The Ten Most Common Mistakes in Marketing

Many years ago the Wizard of Ads®, sometimes known as Roy H. Williams, published a best-selling business book in which he discussed the Twelve Most Common Mistakes in Advertising. His insights were praised by advertisers and advertising professionals alike. Eventually they were distilled into a widely circulated 45-minute video presentation, still available on DVD and as an instant video download on Amazon. For a business owner wanting to avoid common pitfalls and expensive advertising mistakes, it’s worth its weight in gold.

In the Monday Morning Memo of June 27, 2016, Williams introduces a shiny new compilation: the Ten Most Common Mistakes in Marketing. Reading it today, it strikes me not so much as a replacement for his earlier list but a refinement, prompted partially by the proliferation of social media (most notably Facebook, about which the Wizard has spoken in some detail here and here. In the latter memo, he referenced a detailed experiment that bluntly concluded “Facebook ads don’t work“).

Accordingly, the lead item in the Wizard’s new compilation is this:

  1. Inappropriate Use of Social Media

The whole world is on FaceBook, but is that the right place for your product or service to be advertised? To get a clear idea of the kinds of offers that are working well on FaceBook, go to the Success Stories page at Judging from this list of success stories, it would appear that FaceBook works extremely well for getting people together socially, not so well for hard goods and services. (HINT: I think there may be a reason they call it “social” media.)

Other mistakes he notes in the new list include Over Confidence in the Value of Targeting, Assumption that Every Message is Relevant, Fear of Criticism, Unsubstantiated Claims, and Assuming the Decision-Maker is the Only Person You Need to Reach.  His observations, as usual, are spot-on.

Whatever your business, you should check out the Ten Most Common Mistakes in Marketing. You can download the .pdf version here.

You’re welcome.


Rod-148x150Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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When You Say America, You’ve Said It All

“With the backdrop of the Olympics and a comically botched election, this summer is bound to be what Ricardo Marques, a vice president from Budweiser, calls ‘maybe the most American summer ever.’

“So Budweiser is going to potentially ingenious, potentially absurd branding extremes. The company has kept the same can you already know, but when you look closely, you’ll realize that it has swapped out its own name, ‘Budweiser,’ for ‘America.'” (FastCoDesign)

FAST COMPANY’S take on the Budweiser-to-America “identity swap” is an entertaining three-minute read, about an iconic American brand’s new identity – at least through the remainder of the year.

On the one hand, it takes a strong, self-confident brand to “literally erase their own name off a package and put a country instead…”  On the other, the foamy tsunami of free exposure and buzz pretty much erases any real risk to the brand. Bud fans still know what’s in the can, so they won’t drink any less of the stuff. And beer lovers who normally abstain from Bud and similar mass-produced brews in favor of their favorite micros, will likely buy some America just for the novelty.

Budweiser – I mean, America – is probably going to sell a record amount of their beer this summer, especially with what are bound to be some catchy ads for the Summer Games, solely on the basis of the name-change. Collectors will scoop up cases and stash them, hoping they’ll be worth some money forty or fifty years hence. Remember “Billy” beer? Today you can buy a full 6-pack on eBay for $59.

Of course, opinion is divided as to whether hanging on to Billy was a good move.

So, will you be buying some America?

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Radio Ads Outperform Other Media In Actual R.O.I.

England map and UK Flag

On air

LONDON: The £592m spent on radio advertising in the UK in 2015 represented a value of £4.6bn to advertisers, according to a new report.

British advertisers using radio there enjoyed a return on investment (ROI) of £7.70 for every £1 spent, according to this June 2, 2016 article from media publisher Warc, reporting on a new study by Oxford Economics for Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio.

According to their study, entitled The Value of Commercial Radio to the UK Economy (click link for a full copy),

Despite the “explosive” growth of consumers streaming music, the report noted that this has generally been a substitute for music purchase and is becoming the way that people listen to their own music collection; “radio stations still play a fundamental role in driving music sales…”

The Warc article quotes Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre: “Commercial radio’s popularity with listeners is not in doubt with an incredible weekly audience of 34.3m. However the economic activity it supports has never been examined in any detail. The results are impressive…”

Oxford Economics’ conclusions regarding commercial radio advertising’s impressive ROI for advertisers mirrors those of Neilsen research in the United States, whose landmark 2014 study confirmed big returns on relatively small outlays by advertisers. In an Advertising Age article, “Which Medium Scores Highest ROI? It May Be Radio,” an average return of $6.21 was reported for each $1 invested in radio advertising in the USA, according to a detailed study of ten different brands.

Local advertisers using radio don’t have sophisticated and expensive research studies to reinforce the wisdom of their decision to invest in local radio. Still, many are able to measure the effectiveness of their advertising through increases in traffic and sales of advertised products and services, along with abundant anecdotal evidence that their messages are reaching and influencing local shoppers.

From time to time, we’ll share some of their success stories with you here.  Stay tuned.


Rod-148x150Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

Posted in Magazine, Newspaper, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cremo of the Crop

cooling-mens-shave-cream-frontcooling-mens-shave-cream-backSome time ago I heard Michael Savage reading a commercial for a men’s shaving product called Cremo and boy, did he sound excited.

Now because I shave regularly and, like most guys, occasionally nick myself, his message caught my attention and the name of the product stuck in my mind.

So later I’m walking down the aisle with all the shaving products and there amongst the cans of foams and gels is a bunch of Cremo. I pick up a tube and start reading some of the best advertising copy I’ve seen:  

Impossibly slick formula dramatically reduces nicks and razor irritation.

Can give you the closest, most comfortable shave and astonishingly smooth skin.

Invigorates skin with cooling peppermint, menthol, and tea tree oil

My right brain responds with, Hey, this sounds really good!  The left brain counters: But it’s more than twice the price of the stuff you’ve been using.

Yes, at nearly six bucks a tube it’s double the cost. But then I notice the “90-day supply” part – and the claim on the back that “one tube can outlast several containers of gels or foams.” So, with both sides of the brain in agreement, that tube of Cremo goes into the cart.

First time I use it, I’m impressed. And it occurs to me that the only part of a shaving product that matters is that thin film between the razor blade and the skin. All the foam that sits above the razor does nothing! The Cremo lives up to its considerable hype and now I’m hooked – as is my new son-in-law, thanks to his observant wife who heard me talking about how good it is and decided to pick some up for her husband. (Word-of-mouth rarely gets attributed to advertising, but here’s an illustration of how it happens.)

Turns out Savage wasn’t exaggerating in this case. Which makes me wonder if the Cremo people are as impressed with their radio advertising as I am with their product. So I contacted the Cremo Company to ask about their success with radio advertising and here’s what Fred Greene, their Director of Customer Care, had to say:

“(R)adio is what we’ve been doing for the past few years when we didn’t have “big” (in quotes–always relative) budgets and it has been so very valuable to our efforts to grow awareness and increase sales.  Of course, where you advertise and with whom matters, but we’ve had an amazing response, registered at checkout and in our Customer Service feedback.”

As a consumer and a radio guy, I think that’s cool. And I’m glad to have heard the ad and acted on it as, evidently, a lot of other listeners across the country are, too.



Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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Please Text and Drive

That got your attention, didn’t it?  

But why did it grab you?

  1. Because the message is short and to-the-point. Easy to comprehend.
  2. Because the message shocked you, at least a little. If you know of someone who died in an accident caused by texting while driving, it’s possibly even offensive.
  3. Because the message is antithetical to everything you’ve ever read or heard about texting and driving. Without the word “Don’t” at the beginning, it’s an invitation to risk sudden death. Not what you’d expect.

And that, of course, is the whole point. Until you come to the realization (as you must) that the real message just the opposite of the obvious one. You can’t help but be deeply impressed by it, with no effort on your part required.

Most billboard advertising that I see in my market is ineffectual. Partly because so many billboards are too far away from the road for motorists (their primary audience) to notice them, and partly because they’re crammed with too many words. Even those who notice them can’t read them.

But this billboard? Just three words in large type, surrounded by white space. It’s meant to be noticed.

And its message is deliberately easy to read and comprehend in its entirety: TEXT AND DRIVE

The only other item on the billboard is the name of the advertiser, Wathan Funeral Home. And that combination of message and advertiser begs for further investigation. So when you arrive home or at the office (or maybe you just pull off the side of the road and whip out your smartphone), you Google “Wathan Funeral Home” and up pops their website,  And for the next minute or two, you engage with them, giving them one more opportunity to drive their message home and give you something to think about. As I said, deeply impressed.

Here’s the companion video for this exceptional ad campaign, created by Canadian ad agency John St. and outdoor ad placement company Cieslok Media.



Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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“Leaving the Country If Trump’s Elected? Let Me Sell Your Home.”

Now here’s an example of brilliant Realtor® advertising! This message is bound to have lots of people in her community talking about her and engaging with her, regardless of their politics. As a prospecting and awareness-building ad, this is as good as I’ve seen.

Oh, how I would love to turn this into a radio spot!

Leaving if Trump Elected Realtor



Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at


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Low-cost and no-cost advertising ideas

Happy businessman in glasses holding money over gray background

When you’re short on cash for advertising, use your time, effort, and ingenuity instead.

A recent Google search on the question “How much should I budget for advertising?” yielded 106 million pages of answers.

At the very top of the list was this article from Entrepreneur Magazine, in which the author (who happens to be one of my mentors) provides a sensible, specific, and successful formula for calculating an appropriate ad budget for any business.  In his words: The formula I’ve given you is the only one that reconciles your ad budget with your rent as well as the profitability of your average sale.

But what if you’re just starting a business and lacking the ready cash to make a meaningful investment in advertising and marketing? How can you let potential customers know you’re available and eager to help them?

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads®, in a 2004 memo entitled Shoestring Marketing for the One-Man Band, offers several suggestions, beginning with the reminder that time and money are exchangeable commodities: when we’re short on one, we invest the other. One of the first things you can do is to run off flyers or coupons and hand them out, or place them where your prospects will find them, e.g., under windshield wipers or on the front doors of homes. This is also an easy way to test different offers, to see which ones pull the best.  When you identify a message that resonates with the recipient, stick to it.*

The smaller your budget, the more crucial it is to get your message right. A weak offer won’t attract interest. Yours must be compelling; better still, irresistible.

Another recommendation where applicable is the use of free samples to attract new customers. The beauty of sampling is, of course, that it directly connects your prospect with your product.  Furthermore, as the Wizard points out: “The cost of free sampling is incremental. If no one responds to your offer, it costs you nothing. If you spend a lot, it’s only because it worked well.”

Many businesses will say that word of mouth is their best advertising. Only problem with word of mouth is the glacial pace at which it travels. As one sales trainer put it: “Advertising was invented when Mrs. Smith got tired of waiting for Mrs. Jones to tell Mrs. Brown how good her pickles were.” (Those of us in radio agree that word of mouth is best, and we hasten to add, “We have the biggest mouth in town.”)

Some marketing consultants believe that word of mouth can be bought. For instance, in his Monday Morning Memo of February 6, 2007, entitled “10 Unusual Ways to Advertise,” Williams offered this surprising suggestion:

Ride up and down in the elevators of tall buildings, stand at bus stops, wait at crosswalks or hang around in coffee shops to tell strangers about your business. “Have you heard about _______? It’s awesome.” It sounds nuts, I know, but it works. Pay a kid or do it yourself.

Other low-budget ideas from that memo: project your logo or other message onto a building at night; print t-shirts with your advertising message (a modern variant of the sandwich board); create hand stamps; use hand-painted signs; you might even come up with a novel publicity stunt.

IMG_0408In many cities, supermarkets and other high-traffic businesses provide community bulletin boards, where you can tack up an advertising flyer or poster. Contractors and handymen often leave business cards at businesses catering to the trades. your local chamber of commerce may provide display racks for members’ business cards.  Business cards are often under-utilized for marketing and advertising purposes; learn how to use yours more often and more effectively.

IMG_0410If your business is located in an area that gets good traffic, customizable signage can get your message in front of prospects. Electronic message boards are wonderful, if you can afford one; but even low-cost whiteboard or chalkboard tents placed at the entrance of your business can provide valuable exposure.

GoodDeedsChaseAnd if you happen to have a vehicle wrapped or painted with advertising for your business, it’s a bill-board on four wheels. Driving it around different areas of town every day can make it seem as though you’re doing a lot of business. Or you can simply park it in high-traffic areas, where passing motorists might notice it. If you’re especially audacious, you can even park it in front of a competitor’s business, where their visitors can see it.

Donating goods or services to fund-raising auctions for non-profits can provide limited (still valuable) exposure for your business. You might also be able to do some bartering with advertising media. Some radio stations offer on-air or online auctions, providing cash-strapped businesses with an easy way to obtain radio advertising without having to write the station a check.

Have you run across other low-cost or no-cost ways to advertise and promote a business? I’d love to hear from you.

*In his wonderful semi-autobiography, Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy enumerated eleven “commandments” for creating successful advertising campaigns. Number 8 addresses the benefits of sticking with a message that works: “If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops pulling. Sterling Getchel’s famous advertisement for Plymouth (‘Look at All Three’) appeared only once, and was succeeded by a series of inferior variations which were quickly forgotten. But the Sherwin Cody School of English ran the same advertisement (‘Do You Make These Mistakes in English?’) for forty-two years, changing only the type face and the color of Mr. Cody’s beard.”


Rod-148x150Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at

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Make Your Own Ginger Beer – Homemade Ginger Beer Improved

(This post, my first of 2016, has nothing to do with advertising or radio though. Rather, I’m going to share my recipe for making homemade ginger beer – the non-alcoholic variety – along with some valuable tricks I’ve learned along the way for improving both the process and the result.)

A glass of homemade ginger beer with a slice of fresh lime

A glass of homemade ginger beer with a slice of fresh lime

I’ve been working at this for a few years now, after having been introduced to the delicious homemade ginger beer at South Fork Public House in Pullman. Friends have asked me for the recipe so after making another batch today, I decided to share the recipe here, along with a few iPhone pics that document the process at the end of the post.

The basic recipe is super simple – just 5 ingredients.  I usually make a gallon at a time.

– a clean one-gallon jug with screw cap
nut milk bag (makes extraction of juice from pulp SO much neater and easier)
– 2 small funnels (one for the wet ingredients, one for sugar)
– my wife’s food processor (for grating ginger root to a pulp; you can do this by hand with a vegetable peeler, grater, or Microplane, as I started out doing, but it’s tedious and time-consuming. The food processor and nut milk bag simplify the job and make it a lot less messy. In fact, I don’t even bother peeling the ginger root anymore.  Just wash it and feed it into the processor.)
– (optional) a small piece of cheesecloth to further filter solids from the ginger juice when pouring it into the jug


1. 1 large ginger root (around 1/2 pound, enough to yield 6-7 tablespoons of ginger juice)

2. 2 cups of sugar

3. 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

4. 4 quarts of water

5. One-half teaspoon of active dry yeast (If you want to get fancy, you can use white wine or champagne yeast. I get mine at Tri-State Distributors in Moscow.)


Using a funnel (with cheesecloth filter if desired), pour 6-7 tbs. of ginger juice into the jug, followed by the lemon juice. Using the dry funnel, add sugar and yeast. Fill jug with approximately 4 quarts of water. Be sure to leave 2-3 inches of air space to allow for expansion due to build up of carbon dioxide as the yeast “eats” the sugar.

Cap the jug and shake/swirl the contents until the ingredients are mixed and the sugar is dissolved.

Let the jug stand at warm room temperature for 48 hours. After 48 hours place the jug in a refrigerator to stop fermentation. Chill it until it’s good and cold, then pour yourself a tall glassful with ice and a lime wedge. Enjoy!


I prefer to use a glass jug, rather than, say, a one-gallon plastic milk jug. I place it into a plastic 5-gallon bucket with a tightly fitted lid, reasoning that if I am unable to retrieve and chill the ginger beer after 48 hours and the bottle should burst, any resultant mess would be contained. Earlier this year I experimented with the 48-hour window by letting the ginger beer ferment an extra 12 hours, thinking it would add a little more “bite.” When I went to retrieve the jug from the pail, I found a depressingly delicious-smelling batch of ginger beer swirling around shards of glass at the bottom of the bucket. Lesson learned. Stay with 48 hours’ fermentation at room temperature and you’ll be fine.  If you’re concerned about a bottle explosion the first time around, after 30-36 hours you can open the cap to release a little CO2, then recap tightly for the remainder of the fermentation time.

These days I also prefer to use a little less sugar than the recipe calls for, maybe 1 3/4 cups instead of 2. It makes for a drier taste that I prefer.

After your first batch, you may wish to make modifications to suit your taste. I’ve recently been experimenting with adding spices to the mix.  Last time I made a gallon, I added a pinch each of cardamom, dried orange peel, and ginger powder.  It was tasty!  Today I made a half recipe, adding a nip each of cardamom, dried orange peel, ginger powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper.  We’ll see how it turns out, but I’m optimistic.

A breakthrough!  Last time I made a batch, there was quite a bit of leftover ginger juice.     I decided to pour it into a snack-size zip-lock plastic bag and freeze it, happy at the thought that it would save me a step and the extra clean-up next time. Eureka!  So last time I went to the store to buy ginger root, I bought a pound of it, and after making today’s batch I had 5 baggies of ginger juice to freeze – enough for another two-and-a-half gallons of ginger beer in the coming weeks.


 The food processor makes quick work of shredding the ginger root to a pulp.
'The food processor makes quick work of shredding the ginger root into pulp.'
Place your nut milk bag over and into the bowl, then empty all the ginger root pulp into it.
The nut milk bag has a drawstring closure.  Pull it tight and squeeze, wringing out as much juice as you can into the bowl.
Because I ended up with twice the amount of ginger juice needed,
the rest went into a snack-size zip-lock baggie for next time. It froze perfectly.
Pour the ginger juice into the gallon jug, followed by the other ingredients.
And this is the finished mixture, shaken-not-stirred, ready to sit undisturbed to allow the yeast to eat the sugar, producing the magic fizz. After 48 hours, the jug will be placed in the refrigerator until very cold. Your ginger beer can be enjoyed over the next week or so (if it lasts that long). Non-alcoholic ginger beer is delicious all by itself, over ice with a slice of lime, but you also can use it as the base for a variety of tasty adult beverages, such as a Dark N’ Stormy or a Moscow Mule.
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Fishy Business: “Stop Running That Ad!”


The customer was obviously upset. She complained to the supermarket owner:

I was listening to news talk 1150 and heard your advertisement for “Fresh Atlantic Salmon”.  I just wanted to let you know you are pushing a product that almost every educated consumer knows is garbage.

It sounds funny that on the ad it says freshly harvested and flown into Spokane. You must think people are ignorant to what farmed salmon actually is.

Please stop pushing farmed fish and go with sustainable wild salmon. You do realize the farmed salmon have up to five times the legal antibiotics in their fish meal than what is allowed by FDA for beef?

Having ads like this really show marketing ignorance towards consumers.

It was signed “Educated Consumer.”

Now, this store also sells wild-caught Pacific salmon – the “right kind” according to the complainant – on a regular basis.  So the problem isn’t their failure to respond to their customers’ preferences.  It’s their failure to embrace this lady’s particular worldview.  And how does one respond to that?

(Sigh.)  You can’t please everybody.

I’ve been fortunate in that this advertiser has given me wide latitude in writing and producing his radio commercials from the beginning of our relationship.  And over the years his commercials have generated plenty of positive feedback from customers and peers in the business community (one of the advantages of doing business in a small town).  They also have won awards and given him recognition by his peers in the grocery industry.

More importantly, his ads have brought him business.  Local shoppers know what sets Dissmore’s bakery, meat, produce, fresh seafood, and other departments apart, because their radio commercials have effectively conveyed these distinctions.

Variants of the commercial in question have aired on local stations for the past six or seven years.  Here’s the current version:  

So, when the owner showed me what this particular listener (who may or may not be a customer) was complaining about, we discussed how he was going to respond to her.

I asked him, “How well does Atlantic Salmon sell in comparison to the rest of your seafood items?”  He got on his computer and called up the department’s sales figures for the last 12 months.

In terms of overall unit volume, Atlantic Salmon is #2, right behind fresh Pacific oysters, which are sold by the dozen(s) at a time.  Not surprising they should lead this metric.

But by the more significant criterion, dollar volume, Atlantic Salmon proudly heads the list.  It’s their #1 seller in the seafood department.

Imagine that.

Evidently, consumers like farm-raised Atlantic Salmon – well enough to make it the most popular single item in the seafood department.

I say again, you can’t please everybody.  No matter how hard you try.

But isn’t it nice to know that your radio advertising is working?











Posted in Advertising (General), Awards, Branding, Business, Communication, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, life lessons, Management, Positioning, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales & Marketing, Shop Local, Storytelling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Selling Soap (Meet My New Friend, Duke Cannon)

I made a new friend this past Christmas, thanks to my wife. His name is Duke Cannon. Duke sells soap, about which we’ll talk more in just a bit.

250px-Pears_New_ShapeDid you know that Soap-selling has a storied history? Andrew Pears (b. 1770) is credited with inventing the world’s first transparent soap.  The soaps of his day often contained arsenic or lead and were harsh on the skin. Pears’ experiments with glycerine and other natural products led to the development of his signature transparent bar soap, to which he added fragrance “reminiscent of an English garden.”  His soap became an immediate success in England and found a large market in the United States as well.

Fast-forward a couple of generations. The founder’s grandson, Francis, and great-grandson, Andrew, are now running a well-established family business.  In 1864, an enterprising 23-year-old named Thomas J. Barratt joins the firm as bookkeeper, and the following year marries Mary Pears, eldest daughter of Francis, becoming a full-fledged partner in the firm.

He takes over the firm’s advertising, increasing their annual ad budget from £80 in 1865 to as much as £130,000.  According to adman Faris Yakob,

Barratt is on record as saying “Any fool can make soap. It takes a clever man to sell it.” When he finally took over control of Pears he raised his expenditure on advertising to between £100,000 and £130,000. In justification he never tired of pointing out that he was enabled to sell soap 30 per cent more cheaply than if he had not advertised it.

Did you catch that?  He was “enabled to sell soap 30 per cent more cheaply” because of the increased volume of sales that followed the increase in his ad budget.

Barratt, sometimes called “the father of modern advertising,” recognized the value of a good slogan and created one for his product: “Good morning. Have you used Pears’ soap?”   That little ditty remained in use well into the twentieth century.

Eager to establish the Pears brand as the embodiment of quality and good taste, Thomas procured the rights to a number of works of art to repurpose as advertisements for Pears Soap.  One220px-Bubbles_by_John_Everett_Millais220px-Pears_Soap_1900 of the most famous, a painting by John Everett Millais entitled “Bubbles,” (far left) was turned into a memorable advertisement simply “…by adding a bar of Pears soap in the foreground. Millais was said to be unhappy about the alteration, but could do nothing since Barratt had acquired the copyright. Barratt followed this with a series of adverts inspired by Millais’ painting, portraying cute children in idealised middle-class homes, associating Pears with social aspiration and domestic comfort.  Barratt also made effective use of testimonials, recruiting both scientists and glamorous high society figures. He also established Pears Annual in 1891, in which he promoted contemporary illustration and colour printing. In 1897 he added Pears Cyclopedia, a single volume encyclopedia.”  (Wikipedia)

Thomas Barratt died in April 1914. Afterwards, Lever Brothers took an interest in the company.  Today Pears Soap is made by Hindustan Unilever in India, and is sold in supermarkets and drug stores worldwide.

So, back to Duke Cannon.  From the moment we were introduced, I could tell that Duke prides himself in being a “man’s man.” As he put it, in his time:

…men pursued meaningful endeavors.  They worked with their hands.  They took pride in the things they built, not the things they bought.  And the mindset was simple: men wanted to win, not find the “win-win.”

And then the whole metrosexual trend came and screwed men up even worse.

Now exists a generation of men who have spent more time in a Pottery Barn store than a hardware store.  Hell no.

Duke Cannon’s signature product is, and I quote: A Big Ass Brick of Soap.  It’s three times the size of a regular bar of soap, modeled after the rough cut, “brick” style of soap used by GIs during the Korean War and is manufactured in the same plant that was the primary supplier of military soap for over 20 years.  (And, the company says, a portion of the proceeds of each product sold benefits U.S. veterans.)

Furthermore, it’s designed to meet the high standards of hard working men who want to get clean & smell good without using feminine shower gels and accessories.

My wife gave me two bricks of Duke Cannon soap for Christmas.  The first one I opened was a blue box that reads: “BIG ASS BRICK OF SOAP – Smells Like Naval Supremacy.”




The second brick came in a white and green box and proudly proclaimed that it “Smells Like Productivity.”  It further explained that this was soap “for the early rising man who leads a life of productivity.”  That sounded so promising, I immediately opened the box and put that big ass brick of soap in the shower, where “with a hint of menthol to cool the skin” it would wake me up so I could get things done.  I was pleased to learn that it also has a fresh mint smell and contains steel cut grains for maximum grip. And that’s important, ’cause if you drop this sucker on your foot, your next stop will be the Emergency Room to repair crushed metatarsals and phalanges.

So, I have to admit, I like Duke.  I like the fact that he stands for something and isn’t afraid to say so.  He doesn’t care to be all things to all people, because he knows that that road leads to mediocrity and a flaccid brand.  He’s also quick to tell you what he doesn’t care for, and in so doing etches his brand in sharper relief on the tablet of your mind.




A brand is defined both by what it includes and what it excludes.  So, if you were to visit Duke’s Facebook page (yes, he really has one), you’d read that Duke Cannon products are proudly made in the USA “for hard-working men.”  On the surface, you’d think he’s just written off the female half of the population.  And you’d be wrong.  Even though he’s not selling to women for themselves, he most certainly is selling to women for their men. Remember, Duke wasn’t on my radar until my wife gave me two bricks of his soap. (Pressing her for details as to how this came about, she explained that a magazine she reads, REAL SIMPLE, had put online some suggestions on Gifts for Guys.  She went, she saw, she bought.

Now you might get the idea that Duke generally dismisses shopping as a stupid waste of time. Au contraire. Not all shopping is stupid, only shopping that doesn’t involve buying his products.  He wants you to come back for more.  So, Duke has created a rewards program for his best customers. In his words:




When you visit his rewards page, you’ll find a variety of manly choices, including:   1986 Topps baseball cards, duct tape, sandpaper, an extension cord, spark plug, flat head wood screws, Kingsford charcoal, Weber grills, even a 21″ Viper black steel expandable military baton for dealing with hardheads.  Does this guy understand promotion or what?

I believe there are big things in store for Duke Cannon.  As of now, you can only find his products online.  I’m lobbying my friends at Pullman and Moscow Building Supply to make a full-court press to become exclusive local retailers for Duke Cannon Supply Co. products, mainly because I think they’ll find it a profitable addition to their offerings, and I’m so taken by the brand, I want to help spread the word. (OK, I wouldn’t mind saving the cost of shipping and handling, either.)

Duke Cannon’s Big Ass Bricks of Soap have so far exceeded my expectations, I’d be proud to shill for them.

Hey, Duke.  Need some radio ads?  I’m your guy.  Let’s sell some soap!

Posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Consumer behavior, Copy, Copywriting, Internet, Jingles, life lessons, Madison Avenue, Magazine, Newspaper, Positioning, Problem-solving, Productivity, Radio Advertising, Sales, Slogans and taglines, Storytelling, Uncategorized | 1 Comment