Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Posts Tagged ‘Seth Godin’

Taking control of the situation

In Insight on February 20, 2009 at 7:28 am
Seth's got a head for business.

Seth's got a head for business.

If you are reading this blog (thank you!), I gotta believe you are involved in marketing, branding, PR, advertising or some related field. If that’s the case, reminding you to read Seth Godin is like a parent reminding their kid to eat dessert and play Xbox – probably not necessary.

But I wanted to call out his two most recent posts. They both touch upon a similar theme – what are you doing to take control of or change your situation.  It can be easy sometimes to just roll along the river of life, letting it take you where it will. But that’s often going to lead you somewhere you don’t want to be. It’s not always easy, but sometimes you have to travel upstream, or take the rapids, to get to that great fishing hole. (Disclosure – ESPN is on and they are live in Shreveport for the Bassmaster Classic).

Seth said it much better than I did, without the fishing reference, so go read his stuff.


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.  

The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build.

In DINU, Foundtrack, Ideas, Insight on January 5, 2009 at 11:35 am
It's not you, or at least it shouldn't be

It's not you, or at least it shouldn't be

In today’s hyper-connected, no-barrier-to-enty, Consumer-generated-content world it’s hard to escape the cult of Personal Branding. Everyone has a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page and they aren’t afraid to use them. But it seems to me we’ve reached an inflection point, and what was once smart move now feels self-congratulatory and driven more by ego than producing value.

I think we as marketers, strategists, consultants and social media participants need to re-think what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. What’s the purpose of having 15,000 people following you on Twitter? To help clarify my thoughts on this issue, I went back to article that really launched one of the most influential magazines of the 1990s:

Fast Company, Tom Peters and You!

Back in 1997 Fast Company changed the way business people thought about themselves, business, branding and marketing with the “Brand Called You” cover story by marketing guru Tom Peters. The article is worth reading again, some 12 years later. In going over it again myself I got the feeling that, like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, the original intent had lost some of its clarity.

“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.” – David Ogilvy

With the advent of social media platforms like MySpace and YouTube, content sharing sites like Digg and microblogging tools like Twitter, people have taken personal brands to mean “look at me,” and when enough people did, presto!, you had yourself a personal brand. But that’s a gross misrepresentation of what Peters was saying, or at least what he meant. His idea of a personal brand was one that provided value. Unique value that set you apart from others. Yes, you can get 23 million people to hear your pleas on behalf of Britney Spears, but I’m not sure what value (beyond comedic) you’re bringing to the table.

The “Brand Called You”-era is dead.

Should you have personality, a distinct P.O.V. on issues and are qualities like honesty, integrity and hard work still important? Absolutely, in fact those qualities and attributes will always be (and have always been) valuable. But the inward-looking focus on branding yourself is no longer the best way to serve yourself.

Here’s what Geoff Livingston said back in November of 2008:

There is a big difference between reputation and personal brands. Reputation is built upon past experiences — good or bad, a real track record. Personal branding is often an ego-based image based on communications. A personal brand can demonstrate a person is there, but it’s often shallow and can be contrived. It’s just like a sport stripe on a car, nice but no engine, no guts, no substance.

It’s become a lot easier to create a personal brand. Gather up 3,000 Twitter followers (by any means necessary); create a Facebook page and start blogging. In three months you just created your personal brand. But, as Geoff put it, that’s just a racing stripe. Of course the very best of breed, the Seth Godins and Chris Brogans have created very strong personal brands by creating real value for thousands of people every day. Their personal brands are focused on helping others, not on promoting themselves.

The Brand Called Me, Me, Me!

Scott Monty, formerly of Crayon, now bringing his intelligence and expertise on behalf of Ford, also has seen the rise of Personal Branding as a form of egotism:

I’m tired of seeing social media bloggers focusing inward. Whether it’s a laundry list of the latest appearances, self-referential links to previous entries in the blog, or thought leadership that feeds an overinflated ego, their sites become a great monument to…themselves.

That’s the trap of the current ‘Personal Brand’ or “Brand Called You’ thinking. How can I get more attention for myself, my blog, my Twitter feed. There are just very few people who provide value for the eyeballs and minds they are furiously trying to gather. I think most people engaged in conspicuous personal branding are missing another key element: It’s hard for other people to become engaged in your efforts. What’s in it for me when you get your 2,000 Twitter follower? The answer: not much.

Becoming a brand manager by being a… brand manager

Here’s Tom Peters from that Fast Company feature:

To start thinking like your own favorite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?

This is something I think a lot of people misinterpreted or maybe just simply missed an opportunity. Today, thinking of yourself as a brand is like swimming in an ocean full of sharks all fighting over the same seal. That’s a blood red ocean. I think there is still an opportunity to have a Blue Ocean Strategy. By creating a brand that lives outside yourself.

Here’s another excerpt:

One key to growing your power is to recognize the simple fact that we now live in a project world. Almost all work today is organized into bite-sized packets called projects. A project-based world is ideal for growing your brand: projects exist around deliverables, they create measurables, and they leave you with braggables. If you’re not spending at least 70% of your time working on projects, creating projects, or organizing your (apparently mundane) tasks into projects, you are sadly living in the past. Today you have to think, breathe, act, and work in projects.

Now that’s an idea I can get behind. But instead of making your personal brand your project, why not make creating an actual brand your project? Rather than trying to impress your boss, colleagues and peers by having an awesome LinkedIn account, why not create something external and tangible. I’ve referenced Seth Godin as someone who has gone about creating a personal brand the right way, but he’s also created things like Squidoo and Triiibes, brands in and of themselves that live without and beyond his participation, yet are unmistably his creation.

Putting My Branding Where My Mouth Is

I’ve put a lot of work into creating Eyecube as my personal brand. I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, but overall I think I’ve made a respectable contribution to the greater marketing community. But long before Eyecube I was the founder of Arsenal America, the official supporter’s club of Arsenal FC. From nothing, with no money, I created one of the top U.S.-based supporter’s clubs. Even though I haven’t been actively involved for a couple of years, Arsenal America is still a vibrant brand with members throughout the country, the vast majority of which I’ve never met.

A few months ago I launched Foundtracks, an art project / creative outlet that I’m excited about continuing in 2009. It’s still very early for Foundtracks, but I think it has potential to inspire others to create their own artifcitions.

These projects aren’t money makers, but they demonstrate my ability to promote something other than myself, work with others and compete in the marketplace of ideas. Those sound like the type of attributes an employer or client would be interested in.

I’m certainly not alone in seeing the value of creating external brands. Take a look at this recent New York Times article citing ad agencies that are creating their own brands. Listen to what Ben Jenkins, the strategic director of Zag, a division of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, says:

“Advertising is a massively old model based on the 1950s. As media has proliferated, it’s become a lot harder for us to earn enough money off our ideas,” said Ben Jenkins, . “Zag is about creating the properties ourselves from scratch and having 100 percent of it.”

Let’s do a quick rewrite and see if it doesn’t still ring true:

“Personal branding is a massively old model based on the early-2000s. As social media plaforms have proliferated, it’s become a lot harder for us to earn enough money off our blogs. Now it’s about creating the properties ourselves from scratch and having 100 percent of it.”

The Challenge For 2009

So, for 2009 I think I might pull back a little bit on the Facebook Friending Frenzy, or not check my Twitter Follower/Following ratio quite so diligently. It’s not that I think those social media channels are worthless or irrelevant, I think they are very valuable. But I think I could learn a lot more about brand stewardship by creating something that other people can interact with and even contribute to. If I can prove my abilities to create, maintain and grow a real brand – with virtually no resources – then I think I can demonstrate to my company and our clients that I can provide real value to them.

I’ve already got some ideas, but I would love to hear from you, please let me know your thoughts.

What will you be doing a year from today?

In Ideas on October 16, 2008 at 9:05 am
Seth Godin poses a challenge:

“Here’s the wager: A year from now, 10/16/09, will you be leading a tribe of people? Will you be creating stories, connecting people, giving them a platform and making things better for people who care about each other? I’m betting you will.”

Seth’s new book, Tribes, is out today.

Standing still is the new running around

In Ideas on October 1, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the very first posting on The Sartorialist from late-September, 2005. The style is remarkably similar to the post from today. Same with Seth Godin.

We hear a lot about the short attention span of consumers and how you’ve got to change things up to keep their attention. New packaging, new color scheme, new tagline, new theme song, new logo. Sports teams and beer companies seem to change most of these just about every year. And aren’t we told to provide the unexpected for consumers?

But maybe staying consistent is part of the success of guys like Seth and Scott. With so many blogs out there, consistently providing high quality content in a consistent format may be the thing that is exceptional and outstanding. When everyone around you is running around frantically, staying still separates you from the rest of the crowd.

A comment on comments

In Ideas, Insight on September 23, 2008 at 10:47 am

Marketing types, and I’ll generously include myself in this group, like to talk about ‘the conversation’ and ‘the dialogue’ between consumers and brands. I try to read a variety of marketing/branding/PR/Advertising blog and have noticed something: Many of the blogs have very few comments. Here’s a very unscientific survey – I looked at the front page of several blogs, looked at the number of posts and the total number of comments:

PSFK: Posts:36, Comments: 57 (Avg. # comments per post: 1.58)

Brand Autopsy: Posts: 30, Comments: 192 (Avg. # comments per post: 6.4)

Influential Marketing Blog: Posts 10, Comments: 36 (Avg. # comments per post: 3.6)

Murketing: Posts 15, Comments: 7 (Avg. # comments per post: .47)

Grant McCracken: Posts 14, Comments 65 (Avg. # comments per post: 4.64)

Eyecube: Posts 10, Comments 7 (Avg. # comments per post: .7)

Online Marketer Blog: Posts 5, Comments 24 (Avg. # comments per post: 4.8)

Again, this is a rather arbitrary analysis. I think all of the above are super smart people who all have a different approach and style.

Let’s take a look at the Top five blogs on the AdAge Power 150 to see what that looks like under the same litmus test:

Read the rest of this entry »

When Marketing Bloggers Attack!

In Ideas on August 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm
Look out, it's Peter Kim!

Look out, it's Peter Kim!

Check out the great little give and take between Peter Kim and John Moore of Brand Autopsy. It all kicked off with Dave Balter and his World of Mouth Manual II. Peter called him out for creating an Ego Trap that was enabled by bloggers like Rohit Bhargava, John Jantsch of the influential Duct Tape Marketing and John Moore among others.

Well, let the fireworks begin. Read the comments to Peter’s Anti-Balter Ego Trap post, it’s a who’s who of marketing bloggers: Jeremiah Owyang, John Jantsch defends himself, Adam Singer, Mack Collier from The Viral Garden, and Seth Godin jumped in as well.

For my part, I’m ok with Balter’s tactics for a couple of reasons: First, I think marketing and social media go hand in hand and there is a cooperative vibe where we all help promote each other. That’s cool, especially in the supposedly cut-throat business world. Secondly, Dave earned it by bringing quality and value. If his ideas were weak, would these people have helped? I doubt it.

But I do like to see the spirited debate. There doesn’t always have to be agreement and the industry as a whole moves forward when strategies and tactics are debated in the mareketplace of ideas.

Brett Favre, Starbucks and the Wisdom of Crowds

In Insight on August 6, 2008 at 3:17 pm
Favre heads out of town - Courtesy the AP

Favre heads out of town - Courtesy the AP

It’s been impossible the last couple of days to watch ESPN or NFL Network and not hear some talking head say, “Of course the Packers are a better team with Brett Favre at quarterback.” These aren’t fans saying this, they are “football experts.” And yet, it looks like Favre is on his way out.

Swing by Brand Autopsy and take a read regarding the latest marketing initiatives undertaken by Starbucks. In addition to John Moore, a former Starbuck’s guy, and Seth Godin, here are some quotes from other commenters:

“It seems like a strange promotion all around — as in, I can’t tell who really benefits from it.”

“Bad decision for Starbucks. Definitely not the best way for them to go.”

“It won’t be long before their brand has totally been commoditized.”

It seems the wisdom of crowds is pretty clear in both examples, yet neither the Packers nor Starbucks seems to be listening. I don’t think the management of either the Pack or Starbucks are dumb people, in fact I’d wager they are pretty darn smart. So why the disconnect?

What makes smart people make poor decisions? Are these poor decisions merely because a handful of people on the outside say so? When, and how, do you incorporate the Wisdom of Crowds into your thinking?

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: Cultivating Your Audience

In TSMWIF on August 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

Seth Godin brings up an interesting point this morning that is applicable to the world of sports, especially the globally fragmented world of sports. Most sports feature a language all their own, a shorthand or secret code known to fans of the sport. But what if it is your first time watching a cricket match? Will you know the difference between and inning and an over? The result, and this still happens in the States with soccer, is that the announcers explain every little rudimentary detail of the game because they know somebody is watching the sport for the first time.

England's Stuart Broad courtesy of the Press Association

England's Stuart Broad courtesy of the Press Association

The result is that the long-time fans become frustrated because they want the deeper insight, not the top level stuff.  So as a media outlet, how do you satisfy both groups? Well, you aren’t going to be able to do it in the same broadcast, but today there are so many channels that can be used, this really shouldn’t be a problem at all. Here’s what I’d like to see:

1. At the beginning of the telecast, the broadcaster announces that fans tuning in for the first time should go to the broadcasters website where they have a comprehensive glossary of all the terminology of the sport. Repeat that announcement a couple of times during the telecast, or even run a crawl during halftime when your studio crew is doing analysis (don’t do it during the action, that will annoy the hardcore).

2. Have the announcers set up Twitter, Facebook or other social media accounts so that fans can learn or ask questions throughout the week.

3. If you have rights to a sport that features dozens (hundreds?) of games over a season, rebroadcast one during a non-peak time with enhanced graphics. For instance, have the action pause in the middle of a play and have a pop up box explain what happened or is about to happen.

4. The big events (Super Bowl, Champions League Final, Olympics, F1 races) are usually shown by broadcasters that have multiple channels (ESPN, Eurosport, etc.). Broadcast the event on two channels, giving fans a chance to watch an “advanced” broadcast for the experienced fan and a “basic” broadcast for the new fan. With a targeted outreach program to niche audiences (foreign fans, young fans, female fans, etc.) you could draw a sizeable audience for the “basic” broadcast who might not normally stick with the event otherwise. Eventually you’ll look to “sell up” these fans to your “advanced” broadcast. I could see where you might even get a different type of advertising partner for the different broadcasts.

Broadcasters pay a lot of money to become rights holders for these type of events. They should be doing more to cultivate their audiences and grow them, especially for niche sports. The sports should help with this, offering talent, increased access or other enhancements that will make following the sport easier for new fans. Working together the broadcaster and their content partners have a wealth of opportunity by using a variety of non-traditional means.

Seth Godin: The power of an insanely authentic brand

In DINU, Innovation on July 29, 2008 at 8:59 am

Seth Godin has a post this morning you should check out. He’s cooking up something new and different and remarkable and he wants you to be a part of it. His new book, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us doesn’t come out until October, but Seth is building something bigger than the book. He can explain it better than I can:

“I’d like to invite you to join a members-only tribe. A tribe for marketers, for leaders, for those focused on building communities or creating products or spreading ideas.

This online community will live on a site we’ve created that will feature blogs, forums, social networking, comments, photos, videos and a job board. And it’s by invitation only until October. Spots are limited and early members get privileges and bragging rights.

Members get a password and the privilege of meeting each other, posting thoughts, connecting to big ideas or projects and more. The site will include excerpts from the book as well as a chance to contribute to a new jointly-authored ebook, with full credit and links to the contributors. The contents of the tribe forum won’t be posted to the public until October, so it’s really the only way to participate until then.”

But here’s the thing: He had me at hello. Seth has built such a powerful, authentic and remarkable brand that I couldn’t sign up for this fast enough. I know the book will be worth the read, his books always are. But I’m sure that this exclusive club will be interesting too. He’s got a squidoo lens cooking on this as well.

He’s a master of consumer pyschology as well. Scarcity, exclusivity, setting expectations, everything here is designed not just to sell books – Seth doesn’t need to sell books – it’s designed to get people fired up, engaged and eager to participate. That’s what Seth is about, but he does it in a way that doesn’t come off like Tony Robbins.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative process and the people who do the creating. Artists, musicians, authors, etc. I’m far more interested in reading/listening/watching/experiencing the things that are done by people I have an opportunity to interact act with on a meaningful level. I don’t mean fan clubs with automated email responses designed to sell you something, but real human interaction. Seth is a guy who gets this. I’ve sent him several emails over the years and he unfailingly gets back to me. I don’t think he does that because he feels he has to, but because he wants to. He wants to make the connection.

I’m looking forward to going on this adventure. I’m sure I’ll learn things worth sharing with you.