An office kitchen cupboard is essentially a throwaway pile with shelves. We put things there that don’t have a snowball’s chance of ever being consumed.
Has this ever happened to you: You’re about to say something, but you get interrupted and seconds later you forget what you were going to say.
No matter how hard you try to remember, it’s gone.
So you quit trying…and a few seconds later you suddenly remember what you were going to say.
How does that happen?
Simple: The thought didn’t actually vanish; it was just hiding in your subconscious mind. Once you stopped straining to pry it out, it floated to the surface on its own. Funny how that works.
That same principle applies when you’re trying to come up with an idea for an ad, a product name, a visual, or the answer to a problem. Sometimes the best way to have an idea is to simply stop trying for a bit.
When you’ve been brainstorming for a while, the law of diminishing returns often kicks in. The mind turns to clay; the ideas dry up.
You stop consciously trying. Your mind has all the information it needs. It’s time to let it do its thing.
So you go do something else. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it doesn’t involve thinking about the project. Here are some suggestions:
Take a nap. Ideas will often emerge as you’re falling asleep or just waking up. Somehow that “twilight” region between sleeping and waking provides a natural conduit for ideas to flow from the subconscious into the conscious.
Take a walk. There’s nothing like getting outside and into the fresh air to give you a fresh perspective. The openness of the outdoors lifts that claustrophobic sense of feeling boxed-in by a project. Getting out and seeing some blue sky lets your imagination soar.
Exercise. It’s not just good for your body, it’s good for your brain. Rigorous exercise puts you in a different mental state and causes your brain to release chemicals that give you a sense of well-being.
Take a long, hot shower or bath. Don’t feel guilty about pampering yourself; it’s work-related. Standing in a steamy shower or letting Calgon take you away puts you in a mode of pure relaxation where your thoughts can freely drift. Those wanderings will often bring back useful solutions.
By no means are these the only methods for freeing your mind to do its best work. You can certainly try your own. Whatever you can do to stop consciously thinking about a project for a while enables your mind to work behind the scenes and to unlock all those ideas you have waiting to get out.
Try it for yourself and let us know how you do.
(Note: You can’t predict when an idea will emerge, so be prepared. Make sure you have a pen and notebook handy to jot down or sketch out the idea before it disappears into the ether. Don’t make the mistake of trying to recall it later on; write it down! Most ideas, particularly complex ones, quickly become cloudy unless captured immediately in written form. The mind is always active; ideas start undergoing alterations the moment you conceive them. Five minutes later, your original flash of insight may have morphed into something less useful. Write it down in its pure form the first moment you imagine it, and you’ll capture its essence.)
The following is presented as a public service message.
The photo below shows a typical stack of “multi-fold” paper towels.
As you can see in the next photo, each sheet in a stack is folded and arranged to interlock with the next sheet so that pulling on one begins to unfold and extend the next.
This allows the towels to be conveniently pulled from a dispenser, one sheet at a time, for maximum efficiency and hygiene benefits.
Nevertheless, despite these proven advantages, a full grasp of the function and proper use of multi-fold towels remains elusive in some quarters of corporate America…
ISSUE 1: CARELESS INSTALLATION
It is not uncommon to see a stack of multi-fold towels positioned incorrectly (i.e., upside-down) within the dispenser. This is unfortunate, as it requires the user to employ the clumsy dig-and-pinch method, as shown here…
…followed by a side-pull extraction, the results of which can range from tearing the towel to inadvertently dispensing multiple sheets, creating unnecessary waste (and hastening the destruction of the planet).
Plus, it leaves an unsightly mess like the one here.
Nor is mess the only problem. Left unaddressed, a dispenser in the condition described above will become empty more quickly, requiring a premature refill.
ISSUE 2: RELUCTANCE TO REFILL
Researchers recently discovered, to their surprise, that not every person encountering an empty multi-fold towel dispenser will avail him- or herself of the opportunity to refill it.
Among their findings:
1. A small percentage of bathroom patrons may retrieve a handful of replacement multi-fold towels from nearby. Upon returning, however, most members of this group will put the towels on the sink rather than attempt to install them in the dispenser. (The resulting problems from this are described further down.)
2. The majority (73.7%) will simply wipe their hands on their pants and walk out.
Questioning of participants revealed that the decision not to refill is influenced by any of several factors:
- lack of familiarity with location of refill bundles
- fear of incorrectly loading the dispenser
- difficulty locating the dispenser latch key lying in plain sight
- time pressures
- cultural issues, or
- disparities in knowledge regarding corporate restroom users’ rights and responsibilities.*
* See related post on leaving empty toilet paper rolls on the spool.
Regardless of the reason, the practice of placing multi-fold towels on the sink rather than in the dispenser is one that should be actively discouraged by managers, as it negates the towels’ efficiency in two distinct ways:
First, it exposes the towels to splashing, which can quickly render an entire stack useless for the next patron.
It also creates the potential for finger-drip water damage. While not as destructive as splashing, finger-drip water still accounts for nearly 20% of towel waste.
This level of avoidable waste can have a seriously detrimental impact on any company striving to shrink its carbon footprint and heighten sustainability.
In conclusion, it behooves each manager to integrate into their best practices a training course (or at the very least a module) on the engineering, purpose and optimal usage of multi-fold towels. We urge you to work with your Sustainability Officer or Team to develop a long-term plan for addressing this crucial issue.
Ever seen a sign advertising “Pumpkin’s For Sale”?
How about an arrow pointing the way to “Restroom’s”?
If so, you’ve encountered The Greengrocers’ Apostrophe. It occurs when someone mistakenly adds an apostrophe before an “s” to create a plural (e.g., Pumpkin’s for Pumpkins, Restroom’s for Restrooms.)
According to Wikipedia, the term was likely coined “in the middle of the 20th century …in Liverpool (England) at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of greengrocers.” (“Greengrocer” is the term our friends the Brits use for produce merchants.)
Unfortunately, the error is not limited to fruit and vegetable peddlers. This vine-ripened boo-boo can grow anywhere, often springing up far from any farmer’s market or citrus stand.
There’s something about seeing such an obvious error in public that makes many people cringe. A Facebook group – the Anti Greengrocers’ Apostrophe Strike Team – has even been established in hopes of eradicating the error.
You can do your part too:
1. Proofread anything you have to hastily scrawl. Taking a moment to check is the easiest way to catch errors you may have unconsciously made in your rush.
2. Remember that only in the rarest of cases is an apostrophe used to create a plural. For example:
• Mind your p’s and q’s.
• A lot of VIP’s attended.
• DVD’s for sale.
Even those last two are optional. The trend these days is to only use the apostrophe if it’s absolutely necessary to avoid confusion.
Which means the next generation of kids could well be learning their ABCs and not their ABC’s.
(And there are plenty more where these came from.)
1. You realize your great product is sitting in a less-than-great package. Use us to design the great packaging your great product deserves.
2. Despite your best brainstorming efforts, your new product remains nameless. Use us to develop a name that gives your product a distinct identity in the marketplace.
3. Customers aren’t sure which of your products to select at the store. Use us to create attractive, effective point-of-sale materials that eliminate the guesswork for the customer.
4. Your old company logo is looking pretty, well, old. Use us to update it, visually linking your solid heritage to your forward-looking attitude.
5. Your website isn’t as user-friendly as it needs to be. Use us to make it both easier to navigate and easier on the eyes.
That’s for starters. There are literally dozens of ways you can use a good marketing and design partner with years of experience (i.e., us).
So go ahead; tap us for whatever you need. We don’t mind being used.
We’ll show you five more ways you can use us in an upcoming post.
As the agency’s proofreader, I’ve caught and corrected all kinds of mistakes.
Lately, I’ve seen one particular boo-boo zinging even super smart people (both here and elsewhere). So let’s kick it to the curb once and
Palette = an artist’s tool or an array of colors
Palate = the back of the roof of your mouth
Pallet = a wooden thing you put heavy stuff on
Okay, so how can we keep them straight?
“Palette” is kinda French-looking, so there’s an “artsy” sense to it.
“Palate” is only one letter different from “plate,” which ties into food and eating.
“Pallet” is pretty close to “mallet,” which you could find lying near a pallet in a warehouse.
Pretty easy, huh? Hope this helps.
Add copywriting to the long list of things Apple does well.
What so good about it?
- It’s easy to read. (Effortless, in fact.) Sentences are kept as short as possible, and crafted to flow rhythmically.
- It has genuine, authentic personality. When you read anything from Apple, it sounds like someone is speaking to you in person.
- It’s humble. Even when promoting a new breakthrough, the copy is never about how great Apple is; it’s about how much you’re going to enjoy using all those new breakthroughs in your daily life.
Nor does their copy ever try to impress the reader with how smart it is. Apple’s writers don’t write for themselves; they write for their audience. And they avoid self-indulgent attempts at cleverness.
The result is that you actually…read it. And you come away with a good feeling about their brand and their products because they’ve explained everything to you in a simple, understandable way, much as a friend would.
That’s what great professional copywriting can do for a brand.
Below are some of those well-known “household” names and a brief description of why they’ve stood the test of time, plus a couple of new ones that are exceptionally well done. (You may also want to check out our previous post on what goes into creating a successful brand name.)
- Ajax: Even if you don’t know the mythology – Ajax was a Greek hero known for his size and strength – the name’s construction and sound still convey a sense of power and authority (hence the tagline that Ajax is “stronger than dirt”).
- Armor All: These two words flow like one when spoken, succinctly conveying the benefit this product offers: the ability to protect many items from dirt and deterioration.
- Axe: The epitome of brevity. A manly name with a youthful edge (pardon the pun).
- Brillo Pad: “Brillo” is a coined name that sounds like a combination of “bristle,” “brush” and “quill” (with an added “o” for energy and lift). Upon hearing the name, who could doubt its ability to scour away even the toughest guck?
- Cascade: A perfect name for dishwasher detergent, conjuring images of a crystal clear waterfall leaving everything it touches sparkling clean.
- Cheer: A product named Cheer brings a smile to the chore of laundry. It’s a “bright” word you automatically associate with brighter clothes.
- Clorox: Combining a root term (in this case a stylized spelling of “chlorine”) with an “x” suffix is a common tool for creating a word with a “scientifically formulated” flavor to it. (Windex and Tilex do it too.) It doesn’t hurt that “ox” sounds hardworking too.
- d-CON: It doesn’t matter if no one knows what this name actually stands for. It sounds scientific and just a little dangerous/intimidating. The no-nonsense nomenclature signals that this is serious stuff.
- Dove: The name hits just the right note for women. What could be softer, whiter, more beautiful or more soothing than a soap called Dove? (Of course, a male version would need to be called something like “Hawk.”)
- Downy: Like a baby bird’s feathers, this name is soft and fluffy too, which is how the maker hopes you’ll envision the product leaving your laundry.
- Drano: Like “Brillo,” this name gets forward momentum from the “o” (which could be symbolic of an unclogged pipe too). The name also serves as shorthand for “drain opener.”
- Duracell: Eveready and Energizer are solid names, but Duracell is unrivaled in creating an image of a power cell that lasts. Combined with the phrase “the coppertop battery” and the tagline “no other battery looks like it or lasts like it,” the moniker makes for a powerful sales message.
- Easy-Off: Easy to say too. The name credibly promises to make the hateful chore of oven-cleaning almost effortless.
- Fantastik: Changing the “c” on the word “fantastic” to a “k” transforms an over-the-top boast into a more playful coined term with a sense of “magick” and quickness.
- Formula 409: This scientific-sounding name implies that substantial research went into creating the cleaner. (Perhaps it took 408 failures before they finally perfected the solution.) Aided by the “For- and Four” repetitive device, it rolls smoothly off the tongue – much better than, say, a Formula 827 would – despite its six-syllable length.
- Fresh Step: A nicely conceived name that’s easy to say and remember, and instantly creates an image of the product benefit.
- Glade: This simple name subtly triggers the imagination. Fresh greenery, pleasing aromas, a natural setting…these are the images the company wants the name to create in the consumer’s subconscious mind.
- Goo Gone: Not the most artful name ever devised, but its straightforward communication of the product benefit can’t be questioned.
- Gorilla Glue: The repetitive G’s are fun to say and the imagery of a gorilla implies that this is strong stuff.
- Gumout: Like “Goo Gone,” this name tells you exactly what the product is going to do for you, plus it’s easy to say.
- Huggies: Parents want to feel their babies are cuddled in coziness at all times. This name conveys this pleasant notion – plus the more literal benefit of a gapless fit that keeps teeny little messes contained.
- Irish Spring: The adjacent “sh” and “sp” sounds are a little tough to say, but what other name could convey the notion of springlike freshness in such a merry manner?
- Ivory Snow: What could be cleaner, whiter, or more pure? This romantic, metaphorical name even sounds soft when spoken.
- Just For Men: This straightforward name successfully mitigates the self-consciousness older men may have about buying hair dye.
- Liquid Plumr: This name lends the product the personality it needs to stand out from the crowd. (One also wonders if Liquid Plumr is friends with Janitor In A Drum.)
- Method: The latest addition to this list of names. The “method” name is a stroke of inspired understatement that conveys “practical,” “modern” and “economical” with a simple sophistication and “green” implications. It is unlike other names on this list in that it is more abstract (doesn’t say what it is or does; doesn’t convey a benefit). Yet the thought of working with a “method” implies completing a task quickly and efficiently. And it doesn’t hurt that the packaging clearly reinforces this notion.
- Miracle Gro: This name instantly has gardeners envisioning “Jack & the Beanstalk” type results.
- Mop & Glo: The floor isn’t just clean or shiny; it actually glows. That’s quite a promise.
- Neutrogena: A nicely coined word with numerous word associations: “Neutro” is akin to “nutri,” conveying health and wholesomeness. The second half of the word, “-gena,” is feminine sounding, alludes to “genesis” (life) and imbues the name with clinical credibility (through similarity to words like collagen, estrogen, antigen, etc.). Is it any wonder the word “rejuvenating” springs immediately to mind when you hear the name?
- Off!: A perfect name for insect repellent. The exclamation point is a stroke of genius that makes the name active and energetic rather than merely descriptive.
- Oil of Olay: Oils are natural and moisturizing. Olay is exotic sounding. The two words sounds soothing together. According to Wikipedia, the name is a spin on the ingredient “lanolin.” And a clever one at that.
- Old English: “Old” implies enduring quality, timeless appeal and an air of gentility. “English” implies class and refinement. Together they evoke images of wood-paneled rooms in country estates. (Old Spice is another name that benefits from the “Old” moniker.)
- Palmolive: Combining the words “palm” and “olive” creates a single word that embodies soft, supple and organic. Even the way the two words blend together creates a sense of fluidity.
- Pampers: Your baby’s backside deserves all the pampering it can get.
- Quaker State: Like “Keystone State,” this name is a nickname for Pennsylvania, where the brand was long headquartered. The “long-a” sounds and the order of the consonants allow “Quaker State” to flow smoothly when spoken. (Try saying “Puritan State” instead and you’ll hear the difference.)
- Quikrete: Need concrete fast? This is the product for you.
- Resolve: This name assures the user that the product has the strength and tenacity to remove tough stains. Who could question that kind of resolve?
- Scotchgard: This name capitalizes on the equity of the Scotch brand. The stylized spelling of “guard” is a pleasing phonetic follow-up (much better than, say, “Scotchshield” would sound).
- Scrubbing Bubbles: A fun, rhyming name that says exactly what the product is and does. Cartoon “bubble” characters on the can and in the TV spots help reinforce the name too.
- Sea Breeze: This name sounds so refreshing you almost expect a gentle puff of cool wind to hit your face when you open the bottle.
- Secret: There’s something about the word “secret” that appeals to women. (Right, Victoria?) Despite the advent of the internet and “Girls Gone Wild” videos, the vast majority of women gravitate to a name that alludes to modesty and feminine mystique.
- Slime: Hats off to the person or team who had the guts to approve this unconventional brand/product name. Their gamble has paid off. Who doesn’t love Slime?
- Shout: This product avoids the “me-too” naming pitfall by not trying to mimic its competitor Spray-N-Wash. Of course, shouting has absolutely nothing to do with stain removal, yet the tagline “Want a tough stain out? Shout it out!” has been effective. (The word “out” being a part of “shout” helps.)
- Slick 50: Like Formula 409, this name uses a word/number combination that slides smoothly off the tongue and indirectly conveys the product benefit. (Slick 49 wouldn’t be the same, would it?)
- Swiffer: This is a fun name that sounds lighthearted and promises to take the drudgery out of floorcare. Compared to sweeping, “swiffering” sounds effortless, perhaps because its “wiff” component conveys a light and airy feel. Ending the name with an “er” (as in worker, cleaner, scrubber) makes it sound like it’s doing the work, not you.
- Tilex/Windex: There’s no mistaking what these two products are used for. Like Clorox, they benefit from the “scientific X” suffix that connotes a lab-perfected formulation and clinical efficiency.
- Ultra Brite: On the brightness scale, ultra bright probably represents the highest end. This is a solid promise of dental dazzle conveyed in a fun-sounding name.
- Vigoro: This plant food brand name combines vigor with grow, and rhymes with “Figaro” so although it’s a coined term it isn’t unfamiliar sounding.
- Wisk: This name implies that, like a “whisk broom,” the product will remove dirt quickly, completely and without much effort from you.
- Zest: Despite the “Z” (typically associated with sleep) this product names implies a refreshing sensory awakening.
Some folks think ad agency people “sit around and think up ideas all day.”
This makes the creative process sound random and effortless, neither of which is true.
Agencies would quickly go out of business if they just “sat around” waiting for inspiration to strike.
They need a way to regularly and consistently create interesting ideas for the ads (and other stuff) they produce.
So…here it is, broken down into five simple steps:
Getting ready to have an idea requires immersing yourself in the product or service you want to promote, learning everything you can about it, asking lots of questions. (Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”)
This may involve talking to engineers about a design, visiting a factory to see how a product is made or interviewing users of a service. It’s a lot of work, but without this necessary step you won’t have sufficient information from which to draw forth a great idea.
After you’ve loaded your brain with information, it’s time let your mind work its magic. This step is equal parts work and fun, active and passive, conscious and unconscious.
The “work” part is brainstorming different solutions. The “fun” part is doing something completely unrelated, which frees up your subconscious mind to do its thing.
Creative folks have different methods for this: going somewhere quiet and thinking, heading out for a walk, napping, taking a drive, jogging, etc. You’ll need to find what works best for you. But the alternating pattern of working and taking a break seems to do the trick.
This is where you go, “A-ha!” (or “Eureka!” or whatever it is you say when brilliance strikes). The idea comes to you and you’re ecstatic. You jump up and give yourself a mental high-five, congratulating yourself on your cleverness.
This step isn’t nearly as fun as Step 3. (In fact, it can be pretty painful.) It’s time to stand back and throw stones at the brand new, shiny idea you’ve just created.
This is no time to be proud or protective. Take a step back and examine the idea objectively. Look for flaws. Is it strong enough to stand up to scrutiny?
If if isn’t, swallow your pride, kick that idea to the curb and get to work on a better one.
Don’t worry; lightning struck once. If you’ve done your homework it will strike again.
If, on the other hand, your idea can withstand the slings and arrows you shot at it in Step 4, it’s ready to be turned into an actual ad.
That means writing the copy, designing the layout, creating the artwork. (In other words, a lot of hard work and effort.) But when it all comes together it’s a thing of beauty.
There’s no more rewarding professional experience than being part of a creative team transforming a single “big idea” into a campaign that impacts thousands or even millions of people.
Acknowledgment: Chapter Four of The Copy Workshop Workbook by Bruce Bendinger provided source material for this post.
The dead rising from their graves and making merry on Halloween night: That’s the story told by Danse macabre, an instrumental piece written by the 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.
The work is based on an old French superstition in which Death appears at midnight on Halloween and plays his fiddle, calling forth the dead to dance to his tune. As you listen to the piece, you’ll have no trouble envisioning a throng of grinning skeletons reveling through the cemetery as they celebrate their annual night of freedom from the grave.
Near the end of the piece, a rooster crows (an oboe, I think) to signal the coming dawn. The skeletons recoil in fright and glumly slink back to their tombs for another year.
My elementary school music teacher introduced me to Danse macabre waaay back when I was a little kid and I’ll always remember hearing it that first time. Every October I put it back into heavy rotation on my iPod and let the dead dance through my mind again and again.
The tune is about seven minutes long and is available on iTunes. You can also sample it with various video accompaniments on YouTube.