Respect the Humble Semi-Colon

The semi-colon: a 1% edge, and a shibboleth*

Would 99% of your audience even notice if you misused a semi-colon? Probably not. This leaves 1% who would notice — and they’d take you more seriously.

Punctuation pumps up perception. Look at any FB comment section – the sprawling mess of regurgitated word salad makes people sound irredeemably stupid. The (rare) comment that contains no spelling or punctuation errors is a welcome oasis. Lesson: if fortune offers you a 1% edge, grab it.

A well-placed semi-colon might be a shibboleth to separate you from the barbarians at the gate.


The semi-colon, we confess, isn’t always top-of-mind when writing. Commas and dashes come more naturally, especially when writing in fevered creativity. It is during crucial editing and proofing stages we must add precise punctuation polish.

Do it, or let us do it.

We have 30 years of copywriting, editing, and semi-colon cheering experience. Together, we can improve your brand message and strategy (semi-colons included). Think you’ve written something we couldn’t improve? Test us.

Fill out the form to talk about semi-colons and making your words more effective

*Used by the Gileadites as test to detect the fleeing Ephraimites, who could not pronounce the sound “sh” (Judges 12:4-6). 42,000 dead bodies later, we see imprecise language as deadly serious.

The Seven Line Limit


March against “too texty!”

Take a look at that Important Document (email , FB post, diatribe to your doltish Senator, etc.) you sent last Thursday. Or last month. Does it fail the 7-line limit?

If so, you’re likely to have gotten the dreaded TL;DR reaction, and have zero impact on a portion of your audience.

Fill out the form below to schedule a time to talk about ending your addiction to spray and pray marketing

Don’t Spray and Pray


We did things a little differently back when the earth was cooling

Spray and pray marketing was what we all did back in the dark ages of, say, 2007. Send the same message to everyone, pray they received it. The only way we really knew a message worked was if a customer took action. We sat by the phones, pining for the fjords. As it were.

Modern marketing tools introduced a better way

New tools evolved. Today, we replaced spray and pray with more precise science, to know which messages were received or ignored, by whom, what actions they took, what website pages they spent time on. Those folks in your CRM became visible. Every marketing tactic’s ROI was suddenly measurable.

Unfortunately, however, most marketers still engage in spray and pray.

What’s the problem with that? With new accountable marketing automation tools, sending the same message to everyone is no longer acceptable. Buggy whip 8-track Hammer pants, unironically.

Our mission to stop spray and pray marketing

Raise your right hand. Swear off. Why? Take a look inside your own database or CRM. You no doubt have many people at different points along the buyers’ journey:

  • Suspects
  • Prospects
  • Maybe Leads
  • Hot Leads
  • Customers
  • Brand Evangelists

withEach of them with different wants. Obviously.

Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time

Imagine being able to send targeted emails with messaging personalized, one-to-one, to each person. Take this messaging strategy example:

  • Suspect: Send them a short introductory video explaining who you are and your products or services
  • Hot Lead: Send them a time-sensitive deal if they commit right now
  • Customer: Send them information about your loyalty rewards program to encourage repeat business.

Each message and touchpoint become more personalized and effective when you ditch spray and pray marketing.

How to quit spray and pray marketing

1. Realize you have a problem.

2. Identify all your audience segments.

3. Develop individuating messaging strategies. Test, measure, edit, retest. Rinse and repeat.

(Hey, does this sound like some 12-step program? Spoiler alert: it sorta kinda is. For now, though, let’s just focus on these first three.)

Develop your brand’s sales efficiency

At Killian, we know how important identifying audiences and messaging strategies are. That’s why our brand development services include them.

Fill out the form below to schedule a time to talk about ending your addiction to spray and pray marketing

Of 11,000 marketing firms in America, we were ranked #3.

#3 out of 11,000

2017 Leaders graph from

When your firm looks for an advertising, marketing or branding partner, you face a bewildering number of unfamiliar choices.

The research firm will come to the rescue to do the initial work for you, screening the nation’s agencies. They conduct client interviews* in depth, asking relevant questions about effectiveness, responsiveness and more. They probe. They challenge. Then crunch the numbers.

For 2017, we were ranked #3.

In the whole country.

We were, of course, surprised and delighted by the honor.

Searching for marketing counsel can seem difficult or risky (or both), but you should be aware that there’s a systematic, reliable way to find a trustworthy resource. A more scientific method than asking your CEO’s cousin’s neighbor’s wife who she’s heard of.

Want to talk about it?

Bob Killian  312 399 2894 (cell)

*They conduct in-depth telephone interviews, not superficial check-the-box internet surveys.

There are two ad/marketing agencies better than we are

… and that’s okay.

Since the category is all of America’s ad and marketing agencies, finishing third ain’t so bad., who did the evaluations, is a well-regarded, objective research company. No pay for play here – we were as surprised as anyone. Last year we were delighted that they ranked us as a leading Chicago agency, but now we’ve moved up to their national scoresheet. Check out their leaders’ matrix here.

So. We’re tickled for the honor, and are forced to concede that the two agencies that edged us out must be freakin’ awesome.

Hot in 2017 … Client Growth!

Let’s celebrate client success!

They started 2017 with a bang!

We’re healthy shake people now

We're healthy shake people now

Thanks to our new client, Purition, we’re all about healthy shakes made with real food

We’re delighted to welcome Purition to our client page. Hey, we get to try a bunch of healthy shakes and call it “research.”

Purition has been a big hit in the UK, and we’re going to help introduce Americans to these gluten-free no-nasties no-added-sugar shakes.

That no-added-sugar is crucial since sweetness is an unhealthy habit. Odds are, your current meal replacement or after-workout shake has more sugar than you want or need. Delicious doesn’t have to be artificial. Or unnaturally sweet.

Speaking of research, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the taste and texture of a protein mix made with 100% real/whole/clean food. Get a sample pack via Amazon (yes, they’re in inventory for quick delivery) and let us know if you’re joining us.

We were named one of the top three branding agencies in Chicago

Well, as we often say, hey.

Normally, we’re a bit skeptical about this sort of thing, but the methodology of this research firm seemed legitimate. They asked us for ten references and began interviewing. Here’s their press release about it.

If you were among the clients who were interviewed, thanks. If you were not, perhaps you should consider becoming one. I’m just sayin’.

Our playground is larger than Chicago, by the way. We have served clients on three continents since 1987. They’ve been in every category: B2B, B2C, not for profit, education, products, services,everything from bulldozers to fragrances.

So, how are you?

Uber, landlines, K-cups, coworking and the death of the “static quo.”

Nimble people and organizations adapt better to change, almost by definition. As an agency about to move, it’s time to examine the symptoms, signs and opportunities pivoting away from what we call the “static quo.”static quo, uber, kcups

Uber is displacing car ownership. Owning a car (especially a second car) was once a given, but ownership meant an asset that sat static and unproductive 22 hours a day. A depreciating asset, slowly turning to rust. Even in that fraction of the day when it was useful, it carried 1.2 people with 4.8 empty seats. Enter Uber and their competitors who offer efficient use-it-when-you-need-it flexibility.

Landlines. Remember landlines? Phones in static locations that you had to be nearby to use, analogous to that rusting car in the previous paragraph. Vanishing into memory like Space Food Sticks, Arsenio Hall and bipartisanship, landlines once kept a copper-wire connection between your house and the world. Your phone isn’t just mobile, it frees you to be mobile.

Wirelessness (in every sense) made landlines obsolete, but not rare. Yet.

K-cups are another manifestation of the nimble new world order. Traditional office coffee service was a binary choice: caf or decaf, with a roly-poly pot of each turning old and bitter on a two-level shrine. Today we have eleventy-many coffee choices, some of them bizarrely flavored (chocolate chip? really?) but all tailored to individual advantage – no static quo. Yes, I know, Keurig is neither economical nor green – I’m reporting, not advocating. Lighten up Francis.

Coworking fits the pattern, too. Having a static fixed place of business, with long leases, furniture ownership and a bank of servers (how very 2012!) can now be replaced by flexible month-by-month spaces, no depreciating assets and a network of locations and connections that can be used as needed. Add in cloud IT and you’ve erased geography. Nimble vs static quo, an ultimate fighting cage match! (Pro tip: bet on nimble.)

We bought into all of this, and Killian Branding will be moving to flexible coworking spaces in Chicago and Charlotte, starting June 1. Stay tuned. So, what are we going to do with 28+ years of accumulated furniture? Hey, want a conference table? We won’t need it – or desks – or even the Keurig machine.

Autonomy: celebrated by individuals, but it weakens partnerships’ branding and practice building.

autonomyProfessional service firm partners often tend to think and act as autonomous business units first, members of a coherent unified group second. Lip service, yes. Full out team commitment, not so much.

Autonomy is in many ways a plus, of course. Each partner knows her strongest practice area, and can pursue clients whose needs match those strengths. Fine.

But autonomy has negative consequences for the branding of the firm. We have seen many firms who put a person (partner or hired gun) in charge of business development, but shrink from allowing that person any real power or substantial budget. Achieving consensus on the firm’s mission/vision/position becomes a source of conflict, hesitation and territory marking. 

The resulting committee-driven effort will be inoffensive, thrifty – and feeble. Seriously, which of your hundreds of competitors can’t make that ho-hum “we’re on your side” claim?

When you add in the regulatory challenges that every attorney, accountant and financial advisor faces, it’s not surprising when marketing efforts turn into safe, predictable abstractions: mayonnaise on white bread.

Is there a cure? Sure. As we Darwinians say, the path to survival lies in adaptation.

By the way, if you recognize your firm in this, let’s get the partners together and start to take action.

Are we the right partners to help you? Yes: Click here for what Top Branding Companies has to say about law firm branding agencies.