Spirited Communication

Category: marketing

Making Comic Books More Inclusive

FreeComicBDay16%2015yrs_logoToday is “Free Comic Book Day” in North America, but how meaningful are comics in today’s world?

The industry remains healthy, with 2015 sales in North America of $579 million (up 7.17% year-over-year), according to Diamond Comic Distributors. Demographics of comic book readers is difficult to find. I came across this “back of the envelope” estimate of how many Millenials regularly read comic books. (Hint: not many)

So who is buying the comic books that launched media powerhouses like The Walking Dead cable show and The Avengers movies?

We do see attempts to draw a more diverse customer, as more women identify as comic book fans.

Comic book writers, artists and publishers also are adding characters that they hope will appeal to a wide range of ethnic and other demographics.

Although the following National Public Radio (NPR) report is a year old, it discusses that trend.

The Free Comic Book Day site provides a link to more information about comic books.

Here are a couple of well-known actors hawking Free Comic Book Day and their individual projects:

Free Comic Book Day Is An Annual Treat

FreeComicBookDay_Dad-Daughter_IMG_2631I’ll admit that I was a comic book junkie when I was growing up. At one time, I had a collection of more than 300 comic books that I tried to preserve by keeping them flat in a large trunk in my parents’ basement.

It was a sad day when I came home one time from college to learn that my mom wanted to store some blankets in that trunk, and finding my comic book collection, gave some to my brothers, curled some in a brown paper grocery bag, and threw some away.

I still have those few gems, and at least once a year, I take time to remember those fun hours in quiet comic book la-la land when I visit my local comic book store on “Free Comic Book Day.”

FreeComicDay_JaySigns_IMG_2640That’s right: Free Comic Book Day actually exists, as the photos on this page confirm. It always occurs on the first Saturday in May, so yesterday I visited Jay’s Comics in Grayslake, IL. It isn’t anything close to a carnival atmosphere, but employees do dress in superhero costumes and the place is decorated with balloons and event signage.

Still, the comic books take center stage, and this is a terrific opportunity to introduce kids to the comic book world—if they haven’t already been hooked! This event doesn’t seem to get the promotion around my area that I would expect. Don’t marketing and public relations professionals remember the lure and pleasure of comic books?

FreeComicBookDay_ManOutsideJays_IMG_2635A “Captain Action” issue on the free comic book rack caught my eye—as did the current issues of “The Walking Dead.” I still have the first two issues of the original Captain Action comic from the 1960s. It was a favorite character of mine at the time. As for the Walking Dead…no explanation needed, right?

Do you have a favorite memory of any comic book that you want to share here?

Maybe We’re Wising Up About April Fools’ Day

Today is one of my least-favorite days of the year.

In the United States and a handful of other nations, it is “April Fool’s Day,” a non-holiday when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on others. It has become a day when companies try to gain some free publicity by disseminating fictitious stories on social media and through traditional media.

Ever since a fellow third-grader placed a tack on my seat, I’ve seen pranks and hoaxes as opportunities for mean-spirited, insecure people to try to make themselves look better by causing someone else to look foolish.

I feel fortunate that coworkers at my current employer don’t play April Fools’ pranks on each other. As I’ve told some of them, I don’t appreciate practical jokes or the people who try them.

How do I feel about companies that use this day to promote themselves through some outrageous activity or message? That depends on how well they execute the message.

The best that I’ve seen today are Redbox’s Petbox and CERN’s “discovery that the Force is real.”

These hoax “news items” are humorous, but not at the expense of others. And some effort was made to support the hoax with fun graphics.

Do you think that I should lighten up, or do you agree that most April Fools’ Day pranks and hoaxes do more harm than good?

Redbox created a spoof "Petbox" ad as an April Fools' Day hoax. No pets were harmed in the making of this spoof.

Redbox created a spoof “Petbox” ad as an April Fools’ Day hoax. No pets were harmed in the making of this spoof.

CERN released a press release stating that its resarchers have used the Large Hadron Collider to confirm the discovery that…the Force is real. Again, I appreciate the humor and the fact that no one's self-esteem takes a hit because of this hoax.

CERN released a press release stating that its resarchers have used the Large Hadron Collider to confirm the discovery that…the Force is real. Again, I appreciate the humor and the fact that no one’s self-esteem takes a hit because of this hoax.

Helpful Reader Gets a Free Plug

My thanks to freelance writer Hyrum Taffer (@HyrumTaffer on Twitter, who emailed to tell me that one of the links on an archived post of mine needed to be updated.

Hyrum then politely asked me to consider including a link to an infographic that provides data regarding teen drug use and the value of parental awareness. The broken link in my original post was to the DARE project, another teen drug awareness site.

When you come across broken links in sites you visit (and you will!), rather than ignore them, consider whether informing the site’s owner might open an opportunity for you to connect with a person, site or message that could benefit you or others.

'Have the Conversation' graphic


This Aerialist Learned Early Never to Say ‘Can’t’

Perhaps the most inspirational and surprising speaker today at Craig Duswalt’s Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp was aerialist Jennifer Bricker.

Born without legs, Jennifer was adopted by an Illinois couple who stressed to her that a forbidden four-letter word for her and the family was the word, “can’t”–as in, “I can’t do it.”

Jennifer Bricker, aerialist

Jennifer Bricker shares inspirational thoughts with Craig Duswalt and hundreds of attendees at Duswalt’s Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp.

Raised in a family that instilled confidence, self-worth and compassion, Jennifer developed an interest in tumbling and gymnastics that eventually would lead her to earning recognition as the top high school gymnast in Illinois.

But wait…as marketers say…there’s more!

It turned out that Jennifer had a biological sister that she had never met: Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu!

Watch this clip from “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for information on how Jennifer, even without legs, became a power tumbler, volleyball player, and aerial performer.

During a Q&A session with the Rockstar Marketing Workshop attendees, Jennifer shared what she does when faced with a tough challenge. “I pray, pray pray,” she said. “God is bigger than any problem.”

Feeling Like A Rockstar Marketer–Day 1

Craig Duswalt welcomes hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business leaders to his Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp.

Craig Duswalt welcomes hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business leaders to his Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp.

This is Craig Duswalt, as he welcomes about 300 attendees to his Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp in Los Angeles. The session began with a high-energy rock violinist jamming to Guns n’ Roses classic, “Sweet Child of Mine.”

I’m now settled in for the first session that is focused on marketing basics.

Lots of learning and networking with other businesspeople that should help me to provide a better experience to my clients and colleagues.

If Your Communications Just Blow, Here’s How to Make Them Really Suck

Keep reading to get to the sucky part!

Communication channels and methods continue to evolve, but the organizations where I have worked continue to rely heavily on the “blow” process, where information is pushed out to audiences. However, this cascade method is ineffective for several reasons:

  1. Lack of Engagement: Like a lecture from a parent, push communications tend to be one-sided. The audience receives information but has no opportunity to interact or provide feedback. The audience too often quickly becomes disinterested and ignores the message.
  2. Relevance: Information pushed to large groups can’t usually be tailored to individual preferences or needs. This shotgun approach hinders the message from resonating with every recipient.
  3. Information Overload: Please stop listening for a moment to the pings, chimes and assorted alert noises that are coming from your phone, laptop, smart watch and Alexa to acknowledge that people are bombarded with information. Push communications contribute to information overload, making your message just one more noisy nuisance.

That’s why push communications just blow!

Pull communications, on the other hand, can revolutionize the way we interact with audiences, particularly through social media, messaging and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack. Here’s how:

  1. Engagement: Pull communications “suck them in” to your messages. By attracting attention through compelling content, individuals actively choose to engage. This two-way dialogue flows through comments, likes, retweets and shares, creating a more engaged audience.
  2. Relevance and Personalization: Pull methods rely on providing content that is relevant to the audience’s interests. Individuals seek out your messages because they find value in the information being shared. Algorithms on social media platforms can tailor content to their preferences and increase the relevance and impact of your message.
  3. Virality and Reach: Who doesn’t want to be an influencer of some sort? Engaging content that sparks interaction goes viral. When people share your posts, your reach extends beyond the initial audience. Effective pull communications leverage the network effect and the results can be exponentially strong.
  4. Feedback and Adaptation: Pull communications allow for instant feedback. By monitoring how audiences interact with your content, you can adapt your strategies in real-time to better meet their needs and preferences. This iterative process keeps your communication dynamic and responsive.

Done correctly, your communications will pull an audience magnetically!

How to Pull It Off

  1. Create Compelling Content: Your content needs to capture attention right from the headline. My headline was intentionally startling. It got you to read this post, didn’t it? Of course once you were sucked in, the actual message needed to deliver to keep you engaged. Do that through the use of interesting hooks, visuals and storytelling.
  2. Encourage Interaction: Make it easy for your audience to engage with your content. Ask questions, invite comments and encourage shares.
  3. Use Multiple Platforms: Reach your audience where they are. Experiment by posting to various social media platforms and collaboration sites, tailoring your content to fit the context of each platform.
  4. Monitor and Adapt: Keep track of engagement metrics and be willing to pivot your strategy based on the feedback and interaction you receive.

The Role of Creativity

No matter how you choose to communicate, creativity is key. A boring message is going to be boring unless delivered with a creative touch. Communication is part art and part science. You can take lessons on how to paint beautiful word pictures, but you may be better off hiring a creative communication professional with proven success in turning dreck into verbal pearls.

Reach out to me or leave a comment if you would like to discuss this further—especially if you are ready to leave behind communications that just blow.

Repost: If you want us to call, stop using words

Originally posted to the Commakazi Speek blog on 12-20-2010
With the news that OfficeMax and Office Depot will merge, this might be useful to the new marketing team there.

I used to think that it was clever to convert a telephone number into a word, using the letters on a telephone keypad. “What a great way to make a phone number easy to remember,” I thought back then.

But technology (actual mobile phone design) has changed all that, and companies that use words, rather than numbers, in their advertisements are showing that they are out-of-touch. And that’s exactly the effect that they are having with their device-dependent customers.

It actually is annoying to have to hunt-and-peck on a telephone when all you have to go on is the “secret word.” That’s why I told my church’s marketing team years ago that it was fine to list the phone number for Joy Lutheran Church as 1-847-362-4JOY, but that they should include the final four numbers in parentheses (1-847-362-4569).

What back then was annoying, today is harmful to potential sales and customer satisfaction. That’s because the correlation between letters and numbers on mobile phone keypads is no longer standard.

Here’s an example. I wanted to call OfficeMax regarding its MaxPerks(r) reward program. The only phone number listed in the MaxPerks brochure is 877.OFFICEMAX. The first thing I noticed is that OFFICEMAX is nine letters, and U.S. telephone numbers (minus the area code) are seven digits. So OfficeMax has tacked on two letters that are meaningless–and confusing–to a customer trying to dial.

The adventure continues, depending on the customer’s mobile phone. Here is a keypad similar to the one on my Nokia phone.nokia-phone-keyboard

See how each number 0-9 is assigned to just one letter? That is not the way that old-time landline telephone keypads are designed. But more and more people are opting away from landlines, and using their mobile phones exclusively.

So when I tried to dial 1.877.OFFICEMAX, I experienced this:

◦The letter O–no corresponding number
◦The letter F–the number 4
◦The letter I–no corresponding number
◦The letter C–no corresponding number
◦The letter E–no corresponding number
◦The letter M–the number 0
◦The letter A–no corresponding number
◦The letter X–no corresponding number

Without the actual digits shared in the OfficeMax brochure, I was totally unable to call them. Frustrating! Would that be the case for my Blackberry friends? Oh yes!

blackberry-keyboardHowever, their numbers 0-9 are assigned to different letters than on my Nokia, so the picture is even more muddled. Imagine a Nokia user trying to share a “decoded” number with his colleague using a Blackberry. They’ll never get the number right!

Ok, since so many creative types adore all things Apple, surely the iPhone designers anticipated this issue and made an app for it. Not really:

apple-iphone-keyboardIn fact, I’d say that iPhone users really have no chance, because their phone’s keypad makes no attempt to correlate numbers with letters. Perhaps it’s for the best, right?

If you work in advertising, marketing or sales, point your communicators to this post. It will save your customers much frustration, and prevent you from having a real “hang-up” with customer satisfaction.

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