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Archive for May, 2008

Excellent post on Business Pundit earlier this month:

Grossing over $150,000,000 in its first two weekends at the box office, “Iron Man” has come out of the gates as one of the top blockbusters of the year. If you haven’t seen it – believe the hype. Bar none it is the best ‘hero’ movie I’ve seen.

Aside from being wildly entertaining, Iron Man serves up a number of lessons that can be carried over to business.

Lesson 1 – Diversify Or Die

Robert Downey Jr., or “Iron Man” in the movie, saw the writing on the wall. While his seemingly flawless company was an industry leader and the best weapons company in the world, it was built on a business model that was fundamentally unsustainable.

Long-lasting businesses function in good and bad economic environments. They morph over time to maintain profitability, growth and viability. Most importantly, they align strategically with the vision of those running it.

If your business is faltering, ask yourself: “What can I do differently”? Know what your core competencies are, find hidden avenues to leverage these competencies, and don’t be afraid of an evolving vision.

Lesson 2 – Build Your Company With People You Can Trust

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about business, and a good lesson from the movie, is that you have to trust the people you are working with. Businesses are built by people – so if you can’t whole-heartedly trust and understand the motivations of those around you, there’s a problem. Look at the key employees in your business. Are they the best individuals to build your company?

Lesson 3 – Build Something That The World Has Never Seen

Cooker-cutter products serve a place in business. However, it is the game changing ideas that lead to industry dominance and sustainable competitive advantage. You obviously don’t need to build a flying iron man machine to achieve unwavering success, but you should be solving an aching problem in your industry. Are your products/services game changing?

Lesson 4 – Know Your Motivations

A lot of people in business, entrepreneurs especially, have disjointed priorities. They are in it for the power, the money, the glamor. Unfortunately, these motivations don’t deliver happiness or strong companies.

Do some soul searching and find out what your life’s work should be. Does it match up with what you’re doing? If not, it’s probably time to change your focus.

If you are looking for some good business lessons or just wanting to kill a couple of hours watching an entertaining movie – check out ‘Iron Man’. It might just change how you think about your business.

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In a nutshell.

Hat tip to Francois Gossieaux, who grabbed the baton from Digital Demystified.


Update: Spike over at Brains on Fire just pointed out that the original source is Marty Neumeier’s ZAG.

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From Tim Coote‘s always brilliant and enjoyable blog:

“When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them — And nobody ever takes note of it ‘cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this — But I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?”, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.”

-Steve Martin.

All of the strategies and marketing angles will be trumped by this one piece of advice everytime – “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. If you’re catching balls in the end zone week after week or motivating people to do their best and it works week after week you will be noticed. People want to notice you because it’s why the world spins. It’s why people are able to get out of bed and go to work. Aspiring to greatness is the honey in the lion.

Damn, Tim. Well put.

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You can always count on Hugh to put it all in a nutshell.

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A post dear to my heart from Go Big:

Reminds me of this one.

Every time I hear someone use the term “viral marketing,” I cringe. I know it seems like just a word, but I think it’s a concept that misses the mark and perpetuates some half-baked thinking.

I hated the word “viral” the very first time I heard it in the mid 1990s, probably because it made Marketing sound like we were spreading a disease other people had no choice but to spread, too. At the time, the whole “viral marketing” thing got people excited because it used the Internet to cheaply spread crap like Burger King videos or Hotmail invitations. Dance monkeys, dance.

Now that we’ve all been bombarded on the internet, the notion of something being viral is no more special than any other idea or phrase that catches on. That’s just part of Marketing’s job. For over a decade now, Advertising Agencies all over the country have some sort of “Viral Marketing” as part of their plan to try to get us to ask their version of the Subservient Chicken to do something obscene and then laugh about it. We all get a bajillion invitations to try products and there’s an asston of bite-sized digital entertainment gimmicks you can sneeze all over your friends. No question, you can get the word out quickly but spreading your message is a small part of the picture.

I remember sitting in a Jive meeting when someone mentioned viral marketing and then in the very next meeting engineers were talking about the importance of product adoption. The word “adoption” struck me. Why is spreading Marketing a disease but spreading product usage like bringing in a stray dog? Shouldn’t we be pushing for Adoptive Marketing? Marketing that people want, that leads to products people want? Viral Marketing is merely the quick transaction of ideas. But if no connection is made to the product, the Marketing can (at best) only make an ephemeral nick in brand perception. Adoptive Marketing can be just as “viral” but is so closely connected to the product that if the idea catches on, so does the product. In fact, the product is built to be remarkable and to be the primary Marketing engine. For people to spread Adoptive Marketing it means that within the product and the Marketing they:

- Discover recurring personal significance
- Control their own participation
- Believe it improves their situation

People adopt things they have an emotional connection to. They like it and/or it helps them. Adoptive Marketing is dependent on the product. Ask any Marketer who has the best Marketing and the first company they think of is Apple. But Apple’s ads only work because their product and retail experience backs up the Marketing. Apple practices Adoptive Marketing. The Marketing is the product. The product is the Marketing. You want to talk about the iPhone. You want to use the iPhone. You want to watch the Ads. It’s a social object. You care. You choose. It improves your situation. It’s feels unique, even if it’s not. When you’re successful with Adoptive Marketing you’ve earned the right to be an Organic Meme. Screw being viral.

The problem is most products suck. If your baby’s ugly, go market something you believe in. Or it’s time to sit down with the product and service group and have a heart-to-heart. Yes, I’m sure it’s not that easy but we can’t fix it for you. Perhaps you can think around your product to create a social-cause initiative that makes people love your ice cream, batteries or dryer sheets. No amount of dancing babies or viral videos will cover up the fact your product is boring.

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From Change This:


John Spence: “There is no single strategy that will carry your company forever—just ask my buddy Tom Peters, who wrote the fantastic book In Search of Excellence back in 1982, only to watch more than half of the companies he highlighted go out of business! Markets shift, consumer preferences change, new competitors appear, technology advances—and so must you. Even though I can recommend which of today’s popular strategies I believe deserve your attention, there is no guarantee that these same strategies will still be as relevant in 20 years. I think they will, but no one can see that far ahead.

With all of that said, [these] are the six strategies on which all the great companies I studied were relentlessly focused.”

Go here and learn something.

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Je me souviens.


From Wikipedia:


Memorial Day is a United States Federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (in 2008 on May 26). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action.

This photo is of an American cemetery in northern France. Without the courage of young American men, I would have been born in a German-speaking France. Or not at all.

For me at least, Memorial Day is about much more than cookouts.

Thank you to all who serve.

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Happy Birthday Gustav!


Celebrity Birthdays Today: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Ian Mc Kellen, Jessi Colter, Anne Heche, Lauryn Hill, Mike Meyers, and… Evan Tishuk (a.k.a. Gustav)!!!

Happy Birthday, orange coat‘s creative & technical honcho!

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The LucasFilm logo appearing on the big screen at the start of a movie used to mean I was about to spend the next 90-120 minutes in awe.

And I have to admit that for about ten seconds today, when those familiar green letters showed up, big as a house, I felt the same excitement swell in my chest that I used to feel back when I was ten.

Sadly, my emotional response to the LucasFilm logo spans far enough across the ages to allow me to forget for an instant that George Lucas (who once rocked with Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of The Lost Ark) hasn’t written or directed a decent movie in two decades.

Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s go through the list:

The good:

Star Wars
Game Changer. 100% awesome in every way.
Empire Strikes Back
Actually improved on the original. The quintessential sci-fi adventure movie.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pure genius.

The bad:

Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom
Inflatable raft out of a crashing airplane. The annoying kid from Goonies. Kate Capshaw. Magical rocks? Indian cannibals. Please make it stop.
Return of the Jedi
E-W-O-K-S. (Okay, ROTJ also gave us Yoda, but the ewoks were in it more.)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
Emphasis on “LAST.” Cheesy father-son pathos. Derivative action scenes. Again, emphasis on “LAST.”
Star Wars: Episode 1
Jar-Jar Binks. The race announcers during the pod race. The horrendous CGI. QuiGon was a patronizing moron with zero skills. We all gave him a pass here, expecting Episode 2 to redeem George a bit.
Star Wars: Episode 2
Awful dialogue, terrible CGI, the Jedi are dumb as hell, and the whiny kid that will one day become Darth Vader does not act like a boy/man in love at all, and no one can act.
Star Wars: Episode 3
Star Wars: Episode Crap. Total waste of three movies and everyone’s time.

And now this: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. How about this: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of How Badly George Lucas Needs To Retire? George Lucas’ worst movie to date BY FAR. The saddest part about it (aside from the fact that I wasted 4 tickets and 2 hours of my life watching that gigantic turd) is that Lucas somehow managed to drag Spielberg, Ford, Blanchett, Winstone, Hurt, Broadbent and LeBeouf into this complete disaster of a Hollywood production. I feel bad for them. I really do.

Let me put it as plainly as I can for you: This movie sucks. Absolutely sucks. It is horrible.

Let me break it down:

Concept: FAIL
Script: FAIL
Dialogue: FAIL
Action scenes: FAIL
Characters: FAIL
Excitement: FAIL
Special effects: TOTAL FAIL

I cannot believe such a gigantic pile of crap isn’t getting crucified by the critics. Proof at last that they’re either a collective of morons or that most of them are getting paid by the studios. Don’t believe me? Check out this review from the Pittsburg Post: (It actually made me laugh and puke at the same time.)

“The resurrected franchise has come a long way from its modest B-picture origins, and Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter David Koepp fall victim to that dreaded disease of CGI-itis near the end. “Indiana Jones” has never been about the special effects, and when they commandeer the screen the actors shrink in every way.”

What? Are you on crack? “Modest B-picture origins?” “CGI-tis near the end?” “Indiana Jones has never been about the special effects?”

‘”The Crystal Skull” ups the action ante considerably, with Ford and LaBeouf in a motorcycle chase that’s like a moving three-card monte with car, bike and occasional bus zipping through the streets and onto campus. Everything is bigger and louder, from an extended jungle pursuit to a plunge over the waterfalls that makes Niagara Falls in a barrel look like child’s play.”

Puke. The action scenes were so boring and derivative, even my kids were yawning. And so beyond unbelievable and poorly executed that even for a summer popcorn flick, they’re downright insulting. In comparison, Michael Bay’s Transformers is a friggin’ masterpiece.

I hope the check from the studios was worth throwing your integrity down the drain, Barbara. But hey, you aren’t alone. Let me expose some of your fellow wastes of space:

Jackie Cooper: “The gold standard for summer movie fare.”
Betty Jo Tucker: “From its exciting opening sequence to its clever closing scene, ‘Crystal Skull’ made me grateful to Steven Spielberg for deciding to film another Indy adventure.”
John Beifuss: “The long, go-for-broke opening sequence in the Nevada desert is a triumph that announces that Spielberg and Indiana Jones are not just an explosive combination, they’re positively atomic.”
Richard Knight: “After 19 years, Spielberg and company have unearthed the best treasure of all – another great Indiana Jones movie.”
Chris Farnsworth: “Fortunately, a smart script and great set pieces make this tale of Soviet spies, weird artifacts and a lost city a worthy capstone to the series.”
David Cornelius: “Breathless, popcorn-munching adventure flick perfection.”

I have to stop I can’t handle this anymore.

I can’t believe Spielberg actually directed this horror.

I know that there’s already a petition to get Uwe Boll to stop making movies… Can we PLEASE get one started for George Lucas as well?

I will let Wade Major, from Box Office Magazine close us out today with this honest and accurate comment: “Utterly unnecessary, unbelievably uninspired and preposterous beyond all imagination.”

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Go here and marvel at the simplicity, addictiveness, and value of this little brand-recognition experiment.

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Without endorsing either of the three Presidential candidates in the US, and without suggesting any underhanded shenanigans, let me propose a thought about USA ’08.

It occurred to me last week while having drinks with a dozen or so industry peers – almost all democrats, mind you. The subject of the conversation somehow shifted to politics and the candidates… and I fully expected the group to be happy about Sen. Obama’s advantage over Sen. Clinton. That, however, wasn’t the case: No one at the table endorsed Obama.

Let me put it in another way, which is perhaps more telling: Not one single democrat at the table trusted Obama. Not enough experience, rhetoric not matching his record, the whole crazy church thing. The underlying sentiment basically came down to this: “What do we really know about this guy? Nothing. He came out of nowhere way too fast. We aren’t sure what to expect.”

Call it buyer’s remorse. Call it gut feeling. Call it whatever you will, but everyone’s favorite campaign trail rock star, the guy the press is so quick to attach to Kennedy and MLK… well… maybe he isn’t the superstar we’ve been so eagerly sold as the game-changer/unifier/political superhero America has been craving since Kennedy (or Ronald Reagan, depending what side of the fence you’re on).

But we haven’t gotten to the meat of it yet. The truly eye-opening opinion I hadn’t expected to hear. I’m getting to it. Here it is: Everyone there agreed that if Sen. Obama won the nomination instead of Sen. Clinton, they would not vote for him.

I was kind of shocked since I thought Obama – based on what I gather from mass media – would be a clear favorite.

More surprising yet, most admitted that they would actually switch camps and vote for McCain. These are democrats, mind you. People who are fed up with the Bush administration and ready for a change. People who have ALWAYS voted democrat. (Even Dukakis? Really?) And yet here they are, ready to vote for McCain if Obama beats Clinton in the ’08 donkey race.

I just wonder how many democrats around the US feel the same way. Probably a lot. Or rather, just enough.

I am sure every campaign manager knows exactly how many swing voters they can expect to win or lose, all broken down by demos, geos and verticals. The precise impact of these numbers must also be crystal clear to them.

Boiled down to the basics, the equation is simple:

Obama + McCain = McCain wins.
Clinton + McCain = x

What’s the Republicans’ play? Simple: Make sure Obama gets the nomination. Hillary is the real X-Factor, not Obama. McCain can’t shred her. But Obama can with the whole “new dream”/Kennedy/”let’s join hands” thing. Let him do it before we even get to the big game.

Genius.

Elections are a lot easier to win when you control the entire board, not just your half of it. The Dems are still stuck in primary mode. The Republicans, on the other hand, are already five steps ahead in presidential election mode.

Which makes the whole “Hillary should just quit” movement more than just vaguely suspicious. The pressure isn’t just coming from the Obama camp, and now I think I know why.

For better or for worse, I’m calling November ’08 now: McCain will defeat Obama. No Chad manipulation needed. No voting machine hacks necessary. He will win because his people didn’t leave anything to chance. Because they knew how to control the board from the very start.

The dems (yes, the voters) are getting played something fierce.

“Divide and conquer” and all.

As eloquently explained by Bruce Willis in Lucky Number Slevin, a Kansas City Shuffle is where everyone looks left, when they should really be looking right.

Yep.

They’ll be talking about this one for decades to come.


Photo: Bob Elsdale

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Awesome post from Chris Brogan today:

I believe we’re going to shift back to thinking customer service and community management are the core and not the fringe. I believe we’re going to move our communications practices back in-house for lots of what is currently pushed out to agencies and organizations. I believe that integrity, reputation, skills, and personality are going to trump some of our previous measures of professional ability. I believe the web and our devices will continue to move into tighter friendships, and that we will continue to train our devices to interpret more of the world around us on our behalf.

Read the rest here.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Chris also talks about bringing value-add and core competencies together – which is actually the bandwagon I have been driving hard for the last couple of months with my management team.

Chris mentions that working remotely will become the norm… I’m not so sure we’re quite there yet. Maybe in our lifetimes, but probably not. Too many organizations rely on “sales floors” and “departments.” The old “asses in seats” mentality. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, mind you – each company has its own specific needs – but most companies still don’t have the tools at their disposal to allow their staff to work from home or remote offices. (We’re getting there though, and if any of you have ever taken the information worker of the future demo/tour at Microsoft, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) The tools are here now – will be fluid and 100% user-friendly in less than a decade, and widespread adoption won’t be too far behind.

The issue will never be the technology, it will be the people: Velocity and a sense of expediency/urgency don’t usually go hand in hand with working from home. There is something to be said for having a boss breathing down your neck – literally.

But I digress. Chris’ post rocks, and for the most part, he’s right.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Here’s the best piece of advice I’ve heard/read all month, (perhaps even all year) also from Chris:

Here’s a quick way to really turn around your clients: be helpful.

Duh, sure, but… when was the last time you actually said those two words outloud during a strategy meeting or quarterly business review?

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I try to keep Microsoft Sherpa and The BrandBuilder separate, but this is for a good cause:

So many of you have inquired about our Chengdu office as a result of the earthquake and, as you know, we are very fortunate that all of our employees are safe and uninjured. But we also know and see in news, so many are not.

As a result, we have created the SYNNEX Earthquake Relief Fund (SERF) along with Give2Asia in San Francisco, CA. SYNNEX has launched a webpage on the Give2Asia website so that you, your family and your friends may access at www.give2asia.org/synnex for online donations. SYNNEX will be reviewing a list of projects and organizations that are recognized for their extending recovery help to the survivors of the earthquake in Chengdu and its surrounding areas. There will be much to do to help the families that will have been displaced in the next several months and we want to be certain that the much needed monies are provided directly to those organizations that are there and are recognized as first line providers. Also attached (below) is a brief document called “How to Give” that provides information on all the contribution methods that you and others may use to donate to SERF:

how-to-give_synnex

Thanks. :)

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I’m sitting here watching Rocky Balboa on Showtime, and… I’ll be damned: It’s actually pretty good. What’s really surprising is that Stallone wrote and directed it – and both the writing and the direction are pretty tight. Who knew.

Preconceived notions and all…

Here I was, thinking Sly was all washed out, and then he comes up with this little gem.

I should have known better.

Taking inventory of ALL preconceived notions about everything and everyone, and throwing them out the window in bulk.

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Some sweet, sweet words of wisdom from Advergirl:

What’s the number 1 reason agencies lose accounts? I would argue that it’s complacency. The agency is coasting. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. But after years with a product, it’s easy to get too close to it, to lean on old insights, to produce rather than create.

Taking a strategic approach to every project is fighting the coast.

But, more importantly, it’s getting to do the best at your job – who wants to be a pair of hands when you can be a leader?

* * *

Once you’ve tried out the same Idea three or four times, only to find a big ugly mess at the end, it’s just human nature to kill that Idea out on hand of the fifth go round. But a scrappy little rookie might look at it another way. Sure it didn’t work the other times; so, what can we do differently to make it successful this time?

* * *

We all get into a groove. The creative brief works like this. Client Z will always want this. For retail, we always do this.

The new kid in the room carries none of that history. And asks – preferably in a brief way – why? Or how? Or what about this? Or do we have research on that?

Keep asking those questions. Looking for holes. There’s always more to learn.

‘No’ is the easiest word to say. Finding a way to say ‘yes’ can be the first step to great work.

Clearly one of my new favorite reads.

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From the very awesome Advergirl Blog – hat tip to Dave Armano’s fierce Twittering:

Question: What blogs and books do I read to stay on top of trends?

Well, I should say that ‘staying on top of trends’ is a pretty relative term these days. But, to stay somewhat aware of the cool stuff in my tiny area of addiction/interest, here are my top picks:

Blogs:

  • Adaptive Path
  • Advertising Age – CMO Strategy
  • Andrea Hill
  • B&A
  • Bokardo
  • ChangeThis Newsletter
  • Chief Marketer
  • Church of the Customer
  • Compete
  • Cowshed Productions
  • eBusiness.org
  • Emergence Marketing
  • Groundswell
  • Hill | Holliday
  • Hitwise Intelligence
  • Horse Pig Cow
  • How Advertising Spoiled Me
  • I Believe in Advertising
  • indexed
  • Jeremiah Owyang
  • Jeremiah Owyang
  • Joe Niedecken
  • Kelly Mooney
  • Logic+Emotion
  • Lynetter’s Online Dev Slides
  • Marketing Profs Daily Fix
  • Media Buyer Planner
  • Noah Brier
  • Own Your Identity
  • Paul Isakson
  • Pleasure and Pain
  • SAW a good idea
  • StickyFigure
  • The Brand Builder
  • Todd And
  • Tom Fishburne: Brand Camp
  • Trendwatching
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    The commoditization of everything is turning the US into a 2nd world country.

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    Cab drivers are some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. And some of the most knowledgeable about the places you visit for business or leisure. be super nice to them, chat them up, and get them to tell you a good story. it’ll make your ride to and from the airport a great one, and they probably won’t try to stiff you.

    They’ll also treat you extra nice, which always sets the stage for a great check-in at your hotel or at your airline terminal. Trust me, the doorman at whatever hotel you’re going to will take his cues from how well your cabbie treats you as he drops you off. They have radar for stuff like this.

    It’s fascinating to me how much people open up to you when you engage them with curiosity and enthusiasm. And the upgrades… Wow. The upgrades. Turning on a little charm goes a long way to helping human touchpoints everywhere create a remarkable brand experience for you everywhere you go.

    And wearing big Hollywood sunglasses at all times seems to help, for some strange reason.

    Go figure.

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    Fort Lauderdale, here I come!

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    I was subjected to this horror earlier tonight while signing out out of my yahoo email and couldn’t resist posting about it. Here’smy 90-second rant:

    Hey, FRS: This only works if the superstar athlete is a) still competing, b) 100% not tainted by doping allegations, and c) still a role model to anyone with half a soul.

    Poor choice on all counts.

    Looking forward to the Barry Bonds version of the ad.

    Oh, and Lance… stick to selling Nike,Oakley and Trek. Everything else is off limits to you from now on.

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