Weblog Entries for October 2005
October 31, 2005
How to spend your ad budget
Another reason why Kathy Sierra is on my must-read list.
"The burger joint isn't an amusement park. Most people's morning commute isn't the great arctic tundra."
"Once the commercials are off the air and your customers realize that your burger wasn't really all that great, that the service sucked, that your car seat is kind of uncomfortable and that the windshield wipers are too noisy, what kind of relationship do you expect to have with them?"
More Space - Rob's rousing chapter
The arrival of my hard copies of More Space, the book I've co-authored with eight other bloggers, has prompted to me re-read what others have written there. Today, I'm going to do a little trailer on Rob Paterson's chapter, Going Home. (You can read his essay online free, or order the book, at the More Space site.)
Rob's chapter is a great polemic and rousing stuff. I think some of us bloggers have learnt to tone down our rhetoric so as not to alarm the uninitiated - and it's fun to be reminded of the idealism that actually motivates some of us to keep this up.
Rob reckons that we've seen a version of the internet revolution before. He looks at how the world was changed by Martin Luther, Galileo and Gutenberg, and asks,
Who would have known then that a priest with a big idea, a man with a telescope, and a man with a new communication tool would come together to shake the world?Rob's point is that this is being repeated today:
Is this idea of going direct the same for us as Luther's big idea that man could talk directly to God?He goes on to look at examples of the sort of communities which are now possible, and which challenge conventional top-down notions of dealing with issues. One is an online health community for seniors on Prince Edward Island, where Rob lives:
Is not the new doctrine for organizations based on the observable working laws and designs of nature the same as Galileo's observations?
Is not the enabling vector a new type of communication device that is so simple and so inexpensive that it will give voice and hence power back to individuals and to their communities? Are we not standing at the beginning of a new reformation? Has the wheel of history turned full circle?
Within two years, there were more than three thousand members and more than fifty groups on PEI alone, and the network is spreading all over North America.Here's Rob's optimistic prognosis:
Initially, the most popular groups were in health. The health groups grew up at first as support groups. The ?rst was for people who had severe arthritis. Within months this group had become very expert. They were on top of the leading research and had lots of practical advice for each other. They provided not only moral support but also expert help. For a group for whom mobility was a challenge, the online aspect was a perfect fit. Many broke though their fears of the Web by taking lessons from other seniors in the Blogging 101 group.
Just as people at the end of the Middle Ages rediscovered the wisdom of the Classic world, so we are rediscovering the experience of tribal life. I don't mean by this that we will have to take up hunting and live in caves. For we have made a Great Return before and we know how it will play out. Renaissance men did not put on togas. What they did was to remember the wisdom of the Classic world that had been forgotten in a millennium-long dark age and applied this wisdom to the world of their time. So we too will begin to experience a new way of living and of being and apply this experience to our own time and to our own challenges.
David Burn at Adpulp marvels at the meteoric growth of Google's advertising. Who would have thought that their "fortune cookies" would fare so well against the creative might of Madison Avenue?
Those little ads - 12 word snippets of text, linked to topics that users are actually interested in - have turned Google into one of the biggest advertising vehicles the world has ever seen. This year, Google will sell $6.1 billion in ads, nearly double what it sold last year, according to Anthony Noto, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. That is more advertising than is sold by any newspaper chain, magazine publisher or television network
October 30, 2005
All brand and no business
johnmoore (no relation) is on the money, commenting on the demise of Song:
Hmm … the brand should never create the business … hmm.
That’s exactly what I thought today when I heard the news Delta was shutting down Song Airlines -- Song was all brand and no business.
Song was too busy creating a brand to think about being a business. Song was too busy crafting a brand ethos to think about being a business.
Song was too busy prescribing feelings than to think about being a business. Song was too busy designing signature cocktails and installing boutique Song stores in SoHo (NYC) to think about being a business. And because Song was busy working on and working in its brand, they built a brand, of which, the by-product was the creation of a weak business.
Should this really surprise us? Song, after all, was built by marketers so it’s only natural the branding elements would come before the business elements.
Now, where's the thought?
Davidreviews has a stream of it here. It's a fantasy in which a young executive creates a debit card that can be made to vanish at a touch. This, he explains to a colleague, makes it theftproof. So excited are they at this genius that they engage in a dance making the invisible card fall on the floor so they don't know where it is. (I think we're supposed to find this funny.)
At which point, the voiceover intones,
"At Barclays, we're always looking for new ways to protect you from fraud."Followed by the tagline
"Barclays. Now there's a thought."Err... sorry... where is the thought in this?
This is an ad which really has nothing to say at all. Is there any concrete example of a real innovation they're offering us? No. Just the waffly claim that they're always looking for new ways to protect us (except when they're busy squandering millions on this exercise in vanity). With the suggestion that they're a bit silly and overenthusiastic (which I suppose might be true of their marketing department). Back in the day, Barclays actually was an innovative organisation... it pioneered credit cards in the UK, and was ahead of the game in inventing cash machines. Now they're reduced to this shallow posing.
It's pathetic. In recent years, the best Barclays has managed is to run ads with Anthony Hopkins about how BIG they were. Then ones with Samuel L Jackson telling some fairy tale to let us know they were "fluent in finance". (That line lasted a year or two and now, it seems, has been quietly buried.) Now they've hired Bernard Hill (who played Theoden in LOTR) to try to add gravitas to the voiceover for this bit of flim-flam. This is an organisation with a serious case of Brand Narcissism. Every couple of years, a new pose, each more trivial than the last.
This is the sort of fatuous rubbish that gets me grumbling out loud at my television. For me, it's the mark of an organisation that's failing to engage in a real conversation with its customers. Instead, its high powered executives are preening themselves in the mirror and wondering if they look good in their latest promotional costume.
This sort of tripe can only arise from a marketing department where there's a complete failure of internal conversation. Having worked in the business, I can easily imagine the series of meetings in which agency and client pretend to themselves that this is a great idea. That it's "research-based" (which translates as, we wasted a ton of money on research, so let's spend millions on a TV ad to support the pretence that we discovered something.) And no-one had the nerve to point out the elephant under the table: the ad is childish nonsense.
And if a massive bank can't look at the state of the world and the real issues facing its customers and find something intelligent to say, then its got serious problems. This is the attention economy after all.
I was a bit surprised to find this was the work of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency that just won the British Airways account. BBH's site says "great creative work should be rooted in great strategic thinking". They might claim to have done that for some of their clients. But here, they've conspicuously failed.
It also reports that "The campaign and accompanying strategy to position the bank as customer facing and approachable has been masterminded by group marketing director Jim Hytner." I wonder if Jim is the brother of Nicholas Hytner, the director of The Madness of King George? In the time of his insanity, King George III carried on a conversation with an oak tree as if it were the King of Prussia. I imagine that his courtiers had to go along with the delusion. That's probably what it's like in the court of Barclays bank.
October 26, 2005
Leadership or fellowship?
Declan Elliott notes that
A quick search on Amazon.com returns 17,879 titles on Leadership, 21 titles on followership and 2,716 titles on Fellowship.Hmmm, interesting. So lots of people are into leadership, but following is well out of favour. Which could be a recipe for frustration, don't you think?
Now fellowship, that strikes me a theme that deserves much more of our attention and points to an escape from what could be a blind alley. In fellowship, I think we might allow leadership, and followship, to be things that move moment by moment from one person to another - and at best, maybe in fellowship we stop worrying about who leads and who follows. There are some great improv exercises to explore this territory.
At some point I may expand this to talk about how many of the conversations we're offered are about either being propositioned, or propositioning someone. For me, fellowship involves a less instrumental way of experiencing each other, something for which I feel quite hungry these days.
Lloyd's grooming review
Knowing Lloyd Davis as I do, I think his grooming products videolog, trailered here, is going to be entertaining. Especially part 7.
October 21, 2005
Rick Rappe at The Customer Service Survey points to this article by John Goodman and Cindy Grimm in ICCM weekly: Beware of Trained Hopelessness. Essentially, they speculate that fewer and fewer customers now bother to complain... so the old saw about their being 10 problem-sufferers for every explicit complaint is optimistic.
One of TARP's behavioral psychologists called this phenomenon "trained hopelessness". While not a technical term, it makes the stark point that the customer has been trained by the system to accept problems as a general business practice: Without prospect of change, customer don't bother complaining.One advantage for organisations tracking blogs is that they can pick up feedback from customers who aren't necessarily bothering to make a direct complaint. James Cherkoff and I have been setting up some reports for brands recently and they're proving a good way of getting more sense of what is and isn't working for customers - without the costs and delays of conventional market research.
October 20, 2005
What stops collaboration?
I stumbled on this article by Steven Coats: The conundrum of collaboration. It echoes a question I've run into a lot lately: since collaboration makes so much sense, how come it doesn't seem to happen more often in organisations? This piece offers a good summary of some of the standard traps.
One of the ideas that lodged in my brain at the recent Applied Improv conference was this: collaboration is a low status game. The offer to collaborate generally involves an opening up, a suggestion of vulnerability. Sticking to rugged individualism often feels safer. Of course, good collaborators get more done, but as Coats points out, they risk not grabbing as much kudos as those who play politics:
Many organizations are not built around a model that fosters collaboration. The people they recruit and hire are selected based on previous accomplishments, as well as attributes such as self-drive, competitive spirit, and ambition to get ahead. There may not be much discussion about or investigation into the candidate's collaboration history and capabilities.Part of the problem is (and forgive the jargon) the fundamental attribution error: it seems our brains are wired to make us emphasise character over context and thus invest too much faith in heroic characters over heroic behaviours (hence the ascendancy of those with the high status CVs). Coats puts it like this:
Put yourself in the following situation. You are one of two candidates being considered for a promotion into a higher position. You have always looked for opportunities to collaborate and have been part of many successful achievements. The other contender's profile doesn't focus much on collaboration. Instead it highlights a string of great accomplishments that this person has been directly responsible for throughout his or her career. From what you know about how promotions have been determined in your organization, would you feel like you are in the strongest position?He goes on to look at some solutions and I particularly liked this thought, a good caveat on thinking the answer lies in just setting a different bonus scheme:
The other route you can take to bring out more collaboration is guided by a different principle than the one previously mentioned. Rather than focusing solely on that which is rewarded, this leadership principle reminds us that what is rewarding gets done. That means that people will engage in behavior that provides intrinsic benefits, such as joy, fulfillment or personal gratification. People will collaborate simply because they enjoy it.I think this is on the right lines and I'll take the risk of being called a foolish optimist. It's too easy to get lured into working up another clever incentive scheme and miss the point: many incentives are counter-productive and obsure the power of intrinsic motivation. A point that a few rounds of good improv can make much more entertaingly than my blog post.
By the way, I have a feeling one of the reasons blogging is taking off is that it helps create a critical mass of people who are willing to drop the status mask and reveal themselves more... the rewards being more intrinsic than extrinsic for some of us...
[Hat tip to Chris Corrigan who prompted me to set up a deli.cio.us tag on dialogue, which is this article appeared on my radar screen]
Corporate Blogging Paper
How not to do it, part 94
Following on from Tom Coates' unpleasant experience with a fictional character posting comments to promote Cillit Bang... Katherine Stone finds a company using her blog on post partum depression to pitch its story, clumsily.
When I read the comments, they turned out to be written by someone promoting a screening service to help busy doctors identify patients with PPD. The person essentially wrote the same sales pitch for the three different posts and included a link to his business. That is indecent marketing as far as I'm concerned.Clearly, some marketing folks are on a learning curve when it comes to blogs. It's worth remembering that blogs are very personal spaces and clumsy sales pitches masquerading (at best) as conversation are going to backfire.
Where do people get the idea that there are no rules of etiquette when it comes to marketing? My blog exists to support women with PPD, and is NOT a free advertising service for all comers.
My friend Declan Elliott's blog has some great posts. I loved this story of his chutzpah in explaining himself to a CEO in 60 seconds. I also liked hearing about the latest blog-book project, The Real Meaning of Life.
I've been using BlogBridge as my default aggregator for several weeks now. They've issued new versions pretty frequently, and I've appreciated the little improvements with each one. The latest (2.5) has made some useful tweaks to the look and feel and I'm liking it a lot. There were some gremlins in earlier versions but these seem to have been sorted out now.
One of the big benefits of BlogBridge is the ability to synchronise my laptop and desktop over the web. This means when I'm on my travels, my laptop knows exactly which posts and feeds I've read and not read at home.
October 19, 2005
United Channel 9
I flew back from New York on United on Monday. I've done this trip with them 3 times this year and it seems to work out well. For one thing, their flights don't seem to get that full, whilst the BA trips from the same terminal look as if they are thronged. I get checked in and through security really quickly at JFK so it's all quite painless.
This time, there was fog at Heathrow and we ended up having to divert to Cardiff to get more fuel... where refuelling ended up taking over 2 hours. On the face of it, this could easily have been a bad experience in which I suppose I could have sat there thinking of ways to blame United. What redeemed it for me was United's Channel 9, which lets you listen to the cockpit's conversations with Air Traffic control. This is a feature which is, I think, unique to United.
Now ATC calls tend to follow a highly disciplined pattern, designed to keep them short and functional. But of course, little bits of human conversation and humour periodically slip in. And there was quite a bit of banter going on around the whole fog diversion experience, which we where sharing with several other planes making the same diversion.
So during the Cardiff diversion, I was able to hear the inside story, including the Captain's patient if slightly frustrated efforts to get the fuel truck to pay attention to us. So instead of relying on the somewhat stilted cabin announcements, I felt I knew what was really going on. And feeling like you're getting the truth makes a really big difference.
What United need to do is capture the openness of Channel 9 and get some of that spirit into its cabin announcements, which are very scripted and feel quite at odds with what I hear on the channel. And as a relatively frequent flyer this year, that scripting really starts to grate.
In fact, they could take the Channel 9 ethos and spread it through all their marketing. I guess that its recent problems have put United on the defensive, and I often feel there's an unreality to much of their marketing generally.
But Channel 9 points to a different way of going about things... and they should get more of that into their marketing. Blogging would be an obvious next step.
October 18, 2005
Open Source Marketing
James Cherkoff points to an interesting article by Bob Garfield in Ad Age (registration required): Inside the New World of Listenomics. It's about how marketing is going Open Source. My favourite bit is this paragraph about George Masters, who spent 5 months making a homemade ad about the iPod.
So why would a 37-year-old man invest a half year of free time to advertise somebody elses business? Masters answers the question with a question: Why does anyone devote time to the things he is passionate about?I also like JD Lasica's observation
"We're tired of the 20th-century model of being passive consumers of mass content," says J.D. Lasica, author of Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. "We're transitioning to a new kind of culture. More participatory, more open, more interactive where the locus of control passes."James also pointed me to this piece in Fast Company about how Naked are shaking up conventional ad agencies - part at least of what will be needed to survive in an Open Source world.
October 12, 2005
I'm off to New York again, to attend Performing the World over the weekend. Should be a lot of fun.
October 11, 2005
With my friends Mark Hodge and Alok Singh, I helped to host an experimental dialogue on Monday at The Hub. This continues my interest in ways for groups to create a deeper sense of connection.
I'm feeling a bit blogged out at the moment, so I'm glad that Julian Elve has done a post that gives a great personal account of what happened.
I really enjoyed the experience, which confirmed my feeling that people are closer to the possibility of deep connection than might sometimes appear to be the case. And hungrier for it than might be thought.
October 10, 2005
More Space - Nine Antidotes to Complacency in Business is being published on 25 October. I'm one of nine bloggers who've written chapters for this new book, which (as you might expect) is being offered in multiple formats. First, there's the book itself, which you can buy here for $24.95. Or if you'd like to take it as a free pdf, or in html, or audio format, then you need to go to the More Space website.
As the back cover blurb says, "Each author challenges the premise that places of business can only be cold and uninspiring. By sharing their own experiences they offer up ways for you to re-ignite passion and enthusiasm in your work."
This project has been in gestation for several months and I'm excited about it. My own chapter is called Simple Ideas, Lightly Held. In part, it's a crie de coeur against efforts to treat business, and life in general, as complicated rather than complex. The complicated worldview produces lists, dogmatic notions of best practice and excessive reverence for experts. The complex worldview, on the other hand, means we can enjoy the excitement and vitality of life created moment-by-moment - a game for all to enjoy, not just a knowledgeable elite.
Or something like that. The chapter is built around a series of exercises which you can do with a partner. So it's a bit more than just a read.
I'll be writing more about the book - and some of the other chapters - later.
October 9, 2005
Impact of Open Space
The more I experience Open Space, the more enthusiastic I become. So I enjoyed Andrew Rixon's post, showing the social network before and after an Open Space meeting.
One of my mantras is relationships before ideas. Many conference formats overemphasise the top-down delivery of content at the expense of connectedness. Open Space seems to allow the content and relationships to evolve together.
October 6, 2005
Andrew Rixon is another fan of silence in facilitation.
It is not surprising that many people feel uncomfortable with silence within groups, especially if you are the “leader” or “facilitator”. As Catherine Durnell Cramton has written in an article called “Finding common ground in dispersed collaboration”, silence has meant all of the following at one time or another:Another thing that happens in silence is that people are left wondering which of these (and other) meanings are right. And that introduction of uncertainty, and not knowing, can be very useful.
I strongly disagree
I am indifferent
I am out of town
I don’t know how to address this sensitive issue
I am busy with other things
I did not notice your question
I did not realise that you wanted a response
(I've been silent in this blog for the last few days... I hope you enjoyed it!)