Sun, June 16, 2024

Taking the mystery out of marketing

“If it don’t sell, it ain’t creative.”

My maternal grandfather, D.J. Morris, was a serial entrepreneur who dropped out of school in the third grade to go to work, so he could help take care of his siblings when his mother died. He ran a very successful general store/service station in the small country village I grew up in (Morristown, NC). I was sharing some “clever” advertising ideas for bundling lunch meals at a modest discount for tobacco workers and logging laborers. When he rejected my brilliant concept as “unworkable” and “silly,” my 11-year-old ego protested that he must not understand how creative my idea was.

His response, in quotes above, has stayed with me my entire career.


“Never knock your competition.”

I launched my ad agency on a metal flower-arranging table in the back of Martina’s Flowers & Gifts in August 1979. At that time, Martina Clark’s business was in a small building on Wheeler Road, behind a convenience store across from the Wife Saver Restaurant near Surrey Center in Augusta. Martina provided me with an old black ceramic AT&T phone and a used manual typewriter.

I wrote what I thought was a powerful radio script, first pointing out the flaws and shortcomings of a couple of her key competitors and then, enumerating the various features and benefits of choosing Martina’s Flowers & Gifts. When I presented my script to Marina for approval, she flatly rejected it and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had better never mention her competition in an ad.

“Do not acknowledge that we even have competitors, Bert,” she said sternly. “Just clearly focus on our unique, proven features and benefits and let the chips fall where they may.”

Martina Clark, God rest her soul, was a marketing genius.


“When in doubt, check it out.”

On several occasions, I have had a front-row seat as clients and acquaintances have rushed headlong into naming a new business or product without first making sure that said business or product name was not already taken. The tragic stories of entrepreneurs who were blind-sided by devastating lawsuits from the original (and sometimes copyright-protected) owners of business or product names are legendary.

I am not qualified to give legal advice, but I can assure you that hiring a good copyright attorney is exponentially less expensive than trying to defend yourself and your company in a copyright infringement lawsuit—and much less stressful.

“Copying intellectual property is just another form of stealing.”

In almost all instances, it is against the law to use a musical recording licensed for public entertainment and broadcast to promote your business, product, or professional practice. The writer(s), producer(s), publisher(s), and performer(s) created that great hit song that would be perfect for your next radio commercial to make money for themselves—not you. If you get caught, your unauthorized commercial use of a copyrighted musical performance could easily cost you more in per-use fines than your business is worth.

Besides all that, it is just wrong on so many levels. So don’t do it.


“Always get paid for your skill and experience.”

People who would never ask a dentist to examine a bad tooth in the middle of a cocktail party somehow, have no compunction at all about peppering a marketing professional with requests for business advice at the same venue. If this happens to you, just hand the offending party your business card and tell them to call the next business day to schedule a consultation. Works every time.

Veteran marketing maven, Bert Dean is the founder and CEO of Clarion Creative. He has been a leader in the development of innovative creative campaigns in the CSRA and beyond since 1979. His resume includes the iconic WifeSaver, “Put a Little South in Your Mouth” jingle (since 2000), the original Taylor Toyota marketing campaign, the CENTURY 21 Larry Miller Realty, “I’m the One” advertising strategy (2011-2022), the Gary’s Hamburgers, (“If It’s Better than Good, It’s Gotta be Gary’s”) radio series, plus, countless others.

 To learn how Clarion Creative can help your business grow, call VP Allen Dean (Bert’s son) at (706) 796-7795 or reach him via e-mail (,

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