The Pepper Mill is roughly 21 years old.
I’d like to pronounce this issue the coming of age of the Mill. If it could, it would legally purchase a cold beer and toast its adulthood.
If we were true journalists, we would have kept count of every issue. If it was not an electronic newsletter, it would likely have been archived in a secure file drawer, each issue in its place. Alas, no exact date is known of the first issue. And maybe a legacy doesn’t need an origin in days and years, but rather it’s more important to have an origin in purpose.
When we decided to start a newsletter, we knew we wanted to share things, like perspectives, experiences, chuckles, etc. Whatever those things were, the only criteria we considered was whether we took joy in sharing them. Luckily, we found that a lot of people could connect with us. Maybe not each topic, but something in each issue tends to strike a chord with everyone.
Thanks to all the contributors throughout the years who have taken on the challenge of creating content for the Mill. There have been many inspired pieces over the years, perspectives have been explored and some best practices have been packaged for the benefit of our readers. I wish we’d have counted all the links and videos we’ve shared.
Hey, nothing ventured nothing gained, right? Well, I’m proof that sometimes when you’re given a tree stump from which to postulate, you can have great fun and explore your muse. And then there are the times that yours truly has stepped in it with rather pointed commentary. And I mean stepped in it good! For the record, that Hitler quotation I used 15 years ago was only to show how insane he was!
Speaking of quotations, you’ve probably noticed that a couple get added to my column each month. By my estimation, over the 21 years (and in case you’re wondering, we’ve never missed an issue—the first 3 years were weekly!), we’ve produced about 360 issues and I’ve shared 720 quotations at the ends of my articles. Here at Pepper Group, we even used to use quotations on our proposals and invoices. Doesn’t everyone need a dose of inspiration regularly? I know I surely do. If just one of them gave someone a new perspective or energy to persevere, it would be truly awesome.
I’m most proud of the frequent comments readers share with us. When someone genuinely says that it’s a favorite newsletter of theirs, or something that they look forward to every month, it is an amazing feeling. While we find it a fun exercise in challenging ourselves to develop an original article, to know that others found value in it is additionally gratifying. Thanks, readers!
If you ever have some ideas for columns, or would even like to be a guest writer for an issue, we’d love to hear from you. Our readers are certainly an eclectic bunch, so virtually no topic is out of bounds. Oh, we might sidestep a recommendation to devote an issue to Five Ways to Make Chicken Soup, but we would have a hearty discussion on what type face to use!
Rock the day. Rock every day.
“It is the caring and sharing that count—love is not prevented by the things and the time that you haven’t shared.”
—Claudia Jewett Jarrett
“Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck—but, most of all, endurance.”
Usually, it’s two quotes, but due to the occasion, and the brilliance of the man, here’s a bonus:
“And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
What do you get when you combine simple, powerful filters and even simpler magnetic, no-drill mounting? You watch your savings simply appear!
Permatron has been providing innovative, custom air filters and solutions since 1957. So when they came to us, the proposition was simple. They needed to increase their brand recognition to sell more of their existing PreVent® filters, as well as introduce their new MagnaMount® magnetic mounting system. Both were really “best-kept secrets” in their industry, with the potential to offer great value to customers … if they only knew!
When we began our deep dive into the shallow list of competitors (they’re pretty unique) and conducted a series of internal and external interviews, we discovered the filters and magnets were being sold and promoted separately, rather than as one proprietary system. So, we established a strategic plan and messaging to better position the PreVent filters and MagnaMount magnets as the PreVent® system, creating the platform for a stronger brand proposition and a simpler sales conversation.
From there, we were able to bring the cohesive message to life through an effective and simple campaign theme that really drives home the core value of the system. To further support the campaign, we developed a microsite, which helps visitors simply navigate from the homepage to PreVent-specific pages on the Permatron website. It allows those visitors to have a seamless experience exploring all of the benefits of the system, while also giving them the option to easily toggle back to the main site.
An important feature of the microsite is the new ROI calculator, which was engineered to calculate the impressive potential savings customers can achieve with the system. Users provide a few details and savings instantly appear, plus they can submit their information to receive a customized report from a sales rep. When we launched the microsite, we distributed audience-specific emails to further promote the system by encouraging prospects and customers to try out the new calculator tool.
We also helped Permatron by creating new sales collateral to ensure reps and distributors were equipped with the right tools to go to market more effectively. And, we are continuing to develop a print and digital ad campaign to promote the system in different industry publications. The campaign is already generating attention for Permatron and giving them important talking points to use at trade shows and industry events.
Pepper Group and Permatron are working closely together to track campaign goals and objectives, and uncover new ways to bring more brand recognition to Permatron and the PreVent system.
“We received a lot of good feedback from the NAFA show! Lots of distributors talking about it!”
—Gayle Matthies, VP Communications, Permatron
Winston Churchill, after being called to task for having a preposition at the end of a sentence, declared “That's the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put!"
This perfect response wonderfully reinforces that sometimes it’s OK to stretch the rules. This is especially true for marketing or advertising copy. The important thing is that your writing communicates your message and gets results.
Besides having the confidence to stretch the rules, here are 10 more tips for marketers:
- Be more or less specific.
Your readers are thinking “What’s in it for Me?” Tell them. Write from their point of view.
- Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
Instead of utilize, just say use. Instead of for the reason that, try since.
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
Break up long sentences and paragraphs—they’re tiring to read.
- Employ the vernacular.
Use words like take, go, order, try, challenge, experience that spur your reader to action.
- One should never generalize.
“We have great customer service” is an empty statement. But “Call us—we’ll answer in four rings or less. Guaranteed.”…now that’s effective!
- Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old hat.
Forget marketing clichés like Highest Quality, For All Your Needs, and Knowledgeable Staff. Is anyone reading that thinking “Really? Sign me up!”
- Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
- Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
Making claims you can’t back up will hurt your brand a lot more than being honest will hurt your sales.
- The passive voice is to be avoided.
Passive writing is boring. Would you rather read a great story or a terrible textbook?
- Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Have someone else proof what you’ve written. When you’re too close, it’s hard to see mistakes or recognize when you’ve written something that isn’t clear.
Remember these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to better communications. Want some additional spice? Contact us today for examples of how we have helped our clients get dramatically better results.
Editor’s Note: Tips #2, 3 and 10 were borrowed from William Safire’s Rules for Writers. The others were written by Frank L. Visco. Their application to marketing communications, however, is all us.
Top 5 Misconceptions about Graphic Design
Anyone can be a graphic designer
Computers have made access to design tools simple. Heck, you can download a design app for free on your iPhone if you really wanted to! The truth is that it takes years of practice and experience to become graphic designer. Designers need to be constantly watching trends just to keep everything looking up-to-date. They have to understand what people think looks good and what actually looks good (I’m talking to you comic sans). Computers allow me to add anything I want to a design, but should I? Does that banner ad really need a rocket turtle flying across the screen? Most likely not. Designers study these things so you don’t have to. Not everyone agrees on what looks best, but that’s ok! Feedback is always welcome, and sometimes considered (see number 2).
Graphic designers know everything
I truly hate to admit it, but graphic designers don’t know everything. Information and guidelines focus our design process and allow us to create better work. We get information by talking to the client and working through a problem with a marketing strategist or creative director. Working with others and allowing clients to provide feedback gives perspective. Being a good graphic designer is about understanding your audience. The only way to do that is to work with others.
Design is only done on the computer
It’s true that computers have revolutionized the graphic design industry, but they are not always the only tools to determine a design. A lot of designers begin a project by making sketches and taking notes with a pencil and paper. A computer allows you to fix an error with a keystroke. To me there is something to be said for making errors when you’re sketching and having to erase it—everyone knows it never fully gets erased. Those errors turn into something more or make me think about something better and different. Sketching things out first keeps my feet on the ground and allows me to not get carried away with the cool paint filter in Photoshop. Who knows, maybe my next design will use actual paint.
Fixing a design is as fast as a flick of a wrist
At one time graphic designers were mythical creatures with markers, pencils and rulers, cutting up images and pasting them on a page. Nowadays computers do the heavy lifting for us, but that doesn't mean fixing a design has become easier. No good design comes from rushed work, there are many variables that go into a design that sometimes are not perceived by a client or an end user, and making a change may throw the whole thing off. When a change is made to a design, we designers must consider how that change affects the brand.
Logos = Brands
Everyone wants a logo these days, for some it’s what determines their brand and sets the tone for what they are all about. Brands may have started out as a simple mark but they have become something much more. A brand is determined by all the senses, meaning that it involves visuals, experiences, tastes and much more. A logo is only a small part of a larger idea. That feeling you get when you watch a TV series or drive your car is part of the larger brand for those companies.
Pepper Group’s full creative team is ready to tackle your next project. Call us at 847.963.0333 or email us at email@example.com.
Get ready to travel! Last month, we demonstrated how this technology can be used indoors to experience facilities virtually, this month we’re back in the great outdoors! Our latest Pepper Group 360° video is a snapshot of some of the sights Joe saw while on his vacation to Arizona a few weeks ago.
Joe's adventures took him from Phoenix, to Sedona, to the Grand Canyon. Many miles of trail hiking were involved and, although winds made it dangerous to film at the canyon, this short piece gives you a glimpse into his expansive surroundings.
Playback of 360 videos is most immersive if you have some form of a Google Cardboard viewer and can open the video in the YouTube app on your smartphone (email me if you don’t have a viewer and I will send you one). You can still have a lot of fun without one though by making the video full-screen in your Chrome browser and clicking and dragging with your mouse to explore.
Did we spark any ideas about how to involve 360 in your business? Reach out and we’d love to talk with you about it!
Want more? Check out our Pepper Group holiday 360 offering.