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Archive for September, 2010

I find myself speaking at a good number of events these days, but last week’s Social Story was one of the first whose speaker photo looks like a promo for a new TV superspy show. Left to right – Murray: The master strategist and brains of the operation. Buvala: The master of disguise and infiltration expert. Yanov: The gadget specialist and tech/surveillance guy. Pennington (a.k.a. “Suits”): The idealist boss with a penchant for formal attire. TV: The cat-burglar/safe-cracker/Kung Fu expert. Destructo: Cars, helicopters, guns and explosives. Frenchie: The hapless decoy.

I will be talking a lot more about #MIMA later this week (Here is the link if you want to attend), but what I can say about Social Story is this:

1. It was nice to finally speak at an event in Greenville, SC. No planes, no hotels, lots of familiar faces. Aside from Social Media Club, that’s never happened before. As much as I love to travel, it was nice.

2. 1/3 of the speakers had blue hair. That’s a pretty interesting statistic. Usually, 0% of the speaker roster at events to which I am invited can boast blue hair.

3. Most of the presentations were done without slides, without bullet points, without “decks.” Small audience, small venue, real engagement. It was kind of refreshing to go analog in a field so often dominated by slide presentations. Personally, I felt a better connection with the audience than when I bring my 700 slides along for the ride.

4. This must be the first conference of this size and of this type that attracted such a range of speakers. At one end of the spectrum, it had an incredibly versatile fire-breathing multimedia artist (Tim TV), and at the other, the head of Edelman’s global Digital practice (Rick Murray). I love that.

5. The conference did not settle for the typical endless stream of Social Media douchebags with something to sell. BIG thumbs up.

6. Social Story’s ticket prices: Not $659. Not $329. Not $199. Forget all that. I think the price of a ticket was around $50. In this, #Likeminds and #SocialStory have something in common: Attendees don’t get fleeced at the box office. There’s a lot to be said for that. While some conferences warrant a high price tag, most are horribly overpriced. This one was well worth the price of admission.

7. The event production team was phenomenal. Hats off to all the folks in black shirts. 100% professional, friendly, efficient and dedicated. I was impressed.

8. Trey Pennington likes to wear a coat and tie.

9. The live-streaming of the sessions was a great idea. I enjoyed getting feedback and questions from people from around the world via twitter. (Let’s face it: Not everyone can fly to Greenville, SC for two days just to attend an event.) I can’t stress enough how important it is for events of this type to think beyond “asses in seats.”

10. The first rule of swagclub is… Oh, never mind.

11. Trey Pennington definitely doesn’t take sponsors for granted.

Oh, and I almost forgot: The above speaker photo should put an end to #stachegate.

Have a great week. Back in a few days. ;)

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My last three posts have outlined problems and failures. I don’t know about you, but all that #fail is starting to bum me out, so I need to break the cycle right here, right now. I’m in need of a little win today, if only to finish out the week with some pep. No need for a dissertation about this or that today. Instead, just watch this video and let it do its thing. It’s short, it’s brilliant, it’s beautiful. (Just ignore the fact that it’s an HBO promo.)

Outstanding.

Whatever it is you want in life, how badly do you really want it? How hard are you really trying? The spirit of victory is alive. And if it isn’t stoking your fire, you can be sure that it is toking someone else gunning for your customers, your market, your job or your belt. If you aren’t the guy in the room who wants it the most, you’ve already lost to the guy who does. You just don’t know it yet.

Just like we manufacture our own failures (see my previous three posts) we manufacture our own wins. It’s a question of perspective. Of will. Of fire. It’s a question of choice.

Have a great weekend.

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Brandon Walters interviewed me kind of on the fly last week about the upcoming Social Story conference (Greenville, SC – September 24). The interview was obviously completely unscripted (at least for me). I haven’t watched it yet, but here it is anyway. (Click here if the video doesn’t launch for you.)

We shot a lot more, so hopefully, other little tidbits and outtakes will pop up at some point.

To sign up for the conference (seating is very limited), click here.

Cheers,

Olivier

PS: Please note the absence of a moustache on my upper lip. Will this strike the final blow to #stachegate? Stay tuned.

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This. Is. Brilliant. Every time someone does a piece like this, I find myself grinning ear to ear.

First, some attribution: The piece, published by www.boredpanda.com is tagged as a guest post by Dario D., who first published his images on his own site www.alphaila.com. I recommend that you check them both out for the full feature. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

The premise (from Dario):

So, I went to some fast food places (I won’t say “restaurants”, just “places”), and picked up burgers/tacos, so I could compare them with the ads.

I brought the “food” home (different stuff over 3 nights), tossed it into my photography studio, and did some ad-style shoots (with pictures of the official ads on my computer next to me, so I could match the lighting/angles/etc).

The result, of course is a set of gems (go see them all) that includes this other killer side by side dose of reality:

Dario goes on:

Don’t ask me how this advertising is legal. [...] I happily pitch the idea that lawmakers are committing a crime against us people by allowing us to be continually insulted by this advertising [...]  in defiance of human perception.

He has a point. The pictures don’t lie.

Compare this kind of advertising to anything else: Cars, candy, clothing, drinks, watches, laptops, tennis rackets, video games, etc.. Most products, when depicted in photographs used for marketing purposes are pretty close to what you can expect to get. In this particular industry, however, not so much.

Remember the scene from the movie “Falling Down,” back in the post Reagan 1990’s, in which Michael Douglas’ character (as mentally imbalanced as he may be) throws a fit over this very affront to human intelligence. Fast-forward to 04:06, towards the end of the clip to see what happens. Take a look:

If you have time, watch the whole scene from the beginning. It’s a classic.

The lesson here isn’t that false advertising exists, or that fast food companies are sometimes unethical with their marketing. The lesson is this: Promises matter. The degree to which customers’ expectations are met is the currency by which a brand’s worth is measured. In the era of social media, global word-of-mouth, and in markets where the abundance of choices can send yesterday’s market leaders careening into a pit of obsolescence, the foundations upon which you build your brand’s future cannot be based on institutionalized broken promises. Breeding cynicism about your products is just not good policy.

Now apply this thinking to your business. Put your marketing through the same test. Does it pass muster, or like these images above, is there a gap between promise and delivery?

Now ask yourself this: Which do you believe is the better choice to build a sustainable brand: Disappointing customers, or delighting them?

PS: Social Media “gurus,” consultants and “certifying bodies,” take a long hard look at what you are selling, and how you are selling it.

Cheers,

Olivier

Additional resources: This post’s grandaddy (click here).

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From the vault:

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend a few days ago who is on the verge of quitting his job. He’s always loved working where he is now, is friends with all of his colleagues, likes his boss, loves what he does… but the magic seems to be gone.

I was kind of curious about what happened to so radically change his point of view. Was it the customers? Nope. Was he being treated differently by his boss? No again. Had anything changed in the last six months? Niet.

So what was the problem?

His answer: “I’m just not happy there anymore.”

Interestingly, he isn’t the only one. Several of his coworkers have also seemed to me like they were just going through the motions in the past few weeks. They smile, but they aren’t excited about their jobs like they used to be. I know it isn’t burnout, but it sure looks like burnout. Something definitely isn’t right.

I guess it wouldn’t be a huge problem in and of itself, but I am beginning to hear from customers of this business that the magic is starting to fade for them too. Shopping there isn’t as fun as it used to be. They’ve started to shop around again. The business is doing great, but is starting to lose its edge. Its cool. Its uniqueness.

Before I go on with my story, check out this bit from a piece I wrote a few months ago that addresses this very issue: “Happy employees make happy customers.”

Likewise, unhappy employees make unhappy customers.

There are ways to make your employees happy. Perhaps more importantly, there are ways to make your employees feel proud. And no, rewarding them isn’t something you can fake or buy off with plaques and pins and little bonuses. It’s something that has to feel real.

If you want to inspire your customers, you first have to inspire your employees. If you want to do that, you have to make them feel like they truly are a part of your company and not just worthless pawns.

You have to make them feel like they are on a mission.

You have to make them feel good about the work they do for you.

Does that sound complicated? It really isn’t. It’s actually the simplest thing in the world. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is Loreal. So is Nike. So is Coca Cola.

Treat people with respect. Give them something worthwhile to do. Inspire them to be knights in your kingdom… or at least happy to be there for as long as they want to stay. That’s it. That’s all you really need to do to get things rolling in the right direction.

So… back to my story. Back to my friend and his career woes. Back to the fact that unhappy employees may not always make unhappy customers, but… they sure don’t make happy ones either. Back to what my friend told me next:

“I feel like we’ve all become commodities. We aren’t very high on (the boss’) priority list these days.” And then he went on to tell me what he meant.

Pow. There it was.

Broken windows also happen in your relationship with employees. The people who work for you are your brand at least as much as your products. They are your designers, your evangelists, your human touchpoints, your knights, your fans, your friends, your problem solvers, your band of brothers (and sisters). You can’t take them for granted. Perhaps more importantly, you can’t make them feel like you are. Ever. Not for one minute.

Pay them what they’re worth. Protect them. Empower them. Put your trust and faith in them. Don’t ever think for one second that they can be easily replaced.

Treat your employees like they’re your best customers.

That’s advice you can take to the bank.

:)

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