Words of wisdom from a 10 year old (Part 2)

The Clue Train Manifesto

This month marks the 10-year anniversary for what I consider one of the most important manifestos on the Internet. My goal over the next several days is to entice you to read (again or for the first time) The Clue Train Manifesto (free). You can read part one here.

When I first read The Clue Train Manifesto I was young in my marketing career. I first read it during a time when I was trying to tie up the loose theory I learned in college while at the same time seeking something that would help guide my future pursuits. When I first read it, I knew I had found what I was looking for. It was almost a magical moment. Hopefully it will help you as well.

Here are today’s money quotes:

  • We long for more connection between what we do for a living and what we genuinely care about, for work that’s more than clock-watching drudgery.
  • [C]ompanies don’t like us human. They leverage our longing for their ends. If we feel inadequate, there’s a product that will fill the hole, a bit fetishistic magic that will make us complete. Perhaps a new car would do the trick. Maybe a trip to the Caribbean of that new CD or a nice shiny set of Ginsu steak knives. Anything, everything, just get more stuff. Our role is to consume.
  • Because the Net connects people to each other, and impassions and empowers through those connections, the media dream of the Web as another acquiescent mass-consumer market is a figment and a fantasy.
  • Markets must come to have faces and personalities in place of statistical profiles.
  • The question is whether, as a company, you can afford to have more than an advertising-jingle persona. Can you put yourself out there: say what you think in your own voice, present who you really are, show what you really care about? Do you have any genuine passion to share? Can you deal with such honesty? Such exposure? Human beings are often magnificent in this regard, while companies, frankly, tend to suck. For most large corporations, even considering these questions — and they’re being forced to do so by both Internet and intranet — is about as exciting as the offer of an experimental brain transplant.
  • Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.

Read The Clue Train Manifesto

Happy Wednesday!


Words of wisdom from a 10 year old (Part 1)

The Clue Train Manifesto

This month marks the 10-year anniversary for what I consider one of the most important manifestos on the Internet. My goal over the next several days is to entice you to read (again or for the first time) The Clue Train Manifesto (free).

Here are some money quotes that are still (if not more) relevant today. Keep in mind this was 1999, well before anything that could have been labeled web 2.0 or social media:

  • Markets are conversations. Markets want to talk to companies.
  • There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market. In most cases, neither conversation is going well.
  • Most corporations…only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies.
  • [L]earning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.
  • Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
  • Companies must ask themselves where their company cultures end. If their cultures end before the community begins, the will have no market.
  • The community of discourse is the market.
  • If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it interesting for a change.

Read The Clue Train Manifesto

Happy Tuesday!

The best of the best practices

I overheard someone asking for “the best of the best practices.” This just goes to show you that many so-called “best practices” are just noise. Sure, they may have been valuable for the company that first discovered them. But over time as the practices were passed around from one company to the next, the sharp edges that made them effective were worn down. By the time they reached mainstream and were called best practices, they had been reduced to “safe practices” or “boring practices.”

At best, best practices are simply minimal requirements. Best practices are to effective strategy as Wikipedia is to curing cancer – it’s a starting point. Never lull yourself into believing the pleasing (but false) notion that best practices will cure what ails you. You’ve got to go well beyond best practices and forge your own niche.

Agree? Disagree?

Festivus on Marketing (Part 3): Feats of Strength


This is Part 3 of a small series called Festivus on Marketing (ending tomorrow of course!). You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A couple of days ago we talked about the Festivus ritual of “Airing of Grievances.” Today we’ll talk about another ritual called “Feats of Strength.” Festivus tradition states that Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in some sort of a wrestling match. As Frank Costanza is undoubtedly v-e-r-y strong, the almost insurmountable feat of pinning him must have taken a great deal of strength, courage and stamina.

But in business it’s great to know that in order to win the hearts of your customers, it usually takes a far less grandiose deed. Instead, it’s usually some small acts of humanness that we remember.

Zappos surprised someone who lost a loved one with flowers. DoubleTree delights arriving hotels guests with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Southwest Airlines spreads fun and humanness with their standup flight instruction that resemble comedy routines.

Surprise. Delight. Humanness. Repeat. Try it out – it really works!

By the way, a B-I-G thanks goes out to the refrigerator repairmen who not only fixed our refrigerator but also went out of their way to fix our garage door that had just broke. Pure awesomeness.

Have a very Merry Festivus Eve everyone!

[Photo Credit: M-J Milloy]

Festivus on Marketing (Part 1): Something for the rest of us

Instead of my usual Seinfeld on Marketing, I decided to dedicate the next few days to a series called Festivus on Marketing (ending on December 23rd, of course!)

For the few of you out there who are not familiar with Festivus, it is a holiday that “prolific” Frank Costanza of the TV show Seinfeld created because he “hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.”


Here’s how Festivus was born:

FRANK: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had – but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!

KRAMER: What happened to the doll?

FRANK: It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. “A Festivus for the rest of us!”

Frank Costanza unknowingly created a small tribe of people who wanted something different by catering to “the rest of us.” And that is how most remarkable things are born.

In 1998, most of us were fine with the directory style of Yahoo! Then along came Google for the rest of us who wanted another way of “returning extremely relevant results” on the web. In 1971, most of us were fine with our flight travel. Then along came Southwest Airlines for the rest of us who wanted a “different kind of airline.”

The trouble occurs when we try to market to the most of us and concern ourselves with getting the most eyeballs or the most traffic to our website or store. When in reality it’s not about getting the most as it is about getting the few – “the rest of us” – who are passionate about what you have to offer.

Seek out “the rest of us” – we’re waiting for you!

Happy Friday!

Photo Credit: axelsrose

Why you need a bouncer


If you go to an exclusive club, inevitably you’ll encounter a bouncer trying to keep out the riff raff. They don’t let everyone in and that’s the whole point. A bouncer’s entire job is to create scarcity.

Bouncers are good. They are the gate keepers of the unique experience. We all need bouncers.


Because you can’t be everything to everyone. No bouncer means “enter the ordinary” (ever see a bouncer at an Olive Garden?). You have to decide who’s on your A-list and gets their hand stamped to come and go as they please. But maybe even more importantly, you must decide who’s not worthy to enter your club.

What is your bouncer? Does your bouncer have strict standards or does he sometimes slip and take the occasional bribe and let in someone he shouldn’t? Is your bouncer “beefy” enough (yuck, did I just say beefy?!)?

Happy Monday!

(Photo credit, sol proprietor)

When customer rituals become trite


So the other day I had to get a new prescription for my glasses (my eyes ain’t what they used to be folks). The optometrist’s assistant led me into a small room to do some of the routine exams (I completely hate that blast of air in the eye test – that’s right, I’m a baby!)

Right away you could tell that the assistant had performed many, many of these tests and basically memorized a script. “Now stand up, pick up your chair and place it over here by this machine.” It all seemed very mechanical with no personality at all. Which is too bad. It could have easily been a time to inject some humanity into a sterile exam – at no extra cost to the company.

Think of the routine interactions you may have with customers. Have they become trite? Without feeling? Could a robot do what you do just as well or better than you? If so, it’s time to put the “person” back into personality.

What robot interactions have you had as of late? What can we do to make them more meaningful?

Flickr photo: by Dirty Bunny