Can Your Brand Join the Cult of Cults?

In branding, “cult” is anything but a four-letter word.

Achieve cult status with your brand, and you’ve found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – word-of-mouth.

A cult brand brings out passion in its users or adherents. They LOVE it, need it, would never use anything else, see their choice as the source of pride. It becomes part of their lifestyle.

More importantly for you, cult users talk about the brand every chance they get, and insist – not advise, not suggest – that theirs friends, family members and coworkers use it, too. They’ll even go so far as loaning their own <your-brand-here> to other potential users to try it out.

Many cult brands start on a shoestring, with no venture capitalists financing them early on. They’re fighters, survivors, and they never stop going at the competition. They do more than what it takes, go several extra miles to make customers happy and keep them that way.

According to Jay Conrad Levinson, there are seven rules to building cult brands. You might also call them “truths of cult branding.”

  • Consumers want to be part of a group that’s different.
  • Cult brand inventors show daring and determination.
  • Cult brands sell lifestyles, not products.
  • Cult brands listen to the choir and create brand evangelists.
  • Cult brands Always create consumer communities.
  • Cult brands are inclusive.
  • Cult brands promote personal freedom and draw power from their competitors.

Remember these rules/truths. Then think Volkswagen Beetle, Macintosh, Harley-Davidson, iAnything.

And now, think your brand.

Tip Tuesday – Advertising Copyriting: Keep It Brief

Old-style ink pen writing "Tip Tuesday" on paper

Enough said.


Or, if you want more detail, here it is –

Like all of us, members of your target markets are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages every day. And, also like all of us, they have less than zero time to burn and are not likely to take much of it to read advertising/marketing copy.

It’s the “Get in, get out and live to fight another day” of advertising/marketing messaging:

  • Grab attention.
  • Deliver a compelling message quickly.
  • Close with a strong call to action.

So. There you have it.

As I said, enough said.

Almost More Than an Advertising & PR Word Dink Can Take

Over vs. More Than in Public Relations


It’s almost over English-major advertising and public relations word dinks* like me can take.

Wait. That makes no sense. Read it again …

I’m over happy to help you understand.


Blame it on the powers that be – the Associated Press editors – who have buckled to popular application when it comes to using “over” and “more than.” The announcement came during the American Copy Editors Society Conference in Las Vegas in March 2014, where the AP presented this and other changes to the bible for journalists, the AP Stylebook.

Henceforth (but probably not forever, because the language constantly evolves), “over” and “more than” can be used interchangeably.

Almost more than night, we went from strict adherence to the old-guard rule governing the use of “more than” vs. “over” to using the two interchangeably.

OK, so I’m being a bit disingenuous. They didn’t say the two could be used interchangeably for everything, but only when describing quantities. So what was once strictly “more than 50 people” can now be “over 50 people.” What before was strictly “over 10,000 feet higher” can now be “more than 10,000 feet higher.”

Unless you’re a word dink, you probably didn’t realize there was a difference in the first place or you don’t give a rip. But for grammar snobs like me, the weeks following the AP announcement provided some great, cheap entertainment, not to mention consternation.

Here’s a sampling of reactions from hard-core journalists and editors on the Poynter Institute’s blog. The Poynter Institute calls itself “…a global leader in journalism. It is the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.”

Mike Shor:  More than my dead body!

Uriel Heilman:  I have put up with this crap for MORE THAN 15 years and I’m glad it’s OVER!”

Robin Loveman:  The world, as we know it, is more than.

Adina Solomon:  I don’t care. I still like the distinction. This is over I can handle.

You probably didn’t realize there was a difference in the first place or you don’t give a rip. Or maybe you knew there was a difference but didn’t give a rip, anyway. As for me, it’s almost over what I can take. My nuts-n-bolts journalism professor was adamant on this point, as has been every editor I’ve run into since.

Over and under are used for height comparisons:

  • The plane was over 15,000 feet in the air.
  • The Spartan center towered over the Fliers forward.

More than and less than compared everything else:

  • More than 1,000 journalists and editors are protesting the change.

The fact that we can now write, “Over 1,000 journalists and editors are protesting the change,” and be correct drives some of us crazy, and always will. But there’s one point I have to concede; as I always advise other writers, we should write like we speak. And, like it or not, this is how people speak.

At the end of the day, we’ll all just have to get more than it.

* “Word dink” was the phrase my first creative director used in good fun to describe me and what I did. I was the only copywriter in the integrated advertising, marketing and public relations agency at the time. As such, I was the one who provided what the graphic designers called “blah, blah, blah” to their awesome designs. Ergo, word dink.

Tip Tuesday – Listen Up!

Old-style ink pen writing "Tip Tuesday" on paper

10 Things Your Marketing Copywriter Should Do When Learning About Your Business


One of the most underrated skills for a writer – especially a marketing copywriter, content creator or PR specialist – is listening.

Marketing copywriter, how can you help sell a business, organization, product, service or cause if don’t fully understand it? You can’t.

Business or organization owner, manager or leader, how can you effectively sell your product, service or cause if your copywriter, content creator or PR specialist doesn’t understand what you have to offer your target markets? You can’t, either.

You need to get down to answers to these questions, and I mean Get Down!

  • What are the benefits of working with you?
  • What pain points will your product or service solve?
  • How much time and/or money will members of your target market save or earn with your product or service?
  • Above all, how will they ever be able to answer the Golden Question of Marketing (GQM) – What’s in it for me?

To craft answers to these questions and create a messaging strategy that compels your target markets to action, your copywriter, content creator or PR specialist first needs to listen. They need to do it:

  • Closely.
  • Carefully.
  • Actively.

As for you marketing copywriters, here are 10 things you should do when gathering information:

  1. Clear your mind.
  2. Maintain eye contact with the speaker, whether it’s a one-on-one session with the CEO or a group dialogue with the leadership and sales teams.
  3. Focus, focus, focus on what is being said.
  4. Ask follow-up questions. (Coincidentally, this is where you’re most likely to find the gold for the GQM.)
  5. Request clarification. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t understand.”
  6. Rephrase what you hear and say it back to the speaker so you’re sure you fully understand, e.g., “So what you’re saying is…. Is that correct?
  7. Think about the implications of what someone says about one aspect of the business to other aspects, and ask about it.
  8. Ask the speaker to repeat something if you missed it.
  9. Never, ever spend the time while your subject is speaking thinking about what you’re going to ask next.
  10. Close with a question like, “Is there anything I haven’t I asked you but should have?” or “Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to?”

So, listen…

Copywriter, content creator or PR specialist, if you aren’t doing these things, start. Business owner or organization leader, if the person crafting your messages isn’t interacting with you and your staff this way, find someone new.

XXX, The End of a Press Release

XXX in Press Releases

The question comes nearly every time I write the first press release for a new client. “This looks great,” s/he’ll say, “but what does the little – 30 – mean at the end?”

“Exactly,” I say.


“It means ‘The End.’ ”

That little – 30 – indicates to any copy editor who reads the press release that they have come to the end. S/he doesn’t need to search for any more information or worry about missing any.

For decades, -30- has been the traditional marker for the end of a press release, along with its close Roman cousin, – XXX -. More recently, many PR practitioners have replaced it with – ### -.

But where did it come from?

There are many theories, but the most common is that -30- got its start during the American Civil War. In his book, “Newswriting from Lead to 30,” William Metz says the most widely accepted explanation holds that the first message sent by telegraph to a press association during the war contained exactly 30 words. “From this, some say, ‘30’ became the standard signal for the end of a telegraphed news story…”

According to another legend reported by Metz, in the days of longhand newswriting “X” marked the end of a sentence, “XX” a paragraph’s end and “XXX” a story’s end.

Yet another suggests that when a reporter with the last name Thirtee submitted his copy, the telegrapher changed it to 30 for the sake of brevity.

As my regular readers know, I’m all for brevity, so…

This history lesson, aka this post about press releases, has reached The End.

– XXX –