Coming of age

Age of Conversation 2

Age of Conversation 2

The book Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It? will officially be out tomorrow, Oct. 29th!

If you have not heard, over the last several months I have participated in a global experiment to see if 237 marketing bloggers could write a book (As it turns out, we can and I think this book should be a hit!)

Please join us on the book launch tomorrow, as all proceeds will go to the children’s charity – Variety.

For those that cannot wait until tomorrow to see what I wrote (Mom, that’s you), here is a little hint:

SQ Hero

SQ Hero

Here is the full list of all the authors who participated:

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

Happy Tuesday!

Seinfeld on Marketing: The unintended little “chocolate and peppermint” that changes everything

It’s Friday again, folks. Gather around and let’s talk about Seinfeld, with a little dash of marketing.

In this episode of Seinfeld, Jerry and Kramer are in the balcony viewing area watching the surgery of a friend of Elaine:

(RSS Readers, click here to view the video)

Nothing to worry about. It turns out that the Junior Mint actually helped the patient. As the doctor put it:

I have no medical evidence to back me up, but something happened during the operation that staved off that infection. Something beyond science. Something perhaps from above…

So instead of homicide, Jerry and Kramer helped save a life. Who knew that the little and refreshing Junior Mint could stave off infections? (I guess Junior Mints are the new cranberries). All in all, it was an unintended discovery – something that solved a problem.

And that’s really what business is all about – solving problems. Finding pain points of the market and fixing them. But how do you find out what is causing your market pain?

Well, how about asking, listening and observing? Those always seem to work (as long as you do it right).

In their book Tuned In (If I didn’t convince you yesterday to pick up the book, maybe today I will), the authors detail many companies that have uncovered and solved market problems by simply asking, listening and observing. Take, for example:

  • The Japanese hotel that make its money from overworked businessmen who fall asleep on the last train of the night only to wake up and find themselves at the end of the line. (The hotel is cheaper than getting a taxi).
  • Magnavox created a TV Remote Locator after asking and observing that 55% of people loose their TV remote up to 5 times per week (that’s a lot of couch cushion diving!).
  • The Nalgene Company discovered by observation that their plastic, lightweight and shatter-resistant water bottles appealed to outdoor enthusiast and college kids and not just to those wanting them for laboratory use.

There are undiscovered market problems and unintended uses of products and services in every market. What can you discover?

Happy Friday all!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

William Duggan on Strategic Intuition

strategic-intuition.pngWe have a special post for today. I had the pleasure of interviewing William Duggan about his new book, Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement.

William Duggan, an associate professor of Management at Columbia Business School, is an expert on what he calls “strategic intuition.” Recently, his class on this subject was rated the highest by the students of Columbia of any of the 218 classes offered. Below is my e-mail interview with Mr. Duggan:

  1. Why did you write Strategic Intuition?
    I wrote Strategic Intuition because I stumbled upon the idea and immediately thought it was interesting and important. In strategy, we have lots of techniques for analyzing your industry, your competitors, your own position, customer trends and the like — but none of those methods tells you how to conclude what strategy to adopt. And we have lots of techniques for planning, where you lay out the activities and milestones to accomplish your goal — but none of these methods tells you how to set a goal in the first place. There’s a missing link between strategic analysis and strategic planning: how do you get your strategic idea? That’s the question that strategic intuition answers. I haven’t seen any other answer, and I’ve done a thorough search.
  2. In a nutshell, what is strategic intuition?
    Strategic intuition is the selective projection of past elements into the future in a new combination as a course of action that fits your previous goals or sparks new ones, with the personal commitment to follow through and work out the details along the way. It happens as a flash of insight when your mind is relaxed and connects the dots.
  3. How does it work?
    Modern neuroscience has overturned the idea of two sides of the brain — creativity on one side, analysis on the other — in favor of “intelligent memory”, where the brain constantly searches for a useful synthesis of a subset of elements from the huge volume it takes in and stores. As it turns out, the first great work of strategy scholarship dates from 1832 — On War by Carl von Clausewitz — and puts the same idea at the center of strategic success. Von Clausewitz gives four steps: 1) examples from history, where you take in elements of what others have done before you to succeed; 2) presence of mind, where you enter the strategic situation with no expectations of what the goal, problem, solution, or strategy should be; 3) “coup d’oeil”, which means “glance” in French, where selective elements from examples from history come together in your mind as a flash of insight; and 4) resolution, which is the determination to carry through the idea you’ve just seen in your mind.
  4. What are the differences between strategic intuition and intuition discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink?
    Blink is about “expert” intuition, which is fast and works in familiar situations, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of an opponent’s racket. “Strategic” intuition is slow and works in new situations — that flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been at the back of your mind for a month. And in many cases expert intuition is the enemy of strategic intuition: if you enter a new situation, your expert intuition might recognize one piece of it and jump to a conclusion in an instant. Instead, you need time to let your strategic intuition search widely for all the different pieces that make up the new situation. In the military, there’s a famous case of “Slow Joe Dowdy,” the first commanding officer to be relieved of his post during battle since World War II. In the invasion of Iraq, the US troops used their expert intuition to advance quickly on the enemy army. Joe Dowdy’s troops took heavy fire from the rooftops going through Kut. He stopped on the other side and sat on a playground swing just thinking. His superior officer flew in and fired him for going too slow. As we now know, Joe Dowdy’s strategic intuition was slowly working away — he was the first US officer to realize, however dimly, that it was a guerilla war, not a conventional one.
  5. Can you give us some examples of strategic intuition found in the business world?
    In a series of flashes of insight, the Google guys put together four previous elements that they did not invent to make their great innovation: data mining algorithms, Altavista’s full-text web search, reverse link ranking as in academic citations, and Overture’s ad searches that display as lists rather than banners or pop-ups. Even better, their discovery changed their goal: they started out as Stanford graduate students working on e-commerce data mining and put together the four elements for that, but then others at Stanford started using their research tool as a search engine and said it was fantastic. So the Google guys switched to search. This is all in David Vise’s book, The Google Story.
  6. So are brainstorming session useless?
    If by brainstorming you mean “thinking aloud with other people,” then brainstorming is vital. But if you mean brainstorming as “scheduled sessions where we pick a topic and together throw out creative ideas”, then brainstorming is useless. In workshops over the past few years I’ve asked thousands of people, “When do you get your best ideas?” and not a single person ever said “In organized brainstorming sessions.” It’s usually “in the shower,” or “at night”, or “when talking to someone about something other than what I’m working on.”
  7. How can marketers benefit from strategic intuition?
    First of all, marketers are strategists just like anyone else. They must figure out a course of action toward a worthwhile goal. Strategic intuition is the way to do that. In the book there’s a specific tool I discovered at GE that lets you do that as a team – not as a brainstorming session, but over days and even weeks if need be. Second, marketers need to remember that “stealing” elements from the past tell you more about what to do than focus groups or other forms of marketing research. I think marketers are used to taking elements from elsewhere to some degree, but they might need to be reminded how widely you need to look. That is, don’t just steal from other marketers, which is “stealing inside the box”, so to speak. To “steal outside the box”, look outside marketing. One classic example is Henry Ford: he got the idea for the moving assembly line from Oldsmobile’s first stationary assembly line, plus the moving overhead line from the slaughterhouses in the Chicago stockyards. See how widely old Henry opened his mind to look for elements to combine? We all need to do the same.
  8. How can we find out more about strategic intuition?
    You mean, after you read the book? In New York City I’ll be doing a two-day workshop March 20-21 through Columbia Executive Education. You can go back to my earlier research reports, Napoleon’s Glance and The Art of What Works. Or go to the sources: On War by Von Clausewitz, Intelligent Memory by Barry Gordon and Lisa Berger, or How Breakthroughs Happen by Andrew Hargadon. Strategic Intuition cites other references that you can follow up too.
  9. Bonus question: What is your favorite Seinfeld episode?
    The Pony Remark, but only for that bit because one secret of the show’s success — that Larry David is now re-using in Curb Your Enthusiasm — is that there are 3 or 4 bits per episode and they all don’t have to work for you to remember the episode fondly. (I didn’t remember what else happened in that episode, so I just looked it up: Kramer bets Jerry he’ll redo his apartment as a multi-level, and then backs out.)

For more information, check out William Duggan’s new book and his web site to read the first chapter for free!

Happy Thursday!

Your time to shine


Here is your assignment (if you choose to accept it). Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton have once again teamed up to write another book and at this very moment are gathering authors (and aspiring authors) who would like to help write it.

You remember Age of Conversion? Yeah, it’s like that but hopefully even better. For more details click here.

Even if you do not want to be an author in the book, you can always help choose the topic by voting here.

This post will self destruct in 5 seconds.

5…4…3…2…(on second thought, I guess I’d better kept this post around for others to join in as well)

Happy Tuesday.

The Interdependent Group

scale.pngIn the last Seinfeld on Marketing, I only briefly touched on the three types of groups. Today we’ll discuss more in depth the last group, The Interdependent Group.

If you ever work in groups (and who doesn’t), The Interdependent Group is the Holy Grail of groups. In this type of group, each member is independent in work and thought yet is mutually dependent on each member of the group for the final outcome – but there has to be the right balance of independence and dependence. If the scales are tipped too much to the “dependent” side and each member relies on others unhealthily for input, the result is usually the collective bland ideas of The Consensus Group. If on the other hand the scales are tipped too heavily to the other side and “independence” reins supreme, the result is usually the amassed hodgepodge of confusing ideas of The Frankenstein Group.

A good example of The Interdependent Group at work comes from the making of the book The Age of Conversation. In this book, each marketing guru from Drew McLellan to Gavin Heaton independently wrote a chapter about word of mouth marketing and combined them into a book (by the way, it’s worth the read and the proceeds go to charity). This project seemed to have the right combination of independence (the authors submitted their chapter free from tight restrictions from the other members) and dependence on the out come (the flow of the book worked and the group relied on one another to produce the final result).

The difference between the Age of Conversation and the Novel Twists project I brought up yesterday is that the independence/dependence scale of the Novel Twists project is out of balance. Not only are the authors at Novel Twists dependent on the outcome, but given the structure of the novel they are also dependent on the input as well (if one author introduces a new character or involves a character in some action, it has to be carried out by subsequent authors).

Any relationship where people have to work together for a common purpose (albeit in business, personal relationships, communities, politics, etc.), the optimized power realized from a group will only come from the independent input and the common dependence on the output of interdependent groups.

The “movie” in my head

Often times you’ll finish watching a movie and remark, “that movie was good but I liked the book better.” Why is that? I think there may be a number of reasons but one reason in particular seems very fitting.

Maybe it’s just me, but the “movie” in my head that plays as I read a book blows away most movie director interpretations. As I read, I vividly capture the look and mood of each character and the surroundings as I see it. The “movie” I watch in my head is my interpretation and therefore is customized to me.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Often times while experiencing your product, a consumer will also play a “movie” in their heads. A young teenager at the Apple store will picture in her mind showing her friends the latest iPod and the associated feelings of being part of the “in” crowd. An otherwise stuffy accountant may imagine himself on his new Harley Davidson and the feeling of freedom. A mother may vividly picture herself in her new home with her children surrounding her by the fireplace as she reads them a bedtime story. My own “movie” showing my hopes and aspirations is better than any marketer could ever dream of because it’s my fantasy and it is personalized and customized to me.

Sometimes as marketers it’s best to involve ourselves as little as possible with the consumer movie making process. Sure, we must give them something worthy of a dream. And like any great storyteller, we must suggest tangible imagery that conjures up vivid and relevant desires in the mind. However, once this is done, my advice is to get out of the way and let the consumer customize her own movie.

Free stuff Friday

Scott Ginsberg, “That Guy with the Nametag” is giving away his latest 219 page book as a free download. You can find it here. I’ve read most of it, and it is quite good. Some of the topics include:

  • People buy people first.
  • Grow bigger ears.
  • The best swimmers are always in the pool.
  • Become the luckiest person you know.
  • Do what nobody else is willing to do.
  • Authenticity, not charisma. Friendly always wins.

Happy Friday everyone!

Seth Godin is coming to Utah!

It appears to be official! According to Seth Godin’s blog, he is coming to Utah on May 24th from 1 PM – 4PM. Here are details:

Seth Godin, the Marketing Guru will share his latest insight in marketing & talk about his latest book “The Dip”.

The cost is $50 per person, which includes 5 free copies of his latest book. Or you can buy 5 copies of his book for $50 and hear him speak for free (you decide).

Come early to network with others. See you there!

$50 to hear the top marketer alive?

Got Godin?If you live in Utah (or if you can fly to Utah within 3 to 5 hours), please support the effort to get the most brilliant marketing mind to speak in Utah on May 24th. For $50 you will not only get to hear Seth Godin but you’ll also receive 5 copies of his new book The Dip. But wait, there’s more! If Seth were here personally, I bet he would guarantee that you would come away with Three C’s (and maybe more) after hearing him speak:

  1. Change – Seth is an “Agent of Change”. You will see your business, your industry and yourself in a whole new light. Once you’ve have tasted this change, there will be no going back to your old ways (you will not want to anyway).
  2. Clarity – Seth will enlighten the path of remarkableness for yourself and your company.
  3. Quitting – (okay this isn’t a “C” but it does start with the same phonemic sound, does that count?) “What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.”

Come and join us if you can. I promise that you will not be disappointed!

Frictionless formulas

I have recently read two similar business books. They are similar in that they both discuss formulas that can be implemented in an organization to measure profitability and business success. However, one formula is very simple while the other is more complex (at least IMHO). Let’s see if you can guess which is which:

The Ultimate Question, by Fred Reichheld

The Ultimate Question According to Reichheld, the “ultimate question” you should ask your customers is: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague”? This question is based on a 0 to 10 scale.

Your customers are then divided into three categories based on the number they chose. Those who answered 9 or 10 are categorized as Promoters (enthusiastic evangelists), those that answer 7 or 8 are categorized as Passives (satisfied but bored customers), while those that answered 0 through 6 are categorized as Detractors (unhappy customers). Using these categories, you can derive your Net Promoter Score by using the following formula:

% of Promoters (P) minus % of Detractors (D) equals Net Promoter Score (NPS)

in other words:

P – D = NPS

Return on Customer, by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers

Return On Customer Peppers and Rogers explain the proper balance between current profit and long-term value. Both short-term and long-term value comes from the only business asset that ultimately matters: customers.

According to Peppers and Rogers, a customer can create value for a business in two ways: by increasing the company’s current-period cash flows, and by increasing its future cash flows. Maximizing Return On Customer (ROC) optimizes the mix of both current-period and future profits, to create the most enterprise value possible, as quickly as possible.

The formula for Return On Customer (ROC) is:

A firm’s current-period cash flow from its customers plus any changes in the underlying customer equity, divided by the total customer equity at the beginning of the period.

in other words:

Which formula do you think would be easier to spread? (hint: I had to cut and paste one formula instead of simply typing it because of the math symbols). I am not saying that one formula is better than another (actually, I think both are very valuable). What I am saying is that the less friction a message has, the greater chance it has of being spread by word of mouth (given that the messages are of equal greatness).

Whether your message is a business formula, a movie plot, or political platform, “friction” can be caused by complexity, being commonplace, or the fact that your product or service must actually be experienced to be enjoyed. Regardless of the reason, friction causes your message to grind to a halt. If you make your message as frictionless as possible, you’re well on you way to spreading your message.