Does Your Company Speak In A Consistent ‘Voice’?

One of the most effective ways to make sure your company’s message is getting through is being 19185739 copy able to speak to your prospects in a consistent voice.

From the content on your web site to the copy in your trade ads, sales letters and collateral material to any media or digital advertising you may do, the tone and manner of your communication is something you want to be sure is coming across in a consistent, informative and persuasive way.

A lot of companies underestimate the power of consistency in their communications. In fact, many companies ignore the notion altogether. This is mainly because they may lack the basic understanding that the tone and manner of their communications are two of the main elements that define the character of their brand or their company. And that companies, like people, are judged by the quality of their character.

8259532 copyLeft Brain and Right Brain Functions.

While the benefit and support for the product or service work on the analytical side of the prospect’s brain, the brand character, or tone and manner, work on the emotional side, helping to paint a picture of the company as an entity they want to do business with…that they would trust…that would also be the best fit for them.

The art of persuasion is one in which the analytical and emotional sides of the communication work together, so the prospect takes away the facts about the product or service and, equally as important, a good feeling about it.

A good writer is generally someone with the innate ability to combine these elements in the communications they create. These are people who are passionate about and skilled at writing, and experienced enough to understand that their work must reflect the essence of a marketing or communications strategy on a consistent basis.

Because a lot of this engagement happens subconsciously in the prospect’s brain, this combination of elements is very important. Because one of the things that hasn’t changed about communication over the years is that prospects are always looking for a reason to stop reading. Inconsistency breeds mistrust and a unwillingness to take the leap of faith required to become a client or customer.

The Power Of A Consistent ‘Voice’ Should Never Be Underestimated.

Consistency and character in communications are always going to be beneficial improvements to a company’s image as well as their perception.

Some communication writers tend to concern themselves mainly with the development of big ideas that will attract attention to the company they are promoting. And this is fine. But attracting the prospect’s attention is no guarantee of a sale. Because when they become attracted, they are going to want more information before making their decision. At that point, how persuasively this information is communicated to them is critical.

Writers with the combination of experience, creativity, discipline and strategic acumen can be 26325932.thl copyworth their weight in gold.

Writers  with extensive experience in both big idea thinking and consistent character oriented copy execution are the kind of people you should always be on the lookout for if you want your business to have a dynamic, persuasive and consistent voice.

If any of what you have just read has struck a chord with you, we should talk. Because if your business is not optimizing every opportunity to effectively connect with prospects, then it’s basically squandering that opportunity. And that, simply, does not have to be the case.


O&U SignatureJim Murray, Creative Director
Phone: 416 463-3475
Writing Blog:


My Top 10 Survival Rules for Creative People

After having been ‘in the trenches’ of advertising and marketing for more years than I care to remember, I have managed to glean certain bits of wisdom, which I am happy to share with you today.

I’m not doing this out of a sense of duty or anything. In fact the theory of enlightened self- interest applies here in spades. Let me explain.

If you are a creative person and you take these tips to heart, they might just make you a better, or at least a more discerning, creative person, in which case you’ll be helping to raise the standard of creative quality. If you’re a client, this can enhance your insight into how creative people function and hopefully make more astute decisions when it comes to evaluating the work that’s stuck in front of you.

In either case, it’s a win win for everybody including me, mainly because when the standards are higher, everybody’s job is both easier and more fun.

If that all sounds a little pretentious, so be it. It is my blog after all, and the very act of filling it with my opinions and observations is pretty much as pretentious as it gets. However pretentious it may appear, the fact remains that we all have some wisdom to impart to the world and who knows who will benefit from it?

Jim’s Top 10 Survival Rules for Creative People

1. Creating communication that looks and sounds great but is off strategy does no one any good in the long run. Not even you. Don’t fall in love with an idea unless it’s on strategy.

2. Some writers art direct. Some art directors write. But most don’t. Stick to what you’re good at. You’ll be happier that way.

3. Prospective clients do look at and read your web site. It’s in your best interest to make sure it doesn’t suck.

4. Back up your files every couple of days. Starting from absolute zero after a crash is the best way to go broke and lose a lot of good ideas.

5. Don’t show clients too many concepts. If you do you could run the risk of ending up with some hybrid idea that nobody will understand. Not good.

6. Sometimes you have to let clients do things themselves. After they decide they are unhappy with it, they’ll appreciate you more.

7. Certain types of business do not make good clients. These are people who figure you are making more money than them. The sooner you identify (usually by how loudly they complain about your fees) and get away from them, the better off you will be.

8. Always answer your email and phone messages ASAP. Not doing that is how you lose business.

9. If you like a client or feel they have potential, don’t be afraid to invest a little time in them. Its worth it.

10. At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. If you do too much work for people you don’t like, you can end up not liking yourself.

O&U LOGO 2013

Onwords & Upwords  is a creative communications company in Toronto Ontario.

It is owned and operated by writer, art director and producer,
Jim Murray and provides creative services to design companies,
marcoms and entrepreneurial businesses who prefer
not to work with full service agencies.

Phone:  416 463-3475  •  Email:  •  Web Site: 

The Target ‘Invasion’ Isn’t Giving Everyone A Thrill

urlLast night we were watching something on TV when one of the launch commercials for Target Canada came on. They have done this pool where the little bull terrier mascot gets driven around all over the country in the side car of a motorcycle. Unless you have been living in a cave somewhere you would have found them impossible to miss.

Now as product launch commercials go, this was pretty much in character with Target, whom I consider to be one of the best retail advertisers in the US. This launch commercial is cut to what I thought was a very irritating rendition of the Mr Rogers Neighbourbood theme and on the surface, it appears to be working hard to spread good will and well neighbourliness.

So far nothing too out of the ordinary. But when the commercial ended, my wife, who usually is a very glass half full type of person went on a nit of a rant, declaring that what Target was doing with this commercial was simply awful, pointing out that her takeaway from viewing this spot was that this felt very much like an invasion…they are driving through all the parts of Canada that we all love and saying…get ready…here we come. Then she went on to say that she would never set foot in a Target store, because of the negative impression that commercial created in her mind.

Now my wife is anything but crazy, so for her to interpret what looks like a very innocent commercial as somehow menacing was, at the very least, worth asking the question. So here’s the spot…what do you think? Invasion or just irritating commercial?


Target & Walmart…Poison Peas In A GoldenPod?

Now I know that companies like Target are pretty much in the same boat as Walmart, who for years now has had to deal with the reality that in every community into which they move, they displace a great number of independent businesses, while creating pretty much nothing but minimum wage jobs, while the Walton family just becomes richer and rich, as do the Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian and Korean sweatshop owners who provide the goods for these store, which, of course have pretty much crippled the American manufacturing sector. And on it goes.

And I have a feeling that this may have very well factored into her reaction to this commercial and the Target Invasion.

The question I find myself asking in today’s world is: Are the Walmarts and Targets of the world the new tobacco and booze companies? There are only a few parallels that can be drawn, but the most significant is that wherever these stores spring up, there is a very definite negative effect on the local economies.

Of course, they both have strong pro-community postures and slick PR campaigns to support those positions, and from that point of view I suppose you would have to call them good corporate citizens. But does this good corporate citizenship counter anything more than a small fraction of the economic damage these companies actually do?  I don’t know the answer to that, I only know that it’s a completely valid question.

I also know I will never, it appears, be going to Target with my wife.

O&U LOGO 2013

Jim Murray, Creative Director
Phone: 416 463-3475

Branding Strategy…Ignore It At Your Own Peril

19163463 copy 3A while ago, I had a prospect, who shall remain nameless, contact me. This prospect was wondering what I thought of their current branding and if I would take a look at it all to see if there were any areas where it could be improved.

So that’s what I did and I discovered something interesting. The prospect did indeed, have a logo and a web site and some promotional gear and a video. They even had a pretty good grasp on Social Media. And they definitely had the salesmanship and personality to sell their product. But what they didn’t have was a real brand.

The main reasons this prospect didn’t have a brand were as follows:

1. Their communication didn’t appear to adhere to any sort of branding strategy.

2. They also didn’t appear to have much of a marketing plan beyond a series of tactics.

3. Their messaging suffered from inconsistency and the absence of a clear promise

4. Their presentation was lacking in the emotional elements they needed to be able to really get their message across in an intriguing and sincere way and make their brand appealing.

They did, however, have a vision, but on every occasion that I discussed their branding with them, that vision kept morphing because they kept getting new tactical ideas and those ideas would alter the way they would be able to move forward. And because I never really saw any of these ideas manifest themselves, I was afraid that they had gotten caught up in the “Too many things to do and not getting anything done” syndrome. In other words, they definitely appeared to be putting the cart before the horse and both were stuck in the mud.

j0289307 copyThe Obvious Solution

The simplest solution for this prospect would be to develop (or have developed) a well thought-out branding strategy. This would aid in course correcting and clarifying their positioning and demonstrating true brand character. It would give them a frame of reference for all the tactical ideas they had, allow them to discard those that were off point and, because they would be working with someone like me, who would insist on prioritizing the execution of these ideas, they could actually start getting them done.

As a creative person all you can do in situations like this is advise the client to create a proper branding strategy then help them re-synch all the elements of their program so that they express that strategy and start to create a true branding. Creative people who actually know what they are doing never work without a strategy of some kind. Doing so tends to make the whole process way too subjective and a lot of good ideas get tossed simply because they are not ‘liked’.

This Situation Is A Lot More Common That You Would Think

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for this company, because I really think they have a great and beneficial idea. What they don’t have at the moment is a strategy that will allow them to brand that idea and make it meaningful to the two or three different target audiences they should be reaching out to.

In the 24 years that I have been on my own, quite a few of the prospects I have encountered were people just like the ones I am talking about. They have a great idea, but because they have never really had a proper branding strategy developed, they are either relying strictly on their salesmanship or a series of hit and miss machine gun tactics. As a consequence they never really achieve the levels of success they feel their idea, product or service deserves. And because their main strength, as they see it, is salesmanship, they are reluctant to trust the marketing process to really be of any benefit. j0284915 copy

Well Focused Communication Is A Solid Investment. The thing that all brands have in common is that the brand itself is really a promise made to the end user that the product or service the brand represents will live up to everything that is said about it. In other words, it’s something people can believe in and trust.

The development of a branding strategy and the program that supports it might appear to cost a fair bit of money and take some time. But generally speaking, if it is done professionally, that cost will be amortized very quickly, because it will result in increased sales and awareness. It’s not something that happens overnight. But then the best investments always take a certain amount of time to mature.

If any of this has thrown up a red flag in your head, let’s talk. I can help you and or point you in the direction of the help you need to turn your idea, product or service into a real brand and help it grow. And, trust me, I know some really sharp people.

O&U LOGO 2013

Jim Murray, Creative Director

Direct Line: 416 463-3475


Web Site:


The Fine Art Of Getting Your Butt In Gear

8259532 copyA couple of weeks ago I did a little rant on Facebook. This particular diatribe came about as a result of watching too many economists with too many differing points of view on that good old curse of mankind, CNN. The rant itself was more a couple of aspirins for the headache I got listening to all this nonsense.

The Rant

“ There are a lot of people in business out there sitting on their hands right now because they are letting politics and the media control their lives and the future of their businesses…and they may not even know it.

Don’t be a victim. Our capitalist system didn’t get built by self-serving politicians or talking heads on TV. It got built and will continue to grow because entrepreneurial thinkers and doers did not let themselves be stymied by fear mongering political bullshit. They created a market and they made it grow. And you know what…nothing’s really changed much in that regard since the early days of capitalism.

Try watching less news and you might find yourself being less timid about pursuing your dreams or pushing your company against the grain in a tight economy. The ideas you have and the products and services you create are what make this society go. They’re what keep people employed, and growing the economy with their spending power. As you can see, this has very little to do with politics or the media. My theory is that the more you ignore these blights, the freer you become. Like the Nike people say, just do it.”

An Object Lesson

Back in the early 1980s when I worked in the big advertising agency business, the agency I worked for, DMB&B, was one of the four or five Procter and Gamble agencies. When the recession hit, it would have been easy for Procter to just fold up into a cocoon for a while, lay off a bunch of people, cut a bunch of budgets and ride it out. But they didn’t get to be Procter and Gamble by pussyfooting around in any economy. Instead they made it abundantly clear to all their agencies that while they saw the economic downturn as a challenge, they also saw it as an opportunity to build brand awareness, by simply 30397110refusing to cut back their budgets.  In hindsight, this was brilliant thinking for two reasons:

1. Because they knew their competitors were nowhere near as brave or secure as they were and so holding their budgets while their competitors decreased theirs, gave them a whole lot more presence in the marketplace.

2. This bravery or (or as Procter would put it, right minded business decision) was infectious. The agencies were grateful, highly incentivized and inspired by this and worked that much harder to make good things happen for their gutsy client. This lead to a lot of great advertising and promotions that gave the consumer the feeling that Procter was really on their side and doing their best help stretch their budgets.

The Result

Procter and Gamble didn’t fall for all the doom and gloom crap that gets thrown around in every recession. As a result, they came out the other end ahead as usual. And their competitors all came out with miles of ground to make up to win back confidence and rebuild market shares that had eroded.

j0284915 copyWhat About Now?

Today, the situation is even worse. We have 24 hour a day purveyors of doom and gloom in the media. The nature of reporting has morphed into a fear promoting ‘reality show’ mentality. And we have politicians with severe partisan biases feeding the media sharks on a daily basis. The result is that a lot of small to medium sized businesses, which are really the lifeblood of the economy, are suffering from something akin to paralysis by analysis, (caused by fear and confusion) which leads me right back to the rant above.

We All Need To Keep Moving

The economy moves in cycles. It’s up and it’s down and it’s always moving in one direction or another. The smart companies are the ones who tend to make their own way, being aware of where the economy is, but not falling victim to the fear and confusion that a downturn can engender.

Pragmatically, not every company can afford to be as brave as Procter and Gamble. But then again, can any company really afford not to be brave in their own way? It’s a hell of a question and one that every business owner out there sitting on their hands right now should really be asking.

If you’re asking that question of yourself, let’s talk about forward motion.

O&U SignatureJim Murray Creative Director
Direct Line: 416 463-3475
Web Site: