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A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin
Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.
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February 2010 - Posts

How to Cut Through B2B Clutter

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

How to Cut Through the B2B Clutter

Raise your hand if your company is attempting to differentiate itself and make gains in a crowded market. Lots of hands. Great. After all, what market isn't a crowded mass of hungry competitors these days?

An often neglected tool that many companies can use to break through all the clutter is "wit". But to serve the interests of your marketing program, the "wit", or "humor" must be relevant to your product, your service or your company. Relevant humor is an attention-getter that draws your prospects closer. It's an invitation to laugh, which in a business relationship is surprising in itself.

Six tips for using humor as a B2B communication tool.  

  1. Don't over-analyze a humorous idea. It's funny, or it's not. As Mark Twain said, "Trying to figure out why something is funny is like dissecting a frog. You'll come up with answers, but the frog always dies."
  2. Don't use humor for its own sake. Make it relevant to your objective.
  3. Use humor to entertain. People love to be entertained. (What do you do in your free time?)
  4. When possible be thought-provoking. Let your reader/listener/viewer experience the joy of "getting it." You'll make a friend.
  5. Do your homework. Humor comes from knowing your audience inside-out.
  6. The best humor comes from the edge, where there are no rules. But be careful not to step over that "edge" that professional entertainers always talk about.

Finally, a word of caution. Humor can be addictive. Scientists tell us that humor blocks stress hormones, stimulates endorphins or other chemical reactions, and produces euphoric effects akin to mood-altering drugs. Use humor wisely. Do not try it at home. Call a professional. (That would be Brown & Martin, Inc.)

All Employees Are "Challenged" in Some Way

From AdFreak: For an example of "humor" that's used to gain attention and get an important point across, click here to see a surprisingly funny ad by Health & Disability Advocates which urges employers to "Think beyond the label" and hire people with disabilities. The HR manager is portrayed by Alana Wallace, who uses a wheelchair in real life as a result of polio. The rest of the employees are all "challenged" in their own ways: unable to dress properly, operate a copier or speak at a reasonable volume.

If humor can be used effectively and tastefully in an ad about hiring people with disabilities, don't you think it could be used to help gain attention for your company?

Sounds of Ferraris Stir the Soul

Here's something from our friend Mike McCann ... racecar driver and former marketing executive. This European commercial is ostensibly selling Shell gasoline. But the Ferraris used in the video steal the show.

Ferrari pulled several vintage racecars out of storage, flew them around the world, and filmed them running through the streets of Rome, Rio, New York, Hong Kong and Monaco.

The best part is the sound. Even if you're not a gear head, there's something about this video that should stir your soul.

Panasonic Camera Ad

This ad for the Panasonic Lumix camera with "face recognition" caught my eye ... which means it did its job. The copy says, "No use hiding. If it has a face we will find it. Lumix with Face Recognition. Finds and highlights your face in the pictures." Pretty simple. Pretty clever. Pretty effective.

How Much "Wood" Do You Need?

This ad for Viagra seems a little over the top for me. Plus, I think I see part of my family tree in the background!

Colorado Springs Protected from Puppet's Ta Tas

If you're a regular reader of this blog you know that I'm a big fan of the Tony-winning musical, Avenue Q. ... the cast of which is primarily puppets. (I dated one of them.)

A billboard company in Colorado Springs has banned an ad for Avenue Q. because it shows puppet cleavage. Are you kidding me?! Other than the obvious idiocy of the decision, I should point out that this poster has been used all over the world to publicize Avenue Q.

But to be fair, the puppet's name is Lucy the Slut ... and she is one. She's a pink Sesame Street-like puppet in a show that addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the Web for porn.

Referring to the poster, an executive for Lamar Advertising said, "If I have to explain it to my four year old or my grandmother, we don't put it up." (He's an idiot on so many levels that I won't even make any snide remarks about that quote.)

Lucy's image has been replaced by photos of other characters from the adult puppet musical, so the morality of the citizens of Colorado has been saved.

Broadway.com contacted Lucy T. Slut about the issue, and she quickly responded by saying: "When my public relations people told me that my cleavage was banned from the bus shelters of Colorado Springs, my first thought was: ‘They could fit my cleavage on a little bus shelter?!' However, given my notoriety, I suppose the men of Colorado Springs might succumb to my charms. My bazooms are widely acknowledged as a threat to the traditional family structure."

To see an interview with Lucy T. Slut, click here. To see one of the songs from the play, "It's Sucks to be Me," click here.

From Jay Johnson

Here's something about a puppet who, in his day, was considered by some to be a bit over the top and at times offensive. Today he resides in the Smithsonian Institute. (Don't tell the citizens of Colorado Springs.) Via Clinton Detweiler's blog, from Jay Johnson: The original Bob, I used for the first couple of years on SOAP, is in the Pop Culture and Television Section of The Smithsonian Institution. He currently resides next to an original Oscar the Grouch, Sid Caesar's hat and Seinfeld's Puffy shirt.

Bob had been on display at Valentine Vox's museum in Vegas for a while. When that closed I started trying to find another home for him. The Washington Museum was immediately interested but needed lots of details and provenance. I was told that I had one of the most complete histories on any item they had ever had submitted. I had actually done a lot of work in that direction for Valentine.

The process started back in 2006 and took about about 9 months. A committee had to agree that the donation met certain standards of what the collection stands for... very formal. I was informed that Bob received a unanimous vote. Finally in May of 2007 I turned him over to a representative during a ceremony at Sardi's in New York City.... in front of the caricature of me and Bob on the wall. (The day before that ceremony I was nominated for the Tony and it was my wedding anniversary... they say good things always come in threes.)

The museum was closed for almost a year while they renovated the building. I think the building reopened the first of 2008 and Bob went on display.

An Olympic Moment

In honor of the Olympics, I thought I'd offer up an example of the grace and artistry of figure skating.  Admit it ... this photo provides the most enjoyment you've ever gotten from the sport.


Humor Improves Communication Effectiveness

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

Humor Improves Communication Effectiveness

Below are actual comments from clients and potential clients made to an agency known for creating humorous and effective marketing campaigns.

Matchbox Cars  - "Sure, VW can afford to be funny. They're cheap cars. We're selling a quality product here."

Prudential  - "Look, we're not a fun company. We're a pretty boring company. Shouldn't our advertising reflect who we are?"

Polaner Garlic - "If the product benefits are communicated in an entertaining manner, will the humor get in the way of the product?"

Haagen-Dazs  - "I'm not sure you're taking the product seriously enough. This is ice cream, after all."

After 30 years in the marketing and corporate communications business, I've often seen the look in a client's eyes when he or she hears, "Maybe we should try a humorous approach." Their response is usually, "Humor?  There's nothing funny about our business!"

Why does using humor terrify management? Perhaps it's the risk of falling flat, of offending someone. But the other side of "risk" is "opportunity".

Let's look at the insurance industry. Insurance is so boring that I almost fell asleep typing the word "insurance." For nearly 60 years Geico was an obscure niche marketer of auto insurance and primarily used direct mail to target people with good driving records. In 1994 the company began using national TV, radio and print ads. In 1996 the company introduced humor in its ads to give the company a "personality." In four years Geico's sales increased 39% and the company moved from 7th largest to 4th largest.

The company's now famous gecko and humorous ads transformed a traditionally boring category. Today Geico's ads are part of vernacular and they have spawned additional humor in the insurance category, most notably the AFLAC duck which has had tremendous success in increasing visibility and sales. (Had you ever heard of AFLAC before they introduced the duck?)

Consistent, professional humor grabs attention. It's memorable. It's enjoyable. It's fun. And yes, it sells.  And it's something that I'm an expert on. (In all modesty.)

McDonalds is on the Wrong Side

I usually find myself taking McDonald's side when it's attacked by environmental, nutritional or other narrowly-focused special interest groups. I think Ronald McDonald Houses and other McDonald charities are tremendous community assets. But I have to take issue with the company on this little news item.

Apparently McDonald's has nothing better to do than sue a 19 year old whose last name, McClusky, was the inspiration for the name of an event she puts on to raise money for the Chicago chapter of Special Olympics. The event is called McFest, and it has raised $30,000. But McClusky has spent $5,000 of it defending herself against McDonald's legal assault.

McClusky says she's frustrated by the company's desire to clamp down on and in effect penalize a charity event ... especially when McDonald's is a supporter of Special Olympics. "It has nothing to do with food, arches or their colors," she said. "And our M's are pointy, not curved."

McClusky hopes for a truce that will allow her to keep the McFest name. Still, she's unwilling to make a corporate sponsorship tradeoff along the lines of "McDonald's Presents McFest." For their part, McDonald's representatives maintained that they have no desire to squash McClusky's charitable efforts, and desire an "amicable resolution." McDonald's says they are required by law to "guard against third parties that infringe upon our trademarks."

I can't believe that all things "Mc," are automatically McDonald's. And I can't help but think that this is the result of some over-zealous corporate attorney who is devoid of common sense and who should have talked with McDonald's corporate PR people before heading down the path of suing a teenager raising money for Special Olympics. It's definitely a "no win" for McDonald's.


Leslie Bonk sent me to http://www.dragulator.com/ where I found a Web site that appears to be produced by the TV cable network, Logo. The Web site features "RuPaul's Drag Race", which is a euphemism for an interactive Web site that enables you to turn yourself into a drag queen ... or more accurately, create a picture of yourself as a drag queen.

It's an interesting time-waster. Below is the result of my feeble effort ... and I didn't use half of the transformation options that are available on the site.

What is it with Ads for Shoes?

In previous blogs I've highlighted contemporary print ads for shoe companies which blatantly use sexual references and photos to grab attention with little or no "tie" to the actual product. (Accidental pun)

Apparently the industry has leaned toward the tendency to use "sex for no reason" for quite some time.

Why does this ad for Nunn Bush shoes, which I'm guessing is from the sixties, use a naked woman as a backdrop for its products? I'm not complaining ... I'm just curious. (And to be honest, this is the only Nunn Bush ad that I could find that wasn't ultra conservative and ultra boring.)

I didn't know until I read the small print on this ad that the Nunn Bush Shoe Co. was based in Milwaukee, WI. I looked it up and found that the company is now based in Glendale, WI, about 15 miles from my office. Then I learned that the "old man" wing tips that Dale wears are from Nunn Bush. That style of show has to be as old as this ad ... which gives you some idea of Dale's fashion sense. 

Animated Shorts
Okay, these have nothing to do with marketing communications, but they caught my eye, and Dale's not around today to censor things.

The advancements in animation techniques fascinate me. Animation shorts can almost seem real at times. So here are links to two award-winning animation shorts. The first one "Pigeon Impossible" is clever, fast-paced and funny. Click here to watch it on YouTube.

Because some of my best friends are "dolls," I was reluctant to post this second clip.

It's beautifully done, but a bit creepy at the end ... and it may perpetuate some people's aversion to dolls. But I think you'll find it mesmerizing. Click here to see Alma, by Rodrigo Blaas.


Humor Benefits Companies and Employees

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

Laughter is Good Medicine for People and for Companies

For generations people have been saying that laughter is good medicine. And now scientists have taken an interest ... and it turns out great-grandma was right.

Researchers have discovered that laughter releases helpful goodies in the body which boost your immune system, make you more alert and can help to increase your productivity. In fact the therapeutic benefits of laughter are now being harnessed by academia and the business community into laughter workshops and other formalized chuckle sessions. Get your team members laughing and you raise productivity, so it seems.  (If that's the case my boss must be the most productive person in the world because he hasn't stopped laughing since reading my request for a raise.)

However, it's easy to get humor wrong. And a joke that's sent to someone who doesn't see the funny side sometimes creates more ill health through raised blood pressure. The risk of offending someone or of getting humor wrong, is the reason many managers prohibit its use in corporate communications. But when used correctly, humor has proven to be a powerful and valuable corporate communication and marketing tool. (There's a reason the majority of memorable Super Bowl commercials use humor to help get their points across.)

So what's the answer? How do we harness humor and make it work for us, not against us?

Use humor about situations, not people. As long as the butt of the joke is a situation or set of circumstances, not the people, you're far less likely to upset anyone. Whoever they are and wherever they come from, people will usually identify with a situation.  
Overall, it's beneficial to use humor as a spicy condiment in business communications, meetings, newsletters, blogs, etc. Just as you would with chili powder in cooking, use humor in moderation. And of course, whenever possible call on professionals who have been effectively incorporating humor in corporate environments for 25 years ... that would be
Brown & Martin, Inc.  

Get in Touch with Your Plastic Side

Lights! Camera! Plastic!

Can you stand? Can you wear clothes? Can you hold a plastic smile the longest? Then you could be a SuperModelquin.

Old Navy has launched a contest to find a real, live, SuperModelquin. The winner will win $100,000 and will be molded into a SuperModelquin. Go the special web site for more information or click here to see a one minute commercial about the contest.

Maybe I should hold a contest to find my own SuperMannequinAmerican?

Attend a Funeral Via the Internet

Geographically scattered modern families and recession-era meager travel budgets can lead to a problem that's hard to ignore: it's hard for many Americans to pick up and travel to a distant funeral. So if you can't travel to the service or manage time off work, why not watch live over the Internet? Just please, hold your tears: your computer warranty doesn't cover water damage.

Webcasts are nothing new for other major life events, such as graduations or weddings. But there just seems to be something odd and creepy about paying your last respects to a beloved relative, friend, or mentor while sitting in front of an iMac screen. Click here to see a promotional video on the subject.

Bike Customers Can Become Marketers

From Make the Logo Bigger: Titus Cycles in Tempe, AZ is running a three-part promotion to find hardcore bikers willing to participate in helping to market Titus products. Here are your opportunities.

1: Submit your original Titus tattoo design concept and where you're willing to have it inked. The winner will be filmed getting his or her tattoo and, on completion, receive a 2010 Titus FTM Carbon (value: $5,500).

2: First couple opting for a bike type of wedding to be married in his and hers Titus racing jerseys will get a video of the ceremony and his and hers 2010 Titus X Carbons (value: $7,600)

3. Maybe your significant other-to-be dumped you because you spend too much time riding something besides them. Recognize that commitment and change your name legally to Rockstar 29'er for a 2010 Titus Rockstar 29'er (value: $6,265).

I'm guessing that the last one will have a few less takers than the second one.

Do You Have the "Best Bottom"?

I know a lot of my readers have been waiting for an opportunity like this. American Apparel is searching for The Best Bottom in the World to be the "face" of the brand's 2010 intimates and briefs lines.

The winners will be flown to LA, photographed and featured online. All you have to do, ladies, is send an image of your bodacious booties clad in AA panties, bodysuits or briefs. (You can view entries on their web site, give scores to as many as you want to and even post comments.) You're welcome.

More Ads Aimed at Your Tush

Speaking of "bottoms," the tag in the upper right of this ad says, "There is a Key," I'm assuming that the photo in this print ad for All Bran represents the "flood gates" which All Bran can open. I don't know ... there's either too much thinking required or images that are too gross; the ad just doesn't cut it for me.  But it's certainly a better visual than the one below.

"We Love Your Tush," Conway Electric Bidets. Is my "tush" supposed to pucker like that? Or is the bidet supposed to kiss my tush? Either way, I'm grossed out. 



Believe me, I can totally relate.

Small Business Prefers "Passive" Social Media

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Mannequin American

Small Business Prefers 'Passive' Social Media

A  new study of small business social media use by Business.com finds that small business leaders currently show a strong preference for "passive" social media use such as viewing webinars or reading online reviews and blog posts, over those that require more active interaction with others.

The Business.com study involved more than 1,700 small business owners or managers currently using one or more social media resources to help them get the information they need to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis.

Company blogs ... at least, those that are "well written, current and with good thought leadership articles" ... were listed as great sources of information about business-relevant products, services and the underlying character of a company. Increasingly, small business leaders are connecting to company blog content through social networking sites.

What Were They Thinking?

I thought this "heart-friendly" cigarette ad from the 60's would top this week's list of "What were they thinking?" ads. But I was wrong.

Whatever Pabst Blue Ribbon was thinking when it decided to have grandpa's little girl deliver his afternoon beverage, sure wouldn't fly today ... which in a way, is sad. Obviously this ad came from a more innocent time when people didn't read more into an ad than they needed to.  Wouldn't it be nice if times were a little more like that today?

The Difference Between a "Face" and a "Butt"

Via logolounge: North Face is "facing" a brawl with South Butt. The so-called parody brand was started by 18-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann who took advantage of North Face's name and logo to create his own line, which is now reportedly worth a few million.

When North Face sued, Winkelmann found another branding opportunity. The young entrepreneur's attorney Albert Watkins said in response to the suit, "I think the general public knows the difference between a face and a butt." That line seems to have prompted the creation of The South Butt Challenge a Facebook page where visitors are asked to tell the difference between a face and a butt.

A disclaimer on the South Butt site reads: "We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under "The North Face" brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products."

Here's hoping the court is amused.

More "Butt"

Reebok's new Easytone campaign promotes shoes that are supposed to make your butt look better ... especially in see-through underwear. The ad above, via AdsoftheWorld, is one of several that seem to show more "butt" than "shoes." These ads are aimed at women, right?

But it's the TV commercials that are "cheeky" enough to be amusing. Click here to see one that features breasts complaining that no one looks at them anymore because "The stupid butt gets all the attention!"

Snickers Road Trip Commercial

If you haven't seen it yet, click here to see the new Snickers "Road Trip" commercial. The humor of using Aretha Franklin is made even funnier by adding Liza Minnelli. This is the second in the series that started durng the Super Bowl with Betty White and Abe Vigoda.

A Return to the Raue Center for the Arts

As the poster below indicates, Dale and I will be returning to the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, IL on Saturday, April 10th. We'll have a few new surprises for this special show, so if you're in the area, be sure to get tickets.


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