Did Madmen Screw This Up?

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

A new episode hasn’t aired in almost two years. I’m pretty sure there were contract battles going on behind the scenes that shut down the studio for some time, but that’s irrelevant to my question. Madmen carried a cache for a couple of years–so much so, that people would watch it just so they could talk about it or post on Facebook how “brilliant” last night’s episode of Madmen was. I don’t have proof of this, but I dare you to form an argument against it. Madmen was “cool” – whether you really liked the show or not.

Fast forward a year and a half and the coolness factor is gone. Sure, millions of us will still watch it, but even though the show was on a hiatus, the hourglass was still running, and after all this time, the sand has run out. 

If you’re fortunate enough to have a moment with your brand where individuals earn credibility with their peers just by associating with it, you better maximize that time because it’s not going to last forever. I’m sure there were lots of dollars involved with Madmen’s contract negotiations, but I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that the millions they lost by wasting their moment could’ve gone pretty far. 

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We’re Losing Credibility With These Top 5 Lists

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Top 5 ways to get more followers on Twitter!
Check out these 5 mistakes marketers make in social media!
5 things that will change your business…
Top 5 worst top 5 lists.

My Twitter feed is cluttered with them, and I don’t click on a single one. I don’t speak for the world, but I’m going to make an assumption here: the world is tired of them too.

I get the heart behind them. They’re simple and memorable (plus the High Fidelity reference is too good to pass up). Good advertising…good design is simple and memorable. But as we strive to be simple and memorable, let’s not forget that curse word that we all avoid like the plague: cliché. You may have great content to offer on behalf of your company or your firm, but it’s time to get creative again and figure out a different way to share it.

Lists can be fun and comedic, no doubt, but when the objective is to build a brand or distribute knowledge, you’re getting scrolled right past, no matter how valuable your content may be. We’re going to have to keep adapting faster than we used to; this is a trend that needs to retire. Don’t worry, we can bring it back in a decade or two.

It’s not your content or your voice we’re ignoring…it’s your list.

Anticipation > Fulfillment

July 27, 2011 1 comment

Remember the worst part of Christmas as a kid? Answer: the day after.

Personal confession: I’m suffering through the worst part of the year…suffering, for 3 primary reasons.

1. It’s hot and muggy. This leads to mosquitos and higher electric bills.
2. It’s baseball season…JUST baseball season.
3. Every decent show on television decides it’s time to take a hiatus until September.

You see the issue here? I’m suffering. But there’s redemption in this sob-story. Countdowns. I’m counting down the days to cool weather (which are typically accompanied by Christmas cups at Starbucks, fireplaces and warm weather clothes). I’m counting down the days to football and basketball seasons (which have about 3 months of overlap – horrible planning there). I’m counting down the days to Mad Men, Parenthood and, ehhemm, Biggest Loser lighting up my tv again. There’s joy in anticipation. But the picture I paint in my mind won’t come fully to life.

In the middle of my Saturday afternoon football game in November, my anticipation leaves out minor details like kids not wanting to take naps, work pressures, etc, etc, etc. Even IF living it out is everything I hoped it would be, it’s short-lived…then it’s over. Anticipation is better than fulfillment. It’s more fun. Remember when the JJ Abrams movie, Cloverfield, came out a few years ago? The interactive microsite, the videos, the games all tapped into the fun of anticipation. The movie was decent but didn’t come close to the fun or duration of the anticipation.

Don’t forget how much our audiences crave anticipation; even if they tell you they’d prefer immediate fulfillment/gratification.

Learn Like You’re Going to Teach

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Speaking makes me nervous. Yeah, I know it’s an incredibly rare phobia, but I get antsy speaking in front of people. Repetition absolutely eases the comfort level, but I’ve found that the majority of my nerves come from a feeling of inadequacy.

Who am I to be teaching these people?

This isn’t some sort of false humility so that you’ll reaffirm me. I often feel inadequate but give it my best regardless. Now think about how much more inadequate I’d feel if I didn’t know the content. I get up there rambling about inappropriate illustrations and uncomfortable jokes without knowing the content front and back from which the audience may actually glean a nugget or two. With this added motivation to teach, you better believe I’m a diligent learner. When I know I’m going to have to communicate to others, especially verbally, I learn in a completely different and more productive way. I have a feeling that’s not just me.

We learn to ace a test. We learn to get a promotion. Our intrinsic motivation is weak when this is the end game. Sure, it feels good to ace the test or get the promotion because you were the only person in your company who took the time to learn social media, but our drive to not only memorize, but comprehend, increases exponentially when we know we’re going to have to apply it in the context of one of our biggest insecurities.

So, is it possible to discipline ourselves to learn everything as though we’re going to have to teach it, whether we’re actually going to teach it or not? If we can, we’ll skim a lot less, re-read a lot more, take a lot more notes and spend a lot more time in reflection, rather than hurriedly turning the page. That I’m sure of.

Note: Credit Daniel Pink for the reference to intrinsic motivation. If you get a chance, pick up and read Drive (and A Whole New Mind for that matter). His arguments and philosophies have changed the way I approach learning, management and parenting.

Who Refers Work to a Competitor?

March 17, 2011 1 comment

I took a call from a client. They asked for something that we can do but don’t do particularly well. I decided to refer the project to another shop that does that one thing very well. The other shop also has some competitive overlap with us. What am I thinking?

To compete or to collaborate? Beyond that and a seemingly crazier question: to block work from competitors or refer it to them? I’ve prioritized getting to know as many people in our business as I possibly can in the Houston market. I often have coffee with direct competitors. I often share ideas and work with people that could easily replicate it and take credit. It’s quite possible that I’m too young and naive to realize the risk I’m taking on…I acknowledge that.

However, I can’t help but feel like the creative community in a city like Houston (not typically known for its creative brilliance) is strengthened by the collaboration of competitors. Sure, we have to survive and protect our client relationships. But in the interest of authenticity, efficiency and quality, don’t we do our clients a disservice by attempting to do work we know we’re not very good at instead of referring it to someone else that does it very well? Will the client view that as an act of good faith and honesty? Or will the client walk right on through the open door you’ve just presented to them and leave you standing in the cold? Either one is possible, and if you do this long enough, both will probably happen at some point.

So let’s look at this from the perspective of the Marketing Director and the perspective of the agency.

  • If I’m a Marketing Director, I want the shop that (1) I can implicitly trust to be authentic and honest at every turn, whether that means turning down money or not and (2) has my best interests in mind and actually shows me. I don’t want the shop that tries to convince me all I need is video, when I know video is what they do best. When I ask that shop to help me with some SEO work, I sure hope they’ll refer me to a specialist if all they’ll be doing is taking my money and Googling SEO.

  • If I’m an agency Account Manager, it’s in my best interest, long-term, to maintain a good reputation in my market. I may pitch against you, but I’m not going to talk poorly of you to prospective clients to win work and I’m not going to accept work that you could do far better for the same price and at the same speed. (Note: If you don’t have something that you do better than everyone else in your market, than you may want to stop reading this blog and work on that) As I discussed in a guest blog post for Hullabalog, these competitors may become clients prospects, and many of them do. Yes, I would say that there’s a “plethora” of reasons to respect your competition and maybe even befriend them.

    I’m confident in saying that you’ll get burned far more if you’re the cut-throat business owner that will tell your client anything to win more business and disrespect your competition. Sure, both approaches have worked in the past. But we’re also not currently living in the past. Cut-throat competitive and management strategy isn’t going anywhere, but it’s success rate sure is. Treat people well. Your employees, your clients and yes, even your competition.

    What do you think? The words of a naive “kid” in the business who needs a few more rodeos under his belt?

  • Real-life Games

    March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

    I sat in my chair yesterday evening at 5:00pm CST and anxiously awaited CBS to reveal the tournament bracket for the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. There’s a show for it…every year…in prime time…and is one of the most popular sporting “events” that does not actually involve the sport itself. Sure, I’ve got a team that I root for relentlessly, but the cache of the tournament has very little to do with your team; it’s about the game.

    Think fantasy football or the movie “Rat Race“. These things tap into the competitive part of our psyche, but what makes them unique is the real-life nature of the playing board. We’re much less fascinated with moving pieces around a board and putting it back in the box when the game’s over. We still want to play, and we still want to win, but we’ve firmly jumped on board with the concept that we can play these games with the actions of real people – and that makes it far more engaging. And we spend exponentially more time playing (or watching to see if we got it right). Ultimately, we want to root for someone. Very few watch sporting events where they don’t care about the outcome. We begin to care about the outcome when there’s a story we’re following or a game we’re playing, which directly affects whether we win or lose. And that’s what we want right? We want consumers to care and become emotionally invested…maybe even evangelists for your brand.

    If you’ve read any marketing/branding book, you probably know that telling stories is essential to creating emotional attachment to your team / brand. Have you ever thought about giving them a low-risk, real-life game to play? I specify “low-risk” because if you’re a publicly-traded company, investors are already playing a real-life game, but your consumers can’t take that level of risk. No specific ideas here, but an application to think about. This is a very real aspect of our current media-driven culture that heavily impacts the revenue success of college basketball and the NFL – but it’s rarely tapped into.

    Guest Post on Hullabalog

    January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

    I had the honor of contributing to Texas A&M’s business professionals blog last week. Thought I’d share:
    Three Powerful Words