by Andy Capp
I was in that mood for the first time in months the other night. I dug the case out of the closet, blew the dust off, and pulled out my old friend. I’ve had many guitars over the years, but this was my first, and currently my only —classical, student model—the one my parents broke down and bought me in my early teens after years of pleading and keeping me away from my Father’s prized instruments. Through the Guitar Club in Junior High, to the angst riddled song writing attempts in the High School years, to the truly pitiful attempts at being noticed at parties in college, this guitar had been my constant companion. These days it seems to get more case time than play time, but on those days when I get the urge to be musical again, or when I just need to let out the Blues, it’s always there waiting for me.
I didn’t even need to take the first strum to know that I’d need my tuning pipe, my Blues are bad enough in tune. I pulled out the tiny case, and found not only the pipe, but some picks. Score! I used to carry picks with me all the time, but I never seemed to have one when it came time to play. I didn’t expect to have any now, but there they were, thins and mediums, the words “Dean Markley” embossed on them. Even better, some “Dean’s!” For years I’ve been using Dean Markley picks AND strings. They’re the only ones I would even consider. They sound good, and for me, feel better than anything else I’ve ever played with.
No, I’m not getting any personal endorsement cash out of this column. Goodness knows that I’m not the kind of player any self-respecting picker would take gear advice from. For the purpose of this column, the “whys” are more important than the “whats.” You see, I started playing with Dean Markleys in the first place because of a friend who had a record shop in my hometown. At the time, my friend was also a member of the coolest band in town, a little New Wave-ish combo called Fast Eddie. Since he used Dean Markleys on all his band guitars, he began selling them in his store—I suspect as a way to get his own strings and picks wholesale. One day I was buying a couple of albums out of his cut-out bin, and I noticed the Dean Markley display behind the counter. As I had just talked my Father into letting me borrow his vintage electric guitar and needed strings, I asked Bruce if they were any good. What he said made me a convert for life. “Andy, these are the only strings I would ever use.”
Why did his endorsement sway me? He was a friend I trusted and admired for his playing skills. I wanted to play like him, and always had a secret dream of being in a rock band like his. On a very personal level, he was a musical hero. If he believed that these were the only strings to use, I believed it—and do to this day. He really should have gotten residuals on the sets I’ve bought since then!
Making it personal is a powerful persuasive tool, a tool that can turn the average spot into an effective commercial. Too many commercials today are nothing but laundry lists of loss leaders, reminding listeners again and again that they don’t have much money, so they better spend what they do have with the guy who sells it the cheapest. The ads that do try to strike a personal note end up reminding listeners that there is a much better life out there that they aren’t a part of, and that if they use the product, their pitiful existence will suddenly do a 180. These advertising concepts have their place, but I find it hard to believe that consumers have gotten so jaded that they can’t be convinced by a sincere, personal approach. I’m not talking about personal endorsements, I’m talking about personal COMMUNICATION.
Who are your best friends? I’m not talking about people you work with or went to school with or perhaps end up with at a party twice year with yelling, “No really, I love YOU man!” I’m talking about the people you always stay in touch with, the ones you tell your troubles and triumphs to, the ones that deep inside you really do love…and trust.
Got the list? Pretty small, isn’t it? Okay, since we’re in that list-making mode, let’s write down WHY they are your friends. Here are a few of my reasons. They believe in me, not just by words but by their actions. They understand what respect means and live their life giving and getting it. They are truly talented, gifted and creative, without being jealous of the talents, gifts and creations of others. Emotions aren’t an evil thing, they’re real and need expression to these friends of mine. They work hard just because, they laugh and love and are ALWAYS there. Any of these on your list?
Let’s narrow things down again. Of those best friends, who do you believe without question? I say this because even the closest of friends can have faults, and while we may over look the shortcomings, we’re certainly aware of them.
One last list. What things make those friends convincing, believable? How do they talk? What words are they using? What elements make those words consistently break through the day to day clutter of life and make them facts? That is what we’re looking for, the heart of communication. If you can use that heart to touch the heart of a listener, you’ve succeeded.
Sincerity and trust in commercials have been replaced by negativity and hype. If listeners are jaded and numb, we’re to blame. If we want them to believe again, we have to give them a reason to. Let’s talk with real emotion, real conviction. Let’s start really talking TO the listeners again, rather than AT them! Who would YOU believe, some stranger that’s shouting numbers at you, or a friendly voice who understands that you feel strongly about your guitar playing, even if you only take it out of the case twice a year? Hey, make mine Markleys!