How’s my stuff gonna get there?

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the moving season, I dedicate this song to my friends in the moving industry. Did you know that repeating the phrase “easy does it” while moving large, heavy items—such as armoires and credenzas—helps to reduce drywall abrasions and gouges by as much as forty percent? Fun fact!

I was offered the job on Friday at nine.
They said, “We need to know—make up your mind.”
So I said ‘yes’ with some caveats:
Where in the world is this job at?
Is it cold there? Do they have baseball?

Will you help me move?

Can this board be fixed?

I like this headline. The PG-rated double entendre makes me smile. But before I can nod in agreement with the sales proposition, the last word in the second line hits me like a five-ton compressor dropped from a ten-story building.

Here’s the disconnect. Most consumers (including the men this ad targets) are not HVAC diagnosticians. When the AC quits working, we don’t know if it’s a major problem or a minor one. We do know this: we don’t want the expense of replacing a unit that can be fixed.

But this advertiser, apparently, is not interested in repairing systems. Regardless of the problem’s magnitude, the copy suggests I’ll be writing a big check. Ouch.

A clever headline may get attention. But it should lead to a common-sense conclusion. When I sense a shakedown, I recoil. Wouldn’t you rather know whether your AC can be fixed before you decide to replace it?

Wordman’s Assessment:  A near miss. Fix the copy by replacing the word replaced with fixed. Or change the second line to read: Is it time to replace the AC? (Picayune type correction: “is” needs an initial cap).

Postlude . . .  

To all who came out on a brisk ides of March to hear “Songs of the Wandering Aengus” performed by the Maud Gonne Musical Society, you were a wonderful audience. (My apologies to the few who had to stand because we ran short of chairs.)

Our musicians were gratified by the enthusiasm you showed, especially for the new musical settings of the five Yeats poems. I’ve included the lead sheets at the foot of this post; feel free to enjoy these for yourself. I think my favorite is The White Birds; however, our flute player most enjoyed The Lake Isle of Innisfree—the interlude caught her fancy.

It seems we all found a bit of Irish cheer to carry into St. Paddy’s Day. Laura’s whistling on Danny Boy haunts me still. For the record, this was our playlist:

1. Let There Be Love (Ian Grant/Lionel Rand)
2. Song of the Wandering Aengus (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
3. The White Birds (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
4. The Rose Tree (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
5. The Lake Isle of Innisfree (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
6. When You Are Old (W. B. Yeats/Music J. M. O’Leary)
7. Love’s Old Sweet Song (G. Clifton Bingham/James Lynam Molloy/Arr. J. M. O’Leary)
8. Meet Me Down At Micky’s (Lyrics J. M. O’Leary/Music J. M. O’Leary & C. E. Eakins)
9. Blue Moon (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers)
10. Danny Boy (Fred Weatherly/Traditional)
11. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Chauncey Olcott & George Graff, Jr./Ernest Ball)
12. The Parting Glass (Traditional/Arr. J. M. O’Leary)
13. (Encore) Evansville Is Calling (Come on Home) (Words & Music J. M. O’Leary)

Special thanks to John Hendricks and Art “The Dude” Woodward (, fellow creatives and collaborators, for shooting and sharing their photos of this event. Special thanks also to Michael Woodall for his invaluable assistance in room setup, hospitality, and audio tweaking with help from Nathan Tester. The Maud Gonne Musical Society is: John Michael O’Leary, piano and vocals; David Tester, guitar and bass; Bret Birkhead, flugelhorn; and Laura Beth O’Leary, flute.

John Michael O'Leary, Vocalist. The Maud Gonne Musical Society presents "Songs of the Wandering Aengus: A Concert for Love and Beauty." March 15, 2017, Evansville, Indiana.

Channeling Yeats

Songs of the Wandering Aengus. Concert for Love and Beauty. The Maud Gonne Musical Society. View of stage from back of house.David Tester plays the guitar on Danny Boy. Songs of the Wandering Aengus: Concert for Love and Beauty. The Maud Gonne Musical Society.Bret Birkhead, Flugelhorn. The Maud Gonne Musical Society presents "Songs of the Wandering Aengus: Concert for Beauty and Love." March 15, 2017.

Lead Sheet for The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Lyrics by William Butler Yeats; Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary.

Lead Sheet for When You Are Old, a musical setting of the poem by WB Yeats.

Lead sheet for Song of the Wandering Aengus. Lyrics by WB Yeats/Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary

Lead sheet for The Rose Tree, lyrics by WB Yeats/Music ©2017 J.M. O'Leary





Pick a Golden Apple

Poster: Songs of the Wandering Aengus Concert for Beauty and LoveIt will soon be time for friends to raise pints of stout in honor of Saint Patrick. On the Wednesday before, I will offer a public musical prelude to the greenest day of the year with a tribute to love and beauty. On tap: new song settings of five poems by Yeats (The White Birds, The Rose Tree, When You Are Old, Song of the Wandering Aengus, The Lake Isle of Innisfree) plus a few traditional and popular tunes. It takes place from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM at the Arts Council Gallery, 318 Main St., Evansville.

This is a free concert—click on poster image at left for details.

First Draft

First Draft


Thoughts fall to paper,

pummeled to eruption 

like piñatas raining

on the playroom floor.

Pink and blue shreds of

luckless laughter

and barely dared joy


until the janitor

with stiff new broom

gathers and feeds them 

with careless ease

to the gray furnace.

Welcome to the Age of Cynicism

Does your value proposition resonate?

Not many years ago, we marketers enjoyed a pretty stable fix on what makes the American consumer tick. We understood his inherent idealism about hard work and its rewards. We knew that, despite some skepticism, he was proud to wear the T-shirt of the American dream.

But bad things happened to the consumer on his way to paying off the mortgage and growing a nest egg. War, institutional corruption, and financial cancer pummeled his psyche. Healthy skepticism gave way to downright cynicism about government, business, and capitalistic motives. (For evidence, glance at the gall posted to almost any online news story.)

The prevailing, negative worldview in consumer land is made worse by picked pockets. In June, the Federal Reserve reported that, between 2007 and 2010, the American family’s average (inflation-adjusted) income before taxes fell 11.1 percent, while the average net worth fell 14.7 percent. In July, the Institute for Supply Management noted the first decline in our nation’s manufacturing output in three years.

In short, consumers are wary. They feel pinched and are spending less. Which means we marketers must mind the fundamentals. Chief among marketing basics is the consumer value proposition (CVP). In simplest terms, the CVP tells the customer what he will get from a product or service.  A well-crafted CVP is clear, succinct, and persuasive. It takes the customer’s point of view and focuses on benefits.

Marketing gurus Anderson, Narus and Van Rossum describe three approaches for creating a CVP (Harvard Business Review, March 1, 2006; p. 90-99). One is to list all the benefits a product or service may deliver. The downside: some benefits may have little relevance to the buyer.  A second method is to stress favorable points of difference over competitive products. This falls short, however, when the consumer imputes little value to those differences. A third approach, they contend, offers the greatest advantage. Value propositions with a resonating focus identify one or two benefits that matter most to consumers, and emphasize those to the exclusion of others.

How does a marketer identify which product benefits will resonate with customers? Ask them. Every interaction with a customer is a chance to mine his wish-list. The constant questions: “How might we make your experience with our product better?” and “What other product benefit would you like to see?”

Sometimes consumers don’t know the answers.  Sometimes they want things that are impossible to deliver.  Sometimes they tell you exactly how to make a product the market leader.

Cynicism’s ugly boots are apt to remain planted in the American consciousness for years. Consumers will squeeze pursestrings and make what lemonade they can from the lemons of a sputtering economy. Fortunately for marketers, human needs show no signs of diminishing. Fundamental tools, such as the CVP with a resonating focus, offer a chance at competitive advantage.