The MadAveGroup Blog

The MadAve Blog (338)

Hotel SignI saw the sign on the left while traveling last week. It was in the lobby of my hotel, affixed to the wall.

For all to see.

And, ya' know, laugh at.

I notice a lot of goofy mistakes like that. I've captured a few more in the pictures below. (Can you spot the problems?)

Ultimately, none of these flubs will bring about the end of civilization, but if you run a business, I’m sure you'd rather avoid these types of embarrassing errors on your website, signage and printed materials.

So, here are a few tips to help you steer clear of some common grammar mistakes.

Apostrophes don't make words plural. The word Employee's on the sign above doesn't need that cute little hanging comma. Apostrophes are used for two main reasons:

1) To show possession (Harold's cats, the crowds' cheers).

2) To take the place of one or more letters, as in a contraction (won't, can't, y'all), or when dropping letters to suggest a more casual approach to speech (singin' and dancin').

Speaking of contractions... Every now and then I hear a sentence such as this in radio or TV copy:

There's many models to choose from.

The problem is that there ARE many models to choose from. Because the word models is plural, a plural verb is required. As much as I prefer contractions, there's isn't correct in that sentence.

Can't we all just agree? The problem above is also an example of subject-verb disagreement. Again, when the subject (the main noun) is singular, the verb must be singular, too.

Disagreement is most common when there are many words between the subject and verb and/or when there's a prepositional phrase in play. A lot of people mistake the object of the preposition for the subject of the sentence, as in this example:

Our award-winning team of joint replacement specialists take care to find the right treatment.

In that sentence, the subject is team, not specialists. Of joint replacement specialists is a prepositional phrase - a phrase beginning with a preposition (of, on, in, under, etc.).

If you’re ever unsure which word is the subject, break down the sentence to its simplest form - Our team takes care - and then make sure your subject and verb agree.

Remembering all the rules of the English language can be tough. And, sure, everyone lets a typo slip by now and then. So, before you put your words in front of your audience, run them by a skilled proofreader and even a copy editor. The extra time and effort will keep customers from writing blog posts about your mistakes.

Goofy Signs

Friday, 20 January 2017 12:00

A Few Words

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Words MatterOkay, so maybe you're not a writer.

That's fine. That may be one of the reasons you rely on us to create marketing messages for your company.

Writer or not, though, you appreciate that words are key to communicating your ideas and who you are to your audience. Certainly they're too important to be left to chance, right? That's why those of us in marketing choose words carefully when crafting our clients' content. It’s one of the reasons you trust us.

And words don't need to be spoken to convey a tone or attitude. Silent words on a page can be just as inspiring and persuasive and guiding as those in the most loudly amplified speech.

And they can do just as much damage.

I’ve shared my philosophy with our agency’s writers many times: “Every word is an opportunity to change a business, affect a life, create something shareable, move people or make them laugh. You have great power.”

The words we choose reveal so much about our hearts.

Words can change the world. And have. Many times over.

Now and always, words matter.

Marketing Blog ReviewThere were four major themes that emerged from our four marketing blogs in 2016.

We invite you to pick a theme that interests you and check out the posts that touch on an aspect of that topic.

Customer Service

In the post “Everyday Effort,” we tell two true stories about unexpectedly good service and remind you that those types of experiences can lead to lifelong connections with your brand. 

We also asked if you're “Short-Sighted When It Comes to Service.” Recounting a true story again, we asked you to consider 1) the long-term effect of impatience on your business and 2) the importance of accepting people where they are in the buying cycle. 

If your sales team relies on outbound calling to create awareness or generate interest in your company, please read “Is Your Calling Style Costing You?” 

And while you're thinking about the impact your phones can have on your business, take a look at “Why Telephone Etiquette Is Worth the Investment.” 

You'll also find many posts about creating a great caller experience in our blog “The Director's Cut.” Humor On Hold from BusinessVoice


With our BusinessVoice clients especially, we emphasize the tremendous potential in humorous content. “The Value of Unexpected Humor” provides one powerful example of how a funny approach generated huge awareness and millions of earned media impressions, all while defining the unique benefit of the “product.” 

In the post “Lighten Up! Your Customers Will Like You For It,” we extol the virtues of poking fun at your own brand and share a video sample of how we do it to ourselves. 

Most people know what to expect when they're placed on hold. Not much, typically. That's why treating them to “An Unexpected Caller Experience” featuring Humor On Hold can be so fun for them and so valuable for you. 

Need a few more reasons to incorporate humor into your marketing content? Read “Why You Should Risk Being Funny.” 


Maintaining your personal and brand values in our modern business environment can be tough. But it can also serve as a defining characteristic that helps you stand above competitors. This post - “Are You Too Chicken to Stay True to Your Values” - was our most popular of 2016. 

In “The Best Policy,” we remind you why honesty - yes, even in marketing - is crucial to building trust with your customers. 

Business Values
Marketing Content

No matter what type of content you're creating or for which channel, read “Too Much Information.” It includes three sets of questions to consider before you get to work on new content. 

Our post “Writing On Hold Marketing Content: Creativity, Humor and Focus” includes abbreviated audio from a webinar of the same name. It's information that you can apply to other channels as well. 

You might enjoy these posts as well:

“When You Run with Dogs Good Things Can Happen.” The takeaway: do what's important to you. 

“Here's to Revolutionary Ideas.” I hope this one inspires you to ask “what if...?”

“The Cleveland Cavaliers and Your Customers' Brand Loyalty.” If this take on the Cavs doesn't convince you that you can build a passionate fan base, you're doomed. 

“Are You a Marketing Lemming?” Ask yourself: are you doing what everyone else is doing? If so, why? 

“The Reason You Need Marketing Every Day.” Sure, it's a bit embarrassing, but I'll cop to a mistake like this every day of the week if it means I can share a good lesson as a result.

Whadya' say? Would you please sign up here to receive our blog posts when they're published? We'd appreciate it. Thank you. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 20:26

Corn Is a Miracle

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Corn is a MiracleI was working with a copywriter a few months back, helping him develop some P-O-P content for a grocery store chain.

We were looking for a different angle on the store's produce department when an image of corn on the cob popped into my head.

Corn is a miracle, I remembered.

About eight years prior, I planted corn for the first time. With great anticipation, I pushed each seed about an inch below the dirt, covered them all with more dirt, and then watered my rows.

Within a week, the first signs of new life sprouted from the ground.

By the end of the summer, I was walking through stalks taller than me. And each one had real corn attached! It was thrilling.

All the beauty of my humble corn patch and all the corn it produced came from a little brown bag of dry seed dropped into dry dirt.

That's when I realized that corn is a miracle. A common, everyday miracle.

That understanding led to content that was different than “Hey, come buy our corn!” The message was about the abundance that we enjoy in this nation, and a reminder of just how lucky we are to have what we have.

And maybe, I thought, my words could help a few people enjoy their own moment of awe and appreciation.

From a marketing standpoint, that story always reminds me that there's more than one way to present a product or service to an audience.

As a human being, it reminds me that corn is far from the only miracle that we've been gifted with in this life.

In this season of miracles, I wish for you that realization every day.

Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 12:15

Thank You

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Thank YouThank you for reading this blog post. Truly, it means a lot to me that you’re investing the time.

And if you’re a client of ours, thank you for allowing us to serve you, and for the trust you place in us. You are the reason we get to do what we love to do.

There are other ways we express our thanks, too. We train consistently. We improve processes frequently. We work to expand our outlook and sharpen our work every day.

We do that for you and our other clients.

As thanks.

As a way of saying “you made a good call when you chose us.”

As a way of reinforcing that we’re committed to your long-term success.

Now, as I often do in this blog, I’ll challenge you with a few questions.

How are you expressing thanks to your customers or clients? Is it a strong, company-wide commitment to literally say “thank you” at the point of sale? Is it a rewards program? Is it providing extra special added value to long-time buyers? Is it a simple, meaningful handshake?

Consumers have a lot of choices. A sincere thank you can go a long way toward earning their loyalty.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 17:19

The Best Policy

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NoseyHave you heard the good news? There’s an amazing pillow you can buy that eliminates insomnia, sleep apnea, acid reflux, even cerebral palsy!

The only problem is it doesn’t fix any of that stuff.

So consumer protection officials in California slapped the makers of MyPillow with a $1 million fine for making those false health claims in their advertising.

It’s no secret that, over the years, more than a few marketers have stretched the truth a bit when describing the products they sell. But I encourage you to fight that urge should you start to feel it.

Here’s a quote from one of the internal training videos we produced for our new Creative Consultants - our writers:

“First and foremost - don’t lie. Don’t ever lie with your copy. Don’t even exaggerate. People will figure out very quickly when you’re full of bologna and when your copy is misleading just to get them in the door. We don’t want to be those folks. Instead, shine a light on what is real, what is unique, what is valuable about that client. We’re not here to try to fool anybody, because it’s just not going to work, and it’s going to come back sooner or later to haunt the client.”

That honest approach to marketing and communication will endear you to customers.

It may also force you to examine your company’s value. The reason: If you can’t develop a message or create content that paints an appealing picture of your product without resorting to wild assertions and hyperbole, you’ll need to ask yourself why that is.

Then, maybe, instead of spending time and money to advertise exaggerated claims, you can commit those resources to building a better product, process or experience that’s more likely to sell itself.

GeraldThere’s a new video out of Austin, Texas that’s taking the Internet by storm.

It’s a campaign video that’s being watched and shared and celebrated unlike any other in recent memory.

And yet, what makes this new video so popular is something we’ve promoted for years.

Check out the piece here, and see why you might want to pursue the same type of marketing magic for your brand.

Caller ExperienceCan you recall the last time you overheard a member of your sales or telemarketing team calling a prospective customer?

Or the last time you dialed into your main number and navigated your Interactive Voice Response system?

Or the last time you mystery called one of your locations to see how well the front-line phone staff cares for callers?

Once you have systems and employees in place it's easy to take for granted that everything is running smoothly. And everything might be running smoothly. But is your team providing the type of caller experience that converts cold calls into customers?

Are your incoming callers treated so wonderfully and efficiently that they tell others about your company and look forward to calling back themselves?

Are your automated systems making it very easy for customers to get what they called for?

If you didn't answer 'yes' very quickly and confidently to all three of those questions, there are a few blog posts you might want to check out.

Is Your Calling Style Costing You? recounts a few bad phone calls I've received recently, and how similar approaches to outbound calling can hurt your top line.

“Why Telephone Etiquette Training is Worth the Investment” reinforces the idea that you have an opportunity to build customer loyalty with every phone call.

“IVR: Interactive Voice Response and The Human Touch” is a reminder that, as amazing as digital technology can be, it still requires thoughtful input to make it effective.

For all things related to caller experience, please call our BusinessVoice team at 800/473-9005.

There’s a very specific behavior that has puzzled me for years. You can see it for yourself in the video above.

When a plane comes to a complete stop at the terminal, a tone signals that it’s safe for passengers to remove their seat belts.

For many, it also means “stand up quickly and start unloading luggage from the overhead bins amidst dozens of fellow passengers who are doing the same thing at the same time in the same very confined space, and then stand there for 10 minutes not moving.”

But I’ve never seen any of those passengers who jump to their feet make a move for the door in order to be first off the plane. They seem to respect the unwritten rule of “no cuts.”

So, why stand up right away?

Do people stand because everyone else is standing? Do they not want to “miss out” on establishing their place in line? Do they really think that what they’re doing will move them forward any faster?

Now apply those same questions to your marketing efforts.

Are you doing what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it? Investing time, for instance, in all the social media channels? Talking about the things you “have” to talk about in the way you “have” to talk about them?

Is there any value in what you’re doing, marketing-wise? Or are many of your efforts akin to standing around in a crowd, not moving forward?

Do you have a Pavlovian response to whatever “tone” it is that signals you to react? (“It’s December, so it must be time for our winter promotion because that’s what we do in December.”)

If you could ask every one of those people in the video why they stood up at the tone, what reason do you think they’d give?

And if you asked every member of your team to explain the reasons your company markets the way it does, would their responses leave you wondering why?

Friday, 09 September 2016 15:11

Don't Be Like Ann Coulter

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Ann CoulterAnn Coulter’s performance on Comedy Central’s Roast of Rob Lowe was more uncomfortable than an iron couch.

Regardless of your politics or any thoughts you may have of Ms. Coulter, it would be tough to disagree with the widely held opinion that her set didn’t go well.

But she’s not a comic. Not a comedy writer. Not an experienced roaster. So, really, who would expect a different result?

The question is this: why did she book the gig in the first place?

And the marketing-related takeaway is this: do what you do well. Find or define your niche, master it, own it, be it, and sell it. Then, let other people do what they do best. 

I just spoke with a long-time client of ours yesterday. He admitted that his company does "five things really well.” But over the last several years, the company had added far too many ancillary items to their product line. As a result, tracking inventory has become a nightmare, and their focus has become watered down. For the systems and people they have in place, they were trying to do too much - and not doing it well enough - to be seen as unique experts.

Marketing your new skills is admirable. Expanding into new markets is often necessary. Just be sure you're ready to perform at a level at least as high as those who are already established pros.

(Photo credit: Comedy Central)

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