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Is this the best "Aaron" could do?
Is this the best "Aaron" could do?

Advertising pollution

Walking out to the car this morning, my heart skipped a beat when I saw a note taped to the window. Is it a ticket? Nope. Did someone hit my car and leave information? Nope.

It was an ad.

Now, of course, this has happened to all of us more than once. And I'm wondering -- what is the success rate of these direct marketing pieces of trash? The average response rate for a successful direct mail campaign is only about 2.5 percent.

But, I'm also wondering -- isn't this form of direct marketing illegal?

I bet these "notes" are not only ineffective, but repel people away from their cause. This particular note touted the opportunity of pulling in $2,200 each month working for an "International Company" in "Health & Fitness."

These messages are usually about making gobs of cash, however, I have seen everything from dry cleaning deals to charity support.

A couple years ago, I even got one that was printed to look exactly like a parking ticket. The geniuses behind that one must have thought: "The best way to reach our audience is to piss them off, right?"

Now, are these people:
A.) Obnoxious
B.) Pitifully ignorant
C.) Just plain out-of-touch

You decide. I do know this much: Advertising, when done correctly, is informative, entertaining and motivational. When it's done incorrectly, it's pollution.

So, dear Aaron (the contact listed on my note), I suggest an effective social media campaign or, at least, an ORIGINAL guerrilla-marketing stunt. Until then, find something else to do in the middle of the night instead of cluttering up my neighborhood.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have put together "the guide" on harnessing social media.
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have put together "the guide" on harnessing social media.

Are you listening?

I'm finishing up a wonderful book about the effective use of social media, titled "Trust Agents."

Written by a top 100 Technorati-ranked blogger, Chris Brogan, and trend analyst, Julien Smith, this read is becoming "the guide" to using social media and networking at large.

We have all read a blog or two, shared opinions about products online or at least Facebooked, but the ideas and advice these two fellas give about the social media scene is where the "rubber meets the road," as they say.

One of the first nuggets advises you to build a "listening station." There are several free tools out there that you can use to find what's being said about you, your company and your competitors. Here's a good way to start:

  • Set-up a Gmail account at This allows you to access several Google tools.
  • Go to This will become your listening station.
  • Go to Type your name, in quotes, in the search bar.
  • When the results page comes up, right-click on the little orange RSS button.
  • Go back to Google Reader, click the blue plus button and paste what you copied in there.

Repeat this process for your company, products or anything you desire to keep up with. You can also try out or, not to mention YouTube.

While I found a few things about myself, I found it most useful to follow conversations about my clients and their competitors. It takes some decent organizational skills and general patience, but the payoff is fantastic.

Recently, one of my colleagues penned a blog post about his frustrations with Hardees's Restaurants. A day later, a tweet about the blog came from the Hardees's corporation itself, thanking him for the mention. Obviously, Mr. Hardee is working the listening station.

So, what do you think is being said about you?

These are just a few tools that plug you into the now; that help you become a "Trust Agent."

Harley, Apple, Ben & Jerrys ... all examples of branding done right.
Harley, Apple, Ben & Jerrys ... all examples of branding done right.

Strong brands and brilliant bastards

For many of us, the formula for success seems as elusive as an invisible leprechaun. Yet, for some, everything simply works. It works so well that certain brands don't just do well against the competition, they transcend them. People imagine how wonderful it must be to work "there." Some brands even seem as magical as Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory on a casual Friday.

What makes these companies so special? It's called focused, enthusiastic, balls-to-the-wall branding.

Many times the gold that flows downhill from the CEO or company founders is enough to inspire strong brands organically. It's the stuff that others try to imitate, but fall short of in the "genuine" category.

So, who am I talking about? Which brands walk happily to the beat of their own drummer? They're all around us. Brands like Vitamin Water, Ben & Jerry's and Apple have a glow that never ceases to seduce us with confidence, fun and heart. I could go on with brands like Volkswagen, Organic Valley and Harley-Davidson. Speaking of local, there's Trek bicycles, Johnsonville brats and Lakefront Brewery (not to mention our very own

Now, I realize it's not always sunshine and roses within the walls of these companies. I'm just recognizing the magic of our brand perception of them. Sure, the work is sweaty, ugly and stressful at times, but I'm guessing it's a bit less at these places.

It's largely due to the narrow focus of these brands. Number one, their brands reflect their true nature. Number two, they stand for something (and something mostly uplifting or positive). Number three, consistency, consistency, consistency. Not too mention, the work force is on the same page when it comes to the company line.

It's why companies like these have branding standards thicker than the Hong Kong phone book. Every aspect of their communications is drafted in detail. From the core identity to the graphics on the side of the company security vehicles, everything is don…

Apparently, there are only seven living "supercentenarians" in the world. All of them: DOOMED.
Apparently, there are only seven living "supercentenarians" in the world. All of them: DOOMED.

The curse of old people

Is it just me, or are the world's oldest people constantly dying? They reach about 115 years old and ka-put. The world-over this phenomenon continues to plague our eldest. I don't suggest getting this old to anyone. What really gets me the most about the "curse of the super old" is that it always makes the news.

It seems like I read that another 100-something has "taken that little black train" on a monthly basis. Willard Scott gives them a shout out on their birthday, and a few months later they show up on, dead.

Apparently, there are only seven living "supercentenarians" in the world. All of them: DOOMED. (A supercentenarian is one living beyond 110 years.) But this is news ... because ... um ...

Do you know what else? The youngest person on Earth has just been born. NOW. No, wait ... NOW. I suppose that's a lot harder to track, let alone report. And, how do they track who's oldest? Supposedly, that title now belongs to a 114-year-old Japanese woman named Kama. Go visit her, quickly. I'm sure there have been a handful of oldies that have actually been the oldest, but lack "verification." Meh ... paperwork.

The oldest person ever (if you ignore the Bible's statistics) was Jeanne Calment (however, disputed by a 128-year old Salvadoran lady -- now passed). Jeanne was a French gal who lived to be 122 years, 164 days. Remember how important counting "half-years" was when you were little? It gets REAL important when you live as long as trees. Most of the top 100 oldest dead people also  have lived in the United States. Really? India and China have populations over one billion, whereas America has a population of 306 million. Maybe America just has the most powerful public relations staff?

It gets a little sketchy due to verifications based on birth certificates printed on animal skins or cave walls. Not to mention, the most common lie could be about one's age. Do you think women who lie about being YOUNGER, begin to lie about being OLDER …