Incongruous

I have been noticing a bit of a trend.

Now, full disclosure, this is anecdotal and I have no data or statistical proof … but it is a feeling. A pretty strong feeling!

I see some fairly large and revered brands on Social Media (Pretty much everyone is on now!) and it looks like a lot have hired the same bright-eyed-bushy-tailed-youngsters to run their accounts.

Why do I say that?

Well, the abundance of cat and puppy posts emanating from some serious companies. The senseless rhetorical question and the stuff that is simply neither aligned with the particular brand nor their industry – it makes ya wonder?

Yes, the old guys and gals (Jesus, are there any left?) in management probably wouldn’t know a Tweet from a CPC, from a Pin, to a “Like!” And that is understandable. BUT – you’d think the marketing-types or the agency folks might notice?

Hiring some bright-as-a-button-Young’un to post your Tweets and run your SM that doesn’t know what your brand represents nor your industry is a waste of time and money. And for the kids doing this – save all that fluff for your personal accounts.

I am still scratching my head at the latest Funeral Home Contest …

Social Media … a small rant

I am off Facebook. But, I go on occasionally to work on three pages I manage. If they were mine I would delete them, but they are someone else’s and they pay me filthy lucre to manage them. So I do it. Yes, I am a whore.

And while I was just there I noticed reports of a disaster and 257 comments under the post. Yes, it was like holding out a spanking new pack of Camels to an ex-smoker. I peeked.

About comments. People know everything about everything. All the folks that comment are experts on all topics. Know-it-alls.

So?

Why can’t I get a decent breakfast?

You know eggs the way I like em? The bacon is done right? Served hot? But probably Jimmy or Molly who trips over themselves and is my “bubbly” servers are experts in sabotage, espionage and RCMP searches. But they can’t take an order!

Why can’t I find a salesperson who isn’t a douche?

“Hi, any today Ma’am?” And then the non-stop list of features – not listening and hoping against all hopes I will say yes to a widget of some sort? But an expert in Euro-politics and bitcoin!

Why can’t I get a repairman who is worth his money?

But he comments under “Savoir Sam” the ins and outs of nuclear physics the arbitrage rates and what the Illuminati think?

Why do ads suck so much?

But lil Sally or Bobby ad-person can explain why the marketing of a multinational 400 billion dollar company sucks!

Why do my servers keep crashing?

But the fucking nerds who are supposed to keep the lights flashing are on Reddit castigating someone’s taste in backsplashes!

You see, we are sadly a people prone to failure. Screw “Zero Defect” and “TQM”. Most folks couldn’t find their arseholes in the dark with either thumb. And don’t!

That is sadly where the Cluetrain and the whole Social Media thing fell apart. Every-fucking-person is now Cliff Clavin.

Rutger Hauer RIP

I don’t know what my appeal is. I can see I’ve got blue eyes and don’t look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame but I can’t understand the fuss. Rutger Hauer

Sad.

I loved all of his work.

A bunch of years ago a woman, an associate, I knew in and around the ad biz and who I did some work with was telling me of a commercial she was trying to cast. She was working on getting the fabulous villain actor from Die Hard – Alexander Godunov – but was having scheduling issues. I said, “Why don’t you get the original?”

You see, Godunov had replaced or mimicked Hauer in his Guinness commercials in Europe and although I thought Mr. Godunov was wonderful … there was no replacing Mr. Hauer in my books.

She called me a few days later and said she was successful in getting Rutger and he was very grateful that I had thought of him and recommended him to her and asked if I would like to come to the set during production?

I said I was more than flattered. But, I hate production sets. I, however, imagine he has to eat while he is here so could I treat you and Mr. Hauer to dinner and perhaps cocktails after?

My associate called me back right away and we scheduled the night a week out.

Well, sadly as in all things in the ad or movie biz everything got canceled. No shoot. No Rutger.

Marketing is dead.

Well, at least the term is dead as used in today’s parlance.

Deader than a doornail. Kaput. It has passed on! Marketing is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! It’s kicked the bucket, It’s shuffled off this mortal coil,

Pardon for the traipse along Monty Python memory lane!

I saw an ad for a MANAGER, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS job recently. (For the life of me, I have no idea how to stop some of the emails I get – you unsubscribe … but well, you know?) Anyway, this one went on and on about the communications requirements and proficiency in Adobe Suite and – get this – “Drives the development of annual marketing plans …”

And ends up needing membership in the Canadian Public Relations Society

No, it isn’t a marketing-communication manager job. It is a PR gig.

Going back … the first corruption for Marketing was where folks thought Marketing was mere “advertising” then mostly in B2B companies who thought Marketing was Sales. Side note: I worked with a partner company once that hired a very, very, serious strategic marketing professional and the Boss (I use that term loosely! And that guy couldn’t sell eternal life to dead people!) told her her job was “cold calling!” Yeah, she lasted a long time at that joint! Marketing is and always was a science. It is not solely about communications. It is about building and maintaining a business through sound strategic planning,

At the top of the food chain is Marketing as seen holistically. It drives the business. The 4 Ps if you will.

Under marketing, you have subsets ideally staffed and managed by specialists in these areas to name a few: Product, Advertising, PR, Brand, DM, Online, Sales, CRM, Channel, Partner, VAR and on and on and so on and so forth.

So I think we either need to whack all the Lil Ones on the side of the head who continue to confuse the term Marketing with some tactic or subset or … yep, kill the term.

I constantly muse what should be used for these practitioners?

PowerPoint Maurauder
Chief of Flackster Avenue
McMeeting McDouchebag
Clickbait Crusader

Or simply Sales Weasel

But don’t use the term Marketing!

Canada … oh?

In many keynotes and lectures, I relayed this story on how to understand Canadians.

A friend of mine won the Lottery! He now had $24 million to play with. And play he did! He traveled for a couple of years, played a lot of golf, drank a lot of great wine and generally enjoyed the jet-set life of a Playboy. But it wasn’t enough?

My friend was outgoing and a real “people person!”

So he got an idea. He found a wonderful little beach bar on St Maarten and made it his own. As he had no need for income he put up a big sign …

“DRINKS 10¢ “

He just wanted the company and to spend his days chatting with folks and having the time of his life. And he did.

One day a couple of gentlemen from Ohio entered the bar. They were a tad confused and when my friend greeted them they asked. “So all drinks 10¢?”

“Yep!” he answered.

The guys ordered two Tanqueray 10 Martinis… make em “doubles!”

My friend whipped up a couple of perfect drinks and set them on the bar. The guys were absolutely stunned … “This is great!”

My friend announced the tab would be 40¢. And the afternoon took off just like that. Another round was ordered and my friend’s mission was accomplished. Great laughs and stories!

A while later one of the guys noticed two older gentlemen sitting down the end of the bar – not drinking.

He asked my friend, “What’s with those two?”

“Oh, them? They’re from Canada. They’re waiting for Happy Hour.”

Era of the Amateur

You know when you have a hunch, right? It’s like you get an itch that you just have to scratch!

A few years ago prodded on by memories of tidbits I had read – especially from Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman, as well as, Gladwell’s the 10,000-Hour Rule in which he considers the key to success in any field is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years equal mastery … I set out to do some research.

Like all good intentions … the road to hell is paved with them. An alternative form of that old chestnut is “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works”. This brings up “Slacktivism” more on that later!

My hunch a few years ago was that we were entering the “Era of the Amateur.”

What started my search was the overwhelming proliferation of amateurs in all sorts of important endeavours – musicians, writers, designers, advertising people and so on and so forth – they seemed to be everywhere!

In the last three years, I have put together an impressive list of the absolute dregs! It is disheartening to say the least. And sadly with no light at the end of the tunnel I threw in the towel. Writing this book with examples of crap was not what I wanted to do. I wanted a point! I wanted to suggest a cure! Hell, anything but laying out the mere proof of my theory.

I remember talking to someone in the typography industry and we were discussing the proliferation of horrible use of type and design as a result of desktop publishing. He said, “Yes there is a lot of horrible examples but all this has done is raise the bar for great typography.”

It was utter bullshit!

I remember being puzzled about that statement when he said it. I now know why. It was utter bullshit! He was in the typography industry and I guess this was a way of self-aggrandizing or simply denying that the end was nye! Typography has not gotten better and the sheer amount of amateur design whether it be online, in books, in packaging or advertising, on signs or wherever … that bar has not only dropped – there is no bar anymore. Design is dead. Full stop.

Music was something that was dear to my heart. I sat and watched as anyone and anybody with little or more often no talent got up on stages all over the country and basically ruined the live music business. These amateurs played for free – for exposure! (People die from exposure. The music biz sure did!) They did open mic’s upon non-stop open mic’s – and clubs loved these because there was no entertainment cost – some of these amateurs even paid some of the clubs to perform (For use of the club’s PA!) and took away a viable income and revenue stream from pro musicians. Ruined an industry. The result is that it is extremely rare to see a competent – and by competent I mean professional – live band perform anywhere. Yep, there are still wonderful musicians and groups. I saw that Herbie Hancock would be playing near me … I checked for tickets … $450 and up.

“We don’t have to be good at anything to succeed!” Means all you have to do is be persistent and keep at it and everyone else will go away

OG MANDINO

A fallout of Og Mandino’s thinking (The Greatest Salesman and the Ten Scrolls “We don’t have to be good at anything to succeed!” Means all you have to do is be persistent and keep at it and everyone else will go away “… (I am paraphrasing Mr. Mandino who I heard say something like this at a talk) This is why we now have a whack of very persistent folks who simply are not that good. I am a fan of Og’s. However, when it comes to art and beauty and creativity and design and brilliance this advice doesn’t work! On the other hand, this advice is really good if you are a salesperson or someone who is stuck in a rut in life or in a career but is definitely not great when it comes to being exceptional You can be proficient at anything if you do it for 10,000 hours. Like the old joke about the dogs riding bicycles at the circus. “How do they do that?” The questions is not “HOW” but “WHY?” Proficiency will make you a fine technician but not everyone is an artist.

I looked at all sorts of fields of endeavour and we are deep, deep, deep in the middle of this Era. It is not pretty. The democratization of things (Music, live or recording, art, design and any and all things Social Web-based) makes them so unimportant. So mediocre. So unnecessary.

Mediocre is NOT what we need.

If you really want to see the mediocrity we are in look at any Social Media channel. Look at the comments. Recently there was an opportunity to maybe pull together a few folks and see if we can put a dent in the rampant bicycle thefts in Victoria. Boy lots of comments and “likes” on the Stolen Bike group on FAcebook. Did anyone actually come forward? Did anyone even so much as go to a Forum I built to collect ideas? No. 

It used to be far far better when folks did not put their hands up and shout “Hey, look at me! I am stupid!”

Ignorance was bliss.

in in

Direct Marketing 101

I dropped Netflix a while back. The last couple of times I went to the site there was nothing that interested me? I had watched and binged on what I liked and it seemed that was it – nothing new was being added I wanted to watch. That was a while back. So I opted out. I figured as an old Geezer I am out of the target group. Shit happens. And, how many times can I possibly watch “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?”

I received an email today from Netflix with the subject line “Come back today”

The incentive was that they are always adding TV shows and movies. Plus Netflix originals and so on and so forth.

Not really what you’d call an incentive or in my lingo “the offer.”

In DM you have The list, the creative and the offer. Let’s look at each.

The list: Yep me. Folks that have cancelled. However, not once previously did they reach out and ask, “Hey, Pete why did you leave? What can we do to get you back?” And I do not see anything in the email – other than it is to folks that quit, that targets me or a group that opted out?

The Creative: Yeah looks like Netflix alright. And the headline – if I ignore the subject line ACTUALLY being the headline says Enjoy Netflix Again (The translation … Pete send us money!) The rest of it pretty much a yawn.

The offer: None.

What would be a great offer? “Pete we really want you back! We see you were signed up for one device (Our cheapest option! You are one smart, frugal son-of-a-bitch, eh!) here … enjoy Netflix for 3 months or 6 months on any number of devices for the same price!” Or … “Pete we miss you! We are sorry we did something that made you leave … sign up now and here is a (Insert Gift card, some free months or a donation on my behalf to a charity to save a puppy … whatever?) just for you. We really want you back. Hugs and kisses!!!!

All the chatter about privacy and data. Bullshit – they have a few years of data on me and my viewing habits, why not use em? Why? Because people are stupid, lazy and incompetent. Ergo my “Era of the Amateur” saying I bounce around.

Well, net/net(flix) it did not work. Also, in behind this email I sensed two things:

1 – The Netflix folks, much like a lot of online attempts at DM are weak and badly thought out. No strategy and probably run by amateurs. If it is an agency? Fire them.

2 – Arrogance. (Insert corporate chest-pounding) We are NETFLIX resistance is futile you will be assimilated (Rejoin as a member now you Putz.)

Neither of the two “feelings” I got from the email made me “feel” good about Netflix. And kids … adverting and communications is all about how you make the other person feel!

I am surprised there wasn’t a fucking pie chart! Or a deck. SMFH!

It’s no joke

Photo by Michelle Phillips on Unsplash

I read this Harvard Business Review piece and brought back some memories. In the years of lecturing at University on Communications, the topic of jokes and humour always came up! It always came up because I brought it up!

First, in presentations and speaking in public ‘Never tell jokes.” Full stop. It is a hard and fast rule. Professional comedians fall flat on their faces more often than not and we, as mere mortals, neither have the talent, the skill, the creative writing ability nor the hundreds of hours of testing jokes to make sure they fly. And telling a hackneyed old joke does more to get groans than laughs.

So what do you do?

You can relay anecdotes or if a funny instance happens in a speech roll with it. But joke telling is the kiss of death. You have no idea if someone will be offended, you will lose your audience if it flops and your brand will take a hit.

Secondly, about your personal brand?

I was giving a course for a large Telco and one of the sessions was for folks to prepare a 5-minute presentation I would film and go over the video and everyone could contribute – those sessions were my favorite! And a great many folks have told me they loved them. Well, one fellow did a presentation. It was brilliant! The best I had ever seen. He was funny. He was SNL-level funny. Great writing and as a person he was charming and engaging and the life of the party … I mean class.

After the session, I asked him to stay. First I told him how much I loved his skit (It really wasn’t a presentation!) and as someone who was in the entertainment biz for years I thought it ranked up there with the pros.

But …

I asked him to consider something? Let’s say you are well-admired and loved by your peers and managers as I can tell you are. You are maybe known as the “funny” guy. or the “hilarious” guy! What do senior managers look for in promotable folks? Does “the funny” guy brand rank up there with; Strong work ethic: Setting and achieving goals. … Dependable: Consistently following through. … Positive attitude: Creating a good environment. …Self-motivated: Working effectively with little direction … a team player?

Now I did not ask him for that answer right then, but I did tell him to think of this. This is a music truism.

One of the keys to great music is dynamics. For something to sound loud you have to have something quiet (soft) in front of it. It is about relationships.

There’s no punch line in team!

So if you are the hilarious guy … make sure there are way-more serious and work-related business/serious moments. Not only does this make the funny bits stand out – you also leave room for other folks to shine. There’s no punch line in team! And you can be noticed for all the other wonderful talents you have … plus your humour.

You also will more than likely get the attention of senior management for your good spirits occasionally rather than being a one-trick pony.

Yep laugh at the office, but don’t become the class clown!

Possibly the best lesson

I was having a conversation with a youngster yesterday who was just getting their feet wet in the business world. I wanted to share with you, as I did with them, one of the most important stories I was told many, many years ago.

Look at the illustration for this post.

What do you see?

Most folks – if not everybody – see a “black dot.”

Well, that is an example of why things aren’t working as well as they should for you. That black dot represents everything that is wrong right now. The bad coffee, the idiot Boss, the way you are treated, the shitty work, the fact you got up this morning, tore a hole in your new outfit, spilled juice on yourself and the cat peed on you. All that stuff! And more.

It goes on and on, doesn’t it? This is sadly the most critical issue you face – it is called fear … the fear of failure. It masks itself in all sorts of manifestations – mostly us wanting to have something else to blame for our failures. It is so convenient that way.

Well, I believe that the first thing to do is look at the rest of that illustration. I call the technique “eliminating Black Dot Days”.

There will always be something wrong – there will always be a gripe. But by focusing on these things – the Black Dot – you are missing the big picture … you are missing the point. You miss all the great things in life. Look at the big picture – the white space represents everything that is right with your life.

Think about it.

Some advice you’ll thank me for later

alexandru-acea-476234-unsplashThe following are observations that, in my forty-plus years in business, most at senior executive levels, are true. And more importantly elegant and simple to implement. 

I have tried to live by these and they have never let me down.

1) … the 5 Minute Rule. 

If you are running a department or division, implement this for your staff. If you are a worker bee, practice this yourself and practice it religiously!  “The 5 Minute Rule” is wonderfully simple. When someone says something, you are not allowed to say anything negative about it for 5 minutes. 

Ponder the possibilities? Whatever has been said may sound absurd or it may be treasonous to your company. Fine – let it sit for 5 minutes. Maybe the polar opposite will work? Maybe there is a stout reasoning behind what is being said – context is King!  And subsequently,  if you do not immediately slam the idea with a negative, the person offering the thought will be encouraged to contribute again rather than feel put down and stay silent. 

2) … Sell yourself, then your product, then your company.

People buy from people they trust. Managers hire and promote people they trust!  Trust is key!

There is absolutely no upside to spreading gossip. Full stop. Do not encourage folks by listening to it, do not engage in it yourself and certainly do not spread it.

Even the old-time, car salesman with the checkered pants and white belt was successful because he was trusted. He sold your Dad all his cars over the years and was a trusted advisor. In David Maister’s book “The Trusted Advisor” he outlines the process of mapping trust development. It is a fascinating read and you can use it to measure your level of trust and see how the “Pros” do it!  Add it to your summer reading list!

3) … Habits

One of the best things I was ever told, “We are creatures of habits. Good habits and bad habits. And every day try and replace a bad habit with a good one.”

This was a gift that I was given many years ago. And every single day since then, if I find something that I am doing that is a bad habit, I try and replace it, or at least remove it. There is a huge sense of accomplishment when you overcome a bad habit!

4) … Gossip

This is one, sure-fire way, to ruin your personal brand. Whether it is with friends and family of in the workplace. There is an old saying, “If you do not have something good to say, don’t say anything.”

Trust me on this, there is absolutely no upside to spreading gossip. Full stop. Do not encourage folks by listening to it, do not engage in it yourself and certainly do not spread it. It is a career limiting move. It is deadly and once you have done it, it cannot be undone. 

5) … Remember Mark Twain

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure, that just ain’t so.”

This quote has been attributed to Samuel Clemens. In nearly 4 decades since I heard this quote, I have seen it played out hundreds, if not thousands of times. Let me elaborate.

In business, we sometimes fall prey to worrying about what the competition is up to? Do they have a new product? Are they about to embark on a new pricing strategy? Are they innovating better than us? And so on and so forth.  

Yes of course it’s prudent to be market aware and know your competition, but I could list hundreds of examples where all this “outward” worry and fear was wasted when the company should have focused on what it was doing inwardly that was, at the very least causing them problems, and at the very worst putting them out of business.  Too often businesses run on some sort of corporate “dogma.”

Hope you can see the elegance of these simple ideas and maybe you can put some, or all of them, into practice?  

I believe you get promoted and/or hired because there ends up being two types of people; “people that do”, and “people that don’t.”  You must strive daily to be atop the “People that Do” list. That means you can be counted on.

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash