Corrections or additions?

This excerpt from Philip R. Nulman’s book, "Start

Up Marketing: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Advertising, Marketing and

Promoting Your Business," was printed in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

August 12, 1998. The book is published by Career Press ($16.99, 287

pages). Call 201-848-0310.

How to Make Cliches Count

Everyone remembers what Dirty Harry says. When Dirty

Harry said, "Go ahead, make my day," an entire nation (make

that world) remembered that phrase. I’ve heard it thousands of times,

from people in the media to people in the street. It really wasn’t

what he said, it was how he said it. Effective communication is broken

down in the following manner:

"*"Words: 7 percent.

"*"Tone: 38 percent.

"*"Nonverbal: 55 percent.

Look, attitude, and language greatly enhance the communication

process. If a speaker were to deliver a speech without coming out

from behind the podium, without the proper voice inflection, without

the appropriate gestures, it would be just a speech. But if the same

words are spoken by someone who exudes energy, enthusiasm, vigor and

vitality, someone who looks the audience in the eyes and has posture,

performance skills and an attitude, the same speech can be absolutely


Words and pictures comprise most of creative marketing. Sometimes

we use one to the exclusion of the other, but mostly we use them


Remember, even if we’re marketing in print without the use of


graphics, or on radio or with audiocassettes, and we’re creating


imagery. Language, when used effectively, is, by its very nature,


Let’s say you’re running a sale ad for the installation of gas


grills. Your competition begins each spring with ads that tout


Spring With Savings, "Spring Into Value & Economy," that, by


of overuse, have no meaning. How can you communicate these ideas and

still be heard? By forgetting the standard nomenclature and


instead on creating statements that are attention-getting and


to your selling proposition. For example: "Our competitors charge

you an arm and a leg. We stop at the wrist!"

You can still introduce the specifics of the sale, tying in the theme

with accompanying words and perhaps a graphic statement such as a

wrist turning a wrench! You’ve just conveyed the exact same message

as your competitor — sale, value, economy, percentage off —

but you’ve done so in a way that has said it without the use of


words, words that ultimately no longer have value themselves. This

is creative communication because it uses an alternate means of saying

the same thing. Cliches become cliches because they’re said time and

time again without being enhanced. When they build upon the acceptance

of a phrase or statement already in peoples’ collective consciousness,

cliches and double entendres have a valid place in marketing


When I was looking for a direct-mail approach to solicit liquor


for a major magazine, I wrote a headline that simply stated:


who’s pouring into our publication?"

Then I listed the major brands that were already signed up as


I got prospective advertisers’ attention immediately by creating a

double entendre and relying upon language that had already saturated

our thinking. But I used the language in an enhanced way that would

make people take notice of something they were accustomed to hearing

but not with this particular message.

American humorist Garrison Keillor once said,


you have to look reality in the eye and deny it." It’s a good

thought. And it often relates particularly well to creative marketing.

When you look at your business, recognize that there are two ways

of seeing it. First, by viewing it as it really is and what it


income, opportunity, and hopefully, enjoyment. Next, view it as a

caricature with exaggerated features and a funny voice. Stretch the

business. Reshape it. Enjoy denying the realities. See the


of expanding the way you think about your business.

Recently, I was asked to consult on a mailing program for the American

Sugar Growers. The purpose of the direct marketing effort was to


corn growers to form an alliance with the sugar growers and


to the corn growers that they were facing a 25-cent reduction per

bushel in revenues because of foreign subsidies supported by certain

powerful leaders in Congress. It was our job to alert the corn growers

(some of whom were unaware of the subsidies or the amount of their

product that was used for sweetening soft drinks) that they faced

such an economic downturn. The idea of using a well-known cliche —

a line from a children’s song — came about because it perfectly

fit our cause. The headline of the mailing piece was simply:


who doesn’t love you a bushel and a peck?"

When you flipped the cover, the advocates of the subsidy appeared.

The basic message of the copy was: Even though you may believe that

these are your heroes, they’re in favor of reducing your revenue by

25 cents per bushel of corn. On the accompanying panel was a chicken

scratching at feed, which happened to be corn. The headline: When

they’re done all you’ll be left with is chicken feed. The use of


created compelling messages, reissuing these phrases as purposeful

selling statements. In this case, we were selling a proposition


to create action; we wanted the corn growers to recognize the threat,

read the information and respond. The concept and the copy clicked.

The message was easy to understand and relate to, and they could


it because it was interesting, provocative and entertaining. When

we give our audience a reason to applaud, when we offer them an


to respond because we’ve presented our case in a novel fashion, we


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