Why did McDonald's post signs saying, "More than a billion sold"?
Why do some people pay big money to go to galas that support charities, but not donate otherwise?
Why was the guy on the plane yesterday reading The Fault in Our Stars, years after it came out?
Why are some hipsters getting their tattoos removed?
What makes so many people vote against their long and short-term interests?
How come it's so easy to like or dislike a person, a brand or a politician before we even get to know much about them?
What's a fair price to pay for a decent bottle of wine?
Do doctors cure people more often than alternative medicine?
Is it worth owning a Leica?
When was the last time you took something out of the library?
Do you fly a flag outside of your house?
Enough with the facts and figures and features and benefits. They rarely move people into action. It's our worldview (the way we acted and believed and judged before we encountered you) and your story (the narrative we tell ourselves about who you are and what you do) that drive human behavior.
We make two giant mistakes as marketers:
We believe that everyone has the same worldview, that everyone in a group shares the same biases and expectations and dreams as everyone else... and,
We believe that the narrative is up for grabs, and we ought to just make the thing we make.
An accurate description of a worldview has nothing to do with you or your mission... it's the way a person acts without you in the room. In the case of McDonald's, it's the worldview of: I don't want to take a risk in this transaction, and one way to do that is to follow the crowd.
And the story is the (true) narrative that unlocks that worldview and turns it into action.
Tell me what your ideal customer believes, at the most emotional and primordial level, and then you can tell me the story you'll craft and live and deliver that engages with that belief.
Mitch writes about the very near future when most fast-serve and mid-priced restaurants will have a tablet on the table, letting you order and pay without ever speaking to a waiter. It sort of takes the magic out of restaurants for me, but I get his point.
And your store, your store is likely to become not much more than a showroom for an online seller if pointing and clicking is cheaper, faster and more satisfying than hunting down a salesperson and dealing with a transaction.
And this rash, perhaps it might be better diagnosed right now by emailing a picture of it to Jay Parkinson than it would by hassling for an appointment and spending the time and the money to drive an hour to the doctor's office to show it to someone in person.
And when was the last time you looked forward to waiting in line to talk to a bank teller? Or a loan officer?
It used to be that the goal was to be perfect, like a computer. Now, of course, that's not nearly good enough if you're in any job that can be done by a computer (or a customer with an app in his hand).
Once we acknowledge that the measurable, objective job might be taken by an app, we have to make service dramatically better than self-service, or else this job is gone. If it's not special, don't bother.
What an opportunity! Instead of seeing a job as a shuttler of information and stuff from place to place, we can acknowledge that in fact, the shuttling isn't unique or even particularly valuable. The human being part is what's worth something.
Uber solves a problem. You always needed a reliable way to get from a to b, and Uber does that, in many ways better than a cab.
Lady Gaga solves a problem. You have neophilia when it comes to music, and she'll bring you new music to satisfy your curiousity.
Same thing goes for Zara. They solve the 'what's new in fashion' problem for a lot of early adopters.
On the other hand, Uggs created a problem for people who aren't necessarily fashion forward but want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Once "everyone" was wearing Uggs, these fashion-laggards had a problem—if they wanted to keep up, they had to go buy a new pair of boots.
In most successful business-to-business selling, the big wins come from creating problems. Once the competition is busy using your new innovation, the other companies have to buy it to keep competitive. Once other brands are using your social medium, the laggard brands do too—not because you've solved their problem, but because you've created one. The people in a traditional bureaucracy buy something new when they have to, not when they want to.
(It's interesting how we recoil from the idea of creating problems. Of course, progress is about creating opportunities, and opportunities always bring along their close colleague, problems.)
Or consider the case of a non-profit seeking to raise funds or gain government support. Without a doubt, they have to create a problem in the mind of the donor, or there will be no funds or no support to solve that problem.
It is clearly more fun (at first) to solve problems because everyone is happy to see you and the discussion is simple indeed, "You know that problem you used to have? We just solved it." The innovations that change the world, though, often create (or highlight) problems before they solve them.
[HT to Mo for the title]
Really tempting to spend time trying to get paid for what you love.
It's probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.
Right in the front row, not four feet from Christian McBride, was every performer's bête noire. I don't know why she came to the Blue Note, maybe it was to make her date happy. But she was yawning, checking her watch, looking around the room, fiddling with this and that, doing everything except being engaged in the music.
McBride seemed to be too professional and too experienced to get brought down by her disrespect and disengagement. Here's what he knew: It wasn't about him, it wasn't about the music, it wasn't a response to what he was creating.
Haters gonna hate.
Shun the non-believers.
Do your work, your best work, the work that matters to you. For some people, you can say, "hey, it's not for you." That's okay. If you try to delight the undelightable, you've made yourself miserable for no reason.
It's sort of silly to make yourself miserable, but at least you ought to reserve it for times when you have a good reason.
When I'm giving a speech, I don't have the ability to squeeze in a phone call, think about what's for dinner or plan tomorrow's meeting. I'm doing one thing, and it's taking everything I've got. So yes, I'm busy, all in.
On the other hand, we all are familiar with the other kind of busy, the busy of feeding one kid while listening to see if the other is still napping, while emptying the groceries, checking email and generally keeping the world on its axis.
I have two suggestions:
a. if you're used to being one kind of busy, try the other one out for a change. You might find it suits you.
b. if what you're doing isn't working, if you're not excelling at what you set out to do or not getting the results you seek, it might be because you're confused about what sort of busy is going to get you there...
One of the most popular home computers ever made was the Commodore 64. The "64" was the amount of memory it had--not 64 gigs, or 64 megs, but 64k. If it were available today, it would be a little like being a toothpick vendor at a lumberjack convention.
The thing is, the amount of available memory was right there, in the name of the machine. All the people who developed for the machine knew exactly how much memory it had. Any time a developer whined or made excuses about how little memory there was, he was telling us something we already knew, making excuses where no excuses were needed or welcome.
With unlimited time, unlimited money and unlimited resources, of course you might do something differently. But your project is defined by the limitations and boundaries that are in place when you set out to accomplish something.
You build something remarkable because of the boundaries, not without them.
That's not going to get you very far when you sell stuff, raise money, look for a job...
What if instead, you created a reputation as the person or organization that can honestly say, "you can't get this from anyone but me?"
You will care more about the things that aren't working yet, you'll push through the dip, you'll expend effort and expose yourself to fear.
When you have a lot of balls in the air, it's easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.
Success comes from doing the hard part. When the hard part is all you've got, you're more likely to do it.
And this is precisely why it's difficult to focus. Because focusing means acknowledging that you just signed up for the hard part.
Sometimes you can have both, sure, but often, being crystal clear about categorization, topic sentences and the deliverable get in the way of actually making an impact.
If you can make change with a memo containing three bullet points, then by all means, do so.
The rest of the time, you might have to sacrifice the easy ride of clarity for the dense fog of telling stories, using inferences, understanding worldviews and most of all, engaging in action, not outlining the details. of a hypothetical interaction.
It turns out, humans don't use explanations to make change happen. They change, and then try to explain it.
When your public sees you choosing a path that's shameful, that they don't approve of, that offends their sensibilities, it creates a dissonance that might never be erased.
Brands work not because they have clever logos or taglines, not because they run a lot of ads, but because something about their story and their promise resonates with deeply held cultural beliefs. "People like us do things like this/buy things like this/like things like this," is the mark of a brand (a comedian, a clothing line, a store) that has become part of the zeitgeist, at least for a portion of the population. Most of all, it's, "people like us treat others like this."
When the brand stops resonating and starts undermining the way their audience thinks of themselves, it feels wrong, uncomfortable. When it crosses the line to behavior seen as shameful, the brand fades. Perhaps forever.
Organizations ought to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. Failing that, they ought to do the right thing because their public doesn't belong to them, they belong to their public, and when they fail to understand that, value disappears.
[Shame between individuals is corrosive, an ongoing toll on many relationships. We don't like to talk about shame because the very idea of it is so overwhelming. But shame in the public sphere is fuel for the media, and it's a significant contributor to maintaining or changing the cultural status quo. It's also become an ever increasing part of political discourse, and as a result, virtually all political brands are permanently tarnished.]
One of the biggest benefits we've found in the way people use Hugdug is their ability to share the work of people they respect. Today more than ever, ideas spread horizontally, from person to person, not from the top down, not from an ad or from a talk show or from a promotion.
The Hugdug team has hand-built some curation pages that make it easy for people to find a book they love and review and share it. Here are some authors who are doing amazing work... do you care enough to share it?
Ideas that spread, win. If you speak up about an idea or an artist you care about, the word spreads, the world changes. Find a favorite and tell someone...
Here are some musicians, too.
Opening the doors for the masses to speak, giving everyone who cares to have one a microphone--it has led to an explosion in people speaking. And most people, most of the time, are saying virtually nothing. Nothing worth reading, nothing worth repeating, certainly nothing worth remembering.
They're speaking, not speaking up.
But a few people...
A few people, people who would never have been chosen by those in power, are saying more. Writing more deeply, connecting more viscerally, changing the things around them.
That's each of us, at our best.
There's a cost of speaking up, of course. The cost of being wrong, or rubbing someone the wrong way, or merely in living with the uncertainty of what will happen next.
There's a cost to being banal, though. That cost isn't as easily felt, but it's real. It's the cost of boring your audience, of dumping 'me too' on people who have something better to do with their time. And especially, the cost of living in hiding, giving in to our fear.
Every day we can wonder and worry about whether a blog post is worth it. Not whether or not the microphone is working, but whether it's worth using at all.
It's much easier to spend a lot of time making your microphone louder than it is working on making your message more compelling...
The path of chiming in is safe and easy and carries little apparent risk and less reward (for you and for your readers). Choosing to dig deep and say more, though, is where both risk and reward live.
One theory says that if you treat people well, you're more likely to encourage them to do what you want, making all the effort pay off. Do this, get that.
Another one, which I prefer, is that you might consider treating people with kindness merely because you can. Regardless of what they choose to do in response, this is what you choose to do. Because you can.
because they love office supplies.
They did it because they love organizing and running profitable retail businesses. They love hiring and leasing and telling a story that converts prospects into customers. Postits are sort of irrelevant.
You shouldn't become a middle school math teacher because you love math. You should do it because you love teaching.
I hope Staples has a senior buyer who actually does love office supplies. I hope that textbooks get written by people who love, really love, the topic they're writing about. It's easy, though, to fool ourselves into believing that going up the ladder means we get to do more of the thing we started out doing.
It's often the case that the people we surround ourselves with (and the tasks we do) have far more to do with job satisfaction and performance than the subject of our work.
Indeed, you might.
You might get your hopes up only to find them dashed.
You might decide on where you want to go, and then not get there.
You might fall in love with a vision of the future and then discover it doesn't happen.
How much would that hurt? How much would it hurt to have those hopes, those decisions and that love turn out to be all for nothing?
Of course, it's not for nothing. In fact, those hopes, those decisions and that love is the foundation for a path worth pursuing. It's what makes us better.
This post was inspired by my new seminar. Sure, the odds are against you, but I think that's a lousy reason to avoid exploring something. "Will I get in?" is not nearly as good a question as, "Is it worth trying?"
Don't apply (to this or to anything else) just because you can, but yes, apply to something that matters to you, something worth dreaming about.
You might get rejected. So what?
[I want to make an essential distinction here:
There's a huge difference between the internal cost of being rejected (you feel bad, you feel like a failure, you feel like a fraud), and the external cost.
The external cost might be the time you wasted working on something that didn't work. It might be that you offended someone by asking the wrong way, or by spamming, or by being selfish. And it might be that you wasted an opportunity by going for the longshot or the shortcut when you would have been better off settling in and succeeding in the long run.
This post is about the internal cost. It's so easy to talk ourselves into failure before it even shows up.]
Lowering the price is a one-directional, single-axis choice. Either it's cheaper or it's not.
At first, the process of lowering your price involves smart efficiencies. It forces hard choices that lead to better outcomes.
Over time, though, in a competitive market, the quest for the bottom leads to brutality. The brutality of harming your suppliers, the brutality of compromising your morals and your mission. Someone else is always willing to go a penny lower than you are, and to compete, your choices get ever more limited.
The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win. Even worse, you might come in second.
To cut the price a dollar on that ebook or ten dollars on that plane ticket (discounts that few, in the absence of comparison, would notice very much) you have to slash the way things are edited, or people are trained or safety is ensured. You have to scrimp on the culture, on how people are treated. You have to be willing to be less caring or more draconian than the other guy.
Every great brand (even those with low prices) is known for something other than how cheap they are.
Henry Ford earned his early success by using the ideas of mass production and interchangeable parts in a magnificent race to the most efficient car manufacturing system ever. But then, he and his team learned that people didn't actually want the cheapest car. They wanted a car they could be proud of, they wanted a car that was a bit safer, a bit more stylish, a car built by people who earned a wage that made them contributors to the community.
In the long run, to be the cheapest is a refuge for people who don't have the flair to design something worth paying for, who don't have the guts to point to their product or their service and say, "this isn't the cheapest, but it's worth it."
Without a doubt, your hard work in test prep led to better SAT scores, which got you into college. It's not clear, though, that SAT prep skills are going to help you ever again.
I know that all those years of practicing (8 hours a day!) got you plenty of praise and allowed you to reach a high level on the bassoon. It's not clear, though, that practicing even more is going to be the thing that takes your career where you want it to go.
Of course you needed a very special set of skills to raise all that money for your company. But now, you've raised it. Those same skills aren't what you need to actually build your company into something that matters, though.
Successful people develop a winning strategy. It's the work and focus and tactics that they get rewarded for, the stuff they do that others often don't, and it works. Until it doesn't.
When times get confusing, it's easy to revert to the habits that got you here. More often than not, that's precisely the wrong approach. The very thing that got you here is the thing that everyone who's here is doing, and if that's what it took to get to the next level, no one would be stuck.
If you're about to leap, working on something important and generous, perhaps it makes sense to come to my office for a week this summer.
I'm hosting a seminar for 15 people in late July. You can find out all the details right here.
It's for people early in their career, people with a proven track record of standing up and picking themselves, of doing work that matters. Tuition is free.
Applications are due right away.
If you know someone who might benefit from this, please let them know.
When you only listen to the top 40, you're letting the crowd decide what you hear.
And if you consume nothing but the most liked, the most upvoted, the most viral, the most popular, you've abdicated responsibility for your incoming. Most people only read bestselling books. That's what makes them bestsellers, after all.
The web keeps pushing the top 40 on us. It defaults to 'sort by popular,' surfacing the hits, over and over.
Mass markets and math being what they are, it's likely that many of the ideas and products you consume in your life are in fact, consumed because they're the most popular. It takes a conscious effort to seek out the thing that's a little less obvious, the choice that's a little more risky.
Popular is not the same as important, or often, not the same as good.