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November 2007
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January 2008

Don't Eat Yellow Snow...And Other Wise Words

Sailor_snow When we're kids we get all kinds of advice from wise people.  Usually our parents are the first to sit us down and start the process. 

As we age our parents words seem to have more credibility.  And, we find ourselves saying many of the same things.  You know it's true.

Over the past year we've written 322 articles about advertising, marketing, public relations and observations about the social condition of life.

It's been a blast and none of it could have been done without the wise advice of the hundreds of people we've listened to and learned from.

We figured, for the final article (it might get a little long) for 2007 we we'd say "Thank You" to many of the folks who've crossed our path.  Thanks for not only being here...but for the wisdom you've shared with us.

Mike_and_cake I've always had a passion for writing.  While getting published in magazines and newspapers had been fun.  Publishing this has been a blast.  (It must be the "control issue"?)  We get to thank Mike Sansone for his help in getting us started.  Early on it was Mike who encouraged us to believe in the world of the Business Conversation and the power of the blog.  Thanks Mike.

Andy Priestly of DWebWare has also had a huge influence on our work.  We love the passion that he and Matt Mann have for creating some of the very best in web design.  We've been together for several years.  It's been a good relationship and we appreciate all the extra help and encouragement.

Carol_hunter Carol Hunter from the Des Moines Register.  It's not that she publishes the letters or articles I send in.  It's just that she keeps in touch.  She always answers my e-mail and I know how busy she is.  In addition..I'm not sure who...but somebody there reads our stuff.  Must.  Either that or we are connected via some sort of extra sensory perception.  That does not mean I'll caucus for Hillary though.  Big thank you too to Richard Doak...same paper...similar ideas.

Gale McKinney has been a friend for nearly 20 years.  He's the CEO of Heartland Communications Group the organization that gave our company its start.  We visit several times a month...and there is always a pearl of wisdom in the conversation.

Chubby_003 Chubby Checker...we know him as Earnest Evans (his real name) and every time we talk it's an education.  Need somebody with a real opinion...about everything?  Chubby's your man.  A great guy with huge energy and a neat company, The Last Twist.   So, tell us Hy-Vee when are you coming on board?

Mom My Mom...June.  She has really NO idea what it is that we do here but she always has sound advice.  Like..."Michael, don't eat yellow snow!"  Thanks Mom...I'd pretty sure I've not done that...yet.

Andy Brudtkuhl from REL Productions.  Thanks to Andy we're part of the network of Iowa Bloggers and read by folks all over the nation.  Sure we have competing businesses...as we do with Drew McLellan from McLellan Marketing GroupWords of wisdom...on a daily basis along with some great Insight!  (Had to Drew!)

We also spend time reading the words of so many others:  Liz Strauss (I feel like we neighbors!), Doug Mitchell (sometimes we just don't 'get it'...but fun reads), Rush Nigut (he's a lawyer...and we like him?), Sandy Renshaw (like fresh air!), Larry Lehmer (he's got a 'way with words'), Chris Woods (politics all the time Chris?), Andy Drish (I read him so I don't appear TOO STUPID to folks 35 years younger than me!)

Hwy61_image Thanks too to some of the guests we've had on our Radio Show, Highway 6 - Your Road to the CountryJack Payne from ISU Extension, Doug Bakker from the Iowa Grape Growers Association & Madison County Winery, Robin Prusiner from the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Tom Barns from the Association of Iowa Fairs, Dan Duffy from United Country Real Estate, Joe Leisz from the 4-H Foundation, Rep. Mark Kuhn from the Iowa Legislature, Sean Skeehan from Iowa Farm Crawl - 2007, Tom Covin from the Iowa Animal Rescue League, Willie Suchy from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Robin & Rick from the Des Moines Police Department Mounted Patrol, Adam Steen from Transitional Capitol Management, Sherry Borzo from DSM Buzz and the list goes on and on!  Thanks...

Thanks to our team of Aaron, Mike, Christi and Mark who put in some crazy hours but do wonderful work.

Our Clients:  You bet!  Calcium Products, Inc., FOTON-Mayer Farm, NTPDA, Allied Information Services, Country Vet Pet Foods, The Iowa Sportsman, Running Horse Elite Equine Feeds, Beth El Jacob, The Iowa Department of Agriculture and the many folks who have taken a look at coming on board...we're still here!

Jason_board_2 Jason Cochran who is the producer of our weekly radio show on 98.3 WOW-FM.  OK...maybe it's not wisdom that he give us....he just knows how to keep the program on the air and the run that "thingy" that makes us sound ok.  He is an Online Gamer...kind of guy maybe that explains it?

Georgie_2 My wife is amazing.  Not only a talented writer and photographer in her own right...she takes many of the studio shots for our clients.  She also never seems to mind when we're at a location and I'm up at 3:30am writing.  She even cuts out topics from various publications and sticks them to the laptop...so I won't miss the opportunity to call them out.  You the best.

And...YOU!

Thanks for reading our rants and raves.  Sometimes we hit...other times we miss by a mile.  But, you have no idea how important this method of communication is.  It's a way to encourage the art of communication.  Business to Business.  We get to learn from each other and we're really grateful.

Have a fantastic 2008.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications


Iowa - Living at the Epicenter

Laughing Living at the epicenter of all things political is great...if you are a political junkie.  OK...I admit it and yes I'll be BUSY on January 3rd...at the caucus even.

Moments ago I got "Push Polled".  I've got a hunch it was from Mrs. Clinton because they were banging pretty hard on Obama and Edwards.

Anyway...I honestly don't mind the polling, the goofy questions or the lame attempts at hiding whom the poll is really for.

What I got such a kick out of was this poor young man who had to ask the questions. 

He could not read them.  Really.  I had to help him along and I didn't even know what the questions were. 

But, there were some hard words like:

  • Strategy
  • Specific
  • Relationship
  • Governmental
  • Financial

So, when this poor guy got to one of those words (or several others) I helped him out.  When we finished the session he thanked me for my assistance.  He didn't say "assistance" he said "help"...I'm not sure he could have said it anyway.

Oh my.......

Brilliant Public Relations!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications...that would be like speaking "an stuff like that...ya know."


Nobody Wants to Say It....We Will

Drunk The nation's farmers have drunk the Kool-Aid and so has Washington.  We're all just a little tipsy.

Months ago we started asking questions about the rising prices of grain.  We were told it was good for farmers.

Months ago we asked about the relationship between the rising price of grains and the increased food prices.  We were told we should not worry and there was no relationship between the two.

Today we're not so sure.

I just got off the phone with one of our clients who told me that between the increased price for fuel (transportation) and the increased price for grain (corn, soybeans, wheat, take your pick) they can't raise prices fast enough.  "Michael, if we could, we would be raising prices twice a week."

Let me say that again...a national client that is in the business of making a consumer based product has told us they can not raise prices fast enough to keep up with their costs of production.

We think they are not alone.

This is not a rural vs. urban debate.  This is becoming a national concern.

Last week I paid twenty-one cents for an egg.  One egg.  Six months ago that egg cost me eleven cents.

Angus_bulls_2 In a matter of months we have seen grain prices increase by 200%.  You think that will not have an impact on lots of products?  Last time I checked we eat a bunch of corn-fed beef. If six or seven months ago a rancher was feeding grain priced at $1.98 a bushel and they, today, are feeding the same ration at $4.35 bushel. Think that might impact price?

Look, our bottom line is focused on agriculture and rural lifestyle both have been good for us and we are grateful.  But...we think we're headed for a major backlash as the rest of the country (the 95% who are not farmers and ranchers) get real antsy about the cost of everything from eggs to dog food.

Maybe it is Gods way of telling us to go on a diet?  What do you think?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications....we love farming...and cooler heads.


Having Fun...Part of Your PR???

Urbandale_chamber_staff_1 Our advertising agency belongs to the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce.  So we get to go to plenty of events linking us with other members and the general public.  Each one is carefully crafted and done well.

That's where we were last week and asked Tiffany Menke (center) if we could take a photo of her and the staff (Sue Wengert - left and Amber Wagner - right)  We lined 'em up...all the staff in their proper business attire and snapped a shot or two.

Urbandale_chamber_staff_2 Then the ladies got a little silly so we just kept shooting.

I know of a bunch of places where work is....work.  I'm sure the staff from the Urbandale Chamber have their moments.  But, one of the major reasons we continued our membership is that these folks are not only good at what they do...they are really nice people and they seem to enjoy their jobs and have a good time with it.

Sometimes we seem to forget that a little laughter is good for business.  We tend to be a little intense around here and sometimes for good reason.  But when you mix a little "good cheer" in the day...clients notice. 

Hey...it's one of the reasons we came back as members.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications...where everybody here laughs at me...I've got to lighten up!


Rural Lifestyle Radio & Dan Duffy

Tree_snow Snowing like crazy today here in Des Moines...

But, we're warming up for this nations only full hour, live rural lifestyle radio show that takes place Sunday Morning at 8 on 98.3 WOW-FM.  If you're elsewhere you can listen live by using your computer.  Just head to the station site and sign up.  It's that easy.

We've got a great show lined up for Sunday morning that includes news and information for folks living (or wanting to live) on a small farm or acreage.

No doubt you've seen the reports on the 22% increase in land prices here in Iowa.  It's the result of a couple factors:

  1. The corn and soybean prices continue to increase and now that the Renewable Energy Bill has been signed by the president...don't look for prices do drop.
  2. The increased demand for recreational ground.  People are buying up hunting and fishing sites like crazy and we don't see much of an end in site for that either.

In addition, the number of rural lifestyle people continues to grow. 

Dan_duffy_blue_shirt_use So, who do we call on when we want to know about rural land prices and what the future might hold for folks wanting to move or already living in Rural America?  How about the CEO of the nations largest rural real estate company, Dan Duffy of United Country Real Estate.

Dan will be on the show Sunday to talk about the trends he's seen and give us some perspective as to the future of rural development.  We'll talk about the economic impact, the reason why so many people are making the move to Rural America and how technology is making much of this happen.  This is going to be an excellent show...make sure you're listening!

All that and more on Highway 6 -  Your Road to the Country Sunday morning at 8!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations...where we know rural.


Being Mom...Tough Public Relations

Mom_statue My Mom is well, thank God, and 86 years old.  I'm sure that when she looks back on her job as a parent there must be those moments when she wonders if she did the right thing.

You know what I mean.  Sometimes kids do some really stupid things or use lousy judgment.  I know I have...  And it's usually at times like that some parents might doubt their "parenting skills".

Some of the stuff my brother and I pulled have made her very happy that she never was sought out as a giver of advice on parenting.  Much less write a book about her efforts.

But, that is what somebody sold Lynne Spears on.  Writing a book about parenting.  Until yesterday the yet to be published book was due out on...Mother's Day.

Lynne_spears "Mother Lynne" has a couple of rather famous daughters, Britney and Jamie.  We've all grown weary of the antics of the elder Spears "wild child".  And then, yesterday Jamie Lynn (16) announced that she is several months "with child".

The publisher has pulled the book, "for the time being".

But here is the real public relations NIGHTMARE....Little Jamie Lynn is the star of a squeaky clean Nickelodeon (yet) school drama, "Zoey 101".

As a marketing and public relations person, how would you like to sit in on that meeting?  Let's pretend we're the PR firm for Nickelodeon.  A couple of "trial balloons":

  • "We're proud that we can offer a television show that has issues as real as the problems faced by America's teens."
  • "This isn't about a child getting pregnant.  This is about the failure of abstance only education!  It's the president's fault."
  • "For some this might come as a shock...but in the trailer park it's called 'coming of age'."

So, how about you?  Give us your answer to this PR dilemma?

Me?  I'm just relieved Mom never even thought about a book!

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications...sure we do PR too!


Grocery Store Advertising...What's Up?

Grocery_store_ad Have you been paying attention to the shift in grocery store advertising?

For months we've watched newspaper ads here in Iowa and there is an interesting shift taking place.

Often the ads, like the one here, are being replaced with full page ads featuring only one or two items. 

Really.

Gone are the full page ads featuring twenty different items that sell price.  Enter the "new" look of featuring one item like a "Spiral Cut Ham" will full color photos of a prepared dish with very little text.

Hyvee_image_steak_1 It's all visual.

What really got me thinking was what came today as an insert in the Des Moines Register for Midwest grocery chain HyVee.  It's a die cut insert on card stock (expensive) with six words on the front.  "INSTEAD OF GOING OUT FOR A GREAT STEAK,"

Inside the flap of this tri-fold we get the finish: "STAY IN."

Open it to fully expose some great photography (one image) and a coupon worth $2,00 off a meat purchase.Hyvee_image_steak_2

So, why would a grocery store start to move in this direction and away from their traditional ads?

We think two reasons:

First, eating out is big.  "Home meals" tend to be, we believe, whatever you can throw in the microwave.  Eating out means a "real meal".  This piece suggests that you can have a real meal and stay home.  Really?

Hyvee Second, and perhaps more important, is the whopping increase in food prices.  When prices get so high...can you really advertise price and still retain a high end image for your store?  We don't think so...  So, what do you do?  Sell the image, not the price.

This was clearly image...and a coupon for $2.00 off.

Pretty classy stuff for a grocery store...

You see this happening in other places?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications were we think trends are fun to watch...


Got Your Back!

Brett The other day friend and fellow Blogger Brett Trout had a wonderful piece called, "Is Your Marketing Firm Looking Out For You?"

Brett, an attorney, and a "go to guy" for many folks in the social media always has some great stories to tell.  (He's also an author...so it figures!)

When an agency or marketing firm works for a client making sure you have their best interests at heart is critical.

Brett's post reminded me of a quick story about our client Country Vet Pet Foods out of Sioux City.

Bags_group A couple of years ago we were hours away from launching their website and some print to push consumers to the site.  Long before us they had decided their slogan would be, "The Best Food For Your Best Friend". 

Cute...speaks to people and their love for their pets.  They liked it (so we liked it) and we figured it was solid.  So...we put it on everything.  Everything!  Hours...we mean hours...before we launched one of our design folks came in and asked me if we had checked the slogan to see if they really owned it.  (Thank you Aaron!!!)

We had not.   

But we did minutes later.

Turned out the slogan had already been marked by none other than Dick Van Patten (you know...TV's Dick Van Patten?).  We were sure his pockets were much deeper than ours or our client.  Even though we could not find where he had used it...we scraped the slogan...quickly.

Cv_mom_ad_small In less than a day we had a new slogan "Loved by Pets - Trusted by Owners" (we like it better),ran it by legal, and had a very happy client.

Brett makes some great points in his post...and something that we all can learn from.  Making sure you have your "Clients Back" is critical.  This can be some tricky stuff...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.


Knowing Is Better Than Guessing...

Im000105 The Rural Lifestyle - It Ain't Sexy. 

Maybe that's why it has not caught on even though it is the fastest (really only) growing segment of the rural landscape.

I'm about to do some shameless self promotion so...if you want to bow out at this point.  We understand. (Here we are picking up small bales for horse hay.)

I'm a member of the National Agricultural Marketing Association (NAMA), have been for years.  NAMA is made up of advertising agencies, media, and company folks who market to agricultural types.  That, traditionally, has meant farms and farmers and that has usually meant row crop farmers.  (Corn, Beans, Grains...)

Hollow_head_vinyard_michael_l As the "Traditional Farm Market" shrinks (less farms and fewer operators) media types have recently discovered individuals who can be described as"Rural Lifestyle" folks.  These people are:

  • Living on Small Farms or Acreages near urban areas,
  • Living in small towns on larger plots of land,
  • Often escapees from urban life who seek a more quiet lifestyle,
  • Engaged in a wide variety of rural lifestyle activities.

Over the years there have been a handful of individuals in the NAMA group who "get it".  Among them are Mike Gustafson from John Deere.  He's been lecturing on the rural lifestyle for some time.

Now...the "media types" of NAMA want to learn more. 

This has been like turning the Queen Mary II in The Plaza of Kansas City.  The boat is there...everybody sees it but it seems nobody can figure out how to make it work. 

Now, all of a sudden it's the "next big thing".  NAMA is even discussing having a "one day seminar" to better understand this market.  About time.

Hwy61_image We've been in the business of marketing to rural lifestyle folks for over a decade using print, Internet, radio (even doing our own full hour live radio show) and television.

(Quick Sidebar: Want to know who they are and what type of acreage they are buying?  Call Dan Duffy the CEO of United Country Real Estate...he's even in Kansas City.)

Eight years ago, In a radio interview done in Evansville, Indiana, I told the host we were in the business of marketing to "Ruralpolitians".  She thought it was a weird term...so we actually created a trademark on the word.  Never used it...but it's there.

Oak_rail_crop So, why this rant?  Simple.  We don't know "jack" about "Fine French Perfume" but...If you are in the business of trying to market to rural lifestyle folks give us a shout.  We don't have to guess as to who, what, where and why. 

We figure it helps if you've actually lived the lifestyle, don't you think?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications - Sorry for the outburst...sometimes we just shake our heads...


Loyality...It Works Both Ways

Cpilogo We're big on client loyalty.  As an advertising agency we know plenty about the workings of our clients.  Sometimes we know more than we perhaps should.  But we're loyal to them and their mission.  Our goal is to help them in every manner we can.  And, we get paid for what we do.  That is the nature of this business.

Larry_event_1 We're often treated as a "member of the team" but to be "honored guests" at an event is something quite different.  But, those are the words used by our client and friend Larry Moore (center) the president of Calcium Products.  He had invited us to come to the companies 20th Anniversary and Holiday Party at the local country club.  To be included was very nice and we were honored.

But then he stood up and said some very nice things about us and our work on behalf of Calcium Products in front of the entire staff.  We were touched.

But we were not surprised.

Larry Moore is like that.  He and his wife Susan have a fierce loyalty to their people and they are not afraid to tell others.  And their people return the message.

Larry_event_2 One of the long time employees, Jim LaVelle rose towards the end of the evening to remind all of us about that fact.  He said, "Each of us goes though our daily lives buying groceries, sending our kids to school, making house payments and rarely do we stop to consider how we're able to do those things.  The reason we are able to make a living, and a good one, is sitting here in this room.  Larry and his wife Susan never tire of thinking, creating and developing new products.  Our customers and those of us here in the room are the recipients of blessings realized by those dreams.  Their dreams help make ours come true.  And we are grateful."

It was stunning and at the same time...welcome.  But that's the way we are here.  Loyalty is a big thing.

Larry_event_3 And Larry Moore's reaction?

He's not only loyal...he can be pretty humble too.

Thanks Larry...we're grateful for the work and even more grateful for having the opportunity to come, listen and learn.  Here is to yet another outstanding year of growth.

Loyalty...it really does work both ways.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications