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.
People spend money (and make money) and join organizations and invest time and enormous energy to solve this problem. Every day.
Saw this sign in Boston today. The person behind the counter does nothing all day. Nothing. Never a line.
Why forbid her from being helpful? Why not do the opposite? Why not make her the go-to person for useful information? Maybe, just maybe, engagement will lead to inquiries which will lead to sales...
Advertising and promotion and lobbying cost money. And organizations pay for it because, by and large, it works. Not all the time, and rarely as big as people hope, but sure, you can influence the public by spending money.
Which leads to the key question: are you responsible for what you market?
Some people will tell you that the market decides. They’ll remind you that most consumers are adults, spending their own resources and doing it freely. That people have a right to buy what they want, even if what they want isn’t good for them (right now, or in the long run). That’s what living in a free country is all about, apparently. Buy what you want.
I thought we agreed that marketing works.
If marketing works, it means that free choice isn’t quite so free. It means that marketers get to influence and amplify desires. The number of SUVs sold in the United States is a bazillion times bigger than it was in 1962. Is that because people suddenly want them, or is it because car marketers built them and marketed them?
Cigarette consumption is way down. Is that because people suddenly don’t want them any more, or is it because advertising opportunities are limited?
Others will tell you that if it’s legal, it’s fair game. If it’s legal for Edelman to post a blog called Working Families for Wal-Mart (when it’s really working Edelman employees for Wal-Mart), then they have every right to do so. In fact, they have an obligation to their shareholders to do so. Or so they say.
I believe that every criminal, no matter how heinous the crime, deserves an attorney. I don't believe that every product and every organization and every politician deserves world-class marketing or PR.
A neighbor was complaining that the baseball field in my town needs upkeep, and wonders why we don’t go ahead and take $100,000 from Pepsi for sponsorship of the field and a long-term contract to put vending machines on site. It doesn’t matter to him that obesity and heart disease are the number one preventable cause of death. He says that it’s a personal choice, and if we can get the money, we should.
I was surprised at how angry I got in an email exchange with John, a reader near Detroit. I wrote, “I'm sorry if I seem like a curmudgeon, but the arrogance and blindness of Detroit's management really and truly annoys me. Tens of thousands of innocent workers lost their jobs while clueless overpaid company men drove the industry into the ground for decades. These were the guys who had plenty of time to fix their problems (20 years) but instead lobbied hard to maintain SUV subsidies and gas subsidies and on and on. They're sort of like cigarette companies, but with far more side affects. They've let down our country, in my opinion, and just because they are lip synching a bit now, I'm in no hurry to tell you that the problems are gone.”
And now Detroit is marketing hard in DC to fight against mileage standards again, claiming that they make the cars that people want to buy.
There are two problems with blaming the market:
The first is that the market is short sighted. Which means that in a year or two or five, when the market changes its mind and wakes up, you’re left holding the bag. By not taking responsibility for growing and nurturing the market in the right way, you get punished later.
The second is that if you poison your market, it all goes away. Not just your job, but your community too.
Let me be really clear, just in case. If you think that the world would be a better place if everyone owned a handgun, then yes, market handguns as hard as you can. If you honestly believe that kids are well served by drinking a dozen spoonfuls of sugar every morning before school, then I may believe you're wrong, but you should go ahead and market your artificially-sweetened juice product. My point is that you have no right to market things you know are harmful or that lead to bad outcomes, regardless of how much you need that job.
Along the way, “just doing my job,” has become a mantra for blind marketers who are making short-term mistakes in order to avoid a conflict with the client or the boss. As marketing becomes every more powerful, this is just untenable. It’s unacceptable.
If you get asked to market something, you’re responsible. You’re responsible for the impacts, the costs, the side effects and the damage. You killed that kid. You poisoned that river. You led to that fight. If you can’t put your name on it, I hope you’ll walk away. If only 10% of us did that, imagine the changes. Imagine how proud you’d be of your work.
The amazing thing is that over and over again, we're discovering that marketers who actually take responsibility for their marketing are actually more successful. Go figure.
TV Guide was purchased for more than $3 billion, back when a billion dollars was a lot of money. At one point, it was worth more than ABC or NBC.
CMP, like many other trade magazine publishers, is busy consolidating, laying people off and closing magazines as they try to move to digital.
Put those two facts together and there's an opportunity. In fact, a bunch of them.
Who is curating YouTube? Who's the TV Guide of a world with a million channels?
We don't need someone to point us to goofy edited scary car ads. What we need are tiny, specialized sites that obsess about specific industries. Is there a good video every day about how to do better real estate sales? If there isn't, there soon will be. Or for heart surgeons?
For every segment where there is currently a trade magazine, I believe there's an opportunity to build a blog-like, woot-like, ad supported page that finds the good stuff. Jeff Jarvis, who ironically used to work at TV Guide, is already doing this with politics.
Like most opportunities, this one will be obvious later. And then it'll be too late for most of us to get in.
Here's an interview I did that might be of interest to authors and booksellers.
And one for eBay sellers.
I take a shot at stock picking.
And a more far-ranging discussion about The Dip.
And coming in the next few days: Riffs on radio.
Have you ever been at a banquet or in a boutique or at a concert or a meeting or a company where the vibe was incredibly positive?
I think you know what I mean. A time and place where there was an overflow of positive energy. You felt surrounded by possibility, or people who believed in you, or just felt like buying (or eating, or talking) a lot.
The vibe changes everything. It's a place you want to work, or a restaurant you want to come back to. I remember the first time I walked into Fast Company's offices. I remember the original Legal Seafoods. And I remember, just a few weeks ago, the buzz in the lobby of the PDF conference in NY.
If vibe is so important, why does it sound flaky to worry about it? Who's in charge of the vibe at your place? Could it be better? A lot better?
Changing the vibe isn't always possible, but most of us rarely try. From physical layout to organization to what leaders say and do... it matters. Sometimes, it's all that matters.
How can someone:
...be opposed to euthanasia but in favor of the death penalty?
...be in favor of the impeachment of Bill Clinton but not of George Bush?
...be worried about global warming but fly in a big private plane?
...be in favor of the impeachment of George Bush but not of Bill Clinton?
...be opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens but in favor of a pardon for Scooter Libby?
...be in favor of military intervention in Darfur but not in Iraq?
...be opposed to big government but want the government to control public speech?
...be in favor of banning medical marijuana but opposed to government regulation of cigarettes?
...be opposed to judicial meddling, except in cases where you disagree with the current laws?
Easy. Because people aren't consistent. Sure, you say, each of the examples above isn't fair. They don't match. They don't line up. [Smart people are lucky: they can hold seemingly contradictory ideas in their head while they look more deeply into the facts and make good decisions... it's called nuance.]
We don't eat dessert cause we're on a diet, but we put blue cheese dressing on our salad. We don't pay extra for first class, but refuse to give up a seat to get bumped from a flight, even though the reward is a thousand dollars. We curse the spam that clutters our email boxes but turn around and authorize millions of pieces of junk mail to go out to support our new business.
The local hardware store owner curses the existence of Home Depot but buys his family's clothes at Wal-Mart. The vegetarian wears a leather belt...
Everything is a special situation, everything begs for inconsistency. If all we did was market to computers, life would be a lot simpler, but a lot less interesting.
The new in-flight entertainment systems are all digital. The recently installed model on Air Canada remembers the volume that the person before you used. Which means that mine was set for 11.
Several agonizing seconds later, I was able to rip off the headphones.
Design often needs to be remarkable. But it also needs to be smart.
[Rick writes in the next day:
I’m in the maple leaf lounge at the Toronto Airport. Sitting with two of the execs who worked on this project for Air Canada. I showed em your post and said “well?”
[cue depressing music]
They are still having a debate on this (45 minutes later), deciding if they should put this into the update/rev plan. One guy actually said, "who puts on a headset without check volume first?"
Somethings you just can’t make up.]
When you are sitting right on the edge of something daring and scary and creative and powerful and perhaps wonderful... and you blink and take a step back.
That's the moment. The moment between you and remarkable. Most people blink. Most people get stuck.
All the hard work and preparation and daring and luck is nothing compared with the ability to not blink.