September 29, 2006

World's Highest Paid Professional Athlete Retires

His salary approaches $50 million. With endorsements, he will make over $100 million this year. He is the first professional athlete to become a billionaire.

He is watched by almost 400 million people each time he performs with a cumulative annual audience of over 60 billion!

He has won 7 world championships during 15 seasons of competition (including 5 in the last 6 years) and is in position to win another one before he retires.

Now at 37 years old, ostensibly at the peak of his prowess and abilities, he is stepping down.

Did you even notice?


September 28, 2006

You Look Pretty Good In That Dress

It used to be the case that marketers would exhaust every effort to make you feel better about yourself in order to push a product. Stretching the truth (lying), overstating benefits (lying), or even stooping to the use of eye-fooling photography (lying) were are common techniques.

Perhaps the marketers took over product development or perhaps the product developers had their marketing caps on, but there is a new feature available on some HP digital cameras that allows you to make yourself feel better without a single lie being told by a single marketer. The technology actually slims down the subject of the photo. You heard it right - the camera makes you skinnier! HP claims the camera "can instantly trim off pounds", so maybe the marketers are still up to their their old tricks, after all.

Most interesting side effect: You end up lying to yourself and everyone who sees your photos while the marketers go to sleep with a (mostly) clear conscious.


September 27, 2006

Environmentally Conscious Graffiti



What are all the hip kids doing these days? Marketing their products on the streets, generating word of mouth, of course!

Using pressure washers and urban soot, there has been a trend to "clean up" dirty city walls and sidewalks by adding advertising artwork. The most infamous are Vision Media's campaign (top right) for the 2006 Lotus Awards and O&M/London's Ultimate Fuel promotion (bottom right) for BP.

As with most art, even etching commercial messages into dirt had its origins somewhere. This trend is usually linked with British graffiti artist Moose and his chemically etched Smirnoff reverse stencils (for which he was promptly disparaged and fined, mind you).

It is brilliant that people are finding ways to gain attention while still bringing to light an issue of social consciousness. Those city bits are pretty filthy. Hopefully, local governments and homeowners associations will find cleanliness to be a higher virtue than homogenicity.


September 25, 2006

Hogwash!

Customer surveys are great ways to figure out what your customers like or would change about your products, services, and people. Lots of companies use them to show off inflated statistics, but do they ever accomplish their ultimate goal - change? A new survey says no.

Do you use surveys to allow your customers to tell you what they never will face to face? Do you use the surveys to identify areas of improvement or to pat yourself on the back?

Lying to yourself only results in lying to everyone else.


September 21, 2006

Congress Bans Horse Meat


... and calls the process of the "proud animals" being slaughtered "barbaric". Is Congress making subjective, ethical judgments on the value of a species? Have they considered what goes on in any abattoir?

Actually, it overturns a bill put into law by President Bush two years ago enabling horses meeting certain criteria to be exported to Europe as food animals. The law allowed government-held, wild horses (about 20,000 of them) to be purchased, or as lawmakers called it "adopted", by the public. This was designed as a business opportunity, giving ranchers the ability to buy low from the government and sell high to Europe.

After their session, all the legislators retired to the Congressional cafeteria for a hearty luncheon where a mixed grill of beef, chicken, and lamb was served.

The Star-Telegram details it further with some interesting, and possibly out of context, quotations.

The Onion brings their perspective by saying, "I support this ruling. We shouldn't be allowed to eat horses, dogs, or anything else we can race for sport".

A prime example of why it is not always the action but, instead, the perception that matters.


September 20, 2006

I Used To Feel Guilty, But Now I Realize Microsoft Isn't An Easy Target Because Of Their Size, They Are An Easy Target Because Of Their Incompetence

Microsoft released their new, iTunes-assassinating, world-dominating, vertically-integrated, proprietary-file-selling, line of mobile media players and software, called Zune. They blew their horns and released doves into the air. Then it broke.

Zune is being rolled out to replace the ubiquitous Windows Media Player and to take on the formidable iTunes and iPod. Of course, Microsoft built in the most obvious feature to ensure an easy transition from the old player to the new one, right? Almost. They did manage to make the product and the packaging both look like bad, design-school, Apple knockoffs, though. Remember, Microsoft is involved.

The old files from Windows Media Player are locked up by security devices inside the program to accomplish digital rights management (DRM). DRM is the effort to control distribution and piracy of copyrighted materials which became popular after websites such as Napster, Limewire, and Kazaa had teenagers sharing their entire music and movie libraries over the internet. In typical, pathetic, Microsoft fashion, Zune is unable to play any of the protected files from Windows Media Player (i.e. all the media files a person has on their computer and would want to transfer to the new player).

Let us recapitulate. Microsoft invented Windows Media Player. Everyone used it and amassed huge libraries of music and movies. Microsoft was being left behind in the market by Apple. In order to compete, Microsoft invented Zune, the replacement and upgrade to Windows Media Player. Zune is unable to play Windows Media Player files because of Microsoft's own overreaching DRM program and their inability to compete in the lifestyle market (iTunes was released in January, 2001, by the way).

Now for the ironic part. Microsoft's J. Allard dismissed the incompatibility consequences, noting there are several third party programs available to work around the DRM problem. Was that not the big issue! First they try to control distribution and use and now they are advocating working around those controls? Poor, confused, badly handled Microsoft marketing - again.

You can tell yourself several stories about today's tale, but there are really only two conclusions to be drawn about the process of creating a remarkable product your customers will love.

1. "See, even a global megacorporation like Microsoft can make mistakes. This is complicated stuff. If we know about the problems and offer some solutions, everyone will still love us."

2. "Wow, Microsoft really screwed up. I'm glad our global microbrand (pronounced: small business) thought about how our product would affect our customers before we built it."

Buy an iPod.


September 19, 2006

Lest We Forget

"Reverence for Life does not allow the scholar to live for his science alone, even if he is very useful to the community in so doing. It does not permit the artist to exist only for his art, even if he gives inspiration to many by its means. It refuses to let the business man imagine that he fulfils all legitimate demands in the course of his business activities. It demands from all that they should sacrifice a portion of their own lives for others."

- Dr. Albert Schweitzer, from Civilization and Ethics


September 18, 2006

Fairly Odd Parents

The "cool" parent is rarely the "cool" parent because he or she is any more hip, trendy, permissive, or liberal than the "uncool" parent. The "cool" parent is the "cool" parent because he or she interacts with the kids - with frequency, with understanding, with perspective, and without bias.


September 17, 2006

I'm Not Stupid, It's Still Broken

That phrase may also be the best insight into the customer experience we have heard in a while. Customers are never wrong, not because they hold onto the money end of the transaction, but because, if they are unable to use your product, what good is it? If your customers believe your website, design, interaction, or people are malfunctioning, then they are.

Yes, always.


September 16, 2006

Land Ho!


Have you ever wondered what the ultimate in products that solved none of your problems and fulfilled desires you had no idea existed in your head could be?

It is the inflatable, climbing iceberg, of course.


September 14, 2006

I'm Not Stupid, It's Broken

That may be the best blog headline ever. It comes from the teenage blog In a perfect world Lepregnomes roam freely.

The site has no lifestyle advice, nor will you find any quirky tidbits of news. It does represent the true spirit of what web logs are all about, though. It can be a little sugary, but read it and think about it conceptually before you judge it. She writes what is on her mind, tells a good story or two, and has a good time letting the world know what she is thinking and why.

Unabashedly.

Everyone should communicate so openly and honestly.


September 13, 2006

Meticulous Adjustment

There is a young man standing outside the automatic doors of a market, hands on his waist, leaning forward ever so slightly, examining with utmost concentration, peering with intense focus. He is an employee. Walking back and forth in a triangle, looking like Groucho Marx without a cigar, he triggers the mechanism that opens the doors. Then he reaches up with some eccentric-looking tool, inserts it in the mechanism, and twists the tool a few times.

Triangle, twist. Triangle, twist. Triangle, twist. There are at least three people watching him, curiosity plastered across their faces. He is utterly indifferent. Triangle, twist. Triangle, nod. He disappears inside.

When is the last time anyone at your organization took the time to adjust the automatic doors? That young man took a considerate, prideless action in order to ensure a flawless customer experience. Do you think his manager asked him to do it? Doubtful. It was, most likely, a function of his personality fundamentals. The market benefited from having him as a part of their culture because their culture supported his unique, ingenious effort.

Precisely adjusted doors may not be as remarkable as the $18.69 jar of Himalayan banguberry jam on the top shelf in aisle nine that has a viral internet marketing campaign behind it, but every small detail considered reduces frustration by at least twelve times the effort required to address it in the first place. Does your culture support the creation of a better experience? The better question is, "How does your culture support the creation of a better experience?".


September 12, 2006

Advertising Doesn't Work, But If You Do It This Way...

... it still doesn't work.

"People have learned to distrust advertising. But, if you use [insert foolproof technique being sold here], you will set your advertising apart from the thousands of ads we all see."

That quote is from an article on advertising effectiveness published in a pharmaceutical industry journal (the name of which is left intentionally unmentioned as a sign of blatant disrespect). It went on to detail several advertising and copywriting methods that "work every time".

Here is a tip they left out: If you decide to tell a story about how horrible and broken something is (like advertising), at least give your readers the intellectual respect to wait one issue before contradicting yourself and trying to sell them your services. Interestingly enough, the company that contributed the article was absent from the journal's advertisements. Of course, their phone number, website, e-mail address, and a brief description of their business were right there at the end - just in case someone wanted to discuss the article, surely.


September 11, 2006

Famous Social Ideologues: Joan Of Arc, Che Guevara, Paris Hilton

“I’ve always wanted to be a separatist. You know, a revolutionary, living on some secret edge of society, passionately giving all my thoughts and efforts to a cause I’m convinced will free the minds and bodies of thousands of innocents. I’d love it if I could walk into a repressed village, my tight band of trusted, fellow fighters behind me, and then bite the head off of a snake, chug down the local beverage, and yell, “Follow me!”. Whew... that would be awesome.

The problem is that I have no talent for things like that. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And as for the level of risk involved, well, I’m completely averse and have too many responsibilities. Then I look at Paris Hilton and think, hell, she wanted to be famous and didn’t have any talent, either.”.

The point is there is no reason reality should interfere with your dreams. Your reality, on the other hand, may not support your dreams, so it might need to be adjusted slightly or recreated altogether. Keeping the crease in your Seville Row slacks is pretty tough on the secret edge of society.


September 8, 2006

List Of Convenient Excuses To Avoid Change


1. "That will never work."
2. "That said, the labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions you put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society."
3. "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"
4. "Well, if you had some real-world experience, then you would understand."
5. "I don't think our customers will go for that, and without them we'd never be able to afford to try this."
6. "It's fantastic, but the salesforce won't like it."
7. "The salesforce is willing to give it a try, but [insert major retailer/corporation/partner here] won't stock it."
8. "There are government regulations and this won't be permitted."
9. "Well, this might work for other people, but I think we'll stick with what we've got."
10. "Our team doesn't have the technical chops to do this."
11. "Maybe in the next budget cycle."
12. "We need to finish this initiative first."
13. "It's been done before."
14. "It's never been done before."
15. "We'll get back to you on this."
16. "We're already doing it."

And the all-time favorite...

17. "We'll let someone else prove it works. It won't take long to catch up."

All of these were actually overheard in discussions about (what I think were) pretty good ideas.

Thanks to Seth for the conversation.


Best Search Engine Optimization Advice Ever

If you have a hard time finding you, so does everyone else.


September 7, 2006

Mold For Your Fruit

Every so often, a trend pops out at you. It may even seem downright unavoidable. The train of thought runs you over before you have a chance to think about it. This week has revealed such a happening.

Here are three slightly scary examples of the progressing passion for premier produce!


Vegiforms are plastic molds inside of which fruits or vegetables are grown. As they grow, the fruits or vegetables are pressed against the mold and when they are removed, out comes an eggplant elf, or perhaps a cucumber clown.


Disney, through its Imagination Farms division, is launching the Disney Garden brand of produce. More or less like any other fresh, Florida-grown consumables but with stickers of beloved Disney characters plastered all over. They quote a grandmother who believes that she will be able to have her granddaughter shiver with the same level of enthusiasm over the Disney-laced produce as the young girl does over hot chocolate and candy.


Finally, there is the CBS partnership with EggFusion to laser engrave 35 million eggs with the broadcast company's eye insignia and catchy phrases to promote their television programming. Examples of the taglines include, but unfortunately are not limited to, "Crack the case", "Hard boiled drama", and "Shelling out laughs".

Feel free to shake your head in disbelief on behalf of everyone who has yet to hear of these.


September 6, 2006

In Case You Went To Bed Early And Forgot That There Is At Least A Little Truth In All Humor

"Anybody here from Wisconsin? All right, put down the cheese for a second. I got to talk to you. Listen to this: A guy in Wisconsin, he created a ball of twine that weighs 19,000 pounds. Nineteen thousand pounds, a ball of twine - and guess what, girls? He's single."

- David Letterman

"There's a watch for Tropical Storm Ernesto. That's the name: Ernesto. See, even the hurricanes are getting smarter. They know a Hispanic hurricane has a better chance of getting into the country."

- Jay Leno

"Apple has launched a recall on several models of Mac laptops because the battery can overheat and catch fire. Experts say a Mac fire is just like a PC fire, except it's more hip and condescending."

- Conan O'Brien


September 5, 2006

The Elite Take On The Effete

Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics professor and lexicographer, has written a new book titled Talking Right in which he puts forth an interesting theory about political power. He espouses that whichever party controls the language of an issue will inevitably hold power over that issue. This is because the opposition is unable to speak except in terms already created by the party in power.

While politicking has commonly become known as a marketing exercise, Dr. Nunberg's theory is impressive because he brings to attention the fact that language is the singularly most powerful resource we have as human beings. It is a tool of influence and a weapon of insight. Used well, your loves swoon and your enemies cower.

Phrases such as the inflammatory "death tax" offered in place of its more modest cousin the "estate tax" leave permanent images in the minds of decision making voters. Do you want to be the one who supports the "death tax" in an election year?

In this age of technology and instant information (which is frequently incorrect, or worse, half correct, because it is compiled for expediency instead of accuracy), words are still used to persuade and discuss. They will be for a long time.

Until all the bugs are worked out of that telepathy thing, you should consider what your words are telling people - on your website, in your correspondence, coming out of your mouth, or better yet, coming out of the mouths of others for which you are responsible.

Words are the currency of the persuasion economy, so you had better manage your money well and especially watch that exchange rate when you cross over the border.