My father was a passionate proponent of architecture and design. Throughout his career he worked with some of the best in South Florida, including Gail Baldwin and Don Sackman, Roney Mateu, Frank Schulwolf, Jordan Barrett and Murray Gaby, and Manny Abraben. I don’t think my dad ever worked with Alfred Browning Parker but I know he was a big fan.
Wikipedia says Alfred Browning Parker “was a Modernist architect who is one of the best-known post World War II residential architects. He gained fame for his highly published modern houses in the region around Miami, Florida.”
Once a year House Beautiful, the primary architecture magazine of the 1950s and 1960s dedicated an entire issue to their House Of The Year. Four of Parker’s homes were selected, more than any other architect. In 2006 Wallpaper* magazine chose Woodsong, Parker’s Miami residence, for their “Top 10 Houses of the World,” the only house chosen in all of North America.
On Friday I was lucky enough to have lunch with a group of Miami creative leaders that included Parker’s son Robin. Robin sent me his dad’s list of “Aphorisms For Architects” from an early issue of The Florida Architect that I know my dad would have loved. More relevant to all of us, Parker’s aphorisms are perfect not just for architects but for marketers, entrepreneurs, speakers, business people and anyone striving to do a great job and make a difference. You might have to change an architecture-specific term here or there to fit your own profession — and life — but I think you’ll get the picture.
I am honored to share these with you. Thank you Robin (and ABP).
Alfred Browning Parker’s Aphorisms For Architects
In response to last week’s blog post How To Skin A Horse Of A Different Color, John Calia wrote, “A great modern day parable that explains the power of inductive reasoning. It’s McKinsey-level strategic thinking applied to everyday business and personal challenges.”
Thanks, John. I just thought it was a simple explanation of a complicated concept.
That’s what we do every day — reduce very complicated and not very compelling product explanations into short, simple, easy-to-understand, and profitable brands. Because these strategically simple messages make consumers regard, remember, and respond.
But if you’re thinking about how to reduce your brand message to just one word, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Bruce, defining an issue and standing for something makes a lot of sense and I can see how it works for others, but…(big sigh)…I’m different. After all, my business is much more diverse, much more creative, and much more customized to my clients’ specific needs…(bigger sigh)…you see, I do too many different things. There’s just no way I could shoehorn everything I offer into a couple of words.”
Really? Your business is too complicated to brand simply? Well then, consider Volvo.
Volvo is ostensibly in the car business. But that means they are really in a number of different businesses — transportation, manufacturing, research and development, metallurgy, engineering, upholstery, design, import/export, logistics, to name just a few. Plus, they operate retail stores (for both new and used products), and also provide sales, service, and accessories. Volvo operates under the governmental regulations of the hundreds of countries, states, and municipalities they operate in. They work in multiple languages, with multiple consumers, and in multiple currencies. And don’t forget that they don’t just make consumer automobiles. Volvo also manufactures buses and trucks and provides engines and engineering for lots of other companies. And yet despite this incredible complexity, Volvo still describes themselves with their commitment to one word: safety.
Volvo’s brand description isn’t even about what they actually provide. Nowhere in their branding do they talk about transportation or about getting from point A to point B. They talk about safety. And this positioning is so valuable that when Volvo introduced an SUV, arguably the new American suburban family car, their XC70 outsold all foreign SUVs (European and Asian) combined.
But it’s not just Volvo that understands the value of a simple brand position.
New York is “The Big Apple.” Chicago is solidly Midwestern. Los Angeles is movies, Las Vegas is sin. Miami is hip. What are you?
Apple built their brand on the da Vinci line, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and it’s driven their product philosophy ever since, most recently resulting in one single button controlling your iPhone or iPad. Despite the outcry from Blackberry users, Apple’s iPhone does not have a raised keyboard.
Here’s what Mr. Mo’ sang:
“Two cars, three kids, six phones; a whole lot of confusion up here in my home.
500 stations on the TV screen, 500 versions of the same ol’ thing.
Y’all know it’s crazy, and it’s drivin’ me insane.
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman, I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands.
And keep it simple.
I called my doctor on the telephone; the lines were open, but there was nobody home.
Press one, press two, press pound, press three; why can’t somebody just pick up the phone and talk to me?
Well I went down to the local coffee store; the menu went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor.
Decaf, cappuccino, or latte said the cashier; I said gimme a small cup of coffee and let me get the hell up outta here.
Y’all know it’s crazy, and it’s drivin’ me insane.
Well now I don’t wanna be a superman, I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands.
And keep it simple, real simple.”
Thoreau famously wrote, “Simplify, simplify.” But maybe if he had heard Keb’ Mo’s song, he would’ve cut his credo in half to just “Simplify.”
Horses of a different color. More than one way to skin a cat. Pushing an elephant through a keyhole.
Why are the metaphors for paradigm shifts all about animals? I don’t know and I don’t really care. What I do care about is implementing and benefiting from this idea of looking at things differently and sharing those ideas with you.
For example: everybody I know complains about travel. They don’t like going through security, they don’t like waiting in lines, and they don’t like feeling rushed.
I travel almost every week and I don’t mind it a bit. True, I don’t enjoy any of those situations either, but I’ve learned how to eliminate most of the aggravation they cause.
When I thought about making travel less stressful, I realized two of the most irritating things I could control. One was the discomfort and delays that come with schlepping heavy baggage. The solution? I simply stopped taking so much stuff. When you stop worrying about carrying everything but the kitchen sink, you also stop worrying about finding overhead luggage space, having TSA inspectors root through your stuff, waiting in interminable lines to pick up your luggage, and having your stuff stolen. (If you’ve read my blog for a while you know I’m a fanatic about travelling light. You can find great tips HERE and HERE.)
The second issue was the stress that came from rushing and worrying about being late.
Let’s say my flight was scheduled for five. I’d figure I needed to be there an hour early (four), and it takes about 40 minutes to get to the airport and park so I’d plan to leave my office at 3:20 or so. Needless to say, I’d only start leaving at 3:20 which meant I wouldn’t actually get into my car until 3:30 or 3:40 and I’d already feel rushed and stressed. Then if anything went wrong — traffic or a family of 18 ahead of me in security — my stress level would boil over and wouldn’t abate until I was on the plane and breathing heavily. No wonder people drink on flights.
One day it dawned on me that if I left for the five o’clock flight at one, I would get to the airport with hours to spare. Then I could go through the TSA line without cursing the people in front of me for dumping their coin collections and silverware service into the X-ray tray.
“But what do you do in the airport two hours early?” I hear you screaming at your computer screen. Simple. I go into the Admirals Club, pull my out my laptop and cellphone and make calls and return emails and write copy, exactly what I’d do if I were in my office. Except I do it calmly because I’m not rushed and I’m not stressed.
I have friends who went through a relatively amicable divorce. Because they have three small children, and because they thought it would be too disruptive for the kids to move back and forth from one parent to the other every week, they came up with a paradigm shifting solution – they gave the house to the kids and the parents move in and out each week. At first they also tried splitting the townhouse that the non-visiting parent would use but they found that that only reminded them of many of the reasons they got divorced in the first place. But by keeping the kids in one house, there was less disruption, fewer school changes, and more comforting surroundings. They also didn’t have to try to sell their home for less money during the financial downturn.
Have you seen the ads for Christian Mingle? It’s the dating website for singles who are looking to meet other singles of the same faith. Do you know who owns Christian Mingle? Spark Media, of Los Angeles, the company that owns JDate, the leading site for Jews who are looking for dates their grandmothers would approve of. Spark used the same technology they created — and the profits they made — matching Jewish singles to create Christian Mingle and 28 other sites, including hookups for Adventists, Catholics, deaf singles, and more. Was their strategy Kosher? It is very profitable and a great example of looking at an existing situation from the opposite point of view.
So the question is, what problems in your business, or your life, could be solved if you just looked at them differently? Or is that a whole different kettle of fish? (Dammit… There go those animal metaphors again.)
One Sunday a few months ago, über parachute BASE jumper ‘Fearless’ Felix Baumgartner opened the hatch of his hot air balloon capsule and hurled himself into the very edge of space.
The next day, FOX Money’s Melissa Francis interviewed me about what the jump meant to Felix’s sponsor, Red Bull.
Felix’s daring jump might have been the best marketing stunt yet performed. Not only did over eight million people direct their Internet browsers to watch the jump live, but Felix broke four world records and will be in the records books for years to come.
What’s more, Red Bull judiciously applied their logo to Felix’s spacecraft, his helmet, and his parachute, and aimed their proprietary cameras where they’d create the most effective images.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. There’s plenty of information all over the ‘net about Fearless Felix and his fantastic feat. What I want to share is my experience working with FOX Business. (You can watch it HERE or click on the video below).
Three days before Felix’s scheduled jump date I was contacted by FOX’s booker, Brooke, who asked if I’d be interested in commenting on the branding implications for Red Bull. Over the next three days, as the jump was postponed due to weather, Brooke was in constant contact with me, making sure I was available, ready, and knowledgeable about the subject. She was the perfect example of friendly competence and held her digital leash tight without ever making me feel as if I was being pestered.
On the day of the interview, Brooke arranged for a car service to whisk me to FOX’s remote studio about 25 minutes from my office. When I got there I was treated like an honored guest and walked through the process that included a touch of makeup and a little lapel microphone.
Here’s where it got interesting. Even though it appears to TV viewers that the interviewer is sitting with the guest, truth was I was in Miami and Melissa Francis was interviewing me from FOX’s studio in New York City. What I was responding to was what I heard through a little speaker lodged out of sight in my ear.
Because of the seven-second delay between the interview and the broadcast, I couldn’t even watch a screen of the show. Instead, I was sitting behind a wall of lights and focusing on the barely visible luminous crosshairs taped around the camera lens.
Now that I’ve done these “blind” interviews almost weekly since the Fearless Felix story, the process has almost become second nature. But beforehand I hadn’t realized how much of any conversation is based on visual cues. Head nods and body language all go a long way to letting you know when you’re supposed to talk and when you should shut up. Staring at blinding lights? Not so much.
I never realized how talented interviewers like Melissa Francis are, holding up both ends of a blind conversation until they know they can trust their guest to respond appropriately. After all, I’m only responsible for a few minutes of air time at a time but the host holds the fate of the entire show in her hands every time she goes live.
The other thing I didn’t know was how important the bookers and producers are to making everything run smoothly. They’re part of every aspect of every show – discussing what issues to cover, booking the guests (there can be seven to 10 guests on a one-hour program), preparing the host with information and direction, making sure everyone shows up on time, booking the studios, ordering the fiber connections, directing the on-air graphics, and so on and so on. And that’s before you even consider all the effort it takes to then translate the on-air programming onto the Internet.
When done properly, the end result is a smooth show that looks like an interesting conversation between two interesting people, much like you’d have over cocktails or a cup of coffee with a friend or coworker. But the amount of time, money, effort, and expertise that go into such an activity is truly mind-boggling. It gives me a new understanding and appreciation of the 24/7 news cycle that we all participate in, and an intense interest in seeing how these activities will amp up as online information makes the world more connected and more mobile.
I am sitting in exit row seat 12C and looking out the window at the great Florida prairie. Led Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker is blasting through my ear buds and I’m thinking about the talk I gave last night to The University of Florida Ad Society.
My talk was originally going to be about some of the things I’d learned in the ad business in the last 30-something years (gulp) since I was a design student at UF. But listening to the students report on their doings before my talk inspired me to change my entire presentation at the last minute.
Instead of talking about what today’s companies need to do to build their brands, I talked about what today’s students need to do to get an internship or a job.
What I realized as my talk progressed was that the techniques for building a great brand are the same whether we’re talking about Rolex or Rolando, Mercedes or Mercy, Samsung or Samantha.
As we’ve discussed so many times in this digital discussion, people don’t buy what you do, they buy who you are. And students looking for employment need to understand that simple statement just as clearly as the brand manager trying to sell her company’s products.
Of course accomplishments and skills are critical to getting a job. But like the functional attributes of the last car you bought, those accomplishments are just cost of entry. In other words, if a car doesn’t get from point A to point B, doesn’t get good gas mileage or doesn’t operate flawlessly, you’re not going select it. But just because it does all those things doesn’t mean you’re going to select it either. First you have to WANT that particular automobile in your driveway.
By the same token, if a student doesn’t have the proper degrees, computer skills or industry knowledge, they’re probably not going to get hired. But just because they do have those things doesn’t mean they’re going to get hired either. That’s because those skills are merely table stakes in the employment game and because these days, students with those attributes on their resumes are a dime a dozen.
Speaking of resumes, why do they all start with the same run-on sentence? “I am endeavoring to find an employment situation where I can utilize my professional skills in a productive and fulfilling environment committed to personal growth, creative expression, and increasing remuneration opportunities.”
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to read a student resume that started differently? “It’s my lifelong dream to be an art director. I will work 24/7 doing anything you need for the chance to learn my craft and prove that I can be valuable to your company.”
I found it shocking that fewer than one third of the students I spoke to use social media to prepare for their job search. For the first time in history, democratized media has made it possible for students to build rapport with the people they are planning to interview with before they actually meet them, turning difficult cold calls and awkward first meetings into warm calls and expanding relationships. And yet, today’s digital natives not taking advantage of the technology they grew up using.
Randy Gage, prosperity thought leader, says he gets more new business leads and speaking requests on Facebook than from calls into his office. How? Randy spends two hours a day on social media, building his tribe of followers and potential customers across Twitter, FB, and YouTube. He uploads his blog posts five days a week and adds a new VLOG (Video Log) to his YouTube channel every Monday.
Randy believes that to build your own followers and create your own opportunities you’ve got to have a point of view and get out there and promote your message and offer valuable content. And he’s certainly the poster child for practicing what he preaches.
How does he get it all done? Because the first word of social media is social, Randy eschews auto posts and other mechanized tools and builds his tribe by creating real-time online relationships one person at a time. And for those of you who are reading this and asking, “Two hours? Who the hell has two hours a day to spend on social media?” Randy would answer that because there’s nothing else that brings as much business to his website, there’s nothing more valuable he could be doing with his time.
Whether you’re looking for your first job, making a career change or promoting your own business, I’m confident this strategy will work for you, too. And if you’re an Ad Society student at the University of Florida, I’m especially talking to you.
Our Monday morning run takes us through Matheson Hammock Park and out to the marina, a small spit of land that juts out into Biscayne Bay. If you stand just so, you can look out across the endless bay and see the same unspoiled vista that the Tequesta Indians enjoyed hundreds of years ago. Some mornings we get there early enough to watch the sunrise. One time we saw dolphins frolicking in the surf. And sometimes we run past cars parked under the streetlights in the marina parking lot.
I always assumed that an expensive car or big SUV sitting in the lot at 5:30 in the morning meant that its owner was out on their boat somewhere in the Caribbean – Bimini maybe, or the Abacos. But today one of my running buddies, commenting on a shiny black Lexus parked by the yachts said, “That’s what happens when your wife throws you out of the house and you need a place to stay.”
Funny, in a million years it never would have dawned on me that that was why that car was there. Clearly my runner friend and I have very different life experiences that helped us to see the exact same situation in very different ways. In marketing, that’s what researchers call “self-referencing criteria.”
When you assume, you make an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me.”
Years ago our branding firm tried to establish a working relationship with the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. We had great ideas for them to incorporate online and nascent mobile technology into their marketing programs. So after convincing the gatekeepers in Atlantis’ South Florida sales office, I flew to Nassau and met with the resort’s owner, Sol Kerzner. Thanks to his successes in the Bahamas, Dubai, and South Africa, Kerzner was a billionaire developer who looked every bit the part, from the personal jets at his beck and call to Ian Douglas, the urbane and capable executive assistant who shadowed Kerzner and took care of his every need.
After we made our presentation, Kerzner shook his head and said, “That’s ridiculous. No one will make hotel reservations on their cell phones. How many people even carry the bloody things around?”
Before you laugh at that statement, you need to understand that Kerzner didn’t carry his own cell phone. When he needed to make a call he’d just tell Douglas to call his wife, his banker or whomever. Because Atlantis’ CEO evaluated our idea with self-referencing criteria, the company didn’t become an early adapter of mobile technology.
Years before that we had been hired by Bacardi Imports to create a new brand marketing idea for their spiced rum. Specifically Bacardi wanted us to introduce the product to a younger audience than the 50-somethings that had been buying Bacardi Añjeo to sip and savor.
When we made our presentation, we showed it to our direct reports at the spirits company, and a special guest – one of the Bacardi family themselves – who had stopped by to watch the show. After we were done, he spoke up. Señor Bacardi wanted to know why we hadn’t talked about the great history of the product, Bacardi’s “two ells” he called it — Legend and Legacy. After all, he said, that’s why our customers buy our products in the first place.
“With all due respect, sir,” we countered, “That might be why you drink the product, but the twenty-somethings we spoke to couldn’t care less about that. In fact, we have pretty extensive research to prove how disinterested they are in anything other than their two ells — getting Loaded and getting Lucky.”
Most of the other Bacardi folks in the room recoiled at our gumption – apparently they weren’t used to seeing anyone disagree with an actual Bacardi. But to his credit, Señor Bacardi thought for a moment and then agreed that maybe we did have more relevant insight than he did and asked us to proceed. His openness allowed the whole room to put their self-referencing criteria aside and consider options they might not have thought of before.
Because we make mistakes when we make assumptions, the advertising industry has built a robust research protocol to make sure that strategic decisions aren’t based on a survey of one. However, in our personal worlds it’s a lot harder to put our biases aside and remain open to ideas that at first may not jibe with our own lives and sensibilities. But often that different viewpoint is where the real opportunities for connection and success lie. After all, Bacardi really doesn’t care which ells you respond to as long as you’re buying their bottles. And that black Lexus sitting in the Matheson Marina parking lot might have belonged to a happy fisherman, a hapless husband or someone else that maybe we hadn’t even thought of yet.
“Will does not mean should, will does not mean could, will does not mean might or maybe. Will is unequivocal. Will only means ‘will.’ The word will is so strong that the law will enforce it even after you’ve passed on.”
What does it mean when you say, “I will”?
According to Knox’s definition, saying “I will” is the same as issuing a vow, creating a pact or promising an outcome. But as easy as it is to say something, the real effort in making the pact is not in the making; it’s in the doing. Because if your will is unequivocal, then not doing what you’ve promised is simply not acceptable.
I was thinking about Knox’s definition of the word will when I was in Orlando presenting to the international marketing team for Philips Home Healthcare Solutions (HHS). After my talk on the Keys to Innovation, Philips HHS VP of Global Marketing, Erik Hollander, inspired the group to always include Philips HHS’ innovative solutions in an exceptional customer and end-user experience. Hollander tasked each and every one of his marketing team to match the insight and foresight Philips’ engineers and product managers have marshaled to create the products when the marketers devise the strategies and tactics to sell these products. Coincidentally, I had just seen one of their latest innovations — Philips’ GoSafe mobile personal emergency response system — the week before when Philips debuted it in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Now I know some of you are already writing back, “Bruce, don’t you know there are no coincidences?” but that’s not my point. What I find interesting is that with all the time, money, and effort Philips spent to bring their new products to market, it was now just as important for the marketing team to make the product successful in the market. In fact, it could be argued that regardless of the quality of the product itself, GoSafe would live or die in the marketplace based on the quality of the effort of Hollander’s marketing team.
And that team had better be serious about what they say they will do. After all, Philips has done some significant innovating to create the GoSafe. According to their product release, GoSafe was designed to be an easy-to-use medical alert system that provides access to assistance both indoors and out. GoSafe delivers innovative fall detection capabilities as well as a comprehensive suite of locating technologies. GoSafe helps provide active seniors with a sense of confidence to continue to get the most out of life.
Even though an emergency locator sounds simple (remember “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”?) Philips had to leverage seven different technologies to make sure the device will work in all conditions and all situations.
And there’s that “will” word again. Because the GoSafe has to work in all conditions and situations, Philips brought very different technologies to the table to make it possible. And in doing so harnessed some of the best practices needed to live up to the word “will.” Here are my top three techniques of accountability:
Instead of trying to live up to a difficult commitment by yourself, marshal others to help guarantee your success. When I committed to running my first marathon I found training partners to make sure I put in the miles. On mornings that I don’t want to get out of bed at 5 a.m. (like today!), I do it anyway because I know my running buddies will be there waiting for me. I like to think that they’re there because they know I’ll be waiting for them, too.
It’s one thing to say something out loud; it’s another to commit it to writing. Write your commitments down on paper and post the notes where you can see them frequently — on your computer monitor, on your medicine cabinet, on your steering wheel. That way your “I will” item won’t slip your mind.
Don’t just post your note where YOU can see it, make your commitment a public announcement. Post it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other places where your friends and family will read it and know that you’re committed to doing what you’ve said you’ll do. They might even become your study buddies and become part of your accountability team.
These three simple accountability tools will help the Philips team guide their GoSafe to success and they will help you accomplish your goals as well. I will do it. Will you?
A few weeks ago the National Speakers Association (NSA) hosted their Laugh Lab. It’s a seminar taught by comedians and humorists to teach professional speakers and presenters how to use humor in their talks. I was able to fit the Laugh Lab into my schedule between speaking at BlogWorld and CES (you can read my post HERE) in Las Vegas, and I was thrilled to attend.
My friend Brian Walter ran the seminar and classes were taught by Brian, comedian Judy Carter, NSA president Ron Culberson, comedy writer Bill Stainton, funny man Brad Montgomery, and more hilarious characters. To underscore the strength of the Laugh Lab faculty, you should know that between us, Bill Stainton and I have been awarded 29 Emmys. (You should also know that without me Bill Stainton has been awarded 29 Emmys.)
One fascinating assignment was to go to a Vegas comedy show and keep track of the comedic techniques we had learned about in class. Foolishly, it never occurred to me that comedy actually had specific techniques, but now that I’ve learned just a few of them it fascinates me to see them used in comedy routines by famous comedians from Sid Ceaser to Louis CK to the guys working Vegas today.
What did I learn?
1. Being funny is a really hard business.
Setting aside how incredibly hard it is to make a living as a successful comedian, being funny takes a lot of hard work. The people we listened to have dedicated their lives and their study to comedy, and they’re always on the lookout for stories and occurrences that they can use in their work to get a laugh.
2. Spontaneity takes a lot of preparation.
Although a lot of comedy seems to be ad-libbed, much of it has been written, outlined, and rehearsed over and over and over and over. And even when the yuks appear to be off-the-cuff, they’re usually very well practiced. It’s the talent of the performer that makes the audience believe they’re hearing something that’s never been presented before.
3. Really funny people are really funny.
I like to think that I’m funny, although the people stuck running with me and listening to my jokes most mornings might beg to differ. But compared to Judy, Ron, Brad, Brian, et al, I’m about as funny as a bag of hammers. Or, as Henny Youngman used to say, “What am I, chopped liver?” Being funny might start out as a genetic advantage or childhood coping mechanism but it takes a lot of study, practice, and hard work. A recent NYT story about Jerry Seinfeld diagrams the arduous process Seinfeld goes through on every joke he develops and he’s arguably the most successful comic on earth.
4. The “magic question” for writing humor is not to ask when something funny happened.
Maybe the most revealing thing I learned was that humor writers don’t necessarily look for funny situations but instead ask, “When did something go wrong?” According to Bill Stainton, the funny stuff starts at the “oh crap” moment when things change so severely that nothing can ever be the same. Stainton says that the movie Tootsie is the master class in this technique because as the trouble gets more and more complicated, the film just gets funnier and funnier.
5. The spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
Since attending the Laugh Lab, I’ve tried to consciously use humor in all of my client presentations. What I’ve found is that humor helps my audiences relate to what we’re trying to communicate.
Is the humor actually working? While I don’t have any good measurement metrics to prove that humor improves our business, we have won the last four new business pitches we participated in. So to quote the old woman who told the ambulance driver to feed chicken soup to the dead man: “It couldn’t hurt.”
I’ve written before that my goal with these posts is to do three things, 1) be valuable, 2) be useful, and 3) be enjoyable. NSA’s Laugh Lab accomplished all three of these goals. My sides hurt for two and a half days while I filled page after page with notes I’m sure I’ll refer back to for years and years. Thank you, Brian, for a wonderful experience.