The Blueberry Waffle Mix Lesson

15 04 2009

Here are some links to things that are worth reading.

Subjects? Facebook, ROI, CPG, social media, drugs, and the death of print.

But for me the real gem is the story of a guy who almost drowned in a vat of blueberry waffle mix.

blueberrywaffle

Thankfully, he’s OK. But I see this story as a sort of absurd cosmic lesson: a reminder to always maintain our humility and sense of humor. No matter how smart we think we are, we’re always just one slippery step away from some darkly hilarious disaster.

Happy reading. And watch your step while you’re walking over the waffle mix :-)

Photo credit: MHaitaca





Did You Know 3.0 (aka “Shift Happens”)

3 04 2009

UPDATED AUGUST 28: Now you can also download “Shift Happens” as a movie.

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This is a very revealing video and worth your time. It speaks volumes about globalization, and the changes that are happening faster than we know.

It’s thought-provoking. Revealing. Surprising.

What’s perhaps most surprising is where it came from. It started as a PowerPoint presentation for a faculty meeting in August 2006 at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. In the words of the original author Karl Fisch:

“it “went viral” on the Web in February 2007 and, as of June 2007, had been seen by at least 5 million online viewers. Today the old and new versions of the online presentation have been seen by at least 20 million people, not including the countless others who have seen it at conferences, workshops, training institutes, and other venues.

It’s further evidence that ideas are not only found in big cities or famous universities.

And they’re not only generated for famous conferences.

Big ideas can come from everywhere, and from out of nowhere.

Where will the next idea like this come from? Gudda, India? Ororuwo, Nigeria?

Maybe “Did You Know 4.0″ will come from you. After all, shift happens :-)





Moaning Is Not A Management Task

24 03 2009

In the Financial Times recently, there was a fantastic quote from Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi. He said:

“Moaning is not a management task. We can all join in the moaning, or we can make a virtue out of the plight.”

do_somethingIt’s a good reminder.

The worse things get (and if you believe the “Chaos Scenario” from Bob Garfield at Ad Age, we ain’t seen nothing yet), the more it pays to adopt the old Swedish proverb: “whine less, breathe more.”

This goes double for those of us in management. One of the best pieces of management advice ever is from “Saving Private Ryan”.  Here’s a clip (warning: language NSFW). The relevant part starts at 2:06.

It’s brilliant. But if you don’t have time sit through it, here’s the dialogue:

Private Reiben: “So Captain, what about you? I mean you don’t gripe at all?”

Captain Miller: “I don’t gripe to you Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down, always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that, you’re a Ranger.”

Private Reiben: “Well I’m sorry, sir, but let’s say you weren’t a Captain, or maybe I was a Major. What would you say then?”

Captain Miller: “In that case, I’d say this is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir. Worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover, I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men, especially you, Reiben, to ease her suffering.”

One last piece of useful management thinking, from a very unlikely source:

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

Milton Berle said it. Pretty great, isn’t it?

Today can be the start of something better. Let’s go build some doors.

Photo Credit: Jen Joaquin





Pattern Recognition and Four Other New Skills For The Future of Marketing

4 03 2009

“To understand is to perceive patterns” – Isaiah Berlin

There’s a great (and if I’m honest, mildly terrifying) post at Chief Marketing Technologist that  discusses some of the new skills that are critical for marketing success in the future.  You can read it here.

pattern_recognition

I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.  But here are the 5 new skills the author discusses along with some takeaways from me.

1. Analytical Pattern Recognition. We are already in a data maelstrom of firehose-velocity info feeds. This will only get faster and more complex.  Great marketers have always been reductionists at their core, and that will be true in spades in the future.

Takeaway: Diving into the data hoping to come up with a single pearl of wisdom is a formula for drowning.  We must learn to float on top of it and observe where the tide is going.

2. Agile Project Management. The luxurious days of planning a few well-contained major campaigns for the year are largely gone. Now, you’ve got hundreds — often thousands — of micro-opportunities, swirling around the extended enterprise every week, the best of which must be quickly snatched and efficiently executed.

Takeaway: This creates enormous opportunities for smaller companies doing battle with Goliaths.  But it will only work for companies who are willing to  stop aping the habits of large companies because they want to “feel big”.

3. Experimental Curiosity and Rigor. Marketing is the new laboratory. The majority of marketing activities at this point should be run as tests, continually trying new alternatives, pushing on the edges, constantly on the lookout for shifts in response that portend new threats or opportunities.

Takeaway: This sounds great, but it also means we must ruthlessly whittle down the cost of each experiment. What’s the most we can learn, the fastest and cheapest way possible?

4. Systems Thinking. Tactics in one marketing silo impact the effectiveness of others (e.g., your search marketing ads) almost immediately. Social media accelerates cross-channel effects: it’s a new, living ecosystem. If engaged properly, that can be a powerful force multiplier; if mismanaged, it can be a train wreck.

Takeaway: Marketing Integration isn’t as simple as creating “matching luggage” where the TV, print and web stuff all look alike.  That’s the starting point, not the end.  The organizational challenge is tough: how can we get the various marketing silos to want to cooperate? Here again, an opportunity for smaller companies to win.

5. Mashable software fluency. Not all marketers have to become programmers, but those who understand how software is built and deployed in the new “mashable web” — a world of mashups, widgets, and APIs — will have a competitive advantage.

Takeaway: Marketing executives who can’t understand a word of this one need to go talk with a programmer. These are not geeks: they are business partners who can open doors you didn’t even realize existed.

Photo Credit: Mathieu Struck





Should Every CMO Be A CDMO?

24 02 2009

Carol Bartz, the new CEO of Yahoo! recently said:

“We shouldn’t let marketing decisions be made by a technologist who has never met a CMO”

I couldn’t agree more. But I’m coming to believe that the reverse may be equally true. Here’s a provocative thought.

cdmoWe shouldn’t let technical decisions be made by a CMO who has never met a technologist.

I think it’s time for Chief Marketing Officers to expand their titles to Chief Digital Marketing Officer. That means meeting people outside their comfort zones.

I don’t mean meeting with a digital marketing expert. Or a social media guru. And I don’t mean a sales rep from Hulu or Yahoo or Vimeo or any other company that ends in a fashionable vowel.

I mean meeting from time-to-time with an actual living, breathing programmer. Someone who speaks programming languages fluently, and English maybe not so much.

Why Not Let Someone Else Translate?

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time, letting someone else translate is the right idea. It’s practical.

A CMO or director of interactive has to trust the experts he or she has assembled, otherwise what’s the point of having them?

But the CMO must also recognize that each of his subject matter experts will tend to view the overall problem through the lens of their own specialty.

Abraham Maslow had it right: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” Inescapably, professionals love their specialties. They tend to believe their specialty is the best or even only solution for a problem. Pride — and profit — can get in the way.

The virtue of talking with someone who is completely outside these individual specialties is that they are OUTSIDE. That’s where all the fresh air usually is.

What Can A CMO and a Programmer Talk About?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet great CMOs and great programmers. In their day-to-day work lives, they might seem like they live on entirely different planets. But they share a critically important common ground.

That common ground is an openness to possibility, and an appetite for magic that is un-constricted by org charts and silos.

The best CMOs and the best programmers are able to climb out of the quotidian muck and get an overview of the whole situation. They almost have to talk to each other now and then, for things to change.

The Beauty of Misunderstanding

The great thing about CMOs talking directly with programmers occasionally is that it almost always opens up new possibilities. This happens, at least in part, because neither side entirely understands what the other person is talking about.

A completely misunderstood question tends to upend our established ways of thinking. We’re forced to discard our usual habits and patterns of thinking, because we realize they’re not going to work. If we can just relax and go with it, there’s a lot we can learn from straying from what we “know” and exploring what’s possible.

We Learn By Teaching

The other great benefit is that we often see new aspects of what we do when we have to explain it to someone who has no idea what we do, or why. Someone who’s a stranger to our world can ask very basic questions about why we do what we do without fear of looking dumb. Especially now, it’s good to revisit those basic questions: how much of what we’re doing is smart, and how much is simply an unexamined habit?

Smart People Are Smart People

The main thing I’ve learned from talking with techies is that most of them are scary smart and have a fantastic sense of humor. Maybe everybody in marketing should have a “Take A Techie for A Tequila Day”, and everybody in tech should have a “Meet A Marketer for a Martini Day” once a year.

Worst-case scenario? Everybody has a few laughs and learns a littlle. Best-case scenario: new ideas happen.

Smart people are smart people. Who can you learn from?





About Hard Times: A Closing Thought for 2008

23 12 2008

hardtimesA lot of people now, especially in marketing, are worried about hard times.

Hard times aren’t all bad.

They encourage us to be resourceful and to improve our focus.

They teach us to appreciate the things that go right, and to learn really useful lessons from the things that go wrong.

They teach us to be grateful for having a good job that challenges us, a family who loves us, and all the other things we tend to take for granted when times are easy.

Just as important, hard times weed out the charlatans — on both the agency and client side — who hurt the long-term growth of interactive marketing.

Hard times are about focusing on what works, and learning how to do our jobs even better.

Einstein said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

You don’t have to be a genius to find opportunity in 2009.

You just have to look around for it.





TV: WIWWIWWIW or RIP

14 11 2008

Update 11/15/2008: Only a few days before the largest BitTorrent tracker will celebrate its 5th anniversary, the Pirate Bay reached a new milestone. The site now tracks 25 million peers, which is more than the entire populations of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark combined.

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We’re at an important inflection point for marketing. And, it’s going almost entirely unreported and unremarked upon.

Here’s the thing. With video, consumers want “What I want, where I want, when I want.”

If the TV industry gets it right (see Hulu as a good example), we’ll have an amazing future with lots of opportunities for marketers and everyone in that food chain to do very well indeed.

brokentvIf the TV industry gets it wrong, it’s very likely that consumers will cobble together their own infrastructure. They will use torrents, peer-to-peer networks, DVDs,and whatever else they can to get “What I want, where I want, when I want”. If that happens, people will be able to get what they want for free, without seeing any advertising at all.

if that sounds impossible, ask a friend in the music business how it’s going for them today.

The technical hurdles to putting your own infrastructure together are getting lower every year, and once people get used to it there’s no turning back.

The smartest guy on this subject bar none is Shelly Palmer. If part of your job is selling things to people, I suggest you start reading what Shelly is saying right away, starting with today’s article on Jack Myers.

You should also read Shelly’s book, “Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV“. This is important stuff, and these are important days.

Photo Credit: The Union Forever








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