It Is Better To Be Interesting Than Likable

Peggy Olson is interesting. Are you ready for Mad Men, Season 6?

We were put on this planet to evolve. Not just from physical infancy to maturity. But also in our heads and hearts. We are supposed to nurture our talents. Grow out of ignorance, hatred, selfishness. Become who we are really supposed to be.

None of this can happen if we are living for a Facebook "like."

You see this in kids all the time, especially girls. They are so busy with the hair and makeup. Where are they? 

You see this in leaders too. They have something really good to say. But they are consumed with what people say about them. If they aren't popular, they get scared and become all mealymouthed.

I often think this about President Obama. I remember the 2008 campaign. And there are flashes of that candidate now on TV. But most of the time he seems "handled." And when a leader tries to be likable rather than do things that command respect, they wind up with low approval ratings - signifying neither.

This is the contrast between Don Draper and Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Don is a hypocrite whose entire life focuses on making other people like him, like his ideas, and like the products he sells. He's a phony whose wife tells him flat-out, "I don't love you." And in his most personal moments, he shows us the deep despair that can only come from someone who has fully sold out to the "like" machine.

Peggy is different. She doesn't care what people think. She doesn't care if they like her or not. She only cares about one thing - and that is doing great advertising. There's a scene where she faces off with Roger, another partner in the firm, who tries to give her a measly fee for a huge and impossible weekend assignment.

Rather than being "grateful" and seeking approval, Peggy stares him straight down. Demands to be paid every dollar she is worth. And jokes that he's lucky she did not take his watch as well.

Peggy is the most interesting character on the show. Next to her, Don Draper does not stand a chance.

* All opinions my own.

The Most Important Marketing Lesson We Can Learn From Obamacare: Just Make It Work

Needle In A Haystack

At every staff meeting the executives agonize about how to say things.

"Should we 'message' it this way or that way?"

"We don't want to sound too negative, but we also want to be credible."

"What's the big idea? They will want to know the vision."

But most of the time, unless you're giving an annual address - through which I might add the vast majority of people sleep, having listened to meaningless promises before - the people just want to know one thing.

Why doesn't the goshdarn thing work?

In politics ideology quickly falls away when a party demonstrates its effectiveness at getting things done. People run to politicians who can execute!

This was the lesson of Obamacare. The mission to provide healthcare for all is noble. But the actual website is a fail, the law is incomprehensible, and the business implementation is a nightmare as insurance companies and citizens alike scramble madly to figure out what to do with this thing.

It is great to have great ideas - just like it's super to build a brand concept that really resonates with people.

But at the end of the day if the cloth on the shirt rips, or the zipper doesn't pull right, the brand goes into the toilet.

That is one reason I have always loved Ralph Lauren clothing.

As opposed to any other brand I have tried, Ralph Lauren is both beautiful and stylish and durable and well-made. It always works well.

When you are talking to employees about your bold new initiatives, I can tell you that they are sleeping.

If you want to wake them up, talk to them about things like this:

"When's the next raise coming?"

"How are you fixing that glitch in the new computer system?"

"There isn't enough parking here."

The business genius Peter Drucker said, "Business exists to serve the customer" and in the real world what that means is not just a delightful attitude on the phone.

It means figuring out what it is that you are doing that is driving your customers nuts - and then fixing that.

Not rocket science, very simple, very basic and common sense.

Take care of the technicalities, and the big ideas will take care of themselves.

* All opinions my own.

Remembering The People We Tend To Forget

In every war movie there is a death scene. A character has their head blown off, a second is traumatized to see it and wants to stay with them. A third person inevitably grabs the second and says, "Let's go! Don't look at them! We've got to leave!"

There is something about death, like depression, that sucks you in and grabs hold of you. Like a zombie on 'The Walking Dead,' it bites you and turns you into one of them. Last night, the leader gives his son a massive gun and tells him: Kill, run, or die.

When Sodom is destroyed in the Bible Lot's wife is told the same thing. G-d will save you but you have to run straightforwardly - do not turn around. She doesn't listen, turns back to look, and is immediately struck dead, "a pillar of salt."

The tendency to run from people in trouble is not only selfish. It is a primitive act of survival. We do not want to be one of them.
  • We do not want to know about the Philippines typhoon - because if we think about it, the waves could wash over our homes. 
  • We do not want to look at the homeless guy with a "Feed Me" sign standing at the intersection, because we might find our paychecks similarly taken away. 
  • We see images of veterans with metal arms or legs, distorted faces, and we cringe inside. They stood between us and an enemy, and if not for them that bullet would most assuredly have hit us and left us disabled or paralyzed.
There is a larger social impulse that recognizes our primitive fears and selfish tendencies, and corrects for them in a very minor way with days of remembrance.
  • Today, November 11, is Veteran's Day, when we come together to thank the people who give their lives and sacrifice their safety every day so that we can be safe.
  • On Friday, November 9, we also commemorated Kristallnacht, the night 75 years ago when Nazis went on a horrific attacking spree against the Jews in Germany, killing, burning, destroying, and generally terrorizing the people on a night that is remembered as the start of the Holocaust.
  • On Friday, November 22, we remember the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a leader who inspired an entire generation of people, their children and their children's children to believe it was actually possible to do what is right and not just what is convenient, expedient or safe.
It is understandable that people want to run from other people's misfortune. It makes us afraid of our own coming day of reckoning. And dwelling on death and destruction is not only dangerous - it can actually be toxic to ourselves and those we love by spreading misery further and further.

But all of that is also an excuse. We owe veterans and others who have sacrificed for us a true debt that involves real action. Thanking them, even superficially, is a good start. Supporting them financially and emotionally is better.

A society is judged by how it cares for those who have nothing in them to give back.  But it is judged even more harshly by how it cares for those who gave everything so that we could survive ourselves.

* All opinions my own.

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