Archive for January, 2014

Steal this idea

January 28, 2014

One of the most difficult transitions for me when I started working in higher education was the idea of stealing ideas.  We even have contests called Steal This Idea!  Coming from working in design and photography “steal” was a dirty word.  I’d had my pictures taken from my Web site, watermark cropped out, and then used on someone’s blog.  When we finalized our book on the branding process we completed, the idea of putting it out there for anyone to do whatever they wanted with was terrifying.  Yet, stealing ideas is encouraged on a daily basis.  So, is it wrong? Is stealing bad? How do we determine when to steal and when not to steal?

Well, yes stealing is bad, but not in all situations.  The idea of stealing ideas in social media and marketing is often encouraged.  I see (too) many blogs and articles saying “This worked for me and it will work for you!”  I do suppose if you’re given permission, it’s not really stealing.  The trick is, you need to take the idea that you’re “stealing” and make it work for you.  Audre Lorde said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”  Yes, there are certain circumstances where stealing and adapting ideas is encouraged, but as marketers we need to think about how we change it and make it work for us.  Just because it worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for us.

Take a look at these three videos.  Each one is different, with a different target, and a different message.  Each one also uses the same concept, but in a slightly different way.  The feelings and emotions are different.  The idea of writing on cards or on our body to convey messages without speaking isn’t new, but the feelings and emotions that compel people to action are.  Each campaign made this concept their own and that’s why they’re successful.  The didn’t see an idea and find a song or person to make it work, they saw a way to bring their message to life and they used it.

The thought that there are no new ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Does it matter if a customer has seen the concept before? What matters is the bond they create after watching the media and the feelings they experience.  If it makes a difference for them, the concept doesn’t matter, the message does.  What are your thoughts?  Do you have any good examples of “stolen” ideas that you’ve made work for you?

Google Glass. Is it in my future?

January 25, 2014

This week I received my invitation to join the Google Glass explorers group.  The limited group of people who are specially chosen to purchase, use and provide feedback to the Google team on their experiences with the new Glass device.  When I received the email I was very excited.  It was similar to when I received the invitation to join gmail ‘back in the day.’  Yes, when gmail was first launched, you had to be invited to join.  Well, I immediately clicked the Join button on the Glass invite to see just how soon I could get my device.  I had visions of being part of the uber-cool techno generation.  Walking through various gatherings, checking in, sharing photos and videos with all my friends, and saying things like “OK Glass find Sushi close by.”  I was ready to be cool!

I quickly discovered that Glass was expensive. $ 1,500 expensive.   Bummer.  I’m not sure I am ready to spend that kind of money on a first generation device so I did what came naturally and started combing the web for more details.

  • View: Heads up display that appears as a 640 x 360 display hovering just above the corner of your right eye.
  • Battery life: Between 3 and 5 hours.
  • Interface: A number of gestures and voice commands work together with a sidebar swipe pad to operate the device.
  • Voice and Video calls: When paired with a cell phone or on Wi-Fi calls can be made via Google Hangouts.
  • Aps: So far I have been able to find about 150 aps.  Maps, Exercise trackers, music players, social media, etc.  Typical stuff.
  • Voice Recognition: Like Siri, this is a good first attempt.  However it still has a way to go before being highly accurate.
  • Connectivity:  Bluetooth compatible devices can interface with Glass.  From reports of existing users, Android devices have a much better experience.
  • Ergonomics:  Wear prescription lenses?  Glass can fit around them but from what some users say it is bulky and sometimes uncomfortable fit.
  • Camera: 5MP photos and 720P video
  • Economics:  Did I mention they cost $1,500?

Am I ready to invest in this device?  I think I’m going to have to wait for a while.  Unfortunately at this time I just cannot come up with enough good points to outweigh the bad ones.   Maybe when the next generation comes out for the masses enough refinements will have been made that it will be easier to justify the investment.  Hopefully one of those refinements will be to the cost.  If Google can get the device under $300 I think more people will be willing to accept the shortfalls.

What are your thoughts?  Is this something you would be interested in?  If so go to the website and register for the Glass program.

List of 30 Digital Media Thought Leaders

January 21, 2014

If you are looking to add influencer content to your social media channels this year, I have compiled a list in no particular order of 30 thought leaders you should begin to follow.

1. Ann Handley

2. Michael Brenner

3. Tim Brown

4. Bruce Kasanoff

5. Rob Yoegel

6. Don Peppers

7. Mark Schaefer

8. Guy Kawasaki

9. Jonathan Becher

10. Adam Grant

11. Brian Solis

12. Seth Godin

13. Simon Sinek

14. Paul Gillin

15. Jeff Bullas

16. Jason Falls

17. Joe Pulizzi

18. Pete Cashmore

19. Scott Belsky

20. Tara Hunt

21. Steve Olenski

22. Jay Baer

23. Ian Greenleigh

24. David Armano

25. Lee Odden

26. Karen McGrane

27. Gini Dietrich

28. David Burkus

29. Mitch Joel

30. Geoff Livingston

Who do you follow on social media?

Rewards and Thank Yous

January 9, 2014

At the end of every semester in the university center we take time to recognize our students that will no longer be working for us and students that have done an exceptional job.  I have the pleasure of working with a lot of talented, driven, and overall great students, so I decided to nominate a few of them for awards.  The day after doing so, I discovered that one of the nominated students didn’t like to be recognized in front of an audience.  Here I thought I was rewarding her for a job well done and saying thank you for the hard work, when in reality I was putting her in an uncomfortable situation.  It wasn’t the end of the world because she could throw on her big girl shoes and accept the award graciously, but was I really saying thank you in a way that was meaningful to her?  Did she feel appreciated?

One way for a company to show they care is to thank and reward employees and customers in a way that is truly appreciated.  I’ve learned over the years to ask my new hires what motivates them.  Knowing what motivates employees helps me show my appreciation in a meaningful way.  Not everyone is motivated by a public pat on the back, a raise, a promotion, or a plaque the size of their office wall.  Sometimes it’s a private conversation, a sincere thank you, or support during a new adventure.  I try not to put all employees in the same category because what is meaningful to someone may make another one uncomfortable.

1457520_10201041970283539_653777636_nThe same holds true for saying thank you and rewarding customers.  While scrolling through my never-ending Facebook feed last week, I saw a friend post on her timeline that she had been waiting in line at a Target store when the registers crashed.  She said the store was extremely busy and it took her 20 minutes just to get through check out.  To try to make amends, Target gave her a $3 off coupon with no expiration date.  It’s a small coupon however, it says we are sorry and we’re going to try to make it better now.  It doesn’t say come back in two weeks and purchase something else from us and then we’ll give you a discount.  Too many times companies attempt to solve an issue with a blanket promotion or coupon.  The last thing I want after standing in line with the registers down is to have to come back for you to attempt to make it up to me.

Their reaction was immediate and extremely smart.  Think about it this way – your customers are stuck in line, frustrated, and have nothing to do but check Facebook, Twitter, and every other social network.  What is the best course of action?

If it were me, my tweet would have gone from frustration to excitement in minutes.  Do you think that’s worth $3?

Improving the Organization to Improve the Customer Relationship

January 8, 2014

We are all looking for a way to succeed; searching for the next great solution that can set our organization apart and become so ‘in demand’ that we can retire to a tropical island and live on of umbrella drinks and room service.  But is it really necessary to be the creator of the next ‘wonder widget’ or can we make changes to existing processes to bring about success?  The following points could be good starting points.

Grow from within:  The organizational brand isn’t solely owned by the marketing department.  It belongs to and should be understood by the entire organization.  It’s very important to build a brand externally but it is critical to educate and even market the brand to internal groups.

Answer the WHY questions:  Be sure to remain valuable to customers by asking WHY.   Why does someone what to spend their money with you?  Why does someone what to work for you?  Why does a community want to let you operate in their area?  Why would investors be drawn to you?  First ask why then build responses that highlight the values and opportunities your organization provides.

ImageBuild to a need:  Customers need something.  A marketer’s responsibility to find out what that need is and create messaging that attracts customers to a product or service.  Don’t make the message complicated and build a message that customers can see themselves as part of.

Communicate Clearly:  Just because an organization knows its own acronyms and abbreviations, doesn’t mean their customers and prospects do.  Keep communications clear and free of specialized jargon.

Keep the company and its message fresh:  A company may have a very clear and well understood place in the market landscape.  Customers may have a very clear understanding of what a company provides.  That’s great to have mind share but it is important to keep spreading the message and keeping awareness current.  Sometimes organizations can make changes that slowly change the perceived direction or outlook of that company.  Restating the company vision can help customers become comfortable with change and not react negatively to change when it occurs.

The customer persona:  A customer is a person.  They have specific needs, wants, budgets, histories, and habits.  They fit into a demographic profile that can help marketers build better messaging by generalizing how a group will respond based on analysis of these elements.  However discussing individual preferences and percentages can be a bit dull.  Instead of reporting on probability and statistical models, try building a persona of a ‘typical’ customer.  A persona isn’t a real person, just a constructed personality based on the statistical information that reflects a customer segment.   See a persona example here.  See how to engage personas here.

Understand the customer journey:  Each customer has a pathway they have taken to reach an organization.  The journey is very important to understand.  By analyzing the customer journey an organization can see each touch point they have shared.  They can see which interactions have been beneficial, which interactions lead to a purchase, which interactions led to a dropped customer.  The journey can reveal where employee training is needed.  The journey can point out where systems or process errors take place.  The journey reveals a vast amount of data to help the organization evolve.

Innovation is important:  Innovation is one element that can set an organization apart.  Innovation pushes not only a company ahead but also forces competition to innovate (sometimes through very close duplication) and consumers to adopt innovations into their business process.  Don’t innovate out of existence though.  Keep innovation alive but watch the market to make sure it is ready for the hot new products being built.  In technological innovation, the gap between innovation and adoption is sometimes called ‘the Chasm’ (Moore, 2002).  There is a life cycle to innovation, especially in technology.  It starts with Innovators followed by early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and the laggards. See more about the Chasm in the book by Geoffrey A More.


By Craig Chelius (private communication with Craig Chelius) [CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Typically in the first half of the early adopters segment, there is a breakdown in the adoption process where a solution fails to advance.  There are a variety of reasons for this but mostly it is because an organization cannot get people to ‘cross the chasm’ and adopt the new innovation fast enough or with a large enough population.

Keep customers and their needs in mind as innovation occurs.  Some early adopters can be pulled along with innovation but appealing to the early majority is a necessary requirement to be successful.

These points may be considered common sense but sit back and ask a question: “Which company has not violated any of these suggestions?”   How does a marketer or even a customer, tell an organization that it needs to change?  How can an organization be told it needs to do a better job of listening and responding to customer (and employee) needs?  One way is to shop at a competitor but what if the competitor is just out of the question as an option?  Help the preferred organization by telling them where they can improve.  Send an email.  Contact customer service.  Fill out a comments card.  Post it to social media.  Heck, get a pen and a piece of paper and write a letter to a company’s headquarters.  Do whatever it takes to be heard.  You will feel better and hopefully your favorite Brand will perform better.


Chelius, C. (2009). Technology-Adoption-Lifecycle. Retrieved December 9, 2013 from

Davis, K. (2013). What Really Fosters Innovation (infographic).  Retrieved December 9, 2013 from

Moore, G. (2002). Crossing the Chasm. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

Skillshare classes by Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk

January 7, 2014


The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time
By Seth Godin

Class Unlocks: Wed, Jan 15th, 2014

Seth Godin

Use the discount code BLOG (until January 10) on Skillshare to save $3.80.

Grand total = $15.20

Context is Key: Social Media Strategy in a Noisy Online World
By Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk
Grand total = $29
Has anyone taken a class on Skillshare? If so, please let me know what you thought of the online platform in the comments section.