Saturday, September 29, 2007

Elements of Branding

branding elements
Brandon Fritz from Kolbrener built this insightful and innovative list of branding terms into a Periodic Table.

Click here to start playing with it.

Via ConverStations

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Viral Marketing

Great post by Scott Monty on his Social Media Marketing Blog. He starts out:

"Viral marketing is like the weather: everyone's talking about it, but no one is doing anything about it.

You know why? Because you can't. That's right. You can't simply manufacture viral marketing. But don't tell that to some marketers. They're out there, practicing something akin to alchemy."

He's spot on with his post. I would like to add 2 thoughts:

1) It's all about the idea. Revolutionary things are happening in the advertising world but the core of advertising remains: A good idea will be successful.
2) However, in this new world of gazillion channels, our job as marketers is to find the right distribution channel to allow the great idea to spread.

My formula would be: Research + outstanding idea + chosing the right distribution channels: Wildly successful campaign.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The newest contender

Whenever you come too late to a party, it can go two ways: The party is at its peak, it takes for you too long to get into it and join the festivities. You can leave disappointed and swear never to be late again.
Or the party is going great but your arrival adds value to the party and makes it an even more memorable event.

Yahoo! just arrived late to the party with their social networking product called Mash. Fairly surprising that it took them so long to join the party since they have all capabilities and properties (Answers, Flickr,, Answers, just to name a few) to enhance a social network and turn it into a monster party.

After signing up for Mash (it's still in beta) and exploring it for a while, I have the nagging suspicion that Yahoo! might have missed the peak and the party might be going on somewhere. A lot of features are missing (consistent RSS feeds, sparse outside development), it lacks interactivity and personalization options offered by the two big guns. It feels very sparse but not in a positive Craigslist kind of way.

Even though they might not be able to compete with Facebook and MySpace, Yahoo! has an enormous user base and Mash could possibly allow users to consolidate the profiles on MyYahoo, Flickr, etc.

The jury is still out on Mash. Yahoo has a long way to go to make it a remarkable experience. But they might have found a way to get Yahooligans return more frequently to Yahoo properties. With two big parties going on at the same time, Mash might be the ultimate block party.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two heavyweights

Still more than 3 days to go but the highlight of Advertising Week took place today at the MIXX Conference: Charlie Rose interviewing Seth Godin.

A few topics covered:

- Advertisers can't act as terrorists anymore and hold consumers hostage. People want to see what they want to see not what we want them to see.
- The time of mass media is over. Brands have to count on people to spread the message. Only remarkable products and ideas will be successful and make people talk about them.
- Successful brands will be connectors: Connecting people to people, people to ideas and people to products.

I'll post a link to the video of this insightful discussion once it's available.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Web 2.0 - How to do it right

Seth Godin has a great post about the new world of marketing and how organizations have to adopt to succeed in the Web 2.0 world (Or whatever you want to call it.)

He writes:

"Organizations don’t fail because the Web and the New Marketing don’t work. They fail because the Web and the New Marketing work only when applied to the right organization. New Media makes a promise to the consumer. If the organization is unable to keep that promise, then it fails.

New Marketing—whipped cream and a cherry on top—isn’t magical. What’s magical is what happens when an organization uses the New Marketing to become something it didn’t used to be—it’s not just the marketing that’s transformed, but the entire organization. Just as technology propelled certain organizations through the Industrial Revolution, this new kind of marketing is driving the right organizations through the digital revolution.

You can become the right organization. You can align your organization from the bottom up to sync with New Marketing, and you can transform your organization into one that thrives on the new rules."

Too many organizations still apply the old rules and structures to their marketing approach. Seth points out that if Web 2.0 strategies and tactics don't work, you should have a long, hard look at your organization and not put the dunce cap on your Web 2.0 strategy.

If your company had the right structure and organization 10 years, chances are very good you have to adjust today. Or better yesterday.

Advertising Week - Day 1

Interesting am session with Carla Hendra (Ogilvy), Rishad Tobaccowala (Denuo) and David Verklin (Carat).

A few quotes:

David Verklin: "The future is not brands telling stories, it's people telling stories about brands."

Rishad Tobaccowala: "Media companies have to distinguish between paid and earned media."

"Drop the word advertising and change it to marketing services."

"The only way to face the future is to face reality."

One of the questions asked by the audience why PR always seems to be missing from panels. Scanning the list of attendees, only a handful of PR firms are even present at these conferences. It's a missed opportunity since PR and Advertising need to work closer together to connect better with consumers.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Good to be in New York

Arriving really late in New York due to JetBlue problems (ATC didn't allow planes to land in JFK. Not Jet Blue's problem but how they communicated that problem to us showed their disregard for customer service. JetBlue: Customer Service is part of your marketing effort.) we settled in at 1.30am in SoHo. Next door is an Italian Festival with Calzone, cannelloni and 'Drown the Clown'. Coney Island in SoHo, including sleeping drunks on sidewalks. Nice change from Maine.

Checked my vacation emails in the afternoon and discovered big news from Google that might turn out being the first battle between the search giant and Facebook:

Techcrunch writes:

"The short version: Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time." goes a bit more into detail and criticizes:

"From my perspective, I'm skeptical of a lot of the talk about social network portability because the conversation rarely seems to be user centric. Usually it's creators of competing services who are angry about "lock-in" because they can't get a new user's contacts from another service and spam them to gain "viral growth" for their service. As for the various claims of social network overload only the power users and geeks who join a new social network service a month (WTF is Dopplr?) have this problem."

In my opinion, it's too late to fight Facebook. The Internet has become a huge swap meet. It's harder and harder to get the attention of people and sustain it. We have numerous identities, avatars, passwords to access sites and communicate with other people. I'm Uwe Gemini on Second Life, have 5 different emails, 7 passwords - you know the drill.
What everyone still seems to not understand is that Facebook is becoming the new Internet. Consider the general trends:

Facebook is the new Internet. It's a closed community but every user can let the outside in. It's up to them. I have no idea how Google can change/improve/transform the Facebook experience. But I know that Google doesn't have a fighting chance to overtake Facebook in social media. Announcements are a dime a dozen. Just ask Sony and their embarassing delay of Home.
Now, if Google or Yahoo would acquire Facebook that would be a different story. But why would Facebook even bother?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why it's all about the user experience

While vacationing in Maine, my 2.5 year old daughter learned to use the iPhone. She's not making calls, she doesn't check her email and she doesn't check the weather forecast. But she knows how to explore all the pictures that I've taken. Mostly of her, as you would expect from a proud father. She knows the photos button, can scroll through all pictures, move them around, enlarge them. I showed her the scroll function first but didn't have to tell her anything after.

That's where the future is: User Experiences that are self-explanatory, that feel very organic. If you have anything to learn on a site or dealing with new gadgets, the learning curve has to be very small. And enjoyable. Don't design experiences for adults. Design them for toddlers. If they don't get it with their endless patience, adults won't get it either.

And now I'm back enjoying lobsters, blueberry ale and some time away from Web 2.0.
Reality 1.0 is calling. See you next week at Advertising Week.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Widget News keep coming

Three developments in the widget world:

- Google announced this week the launch of Gadget Ads (BTW: Why do they call them gadgets and not widgets? Is being different for Google so important?)
- Cory Treffiletti reflects in his column 'If Widgets Morph Into Spyware, Bad Things Could Happen' about the possibility that widgets will be used by malicious marketers. Remember Spam?
- Yours truly was featured in an Automotive News article (Subscription required). I won't bore you with my brilliant quotes, just add a good remark by Pam Webber.

“It's the difference between push and pull marketing,” says Pam Webber, a vice president of Widgetbox, a San Francisco company that creates widgets.

“People will use widgets to be more discerning in what online information they experience, because they can actively pick and choose it. Consumers will be able to pull whatever content they want and, in turn, will have more control over the advertising they absorb.”

As I said in a previous post, widgets are the marketing fad of the year. We'll see spyware widgets, more and more useless widgets, great widgets that can't break through the widget clutter and a few very successful widgets.

Widgets are not magical solutions to every marketing problem.
They are a great supplement to your overall campaign.

Conversational Marketing is where the real game is.
Widgets help bridge the gap between push and pull. They are interesting hybrids: Created as a push mechanism for marketers to communicate their message. The only pull mechanism is the necessity for users to download. If your widget is just another media push unit, the pull will quickly disappear because users will push the Uninstall button very quickly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two great sites

Dutch agency Achtung created an amazing 3D site, marketing the capabilities of Schiphol airport. Apparently, Schiphol has plans to expand and communicates with the site to environmentalists and neighbors the need for further expansion.

The animations are breathtaking and engage you to learn more about how Schiphol works and why this airport is so vital for the economy.

Via Adverblog

Hilarious trailer and nicely integrated site for Wilkinson. Animation feels 2001 but the the campaign idea makes up for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Visualize this

Why we still have to sit through mindless three bullet points presentations will become even more of a mystery to you, once you've read the piece about visualization techniques 'Data Visualization: Modern Approaches" from Smashing Magazine.

The article examines mindmaps and ways how to visualize news, data, connections, websites, etc. In addition, tools to create your own innovative graphs and visualizations are being offered.

The old adage still applies and perhaps even more so in today’s media driven society, "A picture says more than a 1000 words." These new visualizations allow us to better understand connections and touchpoints we never even thought about before. The innovative combination of form and content offers remarkable insights and learnings.

Who knows, I might have become a math wizard if we had access to these tools in High School. Well, maybe not.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Get back to the sandbox

We all heard of the Cluetrain Manifesto. If you haven't, please leave this blog immediately and read it. The main thesis of the groundbreaking book, authored by Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, was that in the Information Age 'Markets are conversations.'

8 years later, Doc Searls, Peter Hirshberg, Technorati's chairman and Steve Hayden, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy& Mather Worldwide, extended the Cluetrain concepts to the office with a paper titled "The Manifesto on Monday Morning: How to put the wisdom of Cluetrain into action when you get to your office." It was presented at the Conversational Marketing Summit in San Francisco last week.

As I haven't had a chance to read it, I quote the ZDNet blog:

"The Cluetrain Manifesto was ahead of its time–before the “Live Web” of blogs, wikis, RSS and the high-velocity, real-time information flow–and business practices are just beginning to catch up. The paper offers guidelines for applying conversational marketing for business and real world examples, and deals with the fundamental concerns marketers have entering the new terrain, e.g., How do brands enter a conversation? How do they syndicate conversations? How do you make advertising include your customer? How do marketers deal with an audience of thousands or millions of Web publishers?

The authors also include a “Conversational Advertising Code of Conduct,” and are solicitating comments in true conversational marketing fashion. Among the “codes” are the four areas where transparency is required: Use of a publisher’s content, the editorial process, attributing advertising and influencing content creators.

“Conversational advertising will fail if it is exploited as a means to cover-up sponsored blogging, pay-per-posting, or any other publishing that is supported and influenced by a brand without being represented as such,” the authors wrote regarding a blurring line between advertising and content.

Doc Searls offers his rules of the road for conversational marketing road, such as:

The purpose of conversation is to create and improve understanding, not for one party to “deliver messages” to the other. That would be rude.
People in productive conversation don’t repeat what they’re saying over and over. They learn from each other and move topics forward.
Conversational marketing is carried out by human beings, writing and speaking in their own voices, for themselves—not just for their employers.
Conversational marketing’s heartbeat is the human one, not some media schedule. Brands need to work incessantly to be understood within the context of the market conversation and to earn and keep the respect of their conversational partners.
From a monetary standpoint, authenticity and credibility come into play for the most savvy buyers. According to the paper, click-through rates on ads featuring conversations are often much higher than conventional ads.

Hence, conversational marketing will graduate from conceptual framework to a path to profits, and products, brands and services will be better informed via the conversation."

We see some brands embracing this concept. However, most brands are still on the sideline, waiting to see if this is just another fad or a real change in people behavior.

The most fundamental paradigm shift for sideliners is to transfrom from teacher to student. Brands used to teach consumers what to do, how to behave, gave them positive reinforcement for good behavior ('You purchased this product - Good Boy.') and bad behavior ('You don't want this product - Let's switch to the Noriega torture and continue to bombard you with irrelevant, loud and annoying messages.')

The switch from teacher to student is tough. But everyboy who's a parent knows that you can be a teacher while learning at the same time. You will widen your horizon and learn fascinating things about your kid and, most often than none, about yourself when you have the willingness and openess to learn. From your kid. And your customers.

The best place to develop campaigns is in the sandbox. Don't bring your best clothes, expect to get dirty and enjoy yourself.

P.S.: Get cutting-edge ideas and observations about the Age of Conversation here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Visual history of digital viral marketing

Hilarious video animated by Dan Meth, with music by Dan Meth and Micah Frank.
I hope many people see it and begin to understand that viral marketing is not a marketing technique, just the side effect of great creative.

Thanks to The Meth Minute for this!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Neuromarketing = Pseudo-Science

Mya Frazier wrote an interesting article for AdAge about the credibility of today's Neuromarketing. It's an insightful look at the current advent of Neuromarketing and who will soon knock at your agency door. Reading it, one realizes that most of this science is based on half-ass experiments and pseudo-science.

And, this flawed approach is still running rampant: Buying behavior is much more complex and layered than flawed science can ever try to explain:

"Indeed, in the view of some neuroscientists and marketing researchers, the notion that the human brain should be studied in isolation is deeply flawed to begin with. Measuring the brain's reaction to a TV spot simply does not provide enough data to extrapolate future behavior. Studying how a person interacts within the larger culture is far more important.
'There are many other constraints outside the brain that make us act the way we do,' said John Winsor, VP-director of the cognitive and cultural radar department in Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Boulder, Colo., office.

For example, does it make a difference if a test subject's brain lights up while viewing a Hummer ad in Boulder, where 'you feel guilty if you don't drive a Prius, or where my parents live, in Cody, Wyo., where the norm is to drive a pickup truck?'

'There are other factors that control how we are going to interact, and culture is a big one,' he added."

As Herd explains in his blog, most of our behavior is based on other people. It's a very basic truth (Social Drinking, Social Smoking, etc.) but often overlooked. Scientists should focus their efforts on this phenomenon, instead of lugging equipment around just to make a buck.

In his own words: "(...) we're nearing the end of the beginning for understanding the general principles of the relationship between brain activity and behaviour but no further.

And we're extremely unlikely to get where the neuromarketers would like us to get: understanding the precise relationship between stimulus, brain activity and behaviour.

The biggest problem is that ours is a social brain not an individual self-determining brain: it's the brain of a creature whose life consists largely of other people and interaction with them. Looking at it as if it were otherwise and the creature that owns it as an isolated agent is a pointless abstraction."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jump on it before it's too late

Many moons ago, while working for one of the most innovative agencies in Germany, one of our main competitors came up with a brilliant idea for a car rental company: While customers were waiting for their luggage in the arrival hall, the conveyor belt carried two suitcases with clever lines (Lost Orientation? Try our cars with Navigation System). People were hypnotized by the suitcases and airport rentals went through the roof. It worked so well because nobody ever thought of advertising in arrival halls, except for the typical hotel ads. When you walk today thorugh German airports, you can still see the suitcases but the value of this marketing technique has dramatically increased.

Innovation and outstanding ideas don't stay innovative and outstanding. Competitors caught on to their ideas, came up with different ideas to market to bored passengers and cluttered arrival halls with billboards and monitors.

Social and Emerging Media are beginning to gain traction in the marketing world. What's new today will be an integral part of the marketing mix in the next years. Many brands ask: When is the right time to utilize social and emerging media in their marketing mix?

Frankly, the time was yesterday. Or, at least, today.

Emerging and Social Media will always be effective. But the value of both will decline in the future when everybody begins jumping on that bandwagon. Now is the time to experiment with social/emergine media. Remember BMW Films, Subserviant Chicken and the Doritos Superbowl Ads. The first movers claimed the benefits, the second movers looked like cheap plagiarists and produced sub-par results.

Jump on it already.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Social Networks and Business

Paul Pedrazzi, writing on the Oracle AppsLab Site, questions the value of Social Networks for business.

So what about Digg and Social Networks make them unworkable for business? Or stated differently, what do they need to become relevant to the business world.

As usual, in the world of 2.0 it all comes down to people. Social sites cannot be all that useful for business until everyone is on them. It’s the law of network effects all over again (remember the fax machine example). The nuance today, is that the people on these sites have to be the ones I care about.

There are lots of people using Digg, MySpace, and more, but from a work perspective, that has very little use to me. I want my trusted group. In simple terms that can be thought of as ALL the employees of Oracle. Sure it would be nice to have people I trust outside Oracle in there, but all my co-workers would be a grand start.

Once you have the people you trust, all you need is content.

Only listening to coworkers and exploring their interests is a good start. But it builds another silo, just like narrowcasting and the demise of newspapers. This might end in a dull and lifeless community. Social networks are meant to build strong connections and explore new ones.

If you want to keep information and connections inside the firewall, social networks don't seem very beneficial. This might be reserved for Wikis. Maybe blogs.
But, as one of the commenters to the original post mentions, wikis/blogs provide content but not context. That's an important distinction. Wikis are important tools to democratize various development processes. Social networks add context to it. Context is a basic human desire. And a fact of corporate life.

Corporate social networks would increase the likelihood of discovering hidden gems since they don't have to work through the hierarchy in order to be heard. That alone should be enough to consider them.

Think about it

Hundai is in brand hell: They are the ultimate value brand but they want to move upmarket. A very typical problem that most brands never solve. Or, typical for automotive brands, they create sub-luxury brands such as Lexus or Acura.

In order to solve this problem, Goodby was hired and created the new brand campaign with the title: 'Think about it' You can find detailed information on their mini site. (Even though I couldn't access it last night.)

"Our new 'Think About It' advertising campaign is designed to be thought provoking," said Joel Ewanick, Vice President of Marketing, HMA. "Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has developed an unconventional, integrated campaign that challenges perceptions about our brand and the auto industry, resulting in a creative execution that feels authentically Hyundai."

By adopting a tone of disarming honesty, Hyundai is breaking down the barriers that consumers have built to shield themselves from marketing claims. The intent was to pull consumers into a new understanding of the automotive world -- to challenge consumers' thoughts about what is, and should be, "standard" in the automotive industry.

"The Hyundai brand has an opportunity to define itself in the eyes of the consumer," said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "We feel that the campaign will close the huge gap between the reality of Hyundai vehicles and the perceptions that consumers have about the brand."

Phase one features three weeks of unbranded advertising from September 10 - 28, 2007. The intention is to increase the receptivity of a consumer audience that is increasingly skeptical of marketing messages, by offering startling proof points deployed across the media landscape (print, broadcast, outdoor and online). During phase one of the campaign, the advertising challenges conventional thinking about the auto industry.

Examples include:
* Shouldn't a car have more airbags than cupholders?
* The logo is there to tell you what the car is, not who you
* When a car company charges for roadside assistance aren't
they really just helping themselves?

Goodby and Hyundai missed the point. Completely.

As a value brand, the last thing you need to do is focus on the rational part of the purchasing process. We already know that Hyundai has good products and service. Why bother retelling the story? Hyundai's problem is that it doesn't find the right emotional connection with prospects. A value brand doesn't speak to the heart of the upscale consumer.

However, Hyundai has a vivid community: There are many owners who blog about their Hyundai's, express their positive opinions about the brand and their products, spread the message about their ownership experience. Instead of wasting their money on rational advertising messages, Hyundai should have tapped into this unexplored territory. Create a network for Hyundai owners, just like Saturn did pre-Web 2.0: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Niche Networks: use the new tools to spread the message.

Instead, Hyundai chose to go the safe route. A sure path to failure.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Branded Entertainment

It has been said many times: Brand have to become content providers and utilize their brand values and attributes in an entertaining environment.
Reburban, a Dutch agency, created 'The Millionaire' an entertaining project for the Dutch Lottery.

It allows to live your life as a super-rich in first person. The challenge for everyone is 'Can you handle the rich life?' Pick the right girl? Enhance her in the right way? (I didn't say it wasn't sexist...) Choose the right car.
I found it very entertaining and wonder if I should go back and make other choices.

When it comes to branded, online entertainment we're still at Mile 1 of a marathon. Let's make sure to judge all new efforts accordingly.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

My virgin flight

I had the opportunity to fly from LA to NY and decided to experience Virgin America for the first time. The hype has died down and I wanted to see how Virgin America measures up to low-cost carriers such as Jet Blue and Southwest.

The online experience when purchasing tickets was on the same level as Jet Blue/Southwest: intuitive and no unnecessary frills. Check-in and boarding are very typical and generic, it just feels a bit more upscale because of Virgin’s advanced design.

When you walk into the plane two things stand out: Mood-lighting and the fresh smell of the leather seats. That smell will disappear (they’ve only been around for a few weeks) but the mood lighting enhances the flight experience. It just makes the trip feel more upscale and in line with other advanced travel experiences (W Hotels). The seats are comfortable, recline further than other coach seats I’ve sat in before.

I was mostly looking forward to the Entertainment Center, called ‘red’. Overall, I would give it a ‘7’ out of 10:
- Music Selection is fantastic: Either 16 radio stations (from Wine Country Radio to Dance) or you can choose from 225 artists: Mozart, Coldplay, Underworld, Johnny Cash, Barry Manilow, Aqualung – they do have something for anyone’s taste. Even Bert and Ernie are there to entertain the little ones.
- TV selection is below average. CNN, A&E, Food Network were one of the few channels that worked. Some channels didn’t work, some were sorely missed (local networks, very important when you’re flying on weekends and don’t want to miss out on sports).
- 16 music videos were offered. Too mainstream, nothing that interested me. Can you say, Kelly Clarkson?
- Good selection of movies (300, Blades of Glory, Hoax, Waitress, The lives of others), the $8 price was a bit too high, but they offered more than 10 free short movies. Very cool.
- Premium TV: A few selected shows of The Office, Simpsons, Heroes and (yes, I’m not making this up) Twin Peaks. The cost of $1.99 seems a tad high since I can get the same content on iTunes and the selection felt arbitrary. Hopefully, networks will partner up with Virgin America in the near future to market their new shows.
- Multi-lingual TV: A mixture of Korean, Japanese and Chinese shows with a few Hispanic episodes. 75% of the content is tailored towards Asian customers. Interesting approach.
- 11 different games one can choose from. I played Doom for a few moments, because of the lag it felt like playing on an old computer.
- The chat functions are pretty cool but nobody was chatting at all.
- The email and Internet functions are already part of the user interface but not functioning yet.
- My favorite: the food selection. Flight attendants still make one tour of the cabin but you can continue making orders on your screen, right before the landing. My order took only 2 minutes to be delivered to my seat. That’s better than any call button. Sodas are free, alcoholic drinks and any snack will cost you.
- The real bad: My system acted up quite a bit, stalled for a few minutes and it finally rebooted. I guess Linux is not as good as advertised. I saw a few people with the same issue.

The main attraction: Customer Service. Flight attendants are very friendly and helpful. Pure perfection. That’s their best marketing attribute right now.

Overall, I would fly Virgin America again. I wish they would have chosen smaller airports, just like Jet Blue when they started to fly from Long Beach and Burbank. But I would choose them over the other two any day.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Not reading enough books?

I admit, it has become tough to read books: the demands of job and life in 2.0, family, kid: it's very hard to find time for books. has the answer for you: You can get your book fix via email or RSS feed - especially a good idea for PDA's and my trusted iPhone. Books are divided into bit-size installments you can read in a few minutes. Dailylit focuses on classics: you can choose between Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, René Descartes and tons of worthwhile reads.

Sure, this is not for the book chinstroker. It doesn't provide you with the real experience intended by the author. But it's an interesting approach to make these voluminous novels accesible for the MTV generation. Personally, I think it works best for books like Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'. A quote that I received in my first installment could be right from Tom Peters:

'The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom,
sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.'

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A giant among a few tall men

In our world of narrow-casting, Pavarotti was one of the few that had the magic bringing newcomers into the opera world.
I have seen many operas and my heart was never touched by this art form. But Pavarotti's voice, presence and personality just could turn anyone into an opera fan. Besides all his talent, his biggest gift was to be able to move effortlessly between pop culture and the stale Opera world: Bono's eulogy can be found on the U2 site and I quoted his last sentence in the title of this post.

The majority of non-opera fans will remember him for his interpretation of Nessun Dorma:

The Prince Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep! Even you, o Princess, in your cold room, watch the stars, that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know... No!...No!... On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...

The Chorus of women No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.

The Prince Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

He certainly did.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cement Heads Part 2

Follow-up to Friday's post about Andrew Keen's book 'The Cult of the Amateur'.
Stephen Colbert owns him.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Brand Extensions

Most companies still don't understand that each interaction with their brand and people determines the value of their brand.

I meet with Sales Reps almost every day: Sites, Emerging Media, Technology Providers, etc. More than 50% of these brand ambassadors feel like a brand mismatch: There's the sales rep for an emerging media company that relies on print-outs for his presentations, the rep for one of the hottest sites on the Internet that doesn't know what Web 2.0 is all about and and and...

One of my job duties is to evaluate all opportunities and generate recommendations/strategies for our clients. Since many of these opportunities revolve around Web 2.0 and Emerging Media, I don't have tons of data to determine my recommendations. I have to rely on basic data, overall match for respective brand and the sales rep to offer me additional insight to support my case when I go back to client.

Sure, you might have the right target audience, matching psychographics, decent reach and a good match with the brand I try to market. But many brands do. The difference between a sale and a non-sale is the sales rep. If he's really in tune with the brand, if he understands and represents the essence of the brand, lives and breathes the brand; that's where magic happens.

It seems there's a dearth of good sales people out there. And most Internet/Emerging Media companies decide to hire seasoned sales veterans. This might work once in a while. Most often it doesn't. It's not about the sales skills of the sales reps. It's about their street cred. Because most of Emerging Media buys are experimental, the outstanding sales rep has to to play a much broader role than usual: He doesn't have to be a sales person, he has to be a brand evangelist.

So, next time you need to hire someone in your sales department, forget about resumes and experience. Focus on passion. Find the person that creates a space where your brand becomes more than you ever dreamed of being.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

Inspirational and insightful post by Seth Godin. A few of my favorite passages:

"It's hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, such as quitting a job and setting out on your own. It's hard work to invent a new system, service, or process that's remarkable. It's hard work to tell your boss that he's being intellectually and emotionally lazy. It's easier to stand by and watch the company fade into oblivion. It's hard work to tell senior management to abandon something that it has been doing for a long time in favor of a new and apparently risky alternative. It's hard work to make good decisions with less than all of the data.

Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your coworkers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is far more conservative than sticking with the status quo."

My father was born 1930. He grew up on a farm in today's Poland and had to flee for greener pastures in the early 40's. He had no formal school education after the age of 12 and had to survive by working on farms, always heading west. After the war, he worked for 20 years in a factory, shredding nasty, rotten clothes to convert them later on into car interiors. During his tenure at the shredding machine, he saw co-workers being sucked into the machine and shredded to bloody pieces. He worked 6 days a week, 12 hours daily.
That was hard work. Getting an evening education on top of this grueling hours and feeding a family of 4 was even harder work.
But, as Seth pointed out, things have changed dramatically.

"Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you've done that, to do it again the next day."

My father was not about risk. Risk had to be avoided at any cost: Take the safe route and continue doing until you retire. Completely understandable, after having lived through WWII and the post-war era in Germany. Taking a risk might mean being shot by the enemy or starving to death.

Today, this attitude leads to layoffs, middle-class misery and mediocrity.
What to do? Ask Tom Peters:

Measure Weirdness!
Cherish Weirdness!
Hire Weirdness!
Stomp out "Normal"!

For now, enjoy the day, have a bbq, relax. Tomorrow, when you're back, change the world. And do it over again next day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday's word

"The Internet should not be used as a scapegoat for society's ills," told Vincent Cerf, one of the 'founding fathers' of the Web and Google evangelist, during an interview with BBC Radio.

"He said the net was just a reflection of the society in which we live.

Anyone regulating beyond what was clearly illegal put themselves on a "slippery slope" that could limit freedom of expression, he said.

"If it's not illegal, it raises a rather interesting question about where you do draw the line," he said."