July 24, 2006

Gary Hall Swims With Sharks

Two articles about a controversial, but always interesting, individual...
Thanks to Wally

July 21, 2006

Le Tour De France

In one of the single, greatest, individual efforts in all of sports, Floyd Landis overcame what should have been an insurmountable deficit to pull himself into third place in this year's Tour de France. He failed miserably the day before and then made up for it through willpower and determination. He will probably win. But that is not the story.

The story is that Americans had no idea. While it made front page headlines across Europe, Australia, and Africa, it was on page thirteen of the sports section in the local, metropolitan newspaper.

While bicycle racing is one of the less popular sports here in the States, the Tour de France is consistently one of the top two sporting events in the world each year. This year, its attendance and viewership were eclipsed only by the dramatic World Cup.

Take a chance to recognize greatness, even if it is outside the boundaries of daily life. Floyd Landis' legendary effort has already been forgotten by the mainstream, even though it will be remembered for decades by the spectators, commentators, and pundits.

There is someone out there, right now, inventing the next big thing, something that will change everything without an obvious connection to the big thing it will completely revolutionize. Remember that Henry Ford fellow?

Keep an eye on interests outside your industry, your world view, and your comfort zone. Perspective is always a good investment.

July 20, 2006

Painful, Costly Trends

According to the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, the number of elective cosmetic surgery procedures has increased 700% in the last decade, with minimally invasive procedures (like Botox) increasing an incredible 2800%!

They also note that Americans spent $16.7 billion on elective cosmetic surgery procedures last year - almost double the year before!

Wait, it gets better. It is estimated that 60% of last year's spending on elective cosmetic surgery procedures was financed!

Wondering where to spend those marketing dollars? Looking for a new market? The reality of unreality is waiting for you to introduce yourself.

July 19, 2006

All Of Them, Right Now

A hotel I stayed at recently had a switch by the bed that turned off all the lights in the room at the same time. You could crawl into bed, hit the switch, and presto - instant and convenient darkness. It was a little idea that solved a little issue. Mostly, though, it showed someone thought about what I might like to have as a guest.

I probably told more people about that switch than I did about the service, hammocks, or location - all of which were wonderful. Then again, lots of hotels have wonderful service, hammocks, and locations, but only one has that switch....

July 14, 2006

Young Blogging Punk

"Pretty cool. I am way too old to understand all of it."

That comment was recently made about this blog by a reader. Unfortunately, I think he is now an ex-reader. It opened my eyes, though. I have to wonder what he meant. Does he think this blog is really progressive and cutting edge, the newest of the new thinking? Or does he think it is unsophisticated and incompletely developed, unsuitable for matured minds?

Yet another example that gaining and maintaining an audience of any sort is all about appealing, but not pandering, to a particular view of the world.

July 13, 2006

Geek Death Match

Once you move past the overwrought Steve Jobs versus Bill Gates argument (and it is easy to do), AdverGirl brings up an interesting argument for thinking about how consumers use the things they buy and what happens when companies think their strategies and tactics for profitability are more savvy than their consumers are interested.

Lest we forget people use our products and services outside of our little proprietary universe (gasp!).

Exactly The Point

Jeff Jarvis's BuzzMachine contributes to the conversation with a great story about Dell and big business customer service. It is like I have said again and again, everyone in an organization has to convey the same story, because when any employee speaks, there is a customer listening.

July 12, 2006

Sincerity Is Overrated

Andy Monfried says...
    "I've been blessed, and had the good fortune to work alongside some VERY passionate, smart, caring, and most of all --- sincere people. I write about that fact--- it is included in my profile to the right of this post....it's a big part of who I am."

Good for him. As for me, I have definitely seen my share of talent, passion, and ambition, but I have also been witness to just as much debauchery, apathy, and opportunism. Those dark attributes have greatly influenced how I process the world.

The world is filled with awe-inspiring, captivating, and marvelous people, places, things, and ideas. They deserve attention - to have people wrap their hands, eyes, and minds around them. My experience, however, teaches me that there is an unfortunately substantial amount of people and organizations out there ready and willing to exploit those wonders and use them for purposes misaligned with the general good of human kind - using them only for their selfish gratification.

Be careful what you put into the world and how you do it. Ideas, like children, will represent you long after you have stopped involving yourself in their upbringing.

"Happiness - We're All In It Together!" (Billboard displayed in the movie Brazil.)

July 11, 2006

Creative Ego Question

Is it OK to say, "This is one of my best works!"?

In the world of Small Is The New Big, that statement seems perfectly polarizing. If you see your view of the world in the work, you instantly understand and become a fan. If not, goodbye - probably forever.

What are the risks of ascertaining your own abilities?

July 10, 2006

The... OUCH... Hard... YIKES... Way...

I learned an important lesson today. Starting in the middle of a concept and talking about it to the end makes you sound really smart, if not so smart that the concept can zoom right over your audience's head. That can be a good thing... or a bad thing.

When starting from an assumed position, whether it be philosophy or knowledge, you are going to come across as thoughtful or knowledgeable to your audience. This mostly happens because they are starting from a position of less experience.

If you want to bowl someone over, start in the middle. Being overwhelmed by information and trying to fit pieces of it together to make sense of the last half of a story is tiring and confusing. Of course, this has its place. It is like walking into a primitive village with a lighter.... By the time you bite off the head of a snake and chug down the local beverage, everyone will be ready to listen when you shout, "Follow me!". Both religion and Ron Popeil have recruited millions this way.

If you want to convert someone into a way of thinking or into an idea, start at the beginning. Fully grasping an idea makes people feel smart, empowered. They caught on - how agile! Successful long-term relationships usually happen when people have been convinced, not trampled.

As different as they are, both methods work. It all revolves back to the basic premise of knowing your audience and being in control of your rhetoric. Practice what you preach, but practice preaching it, too.

July 6, 2006

Two Is A Crowd

Were you ever the new kid in school? Do you remember how it felt the first day at lunch with all those groups of strangers sitting around, comfortable with themselves, not needing to pay you any attention?

That is exactly what having a gaggle of employees standing around feels like to customers, especially new ones. Employees will never be 100% productive and busy with work, and that is to be expected. They can, however, be 100% aware that there are customers waiting for service. Customers believe they are more important than your employees - and should be treated as such.

Learn it. Live it. Teach it.

July 5, 2006

Must... Have... Better... Gas!

I stopped in to fill up with gas today. For the first time, I noticed the instructions on the pump...

"1. Remove Nozzle."

"2. Select Grade Above."

While the nozzle was to the right of the instructions, they certainly did not tell you to "Remove Nozzle To Right". However, they did mention that you needed to "Select Grade Above" in order to choose a quality of fuel from the buttons above the instructions.

Breaking down the language, is choosing to use the word "Above" an upselling technique? Is the gas station making a clever attempt to influence the selection of a more profitable product? Are unsuspecting consumers having their minds tinkered with by psycho-semantic subterfuge?

Is it a real technique? Is it effective?

July 3, 2006

Worst Branding Idea Ever

In what is possibly the worst branding make-over in modern retail history, Cost Plus has begun to focus on itself as World Market. And to top it all off, the stores look, feel, and smell a lot like their primary competitor, Pier 1. If you think long and hard about it, you probably can not come up with a more generic, replaceable, and ineffective name.

Your name is... well, your name! It is the thing the world uses to talk about who you are and what you do. The more memorable and unique, the better. Would you remember Target, if it were called Slightly Better Than Other Mega-Stores Mega-Store? Or would your friends remember to look up the Old Fashioned Pharmacy you recommended to them?

Consider Ritz Carlton or Wild Oats. Their names alone convey their place in the world and begin to tell their stories. Before you choose a name, think about your story, your values, what you want to accomplish, and who you want to attract. If you have yet to set those outlines, you may have even more work to do.