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Not everybody is going to love your marketing no matter how good it is. Especially given the business you’re in.  In fact, the stronger the effort, the more vocal the “Haters” who have some bone to pick with it.

LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz puts this in perspective and tells you why having a few “Haters” is just as valuable as having boatloads of “Lovers.” Watch now.

Or you can read the text here:

We had a client call last week telling us that he had received an email from someone who was put off about an ad we were running.  He was wondering if we should hold off running that ad again and instead run another one. My response was “Heck no. I’m thrilled someone felt that way. I hope we get a few more emails like that.”

Why would I say that, right?

Because, in my experience, it’s the ads that provoke no responses that also provoke minimal action.

If you want your company to have passionate customers, you must first inspire strong responses. Only then can you convince people to love your company, love what you sell, and become raving fans of your brand.

But it was Sir Isaac Newton who said for every action, there’s also an equal and opposite reaction.  Strong marketing that generates attention also gets the attention of people who love to complain, love to find something wrong when an idea is outside their comfort zone.  Keep in mind, it could be your competition who’s behind the ruckus, as we’ve seen in more than just a few cases.

Once you wander outside the box and you do something strongly visible, you’re bound to get some negative responses.

Imagine how some people first reacted to the “Got Milk” campaign!  What kind of slogan is that?  It’s bad grammar!  And in the first commercials, they didn’t even talk about milk until the end.  That’s terrible branding!!!  Except it wasn’t.  And because it was different, sales of milk started pouring in, and soon everybody else was copying that campaign with “Got this” and “Got that.”

Our most successful campaigns, whether for clients in the funeral profession or outside it, have always prompted a few haters.

Hey, if you don’t get a few haters, you’ll certainly not get the lovers either.  And, again relying on experience, it’s the haters who are always the most vocal and the first to send you their opinions.  I think we all know people like that.

It’s been said “Everybody loves it until one person doesn’t.”   In other words, we get so caught up in the one or two critical comments, we often ignore all the positive ones that push our businesses forward.

Don’t let the few critics out there who love to complain stop you from shaking the branches.  Inspired ideas coupled with courage and a thick skin are your keys to winning the marketing game.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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The Super Bowl is the battle of titans – not the teams, mind you, but the advertisers. Tens of millions of dollars go into every commercial minute as the marketers go head-to-head to win new sales. After the 2018 game, LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offered his take on the “players” and who really comes out ahead.  It’s just as relevant going into the 2019 game, and worth considering what it has to do with making your own brand more successful in whatever arena you play in.  Watch now or read the full text below.

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Forget about the game, the winner of this year’s Super Bowl had to be Tide.  Admittedly, the commercial line up was a bit lackluster compared with previous years.  But Tide even took that on, with dead-on parodies of other Super Bowl spots, from Anheuser Busch’s Clydesdales to Old Spice’s hunky “Man your Man Could Smell Like” series.

But for me, the takeaway of any commercial isn’t about how funny it is, or even how memorable and talked about it is.

It’s about whether or not the value proposition is clear, and the commercial effectively sells the product.

That’s important, whether you’re selling detergent, deodorant, beer, or funeral services.

In 2016, we talked about Kia’s brilliant Walken Closet commercial, featuring a riveting performance by Christopher Walken.  He may have been the attention-getter, but the selling message was still front-and-center: Don’t get a boring “beige” mid-sized sedan when you can get a Kia Optima and have fun.

In this new series of Tide commercials, there’s little doubt what the message is:  Tide means clean, stain-free clothes.  In fact, right after watching, you’d be hard pressed to name another laundry detergent, so effective is the Tide branding.

With that in mind, here are the three key aspects that the best Super Bowl commercials have in common and should also have in common with your marketing, no matter what it is:

One:  The ads are imminently watchable.  They grab your attention because they’re fresh – no pun intended. They’ve got a way of communicating that the audience hasn’t seen before. If your ads aren’t surprising, if they’re not engaging, nobody will pay attention. How much wasted money does that cost!  This is the reason we say again and again, “Dare to be Different,” because only different gets noticed.  Same doesn’t.

Two: They’re built around a clear, simple message that speaks to what the buyer wants or needs.  I found it interesting during the game just how many spots tried to make the audience feel all warm and fuzzy, but how few really took on their own product’s competitive selling story.  Drilling down to a single, strong competitive story is the make-or-break difference between mere exposure and generating new sales.  Do you have a strong, competitive story for your brand?  If you can’t quickly articulate it, your audience isn’t going to do the work for you!  And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking million-dollar commercials or small space ads on the obituary pages.  Your ads and your marketing have to tell the story.

And Three: They somehow or other demonstrate or at least show the promise.  In the Tide commercial, the grease-stained mechanic under the car was wearing a spotless white shirt, as was everybody else in the Tide commercial series. Yes, demonstration is a lot harder to do when you’re only running print ads. But then, let your ads point to your website or social media or other marketing as the place to adequately demonstrate your unique selling proposition.

If you haven’t seen the Tide commercials from this year’s Super Bowl, you can click the link below the video. I’ll also post a link to the brilliant Kia Walken Closet spot from 2016.  Both are exceptional examples of creative freshness, clear selling message and product demonstration.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. It’s an occupational hazard. Now I’ll have to go back and watch the game again to see who won.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

looking back

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  – Soren Kierkegaard

2018 is now behind us, and as we look at the final year of the second decade of the 21st Century, we hope for a future that is successful, rewarding and where your dreams will be realized. Having seen the start of more than a few “new business years” during my career, I’ve learned that you can do one of two things in preparation for the coming year. You can yet again try to create a brand new marketing strategy for the coming year or you can pause, look back and do some serious reflecting, resolving to change, or improve some aspect about how you will initiate your future marketing campaigns. For some people, looking back over the past year may be something better left in the rear-view mirror; on the other hand, burying your head in the sand can be seen as the primary ingredient in a recipe for another disappointing year. So, before one celebrates the dawn of a new year…take time to ask yourself what are you going to do to change? What does success in 2019 look like to you and your team?

Speaking for myself and our firm, the end of each year is met with a healthy dose of hope for the coming year. We see 2019 through a lens of optimism, that things will continue to get better. Is that just us or will you and your organization also view the coming year with a level of anticipation that you haven’t had for a few years? Hey, it’s been tough for most everyone out there, especially in the funeral profession, but let’s remember that at least a few organizations — perhaps some of your own competitors — have fared better than most despite these trying times. So, what have they done to plot a course for a more optimistic and profitable path for success in 2019?

Depending on marketplace factors (cremation growth, tightened economy, uncertain political future) coupled with how well you were able to strategically position and market your company, the past year was either seen as a success or another year of same-old, or even a disappointment.  The question that begs to be asked here is, how much of last year’s growth or lack thereof was because of something you had no control over, such as good or bad luck, and how much was because of something you specifically chose to do or not do?  I’ve found through personal experience this is the time to be totally honest with yourself.  As Sigmund Freud said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

Hey, I’m all for a bit of luck but you probably don’t want to continue betting future success on lucky things happening in the coming year.  With this in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself as thought starters as you begin the process of looking in the rearview mirror at this past year and through your windshield to the next:

  • What marketing activities worked for you and which ones didn’t in 2018?
  • What 2 or 3 trends did you notice have taken place in your industry and outside of it that you need to incorporate into 2019 activities?
  • What 5 pieces of really good customer feedback did you receive this past year that you need to take deliberate action on?
  • Is there one part of your marketing activities that if it got more attention could yield better results?
  • What are the 2 mission-critical initiatives that absolutely need to be accomplished by June 30th 2019?
  • What are the top 3-5 problem areas that could impact your bottom line or stunt the growth of your brand if you don’t tackle them now?
  • What are the 3-5 opportunities that could grow your bottom line, brand visibility and preference?
  • How did your marketing (from strategy to execution) match up with your competitors? Was it “beige”- boring or was it “full of color”- impactful?
  • What do you produce, offer or do that excites your audience and makes them think “Wow!”

As marketers, one thing we know for sure is that change will not stop in 2019. The marketplace will continue to shift on us, and so will the economy. But by reflecting back on 2018, taking control of your marketing activities rather than being tossed around by the waves in the market, along with thinking optimistically about what 2019 can hold, this New Year might actually be a year worth celebrating.  It will be for us and hopefully will be for you as well.

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Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

This is often the most challenging issue for marketers, finding something unique to say about your company the competitors aren’t saying. LA ads president and creative director Dan Katz offers a number of tips and ideas to help you find your unique point of difference. It can make a difference in your marketing outcome!

To see examples of ads and commercials that have a distinctive message, click here.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

As both president of LA ads and a private pilot, I’ve discovered that many lessons learned in flight training and in the cockpit apply to marketing and managing a funeral services business. Here’s one of those lessons.  (For more lessons from the cockpit, read my post, “What I know about marketing I learned at Flight School.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

 

If you’re running a cemetery, you’re facing two challenges: 1) communicating the meaning of a permanent setting to families choosing cremation, and 2) offering sufficient choices that intersect with the values of today’s families. (It’s important for you and your families both to remember, that cremation is not a form of disposition any more than embalming is. It’s only what happens to the body before final disposition.) It’s in this spirit that LA ads president Dan Katz offers several ideas and initiatives that can help cemeteries reach out to families favoring cremation. Click to watch, or read the full transcript below.


It’s sometimes amazing to me to realize that, as quickly as cremation has overtaken burial across much of the country, how few cemeteries – and even many funeral homes – have yet to adapt their marketing to this massively growing audience.  I don’t know if it’s the ostrich syndrome or maybe it’s something closer to being a deer in the headlights.

But whatever the zoological metaphor, if you’re running a cemetery, you’re facing two challenges: 1) communicating the meaning of a permanent setting, and 2) offering sufficient choices that intersect with the values of today’s families.

It’s important for you – and your families – to remember, that cremation is not a form of disposition, any more than embalming is.  It’s only what happens to the body before final disposition.

So, in that spirit, here are several ideas and initiatives that can help cemeteries reach out to families favoring cremation.

First and foremost, in order to attract cremation families, you first have to have properties that appeal to this audience: ground niches, columbaria, glass-front niches, cremation gardens, scattering gardens, and also properties that can accommodate both caskets and urns together.

And, remember, the Baby Boomer market who is driving the cremation boom is all about demanding choices; so, if you’re only offering one or two cremation options, they’ll have many more options of their own that don’t include your cemetery.

Next, how good a job are you doing educating families?  Presumably, you already have a good website, but do you have a page specifically focused on the value and importance of a permanent setting?  How about a YouTube video discussing what it means to future descendants to visit the resting places of their forebearers?  Consider offering seminars on “What you don’t already know about Cremation.”  Look for any opportunity to educate the local community and open their eyes to important considerations about cremation, which is doing them a genuine public service.

Also, you should promote your cremation options in your literature. It surprises me how few cemeteries provide a key piece of literature that shows how many ways cremated remains can be memorialized within the cemetery.  This should include some opening commentary about the value of permanent disposition, discussion about the range and affordability of your offerings, as well as presenting beautiful photographs that show off each type of cremation property. This same brochure can be set as a PDF for easy download via your website or an email campaign.

For several of our clients, we’ve developed self-running PowerPoints for families as they wait in the lobby or in the arrangement rooms.  Use every opportunity to educate families about their choices.

And here’s an idea borrowed from the grocery products industry: sampling.  Free tastes or free trials designed to let the consumer try out a product they might not otherwise experience. If it works for cereal and laundry detergent, why not cremation property?  If you have a glass-front niche wall, consider making a few of these spaces available for free for 30 days to allow a family the opportunity to provide visitation shortly after the cremation.  Place an attractive temporary plaque on the niche to identify the decedent. Let the family personalize the space as they choose and encourage them to invite family and friends to visit the niche during this period. It’s great exposure that can be a game-changer for you and the family.

And here’s something else you may not have thought about, which began some years back when I ran an aerial cremation scattering business.  I was surprised by the number of families who came to us after having Mom on the mantel for a decade or so. They wanted a final disposition that got Mom out of the house.  This is what I came to refer to as “post-need” care. Consider targeting all the people who’ve got Mom on the mantel. You can offer a better and longer-term option which combines a fixed place – with a memorial marker – in a permanently beautiful setting. And if you have a crematory, you can go through the list of all those who took Mom home and come back to these same families with a new solution.

Finally, don’t forget to advertise.  It’s important to consider that most people, by default, equate cemeteries to ground burial and hardly ever think about cemeteries when it comes to cremation. So it’s your job to shift that awareness. Advertising is a powerful tool that reaches out to a much broader audience than your website or your Facebook page can. Just make sure your message is clear, the creative is attention-getting, and you are always speaking from your audience’s point-of-view.

With cremation trends shifting the ground underneath the future of the cemetery business, the urgency to act now cannot be overstated.  Traditions are fast changing and it’s the role of the cemetery to grab hold and remain a fundamental part of how families honor their loved ones.  Having the products families want along with the right marketing to get the word out are equal partners in assuring your cemetery’s relevance and continued growth.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

 

They say that the shoemaker’s children are always shoeless, and that is certainly true about marketing agencies, who traditionally do a lousy job marketing themselves. The awkward truth is that advertising and marketing agencies are their own worst clients. LA ads president and creative director, Dan Katz, shares what we learned about ourselves, how we did it, what we did about it, and how it has important lessons for anyone who depends on their marketing for sales. Click to watch the video, or read the full transcript below.


The absolutely hardest thing one can do is turn one’s eyeballs inward to see what others see. And let’s be honest, nobody really wants to know what others truly think about them, right?

And yet, for us personally, professionally and as a business, knowing what others think about us gives us powerful, valuable knowledge.

We tell this to our clients all the time, get a real-world picture of your own brand so there’s a solid platform to build a marketing program on. The most valuable tool we bring to our clients is objectivity.

But what do you do if you’re the agency and you have to be objective about yourself?  The awkward truth is that advertising and marketing agencies are their own worst clients.  They say that the shoemaker’s children are always shoeless, and that is certainly true about marketing agencies, who traditionally do a lousy job marketing themselves.  As I said, it’s really hard to turn our own eyeballs inward.

But that’s just what we needed to do for ourselves so we could launch a new 2018 advertising and marketing effort for LA ads.

So we began by contracting with an outside market research firm, someone we work with frequently, to find out what others think about who we are and what we do.  Or don’t do, as the case may be.  The research firm reached out to a number of people who had some knowledge of us, or perhaps worked with us in the past.  And they asked the really tough questions that in some cases we honestly weren’t sure we wanted to know.

So what did we find out?  Well, we got good news and we got bad news.

The good news was that nearly everyone was familiar with our brand promise – Dare to be Different – and our key point of difference, that our work was intelligent and highly creative, perhaps the most creative in the business.  We also heard from those who had worked with us in the past that they felt we offered sincere, personal attention as well as high-level strategic thinking. All that was great.

But on the negative side, we heard that many weren’t aware of our full scope of services – from web development to video production to social media strategies.  All they thought we did was ADS.  Well, I guess our own name has a lot to do with that.  In addition, many who hadn’t worked with us didn’t see the link between our work and the return on investment, the ROI.

Wow, were we missing the ball on those two counts!

All of this had us rethinking our fundamental messaging and what we really stood for.

The results of which were delivered at our new booth this past April at the ICCFA Convention, and in a new series of print ads which are running now.

My message here isn’t about us, though.  It’s about YOU.

Are you certain of how the outside world sees your business, or are you guessing – or worse, flying on a hope.  It’s only when you get an honest reality check that you have the tools to move your messaging forward so it can do you the most good.

Ignorance isn’t bliss.  It’s a pathway to lost business.  What is it you’re not communicating that gives prospective customers the wrong impression?  What is your marketing saying that you think is important but that others couldn’t care less about, such as the number of years you’ve been in business or the size of your staff?  What could you be doing better, or saying better that strengthens the bond between you and those you do business with?  What don’t you know that could be hurting you but helping your competitors?

You won’t find out unless you ask through thoughtful, skillful, truly objective market research. Which is — as it was for us — possibly the best marketing money you could ever spend.

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Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

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