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Thursday, 16 December 2021 16:52

Is Everything Fine?

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Welcoming Customer Feedback

During my lunch at a local restaurant yesterday, the waitress asked me three times, “Is everything fine?”

Yet, each time she posed the question, she was walking away from my table.

It was clear she didn’t care about my reply. In fact, she was almost out of sight each time I answered.

She was merely checking a box.

And checking boxes doesn’t produce memorable experiences, in a restaurant or any other kind of business. It won’t create loyalty or spread great word-of-mouth, either.

Doing only “what you’re supposed to do” will never surprise and delight a customer. And it won’t encourage your audience’s empathy. (Read how Minneapolis residents came to the rescue of a beloved local shop in May of 2020.) 

Is a similar lack of sincere interest in your customers’ feedback showing up anywhere in your organization?

  • Have you buried your company’s contact information deep within your website?
  • Do you purposely keep callers on hold for long periods so they’ll hang up?
  • Are you ignoring comments on your company’s social media pages?
  • Have you avoided asking key customers for their input before developing a new service?
  • Do you quickly email customers post-sale for their positive feedback even without expressing concern for their needs before the sale?
  • Have you delayed training every member of your team on how to respond to customer complaints?

It’s important to always be asking some version of “is everything fine?” But it’s even more important to actively listen to each customer’s reply, then respond in a way that makes them glad they answered your question.


Wednesday, 13 October 2021 08:00

Are You Creating Memories?

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The Cleveland Press Pumpkin

For more than a century, The Cleveland Press was a daily newspaper.

It was the first of many owned by the influential E.W. Scripps Company, later known as Scripps-Howard. The Press was recognized for its journalistic excellence and, in the mid-1960s, was named one of America's 10 best papers by Time Magazine. And when I was growing up in the 1970s, The Press was delivered to our house each afternoon.

Yet, even with its rich history, its impact on the city and the hundreds of articles I read about my beloved Indians in its sports section, one memory of the newspaper stands out above the rest.

Each October, on the Friday before Halloween, the paper published a gift for the kids of Cleveland. It was the pumpkin pictured above, printed across two full pages.

Every year around trick-or-treat time, we'd see that familiar fold-out taped to windows and storm doors all over town.

Displaying his smiling orange face was a tradition as important as any associated with Christmas. I'm not exaggerating when I say the pumpkin seemed like an old friend who paid us an annual visit.

He was a unifying symbol of our city, linking us together, house to house and across neighborhoods. He was something we looked forward to; something we had in common.

So, when I saw The Cleveland Press pumpkin on a Facebook page a few weeks ago, I was immediately taken back to my youth and memories of that funny grin peeking out from homes all around town. One person who commented on the post wrote that, when he was a child, The Press pumpkin was the only Halloween decoration his family ever had.

It was just an image on a piece of newsprint. Yet, more than forty years later, that pumpkin still evokes powerful feelings for me and - I've no doubt - thousands of others.

What if your brand were the source of a wonderful memory like that?

I'd bet the people at The Press didn't set out to create a local tradition. My guess is they just wanted to surprise their readers that first year. Then, the pumpkin caught on. When you start with intent that pure, your efforts are likely to mean more.

The idea is not to sell something; it's to give of yourself for the joy of others, in however small a way. (Here's another example.)

Fulfill a need. Share your talents. Print your pumpkin.

Happy Halloween.

What You Can Learn from Norm Macdonald Microphone on a Comedy Club Stage

After Norm Macdonald died on September 14, 2021, praise for the writer / comedian poured in from all corners of social media.

And one thought appeared more than any other: there was no one else like Norm.

Talk show host Conan O’Brien: “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered.”

Comedian Whitney Cummings: “Norm is the pinnacle of originality.”

Actor / comedian Steve Martin: “One of a kind.”

Comedian Sarah Silverman: “Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. He was derivative of no one.”

Derivative of no one.

What a compliment. It’s an acknowledgement that Norm was not only a different type of thinker, but that he also had the courage of his convictions.

In an industry that’s filled with sound-alikes, sequels and a desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Norm dared to be his own type of creator. He made his individual art, presented it unflinchingly and signed off on it proudly.

Did everyone get Norm or find him funny? No. But he didn’t need total buy-in to be successful or influential or lasting.

And you don’t either.

MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown often expresses this idea: "I'm okay if we actively alienate 25% of the audience. I'm okay if we don’t appeal to another 50% of the audience. I just want our agency to stand out and be meaningful to that last 25%." Because, like Norm, we’re not for everybody, whether you’re a prospective client or a potential employee. And we’re not willing to change our unique perspective or culture simply because “that’s not how everyone else does it.”

What about you and your brand?

Are you unafraid to be yourself, whether it’s in how you market your company or the type of work environment you encourage?

Are you focused enough for your brand to be strongly associated with one quality as Norm was? If not, the benefit you provide might be watered down or too generic to stand out as memorable. As a result, yours may not be the first name that comes to mind when your audience needs what you sell.

Are you cultivating what’s unique and special in your team members? In your ongoing brand story? In your marketing touchpoints? In your customer relationships?

Are you bringing your singular personality and humanity to your work each day and looking for new opportunities to apply them? Norm did. And because of that, the world will be talking about him for a long time to come.

RELATED POSTS: Marketing with Humor
Are You Sounding Familiar? 
Are You Too Chicken to Stay True to Your Values? 


Content Creation 5

Each month, I have the opportunity to provide input on marketing-related questions for the Forbes Agency Council. This blog post features a few of those thoughts. It's the fifth in a series on content creation.

Question: Positive emotions associated with a brand make consumers more likely to trust and purchase from that brand. What is one thing marketers can do to create an emotional connection between a brand and its customers that builds such a positive association in their minds?

Answer: Use your advertising to give freely to potential customers. Deliver valuable, applicable information about your product category and related topics with the intent of building trusting relationships before people even walk through your door. Resist every urge to focus on "you." Instead, use your ad content to make your audience's life - and their buying decisions - easier. 

Question: According to research from BrightLocal, “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” If applicable, how does your business “nudge” clients or customers for reviews?

FAC Badge 2021Answer: Most people are flattered when asked to share their opinion. It's a compliment to be told "I value what you think." So, when we know clients are happy with the experience we've delivered, we ask if they'll provide feedback. We encourage our clients to ask for input from their customers as well, and then make it easy for people to share their thoughts via links to Yelp and other review sites. 

Question: With so many brands turning to inbound marketing, consumers have become inundated with an overwhelming amount of content. With so much saturation, what's one way for a brand to create differentiation in its content strategy?

Answer: There's only one you and, especially if you're the face or voice of your brand, you are your own differentiator. Don't be afraid to let your true personality and perspective show via your online presence. Your style may not be for everyone, but those it does attract will likely be longer-term consumers of your unique content and, ideally, what you sell.

Question: What are your main "go-to" resources for drawing inspiration for your work (i.e., industry publications, mentors, etc.)?

Answer: I grew up in the 1970s, but always idolized the announcers and copywriters of the ‘40s and ‘50s. I often reference their work with mine: the rhythm, the word choice and what now feels like charming humor. I also love Stan Freberg’s advertising. And when I re-watched the 1970 Crocker Bank “Wedding” spot recently I found it inspiring in its concept and sincerity. So, try looking back to look forward.

RELATED POSTS: 6 Tips on Using Testimonials
Giving vs. Taking: A Fresh Approach to Advertising
Forbes Forum: Content Creation - Part 4

Wednesday, 16 June 2021 10:00

Fatherly Advice

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Fatherly Advice from the Dads of MAG Staffers

As a marketer, you may look for feedback and advice from senior members of your team, the trades, social media groups, or even a personal mentor. But, after reading this post, we encourage you to think back to one of your earliest sources of wisdom - your dad.

In celebration of Father’s Day, we asked a few members of the MadAveGroup staff to share some of the business-related lessons their fathers imparted.

April Rietzke / Director, Marketing Management

“My dad had lots of advice for me growing up. The thought that sticks with me most is ‘a job worth doing is worth doing well.’ He gave work his all, and he’s the reason I’ll work late to get something completed as it should be. He’s why I push through when I’m faced with challenges.”

April’s dad, Bill Zitzman, is a retired tool and die maker who was with Chrysler for 20 years.

Steve Evert / EVP of Operations

Steve recalls two lessons that have had a big effect on how he approaches life. “When I was a little kid, my dad said, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ That sentence has made more of an impact on me than any other I’ve heard. It’s stuck in the back of my brain ever since.”

The elder Evert also reminded his son that “’the world doesn’t owe you a living.’ It was his way of saying you’re responsible for your own lot in life and be grateful for anything you receive.”

Steve’s dad - also a Steve Evert - is a semi-retired commercial tire sales rep and entrepreneur.

Gwen Hagen / Marketing Specialist

“If you’re on time, you’re late. Be early or don’t be there at all.”

Gwen says she still carries her dad’s words with her to this day and applies them to her work. “I’m always early for in-person or Zoom client meetings because I constantly hear my dad’s reminder in my head.”

Terry Brassell, Gwen’s dad, is a Regional Sales Manager at Silverback Supply.

Cassandra Evans / Creative Consultant

“My dad always pushed the value of a great education,” said Cassandra. “When I was in high school, I mentioned my interest in marketing and he became my biggest advocate. My dad set up personal meetings with college professors, went on campus tours with me and even attended my orientation.

“Then, the constant learning opportunities began. My dad would point out weak TV commercials, point-of-purchase signs and billboards and say with a smile, “That’s why a good education is so important. If I ever find out you do bad marketing like that, I’ll call your job myself and tell them to fire you.”

Cassandra’s dad, Paul Kaegi, is an AVP & Sr. Credit Analyst at Premier Bank. 

Account Executive Victor Tehensky’s dad, Joe, reminded him to “always be a leader, not a follower.”

“Only look up and forward, not backwards. You’re not going that way.” That’s the advice Jim O’Bryant gave his daughter Susan Harris, our Fulfillment Manager.

And CEO Jerry Brown’s dad urged his son to “always question everything. Don’t blindly follow or implement something if it doesn’t make sense to you.”

How did your dad encourage your business or marketing goals? Did any of his advice change the course of your life? Is it still a foundational idea for you today?

And what ideas are you passing along to your kids or the younger members of your team? Tell us about the insight you share on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Happy Father’s Day.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 11:30

Marketing with Humor

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Marketing with Humor

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To avoid running into the billboard.

Like many forms of domestic fowl, you, too, may consider marketing and advertising content to be an interruption. It gets in the way of what you really want to watch, read or hear.

You may try to avoid ads by reaching for the remote during commercial breaks or even moving to the other side of the street, as members of the poultry community so often do.

Those are two of the reasons we work to make marketing funny.

The Benefits of Humor

Humor encourages people to actively engage with marketing content rather than turning away. It also increases the likelihood that the audience will enjoy their encounter with the brand. When they do, they may be willing to look at the company's future posts or listen more intently to their next radio spot.

Jim Hausfeld agrees. He's an advertising agency Creative Director who heard our Humor On Hold while judging an awards show. Jim wrote, “Superbly written copy and extremely dry humor that was a perfect match for what could've been a dull subject. I laughed out loud at points, and when a caller starts with that reaction, it's a great way to start a conversation.”

We create Humor On Hold through BusinessVoice, our Caller Experience Marketing agency. We use it to turn the negative of holding into a memorable, positively surprising moment for callers all over the country. Listen to the sample in the video below.


More Than Laughs

When applied skillfully, humor can make content about products and services more palatable to an audience. “The On Hold Marketing scripts BusinessVoice creates are not only funny, but also informative,” wrote Steve Eaton, CEO of Med-Line Express Services. “They provide valuable information about specific aspects of my operation that some may not be aware of. In the 15+ years I’ve been in business, this is by far the best marketing money I have spent.”

This five-spot radio campaign we created for Ray's Trash in Indianapolis informs listeners of just about everything the company does, but with a humorous tone. 


Using Humor Online 

What about your company's online videos? Wouldn't it be great if more people watched, shared and remembered them?

Incorporating humor can help you meet those goals, while still leaving plenty of room to inform and persuade. Take a look at this quick capabilities video we created for Binkelman Corporation. It's the first in a series.

Here are a few of the comments LinkedIn users have posted about that video:

  • "I. Love. This. Period." - Jeff S.

  • "What a fantastic corporate video. Taking something that could potentially be stale to listen to and making it fun - not to mention memorable - is genius! Nicely done." - Amy J.

  • "Love it! Great video. We need more creative work like this today." - Kerrigan Q.

The video above is a self-promotional piece we created. In 2021, it won a local Gold ADDY and Judge's Choice ADDY (details) and the same two awards at the District 5 level (details). Here's why Denver agency owner Jennifer Hohn singled out the work as award-worthy:

"It's one thing to land just one joke, but to be able to stretch this joke over a minute and 42 seconds is a pretty huge feat, and this video does that brilliantly. Really well done. Really strong stream-of-consciousness copywriting. Loved how it's something that you don't see every day. It's always fun to see work that stretches your mind and makes you laugh a little bit."

Before you as a marketer can hope to have a deeper conversation with prospective customers, you must first attract and keep their attention. Working with our team to put a humorous spin on what you do shows your potential buyers that you'll be fun to work with because you don't take yourself too seriously and that you make the effort to create content that people enjoy.

When you're ready to stake out your unique position in the marketplace with humor, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For many more Humor On Hold samples and reviews, visit our dedicated humor page at


TV Commercial Tips

As in the recent past, there were certain commercials that aired during this year's Super Bowl that looked like they cost a lot more money to produce than others. They were the spots that featured several celebrities or many locations or loads of computer-generated effects.

But I found those spots to be the least effective at communicating a memorable message. They came off as all flash and no substance. ("Look at how many famous faces we hired!") Or they were so quickly edited or crammed with visual elements that they were tough to follow.

Naturally, during the biggest television event of the year, advertisers want their commercials to stand out even more than usual, but within the game environment, the glitzy spots seemed to cancel out each other.

As a contrast, imagine a Super Bowl commercial featuring a stagnant shot of one person reading quirky copy against a white background. If well executed, the spot would pop against all the others if only for its simplicity and divergent tone.

A Few Takeaways

1) When producing your advertising and buying media, think context. Is the landscape you'll be participating in loud and fast-paced? If so, consider taking a soft and slow approach with your content.

2) Spending lots of money on the creation of your advertising doesn't guarantee success. Good ideas well executed can trump a big production budget.

3) Strive to deliver value to your audience. Don't leave them wondering, "what was the point of that commercial?" Make them happy they invested their time and attention in your message.

Help Your Audience Focus

My wife Amy and I were shopping for our first house in 1993.

Our Realtor, Brian, walked us through a few homes during the first two weekends of our search. Then, on our third trip, he showed us six houses in just one afternoon.

By that night, I couldn’t keep any of the homes straight.

In my mind, I put the perfect kitchen from house number one next to the great room in house five. I moved the ugly fireplace from the brick two-story into the den of the sprawling ranch.

During our tours, I had to take in a lot of information with very little context. I was seeing the homes and their features for the first time in relatively quick succession. And since I couldn’t keep them separated, I wasn’t able to make a confident buying decision.

Brian called the next day.

“I think you should see the fourth house again,” he said. “It has everything you’re looking for.”

We agreed to another tour. But this time, we looked only at the fourth house.

As we walked through that second time, everything came into focus. I was able to concentrate on the amenities and details. I could see the advantages of owning that home.

I was also amazed at how I missed all those benefits during the first tour.

We bought the house, started our family there and made it our home for nine years.

The Advertising Equivalent

Your potential customers live in a cluttered media marketplace. There’s a lot to see and hear, and there are countless others clamoring for their attention. It’s no wonder your message could get lost, forgotten or confused with that of other brands.

So, do what Brian the Realtor eventually did: help your audience focus. Make it easier for them to see - and remember - you and your message.

A few suggestions:

Commit to your channels. For instance, don’t air radio spots for a week and then bolt. Stick with your chosen media at least long enough for the audience to think of you as THE provider of the product or service you offer.

Limit your message in each channel to one key point. Make it easy for your prospective customers to associate your name with your primary product, service or benefit.

Introduce other services slowly. Resist any urge to tell your audience about everything you sell right now. Wait until you own your keyword or phrase before giving your audience more to remember.

Keep it simple. Whether you’re developing an online, outdoor or broadcast advertising campaign, don’t overwhelm your audience with content. Use simple language. Include plenty of white space in your visual ads to easily draw attention to your most important point. You might even consider adding silence or “a little room” between the audio elements of your radio, TV and video messages. That quick “break” may give your listeners the time they need to absorb your key points.

RELATED POSTS: Don't Hide the Facts
Are There Worthless Words in Your Advertising Copy?
Don't Make People Hide from Your Advertising

MadAveGroup Experts

What will 2021 bring for marketers? How will channels and technology change? Could we see new concepts emerge or will we re-discover tried and true foundational ideas?

I asked a few MadAveGroup staffers to look into the future and offer their thoughts.

Gwen Hagen / Marketing Specialist
I predict the rise of short-term content marketing. As Generation Z progresses into adulthood, marketers will need to adapt to that audience’s shorter attention spans. Platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram offer companies an opportunity to create that short-term content and engage those users.

(Visit the MadAve Marketing Management website.) 

The traditional ways of marketing are changing. Companies need to create unique experiences for their customers. Instead of placing a print media buy, consider investing in influencer marketing. If your Facebook post engagement has fallen flat, shift some funds toward creating powerful video marketing to tell your story. Whichever method you choose, I urge you to take creative risks to attract a new audience.

Don Miller / Director of TouchStone Digital
Once we emerge from the pandemic, the restaurant and entertainment industries will see a huge boost in traffic. People will be anxious to spend money in these sectors, but those businesses will still need to ramp up their marketing and creativity to stay competitive and stand out from the crowd.

Also, I’d like to see smaller local businesses take advantage of the e-commerce economy, while still being hometown destinations that care about their customers and community and act accordingly.

(Visit the new TouchStone Digital website.)

Every local company should be using Google My Business (GMB) to make sure they’re put in front of customers when a need for their business arises. GMB helps a company show up in Google search engine results and populates Google Maps and other maps. That’s important because customers are usually ready to make a purchase or take some other action after that search.

Lou Perlaky / Marketing Specialist
I predict that in 2021 data and analysis will be more important than ever. Due to the pandemic and remaining uncertainty, many industries are dealing with a whole new world and they may still not be sure of how their customers will respond to the new rules, from reduced hours and customer capacity to smaller inventories and less foot traffic. In the past marketers have used historical data to predict future trends. Now that we’re all in new territory we need to use our data carefully to guide strategic decisions.

It’s a good time to review your marketing, digital plan, web goals and strategies. If the pandemic affected your 2020 goals, do you need to reset your expectations for 2021? Are the goals you thought you’d have for this year still realistic and attainable or do you need to make adjustments?

Ready for a conversation about your marketing in 2021 and beyond? Call us at 419/473-9000.

RELATED POSTS: Expect Change Because It's Coming
Revising Your Road Map
Prepare Now for the Post-Pandemic World

Marketing Lessons from a Restaurant

Over the last few weeks, I’ve somehow become addicted to the videos on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares Facebook page. (Please don’t judge me. I feel greasy enough about this whole thing already.)

One of the videos, though, reinforced a couple of business / marketing truths we’ve covered before in this blog.

A restaurant owner featured on the show refused to believe that all of her customers didn’t love her food, despite the feedback Gordon was giving her.

The cameras caught waitresses throwing away almost entire plates of food that customers sent back for various reasons. Yet even when confronted with that evidence, the owner vehemently denied there was a problem.

The wait staff didn’t tell the owner about the returned food for one or both of these reasons:

1) They didn't see it as a problem that customers left a lot of food on their plates.
2) They were afraid to alert the owner because she would respond angrily.

Reason 1: The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded all of us how valuable each customer is. Companies that encourage their employees to be proactive problem solvers are more likely to stay nimble, focused on improvement and committed to delivering positive experiences. So, set the expectation that each employee’s duty is to actively look for and acknowledge signs of trouble, whether your customers are leaving food on their plates, complaining online about your service or communicating their dissatisfaction at any other touchpoint.

Reason 2: As I advised in our post “Are You Prepared for Failure?” always “encourage your employees to manage up. If they know of a problem anywhere in your organization - especially if it affects the customer experience - they should feel free to tell their supervisor. Develop a culture or a process that makes managing up easy and non-threatening. The information you get from the front lines will be invaluable.”

As much as possible, take advantage of any pandemic-related downtime to better position your company for success following the return to our normal business environment.

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