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

Which Brands Are On Twitter?

19 03 2009

One of these days, your boss will wander into your office and say “I assume you’re keeping track of which brands in our category are using Twitter”.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to be prepared.method

This may help.

The people at Electric Artists have created a clean, nicely-organized “Tracking Twitter” site.

It’s sortable by brand and by category.

And they even give you the brand’s Twitter “handle” in case you want to follow them.

Smart idea for Electric Artists to do this.

There aren’t many CPG brands on Twitter yet, but I see that method is out there.

I wonder how they’re managing this internally.

Did they hire a “community manager”, or are they just giving Twitter duties to an employee in their consumer affairs department?

Twitter, Tweets and Truth

19 03 2009

A friend passed this cartoon about Twitter to me today.

It’s pretty funny. But, is it true? 

In my opinion, yes.  What gets lost in they hype about Twitter is that Tweeting is basically asynchronous conversation. And that’s it.

Twitter has many of the strengths and many of the weaknesses of any other form of human conversation.  If we’re honest, most of what we say (and blog, perhaps)  is hopelessly mundane.  And more of it than we’d care to admit is wildly self-centered: it’s said more for our own ears than for anyone else’s.

We’re used to media having important things to say, because it used to be expensive to produce and therefore precious.

Now, it’s as cheap to produce as a belch at your local pub. 

Occasionally what is Tweeted will be shocking, or eloquent, or informative. Most of the time, it won’t.

C’est le guerre. Relax and have another beer 🙂

On Doing More With Less

18 03 2009

“Do more with less” may be the four most commonly heard — and hated — words in business. In reply, management inevitably hears the same four word sentences fired back.

“You’re asking the impossible”.

“We can’t do that”.

“It just won’t work.” 

Here’s a new one to try: “Let’s all reach higher”.


This Is A Picture Of How To Do More With Less. 


And this is a picture of the four Spanish teenagers from La Bisbal school in Spain’s Catalonia who did it. 

With the guidance of their teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, they sent a weather balloon right up to the edge of space, taking readings and shooting photos with a Nikon Coolpix camera. They kept track of it the whole way up using sensors communicating with Google Earth. (Nice idea: is there existing infrastructure for your project that you can leverage?) By the way, they built the sensors from scratch. (Another nice idea: is there a cheap but effective homebrew solution you can use, instead of buying something fancy?)

No one likes having to do more with less. But students like Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vil, Martm Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort prove that it can be done.

Next time you’re stuck trying to do the impossible with less resources than you need, team leader Gerard Marull Paretas has a great piece of advice.

“We put in a lot of effort, we did a lot of tests before flights.

“We also have learned that in practice, things are not so simple. And in the field problems appear that a textbook can’t help you with.”

Let’s all reach higher.  Maybe we can touch the sky after all.

The Continuum Theory of Social Media

16 03 2009

Last week, Danny Brown generously invited me to guest on his blog. It’s fun to share ideas with a whole new set of people, and I was grateful for the opportunity.continuum

I posted my Continuum Theory of Social Media.

Rather than being one thing I believe Social Media is a continuum, with “Social” at the far left and “Media” at the far right.

Further, I believe the physics of this differ greatly depending on whether you are a smaller, consulting-oriented business or a large CPG company.

It has provoked some good conversation, including this thoughtful post by Marty Thornley.

If you’re curious, click over to Danny’s blog. While you’re there I’m sure you’ll find a lot of other interesting ideas.

Tide Loads of Hope: P&G Digital Hack Night Executive Summary

12 03 2009


Here’s an executive summary and link roundup for the Procter & Gamble Digital Hack Night that happened last night.

Disclosure: I don’t work for P&G (I work for another CPG company, Combe). My interest istide-loads-of-hope purely in learning how other CPG companies are using social media. Also, it’s a good cause: I bought a couple of t-shirts to support it.

Click on the links above each quoted item to go to that person’s website.

Ad Age:

Procter & Gamble Co. paired 40 digital media and agency executives with 100 of its North American marketing directors in a contest to sell Tide T-shirts for charity last night as its much-awaited “Digital Hack Night” became a four-hour reality show aired largely in social media. (…) Fewer than 150 media and marketing people leaning heavily on their social-media friends and followers, resorting to big-name incentives and spending a total of about $4,000 on digital media can sell more than 2,000 T-shirts at $20 a pop for charity.”

Jory DesJardins:

“So despite what I do for a living–work with companies to share the benefits of social media–I haven’t ever been asked to pitch product, or prove via my own means that social media gets stuff done. Until today.”

Shar VanBoskirk:

“I’m admittedly the most cynical analyst about social media and its measurable value to marketers. BUT, participating in this event is making me a believer. In 60 minutes through networking, well targeted ads, SMS messaging, and viral videos we have generated 1200 hits for a site that didn’t even exist before 5pm tonight. We are tracking at about a 5-7% conversion rate…not bad. The other thing that is happening here is that we are adapting our marketing strategy based on feedback from people who are responding to our viral outreach. How often does that happen in a traditional marketing environment?”

Kevin Dugan:

“The teams that broke their groups down into smaller groups around specific strategies were able to test more ideas more easily and quickly, focus on the ones that did work and drop the ones that did not gain traction. (…) There was an amazing dashboard in every room that listed sales, site visits and conversion rate for each team with a Tide Twitter Feed running beneath this information.”

David Armano:

“As the doors opened to our War room, the first thing I did was crack open the laptop and continue prepping my network while I sized up the challenge. P&G employees were embeded with every team and watching everything we did. I first summized that there was not enough information on the page where we were asking for people to buy shirts and so I quickly started writing a blog post with the information of who the charity was, where you could buy the shirts along with some popular Q&As. The post was done in less than 20 minutes to the surprise of some of the P&Gers and I didn’t use the media they provided because the files needed reformatting. A big lesson learned was the power of speed in this space. 4 hours is not a lot of time.”


Peter Kim:

“At the end of the evening, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.

The significance of that idea is staggeringly huge. This is a company with 138,000 employees starting to realize the value from having all of its constituents connected and activated. They’re also learning about new tools to change the process of engagement. Events like “Digital Night” help recalibrate the company’s mindset.

P&G is taking steps to make social business a reality.”

Speaking of Peter Kim, I should acknowledge that to create this executive summary I cribbed liberally from his list of links on his blog, here. Nobody does link roundups better than Peter.

Lisa Bradner of Forrester:

“Marketers looking to access people’s personal social networks must think long and hard about what they’re asking those networks to do and whether the influencers have social currency they can provide ( a great cause, a great deal, or insider knowledge). Without that your effort is likely to feel like shilling and get very little pick up.

Personal networks trump paid placements. (…) cultivating deep relationships with key influencers will reap greater rewards than spray and pray. Don’t simply put out a message hoping it will get pick up: identify the key players in your market place and the value your product or service brings to their readers.. (…) Can’t identify your value-add? You’re probably not going to get very far.

Social media is a full time commitment. (…) those of us for whom social isn’t our sole focus were left in the dust by those who do it for a living. (…) don’t think you’re going to make an impact asking your current digital marketing manager to add Twittering and blogging to their current job description. Figure out what your role should be in the social media space and staff with people knowledgeable and connected who thrive on contributing to and participating in that space.

Suspicion runs rampant. (…) Anyone who thinks corporate America is welcome at the social party hasn’t been paying a lot of attention. Corporate messages and their bearers are viewed with suspicion and in some cases, derision. Overcoming it takes patience, information and most importantly truly good intentions at the root of your efforts.

You can’t please all the people all the time. (…) Take time to plan for worst case scenarios: how could your intentions be misconstrued and how and when do you respond? Accept that you will never be welcomed by all but with a good faith effort, honesty, transparency and a long term commitment you can at least get a chance to tell your side of the story.”

Deborah Schultz of P&G

“Here are some of my quick learning take a ways:

  • Many of the P&G folks’ thought the first task was to figure out the messaging of the campaign, where as the external folks just dived right in in plain English.
  • The social web folks jumped on their networks first without necessary realizing the impact and focused on a long tail one-to-one approach figuring that network effects would take over.
  • The P&G folks understood the need to identify where to get the biggest bang for their buck.
  • The speed nature of the exercise brought out some incredible creativity. I had a sense that this freedom was very liberating for the P&G folks once they got into it. Some of my teammates quickly brainstormed a quick rap [yeah-it’s dorky, but they did it without planning or thinking about it too much. We even got the team at Pandora to write a catchy little ditty. [Thanks Tim. It arrived a bit late, but kudos to them for jumping in. Compare that to the month long planning cycles most companies go through.
  • The P&G folks were often very process oriented and the invitees where comfortable with more chaos – meeting somewhere in the middle brought out the best.
  • Even the “digerati” who understand the principles of the social web stepped over the line a bit in the exuberance of the moment – to me this is a cautionary tale about the future of “influencers” and everyone’s personal understanding of their relationships, networks and personal brand. Just as in the real world you are judged by your actions – so too are you judged online. Remember – Google is now the long tail of reputation.
  • The need for a different set of skills and expertise – teams needed a human connector to bring it all together and a catalyst to kick it off. I see this as a growing skill set in business as a result of the social web. Think Community Manager meets Senior Executive.”

Dave Knox of P&G

“The P&G Digital Event was an internal training exercise for 100 or so of our senior marketing leaders. We wanted to create a hands-on event for them to see first-hand what Social Media is all about (…) beyond buzzwords and shiny objects like Twitter, the Long Tail, or CGM.We hoped to see our leaders come away with several realizations but a couple I’ll mention relevant to my comments include:

  1. Social Media is mainstream. Facebook, Twitter, etc aren’t just for college kids or geeks. It is being used by the young and old, by the geeks and the Soccer Moms (or Mommy Bloggers) alike.
  2. But despite being mainstream, it’s not one size fits all and you need to build trust to have a conversation.
  3. And with all that said, the first step is listening in social media.

It is the last point I really want to speak to. As I’ve followed the conversation, it looks like some have thought we were “having a one night stand” with Social Media. That isn’t the case at all. There are many P&Gers that are active in Social Media – as well as many of our brands. We wanted the event to help support those that aren’t as active see first hand that you have to be wired differently than traditional marketing efforts to be successful in the space.

Every P&G marketer involved woke up the next morning having seen firsthand a world that is different than the world they know and that digital is having an impact on people’s lives in new ways.”

For a sense of what it was like while it was happening, check out this Twitter feed.

Dissenting Opinions

Brian Morrissey of Adweek:

“The problem is charities are being used to get people over the ickiness of marketing for gigantic corporations. (…) even as a marketing exercise, the lessons it is teaching the world’s largest advertiser is social media is a great place to broadcast stuff.”

Tom Foremski (Former FT Journalist)

“It’s like the hackers that create botnets of thousands of infected PCs and then use them to broadcast millions of spam messages. Can you create a human botnet army? Or a Twitnet army?”

While I generally think this was a great idea, I’ll add two dissenting questions of my own:

  1. If all these social media micro-celebrities combined were only able to sell about $4,000 worth of merchandise for a great cause from a huge brand, what does that say about the “power” of social media?
  2. If we define the Tide event as a marketing success (and not just a learning success), how can it be replicated and built on

Nick Paris echoed these questions in his comments on Brian Morrissey’s blog:

“150 determined salespeople sold 2000 shirts in four hours? That’s 13 each. I’ve seen better results from bake sales. (…) It’s great P&G wants to help employees understand. But, as a learning exercise, you put 40 invitees into crisis mode to sell T-shirts for four hours? Is frenzied Tweeting the behavior you want to impress on clients as how you work for them?”

Everything Is An Ingredient

11 03 2009

At a macro level, digital does two things to media:

  1. It destroys scarcity (and with it, pricing power, but that’s a separate discussion); and
  2. It creates abundance, which then breeds more abundance.

Every new digital asset created and posted online — a picture, a sound, a video — is now not only a completed product but is also a mashable ingredient. That means CPG brand assets, too: the commercial you labored over, the package you tweaked until it was just right: everything.

The world has just reminded been reminded of this in a compelling way by the Israeli musician Kutiman. As Mashable describes:

“Kutiman has taken YouTube samples – often non-musical ones – and turned them into an album that’s awesome on so many levels that it leaves you stunned. (…) it’s amazing to see all those unrelated YouTube bits and pieces fit together so perfectly. Kutiman, whose self-titled debut received high praise from sites such as Pitchfork Magazine, proves that any sound can be music if you know what to do with it.

It’s impossible to really imagine how this can work until you see one of the videos:

The Beatles are an ingredient. Jay-Z is an ingredient. Interestingly, Jay-Z not only knows this — he embraces it: lately he’s been releasing CDs with acapella vocals only. It’s all ready to mash.

Superman is an ingredient. “Friends” is an ingredient. Everything’s an ingredient.

Even two commercials can be an ingredient to create a third.

doughboyOf course, not every brand likes to be poked.  Or tweaked. Or remixed. But it’s the new reality.

Everything is an ingredient.  What sort of ingredient do you want to be?

This Is A Stop Sign

9 03 2009


The more market research you read about the future of media, the more confused you’ll get.

According to a recent report from Netpop Research,  “Media Shifts to Social,” the percent of time people spend communicating online has increased 18% since 2006, while time spent on entertainment has declined 29%.

According to a recent report from Nielsen research, the average American television viewer is watching more than 151 hours of television per month — an “all-time” high — up from more than 145 hours during the same period the previous year, Nielsen said.

When all the signs point in different directions, in my opinion it’s time to stop and ask ourselves three questions:

Where do our customers want to go?

Where do we want to go?

What’s the best way for us to get there together?

Everything else is just press releases.

I’ve Become An Advisor To President Obama. Well, Sort Of.

5 03 2009

The most important brand I work on in both traditional and digital is Just For Men haircolor.

The very first commercial I shot for the brand had Walt “Clyde” Frazier delivering the line “No play for Mr. Gray”.  Eight years later, the commercial with Clyde and Keith Hernandez is still running.

In today’s New York Times, Clyde used the line I wrote to advise President Obama to get rid of his gray hair.


So I guess I’m now an unofficial advisor to the President.  Sort of, anyway. In any case, it’s great PR for a great brand and I couldn’t resist sharing.

P.S.  In addition to being legends, Clyde and Keith are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Getting to meet them and work with them has been one of the most fun parts of my career.

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.


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