Kurt Vonnegut on The Shapes of Stories

Moving People to Action

Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut, photo from nndb

Kurt Vonnegut is an American writer (1922-2007) famous for his satire and humour in the face of desperate circumstances.  He has a wonderful theory on “the shapes of stories” – which he presents in the 4 minute video available below.

Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Telling a Story

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent…

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5 Remarketing Tips to Maximize Your Holiday SEM

, December 5, 2012

Remarketing works because you already know something about a user: at the very least, they’ve been to your site and therefore have some interest in whatever it is you’re offering. That’s really powerful knowledge.

Now that it’s December, you also know something else about people, which is that they will almost certainly make several purchases in the next few weeks. Here are some tips to make sure you maximize that knowledge and turn it into dollars.

1. Go Big or Go Home!

Even if you aren’t ecommerce, this applies. We’re in a time of year when the ad marketplace goes crazy. Dollars are flying everywhere.

Additionally, users are more amenable to seeing ads right now. In fact, they seek them out, doing things like buying newspapers just to see the local deals.

To ensure you maintain your impression share on your surely valuable remarketing campaigns, turn up the volume! Increase your bids (or CPA targets) and increase your budgets.

Additionally, ramp up your impression caps. You still don’t want to over-expose, but the threshold of tolerance is much higher to users right now.

2. Target Everything You Can

Again, people are in super-buying mode. Pixel your promotional emails to bring interested old customers back.

If you have a blog or other content that generally is made for SEO, pixel it and target those users too. Remarket to your YouTube video viewers. All the top-of-funnel purchase research that happens the rest of the year has a really high likelihood of coming to fruition in the next couple of weeks.

Also, if you typically stop remarketing when somebody converts, consider continuing to hit those users, as they may order again. I personally have made seven unique purchases on Amazon since Monday!

3. Target the “Wrong” Demographic

We’re now in Bizarro-land. It’s the only time of year when women buy lots of hunting gear, 25-year-olds buy Hummel figurines, and anybody can be compelled to stop in the middle of their “Words With Friends” session to go buy that gift they’ve been meaning to get. If you have any exclusions (genders, categories, placements) on your remarketing campaigns, consider taking them off.

Even better, create campaigns that specifically target everything you normally exclude with customized messaging (e.g., “Want to Buy Him the Perfect Hunting Vest?”).

4. Get on the ‘Remarketing Lists for Search Audiences’ Train


If you aren’t already using this feature, this is the perfect time to start, because right now, for this target, you know three things about a user:

  • They have been to your site.
  • They will buy something(s) very soon.
  • What keyword they just searched for.

This allows you to hit a way bigger keyword set than you use in your normal campaigns – you can bid to number one spots on head terms that generally don’t have ROAS for you, like “chair” or “toy” (along with super-cheap ones like “gift” and “free shipping”).

If figuring out those keywords is too much work, layer Google’s Dynamic Search Ads (the beta where you let Google “scrape” your content and serve search ads whenever they feel like it) with RLSA. Given all the things you know about these users, this level of targeting – broad match that’s so broad there aren’t even keywords – actually makes sense.

5. It’s Not Over When it’s Over!

If you’re planning to dial your remarketing back on December 26, think again! Spending tends to remain inflated until around Jan 20, when the credit card bills come.

There are people to target who want to buy themselves what they are disappointed wasn’t gifted to them (could make for a great creative concept or promo!). Additionally, if you’re an ecommerce business and you’re doing it right, on Dec 26 you’ve probably just collected the biggest remarketing bucket that you’ve ever had – and, hopefully, lots of satisfied customers.

Think of it like you think of your email list. There are huge opportunities at driving loyalty through remarketing that gets purchasers to write a review, engage with your social media, or purchase accessories. All the stuff you’d push in emails can also be pushed through remarketing.


By capitalizing on the universally higher intent to purchase this time of year with smart remarketing targets, you can drive serious profits – the best holiday gift of all!