Sam Horn - Intrigue

Monday, February 27, 2006

Who Was the "Real" Winner at Torino?

As the 2006 Winter Olympics wrap up, let’s review what caught our favorable attention and why.

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t any of the pre-selected celebrities (think Bode Miller) who didn’t perform to their potential or “gold-medal” script.

What really broke out was the refreshing USA Network TV program, Olympic Ice, a breezy, irreverent show in which host Mary Carillo didn’t take herself or the sport too seriously.

Rather than showing formulaic, sappy profiles (set to sentimental music) of the hardships endured by the individual athletes, Carillo and her guest experts shared amusing, honest, no-holds-barred commentary on the pitfalls and pratfalls happening on and around the rink.

What can we learn from this?

The public is yearning for “real” people who tell the truth, love their work and dare to be in the moment. We relate to them more than the slick, unemotional hosts delivering pre-polished sound-bites from a tele-prompter.

Keep this in mind the next time you speak at a conference, emcee an event, or are interviewed on TV. Delivering a perfect speech is not what wins buy-in.

Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Paraphrase that to say, “No enjoyment in the speaker, no enjoyment in the listeners.”

What do you want your audience members to feel? If you want them to be engaged, you need to be engaged. If you want them to care deeply about your topic or cause, you need to care deeply about your topic or cause.

What will help you POP! out of the plethora of speakers, emcees, and media guests, is to feel passionately about what you’re trying to say or convey. What will make a lasting positive impression is for you to connect with your audience – rather than speak at them.

For other tips on how you and your message can stand out in any crowd, visit for a free article and to find out when Sam will be speaking in your area.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Who’s Standing Out on American Idol & Why That Matters to You

On the first “elimination” show of this season’s American Idol on FOX, a talented singer named Patrick was surprisingly voted off the show.


As Simon Cowell explained in his typical cut-to-the-chase style, “You have a good voice and you’re a nice guy. You just didn’t do the one thing necessary to go through to the next round. You didn’t stand out from the crowd.”

Yet another reminder that “Talent is important; it is not enough.”

Whether you’re applying for a job, running for office, or competing for a contract, it’s important to remember that credentials will only get you so far.

How are you POPing out of the pack? How are you memorable? What are you saying or offering that no one else is? How are you giving decision-makers a compelling reason to select you over the other choices?

The premise of my presentations on POP! Stand Out In Any Crowd is that it is our responsibility to clearly, concisely, and compellingly differentiate ourselves from competitors.

Marilynn Mobley, author of the excellent, sends me items that POP! out in her search for organizations that are keeping themselves visible and commercially viable. A recent example is a Disney-sponsored community service program. There are thousands of volunteer groups. How could Disney make theirs unique? Call it VoluntEARS.

That’s a great example of POP! This “stand out in any crowd” name is:

Purposeful - It plays off and reinforces their brand icon of Mickey Mouse.
Original - No one else calls their community service program this.
Pithy - It is succinct and easy to repeat which means it’s easy to remember.

I’m nominating VoluntEARS to the 2006 POP! Hall of Fame.

Do you have a business slogan that is Purposeful, Original, and Pithy? Do you have an elevator introduction that gets you noticed and remembered? Have you given your product a name that helps it POP! off the shelf?

Submit it to me here or at and you could be featured in an upcoming blog entry and nominated to the 2006 POP Hall of Fame.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Day? Bah, Humbug!

A primary premise of POP! is, “Don’t state the obvious; state the opposite.”

What’s that got to do with Valentine’s Day? When considering retail and media opportunities, ask yourself, “What’s normal about how people approach and celebrate this holiday? How can I be (positively) ab-normal?”

Most stores, newspaper columns, web-sites and TV shows are focusing on how people can make this day as romantic as possible with their loved one.

What about all the people who don’t have a loved one?

As reported by Olivia Barker in the Feb. 13 issue of USA Today, Valentine’s Day is the third biggest gift-giving holiday, (after Christmas and Mother’s Day). Smart entrepreneurs and organizations are keeping that in mind and capitalizing on the vast market of singles who may be spending the day alone.

For example, there’s a “snarky” Valentine e-card with the punch-line “Valentine bites” available at Those going solo can indulge in bittersweet “commiseration candies” imprinted with “Table for 1” and “I don’t care.” Available from

Perhaps you have a friend who’d appreciate the “Cupid can’t aim” t-shirt from, or the “Love is a Bear” teddy bear that proclaims “Love stinks” and “My girlfriends are more fun” at Hallmark stores.

In my 3-part POP! CD series available from, we call this The Contrabrand Technique. It suggests that one of the best ways to differentiate yourself in a saturated marketplace is to ask, “How can I be counter-intuitive? What could I say that flies in the face of current wisdom? How can I introduce a product or idea that swims against the tide?”

Steven Johnson wrote a book called "Everything Bad is Good for You" in which he says video games are actually healthy for teens because they provide a cognitive workout that increases motor control. His “Say what?!” claim earned him a lengthy article in The Washington Post in which he freely admits, “If this makes people mad; it’s achieved its goal. I could have written a more balanced book, but that’s the kind of book nobody listens to.”

I’m not suggesting you state falsehoods or be deliberately sensationalistic. I am suggesting that if you’re following the crowd and saying/doing what everyone else is, you will blend in instead of break out. Look at your project, process, proposal, or product. Where can you challenge the norm? (

Monday, February 06, 2006

What POP!'d Out at the 2006 Super Bowl?

My original plan was to select the best ads of Super Bowl Sunday and explain why they stood out. Really. That was my intent. Then I watched the game.

I took notes on all 60 plus commercials. I waited, pen poised, for the winner that would break out of the dreck. It never happened. What I saw were really expensive ads ($2.5 million for 30 seconds) that fell flat or were flat out offensive. Some were confusing or mildly amusing -- but had no point.

Oh well. As Groucho Marx said, “We should learn from the mistakes of others; we don’t have time to make them all ourselves.”

So, I’ll point out one commercial that has already reportedly achieved its purpose (one of the prerequisites of a POP! marketing message – Purposeful, Original, and Pithy), then I’ll dissect what went wrong with the others and show how you can avoid making those same mistakes with your business.

A Dove ad showed young women expressing shame about their body. The “ethnically correct” spot showed a variety of wistful girls sharing their desire to be thinner, prettier, even blonde. The ad ended with a website viewers could visit to learn more about Dove’s innovative efforts to help women feel proud of and grateful for their body, regardless of color, size or shape.

USA Today reported 7,000 people logged on to within ten minutes of the ad being shown. Those are tangible results.

What was your favorite ad? Did “The Magic Fridge is back!” ad make you laugh out loud? Did the shorn sheep “streaker” get a giggle? Did the ad featuring the mom and daughter arriving at the hospital room right when the intern with the shock paddles announced “That killed him” shock you?

Quick. Who were the sponsors of those ads? Were you moved to take any action as a result of seeing those ads? Will you check out their website? Buy their product? Do you even know the name of the product that was featured?

Simply said, if people see your ad and can’t remember your name, that ad has failed. How can they find your product in the store? How can they refer your business to a colleague? How will they locate you on the web?

One way to create a memorable marketing message is to place your name in your slogan so it’s imprinted in peoples’ brain every time it’s read or said. For example, fill in the blank, “I wish I were an _______ _________ weiner.” Did you say, “Oscar Meyer” even though you may not have heard that jingle in years? Now that’s a purposeful, high-payoff slogan that POP!s.

Check back Thursday for more Super Bowl ad lessons-learned. (

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What's the Best Super Bowl Ad of all Time -- and Why?

Pop of Mind #1: What’s the Best Super Bowl Ad of All Time – and Why?

A quick introduction to explain who I am and the purpose of this blog. I’m the author of Tongue Fu! (St. Martins Press) and the upcoming book POP! Stand Out In Any Crowd (Perigee, Sept. ’06).

I’m also the 14-time Emcee of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference, a consultant and award-winning speaker with a 20 year track record of helping individuals and organizations break out instead of blend in.

Twice a week, I study the top newspapers, magazines, and TV shows to see what POP’s out. I then write about it in this brief blog, explaining why it POP’d and how you can use that to help your offering get noticed, get bought.

The premise of POP! is that you need Purposeful, Original, Pithy marketing messages to stand out in today’s saturated, time-starved society.

The good news is, you don’t have to spend millions of dollars or hire a branding company to develop an attention-getting title or tagline that gets your idea or invention the support and sales it deserves. As 4-time Pulitzer nominee Fawn Germer says, “You don’t have to be a creative genius to use Sam’s techniques, but using her techniques can make you a creative genius.”

So, what’s the best NFL Super Bowl commercial of all time? I select Coca-Cola’s classic ad featuring football player “Mean Joe” Greene. Why? It memorably and favorably imprints the sponsoring product by telling a “roller-coaster” story in less than 60 seconds.

A “roller-coaster” story takes us for a ride and delivers a satisfying emotional pay-off. The ad shows an exhausted, mud-covered “Mean Joe” limping down the tunnel after a game. An innocent-faced boy calls his name. “Mean Joe” glowers. The boy offers his Coca-Cola. Joe pauses, takes it, glugs it down, starts walking back to the locker room. Dejected, the boy begins to leave. Suddenly, Joe turns back, says “Hey kid,” and throws his jersey to him. The kid brightens in wonderment and says a heartfelt “Gee, thanks Joe.” The ad ends with “Mean Joe” flashing a huge smile, holding the bottle of Coke.

“Roller coaster” stories take us on the classic Hero’s Journey, as described by Joseph Campbell. The protagonist leaves home, goes out in the world, encounters a challenge, triumphs, and returns home victorious.

Does your marketing message, ad, article, web copy, or sales presentation take people on an emotional roller-coaster ride? If so, good for you. If not, include a meaningful “before and after” story that engages your target audience.

Check this blog on Monday, Feb. 6 when I’ll explain which TV ad POP’d out of the 2006 Super Bowl – and how you can apply that insight to your project.