Influence people

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Homo Motivatious

I'm not here to be average. I'm here to be awesome.

— Anonymous

Unless you're from Alabama, you know other human species besides Homo Sapiens evolved from the the apes, including Homo Heidelbergensis, Homo Erectus, Homo Abilis and Homo Neanderthals; and that none of these other species survived various climate changes.

What you may not know is that a new species has evolved since the late 20th century.

While physically identical to Homo Sapiens, Homo Motivatious are distinguishable by their incessant chirpiness, vapid vocabularies, and eagerness to self-aggrandize.

Members of the species are most often observed in gatherings at conventions and near social media streams (their preferred hunting grounds).

They can be readily identified by their continuous excretion of bromides such as "Work hard, dream big," "Create your own sunshine" and "Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo."

Scientists studying Homo Motivatious have found strong evidence to support the theory that the species developed immunity to normal human emotions such as boredom, jealousy and resentment. But scientists remain uncertain as to the reason the mutation was favored.

One scientist who examined the skull of a species member has concluded Homo Motivatious evolved not as the result of abrupt climate change, but abrupt economic change.

Her conclusion is consistent with statistical data gathered over the past 50 years.

The data show the earth's population of Homo Motivatious rises during periods of job decline, and falls during periods of job growth.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prediction: In 2018, Resistance Will Become a Competitive Advantage

In May, I suggested more brands would seek to differentiate themselves by publicly resisting Trump.

I'm going on record to predict that, in 2018, hundreds of brands
large and smallwill do so.

From among the many issues at stake in the culture wars—economic justice, gender equality, racial equality, access to healthcare, access to education, immigration, globalization, global warming, diversity, privacy, and incivility—each brand will choose the issue most closely aligned with its essence. 

That's simply Marketing 101.

What's not Marketing 101 is the wisdom resistance will take.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Now every man may be his own statue.

– Jeremy Bentham

We hear much about Millennials; little about Perrenials.

That's about to change.

The perrenial "auto-icon" of 18th-century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham will travel next spring from London to New York for an exhibition at The Met Breuer.

Ten years before his death, in Auto-Icon; Or, Farther Uses of the Dead to the Living, Bentham suggested that mummified corpses (which he called "auto-icons') could serve as "statuary" for anyone with a big ego, but a small pocketbook.

Auto-iconism, Betham said, was the thrifty way to be honored in death. You'd spare your heirs both the cost of a funeral and a statue. They could decorate the garden with you.

"For many a year this subject has been a favorite one at my table," the philosopher said.

"My body I give to my dear friend Doctor Southwood Smith, to be disposed of in a manner hereinafter mentioned, and I direct he will take my body under his charge and take the requisite and appropriate measures for the disposal and preservation of the several parts of my bodily frame in the manner expressed in the paper annexed to this my will and at the top of which I have written 'Auto-Icon.' The skeleton he will cause to be put together in such a manner as that the whole figure may be seated in a chair usually occupied by me when living, in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought in the course of time employed in writing."

Bentham's final instructions were followed to a tee; and since his death, in 1832, Bentham's auto-icon has filled a cupboard at the University College London.

And now it's traveling to New York.

Bentham's head, alas, won't make the trip. It will remain behind, on display at the collegeA wax substitute, made by Bentham's doctor in 1832, will ship with the body.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ads Need Instant Meaning to Register

If a sign is not necessary, then it is meaningless.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein

A fundamental law of advertising—a law too often ignored—goes:

The more you try to say, the less you get across.

How many times have you seen mind-boggling ads like this?

What's the advertiser promoting, you wonder. 

A family of ales? A bar? A restaurant? 

None of the above.

It's a trade show. 

But is it the cloud computing industry's "premier show?" Or is it the cloud computing industry's "global show?" You decide. The advertiser can't.

Confusing ads never register with readers.

"Ads need to have 'instant meaning' to stand a chance," says a recent report from brand consultancy Kantar Millward Brown.

"When developing ads based on an idea or feeling you want to communicate, make sure these can easily be grasped," the report says.

"An idea or impression has a better chance of landing, and influencing, what are often superficial future purchase decisions."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

More on James' Hierarchy

A colleague asked me to rate his organization's events on the 5-point scale I proposed earlier this week.

The events are among the most important, prestigious and successful in the market they serve.

That understood, I gave them a single star.

To recap the rating system I proposed: 
  • 1-star events focus on everyday needs, satisfying attendees' needs to navigate without stress through physical space; meet other people and chat; acquire useful information; and talk business.
  • 2-star events cater to fantasy, satisfying attendees' needs to lessen anxiety and escape reality.
  • 3-star events provide cheap thrills, satisfying attendees’ needs to be wowed and titillated.
  • 4-star events provide genuine thrills, satisfying attendees’ needs to be awed by proof of human ingenuity and displays of daring.
  • 5-star events focus on melioration, satisfying attendees’ needs to improve not only themselves, but to better the lives of others.
If you are honest about your own event and can at best award it one star, remember that to earn a 1-star rating from Michelin, a restaurant has to represent, “A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.”

Even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants all don’t have a Michelin 1-star rating.

Advice to CES: Add a Super Keynote

The producers of North America's largest B2B event, CES, are in the hot seat.

Seems they neglected to include any women in the lineup of keynote speakers at next month's show. The error was compounded when a spokesperson answered hostile critics by saying none was qualified, and blaming the paucity of women leaders on the tech industry.

The fact that CES has featured 21 women keynoters in the past 11 years escaped notice.

My humble advice to CES: add a super keynote (and make sure she's a she).

Words aren't your ally in this case, so quit relying on them.

Actions speak louder.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

13 Email Marketing Don'ts

My clients are nonplussed by spam traps. 

Me, too.

Spam traps catch legitimate emails—even personal ones—routinely. There are a million and one reasons; but most boil down to:
  • The ISP that originated the message (some welcome use by spammers, so get themselves blacklisted);
  • The software that sent the message (was it sent, say, sent by Outlook or by a suspected "spam engine?"); and
  • Content "red flags" (flashy HTML, for example, or words and phrases like "click" and "buy now").
Like death and taxes, you cannot avoid spam traps. But you can try. Here are 13 email "don'ts" to help you:
  • Don't neglect list hygiene. Bad list hygiene may very well be the email marketer's "original sin." Clean your list regularly through an outside service to remove non-deliverable email addresses.

  • Don't get flagged as a spammer. Use email delivery providers who closely guard their reputations and don't use "dirty servers" to send your messages.

  • Don't include a lot of pictures. Hackers love to use pictures to spread viruses, so spam filters consider every one of them a carrier.

  • Don't include a lot of links. Two are safe; three or more put you in the danger zone.

  • Don't use spammy keywords. Avoid "amazing," "limited time only," "you're a winner," and other dangerous words and phrases. Watch your Subject lines, in particular. A line like "Urgent reply required" makes your message look like a Nigerian business proposal.

  • Don't use large fonts, colored fonts, or ALL CAPS. They'll raise your spam score.

  • Don't send attachments. They're another tool hackers love. By sending them, you're begging to be blocked.

  • Don't flout CAN-SPAM rules. Don't omit your return address or an opt-out feature.

  • Don't send to web-based email addresses like Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL. These providers have traps that are unforgiving. If you must send to web-based email addresses, realize many messages will be blocked.

  • Don't send to "seeds." Seeds are inserted by list-scrapers into harvested lists. Sending emails to them will get you flagged as a spammer.

  • Don't send in the dead of the night. That's what spammers do.

  • Don't send too often. Spammers do that, too.

  • Don't bombard a single domain. Corporate email servers are set up to block messages sent to a large number of people at one domain.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Think Small

You've heard of a Volkswagen. But a Volksempfänger?

The Volksempfänger ("People's Radio") was introduced in Germany in 1933 upon decree by Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

The low price of the deluxe model—the equivalent of two weeks' pay—made the Volksempfänger affordable to most working families; and a cheaper model—nicknamed the Goebbelsschnauze ("Goebbels' snout")—could be bought on store credit by the unemployed.

Goebbels' idea was simple: the Volksempfänger would assure "no one can break out."

Brainwashing was was baked in. The Volksempfänger's dial only let listeners find German and Austrian stations; and the lack of shortwave reception made it impossible to listen to foreign broadcasts, unless you added an antenna—a criminal offense that was punishable by confiscation of your radio, a fine, imprisonment in a concentration camp, or death.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Hitler's armaments minister Albert Speer told the judges, "Through technical devices like the radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought."

I sometimes wonder why so many of my fellow Americans cherish inane ideas.

Then I remember, there's our version of the Volksempfänger.

Fox News.

Monday, December 4, 2017

James' Hierarchy

Like gourmands, event attendees crave a "5-star" experience, and event producers should want to deliver one.

But how do you define a 5-star experience? Or, for that matter, a 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-star one? 

To my knowledge, nobody's offered a definition. So I will.

With a nod to Abraham MaslowJames' Hierarchy of Experiences presupposes:
  1. Experiences can be categorized by their capacity to fill attendees' needs, and
  2. Experiences can be ranked hierarchically.
So, from the bottom to the top, here goes:

Everydayness. This term characterizes the experience delivered by the vast majority of successful events; cribbing from restaurant-rating systems, you might label them "1-star" events. Events in this category more or less satisfy attendees' basic needs to (1) navigate without stress through physical space; (2) meet other people and chat; (3) acquire useful information; and (4) talk business. Of course, many events don't meet even this rock-bottom standard: their signage is inscrutable; they over-schedule attendees; they make every session a panel; and they treat suppliers like lepers.

Fantasy. This term characterizes "2-star" events like Mardi Gras, Coachella and Fantasy Fest. Events in this category fill not only attendees' everyday experiential needs (to navigate, converse, learn and do business), but their next-level needs to lessen anxiety and escape reality. Disney has mastered the delivery of such experiences. The more event producers can emulate the company, the closer their events will advance toward "2-star" status. Virtual reality is a quick and dirty way to accelerate that advance.

Cheap Thrills. This term characterizes "3-star" events like Comic Con, Burning Man and Bike Week. Events in this category fill not only attendees' everyday needs and their needs for fantasy, but their needs to be wowed and titillated. Remarkable stunts, goofy sideshows, celebrity appearances, and novel tchotchkes abound at events in this category. Every producer should strive to produce an event that delivers cheap thrills; few do.

Genuine Thrills. This term characterizes "4-star" events like CES, Sundance, and the Indianapolis 500. Events in this category fill not only attendees' everyday needs, their needs for fantasy, and their needs for cheap thrills, but their needs to be awed by (1) proof of human ingenuity and (2) displays of daring. The delivery of genuine thrills is the reason the Colombian Exposition, The 1964 New York World's Fair and the 1992 Summer Olympics made the history books.

Melioration. This term characterizes "5-star" events like TED, SXSW and the Aspen Ideas Festival. Events in this category fill all of attendees' needs, including the very highest-level ones: to improve not only themselves, but to better the lives of others. Maslow would call it self actualization.

NOTE: The term everydayness is borrowed from the philosopher Martin Heidegger; and melioration, from the philosopher William James (alas, no relation).

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Bye, Bye, Ancien Régime

Kings, aristocrats, tyrants, whoever they be, are slaves rebelling 
against the sovereign of the earth, which is the human race.

— Robespierre

Call me crazy, but I believe we'll look back on December 2017 as the month billionaire GOP donors signed their own death warrants.

In 1789, when France's overtaxed 98% decided enough privation was enough, they tore down the Bastille, looted the artisocrats' châteaux, and burned tax collectors' homes

A month later, they enshrined equal opportunity in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Bye, bye, ancien régimeHello, guillotine.

Riot and bloody mayhem.

It can't happen here, you say?

It can. It has. It will.

Republicanism (small R) runs deep in our history, from Jefferson to Lincoln to Eisenhower to Sanders. It doesn't suffer fat cats.

To honor Emancipation's 24th anniversary in April 1886, Frederick Douglass spoke in Washington's Israel Bethel Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.

Criticized by newspapers at the time of waving the "waving the bloody shirt," Douglass warned the audience:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Is Your Copy Ducky?

There once was an ugly duckling.

And if you read to the end, you'll learn how he dealt with his handicap.

But first, let me ask: Do you know how to guarantee readers won't abandon your copy?

Copywriter Joe Sugarman has two rules:
  • Start with a story. It creates an emotional bond with readers.
Sugarman also urges you to start your story with a short sentence.

Short spurs curiosity.

Short openers are the novelist's trick, as Anthony Doerr demonstrates in the first sentence of All the Light We Cannot See:

At dusk they pour from the sky.

And a short opener can be even stronger, Sugarman says, if it jibes with readers' feelings:

There once was an ugly duckling
Poor guy. Would you like to be called ugly?

Once you've started your story, to urge readers on, you must continue to play to their curiosity.

You do so with hooks, like this one:

Now here comes the good part.

Hooks work because the human mind doesn't like unfinished business.

That's why TV series like Stranger Things exploit cliffhangers. They prompt viewers to binge.

You want readers to binge on your copy.

Otherwise, they'll never buy a thing.

And things could get ugly for you. 


But, you say, B2B doesn't work like that! B2B is boring.


Tell it to Farmers Insurance. 

Here's the opener of an email I just received from the company:

I'm a small business owner, and I visit my clients' offices often.
I pretty much live on the road. Here's my challenge.

Hooked yet?

You'd laugh, if I told you the email promotes a Certificate of Insurance.

How boring is that?

Now back to our duck...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Natural Born Artists

In November, I rode in a car to the top of one of nature's wonders, Arizona's 9,200-foot high Mount Lemmon, only to encounter, of all people, the singer-songwriter Sting (dining with his wife in a mountaintop restaurant) and to discover the mountain is named for a nature artist.

In 1861, Sara Lemmon (née Plummer) was teaching art in New York City when she volunteered as a nurse in the Union Army. But she caught pneumonia while serving and was ordered to journey west for the air. Sara did so, and opened a stationery shop in Santa Barbara, California, turning it into a hangout for local artists and intellectuals. She also began to paint botanical subjects around town, and founded a natural history society.

Through the society, Sara met and fell in love with a professional botanist, John Lemmon. He also had fragile health, thanks to wartime imprisonment at Andersonville, and when the couple married in 1880, Sara suggested they honeymoon so as "to make a grand botanical raid into Arizona, and try to touch the heart of the Santa Catalina's."

Together, on horseback, the nature-lovers rode to the top of the tallest peak in the chain, he cataloging and she painting plants the whole way. At the summit, at the urging of their guide, they named the mountain for Sara. Her artwork later won awards at national expositions, and a number of plants (as well as the mountain) bear her name today. Sara would also serve four years as the official artist for the California State Board of Forestry, and lecture about conservation at scientific conferences and the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

In April, I visited Cumbria in England, where I met a famous shepherd and also discovered the wondrous world of another nature artist, Beatrix Potter, better known as the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Born in London, Beatrix grew up enjoying a posh life as a painter of plants and animals (her wealthy parents enrolled her in art lessons from age eight). At 20, she was earning commissions on her illustrations for greeting cards, and even produced an illustrated scientific paper about mushrooms that was presented to The Linnean Society.

At 35, Beatrix self-published Peter Rabbit. It was immediately picked up by a trade publisher and became an overnight best-seller. With the money earned, she bought a farm in Cumbria and became a lady farmer, supporting herself by raising sheep, while writing 27 more of her "little books" and investing the proceeds in local real estate. 

Beatrix's love of nature led her late in life to help found the UK's National Trust, and she devoted her time and money to the preservation of Cumbria's farmland and farming methods. In her will, she left the Trust 14 farms and 4,000 acres, still under protection today.
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