A few years ago the phrase “don’t let good be the enemy of great” popped up. It’s a phrase that often captures the way Paul operates. His demand for perfection and excellence is relentless. Steve, however, comes from the laissez faire school of “don’t let good be the enemy of finished.” He’s willing to tolerate some imperfections if it means getting the work out and into the marketplace. Both points of view have merit…and risks. Which are you…and under what circumstances?
If and as you want to develop business, follow the budget. We were reminded recently that CMO’s don’t have budgets, but their marketing directors do. Short of looking to win a total account, if you are looking for project work go where the work is. Do you match what you hope to do with the people who are empowered to enable you to do it?
While it’s still on the print masthead of the New York Times, in case you didn’t notice, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” –first used February 10, 1897—has disappeared from every other Times platform: Online. Kiosks. Vending machines. All of them have different slogans. With organizations such as TMZ, Fox and The Daily Show masquerading as news sources, it seems “fit to print” is no longer much of a competitive advantage. When was the last time you examined whether your slogan is still viable?
Advertisers have been paying more and more for smaller network audiences for years. The game is changing as so many of us watch on our time, on demand. The networks are now encouraging us to do just that. What they (rightly) care about is series loyalty, rather than time and device loyalty. Bottom of the heap NBC is now leading in Fall prime time ratings and cable companies are actively considering adding Netflix to the customer offering. How do you view TV – both as a customer and as a marketer?
This year Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are falling on the same day. Tonight. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and won’t occur again for 77,000 years. Thanksgivukkah is the word that has been coined to acknowledge the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah confluence. A new word for a single day like “Y2K.” The world didn’t end 13 years ago. And if you want to celebrate Thanksgivukkah this week, add latkes (potato pancakes) to the sweet potatoes on your holiday menu. Have a great holiday weekend and we’ll be back (stuffed) on Monday.
German golfer Sandra Gal joined the LPGA tour about four years ago and has been rising steadily in the ranks. The result has been a succession of recent headlines that aren’t meant to be punny (Gal Takes Lead; Gal Fights Weather; etc.) but remind us of how far most of us have come in discarding the language of sexism and male paternalism. What antiquated or inappropriate language do you still employ - and how are you going to get beyond it?
A follow-up to our comment about athletes and drugs. An article in the New York Times late last month revealed that doping had come to pigeon racing, as well. Following a race in Belgium, six pigeons tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs. Really?! Can we trust that as you compete in the business world, you seek every advantage that is legal, not dopey?
We just heard about a new hamburger. The Ramen Burger marries the noodles we love with hamburgers. Seems like a good substitute for a bun. We’re great fans of paradigm busting—even if it’s just cleverly renaming “spaghetti with meatballs.” What new recipes are you concocting for your marketing?
For the past three years, one of the most in demand workshops we do is “Customer Centricity.” Corporate marketing departments avidly want to know what’s changed and why putting the customer front and center is more important than ever. The multiplicity of marketing platforms? Elusive audiences? The new two-way conversation? Sure. But isn’t the idea of putting the customer first what we always should have been doing?
While we’ve written a number of blogs about the shifts in language due to the Web, it seems “proper usage” may be an artificial and fairly recent fiction. A story in the NYTimes reported that linguists believe the most universal word in the world isn’t “mama” or “dada” but rather “huh?” Huh? In fact, that simple questioning expression shows up in languages as diverse as West African Siwu, Australian Aboriginal, Murrinh-Patha, Chinese and, of course, English. Human beings have always preferred short, simple means of communication. Do you use words that are short and to the point? Duh!
Steve’s talk to the Louisville AAF club last week came with an added bonus. One of their members, Liam Spradlin, is an avid Google blogger who was given a pair of Google Glass to test and keep. Liam was kind enough to give Steve a view of the future. First reaction? It’s going to be another iPad: A must-have device that’s powerful and fun but will take a while to find its serious application and use. What do you see in your future that will be the next transformation in how we live and work?
Starbucks works to a brand positioning that is not stated. The internal mantra, “The Third Place,” is all about attracting customers in between home and work—as many times during the day as possible. In the morning, at lunch time, in the afternoon and—with their current beer and wine test marketing—after work, as well. This guiding idea underscores Starbucks’ desire to enhance consumer engagement without being obvious about it. Do you have an internal positioning that guides your business? Should you?
There was an intriguing story in the NY Times recently about a bet over dinner. Whoever reached for their smart phone first was to pick up the tab for the meal. Time after time we are seeing people so immersed in their technology that human contact and conversation are being sacrificed. Painfully, we see it in business meetings, as well. What are you doing to protect communication rather than drowning in tech drivel?
Unlike more and more business travelers these days–around 30% according to CNN–we both leave a tip for the housemaids. Besides their miserably low pay for a tough, dirty job, we think of it as a form of Traveler’s Insurance. We can’t prove this irrefutably, but we sincerely believe that if we forget an item and leave it in our room, there’s a higher probability it’ll get turned in and returned if we left a tip. Is this just the right thing to do, an aspect of pay it forward, left item insurance…or all of these?
Is it our imagination—or has it been a less-than-stellar year for commercials? We mark the “commercial year” from Super Bowl to Super Bowl, and we usually expect a spurt of creativity around the Olympics, the World Series, the Oscars and other high-profile live events. But we’re hard pressed to praise anything so far this year. There have been a lot of “good” ads…but we’ve yet to see much in the way great ones. Is it that the creative juices are moving into experiential, social and digital consumer engagement…or is there a commercial drought out there?
At what distance do you decide it’s simpler, faster and cheaper to drive than to fly? Steve loves to drive. For him, the fly/drive circumference is about 450 miles. Paul likes to “get there; get it done; get home.” So his fly/drive circumference is closer to 200 miles. Where do you set your fly/drive perimeter—and what are your other time and travel parameters?
It’s the social craze du jour. Social invasions are such a game that they’ve coined the word Photobombing for people who stick their faces in photographs. It’s very George Clooney-esque (prankster that he is). Personally, we hope this fad—like streaking in the 1970′s—is short-lived. How do you feel about invasions of your personal or photographic space? Or is this the new normal, Instagram style?
The New York Times has just decided to join Mashable and others in deleting the hyphen in E-Mail. Short bursts of fast communication by thumb are rapidly evolving the simplification of our language and expressions in print. Steve tells his writing workshops that they’re going to see the end of the apostrophe in their lifetime. As long as it communicates and does no real damage to the English language, these evolutions are OK. But then again, how do you feel about srsly as August’s latest addition to the dictionary?
Miley Cyrus has been much in the news – for her VMA twerking display to her nude turn in her new single “Wrecking Ball.” Many have criticized her as being completely inappropriate while others have suggested she’s become totally unhinged. More recently the critics have suggested she’s “crazy – like a fox.” She has certainly distanced herself from her Disney past. And her new album has just come out to good reviews. Are your past successes keeping you in a rut—or are you willing to dramatically or radically promote your brand to advance recognition to marketplace success?
There are many famous Chief Marketing Officers. Some are highly regarded for their inspired work in building brands. Some are known for their multiple stints at numerous companies. We have all seen the painful truth of people failing upwards–moving on before they get caught. Do you applaud real talent or fall into the trap of celebrating self-promoting pretenders?
The job of “traffic” in marketing is an unsung and critical part of the process. If your traffic person is a pushover, you’ll always be facing imminent deadlines. If he or she plays hardball, it breeds resentment with the creatives. Which is why we laughed when we heard a manager in Louisville recently refer to the job as “Bulldog ballerina.” She felt it was important to have the grace and manners of a dancer with the tenacity of a herd dog. How do you describe your role within your organization?
We were reminded of this wonderful and scary admonition at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference. It’s just so true. Business and Marketing Objectives and Strategies represent hard work that needs to be thoughtfully developed and carefully measured. Do you ensure your strategies are sound and your metrics are solid…or do you just hope they are?
When was the last time you thought about success stories in businesses other than yours? It’s called benchmarking—and there’s much you can learn. Take the UPS/FedEx story. UPS realized there was an opportunity to “go vertical” and bought Mailboxes, Etc. in bankruptcy, rebranding them UPS Stores. Their success forced FedEx to pay an exorbitant amount for Kinkos to stay competitive. What are the complementary businesses to yours that you could or should build or buy?
We’ve all heard the aphorism: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And a recent survey in Forbes.com proves there may be truth in that saying. Self-made billionaires were asked, “How many companies have you founded?” 90% of them answered “2 or more,” 30% said, “5 to 10” and an astonishing 36% answered, “more than 10.” Proof, again, that our professional roads are serpentine, not linear. Do you take many paths to realize your successes?
Steve’s been in demand lately—teaching social media writing to corporate marketing departments and Ad Fed clubs. He starts each session by writing three words on the easel: Less Is More (or, sometimes, Keep It Simple). We’ve blogged in the past about “write the billboard first,” but never has that been more important than in the area of social media writing. Do you Keep it Simple?
We were recently sent a link to a site explaining Amazon’s “Chaotic Storage” system. We don’t know if they’re the first to think of it, but it’s a brilliant rethink of the classic “nuts-go-with-bolts” hardware system that’s been in use for 5,000 years. (Or at least since the first Egyptian asked, “Which granary did we put the barley in…?”) Are you doing things the way they’ve always been done—or do you look for new methods that can make you smarter and more efficient?
When you’re editing a commercial for TV or video piece for the Web, remember the number of cuts per minute is a form of “writing.” Younger audiences can process more cuts in a 15-second commercial than older audiences can. So one way you “speak” to your customers is in the way you visualize your message. Do you know your audience well enough to make the right choices to best connect with them?
Every week we screen dozens of new commercials from around the world. And for years, we have admired the growing creativity coming from other countries. One of these centers of new creativity is Brazil—perhaps not coincidentally the host of the next World Cup and Olympics. The world learned marketing from the United States. So why have we let great creative escape? Or, as we like to challenge our clients: “How come so much of the advertising you like isn’t yours?”
Steve’s dad owned a chain of furniture stores. And one of Steve’s summer chores was to go into the warehouse and throw out all the newspaper and magazine ad slicks the manufacturers sent. Literally thousands. Too many marketers think that if they prepare some kind of “co-op” marketing program, retailers and franchisees will automatically come on board. Simple truth is that most retailers aren’t marketers…and don’t really know what to do with those “free” collateral materials and ad slicks. What do you do to make sure your marketing programs and materials make it to marketplace?
The beer business is tanking. The big brews – Bud, Miller, Coors are all down. Spirits are up and so is wine. But craft beers are the excitement in the suds game today. Delicious, special tasting, locally-brewed beers are the hallmarks of many communities today. What do you do to make sure innovation and authenticity don’t eclipse the mass market appeal you may have once owned?
The hardest skill Steve had to learn in business is the art of leaving things alone. His mentor once told him that the true gift of a great manager is the ability to hesitate before critiquing work and asking yourself, “Is my suggestion going to make this better—or just different?” Most of the time, the answer is “just different.” In which case your wisest strategy is to keep your mouth shut and let the people you hired do their jobs. They’ll appreciate it—and appreciate you, too. Do you celebrate the great work of other people rather than tampering with it just to put your mark on it?
There are over 400,000 licensed home improvement firms in the U.S. and Canada. So why Mike Holmes? Why does this (sorta) cute (in a beefy kind of way) renovator have three series on HGTV as well as his own magazine? We saw an interview with him recently, and when a homeowner asked what his job was, he replied, “My job is to make your dreams come true.” He didn’t say, “I’m a renovator” or “I’m a contractor.” He understands he’s in the dream fulfillment business, not the home improvement business. Do you know what business you’re in?
Paul’s wife recently went to buy a chicken and all she could find in the supermarket was parts. Care for 25 chicken wings? Ah, tailgating season! It’s party time in the chicken business, but the ability to make a simple meal for the family seems to be a lost art. Are you building your business for specialty markets and leaving your original market behind?
It’s a funny word. Few of us use it in a sentence. But in the world of screw-ups it surfaces as the wonderful expression of the mess it represents. What do you do to avoid kerfuffles?
No matter how sophisticated marketers become, we continue to see some truly basic mistakes year in and year out. The biggest sin is what we call “Your Product Goes Here” advertising. Simple rule of thumb: If you can remove the name of the advertiser from the ad and put a competitor’s name there instead, it’s a sure sign that marketing team hasn’t identified their brand’s true point of difference. You wouldn’t be guilty of that in your advertising…would you?
Companies have life cycles, and life spans as well. Bank of Korea did a study and found only 5,500 companies in the world are more than 200 years old (pictured: the 1424 year old Nisiyama Onsen hotel). Yet we’re still surprised when modern pioneering companies hit the skids. Like Blackberry. Kodak. Dell. And there are some that are teetering and could go either way depending on management and market relevance. Like Microsoft, Sharp and Panasonic. Do you operate as if your company will be around forever—or do you (wisely) plan for the worst and manage for the best?
Occasionally, the Disney Corporation forgets what business it’s in. For years, they struggled with their planned community, Celebration, FL, and their live animal safari park. Disney is in the imagination business, not the living creature business. They can make anything—even dead presidents—look like living creatures. But living creatures don’t just look, they also (mis)behave. And the Disney corporate structure isn’t built to manage that. How do you keep yourself out of areas you don’t belong in?
Every few years a movie comes along that resets the bar—and we wonder why no one did it sooner. In 1968 (45 years ago, folks), Stanley Kubrick set the bar for space movies with “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But now Alfonso Cuaron and his son, Jonas, have raised an outer space adventure to a new extraordinary level. Are you satisfied just competing—or do you try to raise the bar and take your work to the next level?
A new eatery has opened in Macy’s Herald Square. It boasts “artisanal gelato.” Steve will never go there. Mainly because he doesn’t even know what “artisanal” means. Just as he no longer knows what “natural” “healthy” or “lite” mean. In your attempts to be au courant, do you end up leaving part of your core audience behind?
October, 2001. New York was reeling from 9/11. Yet somehow the Yankees got to Game 7 of the World Series. They lost—because their “sandman,” Mariano Rivera, gave up the winning run. Yet in his post-game interviews, he never apologized, never rationalized, never hid from what had happened. A Zen-like stoicism we should all aspire to. And a man who’s set the bar for what true athleticism and true dignity should be. We can’t say it nearly as eloquently as the NYTimes but for those who have criticized all of his career-end celebrations, well, how do you celebrate greatness?
Last week we asked whether Ariana was the new “it” girl. This week, E.D. Hirsch is back in the news with his 1987 best seller “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know”. Some say his list is elitist. We just question his choices. Greta Garbo is on his list of the 5,000 items that serve as our “cultural glue.” But no one under 40 even knows who she was. Just as no one over 50 knows who Ariana Grande is. As marketers, do you keep on top of cultural trends…or are you aging with your heroes?
Snapchat, Texting, Instagram. These are the biggest digital play things of Paul’s students. Seems to us it’s all digital bubblegum. Communication that’s in the moment, often about much of sweet nothing and loses its flavor pretty quickly. Are you using digital and social media to communicate messages that are important and compelling or just wasting time running, texting and typing trivia?
Unlike more and more business travelers these days–around 30% says CNN–we both leave a tip for the housemaids. Besides their miserably low pay for a tough, dirty job, we think of it as a form of Traveler’s Insurance. We can’t prove this irrefutably, but we sincerely believe that if we forget an item and leave it in our room, there’s a higher probability it’ll get turned in and returned if we left a tip. Is this just the right thing to do, an aspect of pay it forward, left item insurance…or all of these?
We spent the final third of the baseball season reading on a nearly daily basis about Alex Rodriquez doping. For us, the sport of cycling was destroyed by Lance Armstrong. Can baseball be next? How can you get excited about a sport where the best performances are drug enhanced? And what kind of message does all of this send to kids? Do you appreciate that your home runs are a product of hard work and fair play?
We can’t eat yogurt anymore. The business has completely morphed into Greek. It’s true Greek yogurt is richer and tastier. But for half of forever, Americans have settled for that thin, watery US product. It’s amazing to see a product or service category completely morph into a better alternative in a popular market. Is your consumer category ripe for transformation?
Meet the new “it” girl of music. Is she really in the same category of Mariah when she came on the scene? Or are we just looking for yet another kid star to be a new music superstar?
For years, Heinz sold us ketchup on a promise that it was so thick and rich it was nearly impossible to get the stuff out of the bottle. Today, they’ve flipped the plastic container upside down so we can squeeze whatever quantity we want. A winning package for the manufacturer because we use more. A winning proposition for the consumer ‘cause it’s way easier to dispense the stuff. We’ve now seen cans being packaged upside down. What are you turning on its head to create new paradigms and better customer experiences?
Voyager 1 recently left our solar system. Far more successful than NASA ever imagined, this “little spaceship that could” is the first vessel to move to “infinity and beyond.” It was launched 36 years ago with less technology than an iPhone and loaded with an 8 Track Tape system. But what an incredible technological accomplishment. Do you celebrate your breakthroughs when they occur knowing full well that they will pale beside the accomplishments in the future?
A month ago virtually none of us knew the word “twerk.” Now, thanks to Miley Cyrus and the VMA’s, we have all been victimized by the behavior and the label. In August, Oxford Dictionary Online added the word to their lexicon. It is the meme of the moment as confirmed by the Lego construction of Miley and Robin, you guessed it, twerking in building blocks. Where do you discover the latest trends and how soon do you see them coming?
Paul recently encouraged his students to have pen and paper bedside at night to capture notes for ideas that often come at the most unexpected time. The message was well received. The medium wasn’t. The students inquired why would they write ideas when they could record them on their smart phones? Whatever. Are you always at the ready to capture your ideas?
We wrote a few months ago about our intern competing for Miss America. She finished in the top 10, but this posting from her we think says it all about the entire experience:
“This, I believe, is the best proof I have to share the power of the Miss America Organization. It has given me my dream, it has rewarded me with over $20,000 in college scholarships, it has honed my speaking skills, it has strengthened my self confidence, it has granted me the opportunity to network nationally… but it has also given me my best friend: a sister that I could celebrate success with on Sunday September 15th. There will never be anything as special as that moment.”
What dreams have you pursued that have enriched you forever?
Once again, gentrification has ruined a neighborhood that had charm and character. Steve got off MetroNorth and walked across 125th Street last week…passing one national chain outlet after the next. Lids. Foot Locker. The Body Shop. (The ubiquitous) Starbucks. Even two Times Square-sized two-story food outlets: Applebee’s and Joe’s Crab Shack. National chains once shunned Manhattan. These days, they’re turning the city into a suburban outdoor mall. Which local favorite have you lost recently?
According to an article in Fast Company, Google has killed its “20% time” policy. It was one of the most innovative ideas to come out of Silicon Valley…employees being required to work on something they were interested outside of their regular area of responsibility. It led to the invention of Gmail, Google Talk and a host of remarkable new ideas and products. The reasons for killing it had to do with the cumbersome internal processes that were bogging it down. So instead of fixing the problem—the internal processes—they killed the goose. Did you ever make the mistake of tossing out the baby with the bathwater?
Apple’s App Store recently turned five years old. The entire US was also locked in a heat wave. So to celebrate their fifth anniversary Apple launched a free Where’s My Water? app. Pretty clever and customer responsive. What do you do to not just celebrate your milestones but to invite your customers to the party?
EZPass is a great idea except when it isn’t. Too often cars bottleneck as they approach the toll plaza. No one knows where to go. Until now. We saw a huge new illuminated sign approaching the Whitestone Bridge that clearly directed cash customers to “Cash Outside Lines.” EZPass up the middle. Bottleneck solved. What signs do you provide to signal customer clarity and satisfaction?
Paul just recently got a new TV. A Geek Squad branded VW Beetle drove up and two experts stepped out of the car, into the house, hooked up and mounted the TV on the wall. Everything about the brand encounter inspired expertise. It was the reason Paul selected Best Buy as the merchant for the sale. What are the tie-breakers you extend to make your brand the preferred choice?
The name says it all. A plethora of information graphics have emerged on the business communications scene as a great way to telegraph and illuminate information in short form. Most of them have been vertical summaries of trends. But they’re now working their way into business plans and brand mapping. Are you using them? Are you developing new graphic ways to visualize information?
There always were, and there always will be, people on the fringes and extremist points of view. In the past, we were largely exposed to them through the performance work of Eric Bogosian and Whoopi Goldberg. Sadly, the Web—from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube—now provides a broader platform for even the most extreme racism, sexism, homophobia, Nazi glorification, etc., etc. We understand the democratic appeal of S.G. Tallentyre’s quote, “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), however, we still grit our teeth when bizarre or ugly views slip into the mainstream. They often get a disproportionate amount of attention. How do you process and deal with this kind of hyperbolic content?
We’re seeing Limo drivers displaying customer names at airports on tablets rather than the old homemade signs they used to use. It’s more attractive, professional and suggests a new level of TLC (Tablet Limo Callout – sorry about that). What digital assets are you extending to improve your communication and professionalism?
We passed a 5 Napkin Burger joint recently and were reminded of the great branding the restaurant represents. The name says it all – exactly what they sell and the quality of the product offered. If you want a juicy burger they’re telling you their place will be the place to go. What do you do in your naming to extend a clear message and a desirable one, too?
Our blog last month about the Lowes campaign on Vine reminded us once again of a truth Jerry Della Femina wrote so many years ago in his autobiography: “Someday, someone else is going to do a great campaign for that client you hate.” Every time a new digital platform springs up, critics wonder, “How are they going to make any money?” And eventually, someone shows up with a smart idea to make it work. Are you a cynic or a cheerleader when it comes to new ways to deliver ideas?
Steve was teaching a workshop on writing for the new media and was reciting examples of classic memes: “Just Do It” “Where’s The Beef?” “Explore Your World.” He was struck by the thought that design seems to be trumping copy these days—and other than McDonalds’ “I’m Lovin’ It,” he couldn’t recite any verbal memes written in the past five years. Are you looking for great marketing slogans that can be put into the culture?
While we were gone, those were three of the new words added to the Oxford Dictionary in August. Tech and abbreviations are moving so quickly that they’re quickly getting embraced by mainstream reference resources. Are you keeping up to date with the latest in the Lexicon? And did you know MOOC, Bitcoin, Internet of Things, BYOD and hackerspace were also added this past month?
What do these four things have in common?
1. Manhattan psychotherapists
2. The cast of Saturday Night Live
3. The country of France
4. PS Insights
Answer: We’re all taking the month of August off!
Have a great rest of summer, we’ll be back after Labor Day.
Paul & Steve
It’s all the buzz. Advertising that doesn’t look, act, or sound like advertising. But it is. While industry is congratulating itself for this new stealth selling, we just think it’s another version of deceptive advertising. Why can’t the industry just make better advertising that consumers really want to see?
We’re continually struck by the obfuscation of road signs in America. In Europe most cities have clear signs that direct motorists to the center of the city. In New York, the newly named RFK bridge (formally Triboro) directs us nowhere. If you don’t know your way, you’ll likely end up across the bridge in the wrong borough. Signs should help us get where we want to go. What do you do in your work to provide clear signs to help – or even delight – your customers?
Paul passed a sandwich shop in Chicago recently called Jimmy Johns. The sign outside promoted “free smells.” In smaller type, the shop is in the business of “Gourmet Sandwiches.” Paul was amused by the sales pitch and remembered the shop. What existing attributes do you have that you can leverage to capture your audience in relevant ways?
The big marketing news this week is the merger of ad giants Publicis and Omnicon. It was front-page news in the NYTimes (and just about everywhere else), but the Times got the story wrong. “[Madison Avenue has been driven by the] mythology of small, independent shops coming up with the snappy catchphrase…that becomes part of everyday culture.” The article then went on the recognize the merger as a reflection of the age of Big Data. Well, Big Data can tell marketers a huge amount about their customers…but it’s always going to be the big insight, creative catch phrase and cultural meme that capture the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers. Knowing what percentage of customers might be interested in your product isn’t enough to get them to buy. Are you joining the rush to confuse Big Data with Big Insight?
There’s a new Bear Grylls-hosted TV show entitled “Get Out Alive.” Are we to believe that some people won’t? In an effort to build ratings, we think it’s somewhere between dumb and irresponsible to suggest that contestants will die completing tasks in the wild. What do you do to build audiences in responsible ways?
The words mouseover and crowdsourcing have just been added to the dictionary. Digital developments are creating new words and usage all the time. But we were also taken by a news story the other day referring to a flightmare. It was a coined word, but instantly communicated. What new words do you think will be next up for dictionary fare…or what new language are you coming up with that communicates something new?
State Farm Insurance displays a dimension of their brand with H.E.L.P. trucks all over the highways. Neither of us has State Farm as our insurance company. But both of us are continually impressed by the “insurance” State Farm extends every day on the roadways of America. Talk about delivering on the brand promise! What brand extensions do you provide to enhance the perception of your offering?
We recently went to one of the many build-a-burger joints that are popping up all over. We think it’s a win-win idea. The customer manages the order. The kitchen customizes the burger. A tasty model. Wait staff simply bring the food and the check. What do you do to involve your customers in ways they not only don’t mind, but enjoy?
We love the Webby Awards acceptance speech requirement that winners’ addresses must be limited to 5 words. It inspires creativity for the creative accomplishments. Two of our favorites were PBS Kids’ recent acceptance, “Now go outside and play” and Zach Galifianakis’ pseudo serious gaffe “how am I on time?” It’s a perfect form for a medium that demands an economy of words. How are you adapting to the new language rules of the new media?
When Twitter’s Video service Vine came online, lots of people questioned what you could possibly do in a 6 second video. We were impressed when Lowes broke their Vine video campaign for DIY tips. How do you find ways to effectively break through in new communications platforms?
Paul recently had two experiences where clients disappointed. One was for-profit, one was pro-social. It really doesn’t matter. Both agreed to do something and didn’t meet the promised timetable or provide the promised work. Paul’s instinct was to have done it himself. In our personal lives, we tend to associate with people who delight us. In business, the disappointment factor often comes with the territory. How do you maximize delight in business without taking on the vast amount of added work yourself?
Great athletes spend huge amounts of time practicing. What they’re doing is building “muscle memory” so their moves become automatic during competition. We also believe the same is true for mental skills. If you want to become a good writer, start emulating a writer you admire-by copying them (just like young painters go to museums and copy the masters). Even just an hour a day and you’ll start to unconsciously incorporate those rhythms into your own style. What memory/learning techniques have you developed and put into practice to make you better?
A little advice from a couple of frequent fliers: If you want to reach your destination on time book early, check in online early and fly early. It’s the best way to get the best prices, a seat and an on time arrival. Airport delays tend to compound as the day goes on. Better to reach the airport early, catch the first plane out and relax or see some sites at your destination. (And in two weeks we’ll give you an updated report on Steve’s TSA interview.) How do you manage travel complexities to simplify your life?
If you think about all the sciences: biology, geology, physics, you name it…they were all built on the foundation of…simple observation. With no high-tech tools such as carbon dating, and no understanding of atoms, molecules and DNA, 16th and 17th and 18th Century polymaths (now referred to as “Renaissance men”) were able to intuitively tease apart what they saw and figure out how our world was put together. When was the last time you just… observed?
The sidewalks of New York City are filled with people and energy. Thousands of workers, tourists, students, all going about their business in a brisk manner. Except when it rains. At which point a certain population opens up…golf umbrellas. And walk down the street like battleships demanding that all smaller boats part in their path. People who don’t know how to drive in bad weather are annoying enough. But umbrellas with a six-foot wingspan belong on a golf course, not a sidewalk. What are your wet weather peeves?
Because Steve travels so much, he decided to sign up for TSA Pre-check (the domestic version of Global Entry). It involves filling out forms, providing ID, meeting for an interview and giving a fingerprint. The benefit is bypassing security lines. Even as he recognizes the convenience, Steve finds it interesting how willing he is to swap his privacy for the “reward” of not waiting in a line. We give up our privacy all the time on social media profiles. And everyone is now up in arms about NSA monitoring of phone calls. But it’s interesting how willingly we will voluntarily cough up information for a simple time benefit. How closely do you guard your privacy?
We wrote last year about our intern (yes, that’s her) who was chasing her dream—to win the Miss America pageant. At the time, we were impressed with her determination, commitment and dedication. We learned that the pursuit of Miss America is a lot more than beauty and talent. She has been non-stop active in pro social events and appearances. Last week she won the title Miss Connecticut…and will be competing for Miss America in September. Her hard work has paid off. How do you chase YOUR dreams?
And while we’re on the subject of “building violence,” let’s talk about White House Down. Director Roland Emmerich is a master of pyrotechnics and special effects. But when they had the Capital Dome collapse, they borrowed some visuals straight from real life—and showed an implosion eerily similar to the collapse of the World Trade Towers on 9/11. Sometimes “realism” doesn’t need to be so realistic. Are you sensitive—or overly sensitive—to customers’ attitudes, feelings and beliefs?
The Man of Steel is the latest in the summer cavalcade of noisy high budget summer films. Its biggest contribution to the Superman mythology seems to be special effects that are more “building-violent” than ever before. Super battles drive the adversaries through multiple building walls with each super power push. But, oops, once again, the filmmakers forgot soul, plot and personality. What do you do to ensure quality and engagement over pyrotechnics and pandering?
The new Kraft Zesty Italian dressing commercial has a bunch of women up in arms. They’re offended by the actor demonstrating zesty by losing his shirt. We’re not endorsing the commercial as brilliant. But it does get noticed and delivers against the benefit of zesty. Are we really so up tight that a bare chested man is so very offensive? Or is losing his shirt antithetical to “dressing?”
We wrote recently about Paul’s International students and their culture-based sense of time. Steve has a different approach to “cultural understanding.” Whenever he’s doing a talk or workshop, he looks at the clock and gives stragglers 3 or 4 minutes. Then he turns to the room and says, “How about we start—and not penalize the people who were polite enough to be on time?” It always gets applause…and no one is ever late after the breaks. What are your techniques for managing time thieves?
Steve’s son, Max, is a newbie writer in LA. He met with a producer last week who reviewed all his submissions but then asked Max, “Which script is your passion? Which is the one you believe you had to write—no matter what?” A smart way to find out where a writer’s heart is. And a smart rule to keep in mind whenever you start a new project. Do you work from your heart and does your work demonstrate your passion?
The Supreme Court recently ruled that genes can’t be patented. There is also new debate about freeing the rights to the song Happy Birthday. Yes, every one of us is in copyright violation when we sing the song. The composers of the tune had good use of their copyright for 80+ years; but should a corporation have the right to buy it and continue to copyright it into perpetuity? When is a creation, finding or public use so important and omnipresent that the public should own it, not some corporation?
How do you measure the arc of your professional life? When Steve’s kids were growing up, he often gave them a simple yardstick: “A job,” he said, “is what you do for money. A career is a succession of jobs, ideally each one for more money. A calling is the thing you’d pay someone else to let you do.” Do you have a job, a career or are you lucky enough to have a calling?
Steve attended a trade show at the Javits Center the other weekend and admired an Italian distributor’s chair. When he asked for more information, the distributor scanned the QR code on Steve’s badge and assured him (without writing anything down) that he would send the information after the show. Following the show, an e-mail was sent, but alas, it was a generic blast to everyone he scanned and contained no information about the chair Steve had asked about. In effect, the exhibitor completely blew the order. When you exhibit at a trade or any other kind of show, do you think through the various scenarios and details related to providing quality customer feedback?
Shaquille O’Neal is a retired NBA player who’s a shoe-in for the Basketball Hall of Fame. But he was such a lousy free throw shooter that opposing teams would deliberately foul (hack) him…trading a sure 2 points for a likely-to-miss one point. It’s a tactic now known as “Hack-A-Shaq.” We find it interesting that a player could be so brilliant in one area that his coaches are willing to overlook a glaring flaw in another. In marketing, it’s similar to having a brilliant creative person who simply has zero social skills and can’t be taken to client meetings. Do you work with anyone like that and what do you do to improve his/her foul shooting?
Steve spoke at a conference a couple of weeks ago. He arrived early—and realized the conference and its attendees weren’t focused on what he thought the content would be. Arriving early gave him the time and the opportunity to adjust his remarks for the next day—to laser focus on the conference issues. What do you do to ensure you know the game in order to make the biggest positive impact?
It’s June. The NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals are underway. Or are you deep into the baseball season and waiting for NFL summer combines to begin? How long can or should a season be? Squeezing extra dollars out of advertisers and consumers doesn’t make the event more valuable. Do you care?
Steve’s mother has been a children’s librarian for many, many years. Along the way she started collecting reading figurines. They now number almost 600 and occupy every nook and cranny of her house. Steve’s view is the only difference between a Hoarder and a Collector is whether the stuff gets dusted. What are you obsessed with in your life—and is it inspiring or out of control?
One of our readers sent us a link to Bloomberg News’s eclectic list of lists. We now share it with all of you. In case you’ve never seen it, it’s the best and worst of anything, though generally in the financial arena. From highest-paid CEO’s by country to highest-priced auctioned cars (as investments). An absolutely fascinating way to waste a solid half hour at work one day. You can learn a lot by productive time wasting. And, if you want to waste some more time, check PointlessSites.com. What are your favorite time wasters?
We saw a hole in the wall restaurant named “The Usual.” We thought it was a great name for a neighborhood joint. Word of mouth (as well as Yahoo! Google and Yelp) is that the food is terrific and the place lives up to its name. Regulars like their usual and this place is dependable for it. A lesson for us all. Before you deliver the exceptional, do you make sure your “usual” is reliably excellent?
Paul gives his international students a new product development assignment. They find it really difficult. They think it’s got to be technological, game changing and earth shattering. Then he shows them two PowerPoints on Japanese and French innovations for “ordinary” things like tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, toilets and baby fare. Some are fairly amazing. Others are just simply clever spins on utility. Innovation can happen at any level. Don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel every time you seek to be innovative. What do you do to seek out and recognize innovation large and small?
Paul sends “love notes” to his students. They are often scathing comments about their work or lack thereof. They’re focused missiles of content that tells the students exactly what they need to do to meet a deliverable and to get from adequate to excellent. The notes sting. But the work improves. How do you deliver tough love to get a better result?
If you extend extraordinary customer service that’s easy to access, it’s a factor that can make you best in class. At Coach, service is available…but only if you’re persistent enough to find it, follow it and demand it. Then it’s delivered quickly and graciously. Steve returned an item (with a $20 “handling charge”) based on an in-store promise of “free” repair. They returned the item unrepaired. It was only when he called that they instantly refunded the $20 fee and told him they would pay up to $35 to have a leatherworker of his choice do the job. Yikes. Are your customer service promises and policies clear, direct and upfront? Or are you a reluctant deliverer of good practices?
Paul flew Porter Airlines for the first time this week. It was the exact opposite of Steve’s Spirit experience. One class of service, comfortable seats with good legroom, a lounge for all in the airport with complementary coffee, latte, espresso and cookies. Breakfast box on the morning flight, snacks and complementary wine or beer in the evening. They call it Flying Refined. It is flying the way it used to be, could be, and should become again. A bit of extra service and creature comfort has become a lost art. Brands that rededicate themselves to quality will be the future winners. What do you do to embrace your customer rather than cut your costs?
Steve found himself flying Spirit Air for the first—and last—time the other week. On Kayak they showed the lowest price. What didn’t show up on the aggregators were all of Spirit’s hidden costs: A fee for your carry-on bag, a fee for selecting ANY seat, etc. In fact, an article in last week’s NYTimes listed Spirit as #1…with 70 (!) additional charges. Steve boarded the flight thinking he’d need quarters for the bathroom door. What hidden costs have you encountered lately? And how much to do you hate them?
One of our readers mentioned a company she worked for that bragged about being “nearly 100 years old.” But whenever someone brought up a new idea to management (third-generation owners), they always gave one of three responses:
1. “We’re almost 100 years old. If that idea was good, we’d have already thought of it.”
2. “If that idea was good, someone else would have done it by now.”
3. “That’s a bad idea.”
Needless to say, that company didn’t survive to celebrate its 100th anniversary. What’s your policy towards new ideas and innovations?
We’ve published several books through established book houses and have now self-published three booklets. We like the booklet model. It’s faster, timelier and more profitable. Increasingly publishers are banking on massive bestsellers and tell everyone else “you need to bring your own audience” to the table. And with that, they still take the vast majority of the revenue. Self published is a growing realm of fresh content that can be updated easily. What are you doing to get your story out in a timely, efficient way?
Alas, stereotypes too often come to be for a reason. Paul’s International class of Norwegians, French and Spaniards has behaved in stereotypical fashion. The Norwegians arrive on time. The French are five to ten minutes late. The Spanish get to class ten to twenty minutes after it starts. All of them seem to be indifferent to the culture they’re in, which demands—and sometimes even rewards—promptness. When you’re in another culture, are you sensitive to and respect the practices of the place you’re visiting ?
A few weeks ago we mentioned that there was nothing like a deadline to sharpen your focus and get good work completed. One of our followers was reminded of a quote from Leonard Bernstein who, we admit, said it better than we did: “All you need is a plan—and not quite enough time to do it.” What’s your plan, and how much time have you given yourself to get it done?
It was so long ago that Apple products were almost universally embraced as the coolest consumer electronics on the planet – whether you owned Apple or not. What a turn of events its been. First the Samsung assault and now Nokia. To wit: the Nokia wedding commercial that suggests (yet, again) that Apple owners are old and that the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone is now the next best thing. Another piece of evidence that we’ve got to earn our place every day. What do you do to stay current – both in product AND in perception?
We got our first complaint about our blog last week. A friend we deeply respect criticized it for being incomplete. She felt we have more to say on these subjects. We said thank you, but short is appreciated and the lure for many of you who read our blog in the preview screens. We made a deal that whatever blog she wanted more content on, we’d follow up long-form just for her. Are you sometimes the victim of your successful idea?
Steve recently went to Port Authority to buy a bus ticket. His expectations were low. His experience was worse. It’s like the furniture company that says you will have your new sofa in 16 weeks (which seems like a really long time to us) but, still hasn’t delivered it with 18 weeks and counting. If expectations are low, don’t make them any worse. Do you make certain you under-promise and over-deliver?
English is a tough language. We’re very content oriented. But we were struck recently when we were satisfied with some new content that we felt content with. To Paul’s Norwegian, French, Spanish and Japanese students it just doesn’t make sense that those two words have totally different meanings. Do you marvel at language? Or just try to make sense of it?
The best thing about partnerships is the bounce. Bill Bernbach understood this when he created the idea of creative teams—copywriters and art directors working together. It’s a 1+1=3 proposition. Bouncing ideas creates more of them. Two heads are better than one. And the critique from the team is lots easier than editing oneself. Do you partner up in your projects for bigger, better ideas for business—and other endeavors?
Your team is only as strong as its weakest link. We’ve seen it time and again when making or judging new business pitches. There was one company we worked with where the weakest link—in that case the creative guy —stood up and said “and now the good part.” He not only submarined a brilliant strategic set up from the account planner, he also sunk the agency’s chances of winning the business. There’s an old poker expression that says, “If you can’t spot the turkey at the table in the first 15 minutes…it’s you.” How do you identify and manage your weakest links?
Not so long ago in the TV biz we talked about appointment viewing (i.e. tune in to Friends and Seinfeld on Thursday nights). But today, media is all about personal networks. Audiences can pretty much watch what they want when they want—on demand, on Hulu, Netflix and scores of other vehicles. When the burden on content is that the audience can opt-in, the content has got to be outstanding. The good news is there is lots of great content out there. The question is what do you program (regardless of the message or the medium) and how do you inspire your audience to select your content?
Steve’s on the road 70 days a year or so. He only needs two things to make his trips enjoyable: The daily NY Times and a movie theater that shows independent films. Those two criteria, however, separate the “nice, little towns” from the “small towns.” When last we checked, he was driving around the wilds of Arkansas and southern Missouri looking for both. What are your minimum standards?
There seems to be no bottom to reality TV shows. In fact, some of the more obscure ones even require subtitles so you can understand the regional English. We always wondered who these people are and then it hit us: Is the issue the content…or the audience? Is there anything you’d be willing to do—or watch—on a reality TV series? What do you have to say about this, Honey Boo Boo?
We’ve never believed in “writer’s block.” Maybe it’s because we were paid to write and were expected to come in every day from 9 to 5 (at least) and produce something. Steve believes what people call “writer’s block” is actually “writer’s logjam.” It’s not a dearth of ideas, it’s too many ideas trying to get out all at once. When young writers come to him and say, “I’m stuck,” Steve sends them back to their office and tells them to write down EVERYTHING that comes into their minds for the next 15 minutes. Song lyrics. Grocery lists. Anything that’s rattling around. Almost invariably, they return to say they’re no longer “stuck.” What do you do to get unstuck?
We were in Macy’s the other day and noticed the names in the boutique men’s section, including Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama. It’s a new classic story: Brand makes good. Builds a reputation for style or quality. And then comes out with a cheaper line in order break into another retailer. Are standards compromised or are more people invited to the fashion party? And what does all this say about the brand?
Steve used to do his best writing between 6am and 10am. After that, almost everything he wrote went into the round file. As a firm rule, he avoided breakfast meetings because they cut into his “creative time.” But over the years his rhythms have changed. And he’s noticed his best work seems to happen between 4 and 10pm. Are you tuned into the rhythms of your work—and how do you take advantage of them?
It’s originally a newspaper word. A pun on “by line.” Meaning either you got your article in on time or you were dead. The story wouldn’t run. We admit that there’s nothing more bracing than a deadline to whip both of us into action and churn out a voluminous amount of work in a short period of time. Do we make it a habit? No. But like a little wasabi, an occasional tight deadline “wakes up the palette” and gets us going. How do you manage deadlines?
Unique Clothing Company—Uniqlo—has made its way to the US with a bold pronouncement that they intend to be the largest fashion retailer at $50 billion by 2020. With a combination of fresh designs, appealing retail space, technology to provide fashion assist in store and an uncompromising commitment to efficiency and service, they might just meet their goal. Two lessons. 1. Smart businesses can enter competitive markets. 2. The way to win is to be best in class in everything you do. Are you competitive? Do you strive to be best in class?
Bob Garfield in yesterday’s MediaDailyNews nailed it perfectly: “…the dead (Bangladeshi) factory employees were not directly on your payrolls…Halfway around the world, how could you have known?…Because it was your responsibility to know. Those victims were just as much working for you as the sales clerks at the local mall, and you owed it to them, at the barest minimum, to certify safe working conditions. You can outsource manufacturing, but you cannot outsource morality.” Bravo, Bob. What about you? Do you turn a blind eye to bad practices in your business?
Steve was on a trip through some southern states last week, and once again the cultural differences in our country became evident. By the end of the week he was ready to trade just one “honey,” “sugar,” “dear” and “is everything all right, hon?” for a little faster service. What cultural differences drive you crazy? And which of your cultural patterns do you think drive other people nuts?
We talked about Vine in last week’s blog. Steve surfed around and checked out vine.com and found a consumer packaged goods store. He then Googled Vine and got everything except the real thing. Only by carefully scrolling through the second page of listings did he find Vine mentioned as a free App. No web presence (yet) at all. Does that suggest that Apps are leapfrogging the web? Is that incomplete planning—or a new reality?
Kudos to Jason Taylor, President of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He was the opening speaker in the first annual Media360 Mega Summit and he stopped his talk to acknowledge the “vendors” and “exhibitors” in the other room. To paraphrase Jason: “Don’t think of them as vendors. Think of them as the R&D arm of our industry.” His point was that what most of us think of as “vendors” are people willing to take the risk of developing and offering services you can’t get in your own business. That’s a way bigger perspective than thinking of vendors as hired hands. How’s that for a great point of view and shouldn’t it change yours?
Steve spoke at the Media 360 Mega Summit last week. 250 circulation managers of small- and mid-sized-market newspapers. Their job is to sell newspapers. But as one of the other speakers so aptly observed: “In this environment, the most important sale you’re going to make every day is inside your own building.” Internal marketing is one of the most important new developments in business today. Do you pay enough attention to “internal selling” to move your agenda forward?
Have you noticed how many euphemisms there are for negating everything that went before? Like “yes, but…” and “that being said…” and “I agree, however…” What they’re really doing is politely dismissing everything you did or said. We find it a bit obsequious at best, disingenuous at worst. Can we go back to simple declaratives (“I disagree—and here’s why.” “I hate that because…”) and stop trying to be “management polite”?
Paul was recently interviewed for an article on FOMO. He had to look up the acronym (“Fear Of Missing Out”) before commenting on the phenomenon. He was struck by the fact that he had obviously missed out on FOMO having devolved into an acronym. Are you fearful about missing out or are you increasingly ticked off about the proliferation of acronyms? Or both? Can’t we just use language to talk to one another?
New social networks have generally hit their stride in response to big events. Twitter was elevated from a seemingly trivial mini blog forum into a vitally important purveyor of news during the Iranian elections a few years back. Now Twitter’s new video service, Vine, just emerged as an important social documentation source with the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings. If and as you innovate in the social space, ask yourself, what crucial role can my social initiative play?
Hats off again to Dove and Agency Ogilvy on their latest entry in the Real Beauty campaign. A really fresh idea shows a forensic sketch artist drawing subjects twice—once as described by the subject and again as characterized by another individual instructed to have a conversation with the subject. The third party sketches are universally more flattering. The film is totally on brand. And the implicit message is what do you do to elevate your self-perception and personal performance?
Shelly Palmer’s column last week featured a blog listing The Ten Most Hated Jobs. We think it won’t surprise you that three of the top ten were: #2 Director of Sales & Marketing; #3 Product Manager and #10 Marketing Manager. Their chief complaint in all three cases was “lack of direction from upper management.” We sometimes wonder if upper management means absent management. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with these jobs. What is it you can do to help enable these jobs to be fulfilled better and with more job satisfaction?
Talk to theater professionals and they’ll all tell you the best time to audition is between 11am and noon. Earlier than that and the judges are parsimonious: they’re afraid to give high marks to the first few people because they don’t know who else they’re going to see. After lunch, ennui and boredom set in and there’s a desire to “make a decision.” So the magic time is the hour before lunch (but not too close to their actual break). It works for actors—is it also true in your business when you’re pitching?
There’s an old expression: “there are only three things in business. Fast, cheap and good. The bad news is you can only have two of them at once.” We watch so many clients, businesses and (we’re embarrassed to admit) sometimes even ourselves constantly trying to get all three. And every time we do, we run into this seemingly immutable law. Which two of the three do you go for? And in what circumstances?
At long last it appears that work cubicles are being torn down. What could be more dehumanizing? Yet they have been a standard means of space optimization for junior people for years and years. Open plans, table farms and multiple environments are increasingly replacing the confines of the cubicle. Welcome to the new way of working. What are you doing to encourage productivity, interaction and worker satisfaction?
When Microsoft launched Windows 95, they paid The Rolling Stones a barrel full of money, bought the rights to “Start Me Up” and plastered the airways for a month. Poof. 90% of the world installed Windows 95. Today, Windows 8 requires real advertising. Competitive advertising. A recognition of how the landscape has changed in 18 years. Is your marketing keeping up with the reality of your markets?
As we noted a few weeks ago, EZ Pass was a great idea. But it’s the implementation that’s just as important. The cash lanes to one side have so totally clogged the EZ Pass lanes that the initiative often felt counterproductive. Until now. More and more toll lanes are marking cash lines to the left AND right. So the seas can part to let cars with tags go right down the middle while the cash players work the outer lanes. How are you making sure your good ideas get implemented in a good way?
Big Data is the big buzz these days. We have more access to more data than ever before. But the key is identifying what to measure and then finding the means and methods to measure it. Data without direction is a recipe for indigestion and misinformation. Before you go looking for answers, start with the right questions. What do you want to know? And how are you going to activate it in the marketplace?
Cyprus? Dinky little Cyprus throws the E.U. into crisis? Time and again, real danger comes from places you least expect it. When Bill Gates was being deposed in the government’s anti-trust suit a decade ago, he said in his testimony that it wasn’t Netscape that scared him, it was Linux. Which, at the time, had almost no followers (and he never even mentioned Search or Mobile). What (r)evolution are you ignoring in your business?
Our blog the other week (Dogs in Clothes) generated quite a bit of mail. One reader, however, gave us hope: “It reminds me of the simple marketing truth…that for every trend, there’s a counter trend.” Just as good zoos have rejected bars and cages in favor of “enrichment” environments that challenge and respect animals, he believes there will be a backlash to “pet humanization.” Or should we call that “pet humiliation.” What counter trends do you admire and put into practice?
What to do with what keeps you up at night? Don’t toss. Instead, turn your frets into productive ideas. If you’re taking longer than 30 minutes to nod off, stop trying! Get up, grab a note pad, and write down all the ideas and information that’s rattling around in your head. Who knows? Like the attribution to William James, you might write down “the secret of the Universe.” Then go to sleep and get some needed rest. You’ll sleep easier.
It took them nearly 30 years, but it appears the cable networks have achieved television parity. With “Walking Dead” and “The Bible” winning their nights—even over the big three networks—the age of broadcast supremacy appears to have finally ended. Content is king no matter where it lives. And today’s young audiences will find it and support it on any channel and across platforms. Are you keeping an eye on what’s coming down the road in your business – and where it’s coming from?
We’ve been in an e-mail chat with one of our readers about the nature of creativity. We—and he—agree that creativity isn’t something that’s just there, on demand, like a water faucet. But you certainly can increase your odds that something creative will happen. As Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” How do you prepare your mind for the opportunity to come up with new ideas – or to recognize them?
A gentle reminder about staying on task from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
“Cheshire Puss…would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
(As we remind people in The Little Blue Book of Marketing, “What’s your plan?”)
In the world of commercial relationships there are so many more providers of special services than ever before. With a plethora of communication platforms more parties participate in driving brands. That’s great. But coordination of ideas and appreciation of partners has become more and more of a rarity. Do you hire vendors who provide services or nurture partners who share your victories?
Paul was asked to consult for two local Italian restaurants that just couldn’t build a steady clientele. He had “dined” at both of them—once. He declined the consulting gigs but may circle back and give them the simplest consulting gift: Get a recipe for a great marinara sauce! How do you price a one sentence consultation?
Here’s our salute to one good, simple, clear idea the government came up with: EZ Pass. Yes, there’s a loss of privacy (“Where did you claim you were last night…?”). Yes, it allows the government to sneakily raise the tolls without telling you (“What was that amount on my monthly statement…?”). But it’s easy to forget all that and satisfying when you sail through the EZPass lanes without stopping. What else can government do to make our lives easier? Oh, the list is endless. If only government officials governed with that premise as their prime directive.
A client of ours was referring to the way companies react in a recession: “Everyone looks like a strong swimmer when the tide’s coming in.” It might be an old nautical expression, but we heard a simple reminder that good business practices work in both good times and bad. And the bad times will just expose the “poor swimmers.” How did you swim these past five years? Did you practice and learn any new strokes to perform better today and tomorrow?
A funny observation many years ago from an acquaintance. He was up pacing his living room floor one night and looked out at all the lights in other Manhattan apartments. “I used to wonder who was up at 3am,” he told us. “Now I know: people who own their own businesses.” How do you handle your business worries?
Why is it that so many people and so much messaging is so much more complicated than it needs to be? The best advertising says the obvious in wonderfully unexpected ways. What do you do to sharpen your communication to make it terrific while keeping it oh so simply clear?
Vendor mentality has created great difficulties for lots of small suppliers who work hard but get treated badly. Leveraging pricing, laying off work and 90 day invoicing are all part of the abuses a number of small businesses have to endure. Do you respect the people you hire? Best practices will get you the best work!
Increasingly, we’re seeing creative work being either crowd-sourced or brainstorming-sourced. Great creative doesn’t come from 90-minute meetings or from the lowest bidders. It comes from clear input and direction from great client/agency relationships—and hard work from people who have spent years learning their craft and/or knowing how to curate and improve inspired ideas. What kind of creative are you getting these days—and from whom?
Steve has a firm rule when it comes to dog parks: he never lets his dog come near another dog wearing clothes. He knows that owners who dress their dogs have an odd view of the world, and if Steve’s Scottie even growls at the attired mutt, its owner is going to go ballistic. In what areas of your life have you noticed other people’s visual or affective cues clearly communicate that you should stay away from them?
Worried about getting your kids into college? Retirement funding? Making this month’s rent? Put those troubles aside. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence just published the 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (declassified version). From CyberTerrorism to WMD proliferation to China’s monopoly on rare earth elements, there’s enough here to keep you up for weeks! What do you worry about?
Wesley Welker—considered by many the best slot receiver in football—just lost his slot on the New England Patriots. Welker wasn’t feeling the love. And the Pats thought he had nowhere to go. Enter the Broncos…and Peyton Manning now has a major new weapon. It’s a cautionary reminder to all of us. For the employer, love the people who perform for you. And let them know how much you appreciate them. For the employee, make yourself valuable every day, in your current job or for the next employer who will snap you up. How do you make your team work at its very best?
It’s 30 degrees out as we write this. Just as it was starting to get light in the morning, it’s now dark again. And it’s too cold to enjoy the extra light in the afternoon. Back in the days when they turned the clock in April there was logic to it—and it coincided with actual weather and sunlight conditions. What ideas have you had that weren’t such good ideas?
Paul just got a Facebook friend invite from a person with 100 mutual friends. The message read “Hey Paul over 100 mutuals means I have to add you!” The idea seems to be a friend of a friend is a friend. How do you manage online content in the world of six degrees of separation?
Oreo was ready when the Super Bowl went dark. Poland Spring fumbled when Marco Rubio reached for their brand. The new social model is telling marketers, “Grab the Zeitgeist” (or is that “Meet the Meme”?). Are you prepared to start marketing in “real time?” How are you ramping up a rapid response team?
As we write this, the fate of the European Union (and possibly the global economy) rests in the hands of comedian Beppe Grillo, sometimes referred to as the “Jon Stewart of Italy.” Maybe he’s exactly what Italy needs. Maybe not. But the politicians have no one to blame but themselves. When politics become a joke, comedians can become serious candidates. Is anyone going to “standup” to this?
Nick Bilton’s column in Monday’s NYTimes stirred a hornet’s nest of replies. His suggestion that digital “thank you’s” are no longer necessary among millennials raised the ire of hundreds of readers. We think any SMART millennial will take the 1/100th of a second to e-mail or text back “thx” and some are wise enough to go beyond. We recently got a hand-written snail-mail thank you note from a millennial we helped this summer. And not a peep from an intern who worked with us last summer and said she’d “be in touch.” Which one do you think will get the job of her choice and have the bigger career?
Last week, the City of New York launched a new ad campaign focusing on teen pregnancy. The next day, other teen pregnancy organizations complained that the campaign stigmatized teen moms. Personally, we think ANY campaign that does not take a compelling point of view will likely have no impact. We salute the pushback from the Mayor’s office and wonder how ANYTHING gets done these days on any level of government. What agendas do you deal with in your organization that preclude marketplace action?
Marissa Meyer (Yahoo’s new CEO) canceled telecommuting as a work practice at Yahoo – and the editorials have been coming both pro and con. This is an interesting move for a brand new mom and it runs counter to the trend of more companies creating flex-work opportunities for their employees. Research has shown that working from home can be more productive while working in the office leads to more innovation. Clearly businesses need both. What’s your balancing act to get the most and best from your organization?
Oreo received huge press and praise, not so much for their whisper spot on the Super Bowl, but for the Dunk in the Dark Twitter idea they launched during the black out. Hats off to their agency – 360i - holed up and watching the event together waiting for an opportunity. Increasingly, the best consumer connections are coming from special moments and authentic situations. Are you prepared find those moments to delight your consumers in unexpected ways?
The Harlem Shake remains the #1 Billboard single. Maybe the best way to kill a meme (did someone say Gangnam Style?) is with another meme. In addition to the Peanuts characters, there are now 60 advertising agencies that have Harlem Shake Videos. The Today Show has been vilified for being late to the party. But hey, when the meme parties begin you’re not really late until it’s over. So always follow the trends, but figure out whether, where and when you should add your brand to the chorus. And (most important) how will you do it your way?
The Late Night wars just hit a new competitive level – stunt wars. Jimmy Kimmel was hijacked by Matt Damon for an entire show and Conan ran an episode exclusively screening clips submitted by viewers. Entertaining? Relevant? Ratings builders? What do you to increase the conversation about your brand? More important, is your inspired conversation consistent with and supportive of your brand image?
So the Pope announced he was stepping down and the jokes start coming. Really? Newspaper headline “Pope Gives God Two Weeks’ Notice” and the new moniker for His Eminence? “Ex Benedict.” If everything is fair game for late night jokes, don’t you need to be that much more circumspect in everything you post or put out there about yourself and your brand?
The problem with celebrities? They’re people. First, the Tiger Woods fall from grace. Then, Lance Armstrong. Now, Oscar Pistorius (complete with his Nike ad, “I am the bullet in the chamber”). There have been others and there will be more. Nike rises above the fall of its heroes. But so many of its heroes fall from their vaunted perches. How do you protect your brand from the foibles and hubris of humans?
Well the ship finally came in. Five days of consumer torture at sea and the PR storm will continue. Why didn’t they get another ship there to offload passengers? Air drop portable toilets? Get food to the ship immediately? In the face of adversity, do you do everything possible to protect your customers – and, therefore, your brand?
Paul recently had his eyes examined. The medication to dilate his eyes was annoying and long-lasting. At the follow-up, he questioned whether it had to be so extreme? It didn’t, it wasn’t and both discomfort and recovery were much relieved. Do you question the experts on your best care, their diagnosis or next steps? In marketing and in life, it could lead to a happier, better result.
Steve lost a bet the other day when he mispronounced “dour.” He rhymed it with “sour” (as most of us do). Turns out the correct pronunciation rhymes with “newer.” Paul’s bet is that people won’t understand Steve if he uses the correct pronunciation and will think he’s a “doer.” An interesting case of right is wrong and wrong is right. What “correct mistakes” have you noticed out there? (Oh – and Microsoft SpellCheck accepts both “Mispronunciation” and “Mispronounciation” as acceptable. But let’s not get started on spelling…)
Steve’s mentor used to break up pointless meeting discussions by calculating the cost of the meeting (participants’ hourly salaries times the number of minutes the meeting was running). Well, there are now a number of free “meeting calculator APPs” which will let you do that automatically. We think it’s a fun—but valuable—tool. When was the last time you calculated how much each of your meetings costs?
We’ve been working with some Millennials and marveling at their approach to new business ideas. We were taught to have the idea, evaluate it, determine its viability, test it, etc., etc. Their approach is have the idea, do it and then figure out all that other stuff later on. It’s a really interesting way to go because it’s easier and cheaper to put ideas into the marketplace than ever before. So, sure – fire! (not surefire). If you take enough shots, one of them may hit and hit big. What are you doing to challenge your “old think” to go with the flow?
Steve recently took his Scottish terrier, Huxley, with him to an advertising competition he was judging. Hux was perfectly well behaved until at one point he walked up to a piece of print advertising that was on the floor waiting to be judged. He sniffed at it, lifted his leg and peed on it. Turns out the judges agreed with his assessment. Just a coincidence or should we trust the instincts of man’s best friend?
Leave it to the Japanese to invent the Haiku form of PowerPoint: Pecha Kucha. The rules are: make a 20-slide presentation with each slide on the screen for exactly 20 seconds and no copy on the slides. The slides are all driven by the visual as your voiceover carries the narration. It’s an interesting and fun exercise to deliver compelling content in a little over 6 ½ minutes. We don’t recommend Pecha Kucha as your new way of presenting. But we certainly endorse better content, better delivered in shorter increments of time.
While marketers talk about moving the customer to the center of the conversation, there’s another customer trend taking place: Customer, Serve Thyself. This can play two ways: customer convenience or customer rip-off. Where it makes the customer’s life easier, we’re in favor. But when it asks the customer to do the store employee’s job, we’ve got a problem. So where do retail “self check-out” machines fit in your definition?
We’re both big fans of Subway’s $5 foot-long initiative from the customer’s point of view (Steve actually eats there occasionally. Steve’s actually losing weight). It was an inspired marketing idea and it has revolutionized economy lunch. But recently they were called out for the foot-long measuring 11”. Another example of “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Do all your marketing initiatives measure up?
We went through a big snowstorm in the East last week. And we noticed a classic pattern. Everyone runs out before the storm to buy bread, milk and eggs – even if they don’t eat bread, milk and eggs. Who would have thought that fear of storms is a great opportunity to sell people on home made breakfast — french toast, eggs and omelettes, toast and jam, whatever? What occasions can you capitalize upon to put your products center stage?
Our blog about “Best in Class” generated a number of comments. We shared one reader’s observation that the phrase is meaningless and should be abolished. Another reader sent us his definition of what “quality” is:
- Fulfills its purpose
- Meets or exceeds expectations
- Initial perceived value
- Continued value over time
- Value is transferrable
Sounds like a good set of criteria to us. What’s your definition of Quality?
Interesting article in NYTimes.com a couple of weeks ago titled “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy.” A lucid explanation of the history of “temp work” starting with Kelly Girls after World War II and leading us up to MicroSerfs, perma-temps and other corporate abuses. Such as interns. The bottom line? America has invested in the bottom line instead of its employees. A lesson for all of us going forward. Are you building a business and investing in people who care about your business or do you have a revolving door of workers who move on (just as your customers will)?
Steve’s been in Florida judging a number of ADDY Award shows for local AAF clubs (and escaping the worst of the NY weather except last week’s blizzard). We love to judge work in competitions. It’s energizing, inspiring and enervating all at the same time. You get to see what everyone in a particular market (or industry) considers “the best” all in one place all in one intense session. The clear winners just jump off the table (or screen). There’s always some competition out there – what have you judged lately?
Today is “President’s Day.” Or is it “Presidents’ Day”? Or “Presidents Day”? Whatever. A bogus holiday specifically created to give Americans a three-day weekend, let car dealers promote deals and department stores finish their Winter Clearance Sales. When was the last time you thought about those two extraordinary men – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – in any context other than the $1 and $5 bills? OK, now you can go buy a car or put away a winter coat for next year!
What do you read? Too often we meet marketers who are so laser-focused on their industry that they ignore the larger picture. There is a constant stream of new ideas, new campaigns, new approaches that other companies in other industries are doing. Staying single-mindedly focused on your own industry actually does a disservice to your employer; but when you’re laid off or fired, you’ll find you’ve specialized to the point where you’re not employable in any other field. What are you doing to keep a broader perspective on your job and the wider business world all around you?
A lot of the pizza chains today are touting hand-made pizza. That may be desirable in arts and crafts. But the thought of some pimply-faced 16-year old handling my food doesn’t feel that appetizing. How about focusing on ingredients, taste and value? If this is the latest benefit proposition, it seems they’re all chasing the wrong benefit. When a competitor offers a new sales message, you should seriously think about whether it makes sense…and what your message should be.
We often forget that “expertise” and “expert” have their root in the word “experience.” Every few months, we read a news story about a band or an author that breaks out through the Internet. The news story seems to imply, “Aha! See? Music executives and publishers don’t know what they’re doing!” Actually, the fact that these stories are news is proof that those executives DO know what they’re doing. Businesses continue to ignore—or even fail to measure—the value of experience within their organizations. Do you?
There’s an old saying, “knowledge is knowing tomatoes are a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put them in a fruit salad.” As we watch (and participate in) the leap of robotics from “skill” to “intelligence,” we’re keeping an eye on how they make the leap from “intelligence” to “wisdom.” Knowing what’s right is one thing; knowing what to do about it is quite another. How do you turn your knowledge into wisdom?
The most popular commercials in two out of the past three Super Bowls were created by consumers for Doritos. Look for more and more advertisers to invite their customers to generate ideas, products and campaigns. The traditional model used to be marketers didn’t accept uninvited ideas from the outside. The game has changed. Right now, one of your customers or prospective customers has a brilliant idea that could revolutionize your business. Are you going to find out what that is? How are you going to do it?
We were fine-tuning our new Marketing APP (don’t worry, we’ll let you know when it’s up, out and ready in the Apple Store and Android for you to download) and were reviewing our comments about Customer Relationship Management. In this age of one-to-one marketing, the relationship you have with your customers is going to be more critical than ever. Been to an Apple Store lately? Where’s your Genius Bar?
We recently called a customer service line for help—and were told there was a 2-hour wait. A 2-hour wait on a help line is not a help line. The company is fortunate we’re not naming names here. Give your customer service line a call one day and see what your customers are experiencing. Is it serving your customers or doing your brand a colossal disservice?
Avis recently killed their 50-year-old tagline, “We Try Harder” and replaced it with “It’s Your Space.” From a consumer oriented promise to a double entendre about parking? Really? Was there a survey that showed consumers hated the original line? Or one that said 100% of the target audience knew the line? (An excellent reason NOT to drop it.) Oops, see if this sounds familiar: they changed ad agencies. How do you protect—or sacrifice—your long term equities?
Getting published today is both easier and more difficult than ever. More difficult if you want to go the classic print route. Easier if you want to self-publish. We’ve done both. Each has its trade-offs. One gets you wider distribution; the other delivers you a bigger profit margin. The exciting dynamic is that there are more ways to bring content to the marketplace than ever before. What are the many ways you go to market?
What a euphemism for “we don’t have as many Customer Service Representatives as we need.” Over the years we’ve noticed that no matter what day of the week, time of the day or season of the year that we call our local phone or cable company, we always get a message saying, “We’re experiencing higher-than-usual call volume.” What a depressing message. We much prefer “Your wait time will be x-x minutes.” We’re not interested in their problem, we’re interested in knowing how soon our problem will be addressed.
Paul just read a novel with footnotes. It seemed a mixed metaphor, but it won the Pulitzer Prize. Paul thought it was pretentious. The critics thought it was brilliant. We’ll give them this. It was novel for a novel. Changing the game, pushing the form and doing the unexpected to established practices can produce huge results. How do you challenge your status quo to reach new heights?
When your computer doesn’t start up, do you decide the hard drive has crashed—or do you look to see if it’s plugged in? Don’t assume the sky is falling or it’s the end of the world. The solution may be simple. Trouble shoot the obvious fixes – whether it’s your computer, your business or your relationships. It will help you manage or mitigate stress and crisis. And your balanced approach to problem-solving will likely save you time, money and aggravation.
How many good ideas do you have every day? How many of them do you forget because you haven’t written them down? One of the fundamental tips we give young employees starting out in business is to always carry pen and paper (or digital device) to take notes. No matter how senior you get, don’t forget the fundamental discipline of writing stuff down. Who knows, something from one of your lists, your scribbles, or your nascent ideas could possibly turn into a $ multi-million sensation!
How do you solve a problem? Our recent experience with some techies revealed their preferred solution was to wipe our computer – to uninstall everything and reinstall. The best doctors don’t remove every organ to repair a problem. Care, consideration and kid gloves make the difference between radical surgery and inspired solutions. Where do your sensitivities lie in fixing problems delicately?
We always want to know “how did they do that?” Truth be told, we don’t really want to know how a magic trick was performed. The answer is always such a letdown. Magic is magic because it defies and delights the imagination. In showmanship and in marketing, let the show dazzle and the audience appreciate. Do you really want to know how everything is accomplished? Or would you rather enjoy the show and profit from the joy of the experience?
Last week we posted a blog about “Chain Pizza,” and asked the rhetorical question, “What’s Best In Class for pizza?” One of our readers commented that “Best In Class is an overused phrase that should be tossed in the same place as an empty, used pizza box.” Good observation. There are so many ways to measure “best” (JD Power & Associates notwithstanding) that it truly is a meaningless term. How do you measure quality and in how many ways?
So Avis bought Zip Car. And all we can think about is the UPS vs FedEx situation a few years back when each bought a business services chain (Mailboxes, Etc. and Kinko’s). Avis was late to the “grab’n’go” car rental concept. Rather than try to get traction on their own, they simply bought their way into the game. A good way to play catch-up when you’ve missed the strategic mark the first time around.
Australians popularly refer to McDonald’s as Macca’s. For Australia Day this month, Micky-D’s will change the name of some locations to reflect that uniquely Aussie sensibility. What a great head-nod to the crowd: Build a little pride. Make the connection. Then revert to their corporate name. How willing are you to tinker with your golden arches?
Thirty years ago, robots started replacing humans on the assembly line. As college-educated professionals, we were perhaps too cavalier about our own vulnerability. Now, with computers like Watson working with medical schools, it’s clear that no matter what you do for a living, there’s the possibility you can be replaced by a machine…a lot sooner than you imagine! What’s your Plan B?
We were taken by all the politically-correct hoopla surrounding the Brent Mussberger admonition surrounding his enthusiasm for Katherine Webb’s beauty. Alabama is the BCS Champion and hats off to the team and AJ McCarron (aka the boyfriend). But she is also Miss Alabama 2012 and is indeed gorgeous. If we have to be so PC that we can’t express the obvious, what accolades are permissible?
Is “chain pizza” an oxymoron? (Is that an obnoxious, New York-Centric question?). Or is pizza a business where best in class is the single store operator? Perception is a powerful sales incentive. What do you do to drive the perception that what you do is one of a kind and best in class?
Here’s to the Gadfly. The annoying person within an organization who constantly pushes to make things better. It’s a risky job. Annoy enough people, you become the Scapegoat (and get an early exit). Get ignored, and you might leave out of frustration or, worse, decide to become a Whistleblower. But done right, the Gadfly can be just the catalyst an organization needs to create real, meaningful change. Do you have (and honor) any of them in your organization?
The advances in robotics are staggering. Less invasive surgeries, more precise targeting and more efficient production. The genius that has gone into these new developments is amazing. The expert application of robotics through human ingenuity is all the more impressive. Harnessing new tools to create better results should be a goal of every business enterprise. What new tools are you using to drive better results?
We’ve always believed “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Today we can measure business initiatives more effectively than ever before. But not all measures are created equal. It’s critical to identify what is most important to quantify and why. ROI is only part of the equation. The measure of a brand is a lot more. What do you do to measure awareness, attitudes, environmental issues, marketplace and marketing trends, changing consumer preferences and more?
This year the Salvation Army had its volunteers out on the streets dancing to hip-hop and Christmas music. They seemed to be getting noticed. But they didn’t seem to be getting any more contributions. Do you your spend time sounding bells and whistles or do you dedicate your energies to creating richer consumer connections by enhancing the value proposition of what you do?
Maybe you’re home for the holidays or maybe you’re away. Either way, enjoy. We wish you happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year. Until then, there will be one less piece of mail to read. Our blog will join you on your return to work in January.
If you’ve ever tried growing asparagus, you know that it takes two to three years before you have a crop you can eat. One of our clients once used that analogy in a marketing presentation she was making to senior management. “Brand or image advertising is like growing asparagus,” she said. “If you need it, you better have planted it three years ago.” Do you expect immediate results from your image campaign or do you invest in asparagus for long-term brand health?
The Hollywood Effect—the strategy of letting all your vendors do all the work before laying out any money—has moved beyond the movie business, resulting in devalued and commoditized creativity. Today’s mantra seems to be, “I don’t know what’s creative, but I’ll recognize it when I see it.” In truth, most people don’t recognize it…and then wonder why their creative marketing message just doesn’t cut through. How do you value, evaluate and pay for creativity? The price is well worth it.
The latest Bond film has done big box office. But it was instantly forgettable (for Steve) and annoying (for Paul). Ironically, it’s because they violated all the rules of their brand. The Bond brand is simple: Suave spy confronts extraordinary challenges to keep a diabolical, interesting villain from global domination. For many, the film may have been a fun thrill-ride, but, alas, they didn’t deliver the core elements of the Bond brand. How are you keeping your bond with your brand loyalists?
There’s a feeding frenzy around crowdsourcing. We’re seeing more and more examples of companies turning away from their “usual suppliers” to tap into the creativity of the crowd. The latest example is A&E Network which announced a “contest” to design the opening title sequence for their upcoming TV series, “Bates Motel.” Rather than pay a professional design team from $5k to $15k to do the work, they’ve offered a $2,500 prize and the (we’re quoting the press release) “possibility” the winner will be used. That should send a chill down the spines of the hundreds of freelancers and graphic studios that make a living designing network graphics, titles and animation. We wonder who’s next…?
“We’re sorry, but the cappuccino machine is broken.” Both Paul and Steve have heard this line from too many restaurant staff. Funny, but you never hear anyone in Italy ever say that. If its on the menu, it’s important. Make sure you can serve what you say.
Virtually every conference hands out a bag. Some are well designed and desirable. Some are cheap and crappy. We toss the latter out on the first day. The good ones we still use all the time – promoting your product or service. If you’re going to create a lasting image of your event, pay attention to the bag’s design and utility. Spend the extra buck if needed. It’s a billboard at the convention and — if it continues in use after the event — it’s free advertising for you.
The customer is always right, right? Paul had a membership in a fitness club and a personal training contract. After lapsing on his regular schedule, he went back to the trainer to complete his last three sessions. The trainer told him the training sessions had expired. Coupons expire. Customer relationships shouldn’t. Paul didn’t renew his membership in the club. What do you do to be sure you keep your customers satisfied and your relationship with them ongoing?
We enjoyed receiving this Chanukah card this week – but it reminds us of an all-too-painful truth: These days, with the ease and skill with which anyone can Photoshop anything and things can go viral in a nanosecond, it’s imperative that all of us be doubly vigilant about what we read, see or forward on the Web. In the old days, it was caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. These days, it’s caveat nuntius lector – let the newsreader beware. But no matter what your stripes, we wish you a happy holiday!
We’ve truly enjoyed the comments and feedback we’ve gotten from you this year. Many of you are experts in specific industries, with a unique point of view. So we’d like to formally encourage any of you to feed us your observations of what’s going on out there. Just your observations. We’ll write the blog and credit you if you like. Or we’ll just put our spin on what we think the marketing insight is. Are you opening your doors to smart submissions from the crowd? You should!
Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers and new Tampa Bay football coach started the season by having his guys charge the quarterback on kneel down plays at the end of the game. It really angered opposing coaches. The convention is no one touches the quarterback on a kneel down. There is no rule to that effect. Do you follow convention? Or are you willing to push the envelope and make something dramatic happen? There are risks and potential rewards to both states of play.
Samsung has been running commercials lampooning people who wait in retail lines for new products. Without naming Apple, it’s clear who they’re taking aim at. Samsung Galaxy S3 owners feel a real sense of cool and “in the know” for stepping outside Apple into a worthy competitor’s innovative product. What do you do to burnish your brand by taking on the big guys in compelling ways?
Apple just launched the iPad mini to pretty glowing reviews. This was not a product they originally planned or wanted to launch. But competition in smaller sized tablets and readers forced their hand. It’s a win win — for the industry and for consumers. But kudos to Apple to recognizing they couldn’t just stay with their original business plan and had to respond to what the competition was doing. How well do you plan for and respond to what your competitors do?
Facebook declared their second quarter earnings and beat market expectations by a penny. Their stock increased by 10%. It can pay big time to meet or beat expectations. It increased another 19% a few days later on confidence about their future. How do you win by underpromising and overdelivering?
Two weeks ago, Gangnam Style became the most watched YouTube video ever with over 400 million views (710 million as of this posting). A funny piece of film from a K-Pop star who goes by the name of Psy, it has become an international phenomenon, inspiring mashups and parodies including several Romney and Obama renditions. Standout content can circle the globe today for little or no cost. The Gangnam sensation is little more than three months old. What can you do that will create infectious content that’s so engaging, others sell it for you?
Our final observation about the Allstate “Mayhem” campaign. Leave it to Leo Burnett to be the agency that came up with the idea. From their earliest days, one of that agency’s signature styles was to develop memorable characters: The Jolly Green Giant. Charlie the Tuna. The Maytag Repairman. In an interesting way, “Mayhem” is just another example of that winning Leo Burnett tradition. Do you look to your past victories for future inspiration?
Why did Allstate develop the “Mayhem” campaign? CMO Lisa Cochran said it was because she was comfortable with her advertising and the state of her business. But she added that’s when she gets most uncomfortable. People often talk about getting out of their comfort zone. But do we? Gauge your comfort level on a regular basis and make sure you build in enough agitation to be innovative.
We heard a fabulous case study of Allstate’s “Mayhem” campaign at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing conference. Even Dean Winters (the actor who plays Mayhem) was there. The choice of anthropomorphizing mayhem was clever and original, his performances are spot on and the decision to use the word “mayhem,” instead of “chaos” or “disaster” all play to making the campaign unexpected, entertaining and highly effective. Hats of to Allstate and Leo Burnett. Heaven truly is in the details.
A recent NY Times article discussed the dire business position for Sharp, Sony and Panasonic. How could this be? Three major, innovative Japanese electronics companies who have lost their way? Sharp was once Paul’s client. They were always a leader in cutting edge technology, but a laggard in consumer insight. All three companies missed the smart phone marketplace. We are rooting for all three to recover. But, today’s smartest companies don’t just make cool stuff. They must connect on every level with a changing customer. Do you?
Well, as our observers have pointed out (and by now you’ve noticed it as well), Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas (oops, “The Holidays”) have blended into one continuous mashup sales-fest for retailers. Card shops pull down the black and orange headers and put up the russet and brown ones. Which will be followed by red and green and/or blue and white ones. We don’t know about you, but we’re experiencing holiday fatigue and it’s only the first week in November. Question: If this expansion of the holiday season is “good for business” (as retailers claim) but “bad for customer relations,” (as we’re hearing), how do you explain the discrepancy?
If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss the art installation surrounding the Christopher Columbus statue (in Columbus Circle) in NYC. Tatzu Nishi (Japan’s answer to Christo) built a living room 80 feet up in the air and “placed” the statue on the room’s coffee table. Like Christo’s “Gates” in Central Park, you suddenly see something you’ve taken for granted in a whole new light. How are you “displaying” what you do so that customers see you in a whole new light?
We know people who are “thoughtful.” We know people who are “wonderful.” But we never knew people were “choiceful.” That was one of the many marketing buzzwords at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference. Stuart Elliott called it “Jargon Watch” in his October 15 wrap-up of the industry event. The vocabulary of business keeps evolving – not always for the better. Is your business language effective? Or just plain jargon?
We caught an excerpt from StoryCorps on NPR’s Morning Edition Friday. Boyd Applegate <PICTURE IF POSSIBLE> is a truck driver who has served as a polling place volunteer for years. He was talking about the different emotions he’s witnessed in the parade of new voters, old voters, first-time voters, first-time citizens, asylum seekers, etc. Many with tears in their eyes when told things like, “No, you don’t have to pay a tax to vote,” and “Yes, you can vote for anyone you’d like.” Boyd summed it up simply and eloquently: “I’m here as a representative of what’s right in America.” Well-said, Boyd. Now don’t forget to vote!
Until two weeks ago, the greatest marketing stunt of all time was the Macintosh 1984 Super Bowl commercial. It changed the rules for event marketing and Super Bowl commercials from that day forth. But Steve thinks a new high in marketing stunts has just been reached: 128,100 feet high, to be precise. Our salute to Felix Baumgartner – and the C-Suite executives at Red Bull who took on a multi-year marketing project with no guarantee of success. Looks like topping that will require something truly out of this world! What risks do you take to bring your brand to new heights?
It’s a really big song by the rock group, Train, and the video features a range of wonderful, vintage Pontiacs. So how come Ford Tri-State Dealers in the NY Metropolitan Area have copped the song to promote their line of cars? The popularity of the song actually overwhelms the brand identification of the cars. Shouldn’t you make sure your message is bigger than the borrowed interest?
Quick. Name a business that will grow 17% this year. (Don’t you wish it was yours?) Halloween is now an $8 billion industry with $370 million sales in pet costumes alone. More than 30% of adults will go to a Halloween party this year. What can you do to add fun, festivity and lots of additional sales to your business?
The beer industry has taken a series of dramatic turns as we’ve all enjoyed local microbrews. Now it’s growlers. With refillable bottles that keep people coming back for more-at local breweries and even local chains and drug store locations such as Duane Reade! Fresh beer in big bottles has become the new badge value for the breweries and the customers who serve these heady brews. What have you done lately to change the game in your industry?
It’s time someone reinvented the convention. You all know the format: High-profile keynote speaker, breakout sessions, cocktail receptions and a convention floor where vendors seek new sales leads. We think there’s an opportunity for a different kind of model. It’s going to be interesting to see who figures that out first-and changes the way we gather with our peers
Our late, great friend, Broadway composer Albert Hague, had a firm rule: “Never work with a hyphen.” When we asked him what he meant, he explained that he never worked with people who had more than one title. Such as “Writer-Director,” or “Director-Producer.” His reasoning is that the “hyphens” represent different jobs with different responsibilities, commitments and checks and balances. Better to focus your team with people who have a singular function, commitment and expertise. How do you deal with the hyphens in your life?
It’s a tricky word-and reflects a different operating philosophy between Paul and Steve. Paul is a great believer in consensus, collaboration and cooperation. Steve is more of a slash-and-burn kind of guy. (As he likes to say, “Isn’t collaboration what the Vichy French did with the Nazis in WWII?”) If you’re Pablo Picasso, you can probably get away with ignoring others’ input, but for us mere mortals, working as a team is probably the better and more profitable way to go.
We heard an interesting observation last week. One of our business associates said, “In case you didn’t notice, the global economy hit the “reset” button three years ago.” We keep recommending to clients that they recalibrate their business plans based on the idea that the way it is now is the way it’s going to be for the next few years. Even if we’re wrong, it’s probably a smart business strategy. Are you still operating like it’s 2007?
Most advertising agencies don’t advertise themselves. Well, actually they do. It’s called their Web site! Before you begin any agency review, start by reviewing their Web sites. Because if they can’t get their own site to give you a really good picture of who they are, what they do and what makes them powerfully special, they’re not going to do much better for your business, either.
We were talking to a senior executive in an old media company and asked her why her company wasn’t experimenting with new business models. Her response was the quote above. How telling. Are you being “penny wise and pound foolish” in your business, as well?
Motivational guru Tony Robbins, author Steven Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) and disciples of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) all preach the idea of modeling behavior and actions after people you want to emulate. However, you don’t have to dive deep into those beliefs to follow some simple rules: take a look around you and make sure you’re in sync with your corporate culture. No one with a beard? Maybe you should consider shaving yours. Everything you say, do and wear gets judged by the standards of the organization. Are you doing everything you can to demonstrate you’re a team player?
It’s October! OK, we understand the plethora of Halloween displays and product we’re seeing. But, Christmas? It used to be that Christmas season started Thanksgiving week. But now we’re already seeing Christmas promises and promotions. Not only do they step on the toes of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but they’re likely to alienate consumers who would like to celebrate the seasons and the holidays in their time, not in a commercial rush. Do you target your customers with what they want when they want it?
Want to know the smartest way to hire a new agency? Any kind: Advertising. Digital. Social. Design studio. Make them create a campaign – for themselves. Tell them you’re looking to hire an agency, and you’d like each of the finalists to create a campaign to sell themselves to you. In their presentations you’ll learn everything you need to know about them. And you won’t be wasting their time or your money on developing a campaign for you.
We frequent a little deli near our office. As the neighborhood has gentrified a number of chain restaurants have moved in. They’re all fine, but they’re not our one-off deli with the people we’ve known for years, the different dishes offered each day and the ability to customize just about anything we like. Chains may offer consistent and reliable fare, but can they extend a personal touch and palate?
We heard a great line the other day: “Ping Pong is a recreational game you play in your basement; Table Tennis is a sport they play in the Olympics.” Most people – and businesses – greatly underestimate the power of their name. Does your name pull its weight?
60 years ago, Bill Bernbach revolutionized advertising creative by teaming writers and art directors. But that model won’t work for the new digital world. Last week, we invited a group of 20-somethings who work in marketing and social media to gather in our offices and brainstorm tomorrow’s model for marketing communication. It certainly isn’t going to be :30 TV commercials. The answer s a work in progress, but the process of jamming with the group was an eye-opening evening for everyone involved! When was the last time you sat a bunch of working 20-somethings around a table to try to figure out what the future is going to look and act like?
So all is not hunky-dory in the economic rise of those two great Asian powers. It would appear that Capitalism without a transparent rule of law is simply Oligarchy. (See: Russia) While we might be struggling to find new footing in today’s global economy, we’ll still bet on the U.S. over any other government in the world. (We could use some serious work on our infrastructure-but that’s a whole other blog.)
Paul was in the Apple Store the other day when spontaneous applause broke out. An entourage of five new employees were-literally-escorted into the store by a group of Apple employees. This is the general welcome for all new Apple Store employees. It must have been very moving for the new employees, because even Paul had an emotional reaction. How do you acknowledge your newest team members?
Ever wonder why TV networks premiere their new series in September? That’s when auto makers introduce their next year’s models–and the networks want to grab every ad dollar they can. It seems almost quaint to us these days. Neither of Steve’s 20-something sons even has a TV, never mind cable. The world is changing out there–faster than mainstream media realizes. But here we are, deep into September and deep into another season of same-old, same-old. It’s not an accident that cable shows just took away the big prizes at the Emmys. Are you still running your business like it’s 1998?
A follow-up to our blog the other week about our vote being ignored. Steve did a workshop last week at Mercy Hospital Corp in northwestern Ohio; where both Ohio and Michigan are considered important swing states. He was finally forced to turn off his TV in the hotel room, because every national spot and local avail was a campaign commercial for either Romney or Obama. Regardless of the outcome, we think the folks in those states will be greatly relieved when the elections are finally over. How much advertising can be too much advertising? The goal is to connect with your customers not overwhelm and alienate them!
We’ve got a simple question for you: How come all the advertising you love isn’t yours? That should be your mantra every minute of every day. After all, isn’t your goal as a marketer to get the best work possible — creative work that gets noticed, that gets talked about and that gets results? Take a hard look at the advertising you love and think about what it is you love about it. Then put yourself to that test. Every time you evaluate any work, ask yourself whether you love it as much as all those other campaigns?
We’ve given high praise in the past to a delicious little deli at the corner of 7th Avenue and 29th Street. Their menu and buffet are always fresh—and they’re smart enough to know their customers. The week before the Jewish New Year, the Yemenese owner asked us for the dates of the holidays. Being located in the heart of the old garment district meant that he could expect less business those days and wanted to keep his staffing and preparations in sync with demand. How carefully do you pay attention to your customers’ needs and schedules?
Crowdsourcing and social media are two of the biggest buzzes in advertising today. This year’s AEF (Advertising Education Foundation) Symposium will be on October 10 as a workshop in front of the ANA Masters of Marketing convention in Orlando. Paul is chairing. There’s going to be a rock-star lineup of speakers to address what’s going on and where it’s all going. So if you’re planning on attending the ANA convention, make a point to come by that Thursday, October 10th, This may seem like a blatant plug. But we know you’ll get huge value out of it.
Today the internet is pre-empting traditional media as the launch pad for new content. A little-known artist, Carly Rae Jepsen (photo), has become a phenomenon because Justin Bieber sang a few bars of her song and it took off on Web Play. Jebsen’s album hasn’t even been released yet, but “Call Me Maybe” is already a smash hit.
We used to think of food trucks as the place for water-soaked hot dogs. Today, all measure of gourmet foods are riding into neighborhoods and getting great reviews. We believe their success is directly related to their pursuit of doing one thing extraordinarily well. We guess it proves the old adage, “Build a better mousetrap and they’ll beat a path to your door.” Are you operating at that level of singular excellence?
The idea of enjoying the moment now seems to be trumped by recording the moment. Paul went to a fabulous family wedding Labor Day weekend. At one point the table was taken over by PDA activity (and we don’t mean Public Displays of Affection). The race was on both to post the event on Facebook and to “experience” the event online. We lost Donna Summer this summer. Apparently, we’ve also lost “The Last Dance” to the Facebook recording of it. Are you loving life or living it on Facebook?
What’s more important – sales or marketing? It’s a trick question. Sales, obviously. And there’s the rub. In too many sales-driven organizations, the dynamic tension between sales and marketing is difficult, if not painful. Sales believes EVERYTHING in a company is in support of what they do. As marketers, too often we do a poor job of advancing the power and value of marketing. At its best, marketing is an investment (not a cost). And the return on investment is sales support and sales results that could never be achieved by a crackerjack sales department alone. How much do you value-or undervalue-the supporting departments within your own organization?
A new term entered the public discourse at the Republican convention. Eastwooding is now the concept of talking to an empty chair. Thanks to YouTube the “original” can be seen readily and a plethora of mashups and new iterations can as well. Iconic symbols (memes) can burst on the scene today faster than ever. But how we feel about them is as personal as our politics or as pervasive as the source of the message. How do you extend your brands and messages in powerfully iconic and memorable ways?
People ask us how we can rebrand a company in 48 hours or less. “Don’t you need to do a deep dive into their business?” Well, yes, of course…but, actually, no. The principles of great marketing are universal. No matter what your business is, you need to know your customers, have a powerful positioning and a unique selling proposition. All the rest are details. Do you have solid answers for those three dynamics of your business?
Andy Warhol said we’d all have our 15 minutes of fame. Now, it seems, we’ve all got our 15 megabytes of content. Between YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr, the world is generating content at a staggering rate. But as was observed when auto-focus SLR cameras first became popular, “never have so many bad pictures been taken so well.” Content without concept is just digital wallpaper. The next time you think about posting something, make sure it’s got a concept behind it.
How come our vote doesn’t count? The presidential candidates are focusing on eight key “swing states.” But our state isn’t one of them. We’ve seen virtually no Obama or Romney advertising lately. Does that mean our vote doesn’t matter to them? We don’t like being taken for granted. Do you take your core customers for granted because you’ve “already won their loyalty?”
How come there’s so much bad creative work out there? Steve believes it’s not for lack of talent. He believes there are very few bad creatives in any organization in the world. Rather, there are bad organizational structures where good creative work can’t thrive or survive. Are you truly encouraging creativity-or are you asking for it but then revising it to death?
In our Marketing Plan in a Day™ methodology, we ask participants to do a lot of voting. After all, how are you going to get an entire plan accomplished in a day if the discussion is endless and the resolutions aren’t achieved efficiently? If you have the right people in the room, the vote is always revealing and the results are always right. These people are your team. Trust the wisdom of the room…and, move on!
When the meeting is special, treat it differently. We’re fans of “hand candy” for special creative meetings – pipe cleaners, clay, Play-Doh®. Paul just finished facilitating a meeting where the clay provided a major outlet to all kinds of impressive creations and some excellent planning work product, too!
The mommy blogger network has become a powerful social movement. Engage with online moms and you can enjoy positive word of mouth. Violate the trust of today’s moms and the digital universe can come crashing down on your brand. What do you do every day to be respectful, engaging and relevant?
We had a wonderful conversation with a new friend recently who in recounting his career cited someone who told him “you’re too honest to be in marketing.” A back handed compliment, to be sure, but also a time worn expression from an era of slick sales pitches. Today we all have be totally honest and authentic “to be in marketing.” The customer is in charge and our relationship is based on keeping it real.
The world is complicated. People are complicated. Marketing is complicated. We were musing the other day about the incredible value and art of simplicity. It’s hard to focus and keep it simple. Our new mantra, “simplicity is the highest form of complexity.”
The debate rages. We have truly moved beyond price to value. Time and convenience are powerful elements in the mix of human consumption. We want a great price, to be sure. But we need a good value proposition even more. What do you do to be sure you’ve got the best value equation for your customers?
Any good trial lawyer will tell you, “Communication is irreversible.” Once it’s out there—spoken, texted, tweeted, blogged, e-mailed—it’s out there. No amount of backpedalling, apologizing or denying can undo the damage that a slip of the keys or the tongue can create. Carpenters say, “Measure twice, cut once.” In business the rule should probably be, “Think twice, speak once.”
NYC Mayor Ed Koch used to regularly ask reporters and citizens, “How’m I doing?” A rather direct—and in Ed’s case—charming form of market research. But how do you know how you’re doing? Do you regularly ask your clients? Do you survey your clients or customers to get a feel for what they really think of you? Do you have third party players get feedback for you? Knowing what your business partners think of you at all times is likely the best way to make sure they remain your business partners. What are you waiting for?
Beware bright, shiny objects. QR Codes came on the scene a couple of years ago and have done very little. What was supposed to be Quick Response for more in depth digital information just hasn’t gotten any real consumer uptake. That doesn’t mean we won’t be engaging with deeper digital connections. We absolutely will. But sometimes the new play of the moment comes a bit before its time has come. Do you vet your new initiatives to be sure your customers want them?
You’ve got to be mercenary to be merciful. We’re constantly amazed at the way non-profits—even the ones we’re involved with—run their business. There’s something about the phrase “not-for-profit” that seems to turn even good businesspeople into mush. Ironically, with uncertain and erratic cash flows, non-profits should probably be run MORE ruthlessly than most businesses rather than less. The most successful non-profits run as if they’re for profit organizations. And by the way, have you volunteered for anything today? (They need you!)
Pret a Manger (“Ready to Eat”) the British “fast food” joint has 32 locations in NYC. The one near our office just put a new sign in the window: “Pioneering Natural Food Since 1986.” Double oops. First of all, Pret hasn’t been in the States since 1986. And, second, it sounds like someone thought the restaurants should have a new positioning, but couldn’t find an ownable handle. Consumer perception would give the “Natural” handle to Whole Foods over Pret in a heartbeat. Too often we see “marketing Band-Aids” applied when a serious re-think and careful aim is what’s needed. Which are you doing?
Over the years, a lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about how to be innovative in managing different businesses. They have advanced lots of good ideas in books, articles, and essays—they are enamoured of the concept “think outside the box.” Too often, we see business people rushing to re-invent the wheel when there’s a perfect solution available if they’d just look at the assets they already own. So sure, think outside the box—but only after you’ve searched thoroughly “inside the box.” It’s way less expensive, more risk free and financially rewarding.
One of our interns just became second runner up to Miss Connecticut. At first, we thought this whole enterprise was a trivial pursuit. But in observing her discipline, teamwork and maturation the process put her through, we’ve recalibrated our impressions. Hard work, tenacity and goal orientation are valuable character builders. What are you working really hard to achieve?
Ever heard of Joseph Murphy? He was “the Henry Ford of his day.” A St. Louis-based industrialist who provided America with every type of freight, rail and farm wagon we could need. But a funny thing happened to the wagon business: The automobile. And only the smallest handful of wagon builders-Studebaker and Duryea to name two-had the foresight to add “horseless” carriages to their product lineup. Are you scanning the horizon to see what “automobile” is looming to transform your business?
One of our interns—who only work with us one day a week—sent us an e-mail one glorious August morning asking if she could stay out in the Hamptons an extra day, which meant missing work that week. Neither one of us replied—leaving it to her to decide what to do. Responsibility is a powerful character trait. It’s learned over time, but we’re big believers in learning it young, integrating it completely and making it a life time practice. Being a person who can be depended on to do what they say and what they promise is a gift to be treasured. Not suntanned.
None of us ever likes the small type – the disclaimer. And this new practice of charging a 10¢ premium for gas paid with a credit card is annoying. We pull into the station only to see at the pump that we’re about to get bilked. How about posting one price, cash or credit? Figure out the profit point, make it easier for the customer and make your price promise, clean and clear. At the pump and in all facets of your business. No one wants a rip-off surprise.
American Airlines has just announced that all frequent flyer miles with no expiration dates before 1989 will now have expiration dates. Really? First of all how many of us have miles that are over 20 years old? More important, this break in their promise may be a small tactic to bring the airline back to profitability, but it’s a breach of consumer trust and confidence which is a lot of what got them into Chapter 11 in the first place. If you make a promise, keep it! Otherwise, never say never…
Steve has occasionally participated on a committee working to rethink the business model (and marketing model) for the Westport Library. Too many libraries-like so many publishers-are locked into an old belief called “books.” These days, libraries have the reverse 80/20 rule: Books occupy 80% of a library’s physical space, but in 10 years will represent only 20% of their business. To the credit of the Westport Library, they’re deep into planning and rethinking their model and their physical plant. What are you doing to stay ahead of your business model?
Paul and Steve are of two different minds on pricing. Paul believes you set your value-and be willing to negotiate. Steve believes the market will dictate your value and, like seats on an airplane, once your unbilled time is gone you can’t recover it. Paul’s payoff: he works less but makes better money when he works. Steve’s payoff: he’s always out there-and who knows where the exposure will lead? What’s your pricing strategy- do your customers know it and appreciate it?
The other day Paul saw a gopher out his window. Then a rabbit. The two of them were mutually attracted to a clover patch. There was plenty for both of them. So they munched side by side. Not exactly a strategic alliance. But, if there is enough to go around, are you gracious enough to let your competitors savor the sustenance? It may pay dividends later.
Paul is working on a crowd sourcing and social media symposium as a lead-in to ANA Masters of Marketing this October. In looking to line up talent, he was referred to an agent. The agent was all about the value of the speaker in terms of dollars and cents, rather than content and exposure. We get it. But it neither burnished the credentials of the potential speaker or his representative. We need to sell customer benefit first and foremost. The booking will follow or the buyer will book on out of there.
Apple just discontinued its public folder service. iGoogle is going away next year. Now Apple and Google are looking to focus brand profits in eliminating these services. We love both brands. But in this case, they’ve chosen corporate interests over customer focus. Shame on them. We now love them a little less. Maybe they can afford losing a little love. The rest of us never can…or should! Be careful of what you offer your customers-you may never be able to easily take it back.
Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government-except for all those others that have been tried.” While no one’s suggesting you turn your business into a democracy, you should consider using voting now and then to provide a true perspective on where your team is on key issues. The secret is to vote early and often on lots of issues that can be activated rather than spending huge amounts of time and money leading up to the vote. A painful truism in US politics. A real insight that can be activated more readily in business!
We once heard a great description—the difference between a job, a career and a calling. A job is something you do for money. A career is a succession of jobs, usually to advance title and compensation. A calling is something you do because you’re passionate about it. First prize is for your job to be a step in your career and your career to be your calling.
Ah, to be French – and simply shut down the country for the month of August. Sadly, Americans are workaholics, so the best we can do is half-day Fridays. However, many of you are sneaking out the whole day; we’ve received a huge influx of “out of office” responses to our Friday July blogs. So we’ll be suspending our Friday blogs until after Labor Day. Enjoy your time off!
We were wondering why someone would bother to remake Spiderman. After all, the original was done just 10 years ago. Then we realized! Ten years represents three complete regime turnovers at the movie studio. So no one’s got any memory of what was done (or why) by their predecessors. Do you have “corporate amnesia” within your organization? Who’s the keeper of memory?
A follower, Aaron, wrote about a mentor who told him, “Learn all you can and save your money.” One of the problems with many of today’s newbies is they practice the opposite. Research shows they spend more than they make and learn painful lessons under duress. Learn and save! That pretty much covers it. Best practices are profitable practices.
Interesting ad from Acura last week. Headline: “This Is The Car Your Father Would Have Bought If He Hadn’t Had You.” Comment from both of us: Not a great ad—unless you know that it ran in an automotive enthusiasts’ magazine. Then we both liked it. As we move increasingly towards a one-to-one marketing world, you’re going to see more and more of these “we’re just like you” ads. How are you customizing your communications approaches?
One of our followers – Jill – wrote that her father gave her sound mentoring advice: “Always treat the people you meet kindly on your way up the ladder, you never know who you might see on the way back down.” How do you treat the people in your life? Kindness and consideration will pay dividends and avoid possible pitfalls.
It’s barbecue season. Beyond the delicious fun of preparing and sharing summer fun food do you look at grilling as a creative art? You should! Experiment with new foods, recipes, combinations and grill challenges in coming up with new inventions and satisfying nourishment. Do it in business, too!
One of our readers (Michele) responded to our mentoring blog by noting her mentor told her, “If you say you are going to do something, then do it.” Great advice. Not only because you get a reputation for being reliable, but you also get a reputation for being a person of your word. How do you do what you say…every day?
A brilliant lesson in “winning” by the Troy Public Library. When the local Tea Party wanted to cut funding for the library, the library didn’t get defensive in trying to “prove their value.” They “joined the opposition” and completely changed the conversation. The outcome? They restored all their budget…and more! How do you change the conversation to create winning results?
It’s summer movie time. Go. This is the time of the Hollywood Blockbusters. Yet why do so many of them miss? We think it’s all about star power over story. Most of the films get it backwards. A great story can trump extravagant budgets and high powered special effects virtually every time. Focus on great content well delivered. Steak first, sizzle second.
Getting promoted shouldn’t be seen so much as a goal but rather a natural progression for a job well done. David Ogilvy used to tell people they should not think of themselves as account executives, but rather account supervisors in training. To reach for the next position in performance is a win for the company and the individual. Are you already working at your “next” position?
It’s a long distance from product to brand. A product is the performance of something you buy that fulfills its promise. A brand is all of that but a whole lot more. A brand includes name, logo, imagery, uniqueness, value, relationship, responsibility, loyalty and longevity. Do you look for all of those criteria in the brands you use…and the brands you create?
Font selection says a lot about the communication you’re creating. We all know that CAPS suggest urgency or anger. But there’s a wide range of fonts that can express everything from serious to whimsical. So choose your fonts wisely, but also realize in digital communication, most people won’t have all your fonts. So, universal font like Times or Arial will often best achieve universal communication.
That was a comment we heard from a senior IT guy 20 years ago that still holds true. Computers don’t save a company time or money. In fact, companies have to commit more time and more money to become digital. What computers do, in his opinion, is make middle managers more productive (provided you’ve given them the right tools). In his view, your smartest move is to make sure you’ve got really bright middle managers—then give them the tools (like IT resources, computers, digital data, etc.) to get their jobs done. How are you using your digital technology and resources?
What’s the one, single most valuable piece of advice you’ve gotten so far in your career? Let us know and we’ll share it with everyone else!
Summer’s upon us and it’s time for State Fairs. Paul was reminded of his trip to the Wisconsin State Fair last year where he saw best-in-class for clydesdales, cows, chickens and all manner of livestock. He also experienced best creampuffs and the best macaroni and cheese on a stick. Who knew? Are you Best in Class in popular categories or unexpected, innovative ones?
Is it our imagination or has a conflict developed between “marketable” and “good”? All you have to do is look at the past year’s theatrical movie releases or the past year’s video game releases. Many are okay and many made money. Perfectly marketable. Eminently…b-o-o-ring. Make sure that when you think of something marketable that it’s also, well, good. What a concept.
When you’re giving someone your phone number, do you use the word “zero” or “oh” for the number 0? We’ve noticed a regional preference the way Midwesterners call soda “pop” and Easterners think “regular coffee” means “cream and sugar.” What regional idiosyncrasies have you picked up in your travels?
A great observation from Steve’s son, Dan: “Life is simple when you know who to ask.” It’s an often-forgotten gem of advice. Knowing whom to ask—and what you want to ask them—is key to getting the information, action and results you want. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he called them “Mavens.” Who are your mavens?
Steve was in Austin, Texas the other week moderating a panel on creativity at the AAF national convention. Club presidents, program directors and other officers from every part of the country. Cities large and small. Hawaii. Alaska. It was good to see old acquaintances and make new friends. Once again, a reminder of the value of “face time.” Yes, our schedules are busy; which makes it more important than ever to build in some face time with professional associates. When was the last time you attended a gathering of your peers?
At the AAF national convention in Austin, Steve Goldner of MediaWhiz had a smart thing to say about the role of social media in a company’s marketing mix. Goldner’s POV is that social media isn’t a sales medium, it’s an opportunity to connect with customers and move them through four stages: Attention (“I’m aware you’re here”); Affinity (“I relate to what you have to say”); Affection (“I like that you’re doing this”); and Advocacy (“I’m going to tell my friends about you”). That’s all—and it’s a lot. What’s your Social Media strategy—is it as smart as Steve’s?
That’s a question Steve asks during his creativity workshop. As a test, he gives attendees eight choices: the lead paragraph from eight media sources covering the identical news story including The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. The paragraphs are presented without identifying where they’re from. Steve asks his attendees to pick what they think is “the best written paragraph.” 100% of the time, the majority of attendees pick The New York Post. And if you want proof, we offer the following: Mike Vaccaro’s sports editorial about Johan Santana’s no-hitter
We think it’s sexist and misogynistic that there’s a word for older women who are interested in younger men…but no word for the young men who go looking for them. With that in mind, as a public service to our loyal followers, we offer up the following: Cub Scouts. What do you think?
Truth in advertising. It’s an age old issue. But the issue is heating up in the cosmetics industry where retouching virtually everything has obfuscated product performance. Used to be, people talked about selling the sizzle, not the steak-but it seems to us that the cosmetics industry has forgotten there has to be some steak to go with the sizzle.
The networks are at war with DISH network’s new plan to enable consumers to skip ads via Auto-hop. As companies flail about to hold the hearts, minds and wallets of today’s rapidly-disappearing audiences, it looks like “anything goes!” This sure feels like biting the hand that feeds them. If it weren’t for advertising, how would consumers receive all that wonderful free programming?
Paul went to theater recently and upon exiting saw a Halal cart on Sixth Avenue. It was 10:30 at night and the line for food reached nearly to 7th Avenue. There was an adjacent cart dedicated just to cooking the lamb. This truck was obviously best in class. Something for us all to aspire to. Get to be that good and they’ll wait in line for you, too!
There’s never enough time to do something right, but always enough time to do it over. We’ve heard that adage from our earliest days in marketing. It’s an expensive proposition and a way of working that should be remedied. Build in enough time to carefully consider and create great work. Set as a goal that the work will be excellent when presented rather than fair game to be redone.
Steve and Paul edit one another’s prose and blogs. It’s a winning combination except when it isn’t. The other day Paul started editing something Steve said before Steve’s point was fully made. Steve said, “Don’t listen with a pencil.” The metaphor may be quite un-digital, but the lesson is timeless.
In 2011, venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins coined the term SoLoMo – a simple, elegant buzzword for “Social, Local and Mobile.” What’s interesting to us is that the phrase – perfectly reasonable – seems to be only gaining traction in Slo-Motion. But whether the term becomes common usage, there’s no question it’s the likely path to all business in the very near future. Are you hitting this triple?
So it turns out that Kim Kardashian did need to work out in those Skechers. It seemed too good to be true that just wearing a pair of sneakers would shape up all those desirable parts. Once again, the snake oil salespeople took direct aim at Americans’ biggest vulnerability: we’re always looking for shortcuts. We need to be ever fit in the latest apparel as well as our latest marketing.
The quick food industry has done itself no favors by enabling consumers and commentators to refer to their product as “junk food.” They are much more circumspect today-both in terms of their menu offerings and their projected imagery. But as the junk food advertising ban in the UK would indicate, it’s probably too little, too late. Where are you most vulnerable?
Bill Bernbach was the father of the “creative revolution” in advertising. In the mid 1950s, he was the first person to understand that television wasn’t “radio with pictures,” but a whole new medium. We’re seeing the same myopia across many media these days: in the early days of the Internet, people thought the Web was print delivered digitally-and then hired magazine art directors to design their sites. Today, too many people believe the Web is television delivered on a different platform. It isn’t. And the person who figures out what this (still very new) medium is will be the next revolutionary hero…or, more likely heroes!
Lady Gaga’s concert was just canceled in Indonesia. So there will be no “Meat and Greet” or other costume dramas. Humorous? Repressive? Culturally insensitive? Any group – at any time – has the right to say, “We’re offended.” Liberty is a pretty powerful intoxicant. Applaud and appreciate our freedom of expression every day. Yes, some people will occasionally be offended. But if that’s the price of freedom, we’re willing to pay it and accept responsibility for our insensitivities.
In 1969-more than 40 years ago-Dr. Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull wrote a best-seller that’s still in print articulating The Peter Principle. Simply stated, it said, “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” You would think that corporate America would have embraced that lesson by now. But we continue to see top salespeople promoted to sales directors, top copywriters promoted to creative directors-and the list goes on. How many people in your organization were promoted to their level of incompetence? Let them do what they do best…and, pay them handsomely for it.
We’re receiving an increasing number of texts and e-mails with more and more inscrutable abbreviations. You may not know what certain acronyms stand for-SNAFU (“Situation Normal: All F***’d Up”) but at least you know what the expression means. We’re seeing some “private codes” being used in written discourse that send us fleeing to the Acronym Dictionary. What abbreviations have you encountered lately that have you scratching your head? If acronyms are supposed to be shorthand communication, shouldn’t they shorthand communication rather than not communicate at all?
When you look at other industries and companies for “best practices,” don’t restrict yourself just to your work environment. Steve always likes to say that the secret to raising his sons was that one day he came across a horse training manual. “I took away two key lessons that I used while the boys were young. 1: If you don’t run them twice a day, they’ll kick the barn down and 2: The secret is in how tight (they buck) or loose (you lose control) you hold the reins.” What best practices have you discovered?
Paul was quoted by the BBC recently on advertising and pester power. The old belief is that advertising has created or has fostered nagging children. In truth, bad parenting enables pestering kids. Set limits and kids will respect them. Sure, they’ll push back from time to time, but they don’t learn that bad behavior just from watching television.
What would you rather be? Junk Food, Fast Food or a Quick Serve Restaurant? How you refer to yourself-and how your customers refer to you-can make all the difference in world. The Republican think tanks figured that out years ago and have been highly successful shaping public opinion with neologisms such as “Obamacare” and “Death Tax.” How are you using language to spin what you do into the most persuasive or positive light?
Around the country we’ve spoken to lots of groups and organizations who are hiring Millennials. Many of these 40-something employers are completely perplexed and frustrated by their new Gen-Y workers (also called the ME generation). To manage them properly, you’ve got to give them enough rope to hang themselves-without hanging yourself. You’ll survive. They’ll learn from it. And your business will be better for it.
Where’s the parent in the family these days? Research shows that parents are eager to be their childrens’ best friends. The problem is they’ve abdicated the fundamental job of a parent: Providing guidance and guidelines. It’s called “discipline,” (as in “disciple,” not as in “punishment”). Kids need it, want it and respect it. Without it, the household becomes anarchy. We all need discipline to perform at our very best.
More and more, consumers are using retail stores to do some free sampling before going home, going on line and ordering the item on the Internet. It started with big box electronic stores, then bookstores-and pretty soon it will be every kind of retail store. If you’re in the retail business, you’d better start thinking about a different business model for the digital age. You need to be selling “reason to appear” rather than “sample showroom for online selling.” As Satchel Paige used to say, “Don’t look back-something might be gaining.”
Whenever Steve calls a company’s customer service line, he asks, “Am I speaking to someone in the United States?” If the person says, “No,” (which is most of the time), Steve says, “Please connect me to someone in the United States.” They try to distract him with other questions, but he calmly repeats the request until they do. The resulting conversation is always faster, smoother and easier. (And maybe helps keep some jobs in this country from going overseas.)
Our partner, Norman Siegel, is an award-winning art director with over a half-dozen commercials in the Paley Center collection (and his aviation art continuing to win awards). His edgy sense of humor constantly reminds us what he thinks of our “edits.” The other day, we asked him to “remove the hyphen at the end of a line and don’t break the word.” Sure enough, we got back a layout with “market-ing” (on two lines) replaced with “market ing” (on two lines). Remember, art directors care most about how good the work looks, not how perfectly detailed the spelling and punctuation are. How good are you at giving clear and complete direction to visual people?
You wouldn’t hire an Internist to examine your torn ACL. (“Hey, they’re both doctors, aren’t they?”) You wouldn’t hire a pastry chef to cook your dinner (“Hey, they’re both chefs, aren’t they?”) We’re continually amazed that companies hire television executives to run movie studios. (“Hey, they’re both media executives, aren’t they?”) Television and film are two different media with two different skill set requirements. Every platform requires a special level of expertise. Do you know what you do best and do it better than anyone else?
With the school term wrapping up, Paul asked his Spanish and French students in his International Advertising Class what struck them most about living in NYC this semester. First they said, “The subway.” Paul thought they were going to praise the system’s 24/7 schedule. Their observation was how decrepit and dirty it is. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, their second observation was about the large number of rats they observed on our streets at night. Seems like our face to the world needs a significant facelift. What do you do every day to extend your best face?
How much are Americans suspicious of foreigners? Enough so that foreign businesses increasingly cover up their real names when they do business here. BP (British Petroleum). TD Bank (Toronto Dominion). UBS (United Bank of Switzerland). The list goes on. Is it smart marketing? Or are some companies missing a bet by not promoting the fact that they’re from another country?
Steve made a call to his bank the other day and was told-via recording-”Welcome to [name of] Bank and our legendary service. Your hold time will be approximately four to six minutes.” And what part of “legendary service” does “hold time” come under? Do you overpromise and underdeliver on anything? Don’t! Always underpromise and overdeliver.
Steve has a dog (Huxley – at left) that refuses to go out in the rain. Paul has a dog that cowers in a corner if someone coughs. Both behaviors are totally irrational. What don’t you like that’s irrational? Get over it-and get on with it.
The meaning of the word “Chiclets” is changing. Ask most people and they’ll tell you “chewing gum.” Ask mobile programmers, and they’ll tell you it’s the term for the “logo button” on APPs. In fact, the guys programming our APP (yes, PS Insights has an APP coming out this year!) didn’t know the word referred to gum. We love the way the English language keeps changing. What new word adaptations are you spotting out there?
We’re in the middle of a long-overdue purge of our offices – selling, donating or discarding huge amounts of old files and “dead tech.” From items in our refrigerator that are at least a year old (the average American has three of them-check your own!), to the detritus of our first apartments, we accumulate junk like cat hairs on a blue suit. The purge feels good and we highly recommend it. What are you holding onto that’s taking up physical and emotional space? When in doubt, throw it out!
What we’re still wondering is: Did the secret service agent choose to ignore the price in his drunken stupor? Or did he just not speak the language? Sometimes when we’re negotiating a project we know exactly how those escorts felt. What are your best practices in negotiating fees and reaching clear agreement regarding pay for service?
The other day, all New York City programming was interrupted to broadcast live coverage of the space shuttle Enterprise being flown past the Statue of Liberty on its way to retirement. We thought it was so wrong-headed in so many ways that it was unbelievable. Are we alone in feeling as if they were celebrating the end of the space era and the decline of America?
How do you start your meetings? Do you assume everyone in the room knows each other? Do you assume everyone knows what the meeting is intended to do? An icebreaker is fun at a party – but can be really useful at a meeting to get everyone on the same page and on topic. How do you build esprit to get to a better process and better results?
Paul teaches two international marketing classes filled with classically-trained, well-disciplined students from other countries. Polite. Well-mannered. Pleasant. But more interested in knowing how many pages the paper should be rather than how big the idea should be. They stand in stark contrast to his domestic students who consistently outperform when it comes to the pursuit and development of the Big Idea. Do you reward innovative thinking—or do you just reward getting the job done well?
When Steve runs our workshop on creativity, he talks about the paradox of the creative process: “Limits create unlimited creativity: The more tightly you structure the assignment, the broader the range of potential solutions.” His example? The wristwatch. Think of the tens of thousands of design solutions for what seems—at first glance—to be a very narrow assignment. When you give out creative assignments, do you make sure to keep your focus as tight as possible?
A few of our clients have indicated they’re planning to retire in the next few years. Frankly, the thought is repugnant to us. We always ask them, “What are you going to do in week three?” Whether you’re planning to keep on working or planning to cash it in as soon as possible, make sure you’ve got a road map for the remaining years. Do you have a plan for after you “retire?” Or do you just have the goal of retiring? Seems an oxymoron to us.
We think that employer/employee relationship model died 10 years ago. Unfortunately, too few companies (and their employees) realize that. If you’re simply working for a paycheck, a time clock and a retirement deadline, you’re not doing yourself or your employer any favors. What are you doing every day to work smarter and perform better with greater job satisfaction?
Entrepreneurism in Silicon Valley is not about coming up with the next idea. It’s about having the spriit to have ideas, develop them (win or lose) and feeling confident the idea will find an audience, the funding and a life. The idea is almost disposable. It’s the thrill of the hunt. Do you chase your ideas – or do you just love the chase?
Our book, “The Little Blue Book of Marketing: Build a Killer Plan in Less Than A Day” gives you a complete guide to building any marketing plan on any topic in 7 hours or less. We wrote the book. We teach the process. And we’re happy to give it away – because at the end of the day people call us to lead their trainings. What do you give away to build your practice?
Every business needs both. Someone who stays in the office and gets the work done and the other who goes out into the world to find new business, meet with clients and generally build a brand presence. Too many small businesses (and freelancers) don’t understand that dynamic; and then take on the role they’re not suited for. Which are you?
Paul has landed on a new brainstorming technique in his marketing classes. He throws out a challenge and gets as many as 25 people at a time writing content on a whiteboard. It delivers a tremendous amount of content in no time at all. What new brainstorming techniques have you tried lately?
Where is your future—and how are you going to harness it? Two articles in last week’s NYTimes caught our eye: One was about Indian-American college graduates returning to Mumbai for career opportunities. The other was the new start-up space in Manhattan and the ways these companies are generating new business just by talking to each other. Both portend new opportunities for doing business. Are you still doing business the way you did ten years ago?
We could have titled this blog “Avoid Confusion,” but we’re out to make a point: too many people seem to want to snatch complexity from the jaws of simplicity. Whether it’s in their writing, their managing or their strategy, we often see people and organizations opt for the most confusing, most complicated path. Simple is usually the best path to success. Do you strive for simplicity?
Every once in a while (seemingly on a regular basis), someone publicly commits professional suicide. The latest was Two And A Half Men creator Lee Aronsohn who commented that he thought “women’s comedy has peaked.” He instantly offended 50% of his audience and a rising community of new fresh comedy that is taking American television by storm. From tone-deaf companies to suicidal individuals, we’re always fascinated by the need to do oneself in. How do you manage—and control—your public persona?
A seemingly brilliant idea for cost saving has turned into a slippery slope for advertising agencies. Unbundling agency media departments into media independents extended media savings to clients – but it made the agency relationship much less complete. Clients profited from better media buys, but agencies descended from full service partners to marketing and creative vendors. Once again, agencies gave away the store rather than enhancing passionate partnerships and indispensability. What do you do to be indispensable to your customers?
We were recently e-mailed a batch of sexist ads from the 1950s (two of which we’ve posted here). To the credit of the marketing industry—and men in general—we view these ads with mild horror and distaste. But we wonder: what do we think is good advertising today that we’ll look on with horror and distaste a few years from now? Culture is ever changing…and the “face” we project may be pretty, but it may not have the staying power of politically or socially correct.
Kudos to James Cameron for his record-setting exploration of the ocean. Well beyond his huge fascination and accomplishment in directing the movie Titanic, consider his triple feat:
1. He demonstrated he’s not a one-career, one-dimensional man. Like Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, he’s proven to be a man of many talents.
2. His achievement involved breakthrough technology. Like the late ventriloquist Paul Winchell, he has recorded patents that will change the way the world works.
3. He did it himself. Like the Wright brothers he chose to assume all the risks (as well as the well-deserved rewards).
He’s our kind of guy. Now how are you living your life?
Two of Paul’s favorite comediennes—Ellen Degeneres and Tina Fey—have major contracts with beauty companies (Cover Girl and Garnier respectively). Yet neither one of them would be classified as a “Miss America” type “beauty.” Part of what makes them so appealing is that both in their comedy and in their presence they are sincere, attractive and genuine. For us—and we guess for the beauty companies as well—real beauty is about genuineness. How beautiful are you in the way you do business?
The other week we attended a digital conference in Manhattan—and zipped through the exhibitor floor in under an hour. Our secret? We agreed before we started what it was we were looking for… big, compelling, simple ideas. So we walked with focus, determination and, most importantly, without distraction. How do you walk convention floors?
The difference between “good” and “great” is that last 10%. Is “good” good enough? Or do you take the time and care to get to great?
They drive us crazy. And it’s not that we’re being grumpy compulsives. It’s just that to us, misspellings (yes, we know, we did that deliberately in the headline) are such a “I don’t care about you or this communication” message. And the worst are the ones in resumes. They can kill a job opportunity before you ever have the interview. Do you take the extra five minutes to make sure your communication is properly spelled?
We managed to waste a good half hour the other workday playing a game that was new to us: Bananagrams. It’s a word game that uses the lattice structure of Scrabble in a boot-strapping way. Although it’s tempting to think there’s nothing new under the sun, the truth is that the inventors were smart enough to start with a hugely successful idea and build on it to make it their own. What can you co-op from someone else and take it to a new level?
A great lesson we learned many years ago at an industry workshop: 90% of all advertising puts the product features in the headline and the advantages in the body copy. They leave it to their customers to figure out what the benefits are. But the sale is always made the other way: People buy based on benefits. Are you putting your benefits up front-or hiding them deep inside your message?
Marketing genius is often the sum of two parts! Consider the Labradoodle. Two terrific dog breeds combined into one, “Labradoodles” and selling for as much as $2,500 a pup. What brilliant combinations have you brought to market? Care for a nectarine, anyone? Or, how about a pluet?
We’re spotting more and more retailers opting for lower rents on side streets. With the proliferation of smart phones and APPS like Yelp, Google Maps, and Around Me, retailers no longer need to be on “Main Street” to attract customers. Just like the coolest no name bars, the hippest retailers know their customers will find them using digital locators.
Customers, consumers, audiences. They have got to be at the center of every brand conversation. With the plethora of new media, too many marketers are ambulance chasing new media platforms. The new media don’t come with your audience built-in. “Identifying” or “finding” your audience is a critical piece of the marketing equation. The other piece is “how are you connecting with them?” The partnership of Marketing (finding the key insight) and Creative (coming up with the big idea) will always need to be an essential of the mix.
During the Creative Revolution (1960s-70s) in advertising, when Creative was King, people used to say, “The inmates are in control of the asylum.” Steve was recently on a panel at the Digital Hollywood Media Summit and it’s clear that the inmates who are currently running the asylum are Media Planners and Buyers. Whether you call them “VP of Social Media,” or “Digital Managers,” they’re still just media planners. Buyer beware. When the media platform trumps the creative idea, we’re in trouble!
And speaking of memorable messages, we were recently forwarded a page of great logo designs with “hidden” extras. Like the arrow inside the FedEx logo. The “A to Z” designed into the Amazon brand. The two people dipping into a bowl in the Tostitos logo. Who knew? They’re all extraordinary efforts—and a reminder to all of us to go the extra distance in ALL your marketing communications.
“Where’s the beef?” (Wendy’s) “Dah-dah-dah” (Volkswagen) A slap on the face (Old Spice). A great mnemonic moves into the lexicon and makes your marketing dollars go that much farther. Make your agencies stretch a little. Find audio and video triggers (words, music, sound effects) that help people identify, remember and talk about your message…and, brand.
You can tell you the age of an advertising agency by its name. If you say, “J. Walter Thompson” you’re an old-line firm from the earliest days of advertising. If you’re a JWT or Y&R, you’re an old line firm, updated. If you’re Strawberry Frog, Mother, Naked, Anomaly or Taxi, you’re a new edge agency of today. Business names for the creative industry can be as fashionable as the good work they do.
Does your brand name paint you into a corner? Like E*TRADE – which seemed like the perfect name when they first launched, and now boxes them in as an “online trading” company, even though they’re a full-service banking & loan company. It’s a good thing if your name gives people a clue to what you do; but keep an eye on your long-term goals as well. And make sure your name can grow with you.
How do you stand out from what your competitors are doing? Actually, that’s a two-part question. Part 1: Do you know what your competitors are doing? Part 2: Do you know who your competitors are? Whether you’re a multi-billion-dollar corporation or a SOHO (Single Office Home Office) freelancer, you’ve got to know and exploit that difference. Do you?
They’re here to stay – and you’d better learn how to work with them and how to manage them. They’re a different breed and there’s a lot to love!
Say what you mean. Get rid of the extraneous stuff and say (or write) clearly and concisely exactly what you mean.
Charlie Ryant, a terrific senior creative director, used to have that sign over his desk. It always made us laugh – but the truth is, “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut and sometimes you’ve got to get some feedback before you risk it all. Be very careful about what you decide to test and what you don’t. In fact, you may want to “pre-test” the testing. Gather an informal group and run the idea by them; if there’s not unanimous response, it’s a good signal that some serious testing might be in order.
Welcome to the blogosphere – get used to it. And get a policy in place to cooly respond to brand hijackers. It’s going to happen to you sooner or later – someone’s going to write something or post a video about your brand that won’t be under your control. It might be good or it might be bad but it won’t be yours. You’ve got to decide ahead of time how you’ll handle those situations. So start reading the stories about what other brands have done and start formulating a policy you can put in place BEFORE it happens. Be ready. Just as companies have long had customer service departments, today you need a digital publicity group.
It’s more elusive than ever. Who’s loyal to your brand? Why or why not? As new brands come into the marketplace people are more willing than ever to buy them and try them. They expect that the brand will perform. But the real question becomes what is that brand going to deliver beyond its mere function? If a brand tries to pre-empt your mojo, what are you going to do about it? Great brands fulfill bundles of benefits that cause consumer identification as well as brand love. Today more than ever that’s the stuff of brand loyalty.
Good doesn’t have to be difficult. With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, a corned beef and cabbage + red potatoes dinner is about the easiest thing in the world to make. Just boil and enjoy (add the cabbage and potatoes into the mix toward the end). Delicious. What else do you do that is easy and good?
As a favor to a former student of Paul’s, we met a 20-something entrepreneur with a pretty good new product idea and a little financing. We gave her a half-hour of our time – and a lifetime of our experience. When she left, we both had the same reaction: “Good idea, but she’s not going to make it.” Why? Because for the entire half hour she never took a single note. We don’t care how smart a person is (or thinks they are); taking good notes is just good business.
People make revisions, they don’t make transformations. It’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It looks like you’re doing something meaningful, but you’re missing the big picture. And at the end of the day you’ll drown in the minutia you’ve created.
Before you sell your customers, you’ve got to sell your company. Don’t ignore the value of internal positive feelings towards new work. Remember your employees are your partners and your first-level fans. Does everyone in your company love your new campaign? If so, they’ll be ambassadors. If not, find out why not. Then fix it to build the love and share the love.
Be the Joneses. Keep up – and then accelerate. Always be aware of what your competition is doing and then be ready to do it yourself. As well as they do it or, better yet, do it better!
We spend so much time rushing around and trying to get things done that we seldom pause to smell the roses or appreciate the people around us. Random acts of kindness are those little gestures that surprise, delight and make someone happy. Do one every day and we guarantee every time it will make you happy as well. What was the last random act of kindness that you performed?
Find someone in your organization to mentor. The magic of mentoring is that it helps both people. The person you’re mentoring gets the benefits of your experience and expertise. And as a mentor you’ll find you have to articulate your own thinking – which more often than not will reinvigorate your attitude towards your work and your job. Your commitment to mentoring will make you as old as the youngest person on your team.
If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. What do you do to make “too good” so “true?”
Today’s business has boiled down to meeting upon meeting upon meeting—and to what end? There’s always time to meet about different subjects but never time to reflect upon them, think about them, expand them, take action on them. Instead, we have another meeting. We had a client once who instituted Meetless Fridays. An odd mechanism, perhaps, but a smart way to recalibrate his business and ensure that people had time to think about what they do for a living…and how to do it better. Guess what? Employee productivity and satisfaction increased and the business became more successful.
When you’re on the set of a commercial, capture the storyboard – then let the people you hired do their job(s). Let the director try something different. Let the actors think about alternate line readings. Who knows? You might come up with the next meme.
Motivational guru Tony Robbins likes to say “it’s not what happens to you in life that matters—it’s what you do with it.” In the world of “beauty’s only skin deep,” be comfortable in your skin, make the most of all your assets, don’t be envious of the next guy or gal. They’re likely obsessing about something you feel very confident about. At the poker table they say “good players play their good hands. Great players play the hand they’re dealt.” Play the hand you’re dealt. Play it very well. What physical or emotional obsession can you let go of today?
We’re constantly amazed in business how many people brush by, ignore or try to dismiss the people who they think stand between them and their target customer. Service people, support people, receptionists, secretaries (are there still any out there called that?) and assistants are not only people too, they’re the keepers of the keys. It not only doesn’t hurt to be genuinely embracing of everyone within an organization, but it will much more likely get you to the person you want to reach as well as make you feel a whole lot better about yourself every day. Who have you most recently embraced…or ignored?
We went to a symposium recently. We mused about the name of the engagement. “Symposium” feels so much more important than “meeting.” Can you elevate your meetings to the importance of a symposium? You’ll have better participation and bigger outcomes.
They have a place in business. What we’re talking about is alliances that can be mutually beneficial. Sometimes called Frenemies – but they don’t have to be competitors; they can just be people, companies or organizations that can be mutually-beneficial. It’s as simple as a phone referral from someone you do business with to something as elaborate as a two-company point-of-purchase promotion (think summer barbeque events where the charcoal maker and condiment company offering a shared coupon). Start thinking strategically: Who do you know with whom you should do business to the benefit of both of you?
We have gotten so digitally dependent that increasingly we choose texting and e-mail over personal communication. Get out of your chair. Pick up the phone. And reinvigorate something very basic: the conversation.
More and more businesses today are tearing down the walls and moving to open-plan seating. It certainly saves them money on rent or real estate and it brings everyone out in the open. The idea is to maximize efficiency and communication. Does it? Make sure you and your people have the space, the environment and the interaction to work most happily and effectively.
Language keeps evolving and political correctness continues to take its toll. ESPN fired its editor who used the headline “Chink in the Armor” to describe Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin’s weaknesses. There’s no question that “chink” is a pejorative, racist word in regard to a person of Chinese descent. But what about the usage? Will any usage of the word chink now become verbotin? It’s happened to other words, as well. “Niggard,” or “niggardly” which means stingy and is Middle English in origin – having nothing to do with the pejorative term for a person of African descent – simply isn’t used anymore. We’re not language purists, but we’re fascinated by the way English continues to dynamically evolve. After all, we can be happy, but one can’t be gay any more, unless of course you are!
We’ve interviewed hundreds of people. 70% of all candidates strike out in the first 60 seconds. Everything about how you present yourself — from the opening “hello,” handshake, smile and attire matter. Every presentation starts before its formal beginning. Make every meeting moment count.
It’s easy to cast blame. It’s much more difficult to own a problem as a team. Both take energy. But, casting blame also spreads bad feelings. Owning problems enables them to be fixed more readily. How big a person are you in embracing problems and motivating your team?
We wrote about consensus vs. slash-and-burn the other day. There’s a third alternative that’s just as valuable: Get the input, then make your own decision. That’s also valid, but if you want to keep your troops loyal, make sure you give them the credit when you take their suggestions.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own personal spin masters? Then, whenever we made a gaffe, our spinmaster could come by later and explain what we REALLY meant by what we said. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have our own spin masters. Instead, we all have to learn how to be a little bit more diplomatic.
Paul believes in consensus building. Steve is more of a slash-and- burn personality. Both get results. Paul gets more return engagements.
Great ideas just happen (if only). But they do start when the mind roams free. The shower. Walking. Daydreaming. They’re all great starting points for big ideas. Let your mind wander–the critical analysis can come later. When was the last time you gave your ideas a little “shower time”?
We all do it. We attend a conference, a workshop, a talk or a lecture, a meeting — and immediately sit down with our cohorts, friends and co-workers. There’s plenty of time to compare notes with your colleagues when you get back to the office or between sessions. At the conference, make it a point to sit down next to strangers. Introduce yourself. Network. Learn something. Swap business cards. Reach out beyond your usual suspects – who knows whom you might meet and what it might lead to?
Ever notice how many of your colleagues start their response to you with “Yes, but…”? The “yes” is just a sop. The “but” means “I totally disagree.” Steve attended an #AMA workshop by #Marshall Goldsmith (author of “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”) last week who offered up a simple rule: “No ‘nos’ and no ‘buts.’” Violators were ordered to toss a buck into a charity pool every time they used those words during the session. Let’s all be a little more open-minded – it’s time we ALL gave up our “buts.”
We always say, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Do you measure your results? Even if it’s just a subjective rating from 1 to 10, give everything you do a “results score.” It will help you track how you (and your team) are doing over time.
That Buffalo Springfield hit had a lyric: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” We’ve watched the Internet rise up on a global and local scale to empower netizens in ways they never were before. From Arab Spring to the recent defeat of SOPA and PIPA by the outpouring of opposition, it’s clear there’s a fundamental change in the way human beings are taking control of their own lives. Stand by….
Who are your brand ambassadors? Who are the people who are the biggest fans of what you do, what you make, what you sell? You have some. We all have some. (If you didn’t, you wouldn’t still be in business.) How are you rewarding them – and encouraging them to continue to spread the good word?
We recently worked with a company on brand positioning. In the exercise, the instinct was to go for what was safe and supportable. In other words, “all inclusive.” The problem was, it was also undifferentiated and commoditized. Do you ruthlessly seek and market your competitive advantage—or do you continue to try to be all things to all people?
Time and again, we see companies execute marketing plans without any clear idea of what a “win” would look like. When briefing your agency or creative team on a new assignment, ask the question, “How and when will we know if this works?” Make sure everyone agrees to an answer before starting the assignment.
It’s an American football game. But more important, it’s the coming out party for a crop of new commercials. Many of us make sure we’re glued to the TV when the advertising comes on; game time is our getaway to the kitchen and the bathroom. It’s because the advertising has far more staying power than the game and provides a bigger cultural window. Don’t believe us? Name an advertiser during the 1984 Super Bowl. Now try to name the teams who played the game. And by the way, Go Giants!
Spring semester has just begun – have you posted a job listing at your local college or university for an intern (or two or three)? You owe it to them and to yourself: Let some college student(s) get some real-world experience; get some job done that’s been sitting in your in box for months and months; and have the energy, insight and perspective of a twenty-something around your organization.
When was the last time you celebrated a win – however big or small – with your team? Even if it’s just as basic as ordering in a pizza lunch, give yourselves the occasional pat on the back. The carrot has always been more effective than the stick – especially in today’s business environment.
Steve recently saw The Muppet Movie and was a little disappointed. It felt like there were too many sacred cows in the making of the picture. Henson Associates (HA!) no longer has its visionary founder at the helm; and it appears that current management are preservationists rather than risk-takers. Which are you?
Bosses focus on “who,” “where” and “when.” Managers focus on “what,” “how” and “why.” Are you a boss or a manager?
Our friend and colleague, Jane Maas, has written a tell-all book about women and advertising in the 1960s. If you only know one side of the story (Mad Men), this is definitely a must-read. And if you were there in the 60s, it’s a great walk down memory lane. Mad Women is slated for publication in February, but you can pre-order by clicking on the picture above. Let’s see how much – or how little – has changed!
The only way to break down silos is to share what you know with everyone else. Knowledge is power but only when it is activated in concert with other people and key initiatives. So whether it’s regular meetings, regular reports or an intranet database, make sure what you know is accessible to all. It’ll make you look smarter and make your team play smarter, too.
Think about your marketing approval process and ask yourself, “How many people in this process are really ‘No-Bodies’?” By that we mean people who have the power to say “no,” but not the orientation to say “yes.” Their “no” means the work is dead. Kaput. Finished. Their “yes” really means, “You can show it to my boss.” If they don’t really have the authority to approve the work, why should they have the responsibility to evaluate it?
Do all of your advertising and marketing materials speak in a single voice? Too often, managers of different departments go about their business giving each piece of marketing communication–from the Website to the local sales brochure to the point of purchase materials–a different headline, a different selling message and a different tone of voice. Review ALL your materials and make sure they’re being synergistic.
You know what your goals are for 2012 (we hope). But what about 2015? 2020? 2050? Our planning tends to be in the moment, for the year, shortsighted. Establish your mission for five years out and a vision for 10 to 20 years out. It’s an exercise that will guide your marketing for years to come…and establish a more profitable business in the short term, too!
We believe 90% of all advertising – especially print – is some variation of “My Company’s Great, My Product’s Terrific.” Yawn. Besides you, who cares? You’ve got to give your customers a reason to care in the headline – then you can talk about your product or company as the solution for what they want and need, not who you are. Take a look at your marketing materials. Are you selling your company or engaging your customer?
Are you an avid student of your competitors? Do you have a complete history of their marketing and advertising? How has their strategy changed over the years? How about how they go to market? What can you learn from their every move? The more you know about your competitors, the better you’ll be able to anticipate, react and innovate based on what they do.
Do you have a complete history of your brand’s marketing and advertising? If not, get to work gathering all that information and scanning it into a database. Being able to review your brand’s entire marketing past will prove invaluable to avoiding repeating mistakes for your future. And it may just inspire some new ideas based on your smart successes from yesteryear.
What are you committed to? Your word? Your spouse? Your kids? Your career? Someone once said: “What are you willing to die for? When you find the answer, then ask yourself: ‘What are you committed to LIVE for?’” Then revisit your commitments and revitalize them and your relationship to them.
In the 1990′s it was “customer relationship management.” In the 2000′s, it was “customer centricity.” We believe that we’re moving into “customer experience” as the new mantra for the 2010′s. From free content to good advice to excellent service to cause- and purpose-driven marketing, what do you do that ensures that customer delight is the high ground of what you offer?
Enjoy a break. Do things for you. Do things for those you love. Do something memorable…and, make just one great resolution for the new year that you will really do – and truly profit from. Have a great week – we’ll be back blogging Tuesday, January 3
Paul & Steve
It’s long step down from #1 to #2. There’s a big difference between the Bolshoi Ballet and just about any other. It’s also a big step down from a major league ballplayer who hits .325 versus someone who hits .265. They both get on base roughly one in three times. But one’s an All Star and the other is one step away from being sent down to the minors. Excellence is made up of small differences that, in the end, are huge. Have you done something excellent today?
The concept of “we are the 99%” is potentially powerful and palpable. But as Paul’s wife, Susan, pointed out: the problem is that the word “Occupy” is not about creating dynamic change. It’s about taking up space, sitting around and making a lot of noise. Imagine if the protestors created a movement that was dedicated to “Random Acts of Kindness,” “Helping Others” or “Giving Back.”
The United States used to be the major exporter of entertainment. As the cost of scripted television keeps going up, network execs are searching the world for programming. From Iron Chef to Big Brother to American Idol, U.S. programmers are smart enough to know a great idea even if it “wasn’t invented here.” Do you benchmark what people in your business are doing in other countries? Do you adopt and adapt those good ideas?
SPARK: The perfect hire is a lot more than someone who’s qualified for the job. Throughout Paul’s career he’s always looked for a differentiator that can be summed up in one word: “Spark.” Do you look for people who light up a room and inspire others around them? They come at no extra cost but extend a much bigger return on investment.
SMART: The perfect hire is a lot more than someone who’s qualified for the job. Throughout Steve’s career he’s always look for a differentiator that can be summed up in one word: “Smart.” If someone doesn’t have the skill, she can always learn it. If he doesn’t have the smarts, the skills are useless. What’s the word you look for in hiring people?
There’s a free morning newspaper in NYC—the Metro. Every morning there’s a guy just outside Grand Central Station who brightens the day with the most passionate invitation to “take a paper.” Do you approach even your most menial tasks with rampaging enthusiasm?
Payroll. Inventory. Staffing. Overhead. If you’re thinking about opening your own business, becoming a consultant or an independent contractor make sure you’ve got the passion not just for what you do but the chops for managing the process. Independence is a wonderful opportunity—but know the costs that go with it.
In every situation, there’s only one power person. In any meeting, sales call, workshop or corporate gathering, challenge yourself with the exercise of determining who the power person is in that situation. Then learn from them. And if you can’t find the power person in the first five minutes, either a) it’s you; or b) you have a “tin ear” when it comes to management.
How much time do you spend on what’s in front of you—regardless of its importance? The great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa said it eloquently: “Human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them.” (It’s probably a little more succinct in the original Japanese.) Do you make sure you put your time on what you value, not just on what takes a long time to accomplish?
We read the story about a PR stunt that went awry. Ah, the best of plans for the “are you a big fish in a little pond?” when the goldfish sent through the mail all died (what were they thinking?). Alas, a good idea that literally ended up stinking. Remember, your stunts should delight, not disappoint…or, worse.
We got tripped up by a new airline ploy last week: Code Sharing. We looked for a non-stop from JFK to Oakland and were given a flight number. Only when we checked in online did we learn the plane stopped in Phoenix, kept the same flight number, and then went on to Oakland. It cost us another three hours. But it cost them a lot more – because now we don’t trust them. Truth in Advertising should also extend to Truth in Product Delivery. Full disclosure yields satisfied customers. Do you make sure your focus is customer satisfaction and disclose all terms and conditions of your product and service?
The trend in urban hotels is to offer fewer amenities in return for “cool.” Dramatic lighting, black-outfitted receptionists and laptops at check-in, tiny rooms that are oh-so-well appointed without any place to put your clothes or your luggage. Hip chic is a business proposition. But it seems to us that comfort with a just a small dose of cool power is a more powerful business proposition.
Many years ago, Steve’s son, Max, was being given a private tour of the set of Sesame Street. When he went backstage, though, Big Bird’s costume was hanging on a peg. Just at that moment, Carroll Spinney (who plays Big Bird) walked in and sized up the situation. Before Max could be disillusioned for life, Carroll swooped down by his side and said, sotto voce, “Shhh. Big Bird’s sleeping.” Do you and your people work to deliver dreams, magic and miracles?
Okay, okay – we’ve already written about how much we love Post-It Notes. But what we see time and time again when we do our Marketing Plan in a Day training is how using Post-It Notes forces people to be clear and concise. Can you write your company’s mission statement on a 3″ square Post-It note? Try it!
Dollar-off coupons feel like a great idea except when the fine print says they will be delivered in the form of an in-store credit or – even worse – a pre-filled credit card. As far as we’re concerned, surprises aren’t welcome unless they’re in the form of birthday parties, engagement rings or customer promises delivered early. In this age of customer centricity, deliver what you say you’re going to deliver in the form the customer expects it. Being clever may earn you short term revenue, but it will lose you long term customers.
IBM isn’t in the Machine business. UPS isn’t in the Parcel business. KFC is evolving beyond the Fried chicken business. More and more we’re seeing businesses that were hamstrung by their names rebranding to liberate their image and their offering. Often 3 letters do the branding trick. What’s your business name? Does it deliver a balance between clarity and vision?
What do you do if you make a “perfect product?” Staples (the paper fasteners, not the store) are a “perfect product.” A box of 5,000 Swingline staples costs $3.29 at, well, Staples. That’s 0.000658 cents apiece! When was the last time you actually bought a box of staples? Great for us as consumers – a real dilemma for Swingline. How do you extend the value of what you offer to bigger platforms and offerings your customers will find indispensable?
The great thing about living in the east is that “Have a nice day!” usually means “have a nice day!” The old saw in L.A. is that “Have a nice day” often means something very different. In New York, when we want to tell someone to F-off, we usually say some variation of just that. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say?
It’s an old truth in advertising – and it keeps getting ignored year-in and year-out. The bankruptcy courts are littered with the remains of low-priced discounters who eventually got undercut or failed on service, inventory or customer satisfaction. From Crazy Eddie to Caldor to Circuit City. If price is your only value proposition, you’ll ultimately lose every time. You can give away the store, but eventually you and the store are going to go out of business.
Yup, it’s our favorite holiday of the year. Thanksgiving. Why? Because it’s the only US holiday that is for everyone. A celebration of family and togetherness with feasting for all. We’ll be off the rest of the week. Hope you will be, too. Enjoy the holiday and appreciate all who share it with you. Think about the other 364 days. What do you do on those days to be inclusive, to celebrate people you work with and feast on the good work you do?
Paul & Steve
Ever break a car windshield in NY or CT? A great example of customer service. One call to the insurance company. A connection to the glass company. And an appointment to repair or replace the windshield at your home. Sure beats a phone tree. Can you or do you solve your customers’ problems in one phone call? Work on it.
That’s the nickname Paul has for his repairman who is the go-to guy to repair any household appliance. Who’s in your “service army?” Do you have suppliers who are the “whisperers” of their profession? Your lawyer? Your dentist? Your doctor? Your plumber? It’s a good standard to apply for all of your personal and professional network needs.
In our booklet “When the Going Gets Tough, Tough Businesses Get GROWING,” one tip we suggest is that you take your former mentor to lunch. He or she probably still has some wisdom to impart to you that can help you in these turbulent marketing days. When was the last time you took them to lunch? What are you waiting for?
In the 1920s, GM started altering their cars each year and introduced the idea of “model years.” Now it’s standard practice for all auto manufacturers and car buyers. Yet none of us talk about “a 2010 printer” or “a 2009 HDTV.” As a result, equipment manufacturers are able to continue selling their old products as “brand new” for as long as their competitors don’t come out with a new feature that is a “must have” on everyone’s device. How are you defining the “model year” of your offerings?
Five dreaded words. Too often, when someone says “I’ll get back to you,” it’s a kiss-off. If only we believed “I’ll get back to you” really meant someone will follow up with quality information or a better answer, that would be great. So beware of and don’t use these dreaded five words OR mean it when you say it.
Who or what are you trusted sources? Malcolm Gladwell called them “Mavens” in his book, The Tipping Point. When was the last time you examined your sources and took an objective look at whether they are, in fact, really knowledgeable about the things you go to them for? When was the last time you actively sought to extend and expand your maven network?
What do you own that you think (or hope) you’ll never replace? Your refrigerator? Your mobile provider? Your dentist? Ask yourself what makes those products, services and people so irreplaceable in your life. And then ask yourself whether you’re that irreplaceable to your customers, as well.
Why do we say “that’s funny” for ironic life events? Probably because of the observation Gilbert Gottfried made about humor: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Perhaps we instinctively know that something unfortunate (“that’s funny. . .”) will, over time, become humorous. Gilbert would be the first to admit he’s a lousy judge of how much time elapses before his jokes get funny! For him, it certainly wasn’t funny ha-ha that his derisive Japanese comments following the tsunami lost him his lucrative contract as the voice of the AFLAC duck.
The “lifespan” of digital products seems to be three years – after which you own an electronic paperweight. Is that a good thing or bad? Truth is, companies could make cell phones that last forever; but if they did that 20 years ago, many of us would still be toting around those massive bricks. Maybe planned obsolescence is a secret benefit for consumers after all. Obsolescence isn’t so much the problem. The price/value relationship is the opportunity.
Sometimes we over think the hiring process. Remember the scene in The Social Network when Mark Zuckerberg is hiring programmers? They’re belting down drinks and are competing to be the first to solve the assignment. If you’re hiring programmers, isn’t that all you care about? It reminds us of the head of comedy development at NBC. He had a simple rule: “I ask candidates to list their 20 funniest films of all time. If The Producers, Night at the Opera and Sullivan’s Travels aren’t somewhere on that list, I’m not interested in them.” Do you over think your hiring process?
Every week we read about microchips being used in yet another object around the house. Smart refrigerators. Smart ovens. Smart washers and driers. Now Schlage Locks has announced an app to replace your house key. Any day now we expect to read a newspaper (remember newspapers?) story about some family in the Midwest who gets locked inside their house for three days because a lightning strike fried all their circuits. Seems to us, a lot of “smart” appliances aren’t that smart at all.
Thomas Edison said, “invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” When people find out we’ve written books, they say, “Oh, gosh, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” To which we respond, “Do you want to WRITE a book or do you want to HAVE WRITTEN a book?” After a brief pause, they laugh and answer, “the latter.” When you have something you really want to do, take a minute and ask yourself whether you really want to do it – or whether you just wish you had committed to getting it done.
The nature of power is that it is never given. Power is something to be taken. As Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was once famously reported to have said, “It’s much easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Do you wait around for permission or do you move smartly ahead with action? Your career will rocket forward much faster and you’ll find it will be a very rare event for which you’ll need to ask forgiveness.
It’s the Achilles Heel of most good ideas. What works one-on-one doesn’t necessarily scale up, either due to cost or time. Before you go promoting a big idea or new idea, make sure it can pass the test of scalability. How big is the audience? How much do you need to produce? How are you going manufacture and achieve grand distribution? You’ll save everyone a lot of time and have a way better shot at making the good idea a big idea!
More and more, we’re seeing companies and individuals doing half a good job of customer service. Unfortunately, we seldom realize which half. They’re quick to answer the phone or reply with an e-mail, but then slow to respond with actual service. Don’t make the mistake of only delivering half of your customer’s service needs. It’s of no use and it tarnishes your reputation.
We’ve all made the mistake of answering our phones and getting a sales call. Many of us have trouble disengaging and getting off the call. We don’t want to be rude, but we don’t want the sales pitch, either. The simplest way out is to utter these four words – “Thank you very much,” and hang up.
Increasingly, we’re having conversations with key people who have great intelligence and a wealth of knowledge – and not a clue about what’s important and what isn’t. Huge amounts of accessible data are leading to information overload with fewer and fewer people taking the time to sort through and ask the critical questions: “What’s important?” and “What do I do with it?”
We got some interesting pushback last week about our Maytag blog. One of our readers pointed out that Consumer Reports has been giving Maytag low ratings for years. In fact (he wrote), Maytag’s reputation is a result of their marketing, not their quality. The goal (as marketers) is to have both: high quality and high marketing impact. Do you achieve both?
Paul shared a speaking engagement some time ago with a very inspirational and well known speaker. His ideas were interesting, provocative and highly theoretical. After both of the talks, Paul commended him with a backhanded compliment. He said, “You focus on ideas at 30,000 feet. I focus on landing the plane.” Both are valuable. But landing the plane is what works in the marketplace. How do you balance inspiration and perspiration?
Early on, Nickelodeon banned the word “fun” from their building, their business and all marketing materials. Their reasoning was that “fun” should be at the root of everything they do, that the word, for them, was generic, neither descriptive nor differentiating. What words do you use in characterizing your business that are non-differentiating? It’s lazy speak and dangerous. Always look to take your business and brand to a higher level – in positioning and performance.
The hardest thing a manager has to learn is to ask herself the question, “Will the change I’m about to ask for make this better. . .or just different?” Micromanagers ALWAYS think more about the change than the improvement. Smart managers pick their battles – and have a clear reason why they think a suggested change will improve the work. Better is always, well, better. But think about the difference and then think twice before asking for changes for change’s sake.
We love these appliances. Maytag gave us the confidence that they can last forever. In a world of obsolescence where technology’s half life seems to be getting shorter and shorter, washing and drying is an outpost of reliability. What do you do that extends consistent reliability and has the track record to prove it?
The 19th Century was the British Empire. The 20th Century belonged to America. But which country will have hegemony over the 21st Century? China? India? Brazil? A player to be named later? Will the U.S. make a comeback? It’s more than an idle question – it should shape your marketing thinking in the years to come in terms of creativity, production, markets and paths to success.
The goal of a marketer is to make our brand a household name. The ultimate dream (and danger) is that we’ll be so successful, we turn the brand into a generic noun. Band-Aid, Kleenex and Thermos are the generics in their category. Xerox spent years returning their generic into a mulitdimensional brand. Generic, Brand or both? What’s best for the business?
Really? Once upon a time we all grew up drinking tap water. And here in NYC the tap water is some of the best water in the world. Then marketers started putting it in little plastic non-biodegradable bottles and charging upwards of a dollar for a drink. This has become big business. And altough we’re all marketers, wouldn’t we all be a lot better getting back to the tap?
Steve’s son Dan sees the Internet much the way everyone sees space travel: “There’s a vast universe out there and in traveling through cyberspace, chances are you can discover something really amazing. Or not.”
If you promise something on Monday but deliver it on Tuesday, you’re a goat. If you promise it on Tuesday but deliver on Monday, you’re a hero. Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg for “underpromising and overdelivering.” Subways were pretty much up and running Monday morning – after dire warnings they’d be out for most of the day. Take a lesson from Hizzoner; give yourself a little cushion to look like a hero, not a goat.
A lot has been written about how the Philadelphia Eagles planned carefully over the past couple of years to manage the salary cap and assemble a dream team. They got trounced by the Steelers the other day in preseason. It doesn’t count yet, but the game is played on the field, not just on paper or in a plan.
Many of us wish we could do it all. We actually saw this one man band in Boston this past weekend. Funny, yes? But, his statement “Only those who attempt the absurd can accomplish the impossible” gave us pause and a bit of inspiration.
Coming soon – the latest, greatest innovation in cyberspace: the cloud. We’ll be able to readily access huge amounts of information and entertainment anywhere and everywhere without the need for a huge personal storage drive. But if it’s all in the cloud, who has access to everything we are, everything we do, everywhere we go….uh-oh.
It used to take us about 30 minutes at the start of each day to address the digital inflow. E-mails. RSS feeds. Even spam. What we’ve noticed is that the time spent dealing with that influx keeps increasing and now takes much of the morning. It’s getting more critical than ever to manage your digital time in a way that serves your productivity.
Early in Paul’s advertising career he was shepherding a storyboard for a commercial. Between client and legal comments, the storyboard kept getting revised to the tune of 20 drafts. Once approved, Paul proudly told his supervisor, “we have a commercial.” The supervisor, without even glancing up, said, “No we don’t. We have an approved storyboard. We lost the commercial at Draft Three.” Be careful to preserve the integrity of the work rather than just managing the process.
The Internet belongs to the people! We’re constantly annoyed every time we stay in a hotel that charges for Internet. At best, it’s poor public relations. We’ve all come to expect that access to online and email is a right, not a luxury. Just build the price into the room rate and let us have at our essential communication vehicle. Communication access should be a fundamental aspect of hospitality.
Steve was shooting a commercial that was turning into a disaster. The director approached him and made a suggestion about how to salvage the shoot. “That’s like arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” Steve told the director. To which the director responded, “At least I’ll be holding onto something that floats.” Interesting perspective.
Every semester Paul asks his students, “How many of you illegally download music?” Every hand goes up and Paul threatens to have them all busted. The simple truth is that it’s a generation gap. Paul is sensitive to the legal question of Intellectual Property. Millennials grew up with “free music” and it doesn’t even occur to them that there’s any ethical issue involved. The question is: will this amoral attitude continue to erode the rights of Intellectual Property creators? If so, maybe Ayn Rand was right after all.
It’s great to be comfortable when you’re talking about clothing or temperature. In business, being in your comfort zone is the last place you want to be. New ideas, new challenges, new successes happen most often when you step out of your comfort zone and strive for something really different.
We have a friend who owns a string of radio stations across the country. He has one simple rule: his sales people aren’t allowed to use their computers between 9am and 5pm. They can answer e-mails and inquiries when regular business hours are over or before the workday starts. But during the business day, he expects every one of his sales people to be doing one thing: selling.
The old adage was people would sit by the phone waiting for calls. Today, as we sit by the computer, the e-mail keeps coming in. The tendency is to interrupt what we’re doing to deal with the e-mail as we hear each incoming ping. Don’t. Focus on what you’re doing, then come back to deal with the other stuff.
Another example of broadcasting where you’re from: A friend of ours was in LA buying a Sunday New York Times at the Pico-Robertson newsstand. As he was paying, the owner remarked, “You’re from New York, aren’t you?” Our friend replied, “Was it my black shirt and pants?” “Nah,” the owner replied, “You New Yorkers never take the top copy and you always count all the sections.”
Paul went to the Wisconsin State Fair this past weekend. There he saw best-in-class for clydesdales, cows, chickens and all manner of livestock. He also experienced best creampuffs and “The Best Macaroni and Cheese on a Stick.” Who knew? Are you Best in Class in popular categories or unexpected, innovative ones.
Y’know that little doo-hickey on a watchband or belt? The small loop to hold the end of the strap? That’s called a “keeper.” We learned that when Paul’s watchband broke and he stopped at Central Watch Band Stand, Ltd. In the Grand Central Terminal passageway. This is a gem of a store that has lived to define customer service for years. Paul stopped there and asked about a new band. They didn’t have the style he needed, at which point he said, “Too bad. I broke the holder on my band.” She replied, “Oh. You mean the Keeper.” At which point she replaced it – for free. An interesting example of both great customer service and a lesson in not replacing a whole item just because a small part is broken.
A great example of customer service from Rick Branch of Delta Airlines in the Atlanta terminal this week. As we rushed to catch an earlier flight, he joined us at the “self-help” kiosk and walked us through the process, enabling us to make the earlier flight. And then handed each of us a free drink coupon as a bonus. Better still, he followed up with an e-mail with these words: “If you meet a customer’s expectations you will stay in business, but if you exceed that expectation you will be a success in business.” Rick is doing a great job in driving that success for Delta.
What we witnessed from this entire debacle was an exercise in contentious vs concensus. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there are really no winners here; and if this kind of drama played out in business a number of heads would roll.
We’re working on an article with a U.S. Marine Corps Colonel on the differences between business strategy & tactics versus military strategy & tactics. Paul’s observation about the differences was succinct and memorable: “The whole purpose of being for the Marine Corps is to get the job done. Execution is never up for discussion or debate. While business is great at strategy, we’re often miserable when it comes to execution.” We should all take a lesson from the Marines.
Weather Hysteria. Paul’s wife, Susan, is fed up with weather forecasting designed to alarm. When the temperature gets hot, we aren’t just subjected to the temperature but the heat index (which is always much higher). And when the temperature gets cold, we aren’t just informed of the temperature but the wind chill factor (which is always much colder). When it’s 50 degrees, it’s only 50 degrees. Leave us alone and just report the facts, ma’am.
Borders. We’re not fans of hitting someone when they’re down – but we have no trouble hitting them when they’re already out. In the case of Borders, their Going Out of Business sale is emblematic of everything they’ve done wrong all along. Their latest “40% Off” sale is anything but. It’s a come-on to bring you into the store, but the discounts are more like 20% and that’s off RETAIL price, not the normal discount price. It’s just another example of not pleasing the customer, which goes a long way to explaining why they’re going out of business.
Jacket & Jeans. We were in Chicago recently to lead a marketing session and were called out in a power restaurant as being from New York. When we asked how they knew, they said “Jacket and jeans.” We had no idea that outfit was such a New York giveaway. What’s your “uniform?”
The Perfect Food. Our friend, Shepard Kramer, quizzed us on the three tastes people most savor: potatoes, salt & sugar. These are the three ingredients that make up McDonalds french fries, the menu item for which McDonalds is most renowned. Combining the things people like best is a winning proposition. What combinations of wonderfulness do you deliver?
Secret Sauce. Some recipes are carefully guarded secrets. The formula for Coca-Cola. The spices in KFC. The flavor of Heinz ketchup. Each of these brands is thought to be the taste pinnacle in their categories. Part of their cachet is the special recipe, the “secret sauce.” What “secret sauce” do you build into your brand or business that makes it so specially desireable?
Communication Platforms. Salespeople have been noticing this phenomenon for years – and now it’s prevalent across the entire business landscape: different generations want to be communicated to in different ways. Boomers in business will still check their voice mail. Gen X’ers look for the email. For Millenials it’s all about texting. Speak to your customers in their language and on their preferred platform, if you want to achieve a meaningful connection with them.
Too Many Good Meetings. We’re sick and tired of good meetings. Most of the time they’re the result of a bad agenda. Or no agenda. Everyone gets a chance to speak; there’s general good camaraderie; and generally no meaningful conclusion or action step. One good meeting leads to another good meeting. What a collosal waste of time. Don’t schedule a meeting unless you’ve outlined an action agenda that will move the topic forward instead of just moving it around the table and on to another meeting.
Revision Five. Steve has a general rule when it comes to creative revisions. If a client goes into a fifth revision of the copy, Steve brings back (without telling them) the first revision (in other words, the second draft). By that time, it sort of sounds familiar and it usually sounds exactly like what they want to say. Nine times out of ten, they approve this “sixth” revision which is really their first. Original or first instincts are virtually always the best!
Cyber Security. Ten years ago, about the safest thing you could do was put all your passwords on a password-protected computer. Today we read news about security breaches and the latest and growing hacking scandal from across the pond. Seems these days, the safest thing you can do is remove all your passwords from your computer and keep them on a piece of paper in your drawer. What’s old again is new again.
Trend Tracking. Yesterday’s lead story in Ad Age was a piece called “Justin Bieber is So Yesterday.” Trend trackers are all about being provocative – they spot the trends but if they don’t hit, they’re a lot like weathermen, never referencing their incorrect forecasts from yesterday. See which trends you agree with.
Write drunk, edit sober. It’s a lesson we learned from a friend of ours years ago. Too many of us want to write the first draft perfectly. So we start editing ourselves in our heads before we even put anything down on paper. The result is paralysis. If you want to write well – and effortlessly – don’t edit your first draft. Just put down whatever comes to mind; you can fix it afterwards. In other words, “write drunk. Edit sober.”
Transmedia. Communication platforms are out, “transmedia” is in. Who knew? Communication platforms signify every make and model of communication devices. Transmedia suggests rich implementation across media in a device-agnostic way. The irony for us is, do we really need a new buzz word – or couldn’t we refer to all of this as “experiences?”
Vision: Hindsight. Insight. Foresight. It takes all three to successfully manage a business. Time and again we see marketing teams who do two of the three. Usually Insight and Foresight. But they rarely look back to understand how similar marketing efforts have worked in the past. Often, serious marketing mistakes can be avoided if someone would take the time to add “hindsight” to their list of skills. History is a great teacher.
Fad, Trend or Forever? Size up what you see on the horizon. Is it a Fad – here today and gone tomorrow? Is it a Trend – a shift in the attitudes, beliefs, habits or opinions of the culture? Or is it Forever – a seismic shift in the zeitgeist? Having a handle on which one it is will lead you to make smarter marketing choices and more profitable ones, too.
The Cult of Cool. Words constantly evolve in our language. Every generation coins a secret set of words that have a unique meaning to them. Eventually, the word leaks into the general vocabulary and becomes a common phrase. By then, the younger generation has moved on and a new set of words has replaced them. But through it all, from hipsters to hippies to baby boomers to Gen X, Gen Y and Millenials, “cool” has remained cool. Something we all can agree on. Isn’t that cool?
Found Objects. Some people’s trash is another’s treasure. Think “shabby chic.” Decorating and fashion often take their best cues from juxtaposing objects, colors, patterns and shapes that intuitively might not seem to go together. But in the mind’s eye of the designer look fabulous when put together. We’re not suggesting never throw anything out, but consider what you have and what you can make of it.
Communication is Irreversible. There’s the Bridgestone commercial where the guy races around town trying to physically retrieve his e-mail from everyone’s computers. Paul’s technique is to write the e-mail he REALLY wants to send. . . and then save it in his “drafts” folder. He knows that what he feels in the heat of the moment isn’t always the best thing to send. Judges on TV shows always say “the jury is instructed to disregard the statement.” None of us ever does. Be careful what you say the first time. It always registers – and there won’t be a second time.
Don’t Tell Me I Can’t. Call Steve a contrarian. Or very competitive. But the surest way to guarantee that he’ll do something is to tell him he can’t. What motivates you? Are you a self-starter? Or does someone have to challenge you in some way to get you going?
Infomercials. Did you ever buy anything from an infomercial? Both of us proudly admit we have. The best of them does a brilliant job of saying it, saying it again, demonstrating it, saying it differently, saying it again, and making it feel so utterly indispensible. Bravo to the masters of the medium (and the omelette pan really does work pretty well, too),
Allowance. Fewer kids today get a weekly allowance. At first blush that seems surprising, but today’s kids are more savvy money managers than ever before. They get their funds from parents, grandparents, chores and the simple ask. Their weekly tally is far greater than if they had received a standard allowance. After all, they’re shopping in stores, on line and all the time
Marketing Magic. It’s an essential ingredient in great marketing. “Where’s The Beef?” “Just Do It.” There’s no formula for catching the public’s imagination. That’s why marketing is as much an art as it is a science. There will always be that intangible aspect that sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss. That’s marketing magic!
The Voice. The surprise television hit of the summer season so far – and a good indication of what television programming has become. Beyond the performance, a social networking component that invites interaction between contestants and the crowd. All activated on Sprint equipment. Like Coca Cola couches and Ford music videos in American Idol, reality programming is seamlessly linking content with commerce. So, forget about the commercial break. But, from now on will we ever get a break from commercials in our content?
Mall Rats. Kids take to malls like ducks to water. An average Friday night, the mall will be overrun by tweens and teens. At first blush, they’re really annoying, but take a moment to observe their behavior – their style, their fashion, their attitudes and relationships. It will be an eye-opener – both painful and pleasurable. And it will get you in touch with what is going on real quick.
What’s the Big Idea? Big Ideas are just that: one simple, single Big Idea. If you need to embellish it with other stuff it probably doesn’t qualify as a Big Idea. Find your single Big Idea and focus on delivering that one, simple, clear message.
Mastery. For Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, it’s just a matter of practice, practice, practice. His formula suggests 10,000 hours of work. If you manage to fit in three hours of work between meetings, e-mails and interruptions and you’re willing to work six days a week, you should have mastered your craft by the time you’ve worked in the business for 11 and a half years. Are you a master yet – or still an apprentice?
Make A Difference. To your consumers. To your employees. To your family. To your bosses. To the world. When was the last time you volunteered – for ANYTHING?
High Line. New York’s newest park and a lesson in meaningful meandering. Rather than just paving over the West Side railroad tracks, they took the time to create a series of micro-environments in the middle of the grittiest part of the city. The result is a surprise around every turn, a surprise turnaround for the economy of the area and the city (some $2 billion it’s been estimated) and a lesson that sometimes the straightest route to inspiration is not a straight line.
Firecracker. We have an intern who’ll be working with us for the summer who basically got the job by describing herself in one word. She said, “I’m a firecracker.” The self-description really resonated with Paul who, throughout his career, has had a special place in his heart for employee candidates who he also describes in one word: “spark.” There’s something about candidates who want to set the world on fire that make them very attractive employees.
Words For Snow. It’s a conventional belief that in the arctic there are many words for snow. Alas, it’s an urban — er, arctic — legend. The Inuit word for “snow” is “patuq.” But the belief that there are lots of ways and words to describe something can liberate us to romance it in ways that make it seem more versatile and desireable. How are you romancing the language of what you do?
Be inquisitive. Ask yourself “why does this work?” “what can I learn” “how do we know?” Never stop asking questions.
Reverse Mentoring. The newbies have a lot to teach you. They come to your business without the baggage and rules that have gradually encrusted around your thinking. Yes, they’re probably a little foolhardy and rash, but don’t dismiss the new thinking out of hand. Sit with it and ask yourself whether “out of the mouthes of babes…”
Sand Castles. Summer’s coming. When was the last time you built a sand castle? You build things every day in your work. Grab the opportunity to design in the sand and get back in touch with your inner child.
The News. One of our sons moonlights as a video editor at a national news organization. We were teasing him about the lack of objectivity or neutrality in any of their stories. In response, he made a profound observation about the news these days: “All news organizations are biased one way or the other,” he replied. “If you want unbiased news, listen to (read, or watch) the first sentence of the story and then put the TV on mute. The first sentence has the facts. Everything after that is opinion.”
Crowd Sourcing, The Tourist Way. Many thanks to the folks at Mississippi Gulf Coast Ad Fed, PRAM and AAF Mobile Bay. Steve spent a week on the Gulf Coast — made all the more enjoyable by a bit of crowdsourcing. Before starting his talks in Mobile and Biloxi, he handed out index cards to all the attendees. He asked everyone to write down the ONE thing he absolutely had to see, do or eat while he was down there. Besides giving two great talks, he walked away with his personal local Yelp directory of what to do during his stay.
Plax. We were pleased to see Plaxico Burris get out of prison. Clearly he is looking forward to his next chapter in football. He’s no slouch when it comes to marketing himself. He emerged wearing a Phillies cap (he’s already begun negotiating). No wonder his agent was the first one to enthusiastically greet him.
Coffee’s On Us. Some people used to do this at toll booths, today Steve did it with a cup of coffee. He was in line at the corner deli and paid for the coffee of the woman behind him. He never told her, didn’t say anything, and walked out of the store with a grin on his face as she was left sputtering and grateful behind him.
The Personal Touch. It’s a tough world out there and seems to be getting tougher. For us, it puts more of a premium on being nice, polite, thoughtful, personal. More and more of us are relating more to our devices than to one another (Paul has taken to answering e-mails with phone calls). What are you doing to reach out in personal, positive ways?
Strategy vs. Tactics. Make sure you know the difference. Strategy is how you plan to meet an objective, tactics are the specific steps you’re going to take to get there. If everyone knows the strategy, they can adjust their tactics as the situation dictates. So make sure everyone knows the strategy as well as their tactics. And make sure you’ve laid out tactics that match your strategy. You need both to achieve your objective.
Warehouse Shopping. Toys R Us was one of the first players to establish Warehouse Shopping as the lowest-priced provider. Inside the store were more toys than you could get anywhere else (at the lowest prices). A winning proposition – until it wasn’t. When Walmart and Target got into the toy game, Toys R Us needed to upgrade their value proposition from price to destination. Today, price is important, but value will trump it every time. It’s the overall experience that counts.
Value. It’s a reflection of the amount customers are willing to pay above the lowest possible price. Is an iPhone $300 more valuable than a Nokia smart phone? Nearly 100 million users worldwide seem to think so. Always strive for value, not price. If you live by price, you’ll die by price – every time.
Fashion. Every season fashion choices are made and promoted to sell colors, designs, cuts and combinations that define chic and stylin’. You don’t have to look catwalk current, but you do have to know what the design cues are. That knowledge and insight will make all your work more fashionable, as well.
Stay Thirsty. Paul recently saw a presentation on the very popular Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign. Not only has it increased the business 22%, but we marveled at the wonderful and unexpected choices the campaign made. First, the insight that beer drinkers fear they are dull. Second, the wonderfully confident line, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” Subtle sell can be much more powerful than the heavy hand. “Stay thirsty my friends.”
E*TRADE Babies. One of the most beloved campaigns on the air. And most people even know they’re for E*TRADE. That’s the good news. We marvel at the production values and their latest antics. But beyond name recall, how is E*TRADE separating itself from the competition? Cute sells – but only just so far.
Follow Your Passion. It doesn’t have to be your career, it can even just be your hobby. Our partner, Norman Siegel, is an award-winning, hall-of-fame art director. He’s also a member of the American Society of Aviation Artists. Two of his paintings will be featured in the exhibit “Portraits of Flight” which is the premiere exhibit opening the new Art Gallery at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City. The show starts Sunday, May 29th as part of the Fleet Week celebrations. We invite you to stop by and see the show (and his work), and pursue your own passion every day.
Experts. They’re different from consultants. One we respect – the other is pond scum. Make sure you know the difference; and only hire experts.
People Magazine. One of the great social pop indicators on the market. Steve likes to tell the story of giving his teams the quiz every year of the People Magazine 25 Most Intruiging People of the Year. If his team couldn’t identify or didn’t know at least 20 of the 25, he would force them to subscribe. Being current with the pop culture is a necessary tool every marketing creative person should have in her arsenal.
The Best Kill is the early kill. Once you’ve moved from the idea stage to the development stage, you’re investing time, money and energy. Be careful – that makes it so much harder to evaluate the project and back away from a product or service that may be fundamentally flawed. Be vigilant at every step and if the idea becomes problematic or doesn’t build momentum, run a stake through its heart and move on.
Trends. Are you keeping up with them? Do you even know what they are? If you’re a marketer, knowing what’s on the horizon is vital to your professional mojo. Knowing the latest trends should be integrated into your marketing output: the look. The feel. the sound. Every aspect of your communication. Stay current – and stay ahead!
Retail Branding. Too often those two words don’t go together. They should. Retail is not just about shopping, it’s about brand affinity and lifestyle connection. Next time you go to the store, think about what retailer you’re going to – and why. Then take a lesson from Frank Perdue and Kleenex: there’s NOTHING that can’t be branded. And there are a few things that can’t be marketed to motivate you to become a loyal customer.
Steve has a morning ritual. He calls it his “daily scales.” As a writer, he starts the day with his crossword puzzle (NYTimes) and word strength puzzle (NYPost). Along the way he may actually pick up some news (but we digress). What are your “morning scales?” How do you start each day refreshing the talents and strengths you’re going to exercise throughout the day?
Animals in Advertising. Cute. Attention-getting. Furry. Memorable. But what are they doing for their brands? Like a YouTube video, people tend to remember the animal activity rather than the brand and the benefit. Choose your animals wisely and make sure they’re pointed directly at the branded proposition and what’s for sale
Procurement is a relatively new function in the marketing business. Not the most elegant name and not the most respected discipline. The good news is more and more procurement people genuinely want to understand the intantigbles of marketing and creative. They will be the winners for their companies. The procurement people who view their job as “counting beans” will get a better price, but far less value.
There’s a huge debate raging today about Investment vs Spending. Which would you rather be doing? Obviously, investment feels like a much more sound practice than squandering dollars. If you view Marketing as an investment, you’re likely to get a much better return than if your CFO or your organization views it as Spending.
A lot of shopping in-store has morphed to shopping on line and is morphing once again via the social media into Social Shopping. What better way to know you’re right than to be able to get real-time reactions from your most trusted posse about the purchase you’re about to make? Facebook, Tweeting, FourSquare, blogging, texting, Beluga – there are more communication channels than ever before to get affirmation for what you want and who you are. The buzz is out there everywhere. Are you central to the conversation?
Branding Without Words. Next brainstorming session, challenge your team to express your brand without using any words. Use Pictionary supplies or pads or pantomime – anything except words. See what everyone comes up with. And see what that tells you (or doesn’t tell you) about your brand.
Tune in. Tune in. Tune in. The world is telling you vital information all day long. Don’t filter out the stuff that could revolutionize your brand. Or revolutionize your life. Our favorite (true) story about that involves the Dean of the Psychology Department at a western Canadian university. On the day his colleagues returned for the fall semester, they found his office unlocked, every personal item was gone and there was no note, no message, no e-mails…nothing. The only clue was a dog-eared copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” he had left in the middle of his empty desk. Think about it and then enjoy the ride.
Laugh Out Loud. For real. Don’t just type LOL on your keyboard. A genuine, heart-felt, gut-busting laugh is one of the great stress relievers in life. Download a classic Three Stooges video. Or Marx Brothers. Or stream your favorite comedy over lunch hour Do something to give yourself a good laugh. Goodness knows, these times demand it and science says you’ll look better and live longer for it.
Eat with your hands. Or do something else that’s “outside the box.” How did it feel? What did you learn? (Besides the fact that you should have had more napkins before you tried that experiment.) What we’re suggesting is that there are opportunities every minute of every day to break your old routine and look at or try things a different way. Try one and invite someone else to try it with you. See how it affects all the other things you do that day.
It’s OK to set a TRaP (Television Radio and Print). The new media is not the only sandbox to play in. Gene DeWitt always believed the proliferation of new media presented new opportunites: it meant you could find your audience in places no one else was looking for them. Take a look at radio these days. Prices are down, opportunities abound – and you’d be surprised how many of the “new audiences” are still tuned in during drive time. Ditto television and print. Don’t dismiss the old media because they’re old; it’s the AUDIENCE that counts, not the medium.
Seems like there’s an awful lot of sturm und drang about the new digital and social media. But it still boils down to the 3 C’s: Customer, Content & Communication. Who’s your audience? What do you want to tell them? How will you reach them? You’d better know EXACTLY who your audience is. No guesswork. No approximations. No three-year-old research. You’d better tell them something THEY want to hear, not something YOU want to say. And finally, you better know where they are and where they’re going throughout their busy day. Miss any one of these three points and your marketing communication is going to miss your target.
Monkey See, Monkey Do. If you’re going to introduce a parity product, make sure it’s not a parody product. Find some way to create it better, cheaper, faster, smarter – or add a feature no one else has. Take a lesson from smart phones: you can’t just bring out a new phone, anymore. It’s got to be a phone that’s, well, smart. As smart as the next guy’s, but with a little bit of extra intelligence. If you don’t have an advantage, you’ll just be competing on price. Which is a losing proposition.
Ever have someone come over to your office or cubicle without being invited? And then they stand there and wait for you to pay attention to them – or even worse, they just start talking to you as if you should drop everything. It’s called an interruption – and it disrupts your schedule and your flow. Cell phones, blackberries; e-mail; IM are all interruptions. You’ve got to start taking firm control over blocks of time that are your time, no one else’s. Pick a period of time and don’t answer ANY digital incoming traffic. See what happens when you start to regain control over your time and your life.
Own the content & control your brand destiny. The new media and new digital platforms provide two types of opportunities: you can own the pipes or you can own what flows through them. We’ll take the content every time. Take a lesson from Disney and Hallmark: If you own the content, you have thousands of ways to use it, reuse it, license it, repurpose it, reinvigorate it, sell it, merchandise it – you name it. If you own the pipes, you’re eventually going to become pre-empted by someone’s better pipes. So think “content” when you think about new marketing opportunities; and think about creating and owning that content yourself. There are plenty of pipes out there for it to run through.
If there’s one thing the Internet has taught us, it’s this: honest isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy. If you try to pull a fast one on people you’ll ALWAYS get found out. Sometimes a little faster than others. So take a lesson from Watergate and Clinton’s Impeachment trial: It’s never the crime, it’s the coverup. If you’re found out, come clean. Immediately!
We have an expression when it comes to the Internet. Is your site a FLoP? What we mean by that is “Flock Of Pigeons.” It’s a site that gets huge traffic, but no action. Like the Burger King “Subservient Chicken” site. Millions of hits and it didn’t sell chicken sandwiches or do anyting for their brand. Like the pigeons in St. Marks Square in Venice, they all flutter in for a visit…but then they take off before you can throw a net over them. Borrowed interest may yield millions of hits but zero sales. So ask yourself whether your Website is delivering serious customers or just…pigeons.
There are three ways you can engage your audience: Passive (television, radio, print), Active (sweepstakes & promotions) and Interactive (Web 3.O). Ask yourself what the relationship is that you want with your customers – then ask yourself if the best way to get that is with Passive, Active or Interactive connectivity. Then go for it.
Gilbert Gottfried killed the duck that layed the golden egg. As the now-former spokesquack for AFLAC, AFLAC is now looking for a new voice for the duck. A very clever national contest as a response to what could have been a big problem for the brand. Whenever you’re faced with a problem, think about how to turn it into an opportunity.
“Show me a good time.” It’s what your spouse wishes you would do. It’s what your kids seem to demand of you all the time (“Read us a story. Please!”) If you think about it, it’s the only thing your customers want, as well. When was the last time you surprised and delighted your customers? Take a look at what you’re offering and ask yourself what you can do – today! – to show your customers a good time!
Is there really a new audience out there? Yes and No. Yes, you can find them on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and FourSquare and Beluga and GroupMe. They want to be connected. They want to be engaged with you. So yes, there’s a new audience out there. And at the same time, no. There isn’t a new audience. It’s just your old audience hanging out in new places. Whichever is the case for you, find out where your main target audience is spending its time (and resting its eyeballs). Then find ‘em and engage ‘em.
|The new media is like the story of the 7 blind men & the elephant. Each blind man goes up and touches a different part of the beast. The one holding the trunk thinks an elephant is like a snake. The one holding a leg thinks an elephant is like a tree. The one holding an ear thinks an elephant is like a sail. Each one has a different view of the creature. Make sure your marketing group understands the entire beast, not just the body parts.|
Advertising agencies: Big, small, regional, interactive – who cares? Consumers respond to brilliant communication. No one’s got a license on that. More and more we’re seeing great work coming from ad agencies you never heard of. More and more you’re going to see great work from consumers whose ideas have been encouraged and implemented by companies who recognize that the idea is way more important than its source. The old model advertising agency is becoming more and more obsolete. The King is dead. Long live the King.
The customer has moved to the center of the conversation. Now you’ve got to give them better reasons than ever to connect with you. The blogs and Tweets we post every weekday are meant to provide value to you, our customers. Are you blogging — personally or professionally? Do you Tweet? What are you doing on Facebook? Are you on LinkedIn? Will we see you on FourSquare? Does your company have an active, energetic social engagement policy with your customers? If not, get social and get to work!
Advertising isn’t dead, it’s reinventing itself…every day. Never before have there been so many platforms — diverse communication vehicles to connect with consumers. Never before has there been such ready access for consumers to be brand advocates, advertisers, crowdsources. It’s the most exciting time ever for advertising as innovation, new connections and new ideas are coming at us faster and faster all the time. Tomorrow will hold new opportunities for brands, advertisers and the newest creative partner in the marketing mix — brand savvy customers.
Manage Yourself well and you’ll manage others better. Embrace and welcome employee evaluations (of yourself). They’ll point out what others think are your strengths and weaknesses. Take pride in the strengths and find ways to correct the weaknesses. Over time, you’ll become the employee everyone wants to hire and the boss everyone wants to work for.
Manage Up. It’s a forgotten skill: Motivating and managing your bosses can be as powerful as managing your employees. Keep your bosses in the loop and exceed their expectations. You’ll keep them ahead of the curve and in front of any surprises. And, you’ll be in their minds’ eye when it comes time for raises and promotions.
Have a monthly “lunch’n'learn” program. Feed the troops (good for morale) and invite a guest speaker in (good for the business). Even if you’ve got an experienced, seasoned team, it’s always good to give them a bit of unexpected inspiration, insight and motivation. Just a 50-minute workshop every month can pay huge dividends down the road. And, they’ll appreciate the pizza break, too!
Do you keep track of your competition’s advertising? Your customer does. So you’d better know what your competition is doing. What are they doing well? Do you make sure that everyone in your organization knows what the competition’s up to and learns from it? Now, how are you going to apply the learning to your business?
|Use focus groups to gain consumer insight. Don’t ask them to evaluate or rewrite the work. The minute you put new work or new advertising in front of your consumers in a focus group, you’ve just made that focus group your creative director or brand manager. Focus groups can’t judge new work, they’re best at discussing what already is. Use research to get insights that can help you solve the problem. the decision making belongs to you, not research respondents.|
People don’t like being treated like idiots. Respect your customer and they’ll respect you. The great advertising giant David Ogilvy once famously observed: “The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife.” While the statement smacks a bit of sexism today, the underlying sentiment is still true. Respect your customers and they’ll respect you. Jack Mitchell, partner in Mitchell’s of Westport wrote an entire book about it, called Hug Your Customers. Read it. Live it. Do it.
|Put the benefit to your customer in the headline. Don’t make your customers have to work to figure out your value proposition. They want to know what the value is for them – why they should be interested in your product or service. Tell ‘em. As fast as you can. Or they won’t stick around for the message that comes to late or is too buried.|
Keep it short.
Quality is simply the absence of non-quality signals. You throw out resumes with typos, right? That’s a “non quality” signal. If you want to improve your operations or processes, find the non-quality signals in your organization and weed them out. When you’re done, what you’ll be left with is a quality product or process.
Call your store or business (or client) as if you’re a new customer. See what happens when someone answers or you get lost in your own phone tree. Too often, we find that companies don’t have a “new business” policy in place. A way for someone who wants to do business with you to connect with the person that can act on that information. Give it a try and see what you find. And if you don’t immediately get connected to the “new business” person (or path), fix it!
Walk the halls at 7pm and find the keys to your company’s problems. People who stay late are either part of the problem or are trying to solve it. Walkaround management is hugely valuable, to inspire and learn. Send your tired team members home. There’s always another day. People need to recharge their batteries, get refreshed bring their “A” game to the table.
Learn new tricks. If you stopped learning, you stop growing. Stop growing and you become less and less valuable to your company, your friends and yourself. Paul teaches at Pace University – he surrounds himself with the energy, the ideas and the minds of young people 18-22. He teaches them new things all the time. But, they also keep him fresh because you can’t teach without learning. What do you do to ensure your learning is everyday and ongoing?
What’s your real job? Not the title. Not the description. What do you really do, whom do you do it for (hint: the correct answer is “our customers”) and how can you make it the best that job can really be?
Got talent? Talent is just a town in Oregon. Google it. You’ve got to move beyond “talent” to becoming a person who can deliver on that promise. There are plenty of talented people who don’t put their skills to use or their best plans into action. Talent without commitment and follow through is just a roadside attraction and a forgettable visit.
“Idea” is such a simple little word with a heavy agenda tied to it. It’s not enough to have the idea, you have to bring it to life. That requires a team, a plan and a process. If having an idea was all we needed, we’d all be millionaires. Or as William Shakespeare wrote: “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.” Ask yourself whether you’re an Idea person or an Execution person. Then do your job well – but partner with people who do the other job brilliantly.
Trying to solve a problem? Chew on it. . .then give it some time to digest. Sometimes NOT thinking about a problem is a way to solve it. Henri Poincarre, the French philosopher and mathematician wrote about this phenomenon in his book “Science and Hypothesis.” Give the subconscious a little time to chew over the problem and you’ll be amazed at what can happen.
Someone bring you an idea you think is terrible? Try flipping it 180 degrees and see if it can be made brilliant. It’s an exercise we wrote about in our book, “Breakthrough!” and an exercise we use in our workshops. If you think an idea is really bad, ask yourself how you could make that idea good…how you could make that idea great. The enemy of bad could be terrific…and, you might just come up with a new idea that will revolutionize your business.
Step away from the idea. We all have great ideas from time to time. But just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean you should pursue it. We’ve all had ideas that someone else brought to market and we’ve said to ourselves, “Hey! I thought of that years ago – why didn’t I do it?” Because having a good idea and implementing a good idea are two different things. One requires a moment of inspiration. The other requires years of dedication and hard work. So before you get all excited about your good idea, ask yourself if you believe in it enough to do the hard work to make it happen. If not, just smile and move on. If yes, get to work!
When was the last time you turned away from the keyboard, put your feet up on the desk and just…thought? One of our partners calls it “window time” and it’s invaluable. The computer seems to always demand an immediate response. The window invites you to think. Which is what makes you more valuable and more indispensible than your computer.
Give yourself an art day. One day a month, sneak out of the office, go to the local museum and spend 3 hours being inspired by the great masters. Or challenged by provocative new works. Get out of your office, get out of your worries. Get out of your head. In short: Recharge.
Instead of fighting the 3pm sugar drop with a candy bar, do what most NBA players do: embrace it with a power nap. Close your door or find a hideaway and grab a refreshing break. A great ten minutes to recharge. Or take a hard look at your diet and find out why you’re having a 3pm sugar drop. Eat better, eat more often and maximize your energy…and, productivity.
‘FREE is a 4-letter word. It’s usually not worth much or there are major strings attached. We were in a pitch one time when the prospective client balked at our price. “I had a company in here last week and they showed us three ideas for nothing,” she said. At which one of our partners looked at her and responded, “Well, I sure hope you got your money’s worth.” Value what you do and make sure you get your price. Otherwise, what are you selling and what is your prospect getting?
Consensus doesn’t work in Congress, why do you think it will work in your office? There’s an old saying that “a camel is a horse created by a committee.” Solicit input, then make a decision. That’s what you’re paid to do. Just make sure the input you solicit is valuable and meaningful…and be willing to listen to it. Then go for the good, clear, bold idea. And put it into action!
Want to accomplish your meeting objectives in one hour instead of 3? Have an agenda and stick to it. No sidebars. No digressions. Stay on point. We know a company that has instituted “Meetless Fridays” – banning all meetings on Fridays so people can get actual work done. Be focused. Be ruthless. Keep the chatter to a minimum, the agreements and next steps to a maximum. And, for goodness sakes…never let one meeting be the preamble to the same meeting on another day.
When making a pitch, recognize when you’ve made the sale and STOP. Time and again over the years we’ve seen people turn “yes,” into “maybe” and “maybe” into “no” because they didn’t realize they’d over sold their welcome. Suddenly people start questioning the sale and start raising questions about the idea. Read your audience and understand the elegance of the win.
A great boss doesn’t have to prove it. He gives everyone the same respect he wants for himself. Every day. If you’re looking to get ahead, start behaving like the ideal boss you wish you’d had. Soon enough you’ll be the ideal boss everyone wants to work for.
|Write as if you’re writing for only one person in your audience. By speaking to that one person, you’ll reach everyone.|
What’s great marketing writing? Empathy, empathy, empathy. Acknowledge and understand your customer’s problem before offering up your solution. Feel their pain, hopes and dreams and go there. Make your product and message the answer to their needs and desires and you’ll be on a path to brand loyalty.
Want to know how much advertising you (and your customers) are exposed to? Write down every ad you see. Within 3 hours, you’ll want to hide in your room. This was an assignment Paul used to give his advertising students. He doesn’t any more because it was too oppressive and painful for them. Because even in the sanctuary of your room, if you look around, you’ll find advertising messaging lurking everywhere. Whether it’s a product logo on the wall or a publisher’s name on a book spine, advertising is EVERYWHERE. You’ve got to think about building relationships, not bombarding consumers with ad messages.
This was a lesson from one of the greatest advertising writers of all time: Ed McCabe. His point of view was to find the enemy of the product — the primary reason someone would NOT buy your product or try your service — and then address that objection. In winning over the “nevers,” he won over the “maybes” in the process.He challenged lawyers in the same way. To McCabe “No” meant “Yes” and Absolutely not” meant “Maybe.”If your glass isn’t always half full, it’s likely to be empty.
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence” What he meant is that you can’t speak about what you don’t know. Our variation is similar: “How can you think about what you don’t know?” The unspoken and unknown are very rich areas for exploration. Never stop questioning, exploring and learning. How can you give voice to a new idea? How can you come to know something new that no one else knows, but everyone will want to know about, try and buy tomorrow?
Write good. Have fun with language. Break the rules. The syntax. The grammar. Find your signature voice. Start reading. When you find an author you like, copy down a couple of paragraphs every day (it’s called “muscle memory” – what do you think Phil Michelson does on his days off?). Just as athletes learn to train their muscles, you can learn to train your writing “muscle.” Copy down paragraphs of writers you like and you’ll start to learn to write in that style.
When was the last time you thought of a product or service that broke the rules in your industry? Breaking the rules is fun. There are no limits to what is right or wrong. Living on the edge or outside the accepted norms in your category is likely to take you to some very interesting insights and possible applications. Listen to your instincts as you explore the places and spaces your brand normally wouldn’t go. Then go there and make it work within the category rules.
Ban Excel from all planning meetings. It’s a weapon, not a tool. Make people think and plan first – then add the numbers at the very end. If you start with the Excel spread sheets, what you’ll end up with is a budget, not a plan. And if you start with a Gantt Chart, you’ll end up with a schedule, not a plan. Start with the plan – which takes brain power, not computing power.
It’s good to be king: Being the leader is empowering and intoxicating. Staying the leader is about confronting challenges and delivering excellence. Start thinking about how you can deliver excellence in your job and to your organization.
Stuck in a silo? Take a walk. Talk to some new people. Find out what they do. Figure out how that relates to your job. Start talking about things the two of you can do together. Break out of your old habits and take control of your job and your career.
|Crackberries. Cell phones. Twitter. E-mail. Facebook. Have you had a good real-live conversation lately? Manage your digital flow! We’re noticing that our morning “digital management” time has been increasing the past 18 months. Maybe this is a variation of Moore’s Law - we’ll call it PS Insights Law: The amount of time you have to spend managing your digital flow will double every 18 months. Start to figure out ways to get it under control.|
Write the billboard first. If it communicates at 60 miles an hour, imagine what you can do when people are standing still. Going down the highway at 60 miles an hour, the most you can have on a billboard that’s readable is 5 or 6 words. See if you can express your idea in 5 or 6 words. Everyone in your organization will love you for it.
Adjectives are words about words. They say, “I couldn’t craft a set of words that make you feel excited, so I’ll just tell you the idea is ‘exciting’.” Put in a little extra effort and see if you can write something that IS exciting rather than saying the idea is EXCITING.
Next meeting, be the best person to listen and the last person to speak. Silence speaks volumes. So many of us want to jump in and add our two cents. And most of the time, that’s exactly what it’s worth. So start being “the sage.” Be the best listener in your meetings, and if you speak at all, be the last one to say anything. Watch what happens.
We’re always puzzled when people say, “I don’t know how to write this.” Good writing is the spoken word in print. Just write down exactly what you’d say. It’s that easy (and that hard).
See something that isn’t broken? Break it! Then find a new way to fix it. You don’t have to break it literally – you can imagine what it would be like if it were broken. Then ask yourself, “how would I fix this if it was broken?” You might invent a new product or service – or save your company millions of dollars with your solution. Give it a shot.
We have a friend who works in the entertainment industry who doesn’t own a cell phone. He knows nothing he does is a life-and-death situation and the problem can wait ’til he gets back to his office the next day. Coincidentally, we think he’s got the strongest marriage we know of. But take a chance; start by leaving your phone in the office when you go out for lunch. See if you can learn to eat in peace. Then expand from there. Release the electronic leash and get deeper into the experiences you’re in when you’re in them.
Okay, occasionally there are emergencies. Those are extremely rare. (And your company had better have a disaster scenario team in place for just such events.) 99.9% of the time there are just problems to be solved – and some you have less time to solve than others. So what’s your problem today and how much time do you have? If you start thinking about your work in that “non emergency” mode, you’ll operate with less stress, a cool head and a better solution.
Call it an “art day.” Call it “recharging your batteries.” Whatever you call it, get out of your everyday routine and take a fresh look at the world around you. Be inspired by the works of great artists — they have something to say to you and something to teach you. You’ll be amazed at how an inspiring afternoon of “time off” can change your thinking about problems you’ve been trying to solve and dramatically improve your ability to solve them.
Mine your beginners for new ideas. Beginners don’t know the rules. They don’t know about all the sacred cows within your organization. Use that to your advantage. See what kind of fresh thinking your young (and hungry) recruits can bring to your party. Give them credit for their ideas and learn from them how you can break outside of your box!
|There are no atheists in foxholes. There are no cross-departmental visionaries in silos. The reasons are pretty much the same: most of us are afraid if we stick our necks out we’re going to get shot. Well, you can hunker down and bunker down — or you can take a chance and see what lies just down the hall (or over in the next silo). Sticking your neck out always involves some risk. But, in business it’s also one of the best opportunities for advancement, promotion and success.|
In our book “The Little Blue Book of Marketing: Build a Killer Plan in Less Than a Day” we organize marketing planning in three buckets: “Where are you now?” “Where are you going?” “How will you get there?” A great example of direction without direction comes from the classic Alice in Wonderland. Alice comes across the Cheshire Cat in the woods. “I’m lost,” Alice proclaims. “Where do you want to go?” the Cheshire Cat asks. “I don’t know,” Alice replies. “Then any road will take you there,” the Cat answers. You can’t plot a course to a destination unless you know where you’re leaving from and where you want to arrive. In a GPS world plug in the destination and you’ll get there — it’s automatic. But, the roads taken may not be the most efficient route. In business, you’ve got to do a lot more homework to make sure the roads taken are the best paths to follow and the most productive and profitable way to reach your goal.
| What does a senior marketer have to bring to the table in today’s envirionment? Three key attributes:
1. A strategic vision – the person has to have both an openness and an understanding of what’s out there. New media and new digital alternatives are churning the media landscape and CMOs have to know what their impact might be on the business. But the good manager keeps her eye on the prize. What’s the vision that is most consistent with your business direction?
2. Management Inclusiveness – the days of the lone gunslinger CMO are over. Smart managers need to embrace coordination, cooperation and consensus.
3. Marketing Solutions – theory is one thing, delivering the goods is another. You’ve got to know that marketing integration is vital to success. All the disparate marketing components have to be brought together and designed to work as a cohesive whole.
If your CMO has those three attributes, congratulations – you’re way ahead of the competition!
EZ Pass. A great invention that makes an annoying slow-down faster! Have you created an EZ Pass for your hard-core customers? Do you have “one click checkout” “speed ordering” or any of a dozen different ways customers can get in, get what they want and get out. the biggest problem still facing online shopping is the abandoned shopping cart. Customers get all the way through your (complicated) process and at some point they just give up. Follow the best practices of EZ Pass and adopt or adapt them to your buisness.
Boom! The baby boomers are redefining old age the same way they redefined every other age. Focus big time on the boomers. 60 is not only the new 40, boomers are a big, tuned in and wealthy demographic. The key is to figure out how to talk to them. Nostalgia is great and the 1960s were way cool, but you’ve got to understand that they all think they’re forever young and talk to them accordingly.
Want to write better? Think “content,” not “style.” Find ways to engage your audience rather than impress them. Twitter is a great teacher of content. If you’ve only got 140 characters you’d better make every character count. In fact, wouldn’t it be great if EVERY business memo and note was restricted to 140 characters? Go through your writing and remove all the extraneous phrases, asides, and other unproductive words.
|Where’s your diversity? Ask yourself and everyone you do business with why there are no people of color in any of your meetings. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the necessary initiative to take. America is getting less white every day. You’re out of touch if you’re not a rich mix of different backgrounds, perspectives and ethnic origins.|
|Right-sized packaging. Take an axe to your wrapping! Learn from Walmart. Less is more. Walmart constantly looks at supplier packaging and explores ways to save everyone money. Your laundry detergent is now double and triple strength and in much smaller packages. It’s a win, win, win. For the manufacturer, the retailer and you. So take a look at your packaging and start minimizing to maximize value and cost.|
|Recycled paper. Lights on timers. Thermostats up (or down) 2 degrees. There’s a thousand ways to save a million bucks. Tell your company to put a plan in place awarding any employee 10% of the savings they come up with. Think how much smarter (and greener) everyone in the company will become. And think of the amount of money the company will save. “Green” doesn’t have to be complicated – anyone can do it anytime you’re ready.|
Natural Inclinations: never ignore your first instinct – or as we like to say, “Never reject the obvious.” If you want to read an entire book on the subject, we refer you to (the excellent) Malcolm Gladwell book, “Blink.” But in a nutshell it can be summed up in the words of Obi-wan Kenobi: “Trust the Force, Luke.”
It’s also NOT easy being green. Selling customers on your “green-ness” is harder than selling your company. No quickie green campaign. Make it EVERgreen. Start by asking yourself, “would we be doing this initiative if it weren’t the right thing to do as well as being right for our customers? If going green doesn’t make sense on every level, go back to your greenboard and start all over. Today green is not the leverageable play. It’s the foundation for doing business the right way.
It’s Easy Being Green. Start internally. Develop a green plan for your company that makes you look good – and saves your business beaucoups bucks! Are the lights in the bathrooms on timers? Are the lights in the building on timers? Are there energy uses that can be shifted to hours when rates are cheaper? Are there waste products that can be resold (the way restaurants sell their grease to purifiers and soap makers)? Put your green cap on and make your company be smart, look smart and save smart…and you’ll look good as well.
Peas in an iPod. What apps work with your business? How can you do cooperative marketing with them? Do a search of apps that are relevant to your business. Ask yourself if there’s a way you can co-market with those companies. Or take it all the way and buy the business. It worked for UPS when they bought Mailboxes, etc. and it worked for FedEx when they bought Kinkos. Find the relevant apps and apply them to your marketing opps– in partnership or as an acquisition.
Manage the Methodology. It’s as important as managing the business. Clear out the stumbling blocks inside your company to making great ideas happen. Too often businesses are set up to do business as usual – they aren’t set up to do business as unusual. So if you’ve got a good idea, it can die a strangling death because the methodology doesn’t exist to bring the idea to market. Next time you have a great idea, ask yourself whether the methodology within your company will allow you to do the business of the unusual — the business of better. If not, fix the methodology.
Pilot the Plan. What’s your rush to roll it out nationally? Is your media company and ad agency pushing? Push back. Ask them “what’s the rush?” Is it an internal department? Your boss? There’s a saying that “guts is cheaper than research.” That might have been true 50 years ago, but today there’s plenty of affordable research that can help you determine whether you’re heading for the pot of gold…or just smoking pot. Do the research and don’t be in a rush to get it out there.
What’s a good idea worth – and where do you get one? All your marketing should be driven by one clear, compelling idea. Do you have it? Do you own it? Is it so uniquely yours that when people hear about it they automatically think about you? If not, put your thinking cap on and get to work. Or hold your agencies feet to the fire – tell ‘em you want to see some breakthrough thinking and see what they show you. Make sure you’ve got the guts to support the big ideas they bring you. It will change your mutual expectations and take your game to a way higher level.
Does your content have longevity? What’s the value of content that has no shelf life? As soon as you put it out there it becomes useless – that’s just content for content’s sake. Make sure what you create has long-term value to the target audience. Or, if it doesn’t, then don’t spend a lot of time and money on it.
Does your production match your media? Are you spending $100,000 (and more) for digital content that’s going to be viewed on a 2″ screen? Why? Don’t let your vendors talk you into overblown production processes and costs. There’s an old saying, “don’t let good be the enemy of great.” We say, “don’t let great be the enemy of finished.” Get it done – fast, quick and cheap (yes, these days you CAN have all three) and get it out there. The audience will let you know in a hurry if you got it right or not.
Can your content thrive on multiple platforms? Do you create TV that can be webisodes? YouTube videos? Website content? PDA deliverable? Are your tweets headlines for important news? Are your blogs a preview of your next brochure? Everything’s got to work with everything else – make sure your content can thrive on multiple platforms, or you’ll waste huge amounts of time and money constantly redoing — and confusing — your messaging.
Is your content entertaining and informative? Almost as important as “simple and honest,” content in the digital age has to offer the customer a reason to connect. What information have you delivered to get customers to appreciate your message? To appreciate the fact that you were the one who provided that information? Have you provided that content in an engaging way? It takes sticky to inspire your customers to stick around.
Is your content simple and honest? If you only use two rules of thumb in judging your web content, those are the two you should use. Warren Buffet once said something cogent on the subject. If his people came to him and asked him about a grey area, he would simply reply “if you have to ask me if it’s legal, then it’s not.” The same applies for “honest” and “simple.” If you’ve got to ask, go back to the drawing board.
Does your content depend on your brand? Could you remove your name from your ads or website and put your competitor’s name on it? If so, what’s your point of difference? Try it. Think about your #1 competitor. Now look at your marketing materials, cover up your name and put your competitor’s logo in the material. Does it still make sense? If so, then you haven’t really dug down and found your key point of difference. If YOU can’t tell the difference, how can your customers?
Is your content consistent with your brand image? Banks and insurance companies are the worst at this – their ads say one thing, their physical location says something else. It’s amazing (or appalling) how some institutions try to have a hip, contemporary voice in their marketing materials, but when you walk into their offices you step back into a 40-year-old time machine. Stuffy locations, pompous branch managers – you know exactly what we’re talking about. Are you doing business that way yourself? Do you know what your “voice” is? Is it appealing, consistent and contemporary?
|Why are so many vendor relationships adversarial? Hint: it’s all about making them hired hands instead of business partners. Give your vendors a real place at the table. Stop telling them what to do and start inviting them to help understand and solve what you need. You can always ignore their advice, but by asking for it you’re giving yourself another set of brains instead of just another set of hands. We had a mentor who used to demand of us that we shut up when vendors came by – he wanted to hear what they thought, not what we thought. As he told us, “I can always ask your opinion anytime. This was a rare opportunity to find out what outsiders think.” So start utilizing the brainpower of your vendors. You’ll be amazed what a difference a partnership can make.|
| What’s the optimal agency relationship? Here are four key attributes. What others would you add?1. Partner, not vendor. Make them part of your team, not just hired hands2. Appreciate good strategy. Never take it for granted or start a creative meeting without it.
3. Trust the creative. Big ideas are not comfortable. They have reach and risk. You hire great creative people to take you there.
4. Share in risk as well as reward. Make sure they have some skin in your game and can get rewarded along with you for the wins.
|I must not. You must not what? What are the unspoken sacred cows in your organization? Just as we have addictions, we also have Rules of Aversion (“I will not,” “I must not,” “I should not”). In today’s new marketing universe you’ve got to challenge ALL your assumptions, and one of the best places to start is by examining the things you have a rule about. Take a look at your rules and ask yourself: “Are these the truth…or just rules?”|
Besides lying about your results, which the SEC, your investors and your mother tend to frown upon, there are only four possible answers:
1. “Terrible.” If your business isn’t what it could be or isn’t what it used to be, what are you doing about it?
2. “Could be better…” That’s likely the answer everyone could give. And whose fault is that? If your business could be better, the only person who can make it better is you.
3. “Same old, same old.” Uh-oh. Sounds like what the dinosaurs used to say to each other just before the meteor struck. “Same old, same old” leads to rear-view mirror vision.
4. “Great! Couldn’t be better!” Really? Couldn’t be better? Well then, be afraid…be very afraid. One of the truths is: the more successful you are, the more tempting a target you become.
OK, so we lied. There’s a fifth answer to the question “How’s business?” And every business should strive for this one, “Great. Could be better.” No matter what shape your business is in, you should be actively engaged in an effort to improve it. Check out Breakthrough! available online and at bookstores everywhere.
As the Texas political commentator Jim Hightower once observed, “there’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and dead armadillos.” If you play it safe, if you don’t grow, you’ll just disappear—merged into a larger company or marginalized into irrelevance. Companies need new ideas the way people need food. It’s the energy that grows and sustains them. So if you’ve been following our blog on Breakthrough! ideas, it’s time to stop nodding your head in agreement—it’s time to make something happen. So get going! The book is available online and at book retailers everywhere.
What’s the difference between a failed idea and a failed marketing strategy? Some ideas are just plain bad. Others are good, but they take some effort to find the winning message. That was the case with Pampers. Procter & Gamble knew moms wanted the ease, convenience, cost-savings and less-mess approach of disposable diapers, but P&G couldn’t find the winning message in launching the product. None of those points—points moms themselves raised in focus groups and consumer studies—resonated with the audience when P&G took Pampers to market. It wasn’t until they hit on the strategy “keeps your baby drier” that sales took off. Because the real value to new moms in disposable diapers is what the diapers mean to their babies. And, yes, consumers lie in research all the time. So when you’re looking for the Big Idea, make sure you see the difference between the idea and how you’re marketing it. Check out Breakthrough! – available online at your favorite book e-tailer.
A Big Idea is anything that can build new audiences, new customers and new sales by mining undiscovered territory. It can be a brand new product or service, a line extension, a related product—in fact, it can be just about anything. The only thing every breakthrough idea has in common is that after it’s come to the marketplace, everyone else turns into Homer Simpson and says, “D’oh!” What they mean is “Dough!” As in, “that’s gonna make those people a ton of money. How come we didn’t think of that?” Because to come up with a breakthrough idea, product or service you’ve got to break out of the box of your existing marketplace thinking. Read Breakthrough! – our new book available now at bookstores and your favorite e-tailer.
When you read the names of the seven steps to winning ideas, you’ll say to yourself, “That’s all I have to do?” And when you read the detailed description of each step you’ll groan to yourself, “I have to do all that?” It ain’t easy, but it’s doable. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to get your organization in alignment and you’re going to have to overcome a lot of inertia and resistance. Some of the inertia will be yours, the rest of the resistance will be systemic: a lot of people around you will resist your efforts to follow your lead and follow these steps. But if you succeed, the rewards can be huge. Especially in the area of personal satisfaction…not to mention the staggering financial return. That’s why we titled the book Breakthrough! – because it is a breakthrough to a new level of thinking and doing business. Available now online and at bookstores everywhere.
Over the years, we’ve come to understand the kind of vision and commitment it takes to get good ideas right and great ideas to market. Along the way we’ve seen and participated in the combination of delicious ingredients that lead to tasty success. Our new book Breakthrough! is the distillation of all those winning steps. They’re steps you can put into place no matter what your situation.
7 Steps Quick Start (Wallet Guide)
1. Put an End to Business As Usual
2. Get Business Buy-In
3. Organize The Team And Process
4. Land on the Big Idea
5. Build Momentum For the Idea
6. Develop the Plan
7. The Launch
Want to know more? Breakthrough! is now available at AMACOM Books, online or at a bookstore near you.
Big ideas aren’t just the brainstorm of inspiration, but the result of a methodical, step-by-step process of development, refinement, targeting, marketing and marketplace execution. Miss any of the steps or get any of the steps wrong and you’re doomed to failure. Get ‘em all right and there’s still a chance the market won’t be ready for you. Bottom line: it’s a crapshoot. But you can improve the odds tremendously in your favor by putting together a structured process. In other words, it might be a crapshoot but with some smart planning, you can be the house. It’s all in Breakthrough! A 7-Step System for Developing Unexpected and Profitable Ideas—available now online and at bookstores everywhere.
Virtually every successful product or service out there came to market because someone initially said, “This is a good idea.” But if saying “this is a good idea” was it all took, then everyone would be an inventor with a multi-million-dollar idea to his or her credit. You need something more than just the good idea. You need the guts and conviction to bring the idea to life, and you need the intelligence and stick-to-itiveness to fulfill the following key statements:
“We can make this.”
“We can make it happen.”
“We can figure out the audience and the message.”
“We can commit resources, time and energy to do it.”
In other words, you need a plan.
Building that plan using seven steps (and doing them in the right order) is what our new book Breakthrough! is all about. Available now online or at a book store near you.
One thing that many of the best Big Ideas tend to have in common is virtually everyone says the idea makes no sense (when they first hear it). There’s no way it could ever succeed.
- Starbucks. Coffee at $3 a cup? Who would spend so much for a cuppa joe?
- Perdue. Turn chicken into a brand name? Ridiculous. Who needs a brand of chicken?
- GI Joe. Dolls for boys? Absurd. Boys don’t play with dolls.
- Google. A search engine? Who needs a new search engine when you’ve got Netscape and Internet Explorer?
- JetBlue. Who needs another low-cost airline? Especially to Florida.
- Twitter. We have instant messaging and texting. We already have blogging. Who’s going to micro-blog in 140-character messages?
Do you think they were all just lucky? Breakthrough! our new book – available online or at a bookstore near you – is about the process companies have to go through to make a great idea happen.
People think breakthrough ideas are a matter of luck. The truth is, they’re the result of careful thinking, planning and execution. Smart steps can take a great idea and drive a brilliant result (yes, with a manageable dose of luck thrown into the mix). But without managing the smart steps there’s virtually no chance that you’ll land on, let alone launch, a Big Idea. So what’s your plan for making the seemingly impossible, possible? Look around you. Every year, even in the worst of times, companies and individuals come to market with extraordinarily fresh, successful ideas. In fact, many of the best and biggest ideas have been spawned in the worst of times. Adversity often inspires creativity. When times are really tough, risk taking seems less risky. Breakthrough! now available online or at a bookstore near you.
People think breakthrough ideas are a matter of luck. The truth is, they’re the result of careful thinking, planning and execution. Smart steps can take a great idea and drive a brilliant result (yes, with a manageable dose of luck thrown into the mix). But without managing the smart steps there’s virtually no chance that you’ll land on, let alone launch, a Big Idea. So what’s your plan for making the seemingly impossible, possible? Look around you. Every year, even in the worst of times, companies and individuals come to market with extraordinarily fresh, successful ideas. In fact, many of the best and biggest ideas have been spawned in the worst of times. Adversity often inspires creativity. When times are really tough, risk taking seems less risky. Breakthrough! now available online or at a bookstore near you.
When was the last time you or your company came up with a breakthrough idea, product or service? Never? Wait…never say never. We all come up with good ideas all the time. But it’s not just about coming up with great ideas; it’s about coming up with terrific ideas that actually make it to market. So how come your good ideas don’t make it to market? And if it they did, how come they didn’t succeed? Why aren’t you occupying the corner office at your company? Why aren’t you rich, retired and living la vida loca in Costa Rica? Read our book Breakthrough! available now at AMACOM Books, online or at a bookstore near you.
Is your company creating breakthrough, winning products and services within your industry? Is the pursuit of Big Ideas standard operating procedure for your business? Why does it always seem that other companies develop new ideas, products and services while you continue to struggle to hold onto your existing share of market? Why aren’t you able to cultivate big, new ideas let alone move your good idea to the next step? Why aren’t you taking steps to make your company the next Apple or Google or Starbucks or Dell or Lite Beer, even Chia Pet or any other one of the hundreds of global phenomena?
Yeah? We’re waiting…In the meantime, we wrote Breakthrough! Now available at AMACOM Books or online at Amazon or a bookstore near you to answer those questions and more.
“I Gotta Have That!” It’s what drives Apple sales. What drives your sales? Are there people out there saying, “I’ve got to have him” or “I’ve got to have her”? If so, why? If not, why not? Find out what people think about your product or service and then ask yourself what you can do to turn yourself from a commodity into a necessity.
“Don’t Interrupt Me While I’m Interrupting.” When was the last time you were the last person to speak in a meeting? Next time there’s a meeting, focus on listening. Don’t say a word for the entire meeting. Then be the person who sums up and makes the cogent, key point that ends the session. See how your value goes up within the organization; especially if you’re already the boss.
Be Admired. Think about what you can do, should do or would have to do in order to be admired and respected. By your customers and by your peers. Caterpillar: Impeccable service. Apple: Extraordinary design. Kia: Outstanding Warrantee. Mercedes: Superb engineering. Being admired is about being excellent. And it only has to be in one area or by doing one thing better than anyone else. What’s your one special thing and when are you planning to start communicating and delivering it?
Be Willing To Die For The Work. How much better would your work become if you were willing to quit your job if your work wasn’t approved the way you intend it? Passion wins the day. If you decide that the work is that important it will make you better and much more thorough in your preparation. You would look awfully stupid if you were willing to quit over mediocrity. Deciding to put yourself on the line means demanding excellence of yourself. No, you don’t really have to quit, but see how much better your work will become if you start using that standard.
Test, Test and Test Again. But make sure you’re asking the right questions. If you’re testing for a new product or service that hasn’t been offered before, be very, very, careful. We’ve seen good ideas die because you can’t measure what hasn’t happened yet. You can’t get a clear response on a product or service that’s never been out there. So make sure you’ve got a great research team working with you and make sure you’re asking all the right questions. Be creative, imaginative, projective. Look for where your customers would be willing to go, not just what they tell you about how they behave today.
Distinct Voices. Think about the distinct style certain marketers have. Do you have a distinct voice that cuts through the clutter? Think about ESPN. That edgy voice that’s won them many awards was originally the voice of ESPN 2. ESPN started as a safe, mainstream sports network. When the edginess of “the deuce” (as it was originally called) caught on, they made that the voice of all their networks. Make the commitment to find your voice. Is it edgy? Hip? Sophisticated? Cool? Find the one that fits you best, put it out there and keep “speaking” that way.
Paradigm-Busting Team: Put together an extra-departmental “brain trust” team to find your next big winning idea. Watch for our next book, “Breakthrough!” and read how to create an ad hoc new idea team within your company. Make sure you’ve got a dedicated group trying to figure out new ideas, new applications, new customers and new ways to use your product or service. You can’t afford to be complacent anymore. If you don’t change you’ll die.
Theater of the Mind – there’s nothing quite like Radio. It’s still got a place in your media plans – even if your ad agency doesn’t like it (maybe because they can’t write it). There are things you can do with radio that you just can’t do with any other medium. Want to utilize the entire United States Army in your advertising? In television and Web you’d need to either hire actors or pay for a lot of digital CGI. In radio you just have to add the sound effects of an army (on the march, in battle – whatever) and PRESTO! – you’ve added an entire army to your message. Consider the possibilities, then consider whether you can find your audience. If so, entertain them to their hearts’ content.
Music is a form of writing. As Steve Karmen famously said, “No one hums the Announcer.” Are you using music well on your site and in your ads? What about sound effects? Time and again we go to Websites with an elaborate Flash animation opening…and not even a single sound. What a waste of an opportunity to create a mood, add dimension and reinforce stickiness. Music and sound design are even more important now than they were when you only used radio and television. Music is a powerful force for engagement and a tool everyone should actively us in their marketing toolboxes.
Intranet inspirations. If you’re enjoying tweets, Blogs RSS Feeds and other links coming at you, why not add them to your intranet? Give your colleagues the gift of added resources and content that will enrich their daily routine as well.
Be willing to learn new tricks – or you’ll just end up an old dog. We know hugely talented designers who can’t compete in today’s marketplace because they were unwilling to learn the software that everyone else is using (“I already know photoshop, why do I have to learn InDesign?”). It’s easy to become a dinosaur and it takes work to stay on top of new trends and new technology. But it’s worth it. Every new skill you acquire gets added to the expertise you already have, making you that much more tuned-in and valuable.
Long copy still sells – moreso on the Web where people come seeking information. Don’t just run your advertising on your web site. Give ‘em more. Build the copy in layers the same way newspapers (remember newspapers?) used to do: first paragraph is the executive summary. Next section is the factual build-out for the people seeking more information. Third section is in-depth nuts and bolts for your fans. Give ‘em meat they can sink their teeth into and they’ll become your mavens and enthusiasts…helping to spread the message and mantra of your product or service.
Every week we read about people who were killed because they were multitasking. What makes you think you’re paying attention in meetings? More and more we find ourselves in front of a roomful of people who are buried in their laptops or Blackberries. We know they’re multi-tasking even as they assure us they’re paying attention. But remember back to elementary school when you were reading a comic book under the desk and the teacher called on you to answer a question? The simple truth is, you’re NEVER multitasking. You’re either doing one task or the other. If you can’t stay focused on the meeting, don’t attend it.
Glass feelings are as important as glass ceilings. We’re not fans of the expression “It’s only business.” Sometimes it’s personal, too. Business IS all about people. How you treat them, how you manage them, how you work with them says a lot about your integrity and the way you connect to the world around you.
Who’s The Boss? It should be obvious through action and inspiration, not through assertion. If you’ve got to insist on being the boss then you haven’t yet earned the respect and admiration of the people who are working for you. Pulling rank is a lame way to make progress in any organization. If you inspire people, they’ll give you all the authority you need. If you annoy people and demand things of people, they’ll also give you all the authority you deserve – “very little.”
White space is valuable. See?
Walk Through Walls. Cubicles can be seen as dehumanizing-or as a way for everyone to be connected. It’s all in how you manage and message non-existant walls. We know one CEO who tore down his corner office and set up cubicles for himself and his senior-most people. There were still private cubicles and open spaces when people needed to have private meetings, but even the CEO worked in an open-plan setup. If you’re not willing to do that, why are you asking that of your team? Business shouldn’t be a caste system. It should be a communications network.
Take a lesson from the candy displays and cereal shelves: Is your brand packaging designed to be noticed in a positive way? In fact, is it even designed to be noticed at all? Candy and cereal are impulse purchases. the packaging has got to attract. But, what about Apple? Steve Jobs has built an entire cult around the sleek design of all Apple products and packaging. For you, chances are it doesn’t involve a massive package redesign exploratory – just some simple techniques to add some POP (as in “pop” and as in “point of purchase”) to your merchandise.
Have we forgotten how to treat our team like people? When was the last time you took ‘em to lunch, had a party or picnic? It takes very little time and money to make your team feel like human beings, cared for and appreciated. The dividends a kind gesture pays far exceeds the minimal costs for an occasional movie or pizza party. It doesn’t have to be weekly or even monthly, but make sure you take the time to take the time. Great feedback and random acts of kindness pay real dividends, too!
Great ads should be like fly paper that feels good. Think about your favorite campaigns – you love seeing them over and over again. Stickiness is one of the most overlooked and most important aspects of a great campaign. Consumers love to see them, love to see them again and love to be involved with the brands that bring them communication and benefits that feel so very good.
Do you know the 10 Commandments of Integrated Marketing? Yes, it’s “new media,” and “digital media,” but the old rules still apply:
1. Is your content consistent with the brand image?
2. Does the content depend on the brand?
3. Is it congruent with the brand positioning?
4. Is the content simple and honest?
5. Does it relate and resonate with your consumer?
6. Is it entertaining and/or informative?
7. Is it designed to encourage viral distribution?
8. Can it thrive on multiple platforms?
9. Does the production match the medium?
10.Is the r.o.i. a significant multiple of production?
Pardon me, your strategy is showing. How often have you seen advertisers make their strategy statement their advertising? There’s a big difference between the two. Strategy is the message you want to deliver. Advertising is the way you deliver it. Your advertising should be emotional and engaging, not literal and logical. So look at your strategy statement and your advertising message. If they’re the same, you’re in trouble.
Someone once told us, “They hired a housepainter, don’t be an architect.” Don’t make the task more complicated than it is. You can’t sell someone something people don’t want or don’t understand. Meet the task brilliantly. But never turn the task into something it isn’t.
Web Democracy: “Welcome To My Garage!” Great ideas come from anyplace. Where’s the next YouTube, Facebook or Twitter? Be on the lookout. If you’re going to be an old dog and not learn new tricks, then time and the marketplace will pass you by. You can put up walls and say, “I don’t want to be bothered,” or you can lower a drawbridge over your moat and invite people in. Have a “market day.” Pick one day a week when you and your team share and jam on totally new ideas and new media. You never know what will walk in. Be ready to be surprised. Be ready to adopt and adapt those wonderful surprises to your original efforts.
The many faces of you: time of day, different situations, different connections. Speak to your customers at their convenience, not yours. Different dayparts and different consumer experiences call for different interfaces, intercepts and engagements. Make sure you’re reaching your customers at the right time and right place with the right message. Show them you get it, and care about them. In turn, they’ll show you they care about you.
Be the Guerilla My Dreams. Be totally unexpected and delightful. Zig where others expect you to zag. Do the opposite of the usual – call it the un-usual and make it stand out from the crowd. Intercept your customers in their lives in ways that will make them smile, appreciate the gesture and cherish your brand.
Strategic irrelevance: Don’t fall in love with execution that has no motivation. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing things a certain way simply because you’ve always done it that way. Or you let your design team talk you into an expensive design treatment that won’t do anything to build brand awareness or enhance the product experience. It’s “design for design’s sake” and there’s a place for that – but only if it’s part of your overall brand strategy. Otherwise, don’t get sucked in. Beware the bright, shiny objects.
Mind your own business by minding someone else’s business. Fall in love with what other companies do well – then do it great, your way. Just because they’re bigger than you doesn’t mean they’re smarter. In fact, they’ve done a lot of your thinking for you. Take a look at their “best practices” and start making them your own.
Don’t get digitally drunk. Just because you come across the latest social or digital medium doesn’t mean you should do it. Be cautious as well as current. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A lot of digital and social media isn’t right for many companies or brands. Your skill (and job) as a marketer is to make the determination as to which media vehicles are worth your time and effort and which will best engage your customers through those platforms. Don’t get on the bandwagon just because a medium is the latest fad. Get on your “brand wagon” and draw customers to you.
Have you tried a 30-minute infomercial lately? It’s a great medium for the right product or service. You’re not the only one watching at 2 AM. Remember those billboards you’ve seen on the highway. The ones without an ad and the owner of the billboard puts up a sign saying “You’re not the only person reading this,” or “See, billboards work” or some other similar message? A 30 minute infomercial is a great exercise for demonstrating your product or service. Even if you intuitively believe your company wouldn’t be able or want to do and infomercial, you should script one anyway – it will lead you to the core selling message that can enhance all your marketing efforts. What’s the message? What’s the best way to say it? What’s the ideal way to say the message over and over again?
Try managing by Post-It Notes. Keep the message short, simple and focused.
You gotta have friends. Read the blogs that talk about your company. Got friends? Encourage them. Got enemies? Politely engage them. Don’t argue with them, just start by agreeing with them — join the resistance — and then go on to state your case. You’ll start to win over the “opposed” and sway the “undecideds.” Never threaten or bribe – you’ll just inflame your critics and give them more fuel to hate you.
The Biz of Buzz: nothing’s more powerful than what customers tell other customers. Do you have any idea what your customers are saying about your product or service? Start by checking the blogs. Google your company’s name with the words “blog [name of company]” and see how many hits you get. Spend some time reviewing the top ranked hits. Then go to those blogs and see what they’re saying about you. Once you know, fix what they’re telling you is broken.
Your customer has a life. She’s not waiting around for your message. Find her where she lives and engage her there. And not just where she resides, but where she lives: at work. At play. Shopping. Leisure activities. There are a thousand new out-of-home and digital media alternatives these days. Find the ones that reach your audience and start using them. Be there…where she is.
Nobody watches cable television any more. We watch television. Are you making distinctions in your industry that your customers don’t care about? Take a look at your business through the eyes of your customers: review your marketing materials, your literature, your sales techniques…every aspect of your business. Then remove any “insider speak” that’s slowing down your key sales and customer benefit message(s).
We attended the AAF National Convention last week in Orlando, FL, speaking and moderating a panel entitled “What’s Your Big Idea?” Ari Merkin, Exec Creative Director of Crispin Porter+Bogusky was on the panel and had a simple slide that said, “Creativity Can Solve Anything.” What a wonderful mantra. His belief in the power of creativity is absolute and unwaivering – and it’s a lesson for all of us. If you believe in the power of creativity, you’ll ALWAYS come up with an outstanding solution. So the next time you’re stuck on a seemingly intractable problem, remember Ari’s words – and you’ll be surprised at the solution you’ll come up with!
Take a lesson from Tiffany’s: Don’t ignore the packaging. Everyone knows what that robin’s egg blue box means. It is luxury under the lid, beauty in a box. Can you say that about your own products? What distinctive characteristics does your brand offer that screams uniqueness and desirability? What’s in a name? A logo? A package? A slogan? A jingle? A color? You get the picture. Own something distinctive and compelling for your brand. It will get you wonderful marketing mileage well beyond your budget.
Your name here. Your brand here. If your brand or brand name is interchangeable with a competitor in your marketing communication, something is wrong. It’s either time to change your name or challenge what you have to say. If anyone else can say what you do, what is going to differentiate you and make your brand meaningful and distinctive to your customers? Generic sell – even in an engaging piece of commercial advertising – will sell your competition or nothing at all.
The Idea is God – Media Are Agnostic. Media are just the way you put your message and your Big Idea in front of your desired audience. Once you’ve got your Big Idea, it will inspire you by its very nature what media to use to engage your audience. So stop fretting about “social media,” “new media,” “digital media” and all the other alternatives. Just keep your eye on the prize: The Big Idea…not the new shiny media object. Once you’ve got the idea, the rest of your job becomes much easier. But if you haven’t got a Big Idea…if all you’ve got are a lot of clever platitudes and promises…then you’re going to flounder and fail when it comes to whatever medium you choose.
Custom-me-ation. Ask BMW Mini. According to their president, over half of the 250,000 Minis sold to date have been customized by their owners. If you go to Mini’s Website you can pick your model, pick your color and then go crazy with custom paint (“flag on my roof? Sure!”), custom wheels, custom mirrors, custom lights – just about every feature imaginable. And all of it goes straight to Mini’s bottom line. Or take Converse. You can go to their Website and load any picture you want onto the neutral “canvas” of their Chuck Taylor hightops. Again, for an extra price. So take a look at what you have to offer…and start figuring out how you can offer your customers what THEY want, not what YOU want to sell them..and you’ll sell them more and make more.
Honesty is the best policy. Really and truly. It’s never the crime, it’s the coverup. You can make a mistake or do something the public doesn’t approve of – and there’s an excellent chance they’ll forgive you (“It’s much easier to ask forgiveness than beg permission”). But if you try to bluff your way out…if you lie and try to cover up…you’ll always be found out and you’ll tarnish the reputation you worked so hard to build. Ask Tiger Woods. Ask Toyota. In fact, it’s easy to think of people or brands that tried to keep lying; it’s much harder to remember the names of the people and brands that came clean quickly and throroughly. So stop trying to be clever, cute or deceitful. It just doesn’t work.
Who are you to your customers? Do you bring excitement, energy and anticipation to your selling message? Unless you’re a funeral home, you should be thinking “Just Do It” as a role model. Pump up the volume and pump up the energy. Get excited about your marketing and your message and your customers will, too.
The old media plan isn’t going to cut it anymore. Two years ago we were on the road with our most popular talk, “Branding 2.Oh! Blogging, Vlogging & Slogging Your Way Through The New Marketing Jungle.” Marketers all wanted to know about the “new media” and what was going on in the digital sphere. Now our most requested talk is “Integrated Marketing.” Major marketers drank the Kool Aid and accept the new media as a given. Their job now is to figure out how to integrate it with the traditional media buy. The answer? Blow it all up and start with a fresh, blank sheet of paper. It’s all part of the whole – and you’ve got to embrace it.
Customer engagement is like a successful marriage: You’ve got to be willing to build a great relationship. Customers aren’t going to just sit back and wait for your message anymore. They’re active – and actively engaged – in your entire marketing effort. You’ve got to take a pro-active approach to dealing with, working with, relating to, encouraging, talking to and connecting with your customers. That’s the new world that’s out there and there are no shortcuts. You’re not going to be able to just run some ads and expect your customers to “stay loyal.” So do the kind of work you would do to keep a marriage healthy. Connect. In every sense of the word.
We used to give lip service to the idea of “The customer is always right,” and then we went about our business like the customer was always an imposition. Marketing 2.0 (and now 3.0) has truly empowered customers in ways we never imagined. If you’re not prepared to totally embrace the idea that your customers are now part of your marketing plan and have a voice in your marketing message, then you’re heading for marketing oblivion. It’s time to embrace the (sometimes uncomfortable) idea that not only is the customer always right, the customers also always has a voice.
See the experience through their eyes. We have a friend who owns an advertising agency. Every year or so he calls his company as if he’s a total stranger looking to give his company new business. The first time he tried it he spent 20 minutes stuck in his phone tree, being transferred to different offices. He learned a lot from the pain of his experience. Now every facet of his business reflects his learning. Responsive customer connection is reflected on on his web site, in his phone tree and every employee knows exactly what to do with a new business call. Whatever your business, experience it like a customer. How are you treated? What’s good and great? What can be improved? Now go out and make it better!
Want to improve your writing? Don’t speak for a day. Some societies even have a cultural term for this. It’s called a “word fast.” The trick is to take a notebook and pen and then only communicate by writing. Or texting. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t speak to people. Only communicate with them by writing. At the end of the day you’ll find your writing has become more precise, clearer and more action oriented. Now bring those attributes back into your daily writing.
Many creative people take the attitude, “get out of my way and just let me create.” It’s a path to unfocused, unsatisfying work…that will lead to many revisions. A tightly defined strategy is not confining, it’s liberating. When you create to a clear direction, the sky’s the limit to brilliant solutions. If you want to be a great (not just good) creative person, don’t start any assignment without a clear strategy.
Too many people manage blindly. They may know what they’re doing and demanding, but no one else does. It’s all highly subjective and changeable day by day. If you want to be a great manager, for any given project always make your objective clear. You’ll find people are much happier working for you and will be much more efficient and successful in meeting your stated goals.
A simple way to test your pop culture IQ is to review the 25 most interesting people published in People magazine every year. In the age of social media, you’ll want to know who’s the center of the social swirl, too. So score yourself on who you know and look to increase your score every year. You’ll find, as in many things, the more you know, the more you know.
Great lesson from Ed McCabe – one of the greatest copywriters in advertising history. Instead of just finding a competitive advantage, McCabe would look for the biggest point of resistance. He would look for the people who were least likely to ever try or use the product – and talk to them. His thinking was that if you could convince the biggest resistors, you could easily win the hearts and minds of the undecideds. Try it. Focus your next message on the biggest resistance people have to your product or service.
Have you noticed your production timelines lately — how the approval time built into the schedule is five or ten times longer than the time you’ve allotted to do the actual work? If that’s true, you’ve got a breakdown in your processes. It means people don’t trust each other in the approval chain. You need to reexamine how work is created, assignments are defined, strategies are developed and approvals are given. In the ideal flow, you should have at least as much time to create the work as you do to get it approved.
Spec is ugly. It’s an insult to both the person who asks for it and the person who delivers it. If you ask for spec, you’re really looking to pick someone’s brain for free. How insulting to the people you want to do business with. If you say you’re willing to do spec, you devalue your own services. We were in a new business pitch with one of our partners who settled the spec question for us once and for all. When we told them our price, the prospective client said, “Well, I had a team in here last week and they showed us three ideas for nothing.” At which point our partner got up, looked at the client and said, “I sure hope you got your money’s worth” and walked out of the meeting.
When was the last time you served up pizza and soda (or beer) for your team? It’s an important cultural signal that says, “we’re all in this together.” Food is a great motivator. It’s an important management tool and should be served up fairly regularly.
It’s amazing how many marketers and creative types think research is a painful necessity. Those are the people who tend to use research to double-check or justify what they’ve done instead of welcoming research to uncover new ideas. Great researchers can help you uncover new ideas and new possibilities. And the best way is to make researchers part of your development team. Find a good one. Make friends with them. Tell them what your business situation is and let them give you suggestions as to what kind of research you should be doing. It will transform the way you do business.
Everyone wants “integrated marketing.” We hear a lot of ad agencies pitching clients based on their “integrated marketing” prowess and credentials. But the best-integrated marketer we’ve met in the past few months is a printer in Daytona, FL. That’s right, a printer! DME started as a direct mail shop. Today they have a full-service film and video center where they can create and uplink corporate videos, v-casts and a vast range of digital messages, Web sites and, of course, “good old-fashioned” direct mail to their customers’ databases. They manage the databases, they constantly mine the data, they customize and integrate all the messages… No surprise, they’re a growing, dynamic business with a real future. Are you an integrated marketing player? Or, do you just claim you are?
Memories of David Carradine: We once read an interview that had a photo of him on the set directing one of his movies. On the side of his camera was a handwritten sign, “Share The Glory.” The article made no reference to the sign, but its meaning was clear: Carradine understood that filmmaking (like real business) is a complex, collaborative process. He knew his success depended on dozens of other people…and sharing that success was the key to good, strong working relationships. Who have you acknowledged lately as indispensable to your accomplishments?
Got a co-worker with A.D.D. or a distracted multitasker in your life? One subtle way to manage them is to use five minute time increments. It’s a universal belief that “2:55” is a lot earlier than “five to 3.” Almost an hour earlier! So when one of us wants to make sure the other one isn’t late, we tell him the meeting’s set. For 2:55pm. Works every time. What management tricks on troops do you use to best manage those people?
Why is it that when somebody yawns you tend to yawn too. Nobody seems to really know but everyone tends to agree that yawning is contagious. Actually, it feels kind of good. It’s an outlet. And apparently, one of the reasons for the social breakout of yawns is the power of suggestion: We mimic another’s behavior. We’re not bored or sleepy, we’re just stretching our mouths and our minds and taking in a lot of air. So breathe deep and carry on. Fellow yawners unite. Who have you celebrated recently in a yawnfest?
What would you rather own—a pre-owned car or a used car? Up until the past ten years you couldn’t buy a pre-owned car…you could only buy a used car. Semantics to the rescue. “Used” feels dirty, old, worthless. “Pre-owned” suggests a relationship, a passing on of something of value. What have you passed on that was pre-owned and valuable? What will you?
Time and again we see people who were abysmal failures at their job but continued to get similar or better jobs not because of their success or failure but because they had experience at that level. Don’t believe us? Take a look at coaching jobs in professional sports. Up until recently owners have consistently recycled head coaches over successful assistants. Do you give people in the organization the opportunity to succeed up? Or do you just go with the usual suspects? If you do, it”s a recipe for failure!
Nobody likes a complainer. Besides, complaining doesn’t really get you anywhere. What you’re doing is fretting, or as a friend of ours once observed, “worrying is wishing for something you don’t want.” Stop complaining. Stop fretting. Stop whining and start solving. One of us is an unbridled optimist. The other is Eeyore personified. But we’re unified in our shared vision that what matters is solution. What have you whined about today that you could have solved instead?
In tough times we need to make tough choices. But as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, so aptly observed, “never let a good recession go to waste.” It’s an opportunity for us to be a little more thoughtful, a bit more responsive and a lot more responsible. The marketplace is going to tell you in no uncertain terms where you’ve got to fine-tune your deliverables. Don’t waste the opportunity. What concessions are you making to be just a little bit better and more indispensable in this current recession?
In our callow, ignorant youth, one of us once went to a relative who was a podiatrist to have some work done. We thought we would get a mole removed and save a little money. Old Great-Uncle (Name Withheld) was at the twilight of his career. Sadly, ten minutes into the procedure, we formulated a lifelong rule: Never hire someone you can’t fire. Our thanks to that uncle for teaching us a lesson that has returned countless dividends over the years. Is there any one in your life you made the mistake of hiring…who you couldn’t fire?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” he talks about the perfect storm of situation, opportunity and practice. For many of us, the situation of birth, culture or profession doesn’t fit the perfect storm for success. So what? Never let circumstance stand in the way of being your best and achieving great things. What have you observed in your life or made happen that can propel you to being someone special?
There’s a lot of hoopla these days about virtual worlds. Second Life has a plethora of real-life advertisers. And yet every time we ask who’s in Second Life, we find a smaller and smaller response. And we smilingly tell them, “that’s because you’re all too busy in their first life.” But, kids are in Second Lives—they’re called Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others. They have the time and they have the interest. Virtual worlds will prosper…and, we will all be in them, some day. So, don’t you think it’s time you got yourself a second life…or, at least a working knowledge of one?
Over the years there’s been a great deal written about the personal characteristics of people based on their birth order—oldest, middle, youngest, etc. Where are you in your family pecking order and what characteristics do you fulfill? Owning those talents can be empowering. Extending those talents to the characteristics of other members of the family can fulfill you even more. Are you still competing with your siblings—or giving them a helping hand?
We once read an interview with David Carradine that had a photo of him on the set directing one of his movies. On the side of his camera was a handwritten reminder, “Share The Glory.” The article made no reference to the note, but its meaning was clear: Carradine understood that filmmaking (like real business) is a complex, collaborative process. He knew his success depended on dozens of other people…and sharing that success was the key to good, strong working relationships. Who have you acknowledged lately as indispensable to your accomplishments?
We have a friend who celebrates two holidays each year—neither of them is Christmas: Groundhog Day and Talk Like A Pirate Day. At Christmas we get cards and gifts from all kinds of people. Many tend to get lost in the shuffle. How many cards and gifts do you get on Groundhog Day or Talk Like A Pirate Day? This Groundhog Day we got a box containing a beautiful plush Groundhog, clever Groundhog greeting card and lots of edible goodies. Our friend’s gesture is unique, stands out and always makes us smile. We buzz about Todd and his Animus Rex team all the time. What do you do to own your own holiday or surprise and delight your customers?
MENTORS\nMentors should be forever…not just in the early days of school or career. Both of us have been blessed with great mentors in our careers. Brilliant businessmen and women who were willing and committed to share their knowledge and insights with us. To this day, we still mentor each other. From time to time, one of us will say something a mentor taught us and it will be news to the other! An active mentor network is refreshing, revealing and inspiring. So the question is: are you part of the mentoring network today? And who have you mentored lately?\n
There’s a fundamental problem with one size fits all. It never does. Because any brand that claims that it fits everyone clearly fits no one. The brands we choose are an expression of who we are–our lifestyle, value, preferences. If a marketer is so vain as to claim that their brand is for every person, then most people will reject the brand as not for them. What brands do you reject because of their ubiquity? How do you make your brand most meaningful by embracing specific audiences?
People tend to wear icons and images of the brands they love. The mighty Nike brand took a downturn in the 1990’s at about the same time that millions of youths saw President Clinton wearing the swoosh on his cap. The brand seemed a little less cool and a lot less youth ownable on the head of a baby boomer authority figure. More recently the pervasive Yankee cap on the head of Bernie Madoff has got to have New York’s team somewhat apoplectic. Brand icons are precious. But, they are also vulnerable. If your brand has achieved cult status, don’t you think it’s time to avail yourself of a PR team that can handle likely negative brand fall out?
Robert Heinlein, in his science fiction classic “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” had an acronym expression “Tanstaafl” which stood for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” The expression goes back to the days when saloons in New York City would advertise “Free Lunch” on chalkboards outside their establishments. Of course, the price of the beer had the cost of the food built into it. The Bernie Madoff meltdown demonstrates, once again, how true that expression is and how willing people are to ignore it. Nobody asked hard questions when the deal looked good. What “too good to be true deal” are you wisely avoiding these days?
We all love a good deal, but good deals come in different semantic packages. Which is the better buy something on sale or something on clearance? We intuitively believe that the clearance item is cheaper than the same item on sale. But we’re likely to have better (or more up-to-date) inventory from items on sale relative to items on clearance. How you characterize value communicates more than just the surface meaning to the purchaser. As you think about your worth in today’s tight marketplace, are you making yourself available for sale or are you offering potential customers a clearance?
One of us recently renovated his kitchen. Got all new, fancy brushed-steel appliances. No sooner was the kitchen in and everything tested than the dishwasher wouldn’t work. It required a visit from the manufacturer to discover that the computer (who ever thought that a dishwasher needed a computer?) needed to be reset following a thunderstorm. If the bells and whistles of all our new technology are going to be so much more complicated, the rules of the road should dictate that the instructions should be clear, easy and complete. Keep It Simple, Stupid is an old idea made more urgent today. Do you provide complete content and direction in your communication, work or other output?
One of us is A.D.D. The other is, too. And that’s a good thing. More and more business people in recent years have stated that their being A.D.D. has been a major plus in business. In the news recently was a report that an extraordinarily high percentage of entrepreneurs and small business owners are dyslexic. To the tune of 35%! Apparently the coping skills dyslexics use are the ideal skills to succeed as a business owner. Who knew? What compensatory skills do you have that have become a major asset in your career?
Both of us have worked in the entertainment business and have encountered numerous celebrities. From the earliest days it was easy to get starry-eyed. But just as quickly the realization set in that celebrities are at their best for their celebrity. Other than that, they’re mere mortals just like the rest of us. And in many cases far worse in other facets of their personality and behavior. What do you do best that could elevate your celebrity status?
It’s a question that can be an instant Rorschach test into a person’s secret desires. Both of us wanted to be garbage collectors…for different reasons. Paul, whose father was an art director used to see the amazing art supplies his father threw in the trash and wanted to be a garbage collector so he could collect pencil nubs, scraps of all kinds of paper and colored markers. Steve wanted to be a garbage collector because he thought they only worked one day a week. It was five years before he found out they went to other neighborhoods on the other six days. What did you want to be…and why? Do you have some of that wonder, joy and childhood ambition in what you do today?
No one ever got fired over pizza. We’ve never heard of a situation where someone was handed a slice of pizza and underneath it was a pink slip. Whether it’s a breakfast new business pitch, a client contact lunch or a table full of pizzas for the troops, food is an important social signal in our business life. It says “we like you,” “we care about you,” “we want to spend social time with you.” All the important child rearing books say that a shared family meal every day is one of the most important factors in keeping communication lines open and keeping your kids out of trouble. True for clients and customers as well. Who did you break bread with this week?
\r\nThe beauty of being a predictor of the future is that you”ve been paid and you”re gone before anyone can prove you were wrong. Everyone loves to hear about their future, fortunetellers, weather forecasters and futurists have known and profited from this fact for centuries. The truth is…no one has a clue. (“Life”s like a movie, write your own ending.”) The best we can do is take history and the present and project the way things might turn our a few days or years down the road. But when it comes to business, don”t believe us? Well, when was the last time you ever read a business plan that included a recession…?
\r\n\r\nHow do you achieve success? One of the keys is access. Getting to the right people at the right time with the right idea is 90% of success. Knowing what to do when you”ve got the access is the other 10%. Success without access is simply self-satisfaction. Which may not be a bad thing if you”re planning to be a monk and enjoy talking to yourself. If you think about your successes in life, notice how many of them required access to someone or something that other people didn”t have. When was the last time you focused on access as a means to achieving greater success?
Hey, Urker! Why don’t we take this crawly, alien-looking creature with slimy insides, boil it in a pot of water and eat it?√¢‚Ç¨¬ù Yuck. There√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s an extraordinary array of foods, ideas, clothes, attitudes and beliefs that we take for granted that required an extraordinary leap of faith 100, 500 or 5,000 years ago. How many humans had to die before all the safe mushrooms got identified? Who ever thought to take the hair from a goat√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s testicles and weave it into cloth? What brilliant idea are you missing right now because it√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s hidden in (not so plain) sight?
\r\n\r\nThere comes a moment in all our lives when we have The Giant Duh! The moment when we demonstrate our overwhelming stupidity, or is it ignorance or innocence? The moment when it occurs to us that everyone around us understood something that has eluded us for the moment or all along. What makes it a “duh!” is that it”s never cataclysmic and it”s always reassuring, cleansing, amusing and a little bit humbling when we finally get it. What was your last Giant Duh!?
√Ç¬†\r\n\r\nWe all admire the well-turned speech; the easy, comfortable presentation. The best speakers, especially the ones who appear to be talking off the cuff, script their presentation. Every pause. Every joke. Every aside. A friend of ours once remarked √¢‚Ç¨≈ìit took me 55 years to become an overnight success.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù It√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s like the old Picasso joke: He scribbles a drawing for a tourist who asked him √¢‚Ç¨≈ìhow much is it?√¢‚Ç¨¬ù √¢‚Ç¨≈ì$50,000,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù he responded. √¢‚Ç¨≈ìBut it took you less than a minute.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù √¢‚Ç¨≈ìNo it didn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù Picasso replied. √¢‚Ç¨≈ìIt took me 60 years.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù Are you making what you do look too easy?√Ç¬†
√Ç¬†√Ç¬† Humor is a great icebreaker. We√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve all been to those first encounters√¢‚Ç¨‚Äùmeetings, blind dates, first day of school, new job, new neighbors√¢‚Ç¨‚Äùthat are inherently awkward. Time and again we√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve seen that the humorous observation or right joke in the right situation can completely change and positively charge the situation. Conversation flows more easily. The relationship develops more naturally. But just like stand-up comedy, timing is everything. What were the funniest topics you use to break the ice?
√Ç¬†If money knew who owned it, Mother Teresa would have been rich and all the rest of us good people would be a lot richer than we are. Money isn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t a way of keeping score. It isn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t your mother or your father. It isn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t a validation of your existence. It√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a tool. And it√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s payment for services rendered. If you think you√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re not getting paid what you√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re worth, raise your rates. The marketplace will give you an answer every time. Do you even know what the market thinks you√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re worth? If you don√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t know the answer, when was the last time you raised your rates?
√Ç¬†We learned a very interesting lesson years ago. We√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re both lovers of music and film and we started writing popular art criticism. It was challenging and empowering. But it took the fun out of the forms. If you know you√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve got to formally criticize something you love, you can√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t attend to it with the same open receptivity. You√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re looking for something to be wrong, something that will make you so damned smart people will admire your angst and acumen. The late Charlie Roth, editor of the Jewish Post once said to us: √¢‚Ç¨≈ìI used to think the opposite of joy was sorrow. Then I realized the opposite of joy is significance. The minute someone told me that what I was doing was significant, it seemed to take all the fun out of it.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù Music and movies are to be enjoyed. You√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve got hobbies you love, too. Nurture what you love. Go at your hobbies and interests with gusto. Let business be business and hobbies be the reprieve and reprise from the daily grind. What do you do for fun?√Ç¬† And, how passionately and non-critically do you enjoy it?
\r\n\r\nWe were listening to an inspirational audio CD from Dan Kennedy called “Confidence, Power, Dollars & Wealth” a recording of a training conference he runs for professionals such as dentists, chiropractors, doctors, etc. He made one point that seemed to leap out of the speakers at us when he said (in effect), “quality isn”t a sales hook.” His point was simple: people can never know how good your product or service is until they”ve taken it home and used it. Until then, no matter how good you are, you”re no better than even your worst competitor. In a nutshell, Kennedy explained why businesses need marketers and advertisers, and most of all a marketing plan. Because the real job of marketing is to get your customers to believe how good you are before they buy you, so they”ll buy you. How do you make your customers believe? What”s your sales hook?
\r\n\r\nThe late Broadway composer and TV star Albert Hague once said, √¢‚Ç¨≈ìin poker, you can√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t bluff someone who isn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t paying attention.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù In business, our partner, Norman Siegel, likes to believe that every negative thing that happens to him is the result of maliciousness. We always tell him, √¢‚Ç¨≈ìNorman, never confuse malevolence with stupidity.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù 99% of the negative stuff that happens to us in business is the result of negligence and stupidity. The architect Walter Gropius used to say √¢‚Ç¨≈ìGod is in the details.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù He was right. It√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s not enough to come up with the great idea√¢‚Ç¨‚Äùyou√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve got to be willing to sweat