The other day someone asked my brilliant friend John DeMarchi what he thought would happen in the NFL scandal.
“Which NFL scandal?” DeMarchi asked, “the bullying scandal, the suicide scandal, the racial slur team name scandal, the concussion conundrum scandal or the guy who shot his girlfriend in the stadium parking lot scandal?”
Seems like the NFL has their hands full with bad press lately.
Like Captain Renault who was “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” behind Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, none of us should be very surprised to find there is violent and anti-social behavior in professional football, nor that it’s been condoned from the top.
What is a bit more surprising is the belief that because it’s on top today, football will always be America’s king-of-the-hill sport.
My prediction? If you invest in the stock market of public opinion it’s time to short your NFL shares.
Sure television licensing revenues and Vegas gambling money will continue to support football for a long time. And so will the Midwest college and high school teams who play in communities where football is religion. But once the current fans start dying off and new fans don’t come along to replace them, the sport’s going to be in deep doggie doo.
Today’s rabid fans are the same guys who grew up playing football. But with more and more concussion-fearing parents forbidding their sons to play and enrolling them in soccer instead, that audience is not going to replace itself. And with the changing demographics in this country favoring populations who’ve brought their love of soccer with them from Latin America and Europe, that sport will only become more and more popular.
This is not to suggest that football will go away completely, just like the invention of television didn’t signal the absolute death of radio broadcasts. Instead, the two media learned to coexist and share a market that did not double in size to accommodate the second media vehicle. Football will just have to make room on its benches for other sports.
So what’s the game to do? The first thing is to accept that the world has changed and football needs to change as well. Just because the current owners, who were raised on a steady diet of college and pro sports, were willing to feed their outsized egos and buy billion dollar sports franchises doesn’t mean that our future billionaires – who will not be raised on the sport – will see the benefit of doing the same.
It’s not just football; obsolescence can be found in other businesses that prevailed for one specific reason once that reason is no longer around. Like the once successful motel strategically placed right alongside the busy road that was replaced by the new interstate, businesses that exist not because of their customers but because of an external factor out of their control have a tough road ahead of them. Trade tariffs, protective regulations, and subsidies often take the place of innovation, brand value, and marketing to keep these once ascendant businesses in the black.
But even government intervention is not enough for the ones that just become footnotes in the graveyard of once powerful names – Kodak, MySpace, Oldsmobile, Palm Pilot, and very soon – Blackberry.
Of course, companies don’t have to go belly up just because someone moved their cheese. IBM completely eliminated computer production from their business and built an even bigger operation around consulting and logistics. FedEx kept their overnight delivery business but also moved into ground freight and trucking for the products that don’t have to “absolutely positively” be there overnight. Target and Wal-Mart added grocery stores. Apple opened retail stores.
Successful brands, too, evolve what they stand for to respond to changing times and situations. Miami went from being God’s waiting room to the resort of choice for the hip and happening. “Made in China” went from being stamped on cheap crap to world-class products. Democrats and Republicans alike now love Bill Clinton.
Whether or not the NFL can rise to the occasion and rehabilitate their slipping perception remains to be seen. But right now, while all eyes are on them, is the perfect time to try.
Here’s my FOX Business interview where we discussed this issue (right after the Lululemon story):
It happened again! You blinked and the world changed. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t notice (it was hidden in plain sight). But whether you saw it or not, all of a sudden the planets realigned, the tectonic plates slipped, the paradigm shifted.
While you were dealing with your day-to-day affairs, function and competency took to a back seat to design. It’s John Lennon’s prediction coming true: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Back in the dark ages of analog production, we bought stuff because it worked better than other stuff. The Sears Craftsman tools in your shed were unbreakable and warrantied for life—in case it ever turned out that they weren’t. The Mercedes diesel in your garage would run for 300,000 miles without a hiccup. The Timex on your wrist would “take a licking and go on ticking.” Those products were successful because they were anomalies. Back then, most stuff just plain didn’t work. These things did.
Remember your old television? It broke all the time. Tubes would blow, dials would strip, and those funky remote control buttons would stop controlling remotely. But today, TVs simply don’t break. I’d be willing to bet that your giant flat-panel TV works just as well today as the day you mounted it on the wall.
Remember when cars used to leave you stranded? Back then it made sense to spend the extra money for a Volvo or Mercedes because they were so much more reliable than less expensive cars. But today, an inexpensive Kia or Hyundai will provide you just as much hassle-free driving as the most expensive BMW or Bentley. Maybe more.
Today people just expect the things they buy to work. And so function and competency are taken for granted. Instead of worrying about how well things work, consumers now buy things for how they look and feel, and more importantly, how the products make them look and feel.
Design, the former handmaiden to production, has become the differentiating asset consumers look for. To completely mix my metaphors, the king and queen of the prom have been upstaged by the AV guy with tape on his glasses.
Good design used to be something that was hard to acquire — it took a lot of time, money, and discerning taste — not to mention an unwillingness to accept the ordinary. Back in the day, being well dressed or having a beautifully designed home or office was a mark of distinction that was simply ‘out of reach’ for most people.
But today good design is available everywhere you look. Crate and Barrel, Target, and West Elm peddle it in every mall in America. Apple promises that the ubiquitous phone you carry in the pocket of your (designer) jeans or the computer sitting on your desktop is the most highly evolved industrial design you can own. Even products as prosaic as Nest thermostats, Plumen light bulbs, and Dyson fans have been designed to within an inch of their lives.
What hasn’t kept up with the blinding pace of design growth is the ability of salespeople to use aesthetics to meet their quotas. Believing that most consumers are still buying products based on what those products do, most salespeople are still busy demonstrating features and explaining capabilities instead of promoting what people are buying. Today an in-depth understanding of the modern consumers’ purchase motivations is what the best salespeople are using to push their products and services. Instead of inventorying capabilities, the savvy salesperson understands that their job has changed the best of them into editors and curators – constantly reappraising the aesthetic and lifestyle advantages of the products they sell and demonstrating these benefits to their customers.
After all, that’s what their customers are buying, even though they think they’re buying old-fashioned functionality.
When I started this blog I promised to be transparent and share my experience with you. My goal has always been to build an active online community to foster relationships and foment opportunities, but to also share the journey with you so you can benefit from my successes and avoid repeating my mistakes.
What are the metrics? TurkelTalks has been active since 2007 and has published more than 630 posts. As of last week, 20,167 of you have signed up to receive the posts and thousands more of you read the blog online and repost it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
What has TurkelTalks accomplished? This blog has been the most successful new business tool we’ve ever employed, bar none. True, it didn’t happen overnight but now that we’ve established critical mass, the blog has become a treasure trove of invitations and opportunities – the digital goose that continues to lay the golden egg. In fact, it was this blog, read by a senior producer at FOX Business that facilitated my first invitation to be on the network – an opportunity that has resulted in more than a year’s worth of weekly appearances (over 65 at last count).
And it’s not just me and my blog that have flourished. Since starting this experiment in social media I’ve counseled at least four other people on their blogs and three of them have also reaped great benefits (the fourth simply doesn’t post often or interestingly enough to move the meter).
Because I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what I do and how I do it, I thought it would be productive to answer some of those queries here. Of course, if you have other questions you can fill out the “comments” link at the bottom of this blog and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
What Software Do You Use? I write the posts in Word and then upload them to the ‘net in WordPress. I use Listrak to manage my readership database and distribute the emails directly to you.
How Do You Come Up With Ideas? I run. Seriously, I spend most of the 25 or so miles I run each week thinking of blog post ideas. Sometimes I write the text in my head while I’m running even though by the time I get in front of a word processor I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten the best parts.
But there are two ways I can avoid forgetting the good parts. One is to respect the muse enough to sit and write a post whenever the inspiration hits me. To that end I’ve written posts on airplanes, in waiting rooms, and even popped out of bed at three in the morning to capture my ideas. I’ve learned that great ideas are very fragile spirits and if I don’t grab them when they show their sparkly little faces they may never come back. When I’m out running I just repeat my prose over and over again until I get to my car where I can record the ideas on my iPad or my phone.
The second way is to always write down partially formed ideas regardless of how good they seem at the time. Right now my Evernote blog file has 12 nascent ideas that might become great posts. Evernote is an incredibly powerful cross-platform app that allows me to record and organize my thoughts on my desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet wherever I am. If you’re interested, check out the videos on TheSecretWeapon.org for a foolproof way to organize yourself on Evernote.
How Do You Get People To Read Your Posts? Each week I strive for three outcomes from my posts: I want them to be enjoyable, useful, and valuable. I figure if they’re fun and interesting to read and provide you with something you can use, you’ll read them and also pass them on to your families, friends, and online audiences.
Because I enjoy writing the posts I try to make them as engaging as possible. And since I believe the most important part of writing is editing, I try to write them with enough lead time to read them over and over and over – and craft them a little tighter on each pass. I’m even editing this post while I’m uploading it into WordPress.
But the most important thing to generate readership (after my relationship with you) is the title. And so I often spend as much time writing the five or seven words of the heading as I do writing the entire post.
I’m sure there’s a lot more I could share, so feel free to send your questions. And by all means, consider writing your own blogs. I think you’ll be thrilled by what it will do for you.
In 2008 we pitched a piece of business that we really wanted and needed. The new business effort was a hard-fought battle and after numerous presentations our potential client told us the committee had narrowed it down to us and one other agency. The problem was we were more expensive than our competition.
“As much as I’d like to work with you, they’ll do the job for less” the client told us.
Needless to say, our pricing had not been determined casually. Before we ever submitted a bid, my partner Roberto Schaps had built a well thought-out list of deliverables and figured out exactly what resources and investment it would take for us to do the work. We hadn’t discounted our price but we also hadn’t added a cushion for negotiating. Doing the job for less would provide much-needed cash flow but would not earn us any profits. And regardless of my Poppa Hy’s old line that he “lost money on every deal but made it up in volume,” we weren’t smart enough to figure out how to stay in business that way.
Remember that this was back in the dark days of the great recession and we really REALLY needed the business. But after a lot of number juggling, hand-wringing, and soul- searching, we finally went back to our prospect and said “no, we couldn’t do the job for less.”
When you say “no” you establish who you are, what you stand for, and — most importantly — what you will and will not do in a given situation. And whether you’re an advertising agency desperately trying to make payroll; an unwilling young woman being offered another drink at a fraternity kegger; an elected official being told by their party leaders to change course on an issue that they promised to their constituency; or an artist debating changing a piece of artwork in order to have it hung in a gallery, getting the “yes” you want often comes down to your ability to say “no.”
Because of its incomparable ability to establish terms and boundaries, “no” might very well be the most powerful word in the English language. Thanks to the naked simplicity of just two letters —‘n’ and ‘o’ — the word “no” has a raw power that can’t be enhanced with more letters or syllables. “What part of ‘no’ didn’t you understand?” says it all about as clearly and succinctly as any comeback you can employ.
Most of us want to be positive, helpful, agreeable, and we want to be liked. So we don’t like to say “no.” “No” is not friendly, it’s not happy; it’s not what people want to hear. But unless we’re willing to draw our line in the sand and say “no,” then we can’t really achieve the outcome we want. Ironically, sometimes the only way to get to “yes” is to start with “no.”
“No, I won’t compromise my values.”
“No, I will not vote against my best interests.”
“No, I cannot sacrifice my ideals.”
Of course, not saying “no” because we want to be nice is really a misnomer. After all, what’s nice about agreeing to a task that you already know you’re not going to be able to complete well or on time? What’s nice about saying “yes” to a social engagement that you don’t want to go to, don’t have time to attend, and will probably wind up blowing off? And even if you’re not concerned about being nice to the person asking you to do something, what’s nice about putting yourself under the pressure of doing something you don’t want to do?
So repeat after me: “No, I can’t do that.” “No, I don’t want to do that.” “No, I won’t change my mind.” “No, I will not be there.” “No, I can’t lower my price.”
And speaking of not lowering prices, did we get that piece of business back in 2008 when the economy was sucking the wet mop and lots of businesses were hurting and we refused to lower our fee? Considering that I’m still writing these blogs and our business is humming along better than ever, I think you can figure out the answer (and it’s not “no”).
Brand value is the degree to which an individual or organization’s identity is recognized and valued by others. As such, it is not a single static measure. Rather it’s a dynamically fluid asset that is constantly increasing or decreasing.
A good way to illustrate the ever-shifting dynamics of brand value is to liken it to the fluctuating stock market where stock prices are constantly measured by the changing identity, production, image, and profitability of public companies.
Ultimately, brand value is gained or lost through expressions of good will, behavior, desirability, promotional activity, social proof, and more. These exchanges occur continuously in all areas of life as consumers, governments, allies, evangelists, lovers, haters, etc. are all constantly assessing and reassessing each other’s ability to perform and deliver.
These transactions have the most power to improve or damage a brand specifically when they relate directly to the brand’s core values. If a Toyota is reported to not be the fastest car in a comparison test, for example, it doesn’t really affect that manufacturer’s brand value because no one expects a Toyota to win races – speed is not a part of Toyota’s core brand assets. But if a widely reported unintended acceleration problem gets covered up and goes un-repaired, Toyota can (and did) lose significant value, reported at over one billion dollars, because we consumers expect the marque to be reliable and dependable above all else.
With this background in mind, I was invited to speak on FOX’s Varney & Co. about whether or not Germany’s recent spying allegations against the United States have devalued our country’s brand standing.
Of course the country’s brand is so broad and all encompassing that except in the most egregious cases no one activity could raise or lower it appreciably or for very long. Instead, our brand is constantly on the rise or fall and circumstances and momentum will continue to move it either up or down over long periods of time.
But the most recent spying allegations, combined with other foreign policies of late (such as drone attacks) have all worked in concert to damage our brand because they all relate to our core values. In fact, one of the most damaging of all was the recent government shutdown. Why? Because it signaled to the rest of the world that those very core values — strength, consistency, reliability, freedom, and democracy — the aspirational assets that the rest of the world looked up to us for and Ronald Reagan referred to when he called the U.S. the “shining city on the hill” — may not be as unassailable as we once thought.
Combine those big disappointments with the shock of hearing that perhaps we don’t respect the privacy and sovereignty of our most valuable allies (remember that we weren’t accused of spying on Afghanistan, Cuba or Iran — no one would have complained about that except Afghanistan, Cuba or Iran), and I believe our brand value has taken a big hit.
Of course it’s hypocritical for countries such as China, Russia, and even France to chastise us for spying when they are repeatedly caught with their digital hands in our secret cookie jars. But since when has hypocrisy ever stopped a critic from being an opportunist?
Looking further ahead, the effects of international espionage and even the shutdown pale in comparison to the thought, image, and distinct possibility that the full faith and credit of the US, our currency, and what we stand for could be at jeopardy if we should default on our financial responsibilities in the near future. Keep an eye on the debt limit argument because that’s where the real potential damage to our brand value lies.
For the United States to maintain and increase its brand value – which directly relates to our ability to accomplish things at home and overseas – we must demonstrate to the world through words AND actions that we do take the moral high road and that we deserve to be seen as the greatest country on earth.
When was the last time you reread the classics? Catcher in the Rye, maybe, or The Great Gatsby? Frankenstein or War and Peace? Whiz up and down through the centuries and you can add almost anything by Shakespeare, Faulkner, Twain, Bronte, Hemingway, and so many more to the list of books you ought to read—or reread.
But who’s got time? Especially when your night table’s sagging under the growing stack of books and magazines you keep dumping on it.
Especially when you’re buried under all the blogs and emails and articles and videos that people send you.
Especially when you’re committed to building your social media presence and need to read through Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Google+ and Instagram, not to mention Tumblr and Reddit.
Especially when you’ve already read those books in high school or college and were bored to tears. Why would you read them again?
With all due respect to the younger readers among us, when was the last time you took a reading recommendation from a 17-year old? Because if you’re deciding what to read today based on your high school memories, that’s what you’re doing.
So what’s the point in rereading these musty tomes? Besides the simple pleasure of enjoying the words of great writers and enjoying their stories, there’s so much to learn. One of the reasons these books have stood the test of time is because of the universality of their subjects. That is, the situations that authors were dealing with generations and centuries ago can be just as relevant today as they were back then.
Remember, too, that despite the way we pinball through the millennia sourcing content, all history did not happen at once. So even though we might think these noted authors were contemporaneous originators and it’s just us who are standing on the shoulders of giants, what a little research uncovers is that they too were repeating the tropes and themes that had been written and developed by earlier authors.
Gary Schmidgall – who has written extensively on both William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde – points out that the supernatural picture, the main literary device of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, was not original to that author. Instead it was “astonishingly ubiquitous (in) Gogol’s The Portrait, Hawthorne’s Prophetic Picture and Edward Randolph’s Portrait, Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, Henry James’s Story of a Masterpiece, and Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer.” Plus “…dozens of other haunted pictures (can) be found in long-forgotten novels” written years before Wilde’s masterpiece.
What Wilde’s book and so many others tell us is that we all look at the human condition with the same eyes and we often see the same things. It’s not a matter of copying or plagiarizing what has come before; rather it’s a matter of interpreting current events and activities in a way that is relevant for our readers, our clients, and our audiences.
Back in the not-so-distant dark days of Web 1.0, I belonged to a group of entrepreneurs, engineers, and marketing types called The Internet Users Group. We would meet once every couple of months in San Francisco and talk about how the new Internet technology was developing and how we could use it. Most of the group was made up of young tech types buzzing on giant cups of Peet’s Coffee. Only one member of the group, a bearded historian from Stanford University, was older.
At each meeting the jittery techies would argue over their visions and the historian would quietly scribble in a little steno pad. But during one heated conversation, he spoke up and disagreed with the most strident speaker.
“Why should we listen to you?” the techie snapped. “You don’t know anything about the Internet, you just know some creaky old history.”
“You’re right,” the historian answered. “I don’t know very much about the Internet. But I do know what you don’t – I know what’s going to happen. You see, the technology we’re studying has never been seen before. But the people who are involved are the same as the people who caused the Dutch tulipmania in the 17th Century and the Great Depression in the early 20th Century. Thanks to history I can chart exactly how the Internet will boom and bust and then grow again. I might not know exactly where or exactly when it’ll happen, but I know exactly what will happen.”
And wouldn’t you know it – everything the historian predicted that foggy afternoon came true. Maybe not exactly the way he said it would but pretty damn close. And while I didn’t become a tech gazillionaire when the tech bubble inflated, I also didn’t lose everything I owned when the tech bubble burst.
THAT’s the power of history: providing us with an understanding that while the tools may change, the rules never do. And the power of the classics is that they provide brilliant, enjoyable commentary on the human condition that you can count on time after time after time.
[Please note: I am on vacation this week and sharing one of my favorite posts from a few years ago. If it’s new to you, I hope you enjoy it. If you’re reading it for the second time, I hope you enjoy it again.]
Do you know how to read musical notation? If you do you know that when you’re reading music you’re actually reading at least two things simultaneously. Written music tells you what note to play and when to play it.
Written language, on the other hand, only tells you one thing – what letter to pronounce. Of course, punctuation helps indicate pacing – pause at a comma, stop at a period (I’m not really sure what to do at a semicolon) but it’s still up to the reader to interpret how the author wanted the piece paced.
For example, read the following sentences aloud and place the emphasis on the bold faced underlined word. You’ll see how the pacing, and the meaning, can change based on where you choose to place the emphasis.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
I didn’t say you should leave now.
Music notation is not like that. The composer provides the note to play, the time signature to play it in, the exact time each note should be played, the way the note should be attacked and the volume with which the note should be played. That’s why an entire orchestra can play a piece of music simultaneously and get it mostly right on their first reading. Of course the conductor can add flavorings and nuance, as can each player, but the basic structure still provides instructions for every part of the composition.
At the same time, musical notation has a way to allow the musician to add his or her own ideas, or improvisation, to the piece. Here the composer might suggest what the musician should play but also provides for the instrumentalists to create their own music and explore their own musical ideas by playing what they feel, and hopefully, what fits into the structure of what the rest of the ensemble is playing.
Ironically, written language, which doesn’t put nearly the same restraints on interpretation of prose, has no such flexibility. Sure, a rabbi or minister might halt their liturgical reading to allow parishioners to riff on a theme (they call it private mediation) but when was the last time you were reading a novel and the author inserted a few blank pages for you to add your own thoughts? There’s no room for readers to add their own words to a written piece.
That’s why sarcasm and irony seldom works well in print or static online advertising. It’s one thing for the copywriter to add their own inflection to a headline when they present it to a client but it’s quite another to expect a reader to add that same emphasis. Instead, the language of ads must be clear, simple, and to the point. Hopefully this will cause an emotional response without depending on a specific interpretive performance from the reader.
Imagine if Gershwin had e-mailed the lyrics of his famous song to his manager:
“You like potato and I like potato,
You like tomato and I like tomato,
Potato, potato, tomato, tomato,
Let’s call the whole thing off.”
Say what? Call the whole thing off just because we both like the same vegetables? Clearly something was lost in the transmission.
Remember Gershwin when you’re writing to be understood and when you’re writing to be influential. Your reader most certainly won’t read your text the way you want them to read it; instead they’ll bring their own pacing, emphasis, and meaning to your words. To build your brand value it’s important that your intention be so clear that your audience will internalize it no matter how they pace their reading.
And by writing simply and clearly, the results of their interpretation will be music to your ears.
Do you remember the first time you rode a bike by yourself? I remember when I did.
I hopped up on the shiny blue two-wheeler I got for my birthday, and my dad ran alongside me holding onto the saddle while I furiously pumped my legs and struggled to control the wobbling handlebars.
At some point my dad quietly let go of the seat and let me ride on my own. I shot down the street without a care in the world until I looked back and realized he wasn’t keeping me steady — which is when the wobbly handlebars won the war and I went crashing to the ground.
It was almost exactly the same story some 30 years later when I taught my son to ride his bike. He fought with the handlebars and wobbled along and did spend some time sprawled out on the pavement. But before long Danny figured out how to ride and his life changed forever. All of a sudden he could get to friends’ houses or the park on his own. He was free.
A few years later I taught my daughter to swim. She’d stand on the side of the pool while I bobbed in the water just a few feet away. With an excited, “Ready Daddy?!” she’d hurl herself into the air, splash down in the water, and lead a trail of bubbles straight to the bottom where she’d stay until I’d dive down to grab her and bring her up to the surface. After a big breath and an even bigger smile, she’d push the wet curls out of her face and squeal, “Again Daddy!!” and we’d repeat the whole process. Eventually Ali figured out the secret to buoyancy and could splash into the pool and dog-paddle all the way over to me. Now she could go to swim parties at friends’ houses and run along the surf at the beach without worrying about touching the water. Life was never the same again.
That instant where everything changes is what Malcolm Gladwell calls “The Tipping Point” — the momentary catalytic mechanism that introduces a whole new world of opportunity and possibility. Steering a bike without your parent holding onto the seat and swimming on the top of the water instead of sinking to the bottom both require a leap of faith and some new skills. But in both cases, figuring out the counterintuitive solution makes all the difference and changes everything.
Building your brand is just like that. Once you you create a compelling brand you reach your own tipping point and everything changes. The big question is: How do you achieve that?
Ahhh, THAT’S where the branding process becomes counterintuitive and requires some new skills.
Most average marketing and branding talks all about the product. How many locations the retailer has; how powerful their computers are; how long they’ve been in business; se habla español. But the problem is that nobody cares about those things until they’re interested in the product (or service) in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong – all of those product attributes are critical. But they’re the RTBs (Reasons To Believe) and are of no interest or consequence to the potential customer until the customer is interested in the product.
I don’t care how many bottles of wine are on the menu of a restaurant I’m not planning to visit. I don’t care how inexpensive a pair of running shoes are if I don’t want to try them on. It doesn’t matter how many lawyers work for a firm I’ve never heard of.
The secret to building a powerful brand can be summed up in three words: All About Them. Make your brand resonate with who I am and what I care about or, even better, make your brand help me feel good about myself and then I’ll be all ears when you share all of your wonderful RTBs.
Like learning how to swim or learning how to ride a bike, learning how to make your brand All About Them changes everything. And once you figure that out, nothing will ever be the same again.