Thursday, May 31, 2007

Change the paradigm

Since the inception of businesses, executives always asked themselves: How can I make more profit? The answers to the same question always changed: Increase your farm land and sell more products. Become a pirate and steal all the diamonds you can find. Start an Internet company and push for a quick IPO.

Even though the answer changed all the time, the question remained the same: How can I make more profit?
Next time you ask yourself or being asked how to make more profit, change the paradigm: "How can I improve the life of each of my customers? How can I develop a product that will change everything?"

This will help you focus on the real important business issue. The profit will follow.

They are getting it

Atlanta-based agency WestWayne surprised everyone with their new homepage, resembling the always popular 404 page.
The page reads: "The connection to your consumer cannot be found.
The consumer you're trying to sell products or services to has been disconnected from your brand."

The rest reads like an excerpt from Cluetrain Manifesto. Bold step by WestWayne. Love it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Zombie Function

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about the perils of micro management.
The Creating Passionate Users blog posted a great graph about the same topic.

Media Planning 2.0

Currently, most companies have either one of two approaches to develop a media plan:

1. Focus on yourself.
Companies that create new advertising plans based on previous advertising plans alone are self-referential. They create their own reality and are limited to their own view. In the end, companies like that always believe they are right.

2. Focus on others.
You focus on the others. Companies like that always believe the others are right. And they are always wrong.

And, this is the only acceptable approach:

3. Focus on consumers.
Consumers are the ones that accept or, hopefully not, reject products. We should focus on them when we are creating media plans. What problems is the specific product solving? And where are the consumers looking for answers to solve their problem? How about connecting with them in these places? Look closer at these opportunities and you will not copy last year's plan or your competitors'.
And you have a chance to finally connect with the most important person of your business.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Overcome the fear

Saturn offers customers in their dealerships the opportunity to drive competitive models, as reported by CNN.
Not only is this very innovative and forward-thinking, it's also very brave of Saturn. Would anybody have thought 10 years ago that transparency would reach dealerships that quickly?
Brave, Saturn.

Stop burning customers

People don't have a problem with brands. They just don't like it when marketers try to force brands upon them. I'm talking about push vs pull, selling to someone vs helping someone to buy, marketing at vs marketing for, old marketing vs new.

Shouldn't you stop burning consumers?

Or are you doing everything you can to convince them to wear your brand by choice?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Creativity and design

We all heard the dreaded phrase of "thinking outside of the box". It reminds me of agencies of the 80's with crazy creatives, rollerblading AE's and endless all-nighters.
Instead, we need to make connections across boxes. We have to understand patterns across all accessible data and synthesize those insights into describing a viable strategic position.

At this point of the game, I'm intrigued how the design approach can help develop business plans for new ventures. What is the design approach? You look for insights, try to develop a prototype and continue with endless optimism. This is a perfect entrepreneurial approach.

And that's where creativity is desperately needed. Any MBA class will tell you that cash is king. No matter if you're a small or big organization. But cash doesn't make you a winner. Ask all these companies that were sitting on a pile of cash and disappeared. You would think that Google and Microsoft will win the online innovation game.

Fortunately, creativity is so much more important than any cash when it comes to making strategies work. If you want get things done, you need the right creative mindset, positive attitude and mentorship.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Your worldview

At a recent party in my house, I bought four different brands of beer: The predictable US brand, a known British brand, an unknown French beer with a cool bottle and a microbrew from LA.

I noticed that the French beer was gone almost immediately, closely followed by the microbrew. The majority of my guests didn't choose based on brand. They chose based on design and coolness factor.

If you see the world as an adventure, as something you want to experience and get the most out of it, you chose the French or local beer. If you don't like to take risks, prefer to be safe and lead a predictable life, you chose the other two brands. It really didn't matter what tasted better. It mattered how you perceived the world before you even arrived at the party.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Social Networks

Interesting graphic from, displaying the social software building blocks and social information architecture. Below representation how three different sites represent some of the social software building blocks.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Take my breath away

Nice used of 3-D modelingb in this Saab microsite.

Party like it's 1999

Google buys DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.

Yahoo buys Right Media for $725 million.

WPP buys 24/7 Media for $650 million.

Microsoft buys aQuantive for $6 billion.

Does this change the game? Don't know. What I believe is that some of these mergers will have minimal impact and might create major inefficiencies.
All these companies will have major struggles at hand to create efficiencies and synergies.

How does a holding company like WPP make 24/7 a better company? I think they will just get a nice, fat check each quarter.

Microsoft buying aQuantive - If you're an Apple user at Razorfish or Atlas, better watch out. Get used to Vista. Microsoft is way behind in search, their advertising network is mediocre at best and the only thing they can do with aQuantive is force them to change the technical architecture.

The one interesting acquisition is Google and DoubleClick. Google will apply their engineering machine and combine their tools with DoubleClick to make something really interesting. And, possibly, scary. Trafficking, tracking, optimization at a whole new level.

Does anyone remember the Daimler/Chrysler merger? Organic synergies always beat purchased synergies.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Discover your Visual DNA

Interesting approach to Social Networking: Once you head to Imagini, you have to fill out an esoteric, visual test in order to develop personality profiles for users and link them with others who match. They currently have 2.3 million that answered their quiz.

This is not only cute and interesting, it also is an innovative approach to marketing: the test tries to discover more than users' moods, habits and love leanings. It also captures emotional marketing information. It's an interesting way to research people and connect with them in a more targeted way.

It might be a first step in getting us out of the ghetto of segmentation. If a 12-year old pupil, a 25-year old student and a 50-year old profile share the same profile - can we target them in the same way?

Everybody talks about Googleclick and Microatlas

Not many people are talking about Experian's acquisition of Hitwise.
My strong belief is that we will see the evolution of 2 main marketing models:
a) Highly targeted marketing, based on data models
b) Experience marketing based on consumer insights and emotional connections

Does anyone remember that Experian houses all the FICO scores and has an impressive amount of consumer data? This knowledge with targeting techniques could Experian turn into a real powerhouse.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Russian Doll Syndrome

Many micro-managers claim to be coaches. In reality, they are just rationalizing their failures.

Micro-managing and coaching focus on two different things:

Micro-managing focuses on a task and method. The manager has a certain method in mind how he wants the task to be completed. It's a non-personal approach. Micro-managers have poor social skills and live under the premise "Either my way or the highway."

Coaching is method and development focused. Task completion is secondary to behavior change and competence in the method. The focus is on the person.

The purpose of both managing methods is different and determines different results:

Micro-managers prefer to work with people they consider less capable. And they hire people they consider not as competent as them. That results in the Russian Doll Syndrome: They hire smaller people than them, and these smaller people tend to hire even smaller people until you end up with managerial dwarfs.

Coaching enables people to grow. Coaching Managers encourage their employees to express opinions and take risks.

Micro-managers are relics of the Industrial Age aka Capitalism 1.0
Coaches are needed for Capitalism 2.0.

What is authenticity?

Many brand marketers talk about authenticity and authentic brand. Their traditional definition of authenticity fails because they assume that each brand has a core self that we just need communicate to the world.

I do believe in a true self. But, it's not some isolated nugget we have dig deep to find. The true self happens a million times a day. Every time a person interacts with the brand, the true self reveals itself. The true self is not something that remains stable and never changes. This is true for humans as well as brand. This Newsweek article explains how personalities are a lot malleable than previously thought.

Authenticity is not the stable expression of some strong brand core. It is a dynamic, always changing process. Authenticity is a journey to the real self. So you can become who you really are.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Flash Forward

Interesting article in the LA Times about Eric Jordan and his company

My favorite quote:

"So here we stand, all of us, travelers at the water's edge. And that little rowboat is asking the question: Are we ready to embrace the vast and complicated metropolis that technology offers us?

It's way beyond Web design now. Way beyond a single program or person. As you read this, millions of people are uploading their dreams, thoughts, desires, fears, visions, memories and prayers into the virtual stratosphere. Entire cities—New York, San Francisco, Tokyo—are going wireless. Hand-held devices no longer distinguish among the singular functionality of "phone," "camera," "e-mail" or "browser." They are simply "connected." And one of these days, sooner than you think, you're going to look down into the all-in-one monitor of that hand-held connection platform and find it looking back.

Eric Jordan can't wait."

And, if you're into electronic music, like I am, download a few of his mixes at Very trancy but no glowsticks required.


From the makers of Twittervision comes Flickrvision, an innovative experience extension of the already mind-blowing Flickr.
Get a glass of wine, chill out and watch the world take pictures.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bring the Love back

Just watch it. Great spot. No additional words necessary. Just make sure to visit

Past vs Future

In the past, agencies succeeded because they were great at listening to clients.

In the future, agencies will succeed because they are great at listening to people.

We used to listen during emergencies, when the brand had PR issues. Now, listening will be the norm.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Truemors and Kuy Kawasaki

I'm a big fan of Guy Kawaski: He's an amazing speaker, seasoned digital evangelist, interesting blogger and serial entrepreneur.

He just launched his newest venture:
Truemors focuses on something that's important to many people: rumors. I've looked at the site and I don't think I will return. It just doesn't do anything for me and doesn't interest me enough to come back. But that doesn't mean his newest venture won't be successful.
What's more interesting is an article in the WSJ in which Lee Gomes profiles Guy, talks about the low-cost start-up costs for this venture, and shows Guy as a candid and authentic person. The title of the column is killer: In New Net Economy, Everyone Gets to be Stupid for 15 Minutes.

An excerpt:

"Apparently, Web businesses now aren’t much harder to make than YouTube videos. Mr. Kawasaki says he has been working on Truemors for just three months. Because it uses free software, with programming done by a for-hire outfit in called Electric Pulp located in the high tech mecca of South Dakota, the costs are minimal. Mr. Kawasaki says to date, he has spent $12,000 on Truemors.

Or, as he puts it, “During the dot-com bubble, you needed $5 million to do stupid ideas. Now you can do stupid ideas for 12 grand.”

With so little at stake, Mr. Kawasaki can afford to adopt a tone of almost cheerful agnosticism when fielding questions. Will Truemors have any redeeming social purpose? “The real answer is, ‘I don’t know,’” he replies. Will the things people read on Truemors be true? “As much as anything else they read on the Internet,” he says.

Mention that he seems to not know a lot about how his business will shake out and Mr. Kawasaki lets you in on a little secret. “If you raise $2 million from VCs, you have to pretend like you ‘know’ all this stuff. The truth is whether it’s $12,000 or $2 million, you really don’t know. The only difference is what you think you can admit.”

That's why I don't believe we're in Web 2.0 bubble. Business models are being tested on an ongoing basis. The ones with great ideas that keep their costs down have a good chance of surviving. The ones that operate under the 1.0 model will not.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wal-Mart has it all wrong

Instead of fighting communities, Wal-Mart should become a partner in preserving current communities.

- Research the new market and just offer products that local Mom & Pop stores don't sell
- Utilize the financial power of Wal-Mart to improve the overall community, not ruining it by building Super-Duper-Megastores
- Partner with local community leaders in helping preserve small town USA
- Support local business by offering them access to Wal-Mart's vast resources

One can dream...

Friday, May 18, 2007


•Research has shown that the media environment affects advertising claims (see Aaker and Brown’s study of vehicle source effects of 1972). For instance, quality claims are more effective in elite or prestigious magazines because people associate the claim with the media environment.

•Aspirational, upscale and high status brands have the potential to alienate customers who lack confidence. While these customers might admire these brands, they don’t feel comfortable using them. Building warmth, humor and less formality into the brands to make them more approachable helps overcome this problem. (Source: Blackston, Max. “Observations: Building Brand Equity by Managing the Brand’s Relationships.” Journal of Advertising Research 32, 3 May/June 1992: 79-83.)

Clients and agencies

BusinessWeek surveyed advertising and branding elite from both the client (Kraft, Home Depot, Yahoo!, etc.) and agency (BBDO, Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc.) sides to gain insight on the future of marketing. Below are two interesting snippets.

It shows clearly that advertising agencies still don't get the power of WOM, utilizing traditional PR techniques. Clients are starting to get it. That's a huge opportunity for niche agencies or a hybrid of advertising/PR agency.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The 'N' word

Every parents experiences it: We have the tendency to say 'No' to our kids too many times. Instead of deflecting their attention, we tend to use the 'No' words: Don't, Not, Never, etc.

This behavior takes roots very quickly: One of the first words kids learn is 'No'. It's never yes.

In marketing, it's almost impossible to change a 'no' into a 'yes'.
Seth Godin writes about in one of his latest musings.
He recommends abandoning the 'No' crowd and focus on the 'Yes' crowd. In many ways, basic psychology. We all enjoy being with people who agree with us more often than none. But, beware, being with kindred spirits can end up in a boring experience. It's all about the mix.

Value of Mentoring

Great article about Workplace Mentoring found on Knowledge @ Wharton.

Clearly, with diminishing loyalty and commitment on both sides of the fence some companies might believe that mentorship has become less important.
The article (and I agree completely) makes the point that a caring managerial model has become more and more important since companies have to continue developing talent and build alliances outside of the typical networks.

I always believed that managers are the best mentors. They know the business (hopefully...), your strengths and weaknesses, your overall make-up. Good managers also have a vested interest in developing their employees. Yes, I said, good managers. Bad managers are the worst mentors because they introduce employees to ineffective management styles, are bad role models and don't provide interesting, challenging assignments.

That means: Choose your mentor wisely. And, if you're stuck with a bad one, ditch him. There are many people out that cherish being a mentor.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time to vent

So much about controlling the message: is every employers nightmare: This site allows employees to write good or bad things about their experience working at the specific company.

Will people write more about bad or good experiences? Well, you guessed right.

I scanned the site briefly and discovered a recurring theme: Managers have lost touch with their employees and don't listen to them anymore. Instead, they focus on charts and metrics.
Nothing creates more alienation than converting people into resources/numbers.

People are talking. Are Managers listening?

Avoid the phone loop

Frustrated by the endless phone loops of pressing '1' and '#'? Bringo can help you: You put in your own phone number and Bringo will connect you directly with a customer service rep.
I tested it and it worked really well. Got a call from AA within a few seconds.

Another example why companies need to change. While corporations continue to build walls, people find ways to tear them down.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gay-friendly site and airline

Southwest Airlines just launched a gay-specific travel site. It features information on "gay-friendly destinations" and an "In the Spotlight" feature that focuses this week on Philadelphia as a destination. Their taglines is "We Take Pride in Partnering With You."
What I like the best are links to the Southwest Diversity Policy and the Southwest Diversity Program. Southwest seems to understand that it's not enough to market to the gay and lesbian community - It's even more important to display your understanding of the community and engage their customers in a meaningful way.

PR and advertising agencies

Advertising agencies are not fond of PR agencies and vice versa. Especially in this changing marketing landscape, both are starting to compete even more for the same piece of the pie.

I jsut stumbled upon Richard Edelmans's Game On blog post. Here are a few excerpts:

“The advertising industry is facing a stark new reality. The traditional business of buying time and space in mainstream media is not a growth proposition.”

He believes advertising can't move the market alone.

“The response from ad agencies is to develop their ancillary businesses, from direct marketing to interactive to public relations. The agencies have changed their names, boasted about their truly integrated campaigns, and even hired chief marketing officers who are tasked with persuading clients to undertake viral or other non-media based projects.”

Clearly, not only advertising agencies are facing stark new realities. A few years ago, neither PR nor advertising agencies were remotely prepared for the digital age. Now they're getting ready.

Traditional is not on the way out but it's losing its power and new, innovative ways of connection with customers will become even more important.

The innovative will survive. Based on traditional advertising and PR practices, innovative agencies will found ways to engage in, yet, unknown ways.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Map of Social Media

Interesting approach to visualizing social media. It feels a bit dated now since social media is evolving hourly.

Change ain't easy

Seth Godin's newest post talks about how hard it is to implement change.

His banana example is right on spot and reminded me of a statistic that left me speechless: 9 out of 10 smokers with diagnosed lung cancer started to smoke again once their sickness went into remission. Old habits are hard to change. That's why we haven't seen the impactful change mass media spending.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day released a study that makes the point that a stay-at-home mother should make $138,095 per year for all her work. offers an online tool for each mother to calculate her own's work worth. This study needs to spread.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How to test future employees

Found this on Tom Peters site:

"Trying to evaluate a potential new hire? Here's a great test: Arrange for them to work for a day—a particularly slow day—at a place like Best Buy or a hotel check-in desk. Make sure that there are ropes set up to control long lines—you know, the kind that corral the crowd and make customers walk back and forth many times before making it to the counter. Remember: Be sure to choose a slow day.

Now, station yourself at a place where you can surreptitiously observe your prospective new hire. Watch him as he watches the occasional customer walk back and forth through the empty labyrinth, following the course of a long line even though there is no line and no other customers. What does your potential new employee do as he watches customers take these extra steps? Does he do nothing? Does he assume that "the powers that be" (I hate that term) have decided the ropes are necessary, even on slow days? Or, does your future star worker take the initiative to undo the ropes and let customers walk right in?

The formula is simple: If he does nothing, don't hire him. If he takes the initiative to change the configuration of the ropes, hire him."

Obviously, this shouldn't be taken literally. What we need from employees is to question th Status Quo, and look for new ways to improve the customer's brand experience. Everyone in your company has an effect on brand experiences and nobody should be passive when customers enocunter bad brand experiences.

Let's be clear: Most prospective employees won't move the ropes. Cherish those that will.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blogs as a recruiting tool

It was a first for me to interview a possible candidate and to hear that one of the reasons she was interested in my company was my blog.

This alone should be reason enough for corporations to host their own blogs. It's make you more human, transparent and authentic.

Turn Customer Service into a Marketing Discipline?

Bad customer experiences weaken your brand: the call to your company, the application process, the talk to the shop clerk, the cleanliness of the store.

Customer Service has more impact on the brand than any advertising messages. In a way, advertising messages set expectations, customer experiences has to deliver. For that reason, marketers should consider claiming customer service as a discipline.

Interruptive and disruptive marketing doesn't work anymore, Viral Marketing and WOM are about to become cornerstones of the marketing universe and permissive marketing is still too close to disruptive marketing. There are instances when customers already are open talking to us: On the phone, at the store.
We don't have to limit building connections to social networks or marketing-based platforms. Connections happen every day with representatives of your company. Make them count.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Advertising part of PR?

As illustrated in the video, change is almost always incremental:

We were discussing marketing ideas for one of our clients.
A few years ago, we would have discussed banners, SEM, advertorials, sponsorships and other ways to push our message out to the consumer. Today we were talking about buzz, blogging, viral messaging, outreach, etc. We see the 'traditional online media' as a given and focus more and more on WOM techniques.

I would argue that the changes in marketing, communications and media are so pervasive, so fundamental and so dramatic that advertising agencies and PR firms won't be referred to as advertising agencies and PR firms anymore. They will be something different. Something new.

Let others worry about how we'll be calling this.
For now, let us just worry about great ideas. Ultimately, clients don't care where ideas are coming from. It's not about the delivery service, it's about the product

Godfather of modern management speaks

Since so many things are changing in the marketing and management world, many people seem to distance themselves from Peter Drucker. I just read the January 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Drucker published an article entitled "Managing Oneself". No reason to regard Drucker as outdated.

Here are a few passages that resonate with me:

On Excellence

One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. And yet most people--especially most teachers and most organizations--concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy, resources, and time should go instead into making a competent person into a star performer.

On Careers

[M]ost people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three questions: What are my strengths? How do I perform? and, What are my values? And then they can and should decide where they belong.

Or rather, they should be able to decide where they do not belong...

Equally important, knowing the answers to these questions enables a person to say to an opportunity, an offer, or an assignment, "Yes, I will do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way the relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am."

Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.

On Second Careers

We hear a great deal of talk about the midlife crisis of the executive. It is mostly boredom. At 45, most executives have reached the peak of their business careers, and they know it. After 20 years of doing very much the same kind of work, they are very good at their jobs. But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job... That is why managing oneself increasingly leads one to begin a second career [typically by moving from one kind of organization to another; by developing a parellel career, often in a nonprofit; or by starting a new venture, again often a nonprofit]...

No one can expect to live very long without experiencing a serious setback in his or her life or work... At such times, a second major interest--not just a hobby--may make all the difference...

In a knowledge society...we expect everybody to be a success. This is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual's family, to have an area in which he or she can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. That means finding a second area--whether in a second career, a parallel career, or a social venture--that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Doesn't this feel familiar?

This commercial exemplifies the current life of marketers. We know where to go but we have to build it on the fly. It's challenging, it's risky, it's nerve-wrecking. But it's also a lot of fun.

Nothing says Consumer 2.0 better

The art collective Gelitin installed a 200 feet long giant pink rabbit on the Colleto Fava mountain in Northern Italy. It's scheduled to stay there until 2025.

I'm busy booking my flight

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Why I don't put ads in my blog

So, I've been getting enough traffic to this blog, it could warrant putting ads on it. But, is making a few pennies with AdSense really worth the distraction this would cause to all the readers that I'm so lucky to have? Definitely not.

For one thing, AdSense doesn't really work. One example: I use Gmail as my private Email account. I'm working with my mortgage broker on possible, future business. Every time she writes me, other mortgage brokers try to interrupt me with offers, trying to convince me to switch mortgage brokers. Since I'm very happy with my mortgage broker, I don't have a mortgage broker problem. If I had one, I would use a search enginge or social network to find a good one.

When I'm looking for commercial information, I will look for it myself. I don't want to be interrupted to receive that information. AdSense is like a bad salesman who doesn't really get where I'm coming from. When this whole idea of targeting will become a real product, that's when mainstream advertising and the whole idea of disruption will disappear.

If it's highly targeted, advertising turns into information. Would you continue to send out untargeted advertising that results in .05% CTR if you could send out targeted messages that result in conversions of 20%? I know, a rhetorical question.

Good products will be the winners of this revolutionary change. The real losers will be bad products that nobody wants. And this will lead to even more changes: The product development process as we know it with its top-down approach is heading towards a certain death. Centralization of ideas is not sustainable and will be replaced by a free-flow of ideas for products.

Targeting consumers is so 2006. The future is to find people that can't wait to own your product. How?
A) Get insights and understand what people really want
B) Produce it
c) Tell people who initially wanted all about it.

The idea for the next iPhone, biggest blockbuster ever, healthcare reform and how we can be able to walk on Saturn on day is out there. It's not with your engineers, product planners or executives. It's with the crowd. Engage them.

Consumer 2.0

We're done. We’re not gonna take it...anymore. In the beginning of the Internet, we educated ourselves: we compared, we shopped, we reviewed. And we were ready to deal with the sales people. Now we don't need to educate ourselves, we're always on, always connected, can immediately confirm details and find better offers.

And what happened is just stunning. Consumer not only have immediate access to information but the Consumer 2.0 has finally found a voice that can be heard by millions. And you can't stop them.

Here's a video about Comcast. It says more about Comcast than any flashy advertising can do. Their technician has to wait on hold for an hour and falls asleep. Do I need to know more about Comcast? Not really.

Suddenly, the customer experience is more important than any other brand experiences and Consumer 2.0 will find ways to make his point. PR agencies need to be ready for Consumer 2.0. Because the consumer is ready for them.

Monday, May 7, 2007

And now to something completely different

In 1955, French director, Henri-Georges Clouzot, filmed Picasso creating 20 artworks and this work is now in video format available from Netflix (The Mystery of Picasso).

I posted the trailer for the movie and it illustrates very well how many times the creative mind changes and plays around until the final vision is realized. Rental of the whole movie is highly recommended.

Lying stock photos

I needed customer service from a technology company a few weeks ago and found the phone number in the support section of the site. The page featured a very good looking woman, pleasant smile, perfect teeth, $2,000 dress.

I'm pretty sure the guy with a thick Indian accent wasn't her. Very nice, very helpful, very professional. But definitely not her.

Is this false advertising? Where's the friendly looking person you featured on the website?

Another lie, I'm afraid.

Did I expect the beautiful woman to deal with customer issues for 9-hours a day using a pad and a laptop?

Do we want to be lied to? Do we really want to see the sea of cubicles, walls filled with phone scripts and poor customer service agents dealing with irate people?

I would argue that there is a good medium between reality and complete lies. Take a few pictures of actual employees. Sure, hide the full reality of their cubicle world. But feature real people. Your employees deserve that confidence boost. At least you're not hiding behind a beautiful stock photo.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Childhood branding

My daughter (that's not her in the above picture)is two years old. Because of almost no TV time and our avoidance of Disney/Fast Food Chains, she doesn't really know any brand names.
She loves cats, calls them 'Coco'. Every morning she wants to watch cats. Sometimes we see them at the morning walk but she insists on more cats when we come home. I used YouTube to play her various cats videos. She must have heard me say 'YouTube' many times when we were looking at cat videos. And a few days ago she said 'Tube' the first time. Her first brand name. Not sure if YouTube will be around when she grows up. But it left a long-lasting expression on my daughter.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Empathetic Leadership

The technology-driven world promised us faster and easier communications. The reality is that communication and listening skills have not improved over the last years.

Our attention span is down to an MTV cut or, even worse, 'point & click'. All of us have been caight in this fairy tale of "Speed is King". Speed is now often more important than quality. In some cases, quality equals speed.

Because we're so focused on speed, we often don't take the time to slow down and listen. Each and every organization needs to consider intelligent and deep discussions as a core competency. This will guarantee strong relationships between people and allow for a free flow of ideas.

How do we define good conversations? You know when you experience one: You feel stimulated, engaged, alive. Unfortunately, most of our conversations at work are just painful, go nowhere and don't have their own life.

So, how can we have good conversations?

No phone calls, no blackberry time.
No agenda. Or, if there has to be one, it should be open.
Thoughts and Ideas should not be judged.
Everyone is equal. No top-down leadership.
Forget strategies, let spontaneity happen.
Emotional and empathetic.

Too often we do focus on processes or the lack thereof when try to improve the overall efficiency and profitability of our organizations.
Instead, we should try to have a real conversation for a change.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Subliminal Advertising

Interesting video, featuring Darren Brown, illustrating the power of Subliminal Advertising. (Hopefully, the video represents what really happened.)

Two creatives are being recruited to create a campaign in 30 minutes for a taxidermy store. The resulting campaign will surprise you.

Quote of the day

"Think P.I.G. -- that's my motto. P stands for persistence, I stands for integrity, and G stands for guts. These are the ingredients for a successful business and a successful life."
Linda Chandler
Corporate motivational speaker

Thursday, May 3, 2007

So, I flew American Airlines recently. As a seasoned flyer, I was ready with a lot of books, magazines, Video iPod, Water, food and inflatable pillow. I don't care about airline food and drinks anymore. Some people still do or they were in such a rush, they didn't have time to buy food and drinks.

Shortly after take-off, two flight attendants walk from the back to First Class, return moments later with two first-class food plates. When I got up to the bathroom, they were sitting in the last row, reading magazines, eating their food and taking a break. Mind you, nobody in Coach had received any drinks or food yet, and service calls were left unanswered.

Not many things can upset me about airlines anymore: JetBlue's obnoxious behavior was the last time I can recall. But this prime example of customer disservice just shows that all the flashy advertising campaigns and marketing efforts don't mean a thing, if your company culture doesn't align appropriately.

I don't envy flight attendants: They used to work in a desirable profession and now they've become vaccuum sales people. ("$2 for a bottle of water.") And I understand their frustrations: Airlines try to cut down costs as much as they can, try to squeeze every dollar out of that operation.

But, if you work in such an environment you have two choices: Get with the program or get out. Now, I understand if they want to get out. What I don't understand is when they stay (I guess it's flight privileges and benefits) and then turn on the customer in return. You don't do yourself and your company a favor. You make the situation worse for everybody.

Airlines have to take a hard look at themselves: Your flight attendants hate the company they are working for. They hate their customers. They hate what they have become. They hate what the future might bring. And these flight attendants directly reflect the brand.
We know, times were hard after 9/11 but things are picking up and everything has to change. As of now, AA is well on the road to become another TWA. Or PanAm.

P.S.: Asking every passenger if they can collect their magazines and hand them over to the flight attendants shortly before landing doesn't help either.

What is marketing?

One of my professors at London Business School defined it as "The management of perception."

I don't think this is good enough anymore.

Too many marketers try to create a 'false perception'. They claim their product/service/brand is better than it really is. Basically, they rationalize being liars. And then they wonder why their product doesn't sell once they take a breather from advertising. Why they are wondering is a mystery to me. We all know that frustrated and underwhelmed buyers won't recommend a product/service/brand to their friends.

In their minds, marketers are supposed to lie, create illusion and create fake perceptions. Wrong.

All these poducts/services/brand should stop advertising. Invest all your money in R&D. Create a great product/service/brand. And you'll quickly learn that marketing is more than creating a perception. Marketing is creating a perception that aligns with the reality of your product/service/brand. And it's soch much easier, ethical, cost-effective and successful when you have a product/service/brand that customers want, cherish and recommend.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Frankly, some things I don't get

The new craze of Lolcats goes right above my head. Yeah, cats are cute but I'm not a big fan of bad spelling, grammar and bad humor. Sorry, it's not my kind of humor and I'm not even trying to explain this even further.

It's out there. Many people like it.
If you're one of them, explore more here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Back to Marketing 1.0

Great commercials from Nissan. They 'invented' a new sport to market the car. Love it.

The Curse of Knowledge

In 1990, a Stanford University graduate student in psychology named Elizabeth Newton illustrated the curse of knowledge by exploring a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: "tapper" or "listener". Each tapper was asked to pick up a well-known song, such as 'Happy Birthday", and tap out the rhythm on a table. The listener's job was to guess the song.

Over the course of Newton's experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only three of the songs correctly: a success ratio of 2.5%. But before they guessed, Newton asked the tappers to predict the probability that listeners would guess correctly. They predicted 50%. The tappers got their message across one time in 40, but they thought they would get it across one time in two. Why?
When a tapper taps, it is impossible for her to avoid hearing the tune playing along to her taps. Meanwhile, all the listener can hear is a kind of bizarre Morse code. Yet the tappers were flabbergasted by how hard the listeners had to work to pick up the tune.
The problem is that once we know something - say, the melody of a song - we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has "cursed" us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can't readily re-create their state of mind.
In the business world, we all rely on ongoing communication but suffer from enormous information imbalances, just like the tappers and listeners.
As business people, we need to translate our strategies into concrete language. It's not about mission statements, corporate philosophies.
It's about stories that connect with your clients, co-workers and employees.
These stories need to support your mission statement, your vision. But don't let the vision stand on its own. Unless you're happy with a 2.5% success ratio.