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A Case Study From Yesterday

A couple nights ago as I was climbing into bed I got an email from my friend, Phil. He owns the brewpub where I frequently play guitar. He was sent a script proposal for a television ad and wanted my opinion. I read it and told him not to run that ad, and that I would respond more fully the next day. He has given me permission to publish here what I wrote in reply …

Hi Phil,

I looked over the ad script you sent me. It is typical of what I see from ad salespeople who were never given proper training into how to use their media best. It’s not their fault. They just end up writing ads that look and sound like every other boring, bland ad they have ever heard or seen. The thought process is, “If everyone else is doing it, it must work, right?” Wrong.

The script they gave you violates all the principles of the most effective ads.

To recap, they wrote this …

Spend your weekend nights at the Poison Frog Brewery, always offering a great atmosphere! Featuring great entertainment, wonderful inhouse brews, custom made glass mugs, and real poisonous frogs, The Poison Frog Brewery has it all. Overflow parking is across the street! The Poison Frog Brewery, come have a hopping good time!

The ad sounds like everyone else, doesn’t tell a story or speak to the heart, tries to make too many points, and is all about you instead of your customers. It doesn’t speak to the craft beer crowd, the live entertainment crowd, or the people who share your core values of Curious, Resourceful, Persevering, or Affectionate. None of that is going to garner any attention, let alone convince anyone to visit your brewery.

If you want to be noticed, remembered, and visited, you need an ad that speaks to the heart of your customer, makes only one point, and is interesting enough to get people to sit up and take notice.

The Poison Frog Brewery on Horton Road in Jackson

In the copy above, the ad tries to make the points of:

  • Great entertainment
  • Wonderful inhouse brews
  • Custom made glass mugs
  • Real poisonous frogs
  • Overflow parking

That’s too much information for one ad. The average viewer is lucky to remember one thing. The more you try to cram into the ad, the less likely he or she will remember anything at all. You’re better off choosing one of those points and crafting an ad around that while also tying in your core values.

For instance …

You’ve driven past this bright yellow building several times. You’ve even seen it before the frogs were painted on the wall. You know it’s a local brewery and pub, but the small parking lot doesn’t give the proper impression of what you’ll find inside … like master craft beers and meads brewed in house. When you drink one from your own custom-made mug, you’ll be glad you finally pulled in. Poison Frog Brewery. It’s hopping inside!

This speaks to the curious beer lover who hasn’t tried you yet. It gets all your info in, but under the guise of curiosity. The true point is that your place is worth the visit.

Here is another one, more aimed at the entertainment crowd.

You’ve been to bars with live entertainment. Not all are the same. In some, the band is too loud for you to hear the person across the table from you. In others, you have to hope you get a table close enough to see the singer. At Poison Frog Brewery, you’re always in view of the musicians, you’ll always be able to hear them and everyone who came with you, and with the talent we have in Jackson, you’ll always be entertained. Looking for a hopping good time? Check out Poison Frog Brewery.

Or you could take this more story-like approach …

A singer, a guitar, a microphone, and a stage. All the hours of practice and now his success depends on you. If you clap, sing along, or even just smile, you’ll make his night. In return he’ll rock your world. At Poison Frog Brewery, the musicians you see every Friday and Saturday night are there for one thing, to make sure you have a hopping good time.

Here is an ad approach using Perseverance and your overflow parking as the base …

You’ve always wanted to stop in, but the parking lot is small and often full. Fortunately there is extra parking across the street – and plenty of seating inside. Once inside you see why the lot is full You order one of our hand-crafted beers, you partner wants to try a mead. Ahhh … Worth the trip. Poison Frog Brewery. When the lot is full, it’s hopping inside!

Finally, here is the beer ad …

You drink craft beer because of the taste. You’re looking for the nuance, the little notes that excite your palate. As a master brewer, my job is to give you something exciting and pleasing to the palate. Did we always get it right? No. But the beers you’ll find today have been carefully honed to give you the perfect blend of flavor in every sip. It’s time you hop into Poison Frog Brewery.

This ad uses a little of the “downside” and speaks to those who have tried your brews in the past, before you had everything perfected. There are a lot of craft beer hounds who have either had a bad beer in the past or have heard about others having a bad beer. This admits that flaw and lets them know you’ve corrected it. Powerful language to gain their trust.

Notice how all the ads use the word “you”. Make your ads about the customer, not about yourself, and they’ll pay far more attention. Tell a story and they’ll remember. Speak to their heart, their values, and their needs and they’ll take action.

I know this is different from the script they gave you. They’ll have to be a little more creative with the video they shoot for the ad, but a good videographer can use these scripts to craft an amazing television ad that will move the needle.

Keep me posted on what you decide to do.



-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I publish this because many of you get the same bland, boring scripts from your ad salespeople. I want you to see the difference between the template-type, boiler-plate ads that are all about you and ads that speak to the heart of your customers. Unfortunately I only had about an hour to put that reply together so those scripts aren’t as tight as I would like them, but they are a far cry better than where he started. I’ll have more time to craft something powerful for his next ad. I’ll share it with you when I do. By the way, he went with the curious one and the perseverance one.

How Long Do You Want to Be in Business?

I don’t think my grandfather ever envisioned Toy House being open for 67 year, 7 months, and 1 day. I’ve looked through all his notes and never found anything that stated how long he planned the store to be open. I know from an interview I did with him about twelve years ago that he knew he wouldn’t be in retail all his life.

“Retail is a young man’s game.” -Phil Conley

Phil Conley, working the register in 1958 at age 39.

You can argue all you want about that last statement. I know a lot of people who either started in retail at a later point in life or worked retail late into their lives. But that was my grandfather’s view.

At the same time, my grandfather had one other point he liked to drive home with his kids and grandkids.

“Plan for success.” -Phil Conley

When he founded Toy House, he did it on a rock solid set of Core Values and business principles. (His core values of Fun, Helpful, Educational, and Nostalgic matched mine perfectly!) He set the business up to succeed not just today but every day long into the future. In fact, there was only one “mistake” he felt he made in setting up Toy House for the long run.

“If I had only placed the building twelve feet farther north on the property, there would have been eight or ten more front parking spaces.” -Phil Conley

I bring this up because over the next few weeks we’re going to discuss advertising. There are two main types of advertising.

  • Short-term (Events and Sales)
  • Long-term (Branding and Awareness)

Too many businesses think that a string of short-term advertised events and sales is a “campaign.” It isn’t. It is an addiction.

You run a series of ads highlighting a sale. You get a lot of traffic for the sale. Everyone feels good. The ads and sale end. The traffic ends. Everyone feels bad. You run another sale.

You take a hit of a drug. It feels good. The drug wears off. It feels bad. You want another hit of the drug.

See the similarity?

Branding campaigns are different. First, they are long-term. It doesn’t matter when you start (to paraphrase a Chinese proverb, the best time to start a branding campaign is twenty years ago, the second best time is today) as long as you start and keep at it. You change the ads, just not the underlying message. The goal of this campaign is to make sure you are the first place someone thinks of when they finally need your service.

The beauty of such a campaign is the long-term effect. The longer you run the campaign, the more residual effect it has on people’s memory. It’s kinda like when your car runs out of gas. You put your shoulder into it and it barely budges. Eventually it starts to roll. The longer you push it (as long as you aren’t trying to go up a steep hill), the easier it gets until you barely have to put any effort into it at all.

These two campaigns are completely different, so it is important to know which campaign you are running. Some media are better suited for one more than the other. Some can do both, but you plan it differently.

My grandfather planned for success by building a business that would outlast him. His timeline was longer than he planned to be around. You make different decisions when you think like that. I know he did. When it comes to your advertising, you need to be thinking long-term there, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Some people call it playing the long game, knowing that what you do today is positioning yourself for something farther down the road. Amazon is playing that game. All those “profits” they didn’t show for many years was because of the money they reinvested into the company for R&D and infrastructure. Unfortunately, many publicly traded companies look no further than next quarter’s results. If you want to be in retail for the long run, play the long game. You’ll be surprised how effective it can be even in the short-term.

The Myth of the Call to Action

I took a little walk down memory lane. Started reading some of the old radio ad copy I wrote back in the 90’s. My goal today was to talk to you about the pros and cons of the different media options you have for advertising. Sometimes, however, you pull on a thread and it unravels in a whole different way than you expected.

Image result for radioHere is an ad I used on the radio twenty-two years ago …

Ad Copy Winter 1996

Hi, this is Phil Wrzesinski from the Toy House in downtown Jackson. You’ve heard me talk about the many wonderful toys we sell here at the Toy House. I’d like to remind you that we’re more than just a great toy store. Our hobby department has everything you need for your trains, planes, rockets or models. Plus, our staff are experts able to answer your questions and make sure you get exactly what you need. Our baby department has all of the new, safe, quality products for infants including everything from cribs that convert into beds, car seats & strollers, and over 100 different bedding patterns. We offer baby registry, special orders, and a ten-month layaway on infant items. If you’re working on a project for school, check out our craft and science departments. And, if you need a new bike, we’ll assemble it for free and inspect it after 30 riding days. You see, at the Toy House we want to make your shopping as easy as we can by offering free giftwrapping, layaway, delivery, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. So come visit us at the Toy House on Mechanic Street in downtown Jackson.

Looking back at this ad through the lens of the six principles that make an ad more effective, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Sure, this violated the Make Only One Point principle big time. It didn’t Tell a Story or Speak to the Heart, or Speak to My Tribe.

But even in an ad all about “me”, I used the word “you” quite often. Considering I had zero training and zero understanding of how ads worked, seeing this ad made me happy.

Don’t get me wrong. This ad sucked. About the only thing going for it was the conversational tone that didn’t sound like all the hype ads of that day, plus the frequent use of the word “you”. It also told you specific actions you could expect (“we’ll assemble it for free and inspect it after 30 riding days.”)

Contrast that ad with this one fifteen years later …

The Promised Land November 2011
She almost fell out of the pew. Her pastor actually called Toy House the Promised Land for kids. Right there in front of a packed church.
The lady on her left leaned over and said, “You work there, don’t you?”
She nodded.
The lady on her left leaned in again, “I love that place.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Me too,” she whispered back.
It’s the promised land for kids and adults. Just ask the lady sitting on your left.
Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

It certainly doesn’t sound like an ad. It tells a story and speaks to the heart. It speaks to the tribe. You’re smiling in agreement if you’re already a fan of the store. It only made one point, and it wasn’t about “me”.

The one thing many pundits will tell you it is missing is the Call to Action. The first ad said, “So come visit us …” Without a call to action, how can you measure the results of the ad? About the closest thing to a call to action in the 2011 ad is to, “ask the lady sitting on your left.”

I started running ads like this in 2005. That same year I hired a statistics class at a local university to do a survey for me. One of the questions the students asked was, “Name all of the places in Jackson that sell toys.” We were named about 66% of the time. Two-thirds. One-third of the population did not think about us as a place to buy toys—even though we were one of the largest independent toy stores in America and had been around for 56 years.

In 2007 we did the same survey. Our name recall had jumped to 74%. More interestingly, 88% of the people who named us as a store that sold toys named us first (compared to only 69% in the first study). Not only were we more top-of-mind, we were more top-of-heart. That’s how I measured the results of ads like that one.

I wasn’t in business just for today. I was in business for the long run. I didn’t want a call to action that got you in today, only to forget about us tomorrow. I wanted to win your heart and be not only the first place you think of, but the first place you wanted to visit.

Knowing that distinction changes the way you advertise.

Some media work better for immediate calls to action. Some work differently for sales than they do for branding. Before we start exploring the different media, I thought that concept might be worth visiting.

Thanks for joining me on memory lane. You never know where it might lead.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, I used a lot of radio. Not because it is the most effective form of advertising, but because it was the best fit for my market, my budget, my talent, and my goals. What will work best for you may be completely different based on all those factors.

All Advertising Works (And All Advertising Doesn’t)

“Who are you trying to reach?”

That’s pretty much the opening salvo in every advertising salesperson’s repertoire. Give them your answer and voila! “That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!” Then they show you some study that “proves” their advertising works.

Westwood One, a major radio company with stations across the US, commissioned a study to show the ROI of radio advertising. Of course the results were quite promising. Are you surprised that a study by a radio company would show that radio advertising works?

“The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself.” -Winston Churchill

My Yellow Pages salesperson showed me a similar result that when asked where they would go to search for a new business, 87% of the people surveyed said, “The Yellow Pages.” Granted, this was when the Internet was still in its infancy. But it was still false because it asked the question, “What would you do?” instead of, “What did you do?”

Here is the funny thing about advertising …

The advertising salespeople are asking you a question to which you invariably give the wrong answer, yet their response is still accurate.

“Who are you trying to reach?” The right answer is …

People who share my Core Values and believe what I believe.

“That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!”

Of course, all the other media reach those people, too. They also reach a bunch of people who don’t share your Core Values or believe what you believe. You need to target your message, not your media choice, to reach the “right” people.

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, says time and time again that he has never seen an ad campaign fail because it didn’t reach the right people, but he has seen many fail because they didn’t say the right thing.

Although your advertising salesperson doesn’t know he is asking the wrong question (or, frankly, an irrelevant one), that question is not what will derail the success of your advertising campaign. It is the second question he asks (or sometimes fails to ask) that is the real crux of the matter.

“What do you want to say?”

If you cannot answer that question, he’ll put together some template of an ad that sounds like everyone else’s ads and you’ll be lost in the shuffle, unremarkable and unremembered. (You should read Roy’s post on Template Advertising. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

How you answer the second question is the biggest difference between a successful campaign and a waste of time and money. Every form of advertising works and every form of advertising doesn’t work. It is all in how you use them.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS How you answer the second question isn’t the only difference between success and failure. Each media has its strengths and weaknesses. We’ll explore some of those in the coming days.

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

I can count on one hand the times I have tried something new because of a television ad and I would still have several fingers leftover.

I tried Sam Adams Light Beer after they ran a commercial talking about how they took their Sam Adams Light to a beer festival in Germany and won first prize … even though there wasn’t a “light beer” category. (It was easily the best light beer I have tasted, but not necessarily the best beer I have tasted, not to mention difficult to find in stores.)

I bought two flavors of Pringles a couple weeks ago. Just like the Super Bowl commercial showed me, I put the two flavors together to make a new flavor. Barbecue and Jalapeno pair up fabulously. That helped get me home on a long, tired drive from up north. I had forgotten that ad when I talked about the 2018 Super Bowl Ads, but it obviously struck a chord with me since I recalled it the moment I was standing in front of the Pringles display contemplating which flavor to buy. I give them a thumbs up because they taught me to buy two flavors instead of one. I bet they have seen a spike in sales since that ad, especially if they are still running it.

Now I am seriously contemplating buying some Duluth Trading Bullpen Underwear. Here is the ad that caught my eye …


This ad (and most of their campaign) is a homerun!

  1. It doesn’t look or sound like anyone else’s ads.
  2. It makes only one point in a clever and unexpected way.
  3. It tells a story, one that men know all too well.
  4. It speaks to the heart by talking about a felt need and getting you to laugh, too.
  5. It speaks to the tribe of men. (A female companion told me she hated that ad. Like magnets, the ability of an ad to attract is equal to its ability to repel.)
  6. It makes “you” the star.

“Keep your boys where they belong.”

Yes, it hits on all six of the principles that make an ad more effective.

The best part of Duluth Trading’s campaign is the humor. Unlike Doritos, Dr. Pepper and Progressive Insurance, Duluth trading has found a way to tie their humor directly into the benefits of the product. The humor isn’t gratuitous.

The humor is used to drive home a point.

Progressive is running an ad right now that has a guy talking about how he and co-worker look exactly alike (spoiler alert: they don’t) and how he knows they look alike because he is good at comparisons. Unfortunately, the message I get is that Progressive must NOT be good at comparisons because this guy sucks at them.

Time and time again I see really funny or moving ads, but the funny or touching part has nothing to do with the company or product the ad is supposedly pitching. People remember the funny but forget the company or product. In Duluth Trading’s ads, you won’t ever have that problem. The humor is tied directly to the benefits.

If you want to use humor in your ads, do what Duluth Trading does and use the punchline to drive home the one point you are trying to make.

I’m looking forward to a new pair of underwear. (There’s a phrase you won’t often hear.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Duluth Trading is doing a few other things well.

First, they are running a campaign, not an ad, with a distinct and unique style. All of their ads use similar cartoon art, the same voice-over, and the same unexpected humor. Those three elements combined have a residual effect. You liked some of their early ads because of how fresh and surprising they were, so you perk up when a new ad comes on.

Second, they are speaking to the felt needs of their tribe. One easy way to speak to the heart and speak to your tribe at they same time is to identify a problem common among your tribe, and then show how you solve that problem. I’m looking at adding their ballroom jeans to my shopping list after ripping the crotch in my jeans while loading and unloading a moving van yesterday.

Tide For the Win

While the Philadelphia Eagles may have won the Super Bowl, the other winner was Tide. Their ads consistently hit the mark and take home the top prize for me.

Image result for tide adIn my workshops and upcoming book I teach six principles for Making Ads More Effective. Tide nailed it on almost every point.

Principle #1 Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad

Okay, they actually looked and sounded like every ad out there. But on purpose. It was the meta moment of advertising where they spoofed every single ad out there. Well done, Tide! Well done!

Principle #2 Make Only One Point

Clothes are clean. Must be a Tide Ad. Point taken.

Principle #3 Tell a Story

This may be a stretch, but the fact that they didn’t have a one-and-done campaign—heck, they even had a cameo during the telecast in football uniforms—made this a story campaign. I’ll give them props for that. Even after learning their joke, they continued to surprise us. Admit it. You laughed at the Mr. Clean ad.

Principle #4 Speak to the Heart

Laughter, Love, Anger, and Fear all speak to the heart. The Tide Ads made me laugh out loud. More importantly, their humor was tied directly to the product. T-Mobile showed a bunch of babies but didn’t tie it back to their phone service. Mass Mutual’s pregame ad was the same—heartwarming, but it could have been anyone. Budweiser, Verizon, and Hyundai did emotional ads tied back to their actions, but they all felt a little contrived.

Principle #5 Speak to the Tribe

The Tide Tribe is people who love clean clothing. If you’re a Tide user, that ad spoke to you strongly and reinforced your belief that Tide makes the cleanest clothing.

Principle #6 Make Your Customer the Star

Even in my book I point out that few Super Bowl ads ever use this principle. Kraft tried with modest success. I liked what they were trying to do, even felt it spoke to their tribe, but it didn’t quite speak to the heart as well as it could have. In the Super Bowl, close doesn’t count.

Tide didn’t make you the star, but after hitting on the first five principles, I’m going to call it a solid win for them.

Good night everyone!

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Feel free to share your own comments on the ads you liked best (or least). I missed a commercial break in the third quarter when NBC went off the air for about ten minutes in our area.

PPS I also liked the Rocket Mortgage Ad in the first quarter making things simpler and more understandable. Then again, that spoke directly to me and what I try to do for a living—make things more understandable.

PPPS The Doritos Ad with Peter Dinklage was stupid, until they doubled down with Mountain Dew Ice and Morgan Freeman to make it almost work. That ad, however, is done. From this point forward it will only be annoying. One-and-done is not a successful campaign, nor will it make me want to buy either product.

Sweet dreams.

Reconciling Yes and No

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

On the other hand, Steve Jobs said, “It’s only by saying ‘No’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Yes and No – both valid answers!

Teddy wants you to take on any job you can. Steve wants you to only take on the important jobs.

Who is right?

Teddy is right when it comes to serving your customers. If a customer asks if you can do something for them that you have never done, you should seriously consider doing it. First, if the customer is asking, the customer must believe it is something you can do. Second, it meets and/or exceeds their expectations, which is the hallmark of WOW Customer Service. Third, it might just become the new calling card you need to set yourself apart from your competitors.

You should always be looking for new ways to take care of your customers.

Steve is right when it comes to advertising. It is easy to “dabble” in advertising, doing a little here and a little there, clinging to the false hope that the more different things you do, the more people you will reach to drive into your store. We mistakenly believe that advertising is simply a numbers game and the more people we reach, the more traffic we’ll get. Yes, it is a numbers game, but not all numbers are equal.

Roy H. Williams often asks the question, “Would you rather convince 100% of the people 10% of the way or 10% of the people 100% of the way? In advertising, both cost the same.” The goal of your advertising is to convince people to visit your store and shop with you. You don’t convince people if all you do is “dabble”. You simply annoy them. It takes time, frequency, and focus to convince the people you reach to finally decide to shop with you. You have to pick and choose your media carefully and then be in full in with that media. If you aren’t, you are wasting your ad budget.

Both are right when it comes to inventory. You need to follow Steve’s advice and make sure you first stock your store with the most important items. When cash flow is tight, focus on the must-haves. Focus on the items that customers come in asking for by name. Make sure you have plenty of the requested items and you’ll make the sales you need to keep the cash flowing. You also need to keep looking for new products and new opportunities. Unless you’re strictly in the commodities business, customers want to see what is new and fresh. If you don’t have new and fresh, you are boring your customers and eventually they won’t bother coming back.

After the must-haves, the second most important inventory spending should be on the brand-new. It keeps your store fresh, keeps your staff energized, keeps your customers returning.

Sometimes you have to follow President Roosevelt. Sometimes you have to follow Mr. Jobs. Knowing when to say Yes and when to say No is the key to your success.

Perhaps Neils Bohr said it best when he said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I used both quotes in presentations lately and it struck me how profound, yet at odds, they both seem to be. I also have found myself using both quotes in my own life. I have been asked to do a lot of new things lately. I have said Yes to creating several new presentations, different from the homerun talks I do. I’ve also said No to some opportunities because they didn’t push forward my main industries of speaking, writing, and consulting. I think knowing when to say No is truly an art, one in which I am still the amateur, but I am learning. How about you?

Impact, Emotion, and Frequency (or How to Get Remembered)

Do you remember where you were on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up? How about September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the World Trade Center buildings? Can you recall what was happening when you got the news about Princess Diana’s death?

The most recent of those events was almost seventeen years ago, yet we remember them like they were yesterday.

In 1986 I was sitting in the back left corner of a lecture hall at the University of Michigan taking a chemistry class when our professor wheeled in a television screen and we watched replay after replay of the shuttle exploding. I’ll never forget it. Interestingly enough, my mom was in the back left corner of that same lecture hall on November 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was shot.

Those events are so impactful that they go straight into our long-term memory.

Your advertising isn’t that impactful. 

(Neither are those Super Bowl ads you’re going to be watching this Sunday, but I digress.)

How do we get our ads to be remembered? How do we get our company to be first in the minds of our customers?

First, let’s understand memory. There are two types of memory. You and I call them Short-Term and Long-Term. Neurologists think of them as Electrical and Chemical.


Electrical memory is kind of like the RAM in your computer. It is the short-term memory of everything that has happened to you today. All of your thoughts and feelings, no matter how mundane, stick with you throughout most of the day. You can recall most of it.

Sleep, however, is the great eraser of electrical (short-term) memory. Think of sleep like rebooting your computer. Turn your computer off and the RAM is wiped clean, ready for the next use. Go to sleep and all those mundane thoughts and feelings disappear. The only things you can remember from the previous day are those thoughts and feelings that had an impact.


Chemical memory is more like the hard drive of a computer. This is the stuff you keep in your memory for a while. Unlike a computer, however, your memory is fallible. Things stored in your long-term memory tend to fade over time. I cannot remember the name of the professor who wheeled that television cart into the lecture hall, but I can kinda remember his face. Chemical memory is also not completely accurate. Every time you access your memory of an event you are not actually accessing the original memory, but just the last time you recalled that memory. Think of it like your own personal internal version of the telephone game. Still, it is a lot better than electrical memory.

There are three ways to convert electrical memory into chemical memory.

The first is to have a high impact quotient. Kennedy getting shot, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and 9/11 had major impact on us. You don’t forget things like a car accident, your wedding day, or when your child was born. All have a major impact on your life.

The second is to have a high emotional impact. We are quicker to remember those things that made us feel strong emotions like Love, Anger, Fear, and Gratitude. That is why the advertising that speaks to the heart or makes you laugh tends to stick in your memory a little longer.

These two ways create Declarative Memory, where if asked, you can recall the information (kinda like your old home phone number from when you were a kid.)

The third is to have a high frequency. This is where we, as advertisers, have to truly live. If sleep is the great eraser of the mind, we have to keep pounding away at the brain to get our foot in the door just a little farther each day.

Think of it like a nail being hammered into a board. You put the nail in place and tap it once and it might make a small indentation. Sleep is the great claw hammer that rips the nail out. But if you put that nail back into the same hole and tap it again the next day it sinks a little deeper. Keep placing that nail in the same hole and eventually it will drive it in so tight that the hammer cannot pull it out easily.

The higher the frequency, the more infallible the memory. You keep replacing the original memory with another original memory exactly like it so that the recall is always right on.

If you have enough repetition, the memory is so strong that you don’t have to think to recall it. You know it instantly. This is Procedural Memory (like hitting the brake on the car when you see a deer in the road.)

The amateur practices enough so that he can get it right (Declarative). The professional practices enough so that he can’t do it wrong (Procedural).

Frequency. Repetition. Practice. Call it what you want, but in advertising it is your best friend. It is the golden ticket for getting your ads to be remembered and your company to be thought of first.

Think about that this Sunday when you’re watching the Super Bowl (especially when you’re wondering why you often don’t see those ads any other time of year).

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If the ad isn’t interesting and doesn’t speak to the heart, however, frequency is like the hammer without a nail. You just bludgeon someone into submission. Trust me, that’s not the best way to spend your ad budget.

Two Advertising Lessons From the Bar

Once a month I pick up my six-string and head to The Poison Frog Brewery to entertain the folks. I’m not all that great of a guitar player. No one is wowed by my prowess on the strings. I’m more like George from Sultans of Swing. I know (almost) all the chords but I’m strictly rhythm. I have an adequate voice that doesn’t turn people away. What I bring to the table is a fun and entertaining show.

Better yet, what my playing guitar in a bar brings to you is two lessons in advertising worth sharing.

About one-third of the patrons on a typical night are there to see me. I put it out on Facebook and promote to my friends and that puts a few butts into seats. The other two-thirds are there whether I was playing or not. They came to drink beer, to meet up with friends, to get away from their lives, or simply just to have something to do.

They aren’t actively listening to me.

If I want to entertain them, I better do one of two things:

  • Play something interesting that they didn’t expect to hear
  • Play something they love to hear

That is the formula for success. Ask any singer in a bar and he or she will tell you the same.


When your audience’s attention is somewhere else, they aren’t going to listen to you unless you get their attention. Screaming doesn’t really work. It just turns them off. The best way to get someone’s attention is to say something totally unexpected. If you’re an excellent musician, you might say it with your instrument. In my case, I have to say it in my lyrics. I have to grab you by singing something funny and unexpected. Anything less and I’m just background noise.

I have two or three songs that through experimentation I have found get almost everyone to perk up their ears if only to ask, “Did he just say what I thought he said?”

Your marketing works exactly the same way. Other than this Sunday during the Super Bowl, the other 364 days of the year we are conditioned to tune out advertising. If you’re using radio, those listeners are already focused on something else, as radio is primarily used for background noise.

You have to say something more interesting than what is occupying their brain at that moment if you want to get their attention.

That’s why stories and humor tend to work so well. They say the unexpected in fun and interesting ways. I use songs with unexpected lyrics as a means for drawing in my audience. I used ads with interesting word combinations and OMG-did-he-say-that!? content to get potential customers to listen. It works.

One thing is certain … If the song is boring, the audience tunes out. If your ad is boring, your potential customers tune out. Yes it is that simple.


The other simple way to get the people at the bar to pay attention is to play a fan favorite. There are cover songs that every guitar player knows will get the crowd listening and singing along. Play a few of those and you’ll have the whole place instantly clapping and singing and having a good time.

But what made those songs favorites in the first place? Those songs have two elements.

  • They are interesting and fun
  • They have been played with a ton of frequency

It is that second point that is the clincher. Favorites don’t become favorites without a lot of play. Yeah, you might like a song, but if you don’t ever hear it again, it never becomes that instant-clap-and-sing-along song. You have to play it over and over again until it becomes entrenched in their lives.

Likewise, your advertising might be interesting and fun, but it doesn’t truly sink into a customer’s mind until they have heard your message several times. The more consistently they hear your interesting and fun message, the more you become the fan favorite to the point that as soon as your name is mentioned people want to clap and sing along.

Don’t take it from me. Go to your neighborhood bar when a guy with a guitar is performing. When he plays an obscure song he loves, he’ll have the attention of some of the patrons. When he plays something interesting and unexpected, he’ll have more. When he plays a popular cover, he’ll have the whole place jumping. (By the way, that popular cover was at one time the interesting and unexpected song that became popular mainly through repetition.)

Plan your advertising the same way. Say something interesting and unexpected. Then say it often enough to become a fan favorite.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Not everyone will like what you have to say, just as not everyone will jump in and sing along to every popular song. That’s okay. It is always better, whether you’re an advertiser or a performer, to have a few loud fans, than a bored-to-tears audience.

PPS If your message isn’t interesting and fun, frequency won’t help. If Pavlov hadn’t first given the dog some meat when he rang the bell, the dog probably would have eaten the bell just because ti was annoying him so much.

PPPS I use a mix of both in my shows. I play songs you’ve never heard that make you say OMG-did-he-say-that!? And I do a whole set of covers where you get to choose the song (and I include a songbook with lyrics so that you can sing along.) No one is going to give me a recording contract for my musical talents, but they all walk away saying that was fun and entertaining. My next show is Saturday, February 17th. See you then!

Two Lessons From Selling a House

I’m typing this while surrounded by boxes, some full, some waiting to be filled. I’ve told you many times I’m not the most organized guy. I fear that most of the contents of my home office are just going to get dumped into whatever open containers are left, to be sorted (if at all) at some later date.

Yes, my house sold. It took seventeen months from listing to closing.

It took seventeen months, a dozen gallons of paint, a new stove, two dozen borrowed items for staging, fifteen open houses, four prices changes (the last one upward), and three written descriptions of the house before the sale happened.

I want to talk about those last two.

For the first year, we started with the house listed at $249,900, hoping to get $230,000 plus. We listed in late July 2016 so we missed the window for the families who wanted to move over the summer and be in the new place before school started. Although we had some traffic early on, most people complained about the old, dated kitchen.

Our old, dated kitchen

To their credit, the kitchen was old. And dated. And included four different types of wood (light maple pergo floors, dark cherry cabinets, dark oak trim around a tile counter, and medium oak trim around the light fixtures, oh and wood paneling—yuck!) But it was also functional and efficient and filled with good, usable storage.

No offers.

We lowered the price to $245,000 and then to $239,900 hoping to refresh the listing (by the way, the comparable values put it in the $250,000 range.) The rest of the first year was all the same. Plenty of traffic. Everyone had the same comments. Loved the location. Loved the spacious rooms. But the kitchen was dated. A few commented that the price was too high because of the kitchen.

No offers.

At the end of the first year I took it off the market for a month. I painted the remaining rooms that had yet to be painted, re-staged it, and put it back on the market at $259,900.

I also rewrote the listing to include the following paragraph …

The kitchen is dated—but completely functional—and will serve you well until you decide to build the kitchen of your dreams and turn this house into the home you’ve always wanted.

The higher price meant fewer lookers, but one thing changed dramatically. Not one person mentioned the kitchen as being an issue. Surprisingly, no one mentioned the price either.

Those two changes led us to the buyer we needed—someone who would see the house for the incredible value that it is, and not be scared away that the kitchen has to be redone.

Through our new price and new description we eliminated all the traffic that was pointless, and only brought the traffic that would be interested in a house like ours.


As I have been teaching for years, price is a perception game. In housing, that game has changed dramatically thanks to the Internet. Almost every house hunter goes online first. One of the first filters you use is price. You put a minimum and maximum price into the filters and your search appears. With a price of $249,900, we were at the top end of the $250,000 filter. People who put $250,000 as their top filter are not looking to buy a $249,900 house that needs a $20,000 kitchen. We needed to get out of that search mode.

Going to $259,900 put us into searches for people who put $300,000 as their upper limit. Now our $259,900 price looked like a value. Even with $30K worth of work, the buyer will have a $300,000 house for less than $300,000.

Yes, the perception of this new mode of search is that every house that pulls up in a search of houses between $200,000 and $250,000 has a maximum value of $250,000 because they put “$250,000 maximum value” in their search. Every house that pulls up between $250,000 and $300,000 is likewise a $300,000 home.

By changing our price, we changed the perceived worth of our house. Instead of being an expensive house that needed a lot of work, it went to being a value-priced house that needed a little bit of work.


My agent was good with my new description—even the part about the kitchen being dated. I heard from other people in real estate that you should never say anything negative about a house in the description. I respectfully disagree. By admitting the downside, I earned the trust that the other statements would have a better degree of accuracy.

Most of us know that keywords like “cozy” means “cramped” and “charming” means “hasn’t-been-updated-in-years.” Yet, by admitting the kitchen was dated, not only did it make the other statements feel more truthful, it eliminated any house hunters who didn’t want to remodel a kitchen.

Our traffic was down, but we got a buyer and closed the sale.

The lessons are two-fold.

First, price has a huge impact on the perception of an item. Sometimes a higher price is actually better than a lower price. You have to look at your prices through the eyes of a customer and see what she sees and reads into your prices. Do that and you can find the sweet spot that gets you the most bang for your buck.

Second—and this is something Roy H. Williams has been drilling into my head this entire century—you have to choose who to lose. Through our description and pricing we eliminated a lot of potential buyers, mainly because we knew they weren’t going to be the right buyers. Just having traffic to your website doesn’t make it good traffic. Just having traffic through your door doesn’t make it good traffic. You want to specifically attract your kind of buyers. You do that with your message. Our new message brought us the buyer we needed and got the house sold.

Time to go fill up those boxes.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Before you ask, we got $230,000. We got where we wanted, but only after attracting the right people. The housing market hasn’t changed much in our area. We didn’t get any offers with the old description and old price during the peak selling season of April to July. We got our first offer during the off-season and only after the new price and new description. (Speaking of off-season, I am currently staring at a snowstorm out my front window that has closed one of the major highways through town. This is Michigan. When they close the highway here, it’s a real storm. Fun for my son because school was closed, but not so fun for packing and moving.)

PPS I apologize for the sporadic posts the last few weeks. It will probably continue into next week as well while we make the move. Stay tuned, though. I have some fun thoughts for how we can make 2018 amazing. You might want to tell your other retailer friends to sign up for the blog here.