The Crisis in Marketing to Mid-Lifers



Each Friday, when I pick my children up from school, I wait in the car and pass the time by looking through flyers. I look through most of them - some I skip because I have zero interest in any of the products but - I give most a peruse. On average there are approximately 15 flyers. I go through about 10 of them. For an advertiser those are pretty good numbers. If you have chosen flyers as your method of advertising chances are I have seen it.


Most of the time I am looking for grocery store sales but I will also look at other products are in the market. I want to see if anything sparks my interest. See what’s new. If asked ‘What are you looking for?’ I would respond with ‘No clue - just looking’. Not very helpful for advertisers looking for a glimpse into my shopping psyche but thats the reality. Most of the  time I am just looking. If I was in the market for something very specific such as a new stove I would say ‘I’m looking for a stove’ but most of us don't really NEED anything. We are just looking. So how do you grab the attention of the fickle consumer? The one who is fully aware she doesn't really NEED most of what you're selling. How do you get someone like me to give your product a second glance?


I’ll give you an example…


This is a typical test that sales people face (in movies only of course). “Hey kid - if you want this job I need to see what you can do. Sell me this pen.” Immediately the sales person points out the many incredible features of the pen. It has a great grip. It has quick drying ink. It comes in lots of different colours.


If you tried this sales tactic on ME I would respond with “I have a pen I got for free that has four colours in one. I don't care about the grip because I don't write that much and the ink dries just fine thanks..and did I mention I got it for FREE.” So now what? How do you get this person to consider your pen.


Instead of starting with the features of your product - consider the personality traits of the consumer instead. Don't tell me about you. Ask me about ME.


I don’t mean me specifically I mean all consumers. Better yet. Don't think of potential customers as consumers. Think of them as people.


Here are a few considerations when marketing and advertising your product:


How will the consumer feel when buying this product?

How will the consumer feel when using this product?

Who benefits from the purchase of this product?





So you're probably wondering What’s all this nonsense about feelings?’ Frankly, its all about feelings. Perhaps you have a pen that is retro. It’s a classic. Its something my father might have used when I was a child. I may have picked up his pen and pretended to BE him on many occasions. Your pen reminds me of this. Your product has made me reminiscent of old feelings. I might consider buying your product specifically for this reason.


What about when I use this product? How does it make me ‘feel’? Let’s say I am a lawyer or a dock worker and I have to sign my name all day on both paper and digital forms. It just so happens your pen is designed to cushion your grip on both ends and is both a regular ‘refillable’ pen on one end and a stylus on the other. You just made my life easier and my hand hurt less. Show me how that would ‘feel’. Use imagery in your words as well is your pictures of your products in your advertising.




This seems like an oxymoron. How can you purchase philanthropy? Flip the words and it makes complete sense. TOMS is a perfect example. Whenever a pair of TOMS shoes is purchased a pair is then given to a child in Africa in need of shoes. If your company is doing good in the world at ANY level I am more likely to buy it. Take for example the Boy Scouts sale of apples. They sell them outside of grocery stores. Most likely if I needed apples I would buy them inside the store. Yet when that boy or girl is standing there with basket of wares I buy one every time because I know it is for a good cause. I would do the same for a pen. I may have the fanciest pen at home but if I know a portion of the sale of your pen is going somewhere important like giving school supplies to lower income families - chances are I am going to buy your pen.


Let’s face it - I am not the ideal target market. I am difficult to reach and when you do connect with me I seem almost impossible to sell to. I am not an early adopter. I don't have a large amount of disposable income. I am a narrow margin in terms of  sales statistics so really why bother? I’ll tell you why. If you can connect with the difficult consumer - connecting with the majority is easy. Most people aren't as particular about their spending as I am. Perhaps it is also because I work in the field of marketing and advertising that makes me that much more difficult to convince. Regardless of this fact I am still reachable. You just need to do the work to make the connection. Once you do I’m in. Im hooked and I’ll be brand loyal for life.






Many small organizations struggle with how to market their brand. We often make decisions on our brand based on what our competitors are doing but this will not differentiate your brand from theirs. The key to a successful marketing plan is to understand your Brand’s Personality.


There are a few layers to understanding how to market your brand so that you stand out form the competition. Your first consideration should be ‘what makes me different’? This is your first key strength. Perhaps it’s a superior product or it’s customer service or price. But this is the obvious way to promote your brand and most others are doing the same thing. So now what?


Now you need to identify ‘who’ your brand is. This may seem strange but many people are ‘brand loyal’. Perhaps the preferred brand has one or more of the strengths we talked about before. Ultimately there is something about that brand that speaks to people. Some great examples of this are Apple, Disney, Minions, Samsung, and Android. These might be big brands that have a global recognition but there is an attribute they all have that we can learn from - a personality. Something that people feel an affinity for. Their body of work has a certain ‘code’ that people relate to.


Apple - the usual suspect when it comes to a brand example - was not built on the concept of ‘how to make the most money in the shortest amount of time’. It was built on an IDEA. Apple wanted to make the best product, offer great service, and control the entire user experience from start to finish to ensure quality. This describes a brand philosophy much like our own personalities.


Consider your own personality as a brand. I will use myself as an example. I have several finite rules of conduct for myself. 1. Honesty 2. Integrity 3. Do for others 4. Work hard 5. Be kind. This is my philosophy. These rules are the driving force in my decision-making process, which in turn dictates my behaviour. This results in who I am as a person or, in marketing terms, this is my brand.


This can be applied to your company brand. First identify what drives your company and how you conduct business. Whether its quality, customer service, great prices - you decide. Once you have determined that you can start to build your brand personality. Always keep these principles in mind when you are making your marketing decisions.


Personality and strengths are the simple part. The difficult step for any business is controlling perception. You can do everything in your power to control your brand but once it is revealed to the public it is not always perceived as you would like it to be. Many brands have faced this struggle in the past. Sometimes the message can get away from you. We have all seen billboards whose meaning was misinterpreted just based on the location - like this:


Unfortunately there is nothing this brand can do about perception based on these 2 ads appearing side by side. There have been several examples of this over the years and with the proliferation of social media there are more opportunities for your brand to be misinterpreted. So how can this be avoided? In reality it can’t BUT it can be minimized.


What impresses me most about people is not WHAT they do but WHY   they do it. Lets take a politician for example (I thought this would be a timely example). The current government decides to give a tax break to its constituents. Is it out of concern for the people or is it done in an election year and they are trying to influence the voters. It kind of changes your perception of that government. What about a brand? How do their marketing decisions change how we perceive them in terms of the why versus the what?


Let’s take one product category produced by 2 different manufacturers. For this example I will use canvas shoes. Converse vs. Toms.


These products are very similar in construction and material but their brands are VERY different. When I think of Converse I think of skaters. It conjures images of jeans and toques and other products that I would associate with Converse. When I think of Toms I think of the pair of shoes the company will donate to someone in need in other countries because I bought their product. If I bought a pair of Toms I would feel like I was doing something good for someone else. Therefore I feel something for the brand. This sense of ‘doing good’ isn't necessarily important to everyone in the world but that’s okay. Those aren't the people Toms are selling to. They could choose to brand themselves as an alternative skater/grunge shoe like Converse but they choose not to because that is not their brand personality.


So now you have the ingredients to start building your brand personality:


Your strengths

What motivates your brand

How that brand is perceived by others


This is a lot to digest but investing the time to consider this now will save you a lot of headaches later. Even if you already have a brand and want to steer it in a different direction - it can be done. You can change course. Look at Hyundai or Kia - 2 great examples of a brand that has changed direction and done it successfully. Whatever your brand personality is there is always expert advice out there to help navigate the road ahead.



I hate industry jargon. Personally I think it was created to make people outside of those industries feel like an absolute imbecile.  That is why I have decided to explain a key bit of marketing jargon that, although sounds ridiculous, in fact has merit and value.



This statement is true of all marketing. The content of marketing not only speaks to what your product or service is, it also positions your company as either the best, the worst or somewhere in the middle and trust me – there is only one position in this list you want to be in.


The first step in determining your marketing is ‘what is your message?’  Not only the direct message like ‘buy this now on sale’ but also the underlying message like ‘this is my brand’ or this is what my company philosophy is’ or this is how I treat my client.’ It’s amazing how all of these messages (and more) can be communicated just based on the content in your marketing.


Determining your message is simple –either it’s a sale, event or branding. Done. The underlying message is a bit more complicated to communicate. ‘What is my brand?’ First you have to determine your brand. This can affect who your clients are and how you position yourself in the marketplace. A brand put simply is this ‘what people say about you when you are not in the room’.  The content you choose in your marketing is your opportunity to try to control your brand. What you choose to say and how you choose to say it directly affects how your brand is perceived.


Now you have to determine your tone of voice. Not only how you speak about your business but also how you choose to speak to your client. Is it ‘strictly business’ or will you take a more personal approach. No matter what your decision make sure you are consistent! In other words – make sure that you use the same approach in all of your marketing. Don’t confuse your audience by confusing your messaging approach. It muddies people’s perspective of your business and makes you look confused. And if you are confused how can your clients have faith in you.


Then there is the overall look. What I mean is imagery and colours and fonts. Stay true and consistent to how you represent your brand no matter where you are positioning your business. Whether you appear in the newspaper, TV or online the audience should be able to recognize your brand just by looking at the ad. That is good consistent branding.


Perhaps most important to constantly engage your audience. Be in the marketplace consistently. Make sure you are always refreshing your content. Audiences pay more attention to new messaging over a long period of time than seeing the same ad every day for a year. Just because they see your brand everyday doesn’t mean they want to see the same content. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. If you are in the financial service industry don’t just share your contact information. Use newspaper to offer advice or use it as an FAQ (frequently asked questions), online for longer messaging and out of home for branding. And make sure to change it on a consistent basis. Post a new blog on your site and promote it on social media. Do an interview and post it on YouTube. Whatever you do make sure you link it all back to your website where potential clients can get more information about your business. Whatever you plan to do be sure to plan ahead. Schedule out when you will advertise and what each ad will contain. Map out what your campaign will look like throughout the year. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to the plan the entire year. It should always be a work in progress. If something isn’t working then change direction. Just be sure to track the changes you make and why you made them. At least then you will have a clear idea of your brand and your message.


If all of this ‘content is king’ jargon seems a bit overwhelming – not to worry - there are loads of experts out there who can help. It’s our job to help you build the road map for your messaging to ensure marketing and branding consistency success. All you have to do is ask!




How Good-Natured Humor Can Enhance Your Personal Brand

You should have humor as part of your personal branding – but make sure your humor fits the situation. Choose the right time and place to use suitable, relevant, and brief wittiness.

Still, if in doubt, go for it. Good people will be grateful for your attempt to put them at ease.

To ratchet up your quick wit:




- Do or say something unexpected.

- Present a paradox.

- Give an anecdote.

- Present an odd fact or outlandish detail.

- Cleverly arrange your words to offer a surprise.

One business journal writer took the slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and cleverly titled his post, “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.” That’s good humor. (Don’t use sarcastic, corny, or slapstick humor.)

Light self-deprecating humor is good because it doesn’t offend anyone. It’s also an offensive move because it prevents someone else from throwing the first punch at you. Self-deprecating humor is okay, but never deprecate others. Also, don’t overdo your self-deprecating humor as this may signal low self-esteem or other undesirable traits.

And yes, there is a risk in using humor as there is in everything else.

Every once in a while your attempt at levity will fall flat. Sometimes you don’t express the funny side well, or whomever your speaking to may have their mind elsewhere and you caught them off guard – or you just weren’t that amusing. Your attempt might have been too esoteric, sardonic, sarcastic, mean, nasty, bizarre, or just not understood and people will not laugh out loud.

Do not let past misjudgments inhibit you from trying better the next time. Rethink your choice of levity but do not stop the use of it. Your wit doesn’t have to make others chortle, or generate the kind of laugh that makes them have to cross their legs, but it’s good to at least cause a gentle smile.

If you make your conversation or messages boring from a lack of good cheer, you will not be their first choice and you may not be taken as a serious, powerful contender.

A C-suite executive who lost favor with the CEO was described as, “He talks too fast, doesn’t smile enough, and had no sense of humor.” Now, there were other factors that led to his downfall. But that was the sentence said to the board.

Sometimes having a good-natured sense of humor is more important than the right answer, decision, approach, look, or response.


This article can be found here.


Marketing doesn't have to be hard or expensive. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective.


As a small business, you may think it's impossible to get the word out about what you do. That's no excuse. And you don't need fads or gimmicks. Follow the proven, timeless tips and techniques of these entrepreneurs to help get the word out about your business and watch it grow.


1. Give Your Stuff Away


Ari Fleischer and Aly Moler of Frozen Pints have grown their craft beer ice cream business by leaps and bounds by attending craft beer shows and farmers markets to do one thing--give their product away. Once customers taste this unexpected combination (which happens to be delicious) for free, they line up at their local store to buy it or even request that the store carry it.


2. Attend Networking Events...


Desiree Scales of Bella Web Design is a master networker.  She attends and presents at almost every event in town. Her contribution to the overall community makes her one of the first people that come to mind when anyone looks for an expert in her area of concentration: small business websites and drip marketing.


3. ...Or, Create Your Own Event


If you don't like the events you are attending, invent your own! Darrah Brustein has created one of the most successful networking events in Atlanta: Atlanta Under 40. The event, which Darrah created to connect with other young entrepreneurs in her city, is now being franchised to other cities.


4. Volunteer to Lead an Organization


The secret to getting the most out of a group or organization is not just to attend but to lead. Take Lisa Calhoun of Write2Market. She served as the president of Entrepreneurs' Organization, allowing her to rub elbows and connect with the brightest minds of the fastest growing companies in the Atlanta market.


5. Start a Podcast


Todd Schnick of Dreamland Interactive is the first person I saw create his own podcast--he interviews other business owners.  People love to tell their story, and by highlighting them on a podcast you make an instant and meaningful connection. It's also a great way to get an education on a topic you are interested in.


6. Be Helpful


Most small business owners struggle to get their finances in line, especially when they move from an Excel spreadsheet to something as sophisticated as QuickBooks. Cathy Iconis of Iconis Group hosts a Quickbook Chat on Twitter every Thursday night at 7:00 EST to answer small business owners' questions--and potentially find some clients.


7. Send a Weekly E-mail


If you want to stay in relationship with your customers, there is nothing simpler than creating a weekly e-mail that provides something of value. Rick Houcek of Soar With Eagles sends one out every Monday that he calls the 2-Minute Monday Motivator. I look forward to getting it every week and often forward his advice to others.


8. Support a Cause


Mary Hester of LAN Systems throws an annual cookout with purpose every Earth Day. Party-goers are encouraged to bring their "e-waste"--old computer monitors and CPUs. At their most recent event they collected more than two tons of IT equipment, keeping it out of the landfills and creating goodwill with their customers, current and potential.


9. Sponsor an Organization


Many local organizations are not that expensive to sponsor for a year if you consider the  so-called per meeting cost. If your product or service is a good fit with their audience, you will get exposure every time the organization sends out an e-mail and a mention every time they meet. Attendees always remember and appreciate companies who sponsor their favorite organizations.


10. Create a Cool Giveaway


When thinking through what your company will  give away make sure it's something they won't want to throw away or easily lose in their desk or bag (think pen).


This article can be found here.


Every company needs to do marketing in some form or another. There are a vast number of options out there and they range from absolutely free to extremely costly. As a small business it is difficult to know how much money should be allocated to marketing if any at all. That cost can range based on whether you are business-to-business, business-to-consumer, selling a product or offering a service. So how do you know how much you should spend?


There are those that say companies should spending anywhere from 1 to 10% and some spend up to 12% of your overall budget. Products can be up to 50% if it is a new product launch. However this is taken from the perspective of a larger company. A small business should be a bit more conservative.


My most important method of marketing is my website. This holds all of the information a potential client might need to understand my services, see a bit about my company history and look at some of our past work. It also provides contact information, which is important.


Another key piece to my marketing puzzle is my business card. It contains my contact information as well as my company website. It is also an important part of my brand and speaks clearly regarding what my company is all about.


Much of my own advertising and promotion is done through networking and word of mouth. What that means is - I schedule several meeting every week that are strictly for networking purposes. I volunteer my time on several committees, I write a blog and I attend networking events and seminars. Some of the latter require an admission fee but often it is quite low. As a business-to-business/services company it is important for me to focus my energy and budget on opportunities that allow me to meet fellow business people one-on-one and get to know them as well as allowing them to get to know me and my company.


Social media seems to be a popular method for companies to advertise – mostly because it is free and easy. This isn’t always the best way to be found. Although I will say it is a great way to specifically target a consumer of a certain age in a certain area if you are paying for an ad. The flip side to that coin is that frankly most people do not promote their page. They simply put it up there and ask their friends to ‘like’ it.  The other issue is the display of information and content is not controllable. In other words you are limited to layouts provided by Facebook or other social media outlets, which creates a sort of ‘sameness’ of your page to other pages. A website allows more control, unlimited content and can allow you to navigate the user experience with more accuracy.


On occasion I also use print but only sparingly. It can be expensive, I don’t have the budget and it doesn’t tend to target my audience. I am primarily a digital media provider so it makes little sense for me use print. Another way to get around the cost of print is to partner with events or organizations you can ‘sponsor’. This will get your brand out there. I recommend that you pick those events and organizations carefully. Ensure you are partnering with a company that reflects something that you see as valuable or you want to create an alliance with. A bad partnership can affect your brand just as much as it can affect theirs. Billboard is another option but I find many small businesses cannot afford this one.


Another method of marketing that is becoming less expensive is video. Video can be used in many areas of your marketing and has a range of costs.  Most of the cost can be in the production of the actual video depending on the company you use, the length of the video and whether the video is motion graphics, stock, live footage or a combination of all.  Using a reputable production house can help determine what method works best for your company based on many factors especially your budget.


The video can be used on your website, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. Many communities also have digital signage networks that will include your ad in a loop for a fee. There are also local television stations that could use this same video format with little adjusting as a television commercial. The other benefit to video is that simple changes are easier and lest costly than that of print.


The decisions involved in making a marketing plan both in terms of what to spend and where to spend it can be difficult. Mistakes can be costly. The best thing we would suggest before making your final decision is to speak to a marketing specialist. They can help you review your options and advise what could work best for your business.  At Little Red Hen Productions we work our fee into your advertising budget so you are not spending any more money but you are certainly getting plenty back.


For more information on marketing and planning please contact us at




Many small business owners have a very small budget when it comes to advertising and the thought of such a precarious expense can be daunting to say the least. There is no guaranteed return on the money spent in this area and the sales people vying for our money each tell us that theirs is the medium to buy. Once you do commit to the leap into the unknown the next question is “what do I have to say?”



When deciding on what to place in this ad the simplest way to imagine how the reader will receive it is to think about how YOU read and view advertising. For instance – I read the paper once a week. This is not great for newspaper ad guys but there it is. And the only things I really pay attention to are the stories and the flyers. This isn’t true of everyone but that’s how I do it. However, if I am in the market for a car then I start to pay attention to car ads. But I don’t go out of my way to buy the paper every day looking for ads – I usually just look online. So what type of information is vital in any ad? Here is my top 5.


1. Your Logo – every form of advertising should be a branding opportunity. People need to be familiar with your brand and your company name.


2. The Sale/Event – All advertising is great for events but stick to the KISS rule. Include only what the customer needs to know: When Where, What is the event.


3. Where to get more information – call click or come in. Most people prefer to research online but if you are going to promote a website make sure the site has additional information about the sale or the event.


4. Pictures – Make it visual. Readers are more likely to notice your ad if there is a great visual. Barring that make it a killer design!


5. Call to Action - You want the customer to either come to your event or contact you for more information. Even call if needed.


The best way to ensure that your advertising is truly effective is to hire a professional. We know how to design and what the design should contain. We know what gets people’s attention and we have the knowledge and experience to help guide you through the process.