Blog Archives

Brian Shaw


I’ve heard people say that print is dying. Regardless of the validity of that statement, one thing that is definitely not dying is good writing. In fact, the world has maybe never had a greater need of people who can adequately and competently communicate ideas and thoughts through words. Unfortunately, brands don’t always get this. Here’s a list of five common errors brands can’t seem to stop making online (specifically in the things they post).


1. Spelling and Grammar.
English is hard. There are a lot of grammar and spelling rules, and sometimes the things we do don’t seem to make sense. It’s fun to poke fun at our friends when they use the wrong “your,” or when they put that comma in the wrong place, but when someone is pointing the finger of ridicule at your brand? Yeah, that’s not so fun.

A very recent example of this blunder was committed by video game developer Square Enix Inc. They recently released their video game “Dragon Quest IV,” for iPads and iPhones. Only one problem: They spelled their OWN GAME wrong. Meet Dargon Quest.

dargon quest

In today’s fast paced and social world, simple mistakes like this spread like wildfire. #DargonQuestMyGame quickly became a trending hash tag on the Twitter sphere, where everyone poked fun at Square Enix’s misfortune.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 2.25.27 PM

Solution: Spell check gets it wrong a lot more than you’d think, so when you’re writing some content for the Internet don’t rely on spell check to fix all your mistakes. Before you post it, read it out loud. Then have someone else read it out loud. Just getting multiple eyes on it will help immensely.

2. Lack of Follow-Up
The Internet has opened up many doors for brands and companies to engage with their customer base. Brands everywhere are trying to take advantage of this by starting conversations with their loyal fans and followers. Here’s the catch though, you’ve got to finish every conversation that you start. You might be asking all of the right questions and posting the best content, but if you aren’t following up with your fans, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Take a look at Taco Bell.




Taco Bell goes beyond sharing content, they start, engage in and finish conversations. When someone says “I love you Taco Bell,” they respond in kind. There’s a lesson there that every brand would do good to remember.

Solution: Take some time every day to respond to some of your fan base. You don’t need to systematically address every comment or question out there, but taking the time to interact with a few followers will go a long way in building brand loyalty.

3. Asking Bad Questions
There’s a common expression, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is definitely a lie. While asking questions to your followers is a good thing, bad questions can actually hurt a brand’s online presence. Here’s an example of a not-so-great question.


Questions like the one above are great if you’re talking to a fellow co-worker. Not so much if you’re asking a large group of people online. That’s not even the worst of it though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen brands ask something like “Finally it’s Friday! What’re your plans for the weekend?” First of all, questions like this are generally difficult to follow up on; they aren’t going to generate a good conversation. Second, questions like this rarely have anything to do with your brand. And finally, most people don’t care to share their coffee preferences or weekend plans with a bunch of strangers.

Solution: Before you ask a question online, ask yourself this: Do I really care what the answer to this question is? Would I feel comfortable asking this to a large group of people I don’t know? Will other people feel comfortable answering this question publicly? Based on your answers to those questions, you may want to reconsider whatever you might be saying.

4. Word Repetition
I don’t care how incredible something is, repeating it ten times isn’t convincing anyone. I think the expression is that actions speak louder than words? Keep that in mind when you’re posting anything online. Otherwise you might look a little something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.29.12 PM

Just remember: Saying the same thing over and over is an easy way to disengage your audience over and over.

Solution: Similar to when you have a typing or grammar error, the easiest way to avoid this blunder is to read your content out loud (numerous times if you have to). There’s rarely a good reason to repeat yourself (unless it’s ironic). Even if you want to say the same thing in two separate sentences at least use a thesaurus.

5. Lack of Anything
Probably the worst things you can do for your brand image is establish an online presence only to completely neglect it. Some might call it social suicide; Social media suicide that is (I’m so sorry about the terrible pun, but it had to be said).

It’s not just that fans will be disappointed that you aren’t doing anything online either. The problem is that if you aren’t populating your pages with content, then disgruntled fans will, and I’m willing to bet you might not like what they have to say. Take Zynga’s Facebook page for example. It’s filled almost entirely with unaddressed customer complaints.

poor poor zynga

Solution: Here are your options: Remove yourself from the Internet entirely (probably a bad idea), or just, you know, take the time to manage your online presence. Hire someone to help if you need to.

Now, these aren’t the only mistakes when it comes to how brands present themselves online, but these certainly cover some of the big ones I see every day. Hopefully your brand has never committed one of these blunders in the past, but even if you have, now is the perfect time to stop.

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While other kids were singing rounds of Row Row Row Your Boat, I was singing the Libby’s, Alka Seltzer and McDonald’s jingles. And forget Pictionary, Taboo or Scrabble – Adverteasing is my game.

I know I’m not alone. A quick search on Google returns pages of lists, polls and posts of some of the best and most effective lines, and, yes an equal amount of those that fell far short of their goal.

A quick snapshot of some of the top branding lines* of all time:

Ajax – Stronger than dirt.

American Express – Don’t leave home without it.

Avis – We try harder.

Campbell’s – Mmm! Mmm! Good!

DeBeers – A diamond is forever.

Disneyland – The happiest place on Earth.

DuPont – The miracles of science.

Hallmark – When you care enough to send the very best.

Harley Davidson – American by birth. Rebel by choice.

Levis – Quality never goes out of style.

Verizon – Can you hear me now?!

And the one that is often top of mind and tops most lists, Nike – Just do it.

When you break it down, a tagline seems like a simple enough feat to accomplish. After all, it’s creating a brief, descriptive phrase describing a brand. But herein lies the paradox. The birth of a tagline or branding line is a complex and strategic endeavor that requires creating an emotional connection, communicating a value that fulfills a self-interest, differentiates from competitors and is memorable.

Those lines that “make it” to not only those lists but actually are doing their job by ringing sales, changing behavior or increasing market share have these things in common as part of a successful strategy:

  1. Keep it short.

While there are no “set” rules about the perfect formula for length, these things have got to be recalled. Think of four taglines right now. Now count the number of words in each. On average, most will probably range between three to six words.

  1. Easy to recall/remember.

Alliteration and rhymes can prove helpful here, but digging until you discover that insight that triggers an emotional connection and response is the real winning formula to making your message relevant, getting it internalized and readily recalled.

  1. Descriptive and meaningful.

I know, I know Nike’s “Just Do It.” tops most lists of the world’s top tags, but they also spend, on average, a billion dollars on marketing. If you don’t have a billion dollars annually in your marketing budget, make your tagline the workhorse by being really descriptive – what your company or product does that is different/better from the competition.

This is where strategy meets value proposition, often referred to as the “what’s in it for me?”

  1. Includes a call to action.

Make a meaningful connection with your target while at the same time activating a response, see the American Express and Hallmark examples.

  1. Can stand the test of time.

It’s about being relevant, meaningful—it should give people a reason to want to love and be part of your brand.

So many to choose from, which taglines are your picks for making a hall of fame – or the hall of shame?

*Sources: Advergize, Forbes, Inbound Insiders.

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Contributed by Jane Putnam

Have you heard, 40 is the new 20? Well, I’m not sure about how true that statement is, but I can say that in Coca-Cola’s case, as a 134-year-old company, it’s as fresh, hip and relevant as a startup, with the reputation (and probably financial backing) a startup would kill for. Age isn’t keeping that brand down at all. Coca-Cola is a prime example of an old brand that is staying relevant and isn’t falling prey to becoming an antiquated brand.

If you haven’t heard of or seen the “Share a Coke” campaign, I would assume you’re in the minority. I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion (or more like 10 occasions), digging through shelves of Diet Cokes looking for the one that says “Jane.” I still haven’t found it yet, but it doesn’t stop me from looking.

From my point-of-view, here’s how Coke has done it right, 134-years-old and all:

  • Fully integrated. Full integration—bringing all disciplines and media channels together—is something we talk about and practice regularly at PPBH, and this campaign too is a prime example. From social media, to a dedicated website, to other more traditional paid media (outdoor, TV, etc.), the Share a Coke campaign is everywhere.
  • The time is right. It’s summer. What’s better a refreshing, customized beverage? Coke did a great job here of using its age—its brand equity—to its advantage because so many people associate hot summer days with an ice-cold Coke AND mixing it up with the personalization angle. Only a brand with enough equity and recognition could successfully take its logo off its merchandise, replace it with names and not lose brand recognition.
  • Everyone’s included. According to, in an analysis of the campaign’s overseas success, “Share a Coke’s innovative approach to personalization made it a fascinating prospect.” The campaign is fascinating, and because of that, no age group or demographic is excluded from drinking the product (the campaign includes the main brand, Coke, as well as sub-brands Diet Coke and Coke Zero), or finding it fun to see their name on a bottle or can of soda (and then who can refuse to buy it?!).

What other campaign examples can you think of that really show an old brand staying fresh and hip? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Native Advertising

The backlash on native advertising (or sponsored content) clearly hit a popular wave with comedian John Oliver’s 11-minute piece last week on the subject. Oliver, formerly of the Daily Show and now helming his own HBO show, Last Week Tonight, took issue with the blithe disregard of news media’s “church and state” rule between editorial and advertising.

If you missed it, here it is:

The piece was funny, clever and actually made some valid points about the encroachment of advertising on news content. We particularly liked his compromise/proposal at the end, suggesting that if news now needs to integrate advertising into its content, why not reciprocate and put some news into the advertising? John, we’re exploring those options already with our clients.

Interestingly and most tellingly, Oliver had to disclose that HBO actually ran a sponsored content campaign to build awareness for his show. An odd twist that native advertising helped him gain an audience to afford him the opportunity to rant against a tactic HBO successfully used on his behalf.

But we won’t gloat. Since we employ native advertising on behalf of many of our clients, let’s take this opportunity to dispel some myths about the practice:

  1. Native advertising isn’t new – Like Oliver said, advertisers have long integrated their messages into news content. We would likely be shocked by how open and deep the integration truly was.
  2. Native advertising isn’t trickery – Oliver’s comments were a bit naïve as he characterized most people reading these ads as somehow being tricked. Research shows that readers don’t see it this way. True sponsored content is clearly marked as such and most readers know it. The reason they click into the story is because they’re genuinely interested in the content. Great content will always win and those marketers who act like a newsroom and understand what their readers want and adapt their messaging will rise to the top. If readers were being duped, they’d click away once the charade was found out. This simply doesn’t happen – we see readers staying for nearly the same length of time they’d spend if they had come to us through an organic search on Google. Those aren’t the metrics of trickery.
  3. Linked in-feed ads aren’t the same as native ads – Chances are, you’ve seen those annoying ads within a news feed or at the end of an article. Once clicked, they take you away from the news content to a completely different site, usually with a message that has morphed from what you thought you were getting. True native ads always exist within the site you’re on, not to dupe you, but to ensure that you’re staying where you originally wanted to be in the first place.Example of linked post-feed ads on


  1. Native advertising works – It’s no contest. A great sponsored content piece that surprises and engages a reader will always do better than a random banner ad they might see. It’s a better and deeper brand connection. All of our clients who have understood great sponsored content have had success with the format.

We can all bemoan the trend of seeing more native ads in our news content. While it was annoying at the time, part of me still wants to return to the days when Time Warner’s Fortune magazine would never compromise their “church and state” policy between editorial and advertising. It was honorable and they could afford to do it. But if you want to blame the tide of native advertising on anyone, a mirror might come in handy. Once we consumers decided we no longer wanted to pay for news, the rebirth of sponsored content became a reality.

For now, it’s working. Brands are seeing great results and readers are enjoying the content. After all, if it worked for HBO and John Oliver, there must be something to it, right?

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Contributed by Eugene Kim

For advertisers, there has always been this preconceived notion that appealing to a younger audience is one of the best ways to grow your company’s revenue, and in many ways this idea is right. Lining up younger customers, building loyalty and encouraging them to interact with your brand are great ways to increase the bottom line. But what if I told you that the older generations might have more to offer than your young hipsters in thick-rimmed glasses and ankle-high boots? That’s right, strap in, follow along and see why going old can offer your company a higher return for your efforts.

More Expendable Income
Let’s take a quick look at some numbers.

  • Yearly Income for 18- to 34-year-olds: $0 – $90,000
  • Yearly Income for 35- to 70-year-olds: $9,000 – $110,000

This is probably a no brainer, but 35- to 70-year-olds have more expendable income than their younger counterparts since they have been in the workforce for a much longer time. Not only that, they are more likely to use their credit cards and don’t have to worry about crippling school debt.

Still a Growing Demographic
Some of you might be thinking, no way, but I am here to tell you, way. Those 35- to 70-year-olds are growing in number, but why? Because Baby Boomers, the generation that increased the U.S. population by almost one-third, are still around and the majority of Generation X has joined them as well. Couple that with better healthcare and 35-70 is quickly becoming the majority, and it’s important that we remember that.

What You Should Do
In 2012, over 80 percent of advertising budgets were thrown at the age group of 18-34. Don’t you think it’s time to rethink those budgets, and maybe take a step in the other direction? Me thinks that’s right. But don’t start throwing cash all willy-nilly. Do like you should with any decision you make, and conduct research. If your product is geared toward tech savvy Apple-mongers, maybe it’s better to stick with that younger audience. Maybe your advertising efforts are already hitting the older generation without you knowing it. Be informed, and keep an ear to the ground.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments (negative or positive, but positive is preferred), questions or concerns, please shoot them over and maybe we can have an interesting conversation.

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Fresh and Old

It’s a fact, PPBH is turning 30 this year. That’s right, we are taking the arduous step out of our late twenties and welcoming our thirties with open arms. While we, like an thirty-something, feel anything but old, 30 years is a real achievement for an advertising agency. So we are taking this month to talk about some of the ways we have kept our brand fresh after all these years and how others have as well. Because we know that for long-standing brands, staying fresh and relevant is key.

Look for these articles this month on the PPBH blog:

Staying Fresh by Going Old
When you Know it’s Time to Bring the Spark Back to your Brand
Top Tagline Hits and Misses
The Oldest Brands that are Still Around

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