AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

One-Minute MarketerClear is the New Clever

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Clear is the New Clever

Sometimes our industry gets a little too clever for our own good. In the search for clever headlines and concepts we sometimes deride others to be a bit funny or witty. Wells Fargo found itself in the witty quagmire this fall.wells-fargo-ads_20160906164234062_5876840_ver1-0_1280_720

In the past, this little writing philosophy prompted a giggle or laugh, but now, you can receive a firestorm for even the most innocent of efforts. The campaign was to promote teen financial education day. The ads featured cute kids working in STEM fields. So far so good.  The headlines said, “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today.” Or, “An actor yesterday. A botanist today.” The end of the ad featured a copy point saying, “Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.”

In the New York Times, Wells Fargo said the ads “were intended to celebrate all the aspirations of young people and fell short of that goal.” One of the tweets the Times published was from Donna Lynne Champlin (@DLChamplin), “2016’s highest paid actor at $64 million vs highest paid botanist at $165,049. @WellsFargo, u sure ur a bank? #math.”

“Clear is the new clever.” I’m not sure who originally said this, but it is extremely relevant in this social media world. Loud and literal beats understated elegance on the internet. So how to avoid this PR pothole? Remember that if you are picking on someone else to make your point, you will lose on social media. This ad was suggesting the sciences are better than the arts. Really, a need for the comparison? The better strategy is when you remove yourself from the internal issues and start thinking like the customer—spend a little more time thinking so that you can say, “I am not throwing away my shot.”

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.