Wanna Be Cool?

The Book of Cool

Ingenious.

The Book of Cool is actually a set of DVDs and a book which document how some of the world’s “coolest people” perform their “coolest tricks.”

This is like the Cliff Notes of cool.

The concept is wicked smart in my opinion. It implies two things:

1. THESE tricks can make you cool.
Are these tricks really going to change your social status? Probably not. In reality, it gives you a chance to be the life of the party sometime.

2. You can learn these tricks through tutorial.
Will watching these videos and reading the accompanying book give you the ability to perform these tricks? Once again, probably not. In reality, what will give you the ability is practice. Lots and lots of practice. But we don’t like to hear that, so we believe BUYING and WATCHING will enable us. Just like weight loss and self-help books… some will buy, fewer will read (although the entertainment quality of the DVDs will surely increase how many watch this), and even fewer will actually implement what they learn.

For most people though, they’ll feel coolest just by purchasing this in the first place.

Do you make people feel cool, smart, clever, beautiful, or better just by purchasing your product or service? It’s great (and more enduring.. and the only way to be honest) if you can follow through with that promise. But even when your product can fulfill that desire, if PURCHASING it doesn’t lead to a sense of gratification then you’re missing out on MANY sales.

This is where product design, customer experience, website design, graphic design, word of mouth, and packaging help make your cool product… ingenious.

Hat tip to Kathy Sierra.

A Flash of the Gatekeeper’s Sword

Over a month ago, Doc Searls wrote a compelling (but long and cerebral) techno manifesto Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes for Linux Journal. It was concerning comments made in a BusinessWeek Magazine interview with Ed Whitacre, SBC (or should I say AT&T?) CEO.

Now what they [Google, MSN, Vonage] would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

CNET article Playing favorites on the Net?

Who will win this battle? Part of that will be decided by politics, but it will also be decided by the fabrication of language and framing of the argument.

Nearly a month ago, my wife and I were watching Primetime on ABC and were introduced to the ongoing story over ‘Coffin Cars’ on trains. Quick Background: The debate was over the deaths of eleven people who were seated in (or even operating) the front passenger car of a commuter train in Glendale, California. Juan Alvarez parked his SUV on the tracks and the train crashed into his vehicle, causing extensive damage to the front car because there was no locomotive at the front. The train was in what is called “push/pull” mode.

What I found most interesting about the debate was the posturing of both sides. One side argues that the use of “push/pull” mode is dangerous and makes Metrolink partially responsible for the severity of the crash. They used the term Coffin Cars to describe the front passenger car on a train in “push/pull” mode. Metrolink was represented by Francisco Oaxaca, Metrolink Manager of Media and External Communications. Oaxaca’s explanations give more of the perception of liability-avoidance rather than an earnest interest in caring for victims and protecting the safety of Metrolink’s passengers.

Since the Glendale accident, Metrolink has made an important change in the cab car: The area where people are most often hurt is now roped off.

Metrolink said it had established the area out of respect for those who died in the Glendale crash. The sign says quiet area — but critics say the more likely reason is safety.

Oaxaca said Metrolink didn’t call it a safe zone “because we can’t draw that conclusion. We’re not saying that this area is unsafe. We’re saying that until the answers are in, until the research that’s being done is in, the science has been completed we’re not taking any chances.”

QUICK QUIZ
What term comes to mind when you think of a commuter train without a lead locomotive?

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Did you think of Quiet Area or a Coffin Car?

Also, think of the emotions established with these terms. Coffin Car gives a sense of fear. It is dark and ominous. It almost sounds like the name of a horror flick. Quiet Area, on the other hand, really doesn’t give any sense of safety or danger. It’s an ambiguous, unassuming term that is probably forgotten as quickly as it’s read.

WHY DID I SHARE THIS STORY? and WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET?

It comes down to something Doc Searls wrote in his essay:

All due credit to the EFF, Creative Commons and every other organization in the pro-Net alliance, but there isn’t much hope of changing hearts and minds as long as we think and talk in the transport language of the telcos, cablecos and “content” producers. When we do that, we lose.

and a pull-quote in the CNET article:

“We have always said that if they want to have, say, a bronze, silver, gold level of Internet access, essentially charging more for more bits…that’s fine.”
–Paul Misener, vice president for global public policy, Amazon

Would the victims and victims’ families of the Metrolink crash adopt the term ‘Quiet Area’? Of course not. That would hinder their effectiveness. So would focusing on preventing people from parking vehicles on train tracks. They have wisely framed the issue around the safety issues of the ‘push/pull’ system.

So as this debate over a two-tiered Internet continues, we must be aware of two critical factors:

Language:
• We cannot simply adopt the language of the major Internet carriers. I don’t think we can call it ‘Tiered Internet’. It is already tiered. DialUp, DSL, Cable Modems, T1s, DS3s, OC12s, etc. Speed is already determined by how much we, and the content providers, pay. Even VoIP (Voice over IP) providers like Vonage have to increase bandwidth as they add users. Ultimately, this ‘trickles up’ to the Tier-1 level ISPs (Internet Service Providers) like SBC, AT&T, MCI, Verizon, Sprint et al.
• We cannot speak out of avoiding liability
• We have to use terms with capture the critical and EMOTIONALLY CHARGED aspects of this issue!

Framing the Issue:
• The issue cannot be framed around whether or not telcos can charge more for higher bandwidth. They already do that.
• It cannot be framed around whether or not Google, Amazon, et al get a ‘free ride’ on the telco’s pipes. It’s not free. We already pay for it.
• The issue has to be whether or not the government can allow some of the largest Internet access providers in the world to decide what content is or is not accessible… including content provided by smaller competitors.

Like I said, this isn’t about having/not having a tiered Internet. It already is tiered. This is a battle over whether or not we have an OPEN Internet. The Ed Whitacre’s of the industry want it to be a RESTRICTED Internet. A restricted Internet where they not only hold the keys, but where they’re free to swing their swords as well.

Downloads in Your Stocking


With a couple of presentations and significant client work lately… I’m a bit tapped out. The creative juices aren’t flowing as readily and I’m looking forward to the Christmas break as an opportunity to recharge.

But this is a time of giving, right? So, in that spirit here are a few links to some free downloads that I feel are more than worthy of the time it takes to download and read:

Tom AsackerHow to Connect YOUR Brand to THEIR Lives
snippet:

More information was produced in the last
20 years than the previous 5,000.
A typical weekday edition of
The New York Times contains
more information than a person would
encounter in a lifetime in the 17th century.
The amount of information is doubling every 4 years.

Michael LevineBroken Windows Intro via johnmoore of Brand Autopsy
snippet:

Broken windows indicate to the consumer that the business
doesn’t care- either that it is so poorly run it can’t possibly keep up
with its obligations or that it has become so oversize and arrogant
that it no longer cares about its core consumer. Either of these
impressions can be deadly to a business,

Event Marketer MagazineExperiential Marketing Insights via Experience the Message blog
snippet:

EVENTS SPUR IMMEDIATE SALES
HOW SOON AFTER ATTENDING A COMPANY-SPONSORED EVENT AT/NEAR A STORE DID YOU PURCHASE THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE BEING OFFERED?
Immediately 26%
Within a month 25%
Within a week 24%
Did not purchase 15%
Within 3 months 4%
Within 6 months 4%
More than 6 months 2%
SOURCE: Experiential Marketing Insights. © 2005 Event Marketer Magazine

Brian MillarHow to do great creative work without being clever or talented. via Ernie Mosteller of Tangelo Ideas.
snippet:

In the 1960s, JWT London were asked by
one of their clients, a flour mill, how they
could sell more flour. The Thompsons
creatives could have written some ads for
their client about the benefits of their
Wholemeal against Flour X. Instead,
they invented the idea of ready-baked cakes,
thought up recipes and a brand with an
identity and name: Mr Kipling. You can
still buy Mr Kipling cakes in any supermarket
in the UK.

(FYI: This, and much more is available in Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin’s book Pick Me : Breaking Into Advertising and Staying There)

The Ultimate Tom Peters Free PDF Stocking Stuffer
Tom Peters! Company will generously stuff your stockings with a TON of free downloads (10 to be exact) of Tom’s writings and presentations.

So, there you have it. I hope your stocking is now full. Have a merry Christmas and don’t forget to buy batteries for all those toys you bought… and recharge your own.

Fibers

If you’re like many others in America, you watch CSI (Crime Scene Investigators). My wife and I are hooked on the show. I could go without some of the gory scenes, but the combination of evidentiary crime solving and character development is apparently appealing to many more people than just me.

The investigators process every crime scene with a fine-toothed comb. Many times there is one miniscule scrap of evidence that breaks open the case for them. Sometimes it is a fingerprint. Other times it may be a DNA laden hair left behind. Sometimes it might be a fiber transferred from someone’s clothing or carpet in a car.

I was thinking about fibers earlier. How they transfer from one person to the other. Also, we talk about fibers as things that characterize us… something essential (i.e. with every fiber of my being).

Don’t ask my why, but this whole thought process developed as I considered Andy Law’s book Creative Company : How St. Luke’s Became “the Ad Agency to End All Ad Agencies”. One of the elements St. Luke’s developed was called the QUEST.

The QUEST is the cultural barometer of the company. It contains a cross-section of people ( all voted in by the employees). Their watchful eye on the culture of the company is not forced upon them from a ‘top-down’ perspective. They are the culture.
(p. 159)

The QUEST set about delivering something tangible and started with a maternity policy that would reflect our belief in the value of home-life and would stand as a shining example of how to treat your human capital with decency and respect.
(p. 204)

Now bear with me here as I’m pretty much just sharing a brainstorming session with you.

Think of a company’s culture as a collection of fibers. Each fiber is an idea or belief. Maybe it’s the belief in the value of home-life. Another fiber could be a belief in self-discovery as an integral element of leadership development. These are inspiring beliefs. They show that there is more to life at work than just the surface.

These “fibers” are what help make up some of the more inspirational businesses today. They are companies that look beyond the surface, and people are drawn to them. Their business model reads more like a book of proverbs than like a book of laws, and through it people learn greater lessons in business and life.

How do you develop these fibers? Simplistically, here is an acronym to help:

Find
Inspiration in
Beliefs
Experiment with it
Ratify an idea
Share with others

I’d love to get additional ideas and opinions on this. Like I said, this is a brainstorming session. I’m not laying out case studies and statistics to support this. This is an idea in its earliest stages. Let’s see if it’s worth growing.

Gorgeous Deserves(?) Your Attention


click graphic to see enlarged image.

Maybe that explains why Gorgeous does nothing to EARN it.

This advertising campaign for Jaguar serves as a great example as to the mentality of far too many ad agencies. Their ads DEMAND attention instead of REWARDING it. Even on a website where it is oh, so easy to reward for attention given.

Do these ads really deserve your attention? I guess the campaign itself is entertaining. I just can’t figure out if it’s a comedy or a tragedy.

via Ernie Schenck (a pretty sharp guy).

Entertainment vs. Investment

So, as it seems most ad agencies feel the answer to the dilemma of floundering response rates is entertainment… why haven’t we seen response rates increase as advertising has become more and more entertaining? Maybe it is because entertainment doesn’t imply a noticable investment.

I used to have a whole life insurance policy. It’s like buying a policy that you can later cash in for its determined value. Then a lot of people started advising me that term insurance was a wiser investment. Term is more like renting insurance. In the end, you have nothing to cash in. But it’s much cheaper. “Buy term and invest the rest.” Many say. So, after years of hearing this advice… I still have a whole life policy. Why? Because I’ve invested into it. It’s so painful for me to think about, I haven’t even calculated how much I would save by switching to term insurance. I’m too concerned with how much I’ll lose by switching FROM whole life.

Entertaining is like term insurance. You’re renting your advertising to people in exchange for their attention. At any point, they can switch their attention elsewhere without it costing them a thing. But what if you credited people for paying attention? What if they realized there was a return on their investment of time listening, watching, and responding? Then it becomes more like a whole life policy. If you’re a salesperson, what would happen if you gave something frequently when you communicated with a potential customer? Give THEM a lead. Give THEM a connection. Some of your expertise. Tickets to a ball game. Treats for Christmas (hint, hint). All of the sudden, they want to talk with you. Some will eventually buy. Some won’t. But that’s OK. You’re not paying them to buy from you. You’re paying for their investment of attention. Why do you think companies selling time shares give so much stuff (tickets to amusement parks, vouchers for dinners, free gifts)? Because it works.

… for two reasons:

1. Loss. When you acknowledge someone’s investment, there’s a fear of loss by turning their attention elsewhere. They miss out on the sweepstakes offer. They don’t learn another nugget of wisdom. They lose the opportunity to network with one of your connections.

2. Obligation. Most of us have a conscience. We feel obligated when we are given anything. Since many of us do not monetize our attention, we feel like we should give above that. So, we buy.

Entertainment doesn’t tap either of those reasons for maintaining attention. It maintains attention because it is entertaining. It’s interesting. It’s funny. It’s moving. But as soon as something more interesting, funny, or moving comes along… we switch our attention. No sense of loss. No sense of obligation.

Investment builds loyalty. So as you establish an investment relationship with your potential and current customers, your competition may be entertaining them and advising them to switch. So, after years of hearing this advice… will they still be yours? Your obligation is not to lose them.