Halloween is a month away. And over the next few weeks, a lot of cheap chocolate is going to get bought in preparation for the ringing doorbell.
Cheap chocolate is made from beans picked by poor kids in dangerous conditions.
And cheap chocolate is made from beans that don’t even taste that good, but come from more hardy trees, so it’s more reliable to grow.
Some of the poorest people in the world raise cacao beans, and the market is driven by the low bidders. The low bidders are the folks who have no room for flexibility in their supply chain because the end product they sell is so price sensitive. For forty years, it’s been a race to the bottom, one that has led to plenty of ignored pain.
On the other hand, expensive chocolate turns the ratchet in the other direction. The folks who make the bars, particularly those who do direct trade, keep paying higher and higher wages. They keep children out of the system. And they encourage their growers to use the tastier artisanal Criollo and Trinitario varieties, keeping them from extinction.
The race to the top often creates more winners than losers. That’s because instead of seeking to maximize financial returns at the expense of everyone in the system, they’re focused on something else.
It’s worth remembering that if someone knows how to do something, that means, with sufficient effort, you could probably learn it too.
You might not be willing to put in the time and effort, but it’s learnable.
“I went to art school. That means that everything I can do with a pen you can learn to do as well.” Alex Peck.
A checklist to get you started—you can either do the same thing or a different thing…
More of the same
Get the word out
Doing something different
Change an element of what you do
Raise your prices
Lower your prices
Make it better
Tell a different story
Serve a different customer
Enter a new segment
Change the downstream effects of your work
Make bigger promises
Get better clients
Do work that matters to someone
When anyone has the ability to announce breaking news, urgent updates, RIGHT NOW, steal attention and emergencies, then sooner or later, many will do just that.
Attention is scarce, scarcer than ever, and we’ve given everyone a machine that can steal attention, and a keyboard that can be used to steal even more.
The race for cheap, unearned attention is a race that can’t be won. As soon as someone gains the lead, someone else will lower their standards and take a shortcut to get even more. The players have already surrendered their self-esteem, so it’s simply an escalating hijack of trust. And so we have dark patterns, once-respected media outlets with shameless headlines and an entire industry based on clickbait, come-ons and trickery.
It’s pretty clear that there’s an alternative. A chance to work toward the top instead. To deliver anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. The opportunity to create remarkable products and services for a focused audience, stuff so good that people want to talk about it.
This is marketing. To choose to race to the top and then to do it well.
That’s something worth building.
Electricity is a ratchet with leverage. Once communities have access to a little electricity, a solar lantern, say, they quickly discover that they want/need more electricity. The productivity increases create more income which gives them more money to buy more electricity. The leverage that this productivity and income give them (combined with the actual power at their disposal) creates a one-way route toward the future.
The same thinking applies to a personal career.
The first speech you’ll give will be difficult. The tenth one will be easier. Each speech, well-delivered, creates more demand for more speeches. Each speech given gives you more leverage to give better speeches. Better speeches create more demand…
This is the opposite of shoplifting. Shoplifting isn’t a ratchet. The system actually pushes back harder and harder the more you do it. And it has no leverage.
Some businesses work at scale because they’re ratchets (they cause motion in one direction) and they’re able to reinvest from that ratchet to create more leverage. Amazon is certainly the most shining example of this simple process.
But it can also work for the local university. A little learning creates demand for more learning. Useful degrees as a label for effort offer leverage to those that receive them, and the demand for more learning and more leverage gives the university resources to expand and do it even more.
When in doubt, look for the ratchet and look for leverage.
PS A new episode of my podcast Akimbo is out this week. I think it’s an episode worth checking out.
But in fact, just about everything is a portrait.
It’s our temporary understanding of the world as it is, not an actual experience of it.
We see things through our filters, match them to our expectations and live out our story of what we expect and why. We build a narrative around every interaction we have, and that narrative is rarely as accurate as we’d like to admit.
It gets easier to work our way through a situation if we preface our retelling with, “the way I experienced what she said…”
HT to Paul.
Democracy is a marketing problem.
Health is a marketing problem.
Climate change is a marketing problem.
Growing your organization, spreading the word, doing work you’re proud of–these aren’t engineering problems or economics problems. They’re marketing problems.
That’s because humans make choices. If we live in a culture where people are free to choose, we’ve offered control over our future to others.
When humans make choices–that’s marketing. Marketing is the difficult work of telling a story that resonates, of bringing a consistent set of promises to people who want to hear them.
If you want to change things, it helps to understand how humans make choices. And if you’ve got a change in mind, I hope you’ll spend the time and effort it takes to get better at bringing your story to the people who need to hear it.
I’m thrilled that we’re launching the eighth edition of The Marketing Seminar today. My bestselling book This is Marketing (more than 250,000 copies sold worldwide in less than a year) is based on this workshop. Every time we run the seminar, it gets better and our participants find what they’re looking for. If you want to join the 8,000 people who have found a path forward, today’s the best day. Look for the purple circle to find a discount.
Marketing isn’t about shortcuts, hustle or deception. Marketing is the art (and the science) of serving the people you seek to serve, to do better work by finding and satisfying needs. Marketing is the practice of making things better by making better things.
Click here to find out more.
Supposedly, going against the grain is really difficult.
It turns out, though, that it’s far more dangerous to cut with a rip saw, a blade that goes along the grain. It often leads to a botched project. When you’re cutting across the grain, you know exactly what to expect and won’t get surprised by a patch of resistance you didn’t expect.
The same thing goes for sailing. It’s way easier to sail diagonally across the wind than it is to run with it.
The story we tell ourselves about cutting across expectations is probably more difficult than the actual work.
It’s pretty easy to know what you’re doing when you’re doing something that you’ve done before.
Follow the path.
It’s a lot more difficult when the task ahead is not quite the same as what you’ve done before. When wayfinding is required.
That’s a different skill. That’s the skill of finding the common threads, seeing the analogies and leaping over the crevices. Knowing how to do something you haven’t quite done before.
Which sort of knowing is more scarce?
Which is more valuable?
It’s absurd to trim trees like this.
There are high power lines.
There’s a helicopter.
There are cables.
Do the math.
It turns out, apparently, that a swinging chainsaw is far safer than having men and women climbing through trees with ropes and saws. We don’t notice someone falling out of a tree and breaking an arm (or worse) because it doesn’t make good TV. And if you assign 100 people to go out into the dense forest and expose themselves to this risk, it doesn’t feel nearly as fraught as the crazy helicopter option, even if it turns out to be safer.
Often, that’s our instinct. To pay the persistent, consistent, significant price of deniable small dangers and avoid even the feeling of the big loss, even if it’s actually less dangerous.