Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Managing Misinformation in Resource Development

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on December 3, 2009

I recently attended a conference on resource development. I find these conferences a great opportunity to gauge the pulse of the economy and get a sense for the year ahead. I attended every session over the course of two days and was struck with a recurring theme. When dealing with resource development issues, managing misinformation holds great importance.

At the conference a number of different industries shared their challenges with managing misinformation as they sought to proceed with resource development projects. Examples from tourism, fisheries, mining, oil and gas exploration and timber were all shared. All industries critical to the economic health of the U.S., and all industries facing challenges in managing misinformation in their development efforts.

In recent years misinformation management could be handled through traditional public relations means – a fact-correction press release, a media announcement, an on-air interview or even through paid advertising. But as our digital world has been expanding the power of traditional media has been waning. As a result, the means by which misinformation is being generated and shared has changed greatly. Blogs, message boards, opinion sites, comments sections and all related means of social media have completely changed the way audiences consume information.

So what steps should industries take to manage misinformation in this new, open-source environment? 

1) Develop a formalized, managed “listening program.” You can do it on your own through a combination of Google Reader, Google Blogsearch, Twitter Search and Technorati, but plan on investing time on a daily basis to manage your searches. An alternative, you can engage an organization that can establish, monitor and analyze mentions through use of professional tools that provide dashboarding and reporting functions. If you cannot invest the time on your own or not sure where to begin, consider seeking out the help of a digital strategy firm to get you started. 

2) Leverage the transparency of social media. Assuming your organization has nothing to hide, be proactive in citing research, objectives, permitting processes, progress and delays. Transparency is key to managing misinformation. If you’ve got nothing to hide, prove it by sharing everything and do so in a very public environment. Post updates, blog entries, wins and losses to your web site or blog site. Include presentations and videos, photos and supporting research. Leverage YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Twitter, Facebook, Ning and other sites to share your information. In a battle of misinformation make sure your information is through, detailed and accessible through multiple sources across the web.

3) Have a social media crisis plan. In the world of social media you cannot affort to wait to respond to an inflammatory situation. Waiting the weekend for Monday to arrive or even waiting 24 hours to respond to a situation released via the web can be too late. In the case of resource development industries there are often millions at stake with every project. A runaway topic, comment or posting against your project can happen in a matter of hours. Your organization must have a plan in place to monitor, assess, and if necessary, react in 24 hours or less. For those who may have seen the Domino’s Pizza YouTube crisis earlier in the year, this reponse was released by Domino’s corporate within 24 hours. Their crisis plan was implemented quickly and without hesitation.     

Managing misinformation has always been a challenge in resource development industries. There are organizations bent on stifling progress of any sort and their greatest source of power is through public confusion and misinformation. With the expansion of digital communications tools and the unprecendented potential reach of social media networks, organizations are better suited than ever before to provide clear, relevant information before a maliciously intented group has any opportunity to mislead or misinform. Listen, be transparent and be prepared. Use today’s digital tools to your advantage in the battle against misinformation.


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Social Media Without the Trial and T-error

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 23, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke

If you were to look around marketing speaker’s circuits in any given town today you will find some business sharing it’s experience in using social media. You’ll hear how social media provides some great opportunities, but comes with pitfalls to watch out for as well. Here’s how your business can take advantage of social media opportunities, without the dangers of trial and error.

Strategy BEFORE tactics – A common pitfall: A business will say, “We need a Facebook page,” or “We need to do something with Twitter.” Truth is, worry about tactics LAST not first. The tools will change over time. Two years ago there was no such thing as Twitter, three years ago, no Facebook, four years ago MySpace was a HIT, but not so much anymore. Develop a strategy FIRST. The tactics that follow will then become obvious. Read Jay Baer’s article “The 7 Steps to Creating a Social Media Strategy” for more.

Establish objectives – What do you intend to accomplish with a social media strategy? Just saying you want 500 new followers or fans isn’t enough. Go deeper and establish some clear objectives. With social media you can address many areas, but define them now so you can stay on target.

– Improve the company image as being ­_________ (professional, caring, responsive, more…)

– Increase trial/use of our products or services

– Increase customer access to information on our company / products / services

– Increase membership / participation

– Improve customer / member communication

Budget for it – There is a common misconception that social media is FREE. Well, it isn’t. Yes, access to many tactical tools are free, but effectively employing a social media strategy that yields results requires an investment. Josh Lysne’s article, “It’s a lot of things… free is not one of them,” talks about the significant investment of TIME required to appropriately deploy a social media strategy. “You need to regularly engage your audience. You need to actively monitor what is being said. You need to review, refine and rework your engagement strategies.” All of these are vitally important and all of these require TIME – so budget for it. This may mean a new full-time position (or two) simply to execute your social media strategy, so be prepared.

Follow through – In consideration of the TIME factor mentioned above, follow through can become a pitfall and challenge for many. Social media creates an environment for audiences to engage with your brand – whether you like it or not. You need to be prepared to initiate and respond. How will your business deal with a situation that suddenly goes viral like the YouTube video “United Breaks Guitars?” It can happen at any time, but if your social media strategy is thorough, you will have a listening program and a response plan in place… AND you will have someone assigned to respond appropriately and in a timely manner.

Effective social media strategy and planning can remove the fear of trial and error and replace it with a confident approach to optimizing customer engagement and relationships.


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Friday’s Facebook Campaign – Brilliance or Bust?

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 23, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – Companies have been exploring different means of leveraging social media reach, but the restaurant chain TGI Friday’s took it to a new level with their recent Facebook Fan campaign for fictional spokesperson “Woody.”

What makes this campaign so impressive is how a commercial entity essentially asked for and received permission to advertise to customers on Facebook. By using a free hamburger giveaway via a cleverly executed challenge to reach 500,000 “friends” on Facebook, TGI Friday’s lured customers and potential customers into the heart of the campaign.

Once confirmed as a Facebook “friend,” TGI Friday’s provided a series of entertaining and engaging status updates, video posts and discussions. All talking about the free hamburger giveaway while effortlessly pumping up top of mind awareness for the TGI Friday’s brand.

The commercial components to the campaign are brilliant. The registration process required to become eligible for a free hamburger took registrants through a relatively detailed list of questions. So while us “friends” were gleefully sharing our information for a free burger, TGI Friday’s was building a detailed database of potential customers with information provided via registration as well approved access to our Facebook information. The level of information shared and the careful detail by which TGI Friday’s built and executed the campaign is simply brilliant. A commercial entity had successfully pierced the personal veil of social media and built a fan base of more than 950,000 “friends” in the process.

But the story does not end there, and this is where the greatest lesson of social media comes to light. When you make a promise to your friends in a public forum, you had better follow through or risk your own public humiliation.

At the time I am writing this blog we are in the heart of redemption week for TGI Friday’s free hamburgers and their nearly 1 million fans. And the redemption process is brutal. A visit to the Discussions tab on Facebook Fan page shows a myriad of angry comments from unruly fans who have been wholly turned off by the difficulty of the redemption process. And the anger doesn’t stop there. On recent fan posts the negative comments are flowing at a rate of 5-to-1 (negative to positive). It appears that the true nature of social media may have caught up with TGI Fridays – the fact that conversation happens, both good and bad.

So what lessons have we learned from this groundbreaking social media campaign?

1) Provide a reasonable reward or offer – the “fans” loved the idea of a free burger meal.

2) Be entertaining – the Woody campaign is clever, fun, engaging and ran across multiple media.

3) Build excitement– the “challenge” to reach 500,000 fans built camaraderie and encouragement.

4) Encourage conversation– each new Facebook post lead fans to engagement and conversation.

5) FULFILL YOUR PROMISE – follow through and have friends for life, fail expectations and ???

It remains to be seen how TGI Friday’s will manage their reward redemption nightmare. So far on Facebook, it’s looking pretty ugly. Lots of comments of people feeling used, betrayed and planning to boycott the restaurant now. And fans have now started their own Woody Complaints Facebook page. Not what TGI Friday’s intended when they started the campaign. BUT… with all things social, Friday’s can still engage positively in the conversation and make things right with their 1 million new “friends.” It will be interesting to see how this campaign comes to a close.

So, did you get your burger?

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5 Principles for Brand Longevity – Lessons from a Marketing Juggernaut

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 23, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – It’s truly amazing what marketing can accomplish when done right. I recently attended a performance of the musical The Lion King and simply had to marvel at what the marketing juggernaut Disney has done to create this “brand.”

Who would have thought that an animated movie could spawn such an incredible revenue generating franchise more than 15 years later! Of course Disney took us through the sequels and spinoffs, the merchandising and figurines, the soundtracks and re-releases. But after 15 years you’d think they might have exhausted the potential of that little old cartoon. Anyone else, but not Disney.

Disney Theatrical Productions has built a brand around the name The Lion King with ongoing productions taking place in New York City, Las Vegas, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo, and London. In addition there are two touring companies settling into major cities across the United States.

Here’s a glimpse into the revenue generating power that has been built around The Lion King brand. By my calculation, a sold out week (9 performances by a touring company) in a 2,000 seat theatre can generate more than $1.3 million of revenue on ticket sales alone! Multiply that revenue generating power across multiple performance locations worldwide and you can quickly see how Disney has turned that little 1994 animation into a mega BRAND.

So what has Disney done right to maintain the appeal and longevity of a brand that should have run the course of its productive life long ago? Let’s have a look at what Disney has done, and what you can too to generate long-term affinity for your business’ brand.

1) Understand your audiences – Their interests, what motivates their buying behavior and why they choose you.

2) Appeal to the influencers – (For Disney, parents). They need to find interest in your brand and feel safe in recommending you or approving a purchase.

3) Manage your reputation – Your brand must be trustworthy and unblemished. Keep tabs on what others say about your brand and be prompt in respectfully correcting misrepresentations.

4) Be consistent – Day-in, day-out, deliver on your brand promise, maintain your brand standards and give your audience a reason to remember you (positively of course!).

5) Be innovative – Monitor how your audiences’ interests and expectations evolve and deliver new products, services or information of VALUE that is representative of your brand.

These principles help build Disney’s The Lion King into a brand far beyond an animated movie. Follow these 5 steps to build strength and longevity for your brand, and who knows, you just might create the next marketing juggernaut.

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Believability of “Socialnomics”

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on September 13, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – In his video presentation Social Media RevolutionErik Qualman makes a compelling case for the incredible adoption of social media. After viewing the video and taking some time to consider the case that’s made, I’ve arrived at one question, “Should we be surprised?”



Before getting into the heart of the discussion there are a couple of drawbacks I feel compelled to point out.

1) The stats are compelling, but the transitions are too fast and it is difficult to process the content of every slide. Personally, I found myself having to stop the video and back it up several times to catch the full content of each slide.

2) The music, which Qualman appropriately credits, is the same as the widely followed Did You Know 3.0 video presentation from 2008 on Globalization and the Information Age (also mentioned at the end of the video). An obvious attempt at leveraging the recognizability of Did You Know 3.0 and attributing it to the world of Socialnomics(TM).

Get past the obvious drawbacks and you do have a compelling case for the incredible adoption of social media. But we return to the question, “Should we be surprised?”

Humans are by nature social specimens and since the beginning of humankind have sought out social interaction. With the globalization of society today via rapid transportation, acceptance of venturing outside of the traditional family network, and the incredible effect of instantaneous information transfer, acceptance of social media should be an absolute.

Bridging the Digital Divide

What might be most surprising is how well people have chosen to transcend technological comfort zones in order to engage. Honestly, Facebook can still be a difficult place to navigate and use, but the basics are there to allow someone to get started, share a photo and start a conversation. And the same can be said for many other social media tools. It is relatively easy to start a conversation – something that has allowed the tools to transcend a digital divide among potential users.

Qualman states that adoption of social media is the biggest shift since the industrial revolution. Really? I counter that social media has ALWAYS existed, it has just taken on different forms. And as technology has improved, our ability to socially share and engage has been enhanced by access to digital social media tools. He also states that 96% of Gen Y will have joined a social network by 2010. I counter that 100% of every generation is currently engaged with a social network of sorts – digital or otherwise – be it a church group, sports team, hobby club or classroom.

Adoption A Surprise

Another point to contend is the comparison of adoption rates to reach 50 million people among radio, TV, internet, ipod and social media, of which obviously social media trumps all in adoption rate (although the definition of what does and does not qualify as social media is fuzzy). There is a profound difference though. Until recent technological advances, all of the other mediums were not capable of interpersonal social interaction (with internet coming closest via chat rooms, instant messaging, etc.). Entertainment and information needs were being met via the other tools, but humankind’s social needs were not. By understanding the social needs of the human spirit it comes as no surprise that adoption rates for social media tools have been rapid.

Wake Up the World

The thing is, among all this, Qualman’s statements and video are NEEDED. They serve as a fresh, invigorating wake-up call to the world of business and those who rely on consumers to purchase their product or service. He’s right when he says, “Social media isn’t a fad, it is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.” He states, “80% of Twitter users are on mobile devices – imagine what that means for bad customer experience?” Any business that fails to recognize the shift in how their cutomers communicate with friends, family, peers and community is a business fated to lose touch with their customers.

In the Fast Company article Create Your Own Economy, author Tyler Cowen admits, “My Twitter feed is a virtual meeting room with economists, aid workers, entrepreneurs, housewives, celebrities and plain old friends.” Word of mouth becomes world of mouth instantaneously via the social-media-connected society. And the implications on any business brand can be mind-boggling.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t go so far as to say social media’s impact would rival that of the industrial revolution. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it a revolution at all. Humankind has always been social – and we continue to gravitate towards the tools that facilitate our social needs. But Qualman’s Social Media Revolution video certainly fills a need. It’s a wake up call that simply must shake the world of business and commerce. 

The Brand / Consumer relationship is changing, and adoption of social media tools is the catalyst. Those who fail to recognize such change will be doomed to irrelevance.

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Avoiding ‘Monster Truck’ Radio

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on April 24, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – You’ve all heard it before. You are listening to your favorite radio station when suddenly the speakers start growling “HERE! NOW!… THE EARTH IS ALREADY SHAKIN’!” You’ve just been witness to yet another station produced radio spot.

Here’s how it starts: You are a business owner and a radio station sales person calls on you with a great advertising package. If you’ve written and followed your marketing plan you can objectively make judgment on whether it is a good opportunity or not. But you hesitate, “I don’t have a radio spot that I can run.” The sales person replies “No problem, we’ll record a spot for you for free if you buy our package!” Sounds great. Done deal. But wait…

I’ve worked with clients who have gone the route of a typical station produced spot, not knowing that they actually have other options. The results are predictable – let me know if these sound familiar:

1) The Monster Truck spot – The booming, growling voice demanding you act here, now, move fast, no time to waste! Sale, sale, sale! Usually with a high tempo soundtrack behind it.

2) The Hip Hop spot – A thick, deep bass track pounds in the background as an announcer pitches a product. Often the bass track is so heavy it becomes hard to hear the announcer.

3) The Canyon spot – As the announcer pitches the product a multitude of synthesized voice effects are layered over the top creating echoes and variations in pitch and tempo (low and slow, or high and fast).

4) The ‘Paul Harvey’ spot – The monotoned announcer speaks with no voice inflection in a familiar sounding, matter of fact voice. There are no background music or effects. 

So what is the unsuspecting business person to do in this situation? First, carefully evaluate the advertising opportunity and make sure it fits within your marketing plan.  Second, respectfully decline the “free” spot. Third, find a professional audio/visual studio (or reputable advertising agency) to record your radio spot and deliver it to the radio station.

Professional studio vs. station production – Let’s look at the differences:

1) Professional studios (and most ad agencies) have writers who exclusively write spots for radio production. They will often ask for positioning or key differentiation information from within your marketing plan and will usually attempt to relate the radio production to other marketing materials you may be running.

2) Professional studios have access to a literal wealth of voice talent through their industry talent networks. Station productions generally use their own radio hosts. Having access to more voice talent allows your spot to stand out from other spots on the station that may have been recorded by the same station talent.

3) Professional studios have much greater flexibility in soundtracks and effects, giving you greater opportunity to truly tap into the ‘theater of the mind’ of your customers with a creative and engaging spot.

4) Professional studios will stay in the studio until it is right. If a dozen takes are required to get the spot right, the producer will be patient and helpful and allow you (if you are reading your own) or the talent to take time to get it right. All too often we hear stories of the station production blazing through 3 or 4 takes and ‘calling it good.’ 

Three options for creating a compelling radio spot:

1) Professional studio produced with professional talent. This will be your highest quality spot and often your greatest investment as well. Take the time and do this right, and you could have a spot with great engagement and strong longevity.

2) Professional studio recorded spot with YOU as talent. OK, I need to caution you here. If you are really comfortable in front of the microphone and can tell your story without it sounding like you are reading off a script, this is a great option. But if you can’t pull it off, you could end up with a eerily uncomfortable and amateurish sounding spot. Lean on your studio producer and ask him/her to be honest. If you can do it, good for you!

3) The announcer read spot. With this, your professional studio or agency will write your script. Then the script will be read without effects or music either by the studio’s professional talent or by a radio station host during a broadcast radio program. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THIS TYPE OF SPOT. I have heard so many station produced spots that simply over-do-it with effects, noise and echoes that the announcer read spot really stands out. This is by far your most economical spot. Simple and clean, easy to hear and understand. And if you’ve done a good job of differentiating your company within the script, you will have a radio spot that resonates with your audience. 

In simple straight-forward marketing sense, if you are buying radio, plan on making an investment to produce a professional spot. We’re talking about your BRAND here. It does you no good to spend thousands on buying air time to share your message if you haven’t taken the time to develop a spot that is truly representative of your brand. It’s like getting a haircut to look presentable, then leaving the house in the morning without brushing your hair. It’s YOUR BRAND. Treat your brand with respect, be professional and connect with your customers. You’ll be pleased with the results!

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Clever, yes… but keep it relevant.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 20, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke – Lately I’ve been seeing a television ad for British Airways. Sea life fluidly swimming throughout what appears to be an airport terminal. A sea lion swims by, then a giant whale, and a school of fish dart about. No narration, just pleasant music and visuals. And at the end the advertiser’s name flashes across the screen with a reminder “Upgrade, to British Airways.” 

What does this TV ad mean? OK, I’ve worked in the marketing communications field for years and I am also a relatively frequent business traveler so I thought I could figure this one out. After stretching my brain to agonizing lengths, I finally gave up… I was completely stumped. So I turned to my Facebook network which contains a significant group of “creatives” from the realms of writing, design, strategy and interactive. They finally clued me in to the campaign… but only after THEY researched the campaign online to try and solve the puzzle (they couldn’t figure out the TV ad by itself either). The ad is meant to convey how efficient it is to move throughout the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, England. What lost me was the fact that an airline was advertising an airport – in a country on another continent. Sorry, I just wasn’t connecting the dots right! I guess I am not used to airlines advertising about airports. I though airlines advertised about, well… airlines.

Apparently the campaign is quite progressive in execution with multiple communications touch points that are triggered by a myriad of tracking tools and metrics, all designed to keep the campaign fresh. Wonderful! But it doesn’t do me any good – the ad executive business traveler guy who keeps seeing these ads on TV.

So where did the the “communication” falter? Simply put, it was clever but not relevant. In order to be relevant the TV ad relies on the audience being exposed to other communications from within the campaign. Trouble is, the campaign is really about an airport terminal in London, England and the other touch points from the campaign are directed at people who fly OUT of London, England. The problem? I am watching the TV commercial in the U.S. and I am not flying out of London, and I am not receiving ANY of the other communications, so the “cleverness” of the TV ad is almost completely lost on an American audience.

What should they have done differently? For the purpose of the U.S. audience which does not have access to the supporting communications, British Airways should have worked harder to tell the story as to why people will notice an “Upgrade, to British Airways.” In this case some narrative or some visual contrast more clearly describing the point of differentiation was needed in order for the TV spot to be relevant to U.S. audiences. The advertiser was extremely clever in execution, but the ad lacked relevance. The result being a very extensive U.S. media buy ($$ millions) carrying a message that few understand.

The lesson illustrated here, in straight-forward marketing sense, is clear. Develop communications means and tools that have impact, break through the clutter and have stopping power with your audiences. Just be careful that your clever communications also carry enough of a message to be relevant to your audience too.

[Want to learn more about the British Airways campaign? Go to British Airways at Terminal 5 or British Airways North America. ]

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Mapping out your marketing planning.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on September 17, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke – It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear business owners say “I just need a brochure” or a radio ad or some other quick “marketing tool.” Often I’ll ask, “How does this fit in your marketing plan?” And over the years I’ve received a mix of reactions. My questions aren’t meant to stifle opportunity, the questions are simply asking –  “Do you have a plan?” If you don’t, YOU NEED ONE. Here’s a process you can start with that will help you make sense of marketing planning.

1) Decide where you want to go. Give yourself something to aim at. How are you supposed to know you’ve reached success if you’ve never clearly stated what your destination is? This can be as simple or as detailed as you want to be – pick something to aim at. Increase business volume by 25% in the next year; Add a second location to my business in two years; Have people view my business as one of the best in the city. Pick a destination.

2) Decide how you want to get there. Look at the things that you are really good at which set you apart from other businesses. Let’s say your company offers some unique services, or you are very good with people. Use these things to your advantage by focusing on that unique offering or fostering strong business relationships. The idea here is that you are going to use the things you are good at to get to where you want to go.

3) Map the route. You’ve decided where to go and how best to get there, now map it out with checkpoints (key activities) along the way. Choose to highlight the unique offering through advertising tools or choose to use your good people skills to grow awareness by joining local networking organizations. The trick here is to map the route and stay on it! Now if someone offers you an opportunity you don’t think you can pass up, you can look at your map and see if the opportunity fits on your route. If it doesn’t fit, pass on by.

I like to make sense of the marketing planning process by equating it to traveling:1) Decide where you are going (Let’s say New York).   2) Decide how you want to get there (by car, bus, train or plane). 3) Map the route (the roads you will travel and where you will stop for fuel, food and sleep). No matter who you are, it takes these three steps to reach your travel destination – and it is the same way in business. Take the time to plan things out early and you won’t have to react to any last-minute marketing “opportunities” later.

To sum it up in simple, straight-forward marketing sense: “You might have the fastest horse in the race, but it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know which direction the finish line is.” Now get on track and map out your marketing plan.

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The King is dead. Long live the King!

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on June 10, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke  – For years we’ve been hearing about the pending demise of “advertising.” From the inevitable crush of the newspaper business to the emergence of prophetic authors writing books with such titles as The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. The truth is, “advertising” continues to march on at an ever increasing pace.

The convincing truth to me has been revealed through what is being called Web 2.0. Social networking hot spots such as MySpace, Facebook and Ning are thriving in the virtual world through advertisers’ rush to reach their users. As a matter of fact, every article I have read in the past year that has dealt with Web 2.0 upstarts of any sort has clearly described the success of the upstart as being 100% reliant on an advertising revenue model.

But its not just the web that causes me to believe that there is a future for “advertising.” Every major sports stadium in North America serves as proof as they give up their proud heritage for the dollars that come with granting naming rights; every municipal bus in America serves as proof as they roll down the street wrapped in some marketers message; and every maternity ward serves as proof as they send home first time mothers with a care package of “baby’s first” items. So I will agree that yes, in terms of traditional communications means such as television, newspaper or magazines, “advertising” may be a diminishing art form. But marketers are not going away. They still have products and services to hawk and they want YOU. Its just that their communications means are reaching audiences in various and more creative forms, and honestly, with greater frequency than ever before.

With this I have come to believe that like it or not, advertising makes our world go round. And if you don’t believe me, tomorrow when you walk out the door just try and keep track of the marketing messages you see or hear in your first hour of the day alone. I am sure that you too will be convinced that the King is alive and well.

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