Five in the Morning 093008

50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive – looks like an interesting book!

Launching your next venture using Social Media – 5 Lessons Learned. From ProBlogger.

Valeria Maltoni on why branding matters in a tough economy. “Branding in a tough economy matters – maybe because we are in the “touch economy” now. We need to see, experience, interact with, and feel before we buy. One of the most important aspects of differentiation and success is developing a voice with that online presence…”

Chris Brogan shares some “Best of…” to help your blogging. Good stuff!

Warning: Do not Drink Water. Why?

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Facebook: Share and Connect

TechCrunch takes FaceBook to task for its newly-minted tagline, conjecturing that it is the product of too many marketing meetings.

The new phrase, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” is actually quite accurate, and has a more “active” sense than the previous “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.” I prefer the new tagline because it explains what Facebook allows you to do, as opposed to what it is (plus, the term “social utility” is not so easy to digest for the newcomer).

The new tagline isn’t particular sexy or memorable, granted. But I’ve seen far worse.

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Five in the Morning 092908

10 Emerging Technologies (from the Online News Association conference). I like the cell phone projector.

17 Free Web-based Applications (I use TweetLater, in fact the link to this post is being uploaded with it!)

Dad-o-Matic – relatively new dad-blogger group site, started by Chris Brogan. This one by Jason Falls is quite touching.

Don’t bother thinking about your competitors! From Andy Sernovitz.

From ProBlogger: Using WordPress to run a full website (I have used WordPress to set up several).

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Sex Sells…is that a good thing?

In this well-written post over at Branding Strategy Insider, a compelling case is made for what most of us intuitively know…sex sells. Especially, sex + controversy sells.

Let’s assume that it’s true. Here’s the question any marketer now has to ask, just as they had to ask as a teenager: Should I??

The answer to that will come from the basic ethical decision-making foundation you stand upon. Choose your ground – the pragmatic approach, or the (defined) right/wrong approach.

The pragmatist will ultimately boil it down to this: if it works, why not? Now maybe, for your target audience, it won’t work. But if you’re going after the teen fashion market (as outlined in the linked post above), and it succeeds in increasing sales, and your goal as a business is to maximize profits…well, then, why not? All other considerations can be set aside, because this is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of effectiveness.

However, let’s say you believe that a sex-saturated culture coarsens itself, that people should not be treated as objects, that titillation as a method of money-making is creating more cultural havoc long-term even if it boosts the bottom line short-term. To distill it down: let’s say you think it’s just wrong. Now what?

It’s the dilemma every business person faces. From the temptation to misstate financial results, the opportunity to rip off a customer, even the possibility of influencing a sale by showing a little more cleavage to the male executives in the presentation, we’re faced with short-term gain and pragmatism versus doing what’s right regardless of the consequences.

I know what side I’m on. What do you think? Is it OK to take advantage of the power of sex in selling?

Irrational Brand Attachment

For years, I’ve thought about – with a combination of amusement and amazement – the incredible, and irrational, attachment people have to sports teams. Never have gotten around to writing a blog post about it, until I read Seth Godin’s post this morning about Irrational Commitment.

Seth talks more about the irrational commitment of parents and entrepreneurs, but from a marketing and branding point of view, the perspective applies to sports teams.

Now I consider myself to be a pretty rational and pragmatic sort – perhaps overly so. I am not a season-ticket holder for any team, I do not glue myself to the TV for every game, I don’t go around wearing uniform shirts for any sports team. Yet, growing up in central Connecticut, I was a Red Sox fan (baseball) and New York Giants fan (football), and still, to this day, there is an irrational attachment to those teams. And, I am really happy that Vanderbilt’s football team cracked the Top 25 this week!

Here’s the thing: there’s really no reason for it. It’s a bunch of overpaid guys (well, the pros anyway), who really have no necessary regional attachment, whom I don’t know in the least – but because they happen to have a home stadium somewhere in an area meaningful to me (I live there, or used to, or went to school there), there is attachment. And for the fanatic, that can mean shelling out hundreds of dollars to attend games, buy swag, wear shirts and hats with the gang markings, etc. etc. And, in some cases (especially soccer in other countries), getting into serious and even deadly fights.

It makes no sense. Yet those logos, those uniform colors, that team name, somehow become an extension of us, even when all the faces have changed.

Talk about marketing nirvana! If only we could have customers with THAT kind of fanatical, even irrational attachment!

There, I finally got that out of my system. What do you think? Why do we get so irrationally attached to teams in this way??

(image credit)

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There’s a Bumble in the Jumble

The announcement just came out that a new iPhone competitor, the G1 (using Google’s Android software), is about to be unleashed on the world. And this will be a coming-out party of sorts, not only for this branch of Google, but also for a contract phone manufacturer trying to make a name for itself.

Too bad they have such a memorable “name”. HTC. Blecch.

Why do companies do this to themselves? Why use obscure acronyms that simply blend into the background, and that stand out about as much as a single seed in a birdfeeder?

Effective marketing means, in part, providing a hook into the minds, memories, and imaginations of customers. And jumbles of letters and numbers are utterly self-defeating.

Just for fun, I scanned yesterday’s Wall Street Journal to gather some company/brand names that are designed to be forgotten:

CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)

CME Group (trading exchange)

CSC (technology resources)

TMI (executive recruting)

ELS (educational services)

If you’ve managed, through longevity and market penetration, to create a brand around an acronym (IBM, GM, A&P, etc.) that’s one thing. But if you want to stand out and be memorable, what is going to stick more in people’s minds – a well-crafted name, or a jumble? If you were investing, would you more easily remember a name like Fidelity (a word with actual, relevant meaning), or something like “ABX Resources”?

Companies and products should not be named by non-marketers and engineers. If I’m buying a LCD projector, I should not have to knot my tongue over a name like Panasonic PT-DW10000U. It’s a bumble to market a jumble, and a needless barrier to success.

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Will you be a Mystic Blogger?

NOTE: This event is postponed. A more complete update will be posted shortly.


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A Return to Lowe’s – Strike 2, and a Home Run

A short while back, I wrote up a post about a very frustrating e-commerce (de-commerce) experience with the Lowes.com website, from which I tried to order a simple gift card. Let’s just say it was a total fail – you can read the backstory here.

I decided to write a follow-up post because of one very remarkable customer-service experience that I heard about from a fellow soccer coach. And that will be described below. But first…since one of the Lowe’s web developers had talked to me after my snarky original post, I decided to go back to their site and see if they’d fixed the problem.

Sure enough, the site design/navigation was re-vamped and better structured. Yay! Also, I went through the process of ordering a gift card, and sure enough, now it was talking about shipping the card to me or to the recipient, etc. etc. – Yay! But once again, at the final step, IT WOULDN’T LET ME ORDER ON-LINE – it insisted on directing me to local stores by asking for my zip code, and I could NOT, in fact, do the transaction on-line – GRRRRR!!!! C’mon folks, get this right!

OK, that’s the bad news. Strike 2. Now, here’s the home run. Last evening, a fellow was describing the fact that he had ordered cabinets from Lowe’s, and most of the order had come in right, but 4 times (that’s four – as in 1, 2, 3, 4) a specific piece was not ordered in correctly. OK, that’s not good. Talking to the manager about this repeat failure, he was asked if he was also looking for a grill (he was). She directed him to just pick one out and pointed to the section. He protested that this was too much for his trouble, so she said she’d take 50% off. When he selected a rather high-end model and brought it to the register, he found that he was only charged $1.00. Circling back to the manager, she smiled and said that she knew he wouldn’t go through with it if she said it was free, so she floated the 50% thing to help him over that hump – but in fact, he was going to get it free for his trouble. Sneaky! And very memorable.

Did she end up creating a customer for life? Probably. Did she have any inkling that the story would be told in a format like this, engendering good will toward Lowe’s across who knows how many time zones? I doubt it. But if we can use social media to point out the bad, we should also use it to highlight the good. And that’s what I just did.

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Save the Date: The Blogger “Mystic Meetup” Oct 17-18

NOTE: This event is postponed. A more complete update will be posted shortly.

Calling all Sociable Bloggers! The Blogger Mystic Meetup is ON!

All Northeast and New England bloggers (MA/CT/NY/NJ/Eastern PA) AND any others who want to join us for a wonderful fall foliage weekend in Mystic, CT should make plans now to get social in mid-October!

Bloggers love to “socialize” on-line. This is your chance to get to know a bunch of your fellow bloggers better (face-to-face), while enjoying one of New England’s finest settings. And, to enjoy a newly-refurbished hotel located steps away from some of Mystic’s prime attractions!

Location: Mystic Hilton, Mystic, CT (easy access by car from all points; Mystic is on the Amtrak train line also).

Dates: October 17, 18

Schedule:

- Friday night: informal hangout/socializing time together at hotel, with hors d’oeurves and a cash bar. 7:00 ’til whenever.
Saturday morning: breakfast buffet, followed by morning brainstorming session, probably taking off from the theme of Breaking out of the Bubble (with due credit to our very own Alan “Tangerine Toad” Wolk). This will be an informal, high-energy facilitated discussion, undoubtedly live-Twittered like all such blogger events are nowadays!
Saturday lunch
Saturday afternoon – free time to explore the many attractions right at our doorstep: Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, Old Mystick Village, historic Stonington, area beaches – there are even a few wineries! Plus, New England fall foliage at its peak!

So, it’s a combo social meetup and creativity session. I’m thinking we’d want to keep the event limited to no more than 40-50 people (plus significant others if applicable). We’d also spend some of Saturday morning introducing ourselves and our work to each other in a fun and creative way.

Costs:

For those staying overnight at the Hilton, we’ve arranged a very nice group rate of $129/night (plus tax). That’s for single or double occupancy. But you need to reserve by Sept. 19th to lock in that rate.  Some of you locals may prefer to commute, and that’s fine. We still like you.

The cost of the total Fri-Sat event (meeting room, food, drink, etc.) is $115/person, which is a major-league bargain in my humble opinion. Those who can only attend on Saturday may do so at a rate of $65. The rate for those attending only for the Friday evening social (which might include a spouse or significant other) is $50. I should note that all registration fees go toward meeting expenses only. This is not a money-making event for anyone (actually it’s a bit of a financial risk for me).

Perhaps some non-Northeast bloggers would want to join in and combine it with a New England foliage tour…the regional bloggers of New England and NY/NJ/PA will extend red-carpet hospitality to any of our fellow social media friends who’d like to use this Meetup as an excuse to come explore the area!

We look forward to seeing you in picturesque Mystic! And please forward this to other bloggers you think might be interested so that they can be included…

9 Words to Live By

I’m not sure what feels more like a new beginning for me – January 1st, or September 1st. And I’m not a fan of resolutions, mainly because of my thorough inability to keep them! Nonetheless, I’ve tried to boil down my life aspirations into a handful of words. Some of these are unique to me and a bit personal, but perhaps you can relate.

Nine verbs to summarize how I seek to live/want to live:

1. Listen.  I need to learn better how to shut up, look into people’s eyes, listen to their words and heart, and seek to understand.

2. Learn. I’ve been on this earth for more decades than I care to admit. Long enough to recognize that in the vast sea of knowledge, I’ve only gathered a few drops, and the best way to grow is to keep learning. I can’t know everything, but I can’t afford to become calcified, and lose child-like curiosity.

3. Love. Life is all about serving others. Even if I’ll never (naturally) be a touchy-feely kinda guy, I’ll always be surrounded by people who need kindness and help. No matter how introverted I might feel, others are more important. Reach out!

4. Strive. I guess I’ll never be satisfied – always wanting to improve things. It’s a blessing and a curse. Until my dying day, I hope I’m encouraging myself and others to push forward. No status quo! – passivity doesn’t produce much fruit.

5. Surrender. The other side of “striving.” God’s will supersedes mine; reality and circumstances aren’t always open to change, and people are people. Deal with it, Woodruff. Accept reality. Embrace and enjoy the fact that you’re not in control.

6. Share. Don’t keep it locked up. Time, talent, money, ideas, acts and words of kindness – it’s all a stewardship, to share with others. The upside benefits to all far outweigh the downside risks to me.

(these last three have to do with my particular professional and personal focus)

7. Consult. Think with people. Analyze problems. Come up with ideas. It’s a unique gift and calling – put it to use!

8. Connect. Most needs will be met by other people. Find as many ways as possible to help people with needs find people with solutions. More and more, become a hub for others.

9. Create. What could be? What should be? See what isn’t – dare to think it, and design it, and push for it. Leave something unique behind that makes life better.

If I’m doing all those things, I figure I’ll never lack friends, never be at a loss for something to do, never need to worry much about income, never feel unfulfilled. Which leads to an interesting metaphysical question: is being unselfish selfish? That’s too much work to think about on this Labor Day! And it doesn’t matter – because those are my words to live by anyway.

What about you? Add your ideas in the comments, or on your own blog!

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