Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Hypesters and Other Liars

Seth Godin's recent rant, Won't Get Fooled Again, hits close to home.

"The reason that people don't believe you isn't that you're a liar," Godin writes.  "The reason we don't believe you is that the guy before you (and the woman before him) were unduly optimistic hypesters and we got burned."

I'm still in recovery afer promoting high-end antiques shows during the past three years.  (Three of the hardest to hit the trade since Roosevelt defeated Hoover.)

The whole time I was a promoter, I wrestled with incredulous exhibitors.  Not because I habitually overpromised (I didn't).  But because nearly all the other promoters were "unduly optimistic hypesters."

"If you catch yourself making a promise that's been made before, stop," Godin warns.  "Make different promises, or even better, do, don't say."

Sage advice.  You'll find more advice along these lines in my free report, Path of Persuasion: Winning Customers in the Age of Suspicion

It's hype free. 


Friday, October 29, 2010

Selling at Tradeshows - Part 2

Share, Don't Stare

Tradeshows are an ideal opportunity for "storytelling," as my previous post emphasized.

But most exhibitors waste that opportunity.

Rather than engaging attendees in their why, they lurk about their booths, eyeing attendees like predators... waiting for some display of vulnerability. 

The moment they detect a sign of weakness, they pounce, hoping to subdue victims with a deadly shower of product features.

Tradeshow marketing guru Steve Miller likens this behavior to "hunting."

He advises exhibitors to quit hunting and, through friendly words and gestures, create a "safe zone" where attendees won't feel threatened.

Miller also recommends that exhibitors avoid these unfriendly behaviors:
  • Sitting
  • Reading
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking on the phone and texting
  • Standing in the aisle like the "border guard"
  • Clustering with other booth staffers (like some "street gang")
  • Ignoring attendees
  • Sizing up attendees instantly
  • Handing out stuff freely

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Selling at Tradeshows

NOTE: This is the first in a series of two posts.  Without shame, I confess to pirating the ideas of Bob Hughes, president of The Hughes Group. But in the words of poet T.S. Eliot, "Good writers borrow.  Great writers steal."

Tell, Don't Sell

A tradeshow can be an ideal medium for "storytelling" (in Seth Godin's sense).  

Think of the attendees as scouts gathered round your campfire, except their badges aren't for merit.

Unfortunately, most companies don't maximize the medium.  That's because they define selling not as storytelling, but as revenue generation.

Desperate to generate revenue, most companies that exhibit at tradeshows try to engage attendees by "pitching" product features.  

But this definition of selling is passe.  Worse yet, allowing this definition of selling to drive exhibiting produces nothing but the real-world equivalent of spam.  And everyone hates spam.

Tradeshow exhibiting—when handled effectively—generates relationships.

And relationships are built on stories, stories that "start with why" (in Simon Sinek's sense).  Why are you in business?  Why should anyone care?  Why do customers spend money with you?

As an exhibitor, you have two compelling reasons to quit selling and start telling:
  • Most attendees have done their homework (product research) before the show.  They know what the players in your field do.  The one thing they may not know is why.
  • With all your competition—all the me-too products vying for attendees' attention—you can't afford to waste the chance to engage them with your why by focusing on features.
What's the lesson here? 

Revenue generation is imperative.  But storytelling precedes it.

Scout's honor. 

Next installment: Share, Don't Stare

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Create and Market Your Brand

NOTE: This is my first guest post, contributed by Edward SegalEdward is the author of two books, 
Getting Your 15 Minutes of Fame and Profit by Publicity.  He was the marketing strategies columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s, a PR consultant to more than 500 clients and press secretary to members of Congress. He is now CEO of the Marin County Association of REALTORS® in San Rafael, California.

If you saw an unmarked bottle of brown liquid, you’d have no idea of its purpose or taste.

But if the same bottle carried the famous Coca-Cola logo, you'd know exactly what was inside the bottle.  You’d even have a good idea of what the liquid tastes like.

Such is the power of branding, which can immediately communicate the purpose, benefits and advantages of a product or company through the use of a name, logo, symbol or phrase.

If branding works for Coca-Cola, Apple, Google and thousands of other companies and organizations, then it can certainly work for you to quickly communicate who or what your company or organization are, what you do, how you do it, etc.

Deciding what you’d like your image and reputation to be, and taking steps to effectively promote your brand, takes careful thought and planning.

To help guide you through the process, I’ve prepared a series of short videos on how you can create and market your brand.  The series is based on a workshop I conducted for the California Association of REALTORS®.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Problem with Shortcuts

I'm visiting California and on Saturday toured the Donner Memorial State Park.

It's the site of the 1846 winter camp of the infamous Donner Party.

In case you've forgotten your American history, the Donner Party was the hapless band of Westward emigrants who resorted to cannabalism when their food supply ran out.

The fatal mistake the Donner Party madethe misjudgment that led them to wind up stranded in a wintry trap in a steep mountain passwas taking a shortcut.

How many times has taking a shortcut led to disastrous outcomes?

Consider these recent examples:

  • Wall Street took a shortcut in 2000 when it gauged the risk of mortgages by applying assumptions based on "credit default swaps."  The problem?  Credit default swaps had only been around for 10 years.  In their brief lifetime, the price of homes had skyrocketed and nobody knew how a crash in home prices might affect credit default swaps.
  • On the morning of April 20, the day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP executive ordered the engineers operating the rig to take a shortcut to speed up the drilling.
  • Toyota became so determined to beat rival GM, it took manufacturing shortcuts that have resulted in recalls of more than 10 million vehicles in 2010 due to faulty accelerators and brakes.
What shortcuts are you contemplating?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blame Darwin

Are you troubled by the fact that negative impresssions are more powerful than positive ones?

You can blame it on Darwin.

According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, evolution has hard-wired our brains to "default" to a state of constant vigilance.  

Without knowing it, we're always scanning the environment for threats.

In the Jurassic Period, our mammalian ancestors did this consciously.

One hundred and fifty millon years later, we're doing it (albeit unconsciously).

Science describes this vigilance as the brain's built-in "negativity bias."

The brain's negativity bias is bad news for marketers.

Social scientists and neuroscientists studying the phenomenon have demonstrated that:

  • People will do more to avoid loss than acquire gain;
  • Negative information about someone carries more weight than positive;
  • It takes five positive interactions to overcome the effect of one negative interaction; and
  • Even after a negative interaction is unlearned, it leaves an indelible trace in the brain that's easy to reactivate.
What does the science suggest? 

Your marketing has to work doubly hard to counteract evolution's subtle effect on customers' neurophysiology.

As if you didn't have enough to do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Phone Call is the Killer App

A client of mine, Randy Lieberman, owner of the B-to-B telemarketing firm Foundation Marketing Group, told me yesterday that his business grew during the "Great Recession" and continues to grow in its aftermath.

In our virtual world, where Tweeting, Facebooking, texting and emailing have become the primary means of communicating, the old-fashioned phone call has made a comeback.

And why not?  Suddenly, a phone call stands out.

Tradeshow producers are among the heavy users of outbound B-to-B telemarketing.

According to new research by the Large Show Roundtable, a whopping 85% of large-show producers use telemarketing to attract attendees to their events.

It makes a lot of sense, if you consider the highly "perishable" quality of the show producer's product.

Like the operator of a cruise ship, a tradeshow producer can't sit still while she waits for sales to grow incrementally.  At a certain point, the ship sails, full or not.  That's all there is to it.

Have you tried telemarketing recently?  Or are you sitting still?

Disclosure: The Large Show Roundtable is also a client of mine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Failure to Communicate

Ardath Albee's new book eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale (which I recently reviewed) has so many exceptional passages it's hard to single one out.

But at the expense of the others I'll point to a passage in Chapter 11 (titled "Create Content to Increase Attraction Value").

In that passage, Albee examines some of the chief reasons why so many B-to-B marketing programs, like the characters in Cool Hand Luke, result in "failure to communicate." 

According to Albee, a prospect's willingness to expend effort to absorb your marketing message is a pretty firm measure of her intention to buy.

That readiness to expend effort represents your moment of truth: your golden opportunity to move the prospect towardnot away fromyour organization. 

In that split second, the prospect's ready to learn from you.  As the Tao Te Ching says, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

Alas, it's an opportunity easily squandered.  

You're toast, Albee contends, if the marketing communications that await the prospect are convoluted, or if you're unclear about the reason you want her to pay attention to you.

Fail to be clear and pointed and you'll be written off.  Once and for all.

Albee writes, "People take the path of least resistance. Once they reach a conclusion, your opportunity to connect with them has been determined.  If they perceive that paying attention to your communication is too costly in terms of effort, they will delete it, bury it under the paperwork on their desk, or otherwise ignore it.  This is why setting expectations in your call to action is so important.  Make sure that what they need to do to access and use your information is obvious.  Eliminate barriers and hurdles that add to their effort.  Make it easy for your prospects to take advantage of your expertise.  Simplify their experience and the effort required to interact with your company."

Albee suggests removing all "effort barriers."  She emphasizes four:
  • Generic content (material not developed specifically for your prospect)
  • Busy Web-page layouts
  • Statistics cited without context and
  • Copy-heavy pages that readers can't scan
You'll find more suggestions like these in my new report, Path of Persuasion.  Take a peek.  It's free.

Last of the B-53s

Today's edition of The Washington Post contains an article by columnist Walter Pincus that stands apart from all the other gloomy world and national news.

"Outside the nuclear weapons communities, little notice was paid last week to the announcement that authorization had finally come through to begin dismantling the last of the minivan-size B-53s, the most powerful thermonuclear bombs ever deployed," Pincus writes.

In terms of payload, the B-53 packs a punch.  It's 600 times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. 

The US, at one point during the Cold War, had 300 B-53s in its arsenal.

Soon, they'll be no more.

As a child of the '60s, I recall with fond memories participating in air raid drills during school hours.

The whole elementary school would assemble in the gym and scrunch down under the vast wooden bleachers.

The principal stepped up the air rid drills around the time of Cuban Missle Crisis, which gave us fourth graders a lot of time to discuss what the last four seconds of our young lives would be like after "the bomb" fell on nearby New York City.

Although we were just kids, we thoughtwe knewthe principal was out of her gourd.

My pal Mookie, street wise and a fountain of knowledge, would always say the same thing.  "No one can live through the A-bomb.  We'll all melt in seconds."

Of course, he was right.  (Mookie was reliably right about everything.)

Just learning that soon there will be no more B-53s gives me a reason to celebrate.  How about you?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Monday

Note: Beginning today, I'm introducing a regular post called Monday Monday.  Readers under age 50 may not all know my title is borrowed from a 1960s pop song.  That's their good fortune.)

Many bloggers worry about venomous critics (aka, "trolls"). 

That holds true as well for anyone who thinks, speaks or acts with a modicum of imagination.

The Tao Te Ching teaches:    

"Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.  Do your work, then step back.  The only path to serenity."

Forget the trolls.  Forge on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Distinguishes Social Media Marketing from So-so Media Marketing?

Nearly 90 percent of B-to-B marketers use content marketing to generate leads and sales, according to a new study by Junta42 and MarketingProfs.

But what separates great B-to-B social media marketers from the mediocre majority?

Three factors, according to the study's findings:

  • The most effective marketers spend more.  The most effective marketers devote 30 percent of their budgets to content marketing.  The least effective marketers devote only 18 percent.
  • The most effective marketers segment by buying cycle.  The most effective marketers tend to segment their campaigns based on customers' buying cycles.  Thirty-seven percent of the most effective marketers segment this way.  Only 23 percent of the least effective marketers do.
  • The most effective marketers have the CEO's buy-in.  Twenty-three percent of the least effective marketers are challenged by the big cheese.  Only seven percent of the most effective marketers are.
Ask yourself these questions.  How much do you invest in content marketing?  How do you segment your outreach effort?  And who's "bought into" social media marketingor not?

Is it your time to take a giant step forward?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twitter Tutorial

"Madman" Marjorie Clayman has a terrific new tutorial on her blog for anyone who's freaked out about learning to use Twitter. 

It's easy to follow and practically encylopedic.

I always learn a lot from Marjorie's posts. 

But this post rocks.

Check it out.  It's well worth your time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Steal This Book

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be," Shakespeare wrote.  But Billy never needed a Zipcar when he wanted to escape London for the weekend.
Internet entrepreneur Lisa Gansky has written an insightful new book, The Mesh, which reveals the inner workings of scores of bleeding-edge businesses that have in common one key fact: they derive their unique selling proposition from a "share platform."

While the concept of sharing dates from the time of the Cro-Magnons, the Web has made it possible for 21st Century consumers to lease commodities on a grand scale.  Everything from artworks to apartments, books to boats, cars to clothing.  Even cats and dogs. 

Supplanting old-school "buyer/seller/own-it" businesses, Gansky says, "a new model is starting to take root and grow, one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more power to guide those choices.  I call this emerging model 'The Mesh'." 

Mesh businesses (or what we used to call "rental companies"), Gansky says, are based on "network-enabled sharingon access rather than ownership."

Sounds like a Commie plot to me.

But it's pure capitalism.  Clever Mesh businesses, after perfecting a foundational service, boost their revenues through a blend of partnerships and affinity programs.

Zipcar, for example, offers customers not only car-sharing, but hotel rooms, restaurant reservations, foods, wines, fitness centers, event tickets and access to a host of other goods and services.

The Mesh is eye-opening and provocative.  Borrowdon't buya copy today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Have Pen. Will Travel.

When I was seven, my favorite TV show was a western called Have Gun. Will Travel.

Each Saturday night, a lonely gentleman gunfighter-for-hire with the single name of "Paladin" roamed the dusty streets of the little towns getting justice for his clients.  Besides a custom-made Colt revolver, Paladin carried a knowledge of history, Classic and Romantic literature, law and foreign languages.  

He was James Bond in cowboy boots.

Last month, Junta42 and MarketingProfs released an intriguing study, B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, based on a survey of 1,100 business-to-business marketers.

he study shows 90 percent of B-to-B practitioners market with content.

It also shows that the average practitioner spends 26% of her budget on content marketing and uses eight tactics, including (in order by popularity) social media, articles, in-person events and e-newsletters.

The three top challenges B-to-B marketing practioners face, according to the study, are:

  • Producing engaging content;
  • Producing a sufficent volume of content; and
  • Finding the money to produce that content.

If you're a B-to-B marketer struggling with these challenges, why not make life easier?

There's a bunch of freelance copywriters roaming the West (and the East).  We want to help you out. 

Have pen.  Will travel.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sacred Cow Slain

A blog post of mine earlier this week set off a teapot-size tempest inside Washington, DC's video production community.

I took to task marketing guru David Meerman Scott for extolling "business casual video."

Local video professionals were riled by Scott's low opinion of the value they add to a production and re-posted my piece on a number of sites.

Well, with apologies to cute little Carol Anne in in Poltergeist, "He's back." 

Besides asserting that video production professionals are unnecessary, Scott now suggests that traditional video release forms are superfluous as well.

"Many people obsess over getting legal release forms signed prior to posting a video interview online," Scott writes.  "However in my experience, the mere act of thrusting a legal document in front of someone and demanding they sign causes many people to re-think permission."

Scott skips the formality of getting a signed release in favor of asking for a verbal okay.  

"I simply ask the person I am about to interview if it's okay to post the video.  Then in the edit process, I save the video permissions and post the interview.  It works great.  I've interviewed and posted video with rock stars and Fortune 500 CEOs and top government officials using this method."

Looks like another "sacred cow" of the professional video world has been butchered.

Not to worry.  Any moment, the lawyers will be having another.

How Do You Look in Black?

"Authenticity" is the new black.

The trend poses a huge problem for many marketers.  Why?  Because authenticity requires credibility.  And credibility isn't the strong suit of a lot of organizations.

Think about it. 

How many times have you been victimized by providers of poor service and manufacturers of shoddy goods?  

Probably thousands.

I'll bet not one of those organizations used an advertising slogan like, "Stinko. And proud of it." or "Terrible. Every time."

No, their ads probably claimed instead that they're "Connecting and Perfecting" or "Reaching Beyond Excellence."

Even if your branding appears healthy on the outside, it won't save your organization's reputation if there's cancer within.

"But I'm just the marketing manager," you insist.  "I can't fix customer-service problems.  I can't eliminate product-bugs."

True enough.  You probably can't cure the disease.  But you can help your organization by finding its place of authenticity. 

The journey starts when you discover the "truth" in the eyes of your customers.

Authentic branding isn't that hard.  In fact, it's really pretty basic.  Like black. 

You can learn more about it by reading my free report, Path of Persuasion.

How do you look in black?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Doing a Schultz

Associated Press reports that a congressional candidate from Ohio has been criticized by a leader of his party for donning a Nazi uniform during historical reenactments.

Baby Boomers may remember Sergeant Schultz, a character in the inane 1960s television comedy Hogan's Heroes.  

To dodge conflict of any sort, Schultz would constantly grimace and exclaim, "I know nothing!"

When asked by AP's reporter whether it might be a tad offensive to go around wearing a Nazi uniform in the middle of Ohio, our hapless congressional candidate replied, "I don't see anything wrong about educating the public about events that happened."

By remaining clueless and unapologetic, the candidate is guilty of what I'll call "doing a Schultz."

PR 101 teaches that the crucial first step in "handling" a public relations crisis is the swift public apology.  (And not only must that apology come forth immediately; it must be offered with a reasonable facsimile of remorse as well.)

To understand the power of the swift public apology, recall the recent cases of David Letterman and Tiger Woods.

Letterman apologized for his sexual indiscretions on his show before they were publicized.  A month later, no one cared.  A few media critics actually praised Letterman for his honesty.

In contrast, Woods shunned public attention after news of his sexual escapades broke.  When his apology finally came three months later, it was too late.  The damage to Woods' reputation was severe.

You can find more good advice about responding to a PR crisis in Chapter 9 of Michael Maslansky's The Language of Trust

Maslansky emphasizes the importance of establishing context before offering apologies or explanations.  Without context, audiences will always interpret your statements negatively.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Maybe I'm Amazed

Today John Lennon would have been 70. 

Fans can only imagine what he'd have to say about life, love and the state of our world today.  Or how marvelous his musical output might have been during the three decades that have passed since his murder.

This week, serendipitously, I rediscovered a 40 year-old solo album Paul McCartney made entitled, simply enough, McCartney.  It contains Sir Paul's all-time favorite composition, "Maybe I'm Amazed," plus a dozen other songs he penned, all quite wonderful.

Listening to the album and remembering just some of the nearly 200 songs McCartney wrote and performed with Lennon, as well as all the fabulous music each Beatle produced after the band's 1969 breakup, leaves me in awe of their talent.

If only I had a shred of it, I'd be a happy camper.

Is It Real, or is It Sominex?

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott has recently championed "business casual video" for its quick turnaround and low price tag.

This week, he writes on his blog about a new home-grown video and pushback from a video pro.

The project Scott describes is a video recording of a Radioheads concert created entirely by fans.

"Last week," he writes, "I spoke about this project to a professional cameraman.  He was hostile the idea. He said the video would be shaky.  That amateurs can’t do it right.  He told me without a proper setup with booms and cranes it won’t look good.  Last I checked, Radiohead was doing just fine thank you.  And this project cost them nothing and gained more exposure for the band."

I'm a communicator who loves the strategic use of video.  As such, I'm sympathetic to the hostile cameraman's viewpoint.

Please let me explain why.

By pointing to the fewand very fewexamples of successful business casual video and pronouncing the idea a winner, Scott's unleashing a Frankenstein.

No question: business casual video is cheap and easy to produce.

The problem?  It's cheap and easy to produce.

As a result, most business casual video is garbage.  It isn't authentic.  It's only sleep-inducing. Which leads me to ask...

Is It Real or is It Sominex?

I'm old enough to recall great TV ads that asked, "Is It Real or is It Memorex?"  I'm also old enough to recall great TV ads for the sleep-aid Sominex.  (Hell, I'm old enough to recall when Eisenhower was President.  By the way, Ike was a Muslim.)

The vast majority of business casual videos fall on the opposite end of the advertising spectrum.  They're cheesy TV.

That's because technologyin the hands of amateurscannot compensate for amatuerism.

Cheap technology, moreover, only encourages amateurism to spread, like a plague.

I'm afraid the marketing world is in for another five-year Dark Age similar to the second half of the 1980s (another era I'm old enough to recall).

That's when "desktop publishing" first appeared. 

Desktop publishing placed a thousand typefaces into the hands of unschooled hordes and set back graphic design and visual communication 200 years.

Overnight, professional graphic designers were deemed "slow" and "expensive" and we found ourselves inundated by home-grown print ads, flyers, banners and brochures that looked like wanted posters from 1800.

In the long term, desktop publishing was a boon.  But it took five years for graphic designers to seize the reins again and for corporate executives to say, "Enough of this crap!"

In the short term, desktop publishing was a beast unloosed upon the land.

Business casual video, I'm afraid, will repeat that history.

Friday, October 8, 2010

#30 Thursday

Want a window into some of the week's best blog posts?  

Through her blog, "Mad Man" Marjorie Clayman provides a terrific new service called #30 Thursday.

Boomers will remember when their parents subscribed to Reader's Digest, the paperback book-size magazine that synopsized dozens of feature articles from other magazines and newspapers.  People loved Reader's Digest because they trusted the taste of the editors who decided what to include every month.  (The magazine is still subscribed to by 17 million people every month.) 

With #30 Thursday, Marjorie is crafting the cyber version of Reader's DigestCheck it out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tradeshows Must Brand to Expand

Today I participated in a panel discussion about promoting tradeshow attendance at Association Marketing Day, a one-day conference sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington.

I was joined by three accomplished association marketers: Craig Blake, Nexus Direct; Margaret Core, Biotechnology Industry Organization; and Christine Maple, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute.  All are responsible for driving tradeshow attendance, which has declined in most cases since the economic meltdown in 2008.

When the mic was handed to me, I used the opportunity to remind conferees how essential branding remains to any effort to expand the audiences for tradeshows.

It might seem nuts to proclaim to a gathering of marketers that "branding matters." 

But, from what I observe, few tradeshows have a skillfully wrought identity.

That's because most tradeshow executives rise to their positions via the ranks of show operations, which makes them exceptional logisticians, but often lousy marketers.

Most, as a consequence, close their eyes to branding and merely shower prospects with uninspired announcements of dates, locations and the "hundreds of companies" and "thousands of new products" to be found on the floor.

But brandingknowing your audience’s catch factor and letting them know you knowis crucial to increasing tradeshow attendance in today's Web-centric business environment.  

You must brand to expand.  There's no way around it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Social Proof is Overrated

"Social media scientist" Dan Zarrella has done some interesting work to help dispel the notion that social proof is the be-all and end-all 

Whether it is or isn't, social proof is entirely overrated, if you set aside worries about Web 2.0.

Here are five arguments against the wisdom of social proof, drawn from history:

  • In 2008, the citizens of Riviera Beach, Florida, approved a referendum that outlawed the wearing of saggy pants in public.  The vote in favor was overwhelming.  That same year, a local judge ruled the law unconstitutional.
  • In 1941, the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane for Best Picture of the Year.  Today, Citizen Kane is generally considered the greatest film ever made by an American.
  • In 1825, the accepted remedy for nearly every ailment in America was mercury, which is poisonous.  For years, tourists from abroad returned home to report that all Americans were lazy and walked funny.
  • In 1636, speculation in tulip bulbs by the Dutch drove the price of rare bulbs to a figure equalling six times the average worker's yearly wage.  Today, a tulip bulb retails for about 70 cents.
  • In 33, a crowd in Jerusalem chose to commute the death sentence of the thief Barabbas over that of Jesus Christ. You know the rest of the story.
Accepting society's blessing may be no blessing at all.  Crowds can be nitwitted.

It's often better to blaze your own path, even though it's hard work.  As Nietzsche said, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Treacherous Executives: I Only Have Ice for You

Business executives who champion predatory 
practices are, in general, deplorable. The ones who operate on the belief that "misfortune is the mother of opportunity" are odious.

In my book, executives who extract money from hapless customers by exploiting their misfortune deserve nothing but scorn.

And I don't have contempt just for greedy funeral parlor owners or retailers who run check-cashing stores in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  I have it for the leaders of many purported "world-class" companies, Fortune 1000 firms that rountinely reap windfall profits by imposing customer "penalties."

As a consumer, you know who they are.  If not, you know the corporations they run.  Most of the major airlines, banks, health insurance companies, credit card companies and phone companies.

Of course, any business leader who's halfway smart would weigh the short-term gains won by penalizing loyal customers against the pain inflicted on them and the long-term hatred that inevitably results.

But these executives aren't smart.  They're merely treacherous.  

Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell (the most vicious of all) was the final repository for the treacherous: men and women who, in Dante's eyes, had betrayed their communities.  Condemned to the Ninth Circle, the treacherous don't "burn in Hell," contrary to the popular expression, but are encased in ice for all eternity.

Pack your Gucci parkas, ladies and gentlemen.

Marketing Lessons from Bob Dylan

I'm reading a fascinating new book by historian Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America. 

With a nod to David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, there's a lesson or two for marketers in it.

All artists are sponges; great artists are sponges with vision.  

Wilentz's book chronicles how Dylan devoured (and continues to devour) the sounds and words of forerunners and fellow travelers and sculpted from them his own view of contemporary America. 

"He belongs to an American entertainment tradition that runs back at least as far as Daniel Decuatur Emmet (the Ohio-born, anti-slavery minstrel who wrote 'Dixie') and that Dylan helped reinvent in the subterranean Gaslight Cafe in the 1960s," Wilentz writes.  "But he belongs to another tradition as well, that of Whitman, Melville, and Poe, which sees the everyday in American symbols and the symbolic in the everyday, and then tells stories about it."

The question for marketers: how does a solitary artist the likes of Dylan produce so many masterpieces?

The answer: he doesn't produce mashups.  He produces marriages.  He spots harmony and concordance where others compartmentalize.  Chuck Berry and Bertolt Brecht.  Jack Kerouac and Martin Luther King.  Authur Rimbaud and Jimmie Rodgers.    

Dylan divines counterparts and BobDylanizes them. 

Marketers who want to give birth to innovations can take a page (or a back page) from him.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

So-so Media Marketing

A lot of social media marketing efforts fall flat.

That's because a lot of business people who post forget Emily Post.

Lacking in basic social graces, they push out one boorish self-promo after the other.  They succeed only in making it clear to the world that they put profits before people.

What do successful social media marketers do differently?  

In their article in the latest issue of Communication World, "The Return of the Hyper-Social Organization," Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran (coauthors of a new book on the subject) answer the question.

Successful social media marketers turn business processes into social processes.

While that sounds pretty cool, Gossieaux and Moran warn that success in social media marketing won't come from "taking a business process and layering it on top of social media."

"Social media PR does not mean distributing your press release via social media channels, and social media marketing is not about pimping your wares through social media," they write.  "Turning a business process into a social process has to be steeped in humanity and recriprocity: You give, you take, you share, you help, you enable, you empower.  We recommend that you start by giving.  If you don't, people will not only shut you off, they will punish you for not respecting the basic social rules that have existed in human societies for thousands of years.  People are no more likely to enjoy a Twitter feed that constantly spews company information than they are to enjoy a person at a party who only talks about himself."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Louder than Words

Today I acted on a recent decision to put my money where my mouth is.

I decided to quit griping about illiteracy and do something about it.

Beginning this month, The Mighty Copywriter will donate four percent of all profits to Washington's literacy council, DC LEARNs.

DC LEARNs provides materials and training to literacy programs throughout the city and works with them to recruit volunteers and reach out to new learners.

Illiteracy is terrible social problem.
It affects people’s health, employability and chances to participate as full citizens.

And it's a growing problem. According to the US Department of Education, a whopping 44,000 people join the nation's ranks of adult illiterates every week. Hundreds of these folks end up living in Washington. Right now, one in five DC residents has low literacy skills.

By contributing to DC LEARNS, I hope to give literacy in our nation's capital a little boost.

Helping to solve a social problem feels good.

And I hope that feeling will be shared by the clients who work with me.
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