Clarity ON: Redhead Writing

ClarityOn

This morning, I came across the newly-relaunched website for Erika Napoletano, aka Redhead Writing.

Boom. Love at first sight.

Hmmm…let me backtrack a bit here. No, I don’t actually know Erika; and yes, I am profoundly in love with my wife (who is a brunette, by the way).

But when it comes to the branding/messaging – I was all-in within moments.

ErikaNapoletano

Bright simplicity of design. Superb use of colors and white space. Engaging picture. Clear navigation. And, above all, an exemplary message of clarity: I Get People UNstuck.

Attitude? Check. Compelling video? Check. Simple and memorable message? Check. Call to action? Check.

I got totally drawn in to the site. And I’ve been around the internet block for enough years to have pretty strong filters. Color me hard to impress.

While everyone else is arguing over who won the Super Bowl marketing wars on Sunday, I’m telling you right now who wins the Internet today. Erika Napoletano. No Clydesdales required.

Color me impressed.

(oh, and I stole the basic idea of the Clarity ON graphic above from Erika’s Twitter page. Which also rocks!)

When Techies Do Marketing

One of things that never fails to amuse me is coming across a website which was written by a techie – either an engineer, or buzzword-addicted consultant, or – worst-case scenario – an engineer/programmer/consultant.

Let’s say you’re a potential customer – you’re looking for help with something, and you come across a website (or other marketing collateral) with this kind of copy:

(_____) platform takes enterprise listening to the next – actionable – level. We operate in the Web 3.0 world where every bit of unstructured data gets converted into actionable insights. Our state of the art RDFa enabled architecture brings out the meaning from unstructured data of Social Media, Web and internal data sources ( call center notes, CRM notes, documents etc)…In essense (sp) (_______) creates the 4th dimension to the traditional 360 degree view…

Now, there is a place for this kind of technical explanation. That’s called a white paper. But marketing on the web and elsewhere, you have only a few seconds to get my attention with a straightforward explanation that clearly communicates the What’s In It For Me.

It’s the incredibly rare technical designer who can also create effective marketing. The mindset of the technical person is complexity and details. The mindset of the effective marketer is simplicity and value.

It’s amazing how many tech companies will invest a massive amount of money to come up with a brilliant solution, then assume that they’re communicating to people just like them – people whose pulses race to hear about RDFa enabled architecture. And I’ve seen many potentially valuable consultants who hang out a shingle but don’t have a clear, compelling message on it.

You have to wonder how much money gets left on the table – the opportunity cost of an unfocused message.

What’s the value? What’s the unique differentiator? What’s your company story? What can you communicate in 10 seconds that should make me want to find out more, and reach out to you?

I have worked with some immensely talented tech folks, and have enormous respect for their work. But when it’s time to go to market, please – get some creative minds to help craft the message. Or you may end up with Blue Spoon Syndrome.

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Why Google+ Could Succeed

Google has begun rolling out its latest iteration of a social network, Google+. It’s getting plenty of press in the blogosphere, with a wide variety of opinions (great start; Facebook me-too late in the game; meh-be; etc.)

Here’s my take on why it could be a winner – our current social networks are dumb.

You heard me. Dumb. Google+ is showing some potential smarts.

Not to say that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and the like are poorly designed, or that there aren’t really smart people behind them. And certainly not to say that those of us using these networks are dumb for doing so. Not at all. These platforms are a good start, and it’s very smart to be involved with digital networked communications.

But these initial tools are baby rattles, compared to the sophistication we really need.

I’m going to point you back three years, to the series I wrote on the ideal social media/web interface (One Interface to Rule Them All <– the link is to the first of 7 posts). There, I outlined how we need smart platforms that would do things like layering (Google+ Circles),  automated finding via Intell-Agents (Google+ Sparks); and, last year, I had a hankering for real-time private rooms (Google+ Hangouts).

The need is for far better ability to classify, stratify, find (not just search), and control. Google+ is heading in that direction, and that is why it could take on platforms that do a more “brute-force” job of connecting and publishing. And make no mistake – current social platforms are still quite “dumb” on the brute-force level. They give us a bigger and bigger fire hose with only the most rudimentary ways to manage it all.

If  Google+ evolves with simple elegance and solid integration, our brilliant friends at Google have a great shot at a next-gen platform.

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When it Doesn’t Just Work

We came back home after a few days away to a rather amusing note from the gal who house-sat out home (and dog) while we visited family over the holidays.

She noted a few “issues” with our digitally-controlled stuff, summarized thusly:

  1. The radio in the kitchen does not work like a radio,
  2. The TV in the family room does not work like a TV,
  3. The TV in the master bedroom does not work like a TV,
  4. The atomic-interfaced alarm clock is now into 2017.

Anyone who, like us, has more modern digital video/sound systems knows the problem with the proliferation of remote controls and the occasional complexity of doing simple tasks, like, say, turning the thing on and changing channels. What if the prior input was for the Tivo, and now I want to watch a broadcast channel, or a DVD, or skate on over to Netflix-on-demand? Eventually, you get used to which buttons to press and in what order, but when someone else comes into the house, you now have…utter confusion.

Back in the day, when you walked into someone else’s house, every TV pretty much worked the same. And radios had on-off buttons and simple station selectors. It wasn’t HD, but it was simple. It worked.

We’ve come a long way in making great technology. I was reflecting with Joe Cascio over coffee a few days back how we old-timers were trained, by Microsoft primarily, to expect disaster and hardship and trouble with every new version, every peripheral, every update (the “Microsoft Flinch”). I still get angst-y whenever I install something or bring up a new device – except now, stuff mostly just works (OK, so I am now mostly working with Apple products, but the PC stuff is WAY better as well!)

But we’re not there yet. When a house-sitter can’t even get a TV to work, we have a user-interface problem. When I STILL need my kids to occasionally remind me that I have to press button Q on remote #3 in order to actually reach the proper menu to do X, this is not good design. We’ve crossed the threshold of easy on a lot of products and systems, but we still have a ways to go to make everything just work. I guess that’ll keep some of our talented people permanently employed!

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No Longer Running in Circles, Armano Unveils the sVenn Diagram

After a recent post put him over the Annual Blog Circle Allotment Quota, designer/blogger David Armano has just launched his newest information explanation creation, the sVenn diagram.

“My audience was getting tired of the same old Venn diagrams, and frankly, so was I.” explained Armano. As you can see from the trajectory of my graphics over time, I simply overused the circle metaphor to the point of radius overload. It was time for a change.

“For the last month or two, everyone’s been demanding squiggles. So that’s the heart of my new design motif, the sVenn.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the abrupt change of direction. “I’ve always liked Venn diagrams myself,” complained Alan Wolk, while feeding his pet toad. “Armano is taking a perfectly good mechanism for pretending to understand information design, and deconstructing it into an atomized mess of disparate graphical entities.

“Besides, you can’t do squiggles in pastel.”

Top American Social Media Idol designer Kristi Colvin had a different perspective, however. “Look, Venn diagrams are at least as old as AOL disks. We need something new, something fresh, something that can encompass all levels of both meaningful and meaningless, all in one package. The sVenn is perfect for this – a brilliant move by Armano. And my Uncle Sven is going to be thrilled that he’ll finally have his 15 minutes of on-line fame!”

Armano was reticent to show the full suite of his new sVenn diagrams, as they are under Patent Review for a New Method for Creating or Saving 1 Million Jobs, but he did pull one sample out of his gallery, an identity design for a social media guru formerly known as Scoble. “As you can see, with one sVenn, I’ve summed up every aspect of Robert’s Scoble’s his identity. Just wait ’til you see my latest, the sVeen, which will be the new lovemark for Gary Vay-ner-chuck (@garyvee).”

In other social media news this week, social media agency maven Darryl Ohrt described the Olympic sport of Curling as “riveting.” He was promptly unfollowed by 1,500 people on Twitter, though three Canadians did add him to their RSS feeds.

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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(if you don’t subscribe, 75 neighborhood starlings will be deprived of suet…)

David Armano Wins Nobel Prize for “Really Cool Drawings”

(why not celebrate our third birthday with a fresh social media spoof?)

Today, it was announced that globally-recognized artist and hat-wearing aficionado David Armano has been awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in creating “some of the coolest graphics on the planet.”

Full CircleAccording to Hans Blimsted, Swedish Nobel judge of Peace and Social Media Stuff, Armano’s work, while somewhat confusing to the average mind, is full of soft, pastel-y colors and will certainly, over time, contribute to world peace and to the entire re-architecting of business processes across the world.

“Take his use of circles within circles,” said Blimsted, in announcing the award to a hushed audience of twelve Swedish professional curlers, joined in a live stream by countless bloggers and Twitterati around the globe. “Just gazing at those round shapes reminds us that the world is one, we all are one, and by moving toward a social business design in new collaboratories, we can calibrate a new ecosystem of holistic frameworks. Umm…folks, I just read the notes – you make sense of it.

“Plus, he does dots and gently curved arrows. That means peace in any language. Well, most. Actually – what do all those little arrows mean anyway?”

dachis_ecoShocked bloggers reacted with a mix of exuberant exultation and petty jealousy. “I couldn’t be happier for David!” declared Cathleen Rittereiser, just before unlocking the “local” badge on Foursquare. “Of all the circular-thinkers I follow, David has always been the most well-rounded! And if the President can get one for sounding cool, David should get one for looking cool.” On the other hand, Dear Leader of PlaidNation Darry Ohrt sniffed, “The guy doesn’t know colors at all. Pastels-pshaw! When has he ever done anything in plaid? Amateur!”

Rumors that Barack Obama had actually declined his Nobel Prize in favor of Armano were quashed when the President strode out of the White House wearing a cowboy hat and proclaiming that he was at least as cool as Chicago’s Austin’s favorite designer. “Armano didn’t deliver the Olympics for us, but with his circles and my teleprompter, we’re going to run rings around those pesky petty tyrants around the world. Now that’s some hope and change, baby!”

Mr Armano could not be reached for 140 characters of comment, as he was encased in his studio creating the next-generation 550-circle graphic of intergalactic business interoperability.

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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Ask the Ten Questions

TenIt really all boils down to about 10 questions. Sit down with a client, go through these questions, and you’ll pretty much have the raw material to brainstorm and blueprint a project.

Just about any kind of project. After many years of consulting with clients about projects large and small, in areas ranging from training to technology to marketing to social media, I’ve found that the key questions are pretty much the same. Here are my Top 10 Questions for Defining a Project:

    1. What’s the point? (at the highest level, what exactly are you trying to achieve?)
    2. Why? (what are the strategic and business goals that provide the context?)
    3. What is the current state? (where are you now?)
    4. What is the desired state (where should this initiative take you?)
    5. How would success be measured? (what metrics and results will be used to gauge effectiveness?)
    6. Who is/are the key stakeholder(s), and the target audience(s)?
    7. What are the available resources? (budget, time, internal personnel, etc.?)
    8. What are the potential phases? (short-term, long-term, ongoing development?)
    9. What are the anticipated deliverables?
    10. What are the potential variables that may impact the project?

With some variations on each theme, some sub-questions, and maybe some additional major questions depending on the nature of the initiative, those questions should give a pretty thorough overview for both client and service provider.

If you are on the vendor side, you know that most clients haven’t thought their projects through this thoroughly. That’s where you can take the Ten Questions and do everyone a favor by framing out the project well ahead of time.

That’s my take – what would you add? What questions do you use to tease out the details of a project?

(Image credit)

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Product: Winner. Name: Loser.

(fade in to Toshiba’s boardroom, where a product management meeting is taking place)

“Looks like we’ve just come up with the best netbook out there! Power, features, great user design – now all we have to do is name it and sell it!”

“I know! – let’s call it the PU-875-0988b!”

“Nah, I’ve always been inclined toward the UmmWillatriBBle 876. It just rolls off the tongue!”

“Wait – let’s call in our engineers! They always come up with the most imaginative names…”

NetbookAnd now, introducing the Toshiba NB205-N310. As reviewed here by the WSJ, a nice entry into the Netbook marketplace. Yet once again, horribly named by the What, me Worry? school of product branding. Sexy. Memorable. Gotta go out and tell all my friends about the NB205-N… NB2o M16… AB365… never mind.

When will these people learn???

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Creativity Reawakened

I used to take a lot of pictures.

When I was single, and in the days of marriage before kids, my camera (a 35mm SLR for those old enough to remember pre-digital days!) was a regular companion. I delighted in nature photography, often using slide film (farewell, Kodachrome!). Did some experimentation with black-and-white, and some macro stuff. It was a hobby, a creative outlet, and what developed was “the eye” – I’d always walk around thinking about how some scene would be composed as a photograph. I’d look for pictures.

All that changed once the realities of career and children set in.

Sure, I would now take pictures of the kids, and, on trips away, the creative urge might re-awaken. But by-and-large, the impulse to see and create photographs was submerged. I missed the outlet, but I was immersed in other, demanding priorities.

My cameras mostly languished, little-used, as the creative drive was temporarily replaced by functional picture-taking. And my ventures into video ended up the same way – it was a lot of work to bring equipment, set it up, download and edit, etc., and usage was mainly functional.

When digital photography came on the scene, the remarkable immediacy and ease of use help bring about a brief re-awakening. I remember well the day after the birth of our last son over 7 years ago, when a glorious morning led to a flurry of lovely pictures in the scenic lakeside area that is between our house and the hospital. Nonetheless, the demands of life kept the creative fires burning low, and the quality of digital cameras still had a ways to go – especially as cell phones began to make picture-taking and sharing drop-dead simple.

Fast forward to spring 2008. A first generation iPhone in hand, I began to fall back in love with taking pictures. It was all-in-one, it was convenient and sharable, it had crossed the threshold of easy. Most of my pictures we were more on the level of friends-and-family, however – quick shots to share. Because the quality was good but not exceptional, and there was no ability to focus. The camera did not inspire an artistic and creative sensibility.

PurpleFleur smAll of that changed with the new iPhone 3GS.

For all of the many new and improved capabilities in the device, the most surprising effect, for me, has been a burst of photographic creativity. The camera is now higher quality, and allows focusing and close-up shots in an astonishingly simple interface. It now allows video capture, again with great simplicity and pretty good quality. And best of all, I now suddenly find myself walking around with “the eye” engaged, not on rare occasion, but every day and everywhere. Because I can compose quality pictures (and video) using an always-ready device, edit and share with ease and immediacy, and now I’m back to viewing the world the way I used to when I was a young buck with his Nikon.

I’m seeing pictures again. Eye and mind and heart are re-awakening to the world around me, which can be captured and viewed with a creative impulse unhindered by preparation and process. I get up in the morning, and often wander out in the yard, iPhone in hand, wondering again at dewdrops and flower buds, at shapes and sun and shadow. It’s not just an increase in technical capabilities. It’s a boost in happiness.

I knew I was getting a better iPhone. But I didn’t anticipate getting back something very important that had gone drowsy. A reawakening of creativity.

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The Morning After – First Impressions of iPhone 3GS

RestoreinProgress2Yesterday, the long-awaited iPhone 3GS arrived at the front door. I loved my first-generation iPhone, and after accidentally causing its early demise a month or so ago, I couldn’t wait for the newest version. But would the upgrade experience be a pleasure or a nightmare? I was a bit apprehensive.

So let’s start with the “get it in the front door and up-and-running” user experience. Ordering the new phone on-line was zero-hassle. Delivery was on-time and as promised. Syncing the new iPhone with my existing account and iTunes setup was…FLAWLESS! It. just. worked.

I realize that other users have had issues, but kudos from this address to Apple and AT&T for making a plug-and-play process that required very little intervention.

Now, for the device itself:

1. Speed – yes, indeed, thank you VERY much. Bear in mind that I was used to the 1st gen, and skipped over the 3G. This puppy rocks, from bootup to e-mail delivery to everything else. 5 out of 5 smiles.

2. Camera – awesome. Great resolution, very crisp video, and amazing simple and intuitive on-screen controls. These Apple people know user interface. I wish it could zoom, but hey. 4.5 out 5 smiles.

3. Audio – very cool. The new Voice Memo rocks – great graphic/on-screen interface, dirt simple, crisp audio, one-click forward to e-mail if you want. I’m going to use this a lot for thought capture. 4.5 out of 5 smiles.

4. Form factor/feel – sweet. Very compact, rounded edges, no problems here. It’s like a t-shirt from a brand you love – you just want to show it off. 5 out of 5 smiles.

Social Media app interfaces continue to impress. I get TweetDeck up and running-and-sync’ed with my desktop (with a little help from my Twitter friends – thanks, Amber (@ambercadabra)!

I have not yet had a chance to dig into a lot of the capabilities and subtleties, but for this user’s first impression-level experience – just plain awesome! I’m not easily impressed. As for now…I’m both impressed and delighted!

And THAT is how you create word-of-mouth evangelists…

The Dread of Anticipation

BrokeniPhoneAfter losing my 1st generation iPhone in a tragic training accident several weeks back, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the new, 3rd generation iPhone 3GS. I decided to forego buying the soon-to-be outclassed 3G model, and, limping by with a jerry-rigged GOphone, waited for the latest and greatest.

And now I find myself in that familiar state: the Dread of Anticipation.

When it arrives tomorrow (having plugged in my current identity and phone info, I ordered it on-line), will it just plug-and-play? Will it really, actually, pick up my current account, seamlessly sync with iTunes on my computer, and just WORK? Will there be no unexpected charges, glitches, and dreaded phone calls to customer support to clear up problems?

Will this upgrade cross the Threshold of Easy?

Have you found yourself, with new or updated systems, fervently hoping for the best, while pulling back the reins of excitement dreading the worst?

Either way, I’ll let you know. Good, bad, or indifferent, I’ll update the user experience on this blog. But if you hear loud whoops of happy relief echoing out of northern NJ tomorrow afternoon, you’ll know that Apple/AT&T got it right…

Update, 4:30 pm on Friday June 19th – the transfer/update/sync was FLAWLESS! Yippee!

Why I Follow…Kirsten Wright

For today’s FollowFriday recommendation, I return to the West Coast to spotlight another person I’ve never met, but certainly exchanged plenty of messages with – Kirsten Wright (@kirstenwright).

Kirsten has recently ventured out on her own as a freelancer; you can find her at Wright Creativity. I had no trouble discerning many months ago that she has a strong entrepreneurial streak (though only in her 20′s), and I like to see the kind of initiative and creative thinking that Kirsten has consistently displayed in her blogging and other networking efforts.

Kirsten open shares and dialogues on-line, as I’m sure she does in person – perhaps one day I’ll find myself in Orange County and finally get to meet her. She also worked with me on the design of my Twitter background, all done remotely, and she showed herself to be very customer-focused in that endeavor.

If you want to have a friend who likes to write and make nice designs, follow Kirsten. She’s a keeper…

Prior FollowFriday posts

Let’s improve Follow Fridays!

Crossing the Threshold of Easy

For years, I read about Skype, and enjoyed the concept, though I didn’t use it. Didn’t have the need for free point-to-point Voice-over-IP, given my calling patterns and calling plans. It meant a little bit of trouble – hooking up a mic/headset, calling through my computer – not hard, but it was a few steps I didn’t feel like taking.

The quality of VOIP kept improving, however, and many people signed up for Skype accounts. Then they added video. Now that’s interesting – but again, it meant hooking up a webcam, doing an initial setup, taking some steps to use it – a change in workflow. Nah.

easyAfter managing to spill some coffee on my laptop keyboard, I had to buy a replacement Dell, and this model had something new to me – a built-in webcam and a built-in mic/audio system of reasonable quality. Finally, I re-considered Skype, because it had crossed the Threshold of Easy – a quick download, and it just worked. Plus it gave me something new: on-demand and free video calls.

I’m not tech-shy, but I’m not a first-adopter – I don’t chase gadgetry and spend lots of time doing configuration and troubleshooting. I want stuff to offer me some kind of benefit and at the same time, delight me with ease of use. That’s why I was so relieved to get rid of my cell phone and become an iPhone fan – it not only works, it leaps over the threshold of easy. By and large, the Tivo experience has been that way as well.

Over the years, I’ve had a chance to use, and sell, lots of products. Most suffered from a distinct lack of ease of use. Software interfaces designed by engineers who care only about functionality have been a particular grief. If you’re making my life harder instead of easier, you’ve already failed. Go back to the drawing board, and include a creative usability person in the ground-level design process.

If you’re going to create a product or service, put an awful lot of effort into crossing that threshold. It may well be the difference between something that garners a few percentage points, and something that’s a smash hit. Make it, not just able to do things, but EASY.

What are you a fan of that crossed the threshold of easy for you?

Why Your Message Lives or Dies

You’ve got a great message. Maybe you’re marketing a needed service. Maybe you’re instructing a set of students. Maybe you’re preaching a sermon. But there’s a problem, and you can see it – the message is not making it all the way to long-term memory, and it is not leading to the desired behavior change.

Why? Why is it that what you’re saying is being filtered out by some of the recipients, and only a percentage is actually “getting” it? Why does your message live, or die, in the mind of the audience?

I’m going to outline a Theory of Message Reception for consideration and discussion. I owe the seeds and a good bit of the structure of this theory to Elliott Masie (@emasie), a training professional who founded and runs the Masie Center learning think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY. I attended a Social Learning Lab there recently, and while the discussion of social technologies applied to learning/training was interesting, what really got my mind buzzing was a theory of learning Elliott propounded using computer terms. He talked about information that learners process, using personal buffers to filter out/in what would be allowed into (write-protected) storage.

Elliott identified 3 buffers – Value-testing (short-term relevance); Truth-testing (correspondence with reality); and Indexing (does it correspond with, and fit somewhere into, my mental index of information). Something that passes through these filtering mechanisms may get written on our “hard drive.” Because of the overload of (often irrelevant) information, we all need some sort of filters to sift through and find what matters.

This general concept intrigued me, and I wondered if the basic notion might bear the weight of some extensions, and broader applications (beyond learning, into the general notion of message reception). Having mulled it over for several weeks, here’s a preliminary Theory of Message Reception. First, the terribly-executed diagram (I’m not David Armano, after all…), then the explanation.

filters

Your (marketing, instructional, motivational) message is delivered. Before it is “accepted” by the recipient as valid and worthy of remembrance and action, it needs to first pass through four filters:

  1. Source - is the person/medium delivering this message authoritative and believable?
  2. Relevance - does this matter to me, now? (Masie’s value-test)
  3. Reality - does this message seem to be in accord with what I believe to be accurate and real? (Masie’s truth-test)
  4. Core Convictions – does this message line up with my first principles – my (capital T) Truth beliefs?

Anywhere along the way, messages will be tossed out or passed along depending on alignment with these filters. Once a message is accepted, it needs to find a way to be indexed in the mind according to prior categories of knowledge/experience, and if action is called for, then behavior change may be possible.

Why is social networking effective? Because we find peer-to-peer communication more authoritative than, say, 30-second advertisements on TV, which we’ve learned to distrust and filter out. A personal recommendation more easily passes through our Source filter.

A perfectly accurate message about life insurance may bounce off the mind and heart of a 16-year old. It doesn’t pass the Relevance filter. However, a 25-year old new parent who just had a car accident may have the same message (even from a less-than-reliable source) pass right through into action because now it all lines up with relevant, existential reality!

bumblebeeSomeone might explain to you, scientifically, with all sorts of charts and graphs and formulas, that bumblebees can’t fly. But it won’t get through the Reality filter, because…well, you’ve seen them fly!

Therefore, if you are a marketer, or teacher, or preacher, or parent, your goal is going to be to get your message indexed into memory and translated into action as efficiently as possible (sounds rather six-sigma’ish – sorry). If you want your message to pass readily through the Source filter, then it needs to delivered by someone with (real or perceived) authority. Celebrity endorsements apparently work for many marketers and dupes consumers this way (the tactic does have the opposite effect for many of us, by the way). The best source, however, is going to be the recommendation of a current participant, such as we find with friends, neighbors, and trusted social media connections. Hypocrites, shysters, and unknowns may actually have a valid message, but often the message will be jettisoned because the source isn’t truly authoritative.

The Relevance filter will also be a barrier if we haven’t truly studied and come to know our audience. If a congregation has recently suffered a traumatic loss, then preaching a very true message (in line with core convictions, even!) about the historical significance of Ezekiel’s visions just may not be well-received as valuable and helpful for the immediate circumstances. And don’t get me started about the fire-hose training method used on, say, new pharmaceutical sales reps, whose heads are stuffed with an extraordinary amount of background information that generally has little day-to-day relevance. Maybe it’s true, maybe it has a certain level of importance – but short-term relevance dooms much instruction to the dustbin once the test is taken.

The Reality filter is best addressed by creative use of analogies in communicating. When trying to get new information across, by appealing to well-established facts and previously-embraced “pictures” in the mind and heart of the recipient, the way is paved for more rapid uptake. If you’re trying to sell me a fast car, don’t try to go into the physics of mass and velocity. “Remember the rush you felt when you got your first real bike, and you raced downhill at speeds you never knew before…” OK, now I see it and feel it. A great recent example of this is the Heineken “walk-in fridge” commercial.

However, we must be aware that a lot of the “rubber meets the road” filtering happens at the level of Core Convictions. There is observable reality (bumblebees fly), but there are also deeply-held perspectives that shape our worldview and determine what we will or will not “hear” and act on. If my core conviction is that paying 100K for a car is utter vanity and waste (true, by the way), then your message about why I should buy one is going to be tossed out by that filter. If, on the other hand, your conviction is that a 100K car is absolutely necessary for status projection, then every argument for economy will fall on deaf ears.

Getting into much deeper water, on various sides of the man-caused climate change/global warming debate are people with very different core (first-principle) beliefs about Man, God, the Earth, and Fate. Messages will often be filtered or received, not due to inherent and provable validity, but due to pre-existing prejudices (core convictions). And why are some people-groups committed to destroying others, ignoring all reality, reason, relevance, and moral persuasion? Because of a core conviction that “we’re better than they are” and “they are unworthy to live due to past offenses/race/religious differences and we need to eliminate them.” Some core convictions, obviously, are at war with peaceful and productive civilization.

We shouldn’t think that some core convictions cannot or should not be changed. A teacher, or parent, or pastor, or friend who can reach down into the heart and soul of someone paralyzed by a deep-seated persuasion that they are worthless and that all attempts at progress are fruitless, and begin to re-shape that filter into a more healthy state – that is one of the greatest tasks anyone can undertake. Our filters need regular maintenance and recalibration, and we should always be willing to adjust and refine and change over time. But we should always be aware that the core convictions, even if held unconsciously, will still hold tremendous sway over reception of any messages.

If we’re in the business of delivering messages, our craft is not to try to “fake out” the filters, but to authentically and effectively reach the index and the will to act with truth that resonates. If you’re a marketer, what does that mean for your approach? If a corporate trainer, how should this shape your curriculum and instructional design (and delivery)? For instance, how can spend the first few moments getting a handshake from the Source and Relevance filters, instead of immediately setting up barriers to entry?

All right, that’s a mindful. I’m not concerned here with what you think of Heineken or global warming, but let’s enjoy a robust discussion in the comments about the validity (or not) of the general principles, and how they apply to marketing, social media, learning, and life. Poke, prod, improve – chime in!

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Five in the Morning 021709

Lon Cohen shares his “Twitter professors” on the Mashable blog – 18 key people he follows who provide ongoing education on a variety of topics. Some known, and not-so-well-known, names listed here.

Who doesn’t like a nice list? Here’s 60 of the best SEO tools. And, some Inspiring Design Links for Creatives (thanks to @brandonacox for these links, via Twitter). And, from Robin Broitman, a Superlist of How to Find, Network with, and Influence People via Social Media.

Good for what Ales you? Costco about to make a bold move – launching its own line of beers. Great strategy, especially if the taste is high-quality. The Difference is Affordability?

Good advice from Branding Strategy Insider on picking/creating a brand name effectively. Drawn from Guy Kawasaki‘s book, The Art of the Start.

Facebook blah blah blah. Terms of Service blah blah privacy blah blah – yes, it was the latest bandwagon issue for the last couple of days. Consumerist blog has some helpful updates on its initial post about this kerfuffle, including some clarifications from the Facebookers.

Can you learn anything about social media marketing from a puppy?

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Five in the Morning 012009

5yellowSince it’s Inauguration Day in the U.S. we’ll start off with…

Obama, the new King of Branding (from Laura Ries). Barack Obama is not just our new President but a new type of leader, one like we have never seen before. Not only does he understand politics, but he also understands branding. Plus, she ties in the BlackBerry factor…

Don’t just dream. Do something. An inspiring story on William Arruda’s blog, about Mary McLeod Bethune. Sometimes we have a goal that for some reason or another doesn’t work and is not achieved.  Should we give up?  No!

Targeting the right…or wrong…social media influencers. Dead-on thoughts from Mack Collier at MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog. Can you name a few recent examples of companies using social media to embrace, empower, and excite their customer evangelists?

Where would we be without lots of lists! Small Business Trends gives us two for today: The Ultimate Small Business Twitter List (you may find some new follows here), and a Top Blogs List. Thanks Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends)!

The new Computer Science Corporation logo. I think the logo itself is pretty pedestrian, but the angled “projection” elements used in collateral materials is pretty decent visually. From that Brand New blog.

AND, just for fun – if you really have way too much time on your hands, every Super Bowl commercial ever shown. On Adland, via those Brand Flakes for Breakfast folks.

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Five in the Morning 010609

Let’s talk creativity and branding today (mostly). One of the benefits of having an overly-full RSS Reader is that there is a constant tidal wave of great stuff to look at, and be inspired by. Such as…

Hijacking other people’s billboards with thought balloons. Reminds me of the birds that put their eggs in other birds nest. This is quite brilliant actually – pointed out to us by those Plaid folks.

A picture is worth 90% of the words. Or all of them. Great “iceberg” example from Brand Curve, and en even more stunning execution from the Ad Goodness blog.

This Montreal logo, brought to our attention by the fine folks at the Brand New blog, raises a constant nagging question in my mind. Really – does anybody but the in-the-bubble creative ad agency types ever really make all these connections about what the logo means?? I say that the vast majority of normal people can in no way discern the “intent” of most of these logos.What do you think? And, you also need to consider (says uber-designer David Airey) the cost of rebranding, with a tangible UK example. (oh – and you might also like this Brand New “Best and Worst of 2008” post about logos).

David Polinchock brings us a link to 50 strangely wonderful buildings, if creative architecture is where you itch. Pretty awesome stuff.

Who doesn’t like creative photography? See how this couple teamed up with a photographer to make some pretty cool engagement photos. From A Cup of Jo blog.

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