Christmas Card Clutter

Mailboxes are worse than the entertainment pages of the New York Times this time of year.

With all of the Christmas cards that everyone receives, how do you compete for the receiver’s attention?

Is your card really going to make an impression?  And in today’s green-times, is it really worth a slice of a Sequoia to send a card in such a cluttered environment?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the time people take to remember me, but sending Christmas cards is like taking out an ABC in the New York Times.  People just keep doing it without realizing it isn’t as effective as it may have been.

OK, I’ll try and take my Scrooge hat off now and be a bit more constructive.  Let’s say you feel compelled to send cards to your clients, friends or family.  Here are a few quick ideas on how to get your cards through the CCC (Christmas Card Clutter):


1.  Be First

Make sure your card arrives before everyone else’s.  The day after Thanksgiving.  Or, if you really want to make an impression?  Send it in July.

2.  Be Last

Embrace your procrastination and use it to your advantage.  Send your card right after people are clearing off their mantles so it arrives in their mailbox in January, at the same time as their December credit card bills.

3.  Make It Personal

Speaks for itself.  Photos, letters (yes, even form letters), etc.  Cards usually wrap up a year, so take a moment to remind the recipient about a very positive experience you shared at some point during the year. 

4.  Make It Your Own With a Custom Design

Send fewer letters and make a bigger impression for the same money with a custom design that says what is unique about your company.  If you’re a vendor, send a card that has your company’s name or logo on the FRONT of the card.  Think about how cards are displayed on desks or mantles.  It’s never with the signature on the outside.  With the right design, Christmas cards can be mini-billboards.

Can’t afford a designer and don’t know how to work Photoshop?  Do it old school and make your cards like a 2nd grader.  They’ll stand out big time.

5.  Put Something In The Card

Include a coupon.  10% off the client’s first service in the New Year.  A coupon for a free hug.  Whatever.  But something that adds value to the card (and can be tracked).

6.  Don’t Send a Card

Send something else.  Again, spend a little more money on less people and make it count.  And make it something that doesn’t get tossed out after the New Year, but that will sit on a desk, constantly reminding that person of you.

Or send a one dollar bill in a plain white envelope and with a post-it note attached that says, “We have trouble picking out cards for our diverse client list.  Here’s a dollar.  Feel free to buy a card that suits you best.  Or buy a hot dog.”

I realize that people are shaking their head at me right now because I’m breaking down a time-honored tradition of spreading joy into a marketing strategy.  Shake away, but here’s the thing: everything we do in life is a form of marketing.  If you get a new hair cut or buy a new suit, you’re redesigning your brand’s image.  If you send text messages or mass emails to friends, you’re engaging in direct response.  Christmas cards are just another form of marketing in our own lives.

And my point is that if you’re going to do it (like any form of advertising), do it effectively. 

Personally, I’d rather my vendors and casual acquaintances save the paper and the postage and make a $1 donation to a favorite charity.

Do you have any ideas on how to break through the CCC?  Or have you received any great CCs that got your attention?  Email me and I’ll post the best.


Be Careful! Your Competition Is In The Same Room!

There are 3 advertising agencies that handle the bulk of Broadway business. 


In the 2005-2006, Broadway season, there were 39 new productions on Broadway.  There were also 32 continuing productions from the previous season.

71 shows.  Handled by 3 agencies.

Divided equally (which they are not), means that each agency handled an average of 23.67 shows.  In reality, 2 of those agencies handled the majority of the shows.

To demonstrate a huge practical problem associated with these numbers, let’s look at the four nominees for Best Musical in 2007:  CurtainsGrey Gardens, Mary Poppins and Spring Awakening.

All FOUR of these musicals were represented by the same advertising agency.

That means that Tony campaigns, sales figures, etc. were all discussed, strategized and planned in the same house. 

So when you’re doing your next show, you should understand that your meetings will probably be held in the same conference room as your direct competition.

Can you imagine if Microsoft and Apple were handled by the same advertising agency?  And shared a conference room?  Or Coke and Pepsi?  Or even small hometown grocery stores?   

It’s not even smart business to consider these facts before making your choice of your agency, it’s just common sense.  I’m not insinuating that anything unethical is happening at any of these agencies, but with millions and millions of dollars on the line, why would you take the chance of all that information under one roof?  Even the most ethical and honest employee would have to be subconsciously influenced with the knowledge of what one show’s competitors are doing, wouldn’t you think?

In other industries, companies refuse to allow their advertising agencies to rep competitors.  Duh. 

I know what people will say: “Ken, the reason there is so much overlapping is because there isn’t enough consistent work to go around to keep these agencies running.”

I disagree.  23.67 shows is a lot of commission.  And besides, I’ve seen the sizes of each of their offices. And conversely, I’ve seen the sizes of all of the Producers’ offices in this city.  The agencies don’t need to take on this much work.

But this isn’t their fault.  They are just growing their business.  We’re the ones ignoring the reality and allowing these practices to continue.   

The other argument is that there aren’t enough qualified advertising agencies in business.  This may be true. 

Anyone out there want to hang a shingle?

Or better, maybe producers should start doing advertising in-house. 

The Funniest Advertising On Broadway!

I was walking through Shubert Alley yesterday, and this caught me eye and made me chuckle:


Can we really expect a consumer to believe either of these things?  Especially when they are right next to each other?

Self-proclamations are fine.  I use them . . . judiciously.  It shows confidence.  It’s just believing in yourself, which every self-help book preaches, so why shouldn’t your business use the same principles? 

NBA players have to believe they are all as good as Michael Jordan when they step on the court.  Models have to believe they are the “hottest” when they walk down the runway.  So why shouldn’t shows believe it and shout it… when appropriate.

You have to be careful where and when you use such a proclamation.  If you do it and it doesn’t make sense to the consumer (“My blog is the best blog on the web!”), or when it’s in a cluttered environment (like the one above), you actually risk having the consumer discredit you and your product.

You know what the kicker of the above is?  Both shows are handled by the same advertising agency  . . . which is arguably “The Best Advertising Agency on Broadway!”

More on the issue of agencies tomorrow.

Turning An Angry Customer Into An Ally

Everyone knows that the modern consumer likes to speak up and bark back at big business.

Here’s a fun way that one of the Kings of American media buyers used that to their advantage.

Truth is . . . I only like half of the execution of this campaign.  But the unexpectedness of the idea is brilliant.

Do you like it?

Print Ads Don’t Smoke Anymore (aka Last Week’s Blog Rewritten)

Check out this article from The NY Times about one of the largest media buyers in the world . . . a tobacco company.  Here’s the paragraph that most interested me: 


“The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company disclosed this week that it would run no ads in 2008 in consumer magazines and newspapers for cigarette brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.

Instead, Reynolds said it would concentrate its marketing in three areas that already make up the bulk of its marketing spending: stores, bars and nightclubs; Web sites; and direct mail.”

What was fascinating to me was not that R.J. was pulling out of print.  Everyone knows that print is dying faster than a two-pack-a-day smoker of brands like Camel, Winston and Pall Mall.  What is interesting to me is where they are putting their money. 

(Here’s where you and I can learn from watching how the big boys play with their big boy budgets.)

What do stores, bars, nightclubs, and websites have in common?  You can buy cigarettes there.  The tobacco companies are putting their money closer to their point of purchase.  They realize that a nicotine craving might be intensified by the right ad and their conversion rates will be higher if cigarettes and a guy willing to take your money are only a few steps (or clicks) away from that ad.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Why would they advertise in a magazine, where they can’t control where their ad is going to be seen?  Magazines are read on planes, trains and in bathrooms.  The odds of getting a consumer to purchase a pack of Pall Malls while on the potty are nil.  If you expect your ad to stay in the consumer’s mind until they are at a point of purchase, it either has to be that much stronger (bigger), or it has to be seen much more frequently.  It makes more sense to not take that risk, and find a way to get to where the consumer is more likely to make a purchase.

Tobacco companies are smart.  With all that we know about how bad cigarettes are for our bodies, people still do it, which means they are doing something disgustingly right. So what is it?

For starters, they realize that mass marketing is on its way out.  Strategic and targeted marketing is here.  They are finding out where their customers are, and where they are most likely to purchase their product.  It’s like modern day warfare.  Their campaigns are becoming a bunch of smart missiles instead of blanket bombs. 

Where are your audiences hiding?