Passion Blurs Personal vs. Professional

I gave a talk the other day at Northwestern University, and during the Q & A, someone asked me how one separates their personal life from their professional life, after I had suggested that they allow their business contacts to connect with them on Facebook. In response to the question of separation, I proceeded to say that it is difficult, and that personal and professional have become one in the same. I suggested that in today's connected world, where we are always in touch with one another, on multiple platforms with a plethora of devices, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to disconnect from one life, and connect with another.

LegoThere were many people who disagreed with this statement. When I subsequently mentioned it to friends over the weekend, they too said that I was wrong. They informed me that when Friday rolls around, their business life stops, and doesn't start again until Monday. They further suggested that the fact that I don't separate my professional life from my business life was my failing, and that I should structure my life better.

Well, to paraphrase Ed Harris' line in the movie Apollo 13 (one of my favorites):

"With all due respect, what you see as my biggest failing is actually what I see as my greatest success".

You see, in my opinion, all of the people who like to point out that all I do is work, and that I have no separation between my personal and professional life don't understand how I arrived to this point. I absolutely love what I do, and for me, there is little difference between work and play, because when I work, I love what I'm learning, love what I'm achieving, love what I'm accomplishing, love the challenge that work brings. My professional life allows me to do what others only dream about, and who wouldn't want to live in a world where dreams come true.

What's my point? Simply this.

If you find work for which you have passion, for which you enjoy immensely, for which you describe with love, it no longer is really work. It is simply a great life. And you would never want to separate yourself from a great life.

I'm fortunate. I formed a life in which I can pursue my passion, and the idea of separating personal from professional seems counter-intuitive. I can only suggest that you seek to do the same for yourself, find work which allows you to pursue your passion. We are all capable, it is simply a matter of wanting it badly enough. No matter what it is you do for a living.

Tell me if you think I'm unrealistic.

When Brand Extensions Make Little Sense

What is wrong with Donald Trump? Why would he lend his name to an MLM company selling vitamins?

Is it simply ego?

Is it simply greed?

Is it simply that he doesn't understand brand dilution?

I know he's successful. I know he's wealthy. I know he creates some great press. I know that the Trump "brand" is extremely well known.

But isn't this a brand extension that simply shouldn't happen? Like Trump steaks. Like Trump Ice. Like Trump, The Game. Doesn't he understand that all of these various products devalue his overall brand?

I'm embarrassed for him. And I don't know about you, but I'm tired of hearing about the Trump Network pre-launch opportunity. Just launch the company already, so it can fail within a few years, so we can read about all of the people who have lost money due to the enrollment fees that they paid, so we can read about the executives who defend their pre-failure actions, and ultimately read why Trump says that he is the real victim because he never realized what his "partners" were doing, and they have damaged his reputation, and his name.

Anyone want to take bets when this brand extension bites the dust? This has nightmare written all over it.

In Marketing, We Trust

In recognition of Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, today's blog is brought to you by the word,

TRUST

It is an interesting word, because it can be used in so many ways...

Trust me

I bank at the Northern Trust

My grandparents were wealthy and they left me an inheritance in a Trust

She is a very trustworthy person

But no matter how it is used, whether it is as a noun, verb or adjective, it never loses its meaning. When you think of trust you think of honesty, competency, genuineness, security, relief, worry-free, and the list continues.

Trust is what we all strive for in marketing, isn't it? When we advertise our product, aren't we Images in essence saying "Trust me when I share with you the following information"? When we choose the packaging for our product or service, whether it is a box for a new cookie snack or the outside cover for a PowerPoint presentation, we strive to have our package say "Trust Me", you will love what's inside. When we are looking for a job, or trying to make a sale, and we are marketing our personal brand, aren't we ultimately just asking the employer or prospective customer to trust that we can do the job?

I often say that marketing is about telling a great story. I still believe that to be the case. But I think I need to revise it to say that marketing is about telling a great story, and it needs to be a story that people trust is true.

Yesterday's Blog Post

Yesterday was an interesting day, and I wanted to share with you why there wasn't a blog post. My 82 year old mother fell and broke her hip while shopping in a grocery store on Tuesday. So yesterday was spent flying back to Chicago from Nashville where I had been speaking, rushing to the hospital, anticipating the surgery that was going to take place yesterday afternoon, only to see it get canceled due to some slight complications. My mother is doing as well as can be expected, and hopefully we will see the surgery take place today. Crazy day!

As you can imagine, one doctor after another came into my mother's room. The nurses, who are great, also spent a considerable amount of time with my Mom, making her comfortable, and answering her questions.

But no matter what they told her was happening, and why certain things were being done, she never felt 100% comfortable with their explanations. She kept asking for her doctor, and due to the fact that he was busy, it was hours before he was able to make it to her room.

Finally, at 4:00 a.m. this morning, her doctor made his rounds at the hospital, and filled my Mom in on everything that is happening. Which when she shared with me, I mentioned to her that it was no different than what she was told yesterday by all of the other medical professionals. I pointed out to her that yesterday, she questioned what she was hearing, but today, she was calm and accepting of the information.

And, as only an 82 year old mother can say to her son in a tone that was perfected by her 30+ years as a school teacher, "Joel, I know it is the same information. But I wanted to hear it from MY doctor. He is the only one I trust."

Interesting how TRUST makes all the difference in the world.


A Little Bit of Privacy, Sponsored by 3M

Sometimes marketing is simply telling a story, and doing so in a novel manner that will be remembered.

I am in Nashville today, meeting with students from multiple marketing and business classes at Middle Tennessee State University. Possibly tomorrow I'll share with you how this all came about. But today, I want to relate a quick story about something that I came across at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, prior to my departure.

CIMG6542Walking through Terminal #2 at O'Hare, I happened across a large kiosk named the Airport Privacy Haven. It looked as if it was a permanent structure, but interestingly enough, I flew out of the same terminal the previous week, and this structure wasn't there at that time.

If you know me at all, you know that I can't just walk by something like this without asking questions. 

It ends up that it was put there by 3M, to create a conversation about their 3M Privacy Filters, a filter that sits on your computer screen to inhibit others from seeing what you are typing. Great for people who fly and like to work on their laptops, and are concerned about the person sitting in the seat next to them who chose to bring nothing to read for the 8-hour flight to London, and the only thing they seem to be reading is the PowerPoint presentation on which you are working diligently to complete.

Jerry, the person manning the kiosk, invited me in to sit in one of the five EXTREMELY comfortable chairs, all with power outlets and small desks, and invited me to stay as long as I liked. When asked how long the kiosk structure was going to be in place, he informed me that it was there for a month, and then they were moving on. They are also doing this in other airports as well, he said.

Here is the interesting thing. There were no brochures about the privacy filters at the kiosk, Jerry had no sales pitch, there was no web address at the chair inviting me to log on for more information, no hard sell. Nothing to sell me on their product. Just a "haven" to have a little privacy.

My traveling companion assumed I was going to write a negative blog due to the fact that 3M was missing the opportunity to share more information with the consumer. But I think they are smart, and they simply want people to be aware of the product, and to talk about it, if the opportunity exists. And they have the money to do this.

Is that a smart approach? Well, it worked on me; I blogged about it. What do you think, too soft of a sell, or a great strategic approach to selling "privacy"?

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Terminated Due to Lack of Appreciation

In the following post, the company names have been removed to protect the innocent. But I shouldn't have, because the fact is, the company in this example is not innocent, just sorely misguided.

I have a minority ownership in another company, and my name remains on some of the contracts, and therefore I am listed as the point of contact. On Friday, I received the following email from a company with whom I have had a business relationship since 1990, which is, count 'em, 19 years.

Here is the email, in its entirety, with the confidential information removed, indicated by the brackets:

Dear Mr. Warady:

 

I am writing to bring to your attention that the pricing agreement dated January 7, 2008 for the [Product Name] will expire on December 31, 2009.  With that in mind, this letter also serves as a 60-day notice of the price increase that we will implement on January 1, 2010. Your new price for the [Product Name] will be $xx.xx per [quantity].  While we are happy to continue to extend Net-30 terms, all other terms and conditions of the agreement dated January 7, 2008 will lapse upon expiration of the agreement.  

 

As you are aware, we are committed to two more shipments in 2009 (November and December) under your old price of $xx.xx per [quantity]. If you will kindly confirm these remaining purchase orders, we will process and ship accordingly.  

 

Thank you,

 

Bradley


ImagesThat is the entire email. After 19 years of doing business, obviously they still want to do business with me because they are letting me know of a price increase. But nowhere in the email is there a thank-you for my 19 years of business. Nowhere is there an apology that they have to raise prices, again! Nowhere is there an explanation as to why they need to raise prices. Nothing! Just a matter of fact email, that sounds as if it was written by a machine. Or worse, from my attorney. Not even an offer to discuss it further. For that matter, they didn't have the decency to call; they simply sent an email


Then companies wonder why they lose customers. Guess what. This company just lost me. I'm moving on, after 19 years of loyalty. As far as I'm concerned, they are fired! There are other companies that sell a similar product to this one, and I'm going to make the switch. Simply because they did not indicate to me that they appreciated my business. How can companies be so misguided in their approach to business? How hard is it to say, Thank-you.


What do you think? Am I overreacting? Let me know.

Coke's Pursuit of Happiness

It was recently announced that Coca-Cola is embarking on the Expedition 206 campaign. In this Images-1 pretty impressive initiative, the company is going to select a few Coke sponsored "Happiness Ambassadors" who will travel throughout the world, visiting the 206 countries in which Coca Cola products are sold. These ambassadors are looking to find examples of happiness in each country, and will communicate their findings through various social media platforms.

Which reminds me of the fact that there are not a whole lot of new ideas, just old ideas newly packaged. 

Here is one of the most famous Coke commercials ever. This aired on televison in 1971, as the war in Vietnam was raging. At the time, the world was seeking some happiness, some peace. Coke took it upon themselves to be Ambassadors of Happiness even then. The result was a commercial that was exteremly well received by the American public.

An idea that worked in 1971, still looks like it might be a good idea 31 years later. Good ideas seldom die, they simply get repackaged. 

Enjoy the video.

Ideas are Like Goldfish

Today I'd like to discuss a concept, the basis of which I'm "borrowing" from a company with whom I've done some work. I'm going to hold off naming the company, because I don't have their permission. To be fair, I have expanded the concept to be a bit more of my own, but I admit that the genesis of the idea was started elsewhere.

I suggest that we treat ideas the same way in which we treat goldfish.

ImagesWhen we first bring home a bag of goldfish, they all look the same, they all seem healthy, we put them in a bowl together, and while we might like one over another, we really play no favorites. They are just goldfish.

The same is true of our ideas. When we first have an idea, it seems like a great one, right? And if we have a bunch of ideas, they all seem fantastic. We might like some more than others, but at the start, they are all ideas swimming around in our head.

Even after feeding the goldfish on a daily basis, when a few days pass, some of the goldfish seem to be livelier than others. They swim faster, dart back and forth, seem more exciting. The other goldfish start to seem lethargic.

The same is true of our ideas. Some of the ideas, after a few days of nurturing and feeding, seem like they are going to jump right out of our head, onto the whiteboard, and take off. And other ideas that seemed so vibrant just a few days ago, now seem a bit tired, a bit stale.

Finally, you wake up one morning, you look into your fishbowl, and a couple of the goldfish are swimming upside down. DEAD! No matter how much you fed them, talked to them, tapped on the glass, they still died. They are lifeless. And what do you do? You don't hang on to them; you simply flush them down the toilet. You can always buy more goldfish.

This holds true for our ideas as well. Some ideas, no matter how great they seemed when they started out in our minds, simply float upside down, lifeless. Ideas die; it is a fact of life we have to accept. We shouldn't hang on to ideas that have no life. We can't get emotionally attached to ideas that have passed, simply because they were our ideas.

We simply need to flush the lifeless ideas down the toilet. 

Like goldfish, there are always going to be new ideas. Keep the fish food handy. Feed the ideas.

Egg Beater Penalty

Yesterday morning I stopped at a local restaurant for a quick breakfast. My order was simple. I requested scrambled eggs with mushrooms, made with Egg Beaters, and a cup of coffee.

I did not take the 2 pieces of toast that normally come with the eggs.

I did not take the hash brown potatoes that normally come with the eggs.

No toast, so I did not use any of the butter on the table.

No toast, so I did not use any of the jelly on the table.

No hash browns, so I did not use the ketchup that was on the table.

I drink my coffee black, so I used no sugar, and no cream.

Images-1I received the check, and noticed that I was charged $1.00 extra because I had requested Egg Beaters instead of eggs. I saved the restaurant money on the 2 pieces of bread, the hash browns, the butter, the jelly, the ketchup, the sugar and the cream. But they are going to charge me $1.00 for the Egg Beaters.

Imagine, they have made me angry enough to consider never again returning to their establishment, and all this for an extra $1.00 in the cash register. My issue isn't with the dollar, but with the mindset behind it. Can someone explain how this makes any sense? How does this build loyalty with a customer? Why do businesses have such a difficult time understand what customers want, and expect?

Are you charging any of your customers an "Egg Beater surcharge"? If yes, think about not keeping the surcharge, but instead keeping the customer.

What's Love Got to do With it?

What does it take to be successful in business?

In 2008, there were 122,700 new products launched in the US, and only 3.2% of these products Images reached $1 million in revenues within their first year.

In 2009, over 8500 retail stores have closed in the US, and some analysts feel that we might hit 10,000 before the year is out.

So what is it? What do companies need to do to be successful? How do the companies and the brands that thrive differ from those that simply survive?

They have passion

They have clear vision.

They are customer centric.

They respect their employees, and their suppliers.

They create LOVE, both for their products & for their company.

And most importantly, they look for ways to connect (really connect) with all of the people with whom they come in contact. They entertain, they delight, they share, they tell stories; in short they create an emotional bond with the product and the company, and they do this every minute, of every day, 365 days per year.

Think about this as you execute your strategies. Are you sharing the LOVE?

Here is a great example of "surprising and delighting" customers; this occurred at a supermarket in Queens, NY (first shared with me by one of our team members, Kasey Klippstein (@kaseyklip). As you watch the video, keep an eye on the faces of the customers, and watch their emotions. How many customers do you think went home thinking that they "love that store"? Then think about how this might work for your company.

Charmin Wants to Know How We Go

In this world of Web 2.5 marketing, companies are using social media as a way of connecting with their customers, while at the same time creating a transparent dialog between the brand and its users.

But don't you think Procter & Gamble and their Charmin brand might be going just a little bit too far?

For the past few years during the holiday season, Charmin has created a pop-up store in Time Square where they have installed public bathrooms for shoppers to use, and of course these bathrooms are stocked with different varieties of Charmin products.

IStock_000004561591SmallThis year, at Charmin's site Enjoythego.com, Charmin has a Help Wanted ad looking for "5 bloggers who enjoy going to the bathroom". Seriously. They further point our that these bloggers will be responsible for greeting guests, entertaining them (again, seriously), and then blogging about the experience. For those lucky few who are chosen, they will be paid $10,000 for 6 weeks work. I kid you not.

I can see why the bloggers will do it. To make $10,000 to stand in a bathroom for 6 weeks, not a bad gig. But the whole purpose of this Charmin bathroom concept is to connect with consumers, and raise the awareness of the Charmin brand. Will having bloggers on hand really accomplish this? I see the consumer experience happening something like this:

Shopper: Hi! Is there a stall open, I really have to go.

Charmin Ambassador: Welcome! We are so happy you are here. My name is Chad, and I'm here to greet you. What level of softness would you like to try.

S: Chad, it doesn't matter, man. I really have to go, and I mean like now.

CA: Okay, but before I get you a stall, I'm also here to entertain you. Did you hear the one about the rabbi, the priest, and the buddhist monk who all walked into a men's room together?

S: Dude, are you out of your mind? I just ate at one of the gyros carts on West 57th, and it is not sitting well with me. If I don't go now, I'm going to explode. Literally! Help me out, Chad.

CA: Okay, follow me. And I'll wait by the door so I can ask you a few questions when you are done.

S: Whatever...

(11 minutes later, shopper exits stall)

CA: Wow, you must have really "Enjoyed the Go". Can you tell me about it?

S: What the heck are you talking about. I had to go really bad, and I went. What else do you want to know, and why are you asking?

CA: Well, I am being paid $10,000 by Procter & Gamble to write about your "going" experience, so can you tell me, while you were in there for 11 minutes, did you  a) read a book,  b) read stuff on your iPhone,  c) read nothing and just think or  d) pass out on the floor?

S: You're strange Chad. Leave me alone. Next time I'll just duck into a Sbarro and use their bathroom. It's dirtier, but no one will hang outside the door asking me dumb questions. AND DON'T WRITE ABOUT MY GO!

I don't know about you, but I think this is a really bad experiential marketing idea. I'm not sure what the bloggers are going to write about that will make us want to purchase more Charmin. And how much do we want to be entertained when we simply have to go to the bathroom?

But here is the really fun news. It just so happens, I am going to be in New York during this period, and I think I might just test the concept to see how it works. But before I do, I'm thinking of a great big meal of Indian food with a lot of asparagus. That will give the bloggers something to write about, and help them really earn their $10,000.

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