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Archive for June, 2008

From Chris Brogan today:

“If projects have five major phases, I like the first two most. I’m just saying. My gratification delay mechanism stinks.”

That one made me laugh. Chris, I can relate.  ;D

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WALL-E is so good, I might have to pay to see it again on the big screen. (That very rarely happens.)

1. The first act of WALL-E is so photo-realistic (down to textures, tight depths of field, camera angles, slightly shaky zooming in and out and shadowing) the only thing that reminded me that I was watching CG effects was the cockroach. What an unbelievable technical achievement. Wow.
2. This is one of the best love stories in cinema history.
3. Somehow, the Pixar team managed to inject more human emotion, depth and life in a character that happens to be a) a complete computer graphics creation b) a robot, c) one without the capacity to speak or deliver any lines than any combination of writer, director and actor in Hollywood or elsewhere.
4. E.V.E. is pretty damn cool too.
5. This film is SOLID.

Even if you don’t like sci-fi, even if you don’t like CGI movies, even if you don’t know what WALL-E is, trust me on this: Grab a friend, your spouse, your kids, your parents – whomever – and go see it. It won’t change your life or anything, but there is no way you won’t fall in love with WALL-E, E.V.E. and even their little pet roach.

On my all time Top 10 as of this weekend.

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From the International Herald Tribune:

PARIS: Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, caught wearing something ugly?

Lagerfeld sports a fluorescent yellow reflective safety vest — along with his signature dark suit and sunglasses — in a new French road safety campaign. The caption reads, “It’s yellow, it’s ugly, it doesn’t go with anything, but it could save your life.”

The campaign was launched Wednesday. French drivers will soon be required to keep security vests and flashing red warning triangles in every car. Drivers will have to use the vest and triangle every time they pull over with an emergency, according to France’s road security division.

Fines of up to €135 ($209) will go into effect Oct. 1 as incentive for drivers to take Lagerfeld’s fashion advice.

This is the kind of advertising that rocks my world. Why? Because it’s clever, funny, impossible to ignore, and memorable.  Ergo: 100% effective. US agencies take note. This is how print advertising is done.

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Incredible post about the power of social media over on loic lemeur’s blog.

Using the very tools that his latest startup is trying to bring to the forefront of social media evolution with Seesmic, Loic talks about how he seredipidously connected with and eventually partnered with Pierre Omidyar (Omidyar Partners) and Eric Archambeau of (Wellington Partners). Watch the video and give some thought to the possibilities in your world: Connecting with potential partners, clients, talent, venture capitalists… The sky is the limit.

Adhering to the “traditional” ways of doing business isn’t bad, but look at what can happen when you step out of your comfort zone and carve your own path.

Fortune rewards the bold.

And the clever.

And the early adopter with a sense of purpose.

Much of your success usually depends on your ability to connect with people that you really should be working with.

If you’re still trying to understand the ROI of creating a blog for your business… you probably need to seriously up your game.

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I have no explanation for it. Last night, it was dead. No pulse. Cold to the touch. Pupils unresponsive. It was 100% D.O.A. I tried to revive it using the most advanced scientific techniques, but nothing worked. I cried all night.

But when I got up this morning, it was alive again.

I don’t understand it. I’m happy about it, but I don’t understand it. It’s just… unnatural.

Let’s hope my ZUNE doesn’t try to bite me in the coming days. That would be bad.

I wonder… do iPods ever come back from the dead as well, or are zunes more prone to zombification?

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Merde!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Brandgroovin’

Photo by Matt A.
If brands start with people, great brands start with great people. Not great in the sense that they are wealthy or successful or influencial (yet), but great in the sense that ego, self-righteousness and self-serving agendas aren’t part of the equation. Instead, these people are devoted to a cause. Infected with an idea. Motivated by success measured in other people’s smiles and excitement and ownership of the things they do for them.Need help getting into that kind of groove? Check out John Moore’s awesome post on Dan Sullivan’s Laws Of Lifetime Growth here. Not super recent, but timely.

I’m serious. Go check it out now. (No, not later, right now.) It’s that good. (Well… it’s really the ten laws that are good, but… same difference.)

What… you’re still here? Tsssk.

Technorati tags: , , , .

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Today’s bit of Marketing, Customer Experience, Design & Product Development advice comes from the archives of Kathy Sierra‘s blog:

“Your job is to anticipate… To give them what they want and/or what they need just before they have to “ask” for it – to be surprising yet self-evident at the same time. If you are too far behind, or too far ahead of them, you create problems, but if you are right with them, leading them ever so slightly, the flow of events feels natural and exciting at the same time.”

- Walter Murch

iPod wasn’t designed by users. It was designed for users. No… wait… it was designed to be loved by users.

If your job deals with customer experience design, (product, web, retail, customer service, touchpoint ideation, advertising, etc.) print either the sentence that came just before this paragraph or Walter Murch’s bit of wisdom, and pin it to your office wall. Either one can (and probably should) become your new mantra.

Technorati Thingamajingies: , , , .

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I know you guys can help me put a name to the concept of usage/time commitment a consumer subconsciously assigns to a product at the time of purchase.

For example: A tube of toothpaste probably requires a 30-day commitment. When you buy that tube of toothpaste, you’re probably going to be committed to using it for a whole month – or until it runs out. Same with a stick of deodorant, a gallon jar of pickles, or a giant can of powdered Gatorade. As a consumer, I am conscious that once I buy this item, I will be stuck with it for a while… so I had better like it. This surely influences my decision to buy a product I won’t get tired of before it runs out.

On the  opposite end of the spectrum, you have the products that require almost zero commitment, like a bag of chips, a gallon of gas, or a cup of Starbucks coffee, where screwing up by buying the wrong thing doesn’t really matter.

If I wanted to gauge the notion of that time commitment at the point of purchase across product categories and brands, what would I call it?

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Stand Out.


Word to the wise: If you don’t stand out in some way, you’re done.

You might be able to exist, you might manage to survive, but that’s all you’ll ever have to look forward to. You can be a one-man show and still be corporate. Don’t do it. Don’t waste your time being just like everyone else. Don’t waste your soul on being average.

Give yourself more credit. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has talents and abilities. Not using them every day even in some small way is such a shame it ought to be a crime. (And it’s bad business to boot.)

Whether you’re a photography studio, a web design firm, a sports magazine, a sportswear company, a triathlon shop or an antique furniture store, you either stand out, or someone who does will come along to wow your audience and steal your business right from under your nose.

Trust me on this: you can’t afford to be average. Even if you’ve based your entire business model on the lowest price-points, on bare-bones bottom-line imports, you have to take your uniqueness as far as humanly possible… and then some.

Yes, even accounting and financial services firms can stand out. Restaurants. Retail outlets. Breweries. Day care centers. Schools. Law offices. Graphic design firms. Janitorial services agencies. Manufacturing plants. It doesn’t matter. Your industry and specialty are irrelevant. Anyone can stand out.

Here’s a tip for you: The best way to stand out in a crowd is simply to stand for something: Producing the most useful online content for your users. Making it easy for your customers to get information on products before they shop. Providing your clients with the best after-sale service in the industry. Brewing the best cup of coffee in the world. Turning boring shopping experiences into something fun and enjoyable. Returning calls faster than anyone else. Being the easiest company your customers have ever had the pleasure to do business with.

Business models are just templates, folks. They’re the framework. Marketing, advertising, branding, PR, all of these things are great, but remember that you can customize your business all on your own too. From packaging to billing to the way you answer the phones. From the grade of toilet paper you stock in your bathrooms to the way you hire new talent. From the corners you will never, ever cut to the crazy ideas you decide to put stock into. From the stand you take on community issues to the tone of the dialogue you foster with your customers. It is all in your hands.

Stand for something. Stand out. Be extraordinary, if only for a year, if only in the eyes of a handful of customers. If only during the course of a single phone call.

Be memorable.

Be worthy of note.

Don’t ever, ever, ever settle for safe or average or just good enough. Not in the big things. Not in the small things.

Know who you are and who you want to be as a person, as a company, as a brand, and just do it.

No one – let me repeat this – no one is standing in your way.

Now go out there and conquer something. (Yes, right now.)

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“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

– William Pollard.

That’s worth framing and hanging in every meeting room from Portland to Tahiti (via Paris).

Also, via Tom Asacker:

“Over time, unchanging relationships can turn into shackles that limit an organization’s flexibility and lock it into active inertia. Established relationships with customers can prevent firms from responding effectively to changes in technology, regulations, or consumer preferences.”

- Donald Sull (Revival of the Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad an How Great Managers Remake Them.)

Do you see where I’m going with this?

So… your new mission every day is to keep things fresh. That’s it. Whether you’re in the business of designing ads, repairing engines, selling shoes or answering calls from angry customers, don’t ever, ever, ever let routine set in. Try different things. Learn something new from every customer. From every sale. From every design challenge. From every product launch. From every commercial you hear on the radio. From every movie you catch on cable. From the games your kids play. From magazines you’ve never picked up.

Keep things fresh.

And go read Tom Asacker’s post on that very topic. It’s very good.

Have a great Monday, everyone.

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“Getting a product known isn’t the answer. Getting it wanted is the answer. …be sure your advertising is saying something, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

- Bill Bernbach

Hello Monday!

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image by ilisu

Something Seth wrote quite a while back that still resonates with me today:


“As soon as they start using the tactics of the other guys, playing the game they play, they become them. As soon as they decide that they can buy (not earn) attention, it all changes.”

Chances are that you’ve forgotten what made your company or services or products so different. So unique. So good.

Chances are that your success has driven you away from those early days, when being different from everyone else, when being better was what it was all about.

Back when taking care of every new customer was like going out on a first date.

Chances are that you’re more focused on aligning your pricing to that of your competitors now than you ever were.

Chances are that you’ve started to copy their every move. You advertise where they advertise. You offer the same services they offer. The closer you get to beating them, the more like them you become.

Chances are that you are slowly becoming a clone of the very people you once thought sucked.


“As soon as they start using the tactics of the other guys, playing the game they play, they become them. As soon as they decide that they can buy (not earn) attention, it all changes.”

Stop.

Take a breather.

Go back to the start.

Are your products still the best? Are they still unique? Is your company still unique? Are you who you promised yourself you would be when you started?

Are you still earning attention?

If the answer is yes, congrats. You’re one of the rare few. I hope you manage to keep it up for decades to come.

If not… well, maybe it’s time to get back to basics. What do you say?

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You never know when you’re going to need a good mug shot for your PR guy to leak to the press. I mean… seriously. Are you going to leave the photography to some angry night shift booking flunkie? Do you really want that mug shot to show up in the tabloids? Heck no. Look at these motley fools:

(Note/Update: This post was originally written long before Michael Jackson and James Brown passed away. My sympathies go to their families, friends and fans.)

This is what happens when you go out on the town without a “Plan B” (especially if you’re planning on spending half the night doing speed balls in the back of Pedro’s van in West Hollywood).

Look. You’ve worked hard on building your personal brand. You can’t let one photo ruin it for you, right? Even if you get into a bit of trouble with Johnny Law, eventually, people will forget what you were arrested for… but thanks to Google Images and the AP, photos are forever. That could be bad if you don’t have a plan.

Real professionals are always prepared. This is why I recommend having a professional mug shot ready to be fired off to every media outlet known to man, just in case. That bit of advice isn’t just aimed at ex-movie stars, out-of-work TV actors and celebutantes. I’m talking to all of you in in blogtwown and twitterville.

A few tips:

1. Go with black and white. It looks better, it looks timeless, and if it worked for Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix, it’ll work for you too.
2. Look confused but not dazed. You’ll inspire sympathy instead of contempt.
3. Wear a nice shirt. Do not wear a blanket, ratty T-shirt or other homeless/crack addict garb.
4. The hair should be unruly and as big as possible, but it shouldn’t look like you just spent a week living in a van (Paris) or were fished out of a Mexican toilet (Nick).
5. Chin scruff should be a day old. No mas, no menos.
6. Use your eyebrow superpowers.
7. Do. Not. Smile. (James.)
8. Don’t pretend you’re getting your passport photo taken (Michael.)
9. .jpg and .gif files work best.
10. Make sure your PR guy or assistant is someone you can REALLY trust.

Filed under “personal branding.”

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Probably one of the best places to shop for dad
.

Hat tip to Guy.

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Metallica is writing the book on how to sink an A-list brand (namely their own).
Step 1: Lose your relevance sometime in the mid 90′s and see sales dwindle over the next decade. Blame music downloads and the MP3 format for your market downturn – instead of accepting that you’ve lost touch with the times.
Step 2: Instead of adapting to a changing market and embracing new distribution channels (which worked well for thousands of bands, including the Greatful Dead) hire lawyers to try and fight the entire world. Hope that you can sue the world into not changing.
Step 3: When things don’t go your way, bitch and moan until you’ve repositioned yourself as the brand that constantly bitches and moans instead of making music… and has nothing to show for it.
Step 4: Make a point to put personal gain ahead of your fans, and scream it off every media rooftop. For years on end. Until even your peers think you’re out-of-touch morons. “We need to make more money!!! We’re rock stars!!! You people are stealing our product every time you listen to it!!! We will sue you for listening to our songs!!!!”
Step 5: Spend more time in court than in the studio or on tour.
Step 6: Run out of money and decide it’s time to get back to being a band since the fighting the world deposition at a time gig isn’t working out so well. Only it’s too late to get back to your roots because you stopped being artists and musicians long ago, and you suck now. You’re just too stupid to see it yet.
Step 7: This whole media2.0 thing sounds fly, so you invite bloggers to come listen to some of your studio sessions in the hopes that they will share their amazement at your crazy-cool talent. Surely, this will revive your career. Only you’re too old, the gig is up, and the bloggers aren’t going to lie about it.
Step 8: When your bonehead plan backfires and the bloggers’ reviews turn out to be pretty negative, threaten to sue them.
Step 9: Realize that what you need is good old PR and advertising. Upon getting a few quotes, start looking for promising lawsuits to file in order to finance your comeback.
Read the story here. It’s pretty funny… yet sad.
What a bunch of dopes. Just make good music for crying outloud!!!

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Guy Kawasaki points us to this very cool little site where you can control where your tax money goes. Well… kinduv.

Connection to the branding discussion: At least four degrees of separation, but whatever. It’s still an interesting and fun little tool.

Update: I just spent fifteen minutes playing with the tool, and managed to push the budget bust back to 2070+ while cleaning up the environment, increasing access to medical care for the poor, children and young adults, and freeing the US from foreign energy.

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Time for your weekly brandbuilder reality check.
There are only two types of businesses: The ones you know are the best in their category, and… everyone else.
Advertising and marketing are nice, but too many “also in” businesses waste money on marketing and advertising when they should instead revamp one or two elements of their business that would help them actually gain market share. (The most pleasant and efficient customer service experience in your industry, a perfectly designed user interface, a 100% uptime guarantee, stunning design, impeccable ergonomics, remarkable flavor, etc.)

Advertising is basically a load of bullshit unless you have something worth advertising to begin with. (Otherwise, what are you advertising: Hey, come buy from us! We’re the thirteenth best shoe store in the 90210!) You’re either the best at something, or you’re just another voice in the crowd getting fleeced by just another run-of-the-mill ad agency or “marketing firm.”

Before you start wasting money on advertising, ask yourself what your super-special value to your users/customers/clients truly is. Maybe you have the best prices. Maybe you have the most comfortable meeting rooms. Maybe you have the most square footage of any gym in your area, or the freshest produce, or the most knowledgeable staff, or the fastest check-out. It doesn’t matter what that something is as long as it is something concrete (as opposed to another lame marketing spinfest).

Whatever your value differentiator is, whatever your brand’s value advantage is (or should be), this is what you need to invest in FIRST. Once you have that aspect of your business nailed down, THEN and only then should you even bother with advertising.

A few days ago, Seth Godin posted some great advice to college grads on his blog: Only borrow money to pay for things that increase in value. A pair of shoes or cool clothes never increase in value. An education or professional experience, however do. Great advice, especially in the crux of our current economic/credit crunch. The same applies to businesses, which is why Seth’s advice is so damn relevant to the discussion today.

Perhaps more relevant to today’s topic is a slightly tweaked version of Seth’s advice: “only invest in things that increase in value.”

Like shoes and clothes, advertising never increases in value. With advertising, you are at best buying a small percentage of the public’s attention across a very narrow sliver of space and time (and paying a premium price for it.) Before you know it, your advertising budget is gone, and so is that very expensive bubble of attention.

Investing in better products/services, better people and better processes, however, makes a whole lot more sense as these things never lose value. Great employees, great products, great customer experiences and fostering a unique relationship with your fan base are the types of things worth investing in. These are the true foundations of a great brand. These are the types of things that will help strengthen your brand equity.

Advertising never translates into brand equity unless these foundations exist to support it. Even so, the more solid the brand’s foundation, the less relevant advertising becomes.

Starbucks doesn’t advertise and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Whole Foods ad anywhere, yet millions of people drop solid stacks of greenbacks there every year. I don’t shop at Target, wear Rudy Project sunglasses, drive a VW or crave a BMW because of advertising. Other than creating awareness for a product that hasn’t managed to capture anyone’s attention yet (red flag), advertising does nothing to impact most companies’ growth.

Building a strong reputation by developing great products, buzz-worthy experiences and generally delighting customers/users is a much stronger strategy than paying loads of cash for advertising.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. ;)

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Sweet post by Chris Wilson over at The Marketing Fresh Peel this week:

An ability to perceptively spot trends is a vital part of putting your company ahead of the competition. But recognizing a trend is only half of the equation. It’s even more important that you take action. What good is it to spot a trend if you can’t take advantage of the coming wave?

This is where it becomes important to not only look for trends, but to look for them early. I’ve compiled a list of 20 different how to tips, tools, blogs and websites that can help you in spotting trends. They are organized into different categories.

Trend Tips

Get out of your office! Go somewhere that everyone seems to be. Watch people interact with each other. What are they doing? What are they wearing? Who is the center of attention? Why? Look for something different. Something unique.

Listen. Learn to listen to people (even the ones you can’t stand). Try to figure out why they think and believe what they do. Be curious. Ask questions and listen some more.

Volunteer. Getting involved with a project where you can give back will help you to get out of your comfort zone and into an a new environment with different people.

Watch the Celebs. No matter how much we hate it, celebrities often have access to fashions, products and trends before they go mainstream. When it comes to fashion they can even influence trends and consumer buying behavior.

Read something different. Once a week, pick up a magazine or trade journal from a totally different industry. What’s transforming the industry? How could this be applied to your business or product?

Dedicated to Trends

TrendsSpotting follows the behaviors and attitudes of internet users and regularly report and conduct surveys. Contributors to the site express their professional opinions on emerging trends and what they mean to you.

PSFK is one of my favorite sources for discovering emerging trends from around the world. The blog consistently delivers surprising observations. They also host a number of great conferences throughout the year.

Springwise boasts more than 8,000 “Springspotters” from around the world, all on the lookout for emerging trends. The site is a hub for entrepreneurs looking for their next business ideas.

Trend Hunter Magazine bring observations from a wide range of topics. The site provides 99 different RSS feeds, broken down into different categories, so that you can hone in on trends in a certain niche or industry. Trend Hunter also issues a number of reports and presentations.

Design Trends

Cool Hunting is blog that is self described as “a daily update on ideas and products in the intersection of art, design, culture and technology.” I find Cool Hunting to be an awesome source for a look at design trends, modern urban lifestyle, fashion and arts.

NOTCOT is a daily showcase of inspiring design works from around the world, “fighting the good fight against ‘creative block’ since 2005.” (NOTCOT.org, and Tastespotting are some other great sites in the NOTCOT network.)

Design*Sponge is a daily website/blog dedicated to home and product design. The site even sports a special mini trends section, exploring waves of small trends (colors, styles, patterns) as they are spotted.

Josh Spear covers everything from Design to gadgets to travel. It’s a must following for anyone wanting to stay ahead of the curve.

Rapid Online Trends

Google Search Trends is a tool with which you can cross search different terms and compare them. Do some research here.
You will find Google Hot Trends on this same page. This feature has become a valuable source of information providing rapid search trend reports. There have been numerous times where I have spotted major news on Google Trends, hours before the news broke on the national stations. By subscribing to the feed, you will receive updates every hour reporting Googles top 100 searches from the last hour.

Viral Video Chart is the ultimate source for tracking what’s moving in video. Their Top 20 Viral Chart is by far the most popular, but the site also breaks the videos down into different categories to help you fine-tune your research.

Trendpedia is a tool that scans blog content, making it easy to compare popular topics graphically. Find out what’s hot and what’s not.

Twist performs a similar function to Trendpedia, only comparing Twitter content trends.

Summize is a tool that makes it easy to search Twitter updates.

—–
What’s your method for spotting trends?

Read the entire article here.

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If you follow the assumption that men with um… “manliness” issues tend to overcompensate by buying enormous SUVs or powerful sports cars and adopting dangerous, aggressive dogs like Pit bulls, then I must be pretty damn comfortable about my own macho meter.

Meet Chiquita – Chico’s little sister. (Chico is the brandbuilder mascot, in case you were wondering) She only weighs .9 lbs right now.

All I need now is one of these, and I think we can safely brand me the manliest hombre in Twitterville. Booyah!

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