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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ultimate Business Question: Are We Having Fun?

IMB_Fox_25thAnniversaryThis weekend I found myself glued to a two hour piece of promotional television that I usually avoid desperately. The FOX network was having a special recap of their 25th Anniversary of producing entertainment programming. Amidst the 120 minute recap of over 140,000 hours of programming hosted by Ryan Seacrest (of course!) - there were a few moments when they brought actors of long running programs back into the studio and interviewed them.

IMB_Fox_70sShowIn some cases, they created a "cast reunion" to bring actors back together (like the casts of In Living Color or Married with Children) while in others they just went and interviewed people about the characters they played (like Kiefer Sutherland from 24). From comedies like That 70's Show to dramas like The X-Files - the types of programs they looked back on were very diverse. But crammed into a short period of time, the thing that struck me was how every cast member was saying the same thing over and over as they recalled what made their shows great. Comedy or drama, on each of the successful shows what the actors pointed to was always the amazing fun that they had shooting with their fellow cast members. Success wasn't about changing the world or getting paid - it was all about the teams and people they worked with.

Perhaps that's not so surprising in the world of entertainment ... but consider how you might answer the same question if someone had an "anniversary special" where they asked you to think back over the highlights of your own professional career. Would you remember the annual profit margin that you achieved? Or the number of Facebook fans you were able to acquire within a month? Or what about the features of the new hit product that broke sales records back when you introduced it 5 years ago?

IMB_Fox_SimpsonsFor most of us, the value of what we achieve can't be separated from the value of the people we achieved it with. In other words, you remember the people who were part of the ride with you. So the next time you look at the product you are selling or the service you need to promote - consider this often unasked question: are you having fun while doing it?  Having a great team or working environment may not be a necessity to do something great - but it certainly makes it more likely.  So whether you are the boss or just an employee, ask yourself what you are doing today that might show up on anyone's 25th anniversary highlight reel ... especially your own.

Friday, April 20, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: The True Story Of The Making Of Likeonomics

This is an exclusive presentation I just launched which will take you behind the scenes of my new book, give you a sneak peek at the new website which I'll be launching on Monday, and details on how to download your FREE EXCERPT from the book.  Check it out:

Sunday, April 08, 2012

How Case Studies Can Set You Up To Fail

My life would be a lot easier if I loved case studies. After all, they are all around me. In our agency, we produce case studies for our most successful work. Clients share case studies of previous work or industry standards with us all the time. In the educational world case studies are plentiful, and the majority of "practical" marketing and business courses are built entirely on using them to teach principles. So why don't I love them like so many of my peers do?

It's not that I don't believe you can learn a lot by studying other industries and other campaigns. But when it is packaged into a typical "case study" format, there are a few common problems that arise:

  1. People are often not good at self diagnosing what worked well and what didn't, and case studies are often not written by the same people who executed a strategy either - which results in second hand information.
  2. Case studies mostly focus on the positive or successful, but often we learn most from failures. Have you ever seen or written a "case study" on something that failed?  We need to see more case studies of what didn't work so we can learn from failure as well as success.
  3. They are often written in a siloed way - looking only at individual channels (such as social or advertising or PR) and missing the broader point of integration and how it contributed heavily to their success in the first place.
  4. The core behavioural insight is often missing in reports and case studies (ie - WHY did people respond to a particular message or approach as opposed to simply noting that they DID respond)
  5. Results are often be presented in terms of numbers and volume does not necessarily proove effectiveness when it comes to actual impact achieved
  6. Real first hand expertise is often missing because case studies may not be written by the person or people with the most direct knowledge of why something worked or didn't.

So are traditional case studies useless? Not at all, but I think there are much better opportunities for learning in a different way. The most powerful way to learn in many ways is still a face to face experience with a person - and when you couple that with real engaging experts who are actually DOING great things, then you have the type of experience that can really offer the most valuable learning. 

That's why I'm thrilled to announce two events coming up that I've agreed to participate in as a speaker coming up very soon.  Both offer amazing opportunities to go beyond the case study and learn something real and actionable from experts who are actually doing real and amazing work:

WOM Crash Course (Austin - May 10, 2012)

IMB_WOMCrashCourseThe one thing I know for sure is that Andy Sernovitz knows how to put on a great word of mouth learning event. He and his team remain unromanced by the allure of just focusing on social media ... which means this event is one of those unique moments when you will learn how to ACTUALLY create great word of mouth by using social media along with lots of other tools. From his unique format of having only real practioners present to his unique lunchtime sessions where six authors all show up to simply have conversations (no powerpoints allowed!), attendees always rave about this event. If you want to join us in the great city of Austin, just leave a comment on this post for a 25% off registration discount code - and the first 2 readers to comment will receive 50% off registration!

Corporate Social Media Summit (New York - June 13-14, 2012)

IMB_UsefulSocialMediaCorpSummitThe fact that I have worked with the Useful Social Media events team for the past 3 years and agreed to speak or moderate sessions at multiple events for them is evidence of one thing: this team knows how to put on a great learning event. What sets the Corporate Social Media Summit apart is their laser focus on social media for big brands. If you work at a large organization trying to plan for using social media at an enterprise level, this event is for you. The speakers are all from big brands (just look at the agenda!) and the conference stays far away from any fluff or vendor pitches. In the past, the hallway conversations from attendees learning from one another have been just as powerful. To get a 10% discount on registration, use the code "OGILVY10"

Whether I was participating in both or not - I highly recommend trying to make it to one or both of these events. Hope to see you there!*

*There is also chance that all attendees of one or both events will get free copies of my new book Likeonomics!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Whiskey Inspired The Making Of Likeonomics

IMB_talisker-labelThe "fourth best island in the world" (according to National Geographic) isn't warm and rarely sunny. Yet the Isle of Skye is a celebrated part of Scotland and a popular tourist destination. If you ever happen to find yourself traveling there, one of the most popular places on the island is a unique distillery that produces some of the world's finest whiskey: the Talisker Whiskey Distillery. 

Though it has been more than a decade since I first visited there, I can still remember the tour that I took. A few months ago heading through the duty free store at an airport, the memory of that experience inspired me to purchase a bottle to take home. I do love a good drink ... but when I drink from a bottle of Talisker, it is still a different experience. And it doesn't have anything to do with how it tastes, or how it is aged, or what kind of barrels they use.  In part, I love the whiskey because I've been to where it was made.  

IMB_TaliskarWhiskey1The reason it matters is a powerful one, and it explains a lot more than my love of one brand of scotch. There is a reason that Zappo's has a standing offer to pick up any of their customers from their hotel in Las Vegas and bring them out to their headquarters for a tour. It is the same reason that Intel has a museum on their main campus in Palo Alto. The more personal connections you have to something, the more likely you are buy or recommend it to someone else. Personal experience matters.  

This, in a nutshell, is the strategy behind a pretty unique virtual web chat that I am going to be hosting on April 19th called the "Making of Likeonomics." I partnered with a company called Shindig to use a brand new virtual chat platform to create an introduction to my new book that goes beyond your usual webinar.  


Using a two way video session (where you can see me and interact directly from your browser without any downloads or signups required), I will take participants through my process for actually researching and writing Likeonomics. Here are just a few of the things you'll learn:

  • Why you should write a book (and why you shouldn't!)
  • How to come up with a big idea for a book
  • Who really came up with the title Likeonomics (hint: it wasn't me!)
  • What it takes to sell a book to a big publisher (and why you should or shouldn't)
  • Do's and don'ts of research
  • Mapping your story flow and chapter outline
  • How to produce quality writing (it's different from writing a blog post!)
  • Pitfalls of book writing and what I struggled most with
  • Working with an editor (and picking a good one!)
  • How to build a content based marketing strategy
  • And anything else you'd like to know about writing, marketing and publishing a book ...

Whether you have ever aspired to write a book yourself, you are already a published author, or you just want to hear the real and whole truth about the ups and downs of being an author and writing a book ... this event is my chance to take you behind the scenes and answer all of your questions. I want to build a personal connection by giving you an unfiltered and VERY personal look at Likeonomics, directly from my home office where I worked to write it.

As a bonus EVERY REGISTERED PARTICIPANT WILL GET AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT OF THE BOOK (whether you manage to make it to the LIVE virtual conversation or not). In case this event looks interesting, I would love for you to register here (the event is completely FREE):

Registration Link:

There may even be a guest appearance of some Talisker Whiskey. So now you really don't have a reason not to join me! :-)


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

5 Insights From The 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Earlier this morning the team at released their annual report on the state of Social Media Marketing. Based on the responses of over 3800 surveyed marketers, the report offers an interesting look at how businesses are using social media to grow and promote their businesses. As with any surveys of this type, you have to remember that the people who responded are already a self selected audience of business owners who care about social media.  So it's not surprising when the survey reports that "94% of respondents indicated they are employing social media for marketing purposes."

Still in reading over the report, there were several conclusions that I took from reading between the lines that I found interesting for anyone who is grappling with the challenge of how to effectively integrate social media into their marketing. 

1. Marketers are overly focused on measurement and not concerned enough with strategy.

In perhaps the most telling section of the report, marketers were asked about the "top 10 social media questions they want answered."  Coming in at #1 was all about measurement. All the way down at a sad #6 was strategy. In a nutshell, this is the reason why so many businesses struggle to describe the value they see from social media. If you focus on how to measure what you're doing without having a good strategy for WHY you're doing it - you've already failed. 

2. The lines between "social" and "non-social" are misunderstood and don't depend on platform.

Late in the report, marketers were also asked about how they will change "non-social marketing" in the future. Search engine optimization, event marketing and webinars were all on the list of "non-social" marketing. One problem with this is that a webinar featuring a live Q&A is inherently more "social" than a Twitter feed used only to blast out messages. The truth is, being "social" with your marketing has little to do with the platform you choose, and more to do with how you choose to use it. 

3. Great writing and video production skills are still undervalued. 

For all the buzz about content marketing, many businesses still undervalue the importance of actually being good at content creation. Not everyone can write or produce compelling video. Today more than ever, there should be a premium for marketers who are gifted writers and producers. The ones who can craft an engaging message in as little as 140 characters. Or do an in depth blog post that will be relevant for more than just a few hours. Simply committing to produce more crap video or hastily written blog posts will no longer be enough. When content is a commodity, quality content is king.

4. "Social" businesses don't do daily deals (or at least they don't admit to it).

Daily deals did not fare well in the survey, as "more than 72% of marketers have no plans to use daily deals." Also reported in the survey was the dismally low number of only 12% of marketers planning increase their use of sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. Marketers who responded to this survey on are typically social media savvy. More than any other result, I think this distaste of daily deals is definitely overstated as plenty of less social media savvy businesses are still actively using these sites to drive sales and exposure. 

5. Platforms still drive interest, but integration should be the ultimate goal.

The survey overall offered a lot of insights into the platforms that marketers were interested in using. For the second year in a row, YouTube/video was the "top area where marketers plan on increasing their efforts." In addition, Google+ and Pinterest were both hot platforms that marketers wanted to learn more about. Almost nowhere in the entire survey did any marketers highlight the challenge or importance of integration across all of these disparate platforms. That is already a huge challenge and one that I believe will continue to grow this year. 

The full report was just published this morning and is now available for FREE download until April 19th at 




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Upside of Being Ordinary And Obvious

IMB_BlackberryKeyboardHow much time do you spend trying to be ordinary or obvious? Probably not a lot. In fact, most marketing people actively avoid talking about the ordinary or obvious qualities of their business. Instead we spend days in creative brainstorms trying to create new messages find that brilliant unique thing that no one else has. We want to use new and sexy social media tools and find a winning creative idea that will get everyone's attention. And we forget the ordinary and obvious stuff.  

But what if the most unique thing about your business was also the most ordinary? Here are a few reasons why the ordinary and obvious side of your business may actually be your biggest asset:

  1. Customers have ordinary and obvious requirements. It is easy to think that having an endless list of new product features will appeal to people. The problem is, it is confusing. I recently went shopping to replace a light bulb in my ceiling. The one I bought was the one that said the size most clearly on the box.  
  2. The ordinary and obvious are the most important. The number one reason I book any flight has nothing to do with comfort of the seats of what type of food they might offer. I look for a direct flight. Whichever airline I can fly directly to my destination with is the one I choose. Exactly how many airline ads have you seen in the last six months that ever focus entirely on the fact that you can fly directly from point A to point B? I can recall only one - Singapore Airlines promoting their direct NY - Singapore flight.
  3. The ordinary and obvious may have its passionate fans. Anyone still using a Blackberry today (and I am one of them) does so just for one reason. It's not the collection of apps (which suck) or for the stunning quality of the screen resolution. No, most are just so familiar with the keyboard that they can't imagine doing work and typing emails on a touch screen. Again, how many Blackberry ads have you seen promoting the quality of the experience of using their keyboard versus slow and inconsistent touch screens? Exactly zero.

I love a good creative idea as much as the next marketing person. The point of the post, though, is that sometimes the most stunningly creative thing you can do is choose to focus on the most obvious and ordinary part of your business. You might be surprised at how effective it can be. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

5 Things Deepak Chopra Can Teach You About Leadership & Marketing

The last thing I expected to do as I headed down to Austin last week for the SXSW Interactive Festival was to see a film. As a marketer, the fact that SXSW is actually a huge Film and Music festival is a point that I have often easily forgotten. Amongst the sea of startups promoting everything from "social weather" apps (that let you share your mood when it rains), to new indestructible iPhone cases - it is easy to get lost in the hype.

IMB_DecodingDeepak1But on Sunday morning at SXSW, I made my way out to the Paramount theater for a world premiere of a film that probably seemed a bit out of place at the festival anyway. A filmmaker named Gotham Chopra was premiering his new documentary called Decoding Deepak about following his father, spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, around the world for a year. I admit, I am personally connected to Gotham and his family so I probably would have seen the film regardless of how it was. You have to support your friends. The thing is, I didn't expect it to be quite so good. I didn't expect to takeaway the most profound marketing lessons I learned at SXSW not from any panels or sessions, but from a documentary. And I certainly didn't expect to see it twice in three days. But I did.

Rather than try to summarize the film, I'll let you watch the excellent trailer below. Go ahead, I'll wait till you're done and then share a few of the marketing and business lessons I took away from the film below:

In a word, the film was brilliant ... on several levels. Not only do you get a sense for the real person behind the myth of the spiritual celebrity that Lady Gaga calls "the most influential person in her life," but you take a journey through what it took for him to become this icon. Despite it having been more than a week since seeing the film - some of the leadership and marketing lessons I took away from it are still fresh in my mind:

  1. Don't shy away from the truth. Every post-film question the audience asked after the premiere seemed to focus on whether Deepak felt the film did a fair job of portraying him. He wasn't always the hero, but the film was accurate and it was honest ... and to his credit, Gotham Chopra shared that his father didn't ask for any edits or revisions after seeing the final cut.
  2. Be a guide, not a dictator. The thing about a spiritual guru is that sometimes people expect them to live by example. Deepak, however, is not a vegan (or even a vegetarian), he isn't fanatical about meditation and sometimes he doesn't have all the answers. Yet if people want to live a more extreme version of life, he doesn't steer them away from it. His leadership helps guide without prescribing. In a world where plenty of people want to tell you what to think, who to marry and what to believe ... his powerful message is that you can believe what you want to believe.
  3. Go beyond your niche. The easiest thing to do with a film like Decoding Deepak would have been to launch it to a "friendly" audience of celebrities who already love Deepak Chopra and would easily tweet away about it to their millions of followers. That's the usual formula for something like this. Instead, Gotham Chopra chose to premiere the film in Austin at SXSW in front of a tech-savvy, mostly less spiritual, definitely less religious audience. It was a risk ... but if the film could stand on its own in front of a "real" audience, then the message could go far beyond Deepak Chopra's own considerable fan base.
  4. Share a personal story. Businesses in general are tragically bad at being personal or letting the personality of their people come through. In fact, many have policies in place to prevent it. In a film, however, telling a personal story is super important to have the audience invest emotionally. Throughout his exploration of his relationship with his father, Gotham Chopra takes us into his own journey as a father, his son and how his family which has grown up in the spotlight manages to still make it work. His struggles are human, and his journey is believable.
  5. Don't take yourself too seriously. Perhaps the most important lesson I took from the film was from a moment when Gotham and his father are in a train station in India. They are looking at a newsstand with several books and none of the more than 60 titles that Deepak Chopra has written are there. It is a brilliant reminder that even when you have amassed millions of followers and become a spiritual leader to the most famous and influential people alive ... you can't take yourself too seriously. In our world filled with outsized egos from people who are little more than Twitter-famous, this may have been my favourite lesson from the film.

During the Q&A session after the film premiere in Austin, Deepak Chopra mentioned that he was sitting near the back of the theater and noticed that no one left during the film. When the moderator asked him why he thought people might leave, he said simply, "documentaries can be boring." They definitely can - but Decoding Deepak is different.

Whether you are interested in learning more about the evolution of the larger than life spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, or just want to take away a few great insights to improve your business or your career ... this is one film I highly recommend actually going to see in the theater as soon as it comes to a screen near you. You might even want to see it twice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How United Could Have Avoided Frustrating Staff And Alienating Customers

This might surprise you, but Zappos doesn't offer standard overnight shipping. But for years customers of the site have been getting overnight shipping even though they didn't ask for or even pay extra for it. The reasoning is simple, if your customers have lower expectations - it is easy to consistently exceed them. We feel delight at getting the product overnight because it is faster than we thought it would be. 

IMB_UnitedContinental1This simple behavioral insight is something that most companies have done a fairly poor job of remembering. I was reminded of it last week as I traveled for work and took United as I usually do. For the past year, United has been communicating to its customers and workforce that they will be merging with Continental airlines to create the world's largest airline. The complexity of this merger is legendary and involved everything from selecting a single brand of coffee to implementing a vast IT integration of reservation systems. Continental customers expected some turbulence. After all, their airline was getting acquired so there were sure to be some bumps in the road. 

But the CEO of the merged airline is the former CEO of Continental, Jeff Smisek. The computer system is the old Continental system. Many Continental policies have overwritten United policies. Even the frequent flier numbers of millions of United customers were converted into Continental numbers. None of this really matters all that much, unless something goes wrong - and it has. United's most frequent fliers (the business travelers like me who spend tens of thousands of dollars on flying and participate in the highest levels of frequent flier programs) are not happy with United.  In fact, several are extremely unhappy

IMB_UnitedContinental3For each of them it feels lot like United was purchased by Continental and not the other way around. When it comes to the employees, the situation is even worse. The majority of the workforce used to work at United. Though they still do, for many of them it doesn't really feel like it. The system they use every day has moved to green screen terminal like the one they used to use in the 1980s (yes, seriously).

As I spoke with several gate agents in multiple airports last week, their sentiment was the same: everyone thinks the real reason they had to switch to Continental's less user friendly HP SHARES system was because the new CEO is from Continental was partial to that system. This probably isn't true, but when your staff thinks you are making decisions based on ego and legacy instead of merit, you have a problem.

What could they have done differently? The biggest mistake United made came down to one of managing expectations. By calling the merged airline United and consistently communicating about how they were taking over Continental - the staff of United and loyal United flyers assumed that their experience would remain pretty much intact, and that the CONTINENTAL people who came over would be the ones who would need to learn a new system and new processes.  Instead it is the other way around.

They forgot the simple lesson that Zappos has embraced and that anyone who has worked as a consultant has likely heard at least once: underpromise and overdeliver. United did the opposite - and it has created a huge rift with their best customers and hard working employees.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How To Find The Perfect Diagram For Your Presentation

My life would be a lot easier if I could give the same talk to everyone. I would just show up at an event or a client site, or get onto my webcam, and say the exact same thing to everyone. But I know I'll never do that. One of the main reasons is because I obsess over any presentation I work on. I spend hours thinking about the flow. I have a personal library of hundreds of images purchased from various places like iStockPhoto. Anytime I find an interesting marketing idea or website, I take a screenshot and save it to use one day in the future. I am a presentation slide collector.

IMB_Nokia-Duarte2Yet one thing I struggle with routinely is finding the perfect way to visualize a complex idea or data point or program. Sure, I could use the dopey "SmartArt" that comes preloaded on PowerPoint, but the results usually look pretty ordinary. And as I struggle, I keep a collection of books on my shelf all about beautiful slide design by several authors, including Garr Reynolds, Dan Roam and Nancy Duarte.

I admit I often suffer from design envy because of how great their slides look and how wonderfully they simplify complex ideas. I wish I could do that more easily. So when I got an email about a new tool that Nancy Duarte and her team are launching today called the Diagrammer, I almost picked up the phone immediately to call her and say thanks.


Here's the "official" description of the site:

Diagrammer is a library of 4,000 slide diagrams comprising all of the essential concepts and relationships common to business and professional communication. But it is more than a database of images. Diagrammer is a unique visual taxonomy that enables communicators to understand their ideas in a more nuanced and accurate way, and guides them to find more evocative and harder-hitting means of conveying their messages.

IMB_Diagrammer2She had me at "library of 4,000 slide diagrams." For just 99 cents, you can pick up the perfect visualization for any big idea. More than that, the library will offer some amazing suggestions for new ways to diagram out ideas that you would never have thought of. I could tell you to bookmark this page, or save it, or check it out by clicking this link. Even that doesn't feel like enough of a recommendation.

If you ever need to put together a presentation, you need to visit the new Diagrammer slide library and visualization tool from Duarte Design. For anyone like me who creates presentations relatively often, just go ahead and make this site your new homepage. I'm pretty sure I will too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Marketing Lesson From The Most Depressing Magazine Ever

IMB_ReadersDigestI'm not really sure when I started getting Reader's Digest delivered to my home, or even if I subscribed to it. I am a sucker for magazines and always have been. So chances are I subscribed thanks to some sort of Grouponesque deal that I found online. Call it a marketing weakness, but if I get a magazine in the mail I can't help opening it. I always flip through - and I look mainly at the advertising.

The problem when I did that looking through Reader's Digest is that I started to get depressed. I mean every other ad is some sort of pharmaceutical reminder of my own mortality. There are vein problems, bone problems, heart problems, memory problems and all kinds of other stuff that will go wrong. And just in case that wasn't depressing enough, there's a full two page spread on how I can buy "government issued gold coins" for only $175 each. I'll stick with my government issued quarters, I think. At least they're only 25 cents each.

Still flipping through the magazine got me thinking about what a missed opportunity this is. Don't older people travel and stay at hotels. Don't they buy DVD players and digital cameras? Aren't they interested in new ways to connect with their friends and family online? Of course they are. But the ads in Reader's Digest are an example of the stereotypical way that many brands approach their marketing.

They assume that people in the older generation are only concerned about health issues, so that is what the majority of the ads focus on. The same thing happens with almost any demographic, younger or older, male or female. When everyone targets their advertising based on a standard demographic like age, they all land in the same place.  It is the single biggest reason why most marketing looks like noise.

In contrast, remember when the Wii first came out? It was the only gaming console that focused on families and moms instead of hard core teenage gamers. They stood out. It is an easy example since they had a game changing product (pun intended!), but the lesson is an important one. There is a real value to thinking outside the demographic. Not to mention it would make Reader's Digest a lot less depressing.