Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged marketing

The problem with academic writing: “The teacher must seize the student’s attention”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

I don’t like academic writing. It’s mostly nonsense.

A few years ago, I said as much to my father who works in academia. Despite my insensitivity and lack of tact, I stand by my belief. Not because I’m incapable of admitting when I’m wrong. But because academic writing’s verbose language, impersonal tone, and dispassionate delivery ultimately fail to engage readers.

In other words, “Academics are really good at writing books that only academics will read, but they’re not very good at making anyone outside of academia care,” says Jared Bauer, co-creator of Thug Notes, in an interview with Huffington Post. “Teaching isn’t easy, so I’m not trying to shame teachers for not trying more radical approaches to literature education,” he adds. “But at the very least, I hope (our) show makes teachers realize that a student won’t volunteer their attention. The teacher must seize it.”

As I debated with my father that day, for writing to succeed, it must capture the reader’s attention. If it doesn’t, the writing won’t get shared, influence can’t happen, and the opportunity to learn is squandered, even among scholars. There’s no point to that kind of writing other than to serve as a reminder of how not to write.  Continue reading…

Clever ad: Turning the tables on obsessive geek culture

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Using iOS is still less of a pain than using Android. That is, the form is still better.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the attached ad is incredibly effective in speaking to the majority of smartphone users who don’t appreciate, nor do they want to associate with, the millions of off-putting Apple fans parodied above.

In any case, wouldn’t it be great if phones could go back to being useful tools rather than modern day golden calves?

I yawn at “built from the ground up”

built-from-the-ground-upI’ve purchased a lot of product in my life. And if there’s one selling point that gets me more than anything else, it’s something that’s “built from the ground up.”

Whenever I read this, all my consumer concerns melt away. I hate nothing more than buying something that’s built from the ceiling down — or worse, built upon or added to something that already has a sound foundation.

Now I realize some people may glaze over this cliche. Not me. It’s irreversibly tied to the action of me removing my wallet and reaching for plastic. Hook, line, and sinker.

Could shoe makers sell more using regular color names?

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See those three stripes? They’re called “diva,” not pink, according to Adidas. And the white you see is “running white,” as opposed to idle white. I know because that’s what the box on my kitchen counter says. (They’re not for me, mind you, but the little soccer player I father.)

Adidas isn’t the first shoe manufacturer to use confusing names. I’ve seen red called “fire” on Nikes and blue called “ice” on Reeboks.

The silliness makes me wonder: Could shoe manufacturers sell more shoes by using color names people understand? Granted, people don’t shop by shoe boxes; they shop by display. But I imagine some prospective buyers have crossed an unsuspecting color and decided to pass on it. I know for a fact that ambiguity always hurts your chances.

That said, is there any proof that unconventional (or idiotic) color naming boosts sales? I doubt it.

Either way, at least Adidas got the hueless color right when describing the above shoes. They call it “black.”

Is this really such a good idea?

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Mixing camping with must-see TV?

Honestly, how much could this fan be “enjoying” a game of football on a three inch screen while camping, especially since he probably has 50″ HDTV at home? Grow a pair and pick one: Get away from it all in the great outdoors or stay home to watch a game you’re really interested in. Or if you must, DVR.

Seriously, what kind of sick society are we turning into? The equation is simple.

See also:

Proof that clever marketing can glam up dumb ideas

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Because sitting through a two-hour moving on a single sofa is so hard these days. Or waiting for popcorn to pop while a movie is paused is excruciatingly slow.

DirecTV’s response: “We better make it easy for people to pause dramatic movie scenes between kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom TVs. It’s not like they’re going to want to stay engaged in said scenes anyway. Who are we to deny people continuous movies during potty breaks? Now let’s go sell this dumb idea! There’s a sucker born every minute!”

Multi-room viewing is retarded use of technology.

DISCLOSURE: I don’t subscribe to any TV service. (Over-air HD and Internet TV only).

When your celebrity endorser becomes the town bycicle, it’s always best to dump him

tigerwoodspgatour10_coverAfter Tiger Woods took “extramarital affairs” to new lows this year, numerous sponsors canceled their contracts with the once role model, including Gatorade, AT&T, General Motors, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Gillette. Out of all his major sponsors, only two “stood by” his sleaziness, including Nike and Electronic Arts.

Today, the latter is wishing it hadn’t. Continue reading…

Smooth Harold’s alter ego has a new homepage

Blake Snow

In an effort to centralize my online identity, I launched BlakeSnow.com this week. The site features state of the art HTML, some fancy javascript animation, and an enlarged photo of my shapely cranium. I’ll still be blogging under my pseudonym here, and maintain other websites as well, but this will serve as an entry point for people who don’t know me. Plus it makes me look cooler than I really am.

(Thanks, Robert)

Fewer products means better web design, higher conversion rates

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Want to encourage better conversion rates on your website (be it purchases, blog traffic, whatever) while looking good? Don’t give your readers more than a few options to choose from. By forcing them to look at what you want, you’ll enjoy more targeted traffic.

Apple does it. So does Shoe Guru. Both may be extreme, but their website design ensures them greater control over what they promote, resulting in tighter focus and better sales over the alternative, cluttered sites.

Off-topic: I’d totally buy those shoes if knew what Shoe Guru size I wear.

EDGE: Did you hear that? Audio branding in video games

If you’ve never played Xbox 360, you probably missed it.

During the final action sequence of Transformers (2007), at precisely two hours, two minutes, and 25 seconds in, gamers are treated to a recognizable image and sound: a newly purchased Xbox 360 with its accompanying audio logo.

The brief product placement lasts no longer than 1 ½ seconds, as the popular console transforms on-screen into a hostile robot, after its owner becomes entangled with evil forces, while innocently shopping the streets of Las Vegas.

“I think a lot of Xbox fans got a kick out of it,” says Eli Friedman, director of Xbox Global Brand Marketing. “When we learned Transformers was being made into a movie, we jumped at the opportunity to work with Paramount Pictures since much of our core audience also happens to be Transformers fans.”

Continue reading at Edge Online…

Edge: Top 10 taglines in video games

Videogames have seen their share of forgettable taglines over the years. In 1993, Atari challenged prospective buyers to “Do the math” when considering an upgrade to their not-quite 64-bit console, the Jaguar. Gamers “did the math,” weren’t impressed, and decided to wait another year or so before upgrading to a PlayStation. Similarly, Nintendo told gamers to “Get N, or get out!” while promoting their third-generation console, the Nintendo 64- to which most people “got out” when compared to unit sales of Sony’s competing system.

But the industry has also seen its share of amusing, intelligent and effective taglines. Here are Next-Gen’s top 10 pics:

Continue reading at Edge…

Is Wired’s FREE cover story misleading?

img1.jpgI just got done reading Chris Anderson’s 6,000 word preview for his upcoming book Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. In short, the article examines cross-subsidies (read: giving away razors to sell razor blades) as they pertain to the web products and their near-zero operating costs. You can have a free lunch so long as someone else picks up the tab, maintains Anderson.

While the article was informative, I don’t think the strategy of giving is “the future of business,” rather it’s an effective marketing tool for select web companies — not everyone, and especially not for offline ventures. Still, Anderson presents some compelling evidence that “free” will become more ubiquitous than I currently believe.

Ironically, and in an effort to deflect the “wait a minute, your product isn’t free” criticism, Wired is offering up to 10,000 copies of its March 2008 issue at not cost to you (a fraction of the 500,000+ issues the publisher sells every month, mind you). Not quite what I’d call “practice what you preach,” but then again, I don’t think Anderson’s article endorses the demise of direct sales altogether, even if his headline does.

Designed by Apple in California?

If you haven’t noticed, Apple prints “Designed by Apple in California” on the back every iPod and iPhone it sells, sometimes in a ridiculously tiny font size. Joel on Software tells why:

“These five words evoke a flurry of happy memories… Apple in California is, of course, on the literal level, a computer company, and not a very nice one, but put those words together and you think of apple orchards, and the Beatles, and you think of how Forrest Gump got rich off of Apple stock. And ‘designed in California…’ It’s not made. It’s designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.”

In short, California stands out by being the hippiest of all United States. And unlike its competitors, who outsource both product design and manufacturing overseas, Apple keeps its design rightfully in-house — at all times and at all costs. Continue reading…

Marc Ecko buys publicity on the cheap

Clothing designer Mark Ecko bought Barry Bond’s record-breaking 756 home run ball for $750,000. That’s cheap considering all the publicity his brand is getting.

Take it away, ESPN: “Barry Bonds thinks Marc Ecko, the man who purchased the ball from his 756th home run, is wasting his money, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. Ecko, a fashion desiginer, purchased the baseball for $750,000 and is taking votes on the Internet on what he should do with it: Give the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame, brand it with an asterisk or blast it into space.”

This story will run in every major sports section in the nation. Ecko Clothing, which targets sports fans, will see an influx of web traffic and brand interest. Sales will spike, not to mention Ecko’s mindshare, and the brilliant marketer would have done it for a measly $750,000 greenbacks.

Nice form.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t market

If someone told me in 1984 that you could successfully sell dolls to little boys for more than five consecutive years, I would have laughed at them. But that’s precisely what Hasbro (makers of Transfomers) and Playskool (makers of Playdough) did from 1985 into the early 90’s.

Granted, My Buddy wasn’t a smash or sustainable hit, but it clearly was profitable, albeit for a while. The lesson? Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t take to market. I realize this idea encourages a lot of junk product being released, but in business, the best marketing wins, not necessarily the best product.

So the next time someone is drilling you on your marketing plan, just remember the doll intended for boys that had a run of success in the 80s. Remember My Buddy.

You Don’t Know Jack About Viral Marketing

Viral marketing goes by several different names — buzz marketing, disruptive marketing, guerilla marketing, annuity effect, long tail, media leverage and even word-of-mouth marketing. But adding the word “marketing” to viral or any of the aforementioned names is a bit of a misnomer as the act of marketing typically describes a direct and conscious act on the part of companies to pitch their products to consumers. Viral marketing is anything but conscious. It is indirect marketing managed by consumers and consumers alone.

By definition, viral marketing is a phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message, usually — though not exclusively — online. Like a literal virus, the product message gets passed along from one user to the next and is easily shared in rapid fashion. Hotmail’s mandatory “Get your private, free e-mail at Hotmail.com” message on every outgoing e-mail is widely accredited as the first viral marketing campaign. Its strategy included:

Continue reading…