Friday, May 27, 2022

Trust Your Reader

Paulo Coelho advised, "Keep it simple. Trust your reader. He or she has a lot of imagination. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination."

An example of Coelho's advice being executed well in the marketing world?

These Harley-Davidson ads from over 20 years ago.

Somewhere on an airplane a man is trying to rip open a small bag of peanuts.

Somewhere on an airplane a man is trying to rip open a small bag of peanuts.

Give us life at ground level, rolling along the endless highway on a Harley-Davidson®. 100% depressurized. Just sunlight on chrome. The voice of a V-Twin ripping the open air. And elbow room, stretching all the way to the horizon. Maybe you too think this is the way life ought to be lived. Time to spread some wings. The Legend Rolls On.

Harley-Davidson Lifestyle Ad

No. I've decided to opt for a small and rather uneventful life.

You could eat up a lifetime pondering what to do with your days on earth. Or you could take one look at at machine like the Wide Glide®. And let gut instinct take it from there. Get a load of the high handlebar and stretched-out profile. We didn’t hold anything back in building this ride. So what’s holding you back? The Legend Rolls On.

Harley-Davidson "Nice Harley" Ad

May all your encounters with the law start with the words "Nice Harley.

Be forewarned. There’ll be no keeping a low profile on this one. Raw Sportster® muscle, with a look last seen mixing it up at the local dirt track. Orange and black racing paint job. Wide flat-track handlebar. Curvaceous 2-into-1 exhaust. The new Sportster 883R. Lucky thing there’s no law against having a little fun. The Legend Rolls On.

Harley-Davidson "Upstaging Scenic Overlooks" Ad

Upstaging scenic overlooks since 1903.

Turns out purple mountains don’t have a monopoly on majesty. Not when there’s a Harley-Davidson® in the vicinity. The eye is immediately drawn to the timeless metallic lines of the V-Twin. The perfect shape of the fuel tank. This is our styling tradition. As unchanging yet ever evolving as the landscape itself. The Legend Rolls On.

These ads aren't about horsepower or gas mileage, they're about what it means to own a Harley. 

The freedom. 

The adventure. 

The camaraderie. 

These ads are a master class in associating a brand with a desired identity and lifestyle instead of focusing on product features/benefits. 


Agency: Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis

Photographer: Chris Wimpey

Writer: Jim Nelson 

Here's commentary from Nelson on the "Peanuts" ad: This Ad Didn't Come From Me 


Saturday, May 21, 2022

When Life Gives You Lemons ...

“When life gives you lemons, use them to make lemonade” is a well-recognized -- and overused -- encouragement to take life's challenges (sour), face them, and turn them into something positive (sweet).

What happens when you ask a bunch of creative folks to rewrite the ending to "When life gives you lemons..."

When life gives you lemons, grab tequila and salt

When life gives you lemons eat them whole. Seriously, just choke them all down, skin, pulp, seeds, and all and don’t break eye contact. Maybe life will stop being such an asshole if you show it that you're done fucking around.

When life gives you lemons, put them in your bra! It won’t solve your problems, but the extra attention is nice.

When life gives you lemons, make them the “lemonades of experience” and sell them in “glasses of inspiration”.

When life hands you lemons use the opportunity to add some zest to your life.

When life gives you lemons put them under your mattress and pretend that they are peas and you are the princess.

Unless life gives you water and sugar, that's going to be some crappy lemonade.

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But when life hands you hurricanes, you go surfing.

When life gives you lemons, sell them on eBay.

 Well, when life gives me lemons, I sit in front of a Burger King and throw them at pedestrians.

When life gives you lemons, gift wrap them and give them to someone else.

Life has never given me lemons, it has given me anger issues, anxiety, a love for alcohol, a serious dislike for stupid people. But not lemons.

Other folks -- including Wanda Sykes, Bill Watterson, and James Patterson -- have also squeezed more out of the "If life gives you lemons" philosophy:

“When life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade and then try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.” – Ron White


“When life gives you lemons don’t make lemonade, make pink lemonade. Be unique.” – Wanda Sykes


“When life gives you lemons, you tell life to get a life because lemons are a terrible gift.” – Patrick Schell


“When life gives you lemons, plant its seeds, grow yourself an orchard, sell it to Sunkist. Carry on.” – José N. Harris


“When life hands you lemonade, don’t try to make lemons.” – Vince Guthrie


“When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade. Make a lemon chicken and a rich lemon cheesecake. Blame life for the extra pounds.” – Susie Smith


“When life gives you lemons, chunk it right back.” – Bill Watterson

When Life gives You Lemons - Lemonade Stand

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and sell it to all of those who get thirsty from complaining." – Napoleon Hill


“When life gives you lemons, take it. Don’t waste food.” – Giselle Marquez

"Fuck the lemons and bail." –  Paul Rudd 

"When fate gives us lemons, we should try to make lemonade, not apple juice." –  Robert B. Cialdini. 

"If life gives you lemons, start a podcast on lemon manifesting." – Steve Raju


“When life gives you lemons, order the lobster tail.” – Ziad K. Abdelnour


“When life gives you lemons, make sure you know whose eyes you need to squeeze them in.” – Colleen Hoover

"When life give you lemons, suck all of them dry. Sour experiences can end in sweet victories! Spit out the seeds though." – Kendon Preddie 

“When life gives you lemons, keep them, cause hey – free lemons!” – Jake Hamilton


“When life gives you lemons, exchange them at the store for something more edible.” – Grace Helbig


“When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple.” – Davin Turney


“When life gives you lemons, freeze them and use them to throw at your enemies using some sort of trebuchet.” – Jenny Lawson

"I'm a realist. I say, when life gives you lemons... you probably just *found* lemons." – Bo Burnham 


“When life gives you lemons, learn to juggle.” – James Patterson


“When life gives you lemons, go to a taco stand.” – Mariana Zapata


“When life gives you lemons, make orange juice and leave the world wondering how you did it.” – Mitch Griego

 When life gives you lemons, absorb the vitamin C. – Alakananda Biswas

When life gives you lemons, get rid of that grimace and use that pucker for a kiss! – Fiola Faelan

When life gives you lemons, throw them at the zombies. – Bruce Campbell

When life gives you lemons, make a lemon detox, and stay away from toxic people. – Aman Mandaiya


“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade! Make life take the lemons back… What am I supposed to do with these? I demand to see life’s manager…” – J. K. Simmons


“As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of people in this world: people like Queeg who when life gives them lemons make lemonade, and everyone else. And although those smug lemonade-makers think the rest of us just sit around all day bitching about not getting oranges, they’re wrong. It’s all about volume. When you’re ass-deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher, and a cup of sugar.” ― Melissa DeCarlo


“When life gives you lemons say, 'Cool, what else you got?'” – Carmen in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


“When life hands me lemons I hand them back and pick something else.” – Behdad Sami

"When life gives you lemons, write about 'em!"
– Kimmie Easley

Origin Story

The guy attributed with originating the famous lemons/lemonade phrase of facing adversity with optimism was Elbert Hubbard. In a 1915 obituary he wrote and published for actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder:

"He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.”

It is often attributed to Dale Carnegie who used it in his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”:

"If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade.”

Carnegie credited Julius Rosenwald for giving him the phrase.

That's the origin of the adage, the origin (inspiration) for this blog entry was from a George Tannenbaum social media post: "When life hands you lemons, teach someone to fish for a day."



On LinkedIn today I saw this from Anna Sexton:

When life gives you lemons, get up, go to the kitchen, put a teabag in a mug, boil the kettle, pour the water in the mug, add milk, bring the tea back to your desk, sit down, take a deep breath and DO NOT SPILL YOUR TEA ALL OVER YOUR LAPTOP LIKE I JUST DID.

Another Update

I published a few of these on social media and this appeared in the comments:

When life hands you lemons - Boomers - GenX - Millennials

Sunday, May 15, 2022


Tom Dombroski.

Hadn't thought about Tom in a while when the word "chutzpah" came up in a conversation.

I worked with Tom years ago. He loved describing chutzpah with this story:

On the corner near Tom's office in Baltimore, a elderly lady sold pretzels at a street stand. She charged $1.00 for a big, soft, salted pretzel.

Every day when he walked to lunch, he would pass the stand and pay her a dollar, but he wouldn't take a pretzel.

"I figured that if my grandmother was selling pretzels on the street, I'd appreciate someone making her day a little brighter." he would explain.

This almost daily routine went on day after day. Year after year. 

The two of them never spoke. 

One day as Tom passed the stand and left his dollar, the pretzel lady spoke to him for the first time in over 3 years: "They're a dollar-twenty-five now."

"Now that's chutzpah!" Tom would say as he slapped his hand on the nearest flat surface.

And he would laugh like he had just told the story for the first time.

And that laugh, along with his joy in telling the story, would make me laugh as if I had just heard the story for the first time, too.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Of course you can

Client: "I usually write our copy myself..."

I usually write our copy myself, so it’s hard to justify paying you to write it.

All copywriters have heard this at least once.

When I was starting out I would try to massage their ego by replying, "Of course you can write it yourself. But if I do it, you can focus on more profitable activities ... just like you can change the oil in your car but you pay someone else to do it."

Now that I've been around a while, I can recognized this statement as a red flag that my work and recommendations will be undervalued throughout the engagement. So, I say, "Thanks for your time. Good luck with the project," as I head for the nearest exit.

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...