Archives for March 2014

Pay Attention to What Makes You Cry: A Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Decision-Making

I'm a writer

Something strange was happening.

For close to 6 months I’d feel on the verge of tears every time I read Danielle LaPorte’s blog. Ditto when visiting Linda Sivertsen’s Book Mama website, reading her blog posts, and especially when watching the video about her Carmel writer’s retreats.

Sometimes I’d actually shed those tears.  

Here’s how it looked:

Open email for the day.  Ah! Danielle’s newest blog post. Groovy. “Why Self-Improvement Makes You Neurotic.” Great, I love that topic!  Read. Feel wave of emotion. Tears just about to announce themselves, but don’t.  Feeling rattled and unsettled.  Hmm.

Or this:

Linda’s recent newsletter arrives in in-box.  Feel excited. Begin reading “Writing with Scissors,” about the editing process. Feel bathed in a warm glow of identification and recognition. But, wait! There it is – begin feeling weepy.

If I was keeping track of how many times this happened on my handy abacus, all the beads would be on the right-hand side and I’d be sliding them back over to the left to start the count over again. I couldn’t make sense of it. What was provoking these emotional mini-dramas?

I mean, sure, both Linda and Danielle are gifted writers and what they write about is often moving.  As a writer, I identify with many of the topics they so eloquently cover. And as an emotional creature, feeling moved to near tears while reading something inspirational isn’t unusual for me.

But this was different. It was repeated and insistent, and happened even when the subject matter was ordinary.  Feeling near tears while reading about the editing process – what gives? I was having a hard time figuring it out.  Not to mention, it was becoming a tad inconvenient to flounce around in a near-permanent state of emotional quiver. 

But I’m a world-class navel-gazer, so I knew with enough deep reflection into the minutia of my every fleeting thought and feeling I could figure this out.

After a while, it dawned on me:  the emotional reaction I’m having is because these writers are living the kind of writer’s life I want to live, but don’t – they write and publish regularly, have traditionally published books out, and enjoy creative and financial abundance, doing what they love to do. They’ve created a satisfying and remunerative writing life for themselves based on their strengths and skill sets as writers, writing what they want to write.  

I had to admit that this is what I too want to create. I’ve known it in my gut for a long time. But I hadn’t done it, nor was I even trying to do it. “It,” at the very least, meant carving out time to work on my own writing apart from client writing projects.  So the tears, near as I can tell, were because I wasn’t living in alignment with my truth (I know, I’m very sorry to have to use that phrase, and I really hope you’ll forgive me, but it works here), when faced with two talented writers who are. I felt like the kind of writing life I wanted to create was passing me by. And I ain’t gettin’ any younger, kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my copywriting clients to the heavens and I’m deeply grateful for the interesting projects I’m blessed to work on for them. I thoroughly enjoy writing and creating marketing strategy for them, and for my own copywriting business; it’s work that fuels and excites me.

However.

What I knew for sure was that I wanted to make room in my life for longer, more reflective writing than the kind you can do on a blog or in a newsletter that’s geared to helping your audience achieve a specific business or marketing goal.  Who knows what this writing would end up looking like, but I knew I was game to see.

So when Linda Sivertsen announced the Your Big Beautiful Book Plan Telecourse recently, I jumped at the chance to take it. Even though between client work and business classes and other commitments, I’m clocking in about 60 hours a week right now. Even though I had to charge it to my credit card, because as luck would have it, client invoices went out, but haven’t been paid yet this month. And even though I made a commitment to myself not to take one more course until I finish the ones I’m in the middle of now.

Besides, I had buying Danielle and Linda’s Your Big Beautiful Book Plan digital course (which is a separate thing from the telecourse) on my 2014 plan already – for September or October, not March, fer cryin’ out loud.  March was wildly inconvenient, March was for other business priorities, March was all wrong for so many reasons.

But I couldn’t deny the way getting the email announcement about the telecourse made me feel.  Giddy. Excited. Liberated. A big fat resounding yeeeeesssss radiating from every cell.  When I went to bed that night, I tossed and turned all night dreaming of the possibilities. I also felt weepy (see? there it is again) at the prospect of another dream deferred if I chose not to do this now.

When I woke the next morning I was certain I had to take this course, other commitments be damned.  Out came the credit card.  That was March 5.  It’s been 8 days since I did this thing that I’m sure is going to change my life. And I feel jubilant. 

And I think I can toss the Kleenex.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  : )

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing

Baby Carrots_blog image

 

Consider the carrot. The baby carrot, to be precise.  

A nutritious, wholesome, feel-good snack you can feel smug about eating, what with its minimal calories and healthy dose of good-for-you beta-carotene.

And sure, they’re good for you, but the truth is, they’re just not that interesting, are they? I mean, carrots, right? They’ve been around for 2000 years, they’re not trendy or hip like ramps or kale, or whatever other produce happens to be taking its star turn this year; they’re not really unique or special in any way. 

So, what if it was your task to “brand” them? What if you had to come up with a way to position baby carrots so they could compete with, say, cheetohs, potato chips or other junk food as a snack alternative?

Maybe you’d think, well, let’s promote their health benefits, that’ll do it!

Unfortunately, that line of thinking happens not to work all that well.

(Horrifying factoid: In 2012, $116 million dollars was spent on advertising fruit and veggies. And $2 billion was spent on advertising junk food to kids.  Yes, you read that right – $2 billion dollars.  Damn, that’s a lot of money spent to convince kids to eat crap!)

Even though print and online publications have been touting the joys and benefits of eating fruits and vegetables for years, not to mention many dozens of stories appearing on TV about the dangers of unhealthy eating, produce still has trouble competing for our shopping dollars, and per capita consumption isn’t up.

What’s a carrot seller to do?  And what’s the point of all this talk about carrots, anyway?  

My point, and I do have one, is that with enough creativity and resourcefulness, you can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience, as I talked about previously here

Bolthouse Farms did this with carrots a few years ago. And if you can do it for carrots, you can do it for your creative products and services.

How Bolthouse Farms Transformed Carrots from Boring Agricultural Commodity to Cool, Crave-able Snack

A few years ago, Jeffrey Dunn, President and CEO of Bolthouse Farms, which grows and processes more than a billion pounds of carrots a year, was shopping for an ad agency to help create a campaign around baby carrots. Bolthouse had never marketed its carrots before, but sales were down, so Dunn decided to shake things up and get creative.

But he didn’t want to appeal to smarts and responsibility as in, “eat carrots because they’re good for you,” he wanted to market his company’s baby carrots in a different way. He knew that pitting the health benefits of the cute veggie against the perils of eating junk food wasn’t going to cut it. Instead he wanted something funny and emotional that appealed to impulse snacking.

Enter ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  Instead of pitching a campaign centered around the health benefits of carrots, Crispin proposed aligning the baby carrot with junk food.

In an article in Fast Company, Omid Farhang, vice president and creative director at Crispin, said “The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favorite junk food. They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive.”

The idea was to do the same kind of marketing for carrots as for things like Coke and cheetohs, because as Dunn was quoted as saying in the Fast Company article, “If all we do is tell people fruits and vegetables need to be part of their diet or they’re not going to be healthy – the rational approach – we have zero chance.”  

Think about it – we already know we need to eat our veggies, so telling us that in an ad campaign has no impact. As Farhang said, “What a silly use of advertising dollars to tell people that vegetables are healthy.”

Instead, the campaign they rolled out featured new packaging in which baby carrots were packaged like Doritos, in a crinkly potato chip bag with junk-food-style graphics, and an ad campaign with taglines such as “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” and “Baby Carrots: The Original Orange Doodles.”

You can read more about the whole she-bang in the fabulous article in Fast Company, “How Carrots Became the New Junk Food.” And check out the Bolthouse Farms website here for a great example of how to position with personality in order to stand out in your niche.

Marketing Lessons and Questions to Ponder

I don’t know if it’s because I once worked for an ad agency and I appreciate a killer creative marketing campaign when I see one, but I haven’t been able to get the Baby Carrots story out of my head since I first heard about it late last year.

It’s proof that positioning with personality works.  (Sales in Bolthouse’s test markets went up 10% to 12% over the year before in the year following the test campaign.)

Think about how Bolthouse Farms went against the standard approach in this campaign by deciding not to use a health benefits approach, instead aligning themselves with junk food.  How can you apply this kind of creative thinking to your own marketing?

Consider how Bolthouse uses personality to transform baby carrots from a healthy, but boring vegetable into a hip, crave-able snack.  Are there ways you can do this with your creative products and services?

Share your thoughts in the comments! 

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