Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Every Sunday is the same

Please don’t show me graphs that place the days in order, in a bar chart.

I know it’s convenient, but it’s useless.


Every week I get a chart like this, and every week Wednesday is after Tuesday (and Tuesday’s on the phone with me). Highlighting web traffic in this way is not helpful. All it tells me is that once again, the weekend was sort of slow.

Or consider this chart, the standard comparison display, from Google Analytics.


This chart is only useful if both months begin on the same day–once every seven months, give or take. Why isn’t the computer smart enough to line the dates up for us?

Week on week and month on month matter a great deal online (and off). Daily charts, on the other hand, just confuse things.

The uncanny valley

Tom points us to this fascinating concept. It’s called the uncanny valley and it goes back as far as Freud.

When you get too good at faking it, people freak out.

We love cute dogs, cute monkeys, clairvoyant websites, smart voice mail systems.

But we get totally wigged out when a website knows too much about us, when we start talking to a voice mail attendant like she’s a real person or when a photo or a robot is just too good. A magician is fine, an actual mind reader we burn at the stake.

The relevant issue here for marketers is what happens when our databases and predictions get too good. I don’t want the hotel to automatically serve me the same breakfast as last trip, or for the doorman to pretend he’s my friend just because he read a database entry.


Why cartoons work

Tom Fishburne has a new book
out, and you should take a look if you’re seeking a new way to
think about marketing, your brand, or your colleagues. The whole tour is here.

Andrew Kaufman’s book does the same thing, but in a totally different way–with text that has the same power of a great cartoon. Thanks, Andrea, for sending it to me… I loved every word of it.

Cartoons work because they’re not monologues. Even though the medium
is one-directional, a dialogue takes place. In between the panels, in
between the talk bubbles, the cartoonist demands you fill in the blanks.

This call and response gives the reader far more of a jolt than a
paragraph in a book could. Even better, it gives the cartoonist the
confidence to proceed boldly. He knows you’re there, volleying with
him, interacting with the idea as you read it.

Marketers are taught from the beginning to grab the microphone and
never let it go. We can learn from authors and cartoonists and talk
show hosts that sometimes you gain more power when you let the other
person feel engaged.

You get what you pay for

If you don’t want spam in your inbox, never respond, never buy anything. Not even if it’s a good deal.

If you don’t like TV commercials featuring loud aggressive announcers, don’t buy what they’re selling. Ever.

If you don’t want people ringing your door asking for donations, don’t give, no matter what.

If you think politics is too nasty and not focused enough on creating value, then don’t donate to a candidate that’s nasty, even if you agree (and even better, call or write and tell them why).

If you don’t like bait and switch marketing, where promises don’t match the product, don’t buy it.

If you don’t like snarky, angry blogs, don’t read them.

If you deplore the lousy service at big chains or certain airlines, don’t shop there, even if it’s cheaper.

There’s a new asymmetry, with loud consumers able to connect and actually have an impact.

We’re all hypocrites, and we get what we pay for. The market is astonishingly quick at responding to what consumers do (and incredibly slow at reacting to what we say).

The first law of mass media

Organizations will work tirelessly to de-personalize every communication medium they encounter.

Radio ads used to be live, personal and spoken by an individual.
TV ads used to feature actual people, demonstrating something, usually live.
Phone calls involved a live speaker, talking, with permission, to another person.
Email used to be honest interactions between consenting adults.
Facebook pages (and Wikipedia, too) were built by people, not staffs.
Twits came from real people, and so did instant messages.

One by one, the mass marketers have insisted on robocalling, spamming, jingling and lying their way into our lives. The pronoun morphs from "you" to "me" to "us" to "the corporation" …

The public works tirelessly to flee to actual interactions between real people, and our organizations work even more diligently (and with more leverage) to corporatize and anonymize the interactions.

The irony, of course, is that an organization with guts can go in the opposite direction and win.

My name is Seth Godin and I approved this message.

‘Where to’ might not be as important as ‘how loud’

Here’s what they say to you when you graduate: "What are you going to do now?"

And here’s what they say to you when you’re about to leave on vacation: "Where are you going?"

In marketing (and thus, in life) it might be a lot more important to know, "How are you going to do the next thing?" or "How are you going to do your vacation?"

Direction is drilled into us. Picking the right direction is critical. If you don’t know the right direction, sit tight until you figure it out.

The hyperactive have trouble with this advice. So they flit like a hummingbird, dashing this way and that, trying this tactic or that strategy until something works big, then they run with it.

What we’re seeing, again and again, is that both of these strategies rarely work.

Organizations that sit tight tend to get verry comfortable with sitting, and they don’t move when they need to move. They want proof that the direction is the right direction, they study it, consider it, test it, and the next thing you know, they are fourth in a three-person market.

Organizations (and leaders, and followers) that flit have a similar problem. They’re so good at flitting, so happy with it, that they continue to flit even when a decent path shows up. (Classic Dip behavior). No direction is perfect, so we play with a strategy for a while, but you know what, flitting is more fun, so we go back to that.

The alternative is to do your best to pick a direction (hopefully an unusual one, hopefully one you have resources to complete, hopefully one you can do authentically and hopefully one you enjoy) and then do it. Loudly. With patience and passion. (Loud doesn’t mean boorish. Loud means proud and joyful and with confidence.)

No flitting, no waiting for proof. Just consistent, overwhelming performance in pursuit of a vision you believe in. That’s far more important than which direction you chose in the first place. And yes, I think it’s a marketing decision, because the market embraces ‘how.’


More vs. enough

Lesley reminds us of Herzberg’s work on hygiene.

It’s not just theory, it’s a vitally important marketing concept. It’s easy to believe that joy lives on a simple curve. If you give me more of what I want, you give me more joy.

If one baseball game is good, season tickets are better. If $300 an hour for consulting is good, $400 is better.

Improved = more.

It turns out, though, that there isn’t just one curve, there are two. The second one is about hygiene. Not just being clean, of course, but being in an environment in which certain requirements are met. All the farm-fresh groceries in the world won’t make you happy if your kitchen is filled with bugs. A high-paying job that delivers a screaming boss, no job security and a home life fraught with tension isn’t a stable place for most people. Not because the money isn’t there, but because basic "hygiene" needs aren’t being met.

We see this with computer hardware and software (crashing is a hygiene issue). We see it with thrift stores for food (freshness, or the appearance of it, is more important than money for many people). And we see it with every human resource issue.

Next time you try to grow market share, while it may be tempting to lower price or offer more features, perhaps it’s worth considering addressing unfixed hygiene issues instead.

Monkeys with megaphones

Jack points us to this regularly updated collection of inane, indecipherable or insulting comments from YouTube.

When will it get better?

Now that everyone has their own channel, their own newspaper, their own station, it’s pretty shocking how low the average has sunk. The question is: will it be so noisy and offensive that the rest of us just tune it out completely? Do you care enough to dig through the pond scum comments to find the pearls? My guess is that few people do. It’s like most cell phone calls… not a lot of people listening, just waiting for their turn to talk.

On a closed, non-anonymous site I get to use, I’m noticing that the quality of comments continues to increase. I don’t think people are dumb. I think ease of use combined with anonymity and vanity just makes them seem that way.

[Tim sends us to this powerful extension that boots out the coarsest comments.]

The decision before the decision

A friend sent me a business plan the other day. He outlined four or five elements of the project he was launching and wanted my feedback on each.

In our haste to get started, we jump ahead.

He’d already decided to launch a project. To make it a non-profit. To build it on a scale of a million dollars a year. To do projects that would involve certain types of growth but avoid others. To include primarily live events instead of online or media properties. He’d also decided not to create a self-propelling movement, not to be tribe-focused and not to be huge (or tiny).

That’s a lot of decisions to make before you start.

Someone I met has a big idea. He asked me, "What should I title the book so the publisher will promote it?" There’s a book? There’s a publisher?

Your choices used to be astonishingly limited. Now, they’re relatively infinite. Not just the choice of what color to make the logo, but the whether or not choices. Perhaps you don’t need a live conference. Perhaps you don’t need to write a book. Perhaps you don’t need to start a non-profit. Perhaps you can spread your ideas and generate impact with more speed and more power but with a lot less traditional overhead.

I’m probably wrong, but making the decision before you make the decision seems backward.

Beating the status quo

[Updated: Upending a finely tuned machine: It’s pretty clear that this post and the one before were seen by practitioners of click advertising as just plain stupid. If you read them the way they read them, that interpretation is entirely possible, and I apologize. My intent was to point out that we’re creating a culture of surfers who just don’t click on ads, which has far-reaching effects for our medium. For those that saw some other intent, I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.]

My last post about ads as tips led to a firestorm in my inbox, so a few thoughts:

1. I’m not suggesting click fraud, far from it. Just as you’re more likely to go to a restaurant that advertised in a magazine you like, you’re more likely to click on an ad that lives on a relevant page you liked. Click fraud is a whole different game (primarily because the clicker benefits).

2. Much more important than that is thinking about the status quo:

The way that text ads work is this: you pay by the click. Then, after someone clicks, you get a chance on the page they land on to sell them something (a product, a service, signing up for a free newsletter, whatever).

The goal of the marketer is to have no one click on the ad EXCEPT for people who intend to buy. In fact, clever marketers try to sneak in ads that are unappealing enough that only the truly motivated will actually click.

And so, given the status quo, you beat it by getting fewer clicks and converting the ones you do get.


What if it became common for popular pages to generate lots of clicks? What if some of those clickers were less motivated?

Well, under the original status quo (TV thinking) this is good, because you got a chance to immerse someone in an entire page you designed. In other words, a chance to convert mild interest into big interest.

Under the current status quo  (click thinking) this is bad, because you paid for a window shopper.

My point was that if everyone started clicking, clickthrough rates would go up. For a while, there’d be an imbalance, and sites would make too much and advertisers would pay too much.

But then, advertisers would use the landing pages to start converting. They’d adjust to the new status quo, to seeing a stream of happy clickers who came through because they liked the page they were on. And they’d get better at converting those folks (something that doesn’t happen now, because only the hardcore click through). Do you see the benefit? If more people convert, the budget goes up. The spend can increase because converting mild interest (which they don’t see now in a rare-click world) into sales is profitable.

I think the most robust ad environment for the web is one in which more surfers give permission to more marketers to make their case. And one way to get that permission is to have a culture in which surfers agree to "pay" attention in exchange for great content.

Who wins?

Surfers, who get more great content and might actually learn about something they want to invest in.

Content providers, who get more money in the short run and in the long run, as more ads convert more people.

Advertisers, who can begin to reach the unreachable non-clickers.

The irony is not lost on me. The people who so desperately interrupt everyone all the time are now squealing because I’m recommending that more people pay attention to their offers.