Direct Marketing 101

I dropped Netflix a while back. The last couple of times I went to the site there was nothing that interested me? I had watched and binged on what I liked and it seemed that was it – nothing new was being added I wanted to watch. That was a while back. So I opted out. I figured as an old Geezer I am out of the target group. Shit happens. And, how many times can I possibly watch “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?”

I received an email today from Netflix with the subject line “Come back today”

The incentive was that they are always adding TV shows and movies. Plus Netflix originals and so on and so forth.

Not really what you’d call an incentive or in my lingo “the offer.”

In DM you have The list, the creative and the offer. Let’s look at each.

The list: Yep me. Folks that have cancelled. However, not once previously did they reach out and ask, “Hey, Pete why did you leave? What can we do to get you back?” And I do not see anything in the email – other than it is to folks that quit, that targets me or a group that opted out?

The Creative: Yeah looks like Netflix alright. And the headline – if I ignore the subject line ACTUALLY being the headline says Enjoy Netflix Again (The translation … Pete send us money!) The rest of it pretty much a yawn.

The offer: None.

What would be a great offer? “Pete we really want you back! We see you were signed up for one device (Our cheapest option! You are one smart, frugal son-of-a-bitch, eh!) here … enjoy Netflix for 3 months or 6 months on any number of devices for the same price!” Or … “Pete we miss you! We are sorry we did something that made you leave … sign up now and here is a (Insert Gift card, some free months or a donation on my behalf to a charity to save a puppy … whatever?) just for you. We really want you back. Hugs and kisses!!!!

All the chatter about privacy and data. Bullshit – they have a few years of data on me and my viewing habits, why not use em? Why? Because people are stupid, lazy and incompetent. Ergo my “Era of the Amateur” saying I bounce around.

Well, net/net(flix) it did not work. Also, in behind this email I sensed two things:

1 – The Netflix folks, much like a lot of online attempts at DM are weak and badly thought out. No strategy and probably run by amateurs. If it is an agency? Fire them.

2 – Arrogance. (Insert corporate chest-pounding) We are NETFLIX resistance is futile you will be assimilated (Rejoin as a member now you Putz.)

Neither of the two “feelings” I got from the email made me “feel” good about Netflix. And kids … adverting and communications is all about how you make the other person feel!

I am surprised there wasn’t a fucking pie chart! Or a deck. SMFH!

It’s no joke

Photo by Michelle Phillips on Unsplash

I read this Harvard Business Review piece and brought back some memories. In the years of lecturing at University on Communications, the topic of jokes and humour always came up! It always came up because I brought it up!

First, in presentations and speaking in public ‘Never tell jokes.” Full stop. It is a hard and fast rule. Professional comedians fall flat on their faces more often than not and we, as mere mortals, neither have the talent, the skill, the creative writing ability nor the hundreds of hours of testing jokes to make sure they fly. And telling a hackneyed old joke does more to get groans than laughs.

So what do you do?

You can relay anecdotes or if a funny instance happens in a speech roll with it. But joke telling is the kiss of death. You have no idea if someone will be offended, you will lose your audience if it flops and your brand will take a hit.

Secondly, about your personal brand?

I was giving a course for a large Telco and one of the sessions was for folks to prepare a 5-minute presentation I would film and go over the video and everyone could contribute – those sessions were my favorite! And a great many folks have told me they loved them. Well, one fellow did a presentation. It was brilliant! The best I had ever seen. He was funny. He was SNL-level funny. Great writing and as a person he was charming and engaging and the life of the party … I mean class.

After the session, I asked him to stay. First I told him how much I loved his skit (It really wasn’t a presentation!) and as someone who was in the entertainment biz for years I thought it ranked up there with the pros.

But …

I asked him to consider something? Let’s say you are well-admired and loved by your peers and managers as I can tell you are. You are maybe known as the “funny” guy. or the “hilarious” guy! What do senior managers look for in promotable folks? Does “the funny” guy brand rank up there with; Strong work ethic: Setting and achieving goals. … Dependable: Consistently following through. … Positive attitude: Creating a good environment. …Self-motivated: Working effectively with little direction … a team player?

Now I did not ask him for that answer right then, but I did tell him to think of this. This is a music truism.

One of the keys to great music is dynamics. For something to sound loud you have to have something quiet (soft) in front of it. It is about relationships.

There’s no punch line in team!

So if you are the hilarious guy … make sure there are way-more serious and work-related business/serious moments. Not only does this make the funny bits stand out – you also leave room for other folks to shine. There’s no punch line in team! And you can be noticed for all the other wonderful talents you have … plus your humour.

You also will more than likely get the attention of senior management for your good spirits occasionally rather than being a one-trick pony.

Yep laugh at the office, but don’t become the class clown!

Possibly the best lesson

I was having a conversation with a youngster yesterday who was just getting their feet wet in the business world. I wanted to share with you, as I did with them, one of the most important stories I was told many, many years ago.

Look at the illustration for this post.

What do you see?

Most folks – if not everybody – see a “black dot.”

Well, that is an example of why things aren’t working as well as they should for you. That black dot represents everything that is wrong right now. The bad coffee, the idiot Boss, the way you are treated, the shitty work, the fact you got up this morning, tore a hole in your new outfit, spilled juice on yourself and the cat peed on you. All that stuff! And more.

It goes on and on, doesn’t it? This is sadly the most critical issue you face – it is called fear … the fear of failure. It masks itself in all sorts of manifestations – mostly us wanting to have something else to blame for our failures. It is so convenient that way.

Well, I believe that the first thing to do is look at the rest of that illustration. I call the technique “eliminating Black Dot Days”.

There will always be something wrong – there will always be a gripe. But by focusing on these things – the Black Dot – you are missing the big picture … you are missing the point. You miss all the great things in life. Look at the big picture – the white space represents everything that is right with your life.

Think about it.

Some advice you’ll thank me for later

alexandru-acea-476234-unsplashThe following are observations that, in my forty-plus years in business, most at senior executive levels, are true. And more importantly elegant and simple to implement. 

I have tried to live by these and they have never let me down.

1) … the 5 Minute Rule. 

If you are running a department or division, implement this for your staff. If you are a worker bee, practice this yourself and practice it religiously!  “The 5 Minute Rule” is wonderfully simple. When someone says something, you are not allowed to say anything negative about it for 5 minutes. 

Ponder the possibilities? Whatever has been said may sound absurd or it may be treasonous to your company. Fine – let it sit for 5 minutes. Maybe the polar opposite will work? Maybe there is a stout reasoning behind what is being said – context is King!  And subsequently,  if you do not immediately slam the idea with a negative, the person offering the thought will be encouraged to contribute again rather than feel put down and stay silent. 

2) … Sell yourself, then your product, then your company.

People buy from people they trust. Managers hire and promote people they trust!  Trust is key!

There is absolutely no upside to spreading gossip. Full stop. Do not encourage folks by listening to it, do not engage in it yourself and certainly do not spread it.

Even the old-time, car salesman with the checkered pants and white belt was successful because he was trusted. He sold your Dad all his cars over the years and was a trusted advisor. In David Maister’s book “The Trusted Advisor” he outlines the process of mapping trust development. It is a fascinating read and you can use it to measure your level of trust and see how the “Pros” do it!  Add it to your summer reading list!

3) … Habits

One of the best things I was ever told, “We are creatures of habits. Good habits and bad habits. And every day try and replace a bad habit with a good one.”

This was a gift that I was given many years ago. And every single day since then, if I find something that I am doing that is a bad habit, I try and replace it, or at least remove it. There is a huge sense of accomplishment when you overcome a bad habit!

4) … Gossip

This is one, sure-fire way, to ruin your personal brand. Whether it is with friends and family of in the workplace. There is an old saying, “If you do not have something good to say, don’t say anything.”

Trust me on this, there is absolutely no upside to spreading gossip. Full stop. Do not encourage folks by listening to it, do not engage in it yourself and certainly do not spread it. It is a career limiting move. It is deadly and once you have done it, it cannot be undone. 

5) … Remember Mark Twain

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”

This quote has been attributed to Samuel Clemens. In nearly 4 decades since I heard this quote, I have seen it played out hundreds, if not thousands of times. Let me elaborate.

In business, we sometimes fall prey to worrying about what the competition is up to? Do they have a new product? Are they about to embark on a new pricing strategy? Are they innovating better than us? And so on and so forth.  

Yes of course it’s prudent to be market aware and know your competition, but I could list hundreds of examples where all this “outward” worry and fear was wasted when the company should have focused on what it was doing inwardly that was, at the very least causing them problems, and at the very worst putting them out of business.  Too often businesses run on some sort of corporate “dogma.”

Hope you can see the elegance of these simple ideas and maybe you can put some, or all of them, into practice?  

I believe you get promoted and/or hired because there ends up being two types of people; “people that do”, and “people that don’t.”  You must strive daily to be atop the “People that Do” list. That means you can be counted on.

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

Thoughts …


I have been driving for over 50 years. Never had a collision. Not even a near miss. Why? I believe first I was taught by some great drivers starting at 10 on an old Jeep at my uncle’s farm and my parents who were both excellent drivers. I then had over 400 hours of driver training while on the Toronto Police force. In fact, was deployed as a driver trainer for a while.

But a couple of weeks ago I was rear-ended. Stopped at an intersection and pushed into the intersection by a huge truck. Guy wasn’t paying attention. The vehicle was written off. This incident started me thinking.

Canada is neither the most dangerous country to drive in nor the safest.

In 2017 there were 1,858 fatalities with approximately 160,000 injuries.

And I would bet most if not all were preventable.

I am motivated to try and do something about this. Just today there were four news items that crossed my desk about fatalities. Impaired driving, distracted driving or excessive speed. All preventable.

I am starting to consider what I could do to try and stop these from happening. It may sound quite Don Quixote-esque but that is not going to stop me.

I am reasonably proficient at creating corporate strategies and developing rollout plans. I will touch base here from time to time as an update. I have no idea what to do, but I want to try. This pandemic has me worried.

Stay tuned.

If you have any ideas please let me know.

Opt Out

Social MediaIf there is one rule I have … “If it ain’t fun, I’m not
doing it!

That’s why I am off Facebook.

I have left an account there that allows me access to the half dozen pages I manage. Two pages are mine the rest belong to other people.

My time is valuable. Reading non-stop rants about Trump or Trudeau or Ford or Wynne and insipid, trite and poorly written “feel good” posts or the abundance of clickbait… well, enough was enough. I believe Social Media should be social. And I believe you should post only what you create or if someone else’s intellectual property – give them full credit. But originality to me is key. And so little on my feed was original?

Sure I could trim my friend’s list or “Snooze” folks but that to me is not the online experience nor the social part of social media and would be censorship. So I am out! Folks can do what they like. Knock yerselves out!

And, I can exercise my free will and not be subjected to stuff that does not feel good, nor is fun!

I still have accounts on other sites and do not feel the same barrage of not-so-great content that Facebook had become. Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Youtube and Reddit and a bunch of others are seemingly fine at the moment.

As someone who believes strongly in the essence of The Cluetrain, Facebook is failing fast. Ads upon ads. As someone who owned magazines I am no stranger to monetizing eyeballs – but the percentage of ads vs editorial (If you call FB posts editoria>) is out of whack.

There is no downside to this decision. I get news from other sources. And I stay in touch with folks in other ways.

It’s all in the meaning

I once read, “Writing not only illuminates the reader, it illuminates the author.”

The choice of words certainly illuminates the author. Today I heard a commentator on the radio say, “The NFL players should use their privilege to …”

Hold on! First, that word not only has a defined meaning – if you look it up it’s described as:
a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

And the synonyms are even more illuminating:
advantage, entitlement, right, benefit

But it currently has probably more power than it should – being used as a slur, a derogatory term, or an insult. “White Privilege.”

I was stopped in my tracks when the commentator used that term. So offputting that I did not listen to the next three or four sentences. And, I was happy to ignore this person’s “upspeak” and “vocal fry” to try and stay focused to hear what was being said about the “#takeaknee issue. But could not.

A word misused like this can derail a sentence, a message and possibly even a speech someone is giving. Words are that important!

When you are writing for the spoken word it is very different than writing for the written word. Another issue is if you are “winging it” as in not “on script” the misuse of words can be fatal.

I bet the right word, in this case, was something like – celebrity, or prominence, or being in the public eye? Maybe it was meant as a slur?

No athlete I know of was granted the right to play their chosen sport – especially at professional levels. They all worked extremely hard and long to get to these elevated ranks.

Unlike the Washington commentator who yet again proves we are dead in the middle of the Era of the Amateur.

Online Ads

There are reports that online ads are doomed. I doubt that for some reason, call it scepticism on my part. However, I do question the following …

In the last day or so I was reading reports on the Las Vegas shooting. Hard not to! But what did bother me was that as I was reading the news reports – on several different news sites and blogs – banners ads and tower ads popped up. Having been in, and owned magazines, we always were cognizant of what ads went opposite what articles – consumer are trade mags both.

So I am reading the dire news and up pops all manner of ads.

What does that do to the brand of the advertiser?

OMG 59 people dead … Oh, a trip? Oh, a car? Oh my God no!

Advertising is not something done by the faint of heart. It requires resources (People and money) and professionals to steward the process from creation to placement.

As a fan of behavioral targeting which is a technique used by advertisers and publishers to utilize a web user’s previous web browsing behavior to customize the types of ads they receive, is it not possible to match – or in the case of horrible news forgo showing me a “Whoop-de-do something or other” as I am reading horrible news?

I just checked and yep, there are ads on an obituary page. Weight loss. And insurance. We are doomed.

(Well, I did put down the muffin I was eating!)

Metaphors, or fives? (The CIBC Ads)

The CIBC’s recently expanded Private Wealth Management campaign is pretty damn good! Saw the ads and loved it.

It proves the right clients get the right ads – or, at least, ads they deserve.

We did a similar “metaphor-type” campaign for a software company in the insurance business. It did NOT go well. Wish we had these folks as clients!

This is an excerpt from a book I have almost finished. I have my first book on Amazon and it will be released next month. It’s called “You suck at presentations!: Learn how to present like the Pros!” a topic near and dear to my heart.

The next book is a collection of Biz-Related Stuff called, “My Biz Book,” which will be available for purchase soon …

From “My Biz Book.”

While on a piece of business, yours truly, the ever-daunting Creative Director and “Suit in Creative-Sheep’s” clothing, was pitching some new ideas that – in my humble opinion – were simply brilliant. A problem we had with this client was that they had no USP (You know Rosser Reeves …et al) and in order to relieve them of some budget, we decided to press on in our inimitable fashion and do what a colleague of mine would call “Conditional Positioning”

Sidebar: God how I love that phrase. It means when you don’t have a strategy, no value prop and nary a USP on the horizon … you do some creative and wait till they figure it out. At least it won’t screw em up by doing something strategic.

By the way for all you closet etymologists out there, does “Strategic” come from the Latin words “Stray” and “Ejit.” (That is really funny if you say it out loud in an Irish accent.

Anyway, je digress…

We did up a series of wonderful ads using major iconic, historical figures to represent the timelessness, and structure of their software. Architectural references as a metaphor, in fact. Man, were we smart!

We had  Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and da Vinci. While I was presenting to the VP  of Marketing and going along nicely performing my “Husky & Appaloosa” routine happily unveiling the boards in a similar fashion to when Michelangelo showed the Sistine Chapel to the Medici when I came to the ad using da Vinci’s famous Venetian portico. The VP sat, stared and like the moose in the fog lamps and said…”Who’s da Vinci?”

Inside I was having a great roar  of laughter and was about to enjoy the moment of humour with him out loud by extolling a “Good one, Bubba!” When it dawned on me… “He wasn’t kidding. He was deadly serious!” This moron did NOT know who da Vinci was?

We had that lovely, awkward moment – akin to the seemingly endless pregnant silence on the front porch at the end of a first date wondering who puts out first – when the silence was broken by said marketing genius who told me point blank – “You know, you have to stop giving us all this crazy, wild stuff … we just want shots of handshakes and globes.

Ok, listen … Skippy, maybe read a book? Or, if all you know about the world and culture and art came from Bugs Bunny cartoons find some re-runs. They mentioned da Vinci in episode 43 with Marvin the Martian.

I happily resigned the account.

Two Headed Calf and The Bearded Woman (Part Two)

Here is a good -enough paper on advertising’s State of the Nation(ish). You see all media was created with one purpose – to sell ads. That is how they pay the salaries and overheads to a large degree. Now before you start frothing, yes there are exceptions PBS and The Economist and National Geographic, I did not put CBC in here because they sell ads online – which is a totally different argument.
Media, and NOT Social Media because there is no such thing! Media is distributed and can be audited. It is called The Web. And The Social Web. The Social Web because you now create the content which fills in the spaces between the ads. And the data you serve up (Your privacy is no longer) is the product. Now back to media … it needs your attention for ads to work and to get it at one time they relied on their “Brand;”
“I only read The Telegram!”
Or “Scoops;”
“Read it here first!”
Then “Tabloid Journalism;”
Exclusive pictures of “Diana’s Death Car!”
Well, that all stopped working in print and in broadcast. The Net came along in the 50s and was used primarily government scientists and universities up til the late 70s early 80s. Bulletin Board Systems became popular in the late 80s and then the World Wide Web happened and it all went to hell in a handcart!
I was on Facebook today for a moment managing company pages (I do not go on there anymore for social stuff.)  and right at the top of my feed was a post about a woman arrested in the States in a women’s restroom because someone complained she was a transgendered person. And the (LITERALLY) hundreds of comments were so embarrassing – I read about 20 and wanted to puke.
You see if you believe this crap and you then go off on a tangent you are a moron. One click on Google and it was well-documented this was a story originating from satire site and the picture used was from an arrest 5 or so years ago of two women protesting that people of the same sex couldn’t get married.
My conclusions:
1 – People cannot or will not read. Buy a book. Without pictures!
2 – People are closed minded – Trump is evil. Blacks are evil. Whites are evil. Dems are evil! GOP are evil! Cops are evil. Men are evil. Women are evil. And on and on and so on and so forth. In any instance any one of these corollaries can be true – but NEVER in every instance!
3 – We as a society (Especially the States!) is screwed. Or at least till these moron’s kids grow up and realize what troglodytes their parents are – and in this case, their Mothers are – cause it was mostly women with the asinine comments – and hopefully when these kids start thinking for themselves, put these imbeciles in homes and maybe they can create a better world? Women TURN OFF The View!
4 FaceBook – like AOL in the early 90s (And thank God that was short lived) is now replacing TV as the open sewer in your living rooms. Turn this crap off. Read a book, talk to your kids, go outside – based on the comments on that post, you might learn something from your kids – because it is obvious your 9 years in school did bugger all. You can name every one of the Kardashians, but not your State capital.
5 – If anything is too good to be true, sensational, weird or fanciful I will bet dollars to doughnuts it is a fake. And it is fake to get you to look at it. Your eyeballs are where the money is. Or, even worse some amateur journalist trying to get attention. ME ME ME ME ME ME!!!!! 
Anyway, end of my rant.
PS: You are falling for it. Don’t.
PPS: Stop worrying about GMOs and Climate a/ because you haven’t a clue what either are and b/ you can’t do anything about them – this you can and should do something!.
And … sorry … I urge you – when you see a stupid story on Facebook block the poster. God help you if they are your friend. But if they continue to be your friend … well, that says a lot about you,. no?