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Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.



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We Are All Weird

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« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

An iphone app that could change the way you get to work

[Update: since I posted this two days ago, I've gotten dozens of notes about systems in the UK, Australia and around the world that people say are "almost but not quite what you're describing." I also got a few notes pointing out that this was impossible and would never be done. Go figure.]

[New update! Matt points out that Apple has stolen this idea and applied for a patent.]

In 2000, I invented a gadget called RadaR. Fred Wilson told me that I was ahead of my time, and he was right. was a hardware/internet hybrid that could eliminate boatloads of traffic (and frustration). The idea is this: traffic reports are useless, because they tell you about places where you don't want to go and because they don't help you make smart choices. Have you ever once been on the Father Baker Bridge? Me either. I don't care if it's closed.

When I go to the airport, I have a choice of three bridges. Which one should I take? If a smart friend was in a helicopter, she could call me and say, "don't take the Triboro (RFK)! Take the Whitestone..."

They never say that on the radio. "Hey Seth, don't go that way!"

Well, with GPS and a little spectrum, we could fix this problem in a clever way.

You get a box a little bigger than a pack of Altoids. There are four big red buttons on top and a serial number on the bottom. Type your serial number into then put in addresses for the four buttons (the airport, work, your grandma's house and Philadelphia, say). Then, whenever you get in the car, hit the button for where you want to go. The device speaks to you and tells you which route to take.

Here's the killer part: the way it knows which way to go is that everyone driving along with a RadaR device is consistently uploading two pieces of data: where they're going and how long it is taking to get there.

Since RadaR central has thousands of cars in every city, it knows which routes are fast and which ones are slow. Crunching some numbers, it realizes that the Whitestone is totally jammed and can send people over the Throgs instead.

I was going to seed the market by giving RadaR devices to taxi drivers, so we'd have plenty of data points from the beginning.

The challenge is that getting this much hardware to so many people is expensive. Not to mention the bandwidth.

You probably already guessed the punchline: Do it with an iPhone.

Have the iPhone use the gps data... upload where I was a minute ago and where I am now. Figure out my speed and route. Use the data to tell other RadaR users which route is best. It's worth $20 a month if you live in a place with traffic jams. It's a natural monopoly--once someone figures it out, why wouldn't everyone want to use the market leader?

I minimize the difficulty of technology implementation (and I'm usually right). So don't tell me why it's impossible to do this, just build it and I'll buy one. If you build it, let me know.

BONUS! Here's an easier one that you could probably sell as well. I type in a phone number and enter a time. Record a message and press go. I can cue up a bunch of messages that are based on time. I can have groups get the message I record, at the time I want them to get it. I can make announcements... For example, if the sign in at the gym starts at 6 am, I can set my phone and it will call ahead and sign me in. Or you could ping your exec team every morning at 8 on their way into work...

Creating a clearance sale culture

If you want to avoid being stuck with inventory or downtime during a recession, you might profit from realizing that people tell themselves a different story when they go to buy something.

During good times, we wonder, "can I get this house before the price goes up or someone else snatches it?" or we think, "my time is really valuable, it's okay if this is a little more expensive than the store down the street." Businesses think about getting the invoices in before budget closes, or making the boss happy.

In our current times, people tell themselves the story, "I got a steal!" If it's not a steal, they wait.

You can't just lower all the prices in your operation. There are two reasons this doesn't work. First, you no longer communicate the story of 'special deal', instead you communicate 'we're in trouble.' Second, you end up charging everyone a lower price, even the people who were happy to pay more--who wanted to pay more, in fact.

Important distinction: if you say to someone, "if I give you a discount, will you buy it?" the answer will almost certainly be no. No, because lowering the price is almost never sufficient to change non-interest into interest.

So, empower your staff, all of them, to take 10% off the price of anything if someone asks or seems concerned. "Oh, don't worry. I'll just take $20 off the price of the room if you can book it now." For retailers or personal selling situations, you can give your staff a pile of "manager's coupons" that they can just whip out... peel one off and quietly hand it to the waffling customer. It needs to have a date on it, probably hand written. Even better, let them write in the discount (up to x%, and of course they'll always write x, which is fine, because that's what you planned on.)

Is this something you want to do? Probably not. Almost certainly not. But it might be something you have to do. The alternative are shoppers who walk out of the store and leave you with nothing.

Don't know what you've got till it's gone

IWantSandy is folding, as are a number of web companies. So is that restaurant you loved down the street. Users are outraged. Outraged!

When you find a service or establishment or product that gives you joy, it's tempting to keep it to yourself. Perhaps it's uncomfortable to recommend it to a friend (after all, you might seem silly) and even more uncomfortable to recommend it to a stranger (after all, you might seem like a shill).

Plenty of people hesitate before spreading the word about a political candidate or a business or a medical device. We're worried that we'll look silly, or that the place will end up being too crowded and now we won't be able to get in. Or perhaps we're concerned about losing our uniqueness...

Anyway, the outcry that accompanies the closing of one of these businesses should be enough to remind you that your hesitation has a cost.

It's simple, I think. In a world where consumers have so much power, we now have two responsibilities:

  • If you don't like what an organization stands for, work actively to spread the word and force them to change


  • If you will miss a product, a service, a book, a site or a professional when they close up shop, stand up, speak up and bring them masses of new business.

We get what we promote.


This has always been my favorite holiday. No gifts, no guilt, no doctrine.

For me, the holiday celebrates people who contribute with no expectation of anything in return. Online, the rules are no different. There are plenty of people typing as fast they can, all in expectation of what they'll get in return for that link or that shoutout or that flame. And then there are the superstars, the folks who have found a great platform for generosity.

Why be generous?

Why go out of your way for someone who can't possibly pay you back?

I hope the answer is obvious. It is to me. The benefit is in the fact that they can't pay you back. The opportunity to instruct or assist when you can gain nothing in return is priceless. It creates meaning and momentum and structure.

If you've been reading my blog this year, thanks for giving me the chance to teach.

If you've been helping at triiibes or Squidoo or on Twitter or on your blog or your social network of choice, and doing it without regard for repayment, thanks. We appreciate it more than you know.

And if you've dedicated your life to helping real people in real need, not just doing it when it's convenient, then you have my deepest thanks. It's not easy and it's not always fun, but it's vitally important and it matters.

Thank you.

Holiday shopping guide

The decisions you make with your hard-earned money this year will have more impact than ever before. So put your money where your mouth is.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Buy handmade items from people you like.

2. Don't buy gift cards. It's lazy and sort of dumb.

3. Don't buy from big brands or big stores that don't care about you, or that act in ways you don't applaud. There are very smart alternatives in almost every category.

4. When in doubt, buy digital items. Even better, give a donation and make many people happy.

5. Realize that when you're going to buy from Amazon, buying from a lens with a red ribbon on top will earn significant money for charity with no effort on your part.

Hugs are an underrated substitute.

Death of the personal blog?

A quick look at the list of the 'top' blogs in the world will show you that almost all of them are written by teams of people. There isn't one in the top 10 that's personal.

The best way to increase your ranking as a blogger is to post very often and to have teams of people doing the work. If that’s your strategy, of course you can’t have it be a solo blog. The strategy for showing up on this list is to have lots and lots of posts, so your tactic needs to be to have a team of people doing the work.

Personal blogs aren't going anywhere, though. There’s a difference between a blog about YOU (I call this a cat blog) and a blog about the reader. Guy Kawasaki’s blog, and my blog for that matter, are not about us, about what we ate yesterday or how great we are. They are about you, the reader.

I guess there's an easy analogy:
Your blog could be like a newspaper (written by a staff)
or it could be like a book (written by an author)

9 times out of 10, newspapers outsell books. No surprise. But they’re different. And we need both.

Who cares that you're not writing a mass market newspaper? The point is not to show up on a list, the point is to start a conversation that spreads, to share ideas and to chronicle your thinking. That's the work of an author, and I think rather than kissing author blogs goodbye, someone should just start a new list.

The You Show

A friend was telling me about some job interviews she went on. She enjoyed them.

Of course she did, I thought. She was starring in a show, a show about her.

I wrote about this five months ago, but it's worth boiling it down to the interview or sales call level.

One approach is to be reactive, to sit where you're supposed to sit, have your resume appear just so, wear what you're supposed to wear and answer each and every question in the safe and secure way.

The other approach is to put on a show. To be in charge, to lead.

When you go to Las Vegas, Penn and Teller don't ask you what sort of lights you want, what tricks you want to see and how long the show should be. They put on their show. If you don't like it, that's fine. Plenty of other people do. As a result, they win. They get to do their work, their way. And they profit from their confidence.

Some bosses don't want to hire people who have a vision, a personality and a shtick. That's okay. You don't want to work for them anyway.

How to answer the phone

31wzdkmpl_sl500_aa280_ The KitchenAid tea kettle (adorned in bright Squidoo orange, of course) in my office melted, leaving hot orange plastic on my thumb. Yes, it hurts as much as you probably imagine it does.

But that wasn't the worst part.

I called 1-800-334-6889 to whine a little bit and to hear why they made a meltable teapot. I counted how many prompts I had to press in order to talk to a human being. It was NINE.

Nine! Try it. I'll wait.

The last step was a recording that they were closed and I should call back after 10 am. Click.

I know you've heard this before, but it's really simple:

The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.

If you're not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion. There are no half measures. Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings. Think of all the money you'll save if you just stop answering altogether. Think of all the money you'll make if you just make people happy.

Your choice.

You will be misunderstood

Fortune I typically write posts that are three to six paragraphs long. I try to be clear and direct. And yet, just about everything I write is misunderstood by someone. (Not the same someone, alas). They write to me and I try to explain.

It's hard to imagine how one could write something that 100% of the recipients will understood as written. If you overwrite to satisfy the last 1%, you're going to bore the rest to tears

All of which is a way of warning you about [a potential pitfall of] microblogging (Twitter, etc.). If you've got 140 characters to make your point, the odds are you are going to be misunderstood (a lot). There may be nothing wrong with that, but you should be prepared for it to happen. And most of the time, people won't take the time to ask. They'll just assume you're an ignorant jerk and move on. [Please understand (yes, I was misunderstood!) I'm not throwing the baby of microblogging out with the bathwater... I'm merely pointing out that the medium has to be appropriate for the message. Using microblogging (like Yammer) to share your quarterly review or to fire someone or to make an important, nuanced announcement is just sort of dumb. Using it for keeping in contact with an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues is brilliant].

If it's important, or controversial, I don't think I'd obsess about making it short.

Watching the Times struggle (and what you can learn)

Page by page, section by section, the influence of the New York Times is fading away. Great people on an important mission, but their footprint is shrinking and the company is losing stock value and cash and power and the ability to have the impact that they might.

Today's Sunday magazine has a cover story on Jennifer Aniston. Of course!

"All the News That's Fit to Print" is the heart of the problem. It was never that, of course. It was "All the News That Fits." The entire mindset of (every) newspaper has been driven by the cost of paper, the finite nature of paper, the cost of delivery and the cycle of a daily paper. You run enough articles to fit as many ads as you can sell.These are artifacts of a different age, one that today's consumer doesn't care a whit about.

Lots of organizations go through this analysis. How do you leverage your brand or your customer base to get to the next level, to enter new markets or new technologies--and do it while running your old business. And almost without exception, organizations are run by people who want to protect the old business, not develop the new one.

When you think about your business, realize that it is a combination of assets and constraints. The Times understood both, but suddenly, the constraints changed. Now, it's possible for a single individual with a Typepad account to reach more people than almost any newspaper in the country can. Loosen one constraint and the game changes. That leaves you with the assets, for a while anyway.

When in pain, the answer is not to pander to the masses and undo the very things that made you special.

Ten years ago, the paper knew what it had to do. They had a shot at inventing the future, but compromised their way to it instead of leading. Here are some simple ways they could think big instead of merely failing to defend the status quo:

1. Use their influence and brand to enable users to spread their content:
Why, precisely, aren't the Zagats guides a NY Times product? Or Yelp? That's a quarter of a billion dollars worth of value that the paper with the most influential restaurant reviews page didn't create. Why didn't they build Wikipedia? Or a platform to influence the way politicians govern?

Hiring and promoting David Pogue is a great example of expanding that base into the online world. Buying was smart, but being afraid to put the Times name on it was an error... an opportunity for leverage, wasted.

2. Leverage the op-ed page and spread important ideas:
Sure, Tom Friedman and a handful of other columnists have a large reach and influence. But why doesn't the Times have 50 columnists? 500? Tom Peters or Jim Leff or Joel Spolsky or Micah Sifry or Pam Slim or Patrick Semmens or Dan Pink would be great columnists. Why not view the endless print space online as an opportunity to leverage their core asset?

What would happen if the huge team of existing Times editors and writers each interviewed an interesting or important person every day? 5,000 or 10,000 really important interviews every year, each waiting for a sponsor, each finding a relevant audience...

3. Build a permission asset:
Times readers are among the most informed cultural consumers in the world. They tend to have money to spend and are eager for new ideas. What an opportunity to build 10 or a 100 or ten thousand silos. Carefully focused free email newsletters, and then blogs, each with an editor and plenty of relevant and useful ads. Well-written ideas, delivered with authority, are as important as ever. The Times sat back and let hundreds of other micro-sites deliver this instead.

4. Keep score:
The New York Times bestseller list used to matter a great deal. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because bookstores discounted and promoted the bestsellers, which helped them sell more.

We still want to know what the bestsellers are, but the Times works hard not to tell us. There are literally a thousand categories of media that people want to know about (top blogs, top DVDs, etc.) and the Times abdicated their ability to keep score, to be the trusted referee and to drive the short head in almost every form of culture.

Consider this for a moment: Oprah is able to sell ten times as many copies of a book than the New York Times can. The Times abdicated their role as the leader of the conversation about books.

5. Stringers:

The Times has always used freelancers and stringers to report and contribute to the paper. But how many? Why doesn't the paper have 10,000 stringers, each with a blog, each angling to be picked up by the central site? You wouldn't have to pay much per story to build a semi-pro cadre of writers and reporters. When you organize the news (delivering unique perspectives to people who want to hear them) you influence the conversation.

6. Create new platforms for advertisers:

The Times has profited longer than most newspapers because of New York. New York is an efficient place to be a newspaper. Lots of people, lots of advertisers, lots of spending, influence all over the world. But even that isn't enough to support the failing economics of dead trees and delivery. The only reason a paper exists (from a business point of view) is to sell ads.

So, what sort of ad-rich, ad-centric media could they build? From directories to pdfs to coupons to promotions, the list is nearly endless.

• • •

Instead of building something that dominates in this century the way they did in the last, the editors at the paper are pandering to the masses (and failing). Today's Magazine not only features the aforementioned volumes of insight about Jennifer Aniston, but it also includes yet another lame Ethicist column (they run it because they always have) and a weak interview with David Lynch (which no one will talk about on Monday). It also features recipes (we don't need more recipes, thanks, we now have an infinite number of recipes) and their latest affectation, which is overdesigned typesetting that is unreadable. All of these efforts are placeholders, not bold moves to create something that matters.

The people I know at the Times are smart, driven, honest and on a mission to do great work. The people didn't fail the system, the system failed them.

Do the people running the Times know more about running a newspaper or building ideas that spread profitably online? How about the people running your organization? Odds are, they're great at yesterday's business.

I guess it's about the difference between:

  • senior management playing defense, supporting and protecting the status quo and avoiding offending the elders upstairs vs.
  • using existing momentum and clout to build assets for the next business.

"Just doing my job"

What a bogus excuse.

If you take a job, you've bought into what the company does. You're responsible.

If you work for a company headed off a cliff, hey, you're going too. The fact that you're just doing your job doesn't make unemployment any better. And if the company is hurting people or the world you operate in, it doesn't matter who told you to do it, you still did it.

It's not just your job. It's a big part of your life. And you're way smarter than you're giving yourself credit for. Speak up, change things or get out. Whining later is a low-return strategy.

Sorry for the rant. Been getting a lot of email this week from people explaining why they work for companies doing dumb things.

What to do about Detroit

I was in Detroit last week... I have family there. I also drive a car. And I would rather that the world doesn't melt and the economy thrive. So I'm uniquely qualified to weigh in on the automobile industry.

Not only should Congress encourage/facilitate the organized bankruptcy of the Big Three, but it should also make it easy for them to be replaced by 500 new car companies.

Or perhaps a thousand.

That's how many car companies there were 90 years ago.

That's right, when all the innovation hit the car industry, there were thousands of car companies, with hundreds running at any one time. From Wikipedia:

Throughout this era, development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to a huge number (hundreds) of small manufacturers all competing to gain the world's attention. Key developments included electric ignition (by Robert Bosch, 1903), independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes (by the Arrol-Johnston Company of Scotland in 1909).[16] Leaf springs were widely used for suspension, though many other systems were still in use, with angle steel taking over from armored wood as the frame material of choice. Transmissions and throttle controls were widely adopted, allowing a variety of cruising speeds, though vehicles generally still had discrete speed settings rather than the infinitely variable system familiar in cars of later eras.

Between 1907 and 1912, the high-wheel motor buggy (resembling the horse buggy of before 1900) was in its heyday, with over seventy-five makers including Holsman (Chicago), IHC (Chicago), and Sears (which sold via catalog); the high-wheeler would be killed by the Model T.

Back in its heyday, Ford Motor made every single part of its cars, including raising the sheep that grew the wool that made the fabric that upholstered the seats. That's not true any more. Now, suppliers make just about every part. We need those suppliers, and we need them to stay healthy.

What we don't need are giant companies with limited choice, confused priorities, private jets and a bully's attitude.

I'd spend a billion dollars to make the creation of a car company turnkey. Make it easy to get all the safety and regulatory approvals... as easy to start a car company as it is to start a web company. Use the bankruptcy to wipe out the hated, legacy marketing portion of the industry: the dealers.

We'd end up with a rational number of "car stores" in every city that sold lots of brands. We'd have super cheap cars and super efficient cars and super weird cars. There'd be an orgy of innovation, and from that, a whole new energy and approach would evolve. Betcha.

Google gets jiggy

If you're a signed in user of Google, you'll notice the most significant change in search since their launch.

You can now interact with search results, wiki style.

You can vote them up or down and leave comments. And they will be seen by others.

1. This is going to lead to an incredible rush by small businesses and social networkers. They're going to go crazy trying to game the system.

2. Google is going to find that millions of people pay a lot more attention to their search results (for now).

Interesting to consider what happens after that. How do they handle the deluge? Does democracy matter when it comes to search? How do you filter out the gamed votes?

Also interesting to think about how a tiny change in a beloved interface changes the way you think about and use it.

Google is a natural resource. We're defensive. We don't want them to wreck it, we want it to be here forever and we want it to work better for us. All at the same time. I give them ten points for bravery.

How to make money using the Internet

Make money: not by building an internet company, but by using the net as a tool to create value and get paid. Use the internet as a tool, not as an end. Do it when you are part of a big organization or do it as a soloist. The dramatic leverage of the net more than overcomes the downs of the current economy.

The essence is this: connect.

Connect the disconnected to each other and you create value.

  • Connect advertisers to people who want to be advertised to.
  • Connect job hunters with jobs.
  • Connect information seekers with information.
  • Connect teams to each other.
  • Connect those seeking similar.
  • Connect to partners and those that can leverage your work.
  • Connect people who are proximate geographically.
  • Connect organizations spending money with ways to save money.
  • Connect like-minded people into a movement.
  • Connect people buying with people who are selling.

Some examples? I think it's worth delineating these so you can see that the opportunity can be big, if that's your taste, or small if you don't want to invest heavily just yet.

Connect advertisers to people who want to be advertised to.
Dani Levy did this with Daily Candy, a company she recently sold for more than a hundred million dollars. Daily Candy uses simple email software, there's no technology tricks involved. Instead, it's a simple permission marketing business... hundreds of thousands of the right people, getting an anticipated, personal and relevant email every day. (Note! This only works if you earn true permission, not that sort of fake half and half version that's so common).

Connect job hunters with jobs.
My friend Tara has made hundreds of thousands of dollars (in good years) working as an executive recruiter. But what did she actually do all day? She stayed connected with a cadre of people. She kept track of the all stars. She connected with the right people, invested time in them that her clients never thought  was worth it. So, when it was time to hire, it was easier for them to call Tara than it was for them to start from scratch. The best time to start a gig like this is right now, when no one in particular wants to connect with and help out the superstars. Later, when the economy bounces back, your position is extremely valuable. (Note! This only works if you have insane focus and the people you interact with are the true superstars, not just numbers).

Connect information seekers with information.
At a large scale, this is what Bloomberg did to make his fortune. Spending $$$ on a Bloomberg terminal guarantees a user at least a fifteen minute head start on people who don't have one. But consider how many micro markets where this connection doesn't occur. Michael Cader offers it to book publishers and does quite well. Which industry needs you to channel and collect and connect?

On a micro level, there are now people making thousands of dollars a month running their pages on Squidoo. That's almost enough to be a full time job for a curious person with the generosity to share useful information. 

Connect teams to each other.

How much is on the line when a company puts ten people in three offices on a quest to launch a major new product in record time? The question, then, is why wouldn't they be willing to spend a little more to hire a team concierge? Someone to manage Basecamp and conference calls and scheduling and document source control to be sure the right people have the right information at the right time... I don't think most organizations can hire someone to do this full time, but I bet this is a great specialty for someone who is good at it.

Connect those seeking similar.
Who's running the ad hoc association of green residential architects? Or connecting the hundred CFOs at the hundred largest banks in the US? It's amazing how isolated most people are, even in a world crowded with people. I know of a guy who built an insanely profitable business around connecting C level executives at the Fortune 500. After all, there are only 500 of them. They want to know what the others are doing... (Consider this example)

Connect to partners and those that can leverage your work.

Freelances had no power because they depended on the client to hook them up with the rest of the team that could leverage their work. But what if you do that before you approach the client? What if you, the graphic designer, have a virtual partner who is an award winning copywriter and another partner who is a well-know illustrator? You could walk in the door and offer detailed PDFs or other high-impact viral electronic media in a turnkey package.

Connect people who are proximate geographically.
We all know that newspapers are tanking. Yet news, it appears, is on the rise. This paradox is an opportunity. Who is connecting the 10,000 people in your little community/suburb/town/zip code to each other? One person who spends all day at school board meetings, breaking stories about a dumping scandal, profiling a local business person or teacher? If you did that, and built an audience of thousands by RSS and email... do you think you'd have any trouble selling out the monthly cocktail party/mixer? Any trouble finding sponsors among local businesses for a media property that actually and truly reaches everyone?

Connect organizations spending money with ways to save money.
During the last recession, plenty of entrepreneurs scored by selling businesses on doing a phone bill audit. They took 30% of the first year's savings and did the work for free. Today, there are countless ways businesses can save money using technology and outsourcing, but few take full advantage. You can train them to do this and keep a share of the savings.

Connect like-minded people into a movement.
We've seen plenty of headstrong bootstrapped entrepreneurs turn a blog into the cornerstone of a multi-million dollar empire. The secret: they don't write their blog for everyone. Instead, they use the blog as the center connecting point for a niche, and then go from there. It's easy to list the tech successes, but there are literally 10,000 other niches just waiting for someone to connect them.

Connect people buying with people who are selling.
Sure, you know how to use Craigslist and eBay to buy and sell... but most people don't. How about finding people in your town with junk that needs removing, items that need selling, odd jobs that need filling... and then, for a fee, solve their problems using your laptop and these existing networks? Imagine the power, just to pick one example, of building an email alert list of 500 garage sale bargain hunters. Every time you email them, they show up. Now, you can walk into any home in any town and guarantee the biggest garage sale success they've ever seen... and you have the photos to prove it. As long as you protect the list and do for them, not to them, this asset increases in value.

The best time to do any of these projects was five years ago, so that today you'd be earning thousands of dollars a week. Too late. The second best time to start: now.

The edifice complex

Why do banks spend so much money on marble lobbies, high ceilings and yes, $400 million to name a baseball stadium?

Why do marketers buy TV ads that don't increase sales in the short run?

Why have a receptionist and not just a house phone where you can call the person you came to see?

For the same reason that so many people have a green front lawn.

It's organized waste. Profligate spending designed to communicate confidence and just a bit of hubris.

Do you really want to invest money at a bank run by a guy with nothing but a bridge table and a cheap suit? Probably not. At some level, we like the confidence that we get from that big lobby. We are more likely to perk up when the reporter has her cameraman aim a huge black video camera (with lights!) at us, even though the little hand held camera might work just as well...

In times of financial stress and bailouts, the obvious solution (eliminate all the waste!) is not the one that works. In fact, in these times, we're more likely than ever to be nervous about the status of the organization we're working with.

I'd replace the expensive sponsorships and buildings with something more valuable, quicker to market and far more efficient: people. Real people, trustworthy people, honest people... people who take their time, look you in the eye, answer the phone and keep their promises. Not as easy to implement as writing a big check for the Super Bowl, but a lot more effective.

Don't get fooled again...

[This post is cynical. You've been warned.]

If you think that's a friend of yours on twitter, don't be so sure.

If you wonder why your boss sent such an insane email to you, don't be so sure.

If you get a chance to invest online, think twice.

Don't buy anything from an inbound phone call.

That email you sent in confidence... probably won't be read that way. And that photo, yes, it's going to show up in the digital world where you least want to see it...

In your little village, where you see your neighbor every day for ten years and the person in the next car might be the local constable, the rules are very simple and obeyed by all. In an electronic world, it's trivial to impersonate, hack and otherwise annoy.

Online, rely on direct, personal interactions to be sure you're seeing what you think you're seeing. Trust, but verify.

Blah, blah, blah, blah...

You hear yourself saying:

"First, let me apologize for the lighting. We tried very hard to make the screen brighter, but we failed. Before I start, I want to thank seventeen people by name... Now, on this third slide, we see the dynamic effects of our incendiary marketing strategy... Just a few more minutes here... I'm sorry, I don't know why the web connection isn't working quite right... For those of you that remember my talk two years ago... As I was saying to Sir Reginald..."

What the audience hears:

"Blah, blah, blah... interesting tidbit... blah, blah, blah... exciting insight... blah, blah, blah, etc."

My suggestion is that you eliminate all the blahs, eliminate the apologies, eliminate the thank you's, eliminate everything except two interesting tidbits and all the exciting insights.

No audience member, in the history of presentations (written or live) has ever said, "it was exciting, useful and insightful but far too short."

We feel your pain

That's the current motto of the folks over at Motrin. There's been a ton of buzz the last two days about a botched ad campaign they ran, but this post isn't really about that. It's about being a human being and feeling pain.

After running an ad that offended some people, Motrin decided to take it down. This is what they put up on their website:


This isn't a honest note from a real person. It's the carefully crafted non-statement of a committee. What an opportunity to get personal and connected and build bridges...

Read down to the fine print. It says, "Why you can no longer find Children's MOTRIN® Chewable Tablets". This obviously has nothing to do with the apology, it was always there. Click on it. It takes you to their FAQ, so you have to read through all the questions to find the one to click on. Click on it again. Read through the text until you find this: "Children's MOTRIN® Chewable Tablets have been temporarily discontinued."


Thanks for telling us.

TV demands that you broadcast. TV demands that you talk at us. It's the only possible solution.

The web, on the other hand, doesn't respond as well to that. It responds extremely well to moments of honesty and candor. Real people feeling our pain.


I had lunch (a big lunch) with a college student last week. An hour later, she got up and announced she was going to get a snack. Apparently, she was hungry.

By any traditional definition of the word, she wasn’t actually hungry. She didn’t need more fuel to power her through an afternoon of sitting around. No, she was bored. Or yearning for a feeling of fullness. Or eager for the fun of making something or the break in the routine that comes from eating it. Most likely, she wanted the psychic satisfaction that she associates with eating well-marketed snacks.

Marketers taught us this. Marketers taught well-fed consumers to want to eat more than we needed, and consumers responded by spending more and getting fat in the process.

Marketers taught to us amplify our wants, since needs aren’t a particularly profitable niche for them. Isn't it interesting that we don't even have a word for these marketing-induced non-needs? No word for sold-hungry or sold-lonely...

Thirsty? Well, Coke doesn’t satisfy thirst nearly as well as water does. What Coke does do is satisfy our need for connection or sugar or brand fun or consumption or Americana or remembering summer days by the creek...

People don’t need Twitter or an SUV or a purse from Coach. We don’t need much of anything, actually, but we want a lot. Truly successful industries align their ‘wants’ with basic needs (like hunger) and consumers (that’s us) cooperate all day long.

Think you could live without the $1800 a year you spend on cell phone service and $1200 a year you spend on cable TV? Of course you can. You did ten years ago. But now, that high-speed, always-on connection to the rest of the world is so associated with your basic need of connection that you can't easily divorce the two.

As discretionary corporate and individual spending contracts, what’s going to get cut first? The obvious wants. The corporate dining room or the big screen TV for Christmas. What’s interesting to watch are the things that we can’t live without, the things we think we need, not want. Those things won’t get cut, yet most of them aren’t needs at all. That’s because the industries that market these items have done a brilliant job of persuading us that they are needs after all.

If you truly believe in what you sell, that's where you need to be, creating wants that become needs. And if you're a consumer (or a business that consumers) it might be time to look at what you've been sold as a need that's actually a want.

The Tribes Q&A ebook is here and it's free

Qacover Dozens of volunteers, working together, put together this ebook:

Download TribesQA2.pdf

[last one didn't work... try the link above. Sorry.]

Yours to share or print or email, but please don't sell it or change it.

Not only is there a juicy insight on every page, but I'm comfortable saying it's the best designed PDF I've ever seen, worth making into a template for your next project.

Enjoy it.

Do you know enough?

If not, what are you doing about it?

If so, who do you think you're kidding?

[Interesting side alley: I was talking to a friend yesterday and encouraged her to speak at an upcoming conference. She said, "No way. I don't know enough." I explained that volunteering to speak was the best way to be sure that she'd end up knowing enough by the time she was through.]

The system doesn't know what to do with a movement

Scott reminded me of this post today.

If you've been waiting for an opportunity, this might just be the opportunity you've been waiting for.

The number one secret of the great blogs

Every one of them leads a tribe.

Boingboing readers recognize each other at conferences. We use the same shorthand, we recognize the same memes. Huffingtonpost editors don't try to reach everyone. Instead, they are hosting a digital cocktail party for invited guests that have something in common. Garr Reynolds doesn't try to teach everyone about Powerpoint... instead, he leads a tribe of people committed to changing the way the world communicates in meetings.

Go down the list. Hugh leads a tribe. Josh  leads a tribe. So does Mitch. And Guy, who just wrote a book for his tribe too. It's not hard to find other examples for my thesis.

In each case, the function of the blog is to be a standard bearer, the north star that tribe members can point to as a place to meet or for ideas to circle around. The blog isn't about the writer, it's about the readers.

The key takeaway is this: once you realize that your job is to find and connect and lead a tribe, to give them something to talk about and a place to go, it's a lot easier to write a blog that works.

Too good to be true (the overnight millionaire scam)

You probably don't need to read this, but I bet you know people who do. Please feel free to repost or forward:

Times are tough, and many say they are going to be tougher. That makes some people more focused, it turns others desperate.

You may be tempted at some point to try to make a million dollars. To do it without a lot of effort or skill or risk. Using a system, some shortcut perhaps, or mortgaging something you already own.

There are countless infomercials and programs and systems that promise to help you do this. There are financial instruments and investments and documents you can sign that promise similar relief from financial stress.


There are four ways to make a million dollars. Luck. Patient effort. Skill. Risk.

(Five if you count inheritance, and six if you count starting with two million dollars).

Conspicuously missing from this list are effortless 1-2-3 systems that involve buying an expensive book or series of tapes. Also missing are complicated tax shelters or other 'proven' systems. The harder someone tries to sell you this solution, the more certain you should be that it is a scam. If no skill or effort is required, then why doesn't the promoter just hire a bunch of people at minimum wage and keep the profits?

There are literally a million ways to make a good living online, ten million ways to start and thrive with your own business offline. But all of these require effort, and none of them are likely to make you a million dollars.

Short version of my opinion: If someone offers to sell you the secret system, don't buy it. If you need to invest in a system before you use it, walk away. If you are promised big returns with no risk and little effort, you know the person is lying to you. Every time.

Don't sell to bar owners

Rama wrote in and asked why I mentioned this. What's so hard about selling advertising to bar owners, and what can we learn from that?

My answer:

1. they're not eager to buy new stuff (like ads)
2. they don't come to the phone
3. they don't come to the front of the bar because they're not at the bar, they're somewhere else
4. they're not really trying to grow the business

The universal lesson is this: every business has customers. In order to grow, you either need to sell more to those customers or find new customers. When thinking about your business, I'd ask:

  • How difficult is it to get permission to talk to our existing customers?
  • How difficult is it to get them to introduce us to their friends, colleagues and competitors?
  • What's the worldview of this audience? Do they trust us? Are they looking for new solutions?
  • Will this audience go out of their way to avoid us? Will they try to rip us off as a matter of course?
  • How price sensitive are they? Will that change if a truly remarkable or game-changing product or service appears?
  • Is there a problem that they know they have? If not, then we have to not only sell the solution, we need to sell the problem too (Jeremy mentioned that to me today--problems are missing from so many new product launches).

The biggest problem marketers make is misjudging their audience. The see the size of the market, but not its true nature: Their accessibility and eagerness. Their worldview and motivation. All too often, we say, "that's Sales' job." And it's true, a superstar salesperson might very well be able to sell to an audience that doesn't want to be sold to.

Marketers are guilty of hoping for too much from a typical salesforce. In my experience, 90% of the salespeople out there are below average (because performance is a curve, not a line). The superstars are hard to find, hard to keep and hard to count on scaling. So that means you must create a product that doesn't require a superstar to sell it. And the only way you're going to sell an ad to a [insert difficult marketplace here] is to create a product/service/story that sells itself.

Good advice, easily overlooked


Number one rule for avoiding alligator attacks:

Don't swim in bodies of water containing large alligators.

Of course, sometimes the thing you want is on the other side of that body of water. If so, don't complain, just swim fast.

The marketer's attitude

Traditional job requirements: show up, sober. Listen to the boss, lift heavy objects.

Here's what I'd want if I were hiring a marketer:

You're relentlessly positive. You can visualize complex projects and imagine alternative possible outcomes. It's one thing to talk about thinking outside the box, it's quite another to have a long history of doing it successfully. You can ride a unicycle, or can read ancient Greek.

Show me that you've taken on and completed audacious projects, and run them as the lead, not as a hanger on. I'm interested in whether you've become the best in the world at something, and completely unimpressed that you are good at following instructions (playing Little League baseball is worth far less than organizing a non-profit organization).

You have charisma in that you easily engage with strangers and actually enjoy selling ideas to others. You are comfortable with ambiguity, and rarely ask for detail or permission. Test, measure, repeat and go work just fine for you.

You like to tell stories and you're good at it. You're good at listening to stories, and using them to change your mind.

I'd prefer to hire someone who is largely self-motivated, who finds satisfaction in reaching self-imposed goals, and is willing to regularly raise the bar on those goals.

You're intellectually restless. You care enough about new ideas to read plenty of blogs and books, and you're curious enough about your own ideas that you blog or publish your thoughts for others to react to. You're an engaging writer and speaker and you can demonstrate how the right visuals can change your story.

And you understand that the system is intertwined, that your actions have side effects and you not only care about them but work to make those side effects good ones.

The cool thing about this list is that it's not dependent on what you were born with or who you know. Or how much you can lift.

Seen it all before

What can you assume about your audience?

If you’re running a commercial, sending out a sales letter, making a presentation--what have they seen? What do they know?

A hundred years ago, when people went to see live music, the expectation was that they had never seen the work performed before, and they were unlikely to ever hear it again.

Forty years ago, it was assumed you were up to date on the current TV shows and the current commercials and the recent movies, but something from a decade earlier was too far in the past to refer to.

Now, if I give a presentation, I have to figure that some people in the audience have not only seen my five year old talk at TED, but they’ve seen EVERY talk that’s ever been giving at TED. Today, if you make an online video, you need to assume that some people have seen thousands or tens of thousands of online videos before you got there. Every TV show ever made is floating around somewhere. Cultural references don’t go away, they just get added to the stack.

Nokia now assumes that you’ve seen the iPhone. New photo sharing sites assume you’ve seen Flickr. Stephenie Meyer assumes you’ve read Harry Potter.

While it’s likely that some people in your audience have seen almost everything, it’s also quite likely that there’s nothing (nothing!) that everyone in your audience has seen. There are going to be people who don’t get this reference or that reference. There are certainly going to be people who, given the needle in a haystack culture we live in now, just haven’t seen the particular idea you’re riffing on.

Your audience isn’t as homogeneous as it used to be. That means you have a few choices:

1. Inquire. For a small group, or for important interactions, ask. Ask if they’ve been to your site or read your recent blog posts. Ask if they use this software or that software. Ask if they’ve seen Buckaroo Bonzai or not. Ask if this is the first time in your restaurant (or better yet, let your database tell you).

2. Assume. If you don’t ask, you’re going to have to guess. You can make it clear you’re assuming, which puts the burden on the unclued to keep up, or you can take a huge risk and just assume. This strategy works best for large groups, where hitting a home run with half the audience is probably worth the journey.

3. Punt. Don’t ask, don’t make thoughtful assumptions, just pretend we’re living in a three-channel, all-on-the-same-page universe. I think this is the default setting for most marketers, and quite a mistake.

Off the record

One of the best lines of Animal House, sanitized here for your enjoyment: "You screwed up. You trusted me."

In a world where everyone owns a media channel, I guess that makes us all journalists. Journalists have more power than ordinary folks, because they can spread a message farther and faster. The question is, what sort of long-term choices are you going to make in your career as an amateur journalist?

Seymour Hersh has won a Pulitzer Prize for his hard-hitting coverage of the Pentagon, and one reason he's able to break big stories is because his sources know that they won't get busted for talking to him. The reason? He doesn't reveal them. There's no doubt that he could make a huge splash by writing, "Colin Powell told me..." but of course, if he did that, burned a source that spoke to him off the record, he'd never be trusted again.

I end all my emails with a sig that says, "This note is off the record (blogs, too) unless we agree otherwise." I don't do this because I have something to hide, I do it because it makes it easier to have a human-to-human conversation. If I believe I'm talking on the record, to everyone, I need to be a lot more careful in what I type. Of course, there's no way for me to enforce this. No way for me to sue you or something if you start taking my words (in context or not) and post them here and there. Except for one: I just won't trust you again. And in fact, neither will your other readers. [Blogs, profiles, and tweets of course, are out there for anyone who wants to borrow or share them.]

Go to a party and take embarrassing pictures of your friends to post on Facebook. That's fun, certainly, but it's possible that you won't be quite as trusted next time.

Take that email your boss sent to the six people in your group and post it anonymously to some web gossip site... wanna bet your boss is a lot more careful about telling you and your peers the truth next time?

The good news is that we all need to act as if we're on camera... behavior ought to improve. The bad news is that it's harder to trust people we might have expected to be more discreet or engaged.

There's a giddy history of amateurs using the web to build up scandal sheets and generate traffic by violating the trust of their friends and colleagues. What's clear is that this isn't a long term strategy for success. When in doubt, ask first. Maybe your source doesn't mind. Maybe you misunderstood the intent of the original message. Trust is really valuable and equally fragile.

You can fool us once, but probably not twice.

Three new jobs you might want to consider

Every company that works online today ought to consider hiring three amazing people to lead these projects:

  1. COMMUNITY ORGANIZER. Find and connect and lead a tribe of dedicated users that contribute to and benefit from the work you do.
  2. STATS FIEND. Measure everything that can be measured. Do it efficiently and consistently. Find out what metrics are important and cycle until they improve.
  3. MANAGER OF FREELANCERS. Find and hire and manage the best outside talent in the world. If it can be defined as a project, and if great work defeats good, seriously consider having the MOF get it done.

With three superstars doing these jobs, it's possible you can create almost anything.

Tribal effects don't disappear (even in politics)

Electoralmap This map from the New York Times is eye opening.

It shows the counties that recorded an increase in Republican voting. That is, counties with more Republican votes than in the close re-election campaign George W. Bush ran.

Judging from the geography of these redder counties, it wasn't because of the economics (most of these voters would have no tax benefits under McCain) and it wasn't because of social issues (the last election was as profoundly divided on this axis as this one). My only explanation is that tribal identity was enough to get non-voters out to vote.

Every market has regions like this one, every market has individuals like these. It's not about running for something, it's about telling a story that may just energize some that don't want you to succeed.

The sad lie of mediocrity

Doing 4% less does not get you 4% less.

Doing 4% less may very well get you 95% less.

That's because almost good enough gets you nowhere. No sales, no votes, no customers. The sad lie of mediocrity is the mistaken belief that partial effort yields partial results. In fact, the results are usually totally out of proportion to the incremental effort.

Big organizations have the most trouble with this, because they don't notice the correlation. It's hidden by their momentum and layers of bureaucracy. So a mediocre phone rep or a mediocre chef may not appear to be doing as much damage as they actually are.

The flip side of this is that when you are at the top, the best in the world, the industry leader, a tiny increase in effort and quality can translate into huge gains. For a while, anyway.

The 90/10 rule of marketing a job

Most hiring managers don't understand organizations that go to extraordinary lengths to find and retain amazing people. And from their point of view, they're completely correct. Pay market wage, run a classified, process the resumes. Done.

It only takes 10% as much effort to hire someone in the bottom 90% of the class.

And it takes the other 90% to find and cajole and retain the top 10%.

Most hiring, especially in a down market, is handled as a mostly bureaucratic task. Find people who fit in, do a rudimentary background check to eliminate problems, try not to break any hiring laws...

If your organization can thrive with ordinary folks, then the marketing you're doing right now to fill the ranks might even be overkill. You've got plenty of resumes. No need to pretend you're doing anything much more than bottom fishing, though. That plaque for employee of the month? You can sell it on eBay.

On the other hand, organizations that work best with extraordinary talent are almost certainly not investing enough in finding and developing it. If marketing works so well that you spend a fortune on it, why aren't you marketing your jobs? If talent is so important that you are betting the company on it, why aren't you actually investing in finding and retaining that talent?

A friend in need

Your customers and employees and investors will remember how you treated them when times were tough, when they needed a break, when a little support meant everything.

No one in particular will remember how you acted during the boom times.

Marketing lessons from the US election

The polls open in a few minutes, and unlike pundits that wait until after the polls have closed, I thought I'd do the opposite. It's obvious that this is the most talked about election in the history of the world, and I think there are some lessons for every marketer, regardless of nationality or political leanings.

It turns out that one way you learn about marketing is by analyzing it. (The other way is to do it). Yet people hate analyzing three really useful but emotional examples of marketing that matters: politics, organized religion and their own organizations. I figure we can start here, with the easiest of the three.

This is a long post. Fine with me if you skip it and just go vote instead.

Here goes:

Stories really matter.
More than a billion dollars spent, two 'products' that have very different features, and yet, when people look back at the election they will remember mavericky winking. You can say that's trivial. I'll say that it's human nature. Your product doesn't have features that are more important than the 'features' being discussed in this election, yet, like most marketers, you're obsessed with them. Forget it. The story is what people respond to.

Mainstream media isn't powerful because we have no other choices (see below). It's powerful because they're still really good at writing and spreading stories, stories we listen to and stories we believe.

Trend2youtbue TV is over. If people are interested, they'll watch. On their time (or their boss's time). They'll watch online, and spread the idea. You can't email a TV commercial to a friend, but you can definitely spread a YouTube video. The cycle of ads got shorter and shorter, and the most important ads were made for the web, not for TV. Your challenge isn't to scrape up enough money to buy TV time. Your challenge is to make video interesting enough that we'll choose to watch it and choose to share it.

Permission matters (though selfish marketers still burn it). The Republican party has a long tradition of smart direct mail tactics. Over the years, they've used them to aggressively outfundraise and outcampaign the Democrats. In this election cycle, smart marketers at the Obama campaign toned down the spam and turned up the permission. They worked relentlessly to build a list, and they took care of the list. They used metrics to track open rates and (at least until the end) appeared to avoid burning out the list with constant fundraising. Anticipated, personal and relevant messages will always outperform spam. Regardless of how it is delivered.

Marketing is tribal. This one, for obvious reasons, fascinated me this cycle.

Karl Rove and others before him were known for cultivating the 'base'. This was shorthand for a tribe of people with shared interests and vision (it included a number of conservatives and evangelicals). George W. Bush was able to get elected twice by embracing the base, by connecting them, by being one of them.

John McCain had a dilemma. He didn't particularly like the base nor did they like him. His initial strategy was not to lead this existing tribe, but to weave a new tribe. The idea was that independents and some Democrats, together with the traditional pre-Reagan core of the Republican party, would weave together a new centrist base.

Barack Obama also had a challenge. He knew that the traditional base for Democratic candidates wouldn't be sufficient to get him elected (it had failed John Kerry). So he too set out to weave a new tribe, a tribe that included progressives, the center, younger religious voters, weary veterans, internationalists, Nobel prize winners, black voters and others.

Building a new tribe (in marketing and in politics) is time consuming and risky and expensive. Both set out to do this.

Then, McCain made a momentous decision. He chose Sarah Palin, and did it for one huge reason: to embrace the Rove/Bush 'base'. To lead a tribe that was already there, but not yet his. He was hoping for a side effect, which was to attract Hillary Clinton's tribe, one that in that moment, was also leaderless.

Seen through the lens of tribes and marketing, this is a fascinating and risky event. Are people willing to suspend disbelief or suspicion and embrace a leader in order to maintain the energy of their tribe?

If it had worked, it would have been a master stroke. He would have solidified his base, grabbed key constituencies of Clinton supporters in swing states and wooed the center as well. Three tribes in one pick.

In McCain's case, it failed. His choice cost him the economically-concerned middle (which went to Obama's carefully woven tribe). And it clearly cost him the mostly female Clinton tribe. Yes, he energized the conservative base, but he lost the election. If he had chosen Mike Huckabee, one could wonder what would have happened. Would this less polarizing figure been able to collect a bigger tribe for him?

This is a real question for every marketer with an idea to sell. Do you find an existing tribe (Harley drivers, Manolo shoe buyers, frequent high-end restaurant diners) and try to co-opt them? Or do you try the more expensive and risky effort of building a brand new tribe? The good news is that if you succeed, you get a lot for your efforts. The bad news is that you're likely to fail.

Motivating the committed outperforms persuading the uncommitted. The unheralded success factor of Obama's campaign is the get out the vote effort. Every marketer can learn from this. It's easier (far easier) to motivate the slightly motivated than it is to argue with those that either ignore you or are predisposed to not like you.

Attack ads don't always work. There's a reason most product marketers don't use attack ads. All they do is suppress sales of your opponent, they don't help you. Since TV ads began, voter turnout has progressively decreased. That's because the goal of attack ads is to keep your opponent's voters from showing up. Both sides work to whittle down the other. In a winner-take-all game like a political election, this strategy is fine if it works.

So why didn't the ads work this time?

The tribe that Obama built identified with him. Attacking him was like attacking them. They took it personally, and their outrage led to more donations and bigger turnout. This is the lucky situation Apple finds itself in as well. Attacking an Apple product is like attacking an Apple user.

We get what we deserve. The lesson that society should take away about all marketing is a simple one. When you buy a product, you're also buying the marketing. Buy something from a phone telemarketer, you get more phone telemarketers, guaranteed. Buy a gas guzzler and they'll build more. Marketers are simple people... they make what sells. Our culture has purchased (and voted) itself into the place we are today.

Did I mention you should vote?

Mobs rule

Micah points us to the Twitter Vote Report.

If you see something, say something.

The transformation of communication is real, it's permanent and it's more powerful than most of us notice.

Reacting, Responding & Initiating

Most knowledge workers spend their day doing one of three things:

  • React (badly) to external situations
  • Respond (well) to external inputs
  • Initiate new events or ideas

Zig taught me the difference between the first two. When you react to a medication, that's a bad thing. When you respond to treatment, that's a plus.

So, think about your team or your front line staff or your CEO. Something happens in the outside world. An angry comment on Twitter or a disappointed passenger on your airline or a change in the stock price...

Do you react to it? How much of your time is spent reacting to what people say in meetings or emails?

The rest of your day may be spent responding. Responding to a request for proposal. Responding to a form in your inbox. Responding to emails or responding to status updates on Facebook. Responding is gratifying, because you go from having something to do ---> to having something done. There's a pile in a different spot on your desk at the end of the day. You responded to the needs of the tribe you lead, or you responded to password-change requests or you responded to the boss's punch list.

And that's it. You go home having done virtually nothing in the third bucket.

We tend to reserve the third bucket, initiate, for quiet times, good times, down times or desperate times. We wait until the inbox is empty or the new product lines are due (at which point the initiative is more of a response). It's possible to spend an entire day blogging and twittering and facebooking and never initiate a thing, just respond to what's coming in. It's possible to spend an entire day at P&G (actually it's possible to spend an entire career) doing nothing but responding...

Take a look at your Sent folder. Is it filled with subject lines that start with RE: ? Consider your job at the University--do you actively recruit people who don't even apply for professorships? What about your blog--does it start conversations or just continue them?

What did your brand or organization initiate today?

What did you initiate?

Think about the changes you'd have to make (uh oh, initiate) in your work day in order to dramatically change the quantity and scale of the initiatives you create.

Some marketing jobs are about responding. None are about reacting. The best ones are about initiating.

The economy, the press and the paradox

Wealth is not created by financial manipulation, the trading of equities or the financing of banks. They just enable it.

Wealth is created by productivity. Productive communities generate more of value.

Productivity comes from innovation.

Innovation comes from investment and change.

The media lemmings, the same ones that encouraged you to get a second mortgage, buy a McMansion and spend, spend, spend are now falling all over themselves to out-mourn the others. They are telling everyone to batten down, to cut back, to freeze and panic. They're looking for stories about this, advice about this, hooks about this.

And of course, the paradox. If, in the middle of some sensible budgeting and waste trimming, we stop investing in the future, stop innovating, stop finding the breakthrough that leads to the next round of productivity gain, then in fact they're right, it does last forever.

I believe that we're on the verge of some exponential increases in productivity. Productivity in marketing as the waste of reaching the masses goes away. Productivity in energy as we figure out how to make a renewable process that gives us incremental units of power for free (think about the impact of that for a moment) and productivity in group work and management as we allow the network to do more than let us watch stupid YouTube videos at work. The three biggest expenses of most endeavors (the energy to make it, the people who create it and the marketing that spreads the idea) are about to be overhauled.

What a tragedy it will be if we let defensive thinking hold us back.

The same cigarette as me

"He can't be a man because he doesn't smoke [syncopated pause] the same cigarette as me."

When your product becomes the badge for a tribe, you sell a lot of products. The Stones don't mean "a man" in the sense of a homo sapien. They mean "a man" in sense of "someone worthy of my respect." Not in my tribe, not worth it...

Brooks Brothers was the badge for a generation of grey-suited men. Che t-shirts are the badge for a cadre of activists. The Allen & Co. retreat is the badge for a tiny cabal of media titans.

It's not easy to become the badge, but it's a worthy destination.

Key truth: you can't be the badge for everyone. In order for the tribe to exist, it must have insiders. And you can't have insiders without outsiders.

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