Category Archives: Marketing Stories

Bad Habits Can Die Easily too…in 30 Days.

Bad Habits Can Die Easily too…in 30 Days.

Reading Andrea Nierenberg’s guest post, below, it occurred to me that her ideas can work to get rid of bad habits.

For example, when Rachel, who came to work for us as an intern two years ago, she did everything right except that the word like appeared far too frequently in everything she said as in “Did you, like, get the copy and did it, like, make sense?” She sounded like a Valley Girl.

Rachel is very bright, so I decided to throw down a challenge. I bought a small coin bank in the shape of a house and taped “Like” Bank on it. I told her that every time she used the word “like” as punctuation, she had to deposit a quarter in the bank. The quarters added up quickly at first, then slowed down and, eventually, stopped coming. Rachel had rid herself of the habit in less than a month! I’m so proud of her.

I had, like, a bigger problem years ago when I was a chain smoker. I tried everything smoking cessation classes to lollipops and hypnotism. Nothing.

Then, one day I was running up the stairs at Grand Central Station and couldn’t catch my breath. I stopped at the landing with an old man looking at me, alarmed, as I coughed and wheezed and actually couldn’t breathe. When I recovered, my pack of cigarette went from my purse to the garbage pail on the landing. That was the last time I ever had a cigarette. Now I know I could bound up that staircase easily but that would be showing off.

Other bad habits I’d like to break include:

  • Messy desk syndrome. A beautifully clean desk with not a paper on it would be so cool.
  • Fear of cooking lest I kill myself or, worse, kill my guests.
  • Fear of water, actually fear of drowning, so I can learn to swim.
  • And so many other including fear of driving on the Interstate, fear of strangling rude people … maybe I can beat them one at a time.
  • Eating chocolate ice cream whenever possible.

Now, all I need to do is create a system for breaking the habit (like Rachel’s “Like Bank”)

So, let’s say I tackle the messy desk challenge. Every day I clean off the entire surface before I leave the office. Hmmm…that might be too hard to do. Let’s say I start with easier goals: 1) Put all the pens into the holder. 2) File everything that is in one pile on my desk, 3) Write a “To-Do List” before I leave the office each night.

Hmm…this is starting to look like fun. Implementing it, might be slow….but I think I can get rid of some of these habits….and then adopt some new ones from Andrea Nierenberg’s column….and start the New Year, 2013 on the right foot.

I’d like you to join me in this Crusade. It seems like the economy is dragging us about, and having this positive goal-setting routine in motion might help us all. What do you think?

Want to break any bad habits?  Let me know in a comment below. Maybe we can tackle them together.

Business travelers put thrift on itinerary

Business travelers put thrift on itinerary

I was recently interviewed by Steve Garmhausen for Crain’s New York Small Business about ways to save on business travel.  I think the article came out great. Here’s the link… you might get helpful ideas for your own travel.

The joy of being with a dear friend at the Spa.

The joy of being with a dear friend at the Spa.
Andrea and I are at New Age.

Andrea and I are at New Age.

This week I was working in freezing cold New York City, and when the weekend came, my friend Andrea Nierenberg and I went up to the Catskills to the New Age Health Spa.

It was a yoga weekend, and it was calming and good to be in a place we’ve visited dozens of times. Andrea spoke about Time Management and Reducing Stress. I learned so much as she spoke about planning each day, on the night before (and saving time. She also brushes her teeth and does her squat exercises at the same time.

She also managed to help a dermatologist we met there to meet up with the person who books the speakers. The doctor really wants to practice his magic tricks, and so he was delighted. You can visit Andrea’s blog:

We ate fresh salads, and I dreamed of owning the place…and how I would market it so that people would flock there for a great get-away from New York. I considered their lack of a real Brand, and how I would create a waiting list for groups to use it as an off-site place for meetings. The database would build and there’d be a great loyalty program for the guests. As I dreamed about all this, I wondered about all the crowds. Would there be room for us?

I think I like New Age Health Spa the way it is. It is a good place to get together with my good friend, now that we live far away from each other. It’s a place to catch up on our stories and smell the fresh cool air in the mountains. It is a good place to escape marketing too.

Holiday Chicken Karma

Holiday Chicken Karma

Lois Geller Holiday Chicken

About a month ago, I started wondering what would make an interesting Happy Holidays card to send clients and friends.

We’ve come up with some pretty funny cards in previous years but this year’s not looking all that funny – so I was stumped.

Then I remembered Donald, the artist.

I called and asked him if he could paint us an image to represent new beginnings – fresh starts for the coming year. I didn’t want Christmas trees, Santa Claus or palm trees with lights on them.

He said, “How about a baby chicken?”

Hmmm. Let’s take a look.

A few days later, I drove over to Donald’s and he showed me an acrylic painting of a small yellow chick emerging from the whitest of cracked eggs on a green and red background.

I loved it.

We created a card using it with a straightforward headline: We asked our friend Donald to paint a holiday card. He painted this chicken.

On the inside, the copy reads: He said the holidays for him mean “new beginnings” like this baby chicken. We wish you a new beginning, new hope and fresh starts this year. All the best, Lois Geller Marketing Group. We’re a new chicken too (after 14 years as Mason and Geller Direct).

Then, by a total fluke, I came across a place that sells realistic fake eggs. Put one in a bowl of water for a few days and a yellow chick emerges. It comes out bigger than the egg. It’s fun to watch. I bought a bunch of them and sent each out with a card.

So, if you’re not yet on my Christmas card list, here’s to all of our new beginnings this 2009. It’ll be a good year to help a friend, do random acts of kindness and create good karma in bad times – may they be oh so short.


I posted this on Linkedin and got a great response… here’s a few:

Doug King
Sales Strategy Team at United States Postal Service

I love it! It is different and fresh, ties in the holiday season with your message, and is therefore relevant. All of this means it will be remembered pleasantly, and your organization will be reflected well from that memory. Can’t ask for more than that from a greeting!

Ted Polmar
Co-Owner/Vice President at Marketshare Communications, Inc.

What comes to mind is a simple statement “you know life is too short” to grapple such stuff. In light of the economic crisis, the wars in the
Mid East, the mortgage issues, the automobile industry bailout… Isn’t it refreshing to see a little chick bringing life into the coming year.
Not everything needs to be filtered the the overly sophisticated opinions of every so called intellectual to just get the point….

Happy New Year… and we’re thinking about you… all the other blah blah blah is just useless banter.

Bill Murphy
Marketing Strategist, Owner of PurpleCrayon Direct


I’m all about the human touch, for a number of reasons:

1. I think business people take themselves too seriously. They could use a little “down home” cheer to help burst their self-important bubbles.

2. Relationship marketing requires the human touch. After all, what is a relationship but one human being (in this case, figuratively speaking) touching another?

3. If most people stick with the “corporate or sophisticated” approach, which approach do you think will stand out from the rest — your Chicken Karma holiday card? Or a more traditional corporate card?

4. I always prefer to work with/for people with a sense of humor, folks who aren’t afraid to bend the rules, to show a little personality, to have — gasp! — fun on the job. So I’ve always appreciated the non-traditional approaches. People who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines are always the ones I want as clients, employers, or co-workers.

I think you’ll find people will remember Lois K. Geller and her agency long after they’ve forgotten other agencies/vendors/business contacts that chose to send traditional holiday cards this year. So no matter how you slice it, I think what you did was both smart and fun.

And isn’t that what direct marketing is all about?

Cheers (and a heapin’ helping of Chicken Karma),


Per Lofving
Senior Director at McGraw-Hill Construction

I am a little discouraged this year by all of the email cards – few offer any humor or passion – and most claim to be “green” simply because the sender did not send anything on paper. On top of that, because the ecards are so easy and cheep to send, I’m getting them from many people and businesses that I don’t really know. One exception is a card that also includes a contribution to a tree planting project – that at least means that the sender has invested more than just hitting the send button.

Donald Condit wrote:

Hi Lois — I love the chick.  I almost always steer clients away from a corporate voice.

The trick for many — like my regional bank and others — is to persuade customers that they are getting a more personal relationship with this client without having to sacrifice anything that our clients’ big-city competitors can offer.

Everyone responds to a personal approach, but they will put up with impersonal treatment (despite intense resentment) if they think it’s necessary to get what they need — especially in such categories as banking or other high-end or services or services related to personal risk.

This came through loud and clear in lots of groups we ran for this bank.

Now, as for the bleak outlook for the year…   We often send clients a basket of interesting treats revolving around a relevant theme.  For our friends up the road from you, in Stuart, we just sent a basket full of reminders (products) of terrific companies, products and ideas that were born during the Great Depression or subsequent recessions.  It’s an impressive lineup.  We celebrated creativity and courage — and, I hope, inspired this client to persevere despite market pressures.

Besides all of that, I have to comment on your blog.  I love to read your writing.  What a pleasure it is!

Enjoy the holiday, my friend. Don

Kerry Colligan wrote:

Lois, I agree with your expectations for a “down” year, but I don’t immediately connect the “spring chicken” with new business beginnings. I’m not immediately seeing the strategy here. Is your overall brand message “we’re a new chicken, too”? I’d guess that’s an access point to a larger conversation about how MG uses DM in a contracting economy to help clients start to do business again.

If you’re going for “different” in the holiday communication channel, I think you’re there. I’m not sure it’s memorable.

Ruth P. Stevens
eMarketing Strategy

Lois, I just loved your card this year.  Thank you!  The new beginnings chicken is so sweet.  And let’s just hope the economy improves in ’09! Yipes! My new beginnings involve getting back on my feet, which should be in another 4-6 weeks.  I am actually enjoying the time at home, since it’s allowed me to get caught up on many things.  Clearing out files, finishing projects, even balancing my checkbook!

Best wishes to you,

If you’d like to win the original 9” X 12” New Beginnings Chick painting by Donald Sexauer, just share your new beginnings story below… The best story wins.

Amy Africa, the Internet Guru, and an Amazing Friend, Knows That “The Only Thing You Have To Fear is Fear Itself”

Amy Africa, the Internet Guru, and an Amazing Friend, Knows That “The Only Thing You Have To Fear is Fear Itself”

A few years back, I was invited to speak at Vermont/New Hampshire Direct Marketing Days.I wanted to be there but I didn’t want to travel there because the only flight was a toy airplane from LaGuardia.

But Larry Chait, my brilliant friend and mentor, had asked me to come, so I had to say yes and once I did the event’s organizer, Amy Africa, started calling.

She’s more than pleasant but Amy has one of those moose-and-mountain-country voices that suggests she might shoot and skin an unsatisfactory speaker and nail the hide to the barn door.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Vermont. She sent gifts with notes. Cheese’s note read “All the big cheeses will be here.” On the Maple syrup was “This event will be sweet.”

I steeled myself and got into the little plane. We took off tentatively, cruised at wave height over Long Island Sound and at tree height over Connecticut and Massachusetts, then swooped and dived and yawed and banged and clanged our way into New Hampshire which, from where I sat, looked like Tibet.

Somehow the 15-year old pilot weaved us around mountains and along valleys and, suddenly, there we were. And it was worth it.

The VT/NH Direct Marketing (Circus Circus) event was outstanding: great speakers, circus acts, terrific food, and lots of laughs, all thanks to Amy and her volunteers. They had a raffle kind of draw and I won a rototiller which isn’t much use in a 46th Street apartment so it got “regifted” to a delighted Vermonter.

Amy and I kept in touch for a while; then, as she got more and more important in the Internet world and my agency business started hopping, the letters and emails slowed and we lost touch except for running across each other occasionally at conferences like the DMA’s in New Orleans and Inc. Magazine’s in Scottsdale.

Then Amy saw my face in Fortune Small Business magazine above an article I’d written about the challenges of moving my agency from New York to Florida.

Amy emailed that she was happy to see my smiling (and touched up) face and we started corresponding regularly again and got together in New York last December. At dinner, she asked if I was going to the 2008 DMA Convention in Las Vegas. “No,” I said, “and I’d like to because I’ve never been to Las Vegas.” Read the rest of this entry