Andrew Tonkin, via Boing Boing, points us to Transsexual Shaving Cream.
Admit it. You believed. It is fun to believe. Believing makes you feel good.
Now, it's not as easy to believe anything, is it? That's a bummer.
The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.
Andrew Tonkin, via Boing Boing, points us to Transsexual Shaving Cream.
Admit it. You believed. It is fun to believe. Believing makes you feel good.
Now, it's not as easy to believe anything, is it? That's a bummer.
No, it's not "please."
I meet a lot of confused marketers, and the primary cause of their confusion is that they believe that money equals motivation.
They believe that people will choose the best value.
That people will buy what they need.
That the best products and services will spread because they deserve to be talked about.
That employees can be persuaded to do things by paying them more and that consumers will buzz something if you reward them with cash.
This is true. Every once in a while.
It's true for people who deep down equate money to ego. This tiny subset of the population really and truly keep score via cash. They are rare indeed.
We're constantly on the lookout for someone's real motivation. We don't understand why someone would volunteer at a charity or take a lower-paying job or recommend a cool new CD or post something on their blog. "What's in it for them," we wonder. Here in the world capital of capitalism (yes, I just made that up...) Americans have fallen in love with the idea that money can feed the ego.
Almost all the time, that's wrong.
Since this is a post about ego, let's talk about... me. I smiled the other day when I read a review of my blog. It said (paraphrasing) "Like many authors, Godin blogs to sell more books." Wrong. Actually, I write books so that more people will read my blog!
I don't blog to make money. I don't run ads on my site. I don't even blog to win awards. I blog because it pleases me to see my ideas spread. I like it when I see people talking about one of my ideas--without even mentioning where the idea came from. That means it's the idea that spread, not my brand. Which is the whole point.
For me, anyway. Not for you or for her or for him.
And that's the tricky part about marketing to ego. Everybody feeds their ego in a different way. The art is in telling a story that matches the ego-outlook (what I've called a worldview) of your target audience.
The next time you're in a meeting and someone pulls out a spreadsheet, realize that you're about to hear about money/value = ego. That's fine. But what about everyone else? Ignore the rest and they'll feed their ego somewhere else.
The fluid, the gasoline itself, might be the same everywhere you go, and no one is going to pay extra for that. What they are buying is the experience and the attitude and the little things that they might not even consciously notice.
The important thing about this picture isn't that flowers = success. The lesson is that trying to be different, trying to create an experience that counts... the effort is what matters.
I first met John Scharffen Berger six years ago. A great guy.
Ever since then, I've been talking about how purple is chocolate is. I even made people in my seminars try some.
Now I see Hershey to buy Scharffen Berger - Yahoo! News. Thanks to Howard Mann for the ping.
It's time for John to milk this cow. Good for him.
Now, the big question is this: does Hershey have the guts to not make it better (better means more efficient, cheaper, faster, less likely to melt, flashier packaged, etc.)
Average is often the goal. Average rarely leads to growth.
According to todays Times, Al Gore turned to Johnny Carson for advice on his image and, yes, his jokes (Heeeeere's Al, Thanks to Carson - New York Times.) Imagine how the world would be a different place if he had gotten (and used) better advice. Talk about leverage.
I'm stunned by how often corporations, organizations and individuals turn to celebrities for advice. We embrace diet books and tv shows and movie stars and well-known consulting firms and on and on, hoping for the glimmer of wisdom that will make a difference.
When I appear on the Motley Fool radio show, they ask me for my stock picks. Hey! I don't own any stocks. And even if I did, what could I possibly have to say that would matter?
The thing about advice is that you need two things to make it work:
1. it has to be good
2. it has to motivate you to actually do something
The reason that people turn to celebrities and big organizations is that the patina of fame and authority makes it easier to sell yourself and your colleagues on taking action--on actually doing something with the advice.
If McKinsey said to close the plant, then it's a lot easier to sell your board. If you had gotten precisely the same advice from precisely the same 26-year-old Harvard MBA but she'd been in your strategy group instead of at McKinsey, they'd ignore her.
The thing is, famous advice isn't always better (it's often not better, as we'll see in a moment) and it's more expensive and it allows you to beg off actually understanding what's going on.
It's not better because in order for the famous person to get to the point where she could give you advice, she had to fit through a number of filters. Johnny Carson was famous largely because he was consistent and inoffensive. You might believe that those are good characteristics in a politician, but George W. demonstrated that taking advice from an unknown Texan pre-felon named Karl Rove was far more effective at reaching his goals than relying on some tips from a comedian. That's because Rove's advice was better. Because Rove understood the dynamic of the political marketplace without compromise.
I think most organizations don't buy nearly enough advice. They go 97% of the way, do 97% of the work, make all the investments... but then they get too tired and too stuck to actually do the high leverage stuff that works. So yes, buy advice. Buy a lot of it. But most important, understand why the advice is good advice, really understand the dynamic behind it--then you won't have any trouble selling the idea, because it's not the advice giver that matters... it's the advice.
If Gallagher or Will Ferrell show up, tell them you're busy.
via Mark Hurst.
I'm officially agnostic.
Always beware free advice. It is worth what it costs!
That said, I get a fair number of notes from well respected, intelligent people who are embarking on their first non-fiction book project. They tend to ask very similar questions, so I thought I'd go ahead and put down my five big ideas in one place to make it easier for everyone.
I guarantee you that you won't agree with all of them, but, as they say, your mileage my vary.
1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.
The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you're doing it for the money, you're going to be disappointed.
On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There's a worldview that's quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority.
2. The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic.
When the world moved more slowly, waiting more than a year for a book to come out was not great, but tolerable. Today, even though all other media has accelerated rapidly, books still take a year or more. You need to consider what the shelf life of your idea is.
3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher.
This isn't true, of course. Harry Potter gets promoted. So did Freakonomics. But out of the 75,000 titles published last year in the US alone, I figure 100 were effectively promoted by the publishers. This leaves a pretty big gap.
This gap is either unfilled, in which case the book fails, or it is filled by the author. Here's the thing: publishing a book is really nothing but a socially acceptable opportunity to promote yourself and your ideas far and wide and often.
If you don't promote it, no one will. If you don't have a better strategy than, "Let's get on Oprah" you should stop now. If you don't have an asset already--a permission base of thousands or tens of thousands of people, a popular blog, thousands of employees, a personal relationship with Willard Scott... then it's too late to start building that asset once you start working on a book.
By the way, blurbs don't sell books. Not really. You can get all the blurbs in the world for your book and it won't help if you haven't done everything else (quick aside: the guy who invented the word "blurb" also wrote the poem Purple Cow).
4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.
Obvious, sure, but real problems. Real problems because the cost of a book introduces friction to your idea. It makes the idea spread much much more slowly than an online meme because in order for it to spread, someone has to buy it. Add to that the growing (and sad) fact that people hate to read. Too often, people have told me, with pride, that they read three chapters of my book. Just three.
5. Publishing is like venture capital, not like printing.
Printing your own book is very very easy and not particularly expensive. You can hire professional copyeditors and designers and end up with a book that looks just like one from Random House. That's easy stuff.
What Random House and others do is invest. They invest cash in an advance. They invest time in creating the book itself and selling it in and they invest more cash in printing books. Like all VCs, they want a big return.
If you need the advance to live on, then publishers serve an essential function. If, on the other hand, you're like most non-fiction authors and spreading the idea is worth more than the advance, you may not.
So, what's my best advice?
Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or...
Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet (a cheap one--the Joy of Jello sold millions and millions of copies at a dollar or less).
Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they're not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.
And the punchline, of course, is that if you do all these things, you won't need a publisher. And that's exactly when a publisher will want you! That's the sort of author publishers do the best with.
In the spirit of Woot. Shawn Gross sent over: dotprodomains.com: creative domain name resellers.
It's so obvious, it's almost brilliant.
Mark Hurst sent me over to: tangentialism: Shake Shack, Beyond The Call Of Duty.
This is the inspiring story of how one restauranteur (in a notoriously difficult business) has figured out how to:
1. offer purple cow service
2. by people who like what they're doing
As in my Starbucks story below, these hardworking, zen-infused line cooks are actually enjoying their jobs more than the folks whining across the street.
It's about management. It's about managers who don't blame employees, but who empower them and push them instead. And yes, that's marketing.
The good news is that while it's almost impossible to blow people away with an ad campaign or a coupon or even a product, the bar is set so astonishingly low for managers that it's pretty easy to blow people away by enabling your staff to be amazing, honest and happy at the same time.
Even if you run a law firm. Or a church. Or, heaven forfend, a political party.
Wired has a priceless double opt in permission email list. It's a great list of forward thinking people who actually WANT to hear from Wired.
Thanks, Andy, for the heads up.
It's true. I rarely walk into a Starbucks without my laptop. Not because I need a laptop to enjoy Starbucks, but because I need a Starbucks to use the web.
I found myself with a few minutes to kill while a friend was shopping this weekend, and next thing I knew, I was in a Starbucks with no laptop. Totally different deal. Very zen.
Anyway, on the way in I overheard a conversation (okay, I was eavesdropping, but it was on your behalf). Three 20 somethings who worked at the fast food place next door were whining about their jobs. Two were talking about how horrible it was to "open." The third admitted that he liked to open, because then he didn't have to deal with the &#&$ customers. After about a minute of the detailed complaints, I had had enough and went inside.
Inside the Starbucks, the first thing I noticed, tucked deep in the corner, not for customer inspection, apparently, was a bulletin board. The bulletin board was jammed with pictures of the staff. The staff on a picnic. The staff at an amusement park. The staff kidding around.
That very same staff was working behind the counter. If it's possible to make an herbal tea with enthusiasm, they were doing it. If it's possible to make a $4 transaction feel joyful, they accomplished it.
Okay, the obvious thing here is that this is the Starbucks marketing effort, almost in its entirety. They don't advertise, they don't launch new products every day, but they are selling the way it makes you feel to purchase something there. And I have to tell you, it made me feel great.
The less obvious thing is that the folks behind the counter weren't making this up. It wasn't inauthentic. They had decided to enjoy their jobs, they were enjoying their jobs and it was helping not just Starbucks, but it helped them, too. All I had to do was glance out the window to see the difference.
I think there's a huge lesson here. Not just for marketers who sell interactions (that means everyone except for maybe commodity steel producers) but for employees too.
You may recall that a few months ago, I posted the picture of someone who looked an awful lot like me (Seth's Blog: Everybody has a doppelganger) So much so that my wife thought it was my picture.
I had never heard of Robert--the picture came from a reader. And that was the end of that.
Until TED last week in Oxford. I entered the auditorium pretty late, and there was just one open seat. I "excused me"d my way to the center and sat down, in the dark. When the lights came up, I looked over to the person sitting next to me, and asked, "Have we met?"
It took us a few minutes, but, you guessed it, it was Robert.
So, was this an amazing coincidence? I mean, what are the chances? One picture posted of a twin in the history of my blog. One seat at Ted...
Of course, that's the wrong question.
There are a million places I could have had the amazing coincidence of meeting Robert. There are a million people who could have been in the seat next to me that would have amazed me.
It's only amazing when a coincidence occurs that you predicted BEFORE it happens. If it seems unlikely afterward, it's just your brain telling you a story. What are the odds of winning the lottery twice? The same as winning it once... IF you start keeping track after you've won the first time. The lottery doesn't know you already won the first time.
As for Robert, he is erudite, wicked smart and doing important work. It's flattering to be mistaken for him.
PS Nick Davis sends us this fabulous quote:
You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming
here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot.
And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate
ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the
state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight?
-- Richard Feynman
-- From his undergraduate CalTech lectures, 1961
I met the chief designer for Nokia at Ted. Marko is a great guy, but it was fascinating to watch the interactions he had with people. Every single person he met came up to him, pulled out a cellphone and began whining. Mostly, though, people didn't hate their phones. They hated their carrier.
I know. I hate T Mobile.
My annoyance at my carrier didn't decrease when I had to pay not once, but twice to buy a four day online pass to use the Net in my hotel. Sitting at the airport waiting to fly home, a few shekels left on my British phone card, I decided to take a whirl and called the hard-to-find customer service number for T Mobile, figuring I'd try to get a refund for the first $60 Net pass I purchased but that didn't work (Hah! I thought. Hah! I can hear you thinking).
Bob Cocksedge answered my call. On the third ring. He was intelligent, thoughtful, even kind. He apologized for taking a while, using their antiquated database. He never found the purchase, but he emailed me the contact info for his manager so I can submit the transaction number once I got my credit card info at home.
You've already guessed the lesson. It only took Bob a few minutes. It didn't cost T Mobile much of anything at all compared to leaving me on hold and then being rude to me. But for a tiny tiny fraction of the cost of one of those full page ads that they buy every day, T Mobile actually built their brand.
I've said it before--your call center is probably the single cheapest investment you can make in building your consumer or business to business brand among customers and motivated prospects.
Thanks, Bob, for reminding me.
Before you go in circles trying to get those spirals just right...
go take a look at Logo Design by Pixellogo� - All Logo Designs.
I'm not proposing that you should spend $50 or whatever to buy a stock logo.
What I hope you'll see is that all a logo needs is to be GOOD ENOUGH (I know, I'm the guy who says good enough is a curse). Why is it okay to have a non-wonderful logo? Because the logo is just a placeholder. It gains value AFTER it hits the world, because people associate things with it.
Imagine a classroom in 1912 with kids named Elvis, Ronald, Margaret, Donald and Madonna in it. You wouldn't know who to make fun of first. It seems as though the abstract quality of a name or a logo (both blank slates) is not as important as what you do with it.
This advice doesn't hold for non-abstract names or images, naturally. But those are worth less, in my humble opinion.
All that said, the logo for my secret summer project is truly awesome. Thanks, Aaron, for the inspired work. (I'll post the logo in early August, prolonging the tension as long as possible.)
Before that, you had to stop the game and get a ladder and get the ball out of the basket.
I wonder how long it will take for faucets in the UK to be able to generate warm (not cold or hot) water?
Any sinks where you work?
Before a book gets published by a mainstream publisher, your editor will send it to a copyeditor. His job is to go through the manuscript and highlight errors in grammar, consistency and spelling.
I've worked with quite a few copyeditors in my time, and it's interesting to note how often they seem to get very angry.
Let's say you've written a 300 page book on packaged goods, and 32 times in the manuscript you've spelled "Procter & Gamble" as "Proctor and Gamble." The computer-friendly thing to do is leave a note at the front that says, "please do a global search and replace and fix it". Instead, copyeditor convention requires that each one be marked.
The first few marks are normal. But then, after five or six or seven corrections, the ink gets a little darker. It's almost as though the copyeditor is saying, "I've already corrected this SIX TIMES. WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING??!" By the end of the manuscript, the copyeditor's monologue has gone on so long, the anger has turned into rage.
With that in mind, I show you two pictures.
Here's the sign on a pub in Oxford. I imagine that at first there was a little sign that said, "no cards." But a few people tried to pay with cards anyway, so the sign got bigger. And then one or two people tried to pay with cards anyway. Eventually, it must have led to this.
Do you really think that yelling at his prospects is helping his business?
It's not my fault that the 5,000 people before me asked if they could use a credit card. Don't yell at me. Yell at them. Of course, they're not here!
Has the number of people asking to use a credit card gone down since the owner added AT ALL?
If your goal is to attract and acquire new customers, yelling appears to be a silly strategy.
Compare this to a sign at the beautiful Museum of Natural History just down the street.
I work really hard at my powerpoints, but there's a new champ.
I just saw Ze Frank (Link: ze's page) at TED. He pointed to New FAA National Wildlife/Bird Strike Database ON-LINE. Make sure you check out the Badger listings.
If you ever get a chance, find him. Beautiful.
So, the #1 cause of death among teenagers in the developed world is the car.
You can get hit by a car, but you're more likely to die driving a car or being a passenger in a car driven by a friend. Many boomers have teenagers or are about to. And boomers, as we know, intend to live forever, expect to have their families live forever, and are often happy to pay to ensure that this actually happens.
So, here's what we need: A car for teenagers.
It is, after all, a matter of life and death.
A car for teenagers is very different than a car for everyone else. The biggest reason is that a car for teenagers is rarely purchased by a teenager, so a third party (probably the parent) has a lot of leverage over what the car actually does.
So, what does a parent want?
Great gas mileage (more cheap)
And a teenager?
Allows easy attachment/customization of side panels
Requires breathalyzer test to start
Easy to set, hard to hack speed limiter
Constant GPS reporting via wimax or cellphone, allowing the owner of the car to see where it is
Location lock out, making it easy for the owner to set the range of the vehicle or the roads traveled
[bonus added later: locks out texting or cell phone calling when the car is moving]
All this technology is easy to sync by computer or phone
Lots of airbags
ID card key making it easy to charge the driver per use, treat different drivers differently, including usage time.
Obviously, this goes against everything that the US-Marlboro-Man-wild-west-transport-equals-freedom-equals-macho-equals-personal-responsibility meme that is at the heart of the US car market. So what? There are already plenty of cars that fit right into that mental model. Like a 1964.5 Mustang with original pony interior. Fine! If a 17 year old wants to buy one of those, she can.
But it's easy to imagine, isn't it, that boomers would buy 50,000 of these $20,000 cars every year? That's a billion dollars a year! So why don't we have one yet? I think it's because the worldview of Detroit and the rest of the car industry is very much about incremental improvement of technology combined with surface styling innovation, not about reinventing what people might discover that they very much want.
So, if you know someone in the car business, tell them I'm ready to order one in 2011. In purple.
Steven Levitt spoke at TED today. He told the story of the car seats, and it's worth a quick rehash.
Turns out that car seats for kids over 2 are no more effective than seat belts. The data is unequivocal on this. (see a quick clip at Freakonomics)
So if it's so clear, and if it means that Americans are wasting $300 million a year on car seats, what's going on?
Why is it that in New York State it's a crime to put a six year old in the backseat of your car with just a seatbelt? A crime!
Why is it that when I passed a motorist strapping his four year old into the back of his BMW in London yesterday, I almost stopped and yelled at him? Or at least gently pointed out the safety problem?
It goes to stories. It feels like you're doing something smart and thoughtful and caring for your child. The effort gives the parent peace of mind and joy. The government gets to pass a law that seems cheap and caring. Everyone conspires to do the wasteful thing because of the story it allows us to tell ourselves.
About twenty years ago, I met a guy named Byron Preiss. I was 24 and just starting out at Spinnaker Software and he was the supremely talented, very smart packager that my boss had just purchased several million dollars worth of software from.
Turns out that Byron was only seven years older than me.
We worked closely together for two years, arguing nearly every day about the products we ended up creating together. We worked with Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury and artists and writers and programmers. In 1985, it was a very new deal to be a packager of content, to work with brands and carve out new rights, to imagine new forms of media. Byron was doing all of those things.
One day, Byron said to me, "You should go out on your own. I'll help you. I'll introduce you to people." Byron not only demonstrated to me that the new media enabled the individual to make stuff, but he gave me permission to try.
From the ninth of July, a review of a weird conceptual restaurant called Chair,
"There are plenty of decent 30 pound a head restaurants in London. The trouble is that most of them charge 60 pounds a head to eat there. ... When you leave a restaurant chatting mostly about how nobody could be bothered... you're going to have to need a pretty good reason to eat there again.
What do you you suppose that could be? That you found yourself hungry in Notting Hill and didn't have the energy to walk 20 yards to any of the dozens of other restaurants in the vicinity?
There may be nothing particularly disastrous about Chair, but you wonder what the point of it is."
Apparently, the folks who run one of the big airports in Europe became famous because of a clever idea they installed in the airport men's room (click on picture for details... this is a family friendly blog).
Apparently, the tiny silk screened image dramatically increases the quality of aim and thus the cleanliness of the bathroom.
What amazed me is that I saw this very same urinal in three or four different restaurants and public places over just three days in Amsterdam.
What is it that makes this sort of innovation feel safe?
Yes, it's little tiny things that make people take action. Look at these pictures from Neil's Yard dairy and the local coffee purveyor. They fit a certain worldview and they tell a story that earns them three or four times what others are paying at the supermarket. Sure, it's better, but how much better?
Joey Smith pointed me to a site, which pointed me to: splorp . critique . spirals. Worth a read, especially if you get dizzy easily (or if you make logos).
No question, those in charge believed that whale oil would never run out, and that if some sort of legislation or new world order came along that threatened the supply of dead whales, they would fight it--the very survival of their families were at stake.
Whale oil, of course, is long gone. And the Netherlands are still here, better than ever.
Some of the whale oil magnates and whale oil processors and whale oil catering guys in the silver trucks (okay, maybe they didn't have silver trucks) got while the getting was good. They learned how to do something else once they saw the industry begin to decay. They took their assets--their capital, their leverage, their training--and used it to get a headstart doing some other mercantile activity. And they thrived as a result.
We're in the middle of the biggest shift(s) of the last century--whole industries are disappearing, worldviews are changing and the rules are being rewritten. One thing I've noticed in Amsterdam (I spoke to about 400 entrepreneurs yesterday, not all of them young, not all of them independent, not all of them homogeneous) is that there's a real bias for action here. People here are itching to get on to the next thing. That and I couldn't find any whale oil for sale. Not one drop.
Two years ago this month in Fast Company, I wrote:
We don't expect a pigeon to wise up and change its behavior. But what about your boss? Have you ever had a boss who said, "I've looked at all the best thinking on [insert issue here: factory expansion, layoffs, global warming, stem-cell research, foreign trade], and I'm going to change my mind; my old position was wrong, and this is what we should do instead"? Or is your boss, well, more like a pigeon?
[click below for the article]
Not too much has changed, I'm afraid.
Chris Houchens (Shotgun Marketing BLOG) submits this quote from an arctic explorer:
"What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public."
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, "Discovery", 1964
Let's say you work at eBay.
Your site goes down. How many people will drop what they are doing and figure out how to get it back up and running?
Everyone from PR to server guys will be on the case.
Or let's say you work at Aetna. A fire rips through a warehouse and destroys a million policy records.
How many people, from the CEO to the actuaries will get on the stick and make something happen?
Now, imagine you work at GM. I know, it's hard, but imagine.
For years, you've been designing, making and marketing stuff in a mediocre way. No one dropped what they were doing to fix the problem. It's not an emergency.
Of course, it is an emergency. It's a bigger emergency than the things you can buy insurance against, because it's endemic, hard to measure and ultimately fatal.
Have a nice long weekend if it's a long weekend where you live. And when you get back to work, figure out where the mediocre emergency lies and stamp it out. Even better, start today. After all, it's an emergency.