I have a dream … to save 20% on vitamins?

In my email today was a special promotion from GNC.  They were “honoring” the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by offering a 20% discount on vitamins, supplements and protein powder.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like saving money as much as the next guy, but I doubt that Dr. King organized protests in Birmingham, Alabama because he had a passion for beta carotene.

Maybe reading his famous “I have a dream” speech might be a slightly nobler nod to the brave Baptist minister.

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Blogs for advertising enthusiasts

Blogs can be a great way to keep up with the thought leaders of the advertising and marketing world.  Take a look at the websites below, and consider subscribing to them with Google Reader.  Free content is delivered to one location automatically, so you don’t have to bookmark sites and check back constantly for new posts.

Adfreak — entertaining look at new television spots and ad campaigns — http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/

Seth Godin — best-selling author with a unique perspective on marketing — http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

Copyblogger — great resource for wordsmiths, especially those of the direct marketing persuasion — http://www.copyblogger.com/

Dooce — this has nothing to do with advertising, but this “mommy blogger” is a scream — http://www.dooce.com

Do you have any favorites you could ad to the list?

What can we learn from the late pitchman Billy Mays?

The same week that Michael Jackson died also saw the passing of Billy Mays, the instantly recognizable pitchman whose informercials for products like Oxyclean filled the broadcast airwaves.  Though many advertising purists turned up their noses at his high-volume, direct marketing approach, there was no denying his phenomenal success in generating billions of dollars in sales for his clients.

Did he know something about advertising that would benefit your marketing?  While you may not want to copy his look (unnaturally black beard and drab blue work shirt) or his delivery (maximum decibels, minimum subtlety), adopting some of the proven tactics of direct response television marketers could turbo-charge the effectiveness of your efforts.

1.  The more you tell, the more you sell — try to include a complete sales presentation in your advertising materials.  Ask yourself if you’ve given them enough information to respond.

2.  It’s about them, not about you — people (including ourselves) are primarily motivated by self-interest.  Your advertising should focus on their needs, not your achievements.

3.  Solve a problem — Define the problem.  Feel their pain.  Tell them how you are best equipped to solve their problem.  The problem is the headache, and you are the aspirin.

4.  Be passionate — the founder of the Body Shop empire, Anita Roddick, said, “Passion persuades.”  Billy Mays sold products with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm.  Does that come through in your communication to consumers?

5.  Include a powerful offer — No matter how expertly produced your advertising might be, it usually takes something extra to overcome inertia.  Make responding worth the consumer’s while with a valuable offer.  It could be free information, a small gift, or a special bonus.  The easiest thing for a consumer to do is nothing.  Reward them for taking action, and you’re likely to see your response grow significantly.

To many of us, abandoning image advertising to embrace the direct marketing approach used by practitioners like Billy Mays is a scary idea.  Why not try one or two of the ideas above, and test it against your current advertising?  Let me know if this information is of use to you, and whether you’d be interested in more marketing tips like this.

Call now … operators are standing by!

Are you willing to “dare mighty things” with your advertising?

President Theodore Roosevelt brought his out-sized personality and love of adventure into the Oval Office.  His life was personified by his well-know quote:

“Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

It’s safe to blend in.  Standing out from the crowd can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable.  But getting noticed by consumers is what it’s all about.  What “mighty things” might you dare with your advertising?

Back in the saddle again

After a year sequestered away in the marketing department of a huge Fortune 100 company, I have returned to the wild frontier of advertising creative.  Ahhh … it’s good to be back.

Groceries as interior decor?

I attended the monthly meeting of the Tampa Bay Advertising Federation, and had the opportunity to hear Tim Cox, Publix’s Director of Creative Services, discuss the company’s award-winning package design initiative. They moved away from mimicking the look of national products, and created a clean, contemporary look that leverages the consumer trust their brand has earned over the years.

The result? A significant increase in sales of Publix private label products.

One enthusiastic customer emailed them to say she purchased their store brands because she liked they way they looked in her pantry.

What do retailers get out of Black Friday?

My two teenage sons stayed up all night with friends outside our neighborhood Circuit City to take advantage of Black Friday discounts. The primary draw appeared to be the opportunity to hang out with friends rather to make important purchases.

So, what did the retailer purchase by slashing prices? Hard to say. My sons typically go to the Best Buy across the street. Chances are that they will be back there now that the sale is over.

I think retailers should work harder to cultivate a long-term relationship at events like this. Why not sign up shoppers to receive email notification of special “members-only” sales … like a Black Wednesday preview sale? That way they can foster loyalty throughout the year to recoup some of what they invest in big sales events.