Monthly Archives: November 2008

The lessons in lyrics

I’m listening to some random music and realized that there’s some potentially significant nuggets of wisdom that could really apply to marketing.

I’m not here to misrepresent an artists intentions, but the best stories are the ones that we can apply to ourselves. Here’s what I mean:

Modest Mouse: Missed the Boat — “…our ideas held no water but we used them like a dam…”

Bad ideas are the dams of progress. This reminds me of companies that still scoff at social media.

Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth — “…singing songs and carryin’ signs / mostly say, hooray for our side…”

Marketing is about connections. Stories that fail to create connections, well, fail. If all you do is say hooray for yourself, we’re not listening. We can’t relate to that.

Cross Canadian Ragweed: Brooklyn Kid — “…a simple life ain’t that hard / no, a simple life ain’t all that hard..”

Fundamentals and simplicity often win. It’s amazing how difficult we can make success feel. Be honest. Be nice. Try hard. If you do those three things every day, you’re already in the top 10%.

How about you? Got a line of lyrics that speak to you?


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Filed under Branding, Copywriting, Marketing

Remember your reason

The best companies, organizations, groups, tribes, etc. — they’re all guided by purpose.

Things get overwhelming. Markets change. Fads blow over. Opportunities pop up. In reality, this is all you can count on–this landscape of upheaval.

These factors are largely environmental and outside your realm of control.

But you control your purpose, your reason. You create it, you own it.

It’s up to you to see through it all.

Do you remember your reason? What if you asked that every morning? Before every meeting? When things get cloudy?


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Dylan and creativity

Check out this slideshow of Bob Dylan on creativity, writing and storytelling.

Favorite lines:

“The world don’t need any more songs. There’s enough songs. Unless someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and has something to say. That’s a different story.”

“They say, ‘Dylan never talks.’ What the hell is there to say? That’s not the reason an artist is in front of people.”

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The Law of Threes

I had been planning to write a post about Bill Simmons–ESPN’s “Sports Guy”–as one of my storytelling heroes for some time (and I will), but his latest ESPN column demands immediate linking as it had an awesome note on how the New York Giants’ head coach handles the “three types of players.”

Check it out:

Our friend Mike Lombardi did a tremendous job describing Tom Coughlin’s coaching style over at the National Football Post last week: “He is using a very simple leadership strategy called the ‘Law of Threes.’ On each team there are three types of players. The first are the ones who will do anything that is asked, willing to help the program. The second group are the undecided players, the players who are not sure what to do. And the third are the malcontents. These are the players who want to buck the system all the time and try to break down the team. As a leader, there is a tendency to try to win over the players in group three by trying to make them happy. But all that does is move the players from group two into group three, and cause you to start to lose the players in group one. What Coughlin has done is focus on group one. He pays no attention to group three and what has resulted is that Plaxico is on an island and no one wants to join him. The team is bigger than Plaxico.”

[Plaxico Burress is the Giants’ leading receiver who was suspended earlier this season for breaking team rules.]

With all the talk of Tribes lately, it seems like the “Law of Threes” applies to almost any organization. What do you think?

P.S. Check out the full article for Bill’s complete ranking of the NFL’s 32 teams, as well as why Showtime beats HBO and why you can never let your friends put down Kate Bosworth in your presence again.


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I have an ongoing debate with a good friend of mine.

Right now he’s in the middle of grad school, getting his MBA. He’s always been a go-getter, so it’s not surprising he’s getting an advanced education so young (he had to extra-apply to get into what is traditionally an MBA program for older professionals). His big argument is that soon, the MBA will be viewed like the bachelor’s degree in that you’ll probably need one to get in the door, and certainly need one for executive positions.

My problem with this is that he’s describing a checkbox–something to ensure getting past HR filters and the like. It’s not about a desire to learn and change as much as it’s a desire to get in the door, and then, I suppose, do something magnificent.

Perhaps what’s most discouraging is that he’s right–at least in the short term. Companies already have lots of filters designed to catch outliers, and it certainly makes sense that the MBA thing will work its way more and more into the forefront.

And while I wholeheartedly endorse the pursuit of higher education, this mindset is a hindrance.

Organizations built to fill checkboxes aren’t going to change the world. And likewise, I’m concerned that individuals focusing on addressing the filters are missing a bigger picture.

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What you really sell

When you move to Chicago from elsewhere (like I just did) and have no clue of where to go (again, like me) there’s a company that specializes in helping you find a place.

They’re called Apartment People and they do some amazing things.

They help you find a list of potential apartments and drive you around to show them to you–all for free. On their business cards, Web site and marketing materials they claim to deliver the services of helping you find a place to live.

But what they really sell is stress relief–and they know it.

From the moment you walk in you’re greeted with fresh coffee and large, comfy furniture. My agent was funny, friendly and listened to my interests and concerns about the apartments and neighborhoods I was interested in.

Everything down to the soft lighting and modern work stations said relax, our business is removing stress. We’re here to help.

And they did.

If you’re moving to Chicago, consider using them. And if you’re in business, think about what you’re really selling.

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