Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hail the inventive car salesman!

Pleeeeease buy this. It's the call of our people, the need we all feel. Buy my product, buy my argument... buy me—please.

In American culture, the dogged, desperate salesman is an archetype (sorry - not sure what this means, but it seems apt). The salesman is an iconic figure (ooops, another fancy term). American salespeople are known worldwide for their clever patter, big smiles and first-name basis.  

There is something appealing about the salesman. We admire the drive and ingenuity of the guy with a shiny tie, a pasted-on smile and a deep longing to sell you a car.

But oh the heartache. The sadness. Pleeease buy this. The hero of Death of a Salesman gives his advice on selling—tell a few stories, laugh, and "don't look worried." He is doomed.

So in tribute to our culture of selling, we salute the men and women out there pounding the pavement, punching the keypad, and making every interaction a cheerful one. In their honor, Brandsinger shares this image of a lazy afternoon at the car dealership, Avon, Connecticut, June 21, 2012.

God loves the men and women in sales. They do whatever they gotta do.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Destination Branding — a dreary art

It’s called “destination branding”—the art of making cities and towns irresistible to tourists—and it tends to be one of the dreariest folders in a marketer’s filing cabinet.

How do we make Iowa look like paradise to a family with a few bucks to spend on a car trip? How do we make Columbus, Ohio seem like Rome? Somebody has to take a stab at it. And stab they do.

Let’s consider Connecticut. On a New Haven platform waiting for the train to Grand Central, I stand face to face with this scary image posted over a trash can: A smiling flame-haired woman riding piggy-back on a delirious gray-haired model.

The headline reads, “still spirited.” What th…?  Is this about an old-timer who STILL has the whimsy to play a grinning donkey? Is it an ad for vitamins… hair dye… testosterone?… or… Connecticut?
Yes, this couple represents Connecticut in some marketer’s eye—and in the minds of a team of bureaucrats who commissioned the campaign. STILL Revolutionary... What could this be a reference to? In whose fantasy is Connecticut revolutionary?

If Connecticut is “revolutionary,” then any place on earth is anything you say it is. If Connecticut is revolutionary, then Silicon Valley is potato chips. If Connecticut is revolutionary, then San Francisco is tall. If Connecticut is revolutionary, then New York City is equine.

Maybe I’m missing something. I go to Maybe Connecticut IS revolutionary… pardon me, STILL revolutionary. This is the web site.

A revolutionary aquarium. A revolutionary golf package. Revolutionary kids standing in water. Revolutionary canoe paddling. People riding on upright power scooters that, I guess, revolutionized human locomotion.

Destination branding is a dreary business—but needn't be. This campaign is shockingly vapid. It says nothing about the distinctive spirit of Connecticut, and rather than entice people to go there, these images would more likely cause any thinking person to mutter, “Wipe that silly grin off your face.”  


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sometimes tradition demands ambiguity

When I tuned my old scratchy AM radio to baseball last night, I caught the eighth inning of what would be a historic no-hit performance by Mets pitcher Johan Santana. Going into the ninth inning, the Mets announcers described the roaring crowd, the electric excitement, fans on their feet, their own churning stomachs as a no-hit game entered its final moments and yet... NO ONE SAID THAT THE METS PITCHER WAS THROWING A "NO-HITTER."  It was taking place—8 innings without a Cardinal hit—yet not labeled. It was a no hitter, yet the words did not float out of the radio into my kitchen... There was a pink elephant standing right there singing "This Land is Your Land" and yet no one dared say "pink elephant."

The Mets radio announcers—bound by a beautiful tradition—dared not jinx the effort by uttering that term "no-hitter." Ingeniously, they said—perfectly choosing their words!—that "We are entering the ninth inning with the Mets leading eight to nothing... with eight hits in the game... and all of them by the Mets." Read between the lines!—if all the eight hits were by Mets, and it's the ninth inning, then we must have a .... a .... we must be in the final moments of a potential... a... a...

And then it happened. Strike three. Last man out. We can finally scream it out loud: "A no hitter!"

We call for, we advise and celebrate—and by "we" I mean professional communicators—clarity and transparency. When I teach writing the goal is to erase all convoluted syntax and confusing vagueness. And yet, in this case, three cheers for ambiguity. "All the hits are by the Mets" says it all, namely that we are watching history unfold, the first no-hitter in Mets history... yet we dare not say it, jinx it, until the final, futile swing, and the game is in the books.

Bless those announcers for their adherence to a beautiful tradition: You don't say "no hitter" on the air until the final out. Up til then, it's a matter of simply "our team has all the hits... draw your own conclusions."