Impolite Company

You know how people tell you that there are certain topics never to be discussed among “polite company”?

I don’t get that.

“Just remember, we never discuss combustion, or split-second decisions, in polite company. That’s the received wisdom. Avoid those issues or people will think you’re a boor.”

“Really? Those are the two forbidden topics?”

“Yes – they make people uncomfortable.”

“Dang. Because the house is on fire, and we all need to get out NOW!”

“That’s impolite!”



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Are You a Kool-Aid Drinker?

I am. Let me explain.

We tend to talk about “true believers” as those who have drunk the Kool-Aid, with the obvious tie-in to Jim Jones and his followers. It’s an apt analogy, however unfortunate the original incident – one who has drunk the Kool-Aid actually, in this sense, is so convinced of something, that they move forward with conviction where others would hold back.

Now there are people who abandon all common sense and do ridiculous and harmful things because of “true belief.” No matter how much Kool-Aid you drink and how sincere your belief that gravity is suspended in your particular case, you’ll still be picked up with a spatula if you jump off a skyscraper. That’s the dumb Kool-Aider.

But, there are also those who feign enthusiasm and commitment, for as long as it seems to be prudent and fashionable to do so. Think of the car salesman who vigorously sells the marvelous virtues of Subaru, then loses his job, is picked up by the Toyota dealer down the street, and appears to have Camry-Aid in his veins the next week. That’s not a true believer – that’s the faux Kool-Aider.

An intelligent Kool-Aid drinker takes a reasonable look at what seems right and true and good, and out of a deep sense of conviction, puts all the chips in. It’s not Kool-Aid in this case – it’s vintage Bordeaux, and the commitment is not one born out of convenience or happenstance, but genuine belief.

My enthusiasm for Social Networking is Bordeaux-ish, and I am quite convinced that in many of my valued friends found through blogging and tweeting and meetups, I see the same thing. With realistic understanding, we embrace the new world of networked communications, not because it’s a panacea and the provider of whiter teeth and longer life, but because it’s powerful and transformative. We believe in (as Chris Brogan might put it) “human business” and are seeking to practice it.

And that’s why we tend to have such a visceral reaction against the Dumb or the Faux. There’s no need to be unrealistic, and we certainly abominate the attempts to corrupt these approaches with cheap sales pitches and scams. We’re not into cheap perfume or streetwalker dress. We just want to know each other, learn together, and change the world. That’s not so bad.

So, for all that, let’s enjoy the Kool-Aid together. Better still, let’s hoist a glass of Bordeaux today. It’s a great time to be alive!


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Shaking Things Up


Over the years, I’ve attended many, many conferences – some awful, some forgettable, and a few outstanding.

I’m getting impatient.

    I’m impatient with thinly-veiled sales pitches from sponsoring companies during sessions. If you’re going to have sponsoring companies, set aside a specific time in the event when they can present their solutions openly to the audience.
    I’m impatient with speakers who think their role is to walk through a series of slides and do a verbal data dump. If you cannot spark interest, tell engaging stories, use helpful analogies, facilitate discussion, and (yes, this matters) speak with a reasonably pleasing voice, then don’t be a presenter.
    I’m impatient with attendees who are satisfied with passive information reception. We deserve and should demand better.
    I’m impatient with hotel setups where you cannot get some light on the speaker. Really – you CAN do this.
    I’m impatient with hearing the same old same old tired generalities, especially when it is dressed up in meaningless biz-jargon. If it’s not practical, real-life, and fresh, put it on a blog somewhere where it can be ignored. Because that’s what your audience is doing.
    I’m impatient with a lack of daring. Try new things. Shake things up. Get some creative thinkers in your advisory board and plan, from 9-12 months out, how you’re going to make things better.

As for me, like my friend Olivier Blanchard, I’m going to be a lot more selective about my conference attendance next year. I don’t want to spend time being bored and impatient in any aspect of my professional life. There are at least 237 ways to make conferences better. Let’s start doing them.



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When Statistics Have Faces

I’ve had my heart stirred in very unexpected ways this week. I’m used to having my mind moved – I often gravitate toward ideas, facts, and numbers.

But sometimes you’re confronted with human faces, and the statistics fade into obscurity, where they often belong.

JamieAs with many others in the social media community, I was profoundly moved this week by the tragic death of a young mother (Jamie Loveless) who died of multiple organ failure after pneumonia triggered, most likely, by the H1N1 virus. Please read the story here. I’m a husband and a parent, and I cannot even imagine the agony of this family. Over the months, as the H1N1 clamor increased, I’ve had my share of commentary on the over-hype of the thing…but now it doesn’t seem so harmless or abstract any more. And certainly not funny. This virus has a face now – Jamie’s face. And it’s heartbreaking.

Also, this week, I attended an ePatient Connection conference. One of the reasons I really enjoyed this event was that I had real-life contact with very real, very human patient bloggers – human beings with names and faces who were not mere statistics or users of products, but people just like you and me. And I learned from them something very stirring and unexpected – disease guilt. How those with even manageable diseases are often haunted by an ongoing sense of guilt for not being “normal.” I awakened to the fact that these very real people with faces and names were undergoing very real emotional turmoil because of conditions that, in many cases, they never had a choice to contract. How easy it has been to simply view patients as…numbers. No more, I hope.

I think this is one of the reasons I’ve always hated the term “consumer” – it feels so depersonalized, so statistical. We’re not mere consumers. We’re us. People.

Marketing, and life, and networks, are all about humanity. With faces, names, and souls. And sometimes, very deep sorrows.


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Are you “In”?

A few random thoughts that came to mind this morning, while meandering about the yard looking for pictures to take…

If you’re building a network via social media, here are some “in” questions to ask yourself:

    Am I being informative?

    Am I being insightful?

    Am I instigating new ideas?

    Am I inspiring others directly to be their best (and being an example)?

    Am I being interesting?

    Am I encouraging? (OK, that’s an almost in-)

    Am I inundating with trivia? (Don’t!)

People have a pretty well-developed instinct for figuring out if we’re just there to sell, or whine, or collect connections to feed our egos. We’ll build a substantial and loyal network when we enter into other people’s worlds and provide them with genuine value. Especially the part about encouraging.

Hmm…on second thought, maybe this just has to do with life, social networking or not!

OK, now back to work…


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StickyFigure wins Nobel Blog Prize for 3 Years of Brilliance!

third BirthdayToday marks the third birthday of the StickyFigure blog. Hard to believe that first post (on UPS trucks – How to Waste 100,000 Billboards) was 1,095 days and 598 posts ago.

Two weeks after the blog began, it was nominated for a Nobel Blog Prize, and now, 3 years later, the ultimate honor has come to fruition!

Actually, no big international prizes were harmed in the writing of these posts. My biggest reward is interacting with you, my community of fellow thinkers/marketers/people. It’s been a great ride.

A greater proportion of my attention in the past year has been given over to trying to advance social media usage in the pharmaceutical sector (Impactiviti blog, which is a few months older than this one), and I’ve also been regularly updating my personal blog (Steve’s Leaves). But I’ll never stop enjoying the evolution of branding and marketing and social media, so, for better or for worse, you’re stuck with StickyFigure. Thanks for sticking with me all this time!


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Up and Down

What happens when a former hiker takes on some peaks in the White Mountains. The Old Man and the Mountain, on Steve’s Leaves.


Crop Circles

Everyone wants impressive, attention-getting ads – something to rivet eyeballs and cut through the clutter of sensory overload.

Just be careful there’s more to it than just making a striking impression of some sort.

Crop circles get people’s attention. But when they come across them, here’s what they’re left with:

crops- What IS this?

- Why is it here?

- Who is responsible?

- Crops? What crops?

If people are asking those questions at the end of even a “great” ad, then you’ve just plowed under a lot of money. Creativity isn’t necessarily the same as effectiveness. Because you’re there to provide crops, not run rings around your audience…

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Progressive Publishing

This idea’s been brewing for about 5 years, ever since I spilled out some proto-ideas on a train ride with a pharma training professional (who has urged me to “follow the light” on this one – thanks, Susan!)

We all see how the new on-line/social networking tools have radically changed publishing. Here’s where I think it COULD lead:

Context: The bits and pieces

We used to see published materials as somewhat static: a daily newspaper, a monthly magazine, a completed book. There were authors, there were bloggers, there were journalists, there were speakers (with some overlap among them). Media came to us in various formats and from various scattered sources. Often these publications had with a short shelf-life (expired relevance) or a long shelf-life with little ability to update (books with second or third editions).

Current: Multi-channel and Evolved communications

Now, with blogging (especially), we see that people can publish immediately, iteratively, collaboratively, and build an audience over time. Some authors are launching blogs in conjunction with books, or, increasingly, using their blog to build a platform and audience which makes publication of a traditional book more successful. We’re living in a transitional period where “fixed” published media is becoming “mixed” published media, and the mix is getting richer (printed words, blogs, micro-blogs, pictures, videos, etc.) Chris Brogan‘s blog, speaking engagements, and upcoming “Trust Agents” book is a prime example of this approach, as is Greg Verdino‘s upcoming book.

Ahead: Progressive Publishing and Personal Subscriptions?

SubYouWhere is this heading? Here’s what I think. We’ll no longer think of blogs and books and YouTube channels as distinct and discrete entities. Let’s say you have been writing on a specific topic on a blog for years and there is traction there. Your blog pre-builds your audience, which is enhanced by a YouTube channel with brief videos, Twitter blurbs, etc. Then you decide to write a book, but here’s the deal: for the ($22.95) price your customers not only get a copy of hard-back book, they have access to a private network where you progressively share new, updated, and enhanced content – the publication is now a progressive process. Yes, there is free stuff out there to continue to hook new customers, but people are no longer buying a fixed entity (this edition of this book) – they’re buying progressive thought over time. Including, perhaps, the thoughts of others in the community built around the publication.

Information is moving too rapidly to remain in fixed formats. That’s why I think progressive publishing is inevitable.

What does evolve into further? Personal Subscriptions. Let’s say I think Chris Brogan (or Ann Handley, or Valeria Maltoni, or David Meerman Scott, or…) is worthy of being “followed” as one of my inner circle of advisors. I now pay to subscribe to that person (not just buy their product), and with enough subscriptions, that person is now free to crank out, progressively, a ton of great content and advice in multiple formats to their own growing community. Keep up the good work, the subscriptions continue and grow. Falter, and people vote with their dollars annually. The music industry may very well head in this direction as well.

None of these concepts is particularly new or earth-shattering – a lot of this is happening in various ways already. It just seems to me that it’s moving inexorably toward a different publication model, one that is person-centric rather than product-centric, one that is progressive rather than fixed or staccato.

Your thoughts? Would you pay to “subscribe” to key thought leaders? What new models of publishing do you see developing?


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Taking Two Steps Back

2stepssmMany times over the years, I’ve taken one step back to look things over, re-evaluate, re-think, re-direct.

We all do that regularly, usually focusing on one or two things. Because we get in ruts, or find that something that was once working no longer seems to be effective. Maybe a tall or grande tweak is needed.

Of late, I’ve had a growing sense that it was time to take 2 steps back. Some venti-sized re-evaluation of lots of things.

The curse of being analytical and natively introspective. Oh, well…

I’ve been on my own as an entrepreneur for three years now, building a consulting business and getting increasingly immersed in social networking. I see these on-line approaches as a primary way to grow business opportunities in the future, for me, my clients, and others in my network.

But now it’s time to step back from it all and look at the whole landscape. How are the pieces fitting together? What is providing value on the blogs and on Twitter – what can be improved or re-directed? What is creating business, and what isn’t? What is helping me to grow better as a person – or, what is not?

eyechartBy and large, I think I’m on the right track, but sometimes, in the day-to-day rut, a clear vision gets blurred. Today, I have a long-overdue eye doctor appointment, a vision checkup. But this month will, hopefully, be a much larger “checkup” to try to sharpen the focus on more than just my physical sight!

Can you help? Actually, yes. One of the most valuable things I’ve ever done is connect up with so many of you, both on-line and (in many cases now) off-line. Some of you probably have a pretty darned good idea of where I’m adding value, and where perhaps I can be more effective. Feel free to give me your thoughts in the comments, or if you prefer, via e-mail (stevew at stickyfigure dot com). I’ve been around the block enough to know that I definitely don’t have all the answers, and that there is great wisdom in a broader community.

Yes, I’m still writing/working/networking during this process. But behind the scenes, I’m trying to get a better read on the eye chart. Any help you can provide is most appreciated!


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Ask the Right Questions

Quick – think of businesses that have imploded in recent years. What names come to mind?

A lot, unfortunately. Enron. AIG. GM. And loads of others.

All of it could have been avoided if these businesses were founded on the right answers to three simple questions. Questions that, if rightly asked and answered, will save any company from a world of hurt:

    1. What are the real needs of our customers?
    2. How can we add value, immediately and in the long-term?
    3. How would our practices look on the front page of the newspaper?

Instead, many companies are founded on and driven by other concerns, which override any fine-sounding sentiments in their mission statements:

    1. What do we want?
    2. How can we maximize “the numbers”?
    3. What can we get away with?

Selfish, shady, short-term business practices are the bane of our economy, leading to lost money, cynical markets, and increased regulation. But – it opens up a wide vista of opportunity for honest, truly customer-centric business people. People who have a conscience and a heart.

Ask the right questions. Then give the right answers. Over the long haul, you’ll be rewarded.


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Why I Won’t Stop Blogging

Steve Rubel announced last week that he was going to stop “blogging” in favor of “lifestreaming” (the sharing of more immediate snippets of micro-media), and this opened up some interesting discussion among bloggers, well-summarized here by Louis Gray (and I agree with Louis’ perspective).

Now I do admit that I am re-examining the tools for on-line sharing of networked communications, spurred in part by the expanded capabilities of the new iPhone, which will allow for simpler sharing of photos, video, and audio. I’m playing with Posterous as a way to have a one-stop media  distribution center (digital sharehouse?), and some of this definitely falls into the “lifestream” category.

But stop blogging? No way.

There is value in sharing a beautiful picture, or a quick audio, or an interesting link, or a snippet of thought. The conversation and easy banter on Twitter and Facebook is enriching, no doubt. But for development of thought, more detailed analysis of ideas, ongoing discussion of topics, and 360-degree expression of personal and/or business message – you simply cannot replace a blog.

We live in an increasingly fragmented world which encourages the development of shorter and shorter attention spans. I don’t see that as necessarily a good thing. Writing a blog, and reading a longer-form post by others, forces us to think, to develop a train of thought, to react to more detailed explanation and argumentation. I hope we never lose that. A life stream is one thing. A well-crafted blog, over time, becomes a thought-river.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble writes an interesting piece on the enduring value of a blog vs. the more ephemeral entries on micro-blogging sites. Plus, Chris Brogan on Strategic blogging. Both of these perspectives make it clear why blogging is not going away.


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Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

So, today Steve Rubel announces that he is done “blogging”, and now is fully committed to a more full-faceted path called “lifestreaming.” His post is titled So Long, Blogging, Hello Lifestreaming!

What he’s doing is, in fact, not that radical – we’ve been moving rapidly in this direction for a while. Because the fact is – the real issue isn’t whether we “blog” or “micro-blog” or “Tweet” or “Facebook” or whatever. Those terms and brands are temporary labels we have for the early-on way we’re now using technology to…share. To express ourselves, and connect with others.

We’re evolving rapidly in ability to share, not just via long-form formats (books, blogs), but also quick thoughts, pictures, videos, music, and whatever else. Each of these things ended up with their own terms, and have been ranged roughly under the moniker “social media.”

I’d like to adapt Steve’s title to say good-bye to social media. The term, that is; which really isn’t adequate to describe what we’re doing. For some professionals, the term “social” is an immediate turnoff. And we’re sharing more than media – we’re communicating/connecting/collaborating in multi-faceted ways. There is a social element to it, of course, and media is part of this gig. But the term isn’t scalable.

So….hello, Networked Communications. That, in fact, in all facets, and no matter how it evolves, is what we’re doing, on both personal and professional levels. Whether it’s community-building, tweeting, sharing media, marketing, lifestreaming – it’s all networked communications (which, by the way, includes the off-line component of how we relate to one another).

We’re going to burn through existing and new platforms over the coming years, and they’ll get more sophisticated in their abilities to let us network and communicate. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Posterous, blogs, Flickr (perhaps even my dream platform, Metamee) – the bits and pieces  don’t really matter, they’ll evolve and converge. Each of them is an Expression and/or Connection Engine, all enabling our brave new world of networked communications. Which is same world of networked communications we used to have, amped up on tech steroids.

We’ve always communicated. We’ve always had and built networks. Now we have quickly-evolving tools that will let us more effectively express ourselves and connect with others, for marketing, for fun, for socializing, for enterprise efficiency, for help…for whatever we do.

Good-bye, “social media.” You were a nice first love. You’re not going to die, you’re becoming bigger and better. But with upgraded capabilities come better titles. I’m moving on to Networked Communications. ‘Cause that’s what we do.


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A Dose of Disenchantment

A note to all of us:

You knew it couldn’t last. You always knew, right?

Whenever we get our hopes up beyond what is realistic, we set ourselves up for a fall. Nonetheless, it is human nature to get “enchanted” – to think that something or someone is going to help us transcend the flawed and crooked, and reach new heights.

Now that the bloom is off the rose, and greater awareness has brought more undesirable elements (and attitudes) into social media, it’s easy to feel a sense of disenchantment. What happened to our nice little club? Weren’t we latching onto something that would “change everything”? (actually, social networking is changing a lot of things! -just not human nature…)

midasWhether it’s a significant other who turned you head over heels at first, then turned out to be a heel later, or elected officials who promise the world but won’t keep their word, the reality of our human condition inevitably leaves the taste of disappointment in our mouths.

I’m going to say that that’s a good thing. Not that we are so messed up and selfish that we often seem to have a reverse-Midas-touch, but that we face reality. I’ve run this track long enough to conclude that there are no earthly panaceas. Or if there are, they are immensely well-hidden!

However I, like many of us, remain an idealist. I aspire to higher and better. Yet I’m forced to be a realist as well. Disenchantment (with ourselves and others) is a fact of life. It can drive us down, but it should drive us forward.

Disenchantment means that you haven’t lost your ideals. It means that you want something better. The key is to embrace the discomfort of reality while still pushing ahead. It’s not easy. But let’s allow our temporary infatuations with nirvana to pass without becoming cynical or defeated by the doses of disenchantment. When we no longer have the capacity to be disappointed, we’re truly in bad shape.

[updated 6/25]


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How do YOU use Social Media?

About a month ago, we had a robust discussion on this blog about some possible adaptations to the Forrester Research “Social Technographics Ladder.” You can review that post “One Rung Up?” right here – which is going to provide the backdrop for this muse.

The more I thought about, the more I felt that there was an element missing – we don’t have just one type of social media, and our behaviors may be quite different in different platforms. So, let me propose this graphic for further discussion (explanations below):

social-media-usage-patternsCurrently, we might classify social media involvement into (roughly) three categories - Lifestream networks (where participants are putting brief thoughts, publishing photos, sharing links, commenting, etc.); Focused member networks (often professional or highly targeted); and Open networks on the web, where you can interact and participate without necessarily having to “join” a separate platform.

The Social Technographics ladder discusses a certain hierarchy of behaviors, but in fact, behaviors can differ, even by the same person, within different types of networks. Based on the interaction in the prior post, I’ve boiled down the behaviors into 3 main categories – Consume (look, read, digest, etc.); Contribute (comment, rate, publish, etc.); and Curate (organize communities and information). As you can readily see, what I might do in one type of community (say, lifestreaming, where I may actively publish) isn’t necessarily the same as in another (perhaps I don’t feel comfortable creating a blog or Twittering).

Just some further brainstorming. What do you think? Put your ideas in the Comments…

Are You Being Pecked to Death?

suetcage-smOutside of my home office window there is generally quite an assortment of small winged creatures, enjoying the bounty of bird food that my compassionate wife puts out regularly in feeders suspended over the deck.

A favorite of some of these fluttering neighbors – especially the woodpeckers – is a cage with suet. They grasp the wires with their claws and peck-peck-peck away, reducing what was once a good-sized cake of suet to a ragged shell of its former self, and eventually making it disappear altogether.

I wonder how many of us have felt that way in our work. Trapped in a cage, and slowly pecked to death. Wanting to do what we love, but spending much of our time bemoaning the incessant beak-intrusions of managers, co-workers, and clients who are not only not on the same page, they’ve never even picked up the book.

I rejoice at a story like Kirsten Wright‘s, who left a position she didn’t enjoy to do something she loved. I’m glad to see Amber Naslund taking on a job with Radian6 that fits her to a “T”. And I read this morning on Twitter of the excitement of Leah Jones, who is leaving a current role (though I have no reason to believe it was a suet-in-the-cage job!) to start her own thing.

I think this will be future for many of us. While others continue to be pecked into smaller pieces, we have the tools and the networks and the creativity to “roll our own” businesses. It’s a scary trip at first, but having a supportive network of professionals eases the transition greatly. I’m certainly glad I went out on that limb – do you have a success story (or aspiration) to share in the comments?

Five in the New Year

ny-eve-nyIt’s 2009 (and a beautiful morning here in Boonton, NJ)! And, I’m convinced, it’s a year when many are going to seize the future, thumb their noses at all the bad economic news, and create new careers for themselves.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together the year’s first Five in the Morning post with a handful of my posts from 2008 encouraging the networking and entrepreneurial spirit. So….

Do you have an Opportunity Network? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – The old corporate safety net is gone. But the new safety network, and the new opportunity network, is here for all of us to weave ourselves into. My faith has grown the longer I’ve participated, that “If we build it, (opportunity) will come”…

Personal Branding – What’s your value-add? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – You don’t have a brand worth a nickel unless you are clear in what value you have to offer. That’s true of personal branding, corporate branding, political branding, and whatever other type of branding du jour we’d like to dream up…

You – Projected (from my StickyFigure blog) – My feeling is that if a concept is valid, we should be able to distill it down to a very few words that capture it well. So, with personal branding, here is my take. Two words. You – Projected

I’m Pursuing (Niche) Domination (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog)  - What is niche domination? It’s creating, or moving into, a market cavity narrow enough that you can become the big fish, and expansive (or expand-able) enough that you can make a living dominating it…

Be Prepared – Like, Right Now (from my Impactiviti pharma blog) – Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us…

But what were my most popular posts of 2008? The StickyFigure Spoofs, of course! And, to launch 2009, here is the latest (or earliest): Social Media Maven named new Head Coach of Detroit Lions.

BONUS – If you haven’t tuned into Rick Liebling‘s Smart People / Smart Ideas series, it’s a good one. Here’s the recap from 2008. You can follow Rick on Twitter @eyecube

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Sarah Sold Me on Opera – Sorta

It was a business trip many years ago, at a conference in Denver. Having some downtime one evening, I wandered into a record store, and killed time scanning through various CDs that I had no intention of buying.

Then I heard it. Or rather, her. A voice that could stop a rampaging bull, and that absolutely stopped me in my tracks.

One of those young twenty-something clerks with odd hair and piercings fortuitously came up and asked if he could help. “Who is that??” I asked, pointing up toward unseen speakers.

sarah-brightman“Oh, that’s Sarah Brightman. She’s awesome – just saw her in concert recently.”

The album was Eden. The song was “Deliver Me.” And I did something I almost never do – just bought something spontaneously based on a very small “sample” of the goods.

Now the odd thing about Sarah Brightman is that she does stuff ranging from pop to semi-classical to opera – all jumbled together on the same disc. And I hate opera. Yet after one stroll through Eden, I was hooked – and I have quite a collection of Sarah’s music now. It was a pop song that got me started; then, having become a fan of Sarah, my mind slowly opened to a new form of music.

I’m still not that much into opera, but I enjoy it more than I used to. I needed to develop an attachment to an individual in order to start to appreciate a genre.

And that, I think, is how people will come to appreciate and use community networking approaches like social media tools. They will start with one person who impresses them, with one approach that appeals. Then the thing will open up over time. Your “voice” may well open up new worlds for others, one note at a time. Sing.

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Five in the Morning 120808

green5Upgrade your brainstorming! Paul Williams over at MarketingProfs Daily Fix shows us how.

Does your brand pass the CUB test? From the good folks at Brand Aid.

Right on, Target. One smart little move by Target makes a better shopping experience – and earns them more cash.

Buyology. Ivana Taylor reviews an interesting-sounding book on why we buy.

You’re read about the Zappos (shoe retailer) social media success story. Now, take a pictorial tour of HQ, courtesy of Guy Kawasaki. Never seen nothin’ like this before!!

OVERDOSE ON WOODRUFF BONUS – if you missed it at the end of the last week, the latest StickyFigure spoof: Social Media Museum has Bloggers All A-Twitter. Plus, on my personal blog (Steve’s Leaves), a Sunday Muse: Finding Grace. (And, Ann Handley just told me that my new MarketingProfs Daily Fix post is up: I’M PURSUING (niche) DOMINATION! This is probably the only time you’ll have a “Five in the Morning” trifecta – Woodruff links on three different blogs…)

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The Financial Meltdown in One Sentence

People with an incentive to re-define risk for short-term gain will deceive themselves and others, distort the marketplace, and destroy value.

(this includes politicians who force institutions to make risky loans through market-distorting policies like CRA; institutions and individuals who willingly ignore long-term risk for the sake of short-term fees; and individuals who make commitments they cannot realistically expect to fulfill)

StickyFigure TWOday

Today, October 10th, marks the second anniversary of my first StickyFigure post (and although the writing is a bit jagged, perhaps, “How to Waste 100,00 Billboards” is still one of my favorites!)

I’d actually started blogging the previous July, for my solo pharma consulting business (Impactiviti), and that blog is alive and well and absolutely central to my paying job. Impactiviti is an example of using the power of networking to create an entrepreneurial business.

These ramblings on branding, marketing, social media, and whatever else strikes my fancy as an Idea Communicator end up at StickyFigure. This blog is actually an extra-curricular activity for me (as is a personal blog at which contains ruminations about family, politics, philosophy, life in general, and feeble efforts to get better at writing and telling stories).

I’ve met so many wonderful and supportive people through this blogging and twittering marketing community that I can’t imagine being on this journey without your virtual (and sometimes face-to-face) accompaniment. If I often feel like a rank amateur among you professionals, you’re not at fault in the least for that – you who have become readers/commenters/friends have always treated me with nothing but kindness and respect.

So, though we can’t blow out candles and lift up a good ale together today, know that I’d like to, and thanks for coming alongside over these 2 years. I love you guys.

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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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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!


Welcome to new readers of StickyFigure, a small-to-medium sized outpost here on the long tail of marketing blogs! Your tour guide is Steve Woodruff, marketer, consultant, entrepreneur, and reasonably nice person whose writings are generally brilliant and life-changing (note: your results may vary).

Stickyfigure is where I publish ramblings and resources about marketing, branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and life in the business world. My paying job is as a pharmaceutical consultant, and in that realm, I maintain a focused blog called Impactiviti. My personal blog,, is where I park “other” non-business musings.

If you’d like a sample of some “Greatest Hits” (well, in my opinion anyway!), here are a few links:


How to be Unremarkable

Brand Paul Potts

Personal Branding:

Your Personal Brand: Does it Matter?

Wax-free Bloggers

Social Media:

Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

One Interface to Rule them All

Marketing/Customer Experience:

How to Waste 100,000 Billboards

Lowe’s to Home Depot: Take 5! No, Take Fifty!


How I Became a Consultant

10 Lessons Learned from Starting a Small Business

So, feel free to browse through the blog. You’ll also find a few spoofs, and a number of posts about collaborative blogging efforts. And, if you’d like to connect, I can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Image credit:

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 4)

What we’re thinking about together in this series of posts is an “ideal” interface (or portal/dashboard) that will allow for a more efficient and personalized web experience. There are many very cool applications and functions scattered all over the internet – however, this fragmentation brings with it a lot of frustration. Is is possible to make a very cool application (code name: MetaMee) that will simplify our lives? That’s what we’re exploring.

If you’re just arriving for the first time, I’d strongly suggest a quick read of part 1, part 2, and part 3 for context and backstory so that this one will make more sense.

We’ve looked at the very basics of the 5 main functions that would go into the dashboard/interface, and some of the me-centric personalization capabilities that would make on-line life simpler. Now let’s step back and look at data flow, and for that, we’ll need one of my classic ugly Powerpoint drawings:

OK, let’s look at these items one at a time and see how it works together.

The MeeStream (Out) is all my “stuff” that I’m putting out to the web. MetaMee would allow me to auto-login to all my data stores, and through the MetaMee interface and/or widgets from the various sites, more easily determine what gets published where, when, and how. All my ShareMedia (Share Meedia…?) gets funneled through this dashboard, making it easier also to track the stuff. People can then subscribe to Mee, or to whatever aspects of my stream interest them.

The MeeStream (In) is my subscription list. I’m subscribing to people, to information, to news, to videos, to e-commerce deals…to whatever is out there that interests me. Maybe I like Tangerine Toad‘s blog, and I subscribe; but as time goes on, I want to see everything that the Toad (Alan Wolk) puts out there – Tweets, photos, what have you. Click – done.

My Intell-Agents (see part 3) are monitoring my MeeStream, learning from my ratings and preferences, and suggesting new resources for my consideration.

The MeeVault (I have borrowed the “Vault” term from Microsoft’s HealthVault initiative) is the family jewels underlying this dashboard. It is strictly local (MetaMee is a hybrid local/on-line application as I see it), and I have full control over the settings of what information is exposed, when, how, and to whom/to what. My personal information is “layered” into different levels, with full ID and purchasing info in the most secure area of the vault, only be released when I’ve decided to make an e-commerce purchase. The MeeVault feeds the “Settings” area, and we’d use those settings to expose or veil various layers of our identity with all of our web transactions.

What about privacy? If I’m sending out Intell-Agents with my preferences, and various information points are coming back into my stream, maybe I don’t want the world to know what I’m interested in. That where a P1 setting or APP (Anonymous Persona & Preferences) comes in. This is my “stub” residing out there on the front edge of MetaMee, talking to the Internet cloud. My anonymous persona communicates to the internet what I like, what my “similars” are, what I’m seeking – but it does not identify me. This way, our various APPs can communicate similars to each other and help us find more of what we want, but without compromising our full identity.

Let me pick on Tangerine Toad again. For a long time, very few people knew that the man behind the Tangerine curtain was Alan Wolk. But there was a persona out there, Tangerine Toad, and you could actually know a good bit about whomever was hiding behind that ID – you could see his interests, discover his similars, learn from him…all without knowing it was Alan. Similarly, our APP stub allows us to express the full range of our interests and find matching resources in a “safe mode,” before exposing our identity.

Admittedly, this is a lot to digest, and “there be dragons” here in the many technical details. What are your thoughts? You technical/programming types – is this out beyond the stratosphere, or is it do-able? Would love to get your feedback as we crowd-create this (very rough) blueprint of an ideal web dashboard…

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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