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“I don’t believe in hammers.”

Client – “I don’t read marketing.”  

Uh, yeah, you do.

And I’ll prove it.  Let’s start here.

What is this bottle?

Do you know what product it’s marketing?
Perhaps the name of the company?
Of course you do, it’s Absolut vodka.
How about this shape?  There’s no label on this one either.
No real challenge, it’s obviously Nike. 

Do you recognize the following images / ads?

They’re pulled out of television commercials or print campaigns for a variety of different types of products and services.  If you’re over 30, I’ll bet you know them all, although some don’t clearly identify the product or company name.

Or some slogans (tag lines) from history:

1. It takes a licking and keeps on ______________

2. Tastes great, less ________________________

3. Melts in your mouth, not in ________________

4. Winston tastes good, like a ________________

5. Silly rabbit. Trix are _____________________

What’s the point? 

I was speaking with a client recently where we were developing an integrated marketing campaign including a new brand message, website, online marketing, and print ads.  We detailed the program and one of the marketing committee members raised a common objection to print advertising:

“I was talking to a client, and said she doesn’t read ads.”

(Of course she said that!  And completely believes it.)

No one looks forward to reading ads.  They’re intrusions into our busy days.  I TiVo television shows so I can fast-forward through the commercials, and I’m in the business — we develop dozens of marketing campaigns every year.

Nobody reads marketing materials if they can avoid it — not blogs, brochures, or billboards.  We’re all too busy to voluntarily read something that’s obviously a boring piece of self promotion.  Which is why it must be great.

We hate TV commercials. But we love the Super Bowl.

Why?  Because we know they’re going to be worth our time.

Did you know the above ads? Do you remember them?  Some of them even decades after they stopped running?  Of course you do, because it was worth it to you to do so.  They told a story, or made you laugh, or taught you something you wanted to learn, or otherwise grabbed your attention.

So to that client, I’d like to say, “You do read ads.”

BUT — only when they’re worth reading. 

And, admittedly, most of them aren’t.  But that’s not an indictment of advertising, or any other particular marketing tool.  It’s an indictment of BAD marketing.  It’s an indictment of weak strategy, and visuals that aren’t designed to grab your attention.

So let’s not blame the medium.  It’s like saying, “I don’t believe in hammers.”  Hammers are simply a tool designed to accomplish a task.  And, when it’s the right tool, used the right way, to accomplish the right goal, hammers work great.

Personally, I don’t believe in hammers … as food.

I don’t believe in using hammers to drive to work or to time the 100-yard dash.

That is, let’s not blame the hammer if it’s used the wrong way, to accomplish the wrong task, or is wielded by the ignorant or unskilled.  Instead, let’s apply the right tool to the right task, and demand the highest-quality craftsmanship.

So remember, if your website or advertising or public relations or LinkedIn profile isn’t helping you generate revenue, don’t blame the tool.  Find out what the real problem is.  Then fix it.



Marlboro cigarettes

Coca Cola’s Mean Joe Greene TV commercial

Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” TV commercial

Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl commercial.

Budweiser “Frogs”


1. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (Timex watches)

2. Tastes great, less filling. (Miller Lite beer)

3. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. (M&Ms)

4. Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should. (Winston cigarettes)

5. Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids. (Trix cereal)

(c) All images, slogans, and trademarks are copyrighted by their various companies.