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Which parts are you skipping?

The top of a mountain is rarely the best part.

You can watch "the good parts" of a baseball game in about six minutes. The web has become a giant highlights reel… the best parts of SNL, the best parts of a speech, the best parts of a book.

We can skim really fast now. This is a problem for marketers, because it means that if they don't make the good parts easily findable and accessible (and bold and loud and memorable) then the whole product becomes invisible.

As consumers of information, though, I wonder if the best parts are really the best parts. Yes, you can read a summary of a book instead of a book, or watch the trailer instead of the movie, or read the executive summary of the consultant's report instead of the whole thing… but the parts you miss are there for a reason.

Real change is rarely caused by the good parts. Real change and impact and joy come from the foundation and the transitions and the little messages that sneak in when you least expect them. The highlights of the baseball game are highlights largely because the rest of the game got you ready for them.

Don't skip that page, it's there for a reason.


The best way to overcome your fear of creativity, brainstorming, intelligent risk taking or navigating a tricky situation might be to sprint.

When we sprint, all the internal dialogue falls away and we just go as fast as we possibly can. When you're sprinting you don't feel that sore knee and you don't worry that the ground isn't perfectly level. You just run.

You can't sprint forever. That's what makes it sprinting. The brevity of the event is a key part of why it works.

"Quick, you have thirty minutes to come up with ten business ideas."

"Hurry, we need to write a new script for our commercial… we have fifteen minutes."

My first huge project was launching a major brand of science-fiction computer adventure games (Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, etc.). I stopped going to business school classes in order to do the launch.

One day, right after a red eye flight, the president of the company told me that the company had canceled the project. They didn't have enough resources to launch all the products we had, our progress was too slow and the packaging wasn't ready yet.

I went to my office spent the next 20 hours rewriting every word of text, redesigning every package, rebuilding every schedule and inventing a new promotional strategy. It was probably 6 weeks of work for a motivated committee, and I did it in one swoop. Like lifting a car off an infant, it was impossible, and I have no recollection at all of the project now.

The board reconsidered and the project was back on again. I didn't get scared until after the sprint. You can't sprint every day but it's probably a good idea to sprint regularly.

Learning all the time

My post on possible uses of education struck a chord with people. Different people are looking for different outcomes.

The first implication of this list: why did you stop educating yourself when you graduated?

Not you, of course. You read blogs and by that action demonstrate that you're looking for something new, or useful, or important.

I'm fascinated by the way the marketplace treats non-fiction books, particularly business books. The most popular business book of all time was purchased by less than 3% of all the people who could benefit from it, and read by a tiny fraction of that group. I'm guessing that less than 10% of the people who read this blog have read one of my books.

Books remind us of school, of chores, of homework. Give someone a DVD of a hit movie currently in the theaters and they'll eagerly thank you and watch it that weekend. Give them a book and it's a whole commotion. "I read that book!" they brag to you next week, when maybe they didn't really.

Which leads to The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, which is a shortcut in the best sense of the word. Not some sort of prurient blog list designed to draw traffic, the book actually makes you sound smart because the authors tell you what each book says… so you can get back to your DVD.

The #1 habit successful people share with me is this: They read books to learn. They do it often and with joy. It's cheap (or free, at the library or online) and portable and specific. Jack and Todd's book might be a good place to start the habit.

The customer is always wrong

Richard was telling me that he doesn't care what his customers think.

Instead, he writes and creates for himself. If his customers like it, fine. If not, fine.

This is the gutsy statement of an artist. I pointed out to him that he's had a long line of successful books, conferences and consulting gigs. "I don't care what they think," he said with a bit of contempt.

Fortunately for Richard, there's a high correlation between what he likes and what the market likes. The power of his conviction, though, is that instead of being joyful when he runs into a customer who thinks the way he does (and annoyed at those that don't), he's comfortable enough with his sense of art and craft and quality that it's enough. He does it for himself. He actively ignores the market.

If you're strong enough to do that, more power to you. If you do your art and the market rejects you, though, you need to make a choice. If your art has no market, it's still art. It just might not be a living.

Bonus links from all over

Wired interview about Tribes

Video interview about thriving in a down market

Bryan starts a web podiatrist testing/improvement service

Andy Nulman has a surprising new book out (about surprise and expectation and marketing)

And here’s a video interview I did with Loic two days ago at TED.

The difference between a show and a story

The Super Bowl hype is blissfully long gone, and lazy media outlets can no longer reprint press releases and dissect multi-million dollar wastes of time and money.

The lesson of these ads is simple. Putting on a show is expensive, time-consuming and quite fun. And it rarely works.

The Gatorade commercial, or the guy clipping his toenails or someone throwing a rock through a vending machine… it's all show biz, it's not marketing.

Marketing is telling a story that sticks, that spreads and that changes the way people act. The story you tell is far more important than the way you tell it. Don't worry so much about being cool, and worry a lot more about resonating your story with my worldview. If you don't have a story, then a great show isn't going to help much.

(And yes, every successful organization has a story, even if they've never considered running an ad, during the Super Bowl or anywhere else.)

Solving a different problem

The telephone destroyed the telegraph.

Here's why people liked the telegraph: It was universal, inexpensive, asynchronous and it left a paper trail.

The telephone offered not one of these four attributes. It was far from universal, and if someone didn't have a phone, you couldn't call them. It was expensive, even before someone called you. It was synchronous–if you weren't home, no call got made. And of course, there was no paper trail.

If the telephone guys had set out to make something that did what the telegraph does, but better, they probably would have failed. Instead, they solved a different problem, in such an overwhelmingly useful way that they eliminated the feature set of the competition.

The list of examples is long (YouTube vs. television, web vs. newspapers, Nike vs. sneakers). Your turn.

Which comes first, the product or the marketing?

Well, if you define marketing as advertising, then it's clear you need the product first (Captain Crunch being the only exception I can think of… they made the ads first.) This great clip from Mad Men brings the point home. If the Kodak guys hadn't invented the Carousel slide projector, Don Draper could never have pitched this ad.

But wait.

Marketing is not the same as advertising.
Advertising is a tiny slice of what marketing is today, and in fact, it's pretty clear that the marketing has to come before the product, not after. As Jon points out, the Prius was developed after the marketing thinking was done. Jones Soda, too. In fact, just about every successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first, followed by a great product that makes the marketing story come true.

If someone comes to you with a 'great' product that just needs some marketing, the game is probably already over.

Grave new world

Creativity loves a problem, but it hates a lousy audience.

If everyone around you is sure the economy is tanking, that the end is near, that time is up and the company is headed for the tubes, it's almost impossible to find a creative solution.

Creativity changes the game, whatever game is being played. "We're going to run out of cash by the end of the year," is accurate unless you count creativity into the equation. Then the accurate statement is, "Under the current rules and assumptions, we're going to run out of cash…" Big difference.

Creativity demands exposure to market needs, and insulation from market fears. Give it some time to work, some support, some breathing room. That's when creativity has a chance to change the game.

I’m sorry, we’re out of time

What do you do when the deadline looms?

I often hear blowhards on the radio, wrecking the entire interview because they don't know how to call it quits when the host tells them they have thirty seconds to wrap up. They try to say one more thing, one more thing, one more thing and they get hung up on and the message is lost.

I often hear presenters who always manage to need just two more minutes than the time allows. So, instead of exiting gracefully when there's ten seconds left on the clock, they either steal time from the next person or try to rush through six slides and their conclusion.

What a waste.

Do you save the most important part of the meeting for the end, when everyone is already standing?

Plan for the end.

Expect that the amount of time you've got is going to be the amount of time you've got. And then use a little less.

No one ever leaves a speech or a eulogy or a presentation saying, "I wish it was longer."

If the Groundhog understood this, winter would be a lot shorter.