Make Your Marketing Message POP!

Virtual Lunch

How intriguing is your marketing? Does it make people eager to know more?

In this rebroadcast of Virtual Lunch, communications expert Sam Horn shares tips to transform your marketing message from forgettable to memorable. Discover how to:

  • Create repeatable, retweetable titles or taglines
  • Design a visual message
  • Find a meaningful metaphor
  • Capture attention with her “Did You Know?” opening

Here are the links mentioned in the interview:

(Note: Some links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click on them and choose to purchase I may receive a small commission or other compensation. You will not pay more for buying a product through these links. I’m disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations regarding endorsements.)

About Sam Horn

Sam Horn
Sam Horn

Sam Horn is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency, a positioning/messaging consultancy, which helps people design and deliver TEDx talks, keynotes, funding pitches and one-of-a-kind brands.

She is also the CEO of the Tongue Fu! Training Institute, a trade-marked communication skills approach, that teaches how to give and get respect at work, at home, online and in public.
Sam is the author of nine books from major publishers including Tongue Fu!®, POP!, What’s Holding You Back, SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? 

Sam’s work has been featured in dozens of publications including NY Times, Forbes, Readers Digest, INC, Harvard Business Review (Ascend), Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and she has been
interviewed on every major network including NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, NPR and MSNBC.
Sam has had the privilege of speaking to more than half a million people worldwide and for clients including Boeing, Intel, Capital One, Cisco, Nationwide, Four Seasons Resorts, Accenture, National Geographic, ASAE, American Bankers Association, State of Hawaii, ServiceMaster, the U.S. Navy.

Sam’s books have been published in 17 languages and she has spoken internationally in China, Germany, England, Greece, Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Canada, Korea.
Sam served as the Pitch Coach for Springboard Enterprises which has helped entrepreneurs generate $1- billion (yes, that’s a B) in funding – and for the British Airways international pitch competition.
Sam has been brought in by TED FELLOWS, SXSW, INC 500 and Richard Branson’s Virgin United NEW NOW Leaders to teach how to quickly and clearly communicate the value of their projects. LinkedIn hired Sam to produce a series on Communication that has been used by Amazon, Walmart, Accenture. NASA hired Sam to media-train their senior scientists and climate change specialists.

Sam co-founded the Business Book Festival (held at USA Today headquarters) and served as the Executive Director of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference for 17 years.


[00:00:00.490] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the trade show Insights podcast. Season 17 Episode One I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results. On today's episode brought to you by Exhibit Marketers Cafe, we've got a rebroadcast of our virtual lunch where you're going to learn how to take your marketing message from forgettable to memorable.

[00:01:02.990] - Marlys Arnold

Sam Horn is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she helps people design and deliver Ted talks, keynotes, funding pitches and one of a kind brands. She's the author of nine books, including Tong Fu, Pop!, What's Holding You Back,Someday is not a Day of the Week, which is one of Alan's favorites, and The Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention. Her work has been featured in dozens of media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes Inc. Harvard Business Review, NPR and virtually every major TV news outlet. Her client list reads like a Who's Who of major international companies. But here are just a few highlights. She was brought in by Ted Fellows, South by Southwest, Inc 500, and Richard Branson's Virgin United New Now leaders to teach how to quickly and clearly communicate the value of their projects. Linkedin hired Sam to produce a series on communication that has been used by Amazon, Walmart and Accenture. NASA hired Sam to media train their senior scientists and climate change specialist. So we are very privileged to have Sam Horn with us today here in virtual lunch. Welcome, Sam.

[00:02:18.930] - Sam Horn

Thank you so much, Marlys. I'm really looking forward to sharing some real life ideas all of your listeners and viewers can put into practice immediately.

[00:02:27.190] - Marlys Arnold

Yes. Your ideas are so practical. Pop is one of my favorite books. I have this one. I use it all the time, in fact. And I haven't told you this yet, Sam. I actually typed up because I use the ideas in Pop to create to generate titles. So I actually created my own little worksheet that I use.

[00:02:48.930] - Sam Horn

Yeah. I love it when a plan comes together and gets carried out.

[00:02:53.310] - Marlys Arnold

So let's start out. I mean, there's so many things we can talk about, but let's start by talking about just the idea of making your message pop. The book Pop. You've got so many different ideas in there. What are some of the strategies that exhibitors or show organizers could use to really make their message pop? I know you've got lots of them. So give us a couple of ideas.

[00:03:17.330] - Sam Horn

Wonderful. In fact, Marlys, I think many people know that I helped start and run the Maui Writers Conference, which Writers Digest said was the best writers conference in the world. And all of our authors, they only agreed on one thing and that's ink it when you think it. So I hope you have paper because I'm going to share four of my best practices you can use immediately to make your trade show booth pop, to make your website pop, to make a marketing campaign or an ad or a brochure pop. And it's based on this premise. So on your notes, please put a vertical line down the center. People ask how my brain works, and I juxtapose everything. I think it is the quickest way to make a complex idea crystal clear. So our session today is based on this premise from George Washington Carver, who said, "when you can do a common thing in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." So please put a vertical line down the center of your notes. Put common over on the left and put uncommon over on the right. And if we want to pop out in a very crowded industry, we're going to focus on three very specific ways that we can create common titles.

[00:04:32.010] - Sam Horn

Uncommon taglines, uncommon marketing messages that break out instead of blend in. Because blending in is for cuisine, art. So ready for the first idea, Marlys?

[00:04:43.500] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, yes, definitely.

[00:04:44.980] - Sam Horn

Okay, so over on the left, please put forgettable. And over on the right, please put memorable because Gary Marshall, who directed the movie Pretty Woman, came to Maui Riders conference. He said something so profound, I remember it as if he said it this morning. He said, "Hollywood directors can predict when their movies will make money based on one thing. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word?" Because if they're saying, make my day, show me the money, I'll be back. When someone has seen any good movies recently, they're talking about your movie. And in a way that motivates people to want to go to it, they become brand ambassadors. So here's the question. Look at your website. Look at your marketing material. Look at the signage on your trade show booth. Is there anything that people can repeat word for word after seeing it once, after hearing it once? Because if not, we're out of sight, out of mind. We don't want to be out of sight, out of mind. We want to be top of mind. So here are three quick techniques you can do to be memorable instead of forgettable and repeatable and retweetable.

[00:05:57.580] - Sam Horn

So people hear or see something and repeat it and become a brand ambassador for what you care about. So please write down A-I-R. A stands for Alliterative. Alliteration is when words start with the same sound, it makes us instantly eloquent. It makes our language lyrical. So now listen to these words. Bed, toilet, and shower. Duncan Croissants, best purchase, dirt, vacuum, kind of clunky, right? Take those same words and make them alliterative. Bed, Bath and beyond. Best Buy, dirt, Devil Rolls Royce. Are you using alliteration in your languaging? And now, if you're thinking, come on, Sam, this is just petty wordplay. No, it's word profits. And I'll give you an example. Marlys, do you drink coffee or tea by any chance?

[00:06:54.290] - Marlys Arnold

I'm a tea drinker.

[00:06:55.570] - Sam Horn

You're a tea drinker. All right. Have you ever put those cardboard insulating sleeves around a hot cup of tea so you can burn your fingers?

[00:07:02.800] - Marlys Arnold


[00:07:03.420] - Sam Horn

Okay. It's hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. It's hard to build the business around an unpronounceable name. If we can't repeat it, we didn't get it. And cardboard insulating sleeves is complex and people forget it. Jay Sorenson saw a business opportunity, so he didn't call those cardboard insulating sleeves, which is a commodity. He called them Java jackets. Boom. He cornered the market. He says people who wanted to do business with his competitor contact him because they can't remember the name of the competitor. Go ahead, Marlys. You're going to say.

[00:07:44.160] - Marlys Arnold

I was going to say. Exactly. Because that becomes the name that everybody refers to. Now, everybody calls all of them Java jackets.

[00:07:54.070] - Sam Horn

That's exactly right. And now you own the market. Right. Because you own the name, and it's because you crafted a name that is alliterative that can be repeated after hearing at once. So now there's a couple more keys to this. You want to hear them?

[00:08:06.960] - Marlys Arnold


[00:08:07.680] - Sam Horn

Okay. Next is I I is for Iambic meter. When you put it in a beat, you make it easy to repeat. When you put it in a beat, you make it easy to repeat. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Okay. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Okay. Now, Marlys, do you know those first two marketing slogans are 50 years old, and yet they were still on the tip of our tongue, on the top of our mind because they were in a rhythm that made it easy to repeat. And when it's easy to repeat, we repeat it, and then it goes viral, and then it gets spread. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, once again, this is not word play. It's word profits. Said that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, has generated more than a billion dollars of revenue for that city because of that slogan.

[00:09:07.570] - Marlys Arnold

I believe it.

[00:09:08.820] - Sam Horn

Okay, now you're ready for the third one?

[00:09:11.270] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, definitely. Go ahead.

[00:09:13.070] - Sam Horn

Put down R. R is for rhyme, which is remembered over time, which makes it sublime. Now, once again, let me give you an example to show the power of this, because it's not just semantics. It actually can save lives. US government was concerned years ago about the number of injuries and fatalities in car accidents. So they mounted a multimillion dollar public service campaign called Buckle Up for Safety. Funky. Nothing changed because, as Duke Gellington said, "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." So they went back to the drawing board, and this time they came up with Click It or Ticket. Boom. Click it or ticket. Now, here's the thing. Compliance went up. Injuries and fatalities went down. They saved lives by investing themselves in crafting a slogan that resonated with people and motivated them to change behavior. So when it comes to your trade show booth, when it comes to your exhibit, when it comes to your website or marketing material. Once again, this is not word play. If people can't repeat it, they didn't get it, which means you didn't get it. How can you use this airtight sound bite process to create hook, line and sinkers that keep you top of mind instead of out of sight, out of mind?

[00:10:43.110] - Marlys Arnold

Well, exactly. Because if you think about it, it's like centuries later. We're still reading Shakespeare with his iambic pentameter. And Dr. Seuss is still a hugely popular children's series. And we can all probably recite pages from Dr. Seuss books because again, like you said, it's the way the words are put together, the way that they flow. And being an English major, I always try to look at what is the better choice of words. Well, maybe you noticed what we titled this session, make your marketing message pop. So I use that alliteration of all, the M, I have learned a few things from you over the years.

[00:11:24.850] - Sam Horn


[00:11:27.190] - Marlys Arnold

Well, I know you also talk about visualize making the message visual as well. Could you tell us a little bit more about how to do that?

[00:11:34.870] - Sam Horn

You bet it's I believe so. Over on the left. Let's see, put vague over on the right. Visual verbiage, vague, visual verbiage. Two quick stories. Number one, is that the head of the movie studio that was making the movie Jaws. They came back with a movie poster and it just had the word Jaws on it. He said, people are going to think this is about a dentist. He said, ready. He said, show me the fish. So, see, they went back and they came up with that iconic image of a woman just enjoying swimming in the ocean, not knowing that there was a shark underneath her. And you see how that image evoked, like the terror or the mystery or the da-da-da-da part of it. And that image became the image they used for the movie and for the book. And it's one of the reasons your word Marlys has become an evergreen is because when we make our verbage visual, that's when people see what we're saying, that's when they picture our point and when we're uncertain about something, and then all of a sudden the puzzle pieces fall into place and it becomes Crystal clear. Do you know what people say? Oh, I see now.

[00:13:02.060] - Marlys Arnold


[00:13:03.710] - Sam Horn

So another thing like that's why I use the picture of a fish on my book got your attention because it's based on an observation from Nancy F. Cohen from Harvard who found that, yes, goldfish had longer attention spans than we do. Goldfish, 9 seconds. Human beings, 8 seconds. So how can I make my message visual by showing a goldfish that applies to attention spans? Now, two other quick examples. Marlys, why is it that to put your oxygen mask on first mem is so memorable because they turned an idea into an image, right? They didn't just say, put yourself first. They said, if you're on an airplane, why do they say, oh, all of a sudden the idea lands because it is anchored in the real world with a visual where we can see it. When Jim Collins said, get the right people on the bus, he didn't just say pick diverse team members, right? It's a visual of the bus. And now all of a sudden a vague idea becomes Crystal clear because we can see it and picture it, not just hear it.

[00:14:15.050] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and that was kind of my premise when I was writing my book, Build a Better Trade Show Image. I took the whole analogy of building a house and use that as a framework for the book because I wanted to make it relatable so people could understand. I mean, even if you haven't built your own house, you still get the idea that you do the foundation first and then you put up the walls and then you decorate the inside. So finding those analogies, I think that's so important. And I've seen that done so many times so well on the trade show floor, where somebody takes an analogy and really brings their sometimes very abstract product to life because they've used analogy or a metaphor. But then sometimes there's ones that they take an analogy that doesn't even tie in. And I can remember one show I went to and it was a construction show, and they had this giant spinning brain, and they were all dressed in lab coats and everybody kept talking about it. What's with the brain? What's with the giant brain? So it's got to tie back in. I think that's the key.

[00:15:15.410] - Sam Horn

See, Marlys, you're so right. It's like there's this phrase I never metaphor I didn't like. Well, we both met metaphors we didn't like because they didn't make sense. We think of our target audience. Will this make sense to them? Will this resonate with them? Will they relate to it? Because it is clear that using an analogy or a metaphor that is meaningful to our audience is a way to make an idea more relatable. We make the unfamiliar familiar. And a wonderful example of this is a woman came up to me after a program and she wanted to start her own business. Now, she was the spokesperson for American Express. If you went on their website at that point, there was Jan Holman up in the corner dispensing financial advice. This is a very crowded market. How could she possibly create a business that was one of a kind instead of one of many? Well, I asked her one question. I said, what do you do when you're not working? She said, I play golf. I said, we're in business. So put a vertical line down the center, put golf on the left and put like money management or Accruing wealth, on the right. Now start looking your word for the analogies, the parallels, the corollaries write down all the words. So you have a word bank for money, management and for golf. Let's see, many people in golf, they try and hit the cover off the ball. Right. Well, that's a parallel for, like, investing too fast and too big. Right. And then your Caddy is your financial manager. And we finally came up with the title for the book by doing this process of how we can make the familiar unfamiliar with a fresh metaphor that helps people see it with new eyes. So what's the title for the book? Go for the green.

[00:17:06.920] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, yeah, that's really good because you've got that double meaning there of the green. That's very clever.

[00:17:15.770] - Sam Horn

And of course, it needs to be commercially viable. We always need to ground it in our strategic role. So think about who does she want as her ideal client? Well, probably executives and entrepreneurs and affluent people, et cetera. Now, here's the good news. At conferences, many times they have a golf tournament in Upfront, right?

[00:17:35.700] - Marlys Arnold


[00:17:36.160] - Sam Horn

So Jan now is giving like a half hour presentation over lunch and then going out and playing golf with all of these decision makers. All are in a position to recommend her book, buy it for bulk sales, hire her for consulting. So do you see? She's Katherine Grahaming her career. Catherine Graham said "to do what you love and feel that it matters." Could anything be more fun? So what do you love? What do you do well. How can it be a metaphor for a generic topic? And now you've made a generic topic, genius, and you are doing work you love that you're good at that is meaningful and fresh to your target audience in a way that makes you the go to resource in a very crowded industry.

[00:18:18.530] - Marlys Arnold

I love it. Well, Sam, one other thing that I want to touch on before our time runs out. And I know this is one that Alan reminded me of just the other day, your did you know sequence. I think this is a great idea, especially either for maybe the preshow marketing or even for the booth staff to remember in the booth. So can you share that with us, please?

[00:18:40.640] - Sam Horn

Absolutely. Now, to make this as applicable as possible, everyone please be thinking of a situation coming up where you want to win buyin. You want people to say yes to what it is you're proposing or pitching or recommending or requesting. So get in your mind the situation can be virtual. It can be in person where you want to get a yes to whatever it is you're offering. All right. I tell you the story then. We're going to unpack it real quick so that you can use these three steps in the first 60 seconds of that contact for their eyebrows to go up and for them to be curious and want to know more, which means you just got what you cared about in their mental door. So here's the quick story. You may know that I was the pitch coach for Springboard Enterprises. They have helped women entrepreneurs generate more than 26 billion in funding. This is Robin Chase of Zipcar. This is Gail Goodman, a constant contact. So one of my Springboard clients came to me, Springboard Enterprises, and her name was Kathleen Calendar. She was with Farmer Jet. And she said, Sam, I got good news and I got bad news.

[00:19:44.220] - Sam Horn

I said, well, what's the good news? She said, I'm speaking in front of a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York. I said, that's fantastic news. What's the bad news? She said, I'm going at 2:00 in the afternoon and I only have ten minutes. She said, Sam, you can't say anything in ten minutes. How can I possibly explain our patent pending, our FDA clinical trials, our team credentials, our exit strategy? And I said, Kathleen, you don't have ten minutes. You have 60 seconds. They will have heard 16 other presentations by the time you speak. So here's the 60 second opening we came up with that not only helped her generate millions in funding, she and her daughter Heather, who run Pharma Jet, were selected as Business Week's most promising social entrepreneur of that year.

[00:20:33.910] - Marlys Arnold


[00:20:34.710] - Sam Horn

Ready? Here we go. 60 seconds. Did you know there are 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year? Did you know up to a third of them are given with reused needles? Did you know we're spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we're trying to prevent? Imagine if there were a painless, one use needle for a fraction of the current cost. You don't have to imagine it. We've created it and she's off and running. Are your eyebrows up, Marlys? Do you want to know more?

[00:21:12.050] - Marlys Arnold

Definitely, yes.

[00:21:14.630] - Sam Horn

So here are the three steps. Now let's compare this. Do you know how she used to explain what Pharma Jet did or open her presentations by explaining that PharmaJet was a medical delivery device for subcutaneous inoculations. It's a what? Look at my eyebrows when we're confused. We crunch up our eyebrows and confuse people don't say, yes. We want eyebrows to go up. Oh, that's interesting. Oh, I didn't know that. Here's how we do it. Three steps. Number one, ask three did you know questions with surprising statistics about the problem you're solving, about the issue you're addressing, about the need you're meeting? What are three did you know questions with surprising statistics? And if you're thinking, Sam, how do I find these surprising statistics? You Google that stuff if we had time. Marlys, we have variety of people from around the country in all types of different industries just put into search. What are surprising statistics about blank about this industry that you're working in, about this problem you're solving, about this need that you're meeting, this issue addressing. Up will come things even you don't know. And especially recent research, because recency equals relevancy.

[00:22:40.030] - Marlys Arnold


[00:22:40.300] - Sam Horn

And when you say, did you know this and this and this, and people are going, I didn't know it was that bad. I didn't know it cost that much. I didn't know it was affecting that many people. Step one, step two, use this word imagine. Imagine pulls people out of their preoccupation because they're not distracted anymore. They are picturing your point. Link the word imagine to three benefits of your proposal or three advantages of your product, or three bottom line results that will accrue to people if they hire this service or if they choose to work with you. Go back to Kathleen calendar. Put yourself in the mind of her decision makers. What are they thinking about? We're probably thinking about those reused needles, so we made it one use. They're probably thinking about painfull inoculations. We made it painless. Most decision makers care about money. So we said a fraction of the current cost. See how in a world of infobesity, Bah Wah Wah, we distilled into one succinct sentence. Who wouldn't want that? Second step, imagine this. People are thinking, sounds fantastic. Who would?

[00:23:58.290] - Marlys Arnold


[00:23:58.820] - Sam Horn

Yeah. Step three, these words. You don't have to imagine it. We're doing it now. You come in with your precedents and your evidence to show this isn't pie in the sky or speculative. This is a done deal. And here's your proof of concept. Here's a testimonial. Here's the article informs. Here's a respected industry leader who vouches for you. You do that in 60 seconds. And Jack Welch said, "if you don't have a competitive edge, don't compete." I think if we don't have a competitive edge, we can't compete. And this gives you a competitive edge in the first 60 seconds because everyone is still infobesity explaining and the eyebrows are crunched up. You hit the ground running. You got the eyebrows up. They already know what a problem this was causing, how many people are being affected, how much it cost. You just help them imagine a better scenario and you and your team are in a position to deliver it. Boom. That's how you can win by in or you can at least intrigue people in 60 seconds or less.

[00:25:05.840] - Marlys Arnold

I love that. And I think that's such a great concept for a trade show booth staff, because if you create that intrigue, like you said, within the first 60 seconds, they're definitely going to want to spend more time in your booth. They're going to want to learn more. They're going to want to do the hands on demos or whatever. But you've got to capture that interest. And too many exhibit staff are just horrible at their approach and how they start that conversation in the booth because you do have a very limited time window that you've got to get people excited. So, Sam, thank you so much. We could go on all afternoon. I know, talking about all the wonderful strategies that you use. So tell us how people can best get a hold of you. And we've got your links here. We'll share as well.

[00:25:52.320] - Sam Horn

Well, thank you. You can contact me directly if you'd like me to help train your team or if you'd like some information about me speaking for your organization at This is my sister. She's been running my business for 20 years. So Cheri would be glad to find out about your event and maybe how we can help contribute to make it a success. And you can also go to My TEDx talk is there. I've always featured articles and quotes that are hopefully value added for you and to follow up on something you said, Marlys Richard Branson said "time is the new money" and I think time is the new trust. And if we're training our staff and our teams on how to hit the ground running and deliver value and intrigue people quickly, it is one of the quickest ways to earn trust from our clients and our customers because they trust that we are always going to not waste their time and deliver value that they can use.

[00:26:57.480] - Marlys Arnold

That is so true. And Sam, you definitely did not waste anybody's time today. You packed so much wonderful information into this 20 plus minutes. So Amanda says thank you. Great stuff. Savannah says loved it. So fantastic. Sam, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time out to join us here today in virtual Lunch and we hope we can have you back again in the future.

[00:27:21.490] - Sam Horn

Thank you so much. I enjoyed it. I hope people found it inspiring and useful and intriguing and intriguing.

[00:27:35.490] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during our interview in this episode's Show Notes at and if you'd like to join us for an upcoming Virtual Lunch, you'll find info on exhibit. If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device. Simply search Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or virtually anywhere else that podcasts are found, then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons Copyright License. You may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embed it on your own blog as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes. To learn more, please see the link in the Sidebar of the Show Notes. Well, that's it for this episode trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our Show Notes and archives at You can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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