Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

A modest proposal: 21,900 commercials for the price of 1

In Ideas on January 30, 2009 at 10:53 am

This Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday!, 30 second TV spots during the game will go for $3 million. That’s just for airing the spots and doesn’t include production.

Three million dollars to talk to consumers for 30 seconds. Not listen to consumers. Not even dialogue with consumers. Just talk to your consumers.

Here’s a proposal for using that money differently:

1. Identify 60 people: 50 states + DC + 9 from the following countries:

Brazil, China, Dubai, UAE, England, India, Israel, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa

Men, women, old, young, rich, poor, etc., etc.

2. Give them each US$50,000

Ok, stop right there. You just gave $50,ooo to an out of work factory worker, stay at home Mom with medical bills or a recently laid off finance guy. Stop here and you’ve probably already won. That’s $3 million.

3. But also give them each a video camera. Could be one of those Flip cameras, what are they, $100?

4. Ask them to do one, 30 second interview every day for a year. The question: “What does ‘America’ mean to you today?”

Let’s do the math:

60 people x 365 interviews = 21,900 thirty seconds spots

21,900 thirty second spots = 182.5 hours of interviews

Now you are not only listening to 182.5 hours of consumer feedback, you are sharing it with the world. Some of the interviews will be dull, uninteresting. But some – 100? 1,000? 5,000? – will be insightful, impactful and will travel the world via social media.

The entire concept will create what David Meerman Scott calls a World Wide Rave.

It’s more time consuming that producing one 30 second spot. But it lasts a lot longer because it’s not a spot, it’s an idea. Whether you sell soda, beer, financial services or cars, spreading an idea, engaging and listening to consumers is going to be a more successful strategy than just talking for 30 seconds.

Advice For Young PR Pros

In Insight on January 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

I thought I would change things up a bit today, and instead of looking outward at a campaign or trend, I would shine the light on the PR industry. Specifically, I’d like to share some learnings from my 10+ years as a marketing communications professional. I don’t think of these as being “tips” or “tricks,” these aren’t shortcuts to success. This is advice for someone who wants a career, not just a job.

So, here are Six Suggestions To The Young PR Professional:

1. Listen

When you are starting out you want to impress your colleagues, your boss, your client and the media with your knowledge, ideas and understanding.  I get that, it’s natural. But you will learn a lot more, and be appreciated a lot more, by listening. Not just hearing, but really listening.

Listen to reporters and producers. What do they need? What are your client’s pain points? How can you help your superiors?  You can only learn the answers to those questions by listening. I’ve been in PR for more than a decade and I learn more from listening to a Junior Account Executive than I do from hearing myself talk.

2. Write

We live in a 24/7, Social Media shorthand world. But the oldest of old skool skillz, writing, is still incredibly valuable. Yes, you should use proper grammar and spellilng, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I mean being able to articulate your point of view in a coherent, logical manner that is both persuasive and brief. That’s a skill that is appreciated and effective.

3. Give

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of calling the media when you need them for a story. Ok, that’s business. But how are you helping them when there isn’t something in it for you? Try calling up a reporter sometime and saying, “This has nothing to do with any of my clients, but I know you write about X and thought this might be helpful.” Now repeat that five times before you ask them for something. See what happens.

4. Think

Now, more than ever, the PR profession needs thinkers. People who can come up with relevant, unexpected and compelling ideas. Not just PR ideas, but big, game changing ideas. PR pros are busy, we have a lot on our plates, but find a little time every day to think, learn, listen, read.

5. Be Positive

The PR profession can be exciting, fun and challenging – but it isn’t easy. You can work tough hours, have demanding deadlines and in reality you have  three masters – your boss at your agency, your client and the media. You are beholden to all of them, and their needs don’t always align. It’s real easy to get overwhelmed. The best way to deal with all of this? Have a positive attitude and remember, you aren’t a neurosurgeon or air traffic controller. Those people deal with real crisis. A press release with a typo is unfortunate; missing a deadline is disappointing. But you are not dealing with a crisis.

6. Be an expert

You are asked to do many things as a PR professional. Be creative, be good with clients, communicate well both verbally and on paper. You have to be a jack of all trades. But real value comes when you are a best in class expert. It could be in just about any subject. But if you know more than anybody else at your agency about a given subject, you become really valuable. Again, the question is: Do you want a job, or a career? If the answer is the latter, become an expert.


Thanks for giving me your time, I know that is the most valuable commodity you have and I appreciate you giving some to me. I’d love to talk to you and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to me at sportspr[at]yahoo[dot]com.

The U.S. Postal Service Should Expand, Not Conract

In Insight on January 29, 2009 at 10:07 am


Yesterday the U.S. Postal Service warned they are thinking of cutting service in the wake of a negative balance sheet. Here’s the key passage from that article:

Postmaster General John E. Potter, in testimony before a Senate subcommittee, warned of a possible worst-case scenario: eliminating the requirement to deliver mail six days a week to every address in America.

Maybe it’s just me, but my reaction is: Do us all a favor, deliver mail just twice a week.

To borrow from John Moore at Brand Autopsy and his “Would You Miss” Series: If the U.S. Postal Service stopped delivering mail one day a week, would you miss it?

Like the newspaper industry, the U.S. Postal Service has misunderstood what business they are in. They aren’t in the physical mail business (or at least shouldn’t be), they are in the information distribution business, just like newspapers are (or at least should be).

Where is it written that the U.S. Postal Service can only sell stamps and deliver physical mail? (Maybe that is written somewhere, I really don’t know, but you get my point). 

It seems to me that threatening to stop service one day a week is a short term remedy that really doesn’t solve the problem. If they are in a jam because people are sending less mail, how does reducing service solve that problem?  Cut it back to two or three days a week if that’s the route you are going to do. Now, that may be a problem for businesses and if so we enter a whole new conversation, but how many citizens really need to get mail six days a week at home?

The other, more interesting route, and one the U.S. Postal Service and many newspapers seem unable to make is: If they are in the information distribution service, how else can they distribute information in a way that has real value?

The Story Behind Burger King on Twitter

In Insight on January 28, 2009 at 11:01 am

Regular readers of Eyecube will recall my Twitter conversation with @TheBKlounge  and the subsequent discussion on the politics of Social Media transparency that featured thoughts from a whole host of really smart people. Not long after that I started having my suspicions about the person(s) behind the @TheBKlounge Twitter account.

Well, today we know the truth. Well played, sir. 

As a participant in the Mad Men on Twitter experience I appreciate the effort and execution. I would be very interested in hearing from Burger King or their agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, for their thoughts. I’m also eager to hear more from our erstwhile King, who promises to reveal more in the days ahead.

Drumming Gorillas and Techno Eyebrows

In Innovation on January 27, 2009 at 5:15 pm
I can feel it, in the air tonight.

I can feel it, in the air tonight.

Ok, those wacky funsters at Glass and a Half Full Productions (Cadbury) have done it again. First it was the “In the Air Tonight” drum solo by a Gorilla. Now, this:

And of course, everyone is talking about it. But this one isn’t working for me (and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really dig the Gorilla bit either).

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

Great job on making content that gets talked about and shared, but I’m a little disappointed that they seemed to go back to the well for round two. A little music, some unexpected sight gags and, well, that’s about it.

If they were going to stick with something like that, why not just use the gorilla again and build some equity with that character? If he plays the drums, what else does he do?

If you were going to go in a different direction, then really go in a different direction. At this point, are you really all that interested in seeing what the third spot will be? Grandmas doing something wacky to music? Cars? Robots?

Cadbury hit a home run with the Gorilla, kudos to them and their agency, but with all the knock-offs and remixes already out there, they are going to need to go in a different direction to keep people (or at least me) interested.

Handwriting – The Power of Form and Function

In Insight on January 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm
A handwritten letter by Mohandas Gandhi is pictured at Christies Auction House in central London, 26 June 2007. The letter is a part of the 'Albin Schram Collection of Handwritten Manuscripts' that are to be auctioned at Christies in London, 03 July.  AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

A handwritten letter by Mohandas Gandhi is pictured at Christies Auction House in central London, 26 June 2007. The letter is a part of the 'Albin Schram Collection of Handwritten Manuscripts' that are to be auctioned at Christies in London, 03 July. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Interesting piece today in the Boston Globe on the death of cursive handwriting. It is indeed a dying art and one that is becoming obsolete. PSFK weighs in here, throwing some additional dirt on the coffin.

But I think there is something valuable here for marketers to think about. A hand-written note is very powerful. It says a lot of things about the sender and to the recipient.  Many of these are accentuated further as the skill fades from practice.

Picture this: A prospective client receives a note from you. He opens it, and the following is written in your own hand:

“I’ve been thinking about your business lately.”

Not an email, not a voicemail, not a newsletter, not a CD, not a link to your blog.   A handwritten letter about them, not about your value-added, best-in-class, leading-edge enterprise software. About their pain points, not your synergistic, customizeable SEO solutions.  Five hundred words about them, and they’re not even your client.  I bet that letter stays around a lot longer than most things they receive that week. I bet they ask themselves, “when was the last time my agency head sent me a letter?”

Lesson: Sometimes the value of something increases as it becomes less widespread.

Talent Imitates, Genius Steals. Does It Matter?

In Insight on January 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm
No Line On The Horizon - U2's new album

No Line On The Horizon - U2's new album

As Faris Yakob likes to remind us:  Talent Imitates, Genius Steals. But what are we to make of the album cover for U2’s new release, No Line On The Horizon? Not one but two artists have strikingly similar artwork according to The Guardian. The work in question is by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Did U2 rip off Brothomstates? Does U2 have the right to derive inspiration from the same sources that Brothomstates is familiar with? Does the usage by U2 make what Brothomstates did more or less relevant and valuable?

 Ultimately there is a finite amount of source material. Check out this Jim Jarmusch quote (h/t Influx):

Steal authentically

Steal authentically

 So, what is the answer, where does the truth lie? I think we’ve reached the point where the question is, as Jarmusch so aptly alludes to: Not, did you steal this, but rather, once you stole it, what did you do with it?

Thanks to Michael Surtees of DesignNotes for bringing the U2 story to my attention.

PSFK & WSJ Fail to Score TD

In Insight on January 24, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I’m a big fan of PSFK and I respect the work of the Wall St. Journal, so I appreciated their takes on the impact of new logos for NFL teams. But I think they missed a key concept. The premise of the article is that in recent years teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Tamba Bay Buccaneers and this year’s NFC Super Bowl entrant, the Arizona Cardinals have updated their logos and that their subsequent success may not be a coincidence. I would add that going back even further the Cincinnatti Bengals also updated their look shortly before going to the Super Bowl. How much of a difference did it make to the success of the team? It’s hard to say, but the WSJ hints that anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest it had some effect. None of those teams had been to a Super Bowl before they changed logos. I undersand were just talking football here, and not something serious like “real” business, but a deeper analysis was probably in order. That deeper analysis would have turned up a couple of other points worth factoring in:

New logos? Or new talent = Super Bowl

New logos? Or new talent = Super Bowl

Image courtesy of the Wall St. Journal


Like what about the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts – the last three Super Bowl winners (and the Steelers are in it again this year) – teams that have had the same logo since their inceptions – and have by and large been successful franchises. Is staying with tradition as likely to generate success as making a change?

But perhaps more importantly, what other changes did these teams make around the same time they changed their logos?

A little research would show that other factors may have played a larger role in their turnaround than simply a changed logo. For instance, new ownership and a new coach in Tampa Bay. A new coach and player upgrades in Arizona and New England. It’s also important to remember that the NFL is set up differently than regular business. Poor performing teams are given advantages – higher draft choices, easier schedules – that can contribute to improved performance.

This article, which I’m sure was written by the WSJ and supported by PSFK was written with lighthearted intention, but it really does illuminate an important issue. Plenty of brands try to change their fortunes with cosmetic changes like new taglines, different colors and yes, altered logos. But real change – in leadership, in talent – are what leads the way to increased performance – whether we are talking about the NFL or the Fortune 500. The logo change can have benefits like increased merchandise sales and even a new fan perception, but it’s not taking you to the Super Bowl.

Adding Friction to Twitter

In Ideas on January 23, 2009 at 11:04 am

Twitter.comI’ve been thinking a lot about Twitter recently and want to bounce an idea off everyone:

Would there be a benefit to adding a micropayment model to Twitter?

I don’t mean like the current Twitpay tool for sending money to people, but rather hardwiring a payment system into Twitter itself. Something like this:

A one-time, non-refundable, two cent subscription fee for every person you want to follow – one cent to that person, one cent to Twitter. So now, if you’re someone like Guy Kawasaki with 50,000 followers, you’ve made $500 and so has Twitter. Is that enough to retire on, no of course not. But it establishes a level of value for Guy, and begins a revenue stream for Twitter.

For the Twitter user, it’s a barrier, but not an insurmountable one. A dollar for every 50 people I want to follow is not cost-prohibitive, but it would make me slightly more selective. I’d still be willing to take a chance on somebody who looks interesting, but I’m not going to go on a mass following spree for the sole purpose of getting follow backs. And for those abusers who do want to do that, well, at least we, and Twitter, will make some money off of them.

Yes, information wants to be free, but sometimes adding a little friction can be beneficial.

In Social Media, are exclusivity and openess mutally exclusive?

In Ideas, Insight on January 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

Today I want to posse a question. I don’t have the answer, I’m not even sure there is an absolute answer. But it seems an interesting idea to discuss:

In Social Media, are exclusivity and openess mutually exclusive?


Sometimes it feels like Social Media has brought back the bubble. People are using the ‘ramp up, get critical mass, and worry about the rest later’ mentality. You see it in the quest for more Twitter followers, more Facebook friends and bigger blogrolls. Combine that with Social Media’s tenents of sharing and openess and you have a lot of people talking to a lot of people. On many levels, that’s a good thing and certainly an improvement over the “I’ve got a secret formula for success, it can be yours for $99.99” mentality that was so prevalent for so long.

But at some point, do we reach diminishing returns with all this openess? Does all this sharing reduce the value of the content being shared?

For many real world brands, volume is the name of the game. Walmart wants to sell as much as possible, to as many people as possible.  But there are other brands, usually high end brands, that have a different approach. Their success lies in their exclusivity. Here are some thoughts Al Ries shared with me via email recently:

 … “I certainly agree with you that you don’t build a brand just by promoting yourself on social media. As a matter of fact, you don’t build a brand just by being well known. Some brands, for example, are stronger because they are relatively unknown.”

An example here might be a trendy club in New York that doesn’t even have a marquee out front announcing its name, yet the place is jammed packed (because of, not in spite of, the low key approach). Ries continues:

“The owner of a Ducati motorcycle would be upset if everyone recognized the brand. The aficianado in any category wants to buy brands that the hoi polloi never heard of.  As a matter of fact, too much publicity… might backlash against the [brand]. [F]or example, Dom Perignon is perhaps the world’s most famous champagne brand, but it is not the best-selling high-end champagne. A wine enthusiast would be embarrassed to order Dom Perignon in a high-end restauarant. The makers of Cristal champagne were annoyed when the brand became the “in brand” of the rapper crowd. That isn’t going to help the brand with the enthusiasts.

Stag’s Leap is a very successful high-end wine brand even though few people outside the wine community know about the brand. Too much PR would destroy its cachet.”

So, does a guy like Chris Brogan have a long-term challenge? At some point will his M.O. of being totally open and supportive of everyone – which is rightly seen as a strength today –  be seen as a negative to some in the future? Is there room in Social Media for a new type of expert/specialist/guru who shares his thoughts not with everyone on Twitter or via his blog, but keeps it for a select group of clients, colleagues and peers?  That seems hard to imagine right now, but was Seth Godin’s Triiibes group experiment a step in that direction? Seth has created a closed social network for people, the purpose of which is still to share and support in a community, but once you throw up a barrier of any sort, you are heading in the direction of exclusivity.

Again, I don’t know the answer here. Maybe you’ll give me five examples of people in Social Media who have set themselves up to share only with a select group.  Maybe there isn’t any value in exclusivity in Social Media. But at some point, if everyone is swimming in the same part of the pool, the other end starts to look appealing.

I’d like to thank Al Ries again for his thoughts in this area. Al (along with Laura) have a new book coming out in February: Check it out.