The MadAveGroup Blog
Scott Greggory, Chief Creative Officer
“I’m just a bill."
“Three is a magic number.”
“Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”
“Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.”
If you remember those phrases, you’ve seen some of the most effective content ever created for a television audience.
They’re all lyrics from Schoolhouse Rock, the animated shorts that paired catchy tunes and memorable characters with valuable lessons about math, history, grammar, science and other school subjects.
The series debuted in 1973 and aired until 1984 during ABC’s Saturday morning programming. Since then, the complete series has been released on DVD (I bought it for my kids) and episodes are now available online. (Learn about nouns here and the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution here.)
The earliest Schoolhouse Rock content is fifty years old. Yet, even if you only saw it as a young child, I’d bet you still remember the lessons, as well as the infectious melodies.
That’s because Schoolhouse Rock is a perfect example of content designed to entertain first and inform second. The creators understood that pitching “homework” to kids during Saturday morning cartoons would be a tough sell, unless they made their three-minute films irresistibly fun to watch.
So, they invested their collective time, talent and heart to make something valuable that would live in the minds of their young audience long after the initial viewings.
And it worked. Beautifully.
A half century after its debut, Schoolhouse Rock is still entertaining, educating and endearing itself to a new generation.
How might the success of the iconic series inspire you to elevate your company’s marketing and advertising?
Whether it takes the form of TV or radio commercials, pre-roll videos on YouTube or over-the-top (OTT) ads in a streaming environment, your message often comes between your audience and what they want to see or hear, just as Schoolhouse Rock interrupted cartoons. The difference is that the Rock creators intentionally charmed and engaged their viewers. They focused on their audience’s needs. And they gave more than they took.
Are your prospects and customers worth that same type of effort? Is your brand worth that same type of commitment?
Do you want people to feel that spending time with your content was a good choice? Would you like them to come back for more and then share what you create with others?
It doesn’t take a huge network budget, original songwriting and a team of animators.
But it does take care, enthusiasm and respect for your audience. It takes the desire to leave people with something special, whether it’s thoughtfully presented information, a sincere smile or a warm feeling that - just maybe - lasts 50 years.
In January 2023, we were named a Top Workplace for the fourth year in a row by The Toledo Blade and their partner Energage, a national company that specializes in employee engagement.
Top Workplace winners are selected based on employee feedback. Energage uses its proprietary survey to measure 15 culture drivers essential to an organization’s success. The survey was developed after 16 years of culture research and with the input of 27 million employees from more than 70,000 organizations.
“Our unique culture is absolutely one of the keys to our success,” said MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown. “We place a high priority on the individual, ongoing training and authentic communication with our clients.”
“Earning a Top Workplaces award is a badge of honor for companies, especially because it comes authentically from their employees,” said Eric Rubino, Energage CEO. “In today's market, leaders must ensure they’re allowing employees to have a voice and be heard. Top Workplaces do that and it pays dividends.”
Each month, I have an opportunity to reply to marketing-related questions posed by the Forbes Agency Council. Here are some of their recent questions, followed by my thoughts.
Question: Businesses must make the most of accolades, but websites showing only positive reviews can seem suspicious to consumers. How can a company truthfully share both glowing reviews and less-than-stellar feedback from customers in a way that benefits its brand reputation?
Answer: No one expects your company to be perfect, but they do expect you to address the problems that they and others have pointed out. So, use your replies to negative reviews to show how you'll improve. Take that opportunity to prove you're listening to your customers' concerns, that you truly value their input and that you're willing to make changes to earn their loyalty.
Question: "Surprise and delight" is an effective formula for attracting and retaining loyal customers. What is your favorite way to surprise and delight prospects and customers?
Answer: We've had success creating humorous content for channels where it's typically not used, such as on hold, corporate videos and e-newsletters. In those cases, it's almost certainly a surprise, and based on the feedback of our clients and their customers, it's often regarded as delightful and a differentiator. Used deftly, humor can create memorable impressions, encourage sharing and humanize a brand.
Question: What’s your favorite trick to remove fluff and reduce marketing copy to only the most essential, compelling and actionable language?
Answer: Put your readers first! Edit your writing with their needs at the top of your mind. If any of your copy comes off as even remotely selfish, cut it. As a marketing writer your job is to serve your company or client by first serving their audience. Can't be brutal enough with your own work? Run it by a skilled editor who has no regard for your feelings and then learn from his/her editing.
Question: Considering the many ways a brand can falter in this space, what is your top tip to ensure a successful branded podcast?
Answer: Focus on delivering value to your listeners. So many podcast hosts approach their time in front of the mic selfishly, presiding over a loose format and engaging in mindless small talk. Respect your audience's time by getting to the point and presenting information that listeners can apply to their careers. Show prep, editing, rehearsal and continual evaluation will produce a better podcast.
We asked a few of our staff members to describe their favorite work-related event of 2022. Here are some of their replies.
Van Gogh in America - On October 20th, 21 MadAveGroup team members took a chartered bus to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see this 74-work exhibit.
Daniel DiManna / Creative Consultant: “Standing only inches away from some of the most iconic paintings in history was a powerful experience. There’s a marked difference between looking at art on a postcard or calendar and actually seeing the brushstrokes up close. Seeing so many of Van Gogh’s paintings in person added to my understanding of his work, and changed my perception of my own creative work. I’ll always be thankful to MadAveGroup for giving me the opportunity to be in the presence of that kind of greatness.”
American Advertising Federation Leadership - Along with serving as the Governor of AAF’s Fifth District, our own Michael Seay sits on the organization’s national board.
Michael Seay / Director: “In March, I played host to AAF’s Fifth District National Student Advertising Competition, held right here in Toledo. The event drew about 250 participants from 11 colleges and universities throughout Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. In June, I attended the AAF National Conference in Nashville. And in November, I was in New York City for AAF’s quarterly meeting, where we review initiatives and analyze the state of the advertising industry.”
Headless Tech Rollout - In February, our TouchStone Digital team launched their first headless WordPress website.
Joe Hochgreve / Senior Web Developer: “We created the new website for our SensoryMax agency using Headless WordPress technology. Headless is an exciting advancement that allows us to increase a website’s speed by more than 100%, improve on-page animation features and increase SEO potential. Since that initial launch, we’ve been able to improve on the technology further. Then, we created Headless websites for VacationLand Federal Credit Union, Gordon Lumber and AudioHelp Hearing.”
Headless Tech Presentation - There was a lot of buzz about Headless WordPress around our shop in 2022. Don and Joe were happy to spread the good news to others, too.
Don Miller / Director, TouchStone Digital Marketing: “In June, we presented our Headless talk to members of the local WP community. Then, in July, we shared it at the Nebraska.Code conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. I gave an overview of the importance of Headless WordPress and Joe discussed the technical side and implementation process.”
Scott Greggory / Chief Creative Officer: “I’ve been following Aaron for many years. I identify with his independent spirit. I love that he does work that matters deeply to him and that he honors his influences with every project. Aaron and I share a love of old things, including ephemera - paper items created for a specific purpose, but not intended to have a long life. For instance, like me, he sees the beauty in the promotional memo books that were distributed to farmers in the first half of the 20th century, and he’s preserving his collection in this amazing online gallery.”
The new year is an opportunity to take a fresh look at your marketing goals and activities. So, I asked several members of the MadAveGroup team this question:
"What should more companies do with their marketing in 2023 and beyond?"
Consider their advice.
Joe Hochgreve / Senior Web Developer
Adding a Live Chat feature to your website can provide many benefits. It creates conversion opportunities on every page of your site, increasing conversion rates by an average of 150%. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a live person standing by 24/7 to address incoming questions. And leads generated by live chat close at a much higher rate than those from online forms.
Gwen Hagen / Marketing Manager
A lot of companies underutilize their first-party data, especially as they grow. Look at what you’re doing with your customer and prospect phone numbers and email addresses. Are you using that data to its fullest potential? Or have you been applying the same predictable marketing tactics to reach those people for too long? If you have data, there may be a more creative and effective way to leverage it.
My favorite example: using first-party mailing addresses to match with your customers' home IP addresses. Marketing to street addresses limits you to printed pieces, like postcards and brochures. But marketing via IP addresses opens a world of possibilities for digital marketing, such as serving display, video and OTT ads through a variety of platforms.
Michael Seay / Director
If you’ve been recruiting without much luck, re-evaluate your digital spending. If you're using LinkedIn, Indeed or other dedicated job platforms, shift money to more mainstream platforms with higher traffic, like Google or Facebook. Unemployment is low and the need for skilled labor has never been higher. So, job seekers on traditional job websites aren’t likely to be the cream of the crop. Your ideal candidates may not even be looking for a new job. That’s why you may need to interrupt and entice them while they’re on other sites.
Jessica Speweike / Content Developer
Since I’ve been monitoring our clients’ social media accounts, I’ve noticed that many companies put time, money and energy into platforms that don’t produce returns.
It’s a misconception that using every social media platform will increase your exposure and reach. If your Twitter account isn’t generating engagement now, doubling your number of tweets each month won’t attract more attention.
Take an honest look at your content to improve it, or you can focus on the social channels that are working better for you. Even though there’s no cost for the media, running successful social media programs is not free.
Jon Marker / Business Development
Before creating your marketing plan, it’s important to assess your high-priority pain points. Determine how much those pains are costing your company - in actual dollars and in other ways - and then craft your marketing plan and budget. Many businesses ignore the total cost of their pain points, even if that pain is “only” the toll it takes on their employees or the turbulence it generates in the workplace. Having a plan to offset those costs and eliminate that pain can be an absolute game-changer.
The last few mornings in our town have been foggy. And it’s been dense fog. Very low visibility.
Of course, when you can’t see much past your own windshield, it's tough to know where you are, even if you’ve driven the road you're on for years. It also means you can't tell if you're close to your destination or not.
If you run a business, you may feel like you go through foggy patches now and then. They can make it hard to see a clear path to success or may cause you to miss important turns and detours.
When driving in thick fog, it makes sense to use GPS, a tool that helps you stay on course and avoid potential danger.
A marketing plan is like GPS for your company.
It ensures that every member of your team is moving in the same direction by defining your marketing goals, strategies and tactics. It prevents you from merely hoping the marketing decisions you make will get you close to where you want to be.
April Rietzke is the Director of MadAve Marketing Management. Her team creates and executes marketing plans. "Our plans have allowed clients to streamline their processes, increase sales and improve retention, all while saving money on advertising," she said.
"We've also helped clients identify and seize marketing opportunities they never considered before. A solid marketing plan makes it easier to maintain consistent messaging, too."
And all that intention and focus can lead to a more engaged audience.
Working without a marketing plan is like driving through fog. With no clear vision of where you’re headed, it’s easy to lose your sense of direction and make costly blind turns.
No one wants to wait on hold after calling a business. Yet, each day, companies all across the country force their valuable callers into a void of on hold silence. Or they make their customers and prospects listen to the same 60-second loop of music, interrupted only by the redundant and pointless reminder that “your call is important to us.”
That’s no way to treat the people who keep you in business.
BusinessVoice is our Caller Experience Marketing agency. Since 1989, that team has been dedicated to providing information callers can use to make smarter buying decisions. In other words, they serve their clients by serving their clients' callers.
One of the other ways BusinessVoice elevates the caller experience is by creating custom Humor On Hold. Take a listen to the four examples below. All were winners of a 2022 MarCom Award.
Video 1: Lakeland Auto and Marine won the Platinum award.
Video 2: Downey PHCE won a Gold award.
Video 3: Binkelman Corporation won a Gold award.
Video 4: Wellington Implement won an honorable mention.
"It's all about creating marketing content that people WANT to hear, even when it's in a traditionally negative environment."
"Nobody wants to be put on hold after calling a company, but if we can make the experience surprisingly funny, while still imparting useful information, both the caller and our client win."
And, once again, BusinessVoice has been named a winner for creative excellence. The agency received two honors during the 2022 MARCE Awards ceremony, presented September 19th by The Experience Marketing Association (EMA).
Our Humor On Hold for Wellington Implement earned the trophy for the Most Entertaining On Hold Marketing production, as well as a Judge's Choice award.
One judge wrote that "This is very entertaining. The situations really enhance the brand." Another judge noted that our work "made me want to listen to the next message all the way through."
Creative Consultant Daniel DiManna and Scott Greggory co-wrote the copy. Josh Jump served as recording engineer.
Yep. The following reminders are, in fact, basic. But there’s a good reason to read the list - the “basics” are foundational.
Even the most accomplished musicians warm up by playing scales. Even the best hitters in the Major Leagues take batting practice before each game.
Likewise, reviewing and applying these basic thoughts can help you maintain your strong foundation.
Here we go…
1) On your business cards, résumé and email signature, use the name you want people to call you. If you prefer Bob, don’t refer to yourself as Robert on your LinkedIn page and other public profiles.
2) Make your emails easier to scan and read by using bullet points. Change important ideas from black to red. And highlight any requests that require action.
3) Include all your company’s contact information on your website. Don’t just make potential customers enter their personal info, submit it and then wait for your response.
4) Writing a blog post or a longer email? Start with an outline. Jot down the main points you’d like to make in a column. Add basic details under each point. Then, build your content around those points. Move your blocks of content as necessary to create the most logical flow for your audience.
Also, when writing website and email copy, apply this journalism principle: don’t bury the lede. Position the most important information near the top of your content.
5) In a meeting? Keep your phone or other device out of sight. Turning it over isn’t good enough. The presence of your phone or tablet suggests to others in the room that, at any second, you could be attending to an email or call that's “more important."
6) Never lie - or even exaggerate - with your marketing. Making outrageous claims about your product is an obvious type of lying, but there are more subtle misrepresentations, too. For example, the marketing emails that include this type of copy:
“I’ve been reviewing your website, MadAveGroup.com. I really like it, and I’ve been thinking about ways that we could help you generate even more traffic.”
The person who sent that email didn’t review our site. He didn’t form an opinion of our site. And, on a whim, he didn’t start pondering ways to improve our site. Lies have no place in any type of relationship. Make sure your marketing messages are accurate and honest.
7) Edit your business writing so it’s as concise, yet as effective as possible. Cut the fluff and repetition to show respect for your audience’s time. Whether you’re crafting emails, reports or blog posts, it’s your job as the writer to make your content easy to navigate, digest and retain.
8) Always say “thank you.” For a client’s time or trust. For a customer’s purchase. For a colleague’s insight. Thank people when they hold the door, when they pick up the tab, when they do good work. Look people in the eyes, say thank you as often as you can and mean it. There’s neither an easier expression of gratitude nor one that’s more meaningful.
Thank you for reading.