From the July 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

This is my once-a-year homage to what may be the best advertising slogan ever written. If you're a regular reader, maybe you know of my fawning, practically idolatrous affection for the original catch phrase of national bookseller Crown Books: "If you paid full price, you didn't buy it at Crown Books." You may have your own favorite slogan, but this is mine, and I'll tell you why.

Slogans are typically self-indulgent afterthoughts that have little substance. This is a shame, because like the P.S. on a letter, they virtually always get read. When I was growing up, the hot slogans were G.E.'s "Progress is our most important product" and Zenith's "The quality goes in before the name goes on." Both are cleverly crafted, but like nine-tenths of the slogans written today, they're all out of steam and don't pass my acid test for a great slogan: Can it stand by itself in selling your product?

If you're thinking the Crown Books slogan doesn't have much bite anymore either, you're right. It lost at least 75 percent of its teeth during the decade or so that nearly every other bookstore chain in America followed in its discounting footsteps. But when Crown first came on the scene, it had the discount-starved book-buying public virtually all to itself. So the message, with its smartly crafted wording, was, to me, advertising dynamite and deserving of some sort of brass plaque in the Copywriter's Hall of Fame. In my opinion, no company has ever had a harder-working slogan.

Given my affection for the Crown Books slogan, I'd like to honor it by tweaking it for a piece of advertising sent in by Stanley Demski, co-owner of the Traveling Framer Inc. in Collingswood, New Jersey. He does what the name implies: takes a bunch of framing choices to homes and offices to let people choose the materials in the environment where the painting, photo, degree, commendation or other wall hanging will end up. It's a smart business concept--and a wonderful name because it states exactly what its USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is: a traveling framer. You can't get much better than that.

Demski sent me his two-fold self-mailer and asked how I could improve it. That's when the Crown Books motto came to mind--as a headline for his flier and, if he wishes, as a slogan as well. So to borrow a bit of slogan sizzle, and with proper credit given, I suggest Demski introduce his business this way: "If You Have to Leave Home to Pick Out Framing, you haven't heard about The Traveling Framer." I think it captures the same your-ignorance-is-costing-you appeal as the Crown Books slogan, but this time it works as a strong lead-in to the rest of Demski's self-mailer.

The inside of his piece (not shown) is a good lesson in compartmentalizing and characterizing your company for customers. It starts out with a why-we're-different section; then it describes, in a bulleted format, exactly what the company's skills are. This is followed by a list that gives typical pricing for a number of framing and matting combinations. Finally, there's a partial list of clients along with their testimonials. It's a hard-working sales piece, and now it has a much better opener.

Before:

This brochure cover works hard but leads off with an "everybody can say that" headline.

1. This headline is too generic to interest the indifferent reader.

2. There are too many thoughts here to focus on.







After:

The thought expressed here offers a "what rock have you been living under?" revelation that gets your attention.

1. This is a single-focus, provocative headline that arouses curiosity.









Q: I've read books and articles on advertising, but no advice ever helps me create the marketing pieces I want. My efforts to emulate what experts recommend are usually unsuccessful. What do you suggest?

A: This is a good question because written expertise and advice--on any subject--always appears so glibly and effortlessly developed that there is the assumption the advice itself is easy to implement. The truth is, developing a strong advertising idea and then fleshing it out is most often a painstaking process. If you don't develop a unique concept or set of words the first day you put yourself up to it, you assume a good idea will never come to you. Clichés, of course, are easy to spit out. But advertising originality can be hard to come by.

So let me offer a technique for jump-starting your creativity in a way you're unlikely to find in any of the many tomes on advertising. It has nothing to do with pencil-to-paper brainstorming; rather, it's one that's worked for me time and again, especially when I'm experiencing writer's block. I go out to my garage, and I start exercising--yep, jumping up and down while pondering my advertising task. My preference is skipping rope; for you, it may be running on the treadmill, doing jumping jacks, lifting weights or jogging around the block. Removing myself from the environment in which I'm struggling--my office--and engaging in a strenuous physical activity typically loosens the cobwebs and gets my brain to crackle and pop in ways it won't do otherwise.

This cause and effect has been so consistent that I know I can almost always count on getting at least one fresh idea per exercise session. I don't know much about brain chemistry, but I wouldn't be surprised if my right brain--supposedly the inventive, intuitive side--gets stimulated by those "creative juices" we talk about and, through all that jumping around, is able to pop out a unique idea or two. Maybe it will work for you, too.

Q: My husband and I have a natural healing products catalog and wonder what kind of marketing strategies could improve our business.

A: In my May "Ad Workshop" column, I wrote about how smart it is to regularly cultivate your current customers instead of beating the bushes for new ones. And catalog marketers like you have such strong and (hopefully) well-maintained databases of names, buying habits and so on, that it's a pipeline you should be using regularly to keep in touch with your customers.

Invite back customers whom you haven't heard from in a while with a $25 gift certificate. They'll almost always spend more, plus you've re-established contact and perhaps rekindled their interest in your company. Occasionally include a gift with your orders. Any unexpected gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity from your company gets indelibly etched in your customers' minds and fosters loyalty like few other things can. Free samples are a good bet for a catalog like yours. They cost relatively little, especially if you get some co-op help from the manufacturer. I'd even include a note with your extra gifts saying how happy you are to have these people as customers and, as a gesture of appreciation, you'd like them to have some lavender bath beads to ease away stress at the end of the day. I wouldn't give a freebie away with every order, or else they'll start to expect it. Just surprise them every once in a while.


Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising ($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Ad Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or e-mail him at jerry228@aol.com