Editorial: Call Your Mom

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Sharp thinking often appears in the most offhand statements.


While discussing the grueling committee process by which many Web site design decisions are made, Carolyn Clark, marketing manager of network sales at Mail.com, a New York-based e-mail marketing company, said, "Sometimes, I think you're better off just calling your mom and asking her what she thinks. You know. 'What works for you, Mom? What doesn't?'"


Bravo.


Carolyn apparently does not come from the "People Are Stupid" school of marketing, a place that's been handing out way too many diplomas lately.


Graduates of the "People Are Stupid" school are easy to spot.


Every marketer at one time or another, after watching an effort bomb because its recipients didn't do what they were supposed to do, has heard one of the effort's engineers say, "Boy, people are stupid." What irony.


People aren't stupid. They're busy. They're our mothers, our fathers, our wives, our cousins. OK, some of them are stupid. But for the most part, their bosses are breathing down their necks; their customers are barking at them; their kids are screaming. They don't have time to wade through creativity for creativity's sake.


And if they give the marketer any conscious thought, it's usually negative.


Which brings us to an example of marketing that certainly could have benefited from a call to mom: a cocktail reception invitation from New York marketing communications firm The Lord Group.


The invitation is a perfect example of a "me-marketing" effort in which the recipient is the last thing on the sender's mind.


Opening the card reveals that the bottom inside panel is mirrored. The top inside panel features the headline "Come check out our new image" printed backwards. Holding the top panel at a low angle is supposed to allow the recipient to read the invitation by looking at its reflection in the mirrored bottom panel.


Get it? Come check out our new image?


Thanks, Lord Group. Just what I needed: a surprise look at my double chin in a cardboard mirror while opening my mail at work -- a reminder that the 20 pounds I vowed to lose two years ago has increased to 30.


What's more, the backwards type is 8 point, sans serif and reversed -- hard to read even when we don't have to bounce it off a crude cardboard mirror.


This from a communications firm that claims its clients include Bell Atlantic, Sara Lee Coffee and Tea, Kraft Foods and Major League Baseball.


I never did take the time to read the mirror type closely enough to find out exactly where The Lord Group's bash was to be held, was too busy thinking about how a never-ending parade of industry cocktail parties undermines a healthy diet.


And, of course, when few show up at The Lord Group's bash, someone's sure to say, "Boy, people are stupid."


Actually, we're all calling our moms, and then we're going to spend a little extra time on the treadmill.
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