2010, 2011 PRSA WI Paragon Award of Excellence

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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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May 2010 - Posts

Visual Cues Affect Behavior

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

Visual Cues Affect Behavior ... So Why Don't More Businesses Use Them?

Many people surround themselves with visual reminders of what they want to accomplish, what they want to be and how they want to act. And it works.

Visual cues affect perceptions and behavior, and some organizations act on that insight. Many medical facilities now feature photos of patients, and staff identification badges have messages emphasizing patient service. Laminated patient satisfaction questionnaires are posted on walls to help remind staff of the focus on patient satisfaction and also to let patients know the importance of patient feedback.

In manufacturing facilities, initiatives to improve quality often begin by cleaning and painting the buildings, because orderliness sends a visual message consistent with an emphasis on avoiding defects.

Nonetheless, many organizations do not make use of their physical spaces to cue desired behaviors and attitudes. Most office buildings are completely nondescript. Although the buildings may be architecturally attractive and nicely decorated, you can't tell anything about the work or mission of the organizations by looking at the décor.

Companies can be much more thoughtful about how visual cues influence attitudes and behaviors. Managers should think about what employee behaviors and what customer reactions they desire and then blatantly use visual cues that are likely to help inspire them.

More Visual Cues ... Lost in Translation

For the past two years the Shanghai Commission for the Management of Language Use has been trying to eradicate the scourge of humorous signs from its city. The campaign is partly modeled on Beijing's herculean effort to clean up English signage for the 2008 Summer Olympics, which led to the replacement of 400,000 street signs, 1,300 restaurant menus and such exemplars of impropriety as the Dongda Anus Hospital ... now known as the Dongda Proctology Hospital. Gone, too, is Racist Park, a cultural attraction that has since been rechristened Minorities Park.

"The purpose of signage is to be useful, not to be amusing," said Zhao Huimin, the former Chinese ambassador to the United States who, as director general of the capital's Foreign Affairs Office, has been leading the fight for linguistic standardization and sobriety.

New Tradeshow Engagement Tool ... BoothTag

From Exhibit Systems: If you haven't heard of BoothTag before, you'll probably be totally familiar with it by the time you leave your next tradeshow.

BoothTag is a barcode scavenger hunt for tradeshow attendees. People attending the tradeshow look for BoothTag barcodes at tradeshow booths and scan them with a Microsoft Tag Reader application for their smartphone. Each attendee earns points for every tag scanned and the top prize winner earns a prize. At the BizTech Expo in Milwaukee the prize was an iPad.

As an exhibitor, the BoothTag account provides you with a virtual Rolodex of all of your connections. In addition, exhibitors may create bonus BoothTag points that encourages additional attendee engagement. For example, a bonus item may be: "Talk to John Doe at X booth to learn about Acme product Y." A bonus item barcode is worth 10 points to the player scanning it.

For more information, go to http://www.boothtag.com/

Lord Vader is on TomTom

This made me laugh out loud. It's a video of Darth Vader recording his voice for TomTom's GPS. After the half-way point, which is about a minute and a half in, Darth becomes very funny. Many buttons died to bring this to you. Click here to see the video.

It's Baaaack

Like a phoenix rising from the flames, Polaroid has returned.

The PIC-300 has the familiar snap-and-wait action, spitting a photo from a slot in its top whereupon the internal chemical pack goes to work to develop the image. The camera itself has four exposure settings, an automatic flash and runs on four AA batteries or a rechargeable li-ion (all included).

The image is rather small at 1.8 x 2.4-inches versus the old 3 x 3.1 image size. The camera is $90 and the film costs $10 for a ten exposure pack. Seems kinda expensive when you consider that we've become cell phone-toting people who get digital pictures for free. 

Click here to read more.

Is This Advertising?

In the UK it is illegal to show tobacco advertisements on certain television programs, like sporting events. A barcode painted on the spine of a Formula-1 racecar is causing problems for Marlboro and the Ferrari F1 cars sponsored by the cigarette maker.

"The barcode looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes, says prominent English physician John Britton. "I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the barcode has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding."

The doctor claims that because the races are aired on TV, it constitutes a breach of UK law and the entire F-1 series should be taken off air until the cars are changed.

Unless the cars are running under barcode scanners during the race, I can't believe spectators would be able to identify the barcodes as representative of Marlboro.

Kraft offers Wienermobile for a day on eBay

From Leslie Bonk: Kraft Foods is letting eBay bidders vie for a chance to ride in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, with proceeds benefiting the Feeding America hunger-relief organization. The top bidder will get use of the vehicle for a day, along with supplies for a 50-person cookout and a year of free hot dogs. Let's all chip in!

Adult Muppets Part of New Game Show

A group of puppets from the Jim Henson Company will be unleashed as part of a new late-night game show for the game show network, GSN. "Late Night Liars," debuting next month on GSN, features a panel of saucy and uncensored "celebrity puppets" alongside actor-comedian Larry Miller as the show's host.

"Late Night Liars" is billed as a raunchy comedy game show, each episode will feature two human contestants facing off against a panel of four "celebrity puppets" who are drunk and telling half-truths. Contestants vie for cash prizes by deciding whether the puppets are telling true or false stories.

"Jim Henson made a great discovery many years ago when he realized that pretending puppets are people is far easier than dealing with people who are puppets," said Miller.  

"Late Night Liars" begins 11:00PM EDT on Thursday, June 10, 2010 on the GSN channel.

Chip Martin's Blog Honored by Peers

To be perfectly honest I don't put much stock in awards ... unless of course, I'm the recipient.  After working in the marketing communications industry for over 30 years, I've received my fair share of formal recognition. For instance, the Brown & Martin newsletter that I've edited for over 20 years has been acknowledged with several honors, including four Paragon Awards of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America.

On Tuesday night I received my fifth Paragon Award of Excellence. And in all humility, this one means a lot to me ... because it was for this blog ... and because it will help provide job security for another year.  

You're reading the only blog to be recognized with such a prestigious award.  Judges said, "Chip Martin's blog is a delight to read and reinforces Brown & Martin's image as a company that believes business can be fun." (Too bad "business" isn't a bit more profitable. But I guess we can't have everything.)

So to all of my regular readers ... please take a moment to leave a "comment" below and let me know what you think of my blog.  After all, your opinion means more than the opinions of a panel of judges.

I don't ask for much ... but a few comments would be nice. Come on! Write a comment below! Do it!

How Tweeters are Like Ventriloquists

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

Tweeters are Like Ventriloquists

Tweeting and ventriloquism ... in both cases you're talking to yourself ... but a few others hear you.

Almost nine out of 10 Americans have heard of Twitter, but only 7% of the population is actually using the service, according to a recent survey.

"The simple fact of the matter is social-media evangelists, enthusiasts and addicts make up a small portion of the population," writes Jason Falls. "We should balance our enthusiasm for the new and cool with a dose of reality." Amen.

We Must be Taught Not to go Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs

Apparently we now have to teach our kids not to trust advertising.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection, a division of the Federal Trade Commission, has created a website called Admongo that aims to teach kids how to read advertisements with a more critical eye. You select a character and play some little games that are supposed to edu-tain you about advertising by using fake brands like Choco Crunch'n Good cereal and Cleanology acne medication.

Admongo is designed to equip kids ages 8 to 12 with critical thinking skills they can use to understand advertising messages. Through Admongo.gov ... a game-based website ... as well as a free in-school curriculum, a packet of sample ads, and several family activities, the Admongo campaign aims to teach kids to recognize commercial messages. Then it prompts the youngsters to ask some key questions when they see or hear ads.

In other words, they're trying to protect children from marketing's horrible influence by using ... marketing. The Bureau even hired a marketing firm to create the website. Am I the only one who sees this as being a little hypocritical? I think we need a website to teach kids how to filter what politicians say.

This is Hunky Dory with Me

Ireland is registering complaints against an advertising campaign that pairs scantily-clad females playing a contact sport with suggestive headlines. Apparently it's a blatant attempt to attract a young male target market. Who knew that would work?

The advertiser is Hunky Dorys potato chips. The ads show attractive models trying their hand at rugby. Judging by the images on the website, they've been told that the game involves occasional soft-core embraces.

Among those offended: Irish rugby officials, who don't want their sport associated with such filth. Someone should tell them that such sponsors pay portions of their salaries.

More Skin for a Good Cause

Axe is again involved in an annual brand-appropriate charity: getting people to donate clothes, which of course means taking them off first. Check out this trailer for the Axe Undie Run Challenge. Students at 10 colleges are squaring off this spring to see who can donate the most clothes. Participants will include loads of thin, gyrating chicks in their underwear along with many fat and nerdy dudes, also in their underwear. Via YesButNoButYes.

If you "Google" the event, you'll find many collegiate-related Facebook pages ... with photos. So if you have a kid in college ... maybe you're better off skipping the Facebook pages.

Even More Skin for the "Bottom" Line


This recent ad for American Apparel is just a continuation of the company's gratuitous use of buttocks to gain attention. It must work because they've been riding this horse for a long time. And these ads are in women's magazines, so if your boss looks over your shoulder while you're reading this, it's all legitimate marketing research ... at least that's what I just told my boss.

But seriously, coming up with ideas for advertising women's apparel must be a lot easier than one would think it should be.  (Send all letters and emails to American Apparel. I'm just the messenger.)

Billboard Coupons Help Drinkers Save $ for More Beer

James Ready beer helps beer drinkers do some penny-pinching in its outdoor/mobile campaign. The company erected billboard "coupons" which passersby can shoot with their mobile phones and redeem at nearby retailers ... all in the name of saving up for money for more James Ready beer. (According to the sign, photo-takers can save 15% ... $26. That means "Couples Hair Removal" normally costs $176! For that price they should be including a six pack of James Ready ... which guys will need to be drinking when their backs are being de-haired.)

I'm a Hero ... Sort of

A new study by scientists in California has linked laughter to reduction of heart disease, and diabetes ... and promoted it as a form of stress-relieving, immune system boosting exercise.

The most recent study of this hypothesis had 14 volunteers watch portions of a comedy or stand-up routine; afterwards, blood samples were taken. The researchers discovered a reduction in stress hormones, an increase in immune T cells, and lower blood pressure. Another study had volunteers watch 20 minutes of similar comedy, and in addition to the previous benefits, there was a further drop in cholesterol, a rush of endorphins, and a stimulated appetite, similar to the effects of a jog around town.

For years I've been making people laugh. So in a way, I guess you could call me a "hero." I might even have saved some lives! You can thank me with bottles of Kettle One.

Laughter Means You've Got Their Attention

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

Laughter Means You've Got Their Attention

Serious issues must be taken seriously. But that doesn't mean humor can't be used to help gain attention and improve communication about those issues.

When I take part in corporate meetings, the events are generally dealing with some very serious issues. Some people think I'm there to "lighten things up." But in reality I'm there to:

  • Grab the audience's attention.
  • Gain some smiles and credibility at the company's and executives' expense to demonstrate that I'm on the side of those in the audience.
  • Ask poignant questions of company executives that audience members would love to have the nerve and opportunity to ask.
  • Repeat, make clear and sometimes simplify key corporate stances, goals and reasoning.
  • Eventually display a better understanding of issues and answers ... (if a puppet finally gets it, those in the audience should have a better understanding as well.)

Certainly there's some humor involved (at least there's supposed to be). But the humor is primarily used to gain interest and to help to make the serious messages more understandable and more memorable.  We don't make fun of the problems.  Serious issues are always dealt with seriously.

Humor is a communications tool. But is there ever a time when humor is not appropriate? You tell me.

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and their ad agency Y&R Chicago are using humor to shock Windy City residents and raise gun violence awareness. So far this year more than 150 kids have been shot in Chicago ... over 25 of them dead, according to the ICHV.

The ad copy reads:  "The vest fits snug, while leaving arms and hands free to raise in the air for that "don't shoot, I'm innocent" stance."

A second ad in the campaign features two young girls in vests with the headline "Alive On Arrival," according to the Chicago Sun-Times. the copy for that ad is even funnier/cringe-ier: "Whether it's just a bit chilly or raining bullets, this cozy vest is sure to protect your child from all the elements."

The posters have gone up at 50 bus shelters around the city. They will certainly raise gun violence awareness ... but I doubt they'll lower gun violence. They may increase the sale of size-small bullet-proof vests, though. Image: Chicago Sun-Times

Another Mc D's Interactive Billboard

Here's a clever interactive billboard game from McDonald's (Stockholm). Pictures of menu items bounce and fly across the screen. If you're quick enough to capture a menu item in a cell-phone pic, the item is yours free at a nearby McDonald's. You know people will stop and try to win some free food. And they'll tell their friends about the experience. Brilliant.

Reading is Going to Become Much More than Just "Reading"

If you're one of those who are wondering how reading and the publishing industry will be affected by the new iPad, check out this iPad version of Alice in Wonderland. Reading is going to go to a whole new level ... and may get more fun.

Photoshopping Makes the Impossible Appear Real

There are countless articles on the pro's and con's of photo-shopping images to help make models and celebrities appear better looking than they really are. As an example, the photo of Madonna on the left shows her as she really looks. The photo-shopped image on the right gives her a younger, more attractive persona.

Personally I don't care because I just assume that every photo in every publication is photo-shopped to the hilt; removing all reality and inserting romantic optimism or not too well-disguised product attributes.

The problem arises when naive people view photos at their face value and put some trust or belief in the images. Should we offer some protection for those individuals? Do photos need to come with "warnings?" "Caution, this photo may be enhanced to make you think this person or product is better looking or more effective than they really are."  It's too big of a question for a simple Mannequin American like me.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Really? Am I supposed to believe that the manufacturer of this squirt gun never saw anything remotely wrong with the design?  On the other hand, this would make the best Christmas gift ever.

Long Intro for "Nothin' Up My Sleeve" DVD

A DVD of the 2010 Nothin' Up My Sleeve Variety Show will soon be available. You can click here to see a 3 minute intro to the video which includes a clip of Dale with Louie the Jockey. (If I find out who decided to put Louie in the intro instead of me, heads will roll! Seriously ... I can roll my head.)

If It's Not Entertaining, It's Just Information

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

If It's Not Entertaining, It's Just Information

Not so long ago, the holy grail in marketing and communications was any tool that "broke through the clutter," by being attention getting, memorable and persuasive.

Today, in the world of the Internet, digital video recorders, mobile devices and myriad other technology ... all in the hands of buyers and employees ... the new holy grail is "multiplied exposure". In other words you want your messages and ideas picked up, shared, played with and assimilated into the lives of those in your targeted audience.

No matter what type of B2B you're in, to reach multiplied exposure, make your message as entertaining (interesting) as it is practical. In this data-packed world, if it's not entertaining, it's just information ... and that's not enough to gain awareness.

The Monsters Won't Eat You

Stride gum mostly just advertises its long-lastingness. But in its latest spot, a father is seen reassuring his daughter that scary monsters won't eat her while she's sleeping. It's not that monsters don't exist, he says; it's just that they're too busy chewing Stride gum to bother eating you. Sick humor that I like, but I don't know if Stride gum customers will appreciate.

You Need a Boyfriend

"If you act now, you'll receive an additional Boyfriend absolutely free!" Click here to see this very funny infomercial selling the advantages of having a boyfriend. After watching the video, even I wanted a boyfriend ... except for the "sex at the drop of a hat," part.

"A Smile is the Best Makeup"

From our friend Gene Mueller: On a show where the women are practically naked, ABC thought this spot was too much for prime time.  It wouldn't let you see this Lane Bryant commercial during "Dancing With The Stars", saying it showed too much. It's since been aired on several channels.  Click here to see the ad and judge for yourself.

You're Going to Thank Me for This One

If you take your laptops to meetings, you're going to love this. If you don't take your laptops to meetings, at the very least you'll be able to annoy cubicle mates to the breaking point.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the tool of awesomeness called

This website provides a comprehensive sound board of all of the effects and sound bites that you could ever want, right at your fingertips. If you want to make a point during a meeting with a line from South Park, a rim shot, crickets ... whatever ... just push the right button and get the line or sound that you want. Go forth, and annoy.

Dunham's Worldwide Following

If you've seen Jeff Dunham's recent show you know that as an encore he brings out Bubba and does a bit from a previous DVD. During his encore Jeff says that it's been awhile since he's used Bubba so he takes out some notes to help him remember the routine. The audience's reaction is always the same ... and it's hysterical to watch and to hear.

But would the routine work across the ocean? Here's part of a letter from Walter van der Hoeven (Netherlands) to Clinton Detweiler. Clinton shared the letter on his blog.

"I went to see Jeff Dunham's Identity Crisis tour in Amsterdam the Netherlands last night. He was really great. The newspapers in Holland this morning were praising him on adapting his act to current events in the Netherlands; and the work that would have taken, just for 3 shows in the Netherlands. They also wrote: ‘Memorable events took place last night where ventriloquist puppets were welcomed like rockstars.'

"At the end of the night when Jeff took out his last puppet Bubba J, he explained to the public he did not use this puppet for a while. So he needed a little note with Bubba J's lines. From that moment on the audience was filling in Bubba J's lines, when Jeff asked him questions. Bubba J complained he heard thousands of voices in his head. Jeff told the public it was the weirdest show he ever experienced. The public knew Bubba J's lines better than Jeff himself!"

I guess Walter's letter is proof that humor transcends language barriers. Jeff's humor keeps gaining fans around the world.

Congrats to Jeff on another successful European tour.

The Downside of My Family Tree

I hate to say it, but this may be how I was conceived.



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