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The initiator

"I'm just here to learn."

Learning is fine. Listening is good. Consensus is natural.

But initiating is rare and valuable and essential.

How often do you or your brand initiate rather than react? How often do you tweet instead of retweet? Invent rather than exploit?

eBook design and motion graphics

If it's worth doing, it's probably worth paying to do it very well. If you're going to do a presentation or write an eBook, spend the money to do it right.

Paul Durban created this example of motion graphics. It's a lot easier to do now than it used to be, so you get a lot for the energy and money you invest. If you can't be there in person (with an eBook, for example), the energy you get from great design really matters.

If someone sends me a PDF that's just a word file, I rarely make it past the first page any longer. Time to raise your bar.

“All I do is work here”

Over the past few months, I've had quite a few interactions with several people who work at a (previously great) brand.

One person will email to ask me for a favor or a connection, and I'll point out that just yesterday, I got three emails, all spam, from three different people at the organization either selling me something irrelevant or sending me a press release I didn't ask for.  And the unsubscribe button doesn't work. And I've unsubscribed ten times before. When I pointed this out, he said, "Oh, that's those guys. I'm not related to them, all I do is work here. If you don't like getting that stuff, you should take it up with them."

Then, a few days ago, I heard from someone in a different group at the same company, asking for help with a project she was working on. I explained that the last time I helped someone in her group with a project, I was misquoted, my time was wasted and they violated whatever trust we had. Susan said, and I'm quoting precisely the same line, "All I do is work here. They pay my salary, but I'm me, not them."

No, Susan, you are them.

The reason your brand is falling apart is because so many of your colleagues are saying the same thing, denying the same responsibility. Consumers don't believe (or care) that there are warrens and fiefdoms and monarchies within your company. All they know is that you leverage that brand name every day, as you have for decades, but now, instead of using that brand to polish your reputation as an individual, you're being forced to accept responsibility for the actions of others.

Do you really think someone who worked for Bernie Madoff will go far with this line? "I'm not Bernie, I just worked with him every day and took a great salary when times were good…" Not sure what the difference is. It's even worse in your case, because you know what's happening. You know, but you don't want to do anything about it.

If you're not proud of where you work, go work somewhere else. You don't get the benefit of the brand when it's hot without accepting the blame of the brand when it's wrong.

Win, place or show?

One of the biggest brands in the world is getting ready to go online, and they're aiming to not win.

Sure, they've been online all along, but now it's become clear to them that the web is a real thing, and that a placeholder website and a few gimmicks aren''t sufficient. They're trying to generate online income and respect and audience.

Now, the choice: The safe thing is to organize to show. Showing up without glaring error and a major meltdown is something you can organize for. You say, "well, if everything goes well, we'll be in the top ten in our industry, and perhaps we'll hit the top three." In our industry. That means that when the overall global winners online are tallied up in a list at the end of the year, there's no way you're going to be on it. It means that the very things that made you one of the most powerful brands in the world will be missing, because all you're striving for is pretty good.

The challenge of shooting for a win is that it brings apparent risk with it. Not actual risk (the actual risk is in being mediocre, overlooked and on a slow death spiral) but apparent risk. The thing is that you overcame that risk when you built the original brand. You didn't set out then to be pretty good, good for your category, sort of important. You set out to matter.

So, Mr. Big Brand: organize to win. To do anything else is a waste of your time, your talent and your momentum. Ignore apparent risk, buy the assets you need to matter, avoid the compromises that your competitors have made and do something worth doing.

Making it up as you go along

Just wondering: Is there any other way to make it up?

Four videos about noise, social and decency

Here are four new videos from the Tom Peters Amex/Open session I did last year. Enjoy. (If you want to, you can press all four at once and it will sound like a UN debate)…

The reason riding a unicycle is difficult

…is because it's sudden. Unicycling

All the time you're practicing, you aren't actually riding. You're falling. Then, if you don't give up after all this failure, in a blink, you're riding. No in-between. Failing…riding.

Learning things that are binary like this is quite difficult. They are difficult to market because people don't like to fail. They're difficult to master because people don't like to fall. "You don't get it, but you will," is a hard sell.

Here's a great parenting tip: the best way to teach your kid to ride a bicycle is to wear Rollerblades. I can teach just about any 7 year old to ride a bike in ten minutes using this technique. The reason? For ten minutes, they are riding the bike while I hold them up. Once they get over the speed and steering hump, it's easy. The hard part was the falling.

If your goal is to have a mainstream service or product, then your opportunity is to create non-unicycle moments for your customers, employees and students.

Am I the only one distracted by apostrophes and weird “quoting”?

When I get a manuscript or see a sign that misuses its and it's and quotes, I immediately assume that the person who created it is stupid.

I understand that this is a mistake on my part. They're not necessarily totally stupid, they're just stupid about apostrophes.

It's a moral failing on my part to conflate the two, but I bet I'm not the only one. What else are your customers judging you on?

It's not just about being a grammar stickler. The fact is, we're constantly looking for clues and telling ourselves stories based on limited information. It shouldn't matter, but it does.

Social norms

The math for handshakes is difficult. You have to stand, look, squeeze, time and end in just the right way or it's weird. Skip the handshake or do a six-second version and people look at you funny.

Interpersonal relations have had thousands of years to develop. Online, there's been no time.

There are people who tweet in a way that rubs you the wrong way. Marketers who build businesses that seem scammy to you, or build websites that feel wrong. I get plenty of email from people that just doesn't feel right, whether it's in ALL CAPS or just difficult in tone or approach.

How do norms get formed? I think it's simpler than it looks: we interact with people who use the norm we use. We follow or read or hang out with people who use the same social constructs we do.

There might be people at the party down the street who are quite comfortable with each other and the things they're doing with or to each other… but you'd hate it. So you don't go.

Cliques form, which become communities and then, eventually a norm arrives. People like us like people like us.

If you're not attracting the people you want to be attracting online, perhaps you're not acting the way they do.

Welcome to island marketing

If you run a business on a small island, every interaction matters and every customer is precious.

There's a finite number of people you're going to be able to sell to, and every person you interact with knows everyone else, so you always have to be on your best behavior. You can't say, "tough" and then go on to the next person. You can't run ads that churn and burn through an endless supply of naive prospects. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and on the island, that impression matters.

Consider an airline in Chicago that can bully and bluster and greedify its way through an endless supply of business travelers, and compare them to a short hop carrier on Martha's Vineyard. The Vineyard airline knows that people can always switch to the other short hop airline or the ferry, and they also know that the folks they serve have power, because there aren't an endless supply.

As you've probably guessed, like most things in our ever shrinking world, all marketers are now on an island.

The island perspective is the Zappos model. Every interaction is both precious and an opportunity to delight. Marketers no longer have the money or the platform to harass and promote their way to success by burning through the market. Instead, we have to act like we're on an island earning and then nurturing a permission asset.

Through this lens, banner ads and various pop ups make even less sense than they used to. So does the insane act of outsourcing the random dialing of businesses to do telemarketing spam. We used up those resources a long time ago.