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Hugh at gapingvoid is having a 500 word manifesto celebration. I just sent mine in. Enjoy.

No Cake!

Every organization tells a story, want to or not.

Two ways of thinking about flying yesterday.

Thousands of people descend on JetBlue. The JetBlue team decides to tell a story about confidence and empathy, about competence and kindness. They staff the security line with talented people, they plan a route through the terminal, they figure out what the TSA is going to want.

End result: fast lines, happy employees, loyal customers.

Just on the other side of the line are the bureaucrats at the TSA. They tell a story too, but it couldn’t be intentional.

"No Cake!" the screener yells. "No pie either!" and they make the person traveling to her family throw out her home-baked cake.

We got up to the line. I had an ounce of gel left in a five ounce bottle. They made me throw it out because the label said 5 ounces (though it was clearly more than half empty).

The story?

  • We don’t care. We don’t have to.
  • We don’t make judgment calls. We’re not allowed to and we don’t care that management treats us this way.
  • Don’t you dare say anything.
  • Be afraid.
  • Bothering everyone is smarter than hiring talented people to find the .0001% of the population that’s harmful.

No Cake!

Is this the sort of government we want? We deserve? We should pay for?

The easy thing for me to do is say nothing. It makes me seem like a whiner, after all. But to stand by while all of us spend billions of dollars a year chasing the wrong thing, doing it poorly and telling exactly the wrong story is far worse than that.

There are 583 ways to hurt yourself and your fellow passengers onboard an airplane. Gel (and cake) are exactly two of them. How many more are we going to protect ourselves against? If the best our bureaucracy can do is scare us with cries of "No Cake!" and "too much gel," then I think we need a new bureaucracy.

More important from a safety point of view, we need a new story. One that simulateously scares the bad guys without crippling the rest of us. Yes, the TSA’s failure is a marketing failure. If you work there, drop me a line and I’ll send you a book.

Quit Whining!

Kurt sends us to: complaints choir: birmingham.


The creation of a Finnish husband-wife artist team, Oliver Kochta Kalleinen and Tellervo Kalleinen, the choir stars in the most instantly accessible and funniest comedy/art video we’ve seen in ages.

The couple invited people in various international cities to submit their complaints, which were then set to churchly choir music under the direction of a local choral director. So far there have been complaints choirs in Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Birmingham, England — with videos for the latter two available online.

The Helsinki one isn’t in English, but it’s better.

PS The year-end tally is in, and the winner of complaints, by a factor of 5:1 in my reader mail, is Home Depot.

Oh yeah, happy Thanksgiving.

That was quick

Helene points us to this press release from CBS in which they are touting how well they’re doing on YouTube, including a glowing quote from a YouTube VP.

Think about that for a second. It was less than a year ago when media giants thought that the Internet was nothing but a gnat, something to manipulate a stock price maybe. The idea that mighty CBS needs a quote from someone at YouTube is astonishing to me.

How to write a blog post

Do it like this: Joel on Software.

An appropriate illustration,
A useful topic, easily broadened to be useful to a large number of readers,
Simple language with no useless jargon,
Not too long,
Focusing on something that people have previously taken for granted,
That initially creates emotional resistance,
Then causes a light bulb go go off
and finally,
Causes the reader to look at the world differently all day long.

It’s easy to like it after it works

Two minute flash riff about how clients abuse the flags of the world as presented by their agency:  myflags.swf.

Extra profit?

Richard points us to: Less dessert = incremental profits – (37signals).

It’s about little desserts that restaurants can charge $2 or so for. You get your coffee and a little creampuffy thing to go with it.

I think it’s the wrong tack.

I’d just bring the little thing for free.

Don’t announce it, don’t make it a big deal. In fact, only bring it for regulars, or irregularly or when people ask for it. Irregular reinforcement is a hugely powerful message sender.

When something is a bonus, it feels great. When it triples the price of your coffee, you want it to be better than it actually is.

Which is more fun?

Line Rider or the Sony Playstation 3?

Hint: the other might get you shot, cost you money and ultimately be disappointing.

(Warning: addictive time waster).

Sometimes, simple ideas, vividly executed, will defeat Marketing with a capital M.

The Zen of Venn

Zen1001There’s no line at my local hospital. No line for a flu shot.

Just down the highway, there’s a line in front of Pearl’s restaurant every night before it opens.

Why a line for lobster but no line for a life-saving flu shot?

Isn’t making what everyone needs the best way to succeed?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to satisfy a large need for a large group of people. The problem is that this leaves out the other half of the equation. Who’s looking?

The reason for almost all marketing successes is the overlap between the media (whether it’s a tv show, a commercial, YouTube or one high school kid talking to another) and the product. Selling beer during TV football, for example, is a successful matchup.

It’s not an accident that YouTube is filled with scatalogical humor. The people most likely to make YouTube videos like that sort of thing. Flu shots, on the other hand, are hard to market to the audience that needs them because that market (over 50, recently ill, small children) isn’t choosing to pay attention to the media that is talking about the shots.

Before you embrace your wonderful solution to the marketplace’s problem, first decide how many of consumers are choosing to listen to messages like yours. Are they listening in a medium you can afford?

The success of Wii

A long time ago, I posted about Nintendo’s choice of a name for the Wii.

Others have noted that there’s far less of a frenzy about the Wii than the new PlayStation. Sony is losing hundreds of dollars on every one they sell, supply is limited and, straight out of Jennifer Government, people are getting shot in the frenzy to buy the game.

And yet Nintendo hums along, with great reviews, plenty of supply and a long-term hit on their hands.

What’s up?

All marketers make choices. And those choices need to be consistent. Nintendo is not trying to reach hard core gamers, and so they’re consistently building a process that will lead to long-term success. Just as the Gameboy was disrespected for its technical shortcomings (but sold and sold and sold for a decade) the Wii is following a similar path. Just because it’s not a product for the loudest, most devout fans of gaming doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant product.

It still has a dumb name, though.