Archives for posts with tag: Trust
Jobs and Wozniak in 1975

I wish I still had my hair...

Steve Jobs used to be just some nerdy guy with funky hair.

Mark Zuckerberg? Same.

Same with Jim Sinegal (Costco), and Craig Newmark (Craigslist), and Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and so on. They all used to be just plain, regular, you-and-me-type folk, with regular lives, in regular homes, with regular shoes, and regular problems.

Then one day, after a lot of hard work, they got big.

The thing about becoming big, and one of the most important aspects of keeping yourself there, is humility. What I mean is, knowing that in your not-so-distant past, you were NOT big and didn’t sit atop a pedestal looking down upon the general populace.

It is in respect to this level of humility and grace that I comment on Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image, marketing guru, social media visionary and all-around nice guy.

I was thinking about hosting some podcasts on my company’s website and was looking to get some direction on software, hardware, pitfalls, process, etcetera, so naturally I reached out to someone who podcasts regularly and whose podcast and blogs I subscribe to: Mitch’s Six Pixels of Separation.

I shot him an email in response to one of his blog posts and much to my surprise and amazement he not only replied to my email, but did so within 24 hours and provided a link to a “How To” posting on how he does what he does.

Mitch is a much sought after public speaker, the author of a highly respected book on social media marketing, president of a very successful (and busy) marketing company, and he took the time to reply to an email from someone he doesn’t know asking for help on how he does what he does.

That’s like getting batting tips from Mark McGuire, or financial advice from Warren Buffet. The fact that Mitch took the time to respond with contextually accurate and helpful advice to what I can only imagine would have been one of hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from a total stranger working for a company that isn’t even a blip on his radar is completely flattering and professionally astounding.

Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel

Smart guy. Smart book.

That says a lot about Mitch Joel.

I would highly recommend subscribing to his podcasts, his blog and most importantly, buying his book (I read it,really enjoyed it and am successfully putting into practice some of the concepts described therein).

Thanks again, Mitch.

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I’ve been chewing on this since I caught some of Barbara Walter’s 10 Most Interesting People of 2009 a week or so ago, and have to say that the entire show was a total sell out.

It’s shows like that where the focus rests solely on the celebrity flavour of the month/year that perpetuates the coffers for the loathsome paparazzi.

Let’s go through this list of potential Darwin Award Winners:

  1. Jacko’s Kids

    ... creeeepyyyy ....

    • I’ll give her this one – these kids, and the life that they’ve led to this point is fascinating…
  2. Jenny Sanford
    • A senator’s wife who found out her husband was cheating on her. Holy shit! Seriously?! My God, what is this world coming to!!? Unheard of!! How the frick is this fascinating? So not only has she been in the American national spotlight as “that poor woman”, now she’s involved in an in-depth interview to probe and expose her emotions and her take on it? Talk about rubbing salt in a wound… Come on, Bahbah, that’s weak… but wait, it gets weaker…
  3. Brett Favre
    • Again, what the hell is fascinating about a guy who can’t retire? He had his time, he’s still good, done. Why the hell do I care about why he didn’t want to retire? Next year will Jay Leno make the list? Lame.
  4. Sarah Palin
    • Ahh, Sarah. Brunt of SNL jokes for months, water cooler subject at american offices, spank bank entry for any number of political pundits, Palin is(was) fascinating, but not for what Bahbah interviewed her about. She was fascinating because she said the most ridiculous things in her quest to become Vice President and didn’t seem to learn how to NOT do it over and over again. Think about it, this woman not only wanted to be, but came pretty damn close to becoming the second-most powerful political figure in the world, and it was through endorsements and support from the general public!! THAT is what is fascinating! So, ok, there’s two out of ten… what next?
  5. Adam Lambert
    • Whatever. He can sing. He’s come out publicly. He wears too much eye makeup. He’s the Freddie Mercury of 2009 but sorry, Adam, you’ve been done before. The only reason Adam was on the list is because of the controversy around his rise to “fame” after not being chosen as THE IDOL. Yeah? What about Clay Aiken, or better yet, that dude that lost in the first season to Kelly Clarkson? Surely he’s up to something more than tuna sandwiches and bus rides! Get him on the phone!
  6. Kate Gosselin

    What's the point?

    • If I hear the name Kate Gosselin one more time… well, I won’t do much more than rant about it, but Sweet Christmas give it a rest already! Once again, a woman finds herself the victim of infidelity and the whole world is forced to sit through her pain and strength, her sorrow and her bravery, her … whatever. She treated her husband like an employee on national television, in an extremely stressful family situation, with an ever-present film crew, making money hand-over-fist, and now that’s coming to an end and mother’s everywhere are at a loss for something to do from 8-9PM Wednesday nights… You want fascinating? How about Octomom and the shit she’s pulled to get her share of the spotlight? She’s WAY more crazy than Kate, and has more kids in a weirder situation.
  7. Tyler Perry
    • Who? Must be an American thing… never heard of him. Sounded like he had a pretty average upbringing, now he’s an actor. Bravo. Next?
  8. Glenn Beck
    • Finally! Somebody who actually fits the criteria! He was a nobody until he started bitching about politics, and now he’s infamous for it. He’s got his own regularly scheduled show with tons of traffic, he gets lamb-basted and takes it, he dishes it out too. I thought Beck was the only LEGITIMATE entry on this list.
  9. Lady GaGa
    • Get lost. Lady GaGa is fascinating? No, Lady GaGa is a character played by a girl from New York. I call bullshit on that one. It’s an act! It’s a show! Of course she’s going to be different and unique, that’s what gets noticed! But that’s not fascinating! Bullshit.
  10. Michelle Obama
    • COME ON! Way to kiss ass, Bahbah. She’s the first lady, so what?

Sure, Lady Ga-Ga is a weird person and Adam Lambert could be called unique, but honestly, who gives a shit? Ever heard of shock factor? These people do what they do because they know it will get them press! That doesn’t make them interesting? No, it makes them glory-hounds! And the worst part of it is that BahBah fed into their megalomaniacal egos by showcasing them on her show!

I must be retarded because I just don’t see how Kate Gosselin or Brett Favre are more interesting than, say, you or me. I’m sure you’ve done some weird shit in your time, you still manage to do weird and fascinating shit now (although you might find it mundane, clearly Bahbah sees things differently) and honestly, REAL life – not the above listed celebratrocities – hands out way more interesting stuff.

I was just in Charlotte, NC for an extended long weekend that encompassed Black Friday and three thoughts stuck with me for the duration of my trip:

  1. Americans really know how to put on a sale.
  2. How does the U.S. stay in business?
  3. I’m getting fleeced by retailers at home.

I live just outside of Toronto and have a couple friends/co-workers that live in the states who continually comment on how expensive things are here. Living here you don’t notice because it’s the norm, but now I couldn’t agree more, especially after spending a stupid amount of time with my mouth wide open in the wine & beer section of a grocery store in Charlotte.

I cannot for the life of me understand why a bottle of Crown Royal, a CANADIAN rye whiskey, costs twice as much here as it does in the States. And how the hell can the Canadian government justify charging $36 for a 24 of Alexander Keiths (again, made in Canada), when 40 minutes from my house, in Buffalo, it’s $23.99 – AND IT’S AN IMPORT!? So let’s turn the tables – a case of Sam Adams Boston Lager in Buffalo runs about the same as Keiths $24, but here in Ontario where it is listed as an IMPORT, it’s $45. Cripes!

Nike Structure Triax

I'm making a run for the border

To the point of how can America stay in business, I am a runner and need new shoes. I went to my local Running Room and tried on a pair of $150 (pre tax) Nikes. Nice but pricey. I walked out of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Charlotte on Black Friday with the exact same pair of shoes for $48.69.

Black Friday or not, the regular price for the shoes was more than $70 less, add a $20 sale tag, plus a coupon for the weekend (not even tied into Black Friday), and I got me a new set of kicks for a steal. WTF?!

What kind of mark-up is that? What sort of import tariffs and taxes are Canadian retailers forced to pay in order to carry similar items in their stores? More to the point, why the hell is everything in the States so much cheaper? Volume discounts for retailers is one thing, but what if it’s a cross-border company that buys en masse to stock their shelves in both countries (Chapters, Best Buy, etc)?

Buying shoes (or any number of other items, for that matter) online just isn’t an option for me without first having tried the shoes (item) on – the whole “box of chocolates” thing – so shopping at the brick and mortar is a necessary first step…

I also wear glasses (yippee) and recently had a visit with a local optician, looked through their frames and was quoted $500+ for a new pair. Go online, the same pair is $210, lenses, coatings and shipping included. This scenario makes sense! The online store doesn’t have to worry about the brick and mortar overhead, the human capital costs, etc. But these exceptions don’t apply when you compare apples to apples, or storefront to storefront.

This is an issue we are facing at my current employer where we also sell to both Canadian and American clients (B2B) and are now revisiting our pricing and packaging strategies to target a different niche in our market. We don’t want to get burned by offering one person a better price than another because we know for a fact that someone somewhere will share this information to their peers and we’ll be up the creek.

But at the same time in order to appeal to this niche we need to take a different price/pkg approach… and this niche is on both sides of the border but is linked to the rest of our clientelle via word of mouth and industry contact. Sonofagun – so do we offer our product to one group at a lower rate or in a different package/configuration than the other just to tap this market niche, full well knowing that the new package is probably all the original purchaser wanted in the first place but wasn’t an option at the time of sale? How do we handle the potential flood of existing customers who will then want the base package because they feel it would save them money in the short term even though the product they have is functionally superior to the new package? Guess we’ll see soon enough…

For now, I don’t think I’m going to be buying anything soon on Canadian soil – sorry folks, but that’s the way it is. I just hope none of the Xmas gifts I’m going to pick up on Military Rd in Buffalo will need to be returned… Better idea, give a goat!

I can’t wait for Iron Man 2 to come out! Have I mentioned that I’m a comic-geek? In fact, I get stoked whenever I hear about another super hero movie coming out. And if it’s anywhere as cool as the first one, well…. ssshhhhyaww!

Being born in the early-70’s primed me to be one of those uber-excited chumps who salivates at seeing a preview for an upcoming superhero movie, courtesy of Mr. Stan Lee and his Marvel Universe (have I mentioned that I’m a big nerd?).

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet - my fave charater from Frightenstein

In an earlier life I was an extra on a number of TV shows, movies and commercials, and also helped the agency that represented me by working in their office assisting with casting. I got to meet a couple really big stars (Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, and the immortal Billy Van [RIP]) and some then-not-so-big stars (Jim J Bullock, Monika Schnarre, & James Marsden on the set of Boogie’s Diner to name a few) and got to understand the importance of continuity – ensuring that people, props, environment and storyline are consistent from shot to shot, and from camera setup to camera setup (i.e. Same amount of milk in the glass in the right hand from cut to cut – you get the idea).

Which brings me back to Iron Man.

WARNING! If you haven’t seen the movie, well, I don’t give a shit. It was really good and you’ve had plenty of time to see it before now, so tough noogie.

Near the beginning of the movie, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is injured in a terrorist explosion and wakes to find himself a hostage in a cave with a big glowing, humming, metal thing implanted in his chest attached to a car battery. The nuclear physicist/doctor/surgeon who put it in (also a hostage), tells him that it’s an electromagnet that is preventing the shrapnel in his body from entering his heart and killing him. Ok, sure, whatever, it’s a comic book story and that’s totally acceptable in my books and besides, the glowing chest thing is part of Iron Man’s identity, part of his brand, part of his story and reason for becoming Iron Man.

Robert Downey as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man)

See? There it is! It's the only thing keeping him alive! And it was built and installed in a cave!

Trouble is that was the ONLY time in the movie that shrapnel-part was mentioned. Later on, Stark upgrades this unit a couple times and even unplugs it at one point, but in doing so the only side-effect is a slowing heart rate (or so the audio illustrated)… no excruciating pain from little bits of metal being pumped around his veins or anything! And sure, he could have probably had all the pieces removed, but again, that wasn’t covered, and if he DID get them removed, why does he still need the chest thing at all?

That’s an inconsistent message and at the end of the movie, it stuck in my mind as something I didn’t quite like. It felt like they threw in the whole shrapnel thing to explain away why he has this thing in his chest, and then forgot they said it.

Now you might be thinking that this is a bit trivial and nit-picky and one of those things that the serious comic-book-geeks would get their mom’s on the phone to rant about and get the support they need to make a posting on the Marvel Complaint Board or some damn thing, but my point is this: if the thing in his chest was put there for a reason shouldn’t that reason be consistent throughout the story?

And that got me thinking about marketing messages and advertising. Notice anything lately that has struck you as being inconsistent with a brand or incongruous with what their brand stands for or that just plumb didn’t make sense?

Take Bell’s new-ish (ok, 2007-ish, but it still sucks) advertising and branding: wtf is with the words ending in er? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not tied into ANYTHING. So what’s the point? Where’s the link? Why do I have to think about the point or the link? And where the hell is this going? As with Iron Man’s chest thing, it looks like Bell just wanted to get a new something out there and forgot to explain it to the rest of us.

Compare that to Harley Davidson. They’ve been making bikes for over 100 years and they haven’t tried to tell anybody anything different or obfuscate their core message one bit. They create loud-ass, kick-ass, time-tested, well-built bikes and their evangelical tribe is fiercely loyal. Sure, they’ve dabbled into other verticals (take Buell, for example), but even then they still maintain a consistent and familial message, voice and theme.

Harley Davidson Iron 883

"Honey! How much room do we have on the line?!"

If there’s a reason for saying what you’ve said in an ad, great, but please don’t make me try and figure it out. And if you’re going to create a string of ads leveraging this same concept, even better! Repetition works, David. Repetition works, David. But again, please make it tie in somehow to your product/brand/solution/company/industry/tag/washing instructions, anything!

Look at your website, your ads, collateral, sales tool-kits, slide decks and anything else with your logo/brand on it and ask yourself this question: Does it all go together? Is there a consistent message or theme? And if there isn’t, where and when did the train leave the tracks, and how much damage did it cause?

Memories may be short for most things, but if you’re hoping for loyalty and return business from your customers, bank on that memory extending past the last 6-12 months worth of ad messaging (or in HD’s case, decades).

The last thing a company needs is a customer coming back to them with an invoice in their hand saying, “Remember when I bought this you said…”.

***

To completely discredit this post, I plan on seeing Iron Man 2 opening night. I’ll be standing next to the guy whose shirt says: “I’m with stupid”

Long live Stan Lee.

I hate traffic. I hate traffic more than almost anything. I say almost, because I’m sure there are 2 or 3 things that I would sell my soul to be rid of before traffic, but it’s up there.

My only saving grace is singing along like a moron to my favourite CDs (Kings of Leon, Diana Krall), whatever the latest Top 40 pop-crap is playing, and getting to some really great radio ads. Yes, I am one of the 13 or 14 people who actually listen to the ads, and lately I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few of them.

BMW has a couple of light-hearted ones about their Pre-Owned cars and how the uninitiated can’t tell the difference between a used and a new bimmer. The latest has a girl and guy on a first date and she doesn’t understand what pre-owned means, even after several attempts by the guy, so when she asks where they’re going for dinner he mutters under his breath “Probably somewhere fast,”. Funny. I actually laughed out loud the first time I heard it and still chuckle over it.

On the serious side, OnStar has got some really powerful spots that clearly outline the reliability of the service versus your cell phone. The one I heard this morning had a 7 year old boy push the OnStar button because his mother, who was driving, kept closing her eyes and was driving erratically. The operator directed police to the car and one can only assume it all ended well, but for those of us with kids, hearing that little boy in such a drastic situation really shook me. But then my inner cynic pipes up and I think, “Was that a re-enactment? I think they said it was audio from an actual call, but there’s probably a loop hole somewhere… Damn! Was I just duped?”

That last part is the sad part – where we, as a society, are so bombarded with so-called Reality TV and sensationalized news stories that we are programmed to automatically discount anything that sounds legitimate because it’s probably some marketing ploy.

That sucks on two levels:

  1. That marketing and advertising cannot be trusted.
  2. That I am a marketing and advertising professional.

Crap.

So I start to think about what I do trust from a marketing/advertising perspective and how I’m either contributing to increasing trust from consumers or detracting from it. Are my messages focused on helping people or are they focused on extolling the virtues of extra leg room and a DVD-based nav system? Am I being true to my customers or to my ROI?

In his book “The End of Marketing as We Know It”, Sergio Zyman suggests, and wisely so, not undertaking a campaign if you cannot forecast a positive financial ROI from it. But what about those intangibles that we marketers also have to deal with? How can you forecast the ROI from word of mouth advertising or a worldwide rave? How can you confidently pre-quantify the increase of sales attributed to your $200 video that gets viewed 300,000 times on YouTube? You can’t.

Somebody will chime in and talk about viral this or social that and tracking codes and all that is fine and dandy, but AFTER the campaign has started. Where do you go when you’re planning the campaign? How do you budget for it? What do you say to the guy who signs the checks when he asks what he’s going to get from it? How do you know you’re not about to blow a wad? If you’re good at what you do and you agree with what I’ve written above, the answer is easy. The answer is trust. Trust that the campaign you are planning is actually focused on your customer’s success/happiness/health/finances/family/security/future and not that your product now comes in a green box with a prize inside.

This leads me back to my inner cynic and the OnStar ad. Whether it was scripted, re-enacted or an actual excerpt from an emergency call is a moot point because it caused me to react to a situation I could relate to. It resonated in me. It spoke to solving a problem I thankfully don’t have yet, but could at any time by way of bullshit luck. Will it ultimately influence my next car purchase? Perhaps. Did I go online to see what models come with OnStar? Yes. Am I writing about it now? Will this blog get read and passed around and linked to? I hope so. I trust that it might. And I find that I trust the benefits outlined in the OnStar ad as genuine benefits that could help me.

What do your ads say to your customers? And what did those words cost you to say? Was the copy/media/reach worth the price?

Know how you can tell? If you have gained the trust of your customers, the guy signing the checks will know.