Lessons From A Master Copywriter

There is a very good discussion of an excellent advertising campaign by Tom Albrigton at ABC Copywriting.

cat-poster-rt-2My only added comment would relate to the Medium used. A HAND WRITTEN poster.  Marshall McLuhan said “The medium is the message” meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. The simple hand written poster has a greater impact that a professional looking poster would.

The the person who wrote this poster has a problem that is common, and posters are a common way of appealing for help. Recently a large area of Launceston was papered with hundreds of  laminated, professional looking colour posters about a lost or stolen dog, and offering a $5000 reward.

This poster is, for me, more effective. It is not just the message, that is discussed in detail in this post. The format, or medium contributes a powerful message itself.

Update: Tom advises that Merlin has been safely returned to his owner – sorry cats don’t have owners, they have STAFF.

Not all Marketers are in the Marketing Department

 

A Big Opportunity

A Workstation - Courtesy Wilson Afonso
A Workstation – Courtesy Wilson Afonso

Some years ago I worked for a computer company that was (at that time) the sixth largest computer company in the world. We had just won a contract to supply 22,000 color computer work-stations to one of the biggest government departments in Australia. This was pre-Internet, and almost pre-PC. Microsoft was selling MS/DOS (probably 2.2) and a good computer had one floppy- disk and a 10Mb  hard-disk.

Our sales department had made some foolish compromises to win the contract, one being free training. Training is one area that companies like ours actually made money in, and it had been given away. We needed a smooth transition to the new equipment.

A Big Problem

Then the Union got involved. The keyboards for the new terminals where too stiff. Staff would get RSI (repetitive strain injury) from using the new, stiff keyboards. The keyboards had to be modified.

The keyboards were a new type, much like the typical computer keyboard today. They had extra dedicated function keys, but were similar in design to the keyboard you probably have in front of you now. Key pressure was controlled by a spring under every key. changing the key pressure required replacing the springs in 22,000 workstations, 2.64 million springs.

The company was fighting for it’s life. The government department wanted its terminals installed, and the Union (like most Unions) would not be moved. We had a meeting of all parties to try and resolve the issue.

The Union representatives sat and typed. Sorry, too hard on the hands, we need a solution. The three parties went to and fro for an hour with no solution. We were looking at the biggest financial disaster in the company’s history.

Then the service technician, who was on hand to make sure there where no problems with the terminal during the meeting stepped up and offered to provide a solution.

He sat and made a couple of changes and the stepped back saying “that should do it, but I can go a bit further”. The Union rep sat and typed. Then she called in her number two, who also sat and typed for a minute or two. They agreed it needed a little more work. The technician went back to the terminal, unruffled, and made another change.

This time the Union reps where unanimous, the changes where acceptable. Crisis averted. We left the meeting relieved but puzzled. What had our tech. done?

A lateral Solution

He admitted that he had simply lowered the volume of the click that was produced through the terminal speaker to make up for the lack of a physical click by these new keyboards. It had made no difference to the feel of the keyboard, the effect was purely psychological. Nonetheless, the workstations went into service and lived a long life.

A sudden piece of lateral thinking had changed a potential disaster into a victory. And that thinking had not come from the sales department or management, it had come from a field technician with an idea.