviously, you market and promote for the purpose of selling your products or services. So why wouldn’t your marketing pieces be about your products or services?

Of course you have to talk about what you’re selling but the most successful direct marketing starts out paying a good deal of attention to the customer—their needs, problems, and concerns (often referred to as “pain points”).

This is not news. It’s a fundamental of direct marketing: Customers/prospects don’t care about you or your product; they care about solving their problems and fulfilling their dreams.

Yet I see this fundamental being violated all the time.

Here’s one small example: I received a connection request recently on LinkedIn from someone I did not know. Within an hour of accepting their invitation, I got a message from them. They thanked me for the connect but the majority of the message was all about them and their business:

  • “I am looking to connect with…”
  • “I am really into…”
  • “I specialize in…”
  • “My idea client is…”

Granted, her message wasn’t overtly trying to sell me anything but it did have a call to action. (“I’d love to talk. Here is the link to my calendar to set up a time that is convenient for you.”) So, it could be considered a small bit of direct marketing.

I was a bit put off by it, simply and only because it didn’t seem to take much of an interest in me.

Now before anyone (particularly the person who sent me the message) protests, let me just say that any marketing is better than no marketing. So, if you’re promoting your business—in any way—you have a certain degree of my respect.

However, effective marketing is the best kind. And the most effective is about the customer and their pain points.

How Do I Do That With My Marketing?

You have to be the audience you’re writing to.

I spent 20 years of my life working in the industrial and automotive industries. Now, I write a lot for industrial and service businesses, tool makers, and similar clients. My experience has given me a good understanding of that audience.

When I am hired to write for an audience I am less familiar with, I do research:

  • Customer demographic and other info from the client
  • Online forums about the product or topic
  • Amazon reviews about similar products
  • Online reviews of competing products/services (Yelp can be handy this way) to see what people complain about

A mediocre writer with a good understanding of his audience will always have better success than a “rock star” writer who is less familiar with the audience.

Do enough research, and you can start to take on that audience’s viewpoint. You can understand their attitudes, their biases, and their emotions about their problem and its solution. We all have the capacity to do this.

When you “get into their head” this way, you get a better understanding of how to talk to your audience about their pain points. You know better how to position the benefits of your product or service in relation to those pain points.

All of this falls under “about your audience.” Only after you’ve spent a decent amount of time (or paragraphs) talking about them would you begin to talk about you or your product or service.

Final Thought

People are as cynical as ever about advertising but a well-done direct marketing piece quickly gets past the reader’s cynicism because it talks about their primary interest: self-interest.

As consumers, that’s what we all run on.

So if you’re going to market directly to prospects or customers, always write or speak to them about what matters to them—their concerns, problems, dreams, or fears. Then show how your product/service solves their problem or fulfills their desire.  

Need help reaching your audience? I can help you with that. Call me: 323-646-2469 or email steve (at) stevewagnercopy (dot) com