Wednesday, February 24, 2021


"Who wants this hundred-dollar bill?" 

The speaker at the podium held up a hundred-dollar bill and asked again,
"Who wants this Benjamin?"

I had never been to a seminar before. My eyes darted around the room and I saw some hands go up.

Again: "Who wants this hundo?"

I raised my hand high. A few people responded, "Me, Me."

"Does anybody want this hundred-dollar bill?"


"It's a new, crisp hundred-dollar bill. Want it?"

"Who wants this hundred dollars?"

Everybody knew that we all wanted it, so where was this going?

The enthusiasm waned. Hands started to drop.

"C'mon. Who wants it?"

"Fuck this," said my co-worker Stan Perlmutter as he stood up.

I watched Stan walk down the aisle toward the podium.

The room got very quiet.

I watched Stan approach the speaker.

I heard Stan say, "I want it," as he took the bill out of the speaker's hand.

I froze. I don't think I was breathing. The room was still and silent.

My co-worker Harry, slowly shook his head.

"If you want something, stand up and do something for it."

When we heard the speaker say these words, Harry and I looked at each other.

"Freakin' Stan," Harry murmured as he started a slow clap. In moments, the entire audience was applauding.

When Stan got back to his seat, grinning ear to ear, he brandished his windfall, pointed to the portrait on the bill and said, "Drinks are on Benjamin Franklin tonight."

I've carried that moment throughout my working life. I've told it to others, including my kids. Always reminding them not to overlook opportunity and to grab it when it presents itself. 

If opportunity is presented to you, boldly stand up, walk past the other people who don't recognize it for what it is, and take it.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

How to Evaluate Brand Behavior

Do you have a brand strategy? 

I hope so. It’s important. But understand that in reality, your customers and target customers never experience your brand strategy. 

They experience your brand behavior, and they experience that in brand moments that bring your strategy to life.

As such, these moments of brand behavior --  interaction and reaction with real customers in the real marketplace -- are critical to successful branding. Your brand should treat people like people, individuals if possible, and not just product/service users or sales targets.

One simple way to take a look at your brand is through

George Tannenbaum’s Brand Behavior Checklist

George doesn’t call it this. I do when I follow his advice:

“To evaluate the behavior of brands, I've made things simple for myself. Do the brands I interact with act like people I like? Do they treat me like I would like to be treated? Are they more like a friend and a help or a pickpocket and a fiend?”

George characterizes most brands, most organizations, most companies you work for, and most people you work for as say “one thing and do something else. Mostly rob you of your time in an ongoing effort to rob you of your money.”

Would George describe your brand that way?

When it comes to your personal brand and/or your company brand:

  • Act like people your customers like
  • Treat your customers the way they want to be treated
  • Act more like a supportive friend
  • Respect your customers’ time

PS George reminds us: This is a really simple business.

We like brands that act like people we like.

We like brands that are honest.

We like brands that understand our issues.

We like brands that speak to us as equals.

We like brands that don't condescend.

We like brands that don't bullshit us.

We like brands that don't holler.

We like brands that don't tell us how great they are.

We like brands that are honest and admit when they fuck up.

We like brands that tell the truth.

We like brands that help us.

We like brands that listen.

We like brands that are funny.

We like brands that are reliable.

We like brands that are consistent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

22 Awful Analogies

I encourage writers to use analogies to illustrate a concept by taking another concept that their audience already understands and connecting it to the concept the writer is explaining. 

Not only can this result in the target audience understanding, but they also tend to bring along the emotions associated with the concept you used in the analogy.  

To quote some accomplished writers:

Our brains are great at comparing multiple things, tracking connections, and observing patterns. As a result, comparisons, metaphors, and analogies make for great persuasive writing tools. – Jacob McMillen

I love thinking about analogies – so much of the creative process involves finding lateral connections between things. – Nick Asbury

Use analogies to anchor the new in something the audience knows to get them to think about it in a new way. – Joel Klettke

Analogies Gone Awry

My friend, author Madison Barlow, sent me this list of  painfully terrible analogies. She said they made her both cringe and chuckle, so she couldn't resist sharing them.

Neither can I.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room temperature Canadian bacon.

He had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a Rottweiler makes before it throws up.

Bertram fell 14 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.

Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.

Her lips were red and full, like tubes of blood drawn by an inattentive phlebotomist. 

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

She was like a magnet: Attractive from the back, repulsive from the front. 

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

Gary and Maureen had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who also hadn't met.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon. 

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it. 

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. 

 It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

He was as tall as a 6'4" tree.

The revelation that his marriage of 26 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge free ATM.

Th thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet. 

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Frank. But unlike Frank, this plan just might work.

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze. 

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00pm instead of 7:30.

Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter 

The ballerina rose gracefully en point and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

“Oh, Josh, take me!” she panted, her breasts heaving like a college freshman on $1-a-beer night. 

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

The little boat drifted across the pond, exactly the way a cinder block wouldn't.

Thank you, Madison ... in return, here's a plug (it's the least I could do): Grab a free copy Madison Barlow's She's Mine and if you like this short story, check out her books (also available on Amazon). 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

A copywriter must be …

A copywriter must be …

… able to tell a product’s story in an interesting way that can differentiate it and make it successful. 

… a fierce editor, judging their copy by its ability to generate the desired response.

… knowledgeable about what keeps their target audience up at night before they start writing.

… aware that if the rhythm ain’t right, the words have less impact.

… a voracious reader, understanding that immersing themselves in good writing is one of the best things a writer can do to become a better writer.

… cognizant that making an emotional connection with their target market gives their words more power to influence their audience and persuade them to take action.

… intimately knowledgeable about the rules so they can bend and break those rules specifically to their best advantage.

… one part writer and one part marketer.

… able to deliver value to their clients by delivering value to their prospects/customers.

… focused on how the targeted audience will respond to the message, not how well written or clever their writing is.

… comfortable using the power of regret to help the prospect see themselves in a picture they want to avoid

… aware that copywriting doesn't start or stop with just the words.

… willing to build a deep understanding of the target consumer and their emotional and intellectual triggers.

… willing to occasionally break the unwritten rules of how things are “supposed” to be done.

… focused on a defined goal for each piece of copy, making every word contribute towards that goal.

… able to write how their clients’ customers talk.

… knowledgeable of why the buyers of a product or service are excited about what they get from it and then get potential buyers to feel that enthusiasm to the point they will buy it.

… anything but boring.

This post was inspired by world-class copywriter Eddie Shleyner who was "doing some research for a neat project" and wanted folks to finish the sentence: A copywriter must be … 

He wanted one answer. I came up with these 18 and sent him 3.

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

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