Archive for the ‘bad ideas’ Category

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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John Moore – whom I ran into yesterday – posted these very cool little Seth Godin vignettes on his blog. At first glance, I thought “Cool! This is a really sweet idea.” I set out to check each one out… and… quickly realized that although the action figure and quote montage thing was indeed very nifty, the selection of Seth quotes was… well, surprisingly bad.

At first glance,it looks and sounds great… and it comes from Seth, so you put on your Seth filter and expect it all to be very wise and true and insightful… but not this time.

Frankly, having been a big fan of Seth’s work over the last decade, going back to his days penning killer editorials for Fast Company, this was a huge surprise.

Feeling like maybe I had stepped into some weird Twilight Zone episode where everything is backwards, or stepped through an alternate opposite dimension like in that Star Trek Episode where Spock sported a goatee and Captain Kirk was shagging all the female members of his crew, I quickly turned on the TV and flipped to Fox News to see if their version of the news made sense. (A true litmus test for alternate realities if you ask me).

Alternatively, if you happen to have more “conservative” propensities, getting your hands on a copy of “It Takes a Village” would certainly do the trick.

Anyway. Long story short: The Fox Box turned me off in about two minutes flat. Verdict: I hadn’t stepped into an alternate universe. Ergo: Seth Godin had indeed lost his friggin’ mind.

Let me illustrate:

Wrong. Those of us who live in the real world still do come in the front door quite a bit. And even if the initial contact with a website is not with the home page, the next click or two will invariably take us there. So will most of our return visits. Perhaps Seth meant to say something else, but being that he makes a living writing articles and books and whatnot, that is pretty unlikely.

Wrong again. Old Marketing is simply a methodology, and as such has nothing to do with the quality of the products it aims to serve. Old Marketing is Old Marketing whether the product is great, average or plain lousy. The same is true of New Marketing.

True. But I’m curious about whether we’re talking about New Marketing or The New Marketing. I shouldn’t make fun. Seth just needs a better editor, that’s all.

Wrong. It demands better marketing as well. Hence the term “marketing.”

Wrong. I see plenty of brand new companies with crappy product, crappy customer experiences, crappy organizations and crappy marketing. Likewise, I see plenty of established companies turn their troubles around by adopting what Seth would call “New Marketing.” New Marketing is not the domain of fresh new entrepreneurs at all. I find that kind of thinking pretty disappointing, actually.

This is the kind of generalization that I would never have expected from “Papa Seth.”

Well… the end of the second part is true… It must be embedded into the experience of the product, but there are plenty of great “big” ideas everywhere, including the world of Advertising. And yes, advertising ideas sometimes travel VERY well.

The problem with advertising is that the US had never been all that great at it anyway. Yeah, sometimes you get a good one, but all in all, it’s a lot of noise aimed at the “good enough” middle of the bell curve. (We’ll come back to that in a bit.) Back to the point: Big ideas can indeed be advertising-based.

Let me add that if – as Bruce Mau suggested – “creativity is not device dependent,” neither is it industry-related. Seth’s anti advertising religion is starting to cloud his logic.

You wish!

In a perfect world of mavens and super cool intellectuals with unlimited greenbacks, maybe. But out here in the real world, market share matters. Volume matters. Why? Because massive amounts of revenue buy business, mind share, government regulation, premium shelf space and whatever else is necessary to either maintain that market share or increase it.

Simple illustration: I don’t care how great your burger is and how cool the setting of your new cool fast food restaurant, you aren’t going to displace McDonald’s.

Who is going to defeat companies in markets defined by volume and market share, Seth?

What little startup will defeat Verizon, at&t, Microsoft, Ford, HP, Gilette, Miracle Whip, Coca Cola, or Nike?

It’s a nice thought that may be true for some smallish businesses, but deeply flawed as a generalization. As much as I hate to admit it, the old model is very much alive, and no amount of daydreaming or ideation will change that.

I am not even going to touch that one. It’s… ugh. Never mind.

Earth to Seth! Earth to Seth! Come back!

iPod is neither remarkably weird, nor remarkably well priced. The same can be said of just about anything made by Starbucks, Nike, HP, BMW, VW, Ford, Chevy, McDonald’s, KFC, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, RayBan, Microsoft, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Verizon, cingular, HBO, Trek, Pepsi, CNN.com, Colgate, Speed Stick, Whole Foods, Levis, Fruit of the Loom, Exxon, etc. I don’t think I need to go on, but I can if you want me to. For hours. Days, even.

And advertising still matters. A lot.

You are so wrong it hurts.

You say everyone is a critic.
And you want to satisfy the critics.
Which means you want to satisfy everyone.
Yet… you can’t satisfy everyone. Surely, you realize that.

So I have to ask:

1. What the hell are you babbling about?
2. How does pleasing everyone play into the whole “marketshare is irrelevant” thing?

Even if I agree with you on this point, how is it different from what every company has been trying to accomplish since the dawn of enterprise?

Dude. You’re scaring me.

What are you smoking, man? Breadth and depth are not mutually exclusive.

Until recently, marketing was all about breadth because the tools weren’t there to reach people individually, based on specific criteria. Now that these tools are getting more accessible, effective and affordable, companies will be able to combine breadth AND depth to drive sales, product adoption, mindshare, or whatever they want.

To say that mass isn’t important is to say that generating revenue – and growth – are not important.

I’m worried about you, Seth. Seriously.

Kinduv. I’ll give you that one. I could argue it, but I don’t feel like splitting hairs right now. I’m getting a headache trying to make sense of your ramblings.

Obviously, you have never set foot in a K-Mart or a WalMart. Or a restaurant chain. Or pumped gas into your car. Or walked down the street.

Seth, people buy average crap every day, seemingly by the pound. They can’t get enough of average, in fact.

Average food, average cars, average clothes, average haircuts, average music, tickets to average movies, hours of couch time watching average TV shows… Our entire culture is based on the premise that the fat middle of the bell curve is where the lion’s share of the revenue (and value) is. The point here Seth, is that the majority of people actually do go for what’s “good enough.”

The sweet spot for most businesses, is right there between “not good enough” and “very good.”

And um… “people avoid the deceitful?” Really? Tell that to Exxon, McDonald’s and the current administration, for starters. People don’t give a crap about the deceitful. They’re jaded. As if integrity was even a blip on the radar anymore.

We’re kind of into denial, Seth… in case you hadn’t noticed. Check out the stats on how much money is spent each year in the US alone on weight loss products. Deceit obviously sells just as well as anything else.

The very fact that over 93% of Americans eat red meat is proof enough that people don’t avoid the deceitful at all. Come on, man. What country do you live in? Our entire way of life is firmly anchored in denial. Deceit doesn’t even enter the picture.

I don’t mean to be critical, but I have to call bullshit when I see it. (Even if John did a kickass job for you on the improvised presentation.)

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Seth. Everyone goes a little crazy sometimes… but… wooh. You don’t do anything half-assed, do you.

I think I’m going to go drown my sorrows in Kambucha now.

Or better yet, go watch some “good enough” TV.

It’s a world gone mad I tell ya.

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This actually made it past my SPAM filter today, and I thought I would share.

Someone please explain to me what the point of this kind of email is, why they are always so obnoxiously bad, and why their narrative always contains some sort of life-threatening element.

Note: The sticky space bar is not my doing. This is how the email came to me. I added the red copy for emphasis.)

FROM: MR.Patrick K. W. Chan
(Executive Director & Chief financial Officer)
Hang Seng Bank Limited
83 Des Voeux Road, Central
Hong Kong
SARE-mail : p_kwchan@yahoo.com.hk

FOR YOUR ATTENTIONIt is understandable that you might be a little bit apprehensive because you donot know me but I have a lucrative business proposal of mutual interest to sharewith you. I got your reference in my search for someone who suits my proposedbusiness relationship.
I am Mr. Patrick K. W. Chan Executive Director & Chief financial Officer of HangSeng Bank Ltd. I have an obscured business suggestion for you. I will need youto assist me in executing a business project from Hong Kong to your country. Itinvolves the transfer of a large sum of money. Everything concerning thistransaction shall be legally done without hitch. Please endeavour to observeutmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue.
Once the funds have been successfully transferred into your account,we shallshare in the ratio to be agreed by both of us.
I will prefer you reach me on my private email address below{p_kwchan@yahoo.com.hk} and finally after that I shall furnish you with moreinformation about this operation.
Please if you are not interested delete this email and do not hunt me because Iam putting my career and the life of my family at stake with this venture.
Although nothing ventured is nothing gained.
Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.

Kind Regards, Mr. Patrick chan

image by Christopher Wray-McCann

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image: Polaroid SX-70 Time-Zero Film (expired film: 05/05) by macomaco.

From AdPulp’s David Burn:

Polaroid Slides Down Far Side of Bell Curve

Newspapers and record companies are experiencing the awesome power of disruptive technology, but not like Polaroid.

According to The Boston Globe, Polaroid plans to make only enough film to last into next year before shuttering its factories.

Polaroid chief operating officer Tom Beaudoin said the company is interested in licensing its technology to an outside firm that could manufacture film for faithful Polaroid customers. If that doesn’t happen, Polaroid users would have to find an alternative photo technology.

Polaroid has already quietly halted production of instant cameras. “We stopped making commercial-type cameras about 18 to 24 months ago, and we stopped making consumer cameras about a year ago,” said Beaudoin.

This is so sad. My first camera (before my Pentax K-1000 SLR) was a Polaroid instant camera. I remember the pop-on flash array with its neat line of blueish oval bulbs. I remember the weight of the camera when it was strapped around my neck. I remember the feel of the viewfinder against my eye socket. I remember the smell of the paper when I peeled back the cover paper. Even back then, I spent most of my meager allowance on film and flashes.

I remember how excited I was when I got a brand new polaroid camera to replace my old one when it broke. This one had a little motor that ejected the photograph, and cold little pockets of ink inside the paper tab under each photo. I remember sitting there, saking each photo and watching the opaque little black square turn into an image time after time after time.

My entire childhood was captured on Polaroid cameras and film.
This is a sad, sad announcement. Somehow, it seems that humanity was better off with Polaroid cameras in the world than without them.
Could Polaroid – arguably an extremely strong brand when it comes to embodying a very specific technology, an entire era, an artistic sensibility – still be saved? I think so. Heck, I KNOW so.
As a matter of fact, I just figured out how to save Polaroid outright. Um… Polaroid execs? Please contact me asap and I will impart you with my stroke of genius. Honestly, if you were worth a fraction of the compensation Polaroid pays you, you would ahve come up with this plan too. Years ago. And we wouldn’t be talking about this.

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Here’s some context for you (and some culture too, while we’re at it):

The Years of Cristobal Balenciaga

1918 saw the founding of Cristobal Balenciaga’s first haute couture house in San Sébastian, Spain. Local admiration for his designs was so strong that a second haute couture house was opened in Madrid and a third in Barcelona. In 1937, 10, Avenue George V became the Parisian home of Cristobal Balenciaga’s creative influence. Balenciaga’s Paris flagship store is still located at this address.

Balenciaga soon came to embody Parisian elegance. Cristobal Balenciaga was hailed as ‘The Couturier of Couturiers’ and ‘The Master of us all’’ by designer Christian Dior.

In 1946, the House of Balenciaga launched its first perfume, ‘Le Dix’, aptly named after its first atelier, 10, Avenue George V. ‘Le Dix’ attracted the same acclaim as the famous Balenciaga couture pieces, and the perfume soon even rivalled that of Coco Chanel herself. In 1968, Balenciaga closed his couture house, to the deep dismay of his favourite clients. Countess Mona Bismarck lamented the event by locking herself indoors for three days.

Transitional Times

Cristobal Balenciaga died in his home country of Spain in 1972. His nephews then took the helm of the business. In 1978, control of the House of Balenciaga, including the important fragrance business, passed to Hoechst and then to Groupe Jacques Bogart in 1986.

In 1995, Nicolas Ghesquière was hired by the House, initially as a designer for the licensed products activity. He became creative director for the House’s own ready-to-wear and accessories collection in 1997.

Balenciaga Today

In 2001, Gucci Group, in partnership with Nicolas Ghesquière as creative director, acquired the House of Balenciaga, now well on its way towards recreating the influence and respect that the house commanded in its former heydays.

Today, the House of Balenciaga creates women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories, sold worldwide.

Years ago, when famed couturier Yves Saint Laurent was asked how many true Haute Couture houses there were, answered “only two: Balenciaga, and Chanel.”

It’s safe to say that Yves Saint Laurent and Dior have now added to that count. At any rate, it’s pretty much a given that the house that Balenciaga built is still the house of houses when it comes to the world of Haute Couture.

Perhaps Cristobal would scoff at the idea of creating accessories for a techno culture icon like the iPod were he still around today, but… here we are: Balenciaga is now selling iPod cases.

Are we seeing the bastardization of once proud couture houses, (catering to a new breed of customers) or is this simply another illustration of the impact that iPod has had on our culture? I’ll let you decide.

My two cents: Relevance by association may sometimes be a good strategy to attract new clients/customers, but in the case of very high level luxury brands, the trade-off can be dire. A house like Balenciaga was never about attracting the spoiled offspring of the super rich. It was about class and exclusivity, not selling out to a fickle crowd with money to burn.

This is how great brands choke and die.

Balenciaga “execs,” here is my advice to you: More haute couture and less marketing. Your brand is about design and quality, not gimmicks and gateway products.


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I try to stay away from topics that involve religion or politics, but every once in a while, I have to break my own rules. If this topic offends you, I apologize in advance. Now get over it.

From Forbes.com:


As Georgia descends deeper into drought, Gov. Sonny Perdue has ordered water restrictions, launched a legal battle and asked President Bush for help. On Tuesday, the governor will call on a higher power.

He will join lawmakers and ministers on the steps of the state Capitol to pray for rain.

Perdue won’t be the first governor to hold a call for public prayer during the epic drought gripping the Southeast. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a proclamation declaring a week in July as “Days of Prayer for Rain” to “humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty.” Political heavyweights outside the U.S. are known to occasionally plead to the heavens for rain. In May, Australian Prime Minister John Howard asked churchgoers to pray for rain in hopes of snapping a drought that has devastated crops and bankrupted farmers Down Under.

With rivers and reservoirs dropping to dangerously low levels across the region, a prayer rally at a high school football stadium in the Georgia town of Watkinsville drew more than 100 worshippers last week, and a gospel concert dedicated to rain attracted hundreds more two weeks ago at an Atlanta church.

“We need to try a different approach,” said Rocky Twyman, who organized the concert. “We need to call on God, because what we’re doing isn’t working.”
Greg Bluestein, AP

When I heard about this on the radio earlier today, I have to admit that I was a little shocked. Here’s a guy who is basically the CEO of the state of Georgia, and his solution to the drought that is devastating his state is to resort to prayer? Really?

What’s next? Animal sacrifices?

What the governor is planning isn’t a tent revival, mind you – I’m sure that there won’t be any running down the aisles or rattlesnake handling or speaking in tongues – but there will be lots of people turning their faces to the heavens, eyes closed, palms open, calling upon the good graces of the great spirit in the sky in the hopes that magically, he will make it rain.

And you know, it might rain. Why not.

I wasn’t born and raised in a culture that looks to an almighty power to solve all of its problems or blames demonic forces for the nasty whims of nature or the many flaws of man, so please excuse my point of view – but this sort of thing just seems to me like an easy way for people to absolve themselves of responsibility.

“Hey, we tried everything, and when that didn’t work, we asked God to help. That didn’t work either. What else are we supposed to do?”

Um… try not relying on rainmaking, for starters.

Instead of pretending to look for a solution, actually look for one. If that doesn’t work, do your job and lead by mandating water restrictions, putting programs in place to educate your constituency as to how and when to conserve water, and take steps to help minimize the impact of droughts on your state in the future. That’s what a leader does. What he doesn’t do is throw up his hands and put God in charge.

BTW, if magical incantations had any effect on the weather, we’d know by now. (Insofar as I know, the only thing that actually guarantees rainfall is my car getting washed and waxed. Within 24 hours of a waxing, the chances of rain are 100%. You can take that to the bank.)

But you know, I guess prayer rallies are neat little political tricks that play well to certain types of voters, especially in the rural South. As long as he makes a point to put the fate of his state in the hands of God, all a governor has to do once he becomes blameless is be a uniter. And what better banner to stand under than that of religion? It would be insulting if so many people didn’t fall for it.

And we wonder why states like South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have the worst public school systems in the country. Tell me a superstitious, poorly educated electorate isn’t easy to manipulate with cheap snake-oil salesman tricks as old as civilization itself.

I’m surprised that Pat Robertson hasn’t chimed in yet with proclamations about Georgia’s sins having brought the wrath of God on itself in the form of a drought.


It is easy to shed responsibility when you pass the buck up to an omnipotent deity, and even it doesn’t fix the problem.

Where do you go from there?

“Well, if even GOD won’t fix it, then what can I do about it? My hands are tied now. All we can do is keep praying.”

I wonder what would happen to a Fortune 500’s CEO if his strategy for growth over the next few quarters relied on… prayer. I would love to be in on that conference call:

“Our performance has suffered over the last fiscal year and we can’t really figure out why. We need to try a different approach now. We need to call on God, because what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Yeah. That would fly. I’m sure Wall Street and droves of investors would rally behind that brilliant exercise in deductive reasoning and good business sense.

I guess if I had an open mind, I would consider the possibility that a marketing campaign failed not because it was poorly executed but because God willed it so – or because Satan screwed with it. I might even look upon a market slump as a sign that I, as a CEO, CFO or COO, have not been praying enough for the success of my company.

God might actually fix my P&L too… if I pray hard enough and go to church more.

It’s a good thing that the world of business doesn’t play by the same moronic rules as the world of politics – at least in the South. Still, I have to wonder how – as a modern society so eager to shun practical magic as primitive and stupid – we still manage to look to prayer as the end-all, be-all solution to so many issues that could be addressed with a little bit of planning and strategic insight.

I also wonder how anyone in a leadership position (aside from religious leaders, whose job it is to do stuff like this) can manage to retain any credibility at all after adopting prayer as a crisis management strategy.
Understand that the issue here isn’t people’s right to pray or assemble to pray. There is nothing wrong with that. No, the issue is when an adult person in a position of power a) actually believes that by praying or doing a rain dance or sacrificing a chicken under a full moon, he can actually influence his deity of choice to make his wishes come true, and b) invites his constituents, employees or followers to validate his egomaniacal fantasies. If there isn’t a credibility issue there, I guess maybe I’ve missed something.
Executive management tip #1,097: If you really can’t help yourself from bringing public prayer into your management strategy, ask a religious leader to take care of it for you. That’s his/her job. Not yours. If you want to be a preacher or a minister, resign and go do that.
We really, really, REALLY need to stop acting like helpless, frightened little children, and start taking responsibility for our own fates and actions. (And demand that our elected officials do the same while we’re at it.) If there indeed is a god (my views on the matter are irrelevant here), I am sure that he has better things to do than listen to every little selfish prayer we throw his way. It’s one thing to be spiritual and religious and proud of it. It’s another entirely to act like a complete tool by asking god to solve every little problem we’re too lazy to deal with ourselves.
Now if you don’t mind, I need to go pray about the separation of church and state in Georgia, evidently.

Way to stay on top of things there, gov’.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 😉

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