Category Archives: marketing

The Controversial Use of the Coffin of Famous Dutch Author Harry Mulisch in a Notary Ad

mulischNationale Notaris (National Notary) is an organization of 60 notaries throughout the Netherlands.

The organization wanted an ad campaign for promoting last wills and testaments. It hired ad agency DKTD that came up with the slogan: “Ready to go? Try out the free last will scan of

The ad needed a strong visual. DKTD approached photographer Merlin Daleman and asked him for permission to use a photo of a funeral featuring six pallbearers with top hats carrying a coffin at the Zorgvliet cemetery. It was the funeral of Harry Mulish, a famous Dutch author whose works include The Assault. The film version of that novel won a Golden Globe and Academy Award.

Daleman said that he told the ad agency “you know that’s Harry Mulisch, correct?” He assumed that it was a national campaign sponsored by the Dutch government to advise people to take care of their affairs during their lifetime. Once he saw the photo featured in the ad, he wondered. “I didn’t expect that, but since they bought the photo from me, they are entitled to use it once as they please.”

The CEO, Albert van der Wijk, loved the ad and ordered 5,000 posters were printed. There are 1,500 posters distributed in 12 cities. The ad also features prominently on the homepage of the website.

Family members of the late author were shocked when they saw the poster in Amsterdam. They were not informed by the ad agency.

Danny Tournier, owner of DKTD, claims that he himself was not aware that the photo was of the famous Dutch author’s funeral. “It is quite likely mentioned somewhere in the paperwork, but it did not surface at the crucial moment.”

Mr, Van der Wijk also stated that he was not aware that the photo was taken at the funeral of the author who passed away in 2010. “I just thought that it was a beautiful image. I was surprised that the family had not been informed.”

Nationale Notaris contacted the family and wants to see how the organization can adapt the ad campaign if family members so desire. Removing and destroying all the posters would be a major financial setback for the organization.

DKDT also reached out to the family and contacted Frieda Mulisch, the author’s daughter.  According to Tournier: “Frieda and I understand each other. She understands that we chose this photo, but that there was somewhere along the line miscommunication.”

It will be interesting to see what the Mulisch family will decide…

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Will Book Clubs Be A New Marketing Venue For Authors?

book_open_pagesBook clubs could become a great way for authors to promote their books. Jean Hanff Korelitz, a novelist herself, started “Book the Writer”. A book club can book a writer for an appearance for the sum of $750. From this amount, the author gets $400 while “Book the Writer” keeps $350.

Authors such as Kurt Andersen, A. M. Homes, Zoë Heller, Michael Cunningham and Amy Sohn are happy to be booked. They appear in person at those book club meetings to discuss their works with their fans. The attending club members can ask the writer in person about writing processes, characters, plot lines, etc.

It’s a new way of marketing for writers. They directly interact with their target audience. It’s a great way to build word-of-mouth for their books, especially since opportunities for book signings in bookstores and book tours are declining.

“Book the Writer” is currently mainly active in New York, the center of the publishing industry. According to the founder, she based the concept on the author hosting she did when she lived in Princeton, N.J. She provides the service to book clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Publishers also use book clubs to reach their customers. Little, Brown and Company let its authors attend book club meetings via Skype at no charge. The publisher also sends complimentary copies of upcoming novels to about 75 book clubs throughout the country.

It will be interesting to see if “Book the Writer” will be successful and spread to other cities.

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Biographer Claims That Norman Rockwell Had “Gay” Tendencies To Boost Her Book Sales

therunaway.jpgArt critic Deborah Solomon penned a biography of Norman Rockwell, the popular painter and illustrator who passed away in 1978.

Her “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell” was published in November 2013. In it, she claims that Rockwell had homosexual tendencies, and included sexual innuendo in some of his paintings.

Close friends and neighbors of Rockwell are livid. Jim Edgerton Jr. is one of four generations of Edgertons who modeled for Rockwell since the 1950s. He wrote an op-ed for the Berkshire Eagle criticizing Solomon’s biography.

He wrote: “My [family] completely refute the sexual allegations made by . . . [Solomon] . . . If my grandparents and [Aunt] Edith were still alive, they would say the same. As a close neighbor, they would know. The claim that he was a pedophile or had homosexual tendencies is baseless.”

Edgerton’s father, James “Buddy” Edgerton, and Nan O’Brien wrote a biography in 2009 with the title: “The Unknown Rockwell: A Portrait of Two American Families”. This biography was written with cooperation from the Rockwell family, in contrast to Solomon’s biography.

Solomon and her representatives were not available for comment.  A spokesperson of  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Solomon’s publisher) stated that Edgerton’s piece “misrepresents what Solomon says about Rockwell’s sexuality in the book.” Really?

My personal take? Solomon wants to sell her unauthorized biography by shocking potential readers.

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Throwing The Book At Bookworms – Texas Style

eckPoor Jory Enck! He borrowed a GED study guide in 2010. He got it at the Central Texas community of Copperas Cove located about 70 miles northwest of Austin.

In September 2013, a new law came into effect that defines the failure to return library books as thef, which is a felony. The new law makes sense; non-returning of library books drains recourses. In Texas alone, the libraries loose an estimated $18 million in “lost” books (around 1 million items). Since many communities have to deal with shrinking budgets and rising costs, they are looking for ways to have their library items returned in time.

The Texas procedure is as follows. Any library item that is not returned within 20 days carries a fine of $200. If this fine is not paid in time, a warrant will be issued by the municipal court for theft.

That’s what happened to Mr. Enck. The police went to his address due to a reported disturbance. Once they arrived, they arrested based on a previous warrant for theft of the study guide. He was promptly arrested for theft since he failed to return his overdue library book.

Mr. Enck was released on a $200 bond, and returned the book in question to library. He also turned to the media to state that he wouldn’t set foot in a library again: He also said: “I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon.”

Mr. Eck forgot to mention that he had not been able to return the guide earlier since he had to serve a three-year prison sentence for robbery.

Texas is not the only state cracking down on people like Mr. Enck. Iowa jails this kind of offenders for one week. A man from Newton (Iowa) served jail time of more than a week for not returning six CDs and eleven library books with a total worth of a whopping $770. Vermont and Maine are also cracking down people that don’t return their library items.

The Enck incident is for now an oddity. However, it could happen far more frequently in the (near) future, especially since after such an arrest, long overdue library items are suddenly returned.

So what do you think? Are libraries (and the government) correct to crack down on people like Jory Enck to preserve their assets?

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Nick Brandt’s Haunting Photos in His New Book “Across the Ravaged Land”

mummyPhotographer Nick Brandt released his latest book Across the Ravaged Land.

It features haunting photos of a deceptively still body of water in Tanzania with holds a deadly secret, Due to its unique chemical makeup, it turns any animal it touches to stone. Brandt captures the petrified creatures on camera. The whole area around the lake petrifies animals due to its constant pH of 9 to 10.5, which is an extremely basic alkalinity that preserves these creatures for eternity.

Brandt explains:

“I unexpectedly found the creatures – all manner of birds and bats – washed up along the shoreline ofLake Natron in Northern Tanzania. No-one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake. The water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. The soda and salt causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry.

I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life’, as it were. Reanimated, alive again in death.”

The haunting images look like stills from a horror movie or a Dr. Who/Warehouse 13 episode. But the poor creatures featuring in Brandt’s book are (too) real, and it is therefore strongly recommended to stay away from the real thing….and whatever you do – don’t touch it!

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What They Say and What They Mean

universal-translator-comic-pictureWhat people say and what people mean is often worlds apart – especially in business meetings.  “Decoding” is therefore essential. I personally attended meetings where a potential buyer rated the product offered by the producer as “interesting”, basically saying that it was garbage. It took some delicate talks (and lots of coffee and cake) to convince the producer that (a) the potential buyer was not interested and (b) the product quite likely did not fit the local market.

As a marketing writer and translator, “decoding” is part of myjob.

To give you some tips:

What is said What is meant
Uh, huh I am not really listening to you
Interesting What a piece of garbage
I really don’t mind I DO mind!
OK Whatever
I assume that you can deliver in time? I have my doubts that you will deliver in time!
I hear what you say Are you serious?!
I say You are wasting my time
I must say This is your final warning
Not bad at all Are you serious? Stop wasting my time!
Please understand Let me explain it to you one more time
With the greatest respect I think you are a nincompoop
Not bad at all Please spend the next decade improving it
Quite good Nice effort, I bet our people can do better!
I would suggest… Go back to the drawing board, pronto!
Ah well, Let’s finish this meeting, you bore me
We’ll bear in mind We will forget all about you and your product  once you left or office
I would suggest You don’t know what you are talking about, I know better
That’s quite good Interesting concept for us to develop ourselves
We’ll let you know We will send you a thank-you note at a later time
I love your country Never visited it, but will check Wikipedia for main points of interest
Have a nice trip back Get out of my country

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JK Rowling Claims “ANGER” At Lawyer For Leaking Her Pseudonym – Righteous Indignation?

imagesIn another interesting twist, Ms Rowling has said she feels “very angry” after finding out her pseudonym Robert Galbraith was leaked by a legal firm.

As widely covered by the media, JK Rowling has penned a crime novel (The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first in a series) under the pen name “Robert Galbraith”.

As it turns out, Chris Gossage, a lawyer at her law firm Russells, told his wife’s best friend Judith Callegari, who promptly blabbed it to whoever wanted to know in the Twitter universe.

Galbraith/Rowling stated: “I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. A tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know.”

Needless to say, Russells Solicitors went into “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” mode, apologizing “unreservedly”. In good lawyerly fashion, the firm pointed out that the secret was leaked “during a private conversation” and that “the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly. On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified JK Rowling’s agent.”

Rowling reacted to the apology by suing the lawyer and the friend. Her attorney, Jenny Afia, argued in High Court of Justice that her client felt “angry and distressed that her confidences had been betrayed.”

Russells agreed to reimburse Rowling’s legal costs and to make a “substantial” donation to The Soldiers’ Charity, which helps former military personnel and their families.

What do you think – another clever marketing move?

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Blond or Blonde – That’s The Grammar Question

It sounds like a joke, but it’s actually a legitimate grammar question: How do you spell “blond“?fotolia_501453_XS

The first known use of “blond” in the English language dates back to 15th century. The word has its roots in Old French, where “blund” or “blont” referred to a color midway between golden and light chestnut.

It gradually replaced the native term “fair” which derived from the Old English fæġer.

Blond is also traced back to the Medieval Latin word “blundus” which was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus meaning yellow.

In modern English, the word keeps two forms: blond for a fair-haired male, and blonde for a fair-haired female.

Blond is also the more common spelling for the adjective. Both “blond” and “blonde” are can refer to objects that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. Examples include pale wood and lager beer. Starbucks used the female form to describe one of their roasts.


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JK Rowling’s Secret Crime Novel – Clever Marketing to Boost Sales

koekkoekRobert Galbraith penned a 450-page crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling.

In the tradition of PD James and Ruth Rendell, it features sleuth Cormoran Strike, a damaged war veteran turned private detective, to investigate the death of a troubled model who falls to her death from Mayfair balcony.

The book was released in April 2013 and got positive reviews, but low sales of 1,500 copies. In July 2013, an untraceable Tweeter Jude Calligari exposed Galbraith as JK Rowling.

The result?

  • Within hours, the crime novel went up more than 5,000 places to top Amazon’s sales list.
  • The “Movers and Shakers” section of Amazon reported that book sales went up by more than 507,000%.
  • It outperforms by far the first post-Potter book (The Casual Vacancy) that Rowling wrote.
  • Excellent preparation for the release of the next Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith in 2014.

Rowling claims in an interview with The Sunday Times: ‘I had hoped to keep this a secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without any hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feed-back under a different name.’

Nicely put, but I am not buying it. How I see it, once sales were not as expected, the tweetleak was a convenient way to create a (social) media storm and boost sales. This clever marketing ploy worked like magic. Chapeau!

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Macy’s Costly Typo – Why Proper Copywriting and Editing is Important

macys-typoMacy’s mailed a promotion to its U.S. customers in which it offered a necklace listed at $1,500 for $47 under the heading “Super Buy!”

According to Macy’s: “The item had the wrong price for $47. The correct price is $479 dollars and because of that it’s a pricing error.”

Although Macy’s apologized for the error, no explanation why it happened was given.

Macy’s spokesperson Beth Charlton stated: “When the mistake was caught, signage did go up in the fine jewelry department and on store doors alerting customers that a mistake had been made.”

The copywriter who made the catalog mistake was recently fired, quite likely as a result of missing the typo. If so, this is unfair. As all copywriters know, it’s difficult to proofread your own work. In this case, where missing a digit results in financial loss, clever companies would have another writer or editor proofreading the copy. Was Macy’s in this case “penny wise, pound foolish”? We will never know.

Cynical marketing minds suspect that Macy’s did not make an honest mistake, but that is was a publicity stunt. If that is the case, Macy’s has for sure succeeded – the media coverage was enormous. Initial covered by, it quickly went viral and was featured on several TV stations.

The main story is a human interest one – Robert Bernard tried to buy the necklace for his wife at the Collin Creek Mall, but a customer in front of him bought the whole stock. (A marketing blunder – normally bargain offerings limit the amount of items a customer can buy).

According to Bernard, the clerk offered to sell Bernard two of necklaces for $47 and have them shipped to his home. Total Savings was $1,400, his receipt reads. This does not make sense, since Bernard claimed that he wanted to buy one necklace as an anniversary gift.

A few days later, Macy’s notified Bernard about the error and stated that the correct price was $479 (still a bargain, considering the original price). Bernard went to the media stating “I’m very, very bothered by it because I don’t want anybody else to feel the way I feel.”

No matter what, this incident underpins the importance of professional copywriting/marketing writing and editing!

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