17 posts categorized "Being Extraordinary."

February 06, 2013

A Pixar University for the Rest of Us


PersonalUniversityModel.001

 

We hear about internal “Corporate Universities” at Pixar and Apple, and even at some of the high profile Silicon Valley startups – all organizations that want to be known for their innovation, creative problem-solving, success rates that exceed the industry norm, and engaged employees.  But what about the vast numbers of people at organizations that do not provide access to such programs internally (or otherwise through university-based executive bootcamps), or the growing number of individuals around the world who run smaller businesses (both tech and non-tech) and see themselves as “creative entrepreneurs?”  How can they design or access a program for themselves and colleagues that can provide them with both new perspectives and problem-solving skills that can rival, if not exceed, that of the corporate universities in terms of both content and integrated design?  The solution may well be in a combination of online continuing education platforms (synchronous and asynchronous) and facilitated/engaged real world realtime groups (e.g. meetups and discussion groups).  Different than signing up for a single technical course from a Udemy or Coursera (specific industry skill development), or listening to a TED Talk (largely inspiration vs. action focused), there might well be an orchestrated road map of several classes that in sequence add up to a powerful whole that bridges new ways of being with new skills.

What follows is a proposal of what one such road map might look like.  And it is one that is completely possible with technology and platforms available now.

What Is the North Star That Guides You?

As indicated by the infographic that opens this post, the touchstone for all of the classes in this model is an understanding by the individual of what their “North Star” is.  This is what guides, frames, and makes specific and actionable to them – all of the material in the other classes.  So it is only natural that the opening class in this approach is to help people begin to understand or verify their “North Star” – meaning that "internal compass that can guide you successfully through life."  It is that rock upon which your point of view and way of being in the world is built or checks into on the journey.  It is what is truthful to you, without needing permission from the rest of the world.

Sound a bit soft?  Perhaps, but that does not make it any less important.  And some of the leading agencies in the world of “challenger brands” talk about this on the level of definition for a company or brand (see the global consultancy “eat big fish” that calls this a "LightHouse Identity" for brands).

So how might we describe that foundation class?

In large part it is about the concept of path to authentic leadership and being an authentic human being – and entering the metaphorical crucible that burns away anything extraneous and untrue to reveal true intentions, character, values, principles, and path – and defines for each indivual what motivates them beyond making money.

Finding Your North Star – Your Personal Brand Truth 

Every individual’s path is personal and unique. There is no universal map that will guide us through life.  So how do we answer the questions: What do I do next? How do we deal with inertia?  Is there a necessary and irreconcilable division between the head and the heart? Can only impoverished poets follow their passions? How do we live a life that matters?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." - Joseph Campbell

Program Components and Structure

Four classes each then fall into two supporting categories of “Ways of Being” and “Skill Development.”  And an additional two classes fill a category that is focused on bridging these two categories.

 

“Ways of Being”

Traditional definitions of work culture, leadership and organizational values, along with the relentless urgency of most businesses, has resulted in an undermining of quality, creativity, engagement, and ultimately performance and productivity.  How do we redefine “ways of being” in business and other organizations to reclaim both personal and group performance levels, along with greater satisfaction and meaning?

Courses inlcude:

  1. Peak Performance
  2. Creative Confidence
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Compassionate Leadership

 

“Skill Development” 

There are a number of skills that can be learned over time – that have been mistakenly defined as the native talents of the few.  While some may come to these skills more easily than others, all can be learned and honed with practice and guidance.  All are relevant to those regardless of their walk of business life or left-right brain orientation.  And all contribute to powerful approaches to problem solving and the generation and realization of new ideas and approaches.

Courses inlcude:

  1. Humor and Improv
  2. Storytelling and Presentations
  3. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  4. Design Thinking 

 

"Bridging"

There are two classes that fit neither solely in "Being" or "Skills" - but that actually serve as the actionable glue between the two categories of learning.

  1. Networking and Mentoring
  2. Habits and Behavior Design

Ways of Being

1. Peak Performance 

Is sustained high performance in the face of increasing pressure and rapid change possible? Can we take the learnings of elite athletes and apply them in the business world to individuals and teams?  Is there power in minding and feeding the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental/cognitive self and the connections between them?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“We grow the aspects of our lives that we feed – with energy and engagement – and choke off those we deprive of fuel. Your life is what you agree to attend to.” - Jim Loehr

 

2. Creative Confidence - Creativity Expanded

What exactly is creativity?  Just as there are multiple types of intelligence, creativity takes many forms.  What can the “creatives” and otherwise creative individuals learn from each other about tapping into that process?  How can we deal with “writer’s block,” find ways to step outside the box, and get comfortable with coloring outside the lines – as individuals, in groups, and as organizations?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“The mind in creation is as a fading coal which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this arises from within … and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or of its departure.” ― Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

3 and 4. Emotional Intelligence and Compassionate/Authentic Leadership

What if we began to see how the understanding of emotions in a business environment (one's own and those of others) was actually a net positive?  Emotional maturity and understanding have been shown to directly correlate to performance and the bottom line, as they travel from leaders throughout the organization.

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“The most successful business leaders are often experts in emotions.” ―  Chip Conley

Skill Development

1. The Serious Business of Humor and Improvisation

Not everything needs to be, or even should be, planned. Inspiration can come from many unexpected sources and improvisational techniques can help surface these and increase adaptability, creativity, and flexibility - even when you don’t know what’s coming next.

So how can we rediscover a sense of play and humor and apply them to the most serious or mundane of endeavors?  We often think about improvisation in terms of comedy, music, or acting, but the art of improvisation can be applied to all sorts of pursuits – from scientific exploration and experimentation, to the subtle diplomacy of peace negotiators, to sports, to business leaders and owners who must mix long-term planning with on-the-spot thinking as the landscape around them shifts in unexpected ways.

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“Basketball, unlike football with its prescribed routes, is an improvisational game, similar to jazz. If someone drops a note, someone else must step into the vacuum and drive the beat that sustains the team.”  ―  Phil Jackson

 

2. Storytelling and Presentations

We are creatures of the narrative, as little is more powerful than a great story. Great presenters need to be great storytellers - as a presentation is essentially a story with a purpose - to engage the audience, and eventually have them take ownership of the story.   The art of storytelling is not limited to the world of professional actors or writers, nor is a great presentation defined by how compex a slide deck may be.  Storytelling and presenting are skills that can be honed by studying and practicing the techniques and structures of the greats, and can be a game changer in business.

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“Structure is not a template. It’s not a cookie cutter. It’s something that arises organically from the material once you have it… When I was young, I was so bewildered about how to cope with all that material. Leaning on structural planning is what got me out from under a 50-ton rock that was lying on my chest.” ― John McPhee

“Consider the kind of relationship you want to have with your audience. Do you want to be their hero? Their mentor? Their cheerleader? Like these characters, good presenters aren’t in it for themselves; they’re in it for others.”― Nancy Duarte

 

3. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Can we reexamine the roles of logic versus emotions/perceptions in the process of negotiation, and by making more powerful human connection with "the person across the table" actually become a more successful negotiator?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“We know - intellectually - that confronting an issue is the only way to resolve it. But any resolution will disrupt the status quo. Given the choice between conflict and change on the one hand, and inertia on the other, the ostrich position can seem very attractive.”  ― Margaret Heffernan 

 

4. Design Thinking  - From Inspiration to Idea to Invention to Innovation

Where do ideas come from?  How do they evolve from a thought into an invention, and from there through continuing phases of innovation.  How is the birth of a big idea different from that of an incremental refinement?  What is unique about the process of generating groundbreaking concepts, and then bootstrapping them into the physical world?  How do you build a culture of innovation to birth and support this?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“Defer judgment. Encourage wild ideas. Stay focused on the topic. The most important of them, I would argue, is ‘Build on the ideas of others.’ “ – Tim Brown

 

Bridging "Being" and "Skills" to Facilitate Change

1. Networking and Mentoring

How do we challenge the conventional understanding of networking and mentoring, redefining and implementing it in a way that is both personal and purposeful with an equally meaningful "give and ask".  How do we organize our relationships around our true beliefs?  What value do we want to bring to those with whom we connect in sometime murky situations?  How does this bring about measurable change?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.  

“The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives. The capacity to sell isn’t some unnatural adaptation to the merciless world of commerce. It is part of who we are. “  ― Daniel Pink

 

2. Habits and Behavior Design

Are we stuck in our current way of being and addressing problems and challenges? Or can we begin to redesign and reengineer our behavior as well as that of others?

Example Books and Teachers that could support this type of class

Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” ― Charles Duhigg  

 

Moving Forward

This particular idea of a "Pixar University for the Rest of Us" is based around the concept of understanding and supporting a "Personal North Star" with actionable classes that challenge conventional thinking by (1) redefining ways of being in the business world, (2) teaching new skills that transcend job titles, and (3) developing the creative glue that bridges the two.

What would you change or add to the mix in terms of topics or instructors?  And do you think this could be achieved via a year long program (one topic per month) facilitated via an online learning environment with optional real world gatherings?   Favicon 

 

November 09, 2012

Technology and Live Events: Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

  Framed_woodstock2012_h

The Question

What might one of the iconic music and cultural events of the past century – Woodstock – look like today with the integration of digital and social technologies, especially with Twitter as the network?  And how might this compare almost 20 years later to the first experimental integration of digital consumer technology into the 25th anniversary of that live event?  (If your reading time is limited, go to the sections in this post labeled "Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013" and "Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements.")

The Background

In 1969, Joni Mitchell said, "Woodstock was a spark of beauty" where half-a-million kids "saw that they were part of a greater organism." Without any real outside media coverage during the event, that experience was initially limited to those camped out for 4 days at the 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  The true size of that “greater organism” and the full impact of the cultural experience that transformed and energized a group into the “Woodstock generation”  - came later, delayed by limitations in distributing and sharing the experience.

Cut away to the present time, and we see widely adopted consumer media creation technologies and platforms like Twitter that when creatively deployed (with smart production values and rock solid engineering) in areas such as politics, entertainment, and sports  - create real-time living breathing “organisms” (we might now say audience or community) that are “Woodstock worthy” in terms of the potential for impact - and that powerfully bridge the physical and digital worlds for both those at the event and others geographically separated from the event and each other by even thousands of miles.

So it’s not surprising that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently told the Wall Street Journal that the company is evolving to "more closely tie the shared experience on Twitter to the actual event that is happening."  And the proof of that is certainly found in the company’s track record of just the past 6 months as Twitter has made some bold and successful partnership and production moves into the live event integration arena with examples such as:

  • NASCAR – Launching a relationship with the first sports organization to create an enhanced live event experience on the platform.  (May 2012)
  • The London Olympics – Partnering with a major main stream media company, NBCUniversal, along with major brands such as GE, to create an infrastructure and experience that aggregated and parsed millions of tweets from athletes, fans, and commentators. (July-August 2012)
  • The US Presidential Debates and Election Night Coverage – Redefining the relationship between first and second screen in terms of information, conversation, and delivery of candidate announcements.  (October – November 2012) 

The Experiment

So what if we now take Woodstock - one of the most surprising and culturally redefining live music events of the past 50 years - and use the lens of technology powered media and engagement – to see how the spirit and experience of the 1969 original was translated with early digital technology in its first “reissue” at the 25th Anniversary in 1994, and what a “reimagined Woodstock” might be in 2013/2014 with the kinds of technologies and experiences we have today, with twitter as the empowering network.

A quick comparison table here with frameworks, specifics, and flowcharts following.   Download Woodstock Comp Grid

The 25th Anniversary of Woodstock 

In August 1994, the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock was held over a three-day period at the 800-acre upstate New York farm that had been initially intended for the first event.  This was the first time that the iconic brand had ever been revisited as an event, and the producers who had also set the stage for the original phenomena, wanted to remain true to that initial vision while also adding relevance for what they described as “a generation who was reading William Gibson and getting up on the Internet.”

(NOTE: This was quite a statement to be made at that time. In 1994, there were only 1500 Web servers online, the Mosaic browser had just come out one year earlier, Earthlink was launching, and Yahoo was about a browser and content index. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. There were no smart phones, and consumer digital still and video cameras were expensive and limited in resolution.  Platforms to distribute media were limited to videotape and CDROM, with containers and authoring systems being jerry-rigged around software such as Macromedia Director.)

But what was the same then versus now?  The drive to create and share information and experiences.

An 8-acre area of the festival field was carved out and named “The Surreal Field” with interactive experiences from artists like Todd Rundgren and Peter Gabriel.  This was also where a 4000 square foot tented production facility (plus an adjoining semi truck with mobile video editing bays) was built in which Woodstock concert goers could observe the behind-the-scenes creation of the twice-daily Woodstock News “video magazine” by a team of two dozen videographers, editors, animators, blue screen operators, composers, programmers, onscreen talent, field reporters, producers and directors working nearly round the clock.  Story types included Woodstock history and event pre-production, behind the scenes interviews, artist interviews, concert audience “ambush style” interviews, “question of the day” blue screen interviews, creative and gaming tech stories, and the concert schedule for the day.

Additionally, limited amounts of text-based reporting were sent out each day via an Apple Web Server.  Yes, limited Internet access was pulled into this portion of the 800 acre cow pasture for this purpose.

A simple flow chart (click image below for larger size image) of the creation of the Woodstock News in terms of people, equipment, and infrastructure. Almost two dozen people, more than 12 Macintosh computers and 24 monitors just to handle acquisition, digitizing, and output to a distribution format from “professional” sources.  No opportunity for “audience” contribution or feedback other than the limited offering in field interviews and blue screen “question of the day” segments.

Framed WoodstockProdFlow

 

  • Woodstocknewsroom
  • Woodstock_jumbo_Blog
  • Woodstock News Storyboard
  • *band schedule image
  • WoodQuestionDay 2
  • Woodpress
  • Woodstockk Logo
Woodstockk Logo

 

My observation at the time on the people and the technology, and live events as platforms for testing creative and technical boundaries. I think it’s very relevant no matter the year – then or now.

"Sometimes it’s almost more about how well your team will coalesce and how they will deal with the elements and difficult situations - mud, crowds, thunderstorms, close-quarter housing - than if the technology will work.  Rock and roll festivals are great places to test the boundaries of multimedia, both from a technical as well as a creative sense.  From a creative perspective, you have to create something that will really grab and maintain people’s attention - from the front row to the guy standing half a mile from the stage watching the Jumbotrons.  And technically, you never know what you might face in terms of the elements causing problems with your equipment - dust in the video deck heads, thunderstorms during which you have to power down, rain coming in through AC vents - and there is no local Apple dealer around when you are out in the middle of what is essentially an 840-acre cow pasture."

Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

There are innumerable ways that one could reimagine and engineer a Woodstock  with the wealth of broadly distributed digital and social technologies available to both professionals and the “consumer” audience today, the user experience, design and technical skills that have developed from experiments on many platforms, and the mobile element – which did not exist for anyone at any price before.


Framed WoodstockTwitter2013Infographic

This is a simple flow chart (click for full size image) showing the sourcing of various forms (created by both pro and user) of media content and conversation directly and indirectly into Twitter, and then the moderation, curation, and filtration of that along with the tweet wrapper content itself -  based on both human editorial and rule sets – to create output, visualizations, and control streams back out to various distribution types, displays, and devices.

The description and schematic above in this post represent just one possible “reimagining” (with Twitter as the primary network).  It is meant more as a sketchpad for thinking more deeply from creative, technical and business perspectives of what we can do now in bridging the physical and digital worlds (in both real-time and asynchronously) in ways that were never before possible.  And those new kinds of experiences may well create the “sparks of beauty” and connection to a “greater organism” that Joni Mitchell talked about in the opening of this post. 

  • It  - and that which it surfaces and displays by separating the signal from the noise - can become part of the event/show itself;
  • It can take a deeper show experience to other people outside of the event space (geographic independence synchronously) and time (asynchronous);
  • It can change the “planned” nature of the event itself, by content and conversation created by the audience locally and in other areas;
  • It can spark unexpected cultural shifts.

Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements

(1) Content Input Sources into Twitter

How might media of all forms come into Twitter at a major live event such as a reimagined Woodstock?  Significantly different from the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock, media comes from both the pros and the audience.  And depending on the synchronous nature of the event, that audience may not be geographically determined or bounded.

From the event producers, pros, and the artists themselves, we might see:

  • Video elements such as live streaming, edited packages included historical and behind the scenes stories, video bits from location-based monitoring cameras (like DropCams), and timelapse;
  • Audio delivery via live streaming, asynchronous stream or download, edited and packaged interviews and commentary;
  • Individual iconic photos and high quality photo packages;
  • Engagement activities constructed around live tweet chats, polling, alerts, and announcements;
  • Information and data generating devices automatically generating data to a “Tweet card” output based on some behavior by attendees.

For the “audience” both geographically near and far, the ability to create media and commentary is unprecedented.

  • Visual media creation from smart phones, DSLRs, and GoPro cameras, loaded directly to Twitter or attached via intermediary site (e.g. video to YouTube or photo to Instagram).  Short video bursts via perhaps Vine or Viddy.  Longer form via YouTube, Vimeo, and other newly emerging video distribution platforms.
  • Comments and text posts

(2) Separating the Relevant Signal from the Noise

As software advances (including Mass Relevance and other custom software) and real-time human curation skills develop, the effective (from both production and engineering perspectives) moderation, curation and filtration of the vast sea of tweets and associated media from such an event can be parsed and routed to the right people and devices (both private and public) that not only enhance, but change the very nature of a live experience such as a Woodstock

(3) Experience Outputs and Destinations

Twitter content may then be filtered and edited into dynamic media packages, or the underlying data translated into infographics, guides, and maps.  For example:
  • Event page curation as was seen at the 2012 Olympics, with in the not too distant future, the option to add another layer of personal filtering based on geography, demographics, or interests;
  • Tweet streams, editorially selected tweets, and tweet visualizations sent to venue-based displays, as well as out to various broadcast and Web partners;
  • Tweet activity informing real time maps and “programming guides” to optimize the experience of both on-site attendees as well as those at a distance; (See Twitter's Director of TV Fred Graver’s talk including comments about Twitter creating real-time programming guides – a live event is not that different;
  • Tweet activity and conversation turning into data that controls onsite or remote devices, offering up new forms of activities and entertainments that the “Twitter audience” creates intentionally or unintentionally through it’s actions.

More than a moment in time. It’s a way of being in the world.

This is true not only for a major live event with deep cultural influence, but also for Twitter itself.

Beyond the ideas sketched in this post, fully conceiving a reimagined Woodstock size live event would also require looking deeply into engineering issues, brand engagement opportunities, and revenue models including and beyond creative advertising and sponsorship. This party is just getting started, so to speak.  

Favicon 

 

April 17, 2011

Words of Wisdom for Finding "What Really Matters"

The words of individuals as diverse as Buckminster Fuller, Jon Stewart, Lawrence of Arabia, Eleanor Roosevelt and Yoda tell a story about "Finding your vision and making it true - That's what really matters."

 

What Really Matters?

WRM1

 

Choose who you are ...

WRM3

 

... and live that life ...

WRM4

 

... by imagining a difference ...

WRM5

 

... and taking a risk ...

WRM6

 

... to seize the moment ...

WRM7

 

... and do it all.

WRM8

 

What Really Matters? Choose who you are and live that life by imagining a difference and taking a risk to seize the moment and do it all.


WRM9

 

What's your vision and how will you make it true? Favicon

 

January 16, 2011

For the Movie Industry - Marketing is the Eye of the Storm

MovieMarketing_3Posters

 

While the debate storm swirls around the issues of technology and its impact on the how and when people can access “mainstream” entertainment, the true “eye of the storm” may be a product of technology and its impact on how the marketing of entertainment (and the associated distribution of dollars and time) needs to be significantly re adjusted if not completely rethought.

So why “the eye of the storm?” 

 

While the eye is perceived as the calmest part of the storm, it is often the most hazardous and deceptive.  In storms over water, conditions inside the eye can include towering waves generated by the storm walls.  Over land, people wander outside to inspect the damage once the eye passes, thinking the storm is over, and then are caught by surprise by massive winds in the oncoming eyewall. Such it is with technology (the storm), distribution (the storm and eye walls) and marketing (the eye) in the entertainment industry.

 

 

What Does It Mean to Market a Movie?

Historically, marketing a movie, whether it is a wide release from a major studio or a niche ultra indie, is not the same as marketing a similarly priced consumer product (an item priced at about $10). Movies exist in an environment filled with a nearly infinite variety of creative choices for an audience that needs to make a purchase decision (and an often one time purchase decision) without trial.  They don’t personally know if they like it until they have actually tried/viewed it, and there are no returns.  For the studio, the value of that initial ticket purchase decision is non-trivial, as it has historically set the tone for the all important downstream revenue opportunities.

So how does a marketer make a potential viewer feel that “they know” the movie and become invested in the experience, and provide signals that raise the chance of ticket purchase, without giving away the creative surprise that is at the core of movie viewing?

 

“… marketing by its nature is an attempt to influence the outcome.” – Jeff Ulin


This is why the race should be on for innovative thinking and well-crafted and monitored execution, and dare we say “some calculated risk taking” in rethinking the appropriate media vehicles and digital-physical linkages for different stages of the marketing conversation. 

 

Seven Stages of the Marketing Conversation

Marketing needs to be thought of as an ongoing engagement process, not a sales spike only (push style) strategy.  Media and platforms chosen for one stage should setup and feed the conversation and engagement in the next.  The following seven activities propose one way of organizing the structure and flow of the marketing conversation.

  1. Research: Identifying potential audience groups, influencers and platforms
  2. Seed: Creating and placing media, experiences, conversations and platforms for exchange
  3. Discovery: Optimizing the opportunity for discovery, curation and sharing of content and conversation of interest to the potential audience
  4. Purchase: Creating ways that make ticket purchase easy, immediate and sharable
  5. Experience: Watching the movie in theater or unique location
  6. Share: Encouraging the dialogue of personal experience with the movie, between individuals and groups with both strong and loose ties
  7. Ongoing engagement: Aligning the movie with opportunities for ongoing conversations and media beyond the initial spike push to meet opening weekend reach and sales goals. Depending on the film and originator, this linkage might be with the brand, characters or related cause

 

Timeline of Marketing Activities for Theatrical Release

Today, there is no magic formula when it comes to the theatrical release. It’s not about “one from column A, and 2 from column B.”  Innovative and creative thinking, married with well-coordinated (but flexible) execution is as important in marketing as it is in the conception and production of a movie.

The table in this post is not meant to be a complete representation of all the possible tactics, nor should every movie use all the tactics listed at a high level in this document. It is meant to help frame some thinking about media and conversations in a time based manner – before , during, and after theatrical release – and begin to introduce some more thought around the concept of “continuity of brand over time” vs. “spike/push tactics to reach initial release reach and frequency targets.”

 

Page 1 focuses on the more physical space tactics where the majors have traditionally focused and spent - with the dominance of traditional sources like TV advertising (sometimes 80% of total media spend), but with the need for more creative use of digital.  Indies may use very little of the traditional (and expensive) media platforms on Page 1, but have great opportunity to creatively use their limited dollars against digital tactics and social platforms such as those on Page 2.

 

Disney spent $34M in the initial marketing of  “Finding Nemo” with more than $20M just for TV spots - this against an estimated  $536.7M initial gross.  (Source: Ulin book)

“The power of the Web to target messages to specific demographics is a marketer’s dream, and the budgets for online advertising continue to grow.  However, the percentages spent online and the migration of marketing dollars has not been as great or fast as one may expect.” – Jeff Ulin 

 

Timeline of Marketing/Communications Activities for Theatrical Release

GenericMarketingMatrix
GenericMarketingMatrixPage2


Integrated Marketing Communications- Making the Digital and Physical Symbiotic

 

With the increasing pressure on traditional marketing tactics, there is a strong argument to be made for rethinking not only the timing of marketing activities, but also the need for:

  • strong thoughtful integration of physical/traditional media and digital/social platforms
  • increased digital spend with an understanding that those dollars are not just about ad spend with “risky non-standard platforms” (to the industry), but against new digital experiences
  • better understanding of how social platforms extend the “virtual” media budget for a film, but also require attention in dollars and resources beyond free “interns”
  • changed thinking that all activities on the Web, mobile or via apps are free for people to find randomly on their own  
  • an agreement that execution and luck do not “magically intersect” online  

The infographics that follow show snapshots of a theoretical movie campaign with both (1) a traditional media only approach and (2) a digital deeply integrated approach. Their focus is on the integration of elements and the time frame of elements is not identified (as was the purpose of the previous table). Much of the traditional marketing comes and goes, while the digital and social technology platforms can take on a more persistent continuity role before and after a particular release.

 


Traditional/Physical Marketing Only Approach

  PhysicalOnly_MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

The major elements are as follows, and can also be linked back to the previous table (page 1) in terms of general timing.  The major goal – to “push” awareness and traffic.

  • Advertising
  • Trailers
  • Press
  • Events
  • Posters
  • Merchandise
  • Cross Brand Promotions

 

Integrated Digital and Physical Marketing Approach
  MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

In addition to the major elements from the physical/traditional only campaign, other media/platforms/activities are integrated (and can also be seen in terms of general timing from the previous table page 2).

 

Additional elements to existing physical/traditional categories include:

  • Advertising – some digital push platforms
  • Press – seeding online and bloggers and digital EPKs
  • Events – virtual audience oriented
  • Trailers – the consideration of online only versions as well as digital distribution of theatrical trailers
  • Contests – digitally driven

New categories include:

  • Digital and social platforms
  • Online video
  • Apps

 

(1) Digital and Social Platforms

Creating brand specific digital platforms and leveraging those created by others that have garnered significiant (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and targeted (e.g. "vertical" blog networks) audiences create powerful amplifying nodes for content creation and distribution; curating, commenting and sharing; awareness and traffic driving; and reach/value extension for the traditional media efforts.

“For too long, we've tried to understand ourselves in isolation, as we test people one at a time in the psychology lab or rely on their past preferences to predict behavior. But these conditions and algorithms are artificial. In the real world, we are deeply intertwined with each other, dependent on our social networks for all sorts of advice. If it weren't for the buzz of strangers, we wouldn't even know what movie to pick at the multiplex.” - Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal

 

(2) Online Video

Online video can range from the creation of YouTube channels, integration and posts into Facebook groups, promotion and discussion via Twitter, stealth placements, and even syndication across "vertical" blog networks. Material can inlcude that created for traditional broadcast campaigns (e.g. talent interviews), but is even more powerful when unique digital-only content is created on an on-going basis that lets the potential movie-going audience connect deeply and personally with the brand in advance (e.g. behind the scenes, remixes with popular pop culture talent, ongoing Q&A's, digital only trailers). This can be content with high curation, aggregation and sharing potential.

“… the virtual community can scale and expand beyond what would typically occur in the physical world .. because the Internet has no geographical boundaries… It becomes a global, real-time conversation and online video is in many cases the catalyst that brings all these people together.” - Peter Levinsohn, President of New Media and Digital Distribution for Fox Filmed Entertainment

 

(3) Apps - Third Party and Original

Experimentation with apps has recently included the development of orignal apps and leveraging third party apps to directluy drive ticket sales:

"You now have a self-identified list of participants who are passionate about entertainment, and the event brand has even more value to them." - Jordan Glazier, CEO of Eventful in reference to the use of his company's app in the marketing of the movie "Paranormal Activity"

 

Three Case Studies

The series of posts that will follow will use the models and infographics presented in this post to look at the use and integration of digital platforms and content for three kinds of movies:

  • Toy Story 3: a major studio franchise release, the kind of movie where the amount spent on traditional media (largely TV) to open it is disproportionately large as theatrical launch is seen as the engine that drives larger downstream revenues.
  • Ready Set Bag:  the ultra indie passion project where distribution and helping theaters sell tickets has to be earned one geographic market at a time.
  • Waiting for Superman: the cause-related film where the key is knowing how to engage those already deeply involved with and invested in the topic and their surrounding communities. Favicon

October 29, 2010

Why Space Matters – An Argument For Truly Creative Environments and Against Cube Culture

  SpacesImage

Which of these images is not like the others?

(answer at the end of the post)

 

If one wants to give more than lip service to the concepts of collaborative creativity and innovation acceleration, then caring about the “micro-environment” of the individuals involved in those processes is required. "Micro-environments" are the spaces, both individual and common, over which we have control to some extent, and are different in the level of effort required to change them from the macro-environments of the location that surrounds them (ranging anywhere from a city to a scenic wilderness). That thoughtful engagement with and design of the immediate work environment must go far beyond many organizations’ concepts of trendy design directions or gimmicks like indoor slides.

In his book "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention", Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote that:

"Even the most abstract mind is affected by the surroundings of the body.  No one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside.  Creative individuals may seem to disregard their environment and work happily in even the most dismal surroundings … But in reality, the spatiotemporal context in which creative persons live has consequences that often go unnoticed." (p.127)

This group of “creative individuals” is not limited to “artistic” creativity, but to the broader definition of creative thinking and action that also includes science, technology and the practical arts.  One might argue that these, even more so than “fine art,” are collective creative endeavors where idea and information exchange and innovation often grows much faster in specific “hot spots” where the work of one person builds on that of others.

So what creates – or reveals -  those “hot spots,” the elusive right place at the right moment for the right pursuit?

  • Why Italy and Renaissance art?
  • Why Paris in the early 1900s for writers?  Or why Gertrude Stein’s salon in particular?
  • Why the University of Illinois and the physics of superconductors in the 1950s?
  • Why Silicon Valley and the personal computer in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s?

It would be overly simplistic to say there is only one factor that drives the rise to greatness of density of creative thought for certain geographic locations (macro-environments) for specific endeavors, but as to why a particular place (macro or micro) may accelerate and spread creative work within its boundaries, Csikszentmihalyi said:

"Certain environments have a greater density of interaction and provide more excitement and a greater effervescence of ideas; therefore, they prompt the person who is already inclined to break away from conventions to experiment with novelty more readily than if he or she had stayed in a more conservative, more repressive setting."

So if one theme extracted might be about the density of appropriate interaction presented to the “prepared mind,” what might be some current real world examples of how this can be taken to the micro-environment level of the common and personal spaces we inhabit in the structures in which we work?

 

Here are two.


1. Randy Pausch’s Stage 3 Laboratory in Wean Hall at Carnegie Mellon University (lower left image at the beginning of this post)

This is about setting the stage for fun, comfort and contentedness to fuel collaborative work from teams with diverse disciplines who don’t usually work together. And this does not have to happen in an expensive, high design space.  It can be in a humble university lab.

"Instead of a traditional laboratory, the Stage 3 lab more closely resembled a toy store. The space was awash with color and filled with games, toys and stuffed animals – lots of stuffed animals, some hanging from the ceiling.  Randy had wisely banished the use of fluorescent lights, so the colorful stuffed animals were illuminated by incandescent lamps.  The theme was clearly one of fun, comfort and contentedness. … Clearly Randy intended his lab to inspire creativity and out of the box thinking. – “The Comet and the Tornado” by Don Marinelli (p 37)

 

2. The Atrium at Pixar Animation Studios (upper left image at the beginning of this post)

 This is about maximizing the opportunity for the informed serendipitous encounter.

"Our building, which is Steve Job's brainchild, is another way we get people from different deprtments to interact.  Most buildings are desgined for some functional purpose, but ours is structured to maximize inadvertant encounters.  At its center is a large atrium, which contains the cafeteria, eeting rooms, bathrooms, and mailboxes.  As a result, everyone has strong reasons to go there repeatedly during the course of the workday. It's hard to describe just how valuable the resulting chance encounter are." - Ed Catmull in "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity" in Harvard Business Review

 

Takeaways Beyond the Common Space

It is important to note that neither of these examples is about creating chaotic environments where one has to be an aggressive extrovert to survive. Nor are they about taking away personal and quiet spaces with a practice some call "hotelling" where individuals have no assigned personal space, but "check-in" each day for an open desk with their personal materials kept in a box on a shelf they move around each day.  (Thanks to Allison Arieff for pointing out the “hotelling” example, and to Michelle Kaufmann for reminding me about the need for beautiful open personal space.) What they are about is both personalization and optimization of the prepared mind for inspired moments as well as the chance encounter and exchange.

 

Points beyond physical attributes of the micro-environment

1. The importance of bringing a prepared mind

It is essential to have a “prepared mind” if an environment is to have a chance to impact creativity.

“…what seems to happen is that when persons with prepared minds find themselves in beautiful settings, they are more likely to find new connections among new ideas, new perspectives on issues.”  - M. Csikszentmihalyi (p 136)

2. How you do what you do

How you spend time in the right setting also has impact on the creative process. Sitting may be acceptable, but being able to walk around seems to be even better. Why?

"… when involved in a semiautomatic activity that takes up a certain amount of attention, while leaving some of it free to make connections among ideas below the threshold of conscious intentionality.  Devoting full attention to a problem is not the best recipe for having creative thoughts.” - M. Csikszentmihalyi

3. The personal space

Beyond the common space designed for the serendipitous event,  personal micro-environments, the immediate setting in which a person works, can and should be transformed into a way that those spaces enhance personal creativity.  Successful creative problem solvers manage to give their surroundings a personal setting that reflects the rhythm of their thoughts and habits. What you place around yourself whould reflect what you intend to become or create.

"In order to think more creatively, imaginatively and strategically, we need to cultivate a more intuitive, metaphorical attention that calls preeminently on the right hemisphere of the brain … The parallel challenge for leaders and organizations is to create work environments that free and encourage people to focus in absorbed ways without constant interruptions.” – Tony Schwartz in “The Way We're Working Isn't Working"

4. The exterior macro-environment

 External macro-environments set the social, cultural, and institutional contexts of our lives. Most of us can’t do that much about changing them on a daily basis.  However, access – even on an irregular basis – to environments that present unusual and complex sensory experiences (Big Sur, Grand Tetons, the beach - as in upper left image at beginning of post) can be very beneficial to the creative process.

"...one’s attention is jolted out of its customary grooves and seduced to follow the novel and attractive patterns.  However, the sensory menu does not require a full investment of attention; enough psychic energy is left free to pursue, subconsciously, the problematic content that requires a creative formulation.”  - M Csikszentmihalyi  (p 138)

 

The Takeaway

The belief that the immediate physical environment deeply impacts our thoughts and feelings, and hence our work, is held by many cultures - and ours should be no exception.  Building micro-environments that up the odds of creative thinking and work , for both the individual and the group, needs to be a thoughtful process that goes beyond surface trends and gimmicks.

And to answer the question posed at the beginning of this post: "Which of the 4 images is not like the others?"  The answer is the lower right cube farm.  It is neither a micro or macro environment that enhances creative collaboration.  Favicon

 

Additional Resources

The Economist: "Fun and the Office Environment"

Randy Pausch's office and lab

Michelle Kaufmann's post on Twitter office space - a mix of private and public spaces

Fast Company: "Where Work Is Play"

Steven Johnson in GOOD Magazine on future working spaces

Business Pundit: "8 Coolest Office Spaces Ever"

Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker (added Nov 5) "Why your bosses want to turn your new office into Greenwich Village"

 

 

October 03, 2010

When A Comet Meets a Tornado – The Power of Creative Partnerships

 

CometTornadoFramed2

 

In a world that seems to crave the solitary archetypes of the lone hero, the rugged individual, the anti-social nerd and the alpha wolf, have we forgotten the magic, mystery and power that can be found in the story of collaborative creativity? How is it that two people or a “small” group, with individuals capable and talented in their own right, can create together what they could not have done on their own?  These are important questions for both the artistic and entertainment community, as well as that of science and commerce – both in search of “that which is the new” and the illusive innovative breakthrough.

Take, for example, the unexpected “love story” between Professors Randy Pausch and Don Marinelli, who together created the Carnegie Mellon (CMU) Entertainment Technology Center in a unique marriage of science and art.

 

Background

Many have heard of “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Less known is the story of the unique partnership between Pausch and Marinelli (the Associate Head of Drama at CMU),  in the building of the CMU ETC.  Pausch (the comet – an illuminating astral body) and Marinelli (the tornado – a whirlwind of energy and creativity) were two dynamic men who met each other with polar opposite personalities, skills, life experiences and perspectives, but still found a way to powerfully join forces, create something much bigger than themselves, and unexpectedly change each other in the process.  Their premise: that the false divide that often exists between engineering and art could be bridged by showing that the two actually think surprisingly alike and can work together in trusted collaboration without mastery of knowledge in the other’s domain. Their work resulted in the definition of a unique interdisciplinary approach to the creation of technology-driven interactive entertainment founded on premises of team dynamics that provide valuable lessons for individuals and companies far beyond the walls of academia.

 “…while we were both alpha males, we were from vastly different cultures.  The battle for domination was essentially neutralized when we realized it wasn’t about which lion would rule the pride, because we were actually two distinctive breeds sharing the same enclosure.  And that environment was unfamiliar to both of us … “ - Don Marinelli (p. 42)

 

Defining the Individual

For Pausch and Marinelli, in order to understand and maximize the dynamics of the group, one had to first define two major dimensions of importance of the individual.

(1) Defining the value one uniquely brings to the team : A unique (self-understood) skill set and a predisposition to making others successful (vs just being smart) are paramount.

“Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.”  - Randy Pausch (p. 33)

“Smart isn’t enough.  The kind of people I want on my research team are those who will help everyone else feel happy to be here.’” Randy Pausch (p. 118)

(2) Acknowledging the value that “the other half” on the team provides: Defining what you don’t know, and that you don’t need to know it because other trusted members of your team have that knowledge.  Admitting the “lack of knowledge” held by “the other half” tends to clear away many of the opportunities for egos and attitude triggered by a fear of comparison.

“When we’re connected to others, we become better people.” - Randy Pausch (p. 176)

" When I collaborate with people, the further apart they are from me, the more I learn.” - Don Marinelli (p. 80)

 

Defining the Dynamics of the Group

Pausch and Marinelli believed that the best innovative (and inherently risky in terms of predicted outcome) work would be done by groups defined by a significant diversity of skills and experiences among members, mixed with a strong commonality of “teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of hard work, and ability to deal with adversity.”

“When we’re connected to others, we become better people.”  - Randy Pausch (p. 176)

"When I collaborate with people, the further apart they are from me, the more I learn.” - Don Marinelli (p. 80)

Married with this philosophy of the creative team, was a set of simple “rules” for optimizing group dynamics:

  • Meet people properly
  • Find things you have in common
  • Try for optimal meeting conditions
  • Let everyone talk
  • Check egos at the door
  • Praise each other
  • Phrase alternatives as questions

Equally important was a set of guidelines for giving and taking feedback.

  • On giving: “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”  - Randy Pausch (p. 151) 
  • On taking: “When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”   - Randy Pausch (p. 37)

 

New Research and Writings

Beyond the story of Pausch and Marinelli, there is some interesting new research and writing on this topic of “socially powered creativity” that echoes and amplifies their practical lessons from building the ETC.

Writer Joshua Wolf Shenk has begun a series of posts on Slate.com as well as a group page on Facebook to examine the story of “creative pairs”  (he’s limiting his “group size” to the number 2). His premise:

“The stereotypes of miraculous breakthrough moments—and the incessant drive to locate them in the head of epic individuals—are slowly yielding to a portrait of complex, meandering, inherently social paths toward innovation… there’s an experimental foundation now to demonstrate how our cognitive structures morph when we’re very close with other people, so that our ideas of “self” literally expand to include another person.”

Beyond face-to-face creative collaboration, some like Steven Johnson are writing about the amplification that the Internet provides in its role as a connector of diverse and remote relationships.

And others, like Daniel Pink in “Drive” are writing about what motivates us – and surprise – it’s not about “carrots and sticks”, but about mastery and purpose, something that Pausch and Marinelli learned early on in the forming of ETC.

 

Lesson Learned

So what happens when a comet meets a tornado – when the creative state successfully moves from the solitary to the collaborative?  In his relationship with Pausch, Marinelli observed that:

 “… (there is an) importance of being attuned to more than one’s personal desires and ambitions.  If you truly believe the answer is blowing in the wind, then you need to go outside to feel it.  I stepped outside my previous existence and, in doing so, discovered an alluring vortex.  The funnel-cloud of creativity would soon develop into a veritable tornado of innovation.”

When it comes to creative endeavors, we should all hope for this kind of “stormy weather.”  Favicon

 

Resources

Books

Video

Blog Posts and Groups

 

 

September 15, 2010

Learning from Pixar: Deep Beliefs, Hard Truths, and Creative Magic

PixarLegos2 
It would seem that more than any other current organization that is deemed “innovative,” Pixar is referred to in more business presentations and articles than any other – regardless of industry.  And well it should be given its unique combination of business and creative achievement. But companies, both large and small, should make sure that they first understand Pixar’s underlying beliefs and values, before they run off and try to apply the various presenters’ lists of the company’s best practices.  Why? Applying techniques that don’t have their roots in values deeply burned into the organization’s core DNA, have little chance of working.

The ideas in this post are informed by a number of talks and interviews with Pixar executives and creative talent including Ed Catmull, Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton. All of these are listed and linked to at the end of this post for reference, and quite frankly, make for very enjoyable and entertaining viewing.

Pixar appears to have three critical belief areas that describe (1) why an organization should ever undertake a project, (2) the “physics” of innovation and creativity that rule the process, and (3) the primacy of the very human resources that need to be brought to bear to make the ideas uniquely real.

 

(1) THE WHY: The motivation and underlying truth for any undertaking.

That which provides the genesis for a venture must be something over which the team has some control via their individual talents, collaborative actions and relationships. It needs to provide reward to the heart and head throughout the process - the pocket is a somewhat less controlled result at the end.

 Beliefs:

  • You shouldn’t do anything unless you think you can make it great.
  • Making money can’t be the focus. Making money is a by-product of doing something great.

 

From the Pixar Team:

“It seems counterintuitive, but for imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.” – Brad Bird

“The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved.” – Brad Bird

 

(2) THE HOW: The basic physics of innovation and creativity that power the process.

To head-off the development of an insular NIH culture bounded by past successes, Director Brad Bird was brought into Pixar to stir things up and provide a different perspective. He did just that in seeking out "the black sheep who have another way of doing things" to form the team to do "the impossible" on the film "The Incredibles."  Writer/director Andrew Stanton has been around the block on numerous Pixar films and knows from experience that: " I won't get it right the first time.  But I'll get it wrong really soon, really quickly."  But he knows that he works within an organization that understands the marriage of originality and uncertainty, that supports a process "where they don’t give up on us after our 15th try and it's still not working .... (in) hopes that the 16th try will get it.”

Beliefs:

  • Innovation can’t happen in a vacuum.
  • To be creatively original, you have to accept uncertainty and being uncomfortable.

 

From the Pixar team:

“Everything is new and original. And therefore our way of dealing with and solving the problems has got to be original. So the secret is we have to keep on digging deeper and deeper and knowing that we’re always missing something that’s important.” – Ed Catmull

“We knew after a few successes that the enemy was us, and that our biggest fear was complacency - that we would think that we had it figured out.” – Andrew Stanton

 

(3) THE WHO: The primacy of people over things.

In his papers and presentations, Ed Catmull talks at length about the beliefs that people are more important than ideas (the story behind the making of “Toy Story 2” illustrates this), and that it is management’s job to construct environments for those people that will nurture trusting peer relationships between different disciplines in order to set the stage to unleash creative processes that also make learning from failure possible.

Beliefs:

  • Companies are communities of diverse people and community matters.
  • Talented people are more important than good ideas (and “interested” people are more important than “interesting” people.)
  • Management’s main job is not to prevent people’s failure, but to help them recover when failure inevitably occurs.

 

From the Pixar team:

“I would say that involved people make for better innovation. Passionate involvement can make you happy sometimes, and miserable other times. You want people to be involved and engaged. Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem. There’s something I want to do.” If you had thermal glasses, you could see heat coming off them.” – Brad Bird

“You’re constantly morphing it (teams at Pixar) on the micro and macro level to maximize the people you are working with, and the chemistries you start to see and ignite between certain groups.  You’re always trying to maximize the potential of who you have.” – Andrew Stanton

“There’s always some crisis ... And the trick is to recognize when that crisis happens… Human organizations are inherently unstable.  They will fall over, and you have to work to keep them upright … You have to look for the hard truths.” – Ed Catmull

 

Moving Forward

So if you are an organization looking for practices to increase your chances and mitigate the risks around producing either technical or creative breakthroughs, those that Pixar has developed through years of learning are a good place to start - but only if you truly understand, believe and embrace the values that underpin them. Favicon

 

Other Resources

Video of Pixar talk at Computer History Museum (Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, Ed Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith and others) ; “Pixar: A Human Story of Computer Animation”   (note that the first 50 minutes focuses on the technology history, while the thread of the chemistry of the organization starts around 56 minutes in).

Video of Ed Catmull at Stanford: “Keep Your Crises Small”

Transcript of “Keep Your Crises Small”

"How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity" by Ed Catmulll in HBR

HBR IdeaCast: Pixar's Collective Genius (Audio Podcast)

Brad Bird Interview in McKinsey Quarterly (written by Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, and Allen P. Webb)

GigaOm post that references the Brad Bird interview in McKinsey

“Pixar’s Incredible Culture” in IBS Center for Management Research

"What Google Could Learn from Pixar” by Peter Sims in HBR Blog

Book: The Pixar Touch (print as well as audio, iPad and Kindle versions)

 

 

June 30, 2010

Is "Open" Just Another Four Letter Word?

OpenScrabble

Download Open Leadership Flow Chart

 

Like the word "free" in Chris Anderson's book "Freemium,"  the word "open" indiscriminately applied to organizations might be seen by some as just another four-letter word - representative of business anarchy, causing more problems and disruption than the value it could ever eventually deliver.  But that perception is as off base as the one where social media zealots require that organizations be 100% open without regard to individual business needs.

In her book "Open Leadership" Charlene Li presents a rigorous approach to identifying and evaluating a specific organization's need for open leadership and its respective strategy, action and ongoing evaluation plans.  Her approach is not a one size fits all prescription, rather she best describes it as:

"Being open should not be a mantra or philosophy ... The question isn't whether you will be transparent, authentic, and real, but rather how much you will let go and be open in the face of technologies.  Transparency, authenticity, and the sense that you are being real are the by-product of your decision to be open."

- Charlene Li

Rather than writing another high level review of the book, I've created a downloadable "how to" road map or flow chart of the main concepts and their relationships to each other. The map takes many of "Open Leadership's" detailed and highly practical audit lists and metrics recommendations, and builds a visual relationship between them.

It's clear that "open" (leadership or organizations) is not a mono-dimensional state, nor is it for everyone.  And it's certainly hard to achieve - meaning that patience and dedicated resources are required once the desired location on the "openness meter" is identified.  Some may give up and others may prevail. So in the end, "hard" - like "open" and "free" -  may just be another four letter word for some.  Favicon

January 29, 2010

Presentation: Twitter in 20

TitleSlide_LizGebhardt_WIPP_Jan282010
Today I had the opportunity to co-present a session on "Building Your Business with Twitter and Facebook"  along with Facebook's Director of Corporate Communicatons Brandee Barker at the annual leadership conference for Women in Periodic Publishing.  A PDF version of my Keynote slides is available here: Download LizGebhardt_Twitter_WIPP_Jan282010.

This 25 minute talk is a very shortened version of a more robust 2-4 hour seminar I have been giving at media companies - print, TV and digital. The Twitter portion focuses on 5 main topics:

  • Twitter Myths, Misconceptions and Reality
  • The Value of the Shared Link
  • Life On and Off the Twitter Network
  • Guidelines and Tactics for the Brand and Individual
  • Tweet Anatomy: A Real World Example

There are also related posts at this BLOG, including:

More information on the ShareThis study referred to in the presentation is available at their BLOG. And the book "Groundswell" is available here.

I'm interested in hearing how different media companies will use this information. 

Comments? Favicon

 

December 12, 2009

Will Square Be the VISA of the 21st Century?

 Square-receipt-sightglass Image courtesy of Square.

  

While startup Square is not in the business of making credit cards as VISA was when it started in 1970, there is a potentially interesting link behind the intentions and possibilities of the two companies at the time of their respective foundings, even though they are separated by 40 years of business and financial change, not to mention lightyears of technology evolution.

When Dee Hock started VISA, he had hopes that he could create an organization that reflected elements of both chaos and order (what he dubbed “chaordic”), as well as competition and cooperation.  At some level, a chaordic organization would be “self-governing,” reflecting more the principles of evolution and nature than those of flawed 17 Century financial institutions and hundred year old oligopolies.  Hock wanted to challenge what many held as fundamental truths about the nature and relationship between money, organizations and the human spirit.  He wanted to use technology and chaordic beliefs to challenge the form (e.g. physical objects of bank and tellers with endless bureaucracy), and rethink the essential function and value that financial transactions should deliver.


“Could this be an opportunity to reconceive, in the most fundamental sense, the very ideas of bank, money and credit card – even beyond that, to the essential elements of each and how they might change in a microelectronic environment?”
 - Dee Hock, in 1999’s “Birth of the Chaordic Age” page 117


So while in the end, VISA did not achieve Hock’s highest chaordic hopes, might Square take up the mantle and become the transcendental organization that finds new ways to link together diverse financial institutions and individuals (retailers and customers), some of whom might have had access to the prior financial structure, but many more were denied access?  Might there be a unique business to be built on the transformation of the concept of money from physical object to that of “guaranteed data” that provides equivalent value and a fluid (mobile) medium of exchange for all, regardless of size of the entity?

In the US today, the credit card revolution started by VISA in 1970 has become a reality in which 90% of US consumers use some form of credit, debit or prepaid card. And what are these cards about?  Don’t think of them as simple ‘credit cards.” More broadly, they are physical symbols of the ability of buyers and sellers to safely exchange value (goods and services) with a level of guaranteed security in the transfer of the data.

That’s what Hock hoped for in the 1970’s – to be in the universal monetary exchange business via cards, not in the credit card business. While today the system that surrounds the cards is one where it is easy to pay, there is still considerable friction in receiving and accepting the payment. 

Hence the opportunity for Square to go beyond the reality of VISA.  And the challenge it has is to define and execute on the nature of a new organization that is chaordic, at least in part, by the nature of the “immediacy, approachability and transparency” mantra of its technology backbone.


“(We want to) enable individuals and small businesses to accept electronic payments by turning any device with an audio-input jack—such as a computer or a mobile phone—into a credit-card terminal.” – Jack Dorsey, Square founder at Le Web 09 (video)


“I can buy an iPod touch] for $200, get the app and I’m in business. I don’t need a contract with AT&T or anything. I’m in business.” – Jack Dorsey in The Economist


“The startup hopes to make it big by allowing virtually anyone to accept credit card payments by connecting a simple reader to a mobile device. Dorsey, Square's CEO, envisions the technology being used by small businesses, street vendors, and even individuals who want to sell a couch on Craigslist or collect money from a friend … pricing will allow for different levels of customer involvement. Someone who wants to use the service once for a yard sale should be able to get started easily and cheaply, while a small business might upgrade to a more full-featured version of Square” – MIT Technology Review


So is what Square will create in partnership with its ecosystem, the premiere system for immediate and secure value exchange regardless of the size and location of seller or buyer?  And in doing so with “real-time” technology, will it make the relationship between “Man and Money” a bit more immediately … human? Favicon

   

(Video demos of Square can be found here starting at 9:00 minutes in, and here staring at 1:40 in.)

   

August 18, 2009

Inspiration - Some Of The Best Ideas Come From Unexpected Sources

InspirationCompositeBorder

The items in the images on the left inspired the products and brands on the right.

In his 2005 book, "A Whole New Mind,"  Daniel Pink proposed that we have entered an era in which creative conceptual thinking has become increasingly important. Right-brain thinking that is emotionally and observationally based needs to take its rightful and valued place next to the left-brain thinking of logical analytical and theoretical thought. Both science and business often say that the result of creative thoughts need to contain both originality and appropriateness. To get to that final stage, there is a process (the 4I's) that takes inspiration into idea into invention and later into continuing innovation.

So with creative thought a valued process, where does the "first I of Inspiration" come from?  Some examples follow that demonstrate that some of the best ideas and solutions come from truly unexpected sources that are about as far removed from the "industry of record" as possible.  A humble kitchen. A walk with a dog. Street art in some dicey alleys.

1940’s - Velcro

The inventor of Velcro (Swiss engineer George de Mestral) was inspired by the burrs stuck in his dog’s coat.  Returning home from a hunting trip in the Alps, he noticed all the burrs, specifically burdock seeds, stuck fast to the coat of his dog. Examining this scenario under a microscope, he saw that the burrs had hundreds of "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, dog fur for example.  Thus was revealed the seed of the idea for a new and simple way of binding two materials together if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops that he had found in nature (burrs and fur). Ten years after that walk with his dog, he submitted the patent for Velcro that was later granted in 1955.

1970’s - Nike

A waffle iron led to a revolutionary athletic shoe sole design and the birth of a global mega brand.  Track coach Bill Bowerman of the University of Oregon was experimenting with ideas for shoe outsoles that would better grip the newly resurfaced track at the university. One Sunday morning, he poured liquid urethane into his wife’s waffle iron.  This evolved into the famed Nike “waffle sole” which was first mass manufactured and distributed in the iconic Nike Waffle Trainer in 1974. In 2008, Nike’s revenues were nearly $19B. That’s a lot of waffles.

1980’s - MTV logo

On August 1, 1981 MTV launched on a small New Jersey cable system with a theme song in the form of a crunching guitar riff playing over a montage of images of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The MTV logo on the astronaut’s flag is the iconic symbol of the company that was inspired by the graffiti and street art that Creative Director Fred Seibert and his team would see walking the streets of NYC. Contrary to the “industry standard practice” of never touching a corporate logo/icon, the MTV logotype, true to its street art origins, is constantly changing and simultaneously existing in many different creative manifestations.

  

InspirationTwitterNYC

21st Century - Twitter

I'm not sure what the real story of the initial inspiration for Twitter is.  Maybe it's as "mundane" as some form of evolution of SMS.  But I am intrigued by a recent tweet from Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey that read:

DorseyBloombergTweet


Lesson?  In the creative idea economy, you never know what the source and timing of initial inspiration is going to be.  More often than not, inspiration springs from unexpected sources far removed from the confines of the particular business or problem at hand, which says something about the value of an "informed naivete" in the approach to the creative process ...well that, and taking a lot of walks and spending time in the kitchen. Egv_tiny_blogicon


July 26, 2009

This Year It's All About Trust

Trust composite

Trust Image

The monthly flyer from my neighborhood hardware store arrived in my mailbox. The headline: "This year, it's all about trust."  Trust is a word that seems to be turning up more and more, in often unexpected places - like this flyer.  But the discussion of trust is permeating the big issues. Trust in politics.  Trust in business.  Trust in product or medical information.  Trust in the "experts" and talking heads on the evening news. Trust in everything you read online.  Trust in the folks populating various social networks ... And sometimes, more appropriately, the lack of trust and that sinking feeling of things you just can't quite prove are wrong.

The need for trust is universal and arises from our human interdependence. We often rely on others (individuals, groups, brands or institutions) to help us obtain, or at least not to frustrate, the outcomes we value (and they depend back on us as well). Trust allows actions to occur that otherwise would not have been possible because of currently incomplete information or an unwillingness to give resources now for an unguaranteed result in the future.

There are a lot of angles I’d like to explore when it comes to trust, but the area of greatest interest to me currently has to do with Trust and Media, how trust is obtained, and the possibility for the migration of online trust and talent to other media platforms.

In this post, I’d like to explore these questions:

  1. Trust and Influence: How important is trust when it comes to being able to influence behavior and decisions?
  2. Earning and Maintaining Trust: How do brands (companies/collections) or people (individuals) become trusted? What do they do to maintain that trust, and once obtained is it theirs to loose?
  3. Trust in the Digital vs. Real World: Is building trust in digital media space different than building it in the real or broadcast worlds?
  4. Exporting Trust Across Media and Communities: Can a "trust metric" developed in one digital space be "exported" into other media areas, like TV? (or visa versa)  - thus making one a potential talent development source for the other.

(Before jumping into these questions, it’s good to have a baseline understanding of what is meant by “Trust” covered in the next section. However, if you want to jump head first into the meat of the discussion, you can skip that and go right to the section header “Trust and Influence.”)

What Is Trust? – The Etymological Foundations

It’s interesting that the etymological origins of the word “trust” share many commonalities with the word “truth” (“faithful, accuracy, correctness”), and go back, in part, to the 13 century Old Norse word “traust” meaning “help, confidence.” That makes sense given an understanding of trust as a measure of belief in the honesty, benevolence and competence of another party; and a predictor of the reliability of future action, based only on what one party currently knows about the other. Trust is a statement of faith about what is otherwise unknown because it is currently unverifiable or the results exist in the future. Because of that, it is a powerful attribute for an individual or a brand, and a prerequisite for real “credibility” and “the ability to influence.”

(1) Trust and Influence

Conventional wisdom would say that trust and influence are inextricably linked, but let’s look at some numbers so it’s not just my opinion.  From PR firm Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2009 Study the data affirm that trust affects/influences consumer actions/spending and overall reputation.

People act based on trust.

  • 91% of 25-to-64-year-olds around the world indicated they bought a product or service from a company they trusted
  • 77% refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted company

People listen to and believe those who have earned their trust over time.

  • 59% of 35-to- 64-year-olds saying an academic or expert on a company’s industry or issues would be extremely or very credible
  • 17% of 35-to-64-year-olds indicated they would trust information from a high profile CEO (a six-year low)

People need time and continuous conversation to build trust, not one-time edicts or proclamations.

  • 60% of 35-to- 64-year-olds say they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they believe it

(2) Earning and Maintaining Trust

How do brands (companies/collections) or people (individuals) become trusted? What do they do to maintain that trust, and once obtained is it theirs to loose?

Frameworks from the Studies
Where does trust come from? Some would frame trust as a hard wired brain chemistry calculation.

 “The moral is that trust is ultimately about the expectation of rewards. Trust may be an admirable social trait, but it's ultimately rooted in a greedy calculation, emanating from our primal dopamine reward circuitry…”
-  Jonah Lehrer in “Trust: The Frontal Cortex”  July 7 2009

This definition of trust as “biology plus calculus” is part of the answer; but the “heart” of the definition can be found in the literature of conflict resolution theory where “real world” trust in another is grounded in the evaluation of their ability and integrity (early in the relationship) and benevolence (over the longer term).

  • Ability: Defined by knowledge and competency. The more one has of these, the more likely a trust level is to grow.
  • Integrity: Defined by adherence to principles that are essential to the “trustor.” This is demonstrated by consistency over a period of time accompanied by the alignment of word and deed.
  • Benevolence: Defined by observation of the others concern of our welfare (or at least that they won’t work against it). Open communications and shared control are the key indicating behaviors.

Additionally, trust is not a final destination.  Trust is a continuum of stages and levels, and over time, behaviors and levels of resiliency change.

Early “congnitively” (ability + integrity) driven stages of trust are framed by a need for predictability and reliability.  Trust is built at this stage by demonstrating:

  • Competent performance
  • Predictable and consistent behavior
  • Accurate and open communication
  • Shared and delegated control
  • Mutual concern

At later stages along the trust continuum, when mutual identification has occurred, and benevolence is forming via the parties “internalizing” each other’s desires and intentions, trust is further solidified through:

  • Common identity (we vs. me)
  • Co-location (sharing the same space)
  • Joint goals and product creation (make and contribute to things that define commonality)
  • Shared values and emotions (recognizing contributions and demonstrating confidence)


Trust in the World of Media
Given these models of trust-building, how do we see trust built in the media world - for individuals as well as business entities?  Some thoughts and examples follow.

 

Walter Cronkite: During the heyday of CBS News in the 1970s and 1980s he was often cited in opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America.” But he did not come on the scene as “trusted.”  He had to earn it, obviously in a less fragmented media world than today.  Nonetheless, he built trust over decades of work beginning with reporting from WW II, constantly displaying ability and integrity (early stage trust builders).  One might say with the Kennedy assassination announcement and later with the moon landing, that he entered the more advanced stage of trust (benevolence) fueled by the common identity with the American people he displayed on camera and the clear sharing of values, emotions and experiences. Given the lack of media competition that existed during the prime of his career, and the longevity of his career, it is doubtful that this trust level could be duplicated again.


Oprah Winfrey:  Oprah Winfrey is often cited as one of the most trusted Lighthouse Brands that is also a Market Leader in Media.  Like Cronkite, she has built her trust quotient over time (The Oprah Winfrey Show has more than a 20 year history) by demonstrating ability and integrity (early phase trust), and also reaching the more advanced solidified trust levels (benevolence) with her audience though a mutual identification against a variety of:

  “…monsters she sees threatening her chosen community …  notably domestic violence, child abuse, and weight loss and self-esteem issues among women. Oprah is not a Goliath, both because she is smaller and visibly vulnerable to these larger monsters in the eyes of her community, and also because she uses all her strength and size to fight them on her community’s behalf.  And her community eternally loves her for it. ”
- (Eating the Big Fish p. 301)

Separated by generations, Oprah and Cronkite are alike in the depth of their advanced trust level with their particular audiences, in large part because of their ability to express vulnerability (shared emotion) while at the same time exuding competence and connection. Cronkite tearing up over Kennedy and expressing amazement and wonder at the lunar landing; Oprah sharing personal struggles over her weight, causes, and friendships.


Jon Stewart: An August 2008 New York Times story asked: "Is Jon Stewart the most trusted man in America?” and a July 2009 Time Magazine Poll answered “Yes” with 44% choosing him as “America’s most trusted newscaster” in the post Cronkite era. His period of trust building is half that of Oprah’s (hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central since 1999) and perhaps one quarter of Cronkite’s years (between the 1930s-1970s), but he has had the accelerant of the digital space.  And it’s tough to measure comparable size of  “trusted influence” for all three from various combos of TV  and Web audience numbers. It’s also interesting that in this particular time period, Stewart is the most trusted man who has built a persona of not trusting anyone. (And for that, we trust him even more.) Still, in his shows he consistently exhibits the trust building characteristics of ability, integrity and his own brand of benevolence (to his audience/community, not necessarily to his interviewees).


CNN: CNN has a slogan: “The Most Trusted Name in News."  They gave it to themselves; no one “conferred” it on them as in the case of Cronkite.   As an organization, I can’t say that they pass the trust sniff test.  There are a lot of things I personally like about CNN, but the sometimes constant droning repetition by some of their news personalities of their various catch phrases such as “the best political team on television” serves to dilute not only any truth metric earned by the enterprise, but that of deserving individual members.  You can’t claim trust, you have to earn it from others.

(3) Trust in Digital vs Real World

Is building trust in digital media space different than building it in the real or broadcast worlds?

Participation in digital world communities and platforms can accelerate the speed and reach of the trust metric, but the underlying human reasons for earning (and maintaining) trust are the same: ability, integrity and benevolence.  While the Web speeds breaking stories and content memes around the world, it can also provide equal acceleration to mistakes and humiliation. Self, as well as group, correction then have to follow with equal speed.

One of the mistakes that many make in terms of trust and digital space is that just because messages can be sent instantaneously, that trust can be developed and exploited just as fast.  Not true – this violates the human side of trust development and the nature of the trust continuum.  Just as in the physical world, in digital space, you need to create significant shared value before you ever ask for any of it back.

“Consider it (trust building) tending a farm of potential versus hunting for the short term ... in this wired world of digital communities and deep long-tailed niches, humanity over IP is the protocol…”
- Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in the eBook “Trust Economies.”

(4) Exporting Trust Across Media and Communities

Can a "trust metric" developed in one digital space be "exported" into other media areas, like TV? (or visa versa)  - thus making one a potential talent development source for the other.

I propose that trust is more defined by the relevant community/audience than the particular media platform.  If the community is engaged across multiple media platforms, trust and the person who has earned it has the potential to transfer across them (other economic and access barriers not withstanding).  There aren’t a lot of examples yet in terms of trust + personality transfer.  And it’s unclear to me yet if that’s a result of many online trust building tools and communities are still relatively “young” OR if the barriers of “old media” at this time neglect the trust quotient from other media, even if it would be to their own benefit.  More exploration on this later, but for now, two examples: Some examples of online to TV trust/personality migration: 

Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox): Started in the blogosphere at places such as Wonkette; became known for her interesting and personally very transparent fundraising activities while covering McCain in the 2008 election. Now Air America’s national correspondent and a frequent guest and fill-in host on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

Joan Walsh of Salon.com (@joanwalsh): Editor at Salon.com and now a frequent knowledgeable commentator on both Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  She cites as important in maintaining trust and credibility across: “A record of accuracy in what’s important, regardless of what you’re doing; correcting mistakes when you make them … and not speaking outside your area of expertise.”  Her view of online media: “It's built with attention to accuracy, with mechanisms for rapid self-correction as well as dialogue with audience.”  Seems to me that’s a pretty clear alignment with the ability, integrity  and benevolence (audience dialogue) measures of the trust equation.

Trust Lessons

Trust is not a luxury; nor is it something that can be immediately purchased.  Earned over time based on specific demonstrated behaviors that, at a basic level, are the same in the real world as in the digital world – ability, integrity and benevolence – it is the currency that enables influence and attention acquisition in a time starved world.   And that’s very valuable stuff in the world of media.  It will be interesting to see if the growing trust building and distribution platforms in digital space will find the cracks in the walls surrounding traditional media to enable more breakthroughs of talent and opinion.  Seems like fertile ground to me. Media companies and trust agents, what do you think?  Egv_tiny_blogicon

May 22, 2009

Do Big Brands Need to Think Like Little Fish?

LittleFish

 Photo by Benson Kua

"Being a Challenger is primarily a state of mind, not a state of market"

- Adam Morgan in "Eating the Big Fish"


So once you’ve made it to the top of your category, have a dominant share and are seen as the market leader, you’ve got it made … right?  There’s no way all those pesky little fish nipping around your heals are ever going to eat your lunch. That might have been the case in Don Draper’s time, but it’s a dangerous, if not fatal, concept to hold onto in the digital age.

More than any other time in brand history, the age of digital and social media that can compress time and expand geographic reach, as well as fuel consumer influence (but not dominance) on brands, requires a “Challenger Brand” way of thinking and behaving.  The seminal work in this field is Adam Morgan’s “Eating the Big Fish” (first published in 1999) and for a deeper dive into the subject, that book is highly recommended.  But for purposes of this post, here is a “Cliff Notes” style overview of a Challenger Brand.

By definition, a Challenger Brand is neither the market leader in a category, nor is it a niche brand.  Its leaders have great ambitions and a vision for their venture that exceed their physical resources (e.g. people and money) in comparison to the Market Leader, especially if they were to be deployed against marketing tactics that mimic the leader.  The mindset of the Challenger embraces the kind of non-conventional thinking that successfully bridging this resource gap entails, a mindset that is focused on generating a “focused few” highly leverageable ideas that are immediately actionable.

Challenger Brands can be people, businesses, causes, and even countries, examples: T.E. Lawrence/”Lawrence of Arabia” (my favorite movie), Al Gore, the young Elvis, Avis (the classic example), Apple (maintained for 30 years), Nintendo, Google (in the early days), Facebook, Red Bull, Blurb, method, the Obama Campaign, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Tourism New Zealand, and Tourism Queensland (“the best job in the world” campaign).

While a Market Leader cannot technically be a pure Challenger Brand (their dominant market share makes that impossible), they can embrace Challenger Brand thinking and behavior and continue to move quickly and surprisingly like the nimble small fish they once were.  If you are (or even are just affiliated with) a Market Leader, embracing the role of “change agent” and swimming against the conventions of your category should never be counterintuitive.

Below are seven common market scenarios/challenges, four externally and three internally rooted, that Brand Leaders may face, in which continuing to deeply embrace Challenger thinking and behavior will serve them well. To get more specific, we are going to use the yet to be launched media company/cable network OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) to give suggestions as to how the situation might be framed in Challenger terms.  OWN is selected as it is birthed in part out of a Market Leader who has retained Challenger Brand thinking and behavior (that’s Oprah herself).  But OWN is also entering and will compete in a category - cable (and digital media?) network based around “best life/self improvement” programming - in which it will NOT be the Market Leader at launch.  It has the opportunity to be a Challenger Brand infused with Market Leader DNA.

External Cause Scenarios

1. Brand exists in a category where the long entrenched rules are unraveling, with the industry experiencing rapid and significant change.

In the case of cable networks or cable/digital hybrids, it has appeared to be the norm (or even a “rule”) that viewers demand “high quality,” professionally produced passive programming. In the world of journalism (text or video), there is clearly a change underway in the definition of, and balance of power between, the relative value of quality vs. timeliness in media.  CNN leads breaking stories with grainy i-Report cell-phone video and later packages it in with professionally shot segments, graphics and theme music.  Bloggers and folks on Twitter are among the first to report and share images of events such as the Mumbai hostage taking and the landing of the plane in the Hudson River.  In these cases, timeliness trumped quality. Non-fiction TV can’t be far behind in being forced to (if not voluntarily address) this change of the  mix of professionally and consumer generated media that goes far beyond commentary shows featuring humorous and cute animal YouTube videos.

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Respect, but don't let the old production model dictate all programming experiences. Embrace a new model of relative value between quality and timeliness of media. Create new ways of aggregating “real time” content from sources other than its own, including (if not especially from) the audience. But give them a place of their own in the programming mix beyond 3 minute segment inserts in the "real show."


2. Brand is threatened by a “superior” competitor or completely new sources of competition.

The competitor that one faces does not have to be another company in the category.  The real competition can just as easily come from significant changes in audience/consumer behavior as well as from businesses and platforms outside the category.

Most would agree that the time of appointment viewing “must see” TV is pretty much over.   There is no such thing as a TV captive audience, not even for breaking events. People have many “viewing” choices and mostly multi-tasking around media anyway.  They need a reason for engagement and new tools for relevant content discovery. The “partial continuous attention” audience is a more significant challenge to creatively address than another network or show. No matter what the ratings are.   And quite frankly, how accurate are the ratings anyway in a world of multitasking vs. a world of single focused activity.

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: How do you break the “rule” of ratings as the guiding force and create multiplatform media where it’s OK if engagement cannot always be measured.  Develop the story for brand partners by which value is created when old category revenue models and measurement criteria are disrupted and become less relevant.


3. Brand is faced with potential “commoditization of the category.”

What is unique about how the Challenger brand thinks about and lives in their category? Defining and understanding the category you want to compete in is critical. (Remember the story of trains saying they were in the "train" business and not in the "transportation" business?) Additionally, if all the participants in the category define it in a similar manner, the product they deliver begins to become indistinguishable except for the network brand logo. In the world of cable TV, how many  look alike “life improvement” shows can really be “consumed?”

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: What's the category in which you want to define yourself and live?  Is it non-fiction cable TV network?  Probably way too narrow, especially if you think about what time constraints and life experiences you are competing against for the "audience's" attention. (For me, you wouldn't be competing just against TV time, but against going to yoga class, walking my dog and reading my RSS feeds - things that I see as "life enhancing/self improvement.")

And regradless of subtelty or breath of the category definition, there are ways to think about programming development that fends off commoditization.  That is: Don’t always go with the expected heavy hitters; use the media and the "audience" to incubate your own next generation of “trust agents.” (Isn't that one of Oprah's greatest strengths afterall - trust?)  Trust can be built and vetted within communities online before migrating to cable distribution.


4. Brand encounters situation where the greater social ecosystem or public opinion is set/moving against it.

OWN isn't a political movement, so you might ask how this situation might be relevant.  This scenario can also be framed as the friction or resistance one might encounter when trying to expand audience apart from a well-understood core to include a group that might seem to be counter intuitive to the core.   While I don't have access to the stats, it's my understanding that the show "Oprah" on broadcast TV has an audience dominated by urban females, while OWN has a goal of a broader audience (including male and I assume non-urban if significant cable audience is to be found.) 

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: If the brand "Oprah" is to be a catalyst in the launch of OWN, then it is important to understand what part of that "Oprah" DNA will work for and against that goal. I am NOT of the mindset that "Oprah" is a female only brand.  Highlighting the Challenger brand aspect over the industry "Goliath" story will be important.  And that is based around a story NOT of Oprah's media dominance and finances, but of her ability to create and rally community and engagement.  And that is neither male nor female.

Internal Cause Scenarios

1. Brand allows its own complacency or even arrogance to lull them into a sense of security and permanence of success.
Success can be a problem if it is seen as an end product and not a transitory state.  Market Leaders, and sometimes their “spawn” who are closely identified with a predecessor’s DNA, can be lulled into complacency or a sense of invincibility by confidence that comes out of years of success documented by boatloads of press clippings and awards. There are times when that comfy seductive sense of security is exactly what a Challenger needs to battle against.

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Remember that “category inexperience” is often what powers Challenger brands at the beginning, enabling them to bring vitality and new possibilities to play.  A novice’s perspectives can come both from “new blood” outside the industry brought into partnership in the venture, and also can come from the “seasoned pros.” For the Pros, they need to be willing to take the time to temporarily set aside their knowledge and vested interests and “walk in the door” afresh, questioning their own assumptions about the business.  As for ”new blood” from outside the industry, well that requires some expansive Pixar style thinking that asks: “How do you hire/partner for a task that has never been done before?”  Answer: Look for people who have demonstrated mastery in another area – personal or business – outside your category, as well those who have demonstrated the ability to convert failure into success.  That’s the criteria by which NASA found the first astronauts – who were test pilots.


2. Brand believes none of its competitors are “significant” anymore.
When a Market Leader owns the category from a market share or share of mind perspective, what is left to compete against?  I say there’s plenty – it’s just not as obvious as someone with bigger ratings or ad sell throughs.  So how do you find your new “enemy?”

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Oprah as a brand has successfully redefined “the enemy or monster” that she competes against innumerable times: so there are already great lessons here for OWN.  That which she competes against is no longer other daytime talk shows. The “enemies” are the bigger causes and issues she brings to light and around which she rallies her constituency.  OWN needs to think about not only what it fights for, but what it fights against.  That may be bigger global social or economic causes, intimate personal battles, and yes, even sometimes, the direction of an industry.


3. Brand becomes shackled by its own success and fears breaking the “magic formula.”
Remember that in the digital age, where just about everything is transitory, there is no longer such a thing as a “magic formula” (at least not one that lasts very long).  Clinging to that notion and becoming loss or risk averse creates behavior that is counter to what usually gets a Challenger to their success in the first place.  

OWN’s Challenger Opportunity: Don’t let an affinity for old models and paradigms be your undoing.  It’s great to leverage what has worked in the past, especially as television is generally a medium of familiarity and predictability.  But what new models or paradigms might you create, which of course, you eventually will have to destroy when they also become conventions?

I offer up the following as one.  Use the fact that you are hopefully building digital from the starts as a vibrant component (rather than the conventional “site brochureware” of many cable companies), and incubate and mentor new talent online (not just TV talent transplanted into the digital arena). Communities are the natural petrie dishes for new “trust agents” to evolve against specific areas of expertise.    Be conscious to create mechanisms to identity and platforms to cultivate this, and bring that talent into other media at appropriate times.

Lessons learned as to why it's a good idea for Big Brands to think like little fish?

You can retain your status quo of Market Leader (or offspring of the same) by being willing to constantly question, evolve and transcend the category conventions in order to be the change agent in partnership with your audience/customer. Doable.  But not easy.  Egv_tiny_blogicon

 

April 28, 2009

What Predicts The Ability To Innovate? : Some Perspectives From Pixar

800px-Pixar_-_front_gates


NASA had a problem.  What's the screening criteria for a job that's never been done before - like going to the moon? Namely how do you find those guys (and it was guys then) who have the highest predictive chance of success at something that has never been done before?  They found test/fighter pilots.  But in more general terms, they found a talent pool of people who had failed and recovered.  (It's rather apparent what happened to those who had failed and NOT recovered.)  The generalized criteria:  Error recovery (meaning resiliency and adaptability) and NOT failure avoidance. 

Now think about this same question in terms of today's media or technology companies - whether at the business or individual level. If innovation is determined as a key to differentiation and success, and innovation means doing something that has never been done before - then how do you define the talent criteria and what are the predictors?  Where and how do you find your version of "test pilots cum astronauts?"

Randy Nelson of Pixar provides an interesting take on this question, essentially breaking it down into four criteria.  The video and some key takeaways:

  • Depth: How do you find the "parallel predictor" of someone who will succeed at something new? Look at what else in life they have mastered on a personal or business level. "Mastery in anything is a good predictor in mastering the thing you want done."
  • Breath Breadth: Narrowness is sometimes the thing you get with depth and this needs to be balanced by breath.  You don't want a repetitive one trick pony again if the challenge is going to be to innovate.  You want "someone who is more interested than interesting."   This is indicative of a problem solver; someone who will lean into the problem not just acknowledge its existence.
  • Communication: "Communication is a destination, not a source." It is not something that the "emitter" can measure, although plenty of times we get that judgment.  Only the receiver of communication can measure it.  The listener is the one who can say they get it. 
  • Collaboration: "Collaboration is not a synonym for cooperation; it is not cooperation on steroids."  Innovation requires many people working together; it's not a one person job.  So you need a system or protocol that allows people not to get in each other's way and enables them to amplify what each is doing.





Lesson?  In the innovation economy, stop looking for someone who has done it before. Look for someone who has done something else amazing before (and not necessarily in the same business.)   Egv_tiny_blogicon

 

 

 

(Note: Thanks to Edward Boches, Chief Creative Officer of Mullen, for initially sharing this video via Twitter.) 

   

 

 

April 06, 2009

Is This Advertising?

IsThisAdertising1

"Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image."

-  David Ogilvy


In this post, three categories of objects are considered: in public spaces, online, and even those that are purchased. Which of these do you consider to be advertising if we consider the following as guidelines? 

  1. Brand image lives in people's minds as a result of their direct and indirect (through media and other people) experience with the product or company.
  2. Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
  3. Advertising provides some level of "experience" with the product before you buy it.
  4. Advertising is a paid medium; you have to pay to place it in the real world or digitally.


Objects Found In Public Spaces

Nike Logoed Shirt: If an athlete is wearing it as part of a paid endorsement, then it's advertising.  But what about when your favorite trainer or running buddy is wearing it?

iPod/iPhone White Ear Buds: In the billboard, TV and print ads, well, it's advertising.  What about the dozens of times a day you see those white ear buds coming down the street? You know what the product is without even seeing it.

Starbucks InStore Music Screen: In about 600 Starbucks stores in the US, there are flat panel screens that provide information on the music that is currently playing, and to my knowledge, not paid for by the music companies or artists.  But doesn't it serve the other "non-paying" criteria of advertising, and couldn't it become that?  Easy to make happen since WiFi is right there with easy one click access to the iTunes store for downloads.

Obama Poster: Post the election and pre-inauguration, Moveon.org raised money by selling postcards and posters, as well as limited edition version ($500) signed Shepard Fairey posters.  In many a window in San Francisco.  Good promo for brand Obama, yet initiated and paid for by others.

Planet Dog Sticker: Seen in the back window of many a station wagon, this sticker costs $2.  And for that you get to state your canine affiliation as well as promote someone else's brand of which you may or may not have purchased one of their toy products.

 

IsThisAdvertising2

Objects Found Online

"Will It Blend?" YouTube Video: Well-known series of videos produced by the blender company that have pulverized anything from an iPhone to glow sticks, often at the request of fans.  Produced by the company with a "home-made" feel.  More than six million views.  Free distribution on YouTube and in many an article on "viral videos."  Blender sales conversion rate?

Rachel Maddow Show Facebook Page: 50,000 fans to go along with over 200,000 followers on twitter.  Experience brand Maddow through notes, video links for the shows; as well as other stuff she likes that never makes it to broadcast.

Twitter Page of Zappos CEO: More than 350,000 people can't be wrong.  And if sold one pair of shoes to each per year - that's millions.

Hunch Public Beta Invite: Great "welcome" letter/FAQ from Caterina Fake gets you interested in and sharing the "brand" before it even does anything for you.  And your participation is actually critical to building the functionality and value of the product.

HGTV Widget: Weeks on my Facebook profile page and I didn't win.  But did I think about HGTV each day that I logged in even though I wasn't watching cable ... yep.


IsThisAdvertising3

Objects That Are Purchased

Whole Foods Shopping Bag: $2 to avoid paper bag shame and carry them into stores other than Whole Foods, even competitors. Sorry Mollie Stones.

Kleenex/Hannah Montana: I am sure that money exchanged hands here to place image and logo of pop idol on tissue box -- but which way?  Brand Miley may well have more power than brand Kleenex, so cash may have gone upstream instead.

"Unstuck" Book by Founder of SYP: A well written book on its own, but also a great promo vehicle for the SYP agency and great client pitch leave behind. Old school print version only; not on Kindle yet.

Starbucks Cup (old version with "The Way I See It" quote): I loved the old "The Way I See It" quotes on the Starbucks cups from people like Keith Olbermann and Jeffrey Sachs.  Currently they're using quotes from "real" customers.  See me with my soy chai walking down the street may not be 'advertising,' but if the cup is on a talk show host's desk?

What's The Point?

Lots of other examples to be sure. That SmartCar or Aptera parked on a busy public street. Those custom Nike ID shoes my trainer wears with a "swoosh" color of his choosing. The Motorola logo on the headsets the coaches are wearing on the sidelines at the SuperBowl.  When I change the name (or some form thereof) of a company to a verb such as “tweeting” or "googling" and use it in an email, blog post or magazine article. Other ideas?

Lesson Learned: Not everything that builds brands is paid advertising. Sometimes the conduit of the message is free or people might even pay for the message itself. Egv_tiny_blogicon


(Note: Thanks to friend Michael Markman for suggesting the iPod ear buds and SmartCar as examples in this post.)
   

November 15, 2008

Tribes - Choose to Lead Rather Than Wait to Be Chosen

TribesInnerCover

Image from the inside jacket of "Tribes" by Seth Godin

Oh you modern city dweller - you think you don't belong to a tribe?  Guess again. If a tribe is defined as a group of people who are connected to each other, to a leader,  to an idea AND they have a way to communicate about a shared interest -  then we are all probably members of multiple tribes. 

The connective power of the Internet and its social media tools has nearly eliminated the barriers of geography, money and time that in the past were powerful definers of the boundaries of tribes and the selection of their leaders.  But technology is just that - technology.  It doesn't have a heart.  It doesn't have ideas.  It doesn't have passion.  That's where leaders come in.

"Tribes" will make you think about leadership in a new way.  Don't wait for leadership to be conferred on you.  Define it for yourself. And there are some sketches of others who have followed this premise and become leaders in tribes as diverse as wine-making, social entrepreneurship, political activism, religion and the Forune 500.

A great evening or afternoon read designed for inspiration.  It is NOT a "how to" blueprint book.  For example, from p.84:

"It's easy to get caught up in the foibles of a corporate culture and the systems that have been built over time, but they have nothing at all to do with the faith that built the system in the first place."

Rating: 47 of 151 pages tabbed/annotated in my copy of "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us."

September 16, 2008

UNSTUCK - A Timely Repeat Read

UNSTUCK Stratgy Circles  

Above: The iconography of the basic systems model of UNSTUCK.
Left brain structure to release right brain strategic creativity.

The systems approach of "UNSTUCK" is designed to help individuals, groups or entire organizations look at what is healthy and what is out of balance in their world (aka the system).  When "stuck" is the watchword of an organization, it's usually because one or more of the essential Elements of a System are out of balance with the overall Purpose of the organization.  The key is to identify which of the elements is unbalanced, diagnose the root causes, and engage and personally invest the people/culture in the process of re-engineering the system.

The "Serious Seven" Primary Causes of "Stuck"
  1. Overwhelmed
  2. Exhausted
  3. Directionless
  4. Hopeless
  5. Battle-torn
  6. Worthless
  7. Alone

Any of these feel familiar? Then jump into some of the recommended exercises (paired with each of the seven causes) that include intriguing concepts of:
  • Have a moonshot
  • Futurecast
  • Give the movement a name
  • Build a haven for radical thinking
  • Go where the unofficial power lies
  • Creat a mind map to see different people's views
  • Find the quiet rock star
  • Embrace thine enemy
To find out what these are ... well you'll just have to buy the book.

"UNSTUCK: A Tool for Yourself, Your Team and Your World" is written by Keith Yamashita (an old Apple colleague) and Sandra Spataro. I originally discussed the book in another blog post in 2004, but the nature of today's business (and personal) world makes this a read worth repeating with practical tools and tested approaches to try.  Enough said.
    Or

Liz Gebhardt


  • © Amanda Jones
    Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

    Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.