Some things to think about while the doorbell rings…
There are communities that have moved Halloween from today, because they don't want it to be on a school night.
There are communities that abhor Halloween, arguing that it is a day for Satanists and other ideas that are anethema.
And there are communities where the goal is to obtain as many chocolate bars as possible. (The hobo costume will always remain the official teenager get up, because you can make one in three minutes).
How did fruit end up as treat non grata? How did the few giant candy companies end up stamping out variety, selling giant bags of cheap chocolate instead? (Hint: there's huge pressure to do 'the regular kind' as many consumers/homeowners are afraid to stand out in this regard). A great example of peer pressure meeting the race to the bottom.
And in the last few years, how did a trivial kids' holiday turn into a multi-billion dollar bacchanal for adults, complete with ornate houses and bespoke costumes? Is it because of some well-orchestrated Halloween Marketers of America initiative? It just seemed to happen, didn't it?
My take: Marketing home runs usually happen because the market/tribe/community is itching for a void to be filled, not because a marketer committed some brilliant act of promotion or pricing. The art, then, is to pick your niche, not to freak out about how to yell about it. You can't make a perfect storm, but you can find one.
… doesn't mean he's right.
… or even well-informed.
Something to think about when dealing with a customer, a leader or even a neighbor.
It's easy to assume that vivid emotions spring from the truth. I'm not so sure. They often come from fear and confusion and well-told stories.
I know you say your media returns results better than anyone else's. I've heard that before.
I know you say that this stock is a sure thing, even better than gold. I've heard that before.
I know you say you'll work full time on business development even though it's hard work and there are distractions everywhere. I've heard that before.
I know you say that your promotional strategy for this movie is huge and we should run more ads and promote it more as a result. We've heard that before too.
The reason that people don't believe you isn't that you're a liar. The reason we don't believe you is that the guy before you (and the woman before him) were unduly optimistic hypesters and we got burned. We believed, we leaned into it and we got stuck.
If you catch yourself making a promise that's been made before, stop. Don't spend a lot of time and effort building credibility with this sort of promising, because it doesn't pay off.
Make different promises, or even better, do, don't say.
College costs a fortune. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of money.
When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions ("1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?") I think you have an obligation to say, "Sir, I'm going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…"
When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, "perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class…"
When you discover that one class after another has so many people in a giant room watching a tenured professor far far in the distance, perhaps you could mention the debt part to the dean and ask if the class could be on video so you could spend your money on interactions that actually changed your life.
The vast majority of email I get from college students is filled with disgust, disdain and frustration at how backwards the system is. Professors who neither read nor write blogs or current books in their field. Professors who rely on marketing textbooks that are advertising-based, despite the fact that virtually no professional marketers build their careers solely around advertising any longer. And most of all, about professors who treat new ideas or innovative ways of teaching with contempt.
"This is costing me a fortune, prof! Push us! Push yourself!"
Should you invest in TV, radio, billboards and other media where you can't measure whether your ad works? Is an ad in New York magazine worth 1,000 times as much as a text link on Google? If you're doing the comparison directly, that's how much extra you're paying if you're only measuring direct web visits…
One school of thought is to measure everything. If you can't measure it, don't do it. This is the direct marketer method and there's no doubt it can work.
There's another thought, though: Most businesses (including your competitors) are afraid of big investments in unmeasurable media. Therefore, if you have the resources and the guts, it's a home run waiting to be hit.
Ralph Lauren is a billion dollar brand. Totally unmeasurable. So are Revlon, LVMH, Donald Trump, Andersen Windows, Lady Gaga and hundreds of other mass market brands.
There are two things you should never do:
- Try to measure unmeasurable media and use that to make decisions. You'll get it wrong. Sure, some sophisticated marketers get good hints from their measurements, but it's still an art, not a science.
- Compromise on your investment. Small investments in unmeasurable media almost always fail. Go big or stay home.
And if you're selling unmeasurable media? Don't try to sell to people who are obsessed with measuring. You'll waste your time and annoy the prospect at the same time.
Ideas spread when people choose to spread them. Here are some reasons why:
- I spread your idea because it makes me feel generous.
- …because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.
- …because I care about the outcome and want you (the creator of the idea) to succeed.
- …because I have no choice. Every time I use your product, I spread the idea (Hotmail, iPad, a tattoo).
- …because there's a financial benefit directly to me (Amazon affiliates, mlm).
- …because it's funny and laughing alone is no fun.
- …because I'm lonely and sharing an idea solves that problem, at least for a while.
- …because I'm angry and I want to enlist others in my outrage (or in shutting you down).
- …because both my friend and I will benefit if I share the idea (Groupon).
- …because you asked me to, and it's hard to say no to you.
- …because I can use the idea to introduce people to one another, and making a match is both fun in the short run and community-building.
- …because your service works better if all my friends use it (email, Facebook).
- …because if everyone knew this idea, I'd be happier.
- …because your idea says something that I have trouble saying directly (AA, a blog post, a book).
- …because I care about someone and this idea will make them happier or healthier.
- …because it's fun to make another teen snicker about prurient stuff we're not supposed to see.
- …because the tribe needs to know about this if we're going to avoid an external threat.
- …because the tribe needs to know about this if we're going to maintain internal order.
- …because it's my job.
- I spread your idea because I'm in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others.
If you want to get elected in the US, you need media.
When TV was king, the secret to media was money. If you have money, you can reach the masses. The best way to get money is to make powerful interests happy, so they'll give you money you can use to reach the masses and get re-elected.
Now, though…When attention is scarce and there are many choices, media costs something other than money. It costs interesting. If you are angry or remarkable or an outlier, you're interesting, and your idea can spread. People who are dull and merely aligned with powerful interests have a harder time earning attention, because money isn't sufficient.
Thus, as media moves from TV-driven to attention-driven, we're going to see more outliers, more renegades and more angry people driving agendas and getting elected. I figure this will continue until other voices earn enough permission from the electorate to coordinate getting out the vote, communicating through private channels like email and creating tribes of people to spread the word. (And they need to learn not to waste this permission hassling their supporters for money).
Mass media is dying, and it appears that mass politicians are endangered as well.
This is my only public west coast gig this year… I hope you can make it. November 9th at the fabulous Zipper Hall. Full day tickets are here. Use discount code sethsblog. It seems there are only twenty tickets left.
Inexpensive breakfast plus one-hour interview tickets are here.
Traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses, are organized for efficiency. Or consistency. But not joy.
McDonalds, Hertz, Dell and others crank it out. They show up. They lower costs. They use a stopwatch to measure output.
The problem with this mindset is that as you approach the asymptote of maximum efficiency, there's not a lot of room left for improvement. Making a Chicken McNugget for .00001 cents less isn't going to boost your profit a whole lot.
Worse, the nature of the work is inherently un-remarkable. If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low.
These organizations have people who will try to patch problems over after the fact, instead of motivated people eager to delight on the spot.
The alternative, it seems, is to organize for joy. These are the companies that give their people the freedom (and yes, the expectation) that they will create, connect and surprise. These are the organizations that embrace someone who makes a difference, as opposed to searching for a clause in the employee handbook that was violated.
People who fear they will be hurt by a change speak up immediately, loudly and without regard for the odds or reality.
People who will benefit from a change don't believe it (until it happens), so they sit quietly.
And that's why change in an organization is difficult.