Archive for December 3rd, 2008


Above: Sometimes, Chiquita gets to ride on my lap.

Not that I typically infuse the brandbuilder blog with personal interludes, but I’m in the mood this week, so deal with it. It has been brought to my attention that many of my occasional readers kind of dig the whole chihuahua thing… (some have even admitted that the only reason they ever visit the brandbuilder blog is to look at Chico’s quirky little mug) so I guess I should share a few interesting little details about the what, where, who of the brandbuilder blog’s chihuahua connection.

Fact #1: My wife and I own three dogs, two of them chihuahuas.

Fact #2: Chico, the brandbuilder blog’s mascot is the oldest. When he isn’t perking his big satellite dish ears up to listen to Marketing and business news (see the superfly brandbuilder blog graphic at the top of the page), you can usually find him either a) snoring, b) getting into trouble, or c) begging for food (see picture below.)


Yes. This is Chico’s best “feed me, I am starving” look. (Above.) Below is what usually happens after about thirty-seven seconds of begging. Note that in begging mode, Chihuahua ears are typically in the retracted position. It’s kind of like vampire fangs… but… without the vampire… or the fangs.


Our other Chihuahua is a new addition to the family. Her name is Chiquita. She’s nine months old and only weighs a pound and a half, which will most likely be her adult weight. (Yeah. She’s tiny.) This is what she looked like when we first got her. We sat her next to a can pf soup to get a sense of scale.


This is what she looks like now. (Below.) She’s gotten kind of scruffy, and her ears have become friggin enormous. (On particularly clear days, she can tune in to the BBC.)


Chiquita will probably join Chico as an integral part of this blog’s design at some point. We’re working on that with her agent.

Fact #3: Chihuahuas are vicious animals. Far worse than wild pitbulls. They have sharper teeth than reef sharks. They eat cats. But they know lots about marketing, so they’re good to have around.

Fact #4: To completely understand the psychological makeup of a chihuahua, one must watch at least six hours of Ren & Stimpy cartoons. You can gt by on less, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Fact #5: Chihuahuas have horrible breath. Take my word for it. Toxic. But like I said, they eat cats, so the two kind of balance each other out.

Why did I pick a chihuahua to essentially become the face of The BrandBuilder blog? Strangely enough, no particular reason. It was a total accident. I was having a tough time picking between several concepts that seemed… predictable, and my wife suggested “why don’t you just use Chico?” Far be it from me to ever ignore a silly idea, so I figured we could give it a shot. We set up a quick little photo shoot in the studio, got him to perk his ears up and look alert, and about a dozen shots into the session, I captured the half-cocked ear look. It made me laugh and just kind of stood out from the other images, so we used it. As it turns out, it worked well with the clean minimalist look I was going for, and it had the right blend of energy, inquisitiveness and “let’s not take this blog too seriously” vibe. It stuck.

Now you know. 😉

Oh, looks like it’s nap time again.


This concludes today’s “behind the scenes of the brandbuilder blog” episode. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


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Talent vs. Experience


“Just because you’ve been walking for 55 years doesn’t mean you’re getting better at it.”

– K. Anders Ericsson – professor of psychology @ FSU


Time on the job doesn’t necessarily mean as much as you might think. Here’s why: There is a point where you just aren’t going to get better at performing the same surgery, building the same widget, or extrapolating data unless you add a little something to the mix. Unless you branch out. Unless you ask “what if.” Unless you experiment a little bit… or a lot. Unless you have the talent to do so.

According to the good doctor, what separates elite performers from other folks with simply “lots of experience” is this:

“Successful people spontaneously do things differently from those individuals who stagnate. They have different practice histories. Elite performers engage in what we call “deliberate practice”- an effortful activity designed to improve individual target performance. There has to be a way they’re innovating in the way they do things. (…) In general, elite performers utilize some technique that typically isn’t well known or widely practiced.”

Based on my own (limited) experience, he is absolutely correct: Elite performers are the folks who can’t help but find ways of doing things better. They’re the ones who develop new techniques, or perfect existing ones. They are the innovative, adaptive commandos. The agents of change. The trailblazers. The pioneers. They rise to the top of their professions or help pave the way for future generations of professionals because it’s what they do. Because it’s in their genes.

Trust me on this: Talent is a big part of the equation, regardless of the discipline. People without a natural talent for innovation cannot innovate, no matter how long they’ve been on the job. Same with musicians, artists, military strategists, engineers, designers, and just about every profession. Even in manufacturing, you can observe assembly line workers and spot the ones who have a natural ability for putting stuff together, and those who don’t.

What made Picasso and Dali so damn good? Was it their ability to paint inside the lines? (No.)

What made Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan so good? Was it their ability to master textbook techniques? (No.)

What made Steve Jobs and Bill Gates so successful? Did these two guys have thirty years of experience under their belts when they launched Apple and Microsoft, or did they have talent for innovation, insight, and business?

Experience helps you avoid costly mistakes, sure. Experience helps you navigate otherwise uncertain waters because you’ve already been there. Kinduv. Experience can help make you more efficient. It also gives you a certain measure of confidence. One of the great benefits of experience is a thick rolodex and a wealth of knowledge… But experience alone tends to be overrated.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to imply that experience isn’t important, but at best, experience is a facilitator, while talent is a catalyst. Talent, not experience lays the foundation for innovation. For exceptional work. For everything remarkable to happen. No question.

In a perfect world, you want a healthy mix of talent and experience in your organization or project team (and in individual team members). But given the choice between staffing my organization with “experts” or talented visionaries who just got out of school, guess what? I will pick talent over experience every time. In other words, on a five person project team, I would rather have 1 person with a wealth of experience and 4 people with outstanding talent than 1 person with talent and four people with loads of experience.

Think about sports.

Think about design.

Think about art.

Think about business.

I’ll give you a simple example: I know these web designers. They’ve designed a few dozen websites now. They’re still pretty young, haven’t been in business for 30 years, but their work is second to none in this market. They have more talent than they probably know what to do with, and they rock. Another company approached me about doing a design for me several months ago, and their sales pitch was this: We’ve designed thousands of websites.

Wow. Really? Thousands?

Yeah. Thousands. No one has more experience than we do in this industry.

Intrigued, I checked some of their stuff out. It all sucked. Their best work was mediocre at best.

Talent vs. experience, in a nutshell.

Sure, it’s kind of a simplistic way to look at things, but the question of one versus the other forces us to make some concessions here.

The point is this: I’ve worked with folks who only brought experience to the table. I’ve worked with folks who brought only talent to the table. The first didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. They didn’t solve any problems. They didn’t get anything done that was worth talking about. They were invariably the guardians of the status-quo. The talented ones, however, brought new ideas to the table. They brought new ways of looking at problems and dealing with them. They brought enthusiasm, great instincts and whole new horizons of possibilities.

More than anything, they always asked the right questions. The experienced guys didn’t. Because they had experience, and I guess they didn’t feel the need to ask questions anymore. They already knew so much, you see.

The verdict:

1. Experience can be gained. Talent can’t.
2. Talent, by its very nature always accelerates experience.

Check mate.

If you’re a company looking to hire a new individual for a position or partner with a services company to work on a project with you, don’t fall into the “experience” trap. Just because they’ve worked in advertising for 20 years doesn’t mean they know jack shnabble about creating great work for you. Just because they’ve been VP of this or that for Fortune 100 companies doesn’t mean they know how to do anything other than sit in an office and kiss ass.  Investing in talent yields a hell of a lot more ROI than investing in something as common as experience.

My advice to you is this: Listen to the voice of experience, but go with what the talented guy’s idea. It might be risky, but you’ll get a lot further faster. (And you’ll have much better stories to tell.)

And if by some chance, you come across with someone with both talent and experience, do whatever you can to get them onboard, or someone else will.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Feel free to disagree… if you dare. ;)

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Proof once again that I do get out from time to time, here are a few photos from last night’s “Drop-In” party at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, where I met many very smart, talented people – some of whom are already on Twitter, and others… well, soon will be. I should have taken more photos, but I was too busy yapping my mouth, as always.

First up (above, right to left): Liquid Highway‘s @BigJonEvans (John Evans), @benchmarkngbabe (Jessica Smith), and with the bottle of coke and the gray dinner jacket, Ken Flournoy (The picky people’s plumber).

Below (left to right this time): John (again) and G-Magazine‘s Jack Bacot? (Is that right? I met a dozen peeps from G and – maybe it’s the wine – but I am getting them all mixed up in my head. Sorry about that, but that’s what happens when you don’t wear a name tag.)


And further below, some young handsome lad drinking blush wine out of a plastic cup while wearing diagonal stripes (two more reasons he may have gotten kicked out of France) and the ever present Jon Evans – whose quasi empty beer cup was in desperate need of a refill. (Someone please buy Jon a beer.)


As a bonus, check out this photo of the Liquid Highway setup. I have absolutely no idea what was going on there. The best I can figure is something along the lines of coffee kung-fu. Oh, and yes, a team of pretty ladies to make sure no one got to jacked up on caffeine.


Okay, that is all.

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