September 2010


Made to Stick: SUCCESSEvery Super Bowl season, I look forward to watching the big game but even more in watching the commercials.  We all remember those great TV advertisements that seem to just stick in our minds, but why? What makes an idea sticky, that’s the hundred million dollar question that every ad agencies wants to know. Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick, have the answers why some ideas survive and others die. The acronym SUCCES: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and stories.  The acronym its self is simple (of course) but lets break down each important component that makes an idea sticky.

SIMPLE

Being simple is about getting down to the core idea and finding that core idea. The authors use a great example by the Commander’s Intent (CI) that lets the extreme detailed plans of foot soldiers not to forget the basic mission assigned, do what’s necessary to complete the mission.  When we learn to prioritize our ideas to the essential core idea, it leaves a clear focus and objective to accomplish.

The short story of “Names, Names, Names” is another great example of how a newspaper has found its core belief. Their focus was on amount of local names the newspaper to increase circulation. People loved seeing the names of people they know and their own name inside the newspaper. Therefore, Dun North Carolina newspaper has pushed for local names ever since they discovered this sticky idea, becoming the leader for readership with 112 percent. SO think SIMPLE and get to the core idea.

UNEXPECTED

To get people to remember an event or idea, people need to be disrupted from their normal schema. For Example, a flight attendant making quick unexpected joke about the disco lights on the floor to exit the plane will catch everyone’s attention because it’s not a part of the normal routine. Another way to grab and hold persons’ attention is by surprise. The Buckle Up…Always commercial by the Ad council is sticky because it shows how to disrupt the normal schema about driving safety in neighborhoods. When a car comes flying into the side of the minivan AND BOOM! It highlights the idea that accidents can happen everywhere, even in your quiet neighborhood. This shocking event makes us remember to always buckle up. The commercial was successful in sending its message. UNEXPECTED, got it?

CONCRETE

Sticky ideas are concrete. I remember learning addition and subtraction math problems by using concrete images like apples. This has been the success story for Japan in why their students are more advanced in mathematics.  The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, has also caught on in using sticky ideas in their environment project to save land. Their goal was to save two million acres. WOW, that’s a lot of land, specially to most public and private businesses wanting to help conserve the rare land by donating money. So they began to split this idea in tangible and reachable goals so they didn’t overwhelm businesses. They redesign their goals into a more realistic look in saving acreage in terms called landscapes. The new objective was to save five landscapes. Eventually over time, TNC protected all two million acres of land. Landscapes were the new type of measurement that allowed TNC to be successful in accomplishing their goals.

Concrete ideas can also work in explaining complex ideas like racial discrimination to elementary school students. By breaking down abstract ideas like  racial discrimination and transforming them into concrete idea like blue-eyed brown-eyed kids activities,  children can make better sense of the information.

CREDIBLE

Today, everyone wants proof to know if products work. To make people believe in your idea, it must be credible. Two scientists, Warren and Marshall experience this first hand in their discovery that bacteria caused ulcers in the stomach. A simple action of taking antibiotics and bismuth would cure the pain but that was not enough to make the medical world believe. Being interns in training, their credible wasn’t established.

Winning the credibility of others is a fight against personal learning and social relationships that have been crafts over years of life experiences.

It takes great amount work to persuade a person with a new message. Celebrities that match our own morals are great sources of credibility, like Oprah and her book club. Once Oprah has your novel on her list, it’s a bestseller a week later. People idolize Oprah and respect her decisions. Her fans naturally think “If Oprah likes it, I must like it too.”

EMOTIONAL

Sticky ideas play on our emotions. We are human and hate to see others struggle. Most charities you see on TV focus on one personal story, usually a cute malnourished girl. We have all seen her cute face. We are more likely to make that idea stick to help out the little girl when they play on own human emotions. Again, being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem might make a person feel their contribution is meaningless. But if you tap into just one individual story, it gives hope us the idea that one person can affect other people’s lives.

The Philip Morris’ anti-smoking advertisements started the Truth campaign.

These commercials were stuck in our mind because they were emotional (and concrete). Instead of acting rebellious against The Man by smoking, Truth campaign made tobacco companies the new Man. Advertisers associated emotions that already existed and transferred them on the tobacco companies.

STORIES

Everyone likes a good story. They can either motivate us to act or provide knowledge about how to act. But the bottom line is stories make people act and can transfer messages through entertainment. Instead of using a dry email to send message about a copier error, people could tell the story of the Xerox repairman and mystery code that led two men on a wild goose chase around the office…Weird but within the story holds the message.

People want to be entertained NOT giving instructions. Stories are successful because they subtly transfer a message in an entertaining way.

Sticky ideas = S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Advertisers can have a long effective frequency of viewers by using these sticky suggestions. Ideas should have a primary focus and simple core. Get rid of all the non-essentials. Ideas should break out of own normal schemas for idea to be more memorable. Ideas should be concrete and in context that people can understand. Ideas have to be from a trusting source. Credibility is crucial in persuading people of your message. Ideas must make people care. Emotional ideas are effective because they make us feel and want to act. Finally, stories make us informed and take action while still being entertained. The message is not lost in the story but is highlighted through the interesting account.

What is your favorite sticky idea you know?

For more sticky ideas, visit heathbrothers.com

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Time is On Our SideThings are happening fast. I mean freaky fast. News stories are being broadcasted  to the internet via flip phones, protests are being organized on Twitter in minutes, and I’m watching it all happen right in front of me on the computer. AND let’s not get started with Google’s new speedy search tool Google Instant. By predicting your search and showing results before you finish typing, Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search. I guess I can’t waste time on Google anymore. Now I feel bad college kids, this will totally messed up their procrastination clock.  Kidding, this is amazing technology. A little annoying but amazing.

This new “internet time” has companies on edge. Let’s go back to Twitter, the microblogging site that allows users to send and receive 140-character-long messages services from their phones. I finally gave in to the spreading Twitter epidemic and opened an account (my only hesitation was I didn’t have a Smartphone. I know, soo 2002.). I started following Oakley, one of my favorite brands. I looked down at past entries and Oakley had responded in real-time to complaining Twitter users but more importantly, to complaining customers. Below you can see the complaints on the left and Oakley’s responds on the right.

Oakley Tweets

Speed becomes not only a competitive advantage but also a strategic necessity. The more quickly businesses can adjust to customers’ actions and desires––the more quickly they can learn from them and try to stay ahead of them–– the better business will be.

Jeff Jarvis is spot on and Oakley is the perfect example. Mobs can form in a flash and so can fans. While most companies and individuals use Twitter as an extension of their brand, some still haven’t quite nailed how to use Twitter. Ad Maverick, Josh Fleming explains the Top Ten Reasons You #Fail At Twitter. Don’t worry, I’m still working out the kinks but learning google-fast. The internet has caused us to lose control many things: brands, reviews, secrets, relationships with advertisers, price settings, and now TIME.

Pressure to respond is higher than ever. Companies feel the need to give information out to the demanding public in a seconds notice.  I see no problem with this as long as the quality of fact-checking doesn’t  decrease.  Bogus speedy responses like BP’s junk shot technique to clog the oil leak with a golf ball, rubber particles, and hair… then I think Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House energy committee investigating the oil spill, said it perfectly to CBS’s Meet the Press interview,

I have no confidence whatsoever in BP. I think that they do not know what they are doing. They started off talking about golf balls going in as a junk shot. People thought they would be dependent on MIT or Cal Tech instead of the PGA and golf balls…

Key word in Rep. Ed Markey quote, no confidence. I hope we all just breathe, think and then respond. Even if the clock is ticking.

Truth in Transparency We have been given power to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.  Are you using it wisely? The phrase “truth will out” can be dated back to John Milton’s Aeropagitica written in 1644.  He wrote,

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.

In other words, information should be available to all, both that are true and false. When you have a marketplace of ideas then the truth will survive. The truth will surface. Information has become democratized. There have been several instances where companies have not told the truth.  We can forgive those who don’t know but what about the companies that do know they are lying? Companies like BP that underestimated the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf. In a New York Times article, BP downplayed the catastrophic results to a measly 5,000 barrels a day, which turned out to be four to five times that amount…Opps. The press conference and immediate press release follow these events. It’s not the mistake that matters but what you do about it. For some it’s a little too late. They have been “Black Listed”.

The Least Transparent Companies:

The Most Transparent Companies:

This isn’t a corporate Red Scare but recognizing those who use transparency. We should give thanks to those companies that allow the public to know their business practices, business decisions, and factors that go into making those business decisions. Let us remember, “truth is both arms and armor”.  Transparency can increase brand identity and create brand personality. It can even increase return of shareholder value.

Growing up in this post-media generation, we expect honesty and directness. And we respect those who speak with truth and bluntness. Companies can’t spin their way out of trouble, especially not today with the Google monster growing stronger and stronger. It will eventually get you and when it does, POOF. There goes years of trust and brand loyalty. There is a barcode for each story stored in today’s digital library, the internet. That barcode is a link. A permalink, permanently available for all of us to see. Truth is just one Google search away.

Jeff Jarvis wrote in What Would Google Do?,

“Companies shouldn’t be democracies. But neither should they be dictatorships. They should be ––but too rarely are ––meritocracies. Your challenge is to get good ideas to surface and survive from within and without and to enable customers and employees to improve your ideas and products.

Transparency is cool. Transparency is smart.  What is your favorite transparent company?

Negative comments Brings Bad PR and ImageBlogging. There are many advantages from blogging for people, organizations, politicians, and of course businesses. Just reading a blog is beneficial. We are all critics now. The blogosphere is at sea level. No credentials or certifications here. Granted, your average Joe neighbor blogging has its advantages and disadvantages too. However, the importance behind blogging is that every voice is heard. From the CEOs of the powerful Fortune 500 companies to the stay-at-home mom (or dad) talking about issues that others want to hear.

Strategic research analysts worship this feedback. Each forum is a focus group. Each Facebook Fan Page is a corporate message board. Every sentence typed can be represented in dollar signs. It’s raw and uncensored information for people and businesses, but only if they want to listen (See my post Gut Feelings Vs. Wikinomics Mashup: The New Traditional ways of Business on how companies can harness these Intellectual Properties for a competitive edge).

But it’s even more beneficial when we participate in the conversation.   For example, let’s take a look at my mother’s recent PR fiasco. But before we do I need to fill you  in on some background information.

My mother and step dad, Dan decided to restore Santillane, an old Greek revival historic house. With plans in turning it into a special events venue and a bed and breakfast, we had a lot of work to do.

After five years, the restoration was complete. The project was a bear to say the least.

Since then, my mother runs a successful business, booking almost every weekend with an event. Before the Santillane business, my mother worked for the local public school system in Roanoke, Virginia as Director of Public Relations and Community Relations.  Jumping back into PR work for her new business different. Retirement must have stunted her growth with new technology, the new relationship, and social media basics.

Sorry mom if your reading, but you know it’s true.

Old ways of communications were gone but thank goodness that she had a son majoring corporate communications (I think that is what she would say). With a new website, Facebook Fan Page, and becoming a part of B&B networks, I thought I set her pretty well…until I GOOGLED her business.

There it was, a negative comment and review of her business. Not too high in the PageRank search results but still on the first page:

Rotten Google Juice

OH shoot. I immediately called my mom and email her the link. I checked the Santillane Fan Page to find another bad review. Is it the same person, I don’t know? But what I do know is what Jeff Jarvis said…

Your customers are your ad agency.

This might be one occurrence or maybe the overall attitude of Santillane. Let’s not take any risks because if one customer took their time to write an review Santillane in a bad light, then think of all the others that didn’t want to waste their time that might feel the same way.  On the flip side, think about the satisfied customers that probably didn’t write a review with the  “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. Either way, let’s start listening to become a better business.  Here are three things I try to keep in mind when dealing with negative comments:

  1. Knowing your mistakes and flaws will make our company stronger, only if you act upon them. Let your public know you are working hard to improve troubling areas.
  2. Not responding can possibly lead to more irritation to your publics. Each situation is unique.
  3. Remember, a negative comment is still feedback so don’t get caught up in the moment and respond irrationally. Kill them with kindness; catch more bees with honey than vinegar (but not over the top).

Solving Santillane’s Image and Reputation Problem

  • Let your customers do the talking. Direct past and future customers to review sites to rate your venue and services. Astroturfing isn’t the way to fix a bad online reputation.
  • Create a survey after an event has past.  Attached PDF with radio button forms are great way to get feedback and are user-friendly.
  • Show them change. It’s one thing to listen but it’s another to act AND don’t  just talk about changing. Show them change because that’s ultimately what they want to see.
  • Monitor your connecting networks with a better eye. Google your self as if you were searching for your business. What’s being said and are you a part of the conversation?

Google JuiceUmmm Ummm..gggGoogle Juice. Not to be mixed up with Beetle Juice. Google Juice is another word for your PageRank from search engines, the biggest one being Google. If you blog or have your own site then you might already have heard of this Search Engine Optimization (SEO) term. SEO is basically getting your site in web users search results. This usually mean more traffic to your site. But let’s break down this system at its most fundamental part…the link. What a beautiful thing….no seriously.

Meg Hourihan said it best in Jeff Jarvis’s book What Would Google Do?,  “What we say isn’t as important as the system that enables us to say it.” I stopped for a moment to think about the importance of linking. Bloggers and journalist can link related in-depth stories, giving readers the choice to click for additional information or skip it. It’s can be used as a educational source or to increase creditability and connectivity. Now I guess we all owe a great deal of thanks to Google, creating an amazing infrastructure to organize all theses websites and links.  Jeff Jarvis hit the nail of the head when he wrote,

“In retail, media, education, government, and health–everything–the link drives specialization, quality and collaboration, and it changes old roles and creates new ones. The link changes the fundamental architecture of societies and industries the way steel girders and rails changed how cities and nations were built and how they operated. Google makes links work. Google is the U.S. Steel of our age.”

Thanks Google but a basic thanks will do. I can be only so thankful when according to last July Wall Street Journal article Google’s revenue rose to $6.82 billion from $5.52 billion in the same quarter last year and have an estimated $30.1 billion in cash. That’s with a B and well deserved. For a basic understanding of how Google’s linking system works, watch Matt Cutts and he’ll explain it in just a couple minutes. Listen.

So the more links and clicks you get, the higher you rise in Google’s search results, which ultimately gives you a chance for more clicks in the future. To get all juiced up you should know these 5 simple tips about SEO.

  1. Check and monitior your search standings. Use online analytic tools to see your stats. It’s great way to know what people are clicking on and how they got there.
  2. THINK KEYWORDS! No tricky wording. Cleverness can hurt your search results. Be clear when creating tags and titles.
  3. Sharing should be easy. Use other social media outlets to your advantage to let other viewers share your information to friends.
  4. Simple design works.  Search engines can’t read information in fancy technology like flash. Plus, it’s a little distracting.
  5. Update and keep it fresh. More content, the better. A great way is have update content is to incorporate a tweeter feed and blog within your site.

For more useful SEO tips, check out Richard Burckhardt’s 55 Quick SEO Tips Even Your Mother Would Love.

Google Juice is great until is goes sour. In my next post, I’ll share my personal experience when my juice becomes “rotten”.  Until then, pour yourself a glass and watch your sites hits keep rolling in!

Problem solving and making decisions in the workforce has never been easier.  With the rise of collaboration tools and technology, sharing ideas and experience with each other can happen in a blink, or better yet a click.  Businesses are hopping on the new wave of peering, sharing and going with their gut feelings; resulting in making successful business decisions.

Assessing risk in a business traditionally starts with crunching numbers. But maybe the Pro’s and Con’s list has become obsolete.  Today, businesses can share their past experiences with each other, giving years of knowledge to learn from one another. With the new “Net Gen”  or Milennals arriving into the workforce, businesses are adapting to alternative ways on viewing the Internet. To the “Net Gen” the Internet is seen as a one big network. Making decisions on a collection of successes and  failures from the past allows your businesses to choose the appropriate proven decision.

DUH. Don’t we all make sure we don’t let history repeat itself? Not all.

We can think of the internet as a library. Reading these digital libraries of intellectual property, businesses will develop intuition about what works, but also harness the knowledge that drives economic and technological progress. When the situation arrives, your business will have that knowledge of successful decisions of the similar situation. Your gut feelings will guide you to a proven route of action.

The man who introduced this concept of Gut Feelings is Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer.  Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Dr. Gigerenzer claims that intuition often works far better than reason to solve problems and make decisions. Here is an article for a better understanding of Dr. Gerd Gignerenzer, author of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious.

These non-traditional business practices have allowed the public to become a part of the innovation process. By letting go of control, consumers will view your product as a platform for improvements.  By allowing publics to become involved means pure growth and innovation to your corporation. The perfect example, Dell’s IdeaStorm. A genius platform where avid users can promote and demote ideas to help improve Dell  products. The more votes, the more attention Dell gives to the idea.  Today, Dell has implemented  420 ideas. Better product = better business.

Too bad I’m a Mac daddy.

Today, businesses are able to make these gut feeling decisions on the growing number of “ideagoras”. Harnessing these external talents saves money for business.  This idea is expressed in Wikinomics when Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams write, “You’ll give us your ideas for free, but we’ll choose the best of them ¾ and keep all of the rewards and IP.”

By becoming a peer of your own company and listening to your customers, your business will receive the “most loyal and engaged customers” ideas for free.  KA-CHING!

Isn’t that what all companies strive for? WEll..YEAH but why aren’t they doing it?

The quick evolution of technology has changed businesses and how they are making decisions.  An new type of customer has emerged. They are a mix of consumers and producers and what Wikinomics call prosumers. Tapscott and Williams write,

In other words, customers do more than customize or personalize their wares; they can self-organize to create their own. The most advanced users, in fact, no longer wait for an innovation. They just form their own prosumer communities online, where they share product-related information, collaborate on customized projects, engage in commerce, and swap tips, tools and product hacks.

By harnessing a prosumer community, making business decisions on proven situations, and losing control to truly become a peer within your industry all leads to innovation and competitive advantage. At least, that’s my gut feeling.