Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Ask Yourself: Do You Make People Glad You’re Out There?

The cartoon world lost a true great last year: Mort Drucker, best known for his Mad Magazine movie satires. He was 91.

He was an idol of mine: the king of caricature artists. I wanted to pay him tribute, so I did a caricature of him.

I included his distinctive signature and used the “O” to sneak in a second, more cartoony caricature.

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

In fact, they wouldn’t care if most of them disappeared

If you’re a marketer, chances are you really care about brands.

And you assume other people (prospects) do, too.

Behavioral scientist Richard Shotton says that’s an example of the false consensus effect: we think our behaviors and views are more common than they really are.

Most people don’t care about brands.

Consider the Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands 2019 report based on 1,800 brands and 350,000 respondents in 31 countries.

Results: consumers said they wouldn’t care if 77% of everyday brands disappeared.

58% of respondents thought brands were providing poor and irrelevant content.

61% want brands to provide content that is…

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Caution: They’re REALLY asking if you know what their problem is

Here’s a scary thought:

People might have the wrong idea about what we do.

And sadly, it might be our own fault.

Andrew Frazier poses this question:

What’s the first thing you say when you tell someone about your business? Do you talk about yourself?

If you talk about yourself, you won’t connect with your prospect.


“Because most people listen to radio station WIFM.” (= What’s In it For Me?)

How do you tune into that station?

Your prospects have a problem. And you know what that problem is because you’ve researched your target audience.

Connect with your prospect…

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Or do you sound like all your competitors?

Like it or not, every brand has a personality. If you don’t choose it yourself, others will choose it for you, based on their impressions.

Back in 1997, Stanford University marketing professor Jennifer Aaker identified 5 dimensions of brand personality: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness.

Which brand goes in which category is a matter of opinion. You could argue that some brands straddle categories — that Nike is both rugged and exciting, for example.

The funniest category placement I came across: the ImagiBrand blog put Charmin Toilet Paper in the Excitement category. Why? Because Charmin made a “daring leap”…

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Exceptional Customer Service Means Exceeding Expectations

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: good customer service is no substitute for a good product or service. You have to be able to deliver the goods.

Being likable is important. Being a good listener. Steering clear of jargon, and speaking the customer’s language. Those things help with customer service, absolutely — but you need them to begin with to get customers.

So what are the things that will make your customer service stand out?

I’ve been a freelance illustrator for 30 years. I’ve dealt with a lot of different people. …

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Options are essential for achieving a win-win

I worked for a couple of insurance companies before I decided to freelance full-time as an illustrator. I saw a certain sad scenario play out more than once. It goes like this:

There’s an analyst or programmer who can solve all sorts of technical problems. Their reward: they get promoted to management. They become supervisors. They have to manage people. And they hate it. They’re miserable, and so’s their team. They’d rather be solving technical problems.

A smart company avoids the above scenario by providing another option: an alternative promotional track; in the above case, it would probably equate to…

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Ask for what you need, but aim for a win-win

If you want to be successful, you need to ask yourself some questions.

Like: What am I afraid of? What have I got to lose?

You often hear the late Steve Jobs quoted on this point:

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

He’s right, of course, but alas, most of us prefer to think that death is something that happens to other people.

Besides, Mr. Jobs was a billionaire.

Why don’t we ask for things?

Anthony Yeung says we fear losing face…

Illustration by Mark Armstrong

We rationalize them after the fact

Most domestic cats prefer to avoid water. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman used that fact to conjure this wonderful line:

“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it but they’d prefer not to.” –Daniel Kahneman, psychologist & Nobel Prize winner

Professor Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The above line appears in his best-selling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Kahneman says our minds have two systems of thought: the first is fast, automatic, instinctive– we can’t really control it. The second requires logic and analysis: it’s slow, deliberate, and takes sustained effort; i.e., …

Illustration: Mark Armstrong

They share many of the same goals as editorial art

I’m an illustrator. I do most of my work for brands, but I do editorial art as well.

I used to think of marketing graphics and editorial art as two completely different animals — but recently I’ve had second thoughts.

Not long along I was asked to illustrate an unusual first-person account. Here’s a synopsis:

It’s 1998. A California woman, a college senior, is working as an intern at the San Diego Union-Tribune. She spots a flyer in the lobby: REPORTERS NEEDED IN FORMER USSR. She decides to embark on a great adventure.

I was a California native who had…

Woman clicking on her mobile phone is causing blue Twitter bird on perch to tweet
Woman clicking on her mobile phone is causing blue Twitter bird on perch to tweet
Illustration: Mark Armstrong

Take advantage of this free link generator

I’m guessing we’d all like more people to see our content — am I right?

Everyone’s nodding? Good.

You can use Click to Tweet to encourage people to share your posts on Twitter. You need a Twitter account to use it.

Click to Tweet is a free link generator that allows readers to share your content through their Twitter account (which means we’re proceeding on the assumption that most people who read your posts will have a Twitter account).

Here’s how it works:

You start by finding a catchy one-liner in your blog post — something “tweetable.” …

Mark Armstrong

You know how people just scroll past stuff on their phones and computers? I create images that make them stop and investigate.

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