The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

May 31, 2014

Hire me – Part II

Filed under: Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 11:33 pm
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Toast

To new beginnings.

The day I was laid off from my job at the ad agency (along with 11 others, thanks to the loss
of two major accounts), we had tickets to a Phillies game that night.

My son (of legal drinking age for five whole days) and I did what any self-respecting Phillies fans would do… we started “tailgating” that afternoon at home. I promptly poured him a beer, poured myself a glass of champagne and toasted to new beginnings… and then I promptly posted my celebratory photo on Facebook. I’m not one to cry over my glass of wine; I’m one to raise it in toast.

As we got ready to head to the stadium, I kept thinking what a great PR idea it would be to
announce my job status at the game. After all, there would be thousands of prospective employers fans there (well,
only about 24,000 fans – but that’s another story).PR at the Phillies game

“So I got me a pen and a paper” and I made up my own not-so-little sign. Forgive the improper grammar; I couldn’t resist citing those familiar song lyrics. What did my sign say? It read: “Hire me! Darcy G at LinkedIn.” I promptly posted it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Since we were in the nosebleed section, I didn’t make it on camera or the jumbotron. I’m getting a little more mileage
out of my photo, however, by blogging about it.

To cap off my stellar day, my seat number was 13, and the Phillies lost 4-1 to the Mets.

There’s always tomorrow….

May 29, 2014

May 6, 2014

Emails even Mom would be proud of – a look at Mother’s Day promotions

Filed under: Advertising,Design,Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:08 pm
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by Darcy Grabenstein

U.S. online consumers will spend an average of $162.94 on Mother’s Day gifts this year, down 3.6% from $168.94 last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The survey said 29% of consumers plan to shop online. As email marketers, it’s our job to get a slice of that Mother’s Day pie. Let’s take a look at how online retailers are promoting the holiday. I’ll start with a few emails I saved from last year’s swipe file. The first is from JC Penney, reflecting its epic (or epic fail?) rebranding effort. I give JCP credit here, with its clever “mother’s may” and bold graphics and color. JCP Mother's May
Next is one from Rachel Roy, with an attention-grabbing subject line: Happy MILS Day! 20% Off. The headline, too, may cause you to do a double-take. Mother's Day Rachel Roy - Happy MILS Day! 20% Off

And a favorite of mine, uncommon goods, uses a brilliant play on words to tout its preferred shipping: “Don’t you think Mom would’ve liked A Faster Delivery?” Mother's Day - uncommon goods
Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2014.

I’d like to give a shout out to Wayfair, which used the subject line “Mom’s the word: Get gifting with hand-picked favorites she’ll love.” (Full disclosure: I used “Mom’s the word” for a Mother’s Day email when I was a copywriter at Lenox.) Pine Cone Hill uses copy to sell without overdoing it. The headline — THE MOTHER LODE — draws you in.

Pine Cone Hill - Shop Mother’s Day Gift Picks - and Get It Shipped for Free!
Bath & Body Works has an all-encompassing subject line: Give Mom The World! All NEW Fragrances + $6 Fine Fragrance Mist & More! The body of the email pays it off, promoting fragrances inspired by other countries.

Bath & Body Works
Some emails focused on new moms. This email from Nordstrom tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a study in pink. My question is whether a blue-themed email was sent out as well. Nordstrom - Mother's Day Gifts for the New Mom
David Yurman takes it a step further, using cause-related marketing. The subject line reads: Gifts that Help New Mothers. The copy-heavy email explains that a portion of its proceeds will benefit a foundation promoting maternal health. As an added bonus, those who contribute will receive a jewelry box as a thank-you gift. David Yurman - Gifts that Help New Mothers
The following retailers used cross-promotions in their emails. Jack Spade keeps it all in the family, promoting the kate spade new york site. The subject line serves up a dose of motherly guilt: Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You. It’s paid off with the headline below. Jack Spade - Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You
Burlington Coat Factory includes a co-op promotion with 1-800-flowers. The subject line spells out the offer — Just in time for Mother’s Day – 20% off at 1-800 Flowers — but doesn’t feature any of its own products. It also appears that there may have been special characters, such as hearts, that did not render. Burlington Coat Factory

Speaking of flowers, ProFlowers gives its subject line a sense of urgency with “URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother’s Day!” The layout and copy are straightforward, simplifying the purchase decision (even for those with hard-to-shop-for moms). It convinced me. My mother will be receiving a colorful bouquet, courtesy of ProFlowers.

ProFlowers - URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother's Day!

 

Like flowers, chocolates are popular Mother’s Day gifts. This Godiva email does a good job of promoting gifts for all the moms in your life — mom, wife, sister, friend.

 

Godiva - Mother's Day is May 11 - We've got a Plan!

 

Not all Mother’s Day emails receive this mom’s approval, however. Take the Dirt Devil email, for instance. The subject line is filled with good intentions: Make Mom’s Life Easier This Mother’s Day. And the headline is spot on (pun intended). But do moms really want a vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day? One year I received a waffle maker for Mother’s Day; it was one of those gifts where you say “You shouldn’t have!” and you certainly mean it.

Dirt Devil - Make Mom's Life Easier This Mother's Day

 

And what about this email from J. Peterman? I expect more from the cataloguer known for its creative copy. I’m sure Elaine from “Seinfeld” would agree. A “Roses are red, violets are blue” rhyming poem? Seriously?

J. Peterman - Final Day - Mother's Day Celebration - 25% Off + Free Shipping.
In this Dean & DeLuca email, the cheesecake gets lost on the white background. I’m sure the monochromatic look was intentional, but a darker plate would have made the product pop.

Dean & DeLuca Free Shipping for Mother's Day Begins Today!

This email from Michael Kors leaves me scratching my head. The subject line reads ” For the Mother Who’s Ahead of Her Time.” I’ll admit it’s cute for an email promoting watches. But the watches definitely are mini and petite, as the hero image focuses on the model (who’s not very “Mom-ish”) as opposed to the product.

Michael Kors - For the Mother Who's Ahead of Her Time
On the other hand (pun intended), Fossil uses a simple but effective subject line: Got a great mom? We’ve got a great watch. The design showcases the watch, and the copy (“momentous savings”) is subtly clever.

Fossil - Got a great mom? We've got a great watch.

I doubt that the folks at Belldini meant to give a plug to MailChimp, but that’s what they did when they forgot to remove the template copy in their email. With their offer of 20% off sitewide, I’m sure moms will forgive them.

Happy Mother's Day From Belldini

 

As Mother’s Day approaches and we wax nostalgic over fond maternal memories, an old song comes to my mind. With lyrics by Howard Johnson and music by Theodore Morse, the song “M is for the Million Things She Gave Me” debuted in 1915. While its words paying tribute to moms everywhere still hold true today, I took the liberty of creating my own acrostic (in the spirit of Rachel Roy’s MILS email) paying tribute to Mother’s Day emails. No “Roses are red, violets are blue” for me:

M is for the Millions of potential gift buyers
O is for the Offers we that can’t be refused
T is for the A/B Tests we love to conduct
H is for the list Hygiene we practice
E is for the Emails sent hawking Mother’s Day
R is for the big ROI we hope to see

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

February 4, 2014

Tag(line), you’re it – the ultimate mix-‘n’-match game

Filed under: Advertising — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:11 am
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by Darcy Grabenstein

With the Super Bowl ads only hours behind us, I couldn’t help but turn my thoughts to some of advertising’s most memorable – and some perhaps most questionable – taglines.

One of the more questionable that comes to mind is “RAID kills bugs dead.” Isn’t that a bit redundant? As my sons would say when one of us unsuccessfully tried to one-up the other with a joke, “You killed it.”

Let’s take a look at some truly killer ad slogans, but with a twist. I’ve assigned them to brands that I think would be much more appropriate.

After all, industry experts would tell you that a great ad slogan shouldn’t be generic. In other words, you shouldn’t be able to simply insert any company name and the slogan would still be applicable. Of course, Nike turns that theory on its head with its famous “Just Do It” campaign. You could, in fact, substitute just about any other company and the phrase would work equally well. Alka-Seltzer. Just Do It. … Expedia. Just Do It. … XYZ Grad School. Just Do It. I rest my case.

So if you’re ready for some post-Super Bowl fun and games, let’s get started.

got_milk

Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board) —-> Evenflo® Breast Pump

Don’t leave home without it. (American Express)
—-> Hardware store duplicate keys

Where’s the beef? (Wendy’s) —-> Chippendales Male Revue Las Vegas

You’re in good hands with Allstate. —-> Massage Envy

You’ve come a long way, baby. (Virginia Slims) —-> Hospital Birthing Center

We bring good things to life. (General Electric) —-> Cryogenics facility

The quicker picker-upper. (Bounty) —-> Red Bull

Take it all off. (Noxzema) —-> Nudist colony

Just do it. (Nike) —> Just Dew it. (Mountain Dew)

And my personal favorite:

We try harder. (Avis) —-> (drum roll, please) —-> Viagra.

Can you think of any ad campaigns you think would be better suited for another company? If so, share them here.

Let the games begin..

January 31, 2014

What small businesses can learn from Super Bowl ads

Filed under: Advertising,Branding — Darcy Grabenstein @ 2:35 am
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by Darcy Grabenstein

Small businesses may not be able to foot the $4 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, but they still can learn a few things from the big guys.

Brand building

Brand_Loyalty

Super Bowl ads are often more about branding than selling. Think
back to last year’s Super Bowl spots. Chances are, you may remember the ad but not the company it represented. Or the company but not the product.

Not every marketing effort has to be about selling a product or service. It also can serve to build your brand. While these marketing efforts may be more difficult to tie to the bottom line, over time you’ll realize their value.

Exposure

Last year’s Super Bowl had over 100 million viewers in America. That’s a lot of exposure. Some viewers, like myself, watch the Super Bowl strictly for the ads (unless, of course, the Eagles miraculously make it to the showdown).

As a small business, you’ve got to know your target audiences – and which advertising channel is best for reaching them. Think quality, not quantity. You could advertise in a medium that reaches thousands, but if none of them are your target audience you could be throwing away your advertising dollars.

Humor

A little humor can go a long way in advertising. Of course, many of the Super Bowl ads go heavy on the humor.

Humor can only work if it resonates with your brand. If, for example, a funeral home used humor in its advertising that probably wouldn’t go over too well with the public.

Use humor judiciously. It should be used to give your company/brand a personality; it should not be the focus of the marketing itself.

Emotion

Many of the most memorable Super Bowl ads are those that tug at the emotions. They capture moments that we all can relate to at some point in our lives.

Storytelling is how you bring emotion into advertising. It’s how you connect on a personal level with members of your target audience.

So, no matter which team you’re rooting for on Sunday, take a good look at the Super Bowl ads. Then see which advertising principles you can apply to your own marketing plan for 2014.

Photo: Flickr – One Way Stock

January 24, 2014

The downfall of data

Filed under: Advertising,Direct mail,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 3:44 am
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OfficeMax

by Darcy Grabenstein

Office Max has taken targeted marketing a bit too far.

The company is making headlines after one of its customers received a direct-mail piece addressed to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash or Current Business.” Unfortunately, the data was spot-on.

The recipient, Mike Seay, had lost his daughter in a car accident a year earlier.

So how did Office Max acquire this information and, more importantly, how did it end up on an envelope addressed to Mr. Seay?

Office Max is pointing fingers at a third-party data provider.

No matter how the error occurred or who’s responsible, the incident raises questions about the data industry as a whole. Data sellers – and buyers – need to be held more accountable for the use of customer information, particularly sensitive information.

Privacy has long been a concern among consumers, especially in terms of online marketing. This, however, was a traditional direct-mail promotion.

The point is, it’s not the channel that’s the culprit. It’s the methods of capturing – and using – data that need to be revisited.

Can you imagine a mailer promoting a weight-loss product being addressed to “Overweight mother of three”? Or a rehab clinic sending an email with the subject line “Fallen off the wagon again?”

Office Max (after a manager initially doubted the error when Seay called to report it) followed up with an apology. It issued a formal statement, and a company executive called the Seay family to offer a personal apology.

But an apology is not enough. Office Max needs to take the lead and ensure that this type of incident won’t occur again.

What turned out to be a nightmare for the Seay family doesn’t have to be a PR nightmare for Office Max. It simply needs to revamp its data collection procedures, and encourage other marketers to do so as well.

April 17, 2013

The importance of copy

Filed under: Advertising,Branding,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:03 am
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Hawaii ad mock-upIn the season opener of “Mad Men,” Don Draper is pitching a print ad to his client that promotes Hawaii.

The mock-up shows a beach shoreline strewn with a man’s jacket, tie and shoes – with footprints leading into the ocean. The headline reads: “Hawaii: The jumping off point.”

Like Don’s client, I immediately thought of suicide. Then I realized that it was the copy that led me to that conclusion.

Instead of “Jumping Off Point,” if Don had used a headline or tagline of “Hawaii. Shed your cares,” I’m guessing his client would have bought the concept.

Not only does this episode emphasize the importance of copy, it also shows how graphics and copy must work together to create a clear, cohesive message.

We all know Don has a dark side to his character. Apparently, he let his personality cloud his copywriting. This also illustrates how agency creatives must listen to their clients, even when they think they’re right and the client is wrong.

Me? I’ll take a fact-finding junket to Hawaii any day.

Aloha.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

January 29, 2013

Digital marketing D – A – R – C, that’s me!

Hello My Name Is badgeMy first name, Darcy, is admittedly a bit out of the ordinary. Over the years, I’ve learned to answer to Marcy, Dorothy, Darby – you name it. One nickname that has stuck, however, is Darc (rhymes with parse).

That’s why, when I read a recent article, “How the HubSpot CMO Screens for Top Marketing Talent,” I couldn’t help but think “That’s ME!”

The article states (the comments in italics are my own):

“The perfect inbound marketing manager has a variety of different skills.
At HubSpot, we like to use the acronym ‘DARC,’ which stands for digital, analytical, reach, and content:

  • Digital means they live their lives online and are familiar and comfortable with blogging, social media, and the web in general.While we’re on the topic of names, Digital could be my middle name. For the past 12-plus years, I have lived/breathed e-commerce. My current focus is on email marketing. I remember early on being at conferences where they asked for a show of hands who uses email and IM… who texts… telecommutes… or has an online portfolio… and eventually a smartphone… a Facebook page… a Twitter account… a LinkedIn account… a blog… a Pinterest account. Invariably, I was one of the few who had my hand proudly held high. Truth is, my writing now flows directly from my brain, out my fingertips and onto my laptop screen. Don’t even think about asking me to write something longhand.
  • Analytical means they like to measure what they do, and they make decisions based on data.

    I’ll admit that I usually leave the actual number crunching to the analytical folks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t incorporate their findings into my work. This is particularly crucial when it comes to email marketing. With so many variables to test – from the “from” line to subject lines, copy, graphics, calls to action, landing pages, social sharing, time of deployment, list segmentation and more – “test, test, test” has become my mantra.
  • Reach means they have a knack for growing their network by creating a gravitational attraction to what they do – and people want to follow their work.You’re here reading my blog, aren’t you? My blog is one way I reach out to my peers and prospective clients. And, as they say, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. So I’ll post links to my blog on other networking sites. I don’t expect people to find my blog on their own – I make it easy for them to do so, by posting content where they live (and work) online.
  • Content means they are naturally a content creator, and they’re not afraid of it. (You’d be surprised how many people are scared of writing a blog article.)”If content is king, then I consider it my crowning glory. In the days of print publications, I was known as a writer or a copywriter. Now I’m called a content creator. It’s just semantics. What I do is develop messages targeted to a specific audience, with a specific goal in mind – such as generate brand awareness, educate, sell a product or service, increase membership or sway opinion. There’s a lot of buzz out there about SEO content, but the bottom line is you’ve got to write for real people, not the search engines, in order to establish a true connection.

So feel free to call me DARC. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

October 14, 2012

You can take the girl out of copywriting… but you can’t take copywriting out of the girl

After a copywriting career spanning more than 20 years, I decided to make a move to the account side of the business. I’m now managing email campaigns for a division of one of the world’s largest beauty companies. It’s stimulating. It’s challenging. It’s a learning experience.

It’s not copywriting.

I’m not saying I have regrets, but I am saying that I still need to feed my creative juices.

I can’t help myself. It’s the way I’m wired.

I’m one of those people who watch the Super Bowl not for the gridiron greats but for the 30- and 60-second advertising spots. I actually like to receive commercial emails in my inbox. I flip through magazines, giving equal time to headlines and clever ad lines. Most people record  TV programs so they can fast forward through the commercials. Or flip from one radio station to the next, in an effort to avoid the on-air advertising onslaught.

Not moi. I actually hit the pause button on my DVR so I can capture all the ad details. I sign up for text alerts not to receive the special offers but to see how they’re crafted. I make a mental note of billboards that not only catch my eye but capture the essence of a brand. I click on banner ads to see if they really click with their audience.

My favorite TV shows are (no surprise here) Mad Men and The Pitch.

Call me crazy. Call me whatever you want – but call me a copywriter.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 27, 2012

The blog that wasn’t

My blog disappeared in cyberspace. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t.

So I’ve found a new home for my blog, and I’ve been furiously re-creating it as best I could. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.

Now that “Mad Men” is back on the air (hooray!), I’m sure I’ll have a few snarky comments from a copywriter’s perspective.

Stay tuned.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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