2010, 2011 PRSA WI Paragon Award of Excellence

About this blog

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.
My Background
What I Do
About Brown & Martin, Inc.

Email Updates


April 2010 - Posts

New From Tailored Label Products

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

An interview with Mike Erwin, President of Tailored Label Products

CM: Thanks for inviting me to lunch, Mike.

ME: Actually, you invited me to lunch.

CM: No, I said, "I'd like to have lunch with you."

ME: I took that as an invitation.

CM: It was just a statement.

ME: You picked the restaurant.

CM: You picked me up.

ME: You don't drive.

CM: I don't carry a wallet either.

ME: I guess I invited you then.

CM: You know Mike; this year marks the 20th anniversary of our working relationship. 

ME: Actually, I've worked with Brown & Martin for 20 years. During that time you've only appeared at a couple of corporate events and employee meetings ... one of which I think you were actually invited to.

CM: Hey, that's pretty funny. I want to write that down. Can I borrow a pen?

ME: Sure.

CM: Nice pen. Can I have it?

ME: It was a gift from my wife.

CM: I'll take that as a "No." So tell me, Mike, what's new at TLP?

Tailored Aisle Graphics from TLP

ME: Where do I begin ... our new Tailored Aisle Graphics (TAG) product launch is gaining traction as an effective innovation in FLOOR GRAPHICS for retail marketing. It has been installed in home and garden stores, sports bars, retail clothing and other venues. TAG significantly improves in-store marketing and sales lift. We're also in the midst of 3 new patented industrial and medical identification product launches ... all using our recent $1 million investment in variable image and security serialization printing systems. And our DOMED label clean room production cell is seeing dramatic volume improvements for high impact digital product identification.

CM: Ah, Mike ... I don't allow plugs on my blog.

ME: I'm picking up lunch. Consider it "paid advertising."

CM: Touché. Let's make a toast to our partnership for another 20 years.

ME: Fine. May our roots continue to provide a solid foundation for another 20 years.

CM: Nice "wood" reference. Let's eat.

ME: Ah, can I have my pen back?

CM: You don't miss a trick, do you?

ME: I've known you for 20 years. The termite salad looks good.

Drama Queen ... A Funny Nightmare

This 50 second video, titled "Drama Queen" for the Young Directors' Award made me laugh out loud. You will too. Really, what would you do if your kid did this?

Free Chance to Slip into Something More Comfortable

From AdPulp: According to The New York Times, "Dr. Scholl's for Her" is planning to insert mate-less right foot insoles into 2.7 million magazines and give out another 300K via the brand's Facebook page. The thought is that a woman who slipped the insole into her shoe won't be able to help but compare it to her left shoe as she walks.

The company tested the promotion on a smaller scale a year ago, inserting one million of the insoles in the June issue of Glamour. Research by Glamour showed that 11% of the subscribers had actually bought the insoles and many more planned to purchase the product. Fifty-seven percent reported peeling the insole off the page, with 37% actually testing it in a shoe. Those are conversion rates that most marketers only dream about.

Click here to see a Dr. Scholl's Commercial.

Effective Promotion Tied to Current Events

Above is part of an e-mail promotion that offers a free helmet when you buy a new bike. Topical and clever marketing. Via AdPulp.

Traveling Attention-Getter

This ice cream truck's cannons actually shoot clouds of aerosolized nanotechnology that produce fake snow ... that smells like ice cream! It's a brilliant accessory for an ice cream truck.

I want one of those on top of my car. Imagine an aromatic cloud of beer announcing my arrival.

More Clever Vehicles

Here's a commercial for a Nissan Sentra that uses a 1/10 RC car that initially appears to be a real car. But you quickly realize that it's a toy car ... a toy car capable of doing real drifts. And it's pursued and filmed by a miniature RC helicopter and also filmed by a companion miniature RC car sporting a camera to get close, side-by-side shots.

You can even watch a video on how the commercial was created. If you're into cars, this is pretty cool.

A Car Ad with Humor

What does a Mini by BMW have to do with "man boobs?" This 30 second commercial ties them together ... the car and the man boobs, that is.

Even Puppets Come to Life

Who needs 3-D? Here's an 1950's ad for an RCA replacement picture tube that promises, "Even puppets come to life..." I think the puppet in the photo is Inspector John J. Fadoozle from the Howdy Doody Show.

Trust me, puppets don't need a picture tube to be lively. There are photos on my Facebook page that prove it.

Puppets in Politics


Digital Part of Most B2B Strategies

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

Most B2B Marketing Strategies Now Include Digital

According to recent B2B research, digital marketing is a crucial part of most company marketing strategies, and e-mail marketing still carries a lot of weight. The majority of marketing tools are aimed at driving prospects to Web sites and blogs, which have become the "faces" of successful B2B companies. The more relevant and "personalized" the messages, the higher the response rates.

Yet it's pretty easy to look around and find B2B companies marketing "the same old way," primarily because they don't want to change and they don't see their competitors doing anything different. But it's the companies that are willing to "break away" from the norm that will take the leads in their industries.

Take Steve Jobs as an example. To him, focus groups make no sense. Why? Because he doesn't care what other people think. He's driven by a passion to be the best and he does it his way. It's not rational ... but it's the key to his success. Sometimes it's prudent to go with your gut.

Is your Web site "rationally designed"? Should it be? What about the processes you use to engage your customers or create marketing tools? Not following the crowd sometimes means taking risks ... thinking irrationally. But it's often the best way to leap-frog your competitors who are slow to change the way they do business.

More Monitors = More Productivity?

Apparently, more is more.  Multi-monitor set ups are all the rage these days with the goal of significantly improving productivity. According to a study from the University of Utah: People using a 24-inch screen completed tasks 52% faster than people who used an 18-inch monitor. People who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. More usable computer desktop space seems to reduce the amount of time spent on window management. Instead of incessantly dragging, sizing, minimizing and maximizing windows, you can do actual productive work. With a larger desktop, you spend less time mindlessly arranging information, and more time interacting with and acting on that information.

How much that matters to you will depend on your job and working style. Personally, more screens would do little to improve my skills at solitaire; but I could watch YouTube and play solitaire at the same time! Okay, I'm sold. I'm taking a monitor from another cubicle.

If You're Cheap ... You'll Love This

From AdRants: fiverr is a Web site on which people promise to do things for $5. And it's as simple as that.

"I will come up with a slogan for your Web site or product for $5. I will hold up a message on time square for $5. I will submit your site to all major search engines for $5. I will print screen your company logo on a t-shirt and wear it for a week for $5. I will consult your business on search marketing for 30 minutes for $5. I will design a custom web banner for your business for $5. I will write a memorable tagline for your business for $5. I will do a voiceover for your podcast/website/business for $5. I will design your Business Card for $5."

If you need some simple, marketing-related tasks done, check out this site. I'm not recommending it ... I'm just saying, "If you're cheap, this could be your heaven." Don't worry, "You get what you pay for," is just a saying ... it's not reality. Yea, right.

Puppet Talks for Baby

The "talking baby" commercial has been done to death ... and I hope they continue because I like most of them.

But here's a cute twist on the genre ... a baby who can't talk ... until he has a puppet on his hand. Then the puppet lets the baby's parents know what he's really thinking.  Clever and funny. But Huggies shouldn't have mentioned a competitor because I had to go back to see which company actually sponsored the ad.  Still, I hope they keep this plot going for awhile. 

Nutrition Myths

I was thumbing through a book (one of those things you used to carry around while going to school) about nutrition and ran across a list of "nutritional myths." I jotted down a few that caught my eye ... and I think many of you will find the following two facts of particular interest.

Myth: You should always remove chicken skin before eating.

Half the pleasure of eating roast chicken comes from the crisp, brown skin that melts in your mouth. Yet the skinless, boneless chicken breast ... one of the most boring protein sources on Earth ... somehow became the health-conscious cook's gold standard.
Fortunately, the long-standing command to strip poultry of its skin before eating doesn't hold up under a nutritional microscope. A 12-ounce bone-in, skin-on chicken breast half contains just 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 50 calories more than its similarly portioned skinless counterpart. A chicken breast will always be lean ... skinned or not. What's more, 55 percent of the fat in the chicken skin is monounsaturated ... the heart-healthy kind you want more of, says Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD, Program Director for Strategic Initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Myth: The only heart-friendly alcohol is red wine.

You're going to thank me for this.

Red wine was raised to health-food status when researchers thought it was the antioxidants in the drink that protected the cheese-loving French from heart disease. But recent research has shown that antioxidants aren't the answer after all. Alcohol ... the ethanol itself ... raises levels of protective HDL, or good cholesterol, which help protect against plaque buildup in the arteries and reduce clotting factors that contribute to heart attack and stroke, according to Eric Rimm, ScD, associate professor of nutrition at the School of Public Health at Harvard University. Beer, wine, and liquors all confer the same health benefits. Any kind of beverage that contains alcohol, when consumed in moderation, (that means one to two drinks a day), helps reduce heart disease risk.

So go have some chicken skin and a martini and feel good about your health conscious choices. You're welcome.

Super Hero for Health

Speaking of "health," this anti-smoking ad doesn't mention that Superman's indiscriminate X-Raying would probably contribute to lung cancer in those poor souls he was scanning. Just a thought.

Audition for Playboy From Home

For the first time any woman, wherever she is, can take part in an online photo session and be considered for the cover of Playboy Magazine. How does it work?

"Our photographer takes your pictures with your own webcam. When you finish you make your online book with the best pictures and invite your friends to score you. The next Playboy Girl will be chosen from the favorites."

Click here to see Playboy's video which shows how the online photo sessions work.

While on the Topic of ***

As a follow up to a January post on this blog, Markus, the first legal male prostitute in the U.S., hung his "shingle" at the Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada in January. Since then he's had "fewer than 10 paying customers" according to the Associated Press. So he's quitting and going back into porn. In other words, there's a new opening at the Shady Lady.

Wait. That totally didn't sound right.


The Power of Good Writing

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

The Power of Good Writing

If you effectively describe something using a story, people will put more value on the item being described. Think "Well written, interesting case history." And here's proof.

Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, both writers and authors, created The Significant Objects project with the simple hypothesis that "Narrative is a key x-factor influencing an object's exchange value."

To confirm their theory, they bought insignificant objects from thrift stores and garage sales, each costing no more than a few bucks, and had writers create fictional short stories about them. Then they posted the items and the stories on eBay, with a disclaimer emphasizing that the tales were fiction, and waited for the bids. They sold the first round of 100 objects, originally bought for $128.74, for $3,612.51. Not too shabby.

Their experiment (currently in its third phase) validates the power of well-written narrative to push sales and marketing. Good writing motivates people to buy.  

And where do you find professionals capable of creating captivating narrative? Oh right ... at http://www.bmpr.com/

Why the Chicago River Was Green

Each year the Chicago River is turned green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. This year, to promote its Shamrock Shakes, McDonalds provided Chicagoans with a potential source of the color. Simple promotion that generated adequate media coverage and a lot of pedestrian interest.

Signs and Lines by Stretch

In this part of the country just about anyone who owns a fleet of trucks, busses or other type of vehicles, is familiar with Signs and Lines by Stretch. For more than 25 years "Stretch" has offered graphic design services, vehicle wraps and interior and exterior signage.  Their customers range from large national and international brands such as Harley-Davidson, Miller Brewing Company, MLB, NBA, NFL, Mountain Dew and others, to small locally-owned businesses.

Our crack design, IT and writing staff (pictured above) recently updated Signs and Lines' website.

If you live near Milwaukee it's fun to scroll through all of the photos on the Signs and Lines website to see how many truck, recreational vehicle and emergency vehicle graphics you've seen on highways all over the country. You'll be surprised how familiar you are with their work.

Photographed More Than the Statue of Liberty

What's the 28th most photographed built landmark in the world? According to a recent Cornell study, it's the Apple Store Cube. The Fifth Avenue Apple Store is the fifth most popular site in New York ... beating out the Statue of Liberty! The building has become an icon ... and an impressive marketing instrument.

The top built landmarks on earth? You probably guessed right: Eiffel Tower, Trafalgar Square, Tate Modern, Big Ben, Notre Dame, London Eye and the Empire State Building. New York was the most photographed place, with the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center taking the top spots. (Download a PDF of the research paper here.)

Stuffed and Unstrung "Pitch" Video

Click here to see a 30 second video of "The Pitch" for Jim Henson's Stuffed and Unstrung. I love these guys! Via Muppet News Flash.

Terry Fator Adds to His Cast of Thousands

Terry Fator and his "Cast of Thousands" celebrated their one year anniversary in the Terry Fator Theater at the Mirage in Las Vegas with a Red Carpet event that included the introduction of a new character, Wrex, the crash dummy. (In February, Terry sang the National Anthem before the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas ... solo ... without puppets.)

Several of our friends were among the special guests at the event. Backstage at the far left is Clinton Detweiler, of Maher Ventriloquist Studios. Clinton and the Maher Ventriloquism Course are the forces behind the majority of ventriloquists performing today.

Terry said, "Meeting Clinton face-to-face was truly one of the highlights of my life. Clinton always helped me out of a pinch in the days I couldn't afford to have spare puppets around when one broke. I would overnight a broken puppet to Clinton and he would fix it immediately and overnight it back, saving my act many times. He had no idea who I was or that I would one day be a headliner in Vegas, but he treated me with the same amount of respect he would treat any star that contacted him. Having the Detweilers at my one year anniversary at the Mirage made it one of the most special days in my life."

Next to Clinton is ventriloquist Jay Johnson. Jay won a Tony Award for his one man show on Broadway, The Two and Only. "It was a fabulous show," said Jay. "It could be one of the best ventriloquist shows I've ever seen. Terry's musical talent and ventriloquism come together in a wonderful performance that can be enjoyed by anyone. He's charming and unassuming and his characters are distinctive. Terry gives ventriloquism a legitimate seat at the table of high-end entertainment."

Terry is in the middle. Next is Farffel the Dog with his owner, Jimmy Nelson. Jimmy's famous "Instant Ventriloquism" and "Ventriloquism 2" are now available on a digitally re-mastered two CD set collection. On the far right is ventriloquist and puppet manipulator extraordinaire, Dan Horn.

After the star-studded anniversary show there was a party at BB King's. Even after performing a fabulous show, Terry had the energy to get up and sing a long set with the band on stage at the club.

Congratulations to Terry.  I wish we could have been there to share in the celebration and camaraderie.

As a side note, Jeff Dunham was appearing at Caesars Palace the following weekend and both Terry and Jeff were cover features in the press that week. Clinton said, "I never imagined I'd live to see the day when ventriloquists I knew personally would be the hottest acts in the Country. They've taken the art to entirely new levels."


(Dale and I will be back on the road this weekend, trying to bring ventriloquism back down to the level where we're more comfortable with it.)


Using Humor to Improve Communications

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

Using Humor to Improve Communications

It's interesting that I began my career as a corporate communicator back in the 80's when a recession had its foot on the necks of many businesses. Companies like J.I. Case, Kohler Co., Harnischfeger, Mirro and others invited me to help them communicate key messages to their employees. By including me in their meetings they not only improved communications, they also showed employees that even during those serious times, it was still okay ... and in fact important ... to laugh. 

Being as humble as possible here, when companies hire me to take part in employee meetings, the results are usually hilarious, memorable and productive. Really. And I can prove it. On the walls of my office I've got framed articles from The Wall Street Journal, Nation's Business, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Sales and Marketing Strategies and many others that say so.

When companies retain our firm to help make their meetings more effective, they typically enable meeting participants to sound off through me. We discretely research and collect questions, concerns and gripes from audience members well in advance of the meeting.

During the meeting, when the executive behind the podium asks, "Are there any questions?" I appear from the front row, take my place on stage, and the productivity and laughter begins. The audience pays close attention because the Mannequin American (me) is asking questions that they care about. And they listen closely to the executive's responses for the same reason. 

Because I'm a Mannequin American, I can say and get away with things that average employees can't. (And let's face it ... I'm not "average.") And because audience members listen more closely when I'm part of the presentation, key messages are better understood and remembered.

So if you know of a company that could use some help in improving its communications, improving morale of its employees and improving the productivity of its meetings, just forward this article to them. Show them that you're no "dummy."  Click here to learn more.

Whip Out Your ... Wallet

Ladies, catch your man in the act, and get yourself some properly-sized underthings in the process. Kliktease is a clever online promotion for online lingerie retailer Lingerie Totaal.

The video claims that men don't purchase lingerie for their ladies because a) They don't know their size. b) They don't want to go to a lingerie store. c) They don't know their lady's taste in lingerie.

With Kliktease, women send some scantily clad content to their men, in the guise of an email from one of their boyfriend's buddies. (Very tricky.) Once the boyfriend is into the striptease video however, a message held by the scantily-clad model reveals that his girlfriend is actually the sender, along with her measurements and link to purchase the undies she likes. The idea is that he'll feel "caught" and embarrassed enough to purchase the lingerie for his mate. It's actually quite entertaining and a very interesting concept. What would you do if you received a message like that from your female companion?

Click here to see the video that explains the whole process. From Creativity-online.

Fun Time-Waster

Just in time for Spring. It's the Suzuki Kizashi people, and it kills snowmen. Evil snowmen. But it will never drive off the road, because it really is that drive-off-the-road proof. Click now to slay, er, play!

These Ads Are Just Gross

The new ad series for HairClub, with the tag, "Not every head looks better with hair. But yours will," isn't clever or funny. It's just gross. Now get your hair out of my beer.

More Posts Next page »