Daniel Pink and the “Ambivert Advantage”

DanielPinkI’ve been reading Daniel Pink‘s latest book, To Sell is Human (Amazon affiliate link), and I like a lot of what he has to say.

I found his thesis intriguing that extroverts don’t necessarily have an inherent advantage over introverts in sales success – you can see a summary of his thinking in this Washington Post article (if you don’t have the book).

But, a couple of things set off some alarms bells in my head.

First, I think his use of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are somewhat imprecise. Pink reinforces some of the more behavioral notions of the two orientations (sociable/lively/assertive vs. soft-spoken) – you know those stereotypes about the gregarious extrovert and the retiring introvert. In fact, the essence of introversion is finding one’s energy source from within, while extroverts generally find their energy from other people. While it is usually true that extroverts may tend to favor being more often in larger groups of people, and introverts typically need more (quiet) alone time, to look at stereotypical extremes and label only those as introverts or extroverts is to miss the point (in fact, there are many introverts who can quite effectively project outgoing behaviors). The ” ___vert” wiring has to do with replenishment of energy; behaviors are somewhat elastic across the spectrum. One of the best treatments of this topic is Susan Cain‘s excellent book Quiet.

My sense is that most people lean toward one orientation or the other – there are degrees of introversion and extroversion, but I am ambivalent about the notion of ambiversion as presented by Pink. He depicts “ambiverts” as the majority of people on a bell curve, with introverts and extroverts as extremes. I’d argue that there may be very few (if any) true ambiverts – people who draw energy equally from within and without. If you think of introversion/extroversion as a linear scale, I theorize that we all natively lean in one direction or the other (according to our internal wiring), even if we have learned and adopted behaviors that are more outgoing or contemplative. See this blog post for a fuller muse on this point.

The other point of contention I have with Pink’s methodology is his over-reliance on a single study (by Adam Grant) correlating sales effectiveness with self-reported measures of extroversion. In this study, people at (either) extreme end of the introvert-extrovert scale did not sell as successfully as those in the middle (whom Pink labels as the ambiverts). This result is used to argue against the prevailing notion that extroverted people are (of course!) the most productive sales people. Instead, people who could be somewhat chameleon-ish in the middle were the most successful.

It’s an intriguing and suggestive result, but there is a serious limitation to keep in mind – this is a single study (300 people), and it involved only call center representatives. Generalizing from that sample is tenuous – this is, after all, only one type of selling, and it is via phone, not in person. We can safely conclude that extremely extroverted and extremely introverted people were less effective in this particular type of non-face-to-face selling than people who were less introverted/extroverted – but that’s about it. I’m not convinced that the data and extrapolated conclusions are as convincing as they at first appear.

To then call a large swath of the population “ambiverts” and imply that they’re going to be just fine at whatever-kind-of-selling may be a bit of a stretch.

I’m an introvert, and I have done a lot of selling. I don’t schmooze as naturally as my extroverted brethren, but I practice many outgoing behaviors (that doesn’t make me an ambivert; I’m just an outgoing introvert!). And I’m actually in sympathy with a lot of Pink’s message in this book, especially the notion that, in one form or another, we’re just about all in sales (of some type). I just think that the evidence for some of the conclusions being drawn seems a bit thin on this point.

If you’ve been reading To Sell is Human – what’s your take?

5 Books for Business-Starters

I’m about to hand over a book to someone I’m coaching on his career direction. This made me think: if someone was considering starting their own business, what books would I recommend as “required reading” before taking the plunge?

Here’s a handful:

BooksPurple Cow, by Seth GodinDifferentiate, or don’t bother

Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki Develop yourself and your people skills above all

The Entrepreneur Equation, by Carol RothDelineate how your idea will actually turn into a successful business

Amazing Things Will Happen, by C.C. ChapmanDream and then do

The $100 Startup, by Chris GuillebeauDon’t wait: opportunity surrounds you.

Each of these books is practical, straightforward, and approachable. In combination, they provide an excellent mix of the idealism and realism that are both required for entrepreneurs.

>>Your turn – what would be on your recommended reading list for new entrepreneurs?

(note: links to book titles above are Amazon affiliate links – which means if you buy from Amazon through following this link, I might earn a few shekels!)

Live-Reviewing The Impact Equation (book review)

(I didn’t get all the way through on day 1, so I’m continuing for a second day. Simply scroll down to see the review unfold chapter by chapter)

It’s been sitting here for a few weeks, neglected. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith‘s new book, The Impact Equation. I have a pre-release copy and I’ve put off reading and reviewing it.

Until now. You see, this is the public release week for the book (you can use this link to order it). And I know the authors want as much exposure as possible – hey, who wouldn’t?

So I’m going to do something I’ve never attempted before. No, it’s not going over Niagara Falls in a parafoil made of recycled Diet Dr. Pepper cans. Something far more daring. Something with immense and incalculable risk.

I’m going to live-review the book. This morning. On this blog and on Twitter.

You thought jumping out of a capsule from 128,000 feet and breaking the sound barrier was daring?? Pffffft.

You might say that this is a link-baiting publicity stunt. You’d be partially correct. You might say that the Niagara Falls idea is actually more risky. Well, for me, maybe; but this chapter-by-chapter live-reviewing stuff is far more risky for Chris and Julien. And that’s the kind of risk I prefer!

So, here we go. It’s 7:30 am ET. I’m going to relieve my guilt over not reading this volume sooner by diving right in, and telling you what I think, hourly-ish. For better or for worse. Twitter hashtag: @impacteq.

Woodruff/Mystic. Brogan/Smith. It’s on!

(Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book, nor are any links affiliate links)

Part 1: Goals

This chapter has a few main themes:

– We live in a time when we can (and should) build our own channels

– This is not primarily about tech – it’s always about people

– Success comes from the long haul

The acronym CREATE* is used to explain how impact comes about. As it is presented, I see the word “equation” as a misnomer here – it’s more of a recipe.

Good content overall, but too many thoughts are presented – this chapter feels like a pinata of ideas. Like most business books, it feels verbose. Writing style is more informal; idea flow not particularly tight.

* Contrast / Reach / Exposure / Articulation / Trust / Echo  (the first and last terms feel a bit forced)

– (posted at 8:20 am) –

Part 2: Ideas (Contrast)

These section is all about differentiation. In the grab bag of ideas presented, we see the concepts of screening good ideas (out of the pool of bad/mediocre ones); the role of emotion in making an idea interesting/spreadable; the need for bravery to publish ideas that differ; and the role of extrapolation and metaphor (note: I am a huge advocate of using metaphor/analogy in the messaging process).

As a writer/creator, I find myself on familiar ground here – but I wonder if someone who is not a social media content-generator might not find this chapter overwhelming. Most people don’t, I suspect, have a flowing fountain of ideas (or an impetus to crowd-share them as a sifting mechanism). For the ones that are seeking to break new ground in the idea-realm, however, the principles are solid. The writing style, again, is very informal and breezy, with (lots of) (parenthetical) (statements) sprinkled throughout.

The concept of breaking through the human pattern-recognition screen is one of the more valuable take-away images of the chapter.

– (posted at 9:45 am) –

Part 2: Ideas (Articulation)

“Part of learning Articulation is learning which words to choose. Another is learning which words to lose.” That pretty much sums up what you need to know (and it’s great advice).

This chapter starts out well, but then wanders quite a bit about ideas, e-mail marketing, business viability, mind-mapping, and more. Good advice all, but themes are scattered around like disparate blog posts in a RSS feed. Some fierce editing was needed here. Loose links, productivity ideas, etc. – some nice stuff, solid thought-gems, but not finding a real clear flow here.

The snapshot below, however, is great advice:

– (posted at 10:35 am) –

Part 3: Platforms (Reach)

First you need ideas. Then you need a transmitter. That’s Platform. “Platform multiplies power. The vaster and more effective it is, the stronger you become.”

This chapter is  more tightly written. It focuses on the need to continuously build a growing audience (over time), and how on-line tools have enabled this in a unique way. Some good case studies are included, including TED and Dollar Shave Club. Some good stuff on how/when to extract value (e.g., sell stuff and/or gain access) as you grow your Reach. Good emphasis on adding value. Anyone serious about writing a book, or growing an audience for any other purpose (including business networking), should read this. It’s not an exhaustive chapter full of steps, but it is suggestive and contains important perspectives.

– (posted at 12:55 pm) –

OK, I was too optimistic about getting this all done today. Will continue tomorrow…!

It’s tomorrow! —>

Part 3: Platforms (Exposure)

This chapter is very much about using social media for exposure. Don’t expect to see much about other avenues. And, at first, I found myself slightly annoyed that there were a whole lot more questions than answers – lots of generalities. Then I woke up and realized that that’s the point – gaining exposure through social channels is one big experiment, and there is no one-size-fits-all (as there is no one audience, and no single set of expectations). I’ve had to wrestle over the years with all of the same issues – frequency, media/channel types, formatting, length – and, if you’re seriously reaching out to a growing audience, it evolves.

Again, however – this chapter is for people serious about making content and building an audience. And it’s about long-term commitment. I’m completely down with that but it will seem difficult to reach for many people who have a different make-up or professional role. And that’s the challenge that must be addressed – individuals and companies are all becoming broadcast channels, like it or not. It’s time to embrace it and take the right steps.

– (posted at 8:30 am) –

Part 4: Network (Trust)

“Your idea may be genius, and it may be caught immediately imprinted on people’s brains. You may be differentiated from your industry and highly visible. But if you are not trusted, if you are not credible, you are nothing.”

Pulling on the (excellent) work of Maister, Green, and Galford (book: The Trusted Advisor) – this section discusses the Trust Equation. Four elements: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, Self-Interest.

This chapter started off with the sound of rockets on the launch pad, then ended with a whimper. It was supposed to be the clarification and capstone of the prior book by this pair, Trust Agents (which I read and recommend). It wasn’t. It was mainly self-evident principles and recycled bromides. Disappointing work. Vuvzelas, Pokemon, and blogging calendars didn’t cut it for me.

Just read the first few pages and skip the rest.

– (posted at 9:50 am) –

Part 4: Network (Echo, Echo)

Be human. Allow people to relate to you. Make a personal connection – reply. Package and own your quirks – you’ll always find a niche of interested sympathizers. Speak their language. Basic stuff. Good reminders, but nothing new here. And it seems to come too much from a place of outsized influence – how someone already influential should try to relate. This chapter seems to float a little bit above everyday life and business. And the section at the end about relating to critics seems out of place.

(end of book) – (posted at 10:30 am) –

My conclusion:

Here’s a great quote from the last chapter: “Distill your message. Whittle it down to the tightest, sharpest thing possible.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the principle, though I did not see it well-embodied in this book!

Make no mistake, there are a lot of good things said here. But instead of a crisp, expertly-guided tour (some authors are masterful at this, moving your mind sequentially and building a step-by-step case), this book felt like a meander in the field with a couple of smart guys. The authors are pointing out a nice vista here, picking up some rock samples there, naming the trees and birds, crossing back over the same areas a few times – a pleasant enough stroll, but not real tight. If you’re looking for research-driven content, this book won’t satisfy; and if you’re brand new to social media, it might be overwhelming. I think for those who are seeing the value of building a platform for influence, and who need a bunch of tips and perspectives based on experience – there’s value here.

Stylistically, the writing is casual and uneven – a given style isn’t necessarily good or bad, but just understand that if you’re into flights of new revelation through tightly-argued logic, this book won’t appeal. On the other hand, those who value the thought-snippets that come from blogging, and want to see them gathered under some type of more ordered framework, may well find this volume to be inspiring and enlightening.

Mystic, it turns out, was more interested in The Milk Bone Equation!


Related posts on Connection Agent:

>> My Career Fragmentation Story

>> The Seven Shortcuts to Creating Trust

Book Review: Fierce Loyalty

There are any number of books – thousands, really – that will give you advice on how to build a business. But nowadays, that’s not enough. How do you build a community?

That’s the topic Sarah Robinson is addressing in a brief but meaty e-book called Fierce Loyalty. I talk a lot about professional DNA at the individual level – Sarah scales up to examine something equally vital: the DNA of successful communities.

From a summary of the book:

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow.

Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for a fiercely loyal community squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives an actionable model along with real-world case studies and action steps designed to make Fierce Loyal happen in your organization.

This is not a dry, drawn-out business book. It has a more personal and informal tone, and is more suggestive (demonstrating a framework of community-building) than exhaustive (300 pages of mind-numbing research, quotes, examples, and fluff – you know that drill!)

Speaking of practical and down-to-earth, I particularly like this perspective, right up front on page 10: I learned one very important lesson as I took on the challenges of my first job. It’s a lesson that will help you face your own challenges as you build Fierce Loyalty. Once you grasp it, you’ll use it again and again and it will propel you forward no matter what stands in your path. That lesson was and is: make a decision. Every day, decide that a fiercely loyal community is your goal, no matter what.

Sarah outlines the details of fiercely loyal community creation into these 5 building blocks:

  1. A Captivating Common Interest
  2. People Who Share this Common Interest
  3. A Set of Compelling Needs
  4. A Specific Organizational Structure
  5. Advanced Evolution of the Community

I won’t give any more away, but if you need an excerpt to whet your appetite – well, click right here!

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book, nor are any links above affiliate links. I do think highly of Sarah and her work, however! And, she did provide me with a free copy of the e-book to review.


Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

How I Manage My Introversion

I’m happy to be an introvert. Maybe I wasn’t always so sanguine about this aspect of my internal wiring – in fact, most of my life, I guess I felt somewhat inferior to my more extroverted earth-dwellers – but not any more!

(What is, and isn’t, introversion? Read this excellent summary post by Lisa Petrilli – also, Lisa’s e-book on the subject is extremely helpful: The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

A tendency toward introversion is quite common – anywhere from a third to a half of the population tends toward the “Quiet Side.” While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around other people, introverts recharge through being alone with their thoughts. The introvert is usually not the life of the party, but the person having an earnest one-on-one conversation in the corner (and secretly wishing to be away from the noise and chaos). Extroverts will tend to speak first, and organize their thoughts later; introverts often pause to carefully consider their words.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a world that tends to value extroversion (the theme of a superb book on introversion by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

So, how have I worked with and worked around this tendency over the years? A few thoughts:

  1. Above all else, the primary step is to embrace it. We can’t change our fundamental wiring, and why should we? A tendency to walk on the quiet side often leads to fountains of creativity, richness of perspective, and relational depth. In Lisa’s book referenced above, she tells the story of how our friendship and professional collaboration blossomed on the foundation of shared introversion. I can remember way back to my high school days feeling an aversion to loud groups and superficial chatter, and wondering what my problem was. Actually, there was no problem. My style is different – and goes deep instead of wide. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING!
  2. Also, I’ve learned to have realistic expectations. I can only take so much people-time before I have to back away, and I now give myself permission to retreat. I have learned to become outgoing and pro-active, but I’ll never feel at home in a loud, crowded schmooze-setting. I’ll always look for the quiet corner and try to find an individual or small group.
  3. I use social media extensively as my relationship-building bridge. I have “pre-met” so many wonderful people using on-line networking, which removes the awkward stage when we finally meet face-to-face. Nowadays, first-time in-real-life meetings are like reunions, because on-line networking has allowed me to get through the first layer of introduction. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more video Skype calls to move past introduction and start getting in-depth with people in ways that could never happen randomly at a party or a conference. I think digital social networking was created for introverts!
  4. I ask a lot of questions. Introverts tend to be better at this. By focusing on the other person and trying to understand, you often can bring a surprisingly amount of value and kindred-ness to a person who drowns in the sea of surrounding superficiality. Sometimes, by playing this very natural role, you can bring surprising levels of comfort and healing and wisdom, even in a brand-new relationship.
  5. I’ve disciplined myself to be outgoing. Not extroverted – outgoing. Introverts can seem (or be) anti-social at times, and I’ve made a lifelong commitment to be pro-active to the point that, now, it’s pretty natural. I still have a hard time making small talk with seatmates on airplane flights, however. My default setting there is to retreat into my own reading and my own thoughts. That’s a tough one!

As with any other tendency, there can be a dark side to introversion. Tendencies to insecurity, analysis-paralysis, or depression. All of these things need to be seen clearly and managed, sometimes with the help of both introverted and extroverted friends. But my main point in all this is to state unequivocally: Introversion is not a curse. It is not a problem. It is not a weakness. Introverts can lead, and can speak effectively in public. It’s actually pretty wonderful to be introvert-ish, noisy parties notwithstanding. And if you see me in a crowded social setting, looking around a bit awkwardly, then pull me off to a corner and let’s talk about it…!

For further reading (and aren’t these a couple of beautiful introvert-authors?):

(affiliate links to these books on Amazon: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).


Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Following Your Passion: A Story

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A Case of Simple

A while back, one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Drew McLellan, asked me (and others) if we’d be interested in receiving some newly-designed cases, custom-designed for smartphones, tablets, and ultralight laptops (like Macbook Air).

No cost. No obligation. No financial anything (there’s my disclaimer – OK?).

Well, I’ve been playing with these cases from a company called Casesmpl (casesimple.com), and I’m pretty impressed. They come in several sizes, in ballistic nylon and leatherette versions (Henry Ford would be proud – you can have them in any color, as long as it’s black!). They’re manufactured here in the United States (Chicago, in fact).

What’s especially cool about the design is that you can carry your primary digital communications device, plus other stuff, in one handy package with a (removable) divider. These puppies are roomy and flexible, while still being relatively compact. The fact that there is one which is iPhone-sized is a great plus – put your smartphone and a smaller moleskin in there, and you’re good to go.

Worth a look, folks, if you’re interested in this kind of handy accessory!


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Interview: Becky Carroll on Rockin’ Customer Service

If you don’t yet know Becky Carroll, you definitely should. She is one of the first bloggers I discovered 4-5 years ago in the marketing/social media space, and her Customers Rock! blog is well-known as a destination for all things customer service.

She’s also a really nice gal. We’ve collaborated on projects, spoken at an event together – I even had lunch with Becky and her family while staring at the Pacific Ocean in southern California (where she resides).

Becky’s just-released book, The Hidden Power of Customers, is a guidebook for any business that wants to put customers – especially existing customers – front-and-center in their business growth plan. And that should be – well, EVERY business.

Pardon the minor hiccup in 2/3 of the way through the interview when we had a connectivity blip. You’ll see a rather abrupt lighting change…!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Becky’s book today! (note: not an affiliate link. I have no financial interest in sales of this book).

Can Success be Predictable?

According to Les McKeown – yes, it can. His book, Predictable Success, explains in step-by-step fashion just how that is so.

On #LeadershipChat this week (Tuesday, March 22, 8 pm ET) Les will be joining us to talk about Why Leaders Fail. And one surprising perspective is this: failure may simply be a function of not understanding the phases a company goes through.

My #LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has given a very nice summary of the content and message of the book (Lisa’s blog post here), so I’m going to focus, in this book review, on something different. In a word: Narrative.

I was struck right away, in the Preface to the book, how Les was telling a story – his own story about arriving at the conclusions he’s come to. Then, throughout the book, he uses narrative – telling the stories of businesses and people that illustrate the meta-narrative – to make his points and keep the reader looped in.

But, ultimately, Les’ entire thesis about the way businesses evolve is one big narrative (see the graphic below), and that is one of the major appeals of his book. Narratives help make sense of that which is confusing. I’m sure it may seem simplistic to some, but Les gives a pretty convincing case that there is a predictable arc in how businesses can grow into success, and decline into failure. Fact is, I have seen and been part of Early Struggle, Fun, and Whitewater stages, and his narrative regarding those common experiences is eerily spot on.

For the leader of a company struggling to stabilize into patterns of growth and success, I highly recommend giving this book a read. You might be surprised at how often you find yourself nodding in agreement, or striking your forehead as a key insight into the obvious flashes by. Video summary below:

Please join Lisa Petrilli, me, and our guest Les McKeown for our table talk at LeadershipChat (8 pm ET this Tuesday evening). It’ll provide a wonderful excuse to get off the Treadmill!


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Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment: Will it Blend?

Recently, I was sent a review copy of Guy Kawasaki’s newest tome-for-the-masses, Enchantment (not an affiliate link; my ability to buy a pack of gum this month will not be influenced by your purchase).

And as I began to read, I wondered if it wasn’t a secret practical joke by the ever-cheerful GK. Was this book serious? Or was he pulling a fast one on us? Here’s my conclusion:

There’s a lot of the basics in this book – the bread and butter of business. You’re not going to read this book for blinding new insights. For the experienced, it’s a handy little summary of reminders. And also a great giveaway to hand out to those getting started.

A few favorite items extracted from the blender:

  • Re-thinking the term “conflict of interest” for “alignment of interests” (p. 30) – cute, and a nice re-framing.
  • The power of proximity in connecting with others (p. 16)
  • The application Guy gives for each “think Japanese” term (p. 149)
  • Prototyping your work (p. 167-8) – I do this all the time with clients, even at the proposal level.

If I had to put this somewhere as required curriculum, I’d place it (at latest) right between college graduation and your first career position. Then re-read 5 years later. And again 10 years later. These simple, foundational practices will provide far better ROI, I’d wager, than whatever you just sank into that diploma.


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Revolution – Now!

The Beatles put it this way when talking about revolution:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

Sorry, but you really don’t want to count yourself out of The Now Revolution. Jay Baer and Amber Naslund have done us a service by writing an excellent volume on how social networking is impacting business. Instead of the usual summary review of content (you can find that all over the place), I’m going to give a video recap of the highlights for me, then just extract some juicy quotes so that you’ll be enticed to buy this book. Because you most probably should!

“This book is about a business culture that has changed more in the past 3 years than in the prior 30 and what you must do as a consequence of that change.” (p. ix)

“Real-time business…is almost entirely a public spectacle. There are no insignificant transactions any longer.” (p. xiii)

“Adopting social media and real-time business means a shift in mind-set.” (p. 11)

“Hire first for a fit with your company culture and values, with an eye toward those who have a passion for their work. Skills are much easier to teach than mind-set.” (p. 27)

“There’s a point at which we’re going to stop talking about social media and online communications as a specialty…and instead start viewing it for what it really is: a series of pipes, tubes, tools, and media that can help us communicate more relevantly and urgently with customers.” (p. 53)

I only have two thumbs. If I could clone one of them, then I’d give The Now Revolution three thumbs up!


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Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization – the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile – one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!


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Book Review: The New Small

I’ve been reading through Phil Simon‘s latest book, The New Small, and it’s a keeper.

There’s a revolution going on in small businesses these days, and it is being enabled by low-cost, high impact new technologies (note: I have built my business on the approaches Phil outlines, so this is not just theory!). Phil outlines the Five Enablers in this volume, and gives a series of case studies showing how progressive and nimble businesses have employed things like cloud computing and social networks to advance their goals quickly.

Here is my video review of The New Small:

Learn more about Phil, and The New Small, here at his website (www.philsimonsystems.com). I met the guy for lunch, where he handed me the book – he’s a high-energy, engaging, likable fellow with some important perspectives.

For two weeks, I struggled to identify the stylistic difficulty I was having with the book. I’d read a chapter, put it down feeling a bit overloaded, stymied at every attempt to put into words why that was so. Concept, message, author – liked them all. Content – solid. Finally, it came to me – the book felt overstuffed, like a suitcase that had 30% too many items of clothing in it (ever done that?). It was packed very tight, and didn’t have an easy flow for this reader. This is purely an editing and writing style issue – and, it may be more of a personal reflection than anything else (plus, I’d rather get a book that had too much to say than too little!)


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Book Review: The Entrepreneur Equation

I have had the privilege of reading through Carol Roth’s about-to-be-released book, chock full of very valuable advice for anyone thinking about starting a new business. The Entrepreneur Equation is a must-read if you’re looking at becoming an entrepreneur.

My video review is below. This is a no-nonsense, highly practical reality check from a gal who knows her stuff. Highly recommended.

It’s also quite well-written, and funny. Because that’s who Carol is. You can pre-order your copy here.

(btw, I am a huge advocate of taking ideas and distilling them down to their core essence – yes, I’m a bit OCD about that. One of the coolest items in this book is the “Cheat Sheet” section in the back, where Carol gives a 1-3 sentence summary of each chapter. You can only do that when there is clarity and cohesion of thought…good job, Carol!)


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Book Review: Pick a Title. Any Title.

Bloggers always like to be first getting out a new book review on their blog and through Twitter, in hopes of achieving maximum retweet exposures (MREs).

So, since my friends Jay Baer and Amber Naslund are about to launch their awesome new book The Now Revolution, I thought I’d cheat a little bit to get the very first review out of gate (video below). I like MREs just as much as the next blogger. And, hey, there are efficiencies here – have you ever heard of the Reusable Book Review (RBR)? Yeah – I’m trademarking that.

Tomorrow, return here to very same URL to view my thoughts on Ann Handley and CC Chapman‘s Content Rules. And the day after, Scott Stratten‘s UnMarketing. Because if you don’t send it, I still review it with my patent-pending RBR technology!

(Actually, I do have a couple real video book reviews coming up here on Connection Agent this week – stay tuned!)


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A Grand Hyatt Stay

After a recent conference in Orlando, I had enough Hyatt points to book a night at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress (the conference was at Gaylord Palms, quite a nice destination itself).

Count me impressed.

My wife and I had stayed there a couple years back, and we liked it then. We liked it even more this time.

I’ll give you three major reasons why:

1. Exemplary service. Every single employee went out of their way to be kind and friendly. In fact, the service went to a place where no hotel has ever gone before (in my experience) – after dining in one of the hotel restaurants, we awoke in the morning to find a hand-written card under our door from our server the night before, thanking us for eating there and offering help with “anything to make your stay more memorable.”

2. Outstanding facilities. The resort is huge. Not only is there a golf course there, but there are walking trails of up to 5 miles in length, with very pleasant variety (including a boardwalk loop through a swamp area). The multiple pools, with waterfalls and faux rocks and various slides and bridges, was extremely family-friendly. A lake with boats, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt golf course, bikes, and a bunch of other amenities make this an ideal destination for families. Disney World is just around the corner, but you might have a hard time getting the kids to leave the Grand Cypress. And if you’re a member of the Regency Club, there’s a wonderful lounge area for morning breakfast, snacks and drinks during the day, etc.

3. Cleanliness. This place is spotless. The grounds are meticulously maintained. This place is easy on the eyes. We saw one guy dusting a rock outside – not kidding!

As mentioned, the Disney resorts are right nearby, and a bunch of restaurants are all within easy walking distance. But once you’re in the grounds, you feel like you’re enclosed in a very pleasant, self-contained little world.

A series of pictures from our all-too-brief stay are below. I highly recommend this resort for anyone looking to stay in the Orlando area, whether or not you have kids along. Delightful.


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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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Five in the Morning 030409

From WSJ: Social Networking goes Professional. How focused professional communities are using social networking tools to better their work.

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (yep, not a misprint) gives us 32 Ways to Cut Costs in Business. And while you’re at it, this post from TPE on How to do Everything is also pretty good!

Matt Dickman – the Techno//Marketer – gives us the scoop on Radian6 with one of his patented thorough semi-geekish reviews. If you’re not reading Matt’s blog regularly, what are you thinking?

Shaping your blog’s brand. Good stuff from Darren Rowse over at Problogger.

Jon Swanson reviews two books on success. Which one was more life-changing?

PLUS: Tom Peters recommends a new book from Steve Farber, called Greater than Yourself. As I recall, Drew McLellan speaks highly of Farber, so with those 2 witnesses, it must be good!

AND: This was just too funny not to include. Really. Just click. Thanks, Jaffe!


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(Image credit)

Brand Devotion: Ragin’? Ravin’?

Previously on this blog, I have discussed the branding of Ravenswood wines, which I think is exemplary. They specialize in Zinfandel, and their Zins are quite good…but there’s a secret sauce that not many people know about. Specifically, a very hearty BBQ Sauce.

Ravenswood produces, but doesn’t much promote, a killer BBQ sauce called Ragin’ Raven. I first discovered it when they had a big display at our local liquor store (the Ravenswood race car, etc.), and this sauce was available. Tried it, loved it, bought more. Ran out…and couldn’t find a way to get more!

Then, some months ago, the store brought out some cases that must have been in storage. Eureka! Did I care about the price? Not really…all I wanted was to have that Ragin’ Raven flavor again. So I bought 4 jars and found myself, at times, wondering why I didn’t buy more. Especially as we opened that last jar a couple weeks ago…

Today, I go down to the store, and what is there to greet me, but a small stack of Ragin’ Raven, with each jar on sale for $2.95! This time, there was no hesitation. I bought 24. And, of course, I raved about it to the guy in line behind me.

And that, my friends, is brand devotion. Where people love something so much that they are ragin’ to have more. When it’s so good, you can’t stop ravin’. Are people ragin’ and ravin’ about your brand?

(btw, it looks like you can order this nectar of the grill with the info on this page.)

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Have a free Picnik!

I’ve been using free on-line image editing tools for months now, and love them. Of late, I tended to use PXN8 most, but after reading a glowing column by Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal today, I decided to revisit Picnik.

In a word: Wow!

picnik_logo.gifI glanced at Picnik when it was a brand new beta – some months back – and liked what I saw then. However, after playing with it today, I’ll toss away all lesser sites.

Read the review (link above). Go to the site and play. For bloggers who like to incorporate images, it’s a dream app. You’ll be hooked.

Get a Taste of the Age of Conversation: From E to J

aoctalkbubble.jpgThis is the second installment of a “review” of the just-released Age of Conversation e-book – actually, just a taste of what each author has written, to make the case why you should buy the book!

This post will show the entries for those authors with last names from E to J.

So what is the “value proposition” of the Age of Conversation book? Take a taste. Then go buy it!

Mark Earls
“WE” NOT “I” – THE HUMAN TRUTHS REVEALED BY THE AGE OF CONVERSATION – “What the new connectedness that technology has really done is reveal human nature more clearly, more fully, and more usefully. And in doing so, it challenges some of our most important assumptions about human nature and human behaviour, ideas that have dominated for two centuries at least.”

Gia Facchini
ABOUT CONVERSATION – “Without a conversation there is no engagement, no sharing of information, no transfer of knowledge. Without a conversation, we cannot learn to listen, to give words their own meaning and not the one
we would like them to have. Without conversation the essence of blogging would be lost as well as the newest trend in customer-centric marketing.”

Anna Farmery
HOW TO TURN EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT INTO A HAPPY MARRIAGE – “To win in your market, you need to win the hearts and minds of the talent in your company — as it is the talent that differentiates you from your competitors.”

Julie Fleischer
VISUALIZING THE THREADS – “In contrast, two or more speakers engage in conversation — their threads interweave, they jut, they pause, they wrap around each other. If you pull one thread from the fabric, it all unravels. A good conversation is one in which neither thread dominates, neither thread tells the whole story; together, they create something entirely new. Each thread, each participant, is influenced by the other.”

Cedric Georgi
THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF WORD OF MOUTH – “International WOM will, in fact, improve conversations all around the world. As a consequence, almost everything will be known on earth and companies or governments will have to tell the truth and start real conversations with people!”

Phil Gerbyshak
CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION: THE IMPORTANCE OF FOLLOW-UP – “One of the most overlooked pieces of communication is also one of the simplest, and most impactful, ones to do. It’s the timely follow-up after someone meets with you, be it for a formal interview, a question and answer session, a cup of coffee and polite conversation, or even an e-mail where you’re asking for assistance.”

Bob Glaza
GIVE AND GROW – “Every community has an intrinsic need to grow. The worthy community will always seek and embrace a diversity of voices. Begin by using your unique voice at the edge of the community.”

Mark Goren
“Stop talking.
No one wants to listen to just you.
Start a conversation.
Throw out a topic. Move out of the way.
And just see where it goes. ”

Kristin Gorski
W.R.I.T.E – “Blogging and its immediate interactivity helps writers develop tools to blast through the dams that slow a flood of words to a trickle. When readers encourage, ignore, laugh, disagree, and link to us, blocks to expression cannot stand up to it.”

Janet Green
THE RESTORATIVE QUALITIES OF CONVERSATION – “Conversation also has the power to restore critical aspects of our humanity which over time have eroded from our daily lives: civility, credibility and integrity.”

Lewis Green
CONVERSATION THAT CONNECTS YOU TO ME – “Customers have a voice and they want us listen to their voices. If we want to gain their trust and win over their business, why wouldn’t we give them what they want? Isn’t that the basis of business — we understand what our customers want or need, and we give it to them. In exchange, they give us their business.”

Jessica Hagy
SHARING – “Ideas kept in the dark don’t corner markets.
Ideas kept secret don’t succeed.
Money in the mattress doesn’t earn interest.
Neither do ideas you keep secret.”

Ann Handley
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU TALKING TO? – “The thing is … in this Age of Conversation, one exchange has the potential to influence many. Anyone can be a maven. Or a connector. Social media like blogs and wikis help one person to reach and influence many.”

Gavin Heaton
THE PROMISCUOUS IDEA – “In moments, a concept can be explained, shared and tracked on a single blog — on the other side of the world, this idea can be modified, expanded upon and discussed. Seconds pass and more voices are heard — a version transmutes into new forms … being picked up as a podcast, a video, an older-style presentation deck. From a single creative impulse, a legion of additions, modifications and transmutations can spread in minutes, hours, days and weeks.”

Dr. Graham Hill
VALUING CONVERSATIONS – “There are early indications that we are already entering the Customer Co-creation age. Co-creation is based upon involving customers inside the company: in customer-driven innovation, in social marketing and even in customer self-service. Co-creation not only enables deep conversations between customers and companies, it also gives customers the tools to converse with each other.”

Kris Hoet
YOU GET A LONG WAY WITH COMMON SENSE – “There’s really nothing different about the conversations we’re having on the web using all this social media compared with conversations you have in a bar, in your office, at a conference or wherever. The speed in which technology changes might frighten a lot of people, but the conversation is the

Uwe Hook
THE NEW WORLD OF INVITATIONAL MARKETING – “Clearly, marketers have always tried to attract, allure, entice, or tempt people. But instead of being a polite supplement to everyday life, they tried the Neanderthal approach — hit them over the head, hold them hostage in exchange for entertainment and grunt at them louder if they react in
unexpected ways.”

Sean Howard
DISCONNECTION FROM COMMUNITY IN OUR REAL WORLD LIVES – Hmmm…you just have to see the (full-page) graphic in the book, I guess!

Robert Hruzek
THE AGE OF CONVERSATION MAKES ME THINK OF…BRIDGES – “Conversation, when employed wisely, can easily become an effective tool for bridging geographical, political, and ideological barriers. I talk to you; you talk to me — but watch out! You’re in a construction zone; a bridge is being built!”

Richard Huntington
OPINION IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF CONVERSATION – “After all, what makes you want to join a conversation, whether online or face-to-face? I’ll bet it is because you couldn’t agree more with what someone says. Or because you couldn’t agree less with what someone says. Or simply that the point of view being put forward is in some way fresh and unfamiliar to you. That’s why any of us comment on blogs. And for this to happen, a person, blog or brand needs to deliver a point of view the conversation can coalesce around. In other words, to advance an opinion.”

Tim Jackson
ARE YOU IN THE CONVERSATION? – “Here’s the core, the kernel, the meat of the matter; you can bet your company’s entire marketing budget, that if you are not online in some form or another, where your customers (or potential ones) are spending more and more of their time, somebody else is and they are taking them away from you.”

Dustin Jacobsen
ENGAGING CONSUMERS IN THE MOBILE INFORMATION AGE – “Mobile is one of the most personal forms of communication we have today, with most people carrying their mobile phone around the clock and well within reach 24/7.”

AJ James
THE ART OF NON-CONVERSATION – yep, once again, you’ll have to buy the book to see the (full-page) graphic!

Stanley Johnson
DON’T TALK. LISTEN. – “Listen to people. Real people. But not the sort of people who only tell you what you want to hear. Of course you may not always like what you hear, but that’s no reason not to listen. In fact that’s probably one of the best reasons to listen.

Spike Jones
SHUT UP – “Seriously. Shut your yap. You just might learn something if you do. In fact, I guarantee you will.”

Amy Jussel
MOMMY, WHY IS THAT LADY LICKING A BEER BOTTLE? – “The age of conversation … Age 5? 10? Trust me, it takes on a whole new meaning when you have wee ones trying to make sense of the media and marketing messages flying in their little faces with increasing coarseness, commercialism and crass innuendo 24/7 at rapid-fire speed.”


See the full series:

A taste from A-D

A taste from E-J

A taste from K-R

A taste from S-Z

Get a Taste of the Age of Conversation: From A to D

aoctalkbubble.jpgI was planning to write a review of the just-released Age of Conversation e-book, trying to extract the main points of emphasis, and the major themes running throughout the entries of 100+ authors.

Then I thought…who needs to hear my thoughts? Just give a taste of what each author has written, and the case will be far more compelling for people to buy the book.

Then I started attempting it. Hey, that’s too much work for one post! So here’s a sampling from the start of the alphabet (A-D), and then I’ll work my way through to the end over the coming week or so.

So what is the “value proposition” of the Age of Conversation book? Take a taste. Then go buy it!

Roger Anderson
KEEPING THE MESSAGE CONSISTENT – “Rewards can be offered and contests held, but people will never listen as intently as they do when they can feel the passion you have for your message.”

G.Kofi Annan
FROM AID TO OPPORTUNITY – “…in this age where mobile technology and the Internet easily connect individuals from remote corners of the world, the voices of Africans have created a new image, exposed a new market, and changed the conversations about Africa and what can be referred to as Afri-activism— strategies where a person, group, or company engages Africa through aid and charity.”

Todd Andrlik
SCORING A TOP BLOG – “While it will likely take several months before you start gaining momentum and earning top notches, there are two immediate areas — content and creativity — that deserve immediate attention to help you demonstrate leadership, build a devoted audience and eventually achieve high rankings.”

David Armano
THE RELATIONSHIP RENAISSANCE – “But are we also seeing another Renaissance unfold before our very eyes? A Renaissance built off of us discovering each other? A Renaissance composed of a human Web woven through shared knowledge, interests, creativity, and, yes, conversation?”

Steve Bannister
HOW TO BE HAPPY – “…once our basic needs are met, the following question remains: how do we attain this elusive state called happiness?”

Ryan Barrett
FACE-TO-AVATAR – “The enthusiast compulsively crafts intoxicating content while his admirer, forever connected from either the other side of the Atlantic or the espresso machine, posts a comment. However, as passion and fascination
lures more of us into the virtual world, we are losing the willpower to look up and unplug.”

Cam Beck
GETTING PAST THE CONVERSATION BOTTLENECK – “With our heads buried in the familiar, we forget to look up and notice everybody is saying the same thing. A vibrant community demands we force ourselves to stir the pot, even if it makes us uncomfortable.”

Jordon Behan
USING THE TOOLS OF THE WEB TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS ONLINE – “The copy on your website should tell a story about you, even though it’s not actually about you. It’s about your visitors, and you should speak to them accordingly.”

David Berkowitz
THE AGELESS AGE – “The more that conversations are digitized and the more accessible they are through search and discovery, the longer their shelf life. Conversations can continue years after they begin, with participants incorporating disparate forms of content that were previously unconnected.”

Susan Bird
HERE’S TO CAPITAL C CONVERSATION – “So what makes a conversation great as opposed to anything less? I believe it’s that the participants come to such a conversation with the intent to be changed by it. They come prepared to listen in a way that will reveal a perspective, an insight, a fact that eluded them until now. This is conversation with a capital C.”

Mark Blair
SPEAKING THROUGH ACTION – “Think of yourself as an anthropologist. Your goal is to understand the dynamics at work in your community. Make it a habit to look beneath the conversations to try and deduce the feelings that underpin them. What motivates these people? What are they passionate about?”

Toby Bloomberg
TECHNOLOGY IS RE-CREATING BUSINESS INTIMACIES – “Through funny little websites called blogs companies began to engage with their customers in people-to-people conversations. Those conversations occurred not with the marketing, PR, tech support “departments” but with people within those departments who shared common interests and passions. The exchange was richer, deeper and more satisfying relationships for both customer and company.”

David Brazeal
CONVERSATION AND THE CRUMBLING WALL BETWEEN JOURNALISM AND PR – “If you’re doing PR without doing journalism, you’re missing a wonderful opportunity to use creative, credible storytelling to earn the trust of the people you want to engage.”

Becky Carroll
CONVERSATIONS AND THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – “A key part of managing each conversation is to understand the customer lifecycle. We need to look at ourselves through the eyes of the customer. Do they need to buy something? Are they already a customer? Are they referring others to us? Are they considering leaving us? The conversation should change depending on the customer’s perspective and combined experiences.”

Katie Chatfield
BRANDED COMMUNITAINMENT – “The brand’s role is to host a get-together. Swing open your doors, send out the invitations, arrange the entertainment and prompt the guests to provide the conversation. Invest in your most engaged consumers.”

Tony D. Clark
BREVITY AND LEVITY – KEY SPICES IN THE CONVERSATION SOUP – “Aside from deep or emotional talks, conversations with lightness and concise sharing of ideas tend to stick with us the most. We gain the key ideas and remember the person we talked to.”

Emily Clasper
COMMUNICATING OUR WAY TO USER-CENTERED LIBRARY SERVICE – “Librarians and other service-oriented professionals must stop viewing communication with our customers as a top-down, broadcast press-release model. We need to stop talking to patrons and begin talking with them.”

Tom Clifford
“LET’S SEE THAT AGAIN!” – “Are people talking about your corporate video? Does it make them think differently? Feel a certain way? Move them to act?”

Mack Collier
BREAKING MARKETING BARRIERS FROM THE TOP OF A HARLEY – “Willie knows that he could spend thousands of dollars on marketing research and surveys that would be designed to tell him more about Harley-Davidson’s customers. Or he could simply hit the open highway with fellow Harley owners, and become a part of their community.”

Peter Corbett
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO DEEPEN BRAND ENGAGEMENT – “Ultimately, our user forward-able, mash-able, comment-able, rate-able, embed-able branded content will navigate the social media pool, and eventually deliver better informed, better engaged customers who are open to ongoing dialog.”

Chris Corrigan
ART OF CONVERSATIONS – “The web invites us to notice the power of connection and it challenges us to do something with that connection, to extend it back into real world conversation using the age old tools of making a difference — speaking from the heart and listening for understanding to propel real change and deep transformation in our world.”

Ed Cotton
SEVEN WAYS TO START A CONVERSATION WITH ADVERTISING – “Advertising as we once knew it is fast becoming a relic. The only way back is for the ad industry to grab some humility and learn the art of conversation.”

Luc Debaisieux
THE DAWN OF SHARED CONSCIOUSNESS – “Now what if one day … the “anonymous mass” would become “inter-connected individuals” with the ability to share their ideas on a worldwide scale?”

Geert Desager
BRING THE LOVE BACK – “‘“The conversation is already going on’, said Shel Israel, when asked about what brands should do within the blogosphere….”

Rishi Desai
FACILITATE BETTER LEARNING BY BREAKING THE CYCLE – “As the curator of the conversation, you are seeking to learn from the players involved. But also, you are seeking to further facilitate and massage the conversation forward with hopes to gain maximum insight.”

Pete Deutschman
REVELATION FROM A DIGITAL JUNKIE’S DIGITAL DIARY – “At the end of the day, I asked myself, as I did the teens, ‘what do you remember?’. Not surprisingly…very little with the exception of what was most creative.”

Matt Dickman
TECHNOLOGY IS THE THREAD THAT BINDS CONVERSATION – “Technology is allowing new voices in non-traditional locations to emerge and have influence. This is not publishing as usual. This is not business as usual. It’s time to redefine usual.”


See the full series:

A taste from A-D

A taste from E-J

A taste from K-R

A taste from S-Z

Pharma Web Branding, Part 4 – Novartis

A visit to Novartis.com is relatively pleasant, visually, from an initial impression point of view. Decent use of white space. Nice color palette (although I am not sure how the mocha color fits in with standard Novartis branding). Information and graphics presented in a way that is not overwhelming. This site, at least, does not chase the visitor away with visual overload.

novartis_home2.jpgThe first element that stands out is an animated rectangle which presents, via words and pictures, stories about people and/or treatments with a Novartis focus. One of these talks about their drug, and treatment program, for Malaria. Another is about LaDonna, a cancer survivor. These tangible stories about the true “deliverable” of a pharma company – changed lives through medication – are the best way to introduce the company to the public. Well done.

There is the pretty standard navigation bar (Products \ Disease & Conditions \ R&D \ About Novartis \ Investors \ Newsroom \ Career) along the top, then on the right side, some graphically pleasant boxes with key highlights (Careers, Corporate Citizenship, etc.) – a nice way to make important “destinations” easily accessible.

Beneath the animated panel, there are only four main sections – for Investors (with updated stock chart); Novartis feature (currently, an account about treating dengue fever); a place for selecting various worldwide site (drop-down navigation); and finally, Latest News, with a few hotlinks. For a major global company (which includes pharma, vaccines, consumer products, generics, and more), I’d say this is just about right – the information design shows admirable restraint in not jamming a thousand things onto the home page, but it brings forward enough up-to-date and useful information to draw the visitor in.

A click onto the U.S. site shows good consistency with the web branding and navigation scheme.

Of the pharma websites I’ve reviewed thus far, the Novartis home page is clearly the best designed of the bunch.

Ground Rounds – Boca Java

boca-java-logo.gifKnowing how much I enjoy trying different coffees, and following up on the recent BrandingWire project focusing on marketing coffee, my wife ordered a batch of Boca Java coffees for Father’s Day. They have recently begun advertising heavily in our area and I know she just wanted an excuse to order some. I didn’t protest!

She picked out 4 selections for me; thus far, I have tried two of them. Unlike Storyville (previously reviewed on this blog), which goes the simple route for mail order – Prologue (caffeinated) and Epilogue (decaf) – Boca gives you a wide variety of blends and roasts from which to choose.

I was immediately drawn to Sumatran Sunset, because it is positioned as a darker roast with a heartier flavor. In fact, I couldn’t wait – we were going away to Florida for a conference (ironically, only about an hour away from Boca Raton, where the company is located), so I packed the Sumatran with me for in-hotel-room brewing. Good move – this stuff is delicious. Definitely a tasty dark roast, and I’m guessing it’ll be my favorite.

b-java.jpgThe second flavor, just opened and brewed 1/2 hour ago, is Guatemalan Adventure. The packaging says that it is a medium roast with a nutty flavor…and that is exactly correct. Very nice – a little light for my taste – certainly a few rungs above anything store bought.

The packaging is visually attractive, and like Storyville, each packet has a “born-on date” to show freshness. Boca also has a commendable campaign going on, providing coffee donations to our troops overseas (closing in on 3 million cups).

If you’re looking for a wide variety of flavors and blends, you might want to give Boca Java a try!

Pharma Web Branding, Part 2 – GlaxoSmithKline

In my continuing series on how pharmaceutical companies engage the public with their brand on their website homepages, this week we’ll take a look at http://www.gsk.com (last week was Pfizer’s turn!)

gsk-logo.jpgGlaxo became a Top-5 pharma company through a merger strategy. SmithKline Beecham joined Glaxo Wellcome to create…well, you know the tale. Merger mouthful. Most people now find it easier to refer to the company as “Glaxo” or as “GSK” – my bias is well-known about munging together a bunch of legacy names to come up with a run-on-sentence for a name.

And, I will admit, that when the merger occurred and the new GSK logo was unveiled, I found it to be an underwhelming moment in marketing. My first impression: an orange guitar pick. And to this day, that is all I see.

Turning to the public website, in the browser title bar we see this tagline: “Improving health and quality of life.” As with so many pharma companies, absolutely bland, obvious, and non-distinguishing. That phrase could be used about bottled water, vitamins, exercise machines, and a book on therapeutic massage. Sigh.

Nonetheless, the website itself has some reasonably engaging design features. Unlike Pfizer’s, panned last week for trying to say too much, the current GSK site presents a compelling “story” front-and-center: The Menace of Malaria. The two brief blurbs, with accompanying graphics (the mosquito is very effective), draw the reader in to explore further. By focusing on ONE thing that GSK is actively working on, the site makes it easier to dig in.

Of necessity, for a major pharmaceutical company, there are many links and potential destinations, and this site does a pretty good job using smaller navigational areas to direct the users to various areas of interest. The drop-down boxes toward the bottom right are a particularly effective way to give choices without an overwhelming, in-your-face list. Since there are so many choices, it might be a good idea to use simple rollover technology to provide brief snippets of information when people mouse-over the menu items (for instance, why would I want to take the survey?)

Below the graphic shown here are some other helpful links, including recent news releases, Quick Links, up-to-the-minute stock prices, and an RSS feed for newsreaders (every company should be doing this nowadays).

Yes, the site is a bit busy, and the type quite small in many places, but for a company this size, it’s difficult to know what to leave out on the home page. GSK has done an admirable job making a large amount of information accessible without it being overwhelming.

The Silent Revolution

A brief read, sponsored by the folks at ChangeThis, on the radical ideas of Peter Drucker, and how our business environment has forever changed. I especially enjoyed the concept of filling the “white space” of the marketplace. Take a few minutes and let your mind be stretched – highly recommended!