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Nostalgia is a basic human emotion

Kodak created a billion dollar industry by giving people a tool to feed their nostalgia. We don't take pictures because we want to know what we're seeing now… we already know that. We take pictures because it makes us feel good to know that years later, when nostalgia for that moment comes around, we'll be ready.

Marketers spend a lot of time on other emotions… joy, love, jealousy, insecurity, greed… but nostalgia gets overlooked. I think that's an opportunity.

Aside: when you're doing something important, like launching a big project, or a new company, or running some sort of campaign designed to change things, keep a scrapbook. Not a note book, a tool for writing down facts. A scrapbook. Include photos and quotes and clippings and events. Two reasons. First, you'll be glad later (I still have scrapbooks from some of my previous projects) and more important, because it will remind you that you're doing something important and that time is precious.

Your world vs. the world

Jerry reminds me of a story from the launch of the Permission Marketing book.

I recall having a conversation with the marketing folks at Simon & Schuster.  I complained that I had just returned from a road trip and didn’t see the book in a single airport book store.  I insisted that business travelers were the ideal audience.  They came back to me with a simple request:  tell me where you or Seth were going to be flying and they would make sure that the book was in the bookstore in that airport…

So often, you are not the customer for your product. Yet you market it as if you were. Showing up in your world (or the board's world your staff's world) is not nearly as important as showing up in the world of the person you're actually trying to reach.

Creating a Potemkin Village (online or off) in which people who know you see your product pales in comparison with being present in the world where your customers live.

Want to contribute a story to the updated Purple Cow?

In the fall, a new trim size edition of Purple Cow is coming out. The book will include a significant appendix, filled with stories from people like you. If you know a business or service or organization that deserves to be shouted about, I'd love to include it. Your help is really appreciated, and the people you write about will thank you.

Here's a sample from Bonnie:

www.soallmayeat.org is truly remarkable. Imagine going into a restaurant and seeing no prices on the menu. You might think that the food was really expensive, but that's not the case at the So All May Eat (SAME) Cafe in Denver, CO. The fact is that there are no prices on the menu because everyone pays what they can, many people pay more. There's no cash register, just an envelope that patrons get with their meal. In that envelope goes a few dollars, a fair price for the meal, a hearty donation or nothing at all. The envelope then goes into a simple wooden box. Everyone gets a great home made meal at a price they can afford. If someone can't pay anything at all they are asked to help out in the kitchen, serve some soup or clean up for an hour or so…and they are willing and happy to help out. It's not a free ride or a handout, it's honest work for an terrific hot meal. Founders Brad & Libby Birky not only make a difference by providing a free meal but they have also created thriving community of people who care and are cared for.

And here's one from Jay:

Two things are guaranteed at the remarkable DinTaiFung restaurant in Taipei: the extremely long line outside and the size/weight of their world famous steamed juicy pork dumplings. Each dumpling uses only the freshest ingredients, weighs a precise 0.74 oz, and has exactly 18 folds.  In 1993, NY Times named DinTaiFung as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.  Even with many outlets worldwide today, thousands of tourists still visit Taipei every year just to eat at its original location. One of the stories told about the restaurant owner is that he takes the tour buses to hear what people say about his restaurant.  One day, he found that bus stopped before reaching its destination and tourists were encouraged to use the restrooms so that they can avoid using the ones at his restaurant.  He went back and installed the most advanced toilets available in the restrooms and made sure that they were cleaned every 15 minutes.  Since then, the restrooms at DinTaiFung also became one of the most talked about topics for tourists.

Deadline is May 24th at midnight New York time.

Before you click this link to enter your story, please read the simple rules:

  1. It can't be about you or about an organization you are part of.
  2. It can only be 200 words maximum.
  3. It should be about something new and now and relevant. No stories about Abe Lincoln please.
  4. Please don't get all PR and pitchy on me. If you don't like to write, have a friend write it.
  5. Proofread!
  6. You get credit by name (and your url or @id if you want one)

You guys are so brilliant, my standards are high. No promises, except that I'll read each one. Thanks!

Eternal September

Our story so far…

Back in the 1960s, TV shows took great pains to catch you up on what had happened so far. Batman spent a minute or so recapping last week's story. So did The Fugitive. The thought was that while most people had seen the show just seven days ago, what about the people who missed it?

Fifteen years ago, someone coined the term, Eternal September. Because each September sees an entire crop of freshman showing up at college, you need to assume that you have to start teaching protocols all over again. Once a year, it's a whole new audience, and they need to learn the ropes.

The Internet has been stuck in September ever since. Every day, new people show up at your blog, on Facebook, everywhere. Every day it's a whole new crop that need to figure out what RSS is and how to subscribe. Every day there are people who spam their address book because it feels like a fine thing to do, then learn their lesson and never do it again. There are new people who need to learn the proper etiquette for interacting on your site. Can you imagine if the real world worked this way? If people walking into your store had never been to a store before? If drivers on the highway had never driven on a highway before?

It's going to be a long time before the medium stabilizes enough for the newbies to catch up, so the only alternative is to accept that it's always September.

A clean sheet of paper

The range and availability of freelance talent is greater than it has ever been before. World class designers, artists, illustrators, photographers, strategists, potters, copywriters, programmers–they're all one click away.

There are two ways to work with talent.

The first is to give someone as clean a sheet of paper as possible. "We have these assets, we have this opportunity, here is our budget, go!" That's a great way to build a house if you have a ton of money and brilliant architects.

The second is to give someone as strategic and defined a mission as possible. "Here are three logos from companies in other industries, together with the statement we want to make, the size it needs to be, the formats we need to use it and our budget, go!" If you do this, you're almost certain to get something you can use, and almost certain not to be blown away with surprise. Which is the entire point.

Confusing these two approaches is the #1 cause of client dissatisfaction when working with talent.

The strategic mission takes more preparation, more discipline and more difficult meetings internally. It involves thinking hard without knowing it when you see it. It's also the act of a mature individual, earning his salary.

The clean sheet of paper is amazing when it works, but involves so much waste, anxiety and pain that I have a hard time recommending it to most people. If you're going to do this, you have an obligation to use what you get, because your choice was hiring this person, not in judging the work you got when you didn't have the insight to give them clear direction in the first place.


Decades ago, a guy came to me with a nutty business idea. He was filled with energy and enthusiasm. "It'll cut through the market like a thresher through a wheat field," (actual quote). He practically shouted, "like a hot knife through butter."

This sort of energy is contagious, but without a plan, it may not be productive.

I still remember a guy who used to work with me who came to me with a grandiose plan for a book he wrote based on a TV show. He had two data points: zero, where he started, and one appearance on one talk show as a result of one pitch. Drawing a straight line between the two points, it quickly reached infinity. Of course, very few things (even online) reach infinity any time soon.

The problem with bravado is that it forces you to suspend reality when making your plan. Optimism is self-fulfilling, bravado can be toxic.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask”

Actually, it does hurt. It does hurt to ask the wrong way, to ask without preparation, to ask without permission. It hurts because you never get another chance to ask right.

If you run into Elton John at the diner and say, "Hey Elton, will you sing at my daughter's wedding?" it hurts any chance you have to get on Elton John's radar. You've just trained him to say no, you've taught him you're both selfish and unrealistic.

If a prospect walks into your dealership and you walk up and say, "Please pay me $200,000 right now for this Porsche," you might close the sale. But I doubt it. More likely than not you've just pushed this prospect away, turned the sliver of permission you had into a wall of self-protection.

Every once in a while, of course, asking out of the blue pays off. So what? That is dwarfed by the extraordinary odds of failing. Instead, invest some time and earn the right to ask. Do your homework. Build connections. Make a reasonable request, something easy and mutually beneficial. Yes leads to yes which just maybe leads to the engagement you were actually seeking.

Luxury vs. premium

Luxury goods are needlessly expensive. By needlessly, I mean that the price is not related to performance. The price is related to scarcity, brand and storytelling. Luxury goods are organized waste. They say, "I can afford to spend money without regard for intrinsic value."

That doesn't mean they are senseless expenditures. Sending a signal is valuable if that signal is important to you.

Premium goods, on the other hand, are expensive variants of commodity goods. Pay more, get more. Figure skates made from kangaroo hide, for example, are premium. The spectators don't know what they're made out of, but some skaters believe they get better performance. They're happy to pay more because they believe they get more.

A $20,000 gown is not a premium product. It's not better made, it won't hold up longer, it's not waterproof or foldable. It's just artificially scarce. A custom-made suit, on the other hand, might be worth the money, especially if you're Wilt Chamberlain.

Plenty of brands are in trouble right now because they're not sure which one they represent.

Trouble accessing gmail remotely

Here's an unrelated tech tip:

If you access Gmail using a program on your computer (like Mail.app or Outlook) sometimes you'll get an alert telling you that Gmail has rejected your password.

It turns out that there's a hidden link Google provides that lets you do a Captcha test to prove that you're a human. It doesn't change your password, it just resets the flag that Google was using to block remote access.

Anyway, it works for me, every time, and I figured you'd want to know about it. Please don't ask me other technical questions because I'm an untrained savant, unlikely to have any other information other than this.

Thanks. And good luck.

The best billboard in New York

2IMG_0244  The rules of a great billboard (great = cost effective) are as follows:
1. "Next exit"
2. EZ off and on
3. Free parking
4. Major thoroughfare
5. Take action now
6. Credible promise

Billboards are useful for building brand trust, but only if you run them for a very long time and over a wide area. In other words, it's an act of faith.

This billboard, on the other hand, probably started paying for itself before they finished painting it.