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So a rabbi, a priest, a talking duck and a blonde walk into a bar…

Do you feel a joke coming on?

We’ve been taught where to look for jokes. Certain places and times feel joke-friendly, and we’re alert and aware of what’s coming.
The web is changing the vernacular daily, and I discovered this first hand with my vacation email memo from last week.

Here’s an excerpt:

If you need to find me, I’ll be at the UN for a few days, working on the oil for food scandal. You can reach me at the UN at 212 355 4165. Then I’ll be in Beijing, consulting with the government on how they can more effectively do the messaging for the upcoming Olympics. I believe that their mascot is sending exactly the wrong message, and hope to persuade them to start using a cow.

I’ll be ending the week at Beverly Hills Hilton in California, (a bungalow, just ask for me at the desk). It turns out that Steven has a bit of writer’s block on a project and he asked me to stop by and help out.

I thought it was a pretty funny spoof of the self-important (okay, egomaniacal) vacation posts some people have been using. No, I didn’t go to China, I went to Costa Rica (more on this soon). I was surprised, though, to discover that a whole bunch of people thought I was serious.

Now, that could be because some of my correspondents have such high regard for me that they figured I really was working with Kofi Annan at the UN, but more likely it’s because we just assume that email vacation notes are true. Same thing happens with phishing when hackers use email to steal passwords.
What else are we assuming are true, when it might be a joke, or an opinion, or a fraud?

All Marketers...

Listening to the new

 This is one of the bestselling albums in the world.

Not since it came out, but LAST YEAR.

How is that this album has been a Billboard 100 for decades?

Because of worldview. Some people (most people) want to buy music they’ve heard before. It makes them happy to hear familiar music. The best new album in the world isn’t going to change that worldview. Instead, what happens is that a great new album appeals to people who LIKE new music. Some of those folks work at radio stations or use Grokster. And they spread the song, playing it over and over (for free) to people who don’t like new music. After awhile, it’s not new to those people, so they buy it.

The lesson isn’t on the dark side, folks. You can’t change the way people do things. What you can do is enter a population with your idea via an easier route and let the people who want to spread your idea spread it to those willing to listen to a friend.

All Marketers...

The Salvation Army

 Have you ever given money to the Salvation Army?


It’s one of the biggest charities in the country. What is it about the way they ask for money (or what they do with it) that makes them so much more successful than other charities? Is it that they are more efficient or helping people in a highly leveraged way? Or is it something else?

All Marketers...

Does a story that’s irrelevant matter?

When you think of a thumb, do you think of Wendy’s?

Does it make you less likely to eat there?

Sales are off as much as 50% in some California Wendy’s. Not because there’s any chance in the world that you’re going to find another thumb. Or even an index finger. In fact, Wendy’s is probably the safest fast food place in the world when it comes to appendages just now.

The reason sales are off isn’t about the truth. It’s about the story we insist on telling ourselves.

All Marketers...

Your Coffee Worldview

 At a recent seminar at my office, I had two coffeemakers set up. One had decaffeinated swill in a standard Mr. Coffee carafe type thing, and the other was a fancy Capresso machine.

I noticed that people didn’t choose which machined based on caff vs. decaf. Nope, they picked based on a machine.

If your worldview says, “I like gadget, premium, hyped, tweaky coffee” you went for the fancy machine. If your worldview was, “I like to settle, take no risks and be safe and predictable with my coffee” you took the other. It didn’t matter which was better. It didn’t matter which cost more. It mattered what you had decided before you even got there.

Nouns and verbs

I had two great seminars in my office this week. Not only do cool people show up, but it pushes me to think hard about new ways to talk about things that work.

Today, we talked about nouns and verbs.

Investments are a noun. Investing is a verb.
Paint is a noun. Painting is a verb.
A gift is a noun. Shopping for or giving one is a verb.

People care much more about verbs than nouns. They care about things that move, that are happening, that change. They care about experiences and events and the way things make us feel.

Nouns just sit there, inanimate lumps. Verbs are about wants and desires and wishes.

Is your website a noun or a verb?
What about your management style or the services you offer?

A few years ago, the rage was to turn products into services. Then it was to turn services into products.

I think the next big thing is to turn nouns into verbs.

All Marketers...

Hershey Foods has changed its name

 Now they want to be called just plain Hershey.


Well, they’ve spent years selling off their food divisions, leaving them with mostly junk… candy and stuff.

It turns out that people NEED food, and they WANT candy. So candy is a lot more profitable. Since Hershey no longer sells food, they want to be sure the stock market knows this. Hershey Junk is probably not a good name for a company, so now it’s just Hershey.

Let’s assume that they’re correct, and that the stock market will get the message, giving them a higher PE ratio and stock price because they are in a higher margin business. What this means is that a story about what they do will end up being worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Just to tell a story to people who have an incentive to be informed about the truth. Of course, it’s impossible to tell the truth…

Things that change

…are more interesting than those that don’t.

I’ve gotten about a dozen emails about Google’s clever way of indicating that they keep adding storage to gmail.


Every time you visit your gmail account, you notice that the amount of storage you’ve been given goes up.

The same thing is true for the billboard on the bank near my house in Buffalo where I grew up. It didn’t matter how many times we looked at it, we looked at it again when we drove by. Why?

TimetempBecause the time and temperature were always changing! (note that this is not the original Buffalo sign… the palm tree is a giveaway).

In most organizations, the frequency at which consumers are sent messages is far greater than the speed at which the organization actually changes. As a result, most of the messages are boring and repetitive. Which means that you’re training your prospects and consumers to ignore the messages–why bother reading something if you already know what it says?

The best stories change over time. They change in ways that fascinate the consumer, and more important, they change in ways that are fun or important to talk about.

Of course you’re not a commercial photographer

Why should you care what Don Giannatti thinks about marketing?

Because all marketing is the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling expensive photos for annual reports, cheeky babywear or a religion. It’s still about spreading ideas.

Don’s post is terrific: it’s what I do…: Ok, let’s buy TWO Spreads in the Annuals.

Target gets remarkable

Pills050411_1_250Lisa Kelley sent me this breakthrough pill bottle.

Link: A School of Visual Arts Grad Remakes the Pill Bottle.