You've been in those meetings. I know you have.
Is it just my world or has this been the kind of horrible summer you usually read about in a book? From where I’m sitting it’s been ten weeks of natural disaster and human disaster—earthquake, hurricane, crime, illness, and sadly, untimely death.
“The air is thick with tragedy.”
The economy is taking its toll as well. I see it in my social media networks, when the Gen Yers start talking. It used to be all peppy, like, “What should I wear to the meeting?” Now the conversations are headlined, “I just can’t stand it anymore.”
What is a person to do with all of this? How to swallow the pain and just keep going?
I had the most terrible (non-) vision the other night. I was going to sleep, and I was thinking about the future. All I could see was blackness.
No, I wasn't depressed. Or psychic. It was...that I knew I did not know. I could not tell myself to have faith. Because faith implies belief in something that may or may not happen. I did not have the will to imagine I could be optimistic.
The magician Penn Jillette was on Piers Morgan a few weeks ago. Arguing about atheism. Piers said, I thought rather arrogantly, that he was confident of dying and going to a Divine place. (Which is sort of funny, if you think that there is Divine justice or karma – because Piers has hurt a lot of people’s feelings.)
I am a strong believer in G-d but I had to agree with Penn when he said something to the effect of, “It’s not about atheism, but about knowing that you just don’t know. It’s about living with that.”
I wish I could be immune to not knowing. I wish I could be strong enough in my faith that tragedy doesn’t get to me. Because I could believe that something happy awaits.
I am not. I cannot. I don’t.
All the more reason – I believe with all my heart – to make the most of every moment, now.
One of the tragedies this summer involves a young person our family knew remotely. I can’t believe it…I am so sad. I Nothing a person can say matters anymore. She is gone.
What are we to do with the feelings a tragedy evokes? It is easy – too easy – to get depressed ourselves, and let the sadness wash us away.
Maybe there is something else we can do: Use the pain to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Do anything, do a small thing, but do something to help.
"Light a candle in the darkness."
Be a living candle.
I am one of those people who believe this entire world is just an illusion. That the physical manifestation is actually a battle of the spirit. That G-d created evil so that we could overcome it. Do what is right according to our conscience. Break through and unify with the greater Oneness that we can feel, but never prove.
I am saddened, upset, tearful, heartbroken. But this will make me more hardheaded, more determined. I am going to use it to make what little bit of difference I can - because you never know what is next.
Basically my pen is my sword and I believe our greatest weapon is knowledge. My contribution is to write, to share information, to teach. I have also joined Howard Schultz's citizen activist movement, Upward Spiral (join 9/6 remote event, free, here). Even though it's definitely a part of building the Starbucks brand - that's cool with me. I can live with it.
Choose your cause. Break it into digestible parts. Move forward with just one, this weekend.
Happy Labor Day everyone, and good luck!
Image source here.
So this is the conversation at home about "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
“When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail.”
The classic definition of marketing is to represent the hammer. The marketer doesn’t invent the hammer, but s/he finds potential customers for it. Then explains why a hammer is desperately needed. Even if – especially if – it had never occurred to you that hammers could be useful.
The classic definition of branding, of course, is to create the impression – deserved or not - that one particular kind of hammer is superior to all the rest and therefore deserves a price premium.
Both of these paradigms involve thievery, which is why people hate marketers so much.
* While it is theoretically possible that everyone needs a hammer, it is actually true that many people can live just fine without them. Yet it is a rare marketer that will turn a customer away – “Who are we to deny them choice?”
* It is also possible that some brands deserve to charge more. But it is also pretty common for a pretty, shiny, labeled hammer to do just the same thing as an ugly, dull, un-labeled one. And the branding specialist doesn’t tell the client, “You’re stuff just ain’t that special…I can’t represent you.” After all – money is money, right? As long as the product isn’t dangerous or illegal.
It’s sort of the same thing with lawyers…we find it hard to respect a lawyer who defends someone guilty as sin. Except with the law, the system is set up so that “the best argument wins.” So we live with it.
When marketers turn thieving – even surreptitiously thieving, deceptively thieving, under-the-table thieving, not explicitly stealing - the profit they realize is only short-term. Because in the end, the customer can’t trust them. And they know it.
When I was growing up there were people who ran stores in the neighborhood. If you were looking for something and they didn’t sell it they would say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have what you’re looking for. Go to that guy across the street.” If they were really ethical they would say, “You know, you don’t even need that…if you buy (other thing, cheaper) it will work just as well.”
In other words, the job of the marketer, and by extension the salesperson, is to give the customer the solution they want and need. Not to blindly push product. Which is why:
* “Infomercials,” no matter how successful they are at getting people to buy things, have the ring of a cheap win.
* A visit to the car dealership is literally dreaded.
* It’s tough to deal with real estate agents.
* There are certain boutiques you absolutely avoid.
All of this because you know that someone is pushing, and pushing, and pushing for you to do something that is in THEIR best interest, not your own at all.
The classic salesperson knows you for five seconds, and they will guilt you into spending five thousand dollars, or fifty thousand, or five million. To them you are just a sale – a commission – another day’s work.
How to fix it: Change the definition of the profession itself.
The old paradigm was to sell anything, anywhere, anytime. Trash that.
The new paradigm should be to return marketing to the fold of strong business rather than stove-piping it into the “sell, sell, sell” playpen.
In the real world, business thrives by taking a holistic view of the community in which it is engaged. There are long-term relationships that must be nurtured by exchange relationships of genuine value. Everyone’s got to win, or the business ultimately is exposed as an exploiter, or a cheater, and dies.
From a business perspective, it is the marketer’s job to nurture long-term relationships with a customer by providing a real solution to their pain point. If our stuff works, great. If not, we have to point them to someone down the street, or find a way to address their problem with a mashup of our product, someone else’s product, or even tinkering with the customer’s own way of life.
In the olden days, “doing a good job” meant putting your head down and doing what you were told, without asking why. One of my first jobs involved doing mail-merges in WordPerfect. It was very important that I use the small paper clips. I remember spending an entire week removing the large paper clips from a mailing to replace them with the small ones. Who cares?
Now and in the future, it’s simply unacceptable to rely on “that’s what I was told,” or “that’s what I have to sell,” or “that’s not my job,” or “I don’t know anything about that, I’m just selling jeans.” You have to be a cultural anthropologist – get into the customer’s life – and sell them things they actually need, at a fair price. And yes, turn some customers away or direct them elsewhere.
Doing the right thing isn’t just a nice-to-do. Or common sense. It is the only way to make a profit in the future. When the business relationships we have are going to be based on one thing and one thing alone: Do I trust the person sitting at the table in front of me?
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
Image source here
As I get older I realize more and more that creativity without structure is useless. That's what a brand is, in the end...a vital container for creativity. One that gives it form, and shape, and life and vitality. Without the container you have nothing.
You know a show is good when the entire family gathers around the TV to watch. And since the point of having TV shows is to sell things, I'm thinking the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards (#VMA) was a huge success - not just for the celebrities who appeared but for three product brands in particular:
1. Kia. Hip commercial, hip music, cool design. All together I would consider a brand I would never have thought of before. Terrific.
2. Taco Bell. That was an appetizing, funny commercial with a strong brand image if ever I’ve seen one. The part where the guy handed out the tacos to the grandmas at the lawn party was hilarious.
3. “The Hunger Games” – great promo, great idea. Sold, sold, sold.
Why did the VMAs work so well?
1. The choreography, the stage, the lightshow, everything was so polished and absolutely amazing. I felt like I was watching a $350-a-ticket concert for free.
2. I loved the variety of stars they put onstage – from Kim Kardashian to Katie Holmes to Tony Bennett.
3. Speaking of Tony Bennett, the Amy Winehouse tribute that started with Russell Brand and ended with an airing of the Bennett-Winehouse duo on Abbey Road in London was amazing. Even if you didn’t know who Amy was, you ended up a fan.
4. I didn’t start out a Katy Perry fan, but was converted for sure by last night. Great hat, great performer. Understands how to connect with the audience.
5. That said, Russell Brand takes it to a higher level. He knows how to talk to you as if he is in the same room, despite being behind a camera. Brilliant.
6. Beyonce – despite the bad song – owned the stage. Great voice, great outfits, great dancing. And when she rubbed her tummy at the end to show she was pregnant, that was fabulous.
7. The song by Adele broke my heart and made me cry. I felt her pain but she handled it like a true performer. Completely in control but open emotionally. The definition of an artist.
8. Lady Gaga cracked me up in the man outfit, when she tried to kiss Britney Spears. Although she took it a little too far. Enjoyed the Britney Spears tribute, too, but Britney herself seemed dazed when she came up on stage – read right off the teleprompter. Sort of sad.
9. Chris Brown did a great job in his number. I felt bad for what happened between him and Rihanna. I thought he was trying to come back from all of that. Flying all over the place – dancing like that - he did.
10. A lot of the artists I didn’t know. But that was fine. I asked my kids…enjoyed learning.
Even the parts that didn’t work so well, worked well because they are engaging:
1. Is it me or are we seeing too much of Selena Gomez?
2. Speaking of Selena Gomez, who is in a relationship with Justin Bieber, for the life of me I don’t understand the Justin Bieber thing at all. Do you know I have never even heard a Justin Bieber song? I liked that he thanked Jesus for his award, but I can’t understand why this person is famous.
3. The Jessie J thing where she sat in the chair all night with her foot in the cast…just looked weird. She sang OK; I understand she’s the one who sings that song “It’s all about the money”; so it’s a tossup whether it was a good idea to have her up there. She seemed to drain a lot of energy from the stage.
4. I reflected that there is a difference between controlling the fact that you are out of control, and just losing it. For example, the band that did the mosh pit thing seemed in control, even though the singer dropped into the crowd. On the other hand Li’l Wayne just went crazy. It was bad how he ended the show.
5. Cursing. A little – maybe. Too much – just not classy at all.
On the subject of pop culture:
A prayer for Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. May G-d bless and protect them and heal them in this difficult time.
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
Image source here