Austin, Republic of Texas
“We’re the Free Texican Airforce, and we’re flying tonight…” (Peter Rowan)
Okay, first off, I’m not in Austin yet.
I’m in Reno… but I’m preparing for flying into Austin Monday by keeping the oven on in the kitchen, while boiling four pans of water on the stove. Cuz it’s hotttttttt down there.
I’m a dry-heat kinda desert rat. We’re a mile up here in the biggest little city, and the idea of walking out onto the broiling tarmac of Bergstrom International — where it’s rumored to be topping 107 this time o’ year — is not fitting easily into my brain.
Now, I’ve spent months in the Florida Keys, on full-tilt boil, back when Gary Halbert insisted on moving down there (first to Marathon — or “Cleveland in the Keys” — and then to Key West — or “Key West”, which is another concept hard to fathom for anyone who’s never experienced it first-hand). (Trust me on that.)
But, like childbirth, you forget the details once the ordeal is behind you. (Or so I hear. Never been pregnant myself.)
So, the closest I’ve been to that kind of super-heat in the past few years… has been during a long, soothing shower. While it’s snowing outside here in the bosom of the Sierra Nevadas.
Whatever. I’m going, because I’m speaking at an event alongside the likes of Joe Sugarman, Joe Polish, Bill Phillips, Chris Guerrero and other notables at a very nice event hosted by our pal Josh Bezoni.
And it’s gonna be fun hanging out with those nutballs.
I’ll also collapse and die at some point in the heat, of course, but I’ll have a smile on my mug.
I recall a joke a guy once told me, while we were both sipping Lone Stars:Read more…
“They’ve all gone to look for America…” (Simon & Garfunkel)
I want to wish the country a happy birthday on this fine July 4th.
She’s looking not too shabby for 235 years old. I’ve been here for a lot of those b-days, too… and here are a couple of random thoughts (before I get drowned out by fireworks):
Random Thought #1: I’m not gonna discuss politics, and I hope you have the presence of mind not to start in on it yourself in the comments. However… as far apart as we seem today on the multitude of problems faced… I can tell you it has ever been thus.
At our very best, the country has always been like a dysfunctional family forced to co-exist at a perpetual holiday dinner. My own family shows signs of it occasionally — somebody gets hot about some subject, voices rise, someone gets called an idiot, feelings are hurt…
… and then, minutes later, all is well and we’re laughing about some story from the family archives. (I had uncles who couldn’t get through a game of gin rummy without throwing cards across the room and giving us kids an excellent lesson in swearing like a sailor before the aunts corralled them back into some semblance of civilized behavior again. I miss those old farts, and a whiff of beer and cigars can take me back instantly…)Read more…
“Tell me that you’ve got everything you want, and your bird can sing…” (Beatles)
Got another classic blog post here for you.
The topic is not only evergreen for writers and marketers… but, amazingly, the more arcane referenced website is still operational.
This second site, especially, is a SHOCKINGLY GOOD resource for finding both current buzz words and great slang…
… for when your message cries out for hipness, relevance, “slang nostalgia”, or just a sizzling word or phrase that knocks your reader back on his heels.
Just be careful, and remember Rule #1 for using slang: It’s got to be Read more…
“Oops, I did it again…” (Britney, God love her…)
I’m on a roll here, grabbing criminally-ignored posts from the blog archives…
… and re-posting them prominently, so you criminally ignore them no longer. With a few minor edits, of course, tailoring the prose to fit today’s quirky needs for advice. (Hey, you don’t fit into your old high school jeans anymore, either, you know.)
Here, we have another dangerously-tasty post from not too long ago… which, I believe, requires no explanation other than to say it’s some serious insight into the writer’s brain.
You do NOT want to venture into this quagmire without a guide. Which is what I’ve written here — a short “guide to the writer’s mind”.
Not exactly a hot Disneyland ride, but if you’re in business it’s some wicked-valuable info.
So, indulge, and enjoy (if you dare):
I’m gonna need your feedback on this.
See, I’ve always been a wave or two out of the mainstream… and that’s actually helped me be a better business dude, because this outsider status forces me to pay extra attention to what’s going on (so I can understand who I’m writing my ads to).
This extra focus means I’ve never taken anything for granted — especially not those weird emotional/rational triggers firing off in a prospect’s head while I’m wooing him on a sale.
And trust me on this: Most folks out there truly have some WEIRD shit going on in their heads, Read more…
“And you may ask yourself, where does that highway go?” (Talking Heads)
Quickie post today…
… on a very important topic.
You hear me nattering about “Operation MoneySuck” all the time. And some folks are confused about what it means.
So let’s do a refresher.
Here’s the story: Early in my career, I was hired by advertising legend Gary Halbert to help him write ads for clients. The first day I arrived at his offices on Sunset Blvd (in West Hollywood), we were scheduled to slam out copy and plot “next moves” with some current clients.
However, just as my butt hit the chair across from his desk, two (count ’em, two) secretaries AND his red-headed girlfriend (notorious for getting her way) burst in with bad news.
Lots of bad news, in fact. The printer had just broken down, and shit needed to get copied NOW. Some guy was ranting and raving on Line 2, threatening legal action over something. The landlord was on the way up in the elevator, because there was a problem with the lease. The bank was on Line 1, and so on.
These women were shaking with panic and consternation, freaked out by the urgent crisis-level emergencies that…
… to be dealt with…
I sighed, and started to gather my stuff, ready to split until Gary had attended to all of this mayhem.
Instead, he held up his hand… shushed everyone… and gently ushered the secretaries AND his red-headed girlfriend (notorious for getting her way) out the door…Read more…
“I never drink… wine.” (Bela Lugosi, “Dracula”)
Special treat today. I’ve asked an old friend (and killer copywriter) to guest post on the blog here.
Jim Curley and I go way back (to, gasp, Before The Birth Of The Internets As A Marketing Force)…
… and he’s one of those Web-hip veteran copywriters who brings a healthy dose of old-school wisdom and experience to everything he does. He’s well steeped in all the manly markets (golf, self-defense, hot rod body artwork, family life, vampires, stuff like that). I’ve had him as a wingman at multiple seminars, and I’ve hired him as a writer for my own projects.
That’s how good he is.
I didn’t give Jimbo any directions on what he could write about, either. I trust the guy completely…
… and just told him to dig into one of the subjects he and I enjoy talking and bitching about when we get together.
This is a good lesson Jim’s sharing with you.
Enjoy… Read more…
“There are eight million stories in the naked city…” (Jules Dassin film noir classic)
Here’s a nice little piece of insight for writers.
And by “writers”, I’m referring to those ink-stained wretches (of whom I share a proud bond) who really care about the craft of writing. For whom the act of stringing words together is — when done right — a sacred thing.
You can make a living as a hack writer (meaning: Someone who can communicate through writing, but who neither loves language nor attempts to create phrases with rhythm or dynamics or craft).
Most of the best-selling novelists these days are complete hacks, in fact. (Talkin’ to you, Dan Brown.)
Metaphor Alert: If you need a comparison to understand what I’m talking about, let’s take the mastering of a musical instrument. What’s the difference between the dude who noodles away at a guitar for decades but never plays for anyone… and the guy who steps on a bar stage to cover a Cream tune… and Eric Clapton?
Answer: The first dude can’t Read more…
San Francisco, CA
“I left my heart…” (Tony Bennett)
By the time you read this, I’ll be back home in Reno… a better man for having spent a week in San Francisco.
Even though it was all business, I still get invigorated just from hanging out in that city by the bay. It’s one of the few things California did right (though they’re working hard at ruining it). (Bastards.)
And while I was gone, the last blog post went freaking bonkers. Nearly 200 comment posts (most of them well-thought-out and elegantly delivered, too). (With the occasional funny disruptor, of course. It wouldn’t be a good Quiz without a big healthy dose of irreverence.)
So, a big “thanks” once again to Robert Gibson (SWS veteran teacher and all-around good dude) for being ring-leader while I was off.
And congratulations to the winner. Who we’ll announce here in a second.
First, though, let’s clarify what the answer is.
The question was: What’s the 4th big observation about money that changed my life so dramatically… that an avalanche of good stuff followed (including the phat opportunities to work with Gary Halbert)?Read more…
“Here come Johnny Yen again…” (Iggy Pop, “Lust For Life”)
Oh, my God!
They killed the sales letter again!
Will this horror never stop?
Actually, you can relax. Just like Kenny in South Park, the traditional sales letter is on some kind of perverse “Permanent Hit List”…
… where every marketer trying to claim he just invented a new fad stands astride the image of a quaking letter…
… and slays it.
Huzzah! Death to you, vile long-copy sales letter! Take that… and that…
… and that.
This latest round is clever as hell, too. The new trend is putting your sales letter in a video, and reading along with it.
The irony: The dude selling you the “Magic Box” product that kills the sales letter forever…
… uses a sales letter to do the killing.
Hey — don’t get me wrong. I love video. Been using it in marketing since… well, since it was actual videotape on reels. (Yeah, shocking, I know. We were so backward in the last century.)
In fact, the “Magic Box” product I’m talking about is, I’m guessing, an excellent solution for many marketers who can’t figure out how to make a video sales letter work.
And all’s fair in love, war and advertising. So all the dudes out there telling you the sales letter is dead, and you can sell without selling, and the Web has changed everything…Read more…
“You’re either on the bus, or off the bus…” (Ken Kesey)
Quick lesson here I thought you’d enjoy.
The phrase “there are two kinds of people” is used by comics, politicians, and just-plain-folks trying to set up a point with an easily-understood little story.
It’s an over-simplification, most of the time, of course. Life is too nuanced and complex to fit into just two tidy categories.
However, sometimes you can make a damn good argument behind the two-groups thing.
In selling, this is what we’ve called “the dichotomy of futures”…
… meaning, you can make two distinctly clear divisions:
1.) The “in” group, which is your target market…Read more…