Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fear of the new and unknown

Wow this is funny, and yet sad at the same time. Back in the day, with the beginnings of rail transportation, came what some historians have called "extraordinary paranoia". Apparently it was thought that trains would blight the crops with their smoke, terrify livestock with their noise, and that people would suffocate if traveling at more than 20 miles an hour! Some saw the railway as a threat to social order, allowing the lower classes to travel too freely, weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of community.

Sound familiar to what has been predicted with constant changes in technology, and the explosion of social media? Or how about the fear and paranoia surrounding same-sex marriage ... "weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of the family".

Fear of the new and unknown can stop innovation at best. At worst, it can cause a chasm and huge divide between adopters and dissenters. You know what I'm talking about - and have probably heard some of these refrains... "Facebook is for college kids. It won't catch on for business". "Social media opens us up to our customers' being able to post their discontent with our company for all the world to see". "We don't want to create opportunities for customers and prospects to actually interact in case our customers have a beef with us". "Allowing same-sex marriage threatens the family". Really?

Trains run every day, some upwards of 200+ miles/hour, and no one suffocates as a result. Social media has responded to customers' desire to state their truth and their positions (whether we like them or not). The post-industrial world and all its opportunity has caused lasting changes in the world of work, the role of women and the family, long before the idea of same-sex marriage.

So on this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for all the pioneers who are much smarter than I, and those willing to take great personal and professional risks to expose us to the new. Some of it may not stick. Some of it may not be judged helpful. But change and curiosity is nothing to fear.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Middle Child Syndrome

These 3 poodle girls are living proof that "middle child syndrome" exists in the canine kingdom as it does in the human. From left to right: Tailor (just 6), Olivia (8) and Isabelle (13!) are quite the family. Izzy now stands at the door to the motorhome on her potty breaks and looks at me like, "well are you going to lift me down?" while Tailor pushes her way through, and Olivia hangs in the background.

And meal times? Well, the 2 younger ones eat first, then Izzy's bowl goes down. Middle child Olivia ALWAYS finishes first, while Izzy decides if it's worth the effort, and Tailor ("One Crunch") takes her time. So Olivia goes back and forth between each, hoping for a reaction or better yet that one of them will walk away. If she could speak I swear she would say, "Can't you just let me finish it??".

Snuggle time at night? Tailor, because she's the smallest and "cute" always seems to have a place on my lap - she just makes it so. Izzy, stretched out on her back on HER couch. And so that leaves Olivia, moving from dog bed to dog bed, wandering past me and pushing her nose up under my arm craving a pet. So interesting to watch the dynamics.

So parents be aware - middle child syndrome is still alive and well, even in the canine world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SHIFT - brands that you join, not just buy

Just finished Peter Arnell's book, "SHIFT" and loved it. I had no idea until I finished it and Googled him looking for more that his agency was the one behind the changing of the Tropicana OJ packaging (referred to as a $35M mistake as consumers revolted) but it was still a great book. Great writing style, simple, pithy and compelling.

Throughout the book, and all the examples given, I was reminded about so many creatives who take the notion of "brand" only so far. For some it's about a look/feel or logo. For others it's about "raising awareness" or helping a company become known for what it does. For others it's about sales. So many in this space don't put the thinking energy into taking their brand to the next level and making it something so much more meaningful than just a marketing construct.

Arnell puts it simply - "In consumer branding, we need to not just have customers buy a product but to join a brand. We need to issue an invitation not push for a transaction."

I think he is so right. Every single one of us, including those who make our lives in the vast array of "marketing" pursuits, are customers too. And I bet most of us despise, some even hate, being treated like a transaction and part of an equation on a sales report. So as "Black Friday" looms just a few days away, the most transactional of all shopping days, I'm making it my personal charge to drink in the whole experience and see if I can find any "transactions" that invite me to join, in a sustainable way (beyond the monthly service contract!).

I'm betting there are few, if any. And yet, as a client once told me when we were launching a new destination resort and trying to tell the story, "I'll know it when I see it". For me, it's beyond just seeing, I know great brands when I feel them, and they invite me in to their community. Let's make it our professional charge to do this on every brand we touch. You in?