Working Without a Net

A few weeks ago, some circus performers were injured when the chandelier that was holding them by their hair gave way and sent them crashing to the ground. They were performing without a net which of course made the act that much more daring but working without a net clearly has its drawbacks as they unfortunately discovered.

In the marketing world, we always attempt to work WITH a net. That means getting buy-in from all members of the client team to try to eliminate multiple changes to a project. It means proofreading everything we do with two people so we minimize the chance for any errors. It means following up with vendors and media to make sure they received critical files so we are not informed at the last second that they never received files that we assumed they got a week ago.

We are, after all, in the communication business. If we are not experts at communication, how can we expect our clients or vendors to be?

Sometimes in life, playing without a net cannot be avoided but just be forewarned, like the Ringling Bros circus performers, you could end up on the ground with broken bones.


The Compliment Sandwich

When our graphic designer recently informed me that I had delivered a “compliment sandwich”, I must confess, I had never heard the term before. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had probably offered up a number of compliment sandwiches, such that I could probably open a a compliment sandwich shop should I wish to. For those less informed like me, a compliment sandwich is a compliment sandwiched between layers of not so complimentary bread.

In practice, it might go something like this. “Hi Judy. I really like your new outfit. That’s weird because I thought they had discontinued that style”OR “That new ad is really eye catching but I was wondering if you really like the logo in that position and what if that dominant color was green instead of blue?”

I was always of the belief that you should add a little sugar to make the medicine go down but given recent reports that sugar is even more toxic than we thought, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea to begin with.

Given my designer’s reaction to the compliment sandwich, I am now giving thought to not serving these two dishes (compliments and criticisms) on the same platter. For starters, maybe I’ll just serve it open faced. Less starch and possibly more tasty.


In the NBA, when a player drives to the basket and gets fouled, he sometimes gets the benefit of the doubt with the understanding that he probably would have made the basket so he gets credit for the basket and gets to go to the foul line.

They call this “Continuation.”

At Clayman, we are going through our own Continuation. Entering our 60th years of continuous business, we closed our doors today at our Akron office. This is the first time since 1954 that a Clayman sign has not hang on the door of an advertising agency in Akron. The good news is that, like the NBA, we have Continuation.

Our new Marietta home is coming together. Once all of our Akron office contents are integrated into our Marietta office, we will be whole again.

Even though it is just southern Ohio (or the Mid Ohio Valley as they/we call it), there is an openness and friendliness that we have noticed from the beginning. Our team is bright, vibrant and ready to work hard to get the job done and done right.

I like this concept of Continuation. As we get settled in our new home, there may be some slight delays for a week or two so please “pardon our dust” but we are nearly there and once we are, look out Mid Ohio Valley. Clayman has continued!

Find us at Clayman & Associates, LLC

Reno Business Park

27811 State Route 7

Marietta, OH 45750

P: 740.376.1470

F: 740.376.1471


I Just Wrote a Check to Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is a multi-billionaire. So it took me by surprise when I recently wrote a check to Berkshire Hathaway. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Shouldn’t Warren be writing me a check? He can certainly afford it but it turns out that B-H’s latest venture is into real estate. Those acquisitions included a small real estate company in Marietta, Ohio by the name of Old Colony.

When our company was recently purchased by Alliance Industries, Inc. located in Marietta, Ohio, we started looking for houses. We found a beauty overlooking the Muskegon River. It was listed by one of the old, local real estate companies—Old Colony. But there was a change on the way to the bank. During the negotiations, we discovered that Old Colony had been purchased by Berkshire-Hathaway. I thought, “Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that Warren Buffett is extending his tenticles into the little hamlet of Marietta and I am now doing business with him?”

Once I realized that the answer to that question was “Yes!”, I found myself writing a check for earnest money to Berkshire-Hathaway. For some reason, I never envisioned the day when I would be writing a check to Warren Buffett’s holding company.

Maybe that is a reflection of where we are as a country. Even in Marietta, Ohio (population 16,000), Warren Buffett has put his imprint on business.

When is Counter-Messaging Important?


With all the talk about content marketing and pushing out the right message, we sometimes lose site of the fact that in some cases, the message that is pushed out must be counter-messaging. Whether it is the president trying to defend his healthcare plan or a company whose product is under attack by a competitor, there is a time when counter-messaging is appropriate.

The key is to counter the arguments against your product or company without coming off defensive. That can be a very fine line. Choosing the right words or phrase for your message is imperative. Just as in human interaction, getting angry and just throwing darts at the competition is not counter-messaging; that is counter-productive.

Remember Toyota’s problem of a couple of years ago concerning abrupt acceleration? They took a tremendous hit to their reputation and barb after barb from the competition who challenged them on safety. After they absorbed all of the blows and let the dust settle, their counter message was to institute a 2-year free maintenance plan with every new car. It took some of the immediate sting away and ultimately, over time, Toyota gained back most of their followers.

Every situation is different but finding the right balance for your counter-message is the key. Just as Toyota did, let the dust settle first. We have all sent emails that we regretted before we cooled off. The same logic applies here. Plan your approach with a clear mind and focus on the outcome you wish to achieve. Make sure marketing, sales and the entire management team is all on the same page. Then, go for it.

A Sad Day in Cleveland, Ohio

To those of us in NE Ohio, the story had been coming for months. We learned some time ago that Advance Publishing, the publisher of the Plain Dealer was going to do in Cleveland what they had already done in New Orleans and other markets where they publish the primary daily paper. That is, they were planning to cut home delivery to just 4 days a week (Wed., Fri, Sat. and Sun.). Well, the day of reckoning is here. While the paper will still be printed every day and will be available on news stands on the other days, subscribers will now only get the paper at home on those designated four days.

While Advance has taken significant heat from both subscribers and media pundits, they had already laid out their path in advance and had instituted the practice in other markets. The difference is that Cleveland is the largest market where Advance has tried this strategy. Their story is that they are responding to the market and that people are gravitating to the web for their news and their online portal will serve that need.

If that is the case, how will the news (whether digital or print) be well served by cutting half of the newsroom? Again, Advance has responded that they are hiring for the digital side of the business that they have broken off into a separate division. But one wonders if the digital side will have the editorial muscle to tackle investigative reporting which is at the heart of good newspaper reporting. My generation obviously looks to Watergate as the poster child in this area but newspapers have been the entities that have traditionally challenged local governments to do things right. Newspapers are the medium that has found corruption hiding in the dark cracks of government and big business. Who will police the police?

I remember hearing an interview with David Simon who created The Wire where he discussed this quandary about the loss of newspapers. He lived it at the Baltimore Sun and was many moons ago. The story is that much more dire now.

Yes, many online sites are doing a great job of reporting politics and business issues with great reporters but are the everyday citizens who were used to reading their morning paper reading these sites?

I don’t think so.

Now we have the Washington Post being bought by Jeff Bezos (Amazon). That leaves one family owned independent newspaper left from the grand old newspaper families—The New York Times.

What are Mr. Bezos’ plans for the Post? Nobody seems to know. Further more, nobody seems to know if Mr. Bezos knows what he plans.

Am I just nostalgic for the good old days? I don’t think so. I think I am nostalgic for reading good reporting in my local paper.

Making a Statement About Gray Hoodies

You’d have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the added significance that gray hoodies have taken on in recent months. The most immediate example of course is the oft shared photo of Trayvon Martin wearing one, presumably the same one he was wearing on the night of his murder.

After the trial, many went to social media and changed their profile photo on Facebook to that photo (the current method for showing solidarity with a person, a cause, an event, etc.).

Only one problem. Not everybody is hooked into the plan and not everybody got the notice. Case in point: the gym that I belong to has a large cross-section of members, many of them seniors getting back in shape after years of neglect. One fellow I see there regularly I am friendly with as we formally did business together. I have noticed over the years that he is always adorned in the same workout attire: gray sweatpants and a matching hoodie which he wears over his head. He has worn this for the five or six years we have both been exercising at this facility.

But now, that gray hoodie has taken on a life of its own – a life that he never intended. For those who do not know him and know that he has been wearing this “outfit” for years, they may assume he is making a statement. They may assume he is taking sides in this national debate. They may assume that he is trying to rub his opinion into our face. Unfortunately, they would be making a wrong assumption.

Sometimes a gray hoodie is just that – a gray hoodie. I can assure you that this gent never gave it a second thought when he packed his workout bag for his regular trip to the gym. Same stuff every time. But this time, the media and so many average Americans had decided that his regular workout garb was now significant. His gray, subdued hoodie might as well have been laced with Christmas lights as if to draw added attention when of course his goal was just the opposite. Blend in. Don’t stand out. Do your workout and go home.

But that’s not the way things work anymore. If the Martin/Zimmerman confrontation had occurred in 1965, Walter Cronkite might have mentioned it on the evening news and flashed a brief photo of Martin in his hoodie (although in those days, it was a called a hooded sweatshirt). Nobody would have grabbed that image and run with it. Today, social media dictates otherwise.

Today, formally mundane details are given new life like a bee pollinating flowers.

Today you are making a statement wearing a gray hoodie.

Strange times.

Who Is REALLY In Charge of Marketing at Your Company?

On the surface, that may sound like a silly question but is it really? When I started in the advertising business many years ago, most of our contacts had the title of advertising manager. These people had similar training to our people. In many cases, they came out of the agency business. they understood typography, graphic design, basic advertising principles, etc.

Today, none of our contacts on the client side have that title. Today, in most small to medium-sized B2B companies (our sweet spot), we are dealing with people who have titles including Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Sales Manager, Sales Director, President, Sales Support, Customer Service, etc. One of our clients just hired a person who carries the title Marketing Manager. That is a first.

My point is that many times, companies don’t have a pure marketing person who has the same goals and aspirations for the company as we have. We are constantly in the position of trying to push the heavy boulder forward in terms of marketing objectives. With many of our long time clients, they get it now and the struggle is just keeping them focused on the goals ahead. Most small to medium-sized companies are totally focused on sales and marketing is either poorly understood and thrown in the back seat for a rainy day (which never comes).

We recently changed the name of our almost 60-year old company from Clayman Advertising to Clayman Marketing Communications for the sole purpose of emphasizing that we do so much more than just advertising. We are trying to promote the whole concept of marketing in the 21st century and all that that entails. It’s a full plate to be sure.

So as we look at our clients and so many similar companies, the question must be asked “Who is really in charge of marketing at your company?” For most of these companies, the answer should be “everyone.” How can everyone be in charge? Because everyone in your company plays a small role in positioning your company the way it should be positioned in the market. It involves using your logos properly, making sure that trade names carry the proper trade mark or registered trademark designations, using your corporate tagline on all of your documents in all the right places, making sure your corporate colors are reproduced properly using the exact PMS colors on your new golf shirts, etc. All of these things play a role in marketing your brand. But who reminds the troops that these things are important and need to be done all the time? That comes from the top. Management must buy in to marketing principles and then spread the gospel. But who educates management?

That’s where we come in. Make sure your company is getting good consul in the area of marketing. It is vital to the success of your company and vital to your future. Then, make sure that everyone in your company is in charge of marketing.

Don’t Look Now: The Worlds of Media and Technology are Throwing Some Curves that Few of Us Saw Coming

Print Advertising Up? : If you were one of the many who were ready to bury print, hold on to that shovel. News came from the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB) that print advertising was actually UP in the first quarter. Though it wasn’t up by much, the fact that print saw a .5% lift in the first quarter of 13 vs. the same quarter in 2012 is surprising to many. Has print found its level? Is the bleeding over? Is this the start of a print comeback (unlikely)? Who knows?

More time will need to pass before we can identify a true trend but what it does mean is that at least a temporary tourniquet has been wrapped around print advertising for the time being. Stay tuned on this one.

PC Sales Down: Speaking of trends, for the first time in forever, PC sales have been down for four consecutive quarters. Bad news for the PC industry as a whole and especially bad news for Microsoft who supplies all of the much heralded and ultimately much maligned Windows 8 operating system into all but Apple’s Mac PCs. Who would have thought that Bill Gates would probably end up spending more years of his life running his foundation than running the company that owned technology for so many years.

TV a Giant Mess: Aereo head Barry Diller, formerly Chairman and CEO of Fox from 1984 – 1992 and a trusted lieutenant of his majesty Rupert Murdock, is now on Murdock’s “hit list” (speaking in business terms only) as Aereo is offering consumers a cheap entry ($10/month) into the world of television using virtually all methods of watching a program other than a television. “Borrowing” the signals that are already “out there”, Aereo is bypassing the retransmission fees that cable and satellite operators pay to broadcast the station owners’ signals. Station owners who previously existed quite nicely on advertising revenue alone have now become dependent on both advertising AND the profitable fees that they charge. Having Aereo do an end around is not sitting well with the established industry and they were in court day one when Aereo announced their business model. But now, the horse is out of the barn and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The one thing very clear is that TV like all other media is having to redraw the rules on the fly.


Original Programming: Remember when all TV programming came from the Big 3 networks and nowhere else? Then came premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Then other networks like AMC, FX and Syfy followed suit with quality original programs proving that the playing field had widened. Now we have Netflix creating its own quality programming (see House of Cards), and Google through its YouTube website creating original programming. One job I would not want to have today is head of programming at one of the Big 4 networks. Doesn’t sound like job stability to me.

“Would You Like Some Phone and Internet With that TV Programming? We are quickly getting to the point where we will not have independent phone, internet and TV providers. Time Warner Cable has been hocking their triple threat of cable, internet and now digital phone service for a few years now. Yesterday came word that Dish wants to buy Sprint so they can do a similar bundle. Only one problem. Sprint was already approached by Japanese telecom SoftBank that agreed to buy Sprint last fall. Now Dish is trying to up the ante. Seems to me these mega communication companies are going to eliminate competition and consumer bills will continue to rise.

Would You Pay For Your Trade Magazines?

As the terrain in print media continues to change, one area that has not received much attention is trade publications. When I started in the business over 30 years ago, the SRDS (Standard Rate and Data Service) book that was our bible for publication rates and circulation was one hell of a doorstop as it included over 3,500 publications. That’s just business pubs. There is a separate listing for consumer, newspaper, broadcast, online, etc.

I don’t have an accurate count today but like all print media, suffice to say there are far fewer than 3,500 publications. We have all seen the health of print media on life support over the last seven years or so. Perhaps newspapers have been the hardest hit as hundreds of newspapers have either gone out of business, shortened their frequency of issue (see New Orleans Times-Picayune) or cut their reporting staff to the bone.

What is rarely reported is the relative health of business publications. We have seen scores of them fold during the recession and others left standing are a shadow of their former selves. Still, there are some that appear to be as strong as they were going into the recession. Is it that some markets are still strong consumers of print?

Is it that some publishers have played the game right to somehow keep their print product vital? We are not sure of the answer but it is clear that not all trade publications are ready to take their ball and go home quite yet.

Newspapers provide an interesting laboratory for this discussion. The PEW Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that 450 dailies now have some type of pay wall. Further, their most recent report notes that the NY Times is now generating more revenue on circulation (both print and online) than ads.

That got us to thinking. The traditional model for creating revenue for trade publications has been advertising. The magazines are mailed to the recipients free under controlled circulation meaning that you have to “qualify” as a valid recipient to receive the publication, thereby assuring the advertiser that they are reaching the intended audience as stated in the publication’s circulation statement.

While newspapers have always charged for the print version of the paper, the advertising is what really kept everyone employed. When the advertising dropped off dramatically during the train wreck that was the recession combined with the meteoric rise in digital, the ability to print a newspaper and have it by your front door the next morning became a losing venture for many newspaper publishers. Their only option was to cease publishing a print version and go solely online or fold entirely. But that’s where the real problem surfaced. Newspapers found that charging for online content when most people had grown up expecting it to be free created a disconnect with their readers. The Wall Street Journal and the NY Times were at the front end of trying to determine the appropriate model for success. After various starts and stops, both papers now have a pay wall that is working. As noted above, the NY Times is even generating more revenue with circulation than with advertising. This statement would have been almost unheard of just a couple of years ago.

Now back to the question of trade publications. Yes, they have all transitioned online with a multitude of online advertising options from banner ads to enewsletter sponsorships to eblasts and video sponsorships. The problem is that none of these opportunities come close to generating the same income as a full-page ad in their print version. Even if we all agree that print is less important today than it was in the glory days, the cost of print still seems to be “grandfathered” in when it comes to rates. If online is where it is at today, why can I buy a group of online offerings for less than one full-page print ad?

So now the ultimate question. If business publication companies are so sure of their product, why don’t they consider a paid circulation option or at least a pay wall online for their content?  Are they afraid that their audience would just not ante up? Recently, a major publisher of medial journals created a very nice iPad app to allow people to read their journals online. Until now, you just had to download the app and read any issue or article you wanted. But now, they have decided to charge $12.99 for each issue if you are not already a subscriber. It would be interesting to know how much revenue they generate with this tactic at the end of the year. And next year, will they charge even their subscribers for the online version of the magazine?

Changing business models has been a major point of discussion at publishing companies for years now. They are constantly looking for other avenues of income. That is why so many publishers have gone into the trade show business. At first, it was a hedge against  the risk that other departments within the company were suffering but many found it to be a tremendous winner (at least as long as the trade show business remains healthy).

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years. Stay tuned.