Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Trying Too Hard to be Cool

One of the things I don't like to do is to comment on other people's creative work. Unless I am asked. But today, Chelsea Clinton asked me for some input.

Chelsea's email began: "We need your help to make a critical decision -- our next official campaign t-shirt." The message included a link to vote on my favorite design. Apparently this is the result of a contest where the Hillary campaign asked for the public's input for a new design that will presumably help them turn it around.

According to Chelsea, "It wasn't easy to narrow it down, but we've chosen five we think are particularly great." They've narrowed it to five designs, all with little connection with anything we've seen in the campaign. The ideas they have put forth present no consistency in image or message.
Looking at the designs I can't help but think it's in response to the recent press that Obama's poster has gotten. One of them looks looks like a lame attempt at mimicking Shepard Fairey's Obama poster by giving Hillary's face a pop art treatment. It's badly done art and worse, has no cohesive message.

The Clinton campaign hires top level consultants to shape every aspect of its image. I wonder why they didn't do the same here. Imagine putting to a vote what Hillary's next strategy should be in the primaries. No doubt a contest seemed like a good idea -- they probably wanted it to appear as a home grown effort. But with all of Hillary's supporters among the creative community they could have done better with professional help. A lot better. The Hillary people should know this better than anyone.

Unfortunately for Hillary, it's too little too late. And it doesn't matter what I think.

Copyright 2008, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Friday, May 2, 2008

It's All About We

I was looking at a trade journal the other day, and started taking note of some the ads that stood out. There was one in particular for a law firm that stopped me with a compelling image. Unfortunately the rest was a disappointment. Reading it reminded me of listening to the person who corners you at a party and bores you to death talking about himself. The copy was riddled with "Our firm does this" and "this is what is important to us . . . blah blah blah." So what. In a message supposedly to engage potential customers, they used "we" seven times within a three sentence paragraph. This was the case with most of the professional services ads in the publication.

One breath of fresh air was an ad for a company marketing its services to the same audience. It didn't use the "we" word once. Interestingly they used "you" and "your"six times.

One of my favorite expressions is from a copywriter friend who always advised clients not to "we all over the page." He was referring to the use of "we" and other pronouns (like "our" and "us") when writing marketing copy. It's an easy trap to fall into. It's a challenge to avoid the "we" word when writing about your business. His advice was to try frame the message as a benefit. People care about what's in it for them. When you start a sentence with "you" or "your", it's a lot easier to focus on what is of value to the reader. And you've already primed readers with their most interesting subject: themselves.

If you were a homeowner concerned with maintenance, which of the following sentences would be more engaging? "We are specialists in painted ceilings." Or, "You can extend the life of your porch with the right ceiling treatment."

It's easy to talk about yourself. And it's essential to do so when you're trying to promote yourself and your business. The hard part is to talk about you in a way that makes people want to listen. Replacing "we" with "you" is a good start.

Copyright 2008, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.