Oman O Man!

Arun Rajagopal, our designated marketing blogger located in Oman, has scored a coup with a big article in the Khaleej Times Weekend magazine about the Age of Conversation project.

His blog post gives an overview, and has scanned-in images of the tree-based hard-copy edition, along with this link to the on-line version. Great show, Arun!

The Lecture of a Lifetime, reprise (with complete video)

Last week on my Impactiviti blog, I wrote about a moving speech by Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor dying of pacreatic cancer, who delivered “the lecture of a lifetime.”

This story, which was featured by the Wall Street Journal and grew viral on the Internet, led to an explosion of attention and has deeply impacted many.

Today, the WSJ does a follow up story (below; site link is here, subscription may be required) about the aftermath. Also, at the bottom of this post, a link to the full video of his speech.

The Professor’s Manifesto; What it Meant to Readers

As a boy, Randy Pausch painted an elevator door, a submarine and mathematical formulas on his bedroom walls. His parents let him do it, encouraging his creativity.

Last week, Dr. Pausch, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told this story in a lecture to 400 students and colleagues.

“If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let ‘em do it,” he said. “Don’t worry about resale values.”

As I wrote last week, his talk was a riveting and rollicking journey through the lessons of his life. It was also his last lecture, since he has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.

After he spoke, his only plans were to quietly spend whatever time he has left with his wife and three young children. He never imagined the whirlwind that would envelop him. As video clips of his speech spread across the Internet, thousands of people contacted him to say he had made a profound impact on their lives. Many were moved to tears by his words — and moved to action. Parents everywhere vowed to let their kids do what they’d like on their bedroom walls.

“I am going to go right home and let my daughter paint her wall the bright pink she has been desiring instead of the “resalable” vanilla I wanted,” Carol Castle of Spring Creek, Nev., wrote to me to forward to Dr. Pausch.

People wanted Dr. Pausch to know that his talk had inspired them to quit pitying themselves, or to move on from divorces, or to pay more attention to their families. One woman wrote that his words had given her the strength to leave an abusive relationship. And terminally ill people wrote that they would try to live their lives as the 46-year-old Dr. Pausch is living his. “I’m dying and I’m having fun,” he said in the lecture. “And I’m going to keep having fun every day, because there’s no other way to play it.”

For Don Frankenfeld of Rapid City, S.D., watching the full lecture was “the best hour I have spent in years.” Many echoed that sentiment.

ABC News, which featured Dr. Pausch on “Good Morning America,” named him its “Person of the Week.” Other media descended on him. And hundreds of bloggers world-wide wrote essays celebrating him as their new hero. Their headlines were effusive: “Best Lecture Ever,” “The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Seen,” “Randy Pausch, Worth Every Second.”

In his lecture, Dr. Pausch had said, “Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.” Scores of Web sites now feature those words. Some include photos of brick walls for emphasis. Meanwhile, rabbis and ministers shared his brick-wall metaphor in sermons this past weekend.

Some compared the lecture to Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Alive” speech. Celina Levin, 15, of Marlton, N.J., told Dr. Pausch that her AP English class had been analyzing the Gehrig speech, and “I have a feeling that we’ll be analyzing your speech for years to come.” Already, the Naperville, Ill., Central High School speech team plans to have a student deliver the Pausch speech word for word in competition.

As Dr. Pausch’s fans emailed links of his speech to friends, some were sheepish about it. “I am a deeply cynical person who reminds people frequently not to send me those sappy feel-good emails,” wrote Mark Pfeifer, a technology project manager at a New York investment bank. “Randy Pausch’s lecture moved me deeply, and I intend to forward it on.”

In Miami, retiree Ronald Trazenfeld emailed the lecture to friends with a note to “stop complaining about bad service and shoddy merchandise.” He suggested they instead hug someone they love.

Near the end of his lecture, Dr. Pausch had talked about earning his Ph.D., and how his mother would kiddingly introduce him: “This is my son. He’s a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”

It was a laugh line, but it led dozens of people to reassure Dr. Pausch: “You ARE the kind of doctor who helps people,” wrote Cheryl Davis of Oakland, Calif.

Dr. Pausch feels overwhelmed and moved that what started in a lecture hall with 400 people has now been experienced by millions. Still, he has retained his sense of humor. “There’s a limit to how many times you can read how great you are and what an inspiration you are,” he says, “but I’m not there yet.”

Carnegie Mellon has a plan to honor Dr. Pausch. As a techie with the heart of a performer, he was always a link between the arts and sciences on campus. A new computer-science building is being built, and a footbridge will connect it to the nearby arts building. The bridge will be named the Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge.

“Based on your talk, we’re thinking of putting a brick wall on either end,” joked the university’s president, Jared Cohon, announcing the honor. He went on to say: “Randy, there will be generations of students and faculty who will not know you, but they will cross that bridge and see your name and they’ll ask those of us who did know you. And we will tell them.”

Dr. Pausch has asked Carnegie Mellon not to copyright his last lecture, and instead to leave it in the public domain. It will remain his legacy, and his footbridge, to the world.

(The complete 1.5 hour speech is here on Google Video)

The Man who Saved the World

A story that has gone basically untold for many years.

Between millions of lives lost in a nuclear holocaust, and the relatively normal life we live today, stood the judgment of one obscure Soviet officer. His risky decision to forestall an all-out nuclear launch, just because something didn’t make sense to him, saved more human lives than any other act in history.

Story here.

The Lecture of a Lifetime

A very stirring story last week in the Wall Street Journal, about a professor giving one of his final lectures. Here is how it starts:

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. “Make me earn it,” he said.

They had come to see him give what was billed as his “last lecture.” This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

Read the whole thing, with a (brief) video link, on the Impactiviti blog

UPDATE: when you’re done reading the initial story, here is a follow-up story, including a link to the FULL video of his speech.

Is your brand image United?

Now up on the Small Business Branding blog, a case study on how NOT to present a united brand image, courtesy of…United!

Iguanas, Monkeys, and Bloggers

Last night, CK orchestrated a get-together for any available marketing bloggers, at a cozy little bar (Iguana) in Manhattan. When I saw who was coming, including Toby Bloomberg (up from Atlanta), I decided that this was a must-do event.

CK, David Reich, G. Kofi Annan, Curious George, CB Whittemore, Greg Verdino, Tangerine Toad, Carolyn Townes (The Wild Wiki Woman of the W list), David Berkowitz, Ann Handley, and a couple of others all crowded into a corner and gabbed, compared notes, took pix, and generally had a great time.

This was my first time being able to gather with a group of the bloggers who have become “virtual friends” through our various collaborative projects and posts. And what a delightful time it was. Admittedly, doing this was a bit out of my comfort zone – I am not a city person, a bar hopper, a native schmoozer, or a night owl – but I knew that the company would make it worth the effort.

Below, some pix to commemorate the event.

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Hostess CK

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Toby Bloomberg intimidates David Reich

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Ann Handley and Greg Verdino (yep, he really is as bald as his blog indicates!)

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Curious George Jr. and Sr. (thanks, Kofi, for bringing him along!)

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The Wild Women of the W List

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CK and David

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CK, George, and moi

Welcome to the “Long Tail” of Marketing Blogs!

long-tail.jpgI got a chuckle of out this post, wherein Andy Bargery of Great Britain found the StickyFigure blog buried in an obscure corner of the Blogger’s Choice Awards nominee list. I much appreciate his kind words, but had to laugh also at his apropos description of the “long tail” of marketing bloggers.

We’d all love to be in the Top 25, or to win Blogger’s Choice awards, or to have daily traffic that goes through the roof. I’d enjoy that as much as the next marketing blogger. But that’s not why I maintain my humble little outpost here at StickyFigure. I comment and write and link and interact because I must – that’s who I am. A few folks seem to enjoy having me along on the journey and that’s good enough. I’m not as smart as Seth, or successful as Guy, or as prolific as Drew, or as engaging as CK, but hey…life on the long tail isn’t so bad. There’s a lot of fine folks over here!

And, as an added bonus, I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people – as witnessed by a very enjoyable meetup last evening in Manhattan (another post on that, with pix, is here).

(oh – and if you go over to the Blogger’s Choice Award site and vote for StickyFigure, or add me to your blogroll, or RSS me, or bookmark me…all of that will be appreciated, of course!)

Steve’s Sticky Stuff 9_21

What’s your real age? This fun calculator asks you some questions, then calculates your “real” age, and your life expectancy. After taking it, I came downstairs and told my wife that I had some good news and some bad news. Good news: she is now married to a 33-year old! Bad news: she’ll be stuck with me until I’m 91…

How to make a fun training video. Fixing the “turbo encabulator.”

Napa Valley vintner is king of his own wine castle.

Get Curious World Tour – 2 Cents Worth

Once again our little monkey mascot for the Age of Conversation project, Curious George, inspired a meeting between two bloggers who chose to do a live handoff rather than a post office delivery. David Reich and Kofi Annan met in NYC for an hour and got to know one another – David’s description is here (with pix).

While I had hopes, upon launching the Get Curious tour, that a few bloggers might do a live handoff and meet, I freely admit that I didn’t expect what has, in fact resulted – MOST of the exchanges have been live thus far! I realize that this is a function of the tour currently being in a metro area, where it is easier for folks to get together, but still…I had underestimated the drive of us marketing bloggers to get social.

It Stinks Around Here

As I drove down our street this morning, to drop my son off at school, my nostrils were assaulted by the evidence that one of God’s creatures was compelled – by imminent threat or by rapidly-revolving Goodyears – to let loose a malodorous expression of its displeasure.

skunk.jpgEven now, as I sit in my home office typing, the air quality has one overriding, pungent aspect to it…

It stinks around here.

No matter how many other pleasant scents, sounds, and scenes are outside, all are temporarily obscured by an overpowering odor that none can ignore.

And that appropriately describes the nightmare scenario for any brand.

A company, industry, individual, or other entity that can broadly be described as a “brand” can so violate the black and white rules of good behavior or great marketing that it officially stinks. This is not a good thing.

A couple weeks ago, my wife admiringly commented on a vehicle we were passing in a parking lot. In fact, it actually did look pretty nice on the surface. Then I noticed that it was a VW Touareg. Now, I have absolutely nothing against Volkswagen cars. But I so violently despised this particular naming choice, that I simply cannot get past the stench of it. Is it petty that I actually would not consider owning a vehicle because I hate the name? I freely admit it. But why would a company choose to brand a car with a name that stinks?

Most of my consulting work is with the pharmaceutical industry. And in the past 10 years, the reputation of this industry has gone south in a big way. The sales rep arms race. Spending-for-influence among doctors. Biased study results. Questionable DTC practices. Patenting incremental changes. The list could go on and on, but here’s the point: it stinks around here. Medicines introduced by pharmaceutical companies have done untold good in millions of lives, and multiplied thousands of good, dedicated people work in the industry, but Brand Pharma right now is surrounded by an unpleasant odor that obscures all the positives.

O.J. Simpson had it all. And, in spectacular fashion, he self-destructed, to the point where his very name and person is anathema to the vast majority who have followed the downward spiral of his post-gridiron life. Brand O.J. officially stinks, and his latest scrape with the law only wafts the scent higher.

Brands should aspire to leave a sweet aroma in the memory of all those touched by them. We should hope that our customers will want to, so to speak, throw open the window and breathe deeply. But certainly, at the very least, we should also hold to the simple avoidance aspiration encapsulated in Google’s corporate philosophy; “Don’t be evil.” Because once you stink, it’s awfully hard to shed the aroma.

Come to think of it, I’ve got to go close the window now…

Steve’s Sticky Stuff 9_14

It’s been quite an intense week, what with traveling for consulting, soccer coaching/logistics, and a car engine that met the automotive equivalent of the Grim Reaper late one night. So, not much posting!

Nonetheless, a few random links of interest as we slide into the weekend:

The amazing shapes people see in clouds (with pix).

The Dilbert Mission Statement generator (example: It is our job to continually engineer emerging resources and assertively leverage other’s resource-leveling information while promoting personal employee growth)

Niagara Falls from above (awesome picture).

Hubble telescope’s Top 100 images.

BrandingWire – Marketing IT Services

it-service.jpgOur BrandingWire challenge this month is helping a small IT services company in Canada promote and distinguish themselves. The full marketing brief for this challenge is here; in short, this growing company needs to find ways to communicate the value it provides to new clients, who often simply view them as an “IT repair” shop. They provide a full suite of services, and would like to get more regularly-paying customers on monthly service contracts.

From a marketing/promotional perspective, my immediate impression is two-fold:

1. Front-and-center, the company should promote itself as a service provider that removes a problem. Specifically, “we deal with all your (IT) headaches.” Clients need a reason to NOT view this type of company as a “call them when we need something fixed” shop. Executives in client companies have plenty of headaches. Outsourcing one of them can be quite desirable. By positioning their company as a business partner who simplifies the client’s life by bringing unique expertise, they can rise above any inaccurate preconceived notion that they are just a bunch of technicians.

2. As far as pricing goes, a comparative approach is probably the most effective. What is the average daily dollar amount for having this headache removed, compared to (say) business lunches, Starbucks, lawyer fees, etc.? And, to work the highly effective fear angle – what is the cost of one hour/day/week of downtime?

Because these two approaches are not necessarily unique to the company, they need to look at other ways to truly distinguish themselves. One way that they are already pursuing is a “Green” initiative, which has a nice P.R. overlay, but doesn’t easily take root as providing immediate and tangible customer benefit. Since IT support companies usually work on a fixed monthly retainer basis, I’d look at adding a way to give credits – for instance, if support needs are below a certain threshold on a given month, the client is credited with $___ applied to next month, or the extra is “banked” for heavier months. This is tangible, customer-focused, and addresses the fear that the client will be ripped off by paying too much for a monthly service contract.

Finally, I’d make heavy use of testimonials on all marketing materials. Especially, I’d ask existing clients to focus on the themes of “headache removal,” exemplary customer service, understanding of their business, etc. Most IT companies make the mistake of using far too much geek-speak to sell their services. In the small-to-medium sized business markets, the ones writing the checks are more immersed in business issues, and cannot as easily relate to the technical issues. They want headaches removed, downtime eliminated, minimal disruptions to workflow, reliability, and integrity. That should be the focus of communications (as an aside, when I ask clients for testimonials, I usually write up “suggested wording” instead of leaving it to them to come up with something – most really appreciate that, and then, of course, the testimonial emphasizes exactly what you are after!).

Catch some other high-voltage ideas from the members of the BrandingWire posse (including several guest bloggers this month!): Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard, Matt Dickman, Chris Brown, Cam Beck

(Image credit)

Get Curious World Tour – Marketers, Martinis, Manhattan!

As Curious George, the mascot of the Age of Conversation project, makes his way around the world to visit every one of the 103 authors, he is getting an eyeful of life in the Big City, courtesy of CK, Greg Verdino, and David Berkowitz (links lead to individual posts describing the event, with lots of pix!)

You see, those three met together for a George handoff (Greg -> CK -> David) over martinis, and I’m afraid that David Reich, who is next in line, will have to sober the little fellow up.

Promoting Puddingstone

What is puddingstone, you ask?If this garter snake could talk, he’d tell you. But you’ll just have to go here to find out about this uniquely wonderful, purple-white rock (and it must be pretty cool if I’m devoting an entire blog post to it!)

Labor Day in Boonton

Boonton, NJ, where we have lived for many years, has a wonderful Labor Day tradition of an old-fashioned parade along Main Street each year, ending at the high school, where the Annual Fireman’s Carnival takes place.

Boonton is widely known for its outstanding volunteer fire department, and, in fact, the parade draws equipment from fire departments throughout the state and surrounding area. So, for a Labor Day weekend post, I thought I’d share a bit what this tradition is like…

First, you stroll down to Main Street. Boonton is a very compact town, and walking is still practiced here as a standard method of locomotion. You pass many homes and buildings of interesting architecture along the way:

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…including colonials, federals, and a couple houses that are actually octagonal! The public library is there on the bottom right, in a restored old 3-story home on Main Street.

Boonton was originally established as a manufacturing town, with a cascading waterfall cutting behind Main St. as the initial source of power. Wikipedia has a short version of historical overview here; there is also a site with a bunch of old Boonton postcards (by the way, it is the only town named “Boonton” in the United States; it had a brief brush with fame in the 50′s with the production of a popular casual plastic dinnerware called “boontonware.”)

Boonton has a classic narrow main street with loads of small shops. Perfect for parade viewing and socializing. We’re known for our antique shops; plus, there is an auction every Friday night that is quite popular.

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The interesting brick building with the spire seen above is the original old fire house, now restored and part of the commercial center.

Boonton has a very small-town feel – it’s a patriotic town, and also a very diverse community.

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The parade is a mix of marching bands, VERY shiny newer equipment (there is a contest every year for the best-looking trucks – Boonton has a tendency to win a lot of trophies…home-field advantage?), old classics, motorcycles, and the usual amalgam of other stuff.

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Some of the children in town are absolutely adorable – I tend to be slightly biased in this case…

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When strolling to or from the parade, residents will pass stone walls that often are topped with puddingstone, a unique purple/white stone that is common in this area. I’ve used as much puddingstone as possible in my walls and borders.

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So, if you’re ever in Northern New Jersey around Labor Day, come on by for an old-fashioned parade and carnival. It’s three days of small-town celebration!

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Steve’s Sticky Stuff 8_31

You think your commute is wild? I used to think driving over an hour each way (thankfully, that’s in the past) was an adventure…until I saw this. A rusty cable, a hook, a stick…and an amazing ride 1,200 feet up.

Is your Help Desk a bit short of friendly? Check out this approach.

Here’s a golf shot by Fuzzy Zoeller that will blow your mind.

aerogel_hand-sm.jpgFinally…wouldn’t you like to get your hand(s) on some aerogel? This stuff – also called “frozen smoke” - sounds simply amazing.

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