Blitzster Can Build Your Social Media Followers

Posted on June 29th, 2015

Technology continues to provide many new tools for brand building. Over the next few months I’m going to talk about different apps and sites that we’re using for our clients and our own online marketing. I think you’ll find these recommendations eye-opening and very useful.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now or if you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in the world, you know how important it is to build your social media presence. But just like planting the oak tree we talked about a while back, the best time to have started building critical mass on social media was months or even years ago. Or today.

Here’s a great — and free — new way to start building your social media following on Facebook or Twitter. Direct your browser to Blitzster.com and let their service help you build your fan base. Blitzster is a new online service and mobile app that incentivizes your customers and clients to like or follow you online.

Blitzster lets you create an offer – a percentage-off discount perhaps, or a free sample – that your customers and fans will receive after they “like” you online. That way you’re not only incentivizing your customers to post positive things about your company or products but you’re also establishing a relationship with a value-for-value exchange.

Blitzster Banner

To make it as easy as possible for you, the Blitzster app lets you set up your campaign and even print posters for your location and HTML codes for your website that include QR codes and URLs for your customers to access. Blitzster also tracks your users and provides you with up-to-the-minute metrics that you can use to test concepts, establish the effectiveness of your offers, and watch your social media following grow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, retailer, speaker or consultant, you’ll be able to use Blitzster to both engage and entertain your customers and build your social media roster. If you’re a CMO or social media manager or other marketing professional, you’ll be able to use Blitzster to strengthen your company’s social media efforts. And if you work in advertising, PR, social media or web design, you’ll not only be able to use Blitzster to increase your clients’ social media census but you’ll also have another service in your quiver that you can sell to your customers and further demonstrate your value.

Here’s how I’m going to use Blitzster, by the way. Each week more and more people sign up to be on my blog distribution list without Blitzster, but wouldn’t it be great if they also followed me on Twitter or liked me on Facebook in exchange for the post? I’ve used Blitzster to build a campaign that offers free registration to this blog in exchange for new users following me on Twitter. When they do I’ll have more ways to reach out to them and many more people to communicate with when my next book comes out – all of which will help me build and monetize my own brand. After all, I’m already writing and distributing these blog posts for free – why not use them to help build my online census at no additional expense?

That capability – plus the fact that Blitzster is absolutely free – is the good news. The bad news is that Blitzster is a beautiful concept wrapped in a still evolving interface and should be a bit more intuitive. But as Peter Diamandis wrote in his book BOLD – “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Surely the Blitzster guys aren’t guilty of waiting too long – instead they’ve put their product out there for us to use right now.

So go online and use Blitzster to build your business. It’s the easiest and most effective way I’ve found to grow your followers and fans. And it’s free. With Blitzster you’ll be able to incentivize your customers to engage with your social media sites across all of your various marketing efforts, both on- and offline.

Once you’ve experienced Blitzster, do me a favor. Write back and let me know how your experience went and what you discovered along the way. I’m curious to see how easy you found the site to navigate and also what you were able to do with Blitzster’s technology. And if you have ideas about how to make it better I’d love to hear them too. I want to do a follow-up blog on how my readers are using Blitzster so I’m very interested to hear what you discover.

Whether or not you send me your opinion, you’ll still be able to use Blitzster to build your social media following and build your business. And that’s certainly worth a little of your time and initiative.


Donald Trump is Not Running for President.

Posted on June 22nd, 2015

Remember the village idiot? He was the only one person who watched the naked emperor parade down the street and pointed out that the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes. Everyone else fumfered and mumbled and looked at their feet. Only the village idiot dared mouth what everyone else was thinking.

Apparently I’m the village idiot because I don’t see anyone else pointing out the simple truth. Regardless of what he says to the contrary, Donald Trump is not running for president.

Donald Trump is Not Running for PresidentWould Donald Trump like to be president? I’ll bet he would. I’m even sure the Donald thinks he’d make a helluva good chief executive. He’s probably created extensive and exquisite fantasies about how he would travel around the world out-negotiating our allies, bullying other countries into submission, and generally pushing America’s weight around.

I’ll bet the “Big D” is already picturing what a great robotic character he’d make in Disney World’s Hall of Presidents, what with his trademark pink satin ties and Daniel Boone raccoon cap of fluorescent yellow hair. Disney could probably just copy their Grover Cleveland android, dress it in a gray suit and a garish tie, swap the bushy moustache for a fiberglass toupee and they’d be all set.

Only problem is Donald Trump is not running for president.

You see, Donald Trump doesn’t care about the country and doesn’t care about the presidency. If he did, he wouldn’t say such inane and offensive things and he wouldn’t defile such an important undertaking with his nonsense.

When he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump…

  • Listed several foreign threats he said were “beating America.” His list included China, Japan, and Mexico (which he said was sending immigrants across the border who were “not the right people and brought disease”), and Islamic terrorism.
  • Insisted that he would “…be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
  • Said that he was “…in competition with (ISIS because) they just built a hotel in Syria.”

And that was just in one speech.

But of course none of this blathering matters. Donald Trump is not running for president.

What is Donald Trump doing? Besides having a good time, Donald Trump is building awareness and increasing his brand value. By throwing his hat into the ring, Trump will be on every news program, every newspaper, every magazine, every blog (guilty as charged), every social media site, and every other information distribution vehicle that exists.

Worse, he’ll raise tens of millions of dollars from supporters who sincerely think they’re helping to change the conversation and the course of the country. But all they’re actually doing is giving Donald Trump a tax-free way to fund his awareness campaign.

Republicans should be pissed. Because besides making the rest of the field look like a bunch of buffoons, Trump’s media popularity will actually mean that some other deserving candidate might not make it to the debates and their valuable input won’t be aired.

But all Americans should be pissed too because Trump’s candidacy makes a mockery of what should be a very serious undertaking. By using the presidential electoral system to simply increase his brand awareness and ultimately pad his net worth, Donald Trump devalues and debases one of the fundamentals of The United States of America – our free election system.

Of course, some will see a confirmation of strength in the simple fact that Trump’s sleazy hair gel can’t stain our elections for long. And while it’s true the Donald is not powerful enough to really damage the system, one of the real reasons he doesn’t matter is because Donald Trump is not running for president.


“Jeb!” Doesn’t Deserve an Exclamation Mark

Posted on June 16th, 2015

Dear Jeb,

A few weeks ago I wrote a post evaluating the logos of most of the candidates for president, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton. All but one of the logos got low votes. I was expecting better from you, Jeb.

Let me explain:

Yesterday Jeb Bush threw his hat in the ring to compete for the Republican nomination and reintroduced the same “Jeb!” logo he used the last time he ran for president and very similar to the marks he used when he ran for governor as well.

Jeb!

The “Jeb!” logo is a no-go for me for four reasons:

  1. A logo needs to illustrate the brand it represents. The best logos are all about the authentic truth of the product/candidate and why it matters to the buyer/voter. I know Jeb. We’re both Miami guys and I see him around town and have spent time chatting with him. Jeb’s a nice guy, a smart guy, and a connected guy. But he is not an “exclamation point” guy. He’s a steady candidate, not an exciting one. The “Jeb!” logo does not represent the real Jeb Bush the voters need to meet. It might be a marketing technique to focus attention on “Jeb!” instead of “Bush,” but the logo does not fit him.
  2. Regardless of your political leaning, voters look for candidates with new ideas. Even very conservative voters, who want things returned to the way they used to be look for candidates with new ideas to get there. By using the same “Jeb!” logo he used the last time he ran (when, let’s not forget, he DID NOT WIN) Jeb telegraphs that you can expect the same old story. Same old “Jeb!” – same old ideas.
  3. Jeb’s biggest problem — amongst Republicans in the primary race and amongst Rs, Ds, and Is if he makes it to the final election — is his connection to his past; his brother, his brother’s advisors, and his brother’s bad decisions and what they cost the country. If Jeb wants to talk about new opportunities, new directions, new solutions, why would he use a symbol that traps him in that past? What the “Jeb!” logo says is that he’s just the same old wine in the same old bottle.
  4. It’s not a very good design. Regardless of what Jeb wants to suggest he brings to the race — intelligence, gravitas, experience, power, forward thinking, or whatever — the “Jeb!” logo does not represent those attirbutes. The typeface is weak, the letter spacing is too open (which makes the mark look even weaker and not solid) and while the color may be red for Republican it is otherwise uninspired. Only the exclamation point says anything (Excitement!!) but as we saw above, that excitement is not consistent with Jeb’s authentic truth.

Of course the obvious argument for reusing the “Jeb!” logo is awareness. “But Bruce, isn’t awareness the key to getting attention, money, and votes? Doesn’t a “Jeb!” logo that’s already recognizable make sense because of the brand equity it possesses and the awareness it brings to the election?”

Those questions are a fool’s challenge. The “Jeb!” logo is old and rehashed yet owns no brand equity. There may be some faded “Jeb!” bumper stickers on old supporters’ cars but beyond that it’s a bankrupt image. And that’s a shame, really, because Jeb is a good guy and deserves better.

Jedi

But here’s a big idea: Turn Jeb’s “b” around to make a “d” and flip the “!” over to create an “i” and “Jeb!” becomes “Jedi.” Maybe Jeb’s plan is to build his brand on top of the new Star Wars movie that’s coming out soon. As Yoda might say, “The conservatism needs to be strong in this one, yeeeees?”


Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League Baseball

Posted on June 7th, 2015

Ogden Nash is known for short, glib poetry such as “The Turtle:”

The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks

Which practically conceal its sex.

I think it clever of the turtle

In such a fix to be so fertile.

And “The Canary:”

The song of canaries

Never varies,

And when they’re molting

They’re pretty revolting.

And even “The Fly:”

The Lord in His wisdom made the fly,

And then forgot to tell us why.

So you may be surprised to learn Ogden Nash wrote more poignant pieces like “Old Men:”

“People expect old men to die,

They do not really mourn old men.

Old men are different. People look

At them with eyes that wonder when…

People watch with unshocked eyes;

But the old men know when an old man dies.”

My father gifted me with my love for Ogden Nash poems (and Pogo cartoons) when I was a kid. He recited that last poem when he himself was still a relatively young man, around the time my grandfather died. Dad was also fond of Nash’s send-off to his beloved hometown:

“The Bronx? No Thonx.”

Last week I read that Jerry Dior passed away at the age of 82. The New York Times called Dior “The Nameless Creator of a Lasting Logo.” Dior designed the silhouetted batter logo for Major League Baseball in 1968.

According to The New York Times’ obituary, the logo “appears on the caps, jerseys and helmets of major league players; on umpires’ uniforms; on television graphics; and on billions of dollars’ worth of licensed memorabilia annually.” But despite his success, Dior received no royalties and never got to toss out a first pitch.

Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League Baseball

Twenty years before Dior created his design, Ogden Nash wrote the ABC of Baseball Immortals for the January 1949 issue of Sport Magazine. In it, he penned 26 four-liners honoring the stars of the game—from Grover Alexander to Cy Young. Here’s Ogden Nash’s paean for Jerome “Dizzy” Dean:

“D is for Dean,

The grammatical Diz,

When they asked, Who’s the tops?

Said correctly, I is.”

Ogden Nash, Jerry Dior, and Major League BaseballOf course there was no poem for Jerry Dior. Hell, Dior only even received credit for his design in 2009 after Major League Baseball conducted its inquiry. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, “Jerry Dior created a symbol that has stood the test of time.”

If “the old men know when an old man dies,” then perhaps graphic designers know when a graphic designer dies. After all, Dior’s work is notable not only because he created a ubiquitous piece of Americana, but because he created a genre. It’s no coincidence that many other sports logos, such as the National Basketball Association’s, were created as “deliberate echos of Dior’s design.”

RIP Jerry Dior. And Ogden Nash.


Why Standing For Something Matters

Posted on May 28th, 2015

Last week Yum Brands’ (YUM) Taco Bell and Pizza Hut chains made a big announcement. They are going to remove “most” artificial ingredients from their food products “by July” (Pizza Hut) or “by 2017” (Taco Bell) “where possible.”

According to AP, “Instead of ‘black pepper flavor,’ for instance, Taco Bell will start using actual black pepper in its seasoned beef… Artificial dye Yellow No. 6 will be removed from its nacho cheese, Blue No. 1 will be removed from its avocado ranch dressing and carmine… will be removed from its red tortilla strips.”

In ad speak, “Most…by 2017…whenever possible” means not all, not now, and not when it’s difficult. In plain English that means that the fast food restaurants are not going to serve artificial ingredient-free products like their successful competitors do. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut will stand for something only when it’s expedient.

Why then are they even bothering? As my friend Melissa Francis says, “It’s all about the money.”

Taco Bell has been trying lots of different things to shore up its steadily slipping sales. They’re introducing new products, introducing liquor in one of their Chicago locations, and trying to make their offerings healthier.

But by only going part of the way with the health thing, Yum Brands will see almost no benefit. Health-conscious consumers will not be swayed because the company removed their unnatural ingredients “whenever possible.” And Taco Bell’s and Pizza Hut’s regular clientele – who care more about taste and low prices than health and ingredients – won’t care either.

By not standing for something, the company will find itself in the purgatory of being neither fish nor fowl. With no discernable brand value built into their new menu changes, regardless of what it costs them to make the revisions, no one will care and sales will continue to drop.

BMW is always standing for something. The car company promotes itself as “the ultimate driving machine” and lives up to the promise by engineering the same performance pedigree into their $30,000 cars as they do in their $150,000 models. Apple is always standing for something, too. They consistently maintain their commitment to design in everything they produce – from products to software to packaging. They even design and finish the inside of their devices which few of their customers will ever even see. Ritz-Carlton’s “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” are consistently standing for something. The hotel chain maintains its service reputation by providing superior levels of customer relations each time they interact with their guests.

On the other hand, Toyota virtually ruined its reputation as an always-reliable automotive appliance. They weren’t standing for something when they refused to take responsibility for their unintended acceleration problem. And Lululemon seriously damaged its reputation for empowering women. They weren’t standing for something when their since-departed CEO told the world their pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies.”

Standing for something is not always easy but it is an essential component to building brand value. Standing for something means companies have to turn down business opportunities that don’t fit with their core values. Standing for something means people have to say no to prospects that won’t enhance their personal commitments. And standing for something means that brands have to be ever vigilant about the training and follow-up required to always maintain their reputations and public image.

Of course standing for something requires a strong sense of self-awareness. After all, before you can make a commitment to what matters you have to know exactly what it is that does matter and why you’re willing to fight for it. But once you do, standing for something can become one of the most important things you do to build—and protect—your brand.


Customer Service Language.

Posted on May 26th, 2015

First a customer service confession: I forgot to pay a bill. Got no good excuse, just didn’t see it when I sat down to do my monthlies and it slipped my mind. Don’t judge, don’t hate, let’s just move on…

I didn’t recognize the number on my cellphone but I answered it anyway – hey, you never know. By the third word out of the customer service rep’s mouth I knew she had no idea who I was because she pronounced my last name “TUR-kle” instead of “Tur-KELL,” the way anyone who knows me says it.

“Hello, Bruce Turkel?” (Pronounced TUR-kle).

“Yes.”

“This is Samantha Smith, customer service representative at XYZ Bank” (beautiful southern accent, by the way).

“Yes?”

“Your account didn’t post.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your account didn’t post.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Your account didn’t post.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“YOUR ACCOUNT DIDN’T POST.” (She was a decibel away from yelling now).

“I heard you, Ms. Smith, I just don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“It means your account at XYZ Bank. Did. Not. Post.”

Customer Service Language“I’m really sorry but I don’t know what post means. I know about blog posts, I know about light posts, I know about post times and I know about Post Cereals. I even know about post mortems. But I don’t know what it means when an account doesn’t post.”

“Oh. It means we didn’t post a payment to your account.”

“You didn’t post a… Oh, you mean my payment’s late? Oops, I probably forgot to pay it. Wait, I’ll look… (a few keyboard clicks later) You’re right. I didn’t pay my bill. That was stupid of me. Why didn’t you just say so? I’ll take care of it immediately.”

“Thank you sir. Is there anything else XYZ Bank customer service can do for you today?”

I bit my tongue. “No thanks. Appreciate the customer service reminder. I’ll take care of it the minute I hang up.” And I did.

Have you ever been in a tense medical situation and spoken to a doctor who communicated in medical jargon you didn’t understand? Asymetric thoraxal reflux, perhaps, or cardiotropic defribulation? Have you ever met with your accountant to discuss taxes and been flummoxed by negative amortization schedules and accelerated deduction contra accounts or other industry terms that made no sense? Have you ever listened to people talk in slang or use inside jokes you couldn’t follow? Have you ever been with people who were speaking a language you didn’t understand even though you were supposed to be part of the conversation?

It would make sense that customer service people who already have the difficult enough task of dealing with angry clients or explaining obtuse software or reminding people they didn’t pay their bills on time would make everyone’s lives easier by speaking in simple terms that anyone could follow.

If you train customer service reps try this illustrative experiment. Have them do an English language crossword puzzle from a country foreign to them. Even simple puzzles are almost impossible to complete because while English might be their mother tongue, not growing up in Canada or England or New Zealand or India or wherever means they can understand the words but not the cultural references or the clues. It’s no different than a customer who can understand the language but not the inside jargon the customer service rep uses.

Communicating in clear, unambiguous language is a simple way to make the transaction better for the customer, the customer service rep, and the company itself. And that’s a win-win-win outcome any way you say it.


My Muse is a Jealous Taskmaster.

Posted on May 19th, 2015

Listen to enough writers talk about their Muse and sooner or later it’ll dawn on you that while the act of writing is thought of lots of different ways, few of them are pleasant.

Ernest Hemingway’s MuseErnest Hemingway found looking for his Muse torturous. According to legend, Papa described it like this: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

And W. Somerset Maugham believed that, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

What you’ll discover about writing is that while every writer describes it in a different way, almost all of them consider their Muse a difficult, albeit necessary taskmaster.

Having spent the last eight years hammering out this blog week after week while also writing two new books, countless speeches, articles, and TV commentary, and keeping up with my client assignments, I’ve learned a little bit about just how hard maintaining consistently good writing can be.

But of all the things I’ve learned, regular writing reminds me about two universal truths which assert themselves time and time again:

  1. The key to good writing is not just writing, it’s rewriting. And,

  2. The Muse is a jealous taskmaster.

I’m not the first one to discover these two points, by the way. When I was researching quotes for this article, I’d already determined my two rules but wasn’t aware that others had written them already.

Vladimir Nabokov said that, “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” And Hemingway was plainly clear on this point when he wrote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Because I sincerely believe that the most important part of good writing is rewriting, I try to write my posts with enough lead-time to read them over and over and over, crafting them a bit tighter on each pass.

As far as the jealousy of my Muse goes, this point is unassailable. If you want to write – books, ads, songs, blogs, whatever – then besides putting in lots and lots of hard work the other thing to always do is stop and write whenever an idea strikes you. Because if you wait until later when it’s more convenient your good ideas will vaporize, as hard to recall as a good night’s dream in the light of day.

Shoe Sharpie MuseTo benefit from the thinking time I get when I run I keep a miniature Sharpie tangled in my sneaker laces so I can write my inspirations down on the palm of my hand as they pop into my head. When I sleep I keep a pad and pen on my bed stand to capture those 3:15 a.m. brainstorms before they disappear into the ether. And during the day I always try to have my laptop, iPad or notebook within quick reach so I don’t risk missing good ideas whenever and wherever the Muse shows herself.

Turns out Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art, already knew about the Muse’s demands. Pressfield explained it this way:

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

Saul Bellow said it like this, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

But just because the words and ideas might appear when you pay attention and work at it doesn’t make it easy. Why? Because we writers are always our own worst critics. After all, as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Amen to that.


The Potential Danger of If and But

Posted on May 11th, 2015

Please take a minute to think about the words IF and BUT. Such little words but they can have such a big impact on your brand.

Do you realize that if you add the words IF or BUT to an apology it demeans the sentiment and neuters the meaning?

“I’m sorry IF you thought I was being mean,” is not an apology because the IF has disclaimed the value of “I’m sorry.” Being sorry is not based on how the wronged party felt about the action being apologized for; it’s based on feeling remorse for having done something wrong in the first place.

No If or But“I’m sorry you were offended BUT I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” is not an apology because the intention of the slight has nothing to do with its ultimate effect.

And “I’m sorry IF you were bothered by what I said BUT I was angry,” is not an apology either because none of the conditions have anything to do with the situation being apologized for. Being angry enough to say something stupid is not a reasonable excuse for the stupidity itself.

I find it interesting that these short little words, IF and BUT have so much weight. With just two or three letters the power of a sincere apology can be completely neutralized.

And the same thing can happen during your sales pitch…

Disclaimers such as IF and BUT have the power to change consumers’ good feelings and sour their opinion on the products and services they’re buying (and you’re selling).

Did you know that 65% of the respondents in a well-crafted marketing study said they’ve stopped purchasing a product that was advertised with a message they found unacceptable?

No If or ButNot only that but advertising was seen to have a significant impact on societal values. 47% of Canadian consumers interviewed said that advertising shapes public values vs. 40% who said advertising simply mirrors society. In the United States a majority of consumers said that advertising serves as a societal mirror but a large percentage still affirmed that unacceptable or disingenuous messages would make them change their mind about an upcoming purchase.

It stands to reason then that you could lose almost half of your buyers simply because of an errantly placed IF or BUT. Besides being a wake-up call for marketers to be scrupulous about the way they communicate, this also suggests that the power of language and branding is much more significant than casual observation might suggest.

My friend and online learning expert Alex Santos  at Collabor8 Learning closes his emails with the following words of wisdom: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Talented professional copywriters are worth their weight in gold not simply because they know how to create compelling text, but because they also understand what not to say when the wrong words – such as IF and BUT – could poison the sale you’ve worked so hard to make.

It's Time To Call Southeast

For years the old Southeast Bank ran a campaign with the tagline, “It’s Time To Call Southeast.” I suppose they thought that when you needed money or banking services you would pick up the phone and dial their number. Unfortunately whenever I heard the campaign I always wondered what I had done wrong because I don’t usually call my bank when something good happens, I call them when there’s a problem. I’d bet you’re the same.

It’s time to call Southeast? Why? Did a hurricane just destroy my house and I need to borrow money for a new roof? Did I forget to record a check and subsequently overdraw my account? Are there bank fees on my statement that I wasn’t expecting? No matter the question, calling my bank is not an activity I generally look forward to happily.

The next time you write copy for an ad, website, resume, or whatever, take a moment to read the copy as if you were the recipient. Make sure that the message you’re trying to convey is the same message that your reader is going to receive. Otherwise you might just have to apologize afterwards. No IFs or BUTs included.


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