Wednesday, July 29

Technology Is Transforming Education Right Before Our Eyes

Education is experiencing a tech revolution, but it's only a single facet of our near future landscape. As much as some standardization is seen as an opportunity to level the educational playing field, technology is simultaneously making education and educators accessible for anyone who wants more.

Some parents, myself included, are becoming keenly aware of the opportunities technology affords our children as it pertains to education. I became especially attentive to it two years ago after discovering that my daughter's reading proficiency wasn't keeping up with her course work.

This summer, thanks in part to a reading program I developed for her, she is reading The Hobbit, which is three to five years above her grade level. Sure, she still struggles with some of the words, but that's the point. I want her to feel challenged.

In fact, since then, her summer education program has expanded beyond reading. Between sites like education.com, skillshare, and code.org, there is no shortage of educational content. It keeps her balanced between free play and other activities like art camps or softball clinics or guitar lessons.

It also keeps her up to speed on core subjects while introducing her to skills that she will be unlikely to learn in school (like coding or graphic design) at her age. And for me, as a university instructor, it provides a sense of how to improve my own classes as well as education in general.

Five opportunities for the next generation in education.

• Standardization will lose out to innovation. Given that an overemphasis in standardized education can lead to stagnation as the bureaucracy that oversees curriculum becomes too slow to adopt new concepts, a next generation solution will help educators get ahead of a subject curve. Best practice lesson plans could eventually populate state or national education centers, with the best of them raising the bar on what the nation considers "standard."

Teachers would be given much more flexibility if administrators received grants and additional funding for best practice lesson plans produced by their schools. The system could also provide incentives for teachers to innovate, giving them a reason to think of their jobs as year round.

• Educators will be rewarded for engaging students. As technology continues to remove proximity from the equation, administrators will discover that their educators are assets to the institutional brand. As it happens, the surge in filling courses with adjunct professors to save money will shift toward attracting top talent that the high school, college, or university can market.

After all, when you can take an online writing course from James Patterson for $90, it makes it much more difficult to justify the $600 course taught by an MFA graduate. As a result, universities will have to get back to the business of bringing in marketable talent — professors who can excite students.

• Liberal arts will evolve into liberal tracks. There continues to be pressure to transform the educational system into something much more vocational. The push to create more vocational schools is mostly attributed to STEM education programs, especially technology, as more people see the field as being future proof in terms of career opportunities.

While this is true, some professors are seeing some slippage in other skill sets that used to be covered as part of a liberal arts education. Specifically, tech savvy students sometimes struggle with public speaking, presentation, psychology, communication, business, and other skills that are associated with liberal arts. New classes (including history and philosophy) will be reintroduced as mandatory electives.

• Employers will reassess how they see candidates. Isolating job candidates based on holding a bachelor's or master's degree (or years of experience) will be supplanted with new measurements. Educational achievement will be balanced to consider an applicant's body of work (such as their programs, applications, campaigns) and ancillary continuing education in addition to their degree.

For example, candidates who have completed emergency management courses offered by FEMA will be recognized as having more educational experience than those who took one or two public disaster communication classes as part of their liberal arts degree. Likewise, a design portfolio or computer program could prove much more predictive in choosing the right candidate.

• Initiative will become a most valued commodity. While initiative will likely never become a class on its own, it will eventually become one of the most sought-after attributes for candidates to demonstrate throughout their educational careers. As such, it needs to be baked into education.

Those students (and, subsequently, candidates) who have a track record for meeting whatever "standards" are set and then go on to do more — sports, extracurricular, leadership, advanced students — will quickly discover that they will have more choices in choosing their educational paths and careers. Where education can stimulate such a trait is in creating a layered approach to education where students can take on additional projects or course material beyond what's required.

My daughter is on two education tracts — one at school and one at home. 

It's easy to become excited by the potential for technology in education, but it isn't technology alone that creates a new landscape. It will take teachers to develop new programs and find suitable methods of application for a variety of audiences. It will take programmers and designers to make the material feel intuitive, and it will take parents to offset everything their children can learn.

For my daughter, her summer program includes math, reading, and writing with science, history, and art on alternating days. In addition to these fundamentals, she also invested a half-hour in guitar and a half-hour in coding before her days ended with softball or baseball practice. She loved every minute.

While some people were taken aback by her enthusiasm for summer homework, she was as passionate about learning as she was for some of the incentives. And that, more than any other measure, reinforced to me that innovation, engagement, diversity, integration, and initiative are what's needed most in education. As for technology, it's potentially the best tool to help us deliver on it.

Wednesday, July 22

Five Steps To Make An Influencer Instead Of Marketing To One

While marketers continue to reach out to social media influencers in the hopes of earning easy traction, it takes much more than a popular or pretty face to capture key performance indicators. Sure, there is plenty of evidence to support influencers have an edge over brand content. But so what?

It doesn't mean you always have to pony up dollars for celebrities and semi-public people to increase brand exposure. You could take an organic approach in attracting third-party voices around your brand and the process to do so will result in deeper, more meaningful relationships.

In the long term, it could also help inoculate your brand against the rising cost of social media stars as brands compete for the same talent and make influencer marketing akin to any other media buy. Of course, this doesn't mean anyone should bow out all together. Influencers have their place.

All it means is that marketers need to remember that a "nobody" can be just as influential as the current somebody. The right person with the right passion only needs a lift to gain real attention.

How to make a topic influencer in five steps.

• Engagement. Discover customers, advocates, and topic enthusiasts who have an authentic passion for your product or service. They may not be "popular" but their passion for your brand is infectious in ways that paid or perked influencers will never deliver. Give these fans some real attention by letting them know your organization noticed.

• Education. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn more about your clients while they learn more about your product or service. Successful professionals have always relied on the art of conversation to learn more about their clients and find new ways to provide real value. Take it a step further online and help people with an interest in your industry become experts.

• Exposure. Almost everyone appreciates a call out for something they say, write, or share online. When they say it about you, make sure you take it a step further than a thank you. Share and provide some context into why it is worthwhile to your organization's audience. If it happens to be about your product or service, even better. Third-party endorsements don't have to be from celebrities.

• Exclusivity. There is no better way to make someone an overnight influencer than giving them something in advance of everyone else. It doesn't always matter what that might be — it could be some news, a video clip, an invitation, or a working demo. The fact they have it first will move them to the head of the class — even if nobody saw them as an influencer before.

• Endorsement. Third-party endorsements don't happen in one direction. As several influencers are nurtured from the ground up, any organization can call them out as rising stars in the industry. Boosting their credibility as someone who knows your products or services as well as (or better than) your organization will lift them to be on par with almost anyone considered an influencer today.

Many of the influencers that organizations want to appease today got their start in much the same way. Nobody really noticed them until an organization or other so-called influencers gave them a lift with a call out, conversation, or mutually beneficial exposure. For many after that, a singular semi-exclusive offer (ranging from cameras to glasses and software to soda) catapulted them upward.

Even those who had the benefit of building a personal brand on the back of a big brand followed a similar path. The only real difference is that the organization accelerated the steps, with their employment or affiliation acting as an immediate endorsement. It doesn't take all that much.

So instead of only thinking in terms of influencer marketing — how to reach existing influencers — organizations need to start thinking in terms of influencer making too. Where aspiring influencers make a big difference is that their brand affinity and the strength of their relationship with a smaller pool of followers puts them in a prime position to quickly build an audience with a level of authenticity that few professional influencers retain over time — at least with the same semblance of passion.

Wednesday, July 15

Specialization Is At The Crossroads Of Tech And Design

As tempting as it might be, don't count the Apple watch out yet. Despite the cottage industry created to deride its entry into the wearables category, sales are steady even if the expectations were off.

The Apple watch was never going to see the same kind of adoption that the iPhone did. And if you thought it might, then you don't understand anything about watches. One size could never fit all. 

If anything, the opposite holds true. The evolution of technology and communication isn't ubiquitous generalization. It's specialization, with the caveat of collaboration — hardware that emphasizes one or two features well while providing access to select applications currently associated with phones.

The Marshall London, The Copenhagen Wheel, And The Leica Q.

There is no shortage of specialization beginning to take hold in the marketplace. And while many of them can be equated a luxury segment, emerging markets a fueling new luxury buyers and their influence over consumer behavior is spreading toward design and specialization. 
  
The Marshall London is an exquisite looking Android Lollipop specially designed for music lovers. Some features include dual headphone jacks, five-band equalizer, and a gold scroll wheel for volume. There is also a dedicated processor for high resolution audio (including FLAC files) at the core of it.

The Copenhagen Wheel is hardware that transforms ordinary bicycles into hybrid e-bikes. But more than that, it transforms any bike into a smart bike, capable of adjusting your workout based on environmental conditions, conveying real-time traffic and road conditions, and even giving you a boost when you need it most.


The Leica Q is a high-end, full-frame camera with a 24MP sensor and no anti-aliasing filter. The design is classic, but the camera doesn't compromise on modern tech specs. The interface enables photographers to use a touch screen or the lens and still delivers the fastest autofocus of any impact full-frame camera. A new WiFi feature also allows for remote shooting from a smart phone.

All three illustrate a shift away from total market disruption and the emergence of tech specializations that fall in line with the convergence of communication and the customer experience. Expect to see such specialization in future renditions of wearable tech too. 

People don't want a fully functional iPhone on their wrists as much as they want a classic timepiece that can also put their database on any screen they happen to direct it toward. But short of that, they are happy with wearables that do only one thing very well too.

Technology and design will reverse the move toward generalization. 

As Apple learns that the design of any watch needs to be significantly more malleable and personal than their initial offering, there may be a reassurance of interest in digital technology. The Apple Watch is certainly a step in the right direction. Now all we need are watches that are watches first (but can power up a display screen too) much like the Marshall London is a music phone, the Leica Q is a camera, and the Copenhagen Wheel is a wheel. And yet, they are so very much more.

Wednesday, July 8

Emerging Markets And Wealth Are Changing Consumer Behavior

While some luxury brands continue to express interest in courting Generation Y, a demographic loosely defined as those born between 1977 and 1994 in the United States, other brands are setting their sights on another segment all together. They see the next surge in luxury consumers not confined to American Millennials but driven by emerging markets such as India and South Africa.

One new study, Wealth X, sees India producing as many as 437,000 millionaires by 2018 (and doubling again by 2023).The nation also has a young, well-educated population with high levels of entrepreneurship and business ownership, underpinned by a well-developed legal system.

Wealth growth in Africa — especially markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — continues to be driven by a naturally entrepreneurial population at an annual rate of over 10 percent. Not only are those markets rich in natural resources, but they also have a new foundation for technological innovation.

In addition, the study predicts Iran, Turkey, and Mexico will become economic bright spots among global markets. These markets will continue to be influenced by western European and North American definitions of luxury (including a shift from physical luxury to experiential luxury.)

Five behavioral shifts expected from emerging markets. 

Hyper-Localization. Although the world is shrinking, wealthy consumers are identifying with the cities where they work and live (and not necessarily their countries). As a result, brands need to prepare for an increasingly nonlinear development of economies and wealth creation as well as the important role proximity advertising and marketing will play in reaching those new millionaires.

New Frontiers. An increase in new wealth will continue to drive a growing early adopter segment hungry for new experiences. In addition to new frontier experiences such as space tourism and global investment opportunities cited in the study, pay attention to augmented and virtual reality space.

Luxury Experiences. Millennials are not the only population segment that is more interested in experience over products. The rich in emerging markets are increasingly shifting luxury consumption away from product purchases to lavish experiences like extreme locations and underwater holidays.

Hyper-Personalization. As well as fundamental rarity, personalization is expected to become the second major driver of exclusivity in the next decade. This will continue to manifest in tailored and unique products as well as one-off experiences.

Privacy and Intimacy. There will be an increasing desire for privacy among the wealthy in the future, yet at the same time a desire for greater intimacy among the select providers they trust. As a brand is truly defined by the relationship between itself and its customers, the newly rich will look for near flawless experiences from a shrinking pool of brands they trust.

These behavioral shifts will have a profound effect on brands. 

These are not the only shifts expected in the attitudes and psychology of the emerging wealthy. The study predicts those joining the ranks of the wealthy will become increasingly concerned about the economy, geopolitics, wealth preservation, privacy, and health care options.

With the recent financial crisis still fresh in their minds, they will be keenly sensitive to issues such as wealth preservation and the return on investment in every area of their lives from financial holdings to how they spend family holidays. At the same time, as wealth continues to become globalized, there will be an increased demand for personalization with design eclipsing technology and exclusivity defined by something other than price point alone.

The Wealth-X Part II study, which covers the next 10 years of wealth and luxury, is currently available without a registration barrier. In review, many of the concepts presented in the study are not confined to having an impact on luxury brands alone. As an emerging class of globalized rich continues to emerge, their behaviors will have a significant influence over consumer expectation on all organizations — especially in hyper-localized minded cities with increasingly unique identities.

Marketers hoping to find opportunities in behavioral shifts ahead need to begin focusing on proximity, flexibility, exclusivity, and improving the customer experience. Entrepreneurs need to look toward new frontiers that create entirely new markets — space travel, oceanic exploration, virtual reality, near-invisible energy production, and biotechnology among them.

Wednesday, July 1

What Marketers Really Need To Know About Silly Cat Videos

When describing the state of the Internet today, it's all too easy for marketers to see silly cat videos as the polar opposite of mental stimulus (myself included). And in doing so, marketers miss the point.

The popularity of silly cat videos has nothing to do with the type of content people want to consume. Their popularity has everything to do with how people want content to make them feel.

New research supports this supposition. After surveying nearly 7,000 Internet users on Internet cat consumption, researcher Jessica Gall Myrick discovered the motivations behind it and emotional benefit it delivers. People mostly watch cat videos as a means of mood management because of their potential to improve their mood. In fact, even those who use them as an excuse to procrastinate tend to temper any post-viewing guilt with feel-good fuzziness, as viewers describe their post-viewing mood as hopeful, happy, and content even if they felt anxious, annoyed, or sad before watching them.

Marketers need to pay better attention to how they make people feel. 

There is no shortage of causes that deserve consideration, topics primed to produce social outrage, or advertising that aims at creating feelings of scarcity (ads that aim to create feelings of fear, inadequacy, or make people feel unknowledgeable). Most of it, not unlike media coverage, is commonly negative or neutral. The net outcome is not surprising — it makes people feel bad or, more commonly, nothing at all.

Sooner or later, you have to wonder: Is the marketing content your organization produces adding to the anxiety or helping make people hopeful? Are you aligned with brands that promote happiness like Apple (innovation), Coke (happiness), Lowe's (empowerment) and Amazon (simplicity) or struggling   with ads that aim to demean, disparage, or attack others? Do you leave people wondering why they need your product or do you have the sense that somehow your product or service makes things better?


Sure, there are cases where negative advertising can work, especially if it is designed to capitalize on contempt for a perceived adversary. But such tactics are time sensitive to the cultural perceptions such as a decades long run of "dumb dad" ads. And social media makes for several splendid fails every year.

Don't get me wrong. The point here isn't to scrub away any rough edges if it fits. The point is to ask yourself what emotions your content is or isn't tapping into and making the appropriate adjustment in much the same way Charles Revson once did as the pioneering cosmetics executive behind Revlon.

"In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope," Revson once said. 

Hope and happiness are powerful promises, ones that underscore many successful brands. They also cut to the quick of what motivates people in B2B and B2C spaces. Consumers want to make their lives and the world around them a little better. So do business owners. All of them might have a different outtake on what objectives best accomplish those overarching goals (comfort or exhilaration, opportunity or security), but almost all of them are rooted in hope and happiness.

When companies and content creators can't deliver on either, people turn to more than two million silly cat videos (2014) that have chalked up more than 26 billion views. Why? Not because marketers need to load their stream with silly cat videos but because these cats can deliver what most content misses — a few moments of mood managing happiness (even when these heroes look a bit grumpy).

Wednesday, June 24

The Most Powerful Brands Have Always Been Agile

Marketing and communication has a way of being reinvented over and over again, with each new and unapologetic rendition billed as a break from a seemingly blind and rigid tradition. Except they're nothing of the sort. Despite keeping things feeling fresh, most reinvention is historical revisitation.

Take some of the recent discussion revolving under brands, with the key concept being that a brand must be agile, adaptable, and seek out opportunity as opposed to a voice as personified by a logo. The argument makes sense, until you consider that the definition isn't accurate and the new idea not fresh.

The agile brand concept has been around about a century. 

Brand is not an identity, even if some marketers confuse it as such. Brand is (and has always been) the relationship between a product and its customer, as Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO Worldwide, once described it. And just like all relationships, they have to change with the times.

Oversimplified, this has always led organizations to make one of three choices. They can either adapt the relationship to meet the changing needs of aging customers; attempt to confine their relationship to a specific demographic, hopefully capture new customers to replace those who no longer identify with the product; or find new customers with whom they hope to define an entirely new relationship.

This is why (until recently) Revlon matured its brand (adapt), Nike rarely wavers in hitting the sweet spot between emerging athletes and professionals who know (demographic), and Volkswagen traded in its cool for mainstream (new relationships). It's also why RadioShack continues to struggle as a brand despite the buyout. The marketers on that team continue to mistake identity for brand, which consisted of a DIY crowd that the chain had long ignored and neglected. They want a second shot.

It also explains why entire markets can be disrupted like Zipcar, Uber, and Airbnb have done to the car rental, taxi cab, and hotel industries respectively. When organizations adopt an industry standard over a true brand relationship (e.g., airlines, fast food, grocery chains) then the customers will eventually begin to make purchasing decisions based on price or convenience instead of any relationship. Or, as in the case of the examples cited, look for someone to shake things up.

How to build an agile brand that keeps pace with change. 

The modern brand model isn't "modern" as much as it's a time-tested revisitation of a proven model. A successful brand fulfills its relationship with a customer based upon its ability to deliver on a brand promise that the customer values. As long as the organization delivers on that promise (and the customer values it), the relationship will be strong enough to weather any short-term challenges.

In addition, the organization has to be prepared for change: poised to change with the customers it has acquired or be prepared to let them go while acquiring news ones or being ready to reinvent its brand promise for a different kind of relationship with (possibly) different customers. And in every case, the value of a brand promise will almost always be based upon the organization's willingness to find contrasts between its products and services and the competition, giving customers a real choice.

And if some people don't like your contrast? No problem. Not everyone needs to be your customer as long as those who are your customers remain satisfied loyalists. They'll work hard to help you find like-minded customers — the single most valuable reward any organization can hope to earn.

Wednesday, June 17

Five Practices To Put Some Strategic Back Into Social PR

Public relations is in a self-selected state of change and the driving force is clearly social media. As many as 81 percent of communicators now believe that public relations can no longer operate without social media despite 64 percent considering it more superficial than traditional media. Wow.

Many professionals find those statistics frightening for two reasons. As social media consumes more and more of a public relations professional's day, the more those pros feel as superficial as their task work. And as more public relations professionals include social media as part of their primary practice because they must, more of them break away from the tenets of public relations in favor of measures that are much more akin to tactical marketing. Some, arguably, have become marketers.

While there is nothing wrong with that per se, the emphasis on tactical work has consequences. I've warned about several such problems many times before. But more than that, the way social media is being practiced tends to take public relations practitioners further way from strategic thinking, which was the quality that provided the profession real substance.

How can public relations channel strategic communication again?

1. Refocus On Relations. With all the pressure to increase impressions or go viral via social media, it's all too easy to forget the real stakeholders. By crafting communication with particular publics, special interests, or industry influences in mind, you can make deeper, longer lasting impressions.

Sometimes the best content isn't designed to generate leads as much as to deliver value to niches that have already expressed an interest in your products and services. If they appreciate it, there's a good chance they'll share their experience or your story— referring qualified leads to you anyway.

2. Stop Dialing Up Content. Sure, automation has its place across public relations and social media, but absenteeism can cannibalize your budget while eroding brand equity. Status quo, especially with an increased frequency or to mass media over niche, will eventually kill the communication program.

Stop setting a news release quota and select only the choicest news over the wire services and then repurpose the release for direct-to-public content with a twist for whatever audience has been assembled there. The same can be said for content marketing. Strive to elevate over educate.

3. News Wants Multimedia. Given the outpouring of studies that support the growing impact of visual communication, news releases need to do more than deliver words. Photos, videos, audio files, interactive graphics, graphs and illustrations are all worthwhile accompaniments for any release.

You don't have to include them all in your pitch or press release: A well-organized landing page or digital press kit makes everything easier, especially when it includes vertical photos for mobile. And what if the story you're selling doesn't merit multimedia? Then maybe it doesn't merit being shared.

4. Inspiration Beats Interruption. While people still consider the Oreo cookie blackout advertisement a classic case study, the novelty of news jacking and link bait is wearing thin. Simply put, the frequency of interruption — and distraction — has outpaced its real-time marketing merit.

Yes, there is still room to be timely on a topic. Successful advertising, marketing, and public relations campaigns have always been tapped into the current culture and current affairs. But with consumers growing wearisome of messages that follow them around (privacy pushback) and interrupt conversations in an attempt to change the subject (ad blocking pushback), it's time to think long term. Ensure those real-time marketing opportunities lend something to the conversation.

5. Be First For A Change. Years ago, I used to tell public relations students to not only know public relations inside and out, but also the industry or industries in which they work in as well. Doing so meets one of the criteria related to traditional public relations, which is to research trends within the industry and marketplace and determine what impact they may have on the organization and its publics.

Nowadays, I tell students that technology needs to be included in the research mix too because we're only a few years out from another disruption in communication. So instead of being reactive to things like social networks and search engines, public relations professions need to be proactive in determining how to apply cutting edge technology to their communication mix with an expressed intent to strengthen the relationships between their organization and those publics it needs to survive.

And if it doesn't? Then the bulk of the profession will eventually be absorbed by integrated marketing communication, with a handful of practitioners remaining to denote some specialty skills such as media relations, crisis communication, and public or government affairs. Who knows? Maybe that won't be such a bad thing. Or will it? I'll leave that one for you to decide.

Wednesday, June 10

How Future Communication Will Dictate Customer Experience

future communication
If you're looking for the next disruption in marketing, consider how technology is positioning communication as the primary driver in the customer experience. The change will be truly astounding.

Marketers can no longer be satisfied with the traditional five-stage buying process model: problem recognition, information research, alternative evaluation, purchase decision, and post purchase behavior. They must shift toward a model that is more robust, considering every consumer touch point prior to problem recognition and through the life of the product (and into the next purchase).

This is especially true as communication becomes an inescapable part of every product, with communication-centric technologies baked into them or as communication-based networks are developed around them. In some cases, communication is part of the product and customer experience, influencing the buying process every step of the way.

Five areas where communication is becoming critical to the customer experience.

Ferrari
1. Environmental Content. The performance sports car that emerged from its historic factory entrance in Maranello, 1947, has long been regarded for its innovation, passion, and diligence. In keeping with tradition, Ferrari showrooms have added augmented reality to the small screen, allowing patrons to match up digital content to the physical vehicle in front of them. Along with scan highlights, patrons can add features and change the colors on the screen with the swipe of few fingers.

Communication that integrates seamlessly with the environment becomes part of the experience.

Skully
2. Enchanted Items. Skully caught my attention some time ago when it unveiled its future concept to eliminate the motorcyclist's blind spot with a rear facing camera and change the experience with an interactive and transparent head's up display. This technology isn't built to distract drivers but rather eliminate distractions with an assist from augmented reality for GPS convenience and the safety of situational awareness.

Communication applications built into the helmet become an integral part of the product itself.

Tesco
3. Digital Storefronts. South Korea has created retail space out of thin air by installing display walls in its subways. The displays interact with mobile devices, allowing subway passengers to shop for groceries while waiting for their next connection. Once purchased with a point-and-click mobile app, the order is presumably delivered around the time the passenger arrives to whatever destination they preselect. Future applications could include interactive touch screens or the option to pick up any orders on the way home.

Digital content and communication is shifting toward truly functional customer experiences.


Corning
4. Portable Data. Originally envisioned by Corning, the world is not too far off from turning a wide variety of surfaces into digital interfaces that interact seamlessly with any mobile or portable data in design. If you can imagine an instructor or speaker presenting educational material on the big screen while participants capture the presentation on the small screen (and automatically receive e-handouts on cue), then you've only scratched the surface of what's possible and probable in the years ahead. The prospect opens up an entirely new canvas for graphic artists and communicators to consider.

Presentation displays and increasingly portable data will redefine what's possible for communication.

Microsoft
5. AR/VR. Microsoft, Sony and other companies are busily developing the next edition of what virtual reality and augmented reality might mean for gaming. Entertainment is only a starting point. Whether the experience is detached (virtual reality) or environmentally responsive (augmented reality), its applications will eventually grow exponentially into training programs, fitness instructors, and a variety of educational applications with virtual classrooms, holographic illusions, or immersive reenactments that provide people a perspective of what any time or place might be like.

Immersive and responsive communication will challenge professionals in unimaginable ways.

While these are just some of the ways that technology is working to change the interface, all of them represent the increasing impact communication will have on the customer experience. It will become an ever-present part of the environment and will sometimes be baked into the very functionality of the product.

But even without these advances and near future, communication is playing an ever increasing role in the customer experience. Every bit of content produced and shared by organizations today have positive and negative consequences to brand recognition and reputation. This includes customer service complaints that play out publicly online to the frequency of irrelevant interruption and value of the communication offered (as opposed to the value organizations sometimes think they offer).

And with this in mind, maybe it is time to stop thinking so much about a sales funnel but an experience  corridor that a company provides from its initial introduction though the life of the product and eventual replacement. After all, customer satisfaction, not sales, is a truer benchmark for longevity.

Wednesday, June 3

The Educational Ecosystem Plays A Role In Writing Challenges

Ever wonder why high school students struggle with college writing assignments and college students seem ill prepared for business writing as they enter the workforce? Me too, even if the answer turned out not to be much of a mystery. It's surprisingly simple.

Most people struggle with writing assignments during those transitional periods (between high school to college or college and careers) because they are neither prepared nor practiced for the style, form, and function they need to succeed. It's not their fault. Most are only taught how to write for one specific ecosystem.

In high school, this means sharing and supporting opinions, providing summations, and remixing content from a variety of sources. Most of it is in a short-format essay form, under five pages, sometimes conveyed in first person, and rarely seen anywhere beyond high school with the possible exception of personal blog posts.

College demands something different. Students are more often asked to define problems and propose solutions, conduct analysis and criticize arguments, and provide some evidence of original thought that is tied to quantitative and qualitative evidence. The papers they write are significantly longer.

After graduation, the specifications change again. There is greater pressure placed on writers in the workforce to write shorter format objective-oriented communication that considers industry standards, corporate filters, and greater sensitively to the needs of an audience — a consideration that is not always present in college papers. Even more challenging, for those who enter communication, recent graduates must navigate an entirely different set of organizational models, attention-grabbing introductions, and recapping conclusions that meet an objective and have a call to action.

Educational ecosystems play a role in undermining effective communication. 

Every year, I tell students who enroll in any editing or writing class I teach about the various pupfish that populate the least likely places in Nevada. One of them, the Devils Hole pupfish, for example, only lives in Devils Hole, a geothermal pool located within a limestone cavern.

It's the smallest population of desert pupfish species in the world and it is amazingly specialized to only live in this one location. As long as they are there (and there are no substantial environmental changes), they thrive. When they are removed, not surprisingly, they die.

When it comes to writing, students are very much like pupfish. We teach them to adapt to writing for  a specific educational ecosystem for four years and then marvel at their inability to conform to a new one. We don't do this one time. We do it twice or more, without ever revealing the process behind it.

If we did, then more students would be keener on the diversity of style, structure, and form while also adhering to the consistent application of editing rules and proofreading practices. By teaching students a variety of styles, structures, and formats, they will become better practiced in the presentation of the material and, in some cases, might have more fun doing it.

What do I mean by that? What if ...

1. History students had to write an infomercial on joining the Roman Empire?

2. The next report on Sylvia Plath was written in poetic form mirroring The Bell Jar?

3. Rather than an opinion essay, students wrote a short story conveying the opinion like a moral?

4. We skip the standard problem/solution paper in favor of a presentation deck that does the same?

5. Students chose two historic figures with differing viewpoints and compose dialogue between them in the form of a podcast?

My long-time friend and colleague Ike Pigott has a fondness for saying "good writing educates and great writing elevates." He's right, which is why it is so unfortunate that great writing is becoming so scarce that people don't even know to look for it anymore. They'd rather skip a sentence for the pic.

Or maybe not. Maybe writing is just like baseball in that it relies on youth sports. The more people who have had at least some play time are much more likely to appreciate it for a lifetime. I'd like to think so because pictures tend not to stick with us as much as words that ignite our imaginations.

It's one of the primary reasons that on Friday afternoon (June 12), I'll be investing a few hours to help students and working professionals brush up on some skill sets. Editing & Proofreading Your Work at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is a long-standing half-day program designed to help people understand the essentials of style, usage, punctuation, and other mechanics. Hope to see you.

Wednesday, May 27

What Could A Leaner P&G Teach Us About Marketing?

It's a new discussion that isn't new. Every few years, someone wants to break up Proctor & Gamble, which is the largest publicly traded personal products company in the world. With a market capitalization of $220 billion, it's also one of the largest companies in the United States.

Some of the reasoning is tied to sales. The company recently reported 3 percent growth in organic sales, but its CEO suggested that growth could have broken 4 percent if it had split off some brands. Specifically, the idea is to keep the top 70-80 products that generate about 90 percent of its sales.

About 23 of those top brands boast sales ranging from $1 billion to $10 billion, and 14 with sales of $500 million to $1 billion. All those would be kept, even if some stakeholders think the time might be right to break it up in bigger chunks rather than shed smaller assets like Duracell.

Some of the reasoning is psychological. Big companies rarely capture double digit growth rates. They are also prone to job cuts and restructuring, which can take a toll on employee morale. Most people see them as threatened by smaller and much more nimble competitors, especially those with a keenness for innovation — something P&G has tried to keep by developing a new model for R&D much like it did for marketing, which led the company to embrace digital at a deeper level.

How a leaner P&G could produce a better marketing model.

From a marketing perspective, breaking P&G into three or four big chunks doesn't make as much sense, especially after the company successfully retooled its marketing division to think more like brand managers and less like corporate number crunchers. The result has been mixed, with the lackluster launch of Tide Pods but the iconic #LikeAGirl campaign that people still talk about.


Perhaps all the company needs to do to reinvigorate growth is to even out those marketing efforts by reimagining a hybrid between its old and new models. Once the company successfully diverges some of its non-core brands, P&G could develop a brand partnership model that provides each brand manager more market insight, consumer data, negotiation power, and creative co-ops that cross over from one brand to the next. (e.g., #LikeAGirl might not be confined to a single brand.)

There are times where P&G succeeds in developing collaborative strategies. As an Olympic sponsor, the company successfully promoted several brands as part of one package. Its sentimental Thank You Mom campaign during the 2012 summer Olympics, for example, resulted in a $500 million sales boost and prompted an encore for the winter games. (The company was ready with 38 different YouTube commercials before the Olympics even started.)

Even better than the immediate return, any P&G converts will deliver a lifelong return for the company. It's this kind of forward thinking that continually leaves a positive impression. Now all the company has to do is start thinking beyond a singular event to bind its brands. Spontaneous crossovers could go a long way, especially for a company that reinvests more revenue into marketing.

Such a move by P&G could reinvigorate marketing. 

Much like the company already directs regions and media, P&G could be on the verge of a much more versatile marketing machine, one that is worthy of a case study. Such a program could be built with individual brand campaigns with the most successful providing crossover opportunities and uniting themes (combined with bigger buys) for the others. It would reinvigorate some marketing theory, even for small companies willing to partner with complementing and non-competing businesses.

Such a move would also quell the idea that P&G needs to be broken up into three or four big chunks, given the resilience of flexible marketing comes from a bigger network of brands (not a smaller one). Sometimes the brand could market itself (with shared research, etc.) but other times build off something another brand has built or reinforce each other's reach by sharing a proven theme.

What do you think? In an era when consumers appreciate smaller companies rather than the giants of the past, some people believe it is too late for any behemoths. Others disagree. They see some of today's giants rewriting the playbook while their pockets are still deep and revenues large. And with the company vested in innovation, such as 3-D bioprinting, no one really knows what could be next.

Wednesday, May 20

How Social Automation And Social Absenteeism Are Different

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of social automation. I generally advise clients to mostly avoid it, with "mostly" being the operative word. There are opportunities when social automation can be effective.

So why do I advise clients to mostly avoid it? Because the advice isn't meant to frighten them away from automation. It's to make them keep thinking so their automation doesn't turn into absenteeism.

How social absenteeism made social automation a dirty word. 

Social absenteeism can be defined by all signs Danny Brown listed it in his article about automation. He included bots that burp out content followers, communication shifts from conversation to broadcast, and a constant number crunching addiction that appeals to less social savvy companies.

In all three cases, it isn't automation as much as it's absenteeism, with all of it disrupting the value of social media. But let's be clear here. It doesn't disrupt it entirely. Social still drives more than 30 percent of web traffic, with Facebook dominating the top platforms, while search continues to slump.

Those numbers provide a proof of sorts. Search used to be the go-to answer for everything, even finding love as illustrated by this classic commercial about an American finding love in Paris.


While this spot is fun and clever, it doesn't always hold true anymore. Nowadays, people want to be told what to find as often or even more than they want to find something. In essences, we've seen a  social shift that makes search the go-to when you know what to ask and social the go-to if you don't.

The point was punctuated in a modernized version of Parisan Love. It features a man who is stuck someplace for a few days. Rather than sulk, he asks his social network friends what he should do. They offer up suggestions and he loads clips of his daily adventures drawn from their ideas. It's a clever commercial, proving that even accidental vacations are more fun with input from friends.

The spot represents the best of social media: interaction, engagement, inspiration, reciprocation, and reward. Social absenteeism, on the other hand, would have produced something else entirely because absent automation has no context for circumstance. It doesn't know where you are, what you need, or what you are doing. It's scripted regularity that points to the same products or people or places.

Unchecked, you can easily consider it a cousin to black hat SEO and email spam in that the objective of the communication isn't designed to help anyone except the broadcaster. It's their method of getting clicks, capturing followers, maintaining a presence, and executing content formulas. What's in it for the customer or consumer? Not too much. It favors a marketing agenda over customer experience.

Absenteeism doesn't require automations. Humans can be boring too.

There is a sandwich brand that asks its followers what sandwich they like (or some such variation of the question) every day. No matter what anyone says, the brand affirms they made the right choice. It's monotonous. Most people only follow the account for coupons. The rest they put up with to get them.

Most people would be surprised to find that the account is managed by a human, given that there is nothing human about the communication. It's shallow and empty, celebrating the brand not the fans.

It's not all that different from sending out blind pitches to journalists or sending out a discount on jeans just after the customer bought five pairs. Both examples are empty actions, contrary to some of the suggestions offered up by Brown. Content testing to improve communication, scheduling tests, action tracking, list culls and dead account purges are all smart automation tactics because they are all designed to enhance the customer experience and not detract from it. The difference is in the intent.

It isn't even confined to social media. Automation runs the risk of becoming absenteeism across all communication disciplines with content formulas, empty actions, and unjustifiable frequency. And in a world where the communication has become part of the product, for better or worse, you can't really afford to cheapen it by thinking the solution to every problem is an apple just because you sell them.

Wednesday, May 13

What Is Happening To Having A Passion For Education?

Two million Americans will earn a bachelor's degree in the coming weeks and join the work force or head to graduate school, notes Emory English professor Mark Bauerleiny in a column he penned for The New York Times. But as large as that number sounds, it's not the one that lingers with you.

It's the number that he never gives — how many connections do students make with their professors — that will haunt you. That number, he asserts, has become minuscule over the decades. 

As more and more professors act more like proctors, treating their students like peers as opposed to the pupils they are contracted to challenge, so has their role as mentors or thinkers diminished. Students think of them as customer service representatives, passing out and collecting assignments for class. Almost 43 percent of them, in fact, will receive an A grade, up from only 15 percent in the 1960s.

It's not the students who have mostly changed. It's the coursework, class size, engagement, and objectives that have changed. Student recruitment and revenue has become a driver, with an emphasis on catering to students who experienced the same sort of mentor absenteeism in high school or, perhaps, their entire educational career. The institutionalism of education almost assures it.

The prerequisite missing from students, teachers and administrators is passion. 

Different people have different explanations for what is wrong with education today. Some say it is because we are in the midst of a transition — from a localized industrial model to a global technological model. Some say it is the core curriculum, moving at the speed of a Jell-O elephant. And some say the problem is where the money goes, without considering sports as part of the equation.

This doesn't account for finger pointing either. Some blame teachers. Some blame parents. Some blame administrators. And the blame game is not just here in America. It is everywhere nowadays.

Maybe there is some truth to any or all of those expectations. Maybe there isn't. Maybe the problem can't be traced to a person or thing as much as an attitude. It seems hard to keep passion in education.

Administrators are being asked to control "bad" teachers, level the playing field to ensure standardized test success, and reduce spending while increasing profit margins (or budget surpluses of specialized administrative positions). Teachers face more and more policies and paperwork, less educational freedom in favor of rigid curriculum, and an increasingly large and distracted body of students. Students face more standardized rote memorization, flat and distracted instructors, and a bombardment of relatively bleak messages about their future (including unwieldy student loans).

All of it seems to assail the one critical element needed to succeed in eduction — a love for learning or a passion for education. Administrators won't develop it unless they are asked to free teachers from  the shackles of global standards. Teachers won't retain it unless they own part of the curriculum they teach. Students won't develop it unless they are challenged and then succeed in the face of those challenges — mastering skill sets and then being able to apply them outside the classroom.

Nothing will change until we plug the growing passion gap in eduction. 

Ask psychologists and most will agree. Not only are high achievers driven by passion, but everyone relies on it for their substantial psychological well-being. It's this thinking, in fact, that prompts most career coaches to tell others to find out what they love and then give themselves permission to succeed. It's a concept that works for many people too. Sylvia Plath is an exception.

Except, she really isn't an exception. It's increasingly impossible for someone to stumble into a passion (or even an activity that will lead them to it) no matter how hard people try. There are too many choices; many more than we even know about when someone asks us to pick a path out of high school or college. And nowadays, it's even tricker to know. As technology propels the world forward, there is a very good chance that one person's passion might not exist for another decade (or perhaps it does now but will blink out of existence in that amount of time).

Maybe the solution is stop looking for an activity or position to fuel your passion and start putting passion into everything — no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Ergo, high achievers don't look for things that they have a passion for as much as they find a passion for whatever they do.

And if we want to infuse this thinking into education, then we need to ask administrators to allow teachers more flexibility in their method of delivery and students more opportunities to not only learn the material, but also understand it and feel challenged by it. Cookie cutter core curriculum can't do it.

After teaching for more than 15 years and volunteering as a youth sports coach from time to time, I've learned a few things about teaching. Professors have to bring a passion with them into the classroom, be prepared to adapt its delivery to best suit the audience in front of them, and then invent individualized assignments that challenge students to go beyond the course requirements.

Looking back, it's no accident that I learned this to be true either. Every teacher who inspired me (whether listed or not) was not content in teaching their classes as prescribed. They challenged me to do more and in doing so made their passion a contagion. I came away having a passion for many things, which later served me as a communicator across many industries. Nothing needs to be boring.

Sure, I understand the appeal in thinking that leveling the educational playing field is good thing. But there comes a point where leveling the playing field labels every advantage as somehow unfair and then goes on to strip teachers and professors of their passion, creativity, and classroom flexibility — which robs every student of their creativity and passion in turn. We can't afford to lose any more.

Inspirational stories aren't made from making everyone level. They are made by people who find the will to do more, despite any disadvantage, adversary, or adversity. And it always starts with passion.

Wednesday, May 6

The Real Price Of Public Shaming On Social Media

Years ago, I worked with a film and television producer who brought me in as a senior copywriter for several dozen of his accounts, including American Greetings and McDonald's. It was fun and challenging work with considerable visibility. The scripts opened countless doors in my career.

One of the things that always struck me about his home office was a plaque that hung prominently by his front door. You couldn't leave the house without seeing it. Neither could he. That was the point.

The plaque unapologetically warned: "Be careful what you think for your thoughts become words, your words become actions, your actions become habits, and your habits become your destiny."

If you search for it, you'll undoubtedly find several variations. Most of them don't have any attributions, largely because the variations were built around Proverbs 4:23. It warns to be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life. It's an idea that was shared by Buddha too. 

Public thinking might be a worthwhile prerequisite for social media. 

More and more, people have been caught sharing any number of thoughts online with reckless abandon. But what they sometimes don't consider is that they aren't sharing their thoughts online. They're sharing words, some of which invite people to interpret them and predict future actions. 

That is what happened to a 27-year-old single mother who lost her job over a Facebook post. She posted that she was happy to start a new job at a day care, but added that she hated being around kids. 

The outrage that followed eventually landed in the laps of her new employers. They let her go. 

There are scores of other stories just like it. Victor Paul Alvarez was fired for making jokes about Congressman John Boehner. Adam Mark Smith had to sell his home after posting a YouTube video. Justine Sacco regretted her joke too. She was fired after a single tweet on Twitter. It goes on and on.

It goes on so often that people aren't always sure who is the real monster. Is it the person who made the offense, internationally or not? Or is it the mob that follows? And what about the people who relish jumping on the public shaming band wagon? Or bullies? Or those with thin skins?

The truth is that it is all of those things and none of those things at once, mostly because we haven't quite adapted to an environment that provides plenty of borders but very few barriers.

What I mean by that is that we build most social network platforms around our friends and colleagues much like we have always built social circles — based on proximity, similarity, ideology, special interests. The only difference is that the Internet removes all physicality and invites in the world. 

The whole world includes millions of people who have absolutely nothing in common with us. They have different dreams, needs, beliefs, backgrounds, feelings, experiences, prejudices, and tolerances — so much so that their entire reality is completely different. They don't even have to live half a world away. Living in an urban, suburban, or rural community is enough to create a polar opposite.

So when someone says something that would have otherwise been relegated to a coffee klatch with a few friends — people who have an entire context of who that someone is — to the entire world without any such context,  they can expect very bad things to happen. They're no longer thinking out loud or within the safety of a few friends who may either chuckle or politely correct their ignorance. Instead, you're making declarations (no matter your privacy setting ). So choose your words wisely.

If you don't, there is a better-than-average chance to find yourself in the crosshairs of public scorn. It's a weird place to be, especially because retaliation doesn't adhere to the same sensitivity it demands from those it persecutes. Read the comments after any public shaming session and see what I mean.

The comments are generally vile, often even more so than the initial infraction. Some of it is even penned by people who are bullies with a temporary permission slip to threaten, ridicule, and demean someone else. In fact, I would not be surprised if the majority of children who have been bullied online earned their bruises from being publicly shamed. Some of those kids go on to consider suicide.

How to manage a successful social network presence, semi-private or fully public.   

Proverbs 4:23 is even more right on the Internet than the era in which it was written. Your thoughts run your life and your public thoughts invite others to run it for you. Think before you post it and think twice before you pile on. What you contribute says more about you than anyone else anyway. 

Never build a network for numbers unless you're a professional, preferably one with some public relations training. Instead, build your network based on your level of tolerance. The more tolerant, patient, and forgiving you can be, the bigger your network can be. Sure, being thick skinned can help too, but mostly in connection with and not as a substitute for those other three traits I just mentioned. 

Of course, as much as we would like it to be, tolerance is not a two-way street. Appreciate it, but never expect it. Unless you pretend to be someone else, there will always be those who will dehumanize you and others over differences or disparage your ideas as a means to affirm their own. And no, I don't get it either.

Then again, after blogging for the better part of a decade, I no longer see the price of public shaming to be the corrosion of culture or even a threat to an individual's reputation as some might claim. The real price of public shaming is giving ourselves over to it by allowing the initial offensive remark or the public pile on to change our thoughts, words, and actions into something completely unrecognizable. 

Absolutely, criticism can be healthy but only when we remember to take on the behavior and not the person. Try to contribute something positive instead because, after all, your thoughts are words and actions online — actions and words that can determine your destiny. Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, April 29

Five Takeaways For Writers From My Comic Con Panel

Meeting up with several dozen aspiring and published writers was a real treat at Comic Con. And true to my word too, I told them to stop aspiring all together as soon as I had the opportunity. Writing isn't an isolated spectator sport. It's as active as your prose should be. Get out there and do it, every day.

Sure, there are some exceptions in history, but most professional writers — including panelists Genese Davis, Maxwell Alexander Drake, PJ Perez, and myself — all agree. And we aren't the only ones. Creative designer Sean Adams said as much last year. You have to be in it to win it, he said. Daily Monster designer Stephen Bucher said it as well, just a few months ago: Starting is harder.

You have get on with the business of doing. And if you can get on with this business every day — even those days you don't feel like it — then you slowly but surely train yourself to be the professional that you always wanted to be, even if you're surprised that it's not all about writing.

Five takeaways for writers that have little and everything to do with writing.

• Connect. While many aspiring writers think of writing as a solitary practice, professional writers see it as a sociable profession. Even those who are introverts at heart recognize the need to live life away from the keyboard and make it a point to meet new people to maximize opportunities that range from friendship and inspiration to collaboration and contract work. Many creative fields are surprisingly small professional niches where everyone knows everyone. Build a network.

• Diversify. When one of the panelists asked the room full of aspiring writers about their passion, almost all of them chose prose — writing fiction that may some day become a published book. The panel saw it differently, with Perez pointing out how commercial work had challenged him to become even more creative by adhering to different styles. I concurred, noting how writers can learn alliteration from poetry, dialogue from radio, and visualization from film.

• Learn. Professional writers never stop learning. In addition to enhancing writing skills (e.g., avoid passive voice), writers must continually immerse themselves in their genre, subject matter, fields and industries, financial affairs, and the publishing world. Classes, workshops, interviews and independent research are all part of the educational mix for most professional writers. Suffice to say that you can't write about what you don't know and you can't submit unless you know where to send it.

• Communicate. When one of the attendees asked how to know whether to accept or reject feedback, Drake suggested thinking of their work as two stories. There is the story in your head and there is the story you put on paper, he said. When your readers don't understand what you've written, you have to ask yourself whether or not what is in your head really made it on the paper. That said, Davis added that feedback is always appreciated as long as the author is able to remain true to their vision.

• Share. Nobody will ever discover your work if you keep it in a shoebox. Digital media makes it easier than ever to share samples, sections, or even scraps (as I call shorter-than-short stories on my Facebook fiction page) with an ever-increasing audience. But even if a writer doesn't want to share their work outright, they can always look for writers groups or other meet-ups where creative people get together. You never know when sharing your work will eventually come full circle.

Few jobs are as rewarding as those that allow you to share some creativity. 

While I never intended to become a writer, I have always been a creative. And once you commit to being a creative, the rest of it will shape up nicely, depending mostly on your career path and a few surprise circumstances that you could never dream up when you started out.

It's true. You never really know until you do it. Maybe you will find a home in film or photography, design or the written word. Or maybe, if you are like me, you will discover you have some talent for all of it, even if one form of expression dominates most of my time than the others. The point is that how you share it will hardly matter as you are doing it, preferably every day. The panel all agreed.

With that, unless someone has some specific questions about becoming a writer, those five tips are among the best that could be pulled from our panel. That and, as always, good night and good luck.

Wednesday, April 22

How Much Marketing Has Become Psychological Trickery?

Marketing Meets PsychologyOne of the first lessons learned in advertising is that most purchasing decisions are made based on emotional impulses and irrational conclusions driven by our dreams, hopes, fears, and outrages. But for all marketers knew about advertising, it was social media that capitalized on the immediacy of it.

Instant gratification and chronic impatience has shortened not only attention spans but also the ability to make educated decisions. As a result, the fundamental market has changed with consumers who are generally more anxious and angry as the world feels a little less controllable and hard to understand. They are more prone to react with instinct over intelligence, favoring short term over the long term.

Five quick examples of psychological impulses shaping perception right now. 

• Vani Kari a.k.a. "Food Babe" has risen to become a popular food blogger for her denunciation of chemicals in food, but chemistry professor Michelle Francl has received an equal amount of attention for denouncing the decrier. Right or wrong, the initial attraction capitalized on our fear of the unknown while post-debate believability largely centers not on the facts but rather on people "like" the Food Babe.

• Socio-economic disadvantages are frequently attributed to poor performance in schools. While there is some truth to it, new studies suggest the labels meant to "save" these students can also be counterproductive. Students perform lower on tests when they are over praised, under challenged, or  merely reminded that they are disadvantaged. So wisdom holds true. We are what we think we are.

• The Guardian recently asked why people keep electing the least desirable politicians. The answer was psychology. People tend to vote for whomever simplifies the choice, demonstrates the confidence to deliver on a promise, and remains someone with whom they can relate. And what happens when nobody does? Then people are less likely to turn out and vote, which may explain low voter turnout.

• Most people have formed opinions about the Baltimore riots based upon visual content more than their understanding of the circumstances behind them. Depending on which visuals they were exposed to (rioters vandalizing stores or the peaceful side of the protests) and when in the timeline of events they were introduced to the story largely dictates their opinion of it.

 • Affirmation and frequency illusion work hand in hand in the subconscious. Not only do people see what they expect to see, whether or not it really happened, but they often believe what they see based on increasing frequency even if any improbable increase in frequency could be the result of simply noticing something in the first place. The validity of frequency is compounded from varied sources.

The packaging has become the product, for better or worse, in marketing. 

Content Marketing Stats from Hubspot
With trust in experts failing and the appetite for visual content increasing, people want to become more self-reliant simply by processing a mile of information to the depth of about one inch. In other words, they want someone else to study one inch of information a mile deep and distill any rationale into a soundbite that can be voted on, quickly and efficiently, based on little more than gut instinct.

The only problem with hard wiring the brain to work this way in tandem with modern technology is its reliance that the source has their best interest at heart. Mostly, they don't. The majority of content being produced today is by marketers and affirmation journalists, who exhibit varied degrees of bias.

That's not to say marketers are necessarily tricksters. It might be more accurate to say they've become more savvy in meeting the decision-making needs by distilling it in bite-sized simple comparisons to elicit an immediate emotional response. Right. "You won't believe what happened next" headlines work for a reason. So do easily digestible graphics that look authoritative and possibly objective.

Never mind that the content was compiled by an intern on the go. People are too busy rewriting their brains with potentially disastrous results to dig deeper into the issues or even the sources. As long as the marketer touches an emotion, narrows the choices, expresses confidence in the data, and delivers on any promises to somehow improve the purchaser's experience, people will buy the product, thought, or ideology. Sometimes, they even buy two.

Wednesday, April 15

The Problem With Chasing Profits For Most Companies

A long-time colleague of mine used to make every prospect he met chuckle over his quip that he wasn't in the "advertising business." He was in the "check cashing business." The more money his marketing strategies generated for his clients, the more often they would write him checks.

His delivery was something of a marvel too. He said it with such smug confidence that you wanted to sign up with his firm. "Yes, yes! I want to be in the check cashing business too." Who doesn't?

The notion of making money is a powerful one. It has been baked in the balance sheet for some companies — enough so that their culture permeates it. Every incentive is built around growth, awareness, profits, and sales. And there doesn't seem to be any problem with it, until this thinking begins to create gaps between the business and its customers.

How profit margins are maligning the airline industry.

On one hand, the airline industry is enjoying record-setting profits. But on the other hand, the customer experience continues to crash as airlines charge for every luxury, convenience, and necessity while stripping away customer comfort and service.

Higher fares, hidden fees, and fewer employees contribute to a growing problem, exacerbated by the additional hurdles created by airport security. There is no question about it. Flying is worse. There are problems: more lost bags, more oversold flights, more flight disruptions, and more lapses in customer service than ever before. And most analysts are predicting it will get worse before it gets better. Even reward miles are a bit of a shell game on some carriers. You can earn them, but not redeem them.

Even when USA Today called flying something to be endured rather than enjoyed last year, nothing changed. The airlines simply doubled down and let things slip a little further. They might again too.

With 87 percent of all air travel dominated by four carriers, being travel unhappy is the new normal unless you happen to be a shareholder. Airlines profits have soared as airlines limit seats to make themselves look like attractive incentives. It's no longer about cost recovery, but inflated demand.

So what is really happening? Airlines are simply operating with a profit mindset, banking on the drop in oil prices and their ability to hold fares at their current level. It's a short-term boon to be sure. With the roomiest today really the tightest seats of ten years ago, it's becoming ripe for disruption.

Nobody really knows what that form of disruption might be. Maybe it will be a high speed rail system that relies less on fuel prices or the future proliferation of automated cars that make road trips less taxing. And while some people still equate such solutions with science fiction, either seem more likely than the emergence of more JetBlues (that won't succumb to investor pressures).

The bottom line is that the airline industry is leaving itself open for competition much in the same way taxi cab companies created the ride sharing disruption, the music industry forced the digital disruption, and the reference material market killed its print. Others are ripe for disruption too.

Almost all of them had the same thing in common. They tried to consolidate or regulate rather than diversify or communicate. They sacrificed customer service for cost containment. They placed profits ahead of their value propositions. They considered themselves invulnerable to disruption.

Profits are a by-product of innovation, attitude, and cohesiveness.

The best businesses never place profits first. They value all of their constituents — customers, employees, shareholders — equally. In fact, according to What America Does Right by Robert H. Waterman, Jr., companies that do are four times better in revenue growth, eight times better in job creation, 12 times better in stock prices, and 756 times better in new income growth.

So why do some people say put profits first? Most of them believe that revenue and expenses are somehow opposing forces. But they really aren't. They often work together, provided you can demonstrate a value proposition that justifies a slightly higher premium. Make it worth it.

Sure, some people can argue that no one will notice one missing olive. But eventually, someone will notice that the entire salad has gone missing, along with the peanuts, pretzels, blankets and pillows.

It's also why CEO Doug Parker seems to be struggling to meet his goal of "restoring American to the greatest airline in the world." To do it, he will have to reverse engineer profit-first thinking that has dominated the carrier since "olive" accounting was instituted years ago. In its place, the airline will have to remember that sometimes an olive is an expense, but sometimes it's an investment. Ergo, great reputations aren't built on scarcity principles. They are built on meeting elevated expectations.

It's a lesson that long-time colleague of mine eventually learned. His "check cashing business" was shuttered. It turns out that the prospects he won over were quick to miss the "advertising business."
 

Blog Archive

by Richard Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template